Bès Chèm

Variations: Hantu Burong (Malay), Bird Spirit

Bès Chèm, “Bird Spirit”, is applied to a number of Malaysian spirits. One of them is a jungle bird-spirit that lives on big branches touching each other. As the wind moves the branches, they make a sound – e… e… e… – which means the spirit is on the branch. If anyone passes by underneath the branches, the bird spirit passes urine and scatters tiny, poisonous feathers onto the interloper. These cause anyone they touch to become thin forever.

Another bird spirit lives deep in the jungle and visits villages at night. It makes a sound – pok… pok… – which children are not allowed to repeat. If they do the spirit enters the house, prevents them from sleeping, and makes them cry.

Other bird spirits protect padi fields from destructive animals, cause headache and sneezing, possess little children and cause convulsions, steal the souls of sleepers, and cause children to be born with gap teeth.

References

Werner, R. (1975) Jah-hět of Malaysia, Art and Culture. Penerbit Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur.

Bès Kotak

Variations: Hantu Kotak (Malay), Box Spirit

Bès Kotak, “box spirit”, is a bès or spirit from the folklore of the Jah Hut people of Malaysia. It is apparently box-like in appearance and is a river spirit that lives in the muddy hollows of rivers.

When a person dives into the river to catch fish, the box spirit presses or sits on that person, causing them to become heavy, sink into the mud, and drown. Two or three days later the body will float to the surface, proof of the fate that awaits any who invade Bès Kotak’s domain.

References

Werner, R. (1975) Jah-hět of Malaysia, Art and Culture. Penerbit Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur.

Bès Pa’

Variations: Hantu Kotak (Malay), Pa’, Spirit Pa’

Bès Pa’, the Spirit Pa’, is a river jellyfish spirit that can expand to any size it wishes. It is usually found living in deep mud. Anyone who steps on a buried pa’ will fall into the mud along with the spirit. To prevent this, one must take a finely crushed mixture of iron rust and broken glass and sprinkle it over the offending muddy area.

References

Werner, R. (1975) Jah-hět of Malaysia, Art and Culture. Penerbit Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur.

Bès

Variations: Hantu (Malay)

The Bès are the evil spirits of the Jah Hut, an Orang Asli people from peninsular Malaysia. They are true spirits, existing independently and not emerging from humans alive or dead. The vast majority of bès, or hantu as they are known in Malay, are malevolent beings associated with disease. Far less numerous than the bès are the jin (underground spirits), nabi (guardian spirits), and kemoch (spirits of the dead).

All the bès were created along with ‘iblis, the evil one, by Proman, God’s assistant, who botched the creation of the first man. Their great stronghold is a Pauh Janggi Bringin Sungsang, a “Giant Mango Tree Entwined by a Strangler Fig”, that stands beyond the ocean. From there they sally forth to cause all kinds of trouble. God allows it because the bès keep the world in balance, taking life that others may in turn live.

Sickness is caused by the influence of the bès. This usually happens by night – while we sleep, our soul leaves our body and wanders in the jungle. A bès who finds that soul will prevent it from returning, and the owner of the soul will fall ill.

Healing is the duty of the puyang or medicine man. It is their job to locate the missing soul and return it with the help of the good spirits, otherwise their charge will die. The běni’sòy ceremony is used in those cases. It involves drawing the evil spirits out of the body and transferring them into a palm leaf bundle brushed over the skin. Once the bès is trapped, the bundle can be safely disposed of.

Spiritual wood carvings of the bès in question are made to help draw the evil spirit out. These carvings establish an iconography for the bès and allow us to see them as the Jah Hut do.

References

Teoh, B. S. (1986) Bes Hyang Dney: A Jah Hut Myth of Peninsular Malaysia. Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 59(2), pp. 139-144.

Werner, R. (1975) Jah-hět of Malaysia, Art and Culture. Penerbit Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur.

Bès Dangon

Variations: Hantu Punggong (Malay), Buttock Spirit

Bes Dangon

The Bès Dangon, “buttock spirit”, is a bès or spirit from the folklore of the Jah Hut people of Malaysia. It lives on the top of coconut trees, and the heat of its urine and stool eventually kills the trees. Anyone who tries to climb an inhabited tree is kicked back down.

References

Werner, R. (1975) Jah-hět of Malaysia, Art and Culture. Penerbit Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur.

Bès Jě’la Kòy

Variations: Hantu Kepala Berduri (Malay), Spiky-head Spirit

The Bès Jě’la Kòy, “spiky-head spirit”, is one of many bès or spirits from the folklore of the Jah Hut people of Malaysia. It lives on top of termite hills and knows how long every person will live. If it judges that a person’s lifespan is too short, it will take them into the termite hill to be friends with it forever.

A spiky-head spirit takes one person a year into its termite hill.

References

Werner, R. (1975) Jah-hět of Malaysia, Art and Culture. Penerbit Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur.