10. Malay Poisions and Charm Cures

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Author: John D Gimlette

Malays, like other Eastern people, are skilled in the art of poisoning, which is of all the forms of death by which human nature may be overcome the most detestable, because it can of all others be the least prevented, either by manhood or foresight. Murder is commonly accomplished by Malays in a fit of passion or blind jealousy by stabbing with the national weapon, the kris (keris: a dagger, the creese), with a spear, or by slashing with the narrow-bladed Malay chopper, as well as by the more deliberate use of firearms. Malays are not a timid people, and although in India secret poisoning became one of the most prominent, if not the most prevalent, of Court atrocities under Mussulman rule, the Muhammadan Malay, as a general rule, attempts vengeance by means of poison when he is bearing a grudge and brooding, and when violent or other measures appear to him to be too dangerous or too uncertain. Various poisons obtained from the animal and vegetable kingdoms are used in a variety of ways. Very often when jealousy or malice inspires him, the intention is merely to cause annoyance or injury less serious than death. With this object in view, poison is frequently put into wells and water jars. Malay women are generally held to be the accredited agents, at any rate in many cases of poisoning, because, naturally, the cooking is left almost entirely to them. Malaya is richly supplied with medicinal plants and herbs; they form the stock-in-trade of the bomor or, medicine-man, many of their properties, either deadly (rachun) or intoxicant (mabok), are known, as well as their medicinal value, to Malays of most classes. This is especially true of the uncultured folk who live in rural districts, but their knowledge is often restricted to the locality, thus explaining the fact of so many various country poisons being used by Malays for felonious purposes. Familiarity with these drugs and with potent imported poisons, such as cyanide of potassium, white arsenic, strong acids and opium, gives considerable scope for the selection of poisons. It is not surprising that the common datura or thorn-apple, with its power of gradually reducing the astutest intellect into a state of driveling fatuity, and arsenic, which destroys more speedily with symptoms which the most learned native doctors can hardly distinguish from Asiatic cholera, have been used, as in India, as the closing act of a great political contest, as a means of removing a stubborn minister or an intriguing kinsman

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