Surat Pawang
text notes
list of words



Surat Pawang


W.W. Skeat, Malay Magic, being an introduction to the folklore and popular religion of the Malay Peninsula, with a preface by C.O. Blagden, London: Macmillan, 1900..


The extracts are compiled from several written and oral sources, including previously published material, but largely from a book Skeat copied in Selangor.


texts:  before ±1890.


texts:  Selangor, Naning, etc.


27642 words, including 165 verses.


to the numbered extracts (1..275) appended to Skeat's book (pp.581-672).  In the long 243, paragraphs are numbered, and identified as Selangor s or Naning n versions.

Editorial notes

Texts of magic, charms and spells are often obscure, as they were generally intended not for a wide audience, but for inducted practitioners of the sciences.  They include technical terminology and arcane formulae, whose meanings are now forgotten.  Indeed, in some cases, they may not have been understood by those who used them or recorded them.   Furthermore these texts generally take the form of notebooks rather than expository treatises.  Skeat’s collection in Malay Magic comprises excerpts from such notebooks together with orally-transmitted material.
As a result, the text presented here is provisional.   Some words appearing in this text are not listed in dictionaries, and perhaps no longer understood.  This applies particularly to the wording of spells and charms.  Their text is frequently cryptic and full of word-play, using many names and words unknown to dictionaries.  Some explanatory notes offered by Skeat (or Blagden) are included with the MCP text, apparently reporting meanings as explained by the pawang.  However, a lot of the text presented is esoteric by design.
If you have any suggestions for resolving obscure readings, please contact the project:
Much of Skeat’s material comes from a book he copied in Selangor “... taken down by me from ... a Malay charm book belonging to a magician (one `Abdul Razzak of Klang in Selangor), with whom I was acquainted, but who, though he allowed me to copy it, would not allow me either to buy or borrow the book.” — Skeat, Malay Magic, p.2.
Skeat sometimes gives variants he found in parallel sources.  In general these have not been noted except where they elucidate the form found in the principal text.  However items 57 and 243 (part) are each presented in two variant forms, reconstructed from Skeat’s notes.
In a few places, variant forms of charms or instructions have been reconstructed from Skeat's notes and included in the text.
Skeat often left charms incomplete, concluding them with "d.s.b.".   Where possible the implied passages have been restored.   Many charms end with "Kabul berkat d.s.b", or "Berkat la-ilaha, d.s.b." — these have been restored to "... Berkat La-ilaha-illa-'llah", but it may be that "... Berkat La-ilaha-illa-'llah Muhammadun Rasul Allah" was intended.
There are also a good number of notes giving explanatory background and context.  The published book should be consulted for these.
Added:  February 2008
The text was scanned in Canberra by the MCP using Recognita™ OCR, and its spelling largely modernised.