Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Tok Sen

Today we can witness Tok Sen, a traditional therapy of Northern Thailand, becoming completely corrupted by modernization.  It is frequently talked about as "pok, pok, pok," a simplified hitting of the client's body with the mallet and the peg along the sen. With this gross generalization it is being taught as a short course for a quick profit.


Tok Sen actually has a long history in the Lanna tradition of medicine.  It most likely originated with the Shan people, perhaps somewhere around the city of Lampang, and later spread across the area of Northern Thailand.  Like most traditional practices, it is a combination of both physical therapeutic techniques as well as magical or spiritual healing methods. As with all traditional methods of healing in the Lanna tradition, the ways in which it is learned, taught and practiced are governed by specific methods and initiations which have been passed on for generations. As it treats both physical as well as spiritual causes of illness it is necessary to receive the complete teaching and not separate out one aspect. To do this one should receive initiation from a qualified teacher. Then they should learn the practical application of Tok Sen.  Learning the technique alone is not complete nor is it sufficient to practice Tok Sen as it was passed on for generations. The practitioner should obtain the proper tools from his/her teacher.  The type of wood, shape and weight is determined by the lineage and has specific use and meaning.  For example, the most prized wood for the peg is a tree that has been struck by lightning.  This type of wood has a special quality for moving out negative energy from the body and protection from malicious spirits.  Ivory may be used for removing toxins from the body as well.  These tools must be blessed and empowered by the teacher.  To do this the tools will be part of a ritual in which they are offered up to the lineage for blessing.  After this, the teacher will inscribe sacred incantations on the mallet and pegs in order to promote healing for the patient and protect the practitioner.  The practitioner should learn the appropriate incantations for blessing the instruments before a treatment, incantations for making offerings on behalf of the patient, incantations for healing as he/she is using the tools for healing and finally, incantations for cleansing.  Today there are a few different lineages of Tok Sen practitioners.  Each has his/her own methods and incantations but generally they are very similar.  When we say lineages we mean traditional doctors who have been initiated themselves and are practicing in a traditional way.  The schools which are teaching Tok Sen as a purely physical technique without initiation, incantations or the like cannot be consider a tradition or part of a lineage.