Updated: Jan 28
San Phra Phum or ศาลพระภูมิ is Thai for Spirit Houses. In Thai Tradition, it is customary to erect spirit houses to appease the spirits of the house, land, and/or ancestors.
These spirit houses are scattered all over Thailand, it's actually normal to be living with ghosts there!
The ritual for installing one is usually carried out by Buddhist Monks, but is also possible to do by oneself with setting up an image of the Buddha.
In other words, it’s inviting ghosts to live in a miniature, scaled down, replica house. All masterfully crafted too, might I add.
This tradition is more of a Southeastern Asian Tradition and is NOT directly linked with Buddhism.
In Thailand, and most likely many other cultures, every house is believed to have Guardian Spirits. They either protect the house, or wreak havoc upon the house and the land.
These spirits are invited by the Monk, to live in a miniature scale house, but in return must protect the actual house, land, and the people inside it. It’s also used to demonstrate respect to these spirits to promote peaceful living.
Don’t’s: Don’t let the entrance into the Spirit House face the West or the South. Don’t set up the Spirit House, Wednesday or Friday. Don’t let the front of the shrine face the front door of the house. Do not let the shrine be under any shadow casted by the house, nor let it reflect any of the house’s shadow. Not to be set up too close to the house or any sort of bathroom.
The time that the shrine should be established is in the morning or before the sun sets. The soil of the decided placement spot needs to be broken up with holy water sprinkled on it to eradicate any demons that may be able to pass through that area. Must complete the hole before the ceremony begins (There is a ceremony on the following day).
Like all other religions, these spirits are ritualistically given offerings.
Without continual offerings, the spirits will show their restlessness and also bring it upon the inhabitants of the property.
These Spirit Homes are often used in front of businesses, houses, temples, neighborhoods, parks, and even trees.
They are used for protection, acceptance, approval, and assistance from the nature spirits, ancestors, guardians, etc. that may be lingering in or around the property already.
Often times, if the spirit can’t manipulate reality enough to successfully protect the inhabitants; the spirits will warn them in their dreams of the danger up ahead. The people who live in Thailand have a lot of stories as mentioned.
I read about “Spirit Home Graveyards” which was written by an American. Anything written about Thai folklore in English is usually sketchy to me.
The Spirit Home Graveyards are just sanctioned off little lots filled with Spirit Homes with nobody there to watch them. Apparently, these graveyards are used to keep the Spirit Homes that people no longer want.
In all honesty I think I've seen them, I thought they were like car dealerships for Spirit Homes. A bunch of extra empty homes just parked in a lot, fenced off in random little spaces. Waiting for people to buy them.
My upbringing in the Thai culture leads me to believe that the Graveyard story is a myth. I’m pretty sure a monk comes and prays to decommission it or seal it, then possibly taken to the temples to be cremated.
There are eerie connections of a Spirit Home to the Dybbuk Box. Spirits often become bound to these objects, sometimes even locked up inside. If destroyed or burned without someone experienced in handling things like this, it could lead to a release of the spirits into the world.
I’d recommend staying away from this as I do most things. Most millennials nowadays, at ;east in America, including me, lack knowledge and consistency with venerating spirits.
Offerings are given once a week to a couple times a day. Sometimes the food offerings are switched out at every meal time with an incense burning, sometimes food is switched out once a week.
If not venerated, or not appeased, the spirits may become wrathful. There’s not enough Monks or temples in America where people would know how to approach – but if want good food on the weekends, or temple services I highly recommend:
Wat Thai of Los Angeles 8225 Coldwater Canyon Ave, North Hollywood, CA 91605
I can go into more specific details about the Spirit Houses later down the line. But I'm working on posting about other CRAZY spiritual Thai Traditions soon.
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