Saan Phra Phum

The Spirit House is one of the most fundamental features of Thai life today and easily the most obvious. Thais are devoted to spirits, the purveyors of good and evil, fortunate and mischievous The worship of spirits is connected with animism, an ancient traditional belief that natural objects and phenomena, the universe itself are inhabited by individual spirits.

Phra Phum is Sanskrit for “guardian spirit of the land”. Thais believe that these spirits, inhabit all land, and need to be appeased if disturbed. By providing the Phra Phum with its own dwelling space, a consonance will be assured in the home or office. And when properly acknowledged, it will provide protection, ensuring wealth and prosperity to the owner.

In Thailand, the spirit house is central to maintaining respectful relations with the guardian spirit of the land. Building or inhabiting a home, starting a business, adding new or different household members, may only be properly conducted with the help from this benevolent neighbor. Daily offerings are often provided—incense, flowers, candles, drinks, fruits—all to keep the spirit content.

Urbanization has led Thais to adapt the spirit house from communal to more personal uses. Despite its ancient roots, this is one tradition that has been strengthened rather than weakened by modern times. Spirit houses provide punctuation in the rhythm of life, marking entrance and exit, and beginning and ending of the day. They adorn gardens, courtyards, driveways, balconies, shops, businesses, roadsides, walls, nooks and crannies everywhere in Thailand.

Placed on a post level with, or slightly higher than the eyes of the owner, the Saan Phra Phum must face northeast or southeast, unless belonging to a rich man…in which case it should face south. The shadows of the main building must never fall on the spirit house.

In the west, Saan Phra Phum can be easily, and respectfully, adapted as a symbol for natural harmony and balance. Young and old are enchanted by the universal image of a house with a room for dreams. Spirit houses make wonderful house warming and wedding gifts and are sure to delight that special gardener, home decorator and nature lover. A prominently displayed spirit house provides years of inspiration.

The houses are woven from raw copper wire, the oldest mined metal. Copper is said to have healing calming properties. It invites not only the eye but also the spirit of the land and of the owner, giving, in return a sense of serenity and peace.

I weave my spirit houses on a fiber floor loom combining the copper wire with natural or dyed reed, pine needles, or bamboo. Each width of copper mesh is individually woven. Some of the copper is patinated. Bamboo stiles and Czech glass beads detail the roofline; the woven house is secured to a sealed, cedar base, which can be mounted on a pole (smaller houses) or pedestal. Slight movement is expected due to the flexibility of the medium. Over time, the woven copper will weather as the trees, darkening, greening, safe-guarding its owner, in garden or home.

    home | about | current work | gallery | shows | contact | links

    all images and content © copyright katework 2006