A New Thai Spirit House Blessing

May 28, 2020 –
Today in rural Thailand, Grandma Siri and family get a new set of Spirit Houses to replace the ancient ones that finally gave up the ghost(s) a while back. This morning was the blessing of the new spirit houses.

The houses are set up on a cement and tile base which is also new. The main spirit house standing on one column is for the deity that watches over the entire domain, while the smaller house on four legs is for the spirits of the family’s ancestors to reside in.

A spirit house is a shrine to the protective spirit of a place that is found in the Southeast Asian countries including Thailand. The spirit house is normally in the form of small roofed structure, and is mounted on a pillar or on a raised platform. They can range in size from small, to houses large enough for people to enter. Spirit houses are intended to provide a shelter for spirits that could cause problems for the people if not appeased. The shrines often include images or carved statues of people and animals. Votive offerings are left at the house to propitiate the spirits. More elaborate installations include an altar for this purpose. It is a long-standing tradition to leave offerings of food and drink at the spirit house. Rice, bananas, coconuts, and desserts are common offerings. These can be left daily or less frequently.

The family I have spent years documenting, hold a morning prayer service once a month to honor and leave offerings for the spirits. Each month at the time of the full moon the spirit houses are cleaned and fresh food is left for the spirits. The food given the spirits is indeed a feast. Roast pig, assorted fruits and vegetables, rice, cigarettes, Thai beer and whiskey.

The good news is that the Thais realize the food offerings are symbolic. The feast is left on the tables in front of the spirit houses for an hour or so, then the food is collected and served to family and friends. So there is good eating to be had the day of the spirit house blessing, and usually for a few days after!

Lee Craker reporting from rural Nakhon Nayok, Thailand.
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