A Spirit House takes on a different form
The few of you who have followed the Bangkok Blog over the years know about my fondness for Thai Spirit Houses. They are an important and unique part of Thai culture and they are found everywhere in the country. They come in all shapes, sizes and architectural styles. It’s this last feature that, I suppose, interests me the most. The diversity of the architecture of these houses is amazing. There are pictures spread out through many Blog entries that show how different Spirit House design can be. They come in old and new Asian styles, old and new international styles and everything in between. Even the diverse nature of the building materials is fascinating, as materials range from wood, to stone, to glass and to almost every other building material available.
But could a Spirit House still be a Spirit House if designed and built in a way that defied traditional or modern architectural protocols? For example, notwithstanding a particular architectural style, all the Spirit Houses I have seen do have some common elements, like door openings, roofs, inner sanctums and outer structures. Would it be possible for a Spirit House to not have some or all of these elements and still be a Spirit House? You might ask, how can a house, no matter what architectural style, be a house without some structure? That’s a good question, even though you probably didn’t ask it.
Yesterday, while walking along Soi Saeng Chan, not far from the hospital, I came across a large tree which had, at its base and in a crook in its bark, all of the components that go into making a Spirit House a Spirit House. There were the requisite Spirit statues, the animal protectors, the garlands and the various other helpers that go into the making of a Spirit House. There were the appropriate offerings including the ever popular cherry drink. Everything that makes a Spirit House authentic was present under, on and around this tree. For me, this tree definitely qualified as a bona fide Spirit House.
When you think about it, the tree has all the elements needed. It has a strong foundation, a canopy of branches and leaves that form a roof, crooks and crannies that create entry ways through which the Spirits can move. The design was not undertaken by an architect, a designer or a Spirit House maker in this case, but whatever, all the symbols and necessities are present. It is clear also that the people who put all of the required elements on this tree understood that they were making a Spirit House for their community. Perhaps this is an excellent example of what many architects interested in biology call organic architecture.
I will add this tree to my collection of Spirit House. Perhaps it is the most unusual. It certainly is amongst the most special.