I have been to many traditional Thai wedding ceremonies and Thai wedding parties, but this was my first time to attend a traditional Isan wedding which is called บายศรีสู่ขวัญ Bai Sri Su Kwan. It was our lovely teacher Pear’s wedding. The event took place in Mahasarakham province in Northeastern Thailand.
I filmed the event from the beginning to the end. It is my pleasure to share this beautiful event with you, I hope you will enjoy learning about this memorable Thai tradition.
Bai Sri Su Kwan Ceremony
The important part of Isan wedding ceremony is Bai Sri Su Kwan Ceremony.
Bai Sri Su Khwan is a blessing rite performed to the spirit. It is led by a Mor Soot (หมอสูตร), a local villager with the required knowledge, expertise and experience to perform the required litany and actions throughout the ceremony.
Why Bai Sri Su Khwan Ceremony?
In ancient times, people believed that a human being is a union of thirty-two organs, each has a spirit or Khwan to protect them.
When the body place of the spirit was wounded it was believed that the spirit would then leave the body causing unbalance of the soul which might lead to an illness. This was understood to be manifest by a loss of heart, or morale, to loose courage or to be frightened. In order to bring the spirit back, a ritual was needed, and the spirit was symbolically brought back into the Bai Sri, particularly one that is decorated beautifully, with sweet-smelling flowers. The tying of the white string represents tying of the 32 spirits to the body putting them back in harmony as well as bringing good luck and prosperity.
How it is done?
The Thai blessing ceremony requires a Phan Bai Sri (พานบายศรี). The Phan Bai Sri is a symbolic tree-like ornament used for the ceremony. It is filled with milled rice, cultivated banana, Khao Tom Mat (bananas with sticky rice), desserts, joss sticks, candles, Phrawa silk textiles, scents, flowers, a cotton thread for binding the arm of the blessed, an auspicious candle stand and money. Around the base there is a variety of food and drink – rice cakes, sweet pastries, boiled chicken, liquor, eggs and sticky rice. Eggs and rice are the most symbolic of these, representing fertility and prosperity.
Starting by Mor Soot calls on the spirits to cease wandering and return to the bodies of those present. He then asks the kwan to bring well-being and happiness and to share in the feast that will follow. Lighting the candles, he joins his hands in prayer and addresses the “spirits” in Pali, chanting for about ten minutes.
After that, the Mor Soot asks the couple to receive the blessing to lay their hands (palms down) on the edge of the Phan Bai Sri. He brushes their hands with the white strings. After this he takes the white thread connecting the Phan Bai Sri, placing one end in his hand and the other in the hands of the bride and the groom.
They place the string between their palms and pray while the Mor Soot is chanting in the religious Pali language. During this time everyone is supposed to be quiet.
After the Mor Soot has finished his chanting, he ties the first white blessing strings around the wrists of the newlywed. Then everyone else joins in to tie strings around the wrists of the couple while murmuring good wishes for receivers of the strings. Some guests roll up a bank note and tie it inside a white string then tie around the wrists of the couple.
It is believed that if the receivers of the blessing want their wishes to come true, they should keep the white strings tied around their wrists for at least three days after the ceremony. When it comes time to remove them, they should untie instead of cutting the strings as the good wishes might be severed.
After the ceremony, the Phan Bai Sri is kept until it dries out or at least for three days before it is thrown away. The reason is the same as keeping the white string tied around the wrists.
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