Changing Times, Changing Names

The world we live in is constantly changing. We constantly have new gadgets and technology to make our lives easier. I can remember going on the internet for the first time with my family and getting a cell phone for emergency usage when I was in college. These were all firsts, and yet my daughter will always know and use these things. Not only is technology changing our lives, but more people are traveling around the world and encountering different beliefs.  What do you do when you believe something will happen if you do something and then you go to another country and they are doing that and nothing happened?

A generation ago in Thailand, and still in the provinces, people believed that plumeria plants and trees were sacred. There is a famous story about a woman killing herself by hanging herself on a branch of the tree. Her despondent spirit is said to haunt plumeria trees and make them sacred. Thus, plumeria trees could only be at a temple, graveyard, or other special places. Whenever you saw a plumeria tree, you had to wai (a sign of greeting and respect) it. If you didn’t wai the tree, it would wither and die. You also couldn’t have the tree or plant at your home as it could grow well there.

Then the Thai people started traveling to different countries. As they made their way to Hawaii there were genuinely confused. They saw plumeria flowers everywhere, even at people’s homes. How could this be, they wondered. Their belief didn’t match reality. What would they do about it?

The Queen of Thailand decided that the name of the plumeria plant should be changed. It no longer would be called luntom, a constant memory of the dead woman, but now it would have a new and beautiful name, leelawadee. This was not the first name change for the plumeria. It was originally called mykaam, but was changed after the woman took her life on this tree and made it sacred.

Now people can have plumeria trees and plants at their home. There are 2 names of plumerias. If you call it luntom, then it is sacred, but if you call it leelawadee, then some people are brave enough to have it at their home…just don’t mention the name of luntom to them…


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