Seven people are muttering and dancing around “Awir”, a wooden statue of Ara. Their movement became faster and faster near midnight. The rhythm and mantra they yelled up are following the groaning sound of gong and gendang that beaten non-stop. The leader of the ceremony and his followers are clattering their feet to create a sound from a jingle that was tied in both of their feet.
Local Beliefs from East Kalimantan
This is not a horror story or some cannibal tribal traditions, but this is about an ancient tradition from Dayak Benuaq called Belian. They believe that this tradition can prevent demons, dispels bad luck, and cure disease. Belian is held by some of Benuaq’s people in Kutai Kartanegara District, East Kalimantan.
They held this ceremony because lots of their citizens are sick and they believe that the disease is from evil spirit intervention. That is why local residents agree to invite a white spirit called Hyang Walib Jadi to expel the evil spirit and fight against it.
During the exorcism, the diseased family and the participants were gathered in Rumah Panjang or Lamin. Gong, Gendang, and Kelontangan in Lamin were still beaten. Awir or wooden statue is hanged in the front of the town hall that full of Sesajen.
And the Belian process is started. First step, there are two of pawang Turat were reading some mantra to begin the Belian’s ceremony. The Gamelan was beaten with Turat rhythm to praise the spirit from five continents. When the night is getting late, the Gamelan was beaten faster and faster.
Furthermore, Turat rhythm was changed into Sentiu music and the arena was moved into the front of the town hall that was given with a Sesajen before that they called as Bengkuan Pulau Hall. At that time, the pawang of Sentiu and six Punggawa are taking over the ceremony lead. Seven of them are dancing around Awir and sacrificial animals such as pigs and chickens while reading some mantra. The victim’s family who also sick is asked to surround the procession place solemnly. Then, the rhythm tempo played faster until dancers are possessed by the white spirit.
And the Belian dancers are starting to fight with the evil spirit. The Lejuang leaf that was attached in the dancer’s hand became the weapon for the white spirit to banish the wicked power. If the dancer are falling and facing up, then it is a sign that the evil spirit is winning the fight. Otherwise, if they are falling and facing the ground, then the evil spirit has been destroyed and the healing process is over when the white spirit is winning the battle.
The silence during the ceremony is torn apart by the sound of screaming pigs and chickens that were slaughtered that night. The blood that spread out from pigs and chickens’ necks is believed as a preventer from bad luck in the future. After that, the citizens were eating the meat until morning comes over. That event became the end of the Belian procession.
After the procession, citizens started to leave the procession place. Money and the hard work that they were spent to carry out that big event are instantly gone and changed into a peaceful future. Peace, without diseases, and free from evil intrusion.
So it is not a black magic, isn’t it?
Yes of course it is not a black magic such santet and pesugihan or something like that. Belian ceremony is purposed to support diseased people and their families by gathering citizens so they would not feel lonely and it is also as a gratitude to the almighty by sharing and eating food together.
However, there are still many people out there misunderstanding this tradition as a black magic and misleading. We have to educate people that this is the Kearifan lokal that Indonesia has. Besides that, it is not wrong to have a local belief since on 7 November 2017 Mahkamah Konstitusi decided to allow local belief to be included in KTP. At this time, there are 187 local beliefs in 13 provinces around Indonesia and it is good news for a local believer and Indonesia itself so that we can conserve it as our previous culture. As long it does not bother our belief then it should be fine. We have to be tolerant of other’s beliefs.
Writer: Vicrie Luthfy El-Karomy
Student Of Sampoerna University