Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Clifford Geertz - The Religion Of Java (pt. 2)

In Clifford Geertz's classic 1960 ethnography "The Religion Of Java" there is a fascinating chapter on malefic magical rites. In these rites the sorceror - the dukun - performs a blackened version of the communal ritual feast, the slametan. Below is an extensive quote from the chapter, which I'm sure you will enjoy.

"There are several different types of sorcery, all of which bear a family resemblance to the next (...). The general term for sorcery is sikir or sihir, and the three most virulent varieties are tenung, djènggès and santèt.

The symptoms of tenung sorcery are such as vomiting blood, violent sickness in the stomach, or a raging fever, without any traceable cause. The dukun's performance (...) consists of a kind of Black-Mass mock slametan. The dukun sits chanting spells in the center of a half circle of sadjèns - food offerings for evil spirits - pleading for the destruction of his victim. The sadjèns consist of unbroken pieces of incense and opium mostly, although various other things of which sétans are especially fond, such as mirrors, may be added. If one intends to kill the victim rather than merely sicken him, one must break the incense into small bits and wrap it in a white muslin tied in three places as though it were a corpse, and one can chant a little tahil (the chanting one does at funerals) if he wishes.

In djènggès a similar rite is performed, except that objects such as nails, hair, broken glass, and pieces of iron and needles are added to the sadjèns. The dukun spells his spell and concentrates upon his evil intent and by so doing is able to persuade the spirits to induce the objects into the stomach of the victim, who will hear a sudden explosion all around him and then fall dreadfully sick. Sometimes a long piece of wire may be employed which is induced into the victim's arm or leg, thereby paralyzing him (...).

The term santèt is also sometimes used for inducing foreign objects into the stomach of the victim, but, strictly speaking, it refers to the kind of sorcery in which the dukun must actually approach the victim and rub pepper grains (or something of the sort) against him while repeating a spell soundlessly in his mind. The victim than contracts incurable diarrhoea".

The malefic dukun is the subject of several horror films from the region, such as the 2007 Malaysian film "Dukun". Below is Dukun's trailer:



Another nice example is the Indonesian 1979 film "Dukun Ilmu Hitam" from which you'll find a clip below. The entire film can be found (broken into 5 minute pieces) on YouTube.



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