Suwuk, as it is called amongst Javanese communities, is a unique therapeutic treatment using certain spells and readings blown or sprayed with water onto both ears or the top of the head of children/people who are suffering odd anxiety and nervous attacks. Suwuk is also called teguh patimbulan (firm uprooting), as when a child is sick parents may say “Come let’s go root out that pain by the elder ya?…”  Suwuk or teguh patimbulan is not only used to treat physical pain, but also can be used if a child displays a strange behavior or acts mischievous (for example seldom obedient). It is believed that after a suwuk treatment the soul of a child will than tend to act accordingly by experiencing a change in behavior.

In practice this suwuk is applied by blowing a spell over the head yet other methods exist by which water is sprayed or even spit is used. Clean water, spit or water mixed with flowers  function  as a medium for the shaman to transfer the spell  or mantra onto the soul of the child.

The casting of a suwuk utilizes mostly very ancient Javanese spells (japa mantra) which sometimes may seem awkward to an outside observer.  Commonly the mantra will mention the male or female genitals of the child, which might be interpreted in a funny or shockingly pornographic way. Yet the reason for the shaman (dukun) to mention the genitals is because of a traditional Javanese belief linked to the origin of the human birth. Mantras which mention the genitals are considered ampuh (powerful spells) since the birth is related to the root cause of a human’s later development in life, a state of near-complete mental purity and innocence. A sort of early untainted format of the person’s mind in other words. The energy at the genital level (related to Mooladhara in the 7 Chakras theory) can be coerced by the shamanic healer to be re-formatted to that initial stage of the mind. The belief further goes on that by thus proceeding and mentioning the genitals, many diseases or psychological disturbances may in that way easily be overcome and healing will ensue. A whole list of mantras exist where the mentioning of genitals occur in combination with specifically targeted directives, which are then recited above the head of the suffering person, accompanied by a blowing carrying inner power or by spraying a medium of purifying water over the crown of the head and around the ears.

As an example of such a typical Javanese mantra, the following charm is used to pacify babies or children who have difficulties to sleep (insomnia):


“My intention is to read this sacred verse. Its power is filling the Universe, returning Peace amongst the little creations, and its spaciousness as in a house of faith. I’m located in the middle of the gate by the Penis. Activated through the hairs of this child … (say the name of the child). Leave now for the vast grassy plains which is your home and where you find your sugarcane food in ample amounts. If you do not go I will order your Lord the Creator to chase you. ”

After reading this spell out loud, blow onto the crown of the head and ears as many as 3 times. This blowing should be made with a strong suggestion of evacuating negative energies from the body of the patient.

Moko Pramusanto





Pundong 057

Ngelmu iku kelakone kanthi Laku


It may sometimes strike the visitor to Java as an odd thing that most Javanese display pious displays of religiosity and at the same time are keeping space for spiritual connections with the invisible world of spirits and ancestors. The former can be seen now through the observance of the fasting practice during the Muslim Ramadan month, and the latter through the various annual ceremonies and sacred rituals held at graveyards around the city and Province (Royal Cemetery of Imogiri for example). This is a deeply ingrained cultural facet of the Javanese which manifests through the process of ‘Inculturisation’ of foreign faiths and local spiritual beliefs, often called Kejawen here. This integration of religion and spirituality is seen as a logical and accepted practice if we understand the deeply rooted foundation of Tantularism in Javanese culture. Tantularism, which is coined after an 9th century Saint named Mpu Tantular, basically advocates values of non-doctrinal, religious, accommodating, tolerant and optimistic characteristics for a pan-Javanese philosophy. One of his ideas, ‘Bhinneka ing Tunggal’ (Unity in Diversity) was even been adopted as the motto for the Indonesian Constitution by the founding fathers of the Republic of Indonesia back in 1945.

