Friendship Between the Mien and the Banyan Tree Spirit

Fou Sio Saepharn

This is about Mien making friends with a banyan tree spirit. There once was a Mien family who lived near a banyan tree. They became friends with a grand banyan tree spirit. One day a son of the Mien family defecated on one of the banyan tree’s roots not knowing that it was a banyan tree spirit’s house. As a result, the banyan tree spirit “touched” the son by putting a curse on him, and he died.

The father of the child was very angry at the banyan tree spirit because he had killed his son. He wanted to get even. He decided to disguise himself so that the banyan tree spirit wouldn’t be able to recognize him.

He peeled some bark off a song-e tree (a type of pine tree with hairy bark) and made a cloth out of it which he wore upside-down. Then he took a metal ring with three legs on which to set a pot over the fire, and he wore it upside-down on his head. Then he tied a gourd and some hot chili peppers around his groin.

When he was completely disguised, he sharpened his axe and went down to the banyan tree spirit’s treehouse and began to cut down the tree. He cut the whole day, but the tree didn’t fall. It only hissed a little.

The next day, the grand banyan tree spirit went to visit the father. The spirit said, “Ah, my friend, a strange termite has been eating my house posts. Hairs were growing upside-down on its body. It has three horns on its head. My house is about to fall. It’s hissing and shaking already. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if I should move away.”

Realizing that the spirit was getting worried, the father disguised himself again and went back to cut some more the next day. After a day of cutting, the tree began to hiss and shake harder.

The next day, the banyan tree spirit came back to visit him again. He told him, “My friend, that termite keeps on coming to eat my house. My house is about to fall. I don’t know what to do. I think I am going to have to move away.”

The next day, the father magically disguised himself again and went back to cut the tree. He continued to cut until the tree fell down.

When the grand banyan tree spirit came to visit the man the next day, he cried, “Oh, what a disaster, my friend. My tree home fell and almost killed my family. I really can’t stay any longer. I have to move.”

The father asked him about the time and route over which he planned to travel. The spirit told him that his family would move down the stream the next day.

Early the next morning, the father hurried to the stream to prepare to kill the spirit. He disguised himself as he did before. Then he prepared a wok full of boiling oil. He also brought along a net.

Unfortunately, he accidentally let a drop of urine drip on his toe while urinating.

Later that afternoon, a sudden breeze came up. The wind blew many leaves down onto the stream. Soon frogs were floating down the stream on each of those leaves. One leaf, one frog. The father, believing them to be banyan tree spirits, quickly scooped them up with his net, put them in the boiling oil, and fried them. He had fried almost all of them except the grand banyan tree spirit who was traveling down on the other side of the stream. He tried to scoop him up, but missed. The spirit recognized his toe from the scent of urine and quickly jumped out of the water on the bank.

Surprised, he cried, “Oh, it’s you, my friend! You have been causing me all this trouble! You almost killed my whole family. I didn’t know who it was.”

The father shouted back, “You! I am going to fry you, too.”

The sobered spirit quickly ran up to the hill shouting, “My friend, you’re so cruel. You’ve caused me all these hardships. You caused trouble for my entire family. Just wait until you don’t have those horns on your head. Don’t worry, then I’ll show you!”

The father was worried and quickly went home. He called other Mien together to help him do an ordination ceremony that would help elevate him to grand priest status. As a grand priest, he could wear the special ceremonial hat that looks like horns.

From that time on, the grand banyan tree spirit could not harm him. The grand banyan tree spirit became a lone banyan tree spirit which is what the Mien called him today, the lone banyan tree spirit. Today, Mien does the ordination ceremony mainly for status, but also to ward off this kind of spirit. By doing so, this kind of evil spirit can no longer harm the Mien.