Wednesday, August 20, 2008

That old black magic

The first thing we saw at the witchcraft/gemstone market was a stall full of keris, the daggers traditionally believed to have mystical powers. According to a dubious book I read last year, for example, Soeharto had a keris that could make him invisible.

There were also lots of colored liquids in fancy little jars. Some were labeled as cleaning fluids for mystical objects. I asked about others and was told they were meant to be burned. Apparently they're not a kind of incense, because they don't smell good. When I asked why people burn them, the guy said: "Entertainment."

Our favorite stall was the guy selling jewelry, twisted roots and cow's teeth. He spent a lot of time answering our questions. He told us cow's teeth, which he's holding in the picture below, have a lot of spiritual power, but their properties are not well understood.

Twisted roots have a clear function, however: they protect your house from evil spirits, burglars, and so forth.

"Is that according to the old Javanese beliefs?" I asked. "Oh, according to everyone," he answered. "It doesn't matter what your religion is." And maybe he has a point, because Chad tells me you can buy twisted roots for the same purpose at the farmer's market he used to visit in North Carolina.

Naturally, we bought one. Whatever its properties, it's kind of cool-looking.

The highlight of the market, though, were these creepy demons made out of mud, hair and bits of bone or wood. I think they, too, are meant to have protective properties. They live in fancy little velvet boxes so they won't scare the hell out of you every time you walk into the room.

We bought one of them, too. Not this one, though -- the seller wanted more than a hundred dollars for it, which seemed like a lot of money to pay for something that makes me feel kind of queasy.


Faris said...

...that last picture is really scary. It looks like something from a horror movie, and I definetely do not want that thing anywhere in my house.

I can just imagine that, one night you woke up in the middle of the night. You drank a glass of milk in the kitchen, and yawning, you walk back to your room.

Suddenly, you saw something. A glimpse. A shadow. Goosebump rising, heart pounding. You thought you heard something. Maybe.

You turned your head. You sighed, it's just that silly thing you bought at that strange looking shop yesterday.

You walked back to your room, convinced that it was just your imagination.

...Wasn't it?

Dun dun dun.....

michele said...

yeah, I'm with faris on this one. I guess I've seen too many movies where dolls of all sorts become animated, and for some reason they're always evil when they come to life. where are the lighthearted, fun-loving animated dolls of film?

otherwise the treasures you found at the market look fascinating. you didn't buy any of the colored liquids or entertaining burning stuff? I would have had to take some of those home, they're so visually enticing.

kopisusu2 said...

Thanks guys! I'll definitely sleep better at night with all those ideas in my head!

Faris said...


Maybe they just need a hug. But nobody will hug them because they're evil! So they continue their evil ways.

A vicious cycle...

michele said...

good point, faris. perhaps some of the dolls in question received too much "tough love" (ie hair hacked off, limbs twisted too far around, faces painted w/horrible make-up jobs, etc), and they turned evil in order to take revenge against their assailants.

it's just a theory.

kopisusu2 said...

OK, before things get out of hand here, I feel compelled to mention Toy Story. Anybody heard of that one? Or perhaps Toy Story 2, 3, 4,18, 27, etc.? Not too scary, were they? I rest my case. Whatever my case is.

michele said...

oh man - sorry but I hated "toy story." I thought it was even more sick and twisted in a way than the horror films w/dolls because it contained plenty of truly scary stuff but couched it in this cutesy kiddy film veneer.

but I'll take your cue and end my comments on the subject there... as they say in boston, "don't get me stahhhted."

kopisusu2 said...

Fascinating. I have to confess I haven't seen any of the Toy Story movies, but now I'll have to watch one just to see if it truly has a scary underpinning.

jaka said...

The "thing" in the last picture is called "jenglot" (with "e" read like in "mad". It is believed to be alive because grows hair and nails (the hair and nails become longer in the course of time) and lives hundred years. It is believed that if you take care of it properly, it invites luck for you.

I saw it in an exhibition a couple years ago.

kopisusu2 said...

That's great information, Jaka! Thanks!