Hoping to placate the lustful ghost of Yeay Mao in return for good luck and safe journies, travellers on National Route 4 stop to make offerings in Pech Nil, Kampong Speu province,
M ost people who travel National Road No 4 to Koh Kong or Sihanoukville and believe in the spirit of Yeay Mao [the black grandmother] at Pech Nil, stop to pray for a safe trip, good luck and happiness in their family.
The Yeay Mao shrine is located in Phnom Sruoch district of Kampong Speu province, about 95 kilometers from Phnom Penh on the way to Koh Kong, Sre Ambel and Sihanoukville, the south-west tourism area of the country where many Cambodian and foreign tourists go to visit and lie on the beach. At the weekends or on holidays many people from Phnom Penh who visit Sihanoukville, stop their cars at Yeay Mao.
"I respect her [Yeay Mao] so much, I always ask for happiness in my family and for a safe trip," said Chan Na, 56, a Koh Kong resident.
"When I arrive at her place, I bring bananas and incense sticks to pray for a safe trip and good selling," said Svay Kunthea, 37, Takeo resident and a honey seller in Koh Kong.
Kuoch Chi, 32, a vendor at Sihanoukville said:"I do not know what she wants, but I always bring fruits and prayer."
Chhay Kimlang, 46, a dress seller at Psah Thmey who visited Sihanoukville on the second day of the lunar new year said: "I never forget to pray to her for having a safe journey, good luck and happiness in the family. My family always goes to visit Sikanoukville or Kirirom park during the Khmer or Chinese new year."
Chea Rathmony, 18, student grade 12 at Wat Koh high school, who was visiting Koh Kong with her family said: "My father stopped the car near by Yeay Mao shrine. My mother and I took the bananas and incense sticks to pray. The first thing I wish is to pass the examination and be happy."
Keo Pich, deputy governor of Botum Sakor district of Koh Kong said that many travelers and businessmen on the road or in boats believe in the spirit of Yeay Mao. "They always wish not to have a traffic accident or meet storms. If they walk in the forest they wish not to meet cruel animals like tigers or snakes, and they are very careful not to say something wrong or use bad words".
His version of the history of the shrine is as follows: A long time ago Yeay Mao's husband was a soldier who worked far from home. She loved her husband very much. One day he was very late, and she went by fishing boat to meet him. A storm develops, a big wave sinks the boat and Yeay Mao drowns. The legend is that she misses her husband's penis. So after she died, people who believe in her spirit and want to have good fortune in business make artificial penises in wood or stone as a present because they think this is what she will appreciate most.
Miech Ponn, 72, an official of the Buddhist Institute disagreed with Keo Pich. He said that Yeay Mao's husband was a high ranking official, who she loved so much, and was jealous because she did not want anyone to take him away from her. One day she learned that her husband had a second wife. She was very angry and tried to find ways to make the step-wife leave.
Because he loved the step-wife and could not live with both her and Yeay Mao, the husband stopped having sex with his wife. Yeay Mao was a strongly passionate, sexy woman who always needed a penis. So after she died her spirit still likes the penis, and people bring her offerings of wood or stone penises.
Another interpretation of her story is that when she was alive, Yeay Mao did not follow Buddhism, but Brahmanism which respected the Siva linga (male) and Yoni (the female principal), so after she died she still wanted people who respect her to bring the penis present to her.
According to a Khmer folktale book, in 1816 there was no road from Phnom Penh to Kampot just an ox and buffalo cart road. At the Chakrey Ting of Kampot there was a deep forest, in the forest there were many wild species like tigers and elephants. Everybody was afraid to travel in the forest.
One day a man name Ta Krahormkar and his wife named Yeay Mao walked in the forest with other people. They stopped to have a meal and during the meal dozens of elephants came and chased them. Yeay Mao ran into a big tiger. She tried to call to her husband for help but nobody heard and the tiger killed her.
After that, the people felt scared to walk in the forest, and when they travel they offer the banana or other things to ask for a safe trip and not to meet tigers or elephants.
Yuth Phouthang, the governor of Koh Kong said Khmers are very superstitious and would jump from one belief to another. "Anyway the road at Yeay Mao's place in Pech Nil is very rough, and dangerous if the drivers are not careful, so the shrine helps to make the drivers slow down and stop to pray for a safe trip or whatever they wish."