Road Trip Selangor: Mah Meri Ancestral Celebration
Road trip weekend to Carey Island.
The Mahmeri tribe can be found on an island located in Selangor. From Kuala Lumpur, it takes about an hour to reach Klang town and then another 30 or so to Carey Island. I relied on the Waze app as well as road signs to reach my destination since there was minimal signal in the palm oil estate area. I’ve never been to Carey Island and only heard about it from my sister who visited them years ago to see their woodcarving skills. So when I read about the Ancestral Celebration, it seemed like the best time to see their culture up close.
Ari Muyang Celebration for the day.
The Ancestral Day or Ari Muyang is celebrated once a year to give thanks to appease the spirits that have been taking care of the village and to ensure their continuous protection. I didn’t know what to expect from the celebration besides knowing that there would be a praying ceremony, food and a cultural dance.
Greetings from Mah Meri Village Host.
We were gathered at the entrance compound in the village area, where the host greeted us with a summary on the tribe as well as the culture. We got ourselves a head garland made of daun palas that we wore on our heads throughout the walk.
Seeking Blessings From the Priest.
The host led us into the village, stopping at the first area where a group of people sat, waiting under a large hut. A priest arrived and sat in the middle of the floor area, incense burning around him. People started queuing to receive blessings from him, including my friends who ended up with white rice powdered marks on her forehead. The priest later danced around a small fire with the locals and this was our cue to continue on our visit.
Mah Meri Spiritual Ceremony.
We walked towards the Spirit Hut where we saw a group of villagers gathering under a wooden hut, waiting for their turn to offer prayers, blessings and to commemorate Muyang Gadeng, a female spirit guardian. One by one the families went up to the hut to get blessings from the priest. They are marked with rice powder solutions on their foreheads and forearms.
After that the tribe continued with a Joh-Oh mask dance, a special ritual inviting the ancestral spirits to in the celebration. Here we saw men in large wooden tribal mask and skirts made of the same daun palas. In the center was a symbolic mountain made of the same material, an important aspect of the dance. The women from the tribe joined in the dance with the group performing to the traditional music from bamboo, violin, mini drums. At one point they asked the crowd to join in the dance, including me so we danced following the steps of the Mah Meri dancers, to the beat of the drums.
A smaller spirit house visit.
We continued the walk to the final spirit house, in a smaller hut. A man was busy setting up the altar for the praying ceremony while we waited patiently. There was quietness in the air with the smell of incense burning away. A row of offerings was placed on the mat while the priest took his place to start the prayers. Once the ceremony finishes, the villagers, including those visiting could seek blessing from the priest. They were splashed with rice water and marked with rice chalk on the forehead and cheeks. The was the end of the entire Ancestral Ceremony for the day. We left the Mah Meri Cultural Village learning a lot about this important ceremony and of their living history in Malaysia.
Address: Mah Meri Cultural Village, Jln Kampong Orang Asli Sungai Bumbun, 42960 Pulau Carey, Selangor, Malaysia | Tel: +6010 252 2800 | Opening Hours: 9am- 5:30pm (daily) | Entrance Fees: RM5 (walk-in), RM85 (full package) | Mah Meri Cultural Village Website