Batak Peoples



The Old Religion



Gods, Spirits, and "Souls"



Contact with the Dead



A Karo Batak Guru






Gods, Spirits, and "Souls"



The Tendi Cult


4.1 -- p. 65a storeyed heaven

"At the beginning of time there was only the sky with a great sea beneath it. ...

All the ... myths record that at the beginning of creation stands the god Mula {Skt \mula\ 'root; basis, foundation'} Jadi {Skt \jad.i\ 'stupified, torpid'} Na Bolon. ...

Mula Jadi the great

{name similar to that of MULAka or else of JAD.a}

lives in the upper world {i.e., heaven} which is usually thought of as divided into seven levels or storeys.

His three sons, Batara Guru, Mangalabulan and Soripada were born from eggs laid by

a hen fertilized by Mula Jadi.

{implying that Mula Jadi is a rooster-cock}

Two swallows act as messengers and helpers to Mula Jadi in his act of creation. ...

Mula Jadi begets three daughters whom he gives as wives to his three sons. ... Mankind is a result of the union of the three couples. ...

Besides the three sons of Mula Jadi there is another god, Asiasi ... . ...

{name similar to that of ASI-loma ('sword-hair')}

What all the five gods so far mentioned have in common is that they ... are ... called on in prayers for help and assistance."

4.1 -- p. 65a netherworld

"The ruler of the under world, i.e. the primeval sea, is

the serpentdragon Naga Padoha.

{name similar to \PADOpaHAta\ = \padahata\ ('kicked'; in Pan.ini 6-3 , 52)}

He too existed before the beginning".

4.1 -- pp. 65b-66a cosmogony

p. 65b

"the daughter of Batara Guru, Si Boru Deak Parujar, ... flees from her future husband, the ugly son of Mangalabulan {\mangala\ 'omen; epithet of Skanda' + \BULan\ 'moon' : cf. \B<UWLah\ (Ys^a<yah 62:4) 'married' (N.B. according to the Dharma-s`astra-s, the moon is regarded as the temporary of each girl before she is married)}, and

lets herself down on a spun thread from the sky {similarly as would a spider in lowering itself by spinning its thread : cf. the Aztec category of goddesses called Tzitzimime, who lower themselves from the sky, as ("D&S", p. 50, fn. 40) "spiders"} to the middle world

{Though they be "fixed upon the sky" (Atharvan Veda 6:80:2 -- "CIV", p. 163) the 3 Kala-kan~ja-s, when due to Citra ('variegated' : the name of a naks.atra) their brick tower for ascending to heaven collapsed, they became (Taittiriya Brahman.a 1:1:2:4-6 -- "CIV", p. 164) the "spiders" on earth.}

which at that was still just a watery waste.

"... Out of compassion Mula Djadi sends his granddaughter a handful of earth ... . Sideak Parudjar was ordered to spread out this earth and thus the earth became broad and long. ... But ... Th earth had been spread out on the head of Naga Padoha, the dragon of the underworld who lived in the water. ... With the help of Mula Djadi ... Sideak Parudjar ... thrust a sword into the body of Naga Padoha up to the hilt and laid him in an iron block.

Whenever Naga Padoha twists in the fetters an earthquake occurs ..."."

After the lizard-shaped son of Mangalabulan, the husband the gods intended for her, had taken another name and another form, Si Boru Deak Parujar married him. ... Si Boru Deak Parujar becomes the mother of twins of different sexes. ... Mankind is the result of their union ... .

The couple settle on Pusuk Buhit, a volcano on the west shore of Lake Toba ... . The mythological ancestor of the Batak, Si Raja Batak is one of their grandchildren."

"The serpent-shaped goddess Boru Saniang Naga ... is at home in all river ... and in Lake Toba. She is regarded as the sister of Batara Guru or the daughter of Soripada (Warneck 1977:220). She is called on for help and protection by people ... lauching a new boat, or making a journey by boat across Lake Toba. ...

p. 66a

The Pane Na Bolon, the serpent-shaped god who is so important in oracles, also lives in the underworld."

"Boraspati Ni Tano ... is imagined to have the form of a lizard and sacrifices are made to him at the beginning of work in the fields."

"D&S" = Cecelia F. Klein : "The Devil and the Skirt : an Iconographic Inquity". ESTUDIOS DE CULTURA NAHUATL 31 (2000):17-62.

"CIV" = Maurice Bloomfield : "Contributions to the Interpretation of the Veda". J OF THE AMER ORIENTAL SOC 15 (1893):143-88.

Warneck 1977 = J. Warneck : Toba - Batak - Deutsches Wo:rterbuch. The Hague.

{The mother of the Kala-khan~ja-s is (PE, s.v. "Kalakeya 1)") Kalika who is a female attendant of Skanda (MBh, "S`alya Parvan" 46:14 -- PE, s.v. "Kalika") : which may relate to \Mangala\ as epithet of Skanda.}

4.1...1 -- pp. 66a-67a tendi/tondi : soul-of-the-living

p. 66a

"tendi (Karo) or tondi (Toba). ... A Dutch theologian (Leertouwer ...) ... states that what Sto:hr calls the "life-soul" would be called in Fischer's terminology the "dream ego" or "spiritual double" ... . ... "'Dream ego' and 'spiritual double' are the same thing seen ... from within and without, in its function for the person himself and ... for others." (Fischer 1965:273). ...

p. 66b

The destiny of the individual tendi is decided by the tendi itself before birth. ...

