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This Year, a Blood Goddess To Protect Cambodia

Cambodians joyously celebrated the first day of the New Year early Tuesday, in celebrations that began at 1:36 am with fireworks exploding over Phnom Penh.

The nation’s 14 million revelers brought in the Year of the Ox, the 2553rd year of the Buddhist calendar, preparing for three days of celebrations and ritual.

“Not specifically for this year, but every New Year, Cambodian citizens must prepare flowers, fruits, Baysei [religious decorations], water and drink offerings to the goddesses, who come down [from the sky] annually to protect human beings,” said Miech Ponn, adviser to the board of Khmer customs at the Buddhist Institute in Phnom Penh.

“The preparations for the goddess must also respect the preferences of the goddess, what kind of fruit she eats this year,” he said. “For example, if the goddess eats bananas, it is mandatory that believers must have bananas.”

Seven goddesses of the Kabel Morha Prumh rotate from the sky to watch over the country, he said. This year is for the third goddess, Reak Ksaksar Devy, who has a predilection for blood—denoting a year of possible bloodshed, such as in war and accidents, he said.

While appeasing the goddess, Cambodians will also undertake Buddhist rituals, meditating for their ancestors and washing statues of Buddha, while also engaging in tradition folk games that include hiding a scarf for the Leak Kanseng and others.