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Pattaya Daily News

26 August 2010 :: 16:08:40 pm 36673

Spirit Houses: Traditional Thai Spirit Worship

There are many superstitions and beliefs here in Thailand. One of them is that when a new family house is built, there is a possibility that the spirits who have lived on the site have been disturbed.
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A small shrine or “spirit house” is erected in a place on the grounds where the shadow of the main house will not fall on it.  The little house is to provide shelter for the spirits who it is believed would create problems for the living if they are not appeased and would contain images of people and animals. Offerings of food, drink, flowers and incense are left on a daily basis.

The shrines or “spirit houses” are made to resemble little Thai temples and though they are erected in prominent spots somewhere near the main house, many can be seen elsewhere such as on the roadside on bends. These are usually put there by motorists in the hope that the spirits who haunt the area will not endanger the lives of motorists as they pass by. Some are erected at roadsides to pacify the spirits who died a violent death through a traffic accident.

They can be found just about anywhere you would care to look including outside food stalls, restaurants, bars, temples, hotels, on the sides of mountains and in forests. There are as many indoor shrines as there outdoors, some in offices of businesses.

When Thais were migrating from the Red River Delta in Northern Vietnam to various parts of South East Asia, spirit worshiping was a religion that the world lived by. When Buddhism arrived to South East Asia, it developed alongside the ancient spirit religion with many of today’s beliefs intermingled with it and still in practiced.

According to old stories that have been passed down, the spirits are either good or evil, though many are mischievous and demanding, capable of causing mayhem if they are not appeased. For example, the spirits should be informed and permission gained if a human is preparing to start a business venture, if not, the spirits will cause the business to fail.

The style of the “spirit House” depends on personal finances and construction can only be done by a specialized spirit house builder. He must be familiar with all the necessary rituals involved so the spirits will find the house acceptable. The spirit house can be made from wood or concrete, from small to large or even a walk in and around size. The houses are then furnished with statues, furniture and anything symbolic such as elephants or figures of married couples, while on the balcony of the spirit house candle sticks are placed for the light of candles in prayer.

Although the Thai’s have many celestial beings in their folklore, the main spirits the Thai are concerned with are the Phra Bhum Jowthee, (garden spirits of the land). There are nine guardian spirits, each offering a different kind of protection, but only two are frequently prayed to and consulted. These are the Guardian of the house who keeps watch over the home, protecting it from harm and business matters and the Guardian of the garden who watches and protects the natural surroundings such as the gardens, orchards of the Thai families and their yards. These two are the only ones who have spirit homes built especially for them. There are separate guardians for taking care of things such as the rice fields and agriculture.

Spirit Houses are the most obvious feature in Thailand and devotion to Buddhism will show itself in rituals within temples while devotion to the guardians will show in peoples’ gardens and yards. When a new spirit house is required, a ceremony is held in order to transfer the spirits to the new abode after which the no longer required spirit house will be dumped near the new one or near temples.

Sarah Goldman

Photo : Internet   Category : Society

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