Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Cambodia’s Magic Log

There are two English language daily newspapers here in Cambodia and the one we take at Bambu hotel is the Cambodia Daily. For logistical reasons it doesn’t arrive at the hotel until the early afternoon and by that time, thanks to the wonders of the internet, any major international news contained therein is fairly stale. However the paper is a mine of useful information about the odd bits of news from around the Kingdom and without the paper one simply wouldn’t hear such snippets. A couple of weeks ago my eye was drawn to an article about a “magic log” which had been unearthed by a farmer who had been excavating a piece of land to make a pond for irrigation purposes. Apparently this twelve metre long log was remarkably well preserved and for some reason or another had become a bit of a local attraction due to its supposed magic properties. Since the log was unearthed on 7th July an average of around two hundred people a day had been turning up to pay homage as the log seemed to have the ability to bring pilgrims good fortune.

Cambodia'a Magic Log -Healers
I thought little of it until a couple of days later another article appeared in the paper saying that quite large numbers of people were now turning up to see the log – two thousand on one day! Luckily enough the log isn’t too far from Battambang – about 70 km away just over the border in neighbouring Pursat province. It was clearly time I investigated myself this log that had come to pass so last Saturday two full car-loads set off from Battambang to pay our respects.

Pilgrims around the Magical Log
We had been given rough directions to the site which luckily was just off the main highway to Phnom Penh. We needn’t have worried about getting lost though as it was quite apparent due to the number of pilgrims exactly where the log was. To me the site resembled a medieval fair – there were fortune tellers, purveyors of all kinds of trinkets and snacks, piglets running wild and the smell of incense filled the air. Centre of attention of course was the magic log itself. The farmer had kindly erected a shelter for the log composed of timber uprights and tarpaulin sheets which helped keep the sun off. A shrine had been created near the entrance to the log where we all offered prayers before viewing the star of the show itself. What we saw was indeed a twelve metre long log - covered in talcum powder, there were plenty of people gently rubbing the log and then earnestly looking at the palms of their hands to see if any numbers had magically appeared. It seems the log has been giving out lucky numbers for the lottery and this was the reason most pilgrims had made the effort to attend. The log also has mysterious healing powers though and many were pouring water over the log and collecting it in bottles to take home to heal sick friends and family. The village chief, Mr Hun Nov, said that people had been covering themselves head to toe in the mud from where the log emerged in the belief that it would cure them of their illnesses. My wife spoke to several fellow pilgrims about their experiences. One lady told her that this visit was her sixth such one to the magic log and after three previous visits she had had unusual good fortune so she intended to keep coming back.

Pilgrims pay homage 

Inspired by this we bought some talcum powder and had a good rub of the log but sadly no numbers emerged on our palms. Nevertheless I thoroughly enjoyed my visit even if I did at times feel like an extra in an episode of Father Ted. As we were driving out of the site we had to make way for a motorbike laden with fresh supplies of talcum powder so at least one stall holder was having some luck.

Magic log Cambodia

Despite there being no dramatic pieces of good fortune coming my way my visit to the log did make a profound impression on me. I have since marvelled at my good fortune in living in a country where such news items make the front page of the daily press. A subsequent article in the Cambodia Daily last week said that, due to increasing numbers visiting the site, the farmer was going to erect a more permanent enclosure for the log. It wouldn’t surprise me if, in due course, the log becomes a major site of pilgrimage – akin to, say, Lourdes or Fatima – and at Bambu Battambang Hotel we can welcome pilgrims from around the world eager to pay their respects!