- PM launches new-look Proton Perdana as govt's official car
- 20 years on, no one forgets Highland Towers
- MCA's '3 kingdom' battle
- IKEA recalls lamp following death of child
- Najib leaves for Tokyo
- 2013 SEA GAMES: 8th day results involving Malaysia
- Mandela family 'humbled' by thousands turning out in cold, rain
- Saudi beheads man for incest
- 11 commando trainees, 2 instructors to get Pingat Gagah Berani
- 'Anwar unfit to be leader'
- Haniff Omar's son dies after falling into drain
- Why judge those who help sincerely?
- Tears as Mandela lies in state
- Demolished without any warning
- Mukhriz launches Ansara Club More
WARPED THINKING: Many of us remain a superstitious lot with our beliefs stretching from spirits 'predicting' lottery numbers to bomoh who will get rid of evil spirits in exchange for our valuables
IT was a dark, but not a typically stormy night in Tanah Merah, Kelantan, seven years ago. Mohamed Azam Ramli was led to meet a "spirit" living in an anthill by Koh Ah Wang at an oil palm estate somewhere in Bukit Panau. The spirit was said to have the ability to grant lottery numbers and was often sought after by locals looking for a quick fortune.
But something went wrong. The spirit was not home and presumably had left for a better anthill. Azam was furious. He felt cheated and in a rage, struck a death blow to Koh's head, with a steel pipe.
The man, who was in his mid-20s, was jailed for manslaughter two years later. What about the spirit? Perhaps it was never there in the first place. Or maybe, Koh had brought Azam to the wrong "hill".
You know, all those piles of earth do look the same. Mystifying. And can be the perfect home for a lonely spirit which from time to time, is sought by the likes of Azam to crunch "lucky" numbers.
It is not a secret that many people, regardless of race and belief, do hang on to beliefs in superstitions and black magic. The devil, somehow, has managed to make its way across religions of the world, be it Islam, Hinduism and Christianity.
Although Islam, for example, acknowledges the existence of jinn and the devil as malevolent spiritual beings, you will discover that we can be quite creative in classifying demons, ghouls and the usual lost souls.
Try to spend some time reading local lore and you will also realise that the bunian is the equivalent to elves in the Western world.
The difference is, bunian are serially depicted as possessing beautiful wares that mortals borrow for wedding ceremonies.
They are not mages nor really adept with bows and arrows, speak Malay and more often than not, sulk whenever their plates and cups are not returned. You know how notorious we mere mortals are at not returning what we borrow.
Even with the advent of modernity and religious reawakening, such a traditional belief remains deeply rooted in our culture. Along the way, we have even invented ways to keep evil spirits at bay through needles, limes and camphor chalks.
Not too long ago in Kampung Tembior, Kota Tinggi, two villagers were shocked when they spotted what was thought to be a pocong floating in Sungai Johor.
Pocong, according to Malay folklore or stories told by your wizened, ageing neighbour is the ghost of a dead person -- yes, of course -- wrapped in a shroud. It is said to hop uncomfortably since the shroud is tied over its head, under the feet and at the neck.
The two then fished out the pocong and opened the shroud. They did not find a body but some rocks, cotton, cloths, a black plastic bag and camphor chalks. The items are said to hold the spirit in the shroud.
It goes to show that unfortunately, many of us have allowed superstition to dictate our lives. And the con men will always take advantage of our supernatural susceptibility.
These con men, who claim to be spiritual healers are always on the prowl. Many of us fail to realise that when these healers claim they can cleanse victims of evil spirits, they also usually mean that they are about to relieve the victims of their belongings as well.
There have been cases where valuables were placed in a bag to be kept by a con man for several days to hasten the cleansing process. The victims later find themselves knocking their heads silly after the valuables go missing with the "healer".
Being blinded by superstition is undoubtedly detrimental to a growing society. Note, that it is among the chief causes in hindering intellectual advancement in some African countries, as it could narrow even the most potentially astute minds.
On the home front, an opposition party in the south recently made claims that its leaders were down with afflictions caused by black magic, ultimately, regressing to such an extent as to raise the eyebrows of its staunchest supporters.
The party's spokesman claimed the "illness" could not be diagnosed by modern medicine. He said "victims" were often bedridden, specifically having difficulties in moving the arms and would occasionally pass out or "tidak sedarkan diri".
But the victims had undergone traditional treatment, which included special prayers to remove the effects of the black magic. The party went as far as to blame their rivals whom they said, were trying to "sabotage" them before the next general election.
If we need magic, why don't we employ practical ones used by a bomoh hujan to steer away dark clouds for a ceremony. But there will be a few enterprising con men who will manage to make a quick buck out of a cloudy day.
Isn't it time that we move forward and keep such beliefs as lessons in history?