Provozně ekonomická fakulta ČZU v Praze, Kamýcká 129, 165 21 Praha-Suchdol
Kejawen jako tradiční mystická víra v případě současné Jávy
Author: Pavla Fajfrlíková
Page Range: 18-34
No. of Pages: 17
Keywords: Indonesia, Java, Javanese, Kejawen, religion, Sufism
Summary/Abstract: The article considers the mystical stream known as Kejawen and its current form and impact on the culture and traditions of the Indonesian Java Island. The findings are based on a study of secondary sources and a qualitative field survey. A semi-structured interview was also conducted with respondents (Javanese) who were asked about their knowledge of and relationship to the traditional Kejawen. Observations of traditions and rituals were also conducted. Photographs, individual texts, and items related to the topic were then analysed using document analysis. Although Kejawen is not an officially recognised religion according to Indonesian legislation, its influence has continued to be visible, especially in rural areas where there are many practising supporters. The influence of Kejawen is connected more deeply to the life of the Javanese than most of them are willing to admit, although mystical tradition has an influence on their daily lives, decision making, art, traditions, and also contemporary mass culture.
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The island of Java is not only an economic but also one of the cultural centers of Indonesia. Throughout history, several religions have changed here. Some have been displaced, others have integrated new elements, and others have maintained their continuity to this day. Although there are currently six officially recognised religions in Indonesia (Islam, Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism), it is possible to find communities claiming (unofficially) the traditional mystical streams known as ‚Kebatinan‘, which include Kejawen, Subud and Sumarah. However, official numbers are difficult to estimate due to the obligation to belong to only one of the state religions. This thesis will examine the influence of traditional mysticism (Kejawen) on contemporary Javanese society with a focus on culture and traditions.
One of the most important authors focusing on Javanese culture is undoubtedly Clifford Geertz and his book The Religion of Java. He explains here, among other things, the tradition of „slametan“, which is mainly related to rites of passage such as birth, circumcision, burial, wedding, etc. Niels Mulder in his book The Mysticism of Java discusses the popularity of the mystical movements within Indonesian society. Here he describes the issue of the leveling of Javanese mystical currents, which despite efforts in 1957 were not recognized by the then president due to concerns about the use of black magic practices. Another important author is Paul Stange, who deals with the development of mystical currents in Asia. He is the author of countless works in which mystical Javanese currents, culture, politics and religious comparisons are the predominant themes. Mita Cut vin her article analyses the importance of mysticism in West Java. Using the example of the rituals of the sultan who ruled the Javanese province of Yogyakharta, she shows how Islam and traditional spirituality are mixed. She describes, among other things, the Labuhan ceremony, held every eight years. As part of this tradition, the Sultan offers a sacrifice consisting of food, the Sultan’s robe, pieces of the Sultan’s nails and hair to the mythical Queen of the South Sea, Kanjeng Ratu Kidul. This ritual is to ensure the health, prosperity and harmonious relations of his people. Wilson deals with the analysis of traditional Javanese dance and its spirituality. Here he outlines the practices through which dancers are able to gain their power and also their non-traditional relationships that are problematically acceptable to contemporary Java. Dubovská focuses mainly on the history and culture of Indonesia. Among other things, she describes the traditional shadow theatre of wayang, which, according to the authors, in addition to its educational function, also has a spiritual and protective function.
Unlike the Western world, where religion is losing its original meaning, Indonesia is one of the countries where the opposite is true. Religion plays an important role here, and the government actively supports this. According to a government regulation, every citizen of Indonesia must declare himself or herself as a member of one of the six officially recognised religions (Islam, Roman Catholic Christianity, Protestantism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism). All other religious streams have no official status within Indonesia, are not supported by the state and their status is relatively problematic. The situation is similar for traditional Javanese mystical streams (the so-called Kebatinan). The status of these religious groups has been the subject of several political debates since Indonesian independence, but without success. However, this „mystical synthesis“ is, according to many, an inseparable part of Javanese identity, formed by the historical development and influence of several religions. In the current situation, with many religious organisations advocating the practice of ‚true‘ Islam, other religious streams have a more problematic position than before. The practice of spirituality as it exists in the case of the ‚Kebatinan‘ is considered as ‚bida’h‘ – heresy.
