In between the spiritual and physical realm walks the shaman, a figure that is able to communicate with both the material and ethereal. The figure of the ban jhankri, or “forest shaman”, comes from Nepal. Described by the indigenous folk as small, golden and hairy, they are master healers and those who chose human shamans to continue their work. Novices are typically young males who are then abducted to live and study in caves. They are later returned to their communities, hours or days after their disappearance. After their kidnapping, the acolytes find a human guru who helps them to initiate trances and communication with the ban jhankri.
The faces of the ban jhankri are carved out of the base of bamboo stalks where the “hair” is represented by the roots. Many of these representations are now being produced for sale in Thailand where artisans hand-carve the visages of the forest spirits. Said to be good luck and excellent feng shui, the rich earth tones and peaceful expressions bring a little of nature’s energy into the home.