Thai Offering Tray for Spirits.
Languages are haunted by ghosts. Today, the old Latin term genius loci lingers on to make an occasional appearance in English, imparting a stroke of literary flair. Literally it’s the spirit of a place, and this is how it’s used. In a completely figurative sense.
We’ve degraded it into a turn of phrase. The original Roman meaning is quite literal. Each place had a spirit. Statues and paintings of Genii Loci, often holding a cornucopia, dot Europe across the vast former reaches of the Roman Empire.
In Thailand, the spirits of the land are still alive. Called Jao Tee, these powerful and important spirits ‘own’ the land. The tiny offering tray, or phan, shown here, is only a few inches tall and a few inches wide. Just large enough to hold a morsel of sticky rice to ritually feed the Jao Tee or other spirits and ghosts. The old white tray is a relic, age haunting it in patina and decay. Newer phan, in the hundreds of thousands, stand in shrines all over Thailand, making offerings to the ancient spirits.