Toyols are spirits who do the bidding of certain humans who control them. In this aspect they resemble the genies of Arabia, but toyols are more likely to be spirits of children (like still-born infants) rather than of men. Older toyols are more vicious than infant toyols, and have a greater tendency towards violence. A person who owns a toyol uses it mainly to steal things from other people, or to do mischief. According to a well-known superstition, if money or jewellery keeps disappearing mysteriously from your house, a toyol might be responsible. One way to ward off a toyol is to place some needles under your money, for toyols are afraid of being hurt by needles.
Some say that toyol has its origins from Mecca near the Kaaba (the belief refers to the Pre-Islamic Era where the Arabs used to kill their children and bury them all around Mecca. The Chinese (Cantonese) name for the toyol is guai zai (literally "ghost child"). The corresponding term in the Hokkien dialect is kwee kia with "kwee" meaning "ghost" and "kia" meaning "child".
There is a price for having your own toyol. You have to feed it with your blood at regular intervals. Chicken blood may suffice for some of the less fussy toyols. Some people claim that the toyol's appetite would increase as they perform more and more tasks, until the point where they may require fresh blood from an entire human adult to satisfy their craving. (Think of the bloodthirsty Venus Flytrap in Little Shop of Horrors: "Feed me, Seymour!") Sometimes toyols will accept money in place of blood.
In return, toyols do every bidding of their master, from petty mischief and creating inconvenience for enemies to robbery and even murder. Toyols require a "salary" equal to the task at hand, that is, if you require the toyol to turn the entire house upside down and kill the watchdog as well, then you will need to pay the toyol a certain sum of money as well as feed it with enough fresh blood to keep it happy. If toyols aren't kept happy, there is a chance that they will turn against their masters. Otherwise they are fiercely loyal and may even defend the master's honour without being told to. To get your own toyol, you will need to obtain a still-born foetus or the body of a dead child. The services of a bomoh (Malay witchdoctor) are required for the resurrection of the body, which will thereafter obey you. Some people keep their toyols in large clay jars. Toyols are transferable and sometimes roam freely about, so it might be possible to enslave a free toyol with the right black magic.
|Illustration of how a Toyol could disturb us.|