Malay Beliefs – Angin

The wind (angin) is one of the four elements (anasir arba’ah) of which every living creature is composed. It is in fact the most important of these elements. Any imbalance of the elements and of angin in particular usually results in illness. Angin is thus considered by the Malays as a causal agent of many physical diseases, including, for instance, rheumatism, or syphilis. As an extension to this idea, both physical diseases as well as emotional or psychological imbalances are attributed to spirits (hantu or mambang), often seen as personifications of the diseases themselves. There is a large number of specialist spirits of disease (hantu penyakit) responsible for fever, jaundice, and so on.

Where the diseases are of a non-physical nature, they are attributed to possession by spirits. In this case the cure has to be achieved by exorcising the malevolent spirit. This is done by a qualified traditional healer (bomoh) through a variety a methods including the use of incantations, trance and the performance of specific ritual theatre genres such as bagih.

The most important application of the word angin however, explains this term as meaning a strong attraction for or obsession with something, including specific genres of traditional theatre or martial arts. Someone may, for instance, have angin wayang kulit, angin mak yong, angin joget or angin silat. This suggests an intense desire to perform that particular art form, or even the role of a particular character within a story with whom someone identifies. Using a Western example, one may be said, for instance, to suffer from a “Hamlet complex” or an “Ophelia complex.” Kelantanese Malay equivalents would be angin Dewa Pechil or angin Gerak Petra.

Where a person does not have the opportunity to get involved for an extended period of time in performances of the specific traditional performance genre—be it music, theatre, dance or a martial art form–for which he has this kind of attraction, an illness, best described as a psychosis, may result. The visible manifestations of such illnesses are an inability to sleep, depression, lassitude, loss of appetite, a lack of interest in normal daily activities, and generally a weakened semangat. Modern medicine, unable to reach the dark interiors of the patient’s personality, proves ineffective in the case of such diseases associated with angin. In traditional Malay society the patient is required to achieve a sort of “catharsis” through participation in ritual performances. These would include exorcism, or “wind blandishment” with the bomoh playing a vital role.