Friday, July 27, 2012

Thai Spirit House (靈屋)

My Thai friend asked me if I am interested in buying a house in Thailand. Well, I told her as a matter of fact that I don’t have money to buy a second house in Thailand … But I can still spare some dollars to purchase a Thai spirit house J!

A spirit house or san “phra phum” is a shrine to the protective spirit of a place that are found in the Southeast Asian countries of Burma, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand. Most houses and businesses have a spirit house placed in an auspicious spot, most often in a corner of the property.

The location may be chosen after consultation with a Brahmin priest. Usually the spirit house will occupy one corner of the house compound - the shadow of the main house should never fall on the spirit house. This would court disaster and entice the spirit to move from its residence into the main house. But the art of placing the spirit house goes much further than just keeping it out off the shadow of the main house and is akin to the Chinese art of geomancy or feng shui. Often, when misfortune strikes a family, one of their first actions is to refurbish and move the spirit house.

There is a story told by my Thai friend about the power of the spirit house:

Many years ago, a poor young man travelled from Northern Thailand to Bangkok to look for job but was unsuccessful. As he has no money he was forced to seek shelter in a recreational park. There was a spirit house set up near where this young man was sleeping. So out of desperate, he prayed to the spirit house and made a vow on the event that he can find a decent job, he will refurbish the spirit house. Well, as what he had wished for, he really got a job as a transporter the next day. After a few weeks he already has a saving of 5000 Thai Baht! So he went back with some offering and fulfilled his promise.

In the normal run of events through, the spirit merely needs placating with food, incense, flowers, candles and other offerings. Each has its own character and tastes: one family, facing serious difficulties, employed a medium and to be told that, as their spirit was a Muslim, he had been offended by being offered pork. The family changed the spirit’s diet and the difficulties melted away.

Guests who stay at night should ideally ask the spirit for permission and then visit the shrine again before leaving.

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