Batak Peoples, 4.3



A Karo Batak Guru



Biography of Guru



Services Provided by Guru



Sources of Guru-lore



How a Candidate May Become a Guru



Attitude of the Karo toward the Guru


4.3 -- p. 85a categories of guru

"The is the guru pertawar (healer and preparer of medicines),

the guru pedadapken (masseur),

the guru kalak mehado (healer of mental illnesses {i.e., of insanity}),

the guru si beluh niktik wari (the guru who knows the lunar calendar and can determine which days are propitious and unpropitious),

the guru persendungken (who can tell fortunes by questioning the spirits),

the guru si ngoge' gerek-gereken (who can tell fortunes by reading signs),

the guru dua lapis pernin matana (who can see the spirits),

the guru perseka-seka (who {while possessed by a spirit}

produces noises in his larynx which reproduce the language of the spirits),

{<arabiy and Qartweli languages abound in such laryngeal phonemes.}

the guru si baso (medium between the living and the dead, also called guru perhoi or guru kemulun),

the guru pertabas (specialist in magic spells and mantras),

the guru permangmang (master of the art of singing {chanting} mantras), ...

the guru baba-baban (who prepares amulets) ... ."

4.3...1 -- p. 85b considered by local villagers to have expertise in lore and in caerimony

"he will often be asked by other villagers about the old legends and myths, about the performance of ceremonies, or the treatment of certain illnesses. Most of the people ... consider him to be an expert on the traditional customs."

4.3...2 -- pp. 86b-87a curing ailments by means of medicines

p. 86b

"treats his clients mainly by ritual means with the support of magical powers, but ... also ...

p. 87a

use physiological methods of healing. ... He gave one patient who was suffering from gonorrhoea (pasar) a medicine to drink (inemen) ...,

{"Annatto seeds ... offer a viable herbal treatment for gonorrhoea." ("AS&AHB")} {Bixa orellana seeds constitute "a very good remedy for gonorrhoea." (MMM, p. 39)}

and to another a preparation to increase sexual potency (tawar menci but)".

{Bixa orellana "female aphrodisiac ... leaves ... and red paste of seed pods" (GuMP, p. 31).}

"AS&AHB" = "Annatto Seeds And Its Amazing Health Benefits".

MMM = Mohideen Sherif : Materia Medica of Madras, Volume 1. Madras : Government Press, 1891.

GuMP = Hwee Ling Koh; Tung Kian Chua; Chay Hoon Tan : A Guide to Medicinal Plants : An Illustrated, Scientific and Medicinal Approach. World Scientific Publishing Co, Singapore, 2009.

4.3...2 -- p. 87b traditional caerimonies

"erpangir, a purification ritual;

raleng tendi, a ritual for calling back the tendi (soul) which has left the patient's body; ...

{"a special ritual was required to call back the wandering soul." ("CSD").}

ngulak, a ritual to ward off {menacing} magical powers; and

nggera be'gu, a ritual for driving away {hostile} spirits (be'gu)."

"CSD" = A. Sarkozi : Calling the Soul of the Dead. SILK ROAD STUDIES (SRS 9), 2005.

4.3...3 -- pp. 87b & 89 & 92 the ro^le of singing and of offerings in calling patient's tendi {'health'} into that patient's body

p. 87b

"He [a shaman] knows many mantras (tabas) as well as how to recite them in a sing-song manner (ermangmang) {variation on chanting} before beginning a treatment ..., and knows how to incorporate his skilful playing of the bamboo flute (surdam) into the ritual; tendi in particular, and also guardian spirits (keramat), love the sound of the surdam.

If a tendi has abandoned the body of a patient, the use of the surdam in the raleng tendi ritual can conribute to the tendi{'s} returning to the body of the sick person. ...

p. 89a

If a particular ingredient, a particular object, or a particular medicine is not available, then can be substituted for it, providing that the guru has a comprehensive knowledge of the properties of the substance needed from the ritual. ...

p. 89b

It is not enough to know that the illness is caused by the loss of the tendi, the guru also has to find out how this can have happened : whether the patient has broken a taboo... . Attention must also be paid to the time when this began ..., and also the exact place where this occurred ... . ... For [the shaman] the decision to perform a ritual to call back the tendi of a patient, is ... by the guru{'s} playing on a bamboo flute (surdam). It may feel drawn by the sound and return to the body. But if the

p. 92a

diagnosis reveals that ... the tendi are being held by certain spiritual forces

because a taboo has been broken at a holy place, then the tendi must first be freed from the power of these spirits.

