A spirit shrine for the children’s home

A new Spirit House at the SOC. Photo Phil Caldwell.

A new Spirit House at the SOC. Photo Phil Caldwell.

Following the recent tragedy at the children’s home, a new Spirit House was purchased and installed on the grounds. To Westerners these seem a unique aspect of SE Asian cultures (you’ll see Spirit Houses in Thailand, Laos and Myanmar also,) however just a few weeks ago I was thinking about these shrines, and their similarity to the shrines that pepper the Italian landscape – bringing a tangible reminder to passers-by of the spiritual aspect of life. I took several photos of these while on a recent holiday – my favorite being the modern shrine I saw in Corniglia on the Mediterranean coast. (Below.)

Spirit Houses are symbolic, and provide a “home” for restless spirits who may inhabit the location. Prayers and votive offerings help placate these spirits.

You may, or may not, have any deep spiritual beliefs yourself, but there is a lot to be said for any spiritual or social mechanism that helps us deal with our grieving. Each time we walk past these shrines we stop, maybe for just a second, and pay regard to those who have walked this land before us. Respect is a deeply held value in Cambodia.

shrine - corniglia, italy

Shrine in Italy – Corniglia. I was struck by the similarities of these forms of religious expression: giving a tangible daily reminder of our spiritual dimension.

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