Thursday, September 06, 2012

Hungry ghosts

A praed isn’t necessarily dead. In some interpretations, Anderson tells us, it’s an individual who’s committed minor offences, and been condemned to a particularly nasty perpetual hunger – for blood and pus – which can’t be satisfied because he or she has only a pinhole for a mouth. This isn’t the case, however, with the victims of the venerable abbot’s fantasies. Their orifices aren’t scanted, and the torments warn that trespasses will lead to suffering now, in much the same way as drug addiction soon tells. Luang Phor Khom explicitly ordered his sculptors to shame the sinners by exposing their all – hence the raucous nudity. So it might have been possible, for example, to meet a lover illicitly in the wat one night and return the following month to find oneself depicted and branded, bloodied and skewered, one’s guts spilling out, breasts lopped off and genitals horribly swollen and luridly aflame. Narokphum is a kind of Struwwelpeter sculpture garden, filled with the dire consequences of bad behaviour come from the mind of a raging celibate. 
-- Marina Warner

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