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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".
People normally associate the appearance of a toyol with that of a small baby, frequently that of a newly born baby walking in nakedness with a big head, small hands, clouded eyes and usually greyed skin. More accurately, it resembles a goblin. It can be seen by the naked eye without the use of magic, though they are unlikely to be spotted casually.
Invoking a Toyol
Keeping a toyol has its price. In essence, the spirit is that of a still-born (or aborted) child, and its temperament reflects this.
According to most Asian practices and beliefs, the afterlife of a person is taken care of by the family, in the form of a tablet. It is usually made of wood, with the name of the deceased engraved. A collection of tablets at an elaborate family altar is a typical item in a large (and often wealthy) family. Following the same principle, the master of the toyol keeps its tablet and cares for it. He must feed it with a few drops of his blood everyday, usually through his thumb or big toe. In addition, it requires certain coaxing and attention, along with offerings. Such offerings might include candy and toys, for the toyol is essentially a child and must be kept happily entertained. According to other stories, a toyol must be fed with blood from a rooster.
In old village tales, people keep toyols for selfish but petty gains. They use such spirits for theft, sabotage and other minor crimes. Serious crimes, like murder, are usually beyond the capability of these toyols. A person who suddenly becomes wealthy without explanation might be suspected of keeping a toyol. The toyol is kept in a jar or an urn, and hidden away in a dark place until needed.
What happens at the end of the "contract" is not very clear. It could be that the tablet, along with the urn, is buried in a graveyard (with the relevant rituals), and the spirit is then laid to rest. An alternative method is to dispose them in the sea. Or else, a toyol gets passed down in a family through the generations. This seems to suggest that once you obtain a toyol, not only are you stuck with it for the rest of your life, but all your descendants will also be condemned to own it.
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