APAD 055: Prey neak ta (forest spirit)

Posted by on May 3, 2011 in A Photo a Day, Addicted to Meme, All things Khmer, Cambodia life, That's My World | 7 comments

That is a spirit house placed auspiciously in a tree. It is built in the form of a miniature temple mounted on a pedestal. They’re actually seen everywhere you go in Cambodia – inside hotels, internet cafes, offices, factories, shops, and all houses in Cambodia have one.The idea is that it provides shelter to wandering spirits which could cause problems for the people if they are not appeased.

The above spirit house, on the other hand, was taken in Kep, a coastal town in Cambodia. It is for neak ta (local guardian spirit) because it’s left here by the tree and facing the sea . According to the locals, the trees and the sea are protected by neak ta. Hence, cutting the trees surrounding the spirit house is strictly prohibited. Here’s a paragraph I lifted from Andy Brouwer’s blog post on neak ta:

The cult of Neak Ta rests in nature. Local spirits inhabit mountains, rivers, trees, rice paddies, swamps and forests; even an odd shaped tree or rock can be inhabited by a local spirit. For Khmer, they are living, watching spirits of the land. Several types of supernatural entities are believed to exist, that make themselves known by means of inexplicable sounds or happenings. They are frequently asked for protection, as some are compliant, others are merciless against those who fail to show proper respect.

Visit Andy Brouwer’s blog to read more of neak ta and other Cambodian folklores.

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  1. Such a delightful photo – what a lovely spot!

  2. How very interesting.In Germany and other European countries there are wayside shrines, some of them very old, often sheltered by trees, where pilgrims can stop and rest. These shrines are all dedicated to Christian saints, of course.Nowadays hardly anybody pays them any attention to them but occasionally you can find that somebody has left a bunch of wildflowers.

  3. Neak Ta is like Japanese indigenous religion, Shintoism. It is nature worship: gods reside in rocks, rivers, trees, fields, winds,…. everywhere in nature, and have both aspect of being beneficial and destructive. The temple built in the tree is beautiful. I feel spirits on the trees, in the greens, or on the wrinkly water. Thank you for sharing.

  4. these spirits must like opulent hotels!I think I like that idea of Neak Ta.

  5. i would love to have that spirit house and some of our old trees here that people are indiscriminately cutting down just because of "development" and "progress". The photo has a magical quality to it. Very nice capture!

  6. Hello.Nice to meet you.This blog is very beautiful.I like every post soon.I'm looking forward to leaning about Cambodia by this blog. thank you for sharing.

  7. I hope the spirit that lives here is benevolent, it is living in such a beautiful place – and it's a lovely photo of it too.Lucy

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