Clad in ornate headgear and a black robe, Tay Kim Huat wielded a mock sword and mimicked the pose of a Taoist deity's statue perched on the altar in front of him.
Swaying back and forth with his eyes closed as devotees sang prayers over him at the An Ren Gong Temple, the car parts delivery man appeared oblivious to the chants and incense smoke -- as well as his wife and children waiting outside. They're used to it. After all, being a "dangkee" or medium runs in the family.
"My dad was a dangkee, and so was my grandfather," said Tay, 49, who is continuing the legacy together with his brother Tay Kim Sing, 41, a wharf storeman.
Dangkees say they allow deities to possess their bodies to perform rituals and dispense advice to other Taoist believers.
"It is like falling asleep, I don't know anything that is going on," Tay said.
In affluent and technologically advanced Singapore, belief in spirituality persists and traditional religious practices are considered essential to good luck and prosperity, whether it involves health, love, a job or the lottery. Government estimates place the number of active Taoist mediums at 1,000, with the actual number likely to be higher because the practice is unregulated.
Dangkees have generated renewed public attention in recent weeks after coroners ruled that a 16-year-old self-proclaimed medium and his friend had committed suicide by jumping from a ninth-storey flat last year. They were convinced the world was ending and they would be resurrected as demon slayers, local media said.
The Straits Times newspaper reported this week that the local Taoist Federation was planning to launch a voluntary registry of dangkees operating in some 300 temples, with the possibility of a licensing scheme in the future.