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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.

Click to enlargeA 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 Labuhan Bajau.

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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