Reclaiming our ‘angin’

AUG 6 — I have spent the last few years, travelling up and down this country, accompanying friends to see, and befriending, healers of all sorts. My adventures regale friends, and cause some relatives to shake their heads at me, but I feel privileged to have lived with these healers for a short time and become friends with them.

Some have been downright barmy, some are total con jobs, and the only time coconuts were involved was when one bomoh offered me air kelapa muda to stave off the heat.

But there are many healers who are genuine in their attempts to heal the thousands of people who come to be healed. Many of these patients have given up on conventional medicine and logic.

Reading this article, made me think this: this is my heart.

And (it) confirms what I have always believed: that we Malays are who we are today, because of what we forsook. Our angin. The very DNA that makes us who we truly are.

We have replaced our angin with materialism, a brand of Islam that does not accept  our cultural heritage, and progress. Angin is karut, kurafat, syirk. Everything our ancestors did, is base. We are modern people, we do not turn to shamanistic and traditional habits. Western medicine will cure all!

Angin can be construed as “a metaphysical wind” that courses through a person’s body and mind. So when you visit a friend in a kampung, his family may whisper to say that he is ill or not in the mood to entertain guests, “Angin dia hari ni tak baik sikit.”

You get a massage by the local masseur who will let out a long, staccato-like belch, and she will tell you, that you have trapped wind which was stuck in your head and leg when you had that fall. When you are depressed, and holding on to your head for dear life, you have hot wind in you,which is causing you anger and rage.

Angin is sometimes mistaken for saka. While angin should be understood as energy or qi that can disturb one’s spiritual and physical selves, saka is a different ball game together (See notes below).

But both we must view together, to understand who we really are. We have lost so much of ourselves: our traditions, our language, our genteel ways. In exchange for our past which we gladly shed, we embrace crassness.

We develop strange tics and psychoses, and take Xanax. We take up yoga, reiki, speak to angels and gods such as Michael, Isis, anything, to heal ourselves.

Why do we do so when we have our own healing system? Because it’s kampung and darat, as we say in Terengganu dialect? The vitriol we spew at our very selves is disheartening.

I am not promoting the healing that you see in Malaysia these days. That show on television where celebrity clerics heal the ailing is a gaudy, bastardised healing staged for viewership, in my opinion. It is an aberration of our faith. But because we, we Malays have changed our cultural DNA, and want quick fixes, we accept this type of healing because it’s “Islamic.” If you read Ibn Sinna (Avicenna) and his works on medicine, and Islamic healing, it’s very quiet and devoid of theatrics.

Main Teri, Kuda kepang, all these traditional forms of Malay healing should be considered as valid treatment of psychology. Movement, dance, singing –- all these help dispel one’s pent-up sentiments. In Carol Laderman’s Taming the Wind of Desire, she recounted a story of a man and his wife; the latter seemed to be in deep anguish. Their marriage was on the rocks. The shaman said she had soul sickness, and it transpired that she was a frustrated (and closeted) dancer. At the main teri session, did she dance! At the end of the night, she left for home, with her husband, and they lived happily ever after (this is my assumption!).

The book quoted a Paul Chen, a physician who was once based at University of Malaya, who said that main teri was highly successful in treating psychoneuroses and depression, as it elevated the individual’s sense of self worth, and drew him or her out of depression. Performance does this and there are thousands of medical journals and studies that have proven that body movements, or exercise, help with one’s well-being.

It’s time to reclaim our angin in our lives, for right now, we sure need some magic.

This is the personal opinion of the columnist.


[Saka is spiritual inheritance. (In today’s prognosis, saka can be a psychological psyche. But more on that later). Hundreds of years ago, our ancestors who lived in palaces, and toiled our earth, needed more than just daily sustenance to get by. They needed elves to help them protect their padi fields, and families, so they acquired spirits from the local bomoh. To acquire these little invisible helpers, a contract is drafted out. Yes, even in that realm, nothing comes for free.

The problem then arises when the owner is dying and the spirit needs a new master to care for it. Poltergeist activity happens, and the dying person finds it hard to let go. 2014 parlance will say the dying is holding on because he or she is worried about the family et al, and grief makes many imagine too much. A bomoh is sought after to transfer the spirit to another family or negotiate with it so it would return to its world]

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