THE MALAY BOMOH

Name : Ng Wen Cern Group : G5

The Malay bomoh has always been a controversy in Malaysia. Past Prime Ministers such as Tun Dr Mahathir has criticized the Malay faith in particular animism that it is devaluing the concepts of Islam. Not only that, Tun Dr Mahathir described the Malay custom mainly the bomoh as a conservative and rural system which will limit them from the development of society. Nevertheless, the Malay custom of believing in bomoh is an important part of the culture which provides an identity to the Malays.

Beliefs of the Malay bomoh has existed hundreds of years ago with the proof of written sources from various people which includes people from foreign countries. The practice of bomoh can be seen in all states of Malaysia and the few main ones include Perak, Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang. The movements performed by shamans (bomoh) during the séances were similar in form and meaning.1This proves that the practice of shamanism in Malaysia is nationwide and originates from the same source which at the same time, shows us that it is a custom that was cultivated by the Malay originally.

The duties of a bomoh comes in various ways such as healing illnesses, dealing with personal problems and supernatural spirits. Shamans/bomoh would conduct the séances by summoning spirits into their bodies and entering a tranced state in which a ritual partner (normally a friend of the shaman) would do the dialogue and duets with the shaman who is in
1

Connor, Linda H. Samuel, Geoffrey, Healing Powers and Modernity : Traditional Medicine, Shamanism, and Science in Asian Societies,Greenwood Press, 2001, p. 42-43

Geoffrey. 2001. 44 3 Connor. Geoffrey. Seances conducted in Malaysia are normally preceeded by a meal presented to the shamans/bomoh. Pak Long. p. If the patient recovers.Greenwood Press. Linda H.2 As the séance is further carried out. Boiled eggs and boiled rice are part of the usual offerings for familiar spirits. Shamanism.Greenwood Press. An example of a séance conducted in Malaysia would be by the bomoh. 2001. Linda H. Connor. the areca palm branch which is part of the ritual¶s item held by Pak Long begans to shake and then he took on the form of AwangMindungPengasuh which is the bomoh¶s body internal protective forces. 45 2 . the genie of the crossroads would be paid. the patient fully recovered but the recovery from her illness was claimed to be related to the skills of a physician rather than the work of a shaman/bomoh. Pak Long¶s body was then possessed by another spirit which was WakKediBomoh. Pak Long was then taken over by the genie of the crossroads who would agree to help with a price. A form of payment was demanded for him to leave the patient alone was requested and after a session of bargaining. and Science in Asian Societies. The séance was then closed with the recitation of a spell and massaging the patient¶s abdomen. a cigarette. p. Healing Powers and Modernity : Traditional Medicine. Soon after that. Healing Powers and Modernity : Traditional Medicine.a tranced state after he has been controlled by the spirits. in which he used spirit offerings such as coins. Samuel. the spirit that was behind all the difficulties appeared which was Sir Oil or commonly known as orang minyak. betel-pepper leaf. the offerings were agreed on. raw rice and a string in one dish and boiled rice and boiled egg to deal with a health problem faced by a 3 month old pregnant woman. The summoned spirit would then inform the patient of the true cause of her problems such as the person behind it and whether the perpetrator has paid for the services or not. Shamanism. and Science in Asian Societies.3After another few different spirits came and went. an ancient healer who determines the causes of the problems and summons the spirit which has the closest relation to the patient seeking for help. Samuel.

It was from their point of view that it was Pak Long¶s responsibility to ensure that all proceedings were conducted carefully and fairly. The failure to compromise on a certain bargain may cause the deal to be cancelled by the spirit. As for Pak Long. he began falling sick and was sent to the hospital but the cause of his illness could not be determined. Name : Goh Kang Li Group : Another important aspect that should be taken into consideration of the Malay bomoh¶s séances and rituals are the offerings. When the spirit was summoned. he began feeling the same illness again. it was discovered that the spirits were angry because the offering promised to them were not properly given. When Pak Long began feeling better. In some cases. there are people who attend the shaman¶s/bomoh¶s services but did not complete the payments or offerings due to disbelief of the effectiveness of the ritual. A few days later. he decided to go home but as he was reaching the same spot near his house. An emergency séance was immediately called and other shamans/bomoh from the village were asked to help Pak Long. The criticism of various iconic figures such as Tun Dr Mahathir towards this custom has apparently brought about a great influence on the modern lifestyle. These form of offerings are crucial in making deals with the spirits that will help or stop harming the person requesting for help. he did not hear from them anymore. There are stories in which these people were harmed and disturbed by the spirits who did not receive the appropriate amount of payment.It is clearly shown here that people of the new generations tend to have lesser beliefs in the Malay customs of shamans and bomohs. after the séance conducted for the pregnant lady. The spirits were then explained to .

The spirits saw the truth behind the shamans explanation and left Pak Long. When the séance was over.4 Based on the information given.Greenwood Press. Shamanism. The Malay bomoh in summary involves trances. 2001. Even for the non-believers of animism and shamanism. a certain level of respect is necessary in the matter of payments and offerings. it is difficult to find an actual shaman/bomoh in Malaysia today due to the rapidly development of science and technology. Linda H. Pak Long insisted on paying the other shamans for their services because he knew that any payments/offerings were crucial in the spirit world. Pak Long can be said to be a lucky man as he is experienced in handling such matters when attacked by spirits but if a person who has absolutely no knowledge about shamanism and is attacked by spirits.by the other shamans that Pak Long was only a medium of communication b etween the patient asking for help and the spirits and it was the patients who should be held responsible for not keeping to their words. p. returning his energy and health back to normal. The newer generations of Malays begin to lose the belief in their custom as hard facts. it is purely ethical for one to stay true to their words and ensure that it is done fairly. Healing Powers and Modernity : Traditional Medicine. data and statistics are not present in proving the effectiveness of a shaman¶s success. 45-46 4 . While stories of shamans and bomohs are commonly told to children. spirits and offerings. Geoffrey. Samuel. and Science in Asian Societies. If a deal has been made. it is very clear that one who deals with shamans/bomoh should not take the offerings lightly. Shamanism of the Malays in the 21st century may be seen as something ridiculous to the eyes of non-believers but it has been proven on separate occasions that these séances and rituals are actually effective in solving problems. he may suffer for a life time without knowing the cause to it. To give Connor.

.additional problems. cases of fake shamans today cheating and preying on the public is so common that people just find it hard to believe in the custom of shamanism in Malaysia.

Linda H and. Shamanism. Connor.References 1. Greenwood Press. 2001 . Samuel. and Science in Asian Societies. Geoffrey. Healing Powers and Modernity : Traditional Medicine.

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