(Bobohizan is a female spiritual leader, mediator, medium, advisor and a doctor to cure illnesses in the Kadazan community).
My late maternal grand dad had a relative who was a bobohizan (unfortunately I don’t remember her name or her age); we used to call her nenek bobohizan (nenek means grandma). As a spiritual leader, she held a very important role in the village. Often people would come to her house seeking help to cure illness, to seek advise or as a medium between the living and the dead.
She lived in a small house surrounded by thick bushes and the only way to get to her house was through the cemetery. She walked with a walking stick and her dog accompanied her wherever she went. Nenek bobohizan came to visit us occasionally and she would stay for a few hours talking to mum. I remember nenek had a habit of hitting her walking stick on the wooden steps as she walked up to the front door. We knew it was her just by listening to the sound of her walking stick going ‘thump, thump, thump’ followed by three knocks on the door.
One day a family member went to her house and found her dog sat next to her dead body. From what I heard she had been dead for a couple of days. The cause of her death was unknown but some say it was the spirit that she asked for guidance, in rituals and ceremonies had turned against her.
Her funeral was held on the same day because there were rumours circulating around the village that something bad might happen if they didn’t bury her body straight away. After the funeral, grandma came to the house and said we have to keep all the lights on that night but she didn’t explain why. It just happened the light bulb on the verandah wasn’t working (was it a coincidence?).
My brother Boy, sister Ros and I were about to go to bed when grandma’s dogs started barking and howling madly at someone or something. Suddenly we heard the sound thump, thump, thump slowly moving up the steps one at a time. When it reached the top of the stairs, there were three knocks on the door. It creeps us so much, we went flying into mum’s room. The noise woke mum from her sleep.
When we told grandma what happened, she said get the spiky branches from the pinang tree (areca tree) and tie them to the verandah gate. It was believed the spiky branches could deter any ghosts or spirits from entering the house. I thought spirits or ghosts can go through walls?
Well, the sound lasted for a few more days but it didn’t go up the steps instead we heard it under the house (we lived on a stilt house) and then it was gone. Strange or what?
Submitted by Anna Ferrar
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