So yesterday the mystery of the zebras still made me smile, and I saw in the paper that there was a talk on spirit houses that very afternoon. I headed for Soi 23 and the Rojana Dhamma Center for the answer to my questions.
Of zebras, there was no word, and the talk so fascinated me that I forgot to ask . The talk was instructive about so much more than toy zebras. The spirit houses are about those other dimensions we, be we Thai or other, have so many open or hidden beliefs about. To the Thai, there are spirits just about everywhere, and no matter their religion or lack thereof, they are animists at heart and take the spirit world very seriously. So that the spirit houses can be home to the spirit of ancestors, of land guardians , of gods or angels. The spirit houses are placed out of the shadows and if possible beside a tree to which they are symbolically tied with ribbons or fabric. Trees being conduits of power between heaven and earth. Gifts are brought, offerings and prayers are made. Spirit houses are built and taken care of with religious dedication.
What I found so interesting was the attitude of the Thai towards gift giving. The moment of giving is the gift, the rest looses importance and the gift has no value after that moment of giving.
The size of the spirit house reflects the spiritual need and reach. Large hotels and malls have enormous spirit houses. Homes have much smaller ones. Some are abandoned. Other cared for even after the owners move away or die.
The spirit houses are still somewhat mysterious to me, but I look at the spirit houses a little differently now that I understand a bit more about them.