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Ritual forecasts heavy rain

King Norodom Sihamoni prays during a rain-prediction ceremony during the Water Festival at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh on Sunday
King Norodom Sihamoni prays during a rain-prediction ceremony during the Water Festival at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh on Sunday. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Ritual forecasts heavy rain

Cambodian farmers will have no shortage of rain in 2014, and may find themselves in it up to their necks for the last eight months of the year – at least so says a time-honoured rain-prediction ceremony held late on Sunday night at the Royal Palace.

Performed every year, the ritual involves lighting 24 candles – one for each province and the capital – and divining the following year’s rainfall from their drippings.

According to state news agency Agence Kampuchea Presse, this year’s ceremony – attended by King Norodom Sihamoni – foretold a “medium amount of rain at the beginning, and downpours in the middle and at the end of the coming year”.

The National Museum’s Chea Socheat said yesterday that while it is hard to say just how long the ritual had been performed in Cambodia, it is always performed on a full moon.

Determining the results of the ceremony, he said, involves scrutinising the placement of the wax drippings.

“We have 24 candles, and each candle is divided into three parts … [one part for] the early year, one for the middle of the year and one for late in the year,” Socheat said.

“[The officiant] observes whether each candle gives a lot or a little bit [of wax] that falls down.

“If the candle drips a lot, it means it will rain a lot,” he continued, adding that the pattern is then examined to see whether it came from the early, middle or late section of the candle.

“If the drops of wax are in the early year, a lot of the rain [will come early],” he concluded.

Despite heavy rainfalls this year that left much of the Kingdom underwater for weeks, Bo Ravy, a farmer in Prey Veng province’s Pear Raing district, said that the prediction was “good news” for her.

“A lack of water at the end of the season damages the crops and makes us produce less,” she said. “I hope next year my rice crop will increase if the rain comes down at the end of the season.”

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