May 27, 2016
Posted by in Creatures and Monsters | 3.35am | 1,741 views
Tales, myths and folklore are embroidered into the very fabric of society, especially in Southeast Asia. There is a wide spectrum of ghost myths in the region, especially in Malaysia as the result of the remnants of old animist beliefs that have been shaped by Hindu-Buddhist cosmology, the Islamic religion, as well as influence of Malay, Chinese, Indian and Arab cultures.
I am sharing some of these common mythical spirits with you as many have grown up hearing about these creatures, but do not know much about them, or what to do if they encounter such beings. It may also help you to gauge if your family members or friends are afflicted by these beings. By reading this article, I hope that more people understand the nature or functions of these beings, and to not disturb these creatures or cause further sufferings to their already miserable existence. Engaging these negative spirits to do non-virtuous actions, such as stealing or harming others will create negative karma for both the person giving the instructions and the spirits themselves. Therefore, it is best if we do not engage these creatures to do negative deeds and instead, we should develop compassion for them.
Pastor Shin Tan
What is a Toyol or Tuyul?
A Toyol, or Tuyul is a mythical spirit in the Malay mythology of Southeast Asia, and especially well-known in countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand. It is said that a Toyol is a child-spirit invoked by a bomoh, a Malay witch doctor, from a dead human foetus using rituals and black magic, while there are also myths that describe Toyols as lost children of Pontianaks or Kuntilanaks, the spirits of women who died during pregnancy or childbirth.
Toyols carry out instructions from their masters or owners who control them. These spirits are usually used to steal or to do mischief. Older Toyols are more vicious, and more inclined towards violence compared to their younger counterparts. If you encounter constant disappearances of money or jewellery from your home, it could be the work of a Toyol.
Malay mythology expert, Dr. Mohd Taib Osman said that the tradition of keeping Toyols originated from Mecca, near the Kaaba Muazzama (Grand Kaaba), a building at the centre of Islam’s most sacred mosque, Al-Masjid al-Haram. Other sources said that there is a pillar in Al-Masjid al-Haram that can be embraced in order to own a Toyol or Genie (or Djinn).
Toyols are commonly known to have the appearance of a small child or baby, naked with a big head, pointed ears, sharp teeth, small hands, clouded or red eyes and usually greenish or grey skin. They are similar to goblins. They can be seen with naked eyes, but they are very good in hiding in order not to reveal themselves.
There are also other accounts of their appearance as young children around five years old, with rough patches of skin all over their faces.
How Toyols Disturb Us
According to old village tales, people keep Toyols for selfish but petty reasons. They are used to steal, create disturbances, and perform other minor crimes. Serious crimes, such as murder, are usually beyond the capabilities of these Toyols.
There are no known warning signs that a Toyol is around, except when things go missing often enough and other factors have been ruled out. Toyols who are hungry or without an owner may also drink the blood from the big toes of people who are sleeping. Therefore, sometimes small bite marks on the big toes are also indications that a Toyol was present.
Toyols are also known to steal or kill other babies, possibly due to jealousy for not being given the opportunity to live. Toyols and Pontianaks/Kuntilanaks are known to be very much attracted to pregnant women due to their precarious state of being. Thus, pregnant women are advised to be careful of these supernatural beings during their pregnancies. In Asia, pregnant women are often warned against going out at night to protect themselves from these beings.
Recently, there was also news that a lady, Mariam, had her money withdrawn from her bank account without her consent after a Toyol stole her ATM card. The case became widely known after Mariam reported the incident to the police.
Invoking a Toyol
In order to be the master of Toyol(s), a potential owner should obtain a still-born foetus or a body of a dead child. After that, he/she needs to engage the services of a bomoh to call the spirit and resurrect the body of the dead child. Thereafter, the Toyol will obey the owner after a pact or ‘contract’ is made between the owner and the Toyol.
The ownership of Toyols is transferable from one person to another. Sometimes, Toyols also roam freely without owners, making them vulnerable to bomohs who would like to catch them using relevant black magic.
