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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Monarchy, Shaman and the Power of Sosial Media

By A Kadir Jasin

RA ra Rasputin
Lover of the Russian queen
There was a cat that really was gone
Ra ra Rasputin
Russia's greatest love machine
It was a shame how he carried on. - Boney M, Rasputin.

Contemporary historians had credited the allegedly amorous relationship between Russian Queen, Tsarina Alexandra, and the mystic Grigori Yefimovic Rasputin with the eventual fall of the Russian monarchy.

According to Wikipedia, in late 1906 Rasputin began acting as a healer to Alexei, the only son of Tsar Nicholas II and his wife. Alexei, who was the heir to the throne, suffered from haemophilia.

Rasputin was a divisive figure, seen by some Russians as a mystic, visionary, and prophet, and by others as a religious charlatan.

The high point of Rasputin's power was in 1915, when Nicholas left St Petersburg to oversee Russian armies fighting World War 1, increasing both Alexandra and Rasputin's influence.

As Russian defeats in the war mounted, however, both Rasputin and Alexandra became increasingly unpopular. In the early morning of 30th December 1916, Rasputin was assassinated by a group of conservative noblemen who opposed his influence over Alexandra and the Tsar.

Finally the people rose against the Tsar and on the nights of July 16 and 17, 1918 the Tsar, his wife and five children were put to death. Their horrifying end was no better than that of King Louis XVI of France and his hated Queen, Marie Antoinette, 125 years earlier.

But the Russian monarchy was not alone to fall victim of mystics and religious deviationists. Many other empires, kingdoms and sultanates had also fallen under the spell of Rasputin-like characters. Some perished as a result.

These characters – male and female – came in many forms and varied names. They are called shamans, soothsayers, astrologers, bomoh, kiyai, pandit and pujari to name a few.

That emperors and empresses, kings and queens, sultans and sultanahs were so prone to being influenced by these usurpers was beyond comprehension. Maybe they thought they were dewa and devi and were generally detached from the real world.

Dwindling Monarchy

In this day and age, however, there aren’t that many emperors, kings, sultans and sheikhs left to be exploited by modern day Rasputins.

As of this year, out of 193 member countries of the United Nations, only 28 have monarchs and most of them are constitutional figure heads.

But we in Malaysia are special. In addition to one supreme ruler – the Yang di-Pertuan Agong – we have nine state rulers (Sultan, Yam Tuan and Raja).

Around us many countries had done away with monarchy. At the time of Indian independence in 1947, there were 565 princely states with maharaja and maharani. Today there are none. They ceased to exist from 1971 when the Privy Purse was abolished.

Indonesia too had many kingdoms and sultanates. Some 220 kingdoms and sultanates had existed in Indonesia but today only a handful remain largely as cultural and historical entities. Countries like China, Vietnam, Laos and Burma had all done away with the monarchy totally.

Back to the shamans, soothsayers, astrologers, bomoh, kiyai, pandit, pujari, pawang buaya and ahli sihir, many have gone through transformation and adaptation, and continue to remain influential.

They are present at palace ceremonies and cultural celebrations of the rich and famous. Some of them – Muslims and non–Muslims - are known to have considerable influence over important state matters.

Hopefully our Rulers, being Muslims and guardians of the Islamic faith, are mindful of the deviant (khurafat) practices of these people.

In Saudi Arabia, one of the few absolute monarchies in the world, sihir (black magic) is punishable by death.

Also be mindful that in this day and age of instantaneous communication and the prevalence of social media, nothing is secret and sacred.

Wallahua’lam. Only God knows

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