There are several terms to describe Javanese mysticism. These include Kejawen (from the word jiwa – soul), kebatinan (from the Arabic „batin“, spiritual life) or aliran keparcayaan (literally „streams of faith“). Each of these terms can have a specific meaning depending on the context and the group using it. All these directions seek to realize the absolute, the union with God and the practitioner. The political debate surrounding the so-called Kebatinan was especially topical between 1950-70, as Mulder mentions or Stange. Some political groups have tried to promote it as another official Indonesian religion enjoying the same status and financial support as the other religions, but without success. The Indonesian mystical tradition was not equalized, and the government even continued with the Dutch practice of controlling its movement under the auspices of the Ministry of Religion, later the Ministry of Justice. This controlling body (called Pakem) treated mystical movements as something negative, potentially immoral. In the 1970s, the situation gradually began to loosen, and while mystical movements were still not and are still not officially recognised as a religion, they have been granted the right to exist as part of the island’s traditional culture. Under Soeahart’s rule, Kejawen was again granted only a marginal status as a kind of surviving cultural heritage, belonging not to the Ministry of Religion but to the Ministry of Tourism. Notwithstanding the multitude of external factors that have sought to suppress Javanese tradition (the influence of incoming religions, the colonial era, government regulations), remnants of Javanese traditional culture are still evident today. Even today, it is still possible to find individuals practicing (unofficially) traditional mystical currents within Java. Alongside this traditional form, however, there is a kind of consumerist spirituality on the rise (as in the West). This applies not only to Keyawen, but also to other adopted spiritualistic movements or trends (e.g. Reiki). Especially the more affluent middle class living in the cities attend paid lectures, buy CDs and various healing remedies or amulets. However, these practices usually have little in common with traditional Javanese religion.
The original belief on the island of Java was animistic. The people worshipped the forces of nature, made sacrifices to them, and through various practices and rituals were supposedly able to acquire supernatural powers that allowed them to change their human form or speak with spirits. With the advent of Hinduism, Islam and Christianity, traditional Javanese beliefs began to change. Kejawen is thus a syncretism of traditional Javanese culture and the incoming religions, especially Islam. Indonesians believe that the first bearers of Islam, the so-called Wali Songo (nine saints) possessed supernatural powers. The most famous of them, Sunan Kalijaga, is said to have been able to turn stones into gold. Kalijaga is also associated with the creation of traditional Javanese shadow theatre.
Kalijaga tried to spread Islam through art, especially songs, ballads, theatre and sculpture. He is the author of songs such as Rumekso Ing Wengi (Night Prayer), Lingsir Wengi (Sunset) and many others in which every line has a deep meaning. The aforementioned songs are still popular among the Javanese people today and can be heard especially during various rituals because of their supposed spiritual power.
The Wali Songo were carriers of the spiritualistic (mystical) branch of Islam (Sufism), which they integrated into traditional Javanese teachings. They created a concept of religion that did not exclude indigenous animistic elements and rituals. They recited prayers in a mixture of Arabic and Javanese. Even today, most Javanese pray initially in Arabic (bismillah) and gradually switch to Javanese. Thus, the spread of Islam in Java had its own specifics acceptable to the local society of the time.
The existence of the Kejawen is completely inseparable from the Javanese way of life and thought, attitude to nature and tradition. If we want to talk about Javanese mysticism, we must explicitly explain the concept of Kejawen. Kejawen is a traditional mystical teaching of Java, emerging from Javanese culture, tradition and philosophy. The teachings of Kejawen are not limited to the people of Java, but can be practiced by anyone. As mentioned above, it is a kind of syncretism of Javanese culture with Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity. At the heart of the teachings is the so-called „Manunggaling kawulo gusti“, which literally means attaining union with God.
