Arulnayaki Annapoorni Ammayar or Amma (picture) predicts problems and offers solutions to people seeking her help
Arulnayaki Annapoorni Ammayar or Amma predicts problems and offers solutions to people seeking her help
They talk to spirits, often using their psychic ability to ‘link’ the living and the dead.
MEDIUMS, faith healers, spiritual communicators, psychics or, to some, charlatans.
Whatever the name given to them, they have cast a spell over scores of Malaysians.
Many have implicit faith in them and keep returning for "treatment".
Some Malaysians, however, see them as practitioners of black magic or tricksters who are out for a quick buck and they must be avoided at all costs.
Mediums have always been a part of Chinese and Indian culture, and are usually sought after as a last resort.
While the attraction has diminished over the decades, there are still many die-hard "seekers".
Arulnayaki Annapoorni Ammayar, 73, is one of the oldest mediums in Kuala Lumpur.
Based at the Sri Devi Sakhti Temple near the Mid Valley Megamall, she uses shells to treat her clients besides predicting the future.
Also known as "kovil amma" (the temple lady), she is a no-nonsense person who can spot those who are not serious in seeking her powers.
"I have had young girls acting like they were possessed. I can immediately detect fakes," she said.
For those who are possessed, she can offer help by "talking" to spirits and asking them to leave.
"I usually force them out with prayers and mantras."
If someone needs medical attention, she refers them to doctors.
But she is known to be able to heal ailments like joint pain.
She is also well-known for helping people solve their financial and work-related problems.
Her fame has spread far and wide.
She has foreigners who come by the busloads to see her. Most of them are from the United States, Australia and even India.
"I use an interpreter to answer their questions," said the sprightly septuagenarian.
Annapoorni sees clients between 7am and am and 7pm and 10pm.
Another group of spiritual healers use guardian angels and Hindu deities to help solve problems for others.
"Each of us has an angel and we communicate with them for directions, advice and solutions," said a member who only wanted to be identified as Maya.
Unlike the typical Indian medium who gets into a trance, dances with neem leaves and is generally aggressive, spiritual healers don’t do any of these.
"We don’t need to get into a trance to exorcise ghosts. We speak to them like we speak to any other living being," she said, adding that her group has strict guidelines on how to manage the possessed.
They use lime, herbs, flower baths, herbal diets, meditation and prayer in the process of "removing" spirits from people.
A common denominator between spiritual healers and mediums is the issue of trust between them and their clients.
They say that trust is integral to treatment.
"If the patient is sceptical and does not believe in ghosts or takes our advice and treatment lightly, it wil not work for them," said another member, Mani.
He said what they did was not magic but something divine.
Mediums and faith healers usually determine a specific fee but those who cannot pay are treated .
Those whose requests have been answered will usually perform thanksgiving prayers at a temple by offering milk, lighting lamps or offering food to devotees.
Artist Prabha (not her real name), 34, went to a medium after she lost her ability to walk.
"It happened after my right leg became paralysed after a brief ailment. Doctors could not identify the problem."
A medium told her she had stepped on "something" which was punishing her for doing so.
She was given limes to ward off evil and had to drink holy water and perform prayers.
"This treatment helped me and I could walk again.
"Modern medicine failed to give me a cure," she said.