{Is the shaman to discover this information by the same means as was customarily employed by Padre Pi`o to detect that persons in the process of confessing their sins to him are omitting mention of certain sins -- namely by reading those sinners minds?}

Only then can the usual ritual be carried out in order to call

the soul

{the health ('health' may be a better translation for \tendi\)}

back to the body. The manner in which the tendi are freed from the power of the {ailment-}spirits depends ... on the type of {ailment-}spirit holding the tendi ... . ... If the patient is of the opinion that the spirit should be turned {i.e., converted} into

a guardian spirit (jinujung),

[p. 98b, n. 12 "The guardian spirits are also called teman erdalan (fellow travelers) or singarak-ngarak (escorts)."]

then the petampe`ken jinujung ritual will be performed. The patient can then become a guru perjinujung and with the help of his jinujung can carry out various guru practices, in particular as a guru sibaso (medium). ...

An amicable agreement with the spirit can be achieved if the spirit is asked what it requires in return for the souls it has captured. A ritual is performed and the offerings demanded by the spirit are laid out (mere` kahul)."

4.3...3 -- pp. 92a-b requisites for a shamanic curer; method of curing by praeparing sham simulacrum of cadavre, and method of curing by mollifying human sentiments toward the patient

p. 92a

"Two circumstances are helpful ... in ... work as a guru. First, he possesses a guardian spirit (jinujung) which is at his side to give him advice and speaks to him with an inner voice ... . And secondly he has an exact knowledge of the old myths and legends (turi-turin) which he can rely on in the exercise of his work.

An example ... is the ersilihi in which

a human figure is carved from the trunk {actually a collection of leaf-stems} of a banana tree, a figure

[p. 98b, n. 14 "The head is carved from the root and the body from the trunk." {It is said in Platonic and in Qabbalist lore that a human is a simulacrum of an upside-down tree.}]

p. 92b

representing a patient, ... because a spirit is demanding his death.

The purpose of the ritual is to hoodwink the spirit that is demanding the patient's death, by fooling it into believing that the figure is the patient.

[p. 98b, n. 15 "Some guru consider this ritual to be trickery used against the force that wishes to take the patient's life. Others are of the opinion that the ritual is a means of coming to an amicable agreement ... ." ]

[The shaman] will make the figure out of uncim (trunk of the forest banana) and throw it into a ravine. This is based on the legend of Raja Bekelewet, according to which a spirit which dwelt in a ravine sought Raja Bekelewet's life. Raja Bekelewet hit on the ruse of making a figure out of uncim which the spirit took for Raja Bekelewet himself.

If, however, ... the life-threatening illness is caudsed by conflicts within the family, he will make the figure of the galuh si tabar banana ... that commonly grows in the village. Here he is referring to the legend of "Land of the East and Land of the West" ... in which a child ... is saved by a guru who carves a figure of the child from the trunk of the galuh si tabar banana and ... the father ... thinks it is his child.

... during the ritual ... sing mantras (ermangmang) which tell the story ... ."

4.3...4 -- pp. 92b-94a how a young man (whose father must be a guru) must undertake a pilgrimage to a volcano in order to be empowered by the spirit of that volcano : so as himself to become a guru {cf. the Yaki empowerment to become a shaman or a shamaness, the empowerment being performed by the dragon-spirit within the concavity of a cup-interior-topped mountain}

p. 92b

"Until his fifteenth year he lived with his father who was a very well known guru in Karoland. His father specialized in treating people with psychological ailments. ... His father taught him the Karo script ..., so that he could read his father's bark books (pustaka). ... At the age of fifteen ... left his home village... and ...

spent his time along with others playing dice ... . ...

{In the Bon religion from rTa-gzigs (Tajik), dice are thrown by priests as a religious caerimony intended to influence deities.}

In this way ... met gamblers {dice-caerimony priests?} ... who were ... skilled in ... guru arts ... . They spoke much about

p. 93a


{This is the main source of income for members of the Ajivika religious order.}

history and stories, magic, ... and other subjects, which ... represented a sort of "science" (pemeteh). ... .

... did not become a guru, however, until he had passed through a period of

psychological disorder (mehado)

{[DMWA, p. 1050a] \\ 'to be sincere' (for, where hypocrisy is the norm, sincerity is regarded as insane)}

and had acquired a guardian spirit by means of the pertampe`ken jinujung ritual. ... He got out his bamboo flute again, which he had not touched for a long time, played it ... in ... a suburb of Medan. ... One day he felt that a being ... was now commanding him to return ... . So he made his way by foot up to the plateau ... when he came to ... where a path led up to the volcano Deleng Sibayak

(deleng ["Indonesian : gunung"] means mountain).

