Volltext: Anthropos, 78.1983,1-4

Spirit Medium Festival in Urban Malaysia 
The ronggeng troupe comprised several Malay men playing various 
Western and Malay musical instruments, such as the violin, accordion, and 
kompang drums. There were three Malay women dressed in sarong kebaya 
(traditional Malay two-piece dress), seated in front of the musical group and 
taking turns at singing ronggeng songs. The ronggeng troupe, originally 
from Penang, was paid a special fee of M$750 for performing at this festival. 
I was informed by some devotees that ronggeng troupes, rare as they are 
nowadays, were kept alive by Sino-Malay spirit cults which engage them for 
these special occasions. 
The living room in Ong’s house was a hive of activity, with many people 
milling around, waiting for the festival to begin. Three altars were located in 
strategic positions around the living room. Immediately adjacent to the main 
entrance was a medium-size table on which sat four Buddha images in gold, 
black, red, and green. Other objects on the table included an urn with many 
joss-sticks surrounded by an offering dish containing three tangerines, a 
large gl ass filled with oil, and three small teacups. At the far end of the living 
room was an altar with three figurines, two of them were Kuan Yin (Goddess 
of Mercy) images and the other an unidentified Chinese male deity. These 
idols were also placed amidst a plethora of objects such as joss-sticks, offer 
ings of bananas and apples, teacups, red candles, and an oil-glass. The largest 
altar was positioned midway between the Buddha and Kuan Yin altars. This 
altar was lined with a piece of yellow cloth, a symbol of royalty. A large 
metal um filled with joss-sticks occupied the table centre, juxtaposed with 
two candelabras containing many red candles. Directly behind the urn stood 
seven medium-size flags of different colours, representing the seven Malay 
deities. Three glasses of tea and several plates of fruit-offerings were placed 
m front of the urn. On the wall, directly above this altar, hung two framed 
pictures, one of Sathya Sai Baba (a currently popular Hindu avatar) and the 
other of Ganesh, Sarasvati,and Lakshmi (all Hindu deities). Facing this 
^tar was a long table filled with a variety of fruit and kueh (Malay cakes) 
offerings. 6 On the left side of the altar were two cartons containing many 
plastic packets of rice and sugar, each packet marked with red paper. Many 
small and large red buns in the shape of a tortoise, wrapped in plastic covers, 
'vcre stacked next to the cartons. These buns had been personally ordered 
^d fetched by Ong from Penang. 
Ong was seen wandering in and out of his house, dressed only in a pair 
°f running shorts. He was observed playing with his three-year old son and 
talking to his guests. Two other mediums were also present that evening. 
One was a Chinese man in his forties, named Sai. He worked as a truck driver 
111 Penang and was specially invited to attend this festival. Sai is normally 
Possessed by the Red Deity, Datuk Merah, who is reputed to be a pleasant 
Many of these cakes are nowadays made by the Chinese who use the original 
a Y recipies.


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