Today we held the inauguration of our Spirit house.
A spirit house in Cambodia is associated with guardians to one’s home, bringing good fortune and blessings to the occupants. Most Cambodian Buddhist homes host a spirit house. As I have had an ancestors alter for the past 25 years, I feel like I am doubling up. But this is a local tradition that we have been advised we should do if we want to live here.
Two weeks ago we looked at having a spirit house hand carved by a carpenter. The first price he gave us was US$250. Upon seeing our faces he asked how much would we pay? We mentioned US$100.00 and he readily agreed to that price. The second spot we went to look at had spirit houses made from cement. This was a much less pricey, as delivery and installation would only set us back US$25.00 So within an hour it was all delivered and installed, ,and on the fortuitous full moon solstice. Robert painted the inside gold, distressed gold speckles here and there, and we coated the exterior in a clear cement finish. Looking stylish like the rest of our home, not the gaudy red and yellow that is the common choice for this part of the world. Not too austere, hopefully — especially as we later added a platter of colourful fruits of longan, mangosteen and finger bananas, plus candles and incense sticks.
Our local friend Mab and his mother organised the monks, the flowers, the date and time. All we needed to do was to pay for the ceremony which included two monks and another spiritual advisor who was referred to as the old man.
The Spirit house has to be located outside, looking into our home. So we popped it next to the water meter surrounded by plants and looking into our kitchen and directly through to our vestibule lobby.
The monks arrived via a tuk tuk that we arranged. A special carpet and cushions provided them, flanked by decoratively folded lotus petals, candles and decorations. We then offered the monks juice from a can, which was requested as-well as and individual cold water bottles, not from a larger jug. . They started to chant and sprinkled water all over us, followed by sprays of flowers hitting us. After 45 minutes it was all complete. The monks took the tuk tuk back, we were a little wet and we then opened the bottles of wine and served our guests beef burgundy that had been slow cooked especially for the occasion. The beef is so tough in Cambodia that not even hours slow cooking made it tender. But it was fabulously delicious. We offered the first serving to Mab’s mother, who graciously accepted then fed it her two year old grandson. We then realised she does not eat beef, which is a common affliction in Asia. We then realised the monks had not inaugurated the spirit house. Not to matter we were told. This is Cambodia. So our Spirit House blessing actually became a much bigger house blessing. Alas, we had no champagne for the occasion!
Best of all, our blessings coincide with the birthday of Sinn Sisamouth, a beloved Khmer singer who perished during the Khmer Rouge’s brutal reign. See my previous blog and download his songs, as they are a remarkable fusion of Cambodian classic with 60’s hip hop. Think Nancy Sinatra meets Edith Piaf. We play him daily….