Kejawen incorporates certain ethical principles that relate not only to our relationship with other people, but also to our relationship with nature, both living and non-living around us. In addition to these rules of conduct, the teachings also include knowledge of mantras and rituals, the practice of fasting and meditation. Above all, fasting and meditation, according to Kejawen, is essential for one’s spiritual development.
According to Magnis-Susen (Javanese philosopher), Javanese society can be divided into three social classes:
- Wong cilik (small people): farmers, workers
- Priyayi: the upper class of intellectuals
- Ningrat – the rich, highest noble class
It was the Priyayi who most often practiced the practices of Kejawen alongside official Islam. Kejawen was to bring them prosperity and salvation both during life and after death. One of the main goals was to establish a kind of balance in life, whether in relation to oneself, other people or nature. An important element is the so-called „Nrimo ing Pandum“ (acceptance of destiny), which does not mean inactivity and resignation, but rather activity in the form of appropriate work that serves not only ourselves but also others.
I was taught the knowledge of Kejawen by my grandfather. He showed me the techniques used to see the invisible to others. I used it mostly in high school, the spirits advising me on the right answers. However, they gradually became a nuisance, I saw them everywhere, hence the ritual to close the third eye. Since then I can no longer see them. (Viki, 28 years old, Malang).
Meditation in the teachings of Kejawen means to turn your attention inward. We can meditate for a purpose, to achieve a goal or to fulfill our desires. Meditation is usually accompanied by fasting and is done in a quiet, peaceful place. Traditionally, the Javanese went to meditate in caves or jungles, places believed to have magical powers. Meditation was and is considered a way to achieve communion with God.
But this union does not mean that we are united with God in his concrete form, nor that we can subsequently consider ourselves to be God. There is a spirit in every human being that comes from God and to which he will one day return. „Manunggaling Kawulo Gusti“ therefore means union with the creator.
Students of Kejawen are advised to find suitable guidance in the form of a teacher (guru). The actual study of Kejawen (called lelaku) has several stages, which follow each other according to the spiritual advancement of the student. First, it is necessary to understand who or what our real self is. The role of the teacher or counselor is very important, ostensibly also because practicing without guidance can be dangerous for ourselves as well as for others. The Javanese believe that various psychiatric disorders can occur due to possession by an evil spirit.
If I feel bad for a long time, physically or mentally, I go to a cave near the city for the night. There I meditate and pray. Several times certain beings have appeared to me and advised me on the appropriate solution to my situation (Made, 58 years old, director of a non-profit organisation).
The practice of fasting can be a means of gaining supernatural energy within the framework of Kejawen. Fasting can open up the so-called „sixth sense“, whereby we become more sensitive to the supernatural phenomena existing around us. There are several types of fasting in the Kejawen teachings, based on the goal we wish to achieve. Fasting must also always be accompanied by restriction of sexual life.
Fast Mutih. Nothing but unflavoured rice and water may be consumed during the Mutih fast. It is kept from three to forty days for some specific purpose, such as to achieve success in business or to gain supernatural abilities. A bath and the reading of certain mantras are required before fasting.
Fast Pati Geni. No food or drink is allowed during this fast. A person who fasts in this way should be confined to a windowless room from which he is not allowed to leave for the duration of the fast, which usually lasts three days to a week. This fast is said to be a way of fulfilling the great desires of life.
Fast Weton (day of birth). This kind of fast is observed on the day of a person’s birth according to the Javanese calendar. It takes place similarly to the Islamic tradition, i.e. from sunrise to sunset. A person who regularly fasts in this way on the day of his or her birthday is said to be able to prevent negative forces and events in the future.
