Home Religions Spirit houses in Thailand, to keep the good ones and chase away the bad ones

Spirit houses in Thailand, to keep the good ones and chase away the bad ones

by Pierre To
7 minutes to read
Spirit house at Wat Kham Chanot in Udon Thani

In Thailand most homes have a spirit house to house the protective spirits and to protect against evil spirits.

Welcoming good spirits

These spirits are genies, guardians of the soil, fields, trees and houses...

They are protective, distinct from the 'phi' malevolent and travelling spirits.

The chao thi are in charge of keeping the phi at bay, which would otherwise bring misfortune and desolation to their environment.

Therefore, it is customary for Thais to provide a shelter for the Land Genie, which will remain permanently after a house or building has been constructed on the land.

You can find them all over the Thailand.

The shelter is called the "spirit house", a small building perched on top of a column at eye level.
Spirit houses

Designing houses with spirits

A spirit house can be built of wood or concrete.

Although the classical Thai architectural style is generally adopted for these small shrines, it is noticeable that many of them have been created to resemble a miniature Khmer stone shrine.

A spirit house can be specially designed to match the style, theme and landscape of the main building.

House of Spirits Exhibition and Sale

Spirit house shop in Pattaya

Ceremony at the installation of a spirit house

If the owner of the property wants to set up a spirit house on his or her property, he or she must hold a ceremony to erect the shrine and to invite the guardian spirit to stay there.

The ceremony is orchestrated by a Brahmin priest who determines the favourable date for the construction, location and orientation of the shrine.

There are two general rules: the spirit house should face east and it should not be located where it can be shaded by the house or building.
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Duty to the inhabitants of the spirit house

Once the house is built, the guardian spirit that resides in it must be cared for.

Daily offerings of food, flowers, candles, and incense sticks should not be overlooked.

It is believed that the offerings must take place before 11am.

The visitors and the spirit house

In the past, it was common for visitors invited to sleep in the house to pay homage to the guardian spirit before going to bed to inform him of their presence, to ask permission to stay and to apologise if they unknowingly committed acts that disturbed him.

Before leaving the next day, they again pay homage to the spirit and ask it for protection and safety on their return journey.

A spirit house for all types of buildings

A spirit house can be found not only on private property, but also in factories, hospitals, government buildings, markets, shopping centres, etc.

It is quite possible for visitors to these places to pay homage or make offerings at home to the spirits in question.

It is actually common for patients and their families to pay homage or make offerings at home to the hospital spirits before receiving medical treatment.

spirit house for a business

Spirit house for a business

The believers rewarded

It is said that some guardian spirits are very kind to believers and grant them whatever they wish.

Their shrine is therefore lively and much visited by people hoping to find fortune by trying to appease the spirits.

They make promises to the spirits of gifts that seem appropriate to them, if their wishes are fulfilled.

Offerings for houses to the spirits

Wooden Spirit House

Wooden Spirit House

Traditional offerings are dolls representing slaves and beasts of burden such as elephants and horses.

Nowadays, offerings can be anything that is supposed to fill the spirits.

However, if the wish is granted, but the promise is not kept, it is believed that bad luck will follow the person who did not keep the promise.

Buddhism and spirit houses

This animistic practice does not conflict with the Theravada BuddhismThe latter, unable to eradicate this belief, recovered it by placing the chao thi at an intermediate level between men and the Hindu gods intimately involved in Theravada syncretic Buddhism and by considering them as servants of Buddha.

Source: Book "The Ties that Bind the Thais" written by Pornpimol Senawong; http://fr.wikipedia.org ; Photos: Spirit house at Wat Kham Chanot in Udon Thani: Eigenes WerkSpirit houses: Henry Flower; Spirit houses near a Thai market: Milei.vencel; Wooden spirit house: Siren; Spirit house exhibition and sale in Pattaya : Siren

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