Heilpflanzen-Welt - Die Welt der Heilpflanzen!
Heilpflanzen-Welt - Natürlich natürlich!
January 2022

Soc Sci Med. 1984 ; 18(2): 159-66.

Malay midwives and witches.

Karim WJ.

This paper attempts to analyse professional rivalry and dissonance amongst traditional Malay midwives (bidan kampung) in the Northwest areas of Peninsular Malaysia. It elucidates how techniques of symbolic and ritual communication are carefully monitored by these female specialists, to develop regular clientele and professional credibility over time. However, since an integral element of Malay midwifery is protection from and mastery over mystical forces in nature and evil spirits harboured by witches, a midwife is also an exorcist with skills rather similar to the Malay bomoh (traditional medical practitioner, usually male) except that her range of knowledge of witchcraft is limited to diagnostic and curative rituals of spirit-possession, in infants and children, young unmarried women and pregnant mothers. Within a restricted population area, professional rivalries and competition amongst midwives regularly surface in oblique attacks of witchcraft accusations where the accused strives to maintain her credibility while her accuser gradually wins over her clientele. Significantly, codes of professionalism in traditional Malay midwifery are not only determined by skill and experience, but also religiousness (faith in Islam), benevolence, virtue, diligence and a sense of equality and fair-play in the practice of the trade. These qualities are seemingly lacking in witches who are conceived to be anti-Islamic, uncompromising, manevolent and destructive. Thus, government midwives who threaten the popularity of traditional midwives by being particularly active in their work or supervising and controlling midwives in an authoritarian way, are also labelled as witches. Generally, while midwifery and witchcraft reflect two forms of knowledge that are structurally opposed, in ideology and morality, they exist within the same sphere of ritual and symbolic communication where the practitioners aided by their clients, shift from one state of dissonance to another in an attempt to regulate behaviour.


Search only the database: 

© Top Fit Gesund, 1992-2022. Alle Rechte vorbehalten – ImpressumDatenschutzerklärung