On a spiritual level, Kejawen followers who feel more authentically ‘Javanese’ with their worldview, take great care to preserve ancient core animistic beliefs in ancestors and the surrounding spirit world as well as ingrained Hindu-Buddhist values of life and death. Even though they might declare themselves officially Muslim, Christian, Hindu or Buddhist and follow these religions doctrines. Why then is it so that many of the Javanese still attach so much importance to their so-called ancestors in this modern day and age? The reason is simply because in this uniquely oriental worldview ancestors, spirits and certain gods have an important impact in the universe’s dynamics and thus play a determining role in human’s lives. Conversely humans have to modify their attitudes towards these invisible beings’ dimensions in order to achieve success or safety and avoid accidents or failures. The connection between humans and the spirit dimensions is possible since the Macro-cosmos of the Universe is concentrated and manifested through the human as a micro-cosmic replica of it. The mental consciousness of a human enables him through his ‘Batin’ or clear mind to communicate with other living consciousnesses which may not necessarily possess the material layers any longer. It is widely accepted that higher consciousnesses such as enlightened and wise ancestors have the power to diffuse energetically laden signals to the batin receiver of a human. Javanese Kejawen spiritual knowledge of how to guarantee good things and avoid bad ones is called nglemu or Ilmu, and often integrates the participation of the metaphysical spirit realms. In simple terms, the subtle beings are carriers of numerous teachings for humans, good and bad that is, and through his/her reading of it, a human may advance to what is ultimately desired which is a state of wisdom or perfection. Wisdom is inherently good as it makes sense of life and death’ sometimes unpredictable cycles.

Be this as it may, this widespread spiritual culture is still presently alive and brings about various physical and visual habits, behaviors and practices. These may be collective or individual in nature. People who attach a high importance to the acquisition of ilmu are called ‘penghayat’ or devotees and are seen to individually spend enough time, effort and even money to this safety-giving purpose. The interesting thing about the Kejawen inculturisation spirituality is that no major buildings or faith communities are required specifically designed to the practice. Kejawen practitioners can practice their spirituality anywhere and at almost any time, alone or with whoever cares to join. Yet it is true that some spots or sites are considered more propitious energetically speaking and certain times of the day are preferred. Ritual practices are seen as the applied aspect of the ilmu acquisition, and are necessary exercises to phenomenologically convince oneself of the beneficial powers and realization of the ilmu.

Many of the preferred places to practice spirituality and ritual offerings to ancestors are located on or near the South Coast of the island. This is connected to the belief that the mythological famous Queen of the South Sea, Ratu Kidul or sometimes known as Kanjeng Ibu (The Mother), rules the world of Javanese spirits and ancestors. Many spots along this coast and so many legendary stories involving spiritually powerful ancestors relate the sea’s attraction of Javanese in their search for spiritual wisdom. The Kings of Yogyakarta are no exception to this cult. One of the spots we want to highlight in this context of Ilmu and laku is a beach hill named Gunung Lanang in Temon subregency, Kulonprogo district about 30km west of Yogyakarta. This sacred spot, which is quite scenic during the day, offers a venue for a combination of animistic, Buddhist and Islamic practices by the mystically inclined visitors and thus perfectly illustrates our point.

The philosophical importance of Gunung Lanang to the Javanese who apply the laku practices there is encapsulated in the term Tirakat which in Kejawen is an abbreviation of ‘Merihake Ati’ or ‘wholehearted devotion’. The aim of Tirakat is ‘Ati Kang Raket’ or ‘unifying inner and outer dimensions of the body in order to propagate compassion’. Within their laku or tirakat practice, the mystics attempt to only fill the mind with beneficial or righteous objects of meditation, which then allows a mental foundation which reflects the reality of emptiness of identity to oneself termed Sarira Bethara (or Perfection of Righteousness). The criteria for such a mental condition are as follows:

  • Right view
  • Right thoughts
  • Right speech
  • Right actions
  • Right living
  • Right work
  • Right perception
  • Right concentration (Semedi Benar)

Gunung Lanang, but also other such places facing the ocean (ex. Ngobaran), can be seen as a place to clean or purify the spirit (Dunung) and lanang symbolizes the Warrior which struggles for Ultimate Reality and Happiness. These qualities attract the Javanese mystic to a site like Gunung Lanang, whereby if the above criteria are followed or at least aspired for, he/she will certainly succeed in his quest to ultimate happiness. As the Wedhotomo bible of kejawen states: Ngelmu iku kelakone kanthi Laku, meaning ‘spiritual realization can only be attained through full-hearted practice’.

