Tuesday Tales #6: Saka & Ada’

(This is Tuesday Tales, where we highlight folklores and personal stories from indigenous peoples from all across Borneo. These are stories shared with us. We strive to edit it to the best of our capabilities for your enjoyment. We welcome your feedback at hello@thetuyang.com)

Saka (Protective Spirit)
As told by: Aishah Chong

Origin: Sarawak Malay
Edited by: Adrian Jo Milang
Sketch by: Loretta Livan Milang

In times of old and having lived through hardship, some people would have learnt to acquire a sort of spiritual protection for themselves from any kind of harm. My late grandmother was one of them. As told by my relatives, in her prime, her relatives or children would oftentimes see her going down to the river. They never knew what for, until one day, it was discovered it was to feed her saka. People’s curiosity began to arouse as she was doing well in her small business of selling cencaluk and belacan, although resources were scarce and everyone except her, had it harder. That is how they knew that indeed, she possessed the saka.

One sad day, as we were all gathered around her as she took her last breath, one of my aunties saw a dark figure clinging on to my grandmother from under the bed she was lying on. That sent shivers down my spine and I turned pale. It was refusing to let go of my grandmother, as the nature of the saka when its owner has passed, it has to find an heir who would willingly own it. None of us wanted to. So, we called an ustaz (Muslim holy man) to exorcise it. Soon after, he told us that he had converted the saka and casted it away.

But just the night before, before we sent my grandmother to her final resting place, we stayed near her body. I felt a presence near me, whence I saw what was probably the same dark figure my aunty did earlier. But that was the last time I had experienced it, and I sure hope nothing is revived from bringing this story up!

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Ada’ (Malevolant Spirit)
As told by: Kedung Ballang

Origin: Kelabit
Edited by: Adrian Jo Milang
Sketch by: Loretta Livan Milang

A few years ago, I was staying at my grandaunt’s kampung (village). At that time I was having my ‘ladily cycle’. This one unfortunate night, I had a nightmare that an evil being was trying to drive me to distraction. I woke up from the dream to what felt like the middle of the night. I was afraid to check the time, as I would have just scared myself senseless. But as I tried to get back to sleep, I heard footsteps outside the door.

I bested my thoughts positively by assuming that it was my granduncle, but then again, it did not sound human. Then, I thought it was a stray cat walking around, but cats don’t make such a heavy noise while walking on wood. I started to shiver because I somehow knew that this was no mundane being, it must be the ada’, smelling and craving for my vulnerability. My senses sprung on alert. My blood turned cold when I started to hear a lonely sound of a bird calling from a distance, coming nearer and nearer; so near I thought it was next to me. As if it was whispering through the wall I was sleeping close to. I forced my eyes shut and went to sleep in terror.

Later, after that nightly experience, I discovered from the elders that the closer the sound of the being, the further it is and vice versa. I would definitely have wet myself if I had learned this at that time.

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