Gutsy performance ends when dukun takes a bath


This over-the-top clip from an old film (they still make them like this) features quite a few cultural icons: the dukun, the kris, the ghost.

‘Dukun’ is the term given to a widely varied group, ranging from faith healers to black witches. The common thread is that they use the spirit world.  I guess they have their origins in animism.  In the isolated villages, and even in the big cities, they are often the only medical help poor people have access to.  Even when there is a medical practitioner around, it can be a long wait for a consultation. Of course, not all dukuns look like the one in the clip.

The kris is a type of dagger found throughout SE Asia.  Some are thought to host spirits. Some dukuns specialise in making posessed krisses, others can divine the nature of the spirit posessing a kris. A friend who inherited one found her sleep disturbed by a presence in her dreams, she found out it was the kris wanting some offering and she placed it in the care of the dukun who had performed the divination. Great care has to be taken with a kris that likes to kill. It will certainly help you to do that, but if you don’t feed it often enough it will grow restless and turn on you.

There are more ghosts (hantu) in Indonesia than any other country, or else people are better at noticing them than anywhere else. There are as many ghost stories as there are people who are willing to tell them. Many people wont tell them for fear of invoking the spirits. I think the only culture which comes close to matching this level of belief in ghosts (as far as I know) is the Irish. Personally, I have an open mind about them, but I’ve never noticed one, even after driving along Casablanca (a street in Jakarta that runs through a cemetary) on many a late night/early morning.

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One Response to “Gutsy performance ends when dukun takes a bath”

  1. karenaakukatolik Says:

    Interesting post. In fact, spirits can be put in any form of object, not only keris, kujang, klewang or any other traditional weapon. It could be in a statue (Bali), in a ring, necklace, a piece of cloth and other everydays’ tools. My colleague had this ring of ‘pengasihan’, that you can rub anytime you want it to get sympathy or make other person likes you no matter how unpleasantly you behave.

    When I was travelling to Jakarta for the first time years ago, my brother gave me a piece of cloth with spell and spirit to protect me, but of course, with ‘Jesus Inside’ like a bemo you featured in your blog 🙂 I forgot how to take good care of it, and recklessly threw the cloth into the piles of my dirty clothes in my room. So eventually, cannot stand my bad treatment ‘it’ called my brother to take it back.

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