According to an interview with a community of Kejawen practitioners, fasting Mutih combined with the recitation of the Surah „Al Jin“ and subsequent meditation can be a way to open the „third eye“, i.e. to gain the ability to see and communicate with spirits. The guidance of a guru is always necessary. Fasting combined with certain rituals can help to achieve supernatural abilities (e.g., to see the past, to foresee, to fight pain, to heal, etc.).
Knowledge of these practices is taught in special schools, usually in what is called Pondok Pesantren or Pedepokan. Nowadays, it is also possible to take various online courses in Kejawen (for a fee), after which the person should receive love, success and money. However, followers of traditional Kejawen are not in favour of this commercialisation.
Even before the advent of the now mainstream official religions, the people of Java believed in the existence of some supernatural power. For this reason, they practiced various rituals for protection in the hope of not being disturbed by evil magical forces. Inherent in Kejawen is an interest in the supernatural, in the possibility of seeing the „unseen“, denoting the term „Alam Gamb“. The aforementioned fasting, meditation, as well as various sacrifices in the form of food, flowers, scented sticks, etc. are used for access. Within Kejawen it is possible to specialize in certain skills such as healing or protective rituals (called Khodam). Khodam, or protective spirit, will guarantee our protection from black magic, diseases and provide us with spiritual and mental strength.
Javanese believe that some people are able to communicate with supernatural beings from birth (a gift from God), while others may learn this ability during their lifetime. Supernatural beings live lives similar to humans, forming families, small or large groups. People interacting with these beings can often be manipulated into negative actions.
In Java, belief in the supernatural is evident even today. Most Javanese have some personal experience with the spiritual, or know someone with such an experience. According to them, spirits can take many forms and shapes, and they can have their own families and communities, often living next door to us without us even knowing they exist. Some help us, others harm us. It is difficult for a person without the necessary spiritual knowledge to discern whether the one we are communicating with is a good or evil spirit, so officially communicating (without the guidance of a guru) with spirits is not recommended; it is more beneficial to focus on God Himself and direct prayers for help only to Him.
According to Geertz the ghosts in Java fall into three categories. The so-called Memedis (literally „haunted“), lelembut (can cause „possession“) and Tuyul.
The so-called Memedis include Sundel Bolong, a figure of a woman with a hole in her stomach. Also in this category is Gunderowo, a gigantic figure of a dark-skinned giant. These spirits can frighten people but are unable to physically harm them.
I used to sell bakso (soup with meat dumplings) near the cemetery, because a large number of people come there to pray during the day. One day a lady came up to me, asked for bakso, and instead of money she handed me fallen leaves. When she started eating, I noticed that the soup was running on the ground. It was flowing through a huge hole in her stomach. (Street vendor, 49 years old, Malang).
Another form is the spirit in the form of small children (called Tuyul). If we follow the recommended meditation coupled with fasting, it is possible to see them and communicate with them. The Javanese mainly use them for various petty thefts. The last of the forms are the so-called Lelembut, spirits that can possess a person, driving him mad or even to death. Such a person can only be helped by a dukun (shaman) who performs rituals after which the spirit leaves the body.
My cousin often dabbled in black magic until an evil spirit possessed him. Our family couldn’t help him, so we sent him to Pesantren (a religious school) for three months, where they managed to save my cousin. At present he is fine and practices only Islam. (Kikie, 27 years old, Malang).
The above forms are only a brief enumeration of the spirits in which the Javanese believe to a large extent to this day. Modern mass culture has been able to use this popularity in the supernatural to its advantage. Horror films are therefore the most common genre playing in local cinemas, while television programmes focus on supernatural events, mysterious places and the occult.
Figure 1. Bersih Desa, the tradition of cleansing the village of evil spirits.
The correct timing of events is of special importance to the Javanese. Every event (be it a wedding, a move or a funeral) has its correct timing within Javanese, which a large part of the population still follows. According to them, this can prevent various inconveniences, future conflicts in the family or health problems. In addition to the Gregorian and Islamic calendars, the Javanese use the Javanese calendar, which has this spiritual aspect. It is divided into 5 days: pon, wage, kliwon, legi and pahing.