The Toyol is either bound to its reanimated body or to parts of it – the bones – or other objects infused with a special ‘corpse oil’. In most accounts, a Toyol spirit is housed within a static effigy. The effigy is usually encased individually in a bottle, jar, or urn. Some effigies can be in the form of the actual corpses of dead children. However, there are also claims that carvings from certain types of wood, metal or clay in the shape of a child can also be used for this purpose. Rituals are then performed on the sculpture to invite the spirit into it. There are also cases where wooden tablets are used to house Toyols.
Keeping a Toyol
Toyols will do every bidding of their owner or master, ranging from doing petty mischief to causing problems for the master’s ‘enemies’. However, they do not work for free, and their wages should be equal to the task at hand.
A Toyol is mischievous but yet has the characteristics of normal children. Hence, objects common to the pleasure of normal children, such as milk, clothing, candies, toys and so forth, can be used as offerings to keep the Toyol happy and entertained.
It is said that to enhance the power of the Toyol or to keep the Toyol under control, the owner must feed the Toyol with blood. Some literature states that a Toyol must be allowed to suck blood from the big toes of its owner, or from the breasts of a female relative of the owner, or the owner herself (if the owner is female).
Blood feeding has to be done regularly or most likely daily. Although some less fussy Toyols may be satisfied with blood from chickens, many would request human blood. The danger of blood feeding is that the Toyol’s appetite would increase as it performs more tasks, until the point when it may require fresh blood from an entire human adult to satisfy its craving.
What would happen at the end of the “contract” between a Toyol and its master is not very clear. It could be that the body, effigy, tablet, or the urn of the Toyol would be buried in a graveyard (with the relevant rituals), and the spirit would then be laid to rest. An alternative method is to dispose of them in the sea. If these methods are not performed, the Toyol would haunt the family members of the masters.
How to Protect Yourself from Toyols
Although seemingly mischievous, Toyols are supposedly not very intelligent. It is said that like children, they are easily distracted and deceived by marbles and sand, strands of garlic hanging on the doorpost, live crabs and so forth. The Toyol would start playing with these items and forget its task in the intended victim’s house.
Money placed under mirrors has the potency to ward off Toyols because they are afraid of their own reflection. Needles can also be placed under cash to ward off Toyols because they are afraid of being pricked/harmed by the needles.
For those who have been affected by these negative beings, it is good to apply either one of these two methods, Singdongma or Dorje Shugden to protect themselves. You do not have to be Buddhist to engage in these powerful methods from Tibet for protection from these supernatural beings.
There are many accounts of eyewitnesses or true stories online about Toyols. Below are some to share with you.
Bomoh Aunt & Toyols
When he was around 8 or 9 years old, Sylvester’s friend was called to his aunt’s bedside, an aging bomoh who suffered from asthma and bronchitis. The boy was given the instruction to go to the kitchen and look below the stove where his aunt’s Toyols were kept. Under the stove, his friend found four small glass jars. Inside each jar, there was an entity that reminded him of a bat, but it was not a bat, he said. They were naked…no hair, and they were only six inches in height, with little fingers, like you would see on a human foetus…and he could see them moving around inside the jars. They were blackish or dark brownish with a little pinkish tone in colour, Sylvester said. His friend opened the jars, and as each jar was opened, the Toyol would disappear and vanish into thin air. Several hours later, the old woman, the Bomoh, died.
Toyol in the Village
When she was a child, Tan was familiar with the stories about Toyols as some people in her village were rumoured to keep them.
Toyols are believed to be dead babies that have been revived through some demonic rituals. These small creatures, which serve the person who revived them, are said to be green in colour with red eyes and need to be fed small amounts of blood regularly.
Toyols are also believed to be somewhat mischievous and would suck the blood from the big toes of a sleeping person. If instructed to steal, it will only take half of the victim’s treasure.
“Usually they were kept inside a tempayan (a clay jar) and placed under a stilt house, away from everybody. My mother would remind us not to run and play in that area under my neighbour’s house.’’
Curiosity made her want to see the creature, she said, “but the consequences of my action always stopped me at the last moment. Personally, I accept these ghosts or hantu as one of life’s mysteries.”
