Animism or spirit worship has been widely practiced in Asia for thousands of years and in Thailand it was well established well before Buddhism first arrived over 2500 year ago. Today, spirit worship is intertwined with Buddhist belief.
A spirit house or san phra phum in Thai, provides an appealing earthly shelter for the spirits, who would otherwise reside in some celestial place. These benevolent, but sometimes mischievous spirits, protect the home or business of the owner and building occupants. A spirit house is especially appealing to the departed ancestors of those who most frequently use the building.
A typical spirit house is populated with representations of ancestors, a ceramic white haired old couple and, inexplicably, a trio of porcelain dancing girls in our case. Incense sticks and offerings of flowers, whisky and soft drinks are intended to encourage occupancy. Hard to get, bright red Fanta Cream Soda is thought to be particularly enticing.
A former Baan Bophut cook was visibly relieved when our own spirit house was inaugurated and received its formal blessing (pictured) as she claimed that her grandmother's spirit would no longer have to come in the kitchen and distract her from her duties. We don't mess up so much in the kitchen these days, but I don't know if that's because the cook left or her grandmother's spirit found a new home. Either way: spirit houses - take your chances without one.