Figure 2. Javanese calendar. Available from: https://www.amazon.com/Develop-R324-Javanese-Calendars/dp/B06X8YVBLY
Geertz describes his experience with Javanese perception of time as follows: „I asked Ardjo, my landlord, what the best time to move in was. He replied that every day has a numerical value. Monday 4, Sunday 5, Tuesday 3, Wednesday 7, Thursday 8, Friday 6 and Saturday 9. Whether this number is good for us or not depends on where we are moving from and to. From south to north, east to west, etc. Ardjo Geertze pointed out that it is better to stick to these recommendations. He is said to have last advised his former Dutch superior. However, he did not follow his advice and moved in two days later. Six months later, he died.“
I myself witnessed the relocation of a Javanese family living in the city. Even though they belong to a kind of „upper class“ with modern conveniences such as cars, computers, mobile phones, tradition still plays a significant role in their case. Moving day was interrogated by the oldest family member and accompanied by rituals to protect the house. On the day of the move-in, the extended family was also invited to the house and the Quran and Javanese mantras were read, protecting the house and family members from evil forces.
If the Gregorian calendar falls on Thursday and the Javanese calendar falls on Kliwon or Legi at the same time, a night suitable for rituals and communication with spirits can be expected.
Before dark on this day, people go to the cemeteries to pray and lay flowers on the graves of their dead. My Kejawen teacher advised me to rub my protection stones and keris (traditional dagger) with a special perfume at this time – the perfume will attract spirits to enter them (Adytia 29 years old).
We have mentioned the importance of the days of the week and the direction, but the months are equally important. One of the important ones (according to the Javanese calendar) is the month of Suro. Javanese believe it has magical powers. During this month, weddings, moving or building a house are not recommended. If someone violates this prohibition, they will suffer misfortune in the form of broken family relationships or destroyed property. Sacrificial rituals are also performed in various places in Java at this time. In the south of Malang, people sacrifice agricultural crops to the sea in the hope that this action will bring them a better harvest in the future, and in the case of Yogyakarta during the month of Suro, men wash traditional fighting tools (the keris dagger) in the sea in the hope of gaining protective powers.
Wayang is a Javanese word for a traditional type of theatre. There are two types of wayang, the first is shadow theatre using traditional puppets, the second form involves actors. In shadow puppet theatre, the term „wayang“ is also used to refer to the puppet itself, which is made of goat skin. The performance is accompanied by traditional instruments (gamelanem) and deals with stories from the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata. Wayang is thus partly one of the remnants of Hindu culture on the island. Wayang is not only a theatrical performance but also has a spiritual significance. The earliest finds of literary works intended for wayang date back to the 9th and 10th centuries.
The arrival of Islam on the island also influenced the shape of the wayag. The problem was the depiction of God in the form of puppets. For this reason, the wayang was transformed into its current form, where the puppets are led in front of a lighted screen and the audience then sees only their shadows. The most important role in the puppet show is the so-called dalang (puppet conductor and narrator). The dalang is highly respected by the Javanese community. Not only must he or she demonstrate knowledge of tradition, epics, acting, and improvisation skills, but must also meet certain moral principles necessary for the profession. In many cases, Hindu stories are so diverse that they can be applied to most life situations. Dalangs often choose those related to current issues (politics, economics, etc.). Some of the stories may also have a mystical context, they may ensure a good harvest for the village and protect it from misfortune.
The function of wayang is primarily educational, but also protective. The Javanese see wayang as a kind of ritual protecting them against evil.
