sign in a cave in Laos

29 August 2008

Caving with spirit hunters, Cintamanis - ACG

This was published in Axbridge Caving Group journal - April 2005 , p10


Liz Price

The Malaysian Karst Society published a list of Rules of Caving in its newsletter. Rule No 9 tells you not to urinate in a cave, the reason being, wait for it ..............that you might upset the spirits of the cave.

This follows the Malaysian belief that if you have a pee outdoors, you should always ask the spirits permission first, or at least warn them that you are about to pollute their territory.


Liz Price

In 2001 I visited Gua Cinta Manis (Sweet Love Cave) which is near Karak in Pahang, Malaysia, in a completely isolated limestone outcrop. The cave is basically one huge chamber with a couple of side chambers leading off, the only obstacle being a 15m pitch covered in guano. Whilst we were preparing to descend, a group of 5 Indians turned up. Barefoot and dressed only in lungis (sarongs), with seed and bead necklaces and ash markings on their faces, they slung an ancient hemp rope down the pitch and proceeded to descend hand over hand. Then they lowered their heavy bags. Luckily one of our group was Indian and could ask these guys what they were doing. It turned out they were looking for a spirit. These Hindus (and indeed most Malaysians) believe that spirits are everywhere, and one of the men wanted a spirit at home in his house. So they went to the cave to see if they could find one spirit willing to move to the man's house.

The 'bomoh' or shaman was conducting the proceedings and they were making offerings of fruit, lighting incense sticks and burning camphor. Whilst going into a trance the bomoh lit a piece of camphor on his tongue but didn't seem affected by the flame or heat. Maybe he had been imbibing alcoholic spirits beforehand and was immune to the pain!

The group intended to spend at least one week in the cave, going all around to look for a suitable spirit. We were a bit worried about their safety as they had few torches between them and intended to do one or two tricky climbs up slippery walls. For the pitch we had our full SRT gear and safety backups, they had an old knotted rope. I only hope they got up their knotted rope alright after one week in the cave. No doubt the spirits helped them.
© Liz Price
No reproduction without permission

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