By Patrick Vanhoebrouck and Moko Pramusanto



Imitate the nature of Water

Much like the ancient Candi Hindu and Buddhist temples, Javanese Royal architecture gives an insight into very indigenous ideas on cosmology. The spiritual interpretation of such constructions explains the layout and shapes that were adopted for buildings such as the Kraton and peripheral structures like the Tamansari water palace. To start, it is by all means necessary to remind the visitor of the role that the chosen Raja (King) plays when he is installed as the uppermost leader of the Javanese citizens. In Javanese traditional worldview it is an accepted concept that the right candidate to the throne is the one who possesses the divine wahyu to rule. As such the selected king could be considered as a ‘God King’ or a leader backed by a Divine blessing to rule. In this role he has not only to profile himself as a courageous and wise secular ruler yet should manifest himself also as a container of spiritual sakti or power. Since ancient times, generations of Javanese rulers and heirs to the throne have popularly demonstrated their skill to publicly display this sakti and henceforth be seen as the container of the divine wahyu or God’s legitimacy to rule on earth. Historical characters in the genealogy of the present Yogyakarta Sultan mention for example the ascetic Brahman King Prabu Airlangga (11th century) or the clairvoyant King Joyoboyo (12th C.). Closer to us are the powerful figures of Senopati and his grandson the Great Sultan Agung, the beloved founders of the present Mataram Dynasty in the 16th century. Their unquestionable authority over friends and foe owed arguably more to this type of spiritual perfection (laku) than any other talent they could display as chosen top-leaders.

Another concept to bear in mind is the Javanese belief in the lahir batin interaction, whereby all microcosmic features are manifestations of macrocosmic or universal truths…or should be ideally. In this sense through spiritual practice and consequent perception, a human mind can fathom the grander truths of godly creation dynamics and reproduce them in a material manifestation on earth. A sense of higher wisdoms and powerful energy manipulation combine to act in the image of enlightened ancestors which have already unified with the upper Creator Being himself (famous Manunggaling Kawulo Gusti concept). In this view the King would arguably be placed as the main universal contender to rule wisely and with divine boons to guarantee prosperity and safety.

As a consequence of this worldview, it is not surprising that kings legitimated their rule by building palaces and other constructions that reminded the population of divine worlds in a symbolic manner. From geographical orientation to shapes and ornaments, many building in the Mataram Empire of Yogyakarta have followed such cosmological concepts in Javanese architecture including the present day Kraton, Tugu tower and the Tamansari Waterpalace. These places were built to represent the worldly center of the Universe (pusat bumi), the center point axis binding energetically lines of a supernatural realm. A suitable palace for such a divine ruler can only be conceived in terms of ideas of Javanese culture and philosophy which form the foundation of shapes and disposition of the kraton building. The choice of the right location is of importance, since a kraton borrows its mystical power through its orientation in function of specific mountains, oceans and forests. In Yogya the South-North axis is always determining, following an imaginary line form the Merapi crater to the Parangkusumo sacred beach by the south coast.

In similar fashion, the Tamansari cannot thus merely be seen as a pleasure garden for the Sultans and their families as the complex of gardens, pavilions, baths and walls symbolizes just as many oceans, continents and mountains and reproduces a mirror image of the macrocosmos on earth.  The major pools (which have disappeared now) were reproducing the southern ocean, and the curious underwater galleries gave an impression of the inside of the Queen of the South Seas’ Palace under the waves. High rise ornamented gates and the huge Kenanga multi storied building (now a ruin) on top of an artificial hill-island reminded the onlooker of the Mahameru Mountain of sacred texts, where Bathara Guru the Upper God and his court of Dewa’s live and from where they rule the Universe. The Sultan had private baths built to suit himself and his harem of beautiful girls to reproduce an image of the Suroloyo Highest Deity surrounded by his Widadaris of royal nymphs of extreme beauty and kindness. The Sumur Gumuling or underwater Mosque contained a sacred spring beneath the fantastic work of staircases, forming a floating platform where the Sultan would meditate and replicate himself inside the Ratu Kidul undersea palace off the southern coast. Private apartments for the Sultan and his concubines are built above small canals of pure spring-water where according to spiritualist the King would meet and consume his relationship with the Spirit Queen (Pasarean Ledoksari is still considered highly haunted at night). Other high altars placed in top rooms of storied buildings provided just as many meditation places for the King to practice his ascetic efforts to reach wisdom and inter-realm excursions.

