MAHA SARAKHAM — More than 300 Thai and international mystics met at a World Hermit Convention Sunday evening in Isaan.

Ascetics gathered at a fair in the country’s northeast to showcase the arts and artifacts of what organizers described as a vanishing culture and way of life.

“Many of the hermit arts are disappearing. At the event many people got to see what they have only seen in movies, but are actually ancient practices,” said Ma Lue Thep, an organizer and ruu see from Chiang Mai.

Event activities included chanting to pay respect to mentors, rituals to supplicate deities and devas, and rites performed to imbue amulets with supernatural powers. The holy folk also performed prayers in line with their astrological-celestial beliefs to repel bad luck for the year and displayed regional sacred talismans.

“North, south, Isaan, and central hermits showed everyone their skills and exchanged cultures. Hermits from Isaan showed their medicines and mor lam tsong, a kind of musical therapy, while southern hermits showed their metalworking skills,” he said.

At the event, sages in traditional hermit garb exchanged their methods of chanting and meditation and shared social conditions with those from other locales.

Foreign visitors attended from Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, China, Canada, Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

“The event was really packed. A hermit MC walked around and explained into a mic how this medicine or that talisman worked. The Ministry of Culture came as well and gave us about 50 awards,” Ma Lue Thep said.

Hermit sages, or ruu see, spend their time meditating in the forest, developing their mystic arts, communicating with animals, creating natural remedies, imbuing artifacts and teaching devotees. Mor lam tsong is an Isaan hermit practice in which a seance is held accompanied by song and dance. This is believed to summon spirits to possess a sick person in order to heal them.