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Pig Ghosts and Lottery Numbers

We slept in Luna’s farmshed last night—a little wood and metal platform by the rice fields. Luna was very nervous about the ghosts. She slept on the farm all the time as a girl with no problem. But as she has grown older and more urbanized, the empty, nighttime spaces are increasingly a home for her accumulated anxieties, conflicts and other hauntings. A shamaness once told her she has to spend the night on her farm alone to figure out what the ghosts want so that she can resolve some of her physical illnesses. She hasn’t had the nerve yet.

I was hoping to meet one of the ghosts, but no luck. That could just be my problem. Luna insists that when one of the dogs dashed off to chase something, she heard a squealing pig. She stared into the night for several minutes looking for the pig, and even smelled her dogs’ mouths for blood. I told her that I had not heard a pig. “Maybe a ghost,” she said nonchalantly.

Luna did dream a lottery number—her first in a several months. I bought the ticket (it never works if she buys it herself). I won about $36.

Getting Rid of the Ghosts

My girlfriend Luna in Thailand received an exorcism a couple of weeks ago.

She had been sick for a month and a half: a swollen throat, persistent cough and pains in her leg sometimes so strong that she could not walk. She was taking loads of medicine that the doctors gave her, but to no effect other than to make her worry she was poisoning her kidneys. She finally got a local shaman to perform an exorcism. The symptoms receded after a couple of days, and now she is doing fine.

I actually suggested seeing the shaman. Partially because I am always suspicious of doctors and their drugs. But was also venting my own issues. I suggested that maybe her mother had cast a spell on her—swelling Luna’s throat so she couldn’t yell at her mom, and weakening her legs so that she could not leave her mother alone while she went to Bangkok to work. Yes, I was meddling where I shouldn’t. But I was persuasive enough that she sought out the shaman.

And the shamaness turned out to be a lot more insightful than either of us. She saw that the problem was not sorcery from Luna’s mother, but that the ghost of her father’s mother (which was actually only a temporary form of a ghost that was thousands of years old) had gotten into her body. The ghost was looking for somebody to take care of her, and Luna had a vulnerable body.

To explain the success of the exorcism in the form of psychotherapeutic myths that I grew up with (I don’t know if I believe those myths but I am more familiar with them than with ghosts and magic) my focus on Luna’s mother definitely had a lot more to do with my issues and projections than with Luna’s problems. Luna and her mother do have a very difficult relationship, but Luna is conscious of those difficulties and has dealt with them to some extent.

On the other hand, Luna has never really confronted her issues with her father, who more or less abandoned her as a child. This relationship is surrounded by denial and repression. I’ll skip the details, but Luna’s fears of abandonment have also shaped our relationship enormously, rarely for the better. To top it off, I left Thailand earlier than planned last August, with lots of unresolved issues between us. She got sick within a week after I left.

What started as my peevish and jealous attack on Luna’s relationship with her mother has flowered into some excellent results. The exorcism has not only helped Luna’s physical symptoms, but has also helped rejuvinate more open conversation and intimacy between us. Not least of all, we have overcome earlier problems when she tried to hide her relationships with local ghosts from me because she feared my scorn and criticism. Dealing with ghosts and magic certainly has been much more helpful than my earlier attempts to frame our problems in terms of psychotherapeutic categories and her trips to the doctors.

(As a side note, Luna likes to remind me of how the fortune teller she consulted earlier this year predicted that (1) it would be a difficult year for our relationship; (2) she would be very sick; and (3) I would have a serious accident. It all came true—I also had a nasty bike accident about the same time she started feeling sick).