Among the endless stunning sights in Thailand are the fabulous spirit houses found across the country.
These ornate dwellings are believed to attract guardian spirits to protect local people and land, often found outside homes, schools, and Buddhist temples. Spirit houses are even seen outside caves, mountains, forests, valleys and rice fields – and even in the grounds of Koh Samui villa rentals.
It’s no secret that in Thailand spirit worship is as old as mankind itself, and these impressive little structures serve to house celestial beings who, according to local lore, would otherwise abide in heaven. Spirits are believed to be guardians; however they are thought to be good and evil, capable of causing havoc when crossed. One shouldn’t conceive of moving house, starting a new venture or making a change to the norm without keeping the spirit world adequately informed and appeased with gifts and prayer.
Known locally as San Phra Phum spirit houses are quite simply mini masterpieces. The construction of each dwelling can be simple or complex, ranging from baby size bungalows to elaborate erections complete with mini figurines, furniture, incense and flowers. Spirit houses can be constructed out of wood, brick or concrete depending on the type of spirit it is hoped to attract and are always built and sold by experienced spirit house builders. Such ‘experts’ are familiar with the many proper rituals involved in order to attract spirits and for it to ‘accept’ the earthly abode.
When placing a spirit house it’s all about location, location, location. A perfectly positioned spirit house will protect the sanctity of the nearby surroundings ensuring the perfect balance of nature and nurture. A spirit house should be free of falling shadows and complete with adequate views for the ‘inhabitants’.
Visitors may often notice Thais presiding over spirit homes, praying and presenting offerings such as candles, flowers, fruit, meats and delicacies. This is thought to appease the nine spirit guardians including the guardians of the gardens, rice fields, barns, animals, forests, waters, mountains and more.
Sometimes spirit houses are positioned on roads where accidents have happened, an example of this can be seen on Koh Samui’s ring road just past Chaweng where an impressive spirit house overlooks the bend. Other well-known spirit houses in Thailand include a dwelling in Wat Chedi Luang which houses the Chiang Mai City Pillar, so large that visitors can walk inside. Often guests go to make offerings and request help from the spirits inside.
Spirit houses are one of the most fundamental features of Thai life but as intriguing as they are tourists are advised to conform to spirit house etiquette. These are places of worship so a display of respect is advised when taking photographs and approaching the houses. Never put your feet on any religious item, and don’t touch or try to rearrange items in the spirit house to suit your photo. An especially important rule to remember is not to photograph spirit houses when people are praying.
For a private spirit house experience during your Koh Samui vacation why not book one of our spirit villas – spirits stay rent-free!