Names and Identities of the Boramey Spirits Possessing Cambodian Mediums

by Didier Bertrand

Publication: Asian Folklore Studies , 2001, Vol. 60, No. 1, pp. 31-47 (Nanzan University)

Published: 2001

Pages: 17

Language : English

Based on some three years of field research, this study depicts the mythical sphere that mediums and kru (healers) channel down to the Cambodian daily life.

According to the author, "the term boramey is a Khmer derivation from the Pali word parami that originally meant the ten virtues of the Buddha (tousak baramey), which permit one to attain nirvana. In popular conceptualization of the term in Cambodia, mediums are said to be attacked as well as chosen by spirits called boramey, who are supposed to have the Buddha's ten virtues, by which they become a benevolent power.

Boramey are assumed to represent a variety of mythical and historical characters, and are usually clearly differentiated from the souls of those who died a sudden or violent death and from the other errant spirits who populate the Khmer universe (ta, "grandfather") (...) When a medium is pos- sessed by a boramey, the medium's behavior while in a state of trance, par- ticularly his physical and verbal expressions, provides further insight into the character of the boramey. Each boramey identity translates into a social and therapeutic function."

These spiritual figures, and their various human representatives (snang or rup, in Khmer) through times, lead us through the multiple connections between modern Cambodia and the Angkorean and pre-Angkorean eras. For instance, notes the author, it is said nowadays that "the snang of Preah Kum Long, the king with leprosy, used to go to a temple in Angkor Thom, which people claim was the king's place of origin. Preah Kum Long is a curious and playful boramey. He often tells sexually-charged jokes, and reveals lottery numbers in a comical way. He is considered to be a preah (divine being) but people address him in a more familiar way as ta, grandfather."

About contemporary connections with the boramey, read several interviews with mediums here.

(Photo: Khmer440.com)

Tags: animism, medicine, Khmer religion, spirits

About the Author

Portrait of Didier   Bertrand

Didier Bertrand

Researche at CERPP (Université Toulouse le Mirail) and IRSEA-CNRS (Marseille, France), Didier Bertrand has devoted three years of field work studying the practices of Cambodian mediums and kru (healers).

An ethno-psychologist and a Doctor in Intercultural Psychology, Didier Bertrand has also studied the inter-generational traumas affecting migrants and refugees in South East Asia and among their diasporas, particularly in France and Great Britain.