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Mystical cow 'licks' away disease
(AFP, July 8, 2004)

THOUSANDS of ill Cambodians are flocking to this northern village to be licked by a mystical cow named Preah who is curing their complaints, its owner has claimed.

Farmer Puch Pich said up to 400 people have been turning up daily for the past fortnight to be slobbered over, after the 13-month-old white beast apparently cured his wife Kong Mich of a chronic illness.

They have been braving Cambodia's notoriously bad rainy season roads to travel from around the kingdom, paying 500 riel (17 cents) per person for four licks on the limb or body part of their choice.

"The cow won't lick people who don't put in their money... and if he doesn't think you believe in his powers, he won't lick you either," Puch Pich quipped.

Ros Sath, 68, told AFP that before he underwent the unconventional treatment he could barely walk a few metres thanks to a stiff leg.

"After the cow licked me four times I felt comfortable again and now I can walk 300 or 400 metres without getting exhausted," he said.

The curative powers of Preah - which means God in Khmer - were revealed when Kong Mich took the animal out to graze, said Puch Pich, who has owned the $449 cow for five months.

"The cow was always wanting to lick my wife's arms and legs and two months after he started, she completely recovered from an illness we'd spent a lot of money trying to fix," he said amid the mayhem at his farm, about 90km north of Phnom Penh in Kampong Chhnang province.

The couple's theory was first tested on a 72-year-old visually impaired woman from the village whom Puch Pich claimed regained her sight after four licks.

"Then the news really spread," he told AFP.

Some of the hundreds are bringing water for "take away" licks, while others are taking grass it has touched while eating, hoping to boil up some of its magic.

Puch Pich attributes the cow's powers to its birthplace at nearby commune Banteay Rongvek, which Cambodians believe was also the site of a mystical cow that was stolen by Cambodia's historical rival Thailand in ancient times.

Cambodians are highly superstitious, particularly in the countryside where people continue to meld animist practices with Buddhism.