According to the Toba a person has seven tendi ..., however, ... five of them are merely aspects of the second. ... The second tendi is found in the placenta ... of the new-born baby ... . ...

p. 67a

"that there are seven tendi is also found among the Karo, but is restricted to the magician-priests (guru); the rest of the Karo believe that a person has only one tendi (Westenberg 1892:229)."

"It is believed that illnesses are connected with the absence of tendi, and the bringing back of the tendi is a main method of healing. The Karo ... have gifts, called upah tendi (upah = ... gift), which they give to their tendi so that their tendi stay with them. These gifts may consist of a knife, a gong ... or a small holy place (op. cit.:230). These gifts are carefully cared for in order to keep the tendi satisfied."

Fischer 1965 = H. Fischer : Studien u:ber Seelenvorstellungen in Ozeanien. Munich.

Westenberg 1892 = C. J. Westenberg : "Aanteekenigen ... der Karo-Bataks". BKI 41:208-53.

4.1...1 -- p. 66b destinies indicated by requaests by tondi (Warneck 1909, p. 49)


result for mortal animated by tondi

"ripe pepper"



short lifespan

"a hen"


"medicine pot"

"will ... understand magic arts"

Warneck 1909 = J. Warneck : Die Religion der Batak. Leipzig.

4.1...1 -- pp. 67a-68a begu : soul-of-the-dead

p. 67a

"When someone dies it is thought that ... the "deathsoul" (Karo : be`gu, Toba : begu ...) is set free. ...

p. 67b

According to Westenberg (1892:221) the bicara guru are the death-souls of stillborn babies or of babies who have died before teething. ... With the help of a female medium (called guru sibaso by the Karo) the bicara guru can be made the family's guardian spirit for which a shrine is provided ... . Banana bushes and particular ornamental plants (e.g. a lily, Karo : kalinjuhang, or an {instance of} Acanthaceae, Karo : sangke` sumpilet) are planted at this spot and it is surrounded with a bamboo fence (ibid.:222). ...

The death-souls of members of the family who have had a sudden death (mate` sada-uari) also act as guardian spirits for the family to the Karo. They include the victims of accidents,

p. 68a

suicides, ... people struck by lightning -- those who have suffered a "bad death". To them a similar shrine is built where they are venerated ... .

A third but rarer category consists of death-souls of dead ... unmarried virgins ... . Their graves, called bata-bata ..., are kept in good repair for a long time by their relatives. ...

According to Neumann (1902b:34) these three types of death-souls can also be venerated as be`gu jabu, spirits which live in the house in the living area of the family ..., with a place ...

on the shelf above the family sleeping place,

{This may be so intended as to facilitate mutual visitations in dreaming.}

where they receive their ... offerings and their prayers."

Neumann 1902b = J. H. Neumann : "De begoe ... der Karo-Bataks in de Doesoen. MNZG 46:23-39.

4.1...1 -- p. 68a jinujun : personal guardian spirit

"Another category of death-souls which influence the Karo Batak consists of the personal guardian spirits


{Cf. <arabiy \JNUWN\ (plural; the singular being \JINN\ : the Karo may have conglomerated singular with plural) and Latin \GeNii.}

Almost every person has his or her jinujung which makes its home either near the body or in the head or throat of its "host". ... A jinujung can leave a person ... . A guru sibaso will call the jinujung back and while she is in a trance the jinujung will enter into her and speak through her mouth.

According to Neumann (1902b:36) a man has a female jinujung and a woman a male jinujung. ... I know nothing to explain the antagonism between the sexes which underlies this." {Why must the author regard every contact between persons (including between mortal and that mortal's divine spirit-guide) of opposite gendre as "antagonism"? Is the author's intent to foment trouble between the world of mortals and the world of immortals? Or, could the term "antagonism" be simply a misleadingly inaccurate mistranslation of (if anything) the Dutch and German terms?}

{This is a manifestation of mutual co-operation (rather than of "antagonism") between mortal (on the one hand) and (on the other hand) mortal's divine spirit-guide as praeternatural spouse. Among tribes in West Africa it is commonplace that each person hath a divine spouse visited in dreams; in <arabiy terminology, the qariyn ('horn', masculine) or the qariynah ('horn', feminine) is the divine spouse visited in dreams; Zaratustrians label this divine personage \fravas^i\. According to the record of his long-secret Red Book, Carl Gustav Jung used to visit regularly in his dreams a divine female describing herself as his Seele ('soul') : she began to command him to institute, in the waking world, a "new religion" (which he himself labeled "analytical psychology") in order to proselytize Europe.}


Achim Sibeth : The Batak Peoples of the Island of Sumatra : Living With Ancestors. Thames & Hudson, London, 1991.