Rituals

Me and my friends, the usual ones plus plus (this time: Pharmacology feat. Mbak Ana IKM), congregated as usual in one of our haunts after work, this time in that quasi-café. After not-so-big a portion of fried noodles (we knew that the portion is smaller than usual, because Juhai can gobbled up all her portion) and milkshake, we’re got snoozed down and started the petty talk.

Started with the routine quarrel between Juhai and Jo, and she threw crushed leaves to his chest. This reminded me to the rituals of Banjarese wedding. Like Javanese, it’s a long one, that is, I’ve read the book about this once; actually I had the book, but now I don’t know where it is. Yes, one of the rituals is when the bride throws sirih (betel) leaves (Piper sermentosum) to the chest of the bridegroom who stands one meter or so in front of her. This is goes back to the old time when sometimes the bridegroom is not a human being, but a snake impersonating human *shudders* the sirih leaves will change the snake back into the original shape.

Banjar people, like any other tribes in Indonesia, has their own rituals for any occasions.
I remember when I was in my elementary school, the roads were not like today. There were no asphalted roads, only sand, soils and clays, sometimes just planks put over streams. There were not as many houses as now. The roadsides consisted of grassy lands, cemeteries, lots of coconut trees with roots wents up out of soils high enough to climb, small streams, small wood bridges, many water puddles when it’s raining. Everything looked so rural, despite the fact that I lived in the heart of the biggest city of South Kalimantan. We used to run fast home in the afternoon after school with shoes in our hands, schoolbags looked like suitcase (there were no backpacks) banging at our legs, school uniforms got wet bacause of rain and perspiration, tried to tread the road as far as we can from the cemetery, hid in the bushes if we met the grassmower with his grass-waggon and his sharp arit (scythe). It was believed that grassmowers cut the heads of children and hid them under the grass in their grass-waggon. I don’t know were our parents just tried to scare us so we would go straight home or because the grassmowers really did that. In South Kalimantan, when you made a big bridge, you need to sacrifice a black chicken or a black goat, beheaded the animal, and put the head in one of the cast iron pipe supporting the bridge. For whom the sacrifice was given? It was said to the Power who have and control the land, a remnants of animism. Sometimes, the bridge-in-progress could never be finished, there was always some collapse in this part or landslide in that part (won’t be surprised, South Kalimantan consisted mostly of swamp), and they said, the Power wanted the head of a small child (this is where the grassmowers came into the stage). If you don’t give Him that, there will be a child killed. In my lifetime, I experienced this once: a big bridge in Teluk Dalam, one of the major road in Banjarmasin, was build, and a small boy just fell into one of the narrow supporting pipes (I can’t imagine how), couldn’t be brought out of the pipe until a black chicken was sacrificed. All local newspapers were full of the pictures. Creepy.

There was this small well I usually passed when I got home from school through one of the shortcuts in my elementary years (there were some of them: bypass next to the well, or passing through the coconut tree roots forest –up-and-down-until-I-fell-down-once– or run through the cemetery or through the Madurese houses). Don’t expect any Sadako things. No. But any children passed the well without picking this certain leaves from the bushes next to the well, tied it with itself, and threw the leaves into the well and said “Umpat lalu, Datu” (free translation: “Please let me pass, Eldest.”) will got fever at the night after. The ritual of doing things to avoid bad things happened to you called “bepidara”, and events when bad things happened to you because you don’t do the ritual are called “kepidaraan”.

When I told my friends about this, Jo came up about this story about Jingah tree. He said that if you pass a Jingah tree (he could’t describe the tree), you have to say: “Jingah, biniku” (free translation: “Jingah is my wife”) if you are a male, or “Jingah lakiku” (free translation: “Jingah is my husband) if you are a female. If you don’t do that, you will get pruritus (itch). Maybe the tree has some defensive apparatus in the form of small needles that caused itch (“miang” in Banjarese), like you usually get when you touch bamboo. So Jingah has so many husbands and wives (it is a bisexual, then). Maybe the area in Banjarmasin called Sungai Jingah once full of Jingah trees.

There are a lot of rituals like this, and AFAIK, I never knew there is a book about Banjarese rituals. A book about Banjarese wedding, or about traditional games, or Banjarese folklores, I have seen them. But none on the rituals and myths. Young people of today never know these stories, and their parents are too busy to tell them or too educated to tell mystical things to their children. It’s a pity, these stories are treasures of Banjarese culture. If not we, who else will make it last?

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