Bangkok Christmas 2023

There are spirit houses throughout Thailand, in secluded fields, along bustling streets and thrumming highways, and in all the malls, everywhere in the ubiquitous malls. These shrines are designed to honour ancestors and also to provide shelter for such spirits that could cause problems if not appeased. In Thailand, it’s a long-standing tradition to leave gifts of food and drink at a spirit house. Rice, bananas, coconuts, and desserts are common offerings. Cigarettes too! (Vaping has yet to make a strong impression on the spirit realm.) The most common gift is red, strawberry-flavoured Fanta. I so enjoy the syncretism of the spirit house tradition and the seemingly random nature of this Fanta offering; Buddhist philosophy mingled with mysticism and superstition, combined with a dash of cloying red soda pop, a salute to contemporary junk food consumption… and tooth decay!

I’m drawn to these glowingly gaudy seductive structures, mesmerized by the beguiling yet slightly sinister nature of the ancestor spirits that inhabit them.

A prospective spirit house tenant at the front of the line for permanent admission, I will soon be passing over to the other side.

I hear my long-lost ancestors calling from within the spirit house:

All the dead voices.

They make a noise like wings.

Like leaves.

Like sand.

Like leaves.

They all speak at once.

Each one to itself.

Rather they whisper.

They rustle.

They murmur.

They rustle.

What do they say?

They talk about their lives.

To have lived is not enough for them.

They have to talk about it.

To be dead is not enough for them.

It is not sufficient.

They make a noise like feathers.

Like leaves.

Likes ashes.

Like leaves.

(Two men are speaking. Vladimir and Estragon)

-Samuel Beckett Waiting For Godot


And how did they depart this vale of tears, those McBrydes and those Reisers? The ancient forebears, the long-disappeared and the newly-transported… Where is their spirit house?

Who By Fire

And who by fire, who by water

Who in the sunshine, who in the night time

Who by high ordeal, who by common trial

Who in your merry merry month of May

Who by very slow decay

And who shall I say is calling?


And who in her lonely slip, who by barbiturate

Who in these realms of love, who by something blunt

Who by avalanche, who by powder

Who for his greed, who for his hunger

And who shall I say is calling?


And who by brave assent, who by accident

Who in solitude, who in this mirror

Who by his lady’s command, who by his own hand

Who in mortal chains, who in power

And who shall I say is calling?


-Leonard Cohen


Who shall I say is calling me? And to what ancestral home?