Tagging spirit houses


I’m wondering, how do we tag spirit houses? I just realised I may have been doing it wrong. Is there a consensus?

Best Regards

Hi Mishari,

First off, what is a “spirit house”? I’m not familiar with the term.


I’d assume this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spirit_house
In OSM: https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Tag:historic%3Dwayside_shrine

It corresponds to the wiki’s description of amenity=place of worship.
By the way, because it’s too small, historic=wayside shrine might be better.

But some of the spirit houses are rather road-side ruins… i.e. quite destroyed.
How to deal with them?

I oppose to tag as “place_of_worship”. While they are frequently used to pray for luck, health, protection and similar, they are a completely different category than temples or churches.

historic=wayside_shrine seems to fit much better. We could add some examples to the wiki. Does someone know what “religion” they belong to? Some nature/earth ghosts, I guess. But I do not know names for it.
I certainly is not Buddhist, just in case someone asks.
Recently also a higher ranking monk complained in context of corona that Thai people pray too much to alternative spirits.

@Bernhard: with the road-side ruins, I suppose you are referring to the disused/destroyed ones. This is a serious problems for some people, as you can’t simply throw away the house of a spirit, otherwise it will haunt you. So they place the old/broken house back in the nature at some sacred place or below a sacred tree. I suggest to add “ruins=yes”, in case you want to tag a spirit house graveyard.

Very large/important spirit houses might need some additional tags. I think of Erawan Shrine here.

It’s something like an indigenous belief before the arrival of Hinduism or Buddhism, therefore religion=animist may be the best fit.

Erawan Shrine is a Brahma shrine, so amenity=place of worship with religion=hindu may be acceptable, as it is a large one with a ground for religious activity. Though it might be argued that the practice there is not the same as what happens in India, I would argue that Buddhist practice here is not the same as in India as well. So, adding some denomination=* under Hinduism would better describe things.

Thank you, it does seem like wayside_shrine it is, I also think animist is the correct value for the religion tag. I’ll also get it added to streetcomplete.

Would you like to create a stub in the wiki and give the link? I can help add descriptions to it as well as photo examples of various shrines.

Best Regards

Hello Mishari,
I added two examples with Photo links to commons to the wiki. If you have nice examples you took photos yourself, feel free to directly upload to OSM wiki and also link to the OSM object you took a photo.

Hi Stephan,

Which page did you add them to?

Best Regards

This is the issue for StreetComplete, see also comments there: https://github.com/streetcomplete/StreetComplete/issues/3063


Noted, silly me, I was expecting it to be in Wikiproject:Thailand :slight_smile:

Maybe it is better/easier if we do not try to attribute a fixed religion to a Spirit House. Some may say, its superstition and clearly an animist practice, some may say its part of their religion (Bhuddism), some may say that …

I fear that we’d assume interpretational sovereignty if we in this forum would decide on any fixed tagging in respect of which religion should be set on a spirit house. Unless it is very clear, i.e. there is nothing to interpret, I don’t think we can/should assume this interpretational sovereignty.

I propose to approach this from a different perspective: Is it actually so important to tag the religion on a spirit house? I don’t think it is. It would be enough to tag something as a spirit house, i.e. distinguish it from a shrine dedicated to a god, to ancestors and/or a Buddhist monk.
So maybe we could instead find a new tag or a new subtag that could be used for spirit houses. Is there maybe already a subtag scheme for historic=wayside_shrine? (Also, why is it in the historic namespace anyway? Does this have *historic *reasons? haha)

See also https://github.com/streetcomplete/StreetComplete/issues/3063#issuecomment-884200415


I agree with all of the above. We cannot presume to know the religion of the builders of these shrines. Enough to say that they are shrines and add other tags as appropriate.

Also, why are they in the historic namespace? Some shrines might qualify for that designation but most probably don’t. In particular instances, one can add a historic=yes tag.

Tagging in OSM has mysteries. I think for historical reasons it is there. And probably to avoid calling it amenity=wayside_shrine.
wayside_shrine is established. Too late to change it.

nitinatsangsit hinted that it might be tricky to distinguish spirit houses from other kinds of shrines from far away. You need to check in detail whether it has for example a Brahma statue.
The one in front of MAYA has Ganesha statue.

In Thailand are 90 POI of wayside_shrine. Some of them have religion tagged, others have “Spirit House” as part of the name.
Would likely require some clean-up then as well.