The Cambodian Royal family has traditionally had a strong interest in the “occult sciences”. King Father Norodom Sihanouk once claimed the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami spared Cambodia only after an astrologer warned him his country would avoid an “ultra-catastrophic cataclysm” if certain rituals were conducted. Prince Ravivaddhana Monipong Sisowath – known to his friends simply as Ravi – proudly continues that tradition. The great-grandson of King Sisowath Monivong and cousin to King Norodom Sihamoni, he was born in Phnom Penh in 1971 but grew up in Paris, after his family moved there when he was two. He now lives in Rome and works as a freelance consultant in finance and media, and also does astrological readings for family, friends and the odd member of the Catholic clergy on the side. Will Jackson caught up with him during a brief visit to Phnom Penh.
What was it like growing up in Paris?
It was very odd because France . . . let’s say that France finished at the door of the house. Inside, my mother [the late Princess Norodom Daravadey] brought us up – with my sister [Princess Sisowath Ubbolvadey Monipong] – with the utmost care of a prince and a princess of the royal family and we had a Chinese governess who was also taking care of us, so until the age of 10 I didn’t have the impression that I was really in France inside the house. And outside the house it was a kind of a game, I was just playing to be as clever as possible at school, to be a good student and do well with my studies.
How did you get into astrology?
I had a piano teacher [when I was a young boy] but I was not very keen on piano. It was not my taste at all. I just did it to please my mother. My teacher realised, and said: “You know what? I’m an astrologer. If you don’t say anything I will give you good notes and then I will teach you astrology and not piano.” I was 14. And this is how I began astrology. Later, I had also a Chinese astrology professor who was an old noble from Brittany in France who was in China in the early ’40s and he taught me Chinese astrology. Then I was also interested in the astrological tradition of Cambodia and my mother was my teacher. She was very informed of all that, she taught me many things.
Did you have to hide your notes from your mother?
My mother found out quite rapidly. “OK, don’t worry,” she said, “you just leave the piano and continue astrology.” At the end, she was very interested. She asked me to see things and one of her main concerns was of course Cambodia so we managed to see some little things. At that time Cambodia was still invaded by the Vietnamese and we didn’t know what was going to happen, if there was a possibility to go back, all that kind of stuff.
What was it like coming back to Cambodia for the first time in 2000?
The first time I knelt down in front of the throne in the throne hall – because you know in the royal family we believe that inside the throne lives the angel who is protecting the royal family and the Kingdom of Cambodia so we usually kneel down and greet him three times – the feeling of being back home and of now to have fulfilled my duty to come back, it was very strong for me. And exactly to the contrary, at the same time I had the feeling that nothing has been fulfilled, that there is so much to do and so much to reconstruct, especially inside of me.
What attracted you to astrology?
It runs in the family. If you have read King Sihanouk’s memoirs, he said that Queen Sisowath Kossamak was an astrologer herself and everybody in the family, especially the princesses, are very, very gifted for those kinds of occult sciences. People came to me. People knew because one friend talked to another, you know how it is.
I never got paid to do it. In my case, it brings bad luck. Destiny is just a kind of pattern on which you are totally free to play, so it’s up to you in the end. However, it’s better to know the circumstances in which you are playing.
Do you mainly do astrological charts? Do you also read tarot cards?
Yes, charts and tarot cards and that sort of thing. The funny part of the thing is that when I was a young man going out, [doing cards] was a way to be centre of attention and now that I’ve grown up and older and hopefully wiser I’m more into charts and things that are done with more intricacy.
You now live in Rome. Have you ever been approached to do readings by anyone from the Vatican?
Many priests and bishops [have asked me to do readings], mainly about the future of the church, their jobs, and some of them on more personal matters, such as their next job within the church, if they will stay in Rome or go abroad, stuff like that. Everything quite natural. Officially, it is not “advisable” for a priest to consult the stars but still a priest is a human being, with some points of strength and little spots of weakness.