Folklore: Nang Tani (“The Banana Tree” Fairy)
November 29, 2016
One of the aspects of Southeast Asian culture that impressed me the most was the presence of ghosts and spirits in their folklore. Spirits and ghosts are known as phi (ผี) in Thai and they are often found in trees, cemeteries, houses, mountains, forests, lakes, rivers and so on – there is practically a spirit for everything!
Many spirits were never recorded in the form of paintings or drawings, but their stories have rather been passed on through oral tradition.
Thai folklore and the belief in spirits was something I found a great interest in while in Thailand, and even more so when I found out what an impact they have on Thai culture and the daily lifestyle in Thailand.
Nang Tani (นางตานี)
Today I will introduce you to Nang Tani (นางตานี), a female spirit of Thai folklore. She is the ghost who haunts wild banana trees.
Depicted as a beautiful young woman who resides in the clumps of banana trees, she hides for long periods of time and comes out from the trees during full moon nights.
She is considered a good spirit, with a warm heart and she often gives food to passing Buddhist monks. She is much respected by her believers – it is considered a bad omen to cut banana trees from the clump she lives in and many make offerings for her in the form of incense sticks, flowers and sweets. However, oral legends do say that Thani might hurt men, especially ones that have harmed women.
While in Thailand, you will often notice that there are colorful cloths tied around trunks of trees – this means that the local people believe these trees to be inhabited by a ghost or spirit, and when you notice a banana tree wrapped with a satin cloth, that means that tree is reputed to be haunted by Thani.