Indigenous supernaturalism is the focal point of religious attitudes as its beliefs are well-integrated with Buddhist values (Jackson, 2016). Formoso (2016) argues that Buddhist teachings are vague about the destiny of souls, causing the animistic concept of wandering spirits in the physical realm to meld with Buddhist teachings about karma. The essence of a deceased is believed to remain in the physical realm prior to their rebirth and maintain an influence on the living. This idea of wandering souls has integrated with the Buddhist concept of merit-making, with Thais regularly partaking in ancestral spirit worship to improve their own karma and their ancestors’. It is ubiquitous to see Thais worshiping personal spirit houses and city shrines (lak muang) housed with guardian spirits to accumulate more merit (Kitiarsa, 2005b). Karma is an important concept in the mind-sets of the Thais because it is believed to directly affect their success in life. To continuously build good karma, the Thais believe in getting rid of negative influences through indigenous supernatural practices. For instance, when Thai Airways Airbus A330 landed poorly at Suvarnabhumi airport due to a system malfunction in 2012, the airline attributed the accident to evil spirits haunting the airport and conducted a ceremony to appease the spirits (Sagolj, 2014). Their actions reveal their inherent belief that bad karma obtained from negative influences can be turned around through spirit appeasement. There is a common saying, “you may not believe but do not offend the spirits”. Animistic beliefs are deeply interwoven into the fabric of society, regardless of one’s religion, with the value of karma guiding their outlook on life. It is observed that indigenous supernaturalism is integral in karmic teachings, with its beliefs deeply felt in society.
Additionally, beliefs in supernaturalism persist with the encouragement of royals who employ superstitious methods to legitimize their rule (McCargo, 2004). Highly superstitious Thais, whose superstitions are grounded in supernaturalism, are taken advantage by royals that appropriate indigenous supernatural beliefs as a source of legitimacy (Jackson, 1999). In particular, the superstitious belief of power by association – that supernatural power can be transferred or enhanced when empowered images are in close proximity – is used by royals to strengthen their rule.
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