Toyol from Mecca
Indeed, it may sound like nonsense, but the story is not fabricated. This story happened about 10 years ago in one village. I would not mention the name of the place. I would tell the story so that we all can learn from it.
Mr. Aji brought back a Toyol from Mecca. I know this because he lived not far from my village. Plus, I used to go to that village to visit my relatives there. So I knew the background and the real story. The man was in his 50s and had a family. Life was not difficult for him, but he wanted to get richer, so he went to Mecca with bad intentions. He was there because he wanted to find Toyols, and not for pilgrimage!
When he arrived in Mecca, the first thing he did was not to go on pilgrimage, but instead he went to look for a type of sharp iron rod that could be used to attract Toyols. Upon returning to his house in the village, he used incantations and spells together with the rods. He then installed the rods at the four corners of his two-acre farm as a ‘fence’. As a result, anyone who came into his farm without asking permission would be possessed by spirits.
After his fencing effort, his farm that previously could only earn him about RM2,000 to RM3,000 a month started to produce amazing results. It was said that he could earn RM8,000 to RM10,000 a month. People were asking as to who was working on his farm? Around the same time, many villagers also started to complain about losing money. In fact, some of the villagers saw the Toyol ‘thief’ flee to the man’s house.
Presumably after enjoying a more luxurious lifestyle, the man could have forgotten or did not want to honour the requests of his Toyol. From what we know, the Toyol could have demanded either milk or blood from the owner’s wife, or blood sucked from the owner’s big toes. Because the Toyol’s demand was not fulfilled, the Toyol then started to become enraged and disturb the residents in the neighbourhood. Even my brother-in-law had also spotted the Toyol before. The incident happened in the morning when he was sending his son to school, and he saw the Toyol perched on a tree. He was not the only one, many in the neighbourhood also saw the Toyol. There were also school children whose feet were bitten by the Toyol.
When the man was holding a feast, the villagers would not attend. When the villagers held any feast, they did not invite him. In short, wherever he went, people would avoid him. The man was totally isolated in the village, living in his own world, with his Toyol.
What this man committed and the resulting chaos that swept the village finally reached the ears of his siblings and relatives. They were embarrassed by the man’s actions. One day, his brother came and scolded him. The brother urged him to immediately repent, ask for God’s forgiveness, and return the iron rods taken from Mecca that were used to fence the farm.
The man then admitted his mistakes because despite living in luxury, he could not stand being ostracised by the villagers and his family. Finally, he brought the iron rods back to Mecca and repented in earnest in front of the holy mosque, regretting his past actions. Since then, there were no longer complaints of Toyols being sighted or petty thefts in his village.
Maybe there are those who think that the story is superstitious nonsense, but I want to stress once again that the incident was real. And I think I have to tell you this story so that we are all aware that properties amassed through illegal means will be punished by God.
Source: Mastika, July 1997, http://jalanakhirat.wordpress.com/2010/03/12/toyol-dari-mekah/
Toyol in a Bottle
In Pekan, Malaysia, villagers had discovered a bottle containing what they described as a Toyol. The black figurine measured 15 centimetres in height and was as large as a human fist. The villagers described the figurine as having a greenish tint with blood-red eyes. The bottle also contained sand, a yellow string and slices of onions. The figurine was exhibited in a museum in Pahang, and later on released into the sea.
In this video below, several young people share their Toyol encounters or stories, and their thoughts:
Or view the video on the server at:
There is also an Indonesian movie that tells a story about this mythical spirit. I have included the trailer here:
Or view the video on the server at:
The existence of Toyols may not be scientifically proven. However, these mythical beings continue to live in the psyche of the people in Southeast Asia where there are occurrences of petty thefts or other events that cannot be explained. In the Philippines, there is a similar type of child-spirit called the “Tiyanak”. In Cambodia, they are called “Cohen Kroh,” and in South Korea, “Do Yeol”.
It is best not to contact or engage in any activity with these supernatural beings. However, as Buddhists, we should develop compassion for all beings, including spirits. Although we may not be able to help them at this time, we can always dedicate our merit and prayers daily so that these beings would find better rebirths in the near future.
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