San Phra Phum

San Phra Phrum, which can be translated as „spirit house“, are miniature houses that are present in Thailand in every area that is used by humans, for example near buildings, fields or temples. They are leftovers of animistic, pre-buddhistic worldviews in Thailand. I also saw them in Laos, but not at all as much as in Thailand.
Their meaning is explained as following: In every place there are living spirits. If someone is building a house or uses a place for farming, the spirit looses his home and the person has to offer compensation in form of a San Phra Phrum. Also, these houses are found near to roads where a lot of accidents happen or at distinctive landmarks like caves or trees with a remarkable shape.
Overall there exist nine different spirits which can live in the house, the most common is the Chaiyamonkhon. A different kind of residents are ancestral spirits of the family. Two small puppets looking like an old woman and an old man are put into the house in their place. The responsibility of the spirit or the ancestors is now to protect the human-made. Moreover, they can also be called for special concerns.
The spirit house should always look more fashionable than the house the humans build for themselves. The day of the construction is specified by an astrologist and when it is finished, it is offered to the spirit by means of a ritual. If the spirit accepts the offering, the area in front of the house is frequently stocked with sacrifices. These are mostly drinks, but also sweets and fruits. The strength of the belief in the presence of these spirits shows itself beautifully in the fact that the beverages are always opened. Often, there’s even a straw added.
The houses are mostly made of plaster, sometimes of wood. They are usually sold in shops that specialise in products made out of concrete- or plastercast, like garden furniture. The simplest model, which is also the most common, costs about 20 Euro.
I noticed two interesting things. The first is that the condition of the human and the ghost house is proportional. If the human-house is a hovel, the San Phra Phrum will also be one. I never saw a shabby spirit house in front of a fancy human house despite actively searching for one. The other interesting thing is that sometimes, piles of old and damaged spirit houses can be found nearby the road. Sometimes there is a pile of trash directly next to it, but both piles are never mixed up. Maybe it is forbidden to throw them away like trash? Like in Iran, where bread is holy and so they have special trash cans for it (but in the end, it will be thrown in the same pile). I asked some Thais about it, but nobody could answer that question for me, or rather I had the feeling that they did not understood the question. Maybe for them it is not an act of throwing away, more an act of transferring something…

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  1. Steffi 30. November 2017

    Hallöle lieber Johannes! Dem schließe ich mir gerne an. Toll auf diesem Weg an deiner Reise Teil haben zu können und interessant sowieso. Viel Spaß und immer ein nettes Umfeld wünschen wir Dir.
    Die Knorrianer

  2. TCP 27. November 2017

    Wieder ein sehr informativer und gut zu lesender Artikel zu einem mir bisher nicht bekannten Thema. Die Fotos sind sowieso gut.
    Weiterhin noch viel Freude und gute Begegnungen.

    Grüße von TCP

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