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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Relevant & Related
- You can listen to a free twenty-minute story of this horrific folklore on Cast of Wonders 453: Langsuir, written by Nadia Mikail. The podcast episode provides some backdrop on Malaysian folklore as it relates to women in the culture.
- Additionally, don't miss the film from 2018 titled Langsuir. You can see the trailer for it right here: Langsuir movie trailer. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find any official place to watch it online. I tracked down the production company for the film and wrote to them asking for an official place to purchase or stream it, but I haven't heard back yet. Perhaps you might get lucky if you do some Googling or run YouTube searches.
- Pontianak: The Vengeful, Violent Vampiric Ghost of Southeast Asia
- Malay Magic: Being An Introduction To The Folklore And Popular Religion Of The Malay Peninsula by Walter William Skeat. Available for free on Project Gutenberg.
- Interested in more stories around Malaysia? Check out my article about the Jenglot of Indonesian Folklore.