To know if a person is charmed (In Hokkien’Tiok Kong Thau’), experienced mediums or deliverers will look into the victims pupil and observe its dilation and sheen.
To confirm his suspicion , he will make the suspect crawl under fishing nets left basking at the beach during sunrise or make him cross a river. For it was said that evil spirits wouldn’t cross a river or sea, and so are charms.
For if a person can do that with ease, that means he/she is not suffering from some kind of charm or possession. Evil spirits will also get themselves trapped in the net and so are charms, therefore the possessed will refuse to crawl beneath them. That is the reason why fishing nets has always been part of the accoutrement found above door entrances in shophouses, besides the more popular pakua ‘Eight trigrams’ used in Taoist rituals that has a curve mirror smacked in the centre of it.
If a person is found charmed, the medium or bomoh will first search for the ‘opening’, a gateway where the charm enters from, and then determine the origin of the charm inflicting him. That opening is usually an object left in the garden or main door of the home of that person charmed. Without that gateway, the charm cannot enter the home and attack the person. Evil spirits can also enter homes through other means, like sneaking under umbrellas for instance, which is also another reason why locals shun carrying open umbrellas when they enter into their own houses at night, whilst our fellow Malay friends washes their feet before entering.
The openings or gateway are usually claypots wrapped in cloth left perched in between branches of a tree. Inside the pot, depending on the severity of the infliction, were found rusty nails, amongst other things. The colour of the cloth will also determine where the charm originates from. That will direct the medium to the source if he needs to seek aid, if the charm is too powerful hence refuses to leave that person. A yellow cloth is left by a Chinese shaman, the red, by the Thais, and the black, the Malays. So it was believed that the most fearful charms comes from the Thais.
When they are found, the medium will then perform some incantations, climb up the tree, and dislodge it by the kick of his feet. The act of kicking or knocking it down with the feet is sacred, for if hands were used, the charm will also enter the medium when he picks it up. Other than football, our feet cannot pick up things.
Hence the old wives tale of shunning the idea of picking up things left on the roadside not meant for you.