Day 490: From Human To Kuman Thong

originally published May 4, 2013

Every so often a headline grabs my attention and won’t let go until the blood has drained from my cranium, leaving me unconscious and limp, like a pile of soggy overcoats in a long-neglected closet. Certainly when I read “Briton Arrested with Roasted Human Foetuses For Use In Black Magic Ritual”, my curiosity was piqued. As was my breakfast.

One topic that hardly ever flops its way onto this site is religion. I’m here to entertain and to fill people’s heads with trivia that will adhere like pesky Velcro to the inside of their skulls, not to debate the life of Jesus, the teachings of Mohammed or whether or not humans are merely a vessel for alien host-creatures called thetans (though if pressed, I’d go with a daring ‘no’ for that last one).

But this goes beyond religion. Once you’ve roasted a fetus, you’ve crossed a line into the criminally weird. A warning – this story could turn ugly.

(so far, it’s just creepy)

This totem, this twisted and deranged ritual – and here I feel confident in calling this particular spiritual practice just a little bit deranged – is called Kuman Thong. We’re venturing now down the path of animism. Animism is the fundamental belief that all things – humans, animals, plants, rocks, broken Rubik’s Cubes with one corner piece missing – possess a soul. They aren’t all dancing the same big mystic foxtrot, mind you – that’s pantheism. But if you feel that each tree that was felled in order to build that new strip-mall was a desecration of an individual living soul, then you may be an animist.

Studies have shown that the more progressed a society is, scientifically-speaking, the less likely they are to believe in animism. This is why you’ll tend to find animism among tribal peoples, and not so much in the big cities. I can’t imagine the horrors of believing there’s a soul inside everything. Where does it end? The concrete building? That wall-to-wall carpeting made up of natural fibers? I have a hard enough time making eye contact with Mrs. Butterworth.

(quit judging me!)

The Kuman Thong statue is supposed to bring good luck and good fortune to whomever owns it, so long as they properly revere it. Ancient practitioners of Saiyasart would surgically remove the fetuses from the mother’s womb. To be fair (and believe me, I’m trying like hell to be fair here), these were babies who had already perished in utero.

The removed fetus would then be taken to a cemetery, where it might be soaked in Nam Man Prai, which features the extract of a dead child or someone who had perished in a violent or unnatural way. Then, the fetus is roasted until dry (before dawn, of course), and painted with a gold leaf lacquer called Ya Lak. Let it sit and dry, then congratulations! You’ve got yourself a fresh Kuman Thong. Let’s see Martha Stewart pull this one off.

My source refers to these things as ‘amulets’ and ‘statues’. I’m not sure either is completely accurate, but I won’t argue semantics. The ‘amulets’ must then be cared for and revered as children – that’s the only way they’ll pass off their good luck.

The man in the article, Taiwan-born British citizen Chow Hok Kuen, had purchased the black-market fetuses for about £4000. His plan was to smuggle them from Bangkok back to Taiwan, where he believed he could make a six-fold profit by re-selling them on the internet. Most Buddhist-animists who believe in the good-luck nature of Kuman Thong will utilize a little gold figurine as a stand-in totem. I suppose what Chow was selling was the opportunity for authenticity. Why buy a fake baby-looking figurine when you can actually own a gold-covered fetus?

(because the figurine is NOT INSANE!)

Remember, this is not like purchasing a fancy ornate cross or a meticulously embroidered yarmulke. A Kuman Thong is a commitment. You will be raising this kid. You don’t have to feed him (he will absorb your food’s essence), but you do have to offer it some sort of red sweet beverage. The article doesn’t state what Kuman Thongs prefer, but I suppose you could probably get away with Mountain Dew Code Red. That stuff is probably better used for this purpose than actual human consumption.

Your Kuman Thong will whisper gossip in your ear. It will play little pranks on you. If you’re a weak person, it may even possess you. They’ll even socialize and trade stories with other Kuman Thongs if you happen to get a few together.

One source tells me that a Kuman Thong can do many things, including:

  • Business
  • Job
  • Love
  • And many every things

I may need to look at a different source for the facts here.

For those who truly believe in this, the Kuman Thong is the closest thing to having a child without actually having a child. Or a pet.

Col Wiwat Kamhamnan of the Bangkok police found Chow with his sextet of deceased fetuses in a hotel in the Yaowarat district of the city, which is the area of Bangkok known as Chinatown. The source of the fetuses remains unclear – though Chow immediately gave up the Taiwanese man who hired him, who allegedly makes regular fetus-smuggling trips.

But as hard as human fetuses are to find on the black market in North America (I assume, anyway), they should be a lot trickier to track down in Bangkok. Abortion is flat-out illegal in Thailand, except in instances of rape, incest, or health concerns for the mother. This means that women who want to abort for any other reason have to find an illegal clinic. It’s likely that Chow’s source was one of these clinics.

The real clincher in this story is that Chow is facing a whopping one year in jail and a £40 fine once this case works its way through the Thai legal system. That’s not a lot of deterrence for a crime like this.

(you should see the photos I didn’t include)

I’m not even convinced a lot of the dead-eyed drones I see every morning on the freeway have a soul, so making the leap to believe there are souls in all living things is way out of the ballpark for me. I’m not entirely sure there was a victim in Chow’s crimes, but while I frown on telling someone their beliefs are not valid, this one is skating on the murky edge of complete wackiness.

For a good luck charm, I’d recommend something simpler, like a lucky coin or that Dave Matthews Band shirt you were wearing when you met that hot redhead. Now if you’ll excuse me, I don’t like the way that tree outside is looking at me…

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