A race of Indo-Chinese origin, numbering about 130,000,
that settled in Annam, Siam; Cochin, China; and Cambodia.
They had some reputation among the surrounding population
as sorcerers, probably arising from the mythic influence of a
conquered race. Their magicians claimed to be able to slay at
a distance and to bring ruin and disease by the aid of magic formulas.
Among the Cambodian Chams, sorcerers were detested
by the common people, as they were believed to be the source
of all the evil that befell them; the majority of them usually
ended their days by secret assassinations.
Sorcerers were nearly always women. They entered the sisterhood
by means of a secret initiation held in the forest at midnight.
The woman who desired to become a sorceress sacrificed
a cock on a nest of termites. The initiate cut the cock in two
from the head to the tail and danced in front of it in the nude
until, by force of her incantations, the two halves of the bird approached
each other and became once more alive and started
Sorceresses were said to be known by the tendency of their
complexion to alter its hue and by their swollen and bloodshot
eyes. They possessed numerous rites for gaining the favor of
evil spirits, in which they implicitly believed. In building a
house numerous propitiatory rites had to be observed, accompanied
by invocation of the protecting deities. The Chams believed
in lucky and unlucky days and were careful not to undertake
anything of importance unless favored by benevolent
The Chams also possessed many peculiar superstitions.
They would not disturb grain that had been stored during the
daytime, as they said it was then asleep; they waited until nightfall
before gathering it. They also had many magic agricultural
formulas, to ensure that harvests were worthy to be stored. The
Brahmanic Chams believed that the souls of good men passed
to the sun, those of women to the moon, and those of the coolie
class into clouds, but these were only places of temporary stay
until such time as all finally come to reside within the center of
the earth. The belief in reincarnation was also highly popular.
Chambers, Robert Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology 5th Ed.
Aymonier, Etienne F. Les Tchames et leur Relìgions. Paris,
Chaton, Aymonier. Dictionnaire Cam-Française. Paris, 1906.
. Nouvelles recherches sur les chams. Paris, 1901.