April 14, 2017
My adventures in Sabah are kept alive in Kota Belud – a place where the natives are firm believers of paganism and the practice of dark magic since hundreds of years ago. According to the locals, the remote areas of this town were once infested by a type of spine-chilling creature known as the Balan-balan, and its very presence has lingered on to this very day.
To better understand the origin of the notorious Balan-balan, I sought help from various individuals who have had first-hand experience on this subject. These insights collectively helped me in mentally preparing myself before I attended a ritual that would result in my very first encounter with a Balan-balan.
Generally, a Balan-balan is believed to be a product of dark magic that is brought to life through a continuous recitation of mantras. Others claim that it is a genetic disease, where the abilities of a Balan-balan are passed down through the generations. This entity sustains its life by feeding on the blood of women who have just given birth, new born babies and corpses, and this in turn gives it power, beauty, and even immortality. There are two distinctive types of Balan-balan – one which possesses the ability to detach its head from its body and fly with hanging entrails; while the other manifests itself in the form of a human being.
Through the interviews conducted, I came to learn that the locals have a mixed reception towards the Balan-balan – some believe that it is a bad omen while others regard it as a blessing as it can offer help in times of need.
It perplexed me as to why anyone would want to transform themselves into beings that feed on blood and bodies. This prompted me to get to know two women who were once Balan-balans in order to learn more about their experiences and the purpose of their transformation. Both the women I interviewed had very different stories to share.
According to the first woman, her transformation arose through an unexpected encounter with the Balan-balan and this eventually turned her into a living monster at nightfall, where she hunted for dead bodies to feed on. However, the story shared by the other woman gave me a new perspective on the matter. She said her abilities were passed down to her by her family, and she considered it a gift as it gave her the power to help her family when they were in need; she once located her younger brother who went missing for days at sea – even when the rescue team had failed to do so.
After accumulating sufficient knowledge on the subject matter, I made the bold decision to see a Balan-balan for myself. With the help of a shaman, we called for its appearance in the middle of a dark, silent night. The unorthodox process involved chanting and the burning of chicken feathers. According to the shaman, a Balan-balan takes on a few forms – sounds, shadows, animals or like fireflies. During the ritual, my crew and I could clearly hear numerous loud thumps, and despite not being able to see the entity, we definitely felt its eerie presence around us.
Through research, I have come to understand that the Balan-balan has always been believed to have existed throughout Southeast Asia from centuries ago to this very day. The stories surrounding it, however, are constantly evolving according to time and region. The existence of the Balan-balan may be genuine, but getting to know its true form and purpose can be a tricky task which we may never come to fully understand.
- A cleansing ritual using lime water, tobacco water and water from a young coconut can be performed to expel the entity from the body.
- A loud laugh indicates that a Balan-balan is far away, while a faint laugh indicates that it is close by.
Please support us so that we can continue to bring you more Dharma:
If you are in the United States, please note that your offerings and contributions are tax deductible. ~ the tsemrinpoche.com blog team