The pelesit is a shapeshifting spirit in Malay myth, usually under command of a master.
Appearance[edit | edit source]
While it is likely that the pelesit is usually invisible, it is associated with grasshoppers with pointed heads. This is because it can take the form of one. However, "pelesit" is also a term for any malevolent animal spirit at times, implying that this creature can take on different shapes.
Behaviour[edit | edit source]
Pelesit are often created by female bomoh - similar to shamans - in order to gain power, money, protection, guidance, or beauty. Alternatively, it can be created simply as a weapon. However, the owners of these spirits often isolate themselves in the interest of their magic abilities, foregoing any popularity. However, they enjoy making children cry and will interfere with childbirth. They are contained in a small bottle when the bomoh is not using them.
They are often used for monetary gain. The bomoh will send the pelesit to attack a family, who will then call for the bomoh to rid them of the spirit, unaware that they are the source of the pelesit in the first place.
Often, the pelesit is associated with another spirit, the polong. The pelesit will first drill into a victim's body with its abdomen and chirp, then the tiny polong will crawl inside. In some accounts, the victim will then begin to ramble about cats. Occasionally the polong and the pelesit are considered to be the same spirit, only that the pelesit is the polong's physical form, but more often they are separate beings.
Most often, pelesit feed on the blood from their master's fourth finger every full moon. More rarely, they will instead feed on rice or eggs. If a pelesit is not fed, it will escape its bottle and wreak havoc on the town, especially if it has lost its master. As a result, it is important that the spirit be passed down through the generations should it cause chaos.
In order to create a pelesit, one must bring a child's corpse to an ant hill on a full moon, then cut out its tongue. Once this is done, the tongue must be buried where three roads meet, and eventually it will become a pelesit. To get rid of it, it must be buried in the ground again.