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The Penanggalan is a Malaysian vampire that according to tradition originated with a woman in the midst of performing dudok bertapa, a penance ceremony.

The woman was sitting in a large wooden vat used for holding the vinegar derived from the sap of the palm tree. In the midst of her ceremony, a man found her and asked her what she was doing. Startled, she moved to leave, and did so with such force that her head separated from her body. The entrails of her stomach were left behind when she flew into a tree. The severed head with the dangling stomach attached below became an evil spirit that appears on rooftops of homes where children are being born. The spirit whines in a high-pitched sound and tries to get to the child in order to suck its blood.

Some stories claim the Penanggalan was an evil spirit later turned into a sorcerer. When it wanted to travel, it would detach its head and with its entrails trailing behind, fly off in pursuit of blood from the living and dead.

An alternate story is that the penanggalan originated from a woman who had been using magic arts and finally learned how to fly. At that time, her head and neck were separated from her body, and with her intestines dangling, she took up home in a tree. From there she would fly from house to house, sucking the blood of babies and mothers giving birth. In order to protect the birthing site, the leaves of the jeruju, a thistle, were hung around the house and thorns stuck in any blood that was spilled. The blood and other juices that dripped from the penanggalan’s intestines would immediately cause anyone to become ill.