Bringing mootaeloo into the modern world
Mootaeloo is the Thai word for beliefs and worshipping of charms, amulets and rituals that give positive changes to your life.
It is no secret that Thais are a superstitious bunch. We check the calendar to decide which colours to wear each day and consult the fortuneteller for every big decision we make. These are centuries-old practices that are still prevalent. Even in the 21st century, the subculture remains influential in the daily lives of Thais. A side effect of Covid-19 seems to be the flourishing of mootaeloo as the pandemic has sparked feelings of uncertainty and anxiety in many. In such desperate times, sai moo (people who believe in and practise mootaeloo) reach out for spiritual aid. Interestingly enough, the term is derived from the Indonesian movie Penangkal Limu Teluh. The more you know. In 2022, there's an entire industry surrounding mootaeloo and Guru takes a closer look at how this mystical and esoteric subculture has evolved and discovers what makes it so alluring.
Harmenstone is the brainchild of Hasavee Wirunsiripak and Nanthorn Pornkulwat. Their interest in traditional beliefs and their passion for jewellery led them to a dilemma: How do they incorporate these two concepts into one for the modern world? Hoping to create something distinctive that becomes a cherish piece for years to come, they married traditional sentiments with contemporary designs and kept the characteristic spirit of a culture, era or community where these beliefs and aspirations manifested.
Tell us about your brand.
Hasavee: Harmenstone was founded to harness the potent properties of exotic gemstones in a contemporary line of jewellery that adds style to any look. It is our belief that jewellery serves two purposes -- to look visually stunning and to empower the wearer with traditional beliefs. How do we introduce these beliefs into modern society? How do we evolve as people's needs and lifestyle is constantly changing? These are the puzzle pieces that construct our designers' concept pillars. We believe that through our jewellery, which combines the individual characteristics of the natural gemstones, from which they are created, and our blessed charms, our wearers will be able to achieve incredible things.
What allows the subculture to survive and flourish in 2022?
Hasavee: In this modern world, traditions that are passed down through generations may be discarded as superstitions or mootaeloo. Yet people cannot completely forgo their cultural beliefs, be it religion or folklore. This is because people want something that gives them hope and confidence. This in turn requires faith and believing in something would lead to something that benefits them intrinsically. With this in mind, people would rather have it than not have it, like a just-in-case scenario. After all, if we are able to infuse these beliefs into stylish pieces of jewellery, would that not be solving two problems with one solution?
How do the stones and charms work?
Hasavee: Using exotic gemstones, we harness their powerful energies and craft them into bracelets, necklaces and other accessories that deliver unique attributes. Our charms are crafted with the faith that they will empower wearers and different charms will come with their individual bestowment. These charms will then be further consecrated in their own places of blessing, according to their individual culture. For example, our Pixiu charms are blessed at the Chinese temple, Wat Kamlouyi, while our naga charms are blessed in Wat Pa Kham Chanod. Incantations booklets and prayers guidelines are also provided for our wearers to pay respect further.
Do you have any products that you would recommend for Chinese New Year?
Hasavee: Our newest series for this Chinese New Year is the Guan Yin Series. Guanyin, in Chinese Buddhism, is the bodhisattva of infinite compassion and mercy. The Chinese believe by praying to her all your wishes and requests will be granted as she is benevolent and generous. The Guan Yin charms are blessed by monks in the Hung Hom Kwan Yam Temple in Hong Kong. This temple is famous because, during the World War II, it was said that Hung Hom district was under bombardments with an aim to destroy the Whampoa Dock. There were many casualties in the adjacent school but those taking shelter in the temple were unharmed. The residents in the area believed that it was a miracle of Guan Yin.
Find Harmenstone at Siam Center, Iconsiam and Fashion Island. Visit fb.com/harmenstoneth.
Venture into a more Western approach at the Ace Of Cups, which doubles up as a coffee shop by self-proclaimed witch, Atiwan "Wine" Kongsorn.
Tell us about the Ace Of Cups.
Wine: It is a small café in the Lat Phrao on Nakniwat Road. Besides beverages, we also offer magical services. A shop that provides services by those who study magic, if you will. We offer fortune-telling, energy-cleansing, healing, ridding of demons and malevolent spirits, spell-crafting and lucky charms, focusing on Western witchcraft without limiting ourselves to one exact art of witchcraft. The café is like a centre of sorts for those who study all kinds of witchcraft from traditional witch, wicca, hermetism, asatru, druid and more.
How did Ace Of Cups come about?
Wine: It all started with a group of people studying Western magic in 1999. We gathered to have eight celebrations a year of important days on the witch calendar. We formed a tight-knit community. I had to travel to Hong Kong every year and used to visit a new-age shop there. So I thought, if I can't find a similar shop in Thailand, why not create one myself. This idea came into fruition in 2013 with the huge cafe trend that was happening at the time.
What do you think allows mootaeloo culture to thrive in 2022?
Wine: Beliefs and spirituality have always been a part of human culture, be it philosophy, religion, superstition, omens and spiritual growth. All these are so intertwined that sometimes we're not able to separate them. If we look really closely we'll find that magic is embedded in beliefs from all religions, even in magic-denying religions, there's still a form of traditional superstition. These things can be considered an asset but at the same time, it could be dangerous. In my opinion, magic is a tool to help us understand the world. The most basic pros of magic are giving peace of mind, propelling society culturally, giving spiritual guidance and awakening consciousness. It could also lead us down the path of credulity and embracing of beliefs without spiritual awareness or the consciousness to understand the world through other means.
(Photos: Ace of Cups)
What is witchcraft?
