I loved spirit houses from the moment I saw my first one.
Pictured here is a Thai spirit house that I sent to my parents from Bangkok, where I was living at the turn of the century. I bought it at a stall in the enormous handicrafts emporium that used to exist between the Amari Watergate hotel and Pratunam market.
The vendor arranged for shipping by seamail, taking care to pack it safely. He assured me that you could play football with the finished package and not damage anything inside. It did indeed arrive in one piece. Actually, it arrived in several pieces, because it consists of detachable components. My late father put them all together. The spirit house still presides over my mother's entrance hall (see below). The tiny food offerings are plastic miniatures of the greatest hits of Thai cooking that I brought home one by one on visits in subsequent years. You can't properly see it, but there's also a brass divinity seated inside, which I also brought back.
My mother has since added to the display with dried flowers, candles and other figurines.
Nearly all houses in Thailand have a spirit house like this outside, usually on a pedestal. In the old days, they were made of wood, but now other materials are also used, often glazed ceramic. The one pictured below is made of wood. It's in fact a Cambodian spirit house, the custom of having one being common there, too, as well as in Laos. I'm not sure about Myanmar. If you've seen spirit houses there, please comment below.
Note the joss sticks, the plant, and the lotus-shaped candles in their special holder. I'm not sure what the metal receptacle at right is for.
Apartment dwellers content themselves with an indoor shrine in the form of an altar rather than a house. Either way, the point is to keep the household spirits happy with daily offerings. Common offerings include jasmine garlands, rice, and beverages. I always used to smile when I saw a can of Coke with a straw stuck in it sitting on an altar.
May your household spirits be good to you in 2019!
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