Brown nectar of the gods
PHRAE: Scores of villagers in Phrae were given a gut-wrenching shock when a “holy” spring they had prayed to and drunk from turned out to be the result of faulty plumbing rather than a gift from the gods. The font was discovered on January 4 by Anong Kwanphetch, 52, in the middle of her lawn in Tambon Mae Jua, Denchai District. Noticing something unusual, she went to investigate and discovered water bubbling up from the ground. When she poked around to try and find the source of the water, it began to flow out even stronger than before. Amazed, she rushed to tell the neighbors about her discovery. K. Anong thought the spring might somehow be connected to a vision she had the night before. Her late maternal grandmother had appeared to her in her sleep, saying she felt ill and needed paracetamol. When Anong returned from fetching the medicine, her grandmother had vanished. Thinking that perhaps her grandmother’s apparition was a hint that water from the spring could be carrying magical powers, Anong brought out flowers, candles and joss sticks to worship the spring, asking it to provide water for her to keep as a cure-all potion. News travels quickly in rural Thai villages, and before long word of the phenomenon had spread throughout the district and into neighboring ones. One neighbor, 66-year-old Thongin Konsin, said she had to wait in line for her chance to collect some of the miraculous elixir. Like many others, she offered candles, incense, flowers and a 20-baht note. She was convinced that holy water was bound to be a gift from on high sent to reward their merit making and heal the infirmities of poor villagers whose conditions had not been healed by the government’s 30-baht health care scheme. The crowds around the spring grew quickly as some 1,000 villagers rushed to collect bottles of the bubbling broth. When some villagers called for the spring to perform a miracle and send forth bubbles, it immediately responded and answered their pleas. Word of the find soon spread to district authorities and before long Senior Administrative Officer Rasi Srithammarat and Suthat Samon of the Denchai Public Health Office came to investigate. Unable to stop the villagers from acting on their beliefs, they allowed them to continue collecting the water but implored them to boil it before drinking. K. Rasi decided to wait until crowds thinned before digging to find the source of the water. If they dug while there were still many people wanting to collect the water and the water stopped flowing, he said, it could cause an even bigger problem. The next group to arrive at the spring were Public Health Officers from Somdej Phrayupharach Hospital. When they tried to collect a sample of the water, the spring suddenly stopped and the ground became dry. Finally the officers had to beg a sample from one of the villagers. After about 20 minutes, the water began to flow again, leaving villagers suspicious that the officials’ attempts to collect a sample had angered some deities. Surin Niphayothin, Kamnan (tambon chief) of Mae Jua, finally got to the bottom of things. He and a group of villagers began digging for the source of the mysterious liquid and soon found a small, leaky PVC pipe. On further investigation, K. Surin found that the pipe led straight to the old toilet of a house no more than four meters away. When villagers who had been drinking the “holy” water learned its true source, scores of them joined in a large mass vomiting session. The owners of the pipe said they had been installing a new toilet and that the plumbing work must have caused the sewerage pipe to crack. They said they had no idea their old toilet could have been the source of the “holy” spring.
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