National Geographic : 1966 Jul
"Spirits eat little, but we eat a lot," admit the devout but practical people of Pa Pae. Ai Pan lifts a foot-long knife to slaughter a water buffalo, a major sacrifice offered to ancestor spirits to keep the dry rice growing. The spirits, not greedy about food, re ceive tiny bags of meat plus the tips of the ears, nose and tail, eyelashes, and a sliver of a hoof. The Thai Govern ment levies a tax on slaughtered ani mals, so villagers sometimes hoist a throttled buffalo to a tree limb and claim the animal hanged itself. Hawk-eyed and hungry, villagers supervise the careful distribution of the buffalo meat. To combat an illness, the Lua sometimes give a spirit a trial offering of burned bone, unspun cot ton, and a few sticks. If the patient recovers, they promise to give the spirit a big feast-most of which the Lua themselves will eat. Sacrifices imbued with this happy blend of piety and common sense govern Lua agriculture as well as social life. The big samang, village religious leader, directs the most im portant ceremonies. "Without him," the Lua say, "we would have to live in the jungle like monkeys."