Exploring Religion in Thailand: Finding Mysticism in Caves
While taking a weekend trip to see a cave with some professors and fellow students, I wondered, “Who finds these caves, what do the Thai think they symbolize, and what are they used for?”
As we arrived, cars lined the road for miles and people just scattered and swarmed like bees around each other. Finally, we parked and walked toward the cave, only to find hundreds of people swaying, chanting and dancing, while smoking cigars and drinking alcohol, which i presume was homemade or rice whiskey.
My teachers told us that this cave was said to be holy and symbolize a place where mediums could do powerful work. With a few bands playing authentic and historical Thai instruments, the people dancing turned out to be mediums channeling spirit of those passed.
It was a beautiful event, full of food and incense smells, vibrant colors and a feeling of community and acceptance of everything and anything that might happen to the mediums. My major in college is Holistic Psychology, and I study cross-cultural aspects of psychology, which mainly include different rituals and beliefs. This scene was so ‘normal’ in my mind because I love embracing and being part of other cultures. Seeing these mediums first-hand act like those ‘inside’ them was extremely cool!
If you go to Thailand, these cave trips and experiences are not easy to come by. I had the connections through my study abroad school, Payap University, and my classmates and I were the only ‘farang’ (foreigners) in the crowd.
However, Thailand is FULL of different beliefs, rituals, and religious aspects that are easy to come by. Simply walking the streets early in the morning, watching monks collect morning alms, or just observing and entering public temples are obvious ways to become immersed in Thailand’s rich and eclectic religion and mysticism.
Embrace what you see, be part of what you want, as long as newcomers are welcome, and enjoy noting the differences in other cultures. We are all beautiful people, from beautiful places, so go into your travels with an open mind and an open heart.
Photo by Olivia Jennings.