Phii Mae Mai
The Widow Ghost
Also known as: Phi Mae Maai
Women who suffer abrupt, violent, and untimely deaths are traditionally considered among those most likely to transform into destructive ghosts. The potential life energy contained within women becomes an instrument of wrath. In traditional Thai ghost-lore, some of those women evolve into Phii Mae Mai, literally “widow ghost.” The woman may not literally have been a widow while alive: the Phii Mae Mai manifests voracious sexual hunger, which Thai folklore associates with sex-starved widows.
It would be interesting to know whether dead women who transform into Phii Mae Mai were naturally lusty while alive, sexually exploited, or victims of sex crimes, but there is little traditional interest in the Phii Mai Mae herself Focus is entirely on protecting her male victims.
The Phii Mae Mai is blamed for unexplained nocturnal deaths of men, especially vigorous young men. Phii Mae Mai roam around at night, alone or in ghostly girl gangs, searching for men to satisfy sexual cravings. They will ride a man all night, leaving him dead in the morning.
In 1990, Phii Mae Mai became the focus of public panic when they were blamed for an alarming number of deaths. Young men were mysteriously dying in Thailand and overseas, including almost six hundred Thai laborers in Brunei, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and Taiwan.
Official medical explanation was Sudden Unexpected Nocturnal Death Syndrome attributed to a high-carbohydrate diet consisting almost exclusively of sticky rice. It was explained that insulin overproduction, stress, hard labor, and unsanitary living conditions contributed to death. Syndrome symptoms included extreme fatigue and muscle pain. Death was caused by heart or respiratory failure while asleep. Further investigation indicated that this syndrome dated back at least to 1983.
Villagers subsisting on similar diets weren’t sure about that diagnosis. They blamed the Widow Ghost. Phii Mae Mai can’t be destroyed but can be tricked, obstructed, and repelled. She is a resolutely heterosexual ghost with virtually no interest in women.
• Men who dress as women at bedtime may foil her attack: super-feminine lingerie and red nail polish (red considered a feminine color) are recommended.
• Really big phallic amulets distract or repel Phii Mae Mai.
Traditionally huge wooden penises were placed on gateposts and household entrances when Phii Mae Mai were reputedly on the prowl. One village placed a twenty-two-pound, three-foot-long phallus at the entrance to the village, much to government officials’ displeasure.
Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.