Villagers continued to arrive in droves in Pursat’s Bakan district yesterday to visit a large log that is believed to possess supernatural powers capable of bringing good fortune and curing illness.
Over 3,000 villagers have visited the site since July 15, shortly after the 13-meter-long log was unearthed from the bottom of a recently excavated pond.
In the intervening days, the log has been credited with everything from healing powers to financial largesse. Villagers rub talcum powder on the log, hoping to see winning lottery numbers appear; they drink water from the brackish pond and rub wet mud near the log on their bodies.
“People are still coming,” Hun Nov, chief of O’Taporng commune’s Prey Yeang village, said with a laugh, adding that about 150 more villagers arrived at the site yesterday from as far afield as Phnom Penh, Takeo and Poipet.
“These people have heard that the wood can speak. Some even heard that the wood was found with green leaves,” he said. “I am wondering why people believe this.”
Experts say views of this kind stem from animist beliefs that have existed in Cambodia since before Buddhism. Throughout history, people in Cambodia have ascribed supernatural properties to ordinary objects, said Dork Narin, secretary of state at the Ministry of Cults and Religion.
“People keep doing it from one generation to another. It’s not Buddhist, but a practice of Brahmanism,” said Mr. Narin. “People just follow one another.”
But follow they do. Rumors that people who had visited the log had won the lottery set off a wave of interest in the log.
And those who seek help from the log will not be dissuaded by pronouncements that it is not magic.
“I try to tell people that it is not magic, but they don’t believe me. People just believe in it. I cannot stop them,” said Pouk Savuth, director of the provincial department of cults and religions.
Earlier this year, an anchor fished out of the Mekong in Phnom Penh quickly became an article of worship after villagers began ascribing magical powers to it. As many as 200 people a day began descending on the Prachum Sakor pagoda in Russei Keo district, where the 2-ton anchor was stationed, adorning it with gifts of incense, fruit and meat.