In the villages of Sabah and Sarawak, almost every house has a Kayu Tas (Tas Stick), My grandparents call it “snake beater stick” because snakes are really afraid of Kayu Tas. Kayu Tas is commonly for sale in local markets such as Tamu (native market) and Gaya Street Sunday Market. You can even buy it online now.
Kayu Tas is also known as Kayu Hujan Panas (Hot Rain Stick), Kayu Penunduk, Kayu Limpanas and God’s Mountain Stick. Locals believe that Kayu Tas possess mystic powers to protect the owner. Like yin and yang, Kayu Tas also has Betina (female) and Jantan (male) types, each has different magical powers.
Kayu Tas Jantan is in dark color. It can ward off wild or venomous animals such as snake, centipede, scorpion, tiger and elephant, or even tame them. Carry a small chunk of it also prevents bad people to bother you. Some cyclists carry a Tas stick when they cycle in neighborhood roaming with aggressive dogs (please don’t hold me responsible if it doesn’t work). But you must not bring it to a fishing trip or all the fishes will run away from you.
Kayu Tas Betina is lighter in color and feared by evil spirits, so it’s good in blocking bad energy from ghost and jinx. It can be used as a traditional herb to cure some diseases too, for example, diarrhea and stomach ache.
Bind a small section of male and female sticks together and it becomes a lucky charm and amulet, to protect the owner from any harm and even bring good luck or business. Some use rosary made of Kayu Tas. Harry Potter would want to use Kayu Tas as his magic wand lol. However, it’s a taboo to whip someone with Kayu Tas.
Penan people believe that burning the skin or leaves of Kayu Tas during daytime can move the rain to somewhere else. The smoke also smells like incense, which can get rid of pest such as ants, cockroach and flies. Burning the skin of Kayu Tas Betina can keep the evil spirits at bay.
The most highly graded Tas is Kayu Tas Pontianak from Kalimantan, which has the powers of Kayu Tas Jantan and Betina, but it’s rare. Kayu Penunduk Gajah / Gunung claims to have the power to soften the hardened hearts of human. You can carry the wood with you or leave it at home to guard your house.
Tas Kayu is abundant on Borneo Island. From what I search, Kayu Tas is a plant of Glochidion species (under Euphorbiaceae family). Peninsular Malaysia also has Kayu Tas but its aroma (stink actually) is different from the Borneo Tas wood (smell like spice), so it might be another species.
Photos taken in Sabah, Malaysia Borneo