Near Arun Lat Priest’s Camp Site in Sakon Nakhon, there is a lovely white Buddha statue placed at the edge of a rice field. Seeing the Buddha there reminded us of the Thai Rice Goddess Ceremony, which sadly is disappearing from Thai society. This ceremony, which is sometimes called The Beckoning of The Rice Goddess, is one in which the rice growers call on the Goddess of the Rice, known as Phra Mae Phosop (พระแม่โพสพ), to bless them with a bountiful harvest.
The ceremony includes sweet and savory food offerings (such as khanom tom daeng and khanom tom khaow), the presentation of Mae Phosop dolls made with stalks of rice, and the chanting of a harvest song, which goes by different names in different regions of Thailand. Here in Isaan (the Northeast of Thailand), the chant is called Kham Su Khwan Khao (คำสู่ขวัญข้าว), and it is conducted when the rice is being transferred into the storage huts — whereas in other parts in Thailand, the ceremony is conducted at the end of the Buddhist Lent, when the rainy season is culminating and the rice paddies are filled with flood waters.
The verses of one of the harvest songs to Phra Mae Phosop goes like this: Dear Mae Phosop, the enlightened Goddess of Prosperity and Mother of Rice, we beckon thee to descend upon the paddies and accept our offerings of food to appease your appetite for sweet, sour, and savory dishes. All who live here welcome you dear Mother. Please eat and bless us with a good harvest, free from disaster. Please fill our wicker baskets with your rice. Please allow the rice we are growing to blossom like galangals across the paddy fields.
In Thai legend, it is said that after being ill-treated by someone Mae Phosop retreated from humankind into the woods where no-one could find her, causing terrible harvests and much suffering. But she was convinced to return to society on being told the Lord Buddha was returning to Earth and needed her help to fulfill his mission. She agreed to return but only if she be treated with respect and kindness. On returning, humankind did treat her with the respect and kindness she deserved (as shown by the Thai Rice Goddess Ceremonies), and she blessed everyone with abundant harvests.