Full moon of the seventh lunar month (May or June).

  • Friday, 13 June, 2014 (expected date)
  • Monday, 01 June, 2015 (expected date)

Ritual Sacrifice

สืบสานประเพณีเลี้ยงดง is a particularly macabre Chiang Mai festival, not for the squeamish or faint-hearted. It involves the ritual sacrifice of a buffalo and the eating of its raw flesh and blood by a local shaman or medium. It takes place at the full moon of the seventh lunar month, just at the beginning of the rainy season. The ceremony is held at the foot of Doi Kham, a hill about 15 kilometers southwest of the town.

This is not a mass-participation tourist festival like Inthakin, Loy Krathong or Songkran. In recent years it has only been attended by people living in the area around Doi Kham and a few interested foreigners, although senior representatives of local government are often present. It is not officially approved of by the Tourist Authority of Thailand or in any way promoted by them.

Guardian Spirits of Doi Suthep & Doi Kham

This festival is designed to propitiate three guardian spirits who are said to represent the original Lawa or Lua inhabitants of the mountainous area around Doi Suthep and Doi Kham. These three spirits, Pu Sae, his wife Ya Sae, and their son Sudeva Rishi, were cannibal ogres with an insatiable appetite for human flesh and blood. A local legend relates that they tried to eat the Lord Buddha, but he became aware of their plan and admonished them not to eat the flesh of any living thing again.

The son agreed immediately and became a monk. Pu Sae and Ya Sae, however, asked if they could be allowed to taste at least the flesh of a buffalo once a year. The Buddha did not agree to this, but the people who live around Doi Kham feel that they must propitiate the two spirits by making the annual sacrifice of a buffalo. The two spirits are regarded as the guardians of the mountains. There is also the fear that unless their appetite for flesh is appeased in some way they might perhaps go back to their old habits.

Buffalo Slaughter and Spirit Possession

The selected buffalo is slaughtered just before dawn. The head, bones, meat, entrails and blood are separated and displayed on a mat. Hanging from a tree nearby is a portrait of the Buddha. The shaman, who spends much of the time before this quietly drinking whiskey, is suddenly and violently possessed by the two spirits and proceeds to eat the raw flesh and entrails of the buffalo, and to drink its blood. After a while the shaman collapses on the ground. The spirits depart, satisfied. Once again, the people who live around the mountain can relax for another year.