Traditional wayang is played from sunset to sunrise. Therefore, the wayang must be able to play and entertain the audience for this period of time (approximately 10 hours) without interruption. This profession is often passed down from generation to generation, but nowadays it is also possible to learn wayang in art schools. Wayang is often performed at ceremonial occasions such as circumcision or weddings. Nowadays, famous wayang players also perform on radio or television. In a single performance lasting ten hours, a dalang usually performs 125 voices and 4 different languages (most commonly Javanese, Balinese, Hindi and Indonesian). Some dalangs reportedly do not need artificial lighting for their performance, but can shine on their own.
We believe that dalang is not only playing for a human audience, but the spirits are also watching the performance with us. They are attracted by the smell of the incense sticks and the sound of the gamelan. Dalang can see them and communicate with them (Adytia, 29 years old).
The popularity of wayang has been declining recently as the younger generation is more interested in modern technology than traditional theatre. Few people nowadays can stand to watch a performance for ten hours straight, which is why wayang (especially in cities) is being cut down to less than two hours. Some Javanese find wayang outdated, long and boring, often not even understanding it (dalang changes languages).
I think we should try to preserve traditional culture, but wayang is no longer attractive to the younger generation. Modern culture is much more interesting to me (female student, 24 years old).
In recent decades, there has been a visible move towards a more orthodox version of Islam in Indonesia, which is also reflected in traditional culture. In some performances, actresses can be seen wearing black hijab instead of traditional costumes, and the dalang speaks primarily about adherence to religious rules. The mystical significance is slowly fading in the case of this tradition.
Dance in Java has not only an aesthetic function, but often also a deep spiritual meaning. Each region on the island has its own form of traditional dance, including costumes. The Kethek Ogleng Dance originates from Wonogiri, the Serimpi Dance from Central Java, the Gambyong Dance from the Surakarta region and the Topeng Dance from Malang. In the following section, we will focus on two types of dance using Kejawen techniques. These are Reog Ponorogo and Kuda Lumping.
Reog Ponorogo. Reog dance has become the identity of the town of Ponorogo located in East Java. The dance usually consists of 25-40 dancers and musicians. The leading figure of the Reog dance is Singo Barong, characterized by a tiger mask adorned with peacock feathers. The Singo Barong mask can weigh up to 50 kg, which also makes it the largest and heaviest mask in the world. The dancer has to hold it up using only the power of his teeth. For this reason, a ritual is performed before the actual performance so that the dancer is able to hold the mask for the entire performance. Other characters are Kelono Sewandono, Bujang Anom, Jatildan Warok. A Reog Ponorogo performance usually consists of three parts. The first usually involves 6-8 men dancing, depicting the tiger’s strength and bravery. This is followed by a dance performance by 6-8 girls on horses (made of leather). In the traditional performance, young men dressed as girls perform instead of girls. This part is called jaran bint or jathilan dance. Singo Barong himself performs in a state of trance, which is again achieved through the ritual practices of Kejawen. In addition to the physical exercises, the dancers, especially Warok (the spiritual teacher and leader of the Reog) are required to follow strict rules and spiritual practices. Warok should also avoid sexual intercourse with women as they detract from his spiritual power. So instead, these spiritual leaders used to have a young lover, called a Gemblak, whom they supported financially, often providing him with education, food, etc. The family of these young men usually took this positively and with gratitude.
Ponorogo residents were interviewed directly about the actual ritual required before the performance could begin:
The ritual itself takes place in a house in close proximity to the site of the future performance. The ritual is usually led by one of the elders of the village, those who have the appropriate skills and a strong spirit. The ritual requires myrtle (kemenyan), bitter coffee (wedang kopi pahit), wedang gula asem, parem (special drink), rice (sego kokoh). Each of these offerings/donations to the spirits has a special meaning. In the case of myrtle, it is symbolic of God. The whole performance belongs to him and is organized to celebrate him. The smell of myrtle also attracts the spirits who are present during the performance. Bitter coffee symbolizes the difficulties and challenges that mankind has to overcome on the journey of life. Parem is a special drink made from tamarind, turmeric, sugar and salt and is used to keep peace in the minds and hearts of all involved, i.e. dancers, musicians and audience. Another of the offerings is a special cigarette „rokok grendho“ and a trio of flowers (rose, jasmine, cananga) whose scent is meant to attract the soul of the tiger, which then merges with the main dancer and provides him with special power for the duration of the performance (Pak Miko, 53 years old, Ponorogo).
