Banana Tree Spirit

>> Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Article from Ms. Ching

A lot of stories had been written about the Banana Tree Spirit. I am sharing my personnal encounters. The spirit of banana tree is well known in countries of South East Asia such as China, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan and especially among the Chinese communities. The myth originated from old villages during our grandfather generations from the 1930s. What is the banana tree spirit? Banana tree spirit is believed to be supernatural beings that possess magical attributes. The banana tree spirit is different from the common Chinese folklore spirit where the soul leave the body of a decessed and remains to roam the land. Banana tree spirits are special beings that can reside in any creation of nature, particularly in deep forest. It is not transform from a soul of a dead person. It is a natural spirit with higher level of inteligence. The spirit of banana tree is usually more sinister and evil compare to a common spirit.

It was told to me by a Bomoh (A Malay priest) that beside banana trees, there is spirits in rocks, water and soil. The banana tree spirit is believed to take form as a young attractive female girl. The bomoh does not quite agree with this but he couldn’t conclude any answer either. These spirits are usually not harmful but certain taboos we must follow when hiking the jungle to avoid agitate these spirits.

When I was a kid in the 60s, I used to live in a Kampong (Malay term for village) in Kluang JB. There were dozens of banana trees near the loo. In those days, we do not have the convenient of toilet facilities, the toilet is shared among neighbors in the same kampong. We have to travelled pass a distance from our home to the loo to carry out our business. The proximity of street lamps was about 50m apart. The path will be in almost darkness as early as 7 pm in the evening. When we do our business, especially the big one, we have to endure the 15mins in that confining wooden hut. The leaf of the banana tree will keep flapping on the openings on the top of the toilet with its shadows flickering in the half lit environment as if it has a life of its own. We had become used to it. I have heard legends about communicating with the spirit inside banana trees.

The next unbelievable thing that came across my mind is that I would try it. I was still afraid though so I find a friend in the same kampong to accompanied me; his name was Ah Leng in short. We seek a bomoh from other village for directions as we knew that the bomoh here would have discouraged us from communicating with the unknown. We get red threads and tie a needle to it at one end. We coiled the thread on the flower bud of the banana tree and piece the needle into the bud. The other end we would tie it to our toe. The bomoh described that, a young women would appear in our dreams and seek out the owner of the thread; she would ask to remove the thread as it is causing her pain. In return she could grant us our wishes. We do not have any specified goals in mind but just to seek out the thrills due to curiosity. Ah Leng and me each tie to different banana tree as we believe the chances of succeed would be higher. Soon we map out the ground and fell asleep. I woke up in the middle of the night. Ah Leng soon woke up when I called out to him. Neither one of us had experienced anything unusual It was getting very chill and uneasy for me. We thought that it was rather foolish to experiment with this kind of thing so we call it quit. Ah Leng accidently pin himself with the needle when trying to release it from the tree. He makes use of the leaf on the tree to wipe his wound for the substitute of tissue paper. We leave the place and returned home.

One week had passed, I thought it was a fail experiment in which I would never consider trying again. I was suddenly shocked to learn that Ah Leng had passed away yesterday. It was caused by a heart failure diagnosed by the doctor. Though it was a scientific conclusion, I was feeling very uncomfortable.

I was petrified and seek help from the bomoh here. It was upon my arrival, the bomoh started to ask me questions as if he knew why I came here for and insisted that I speak the truth in details. The bomoh soon provided me with the answer that I have been expecting. The death of Ah Leng is caused by something else. He told me that we did not successfully engage in communicating with the spirit. However, Ah Leng’s death was caused by a spirit residing in the forest. The bomoh woudn’t tells me what it is but only described to me that Ah Leng had offended the spirit when he wipe his blood open wound onto the tree. He told me that I was not in danger but he offer to recite some chant to shield me.

I have lived till today but I couldn’t come out with solid conclusions for the death of Ah Leng 30 years ago. I believe it is the banana tree spirit. There is some taboo that I would like to offer for jungle tracking. I have being following these taboos closely because I would rather show my respect to the nature and not offend them. Who know what the consequences might be?

Taboo 1

Do not litter especially expandable items that you have used before. Show some respects.

Taboo 2

Do not pick up anything either. If you pick out anything from the forest, bring it to a Feng Shui shop or Monastery. There will cleanse the memories of your new founding.

Taboo 3

Never answer to a call from behind your back by turning your head. Turn your whole body around to answer in full swing if you have to.

Taboo 4

Always carries a stick with you. This serve two purposes, first is to protect you against stray dogs. Secondly, there is a cultural myth on tall dark trees, when you see shadows moving that is very tall resembling trees. Break the sticks and shorten it gradually as you journey.

Taboo 5

When lost in the forest even you are sure of the way, use your undies to cover your head leaving the holes to see. Your vision then will be “uncovered”.

Taboo 6

Never shine your torch light directly onto trees.

Taboo 7

Don’t use real names when calling to each others in the forest. Use a simple code like “Oei, Halo” Your partners should response the same way. If he response in “Hey” when you shout “Oei”, head towards the direction where the source of sound came from immediately.

Taboo 8

Never pee onto trees or ground, ask for permission like as if asking permission from a living person before doing so.

Taboo 9

Do not rests under a tree because it looks a great shade or especially stands out among the rest; ask to excuse you to the tree if you have to.


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