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San Phra Phum – The Thai Spirit House

Just about every home and business in Thailand has a Spirit House or San Phra Phum in Thai. Spirit Houses are put in place in order to house spirits and Thai people believe that by providing a Spirit House for spirits harmony and serenity will descend upon the house, land or business. The idea is that if spirits have their own dwelling they will not feel it necessary to haunt the house or building.

Daily offerings of food and drinks, garlands and incense sticks are given to the spirits to ensure they feel content in the Spirit House and Thai’s believe that if the spirits are properly provided for then they will not only abstain from haunting the house or business but will bring wealth and prosperity. Sprits that inhabit houses and private dwellings are called Phra Phum, spirits that inhabit businesses are called Phra Chai Mong Kol.

Where to put a San Phra Phum is determined by a Brahman Priest or any other person who specializes in rituals and can determine the best position for the house, this is normally to the north of the main building to ensure that the shadow of the main house never reaches the spirit house and this would be regarded as very unlucky. Whoever figures out the best position of the spirit house will also determine the best day for the ceremony to invite the spirits into their new dwelling. This is calculated using certain dates, the best being on a Wednesday or a Thursday in the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 9th or 11th waxing or waning moon. They also need to be careful that the date does not coincide with other dates in the calendar that are considered bad luck.

Once the date and the site has been decided a hole will be dug for each post and nine stakes of lucky wood, each twelve inches in length and tapered towards one end, will be driven into the ground. The sort of wood that is used is also important. Pudding Pine provides power, Jackfruit Tree provides support, wealth and fortune, Javanese Cassia provides luck and victory, Indian Coral Tree provides money and gold, Bamboo provides happiness, Kalaona provides strength and stability, Teak provides honorability, Siamese Rosewood provides wealth and fortune and Tembusu provides protection from any harm or danger.

Before the stakes go into the ground the Priest will chant an incantation 108 times to cast a spell on the wood, another is chanted as the stakes are being driven into the ground until they are level with each other and ready for the Spirit House to be added on top of them. It is customary for the inhabitants of the property to throw gold, silver and copper jewellery into the hole to bring wealth and finally a plate bearing the image of the mystical symbol Yan Tra made from copper or gold is placed into the ground. The pole to receive the Spirit House is then erected.

Once it is up a figure of the Phra Phum is placed inside the house. The image is shown holding a double edge sword in his right hand for conquering demons and a book in the left to record births, deaths and marriages that take place within the dwelling. Furnishings will also be placed into the Spirit House to keep the spirits comfortable, these often include beds, chairs and even tiny TVs. Horse and elephant statues are often added to keep the spirits company as well as figurines of dancers.

Once it is fully furnished the priest will invite the spirits into the house and garlands of flowers are placed on the house, incense sticks are lit and offerings of food and drinks are placed in the front of the house. The priest will then formally invite the spirits into the house to compete the ceremony.

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