All magic runs out eventually

By Elizabeth W. Wilson

“All magic runs out eventually,” explained an older Khmer woman who smiled at the translator. We were looking at a man about 50 who stood, without a shirt, exposing his intricate chest tattoo, which started at either shoulder, continuing in a v-shape towards the bottom of his rib cage. With dogs roaming and young children staring, we listened in the heat to our guide as he explained that the man’s tattoos were intended to ward of evil. He told us that soldiers get these tattoos to protect themselves from bullets or other things that might physically injure them.  One famous Cambodian criminal used black magic. He targeted the children of the wealthy, including the children of the police. He would set building on fire and he would not be there, and the police would shoot at the roads as he sped away and he would always survive unharmed. The same old woman eventually explained that the criminal did eventually die, because all magic does not last forever, but her blatant belief in black magic intrigued me. In a country known for its temples, and with a culture so tied to religion, this blatant superstition blew me away. For the sake of the khmer man that stood proud in front of us and for the sake of the Cambodian soldiers that get them today, I hope the tattoo works.

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