This paper focuses on textiles (monk's robes and funeral shrouds) and supernatural formulae created by the Tai of Lan Na (Northern Thailand) and the Shan States (Myanmar). The term supernatural formula is used to describe a magical prescription that incorporates visual material with some form of verbal communication. Visual material includes representations of spirits, magical diagrams (yantra) and texts written in ancient Tai scripts and verbal communication involving incantations in Pali and Tai languages. Formulae are created in the context of a Tai magical-religious belief system that draws on the power of Buddhism and Nature, spirits and healing, scared objects and astrology, cosmology and numerology. This belief system has enabled the development of a distinct Tai material culture of which textiles are one aspect. A srā, meaning a craftsperson or artisan (Burmese: saya, Thai: paw maw or paw acharn), uses the belief system to invoke spirits to bring good luck and to create protection against evil spirits that bring bad luck. Monk's robes are a source for protection and healing generated through the power of Buddhism. Funeral shrouds draw on power from a wider source that includes elements of the Tai magical belief system.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 365-394
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.