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No village is complete without their own traditional medicine-man. A bomoh is a shaman, witchdoctor, pawang, or dukun in Malaysia and Indonesia. Bohoms cure more than illnesses, they also cure magical ailments, interpret dreams, catch thieves, and help with love problems.

Alternative Medicine

Two types of bomohs exist, those that enter an altered state of consciousness during healing, and those that do not. "Among those who enter trance are the bomoh puteri, and bomoh bagih. The first of these, the true Malay shaman, performs the most elaborate of Malay healing rituals--main puteri, which in addition to trance also involves music, dance and acting." (Malay Culture)

    Three Main Treatments
  • Spiritual Therapy
  • Massage Therapy
  • Herbs

Some bomohs use cemeteries to summon spirits for all sorts of purposes. Bomohs are supposed to be called to their status, and have seen a surge of fakes since the 1970s-80s revival of Islam. However, bomohs are Islam-centric, and begin their training by studying the sciences of the Shariah. They are also renowned for their ability to heal fractured bones. They use herbal medicines and spiritual guidance. "Some teachers may be knowledgeable of the usages of some 4,000 extracts from herbs, animals, metals, and liquids." (Islam Online)

From Apprentice to Master

To become a bomoh you typically have an extensive apprenticeship. "One specific requirement is the ability to remember and recite long incantations. This is extremely important because in every form of healing there are various mantras that need to be recited. Even medicine has its own incantations so as to ensure its effectiveness. If bomoh forgets his words this would ruin the healing process." (Malay Medicine) Magical words are spoken or sung, some incantations can be found in the Al-Quran. They are very God centric, in any case, starting with the mention of God in the first and last words of the blessing.

Other Random Bomohs

Some bomoh treat a wide range of ailments, others specialize in healing certain illness and some, like pawang don’t even involve themselves in healing. The pawang hujan, performs ritual to prevent rain and the pawang buaya is called upon to catch crocodiles. Besides these, there is also the bidan – female bomoh whose specialty is childbirth. (Malay Medicine)

Bomoh economics is a category similar to Voodoo economics and Reaganomics, economic theory.


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