Figure 3. Reog Ponorogo. Available from: http://agusprihandono.blogspot.cz/2013/01/anakku-kesurupan-reog-ponorogo.html
Today, the Reog Ponorogo dance is most often performed on festive occasions such as Eid al-Fitr, the Ponorogo anniversary, Independence Day, or as the opening ceremony of sporting or cultural events.
Kuda Lumping. Kuda Luping is a traditional Javanese dance using a leather horse puppet. The dance is especially popular in the villages, in the past it symbolized the strength of the warriors, nowadays it is mainly used for entertainment. The dancers can be men or women. The dance is performed to the accompaniment of traditional Javanese instruments (e.g. gamelan) under the guidance of a person with knowledge of the necessary rituals and spiritual skills (dukun – shaman).
The dance can last several hours and culminates in the dancers being „possessed“ by spirits who, as in the case of Reog, are lured by various types of offerings. One by one, the dancers begin to fall into a trance into which the audience often falls. In this state, they are able to endure any physical pain, eating glass, hot coals or being able to crack a coconut with their teeth. For this reason, the presence of an experienced dukun is necessary to bring them out of the trance one by one.
Figure 4. Kuda Limping.
Kuda Lumping was held on the occasion of the circumcision of several boys in the outlying Blimbing area of Malang town. The show first started with the child dancers dancing, who were after a while replaced by adult men swinging long whips around. As a foreigner, I was invited by the dukun to the front row, he laughed when he saw my apprehension about the whips swinging. The dance was accompanied by traditional Javanese music and offerings to the spirits (rice, fruit, cigarettes, scented sticks) were set up in a corner. At the end of the evening, several dancers and spectators did indeed experience the aforementioned trance. One of them started eating hot coals directly from the fire, black saliva dripping from his mouth. Others were pulling branches from nearby trees and eating their wood. The mood in the audience was very unpleasant, anxious to the point of aggression, and the performance became disorderly and had to be stopped under the direction of several dukuns. However, I could not stand to watch until the very end because I ran away in fear (author).
Figure 5. Kuda Lumping.
Even today, Kuda Lumping is a popular dance taught at several dance schools. However, there is no trance during the official performances, it is just the dance itself. Kuda Lumping in its traditional spiritual form can nowadays be seen mainly in villages where it is performed on the occasion of births, circumcisions or weddings.
In spite of all the negative views and tendencies to suppress traditional beliefs, members of Kejawen and other mystical streams are still present in Java and are trying to preserve the tradition. Recently, however, they are increasingly practicing covertly and only within the family or their own extended community. A noticeable decline in interest in Kejawen is observable in the case of the younger generation, who often perceive the tradition as something outdated and obsolete. Kejawen are also generally not seen as a coherent concept of philosophy and thought, but as black magic used to bewitch others, i.e. as something a priori negative. Rather, they prefer one of the paths of the official religions.
Differences of opinion can also be found between the population living in the village and in the city. People in rural areas are closer to the traditional mystical tradition than people living in the city. They also often observe a greater number of traditions based on Kejawen. In the village, the aforementioned Reog or Kuda Lumping is more often danced and we find more people who are still actively practicing Kejawen.
Although the interest in mysticism in its traditional form is waning, on the other hand there is a growing demand for various commercial spiritual lectures or remedies. Young people often like to watch horror films or various mysticism-oriented television programmes, but the original complexity and philosophy of Kejawen is lost in these programmes.
Despite these tendencies, traditional mysticism still has its followers in Java. Kejawen forms an important part of Indonesia’s cultural heritage, the principles of which, whether ethical or spiritual, have influenced Javanese society to some extent to the present day.
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