A brand new fad has been sweeping its way across Thailand over the past few years – Luk Thep Dolls. While they’re not exactly a part of the mainstream culture, you will see them popping up every now and again after moving to Thailand. These quirky childlike dolls are believed to bring good fortune to their owners, and have similarities to the long-standing Thai tradition – Kuman Thong. However Luk Thep Dolls, also known as The Child Angels, are also said to be possessed after going through a ritual that leaves them with a child’s soul. Children are meant to be a symbol of good fortune, and this craze has now started to see people treat their Luk Thep dolls like real children.
This popular trend started with local Thai celebrities who began posting on social media about the impact that the dolls have had on their lives. This craze has begun to get even bigger recently, with some restaurants and airplanes now allowing owners of the dolls to bring them with them as if they are real children.
Thai Doll collector, Mae Ning, is the founder of this new craze. She started making Luk Thep dolls three years ago as a way of controlling her stubborn son. Mae Ning now makes thousands of dolls each waiting to be adopted by a new mother or father. She modifies factory-made dolls by styling their hair and adding weight to them. After this, she then conducts a ritual, calling for the power of the Hindu goddess Parvati to summon a child’s soul in order to inhabit the dolls. Mae Ning insists that she does not use the souls of dead children, and instead creates the souls by chanting incantation; however there is still much superstition about the dolls being possessed by the souls of dead children. The dolls are supposed to be treated like real children and should receive food and gifts in order to bring the owner good luck and prosperity. If the Luk Thep dolls are neglected, then the owner is said to be signing him or herself up for misfortune.
One Thai business, Neta Grill restaurant, stated in a Facebook post that the dolls are welcome to sit with their owners. In addition to this, Thai Smile Airways are reported to have welcomed the dolls and a leaked memo suggests that staff have been asked to serve meals for the dolls and owners are allowed to buy the dolls their own seats on a flight – they even have to be buckled in during take-off and landing. However, not all airlines are as accepting of this craze. Thailand’s aviation authorities and airline representatives have decided to class the dolls as luggage and would need to be placed under seats or in the overhead compartments. The same can be said for hotels – while some are fairly accepting, one hotel in Phayao has even gone so far as to ban the dolls. People are also advised against bringing the dolls to China Ton Resort Phayao in Ban Tom as they believe they will make other guests feel paranoid and stop them from checking in.
Prices for these dolls range from 3,500 baht (£70) and can go up to a staggering 13,000 baht (£260). Some Thai’s even take their Luk Thep dolls to their local temple for them to be blessed by monks. There’s no telling how long this fad will go on for, but with it being rooted in ancient tradition, these child angels have become a part of the modern age and could be around for a long time to come.