The ability to communicate with the spirit world is a significant path to power within a community. The precarious physical environment is further complicated by souls of the dead, ancestral spirits and nature deities interfering either benevolently or malevolently in human affairs. Communities rely on individuals with powers to communicate beyond the mortal realm in order to see, predict, mediate and control these uncertainties. Throughout Southeast Asia village priests, seers and shaman are highly esteemed and also feared for their extraordinary powers which are channelled to secure harmony and ward off disaster.

The widespread practice of sorcery requires village priests to perform rites that abate evil spirits and appease the gods. Priests and shamans require potent tools and medicines. Selecting the most auspicious day to hold a funeral, plant rice seeds, set out on a journey or headhunting expedition, or start the construction of a house requires expert supernatural authority. Through the consultation of magic paraphernalia, the correct moment is calculated for important activities to begin. Performed by village priests or ritual specialists, these procedures are essential means of maintaining the cosmic order, capturing lost souls, ensuring fertility and protecting villages against crop failure, war, epidemic and other disasters.

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