{With \delen\, cf. [Strong's 1816] \dalleqet\ 'fever' (for heat of active volcano?); [DMWA, p. 335b] \dalaqa\ 'to spill' (for spillage of molten lava over volcano's brim?)}

On arriving there, and without knowing how it happened, he took the path in the direction of Deleng Sibayak. On Deleng Pertekteken hill at the foot of Sibayak, ... The same being that had told ... to return ... now commanded him to stay and meditate at this spot. ... he cut his hair and laid it under a stone ... . During his meditation two

p. 93b

guru had appeared to him, guru who play a major part in the legends of the Karo : Guru Penawar and Guru Pakpak.

In the legend Guru Penawar is a guru who knows little about a guru's work but has in his possession a medicinal powder (pupuk) which he has obtained from god (dibata {Skt \devata\ 'divinity'}) and which can cure smallpox (reme`) as well as restoring to life those who have died of smallpox. ... The spirit of Deleng Sibayak volcano, Beru Kertah Ernala{,} has taken away their bones out of pity ..., so that Guru Penawar can no longer bring them to life again. In his disappointment Guru Penawar throws the medicinal powder, which he had received from god, onto Deleng Pertekteken. This is the origin of the holy place (sibiangsa) on Deleng Pertekteken. Beru Kertah Ernala gave to the spirits {who had died of smallpox, and whose bones Beru Kertah Ernala had taken away} ... the holy sulphur spring of

Lau Debuk-Debuk

{[DMWA, p. 313b] \dabaka\ 'to stamp the feet'. (Beru Kertah Ernala must have created this lunar-night-commemorating water-spring in the same manner as did Pegasos, who [GM @75b] "created the well Hippocrene by stamping with his moon-shaped hoof.")}

at the foot of Sibayak, and the Karo today bring offerings for them on the day before a full moon.

Guru Pakpak ... comes from Pakpakland. He is the guru who ... discovered the measurement of time and made a magic wand called tongkat male`kat. Many guru practices are based on the legend of Guru Pakpak, among them the art of using the tongkat male`kat ... .

p. 94a

... On returning to his village, he told his wife and his relatives what had happened to him on Deleng Pertekteken. They came to the conclusion that the petampe`ken jinujung ritual had to be performed so that ... could receive Guru Penawar and Guru Pakpak as guardian spirits. Since then ... has been recognized as a guru, although ... all the guru ... among his own relatives who asked to carry out the petampe`ken jinujung ritual were of the opinion that no other guru than ... father could conduct the ritual and make ... a guru, but by this time ... father was already dead. The ritual was therefore conducted by ... himself under the direction of his father's spirit".

DMWA = Hans Wehr (ed. by J. Milton Cowan) : A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic. 4th edn. Wiesbaden : Harrasowitz, 1979.

GM = Robert Graves : The Greek Myths. Penguin Bks, 1955.

4.3...5 -- p. 94a description of the ideal guru

"J. H. Neumann (1910) in his article on the Batak guru lists the characteristics of the Karo guru :

"He is a man of science, combining in himself all historical, medical, theological and economic knowledge. He is his people's walking encyclopedia." (p. 2)

"To perform a ritual well a guru ... must know the legend of the origin of the ritual, a legend often connected with the origin of the world. Besides this he must know which plants are needed for the performance of a ritual and also the actions and magical words which belong to a particular ritual. ..." (p. 10)"

Neumann 1910 = J. H. Neumann : "De Bataksche Goeroe". MEDEDELINGEN VAN WEGE HET NEDERLANDSCH ZENDELINGGENOOTSCHAP 54:1-18.

4.3...5 -- p. 96a guru mbelin

"In general the Karo tend to give a guru the title of guru mbelin if he is able to cure patients ... if all the efforts of doctors have failed. Examples of such illnesses are cancer, tumours, kidney stones ... . ... The Karo call illnesses of this sort "invisible" (pinakit si la teridah) ... .

A guru is also regarded as a guru mbelin if he can use a powerful supernatural force to ... control nature by calling up or stopping rain, creating a storm, calling wild beasts, etc."

4.3...5 -- p. 96b a female guru who can see the praeternatural form of a patient's lost health, and who can become possessed by her guardian-spirit

"I ... interviewed another female guru ... and ... told the chief that she knew quite a lot about guru lore ... in the case of the second guru, who I thought had a far deeper knowledge. ... At a raleng tendi

for calling back a lost soul ...

{more actually, for summoning return of a lost health}

"she ... could see the tendi". ...

This guru has the ability to be possessed by her guardian spirit".


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