Wine: Magic and witchcraft is a form of wisdom used to understand and interact with the world through a set of spiritual ideas. It could be a religion, folk beliefs or a form of philosophy. It has a sense of mysticism in it, which makes it hard to explain through the lens of other arts, like our battle with science. We're fundamentally the same as science, we seek to understand the world, the mechanics of which can be understood by other forms of arts, such as the usage of salt to purify and get rid of negativity. In the olden days, there was minimal understanding of microbiology, that's why we tended to believe that rancid food was caused by negative intentions of demons, these foods can sicken a person. However, once we started to treat food with salt, we noticed that it didn't turn bad, so the belief came along that demons hated salt, that's why they wouldn't touch the food.
This belief morphed into the ritual of using salt to purify things or areas. We see this in Chinese, Japanese and Korean rituals, in Western countries some throw salt across their shoulders or use blessed salt in blessed water and Catholicism's sacramental bread. This belief has been explained by science, but science has a limit to its studies, just like philosophy, once human understanding has evolved up to a point then a new branch of studies will be created. Even science was once a branch of philosophy. We used to call it 'natural philosophy' the word 'science' only came along later.
Do you have anything that you would recommend for Chinese New Year?
Wine: Chinese New Year is the day of the new year according to the Chinese calendar and the celebration of the coming spring. The stars will change on the first day of spring. So Chinese New Year is also a preparation for the change that is coming. The Year Of The Tiger arrives on February 1st and for those who are going to be in their 'pee-chong' (unlucky year), it doesn't mean that all is going to be bad, it could be an unlucky year, unlucky month, unlucky day or merely an unlucky time. The art of determining an unlucky year is mainly used to consider holding auspicious ceremonies or to less favourable ones. It is a newly-formed trend so be cautious in what you consume about it.
Plastic Lunatic by Kamonlak "Poonpun" Sukchai (Poonpun) offers custom-made phone cases with auspicious designs and phone wallpapers.
Tell us about Plastic Lunatic.
Poonpun: Plastic Lunatic is a lucky phone case shop or you could call them mootaeloo phone cases. We mostly sell phone cases but we also design lucky telephone wallpapers, too. All are inspired by Hindu gods. Every single one of our cases is customised to fit the wishes of the individual client. The first mootaeloo that we use is the lucky colour based on the client's date of birth in a week to help with their wishes such as work, finances, love or health.
For example, if the client is born on Thursday and wishes for better luck in work and finances we'd suggest red, white and dark blue, which are all lucky colours for them. We also add in lucky numbers according to the client's wishes. To complete the case, we have Hindu deities for our clients to choose from, some may already have one that they worship, but for others who don't we provide information on the properties and powers of each one. We put an emphasis on positive symbolic powers so that positivity may be attracted into the users' lives.
(Photos: Plastic Lunatic)
How did Plastic Lunatic come about?
Poonpun: We started the business during the first wave of Covid-19. I was already interested in lucky numbers so I bought number stickers to put on my phone case. My phone case was already packed with lucky Chinese calligraphies and images of deities that I bought when I went to India. One of my uni seniors saw it and suggested that I start a business, so I did. At first, it was rough. We ruined so many cases in the experimental phase and I was studying Hindu deities along with the art of lucky numbers. Finally, we end up with three beliefs in one case.
What do you think allows mootaeloo to survive in 2022?
Poonpun: I think it has grown greatly along with the rise of Covid-19. People become hopeless in this awful economy where we still have to try and get by all the while chasing our dreams. We could say that it is a necessity to find something to hold onto. But Buddhism might be too much because we're not really at the point where we want to let go of all worldly things and turn to dharma. We need to stay in the secular world so how do we do that? That's why people turn to mootaeloo. To me, it's not one religion or the other and it's not as scary as saiyasart [a form of superstitious beliefs and rituals centred on black magic]. We're not leaning on these deities solely for peace of mind but mostly because we would like our wishes to come true. When my clients send in their wishes, I clearly see that people cannot choose to want only one thing in their lives. When some come to me it's like they have to give me a summary of their lives, anything that is positive they want it all. This could be why mootaeloo flourishes so much in this day and age.
How do the phone cases and wallpapers work?
Poonpun: We believe in the power of attraction and our phone cases hold positive symbols and will attract positivity into the user's life. However, it also depends on the person who uses our products, magic is real if you want it to be real.
Do you have any products that you would recommend for Chinese New Year?
Poonpun: Our cases can always be customised to give as gifts for Chinese New Year. Find us on Instagram at @plastic.lunatic.
Now that we have embellished ourselves with positivity, let's have a look at how to rid ourselves of negativity, as the Year Of The Tiger comes with misfortune for some zodiac signs. This year, the 'pee-chong' is namely for those who were born in the year of the tiger, pig, snake and most unfortunate of all, the monkey. Fear not, there is a way to combat this and it will take you to one of the most popular spots in Chinatown, Wat Mangkon Kamalawat (commonly known as Wat Leng Noei Yi), a 150-year-old Mahayana Buddhist temple. There you will meet Taisui, the guardian god of fortune for all Chinese birth years. Steps you have to take to thwart the bad luck are:
(Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
1. Buy a luck-changing set at the temple for B100. This consists of red papers and gold leaves. Don't forget to pick up three incense sticks.
2. Enter the door marked "The way to worship Taisui".
3. Worship the deity and read the writings on the red paper all the while wishing for good fortune to come your way.
4. Use the paper wings that came in the set to sweep away unluckiness from your head to your toe. Sweep outwards 13 times.
5. Put all the papers in the bucket that the temple has prepared. The monks will keep them blessed.
And now you're spiritually armoured to brave the Year Of The Tiger!