SHAMAN, SAIVA AND SUFI
(d) PRIMITIVE SPIRITS, FAIRIES AND GHOSTS
Spirits and ghosts that are not termed jinn by the Malay spontaneously may be classed together as flotsam of
primitive beliefs. They may be the ghosts of men who lived too long ago to be associated ordinarily with the
genies of a religion they never practised in their lives. They may be fairies too human to have sprung from
smokeless fire. They may be godlings or nature−spirits too local or petty and neglected to have attracted the
attention of the pious. Or they may be spirits too vague to have acquired a local habitation and a name.
Challenged, the devout Malay would give to all of them the sinister canonisation of Jinn.
Some of this class are on the border−line between spirits and ghosts. There is the Spectre Huntsman, known
generally as a ghost, in one aspect an avatar of Siva, in another an uxorious villager whose endless hunt for a
mouse−deer for his gravid wife led to his being turned alive into a forest demon. In many lands a vanquished
aboriginal people are allotted by their conquerors to the borderland class between ghost and spirit. Were it not that
he also is identified with Siva, it would be tempting to include in it Black Awang in his shape as a Negrito (p. 7
Then there are "Bachelor" spirits, who may be forgotten godlings or the ghosts of youths cut off in their prime.
There is the Bachelor Cock−fighter, who presides over mains and hates liars. There are the Black Bachelor and
the Boy with the Long Lock, of whom Perak peasants speak.
There are a few spirits of high places, like the Chief of the mountain Berembun in Perak or Dato Parol, sainted
lord of Gunong Angsi in Negri Sembilan and commander of an army of the dead who have sprung from their
graves as tigers. Most famous is the fairy Princess of Mount Ledang in Malacca, who married Nakhoda Ragam, a
wandering prince of Borneo. After his death at sea from the prick of her needle she donned fairy garb and flew to
Gunong Ledang, whence she migrated later to Bukit Jugra further up the coast with a sacred tiger as her
companion. Others make her consort of the founder of Malacca. But a foreign and literary origin is suggested for
this fairy by the mention of her flying garb, the account in the seventeenth century Malay Annals of her garth, her
singing birds and her demand, when a Sultan of Malacca wooed her, for a betrothal present of seven trays piled
with the livers of mosquitoes, seven trays piled with the livers of fleas, a tub of tears, a basin of royal blood, and
one golden and one silver bridge to be built from Malacca to her hill top.
There is a mysterious Grannie Kemang, known both in Sumatra and in the Malay Peninsula. In Perak it is
thought that she will sow tares, a refuge for goblin pests, on the fresh clearing unless the farmer rise betimes to
alleviate with cool offerings; the smart of the burnt forest. Her cooking−pot is the inexhaustible widow's cruse of
the Malay peasant. She is said to have taught the art of rice−cultivation. One Perak account speaks of her as the
embodiment of the rice−soul. (In a Kelantan charm she is described as the nigget vampire and declared to be the
product of the afterbirth.)
There are echo−spirits of the mountains, like men and women in shape. If one of them visits a mortal woman,
she bears an albino child. A former Dato' of Kinta lived with a female echo−spirit in a cave in the face of a
limestone bluff, a beautiful woman called the Princess of the Rice−fields by the Hot Spring. One of his followers
took another echo−spirit to wife. In three weeks she bore him a son, whom no mortal woman could suckle.
There is a vague dream demon, Ma' Kopek, the hag that causes nightmare. Children playing hide and seek may
lose themselves behind her prodigious breasts and be found days later dazed and foolish. Sometimes she takes
them to a thorn−brake and feeds them on earth−worms and muddy water, which by her magic look and taste like
There is a Kitchen Demon, a gray dishevelled hag, who warms herself before the hearth at night and loves to
blow into flame the embers in a deserted house.
There is the Spook that Drags Himself along. He wears the shape of an orang−outang, peeps into attics where
fair maids sleep, and once carried a girl off up a tree and lived with her as his wife.
There are formless spirits that bring colic, cholera, smallpox, blindness. Most of these are unknown except to
the medicine−man, who diagnoses, for example, one hundred and ninety nine spirits of smallpox according to the
part affected, and names the one that attacks a patient's tongue after the Muslim Angel of Death!
Formless too are maleficent auras that emanate from the corpses of murdered men, of slain deer, wild pig, wild dogs, certain reptiles and birds. "Soon after death the bristles on the back move, and stand on end with contraction
and relaxation of the muscles; and to come within the range of the aim of these bristles, which have the position
they assume when the living animal is enraged, is to invite the attack of the bahdi." A white jungle cock, or
indeed any jungle cock of unusual colour, a jungle cock that does not struggle in the toils but perches on the rod
that suspends the noose, these have bahdi. "The bahdi have the power of bringing sickness, blindness or madness
upon the hunter, and an attack of fever after unwonted exertion in a malarial forest is always ascribed to them.
The jinggi can let the deer pass by the unwitting hunter in the form of a mouse or attack him in the form of a tiger.
They can also give the hunter the appearance of the hunted and thus expose him to the fire of his friends. The
genaling can kill the hunter outright." In these auras the idea of potent soul−substance seems to have become
merged in the idea of malicious spirits. The bahdi of a deer can be expelled by sweeping first a gun, then a
branch, and finally the noose in which the animal was caught, over its carcase from muzzle to hind−legs; the
noose is quickly slipped on to a stake and tightened round it. Here the magician appears to remove "transmissible
properties of matter" to the stake. In Patani syncretism has given the aura of a murdered man the shape of a
mannikin, and has made the auras of beasts the slaves of Siva. By some Kelantan magicians bahdi are said to be
one hundred and ninety in number and are given a name (gana) meaning spirit. All these evil influences are
sometimes classed with jinn.
With jinn, too, are often classed one hundred and ninety goblins of the soil (jembalang) that creep into the
baskets of the reaper and round the stems of rice−plants, and infest hill and mountain and plain. Ordinarily their
shape, if they have a shape, is not given. In Patani it is said they are the ghosts of men and, under Muslim
influence, it is alleged that they may "be seen at night in waste places, leaning on long sticks, wearing red caps
and eating earth. If any one is bold enough to seize one of their caps and swift enough to escape their pursuit, he
will gain the great art of becoming invisible."
There are numerous nature−spirits; the spirit of the river bore, that drowns men in its matlike curling wave; the
spirit of the cataract that lies "prone on the water with head like an inverted copper"; spirits of the sea that settle
on masts in the form of St. Elmo's fire; spirits of the jungle track; spirits that tamper with the noose and snare of
the hunter; spirits that live in trees especially where wild bees nest; the spirit of the faded lotus. Many a sacred
place in jungle and grove, supposed now to be the site of some saint's vanished tomb, is really a relic of primitive
worship of the spirits of nature.