THis book is the outcome of a close study of the language and beliefs of the Malays during a period of residence in the Malay Peninsula that has now reached twenty-two years. Its object is to unravel a complex system of magic in the light of historical and comparative data. By itself this system is a tangle every thread of which scholars working in Europe are led to term Malay, although even the native distinguishes this thread as Indian and that as Muslim. Chapters i.-iv. deal with the Malay's evolution from animist to Muslim; chapters v. and vi. with his animism; chapters vii. and viii. with his shamanism; chapter ix. with rites largely infected with Hindu magic; and chapters x. and xi. with Muslim accretions.
Like all writers on this subject I am indebted to the classical works of Tylor, Frazer, and Jevons, and particularly to the articles by specialists on the magic of different races and faith in Hastings' Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics. Working far away from an adequate library, I have found this Encyclopaedia of incalculable value.
Chapters iv., vi. and viii. are based almost entirely on manuscripts written down for me by Malays and checked by my own observation. The chapter on "Magician and Muslim" is founded on Malay lithographed texts and on a manuscript magico-religious treatise obtained by Dr. Gimlette in Kelantan and kindly lent by him to me. The same manuscript and an old Perak court charm-book have been used for the chapters on "The Malay Charm" and "Magician and Mystic." Papers on Malay charms, on birth and marriage ceremonies, on the ritual of the rice-field and the ritual of propitiating the spirits of a district have appeared from my pen in the Journal of the Federated Malay States Museums, and should be in the hands of those who wish to study original sources and vernacular terms. I owe a debt to the authors of many articles printed in the Straits (now Malayan) Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, to Dr. Gimlette's Malay Poisons and Charms, to Fasciculi Malayenses by Messrs. Annandale & Robinson, and above all to that assiduous collector, Mr. W. W. Skeat, the author of Malay Magic. Not to burden my pages with footnotes I give detailed references and authorities for each chapter in an appendix.
I would remind Malay readers that every race has its lumber-room of magical beliefs and practices, and many such survivals are gracious and beautiful and full of historical interest. It is to be hoped that the rapid influx of modern ideas will not wash away too many of the landmarks of their complex and ancient civilisation.
I have to thank Mr. C. O. Blagden, Reader in Malay at the School of Oriental Studies, London, and Che' Zainal-Abidin bin Ahmad of the Sultan Idris College, Perak, for reading this work in manuscript; the former has made many useful suggestions and the latter given me valuable material.