Myanmar, Vampires in

Myanmar, Vampires in

(pop culture)

Myanmar, known until 1989 as Burma, is a Southeast Asian country bounded by India and Bangladesh on the west, China on the north, and Laos and Cambodia on the east. The Myanmars settled the land in the ninth century and over the next century established an independent country. It has been variously part of the Chinese, British, and Japanese empires; it emerged as an independent nation following World War II. The Myanmars are primarily Buddhist and tend to cremate their dead; thus, they do not have a strong tradition of revenants. The culture does have a large pantheon of deities and supernatural entities, however, along with a rich tradition of ghosts and demonic beings.

The most malevolent of the ghosts, the thaye and tasei, were beings that, because of their evil earthly life, were condemned to their disembodied state until they had worked out their karmic difficulties and were eventually reborn into another body. These disembodied ghosts, at times, took on a kind of visible materiality. When seen, they were tall, dark, and possessed huge ears, a large tongue, and tusk-like teeth. They resided near villages at the local cemeteries. On occasion they assumed characteristics of vampires and ghouls and fed on corpses or went into the village to attack living people. More frequently, they were seen as the cause of minor illnesses. They entered town either at high noon or after dark.

In the folklore, protection from ghosts was provided by a lehpwe, an amulet for a variety of purposes. One such amulet consisted of a drawing of an elephant made from the letters of the Myanmar alphabet.

In earlier centuries tattooing of the body in the area between the navel and the knee was popular. There were also specific rituals to banish ghosts from a village, both brief ones for individual use and longer ones for the community.

Sources:

Spiro, Melford E. Burmese Supernaturalism. Philadelphia: Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1978. 300 pp.
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