In Malaya's undeveloped East Coast, old habits die hard. In this area where modern medicine?
In Malaya's undeveloped East Coast, old habits die hard. In this area where modern medicine and doctors have mae only superficial progress, it is the old "witch" doctor who attends to both major and minor cases. Naturally he wields great influence among the rural folk.
A witch doctor's speciality is the curing of victims of black magic - the work of another witch doctor. Black magic, the people believe, is done by enemies to put them in great handicap, and is believed to inflict serious damage in the term of either a deranged mind, a physical handicap or serious ill-health.
To overcome this, another witch doctor (Bomoh in Malaya) is called, and he undertakes the work for a consideration. Elaborate preparations go into this ritual. Varieties of rice - yellow and white - coconut, chicken, fruits and the inevitable oil lamps and hypnotic sweet-smelling joss sticks are only part of the requirements.
An orchestra is in attendance, and as the victim is brought to the scene slow rhythmic music is played. If the Bomoh has his way - and here apparently he has - it won't be minutes before the victim responds. Usually the victim or patient starts shouting and slowly goes into a trance. Watching impressed and dazed are scores of villagers to whom the whole ritual is a test of the Bomoh's powers. One failure might cause the loss of reputation and with it the following he has among the villagers. In this sequence the victims were said to be possessed of the spirit of tiger, and hence the wild thumping on the floor and furious marches.
The Bomoh keeps talking to the victim - or as he says, to the spirit - throughout the ritual and when he finds that the spirit has weakened he delivers the death blow. The patient, by now tired after hours and sometimes days of ordeal, collapses and the Bomoh smears holy water on the face and body. When the victim regains consciousness, he is believed to be free of the scourge and goes back to normal life again. The Bomoh claims that he has attracted the spirit and encased it in an urn which he later throws into the sea or buries deep.