Monday, January 4, 2010

Spirit Houses or San Phra Phum

Throughout our tour of Thailand we saw these miniature houses outside of homes, businesses, restaurants, hotels, and like much of this land filled with contrasts, you could see extremes – from the down right opulent miniature palace to the plain and simple traditional Thai-style house.

These are small shrines to animist spirits - every dwelling has one. They are placed in an auspicious location, usually a corner of the property on which the shadow of the main dwelling will not fall. They are located high above the ground – almost all with a ladder leading up to Spirit House. They are high enough to show the respect for the spirits that reside within, but low enough for offerings to be made.

Over 90% of the Thai people practice Theravada Buddhism. But as our guide tried to explain, spirit houses are neither Buddhist, nor Muslim, they are just Thai – with a blending of different religions that are not in conflict with each other. These are shrines to what is known as Animist spirits – the belief that not just humans and animals that have souls but also plants, rocks, rivers. Offerings are made to the spirits in order to appease them or to make a request - for a job or to have safe travels. The offerings are usually flowers, or water, or food.

The houses usually have small figures or symbols that live within the center of the spirit house. Various animal figures like elephants, furniture and figures of people such as a married couple can be found on the Spirit House as well. The balcony which usually surrounds the spirit house can have incense holders, candle sticks and/or vases for flowers.

Till next time, sayonara.

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