Connect with us


Life of a ma song

Legacy Phuket Gazette



PHUKET: One of the most famous ceremonies that is synonymous with Phuket’s Vegetarian Festival, or Jia Chai, is the soul-stirring parade of ‘ma song’ (‘spirit mediums), who are often seen stabbing objects through their cheeks or slashing their tongues with knives, as they believe this sacrifice will take away bad fortune, sickness and danger from those who take part in the festivities.

Thitipong Saisutthikul, 26, a hotel assistant general manager has been a ma song for seven years.

“I declined to be a ma song for five years before I gave in,” said Thitipong.

“To become a ma song, you must be chosen by ‘Phra‘ [the angel’s spirit] and I was chosen.”
He recalled the first time that he became possessed by his Phra, Ong Sun Tai Sai, six years ago.

“I was hanging out in my house and suddenly my body became paralyzed. I was frozen like that for a few hours until I became unconscious and started speaking Chinese. I was told that after I spoke, I wrote down the name of my Phra in Chinese letters and ever since I have taken on the duty of being a ma song.”

Mr Thitipong said that the tools he uses during festival rituals are the classic ones used in the legend of the Jia Chai.

“I normally use sharp steel or swords to stab my cheeks. It doesn’t cause pain, as I am unconscious at the time, but I have never used the fancy tools that people have started using recently.”

He noted that, although the ceremony is meant for the ma song to suffer for other people, there is a legend and process to it and he does not agree with changing tools to attract more attention.

“There are some weapons that are mentioned in the legend, such as sharp steel and swords, but many people have now started using wheels, trees, guns or even bicycles.”

“I don’t think it’s appropriate and it’s more for fashion and not tradition. Many ma songs are campaigning and trying to tell others to follow the legend.”

Mr Thitipong explained that during the festival, the ma song must go to the shrine and wait until their Phra possesses them. After they are unconscious, the shrine staff will sit them down, clean their cheeks with alcohol and use sharp steel to open a hole on each cheek and put in the object that the ma song had chosen beforehand.

After the processions, the ma song will return to the shrine where a medical team and shrine staff will remove the tools from his cheeks while the ma song is still possessed in order to avoid pain.

After the wounds are cleaned and closed, a ceremony is performed to lure the spirit out of the ma song so that they will become conscious again.

“I never feel bad about having scars on my face or feeling pain after the ceremony. I realize that I have been chosen and I am honored to sacrifice myself to help people during the Jia Chai Festival.”

And, though he said that Jia Chai has changed a lot from when he was young, he is glad to see that people are still interested and keep to the strict guidelines and traditions, such as wearing white and not eating any animal products.

“It’s good to see people coming from other provinces and other countries to join the festival and ceremonies. Though they may not understand it completely, by involving themselves in the festival they will receive health and merit.”

— Nattha Thepbamrung


Get more from The Thaiger

📱 Download our app on Android or iOS
👋 Have your say on our Thailand forum
🔔 Subscribe to our daily newsletter
📺 Subscribe / Join for daily shows
👍 Like/Follow us on Facebook
🐦 FOLLOW us on Twitter
📷 FOLLOW us on Instagram


Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Economy35 mins ago

Bank of Thailand plans real-world test of digital currency in 2022

Hua Hin1 hour ago

Hua Hin calls for delay in reopening amid Covid-19 infections

Chiang Mai2 hours ago

Chiang Mai Covid-19 infections swell ahead of reopening

Welcome back to Thailand!

Thaiger is getting behind local businesses for the restart of tourism in Thailand - up to 50% discounts across all advertising packages!

Koh Samui3 hours ago

Thailand’s bars and beach parties remain strictly closed (cough)

Coronavirus (Covid-19)3 hours ago

Covid-19 Sunday: Deaths fall to low of 56, provincial data

Tourism4 hours ago

Ministry of Foreign Affairs sings praises of Thailand Pass

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Coronavirus (Covid-19)5 hours ago

Covid-19 in prison: outbreaks from overcrowding now subsiding

Coronavirus (Covid-19)6 hours ago

Covid-19 deaths receding, but still here; 1 month old baby dies

Crime22 hours ago

Van packed with 39 illegal burmese workers stopped in Phichit

Vietnam23 hours ago

Vietnam to test reopening starting with Phu Quoc Island

World1 day ago

Chinese law to limit homework and tutoring pressure on kids

Bangkok1 day ago

Thai man takes grandfather hostage in Bangkok standoff

Thailand1 day ago

Covid-19 forces 70 private schools out of business, 100 to follow

Coronavirus (Covid-19)1 day ago

Covid-19 clusters prompt lockdown in 3 Korat villages

Coronavirus (Covid-19)1 day ago

Thammasat University says vaccines slowed by government docs

Thailand1 month ago

Morning Top Stories Thailand | Police to end protests, Human Trafficking | September 14

Thailand8 months ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism8 months ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket8 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism8 months ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand8 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism8 months ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand9 months ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand9 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand9 months ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand9 months ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand9 months ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand9 months ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand9 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand10 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11