Sacred Texts  Shamanism  Index  Previous  Next 


THIS book deals with the magic of the Muslim Malays of the Crown Colony of the Straits Settlements, comprising Singapore, Penang and Malacca; of the Federated Malay States, Perak, Selangor, Negri Sembilan and Pahang; of the Unfederated Malay States, Johore, Kedah, Kelantan and Trengganu; and of Patani, a northern Malay State belonging to Siam.

The Malay Peninsula is the most southern extremity of the continent of Asia. It has the region of Indo-China to the north. South lies the Malay Archipelago. It stands midway between India and China. Nature has laid it open to many influences, though students not presented with the evidence of geography, anthropology and history are apt to speak as if Malay magic were unique and indigenous.

The language belongs to the Malayo-Polynesian or Oceanic or Austronesian family, which obtains from Formosa to New Zealand and from Madagascar to Easter Island. To the eastern branch belong the languages of Samoa, Tahiti and Tonga. To the western branch belong Malay, Malagasy, and languages of the Philippines, Sumatra, Java, Borneo and Celebes. This latter branch is termed Indonesian, rather unfortunately, since for anthropologists the word defines a particular physical strain found in the Bataks of Sumatra, the Dayaks of Borneo and the Torajas of Celebes.

The typical civilised Indonesian peoples, Malays and Javanese, are variants of a Proto-Malay race with Indian, Arab and other foreign admixtures. In that Proto-Malay race, whatever else may be its components, there is a Mongoloid strain.

In the south of the Peninsula, the bullet-headed straight-haired Proto-Malays are represented by jungle-tribes known generally as Jakun and specifically as Biduanda in Negri Sembilan, Blanda in Selangor, and Mantra In Malacca. The coastal tribes are termed Orang Laut, or "Men of the Sea," and form a link between the Proto-Malays of the Peninsula and those of the Riau Archipelago and Sumatra, their original home.

Another aboriginal forest-dweller is the wavyhaired long-headed Sakai, supposed mainly on linguistic grounds to have come down from Indo-China and on anthropological grounds to be related to the Veddas of Ceylon. A branch of this tribe, the Besisi, have intermarried freely with the Jakun.

Oldest of all Malaya's inhabitants are the Semang and Pangan of the north, small dark frizzy-haired Negritos, thought to be related to the Aetas of the Philippines and the Mineopies of the Andamans.

Already at the beginning of the Christian era Indian religions, the caste system and government by rajahs had been introduced into Java and into Sumatra, whence most of the Malays of the Peninsula came, and Indian influence spread in a less degree throughout the Archipelago even as far as the Philippines. The old Malay kingdom of Palembang in Sumatra introduced Mahayana Buddhism into Java and had a vague suzerainty over the Malay Peninsula for several centuries, until in the thirteenth the modern Siamese gained control in the north and Islam a permanent hold in the south. A Buddhist inscription from Province Wellesley opposite Penang (in the southern Indian style of writing found In West Java) dates back to 400 A.D. But in Malaya, as in Java, the religion of Siva retained a footing until the advent of Islam.

Next: II. Gods, Spirits and Ghosts