Before diving in, it’s important to mention that the belief of Spirit Houses are solely unique to these four Southeast Asian countries: Thailand, Laos, Burma, and Cambodia. Cool, right? Now, let’s begin.
Upon exploring the busy cities of Bangkok and Chiang Mai, it’s easy to notice these miniature shrines placed near homes and local businesses. They’re everywhere!
This traveler concluded that these quaint shrines were showcased for locals to pray. It wasn’t until learning that Spirit Houses are significant to Thai culture since the country’s formation.
Before the existence of modern religion, Spirit Worship or Animism was believed among human civilizations – “that all life, from plants to animals, even tangible objects contain a spirit.” According to the website, Chiang Mai & Chiang Rai, the old world beliefs of Animism integrated with the teachings of Buddhism during it’s development across Thailand. To this day, many beliefs of Animism are still in practice, such as, the Spirit House.
These houses are made to shelter and pay respect to old guardian spirits or celestial beings. It’s believed that when a construction company tears down old buildings, the spirit needs a place to reside, in order for the new construction process to run smoothly. There are mythical stories of landowners who experienced problems with building, from permit issues to structures falling apart. It was realized that a Spirit House was needed to restore peace, which actually worked. Bangkok.com mentions that a priest, also known as, a Brahman or sometimes a Buddhist Monk can determine where a Spirit House needs to be built. The style of the Spirit House is up to the new owners of the space, typically the wealthier the landowner or company, the more ornate the Spirit House. These houses can be temporary or permanent, decorated with the traditional offerings of betel leaves, flower garlands, rice, candles and incense.
As the country continues to rapidly modernize, it was nice to see first hand how Thailand continues to cherish their traditional values of religion and shamanistic spirituality. For more information about Spirit Houses, visit, Chiangmai-Chiangrai.com.