Balancing The Universe: Shamanism in Sumatra, Indonesia

Sumatra is one island in the SE Asian chain of 17,ooo islands that make up Indonesia. The cultures specific to different islands have long been isolated from one another resulting is significant diversity. It is therefore helpful to organize the following Indonesian descriptions into major sub-groupings. Please browse through the following posts: Sumatra (Batak tribes), Borneo (Dayak tribes), Mentawai, and the Lesser Sunda Islands of Sumba, Flores, Timor and Lombok, among others to get the entirety of Indonesia.
Sumatra: One of Indonesia’s largest islands, it is home to the Batak tribes. Batak Datu, or shaman, are erudite men with a long esoteric history encompassing both white and black magic. They have the power to exercise power even after death. Like walking encyclopedias, they are well educated and proficient in science, history, medicine, theology and economics.
Becoming a Batak shaman is not a matter of choice as in many cultures where one recognizes a calling and seeks training. They are most often identified at a young age and obligated to serve a long apprenticeship. Their repertoire includes the ability to cast spells, influence the weather, find lost objects, and diagnose and treat physical and metal illnesses. They are also highly trained and prolific artist/craftsmen, required to produce their own sacred objects and medicines. The accordion style shaman books, written in the Batak language to preserve their healing and magical knowledge, are works of art in themselves.

'Pangulubalang' Shaman Figure (exceptionally rare), Sumatra, Indonesia, Batak, Simalungun, Mid 16th to 17th c, Stone, with patina They are specifically made by the shaman and embodied with a powerful spirit slave. They are used in conjunction with a magical substance, pupuk - a magical substance which is the embodiment of earthly suffering, destruction, hate and anger - which required special ingredients and a long and intricate preparation ritual. The purpose of this was to imbue the statue with the power to ward off evil spirits, to prevent disasters and as a dynamic healing tool. For healing, small bits of the statue itself were chipped off of corresponding body parts and made into a potion. 12” x 7 ¾” x 3 ½”, Price on request
‘Pangulubalang’ Shaman Figure (exceptionally rare), Sumatra, Indonesia, Batak, Simalungun, Mid 16th to 17th c, Stone

‘Pangulubalang’ Shaman Figure (exceptionally rare), Sumatra, Indonesia, Batak, Simalungun, Mid 16th to 17th c, Stone, with patina. They are specifically made by the shaman and embodied with a powerful spirit slave. They are used in conjunction with a magical substance, ‘pupuk’ – a magical substance which is the embodiment of earthly suffering, destruction, hate and anger – which required special ingredients and a long and intricate preparation ritual. The purpose of this was to imbue the statue with the power to ward off evil spirits, to prevent disasters and as a dynamic healing tool. For healing, small bits of the statue itself were chipped off of corresponding body parts and made into a potion. 12” x 7 ¾” x 3 ½”, Price on request

'Pustaha' or Shaman Medicine Book, Indonesia, Sumatra, Batak tribe, Wood cover, bark pages and braided rattan band. Late 19th or early 20th c, The book unfolds like an accordion. It contains the shaman’s magic formulas (tabas), oracles, recipes for medicines and instructions for performing rituals and for producing magic cures. It contains three main divisions of knowledge: the art of preserving life; the art of destroying life and the art of fortune telling. 4 ½” x 3 ½” x 2”, $2200.
‘Pustaha’ or Shaman Medicine Book, Indonesia, Sumatra, Batak tribe, Late 19th or early 20th c, Wood cover, bark pages and braided rattan band. 

