Malay Magic and Divination
The long awaited talk on Malay Magic and Divination by Dr Farouk Yahya from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), of the University of London and the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford University finally took place this afternoon (16 July 2017) at the Ilham Gallery, Kuala Lumpur. The hall was packed, and I recognised several friends from the writing community: Sharifah A. Osman, Ninot Aziz, RJ Es RJ Ibrahim, SquareMean Burhan, Lokman Hakim, Heidi Shamsudin and Amir Mohammad (publisher and film producer.)
Dr Farouk's talk was based on his research for his PhD. He studied over one hundred illustrated manuscripts from this region (all written by men for sure because most women were probably illiterate at that time.) Many of these manuscripts are found in the SOAS Library, the Ashmolean Museum and also thankfully, the National Library of Malaysia.
I can't help feeling a tad disappointed though. Oddly enough because it was too 'high brow' - a study of hand written and illustrated manuscripts based on Indian and Arab knowledge available at that time. No doubt the educated intelligentsia of that time regarded folk knowledge as too low brow to be included in the manuscripts. Therefore, No rituals, no jampi (spells and incantations), no love potions (although there was a mention of a hate potion) and no descriptions of djins/demons.
However we did learn a rather unpleasant curse and the ancient Indian and Malay divination method of choosing an auspicious house based on measurements of the width of the house and the land area, the right colours for the house (?) and the best time to see the king etc And there were some interesting information about Nagas. Dr Farouk showed a slide of a stone with inscriptions on it dating from the Sri Vijayan period with seven nagas surrounding it.