Life in Laos through the lens of a diplomatic wife raising twin toddlers.

Lao Spirit Houses

No wonder the Manee Spa (see previous post) has such a great vibe. They have one of the most ornate spirit houses I’ve seen.

Just about every home, building, shop and places where people frequent throughout Vientiane has a spirit house adorned with flowers, candles, incense and offerings of drinks and food. I used to think that paying tribute was meant to revere the good spirits that protect you. On the contrary, the offerings are to actually appease the bad spirits that reside on that property and keep them from causing harm.

They are not typically two-tiered like this one.

The spirit houses come in all sizes and degrees of ornateness, and offerings can be anything that you think your spirit(s) might like. Even if there isn’t an actual spirit house, I’ve seen offerings grouped together on a shelf in a cafe or on the floor next to a street food stall. It amuses me to see offerings of canned or bottled drinks opened with a straw placed inside, as if the spirits would be inconvenienced without a straw.

Obviously this spirit doesn’t drink whiskey out of a straw.

I’m sure the ring around the eyes of these figurines are meant to accentuate them, but I like to think of them as sunglasses ;D

I haven’t figured out yet how often to change the food or how many incense to light and how often candles must be lit, and I’ve been wondering if there are specific prayers or calls for appeasement so I’ll have to follow up with more details in a future post after I find out. In the mean time, we’ve tried our best to appease our spirits but operating under uninformed circumstances have probably led us into some bad luck as of late (just a slight setback with household staff, nothing serious) so I have some homework to do before we get it right. And I’ll have to do it soon.

M&O paying their respects with a traditional nop (cupped hands to the nose) on the first night of offerings to our spirit house.

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10 comments on “Lao Spirit Houses

  1. evannavaleskasgedankenwelt
    September 14, 2012

    Hi long time ago. I visit your Blog and say Wow! Beautiful photos from Thailand. I wish you good luck for your next shot. Bye bye

  2. pinkbananashoes
    August 29, 2012

    I love spirit houses – they were one of my favourite and interesting sights when I lived in Thailand. Thank you for reminding me of them! xx

  3. xubobo
    August 28, 2012

    fhis is beautifl and interesting! I like it

  4. Bama
    August 26, 2012

    Those spirit houses are incredibly similar to the ones in Thailand as both countries also share so many other similarities, including architecture.

  5. travelerlynne
    August 26, 2012

    Beautiful post. A cultural education for many. We had seen them throughout Luang Prabang, but mostly in Bali. In Bali, they would put the offerings on the ground to keep the evil spirits from going under the doorway. They would use the spirit house to satisfy the good spirits. M&O look are doing their part. 🙂

    • Wanderlustress
      August 26, 2012

      I love the offerings everywhere in Bali but I always felt bad for accidentally stepping on them while at the same time annoyed that they had to be in the doorways. The sense of reverence, for good or evil spirits, is a great ritual in my opinion. Keeps us aware and humble.

  6. shras789
    August 26, 2012

    Reblogged this on Sherry's Space and commented:
    Oh my god, it so beautiful, these photos are great

  7. this is really interesting and cool!

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This entry was posted on August 25, 2012 by in Laos and tagged , , , .

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