Why was the Tamansari conceived of as a water palace, or in other words what was then the importance of water circulating throughout the whole complex of buildings, galleries and apartments? Again a Javanese philosophical concept explains the importance of a human being’s capacity to unite spiritually with the four basic elements of life: water, fire, earth and wind. The symbolic meaning of the volcano mountain is to be found in its image as a union of all four elements. Oceans and rivers exist in bonded mutuality since the aspects of fire and wind make possible the life-giving flow of water over the land and earth. The water element is the perfect binding media between all four elements, and it is seen to link all continents on the globe without interruption. As such a spiritual mastery of this element is primordial in Javanese mysticism since it allows for supernatural travel and communication over arbitrary distances. It is said in philosophical terms that “Water is soothing; it fulfills the needs of all living things in the Universe. It always flows from high to lower areas and adjusts itself to that law in order to contribute to fertility that can give strength in life. Therefore the water will bring beauty to and from the King’s park like his daughter who visits the baths, and will soulfully emanate her beauty around.” A royal poem from the 17th century further reads:

“Water also has tremendous power. With continuous drops of water, one will be able to destroy a stone. Of that philosophy, we can learn to live in this world by putting forward the gentle nature of water in a pool; with tenderness we’ll find a way to achieve wisdom (Jumeneng Sepuh) in answer to all the problems following wave dynamics. Solve all problems by mimicking the softness of the water.”

By Moko Pramusanto and Patrick Vanhoebrouck



LENGLENGAN (Leucas lavandulifolia)
Lenglengan is a multi-usage wild plant and one of the many Javanese species of plants that contain medicinal properties. As with other wild plants, lenglengan easily grows just about anywhere. This plant can be found from lowlands until heights below 1,500m of altitude. It grows seasonal, upright, 20 to 60 cm high. Single leaf, the color is light green.
It grows tiny little flowers shaped like a tongue, white of color, arranged in a bouquet of dense growth; fruit contains a pit, brown of color. Seeds are round, small, black.
The plant has bio-chemical properties and pharmacological effects tasting bitter, spicy, warm producing. Benefits: mainly used as a Tranquilizer and antiseptic. The chemical components in the leaves and roots contain potent compounds including: saponins, flavonoids and tannins, leaves also contain essential oils.


As a medicine Lenglengan is used for symptoms such as: difficulty to sleep, feeling restless, Headache, Influenza, Cough, whooping cough, diphtheria, heart palpitations, belated menstruation, impaired digestion, worms, Diabetes (diabetes mellitus), seizures, epilepsy.
Internal use: Boil 10-15 grams of leaves. Let seep and drink.
External use: the whole plant is washed and then finely ground, for topical use on wounds, sores, and scabies.
The physiological effect of the plant is calming. Traditionally the Lenglengan plant was called the “leaves of demon” as it was used to combat symptoms of restlessness and insomnia, which was allegedly caused by the work / disturbance of demons. Local physicians still often use this plant to cope with such symptoms. The plant is also widely used against sleeplessness, especially with children, by means of filling the pillow with dried leaves before bedtime in order for the restless child to sleep soundly. The association of the Lenglengan leaf with demons and mysticism in traditional stories is misplaced as in reality the plants faculty to calm down nervous or restless persons are attributed to its pharmacological effects which are sedative and calming.

Directions for use:

1. Epilepsy: Wash and boil handful of leaves in 3 cups of water until the water reduces to 1 ½ cups. Let it cool and drink adding sugar to taste. One can drink 3 glasses per day for optimal effect.
2. Heat cramps in children: wash a handful of leaves, finely ground them and add water + salt. Stir until it forms mushy dough and use to scrub the body of children suffering from heat seizures.
3. Headaches and anxiety seizures: Wash and boil a stick of the roots in 3 cups of water until reduces to 1 ½ cups. After cooling down and filtering, drink the concoction by adding sugar to taste first. 3 cups a day.
4. Whooping cough: Wash and boil a stick of the roots in 3 cups of water until reduces to 1 ½ cups. After cooling down and filtering, drink the concoction by adding sugar to taste first. 3 cups a day.

If you experience restlessness and worry, try the easy and cheap remedy of Lenglengan weed. Have fun and keep healthy!
By Moko Pramusanto

SEPTIM Lembaga Kursus dan pelatihan Seni pengobatan Timur (EDUCATIVE COURSES IN THE ART OF EASTERN HEALING)




