Langsuyar of Malaysian Folklore

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I'm constantly expanding my list of ideas to write about, so at the rate of writing one per week, I'll never run out. Sometimes, my random rolls for writing topics from my big list of ideas pick up a theme.

Dice on a table.
I let the fates choose what I write.

Lately, it's been leaning toward folklore—and not just any folklore—specifically malevolent spirits of women. There seems to be a lot of that across cultures and around the world. What conclusion can we draw from this? Men have boring afterlives.

Spelling & Pronunciation of Langsuyar/Langsuir

Let's start here, so you can read along and know how to pronounce the main topic. The word comes from the Malay language, spelled in two different ways in the Latin alphabet.

  • Langsuyar
  • Langsuir

The first syllable is a bit like saying the word "long" with a hint of an "a" sound (like 'language') mixed with an "o" vowel. After that, the other two syllables are relatively straightforward.

Try it like this "long" + "Sue" + "ear," and you'll have a decent approximation, probably good enough to get an appreciative nod from a langsuir. While you're at it, you may also want to remember the Malay word "tolong" (pronounced: toh-long), so you can scream for help when you encounter a langsuir. Toss in a few helpful travel phrases, and you'll be all set to have an authentically horrific experience with a terrifying creature from Malaysian folklore.

What Is a Langsuyar?

In Malaysia, it is said that a woman who dies while pregnant or during childbirth may become a ghost. This is a langsuyar. Beautiful, long hair and long nails, wearing a robe of white or green. She is similar to a vampire and seeks the blood of the living. Her favorite is that of a newborn male.

The hand of a dead woman reaching to the right.
Some reports claim a langsuyar's fingernails are incredibly long.

The long nails may be related to nail ornaments (like janggay) in many traditional dances of the region, such as the Pangalay of the Tausūg people of the Sulu Archipelago or the Nora dance of Thailand. (More here.)

The langsuyar can transform into an owl to travel or even stalk people. The word "owl" in the Malay language is "burung hantu" which means "ghost bird." A langsuyar doesn't necessarily need to transform into an owl to fly, though. They can take to the air in human form, often shrieking like a banshee. When the langsuyar isn't feeding on human blood, you may find her perched in a tree, in human form, or perhaps wandering the coastline eating fish.

To prevent a recently deceased mother from becoming a langsuyar, the Malaysian people have developed a protocol: a hen's egg is put under each armpit, a needle in the palm of each hand, and glass beads are placed in her mouth.

Malay Archipelago

Map of the Earth showing the location of the Malay Archipelago (north of Australia.)
Over 25,000 islands cover approximately 1.1 million square miles (or 2.9 square kilometers.) Honestly, "archipelago" was never a word I paid much attention to until watching about a thousand episodes of One Piece.

The entire region has a rich and extensive cultural history, with several countries, including Malaysia. The landscape in Malaysia ranges from dense urban areas to jungles full of non-paranormal creatures who will make a meal of you.

Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia.
Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia.
The Malaysian jungle.
Langsuyar isn't the only thing waiting for you.

Even their stick insects are big enough to chew your face off.

Accounts of Langsuyar

While researching topics, I sometimes find that accounts of ghosts or cryptids are hard to come by—not so with the langsuyar.

In 2013, a village shaman named Ramli Yusof trapped four langsuyar terrorizing local villagers in the Pasir Puteh district in Kelantan, Malaysia. Reports of a long-haired banshee flying around at night and shrieking ceased after the shaman captured the langsuyar.

It is not a modern invention, however. I found descriptions of langsuyar in texts as far back as the late-1800s, which continue today.

A depiction of langsuyar from the book Malay Magic published around the turn of the 20th century.
A depiction of langsuyar from the book Malay Magic published around the turn of the 20th century.

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