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Directions of Ancient Times

Buddhist philosophy has long sought to explain the position of the individual through Tid Hok or six directions that relate to where you are here and now. In front are elders and parents, those one pays respect to, and to whom one is graceful. To the right are teachers and instructors, those who have helped you, and to the left, friends. Behind are children and wife, all on the same status plane. Beneath are servants while above are those in the priesthood. This may all seem a little extreme in these days of political correctness but even a short while ago such definition of spatial relationships was quite common in the west. This gave rise to many common expressions and words such as "right-hand man", "behind every successful man is a good woman" and so forth.

Far more interesting is the complex system of beliefs in the powers of different compass directions and their relationship with the days of the week. While such beliefs are less strong than they were formerly, days do influence Thai life, and many barber shops still close on Wednesday. The 8 main compass points, "Tid" from the Pali language, all have beautiful traditional Thai names, as well as the descriptive yet common compass direction.

Compass Direction Names
Traditional Common Names
North Tid Udorn Tid Nuea
Northeast Tid Esarn Tid Dtawan-Awk Chiang-Nuea
East Tid Burapa Tid Dtawan-Awk
Southeast Tid Arkanay Tid Dtawan-Awk Chiang-Dtai
South Tid Taksin Tid Dtai
Southwest Tid Horadee Tid Dtawan-Tok Chiang-Dtai
West Tid Prajim Tid Dtawan-Tok
Northwest Tid Payap Tid Dtawan-Tok Chiang-Nuea

Time has always been important in ceremony, with Brahman astrological treatises being used to determine auspicious times from data on day and time of birth. Major auspicious celebrations such as weddings, or ordination into the monk-hood require orientation to face the great direction of that day to bring luck and happiness. The northeast is Sunday's direction. Face the east on Monday and the southeast on Tuesday. Wednesday you should look to the west and on Thursday, the south. Friday's celebration should point to the north while Saturday's event ought to face southwest.

Altogether more complicated still is the matter of travel for there are many factors to consider. There is a general belief in an unlucky direction for each day of the week, as well as a good direction. The bad direction is influenced by the way that death and the devil are travelling, as well as a more vaguely defined unpropitious direction. The good way is to follow in the paths of the angels or to accept the way that is said to be propitious.

Some days are clearly defined but on Tuesdays the angels travel with the devil to the northwest. Also on Fridays there is propitious to travel southeast with the devil. Maybe it is just better to stay home those days.

Confused yet? Well now we come to thunder. If you hear thunder from a particular direction, watch out, for it's the angels opening heavenly doors, doors that predict the shape of the year to come.

Thunder in the east tells us that the angels are unlocking the wind door. This will bring a year of abundance but people will not prosper. Southeastern thunder, the unlocking of a room door by the angels, heralds an abundant year and great happiness. If the angels open the fire door, then thunder in the south will warn of an epidemic. A year of abundance coupled with illness and violence is indicated by thunder in the southwest, when the angels open the stone door.

The sound of thunder in the west tells us that the angels are opening the dreadful iron door. This means that there will be little rain and much sickness and riot. The silver door being opened by the angels is also a bad omen for northwestern thunder prophesies drought and death. If the angels open the water door, thunder comes from the north and the year will be marred by floods, damaging farms. Finally the earth door may be opened by the angels. Thunder will come from the northeast and abundance and happiness will be seen.

Directions have long played a major part in Thai life and Buddhist teaching. They were an integral part of the decision making process. While they are less widely used in modern times, their lore remains well known and is still in significant use for important ceremonies especially those based on Brahman ritual.

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