SHAMAN, SAIVA AND SUFI

(b) ADOLESCENCE
Magical precautions accompany circumcision, teeth−filing and the boring of girls' ears. Even the observances
at handing a child over to the care of a religious teacher and at the conclusion of his studies, Muslim as they now
are, may be a survival of Hindu ritual or some more primitive initiation ceremony.
Circumcision is regarded as a Muslim obligation. A boy undergoes it at any lucky and convenient age between
six and twenty. Often it is done immediately after the celebrations at the conclusion of his religious studies. At the
Perak court, amid great festivities, a young raja is clothed like a bridegroom in State dress. The State magician
pours oil upon water in which the acid juice of limes has been mixed. From the pools of oil that float in the shape
of moon and stars, he tells if the moment is propitious for the ceremony, and if the boy will later marry a girl of
his own class. Then he rubs the mixture on the forehead, hands and feet of the boy and of his companions who
will undergo the operation at the same time. Feasting may last for days. Royal candidates are borne in
procession−in Perak on painted elephants or men's shoulders, in Negri Sembilan in the ruler's processional car, in
Patani on a huge coloured model of a mythical bird. In Patani, too, sham weapons of wood are carried in front of
them. In Kelantan a torchlight procession goes seven times round the house of the chief where the function is to
be held; wooden or palm−leaf walls are removed and the procession perarnbulates the house without descending
to the ground. In Perak sometimes the boy is seated on a bridal dais, has a dance with lighted candles performed
before him and his fingers stained with henna. There, too, a raja is covered with a silk cloth, his body sprinkled
with saffron rice and cooling rice−paste, and his mouth stuffed with a lump of glutinous rice and three grains of
parched rice. A hen is placed on his body and encouraged to peck up any of the grains of rice that may be sticking
to his mouth. If she is slow to peck, it will be long before the boy marries. Two coconuts and a small bag of rice
are rolled over him from head to heel. Just before the operation the boy is escorted to river or well, where the
same offerings are thrown to the spirits of the water as when he was first introduced to that element. The boy
bathes along with his parents, and the one long lock of hair that has been a symbol of childhood is shorn by his
mother or nurse or the man who later is to circumcise him. During this tonsure a mock fight is started with
bundles of rice, till the water resounds as if buffaloes were fighting in it, a custom recalling the mock combat to
clear the rice−fields of demons. The final ceremony then takes place indoors. The boy is seated on the stem of a
banana or on a sack of rice, and at the Perak court a swordsman stands beside him so that if aught goes wrong "the
plug for the wound and the dressing may be taken from the operator's corpse." At the same court throughout the
various stages of the ritual, at the taking of the omens, at the procession to the river, and at the operation, the royal
drums are beaten and the royal flutes and trumpets blown. The sufferer's food consists of dry fish or buffalo meat
and his plate is lined with a parched banana−leaf, the dryness of diet and leaf having a hornoeopathic effect on his
unhealed wound. Till the wound is well, he may not wear a cap. For months before the operation he is warned not
to eat tough meat. These and other rules are dictated by mimetic magic. If he was born with a caul, a piece of it
preserved from his birth is often given him to eat in a banana.
An analogous but merely nominal ceremony of a very private nature is observed for girls also, either in infancy
or early youth, a midwife being the surgeon.
Puberty brought also for both sexes the practice of filing and blackening the teeth in order to substitute for
sharp white fangs, "like those of a dog," an even row of teeth, black "like the wings of a beetle." One of the
incantations recited is for personal charm and pre−eminence and shows signs of travestying the Sufi's "perfect
man." In a folktale called "Awang Sulong" the operation was done with one rasp of the file a day and one a night
for nine days and nights, and the beauty of the glossy black stumps of the hero made folk ask
Whose the cock that struts so bravely,
His lips a shore beset with bridges,
Bridges of black shining palm−spikes,
Teeth as stems so sharp and knitted,
Mouth a boatful of red nutmegs,
Ebon teeth like bracelet circle?
The object of this practice, as of circumcision, was, it has been surmised, to sacrifice a part to save the whole.
Blackening of the teeth has died out, but filing is still practised, even after marriage, to beautify the teeth and
prevent their decay.
Girls' ears are bored either in early childhood or at puberty, with the usual magic ritual to worst evil spirits. At
the Perak court in the eighteenth century two nights were devoted to henna−staining before the ears of a ruler's
daughter were pierced, and on the second night she was escorted on an elephant seven times round the palace. The
needle employed is threaded with cotton of many colours, having at the ends turmeric cut in the shape of a
floweret; two of these flowerets adorn the thread left in each ear. just as the boring begins, those present throw
money into a silver bowl, perhaps to drown any cry or murmur. After this, large ear−studs used to be worn during
a girl's maiden days but are now donned only at her wedding to be discarded formally on the consummation of the
marriage. At the Perak court the ceremony is concluded with a feast and prayers in honour of the Prophet and of
the parents and ancestors of the ruler.




Shaman, Saiva and Sufi

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