Project to Detail Lives of Cambodian Sorcerers

A new project aims to raise $7,500 in donations to produce an ebook about practitioners of traditional magic across Cambodia.

Funds for the ebook, “Vanishing Act,” are being raised on Kickstarter—an online funding platform for creative projects—by Ryun Patterson, a former editor at The Cambodia Daily, who plans to produce several multimedia profiles of Cambodia’s “magical class,” from sorcerers to traditional magic tattoo artists.

“The real goal here is to preserve some of the vibrant rituals, practices, and personalities…so that maybe in 10, 15, 20 years people have a record of how these folks lived and worked,” Mr. Patterson, who now lives in the U.S. but plans to travel to Cambodia for six weeks for the project, said in an email.

The ebook will encompass photography, text, audio and video, Mr. Patterson said.

About two years ago, Mr. Patterson said he realized that sorcerers and traditional healers, called “krou Khmer,” were slowly disappearing along with other traditional practices, such as magical tattoos.

“A couple of years ago I got a magic tattoo at Wat Neak Voan, and the tattoo artist spoke a lot about how demand for the ‘real’ authentic magical tattoos was dropping to the point that he didn’t know how much longer he would be doing it,” Mr. Patterson said, adding as an example of this that his tattoo was done with an electric tattoo gun instead of the traditional bamboo needle.

While some traditions may be disappearing, magic and sorcery still play a big role in modern day Cambodia—with several killings of alleged sorcerers reported every year and the ostracization of many others common.

But few young people today are likely to be attracted by the prospect of a career in magic, Mr. Patterson said.

“[I] think it has to do with the youth of Cambodia’s population and the country’s mad rush toward modernity,” he said. “I can’t imagine today’s youth clamoring for a chance to be a rip arak [spirit medium] when they grow up.”

The Kickstarter campaign runs for three more weeks, and the project will only be realized if the $7,500 minimum is reached.

Related Stories

Latest News