Friday, December 3, 2010

Black Magic

Black magic is not free. You have to pay.
Here's Yusuf. He tends a kiosk of treasures on the groundfloor of the Jatinegara gem market in East Jakarta (opposite the Jatinegara train station).

His kiosk sells two-foot long Korans bound in bark, sets of fanged dolls in coffin-shaped boxes, thumb-sized animal-hide books of miniature scripts and symbols from East Javan pesantrans, inch-high bottles of red and blue and gold inks, pots of golden nails, bone-handled swords, prayer beads, and shiny boxes decorated with black skeletons.
"What's this?" Chiller-script font above the skeletons reads Gondo Mayit Sumple.

Gondo means smell and mayit means corpse.

"It's Rp 40,000 ($4).
"But what is it?"
"It's aroma." Yusuf jiggles the cardboard lid off. Inside is something the texture and colour of rich compost but with a sweet and sickly and pungent fragrance. "It's for corpses. When they decompose they start to smell. You can use this."
The fanged-dolls in the coffin boxes are called jenglot. Some have their eyes blindfolded behind narrow strips of red fabric. They have long fingernails and toenails, and hair as long as their bodies.

Yusuf adds that these are not real jenglot, but replicas. Real jenglot can be used for personal protection or to harm others, but need to be activated first by a shaman. Then they require a sacrifice. Perhaps a thimble of blood.
Yusuf's shop sells two sizes of golden nails. Arabic lettering has been scored along their shafts.

"Knock them into the ground near the door to your house," says Yusuf. "They'll stop bad people from entering."
Later, in the office, I set these items on the desk as a macabre show-and-tell. "Eugh, these are village things, not city things," scoffs urban-slick graphic designer Ferry. "I don't know anything about them."

"They're mostly used for bad purposes," he adds. "If you want something good, you simply pray."

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