We were at West Java celebrating at the Ciletuh Geopark festival when we were invited by our local friends to watch a cultural performance. Thinking that it was a typical local cultural performance, we went along, but we were totally not expecting this…
Ps. Photos in this post might be disturbing to some. Pls do not continue if you’re afraid! Also we can’t confirm if the below story is true, this was just what we experienced with our own eyes.
The performance started off really normal, with a huge group of dancers in fanciful costumes dancing to the tunes played by a local band.
Then we started noticing the men dressed in blue squatting around the edge of the performance area and our local friend told us that they were bomohs (malay witch doctor) that were responsible for making sure that everything goes smoothly. Ok…*speechless*
Then midway through the performers, the bomohs suddenly stood up and started their ritual. They whipped the ground with a loud thud followed by burning of some incense paper.
Shortly after, the dancers started reacting really really weirdly! Their dance moves started to change completely and there were some performers whose body couldn’t take the “force” and started going into seizures! Some of them were literally vibrating and trembling non-stop on the ground till the bomoh came over to help them! It was a super scary sight to witness!
We were puzzled as we were still figuring out if it was just a staged performance or was it actually real?! :S
The main character in white soon appeared and apparently he was supposed to be able to perform inhumane tasks such as swallowing glass fragments, razor blades, cracking a whole coconut with his bare skull, etc!
The other performers were also taking turns to drink some strange white looking liquid that were fed to them by the bomohs. For some strange reason, they were not allowed to use their hands and their hands were constantly placed behind their back.
Thankfully both Daniel and me were safe. Apparently there were 2 locals from the audience who also got possessed by the spirits and the bomohs had to help them!
According to our local friend, the purpose of this performance was to thank the spirits for a good harvest. It was supposed to be a happy celebration. As you can see from the photo below, the “spirit” was enjoying his cigarettes while happily residing in the performer’s body!
This performance will go on for the entire night (around 6 hours of non-stop dancing) and usually by the end of the performance, the dancers will be extremely exhausted and they will end up sleeping continuously for the next 2-3 days.
Our local friend explained to us that this performance was actually detrimental to the dancer’s body and health. I questioned their reason for wanting to do this, and it was mainly because of the good income. The government pay them quite well and as they were mostly uneducated and from the village, this served as a good source of income for them.