Sunday, December 19, 2004

Spirit Warriors, continued

In the Philippines, amulets known as anting-anting and mutya (literally "pearls") are used to provide the warrior with special powers.

Obtaining particularly powerful mutya involve tales often coded in the fantastic. For example, to obtain an amulet capable of protecting one from all types of blades, one waits for the banana tree to bloom during a particular phase of the Moon. If one sees a fire pearl you must grab it and not let go as you are attacked by various malevolent spirits.

There are documented cases of persons who will allow themselves to be attacked with swords, spears and sometimes even guns to demonstrate the power of their anting-anting or mutya. Some of these cases have resulted in death but in others the subjects apparently were unharmed. Obviously I have no way of verifying this documentation, but the examples are important because they show how strongly the people believe in these amulets.

In Bali, during temple dances like ngurek and rebong, dancers in a frenzied trance attempt to stab themselves with the keris (kris) often bending the sharp weapons in the process. If they are not in a perfect trance, they are injured, but otherwise they emerge from the dance unharmed.

The anting-anting differs from the mutya in that it is usually linked with one's ancestors through a special empowering ritual. The pendant becomes a sort of partial home for the protective ancestral spirits. In many ways it is similar to the Indonesian heirlooms known as pusaka.

Pusaka are most often in the form of weapons like the kris or spear. Among royal families one of the most important rituals in the transfer of power to the royal heir is the ceremony involving the family pusaka(s). The heirlooms are also invested with magical power like the anting-anting.

The traditions of amulets and talismans like the anting-anting (also galing-galing) and pusaka are remarkably similar to those of the Holy Grail.

The finder of the grail becomes the Grail King, invested with special powers. Before Parzival can find the grail though he must first heal the Fisher King. Again, this resembles the tradition of the warrior healer found in eastern martial arts.

The mystical quest in finding a sacred pusaka or mutya is an established feature in the cultures of insular Southeast Asia. Here are a few examples from the Philippines taken from the Beyer Museum (

  • To secure the magic stone that protects its owner from fire, one has to find the exact place where someone died from burning. It is believed that the spirit of the dead person returns as a crawling stone. To posses this stone, you have to pray day and night earnestly for nine days until the stone crawls faster and in a zig-zag motion making it difficult to catch. Upon catching the stone a hideous creature will appear and challenge your right to keep the stone, you must defeat this creature then can you keep the stone forever.

  • The ultimate anting-anting was stiff hair from a tikbalang a dangerous creature that looks like a human being but its face and legs are those of a horse. To posses one ensures a life of wealth, strenght and power plus the tikbalang becomes your personal slave. Capturing a tikbalang involves getting a cord blessed by a priest, jumping on the back of this elusive creature, forcing it into submission by strangling it with the blessed cord and demanding the creature to give you its hair; failure to do so means instant death.

  • When a banana tree bears flowers that points skyward, on a moonless night a little stone of fire called "Mutea" dances around the flower bunch. Catching this dancing ball will cause your hair to stand and open your eyes to the supernatural realm. One will see threatening gigantic devils and other malevolent creatures. If you stand steadfast showing courage and fortitude you will succeed in keeping the "Mutea" as a powerful anting-anting against any metallic objects such as bullets and knives.

  • Unusually large boas are said to posses a nail concealed under its tail. To get this amulet, one must tie a small animal under the tree where the boa is and wait until the snake is distracted while eating the bait. As soon as the boa lowers its tail you will notice a black and elongated nail, which you must fearlessly grab before the snake runs away. The boa’s nail gives one the super human strength of ten men.

  • The "tanlad" or "tanglad" plant bears flowers only once a year. Watch for a plant that blooms in the midnight of New Year’s Eve. As soon as the flowers open you will see a stone. However the plant is guarded by a powerful spirit which one must conquer. If you fail death will follow, but if you succeed this magical stone has the power to make you invisible.

  • Very large eels carry a white and square stone found within their head. This requires the patient capture of several eels. Halve the eel’s head with a large sharp knife, grope for the square stone inside the head. The eel’s stone gives you the power to become slimy and slippery and no ropes or chains can bind you.

  • By medieval times, the Nusantao had assimilated various foreign religious influences including those from Hinduism, Buddhism, Nestorian Christianity and Islam. This was all part of the exchange inherent in Nusantao society. Syncretism was the rule.

    In the exchange though, the Nusantao hoped to sell some of their own beliefs as well. By this time, the spice trade was the dominant relationship with the "West." The spices of tropical Asia were in fact associated with the Garden of Eden.

    In Muslim lore, for example, ginger and camphor are both aromatics of Paradise.

    Although the lore of the ancient cosmic battle may have been preserved at that time mainly only by the most sacred experts, the importance of the trade had not vanished. The rise of Islam was threatening to cut off the old trade routes of the Nusantao and thus we surmise that the "King of the Indies" took initiative by contacting the kings of the West.

    In Indonesia today, many people considered Muslim are in reality Kebatinan, or syncretic religionists. The corresponding term for Kebatinan in the Philippines is kalooban and in the same way many Filipinos practice a syncretic spirituality. Both kebatinan and kalooban refer to the practice of inward personal spirituality.

    Here the emphasis is less on communal religion and worship as on personal inner transformation. The practitioner thus may "seek" with only a few other people, or a small group, or alone. The search involves finding one's amulets and other types of quests. And invariably it involves a holy mountain of some type. The searcher either makes pilgrimage to this mountain or becomes a "guardian" of the mountain.

    These practices I believe are rooted in the history of the ancient clan confederacies.

    Paul Kekai Manansala


    Mog said...

    Wow, though am or have been syncretic throughout this life, kabitinan or kalooban, are...well all I can say is wow.

    Was trying to link up the Carnatic Tala and "beats" or Tabla with Sundacentric origins, came across the origin of metal gong instruments as West Java. Gamelan is apparantly "pre-anyone" even Hindu influence.

    I am struck with the similarity of the three levels in some Kabitinan beliefs, and it's close associatian with Buddhist Trikaya doctrine, gross, subtle, very subtle.

    It is so odd, as I finish up giving you my notes, that my current meditation teacher is from the Gelug tradition (Atisha) whose teacher was Serlingpa.

    What my Vajrayana/Buddhist teacher has been emphasizing is...

    "The mind is at the level of the heart".

    Now, I've heard my teacher say this is Buddha's teaching, but have never in my dharma research came across this exact phraseology.

    Kebatinan Schools

    The "Sumarah School:" according to this school, man and his physical and spiritual world are divided into three parts: The physical body and brain, an invisible world, and a more elusive and sublime world.

    In the Brain the faculty of thinking has two functions - one to record memories, the other to serve as a means of communion with God. One section, "Sukusma," governs the passions, while the other, "The Jiwa," provides the driving forces governing thought and reason. The invisible world, which is situated within the chest, is the Jiwa, the ineffable soul. It is here that the deeper feeling (Rasa) is located. The most elusive and sublime world is hidden somewhere near the anatomical heart.

    Of course the heart is the central chakra (in the 7 chakra schema, star of david being meeting of ascending/descending energy) and the "shamash" candle (servant) of the menorah, but it is interesting how deeply this is in all original cultures.

    This "mind at the level of the heart"...

    My current meditation teacher states that Atisha was from Southern India, possibly it might be a good thing for me to constantly remind everyone his principle teacher was Serlingpa (Dharmarakshita) of Sumatra (little Java).

    Interesting how this journey of giving you my cacophony of notes as a terminus to getting back to meditation has a direct correlation to my meditation "mind is at the level of the heart".

    But it's really not about me to begin with...

    Utang ng Loob