                      Working to achieve happiness for fellow living beings

  The history and attraction of Kota Gede, the quaint old part of town southeast of Yogyakarta city, cannot be separated from the biographies of two main characters in Yogyakarta’s history namely Panembahan Senopati and his guru and father, Ki Ageng Pamenahan. According to the chronicles of the land of Java (the book Babad Tanah Jawi), it became the chosen spot for the capital and palace of the new Mataram Empire after the fall of the North coast Demak kingdoms and the central Pajang kingdom in the sixteenth century. Ki Ageng Pamenahan was a direct descendant of the mighty Majapahit emperor Brawijaya V, the last of the Hindu-Buddhist rulers in Java. As a spiritual counselor to the king of Pajang, Sultan Hadiwijaya, he inherited a vast area of fertile forested land named Alas Mentaok. The place had beforehand been predicted and blessed by a respected spiritual hermit, the Sufi Saint Sunan Kalijaga to become the seat of the next dynasty of Javanese rulers named Mataram; a dynasty which lasts until today with the contemporary Sultan and Sunan of Yogyakarta and Surakarta. Sunan Kalijaga marked the spot where he had meditated and received this vision by planting a banyan tree in a clearing of the forest, nearby a sacred spring with abundant clear water.

Indeed as Ki Ageng Pamenahan later developed the area it rapidly became a wealthy village which soon attracted traders and spiritually inclined seekers. He was known as one of the greatest spiritual teachers of the modern Javanese era (started in the 16th century). Yet he was personally too humble to succeed as a King figure as he was loyal to the Sultan Hadiwijaya the King of Pajang near Kartosuro (Solo). He preferred to merely rule as an Adipati or regent, and instill moral and spiritual bits of culture into the hearts and minds of his counterpart citizens. As such he is also considered to be one of the great founders of traditional Javanese culture which touched upon almost all aspects of everyday life of a Javanese community. Characteristically the elements of secular activities, foremost agriculture, were intimately intertwined with Kejawen spirituality, as physical and socio-political manifestation of the essential values laid out within the Kejawen worldview. Ki Ageng Pamenahan merely reproduced or revived notions of statehood and leadership which had been developed and adopted way before since the advent of the Hindu Buddhist kingdoms of the ancient past. Kota Gede really started to become important when his son Panembahan Senopati was crowned the new ruler of Java as the King from Mataram.

After succeeding to his adoptive father the Sultan of Pajang, Senopati turned vast areas of Central and East Java into vassal states of the Mataram Kingdom. He consolidated the power of Kota Gede by building a Palace, a major market and large assembly fields (alun alun) as well as developing the economic, military and political backbones of Mataram. His rule lasted only 13 years from 1587 until his death in 1601. The prosperity and power of Kota Gede (meaning Big city) was designed around an idea that positioned the new capital as the center of the Universe, originally in the Javanese world as the source of the divine power that included all representatives from different regions in the domination, from Surabaya East to the kingdoms of West Java and the Northern coastal states of Pasisir. Senopati was ambitious indeed yet his power and divine blessing (wahyu) to rule over this central divine axis was recognized by friends and foe alike. He convinced everyone by the fact that his spiritual level was condoned and supported by the most powerful ancestors and spirits of Java. The mythology of the early Mataram Kingdom is suffused with supernatural victories and alliances with spirit armies, the most notorious one his forced alliance with the Queen of the South Seas, Nyai Ratu Kidul. The Queen, as a chosen representative of Mother Earth (or Kanjeng Ibu) succumbed to the powers and charm of the new human king, and promised her allegiance to him and his descendants ever after on the condition that they respected the Kejawen attitudes and worldview.

Islam thus was chosen as the State religion, yet it was adapted to local beliefs and mostly remnants of Hindu-Buddhist practices. For the first time Kejawen practices were adopted as a common public spiritual culture through the efforts of Ki Ageng Pamenahan and Senopati, two practitioners who had before been confined to their sites in natural spots in the forest. As part of visions and clairvoyance, Ki Ageng Mataram had trained his son to prepare him to be able to take on the task of building this new type of Kingdom which necessarily had to carry on the spiritual heritage of the old Javanese Kingdoms. It was essential as the spirits of Java and the revered ancestors would not grant the Wahyu to rule otherwise. It was thus the fate of Senopati to become a Divine ruler, and to this day his example and life stories represent a tremendous inspiration to modern Javanese especially those citizens living in Kota Gede. We could almost brand him with a title of Messiah, as he and some of his descendants such as his grandchild Sultan Agung who greatly expanded Mataram (buried in Imogiri Royal cemetery) are considered leluhur agung (Grand Ancestors). The worship of such great ancestors is part of the deeply rooted Budi Luhur aspect of Kejawen. The sacred spots in nature around the province of Yogyakarta and Central Java where Senopati and his father practiced the wisdom of Kejawen are still intensively visited by mystical seekers from all corners of Java and Indonesia.

