On All Hallow’s Eve, I thought I would regale you with a tale of the supernatural from the dark forests of Malaysia. Fear and superstition still reigns in many parts of the world even today but what I find interesting is that some beliefs have a similar theme. Are they the product of converging imaginations or perhaps based on a common truth?
One of the most common and oldest of these un-natural monsters are the vampires – the blood suckers. The Malaysian jungle is full of these blood sucking fiends. This is true. I have seen them and been bitten myself. Over here we call them mosquitoes and leeches. Ha! Ha! Just a bit of nervous humour before we get down and really describe the creature of the night that I have in mind.
Malaysia’s blood sucking fiend is the Langsuir. It is a female creature that may appear in two forms. Firstly, the Langsuir may be in the form of an owl and may often be seen perched at night on certain trees in the forests. Banyan trees are believed to be a favourite roost or perhaps a strangling fig. Do not go near if you value your life. The Langsuir is also believe to be able to appear as a woman. She is alternatively described by those lucky to escape as a hideous creature with long claws and fangs or as a beautiful woman. Some say that she takes on the latter to seduce male victims. In either form, she has long jet black hair reaching to the ankles and she is always wearing a white robe. Her hair hides a hole in the back of her neck which is the means by which she sucks the blood of her victim. In one version of the tale, the Langsuir actually possesses the victim and feeds from the inside.
The Langsuir is believed to form from women who had died within 40 days of childbirth after also losing their child. Elaborate rituals must be made on the body such as placing glass in the mouth, eggs under the armpits and needles in the hand to prevent the transformation. Otherwise the creature will transform and with a shriek, fly into the dark forests.
Garlic has no effect on this creature but if you somehow managed to do it, you can tame a Langsuir if you succeed in cutting its nails and stuffing her hair into the hole in the neck. At which point, she becomes a normal and very beautiful woman. Folk stories even suggested that men have married tamed Langsuirs; suffice to say not all those stories end happily.
The shriek of the Langsuir is also said to be so eerie that once heard, it is never forgotten. Interestingly, there a number of places in Malaysia which are named after the Langsuir including Gua Langsuir in Langkawi Island which is called the Cave of the Banshee in English. It is said, you can hear them there.
I hope this little Malay folklore has been interesting to you. Of course, it’s just a story but still if you have ever seen a banyan tree or a strangling fig at night in the middle of the jungle, you might understand why even seasoned forest travelers might give a cough, start to whistle and generally give these places a wide berth.
Believe it or not. Lone Grey Squirrel reporting from the Malaysian Rainforest.