Worshipping Rahu in Thailand
Thai astrology in its complicated and simple forms contains nine heavenly bodies: the sun & moon, the five visible planets and the lunar nodes, named respectively Rahu and Get (Ketu). Typically Thais have not directly worshipped these heavenly bodies (devas) with the exception of attempts to placate the eclipse demon Rahu when he is said to be negatively influencing one's "birth stars". In 1997 a severe economic crisis undermined Thailand's booming economy; the crisis was connected to the malevolent influence of Rahu. The Thai Prime Minister's wife held a ceremony to appease Rahu and in September of that year, Wat Sisatong (a Buddhist temple) held a special ceremony to Rahu during a total lunar eclipse. Placation and then positive worship of Rahu boomed with several Theravada Buddhist temples erecting modest statues of Rahu, producing amulets, and offering worship ceremonies. While the boom has passed Rahu remains popular. This paper will present an overview of Rahu in Thai astrology and the history of placation, and then concentrate on the current worship of Rahu in Thai society with a focus on Wat Sisatong (just west of Bangkok) where the largest statue of Rahu is housed.
Matthew Kosuta holds PhD from l'Université du Québec à Montréal and is currently a Vice Dean and Chair of the International PhD Program at the College of Religious Studies, Mahidol University where he has taught since 2006. Matthew's research interests include Theravada Buddhism, animism, and divination in Thailand and Southeast Asia, religion and war, theories of religion, in particular evolutionary theory of religion.