More specifically the royal cemetery of Kotagede and its attributes all around importantly contribute to keep alive an identity and a way of life highlighting traditional indigenous knowledge and attitudes. Even the old trades of gold and silver-smiths are still alive, as these were intentionally also supported during the Dutch colonial period later after subduing Mataram’s rule of Java. Senopati was a huge spiritual practitioner, not a day passed without him perfecting his laku (supernatural powers). Assumedly he did this in order to guarantee the wealth of all people within his empire. In line with his exemplary life deeds, the Serat Wedhotomo text written by the 19th century King Mangkunegara IV from Solo, mentions this about Senopati: “Nuladha laku utama , Tumrape wong Tanah Jawi , Wong agung ing Ngeksiganda ,  Panembahan Senapati , Kepati amarsudi , Sudane hawa lan napsu,  Pinepsu tapa brata, Tanapi ing siang ratri, Amamangun karyenak tyasing sesama “  meaning “Imitate the very good deed, on behalf of the people in the land of Java, by the great man of Mataram, Panembahan Senopati, trying to reach a calmed mind​​, defeating desire and lust, by doing meditation, both day and night, and working to achieve happiness for fellow living beings”.  

By Patrick Vanhoebrouck and Moko Pramusanto


KEROKAN is a medical treatment that traditionally uses a coin which is then lightly scraping on the surface of the skin of the body in determined areas such as: neck, arm, back-waist, sacrum – buttocks, stomach (abdomen), the folding area ofthe knee (popliteal) – rear legs (gastronomeus) – heel (Achilles tendon). Pressure with the coin is accompanied by applying oil as a lubricant so as not to injure the skin for example coconut oil or olive oil.

Kerokan is part of indigenous knowledge. Many Javanese suffering of sickness don’t feel comfortable if they haven’t yet performed a Kerokan. It is often used for symptoms such as bloated abdomen, headaches, light fevers or achy muscles. Javanese call these types of symptoms Masuk angin or intrusion of winds. Winds in holistic medicine are to be understood as External Causes of Disease, such as air-drafts, cold and humidity which enter the skin and cause an unanticipated reaction on the Organ meridians. The effect of Kerokan is to pressure certain key points on the meridians that will effect a better circulation of blood and oxygen through affected areas. Dead skin also gets removed in the process. According to Medical research, the effect of Kerokan on the endorphin glands is significant, as when this hormone is activated feeling of warmth, stimulation and tonification will lead to more comfortable feeling. The enzyme Prostaglandin decreases by the application of Kerokan, which has direct effects on the tension on specific muscles especially below the abdomen and on localized spots at the same time reduces stomach acid and contractions in pubic muscles.

Usually the kerokan scraping with the coin is done from high to low and left and right away from the spine, making parallel lines on the back left and right of the spine. The coin is held at 45 degrees so the scraping is not too injurious to the skin. According to the science of acupressure the dorsal area (thoracic) contains energetic points for the organs such as lungs, heart pericardium, heart, liver, spleen pancreas, kidneys, large intestine, triple energizer, small intestine, gallbladder, stomach and bladder. So when the kerokan hits these areas, heat spots will indicate the smooth current of energy which in turn strengthens the immune system to an optimal level.
One important element of the therapy is the emotional bond between the doer and the receiver of the Kerokan. A mother treating her kid with kerokan in an affective and caring mode represents a bio-psychosocial component which is often ignored in modern medicine. For kerokan of kids below the age of 5, the coin is replaced by an application of crushed red onion mixed with salt and coconut oil which is applied on similar areas, bringing about feelings of comfortable warmth which then encourages peaceful sleep.

By Moko Pramusanto and Patrick Vanhoebrouck
Institute of Eastern Arts of Healing, Seni Pengobatan Timur (SEPTIM)



pasir wayang

In the midst of the Gunungkidul (or Wonosari) plateau southeast of Yogyakarta city, a small natural wonder occurs in the form of an attractive waterfall. The place is called Sri Gethuk and is situated in the Bleberan sub-district near Playen town. One approaching this waterfall will certainly notice the dramatic change in landscape in terms of the ecological biotope this abundant source of water causes. What’s more if the visit happens during the dry season, where the typical brownish Gunungkidul environment of parched limestone, dry teak-trees and brush vegetation turns into a sparkling green valley slope rich with copious rice fields and coconut trees. One might feel closer to a lush Balinese Subak atmosphere rather than the actual Javanese plateau. The key for this wonder is the waterfall which is fed by 4 main underground springs. The crystalline water-supply never knows drought, as it flows out of the earth with a regular debit throughout the year.

