Many houses and businesses maintain spirit houses near their buildings. I was told that this is so the ghosts who follow people home have someplace else to live. Instead of having a ghost in your house or haunting your shop, they have a nice place to stay right nearby.
I did a little research, and found that’s not exactly right: the large spirit houses, like this one, are for the guardian of the house. The spirit houses are usually located in the corner of a property, or right next to the building. This is the spirit house of a particularly fancy house, where incense is regularly burned to attract the spirit’s attention
Here we have a whole family of ghosts in the house, plus fresh flowers, a fresh apple, some red juice and a little palm leaf basket holding some tobacco.
This house has two spirit houses next to it: the taller one is for the guardian of the house, and the shorter one is for the guardian of the land. There is no one living in the house at this time, but the flowers in the spirit houses are kept fresh. The red sticks are the ends of incense sticks, burned in groups of seven at a time.
This is the spirit house for a big hotel. There are fresh flowers in the vases, fresh coconuts for drinking, a whole plate of imported apples and another of bananas , and a heaping display of Thai coconut sweets–those are the colored treats on the etagere. It’s all fresh, and you’d think it might be offerings to a religious shrine unless you look more closely and see the little people.
They’re feeding spirits here, not deities. The hospitals have enormous spirit houses with so many little statues of people, roosters, elephants and horses that they are stacked in shelves next to the actual house.
This is the spirit house next to a small restaurant, with fresh flowers, a few horses and elephants, some dancers and a handful of people.
But in the end, it’s not the house that counts. There are often little trays of ghost food on the sidewalk. Here’s some fresh water, a few betel leaves, some coconut, a piece of galangal–Thai ginger– and a few cloves of garlic along with a half dozen food items I don’t recognize. This is for a gourmet ghost.
This little tray of Ritz crackers, water and red juice is next to a fancy department store. There is a big spirit house nearby with a big selection of food, but someone that works in the building thought that Ritz crackers were better ghost food.
On Christmas Eve, we used to debate what snack to leave for Santa. Would he prefer milk with his cookies, or beer? In Thailand, these decisions need to be made every day.