Monday, July 2, 2012

Elephant "Gee Jew" - String Tying Ceremony

 This past weekend we were lucky enough to witness a Gee Jew (string tying) ceremony for two elephants that had returned to the village. 

The two elephants, Boon Thong (late 20’s) and her calf Thong M (2 years old) currently work in the Mae Tang camp and had returned to the village for a 2-week rest from the camp with their mahout Soh Poe. Gee Jew is a traditional way of welcoming visitors or returning family members back into the village. The elephants are held in such high esteem by the village that they are also welcomed back as family. We had been trying to figure out exactly when the ceremony was going to take place, but of course we got 3 different times for two different days…village time. 

We finally confirmed that it was on Sunday, and wandered down around 7:45 am to see what was going on. We were invited into Patti-Saiee’s house to join the family which was lucky as the elephants came up to the house shortly after and the ceremony started with no announcement…village time! 
We are not entirely sure of everything that occurred but from what we could see and guess, the ceremony involved a series of blessings and offerings. It began with Soh Poe's father brushing the two eles with ele grass, as a blessing. The mahouts then washed the heads of the elephants with water. This was followed by a blessing of tamarind placed on their heads. Next, an offering was made with rice and chicken touched to the elephant’s heads. String was then placed over each ear of the elephants, small white flower buds were thrown onto their heads and backs, and a small bouquet of flowers was placed on their heads. To finish off the ceremony the elephants were given an offering of food (in a banana leaf for the mom and in a banana for the baby), which I can only assume, had some rice and chicken in them. The entire ceremony took around 10 minutes and finished as quickly as it had started. There were around 20 people in attendance, mainly family, other elephant owners and us. After the ceremony we were invited to eat rice and chicken with the families. It was a small, short ceremony but definitely worth seeing - another special moment with the community and elephants of Huay Pakoot.