The Seven Sisters Shrine is situated at the foothills of Crane Valley just beneath Kek Lok Si Temple and Chen Kon Sze in the Air Itam hills.
Air Itam hills and valleys are to the Chinese, abode to supernatural society. Penang Air Itam Dam sits on the top of the hills and waters Chi flows right to the locals of Penang. Aren't they lucky people?
While Gods and Emperors lived in different abode in our numerous hills and valleys, the foothills are places locals deities or local spirits (Datuk Kongs) lived.
For the Malays, the Seven Sisters Shrine or Chik Chia, Kramat Tujuh Beradik is the same folk tale.
But one tale, Dad used to tell me was this tale about the Seven Sisters Shrine. They are the daughters of Dou Mo, the mother of all creation and sisters to the Nine Emperor Gods.
I can only remember fragments of the story, enough to make sense but not enough to question further as dad, my old uncles and aunts had passed on. I am not sure how the Kramat story goes but for the Chinese folk tale, it has two versions.
In those days, the seven sisters lived in the total harmony in Dou Mo arms. And their brothers, the Nine Emperor God were never far behind. The sisters would enjoy each other company telling long stories over sumptuous meals around the fire.
Living in the world of their own, they would plot their garden with vegetables of every kind and colors.
The flowers and trees are there to scent their garden and playing fields. Their days are spent gathering treasures from the land and sea. They would cook delicious meals from the harvest of their wonderful garden.
Collecting the treasures resulted in collecting the colors of heaven, so the rainbow colors were gift from the Seven Sisters.
One is in charge of the White color treasures, for her face is like that of their mother Dou Mo. Another sister is Purple color treasure for she blushes till she purpled.
One sister loves the winds and the seas so she is put in charge of the Blues of the oceans. The sister who loves gardening and planting greens is then responsible for all the Green color treasures on earth.
The hot headed sister takes Yellow as her fiery is as strong as the fire and sunlight. The lover of sunset and storm sister takes the Orange sack of treasures and the last sack of Red is taken as she loves the darkness of blood.
Dou Mo would periodically look down from the sky and smiled seeing her dancing happy daughters. But it was not long before a great bear came to their domain.
View a Fairy Dance performed recently during our Chinese New Year celebration in Penang. (Street Party in Penang Cheah Kongsi).
This is how I imagine them frolicking on Earth. Happy and playful fairies like maidens with no care in the world, No wonder, not much was written about them in myths or legends. Now the busy kids forget about the Air Itam Seven Sisters Shrine.
The great bear uprooted all their treasures, flowers and garden to the horror of the daughters of Dou Mo. They tried to sweet talk the bear for fear, words of the bear presence would anger their brothers, the Nine Emperor Gods.
They tried to soften him with honey, harvested from their garden which is the purest of all honey. That did not work, for it continued to destroy all their vegetables plot and flowers.
Nothing seemed to work as they sweet talked, used their magical charm. During that period, for it is the time of Gods, all creatures small and big lived in harmony.
So it was surprising for the Seven Sisters what had happened to the Great Bear. He never stopped rampaging their domain and treasures they had saved.
One day, they decided to seek their brothers' advice how to deal with the Great Bear who has gone berserk. And you know the end of the story. Never anger the brothers who are protectors of their beloved sisters.
As we followed the spirit pattern of the Great Beings, the Nine Emperor Gods united and fought the Great Bear, overcome it and now it stood align with them in the heavenly skies as the Great Dipper.
So it is here in the valleys on Earth can you find the Seven sisters Shrine and in Penang.
A Malay Version, Keramat Tujuh Beradik. This version points more to the veneration of earth spirit, Datuk Kong. The Seven Brothers of Dato Kongs or in Hokkien Chit Eh Hea Tee.
They are Dato Hitam, Dato Hijau, Dato Merah, Dato Puteh, Dato Jingga, Dato Kuning and Dato Biru. Boulders, rocks, old trees used to be homes to this earth spirit who are also guardian of the community.
In the olden days, the locals seek favor or cures in times of needs from the Datos. Then in turn, when a person is cured, a thanksgiving prayers is held in the village.
Words then will bepassed that, this or that Dato is very "snea"(powerful, can help to solve problems).
In present days, you still see small shrine in front of Chinese houses for the earth spirits. Nasi Kunyit with chicken curry is served during thanksgiving prayers to Dato Kong.
This version is different from the first version for it was told by my aunt about a weaver princess. There is even a festival to remember her.
The story goes about the youngest daughter of Heavenly Emperor Yuk Wong. She fell in love with a cowherd across the Milky Way. Despite their rank and for the love of her daughter, the King permitted his daughter to marry the cowherd.
But on one condition, she must never forget her duties to weave for her father. As she is good with her eyes and hands, she weaves for the Heavenly God Yuk Wong.
But like all young lovers in love, she neglected her duties and the angry King forbade her to see her husband ever again.
Young marriageable maidens would offer prayers to her on the seventh day of the seventh moon.
The offerings of perfumeries and toiletries to the Seven Sisters are a must during the festival. There is no such worship in the actual Seven sisters shrine in Air Itam.
During the festival, young maidens look up to the night sky and observe the two bright stars on the seventh day of the seventh moon. For it represent the princess and the cowherd.
I remembered when I was in my teens, my neighbor's would look forward for this festival. For their mothers believed that marriages are made in Heaven.
And like good daughters wanting to be married, they would obediently follow their mother's advice to offer prayers and offerings for a husband for life.
These days, festival like this kind is practiced in the rural part of town. Even then, it is hard for mothers to get their unmarried daughter to follow this tradition of praying for a match.
Have you seen this forgotten playing fields of the Seven Sisters Shrine or Kramat Tujuh Beradik? Today the Seven Sisters Shrine is not a place to go as it is now a dirty place, homes to vagabonds and other sorts.
But what can I say as I told the locals. More efforts has to be made to clean up the hideous sight!
It is safe to walk and explore the rock and feel the clear water. But do not walk alone to the abandon hut where the actual shrine is located for the scenery is not so pretty.