The book unfolds like an accordion. It contains the shaman’s magic formulas (tabas), oracles, recipes for medicines and instructions for performing rituals and for producing magic cures. It contains three main divisions of knowledge: the art of preserving life; the art of destroying life and the art of fortune telling. 4 ½” x 3 ½” x 2”, $2200. (see inside detail below)

Inside Detail of 'Pustaha' or Shaman Medicine Book, Indonesia, Sumatra, Batak tribe, Wood cover, bark pages and braided rattan band. Late 19th or early 20th c, The book unfolds like an accordion. It contains the shaman’s magic formulas (tabas), oracles, recipes for medicines and instructions for performing rituals and for producing magic cures. It contains three main divisions of knowledge: the art of preserving life; the art of destroying life and the art of fortune telling. 4 ½” x 3 ½” x 2”, $2200.
Inside Detail of ‘Pustaha’ or Shaman Medicine Book (for cover, see previous image)
Female Effigy Figure Sumatra, Indonesia Batak tribe Mid 19th c. Wood, shell eyes, cloth, pigmented Use healing 16” x 19 ½” x 7” $2200.
Female Effigy Figure, Sumatra, Indonesia, Batak tribe, Mid 19th c, Wood, shell eyes, cloth

Used in healing rituals, 16” x 19 ½” x 7”, $2200.

Cat Amulet Sumatra, Indonesia Batak Tribe Early 20th century Wood, pigmented with soot, patina from age and use Amulets and Talismans are often used by the Datu (Shaman priest) as well as by the tribes people. There are innumerable ways in which a person can protect themselves as well as their village with these amulets. This cat-like figure was empowered to protect against wild animals, enemies and black magic. 5 ¼ “ x 4” x 2” $450.
Cat Amulet, Sumatra, Indonesia, Batak Tribe, Early 20th c, Wood pigmented with soot

.Amulets and Talismans are often used by the Datu (Shaman priest) as well as by the tribes people. There are innumerable ways in which a person can protect themselves as well as their village with these amulets. This cat-like figure was empowered to protect against wild animals, enemies and black magic. This one has a beautiful smooth patina from use and age. 5 ¼ “ x 4” x 2”, $450.

Shaman Divining Effigy, Sumatra, Indonesia, Karo village, Batak tribe, Late 19th c, Wood, pigment, fiber cord, smooth patina from use and age. Used to predict the future. 20” x 9” x 6”, $1450.
Shaman Divining Effigy, Sumatra, Indonesia, Karo village, Batak tribe, Late 19th c, Wood, pigment, fiber cord

Used in rituals to predict the future. 20” x 9” x 6”, $1450.

'Pustaha' or Shaman Medicine/Magic Book, Indonesia, Sumatra, Batak tribe, Wood cover, bark pages and braided rattan band. Late 19th or early 20th c, The book unfolds like an accordion. It contains the shaman’s magic formulas (tabas), oracles, recipes for medicines and instructions for performing rituals and for producing magic cures. It contains three main divisions of knowledge: the art of preserving life; the art of destroying life and the art of fortune telling. 1 ¾” x 2 ¼” x 3”, $1200.
‘Pustaha’ or Shaman Medicine/Magic Book, Indonesia, Sumatra, Batak tribe, Wood cover, bark pages and braided rattan band

The book unfolds like an accordion. It contains the shaman’s magic formulas (tabas), oracles, recipes for medicines and instructions for performing rituals and for producing magic cures. It contains three main divisions of knowledge: the art of preserving life; the art of destroying life and the art of fortune telling. 1 ¾” x 2 ¼” x 3”, $1200.

Shaman's Medicine/Magic Book, Sumatra, Indonesia Batak tribe, Early 19th c, Wood cover, bark pages. The book unfolds like an accordion. It contains the shaman’s magic formulas (tabas), oracles, recipes for medicines and instructions for performing rituals and for producing magic cures. It contains three main divisions of knowledge: the art of preserving life; the art of destroying life and the art of fortune telling. 8 ¼” x 5 ¼” x 2 ¾”, $3800.
Shaman’s Medicine/Magic Book, Sumatra, Indonesia, Batak tribe, Early 19th c, Wood cover, bark pages

The book unfolds like an accordion. It contains the shaman’s magic formulas (tabas), oracles, recipes for medicines and instructions for performing rituals and for producing magic cures. It contains three main divisions of knowledge: the art of preserving life; the art of destroying life and the art of fortune telling. 8 ¼” x 5 ¼” x 2 ¾”, $3800. (see inside detail below)

