Man Power for a Tree Nymph
Monday, March 10 2014

Can't find the solution to an old problem? Need a little inspiration for your next class or collection? Writer's block? Trying to get pregnant? Maybe you should try some light-hearted fun with a tree goddess (sanuk in Thai).

For me, one of the largest nature goddess shrines in Thailand at Nai Lert Park is definitely sanuk. What is so powerful about the space is not only the tree nymph named Jao Mae Tubtim that lives in a giant banyan tree, but the loads of phallic offerings the Thai people give to her. These phalluses are not just statues of carved wood, but are considered alive and exude male energies of virility, expansion and the life force. The spirit that lives in the tree needs this energy in order to do her duty, which is to create. Thai people have used the creative pulse of the goddess to make all kinds of realistic phallic offerings including a Sworovksi crystal phallus, a dog phallus, an airplane flying phallus and even a cowboy version with red bandana. Sizes range from 2” up to 10’ tall and are made in stone, marble, wood, plastic or whatever suits you’re fancy.

The Jao Mae Tubtim shrine is a place of outward contradictions that mirror a very integral spiritual connection. Just as all visual inhibitions seem to fly out the window, the space demands a deep attitude of respect for the energies there, including Mother Earth and her waterways. It seems that although fun and playful, Thais take their offerings seriously. This respect comes from the ancient belief that nature is alive and has a consciousness. Trees are one of the strongest sources of power because of their interdependent relationship with all living creatures including human beings. Trees are a door to the underworld- their roots extend deep into planet earth and their branches reach up to the sunlight. Their gifts are the fruits, nuts, seeds, leaves, oxygen, homes and shelter we enjoy. To the animist, this give and take makes for an easy formula; if we offer food, water, flowers and phalluses in return our wishes will be granted. But pay attention and you may notice more subliminal connections around the shrine- noticeably (besides the 10 ft phalluses) is the color red. Red Fanta, red incense, red phalluses, red cloth and her name Tubtim (meaning Ruby) are a popular color at spirit house shrines and represent sacrifice. Sacrifice is an ancient practice believed to stir up fertile energy- in order to give life, there must be blood. Fortunately live sacrifice was banned in Thailand over one hundred years ago, and Jao Mae Tubtim is satisfied with piles of playful phallic offerings around her roots.



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