A Study of the Evolution of Maylay Magic

By R.O.Winstedt

Preface

THis book is the outcome of a close study of the language and beliefs of the Malays during a period of
residence in the Malay Peninsula that has now reached twenty−two years. Its object is to unravel a complex
system of magic in the light of historical and comparative data. By itself this system is a tangle every thread of
which scholars working in Europe are led to term Malay, although even the native distinguishes this thread as
Indian and that as Muslim. Chapters i.−iv. deal with the Malay's evolution from animist to Muslim; chapters v.
and vi. with his animism; chapters vii. and viii. with his shamanism; chapter ix. with rites largely infected with
Hindu magic; and chapters x. and xi. with Muslim accretions.
Like all writers on this subject I am indebted to the classical works of Tylor, Frazer, and Jevons, and
particularly to the articles by specialists on the magic of different races and faith in Hastings' Encyclopaedia of
Religion and Ethics. Working far away from an adequate library, I have found this Encyclopaedia of incalculable
value.
Chapters iv., vi. and viii. are based almost entirely on manuscripts written down for me by Malays and checked
by my own observation. The chapter on "Magician and Muslim" is founded on Malay lithographed texts and on a
manuscript magico−religious treatise obtained by Dr. Gimlette in Kelantan and kindly lent by him to me. The
same manuscript and an old Perak court charm−book have been used for the chapters on "The Malay Charm" and
"Magician and Mystic." Papers on Malay charms, on birth and marriage ceremonies, on the ritual of the rice−field
and the ritual of propitiating the spirits of a district have appeared from my pen in the Journal of the Federated
Malay States Museums, and should be in the hands of those who wish to study original sources and vernacular
terms. I owe a debt to the authors of many articles printed in the Straits (now Malayan) Branch of the Royal
Asiatic Society, to Dr. Gimlette's Malay Poisons and Charms, to Fasciculi Malayenses by Messrs. Annandale &
Robinson, and above all to that assiduous collector, Mr. W. W. Skeat, the author of Malay Magic. Not to burden
my pages with footnotes I give detailed references and authorities for each chapter in an appendix.
I would remind Malay readers that every race has its lumber−room of magical beliefs and practices, and many
such survivals are gracious and beautiful and full of historical interest. It is to be hoped that the rapid influx of
modern ideas will not wash away too many of the landmarks of their complex and ancient civilisation.
I have to thank Mr. C. O. Blagden, Reader in Malay at the School of Oriental Studies, London, and Che'
Zainal−Abidin bin Ahmad of the Sultan Idris College, Perak, for reading this work in manuscript; the former has
made many useful suggestions and the latter given me valuable material.
SINGAPORE,1924.

I. INTRODUCTION
THIS book deals with the magic of the Muslim Malays of the Crown Colony of the Straits Settlements,
comprising Singapore, Penang and Malacca; of the Federated Malay States, Perak, Selangor, Negri Sembilan and
Pahang; of the Unfederated Malay States, Johore, Kedah, Kelantan and Trengganu; and of Patani, a northern
Malay State belonging to Siam.
The Malay Peninsula is the most southern extremity of the continent of Asia. It has the region of Indo−China
to the north. South lies the Malay Archipelago. It stands midway between India and China. Nature has laid it open
to many influences, though students not presented with the evidence of geography, anthropology and history are
apt to speak as if Malay magic were unique and indigenous.
The language belongs to the Malayo−Polynesian or Oceanic or Austronesian family, which obtains from
Formosa to New Zealand and from Madagascar to Easter Island. To the eastern branch belong the languages of
Samoa, Tahiti and Tonga. To the western branch belong Malay, Malagasy, and languages of the Philippines,
Sumatra, Java, Borneo and Celebes. This latter branch is termed Indonesian, rather unfortunately, since for
anthropologists the word defines a particular physical strain found in the Bataks of Sumatra, the Dayaks of
Borneo and the Torajas of Celebes.
The typical civilised Indonesian peoples, Malays and Javanese, are variants of a Proto−Malay race with Indian,
Arab and other foreign admixtures. In that Proto−Malay race, whatever else may be its components, there is a
Mongoloid strain.
In the south of the Peninsula, the bullet−headed straight−haired Proto−Malays are represented by jungle−tribes
known generally as Jakun and specifically as Biduanda in Negri Sembilan, Blanda in Selangor, and Mantra In
Malacca. The coastal tribes are termed Orang Laut, or "Men of the Sea," and form a link between the
Proto−Malays of the Peninsula and those of the Riau Archipelago and Sumatra, their original home.
Another aboriginal forest−dweller is the wavyhaired long−headed Sakai, supposed mainly on linguistic
grounds to have come down from Indo−China and on anthropological grounds to be related to the Veddas of
Ceylon. A branch of this tribe, the Besisi, have intermarried freely with the Jakun.
Oldest of all Malaya's inhabitants are the Semang and Pangan of the north, small dark frizzy−haired Negritos,
thought to be related to the Aetas of the Philippines and the Mineopies of the Andamans.
Already at the beginning of the Christian era Indian religions, the caste system and government by rajahs had
been introduced into Java and into Sumatra, whence most of the Malays of the Peninsula came, and Indian
influence spread in a less degree throughout the Archipelago even as far as the Philippines. The old Malay
kingdom of Palembang in Sumatra introduced Mahayana Buddhism into Java and had a vague suzerainty over the
Malay Peninsula for several centuries, until in the thirteenth the modern Siamese gained control in the north and
Islam a permanent hold in the south. A Buddhist inscription from Province Wellesley opposite Penang (in the
southern Indian style of writing found In West Java) dates back to 400 A.D. But in Malaya, as in Java, the religion
of Siva retained a footing until the advent of Islam.


Table of Contents


I. GODS, SPIRITS AND GHOSTS.............................................................................................................5

(a) PRIMITIVE GODS...............................................................................................................................................6

(b) SIVA AND THE HINDU GODS..........................................................................................................................8

(c) GOOD AND EVIL SPIRITS OF DEAD MORTALS........................................................................................10

(d) PRIMITIVE SPIRITS, FAIRIES AND GHOSTS..............................................................................................13

(e) ANGELS AND DEVILS OF ISLAM.................................................................................................................15

(f) JINN.....................................................................................................................................................................17

III. THE MALAY MAGICIAN...................................................................................................................20

IV. THE MALAY CHARM........................................................................................................................23

V. THE SOUL OF THINGS........................................................................................................................28

VI. THE RITUAL OF THE RICE−FIELD.................................................................................................31

VII. THE MALAY SHAMAN'S SÉANCE.................................................................................................38

VIII. THE SHAMAN'S SACRIFICE..........................................................................................................41

IX. MAGIC AND MAN..............................................................................................................................44

(a) BIRTH AND INFANCY.....................................................................................................................................45

(b) ADOLESCENCE................................................................................................................................................49

(c) BETROTHAL AND MARRIAGE......................................................................................................................51

(d) DEATH................................................................................................................................................................54

(e) INSTALLATION CEREMONIES......................................................................................................................56

X. MAGICIAN AND MUSLIM..................................................................................................................58

XI. MAGICIAN AND MYSTIC.................................................................................................................62




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