Posts Tagged ‘dukun’

Smoking Mango Trees and Spinning Stones

August 25, 2010

Two stories here.  Each one showing the craziness that can occur when someone discovers a new ‘paranormal’ (metaphysical) concept that  captures the public’s attention.

In the first part, someone in Tanggerang (West Jakarta) noticed that a kind of smoke rises from their mango trees every evening at dusk.  Personally, I don’t know if it’s normal for some trees to release moisture at a certain time of the day.  Maybe they release it all the time and it’s more noticable at dusk?  Maybe the temperature changes that happen at dusk cause the trees to lose moisture?  Whatever the reason, I’m sure there’s a plausable scientific reason for the phenomenon which I can grasp at to settle my pragmatic Western mind.  Not if you’re a resident of Tanggerang.  They think it’s uncanny that the smoke only rises when the imam starts the call to evening prayers, so there has to be a paranormal reason to it. 

Whatever the reason, scientific or metaphysical, I can’t see how it justifies people coming in their thousands to witness the spectacle.  But this sort of thing happens quite often in Indonesia.  I guess there isn’t much free entertainment appart from the shopping malls.  At the time of the clip it had been going on for 10 days.  I guess by now the circus has moved on to another place.

In the second part of the clip, a dukun (witch doctor) has a magic stone (batu ajaib) which he hires out for people to spin on.  Dwi says she had a spin with her baby and it cured his fever! 

The dukun says that he found the stone while walking in his fields.  He says he knew it was a magic stone because his eyes were drawn to it.

I’ll reserve judgement, but it looks like a fun game, spinning on a stone.


Unemployed before, now Unemployable

August 23, 2010

These two were in the news a couple of years ago.  According to the story, a village chief (kepala desa) received an sms from someone claiming to be a government officer and promising jobs for the two if they tattooed their faces with a ‘dragon’ pattern. 

All three of them claim to have been hypnotised by the sender of the sms and went along with the idea.  You can see the results above.  It must be pretty strong magic to convince two people to do such a mad thing.  Or it shows what lengths people will go to for the promise of an exciting job.  I could have told them from personal experience, government jobs aren’t worth it!

Anyhow, I suspect there are other possible explainations.  The one they gave might not be the full story.  Maybe it was punishment for unpaid gambling debts?  Gambling debts usually end in broken bones or death, though.  Perhaps they did it as part of a magic ritual to try to gain special powers.  What do you think?

Here’s the article where I first read about them:

Ponari, the Littlest Witch Doctor

May 15, 2010

In a rural society where people have little access to trained doctors or even reliable health information, they depend on alternative forms of treatment.  In some cases the treatment can be beneficial and even better than what Western medicine can provide.  In other cases the only possibility for a cure is the faith of the patients themselves.

As I heard the story, Ponari, a little boy from a rural village, was struck by lightning.  When he recovered, he discovered a stone in his hand.  When he finished playing with the stone he tried to throw it away but it came back to him.  So he realised it was a magic stone (batu jimat).  Some of the villagers claim to have seen him performing cures with his magic stone (a mute child being able to speak, a villager’s weak arm restored to strength).  Soon, he was established as a ‘dukun tiban’ (shaman whose powers are confered by the spirit world).  Before long, the legend of Ponari and his batu jimat grew to the level you see in this video.

The treatment seems to be for the patient to take some water in which Ponari has dunked the stone.  From the clips I’ve seen, the boy doesn’t give much of a consultation, in fact he seems more interested in playing with his cell phone most of the time.  In the clip above, you can see the type of people who come to him to seek treatment – some are seemingly hopeless cases, most seem to be typical of the rural poor, simple people who are unable or unwilling to go to a qualified doctor who probably doesn’t speak their language, comes from a different culture and treats them dismissively. 

In this next clip, you can see the kind of crowd the ‘little dukun of Jombang’ was able to pull:

If you have ever thought of joining a pilgrimage, that is pretty much what to expect when you get close to the object of the trip.  Thousands of people were coming to this East Java village every day.  An industry soon developed to service these pilgrims.  The inhabitants of Jombang were making money in all sorts of ways, from charging parking fees (5,000rp, when 2,000 is the normal fee in Jakarta or Surabaya) to selling books about Ponari, not to mention the fee for a ‘consultation’. 

In fact, this second clip is more about a rival child dukun tiban, Dewi, than Ponari.  It seems the Gods were very generous in giving out batu jimats because Dewi set up shop soon after Ponari started drawing crowds.  She is also in the district of Jombang, about 20 kilometres from Ponari, but her service is superior – instead of waiting in line for Ponari to put his stone in the water, you can just buy some pre-blessed water from Dewi’s father.  The guy being interviewed says he went to Ponari’s but turned away when he saw the huge queues, the Dewi service was far more efficient.  At the end of the clip you can see Dewi’s father supervising operations as he fingers his prayer beads.  Such a devout man!

I was told that Ponari’s father began to have misgivings about the whole thing  when it got to this level, but by then it was too late to stop.  How can you just turn away thousands of people, many of whom had travelled long distances?  The entire village was making a fortune directly or indirectly from the Ponari cult.  In fact, some observers called on the authorities and the ulama (local muslim authority) to warn people about putting their faith in this boy and to make basic health services more accessible for them.  In the end, as so often in Indonesia, the problem solved itself.

Ponari was already showing signs of boredom and his father was becoming anxious when a crowd got out of control and some people were trampled to death.  This incident caused the local government to put a stop to it while better crowd control measures were put in place.  It wasn’t long before they put Ponari back to work again.  But by then things had changed.  The time out served as a circuit breaker.  Ponari had become so self-absorbed with all the attention he continued to behave badly towards his patients and they didnt come back.  The curative power of his stone had also faded.  They rationalise this by saying that a power conferred in the way of this batu jimat only lasts 40 days.

It’s been a couple of years since I’ve heard anything of Ponari.  I suppose he still has a few customers.  Hopefully his attitude has changed since his ‘glory days’.  It might take a lifetime for him to live down what he did.  His family would have made a fortune from him, but I wonder if it will be enough to justify a childhood experience like he had.

In the first pic which follows, where he’s wearing a dark coloured shirt, that was taken before he became really famous.  He’s shy, but taking an interest in what’s going on around him.  The other pics were taken at the height of his fame:

Even Indonesian children can be naughty depending on the circumstances.

Ketok Magic

March 14, 2010

The guy in the clip doesn’t look much like the dukun I posted last week (maybe he had a shave after his bath?), but he’s performing a kind of magic.    By the gentle taps you can see him doing on the clip, he is able to beat out the dents in a sheet of metal without disturbing the paintwork.  It works if you just have a dent, not if there’s a scratch or gash, of course.  Still, it’s quite amazing, I recon.  Panel beating while you wait.

This magic is performed throughout Java, perhaps all of Indonesia.  However it originates from Blitar (according to the guy who posted the clip).  So when you’re driving around Java, you will often see a sign ‘ketok magic’.  But if the guy learnt his trade in Blitar, it will say ‘ketok magic Blitar’, so you know it’s the original and (usually) the best.  You mostly find this kind of advertising technique with food – some towns are famous for particular dishes, so the restaurant will make a point of showing that the dish it serves is just like the one from that other town.

So if you’re a panel beater living in the West who wants to make a fortune by learning this skill, you had best buy a ticket to Java.  The only problem is you might never want to leave.

Gutsy performance ends when dukun takes a bath

March 7, 2010

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.