Spirit houses of Thailand

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Spirit houses with offerings of bubble tea and soda. Always with a straw.

They are everywhere. Large or small, clean or not, ornate or austere, the spirit houses of Thailand shelter the spirits of the land. Most Thai are Buddhists, but they are also animists, Spirits hold an important role in their lives. At homes, coffee shops, massage parlors, hotels, restaurants or small repair businesses, the Thai spirit houses sit in a place of honor and guard the land.

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Teak house at a nearby shop. The marigold garlands are typical, so is the elephant at the bottom for the spirits to ride on.

The spirits live in there, so people cherish them, honor them and share their news with them. They tell them when somebody died, a baby was born or whenever something important happened. They drop off gifts to keep them comfortable and happy. The offerings are many. There’s always incense and water.

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A hairdresser’s spirit house with offerings of live bamboo, fresh strawberry, peeled orange, banana, and fresh water, of course. Did you notice the gecko on the roof?

Fruit and rice are a must. So are flowers, whether natural or made of silk.

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Passion fruit to the bottom right, also lemons, green bananas, and pomegranates. Root vegetables and a package of sticky rice wrapped in a banana leaf on the pedestal near the dancer. Sadly,, the fruit is not peeled.

Candles and and garlands are seldom missing.

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Massage parlor. Notice the roosters on the bottom and the neighbor spirit house, yellow, in the back? I wonder if the spirits do block parties.

The coffee shop down the road shared what they do best.

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Expresso and water here, just like in the coffee house behind it.

Food is always a good bet. Also cigarettes, since some spirits smoke. Sometimes beer. And money, of course, since the spirits have to do their shopping too.

Attachment-1-5You’ll often find toys and statuettes. Elephants and horses and cars are there for transportation. Dancers and clowns provide entertainment.

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Some get decorated with Christmas lights. Spirits celebrate Christmas too.

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Plenty of soda and cigarettes at this huge electronics shop, but they’re short on the food.

The local hospital, Chiang Mai Ram, is obviously very popular. I wonder what offerings you’d find at an American hospital’s spirit house? McDonald’s? Hydros? Coke?

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Some houses are glittery and ornate.

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The new houses in front of a posh new hotel are glitzy. The offerings not so much!

Some are old and cherished.

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Some are derelict and look abandoned.

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Each spirit house is unique to the plot of land it’s built on and to the people who live there. When people move out, the spirits move out too. The new people must get their own spirit house. Rich, if they happen to be rich, small, if their house is small.

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This travel-sized house has a ladder for the spirits to climb to the top, a bamboo fan, and even an insect killer spray in the basement.

The spirits get neglected when people move out.

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The house is gone on this empty lot, so the spirit house stands alone.

The old spirit houses who have nobody left end up at Buddhist temples, or they are set to rest under a holy banyan tree, where they slowly fall apart.

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But even then, kind strangers will often leave a gift – a garland? flowers? a little soda? reminding them of the good old days.

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For more on Thailand, check out:  Thai Massage: The lovely torture. and Thailand, weird and wonderful.

Rada Jones MD. is an Emergency Doc in Upstate NY and the author of three ER novels: OVERDOSE, MERCY, and POISON.

 

 

4 thoughts on “Spirit houses of Thailand

  1. Beautiful, Looks warm there. Just to let you know it is cold here still. Glad your have a relaxing retirement.

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