Well, it’s time for the Lone Grey Squirrel’s annual nod to Halloween (previous Halloween posts include The Oily Man, Of Ghosts and Monsters, A Halloween Tale and the Lady in White.) Actually, Halloween isn’t a big event in Malaysia and so I never had the opportunity to dress up in a fancy costume. I wonder what I might wear if I had the chance. Perhaps I could dress up as “Lurch” from the Addams Family or a rabid squirrel. What might your favorite Halloween costume or character be?
But I digress. The title of this post may seem like the starting line of a joke but I assure you the story behind it is dark and creepy.
Malaysia is officially a Muslim country and more than 60% of the population is Muslim. Islam came to this country around 1136 A.D. with the conversion of the Hindu King of the State-Kingdom of Kedah, Merong Maha Wangsa. He would change his name to Sultan Muzaffar Shah. However, before the onset of Islam in Malaysia, the Malay people had already a well established belief system rooted in the existence of supernatural beings and magic. This belief system has survived even till today.
The Malay equivalent to a witch doctor or medicine man is the “bomoh”. A good bomoh may be consulted to perform healings and blessings. Event organisers may employ them to make sure there is no rain to spoil some festive occasion and football teams may employ bomohs to help them win games. Some bomohs may also practice the dark arts or black magic and may be hired to put curses on people or to charm them to do something against their will.
For some readers, this belief system may seem antiquated and distant in the modern world of logic and science but in fact belief in the supernatural is very much alive in most of the world. Cases involving the supernatural are reported frequently in the newspaper. Other stories spread in whispers at the coffee shops. Museum exhibits on the occult draw more visitors than exhibits on space exploration.
Mass hysteria is commonly and frequently reported especially amongst young girls at residential schools or factory dormitories. The affected women may scream and shout or sometimes laugh hysterically. After intervention by good bomohs, the victims seem not to remember anything.
Occasionally, a particular malevolent or mischievous spirit can kidnap a victim. Currently, there is a case of a 22 year old woman who has disappeared from her family home. The woman has disappeared a few times before and was later found stuck on top of trees or wandering in cemeteries. There were reported incidences of rocks and gems falling apparently from the ceiling in her presence. In the latest incident, the family reported hearing a loud sound and rushed to the living room in time to see a crystal marble rolling along the floor past the woman. She suddenly bolted out of the house. Neighbours reported seeing the woman being driven away in her mother’s car but could not see the driver. However, the car keys are still in the house and the car was locked.
Since then, she has sent text messages to her mother from her mobile home saying that she is on top of Mount Jerai (a mountain located 300 km away and which has been associated with the old belief system as enchanted). She told her parents that she was taken by “orang bunian” – invisible, supernatural beings; that she tried to escape and was injured but that two spirit princesses of the mountain are nursing her wounds now and protecting her. She remains missing at this moment.
Many Malaysians also believe very strongly in curses and charms. Often, if someone behaves out of character, it is believed that he is a victim of a charm. Often, people report being charmed into giving their money and belongings to a stranger. They are not able to stop themselves nor are they able to remember things clearly after the incident. Sometimes when a not too attractive woman ends up marrying a senior political leader or a millionaire business man, people do wonder if black magic was involved.
This finally brings me to the title of the post. I shall start with the Witch and the Politician first. Mona Fandey was a witch of some notoriety and fame. Senior government leaders and politicians were said to be amongst her clientele. In 1993, Datuk Mazlan Idris, an elected state assemblyman, sought the help of Mona Fandey and her husband to bring him more riches and to help him rocket upwards in his political career. He visited them often to seek their services and paid them handsomely for it. However, according to the police, on one occasion, he participated in a ritual in which he lay down with his eyes closed to wait for “riches to fall from the sky”. Instead of the anticipated riches, it was an axe that fell and decapitated his head. He was then chopped up into 18 parts and partially skinned before being buried in a small hole near her home and covered with cement. It is speculated that it was a ritual killing. The couple managed to get money out of his bank account and went on spending spree before being caught by the police.
Anyway, as these stories illustrate, the belief and practice of black magic is very much alive amongst the quaking population. This brings us to the lawyers. In a meeting last month, religious leaders and lawyers met to discuss witchcraft. Islam bans black magic and witchcraft, for it is a heretic practice to put one’s faith in something other than Allah.
So, the learned ones decided that it was high time to come up with a law to make sure those who are practicing witchcraft and cause harm to people be chargeable and prosecutable. Of course, they first need to address certain issues like what kind of evidence would be admissible and deemed as proof of witchcraft.
This is not such an easy task. Haron Din is a self proclaimed exorcist. He is one of those lobbying for the anti-witchcraft law. It is claimed that he once managed to exorcise a haunted and cursed location and transported out a whole bus load of “orang bunian”. I do mean an actual bus. His followers believed that he had performed a miracle but is a bus load of “invisible people” admissible evidence in court, m’ Lord?
No matter what one believes, there is a pronounced danger that such a law could result in the indiscriminate accusation of innocent people as witches. Some one pinch me and tell me that “the witch, the lawyers and the politician” is just the first line of a bad joke instead of the start of a modern day Salem witch hunt, where the proof of innocence from witchcraft was to die from drowning when they submerged you under water.
I told you this would get creepy. Happy Halloween.
Thank goodness science has taught us the proper way to deal with witches and other such superstition. See video below.Vodpod videos no longer available.