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 Museum Explorer

Gods and spirits in Asia

Water spirit

Height: 36.000 cm

Ethno 1905-637

Water-spirit

From: Sarawak, Malaysia
Date: 19th – 20th century AD

This water-spirit was made by the Melanau people of Malaysia. There are several different worlds such as sky, land and water. They are all lived in by different beings, such as creatures, spirits and humans, who must follow the rules of how to treat one another. If humans do not do this, then they can fall ill.

In order to get better, they need to make things right with the spirit again. These spirit carvings were used to do this in a special ceremony. This spirit holds its hands over its stomach, so may have been used to cure tummy ache. It could be a particularly mean spirit called a durhig, who it is said tried to get inside dead bodies in order to take them over.