🧞 Being Loved Against Your Will

Imagine a supernatural creature like Edward Cullen, but evil.

When I told a friend that I wanted to take my research on jin further, he said, “Tread carefully.”

Saka, for example, never leaves the owner’s body. In fact, it becomes a parasite through it,” he added. 

Jin saka is another type of supernatural creature from Malay folklore . Part culture, part religion, the jinn is believed to be so embedded in a human’s body that it becomes inherited across generations. 

This same friend gave me another warning about jin asyik. “It can fall in love with you and never leave you alone.” 

A part of me was frightened. But a bigger part of me was intrigued.

What is jin asyik?

“Asyik” is a word from the Malay language that doesn’t have a direct English equivalent. The closest translation is “carried away”. I have always taken it to mean a mixture of “distracted” and “obsessed.” Yes, both those words. 

There are also mentions of jin asyik in other Muslim cultures, where they are referred to as “jinn aashiq”. I found it interesting that in these other languages – like Hindi or Arabic (عاشق), the word “aashiq” means “lover.” 

This is a supernatural creature that will “love you” against your will. 

Those haunted by jin asyik experience symptoms like odd dreams – being raped, getting married to strangers, “unnatural” sexual encounters – and emotional disturbances. Some even experience physical effects like skin bruising or body aches. 

Imagine a creature like Edward Cullen, except evil. Jin asyik are said to be constantly watching their victims, especially when they are unclothed or sleeping. 

Sex and the supernatural

Someone once told me about a strange sexual encounter that he had experienced. As he lay in bed with his partner after the deed, she told him that she was possessed. Why else would I be horny all the time, she said. 

Being horny is another symptom of jin asyik possession, along with having uncontrollable emotions and being unlucky in love. 

In their research paper on hantu, Cheryl Nicholas and her team write that “talk about hantu most frequently came about as a response to something”. These supernatural experiences are typically a symptom of something else. 

“In field observations, it was quite common for interactants to talk about hantu during displays of behaviour considered dangerous, immoral, wrong, or simply inapt. In these cases, storytelling serves as a moral lesson, to represent cultural meanings or to deal with rules for appropriate behaviour,” they write.

The supernatural in Malaysia

Ghosts and spirits in Malaysia, often referred to as “hantu,” aren’t just characters in horror stories. According to Nicholas, who conducted ethnography in various parts of the country, the supernatural is a “natural part of Malaysian life.” 

There used to be ghost marriages, where one or both parties are dead. The seventh month of the year (according to the Chinese calendar), is when the dead are able to access the living world. I’ve been told more than once not to stay out late during this particular month and to not turn around if an unknown voice calls my name. 

We have creatures like jiangshi (hopping vampire zombie), pontianak (female vampire ghost) and orang minyak (greasy man) – and these are just three out of a host of other supernatural beings. 

It’s so embedded in our daily reality that neighbourhood hauntings make the news. A mainstream national news portal recently reported how a particular suburb had experienced an invisible presence knocking on their front doors. A TV station even got a religious healer to comment on the occurrence. 

“Hantu” are everywhere

The default opinion is that supernatural beliefs are “less modern”, that the supernatural is something that people in rural areas or the less educated believe in. That default opinion doesn’t apply to Malaysia.

Even urban, Western-educated, (some Christian) Malaysians believe that hantu exist. More than one friend expressed concern about my research topic. I’ve heard phrases to the effect of “be careful” more than once. 

The other thing I’ve also been hearing is that occurrences of jin asyik possession is due to the sexually repressed nature of Malaysian culture. But I’m starting to believe that isn’t the whole story. 

There’s more to it than that, especially when you look at media produced in what is considered the most Islamic / conservative state in Malaysia – Kelantan. As an example, there’s a song called “Tubik Masuk” (which means “out in”) that, on the surface, is about smoking but everyone knows it’s really about sex. 

So what’s really going on here? That’s what I’m trying to find out. 

Perhaps I’ll find that jinn possession is not because of repression but rather, a way to embrace sex in its entirety. Perhaps we don’t have as much freewill as we think we do and are merely products of our environment. 

I don’t exactly know what I’m saying yet, but stick with me. I’m hoping things will be clearer in time – for me, as well as for you. 

The Sex Beat was initially a podcast that I started in 2016 to experiment with the audio format. It’s what kick-started my fascination for this topic and inspired me to research this topic for my MRes.

This newsletter is an experiment, a way for me to document my study experience and share content that won’t make it into my thesis. I’m always open to suggestions on how I can make this newsletter better – just hit reply and let me know!

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