The first thing we saw at the witchcraft/gemstone market was a stall full of keris, the daggers traditionally believed to have mystical powers. According to a dubious book I read last year, for example, Soeharto had a keris that could make him invisible.
There were also lots of colored liquids in fancy little jars. Some were labeled as cleaning fluids for mystical objects. I asked about others and was told they were meant to be burned. Apparently they’re not a kind of incense, because they don’t smell good. When I asked why people burn them, the guy said: “Entertainment.”
Our favorite stall was the guy selling jewelry, twisted roots and cow’s teeth. He spent a lot of time answering our questions. He told us cow’s teeth, which he’s holding in the picture below, have a lot of spiritual power, but their properties are not well understood.
Twisted roots have a clear function, however: they protect your house from evil spirits, burglars, and so forth.
“Is that according to the old Javanese beliefs?” I asked. “Oh, according to everyone,” he answered. “It doesn’t matter what your religion is.” And maybe he has a point, because Chad tells me you can buy twisted roots for the same purpose at the farmer’s market he used to visit in North Carolina.
Naturally, we bought one. Whatever its properties, it’s kind of cool-looking.
The highlight of the market, though, were these creepy demons made out of mud, hair and bits of bone or wood. I think they, too, are meant to have protective properties. They live in fancy little velvet boxes so they won’t scare the hell out of you every time you walk into the room.
We bought one of them, too. Not this one, though — the seller wanted more than a hundred dollars for it, which seemed like a lot of money to pay for something that makes me feel kind of queasy.