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Thai Spirit Houses

7th Jun 2018

By Wellness Expert and SenSpa Director, Lina Lotto 

When the first Devarana spa in Bangkok was officially opened, I was invited to attend the inaugural ceremony for the spa’s spirit house. It was wonderful and I felt privileged to be part of it. The spirit house was beautiful and impressive, reflecting the grandeur of the project, as was expected. At the same time I was confused because the ceremony was Buddhist, yet the existence of the spirit house is based on ancient animistic beliefs that spirits or ‘phi’ and ghosts exist.

The spirit house is a form of insurance against malevolent phi entering the home and causing mayhem in one’s life. That is why almost every residence and business in Thailand has a house where spirits can live and the larger and grander the house the larger and grander the spirit house must be.

What I hadn’t realised is that form of mysticism sits quite comfortably alongside Buddhism. Buddhism encourages introspection through meditation and inspires people to be accepting of others. Thai people tend to be very calm as a consequence, however they can also be extremely superstitious.

There are thought to be many different spirits, good, bad, mischievous, helpful, vengeful and each has its own domain on land or water. Every morning they are appeased by an offering outside their little houses of fresh fruit, beverage, incense and flowers. This is one of the aspects of Thai life that so fascinated me and still does. The spirit house must also be located in the most auspicious position and it is usual for a monk to identify where that might be.

Phi are attracted to strife which is why it is important to keep a ‘jai yen’, loosely translated that means ‘cool heart’. This involves being composed and avoiding unruly behaviour which may attract unwanted phi.

Every child is taught jai yen and should it, by some misfortune or bad behaviour attract undesirable phi, a spirit doctor or shaman (mo phi) may have to be called to trick the spirit into relinquishing its troublesome activity. More on jai yen in another blog as it is central to the Thai way of life.

Amulets and charms also protect against the unwanted attentions of errant phi and they can be found in abundance for sale outside temples in Thailand.

Spirit houses cannot simply be thrown away if they need to be replaced. They must be specially removed with a ceremony as important as the one that originally ushered it in and the house must be transported to a blessed place such as a temple, spirit house graveyard or next to a banyan tree which is sacred.

Spirit houses are a defining feature of Thailand and they form an integral part of the daily life cycle. Imposing or humble, of wood, stone, marble or concrete they are a reminder of what exists and cannot be seen in the extraordinary ‘land of smiles’.


SenSpa offers you the chance to escape the world in which you live. Inspired by ancient Eastern rituals, our Thai spa offers an escape from everyday life, a chance to truly unwind and leave your everyday cares at the threshold.

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Thai spirit houses

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