Long before the nations of Southeast Asia were established there existed a tie that until this day binds all Southeast Asians together — the shared belief in animism; that inanimate objects and all living creatures possess a spirit. While it might sound like ancient history, animist practices can be seen across Asean on a daily basis.
The video report above documents the marriage of a woman in rural Cambodia to a calf. As bizarre as it may seem and despite the regions relentless march towards modernisation, animist practices remain alive and well, especially in Asean’s rural areas.
Khim Hang is a 74-year-old Khmer woman who lives in northeastern Cambodia. She recently decided to marry a calf after a medium confirmed that the bovine was the reincarnated form of her dead husband.
In an interview with local media, Ms Khim said, the “calf would climb up the stairs and make its way into my room. It started to kiss me and other objects in the room, so it made me really curious.”
Seeking out a local spiritual medium (a common practice across rural Southeast Asia when inexplicable things occur) Ms Khim had her suspicions confirmed.
The medium allegedly told Ms Khim that her late husband initially wanted to possess the body of their daughter, but couldn’t, as she was on birth control. The solution was to reincarnate into a calf. Upon hearing the medium’s words Ms Khim wasted no time and set about arranging a ceremony to marry the calf.
AEC News Today spoke with Phon Sendarong, a Cambodian Buddhist monk who recently received his degree in Buddhist studies from King Norodom Sihamoni, who explained that this ritual is an amalgamation of Buddhist belief with more ancient animist beliefs that were once (remain) widespread in Cambodia and other Southeast Asian countries.
“I do believe that the cow is her reincarnated husband, as both living and inanimate objects can host spirits,” said Mr Phon. “Perhaps he reincarnated as a calf because of his karma (destiny). The lack of good deeds throughout [the late husband’s] life may have made it impossible for him to return as a human being”, he mused.
The matter of Ms Khim and animist beliefs is far from an isolated one in either Cambodia, or other parts of Asean. Different communities incorporate animist practices into their daily routine, often for different ends.
A few years ago, some villagers in Kandal Province, Cambodia, held a wedding ceremony for two pythons, as they believed that the pythons will bring good luck and prosperity for the community. Meanwhile in Indonesia, a man was forced to marry a cow several years ago after he was caught red-handed, getting raunchy with the bovine. So, before committing any misdeeds in Southeast Asia, think again. Or else you could see yourself reincarnated as a banana tree in your next life.
Feature video Vocativ
- WATCH: Cambodia Woman Marries Cow, Believing It’s Her Reincarnated Husband (International Business Times)
- Indonesian man forced to Marry Cow after caught having intercourse with animal (The European Times)
- Snake Wedding Draws Crowd in Cambodia (VOA)