Rearing ‘ikan puyu’ to ward off evil spirits and spells

'Ikan puyu', or climbing perch, is believed by locals to have a mythical power to ward off evil spirits and spells.

By Wilfred Pilo

KUCHING, Feb 28: Ikan ‘puyu’ or climbing perch has a special place in local beliefs and superstitions as it is believed that they can ward off intruders, and evil spirits and spells on homes and their occupants.

As such, these fish are in demand and often reared by locals in ceramic urns, tanks and aquariums as ‘protectors’, rather than for consumption or as aquarium pets.

Vegetable seller Jonathan Dapa who sells this tropical fish at his wife’s stall at Bandar Riyal Market, said that the fish is popular among their Iban, Bidayuh, Chinese and Malay customers who believe in local superstitions.

Jonathan shows climbing perch fish which he sells in bottles for RM10 at Bandar Riyal Market.

“Some believe that this fish does not seem to sleep and appears calm because of this. Local myths say that the fish can alert and protect them (against dangers).

“Locals believe these fish ward off ‘invisible things’ that could harm us. The fish can ward off intruders, too.

“Some even said that when you bring in and start to rear the fish in your house, it just dies after a short while upon entering the house. Local superstition says that the environment in the house (where this happens) has disturbed by an invisible spirit, and bad spells or curses could have been put upon the house owners,” he shared.

“How far you believe in such local superstitions is up to you too. But that is what those people who believe in it told me. And for that, the fish is in demand if available,” he told DayakDaily.

Jonathan said some Chinese customers buy an odd number of fish, but he does not know the reason why.

“They only said an odd number of fish is good for whatever myth and superstitions they believe in. I do not dare ask in great detail. But other locals, will just buy from me what is displayed in the bottle containers,” he added.

‘Ikan puyu’ or climbing perch for sale at RM10 per bottle.

He disclosed that the fish is not easy to obtain. He gets his supply from oil palm plantation workers nearby who catch the fish from ponds and waterways.

“I am selling four or five fishes in a bottle for RM10, and if the local myth is true, then it is worth it as the price is not hefty,” he said. — DayakDaily