By Jakkapong Rawiwan
Kalsin - The fear of phop ghosts brought residents of two villages in Kalasin's Yan Talat district together in a ritual on Wednesday night to exorcise evil spirits from two women and capture 100 phop ghosts in 100 sections of bamboo.
The women, Daeng Somwai, 36, from Ban Kud Or and Kancahan Wangchalee, 31, from Ban Khok Si, displayed symptoms of phop-ghost haunting: trembling bodies, speaking in tongues and suddenly switching from laughing to crying and screaming.
Relatives took them to Wat Donyanang, where the abbot is well known for his exorcisms.
At the temple, surrounded by holy thread, about 300 residents of the two villages attended the ritual.
Earlier, a spirit medium had gone into a trance and declared 100 evil spirits were bent on harming local residents.
They were advised to bring their relatives to join the ritual and remain within the protection of the holy thread.
The exorcism then proceeded, with monks praying and the haunted women being sprinkled with holy water until the 100 evil spirits were summoned and captured in 100 sections of bamboo.
The two women then returned to normal.
Abbot Phra Khru Prasutthamasunthorn said this period had seen evil spirits roaming free to harm people, especially those collecting things from the forest at night, because black-magic items had been released.
People in the Northeast believe phop ghosts come from practitioners of black magic, who use it to harm others.
They are then punished by the spirits of their teachers and become phop ghosts for breaching prohibitions against "improper use" of black magic.
Jitavej Khon Kaen Hospital director Thavee Tangseri said the two women were suffering from hysteria resulting from severe fear or anxiety.
Their condition is not restricted to the mentally ill but happens often to those who believe in the supernatural.
He said 95 per cent of people allegedly possessed by phop ghosts were women and that the haunting occurred after an incident that served as a trigger, such as someone mysteriously dying in their sleep.
This leads weak-minded people to believe in harm from ghosts, and they develop the symptoms of ghost haunting.
The local solution by exorcism is not a bad thing, because it tackles the mental aspects, he said.
However, if treated by modern medicine, hysterical patients will be accompanied by strong-minded persons whom the patients trust, so they will eventually calm down, usually within a few days.
This article was first published in The Nation/Asia News Network.