Sunday, January 31, 2010

Day LXII - Toyol

Infantile spirit,
Ghastly foetus steals stuff,
Black magic baby.

A really upsetting and unnerving entity of Malay mythology, a Toyol is a child spirit invoked by a bomoh (witchdoctor shaman figure) for people to use to steal the valuables of others. If it wasn't bad enough that the babies are sold by the bomoh to irresponsible people with evil intentions, the fact that the Toyol is actually a dead foetus makes this supernatural scenario ten times more disturbing. Commonly characterised as having a big head, little hands and legs and grey skin, the little ghosts are allegedly stored in jars or urns in dark places until they are required. The price of profiteering from owning a pet thief is the consequent need to care for the creature as you would a toddler, with the additional requirement of feeding it a few drops of blood every day. Once you invoke a Toyol you're stuck with it for life and, consequently, your descendants are doomed to inherit it and deal with the negative aspects of its infantile nature. Aside from the problems of toddler temperament, their childlike simplicity can act as an obstacle to effective thieving; being easily distracted by small objects like marbles, the Toyol may end playing instead of pinching things. They can also be warded off by well-placed strands of garlic, mirrors and needles (seeing as they're afraid of sharp things and their reflections) so by hiding money behind said objects, you're less likely to end up a victim of creepy dead baby crime. I urge sympathy for this sad little figure from Southeast Asian folklore. There's something tragic and touching about the idea of an unborn baby being brought to life by black magic for the sole purpose of doing evil for selfish humans. For shame, spare a thought for that child.


  1. In the caribbean are they referred to as bucks?

  2. I'm not sure and a brief bit of web research doesn't reveal an answer. It'd be interesting to know.

    Thanks for reading anyway!

  3. Hi. Has anyone heard of a Gakai? [i think thats how its spelt].

  4. Do tell. What is this being of which you speak?

  5. There are lots of mythical creatures in Malay mythology. The Bunians : humans from another dimension with supernatural powers. Langsuir & Pontianak : vampire-like creatures. Nenek Kebayan: Malays female version of 'Merlin'. Orang Kenit: Malays' elf. Hantu Bangkit/ Pocong: Malays' zombies. I'd love to contribute more...