Inside Detail of Shaman's Medicine/Magic Book, Sumatra, Indonesia Batak tribe, Early 19th c, Wood cover, bark pages
Inside Detail of Shaman’s Medicine/Magic Book (see cover in previous image)
Shaman Effigy Statue, Sumatra Island, Indonesia, Batak tribe, Early to mid 20th c, Wood, metal, pigment, patinated with use and age. For protecting the shaman during healing rituals. 15 ¾” x 5” x 4 ¾”, $800.
Shaman Effigy Statue, Sumatra Island, Indonesia, Batak tribe, Early to mid 20th c, Wood, metal, pigment

For protecting the shaman during healing rituals. 15 ¾” x 5” x 4 ¾”, $800.

Shaman's Magic Staff, Sumatra, Indonesia, Batak tribe, Early 20th c, Wood, plant fiber, rattan, pigmented with soot. Used for calling spirits and in healing rituals. 56 ½” x 5” x 4 ¾”, $1600.
Shaman’s Magic Staff, Sumatra, Indonesia, Batak tribe, Early 20th c, Wood, plant fiber, rattan, pigmented with soot

Used for calling spirits and in healing rituals. 56 ½” x 5” x 4 ¾”, $1600.

Shaman Figure andOffering Platter, Sumatra, Indonesia, Batak tribe, Late 19th c, Wood, animal hair. For making offerings to spirits and deities. 18 ½’ x 14” x 14”, $650.
Shaman Figure and Offering Platter, Sumatra, Indonesia, Batak tribe, Late 19th c, Wood, animal hair

For making offerings to spirits and deities. 18 ½’ x 14” x 14”, $650.

Shaman Mortar/Bowl, Sumatra, Indonesia, Batak tribe, Early to mid 20th c. Wood, Used for grinding medicinal herbs. Singha (Lion) figure, 5 ½” x 5 ¾” x 12 ¼”, $420.
Shaman Mortar/Bowl, Sumatra, Indonesia, Batak tribe, Early to mid 20th c.
Wood

Used for grinding medicinal herbs. Singha (Lion) figure, 5 ½” x 5 ¾” x 12 ¼”, $420.

Shaman's Medicine Container, Sumatra, Indonesia, Batak tribe, Early 20th c, Wood, rattan, fiber cord, pigmented. Hung in a shaman’s home to store medicines. (left/large - 17” x 7 ¼” x 7 ¼”, $475.); (right/small -12” x 6 ¼” 6 ¼”, $375.)
Shaman’s Medicine Container, Sumatra, Indonesia, Batak tribe, Early 20th c, Wood, rattan, fiber cord, pigmented

Hung in a shaman’s home to store medicines. (left/large – 17” x 7 ¼” x 7 ¼”, $475.); (right/small -12” x 6 ¼” 6 ¼”, $375.)

Shaman's Wand, Sumatra, Indonesia, Batak tribe Mid 20th c, Wood, patinated from use and age. Ritual zoomorphic amulet for healing rituals. (left/small - 2” x 6 ½” x 1 ¼”, $120.); (2” x 7 ½” x 1”, $110.)
Shaman’s Wand, Sumatra, Indonesia, Batak tribe, Mid 20th c, Wood

Ritual zoomorphic amulet for healing rituals. (left/small – 2” x 6 ½” x 1 ¼”, $120.); (2” x 7 ½” x 1”,$110.)

Shaman Ritual Spirit Door, Sumatra, Indonesia, Batak tribe, Late 19th c, Wood, patinated with age and use. 52 ¼” x 16” x 6 ½”, $2200.
Shaman Ritual Spirit Door, Sumatra, Indonesia, Batak tribe, Late 19th c, Wood

The door from a shaman’s hut. 52 ¼” x 16” x 6 ½”, $2200. (see handle detail below)

Handle Detail of Shaman Ritual Spirit Door (see previous image)
Handle Detail of Shaman Ritual Spirit Door (see previous image)

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