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SPIRIT HOUSE by Tammy Stone

 One of the things I'm continually drawn to during my visits to Southeast Asia, and particularly Thailand, is the prevalence of spirit houses…

The spirit houses are large and small, and dot the landscape as a form of protection, as well as dwelling place for the gods. You can find them in the yards or front entrances of personal and public spaces, and they hail back to when Animism was the main form of worship in the region. 

The custom of spirit houses survived the arrival of Buddhism, and co-exists comfortably with it in the minds and hearts of the people. I'm not an expert in spirit houses and all their uses and meanings and the poem very much reflects my own subjective imaginings of them; as evidence of a beautiful and long-standing tradition, they captivate me.
"Spirit House' photograph by the author, Tammy Stone

Spirit House
by Tammy Stone

The spirit houses of the East – intricate, gilded edifices or
wooden and almost-broken-down –
stand in the name of protection and
radiate from within, no matter how barren the location,
quiet and upright, bridges to the beyond,
placating ancestors and keeping negative forces at bay.
Maybe they give them much-needed rest.
They contain all sorts of juicy things in them, bright
pink sodas, candy bars and figurines in cerulean and gold,
which can entrance a passerby for hours.
I once found a series of roadside shops
selling new spirit houses, veins without blood, devoid of magic,
and beheld how they burst into life through
prayers, belief, and use over Time.
I've never stopped wondering what it would be like
to softly turn tiny and knock at a spirit house door.
What would I find, and whom?
What feelings would brew the loudest and with
the greatest resonance?
When I was a child my whole being fluttered with aliveness
at the thought of entering a dollhouse, or a haunted house,
or a colourful store, or even a faded campground tent.
These created spaces were filled with such delight,
elixirs only the truly initiated could fathom.
This sensation still floods me, especially when I read books.
Even my old scrapbooks are like alien puzzles of arcane
knowledge to me now.
I visited a temple in Thailand’s far northeast
and found relics lying on the ground,
a huge collection of miniature clay figures broken and battered,
lying in the scorching sun in loose, disorganized piles.
Where did these once belong and who prayed to them
in earnest for their protection, salvation,
for peace on Earth?
In the busiest places, people walk by in business attire,
on their cellphones, doing all the distracted things
people do everywhere. But when they came to a spirit house,
or a shrine, or a Buddha, they stop to bow,
or make a small prayer, or offer incense and flowers,
before entering the day anew.
I would have never believed before now
that the gods and ancestors were visiting the
spirit houses to bear witness,
but the more I see people paying homage
with such devotion and persistence,
the harder it becomes to turn away.
"Worship" photograph by the author, Tammy Stone



Tammy T. Stone is a Canadian writer, photographer and chronicler of life as it passes through us. Always a wanderer, she's endlessly mesmerized by people, places and everything in between; the world is somehow so vast and so small. She feels so lucky to have been able to work, learn, live and travel far and wide, writing, photographing and wellness-practicing along the way. She invites you to see some of her recent photography here and to connect with her on her writer's pagetwitter and her blog, There’s No War in World, here.



~If you are interested in seeing your poetry appear in this blog, or submitting a poem by a woman that has inspired you, please click here for submission guidelines. I greatly look forward to hearing from you!~

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