We talked about spirits houses and superstitions throughout this series on traditional religion as seen in Thailand. Let’s catch up a little remembering that Thailand has a rich culture with many of the people holding on to their traditional beliefs even as Buddhism came to the country. Buddhism is very flexible and allows for variation as it covers the universal questions. However, the people still look for answers on the existential issues of everyday life. People everywhere look for answers to identity, belonging, life and death. They don’t ask where you go after death, but why did you die. What makes for a good life and one that is cut off too short? They turn to spirits, sometimes referred to the middle spirits.
To many in traditional worldviews, they see God as distant or detached from their life and world. They look to spirits to help them succeed or to be the cause of problems. Spirits occupy the property as we talked about with the new house ceremony and spirit houses. Spirits can bother young children as well as everyone in different ways.
Many Thai people even honor the spirits that live in trees. The bigger the tree, the stronger the spirit. They will tie ribbons around the tree to allow it to look good. Some will even put a dress up next to the tree to give an aesthetic appearance of beauty. They will leave offerings of toys and food to give the spirit nourishment and enjoyment.
If you see one of these trees, you will also see what seem like discarded spirit houses. They are not discarded, as it would dishonor the spirit to destroy or throw away the spirit house. You can’t keep it in poor shape at your house, but if you put it near the tree, it will be okay.