Friday, February 29, 2008

Charms and Witchcraft


The Malay is a Firm Believer In Their Efficacy

The Malay is a firm believer in the efficacy of charms. He wears amulets, places written words of magic in houses and sports a tiger's claw as a preventive of disease. If he is specially primitive and backwoodsy, when he enters a forest he says: "Go to the right, all my enemies and assailants! May you not look upon me; let me walk alone!" To allay a storm he says: "The elephants collect, they wallow across the sea. Go to the right, go to the left, I break the tempest." When about to begin an elephant hunt, according to Thompson, he uses this charm: "The elephant trumpets, he wallows across the lake. The pot boils, the pan boils across the point. Go to the left, go to the right, spirit of grandfather (the elephant); I loose the fingers upon the bowstring."

The Malay believes in witches and witchcraft. There is the bottle imp, the Polong, which feeds on its owner's blood till the time comes for it to take possession of an enemy. Then there is a horrid thing, the Penangalan, which possesses women. Frequently it leaves its rightful abode to fly away at night to feed on blood, faking the form of the head and intestines of the person it inhabited, in which shape it wanders around.

Such beliefs may perhaps have their origin in metempsychosis, which in other ways has some foothold among the common people. For instance, elephants and tigers are believed sometimes to be human souls in disguise, and so the Malay addresses them as "grandfather" to allay their wrath and avoid direct reference to them. Crocodiles also are often regarded as sacred, and special charms are used in fishing for them. One such, given by Maxwell, is as follows: "Oh, Dangsari, lotus flower, receive what I send thee. If thou receivest it not, may thy eyes be torn out." — R. Clyde Ford in Popular Science Monthly.

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