The Thai Spirit House
Thai Spirit House San Phra Phum, “house of the guardian spirit,” and San Chao Thi can be seen in front of most Thai houses and buildings. Normally it will be placed at the corner of the property. They are located in front of houses, shops, shopping malls, trees, and even by the roadsides; there is much more hidden out of sight to protect the land and to bring good luck. The miniature Spirit House is usually in the form of a wooden house made of rich teak wood, or more often nowadays, it is made out of concrete but enlivened with bright paint. According to ancient beliefs, the Brahman priest or Buddhist monk will guide them to the best location. They are beautifully decorated with flowers and surrounded with offerings like incense, candles, fruits, rice, chicken, flower garlands, betel leaves, glasses/bottles of red drink (strawberry Fanta) toys, and many more.
Spirit houses cannot be located anywhere and anytime they like. A Brahman priest or Buddhist monk will use the owner's astrology to determine the suitable location, color, and size of the Spirit House, the measures can be from very small to a very large extent, and the correct date and time to have the erection ceremony for it. The location of a spirit house is very important; it shouldn't be placed where the shadow of the building will fall on it. A better place to erect the Spirit House is in front of a tree. The color of the Spirit House is also to be specified according to the owner's birth date.
One of these, which every Thai practice, is the Spirit House. There are two common styles of Spirit House, and you will often see them together; they are often side by side; one will stand taller than the other, the taller one stand with a central pillar, and the other standing with four pillars usually has a Khmer architectural roof. They often have an offering table in front of the Spirit House, where the spirit is invited to live in the house with an elaborate and sacred ceremony, together with offerings of auspicious food and drink are placed. Practice a new Spirit House will often be commissioned and installed before or at the start of the construction.
The purpose of the Spirit House is to provide an appealing shelter for the spirits, or any celestial beings, which otherwise reside in heaven. Suppose everything has been set up properly. Brahman priests or Buddhist monks are engaged in the elaborate ceremony to show respect to the Gods of Mother Earth when they have positioned the Spirit House. Votive offerings are left on the offering table daily to soothe the spirits. The spirits are believed to live in the Spirit House assigned to them, so they don't bother the house's inhabitants.
Worship of the spirit, or animism, was a religion that existed in this world; when Buddhism came to Southeast Asia, it developed alongside the ancient spirit religion. Today, many old animistic beliefs are intertwined with Buddhism, and some animistic practices still exist in Thailand. These Spirit Houses are places for the spirits to live after the land on which they used to dwell. The reason for this is to keep the spirits happy and keep them out of the owner's house or establishment and to help them to bring them good luck and prosperity.
Although Thailand is a land of Buddhism as a predominant religion, its beliefs and traditions are rooted in Hinduism and animism. Thai people strongly believe in mysticism and the presence of spirits everywhere. They think there are all types of energies around us – good, bad, mischievous, and helpful natures. According to Thai beliefs, each spirit has its unique role to play and cannot interfere with another spirit's role. For example, to get a good harvest, you need to call the rice spirit. But it cannot protect your house. For houses, you need to contact the guardian spirit. Spirit Houses are to be constructed to avoid upsetting the spirits and ask them for protection, wealth, and prosperity.
Types of Spirit Houses - San Phra Phum – This Spirit House stands next to San Chao Thi and is erected a little higher. It tends to be more formal and impersonal. Constructed of a thick center pillar, it resembles a Thai Buddhist temple, often with a Khmer architectural roof. San Phra Phum is built for the guardian spirit – Phra Chai Mongkol. She is represented by a gold-painted statue holding a sword in her right hand and a money bag in her left hand. Offerings are made to the spirits in exchange for watching over and protecting the house, abundance, prosperity, wealth, and good fortune and to fulfill many other wishes. The single post represents Mount Meru or Mount Sumeru (It is at the center of the world). It is also believed that Mount Meru is the home of the Buddha Cakrasaṃvara.
San Phra Phum
San Chao Thi
San Chao Thi – This Spirit House has four pillars ground into the earth. Its inhabitants are the lords of the land, represented by figurines of an old man and an old woman called ’Da Yai,’ which means ‘grandfather and grandmother.’ Thai believed that the spirit may have lived here before and invited them to live in the Spirit House, protecting them from the bad spirit coming to them without their permission. Figurines of servants, butlers, and gatekeepers are there to take care of them. In addition, you will see some figures of elephants, horses, miniature cars, etc. That symbolizes the means of transport for the spirits. These Spirit Houses are built to pacify the nerves rather than revere them. Thai devotion is reserved for Buddha and celestial beings.
Spirit House Graveyards
Most Thai people don't keep the previous owner's Spirit House. They will have a new one to replace the previous one, and the last shrine will be removed; the old Spirit Houses cannot merely be dumped. A ceremony just as auspicious as the installation or building of the Spirit House must arise. A Brahmin priest or Buddhist monk will decide on the correct date and time to transfer the spirit from the old Spirit House to the new one. After that, the old Spirit House can be discarded and rest in a communal blessed Spirit House graveyard. Areas around holy trees can be used as graveyards for spirit houses because the tree's protective power counteracts the negative energy of discarded dwellings.