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Hantu Air, Puaka Air or Mambang Air is the Malay translation for Spirit of the Water, which according to animist traditions in Maritime Southeast Asia, is the unseen inhabitant of watery places such as rivers, lakes, seas, swamps and even ditches associated with bad things happening to people which includes drowning, missing, flooding and many more.
Hantu Air is used to explain any sickness or death associated with watery areas that cannot be otherwise explained. Some people believe that spirits discarded by their previous owners will haunt places associated with water. The unguided and lost spirit roams the area and feeds on anything available, including humans.
Superstitions arising among the locals tell of this evil spirit dwelling in watery places where it sometimes disguises itself as an old tree trunk, a beautiful lady, fishes or other animals in order to lure people into its trap. When caught the human will be eaten or drowned.
A ceremony called Semah Pantai was once popular among local older Malays, especially in the East Coast of Malaysia. It is a ceremony whereby fishermen and seafarers honor the sea spirits and ask for blessings and protection when they fish at sea. The last ceremony was undertaken on 22 April 1960. The ceremony usually took place every three years and lasted seven days and nights.
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