Simeulue is rich in traditions, folk tales, superstition and black
magic. This island has a reputation in the rest of Aceh for its
black magic. One often meets people who tell strange stories, but
one seldom (read never) finds any proof or witnesses of any black
magic oneself in Simeulue, unless you believe in it. The subject is
however always interesting. Locals in Simeulue do not like to talk
about it, as they feel embarrassed and are afraid that people would
refrain from visiting their island.
The magic’s are performed by a so called "dukun", which can
be translated into witch-doctor, shaman or healer. There are both
good and bad magic. A "dukun patah" can heal a broken leg. An
other dukun, can kill with only a simple touch. People claim that
they have got cancer planted by a dukun. This kind of negative black
magic is often called "guna-guna". The way to get well in such case
is through treatment by another dukun who can counter the evils of
other bad dukuns. A doctor cannot treat a sickness caused by a dukun.
A recent example of the powers of the dukuns could be witnessed as
late as in July 1997. A ship had stranded on a reef at Ujung
Selingar. When all logical ways of getting the ship loose had
failed, a famous dukun was asked to help. With his supernatural
powers he managed to decrease the weight of the ship resulting in
the ship to float higher an in this way got off the reef. The dukun
was, according to local information, paid five million Rupiah, which
he used for social work. Before someone starts to study and learn
magic’s, an oath, never to use the magic for personal profit, has to
be taken. If the oath is broken, mantras loose their function and
special powers are lost. There is one kind of black magic that
destructs the dukun himself unless he uses it against other people.
According to local beauty standards, a dukun is often ugly looking.
related phenomenon is the "pawang" who can communicate with
animals. Simeulue is famous for its many "pawang buaya" (buaya is
crocodile). A pawang buaya has long experience with crocodiles and
have often full control over all the crocodiles in a certain river.
His control is based on super natural powers and the crocodiles
follow his orders. The late pawang buaya, Pak Kalitua, used to ride
on the back of a crocodile over the river. "That was just showing
off" one becak driver in Sinabang explained. When a pawang buaya
calls a crocodile to come, he gives the beast eggs and betel leaves
and read mantras, Not only men are pawang buaya. In the 1990ies
there was an old female pawang buaya in the village of Latiun near
Debus is a form of magic that often is performed on stage.
Debus can be seen in most areas of Aceh. Debus is sometimes also
labeled as traditional dancing. The performers stab and cut
themselves with sharp objects, without getting hurt. In Simeulue
they even use chainsaws.
Normal forms of traditional dancing are also interesting. Look out
for "Tari Seulaweut" expresses devotion and love towards the
religious teachings of Prophet Muhammad. Nandong consists of
advanced poetry singing with very beautiful voices, accompanied by "gendang".
Sikambang is often performed at official receptions, such as
weddings and receiving important guests.
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