ArabicChinese (Simplified)EnglishFrenchGermanIndonesianKorean

Ilmu, Magic and Divination amongst the Benuaq and Tunjung Dayak

December 11, 2008 by  
Filed under Opini

Share this news

In the coastal cities of Kalimantan where the population is predominantly Moeslem, if you tell people you are going upriver to the Dayak areas they may sometimes comment that you must be caleful bacause their is a lot of ilmu, or magic around up there. These sorts of attitude express a number of board social divisions; between the city and the village, between the “progresive” and the “traditional”, between the educated and the illiterate.

All such distinctions overstate the case, of course, but they bear an element of truth. You will find magic practised in pockets of the culture.
Magic, know throughout Indonesia as ilmu or as the Benuaq call it, lemu, has always played a very significant part in the lives of Dayak villagers. The beliefs which constitute what can in called religion, ideas concerning the spirits and the nature of human relationships with them, are no different to those assumed in the practice of magig. The fundamental bargain involved in transactions with spirits, in which advantages of one kind or another are parleyed in exchange for offerings of raw and cooked food and other gifts, has been referred to above.

In order to understand the use of magig it is necessary to briefly examine the social situations in which this knowledge has been considered not only useful but often indispensable. By this I mean that we have to look not only at the immediete purposes which magic serve but also at the social environment that creates theses purposes. Ilmu can perhaps be broadly classified in term of two catagories, “hot” and “cold” magic.

Throughout the Malay word, “cold or coolness” signifies all those conditions which together make for conttentment: good health, physical comport, sosial relations which are peaceful and harmonious, a calm spirit. Thing which are described as having “hot” qualities, on the other hand include situations where there is a prevalence off illnes, angry emotions, social conflict, indications of malevolent spirit activity and places which frequentty experience destructive magic or enjoy a reputation for the common use poison.
Hot magic is distinct with the threat of promise of violence, the resort of wounded self-esteem and revenge; cold magic is nurturing, protective, the stuff of friendship, love and desire. These two catagories of magic express polar aspect of social life as it has bees and, by and large, continues to be lived.

In society where the expression of open hostility is frowned on and can incur harsh sanctions, covert tehniques of revenge have become higly refined. The suppression of overt violence except perhaps in the spheres of intimate domestice life (though even here it is frowned upon) and, in the past, of inter-tribal war has only served to hone the sense the shame to an acute sensitivity. The sense of “shame” is a complex one, involving injuries to pride or self-esteem which can arise from the smallest slight, whether intentional or not. Many social situations demend a strict etiquette and an indelible sense of relative social position. If the customary acknowledment of another’s status are not properly observed, shame is often a consequence. These are the injuries that cry out or revenge, whether by fair means (i.e. licit ones, such as litigation) or foul.

Retribution is sometimes swift (e.g.people taken to village courts of arbitration and compensation) but often an opportunity to “return” the insult or injury may be years in coming. Memories are long and forbearance an ingrained quality. Grievance that cannot be satisfied through arbitration, or situations where one party may feel there has been a miscarriege of justice, can cry out for a final avenue of redress through magic. Magic if properly enacted can balance accounts with minimal risks of further liabilities. If successfully consealed vengeance need entail little change of the continuation of interpersonal or familiy feuds. Other kind of grievance may be nursed against those who have done no worse than prove themselves a little more able or industrious than their fellows. Hiri, or envy, is often given as a motive to explain the malicious actions of others. Attempts to bring those better-off back down to your own level can, I suppose, also be counted as a form af redress for the experience of shame, though in such cases excuses of another kind may often be sought.

In this sometime fraught social atmosphere, where aggressive magic may be deployed against someone on relatively sligh pretexts, it is advisible that there be a comprehensive stock of protective charms and spell in store. Protective magic employs several principles. Some techniques preven the body from being “entered” by powers directed against it, others make you or your abode invisible and thus safe from harm. Others still render opponents impotent, or return hostile magic to its sender. Once a market for this kind of knowledge and these kinds of power has been established it gather a momentum of its own.

Magic becomes a standard consumer item-no household should be without an adequate provision. Considerable portions of personal and family income are spent on it at various times. As with markets for other kind of goods, consumers often require proofs of the quality of the merchandise before they purchase. Thus, some magic is conveyed on approval with payment forwarded only if completely satisfied. In these circumstances the prudent may see fit to test a spell at random. It is common knowledge that this is often the case, for instance, when purcaseing poisons, many of which can be classed as forms of magic. The same applies to other hot forms of magic.
These may be use, too, not just to test a spell or return a specific injury but also to try out the ilmu professed by others. In a society so status conscious, boasting, too, is something of an art form. Wherever particular claims are made, or merely implied, there is always the temptation to put them to the test. These competitions over reputation are played with magic for high stakes, with lives put on the line according to popular accounts.

Hot magic also has its uses beyond the confines of the village and the community of kinship. It becomes especially important when you travel to distant places where you may have few family connectoins. In these situtions the resentment of the stanger is often sufficient to provoke antagonism, particulary if their manner of address leaves something to be desired. few venture to distant villages without adequate protection and especially charm againts poison. The motives of those in distant places are always suspect, never more so than when paths cross in a lonely part of the forest far from the eyes of any withnesses.

Althought headhunting on a large scale ended sometimes in the 1920’s suspicions remain and stories persist of those on particular quests. Influenced by these tales, the talismans of battle retain much of their value anf even now, if sold, can demend astronomical prises.
Hot magic and the social contexts in whichit has a value provides only half the story, however. Social life is not only a tale of petty resentment, status competation and barely concealed suspicions which border, at times, on paranoia. It is also a matter of necessary, and valued, collaboration, perceived common purposes and easy sociability.
Life has its pleasures after all, and cold magic can augment these. In the class of cold magic there are two major sub-catagories : the protective ilmu referred to above, and the class of ancan or love magic. Ancan are employed not just to pursue your heart’s desire but more generally render others very favourably disposed towards you. If a person is to thrive in the midst of their community it is certain that they will need many friends and allies. No one can survive alone; much of the work in the rice fields which provides basic sustence depents on collaborative effort and there will be times of crisis when every household will need to make appeals for assistance to others to get by.
This being the case, it is sensible to maintain relations typified by constant flows of recieprocated attentions with as many people as possible. Ancan are one means of attracting goodwill which will confer pronounced material benefits; protective magic helps to defuse any ill effects than might otherwise ensue from the animosities that arise in situations where most complete very earnestly for the material advantages on offer.

Magic is situated very much in the modest aspirations and petty crises of everyday domestic and community life. It is a practise which can not be abstracted from common social concerns. If it is compartmentalised at all, it is because much of this knowledge is closely guarded or secret to variable degrees. this secrecy, though, is not an indication so much of its rarity but rather of the high value placed on it. Common knowledge has no market value and magis is bought dear. The high price put on many types of ilmu is proof of the general acceptance of its efficacy. Some species of magic and prophetic techniques, such as protective charms, dreams and ulu balang can still be said to be metters of everyday use or reference. Others may be more rerely employed. This does not mean, however, that a great proportion for the various circumstances whice may arise.(to be continue/Michael Hopes/ Yuliawan Andrianto)

Share this news

Respon Pembaca

Silahkan tulis komentar anda...

Redaksi menerima komentar terkait artikel diatas. Isi komentar menjadi tanggung jawab pengirim. Redaksi berhak tidak menampilkan komentar jika mengandung perkataan kasar, menyinggung, mengandung fitnah, tidak etis, atau berbau SARA.