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Myanmar Ghost Tales | Late for Nowhere
Raise the ghost issue with almost everyone in Myanmar and you will have one or two stories about a ghostly meeting with yourself, co-workers, members of your families or dear ones. It is also widely used in non-fiction books about Myanmar. Pascal Khoo Thwe's 2002 work From the Land of Green Gohosts is entitled "From the Land of Green Ghosts" and relates to the fear of ethnical padaung that casualties of "raw death" - those who have been killed or killed in an accident - have a tendency to exist as bad minds.
Later in the work, the writer - one of a group of college kids who escaped to the Thai mountain near the Thai frontier in 1988 to escape Burma's regime's persecution when he wakes up and senses someone trying to steal his rug. In her jail memoirs Nor Iron Bars a Çage (2013), Ma Thanegi tells the story of the "Great Haunting" that took place one evening on the top floor of a hangar in which detainees were held.
In Myanmar, whether oral or written, ghost tales are often narrated objectively, as if their appearance were a part of everyday one. The trend towards avoiding ghost storytelling sensation was noted by Jane Ferguson, who wrote an essays entitled "Terminally Haunted" in the Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology last February.
He catalogues ghost tales of workmen at Suvannabhumi Airport in Bangkok and Mingalardon Airport in Yangon, featuring tales of floor staff, luggage handling and towers communicators in Mingalardon who see spirits "on the cement ramp near the terminal". Myanmar Airways drivers said on two different occasion "Myanmar Airways drivers have already started autostart even though they have just stepped into the flight deck and have not been touching the instruments".
Ferguson calls these spirits of the airports tasay or thiaye, who the US culture anthropolist Melford Spiro described in his 1967 Burmese Supernaturalism as " beings who were born again into their present incorporeal state as a result of the evils they perpetrated in their previous years. A number of Myanmar's village people in isolated countryside believe that these spirits can cause sickness, ill health or more.
However, the spirits described today by the Yangonites usually belong to a less malicious class described by Spiro as "the spirits (leikpya) of the deceased who, unprofessionally escouraged from their living space, persecute humans". When certain corpse rituals are not carried out at the moment of dying, "the spirit that is still bound to the place of its former existance stays in the estate and becomes in reality a spirit that haunts the inhabitants".
Yin Min Tun, who lives in Yangon - the journalist who saw the young ladies seated in her offices - admits to being appalled that she had seen a ghost, but she did not betray fear of being swallowed up by evil minds. "We are unharmed by evil spirits.
You can' t harm us corporeally, so I'm more afraid of humans than ghosts," she said. He also denies the faith that spirits have the capacity to cause sickness. "Sickness can come from the anxiety of seeing a ghost, but not because spirits have the capacity to make you sick," she said.
Doi Ling, another seasoned ghost hunter from Yangon, agrees that the ghosts' powers were very finite - they probably weren't able to do much more than steal covers or pull people's feet in their sleep. Mr. Ling went to Basic Education High High School 2 in Latha in the early 1970' while still serving as a residential home for schoolgirls.
It said that there was a high level of night-time spectrum activities among those studying there, which gave a new significance to the concept of "school spirit". Whilst some of the minds seemed at home in the campus, other persecutions were ascribed to the closeness to Yangon General Hospitals; it is perhaps proof of the standard of health care available that the campus was overcrowded with the troubled minds of the humans who had run out there, which prompted some adventurous minds to look for more green grazing in the neighboring class.
"Doi Ling said, and added that it was not uncommon to see someone - or something else - walk through the corridors after nightfall with the same mules that the pupils used to wear during the day. Then we saw her wander around the classroom at nocturnal hours in the shape of a expectant mother dressed in a maternity outfit.
Several of the BEHS 2 Latha tales have reached the stage of becoming part of an urbane folk. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when it was created with the 1861 establishment - when it was formed as St. John's Convent Schule - but it was well entrenched when Doi Ling began to attend in 1970.
Another story, a night arena screen listened to the noise of a table tennis game hopping in an empty room at the end of the shed. An odder story says that a few years ago a group of young women stood on a balkony and whispered that the college was visited by a ghost carrying a bullet on their back.
The same tales were still shared with the arriving student ten years later. One of the women who went to college around 1980, and for retribution from the ghost community, did not want to be mentioned, said she had listened to similar tales of older women. However, by this point BEHS 2 Latha had ceased to give the pupils the chance to stay the whole evening, and so the possibility of witnessing the persecutions first hand was severely limited.
So how do you get rid of spirits? You need more complex ceremonies to avoid evil spirits getting into aggravation. Nightly burial ceremonies are held around the casket, and "a pro bon vivant or shadow would address the mind to embark on its great voyage into the spirits by depicting the way and alerting of all danger it would face.
In spite of these precautionary measures, spirits sometimes suffer in the live persona. When a spirit manages to settle in the natural environment, it is not unusual to call upon buddhistic friars to an exorcist rite. There were about 10 friars who came into the offices and recited portions of the Buddha sutta for 45 min while Myanmar staff were praying at the side.
The original publication of this paper was in the October 27-November 2 edition of the Myanmar Times.