Offbeat Folklore Wiki

The bisan is a cicada spirit from Jakun myth, thought to protect the camphor trees.


The word "bisan" has a wide array of meanings, including "camphor spirit", "woman", "bird", "cat", "marriage", "humankind", "fowl", "mother", "widow", "child", and "musket-ball", so it is difficult to assign a singular idea to it. However, the spirit itself is most often depicted as a beautiful woman. Bisan are also thought to take the form of cicadas.


As the guardians of camphor trees, when people enter the forest to search for camphor, bisan will be there every step of the way to keep them from it. However, it is still possible to obtain it through a combination of trickery and appeasement. Anyone who goes on these season-long camphor hunts must speak the Patang Kipur, or camphor language, which is a combination of Malay and Jakun words spoken backwards or otherwise altered. The bisan are said to understand both of the base languages, so unless the humans speak the Patang Kipur they will be alerted to the hunters' intention and seek to defend the trees. Those that stay behind in the village must also speak this language when referring to the search to further keep the bisan from growing suspicious.

In addition, camphor gatherers will throw a portion of their food into the undergrowth as an offering, but bisan are picky. The gatherers do not have to offer prayer, but they must eat their food dry, with no stewed vegetables or fish. It is also considered good practice to not salt the food with ground-up salt: the coarser the salt they use, the larger the camphor grains will be.

Despite the inconveniences the bisan present, they also lead the gatherers to their quarry with their song. At night, bisan will sing, a sure sign that camphor trees are near. However, they will not sing on rainy nights.