The underground springs which feed the waterfall are the subject of many legends that to this day are important reminders for the local population in terms of their relationship with the surrounding nature and the Universe in general. That relationship in typical Javanese manner includes the physical and the metaphysical realms of Universe. With Sri Gethuk waterfall, the belief is centered on the fact that the water springs are inhabited by colonies of supernatural beings present from time immemorial before the arrival of the first human inhabitant. As in all such stories the particular spirit colony of Sri Gethuk is ruled by a King named Jin Anggo Menduro. It is said that these Jin (spirits) are fond of music and beautiful sound harmonies, and this would explain why visitors to the place can occasionally hear faint sounds of a Gamelan orchestra playing a ladran or gending tune. More than that, some reputed ancestors of the past in Bleberan village who were skilled in the mystical knowledge of Kebatinan and were familiar with the Topo Broto practice were able to borrow the gamelan form the spirits for the human communities’ events. It is told that this gamelan was then used at nighttime for weddings, village ceremonies and such initiation rituals, and returned before sunrise to the metaphysical storehouse near the waterfall. The phenomena of hearing metaphysical orchestra sounds played by spirits here in Central Java, a common feature to be honest, is called Bahasa Jawa Pandulon, or Javanese supernatural Language. The sounds and noises from the other realms can be acknowledged by humans depending on their consciousness level which is often acquired through Kebatinan methods of practice. A further story (dongeng) told locally is that an incident once occurred whereby the gamelan was returned to the spirits yet some striking tools had been kept by unruly spectators. It became thereupon impossible to borrow the gamelan. The deprived community was burdened for a long time as they couldn’t play music at their traditional events thereafter, and it took a while to get the funds together to acquire a new physical gamelan.

The local population of the Bleberan area is very aware of the miraculous nature of their water rich environment which has been consistently supplying them with fresh drinking and irrigation water for generations since the first inhabitants settled here. These pioneers from the 17th century discovered the spot as they were freedom fighters and rebels on the run from Dutch Colonial repression. Here the laskar Mataram, led by amongst other a famous knight named Ky Kromo Wongso, survived in the forbidding forests and caves to rest and supply themselves between ambush and warfare activities directed at Dutch Battalions dominating the Royal Yogyakarta and Surakarta Kraton regions. The physical and metaphysical bounty of the place, especially clean water, was the key for their long-standing role in trying to defeating the Dutch. Supernatural protection and invulnerability powers were acquired through Topo Broto practices in collusion with the Spirits of Java and especially the connection of the local Goa Rancang Kencono cave with the Merapi Elders (see Jogjamag…). To this day the cave and the waterfall are subject of nighttime mystical rituals, and placing of offerings, both by locals during annual ceremonies and outsiders in search of spiritual wisdom and powers following Kejawen precepts.

The name Sri Gethuk comes from the instrument g Kethuk in the Javanese gamelan orchestra, more specifically the one used interchangeably with the Kenong xylophone instrument. The musical and rythmic relationship between Kethuk and Kenong form a starting and ending process in the tembang song structure of the gamelan music. More specifically the Kethuk always initiates the Kenong which follows. Kenong is a divider, in Javanese called tibaning Guru lagu (final syllable in the song or gending). Kethuk – Kenong in the gamelan are crucial in shaping a harmonious sound of a piece due to their unique rhythmic interrelationship. Symbolically applied to the human experience itself, the interpretation suggests that a harmonious rhythm in life will help materialize Beauty. Rhythm or Alignment is the truth, beauty and goodness as long as it contains the values of consciousness as a whole. But if one fails to maintain harmony to Javanese this is like death, devotion and prayer to the supreme Godhead will fail or be fruitless. As described in the sacred text Serat Sastro Gendhing by the 3rd Mataram King Sultan Agung (17th century): “Pramila gendhing yen bubrah, gugur sembahe mring Gusti” which means “When the piece /rhythm is broken, the act of worshipping the Creator fails”.

By Moko Pramusanto and Patrick Vanhoebrouck

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