Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1801 Batak datu 
Subjectdatu / guru shaman
Culture: Batak
Setting: northern Sumatra highlands 18-20thc

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Pusaka 1992 p143 caption
"Herbalists are called "datu among the Batak people of North Sumatra. They not only treat disease, but can also fortell the future and make their clients invulnerable to charms."

* Traditions of Asian art 1995 p35
"It is for the unpredictable events, of both small and large proportions, that a sorcerer is needed.  Although he invokes some assistance from the deities, his skills largely depend on his magical powers to control and dispel, and sometimes even to work, evil.  In performing such rites, the priest draws upon and manipulates the tools of his profession: his knowledge of formulae and potions, and his magical instruments, especially his staff.  The name tungkot malehat could be translated as 'the seeing staff', an appropriate title for an object used in divination and exorcism."

* Power and gold 1985 p98
"One category of Batak art goes a bit beyond the conceptual framework of local kinship into the realm of divination, magical protection, and sorcery.  This was the domain of the datu (the Toba and Angkola word) or the guru (the Karo term).  This person was the master spirit conjurer and spellcaster of Batak village life (and contemporary city life, for that matter, since datu sorcery has proven to be one of the most resilient and adaptive areas of Batak culture in this last century of rapid modernization and integration into national life).  Toba datu and Karo guru outfitted themselves with a panoply of magic wands, amulets, conjurer's rings, and potion pouches.  All these objects were designed to take evil influences from the sorcerer, his patient, and his village and cast them back to their source."


* Traditions of Asian art 1995 p35
"The magician-priests (datu or guru) of the ancestral religion of the Batak peoples of north Sumatra employed a range of ritual objects in their attempts to harness the supernatural world and make contact with the spirits of the deceased: special textiles and costumes, talismans and amulets, recipes for medicines and spells inscribed in beaten bark books, texts incised on bamboo oracle sticks, medicine horns and containers of all shapes.  The most potent object in the sorcerer's regalia, however, was the magical wand or staff, a family heirloom in the treasury of the clan or village chief.
​    "These long and elaborately carved staffs (tunggal or tungkot) were carried by the village shaman at magical rituals intended to ward off evil, protect the village and fortell the future.  The staff might be struck into the ground to form part of a protective 'fence' to keep evil at bay.  The head of the staff, and in some instances the length of the shaft, were carved with animals and human figures."

* Power and gold 1985 p103 (on the Toba)
"Primary among the datu's magical implements was his tunggal panaluan, magic staff or wand.  A number of humanlike figures and mythic characters, each with an open mouth, were carved into the wand.  To invest the staff with power the datu would 'feed' each little mouth with a concoction of magic material made in part from mashed human viscera from a sacrificed victim."

* Wagner 1988 p66
"Amongst objeccts used for ceremonial purposes decorated in this manner, the 'magic staff' is often of a bizarre beauty.  The figures and motifs are carved into a heavy stick of hardwood, and wrench themselves, so to speak, with the utmost effort towards the top, which is crowned by a free-standing figure, usually a human head."

* Schnitger 1989 p84 (writing in 1839)
"The stick, cut from a special kind of wood (kayu tunggalan), has a length of about 1.70 m.  In hard wood, figures of human beings and animals are often artistically carved in a row above each other.  The wand ends in an iron point, with which it is driven into the ground during ceremonies.  In some places and in the priests' language, the iron is said to be made 'by people from all points of the compass of Linggapayung and coming from the four princes, 7 times forged and 7 times melted and made into a deadly iron'.
"The topmost figure bears as a rule a helmet; in a little cavity of the head, the atrocious magic broth called pupuk was deposited, and round the head, red, white, and black threads were wound diagonally.  On this tricoloured turban is stuck a plume of human hair, horse hair, or cock's feathers.
​    "On most wands, seven figures of human beings are seen, also the figures of a snake and of a bull or ox.  As one knows, the number 'seven' plays an important part in Batak religion.  According to the Toba Batak, every human being possesses seven souls.  The Toba origin of the tunggal panaluan is generally recognized by the Bataks.  But although the country near the legendary mountain Pusuk Buhit is accepted as the place where the first sacred sticks came from, the magic wand is found in all the Batak provinces."


* Power and gold 1985 p103 (on the Toba)
"Datu adorned themselves with a veritable armamentarium of potent amulets and jewelry used for calling back (mangalap tondi) the lost souls of sick people or casting back evil influences such as enemy attacks or epidemics."

* Power and gold 1985 p96
"Batak jewelry exchange is complex.  In intriguing contrast to some of the patterns of cloth and metal exchange found in Eastern Indonesia, metal jewelry often serves Batak cultures as an important gift for conveying blessings and good health from wife-givers to wife-takers."



* Wagner 1988 p66
"The Bataks' excellence in wood-carving is ... evidenced by their 'medicine horns'.  These consist partly of a buffalo horn worked at one end only and plugged in front with a wooden stopper; this plug is in many cases beautifully worked.  The singa figure ... is employed over and over again, usually in conjunction with human figures placed one upon another."