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Phi Tah Khohn (ผีตาโขน)

Thai. ‘Ghostly vision masked dance performance’. Annual festival in Dan Saai (Dahn Saai), in Loei Province, in which dancers wearing ghostly masks (fig.) parade about in the streets. Those masks are made of the spathe of a coconut palm and the top part of a huad, a basket used for steaming sticky rice (fig.). The masks are then painted elaborately and revelers dress-up in gaudy ‘ghost’ costumes. The festival commemorates a Buddhist legend in which a host of ghosts appeared to greet the bodhisattva Wetsandorn upon his return to his hometown, after his exile. This unique, three day festival coincides with boon luang, an annual local merit making ceremony which is held on the weekend after the full moon of the 6th lunar month, usually somewhere between early May and mid-July. It is said that the name is derived from Phi Tahm Khon (ผีตามคน), i.e. ‘ghosts that hunt or trail the people’, and refers to ghosts that followed the people into the temples to prevent them making tamboon. The ghost dancers are all male, both boys and men. At the end of the festival the participants are not allowed to bring their costumes (fig.) and accessories home, but traditionally throw them away into the local Man River, as a symbol of discarding sorrow and distress. On the last day of the event people gather in the temple to listen to a sermon (thet) in which all thirteen chapters (kan) of the Mahachaat, the story of the last great incarnation of the Buddha, are recited. In many places in Loei, souvenirs of the festival, such as dolls and miniature masks (fig.), can be purchased all year-round, and in Dan Saai there is a Phi Tah Khohn Museum (map - fig.). All over this province, i.e. the cradle of the Phi Tah Khohn Festival, these ghostly figures are found being used as decorative items and even as guardians (fig.). Also transcribed Phi Ta Khon. See also Phi Boong Tao, as well as POSTAGE STAMPS, THEMATIC STREET LIGHT, and TRAVEL PICTURES (1), (2) and (3), and WATCH VIDEO.