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Penanggalan or Polong in Malay

Polong is Malay for a spirit enslaved by a man (most of the time) for personal use. Like the Hantu Raya and Toyol, it has a master. It is an unseen ghost that can be used by a black magic practitioner to harm someone. It is particularly meant to harm other people, especially when the owner has wicked intentions towards these people.

Polong is one of the ghosts mentioned in "Hikayat Abdullah", written by Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir, much to the amusement of Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles, his employer.[1]


Polong is said to have been created from the blood of a murdered person and this blood is put into a bottle for one to two weeks before the spirit is invoked with incantations and magic spells.

After two weeks, the owner will start to hear sounds coming out of the bottle. It is the sound of crying. By then he should cut his finger and drain the blood into the bottle to feed the demon. This is the sign of allegiance and of loyalty to serve the master. The blood which feeds the demon is said to have tied both parties together: one as Master and the other as the servant.

No one has ever illustrated the figure of the demon but all agree that it is evil and hideous. In East Malaysian Malays (Malays of Sarawak, Borneo Island, Malaysia) belief, polong is described as an egg-shaped flying fiery ball when it is sent to victims or when it is left out of the bottle.


Polong has almost a similar role as the grasshopper-like Pelesit, furious when not fed and will start to harm society. Per some sources, such as Judy Sierra's Gruesome Guide to World Monsters, the Polong and Pelesit work in cooperation, with the latter serving as the former's steed.

Normally the owner will keep the Polong inside the bottle but unleashes it when needed. People who have been attacked by Polong are left with bruises, a few markings and almost always have blood coming out of their mouths.[2]


During possession, a Polong will not listen to anyone except its owner. The owner will come and pretentiously exorcise the demon in order to get money from people. But in some cases a polong which is "sent out" by its owner refuses to free the body that it has attacked. In fact it goes a step further by causing more suffering to the victim. At this stage a Bomoh (witch-doctor) or spiritual leader such as an Imam is called to cast out the polong.

Many of them know that the polong is easily weakened by black pepper seeds (mix with oil and few cloves of garlic). Normally, the shaman will place the seeds on certain parts of the body to cast off the polong. If he is a Muslim, this may be followed by Quranic recitations. The tormented polong will cry and plead, asking for the recitations to cease. It will then confess to the shaman the name of its master. However, it is not uncommon for the polong to name some other person to misguide the pawang (shaman). Hence, the admission must be taken cautiously.

In popular culture

  • In Marvel Anime: Blade, a Polong appears in episode 7. It is depicted as a vampire creature that obeys whoever gives it their blood.

See also


  1. ^ (in Malay) Hikayat Abdullah By Hamzah Hamdani, Abdullah (Munshi)
  • Vampires: A Field Guide to the Creatures That Stalk the Night, By Bob Curran, Published by Career Press, 2005, ISBN 1-56414-807-6, ISBN 978-1-56414-807-0, 222 pages - Google books.

External links

  • An Introduction to Malaysian Ghouls & Vampires
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