Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Taboos Of Working In Jungles

The tropic jungles of SEA provide locals with timber logs to build houses and furniture, the sago and palm leaves for the roof tops, the bamboo and its leaves for the walls. The wood and canes also can be made into furniture, mat, baskets etc. Other than that, wild animals, fishes and fruits are also important natural food sources from the jungles.


In view of Jungles as important source for the basic necessity in life, the Malay has a set of taboos related to working in the tropic jungles that must be observed. Even with the incoming of Islam, these tips of old and taboos while working inside jungles still die hard within the local Malays.


Up to today, the natural jungles are still thought to be full of mysteries. People are often reminded to mind our language while in the jungle. Avoid mistreating animals and forbid to pick up anything that looks strange. All of the animals and plants in the jungle must be respected.


It is said that if a person wanted to enter into thick jungle, he must collect some leaves, wood or grass to be inserted to the ear to avoid rain fall during his journey. In the jungle, it is forbidden to cook and consume animal caught on land and animal that was caught in the water at the same time. Let me elaborate, fish cannot be cooked and eaten together with meat of partridge. If this taboo is not observed, the person will be affected with yellow fever, hair loss and coughing blood.


Besides that, one must also watch his tongue if he wants to stay safe in the jungle. It is straightly forbidden to say the name of ‘harimau’ (tiger). Instead he must say ‘Pak Belang’ (uncle with strips). Likewise, one cannot mention ‘hantu hutan’ (jungle ghost). One must instead say ‘penjaga hutan’ or ‘penunggu hutan’ (the jungle watcher). Other than that, the person must not be ripple, arrogant and talk big. Otherwise bad things such as accidents will happen to him.

In the Malay culture, there is a ceremony called ‘Beramu’, ‘Mendarahi Kayu’, ‘Meramu’ or ‘Membahan’. The purpose is so that people involved in construction work will not be disturbed by this jungle watcher. Below is one of the mantra recited by local shaman:


“Assalamualaikum ibu ke bumi

Assalamualaikum bapa ke langit

Si Dogum namanya bumi

Si Coca namanya kayu

Induk Alim namanya tanaman

Menentukan salah dengan ilih

Jangan diberi rusak

Jangan diberi binasa

Pada anak sidang manusia

Berkat aku mengambil kayu Tiang Tua

Berkat Lailahaillallah”


This ceremony is called ‘Mendarahi Kayu’ or ‘splashing blood onto wood’ because the shaman will first splash some chicken blood onto the trees that are to be chopped down. After that the trees will be applied ‘tepung tawar’ (plain water). It is believed that only after this sacrificial ritual that the construction work can be carried out smoothly.



  1. Very interesting and good.

    This kind of attitude towards the wilderness is the red thread one can find in all spirit-aware cults or cultures.

    To respect the plant spirits and to give prayers and offerings to them before entering their realm or harvest from them is a very wise approach, as they powers within trees and plants can be both benefic and malefic, all according how they are approached and/or how one in turn become approached by them.

    Often people seek secret rituals and symbols for getting contact with spirits, when the only thing they need is to go alone into a forest and sit by a tree with some offerings in order to experience the presence of Spirits.

    I have never had the opportunity to work with the banana tree spirit, but there are many many other trees that possesses similar Dryadic presence. The Willow, the Apple and the Elder tree being a couple of examples.

    Thanks for the posting.

    1. Interesting enough the Taoist has a form of tree magic such as that you have mentioned. But bear in mind that not all trees are friendly... the rule of thumb is that if you find a tree looks strange and make you feel uneasy; then stay away from it. Harmful spirits may attack you if you don't know how to protect yourself.