Thai Spirit House
Animism in Thailand
The Thai Spirit House has rituals practice by many Thais. Spirit Worship is as old as mankind itself. In Thailand the phenomenon of Thai Spirit Houses goes back to the ancient days when the Tai's were beginning their slow migration from the Red River Delta in northern Vietnam to all parts of the Southeast Asian region. Spirit Worship, or Animism, was a religion by which the entire world lived at one time, and when Buddhism came to Southeast Asia , it developed side by side with the ancient spirit religion. Today, many of the old animistic beliefs are intertwined with Buddhism and some animistic practices still exist in Thailand .
The Thai Spirit House can be seen at a prominent spot outside every business establishment in the country. It can be seen on a pedestal in Front of every hotel. It dresses the corner garden area of a restaurant, the Front of a bar, disco or put Spirit houses are even seen at outdoor food markets. They are built on the grounds of Buddhist temples. outside caves in the mountains, near Fishing ponds in the valleys, and occasionally in the middle of an otherwise uninhabited forest. Most importantly, however. the Thai Spirit House is built at the yard of every home.
There are countless gods and other celestial beings in Thai folklore, The primary spirits the Thai's are concerned with, however, are called the Phra Bhum Jowthee , or Guardian Spirits of the Land, There are nine of guardians and each offers a different type of protection. The Guardian of the House and the Guardian of the Gardens are so frequently consulted with and prayed to that they are the only two that have permanent spirit houses built for them. The Guardian of the House is the spirit that watches over and protects the home. It is uncertain whether there is one spirit that watches over all homes, or if individual spirits do this for each home. However, all you have to do in Thailand is look around and you'll see that every home has a spirit house. Thai families who believe wholeheartedly in the spirit house and it's importance light incense every morning and ask the spirit to watch over and protect the home. Others do it on ritual occasions.
The Guardian of the House includes the spirit or spirits who help In business matters, and spirit houses at business sites are of the same type. More often than not in Thailand , the business and the home are in the same location.
The Guardian of the Gardens also has a permanent spirit house shelter built for him. This spirit watches over and protects the natural surroundings, yards, gardens and orchards of the Thai family. There is a separate spirit for rice fields, so the Guardian of Gardens should not be mistaken for a spirit protecting all of agriculture. Rather, nature, flowers, plans and fruit are so important to the Thais that the Guardian of the Gardens receives a separate and permanent house of his own.
The other seven Guardians of the Land are Protector of Gates and Stairwells, who is believed to reside in the home doorstep which explains why one should never step on the doorstep of a Thai homeProtector of Animals Protector of Store houses and Barns, Protector of Forests, Mountains, fields and Paddles, Protector of Temples, Protector of Waters , and Protector of Military Forts and Defence.
Offerings to a spirit house and the spirit who is intended to reside within can be nearly anything. The traditional offerings include flower garlands, betel leaves, bananas, rice, chicken, duck, and a wide range of other edibles and nonedibles. Candles are often used while incense is usually lit daily before a spirit house.
There are spirit houses everywhere In Thailand. Some very famous ones such as the one that houses the Chiangmai City Pillar are large enough to walk into. A visit to Wat Chedi Luang in Chiangmai will give you an opportunity to see it for yourself. At these people go to make offerings and request aid from the spirits to help them in monumental tasks such as bringing in the coming rice harvest. The ritual involved at such events often involves hundreds of people with a common goal and the spirit is called upon to help all. In return the people make promises of future offerings in the event that they are successful. Thus. a return visit to repay the spirit for his help is another important part of the ritual.
The Spirit House is one of the most fundamental features of Thai life even today and it is easily the most obvious. In Thailand devotion to Buddhism most often shows itself in ritual within a temple while Thai devotion to the spirits and especially the Guardians of the land and most often shows itself in their own front yards.