Toyol, a sneaky spirit with a sweet tooth

Tell it to steal only RM5 notes and it will. Tell it to snatch RM50 and it obeys.

"It" here refers to a Toyol or child-like spirit acting on instruction of its master.

Malay animism professor Dr Zainal Borhan tells Yahoo! Malaysia in an interview that people could "keep" these spirits and train them.

"All for the price of your blood. Or the blood of a chicken," he explained.

Based on another Malay mythology expert Dr Mohd Taib Osman, the Toyol's origins was from Mecca during pre-Islamic days. The Chinese version of the Toyol is called the "guai zai" or ghost child.

Malay folklore believers say that this child spirit could be invoked by shaman or bomohs from a dead human foetus or aborted babies using black magic.

The relationship with the Toyol is similar to having a relationship with a child. The spirit needs to be fed with sweet candies, while others believed the spirits need to be fed a cup of milk every morning.

Green lean machine

Malay folklore describes the Toyol as green child-like spirit. Some say Toyols resemble goblins, with animal-like teeth.

It is playful but is usually manipulated to steal from others or cause mischief. Usually kept in a jar, these spirits are used for petty or minor crimes.

Some believed that this spirit uses its blood red yes to see through walls or barriers, giving it easy access to cupboard or storage areas to steal money or jewellery.

After stealing, usually child-like footprints and fingerprints are found at the crime scene, if anything at all.

In Kuala Pahang, Pekan, villlagers had discovered a bottle containing what they describe as a Toyol.

The black figurine measured 15 centimetres high and was as large as a human fist.

The villagers described the figurine having a greenish tint with blood-red eyes. The bottle also contained sand, a yellow string and slices of onions. Today, the figurine is being preserved and displayed at the Pahang state museum.

Breaking up with a Toyol

The Toyol is not known to be too dangerous and is often quite harmless if its master allows it to roam. But, precautionary measures are advised if you want to stay clear of this sneaky spirit.

Place needles under your money to ward of these child-like spirits as they fear being hurt by sharp instruments. Mirrors are said to do the same trick, believe or not, the Toyol are afraid of their own reflection.

Or treat the Toyol like a child by distracting it.

The Toyol will get distracted by marbles, beans or garlic strands if you hang them in different parts of the house. Once it starts playing with these items, it tends to forget that it was supposed to steal from a victim's house.

When a master comes to the end of an agreement with the Toyol, some people believe certain rituals needs to take place.

The urn or the tablet (of the spirit) needs to be buried, allowing the spirit to rest.

Another method is to dispose these child spirits in the sea.

Legend has it that if your ancestors have owned a Toyol and have not destroyed it or put it to rest, chances are it will get passed on from one generation to another and down to you.