Malay Custom And Traditions – Bomoh

Malay Custom And Traditions – Bomoh

Traditional Malay medicine-men (bomoh) are conveniently divided into two broad categories based on whether or not, during healing, they enter into a state of altered consciousness. Among those who enter trance are the bomoh puteri, and bomoh bagih. The first of these, the true Malay shaman, performs the most elaborate of Malay healing rituals–main puteri, which in addition to trance also involves music, dance and acting.

Main Puteri

Main puteri performances involve two principal functionaries, the bomoh puteri and the tok minduk.A small orchestra
consist of the same instruments used in mak yong accompanies them. While the bomoh puteri becomes the placing for spirits during a seance, the tok minduk, who plays the three-stringed rebab, operates as the interrogator. Main puteri is performed over durations of one to three nights to cure illnessess resulting from
possession by spirits (hantu, jembalang), the loss or
weakening of the “spirit” or soul substance (semangat), imbalance in the elements within the body, as well as those resulting from something known “angin” or wind, a term variously explained as including suppressed or
unfulfilled desires. More elaborate main puteri performances combine this genre with mak yong.


In several parts of Malaysia and Indonesia, a medium, whether male or female, is referred to as belian, balian, or walian. The words balian, walian and variants derive from a root word meaning “to return” (bali, wali, etc). This suggests the return of the spirits to a place or person. In the latter situation, trance may result. Belian is also the name of a trance healing ritual.