Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Cincinnati, OH
Well Ron, you seem to have missed my point on a couple of levels. One is that the primary function of the keris has evolved over the centuries and not in the same manner in all parts of the Malay area. There have also been different types of keris made specifically for different functions. Keris sajen and keris picit for instance were certainly not made as battle worthy blades. Many other blades were made to be purely talismanic and as time pasted the majority of keris became magickal/artistic/status cultural items rather than weapons of war. But it is my understanding that certain cultures within Indonesia were more apt to use the keris as a weapon than others, the Bugis among them and in Bali to some extent. I would love to hear factual and sustainable evidence either way on this issue.
And perhaps you did not understand my comments about pitch. It is a substance that was used to "glue" a keris to it's hilt when a stronger bond than a piece of cloth wrapped around the pesi was necessary (i.e. in battle). The hilt is then secure and the keris can be safely pulled back without worry. By heating the blade the pitch will become soft and the wilah can then be seperated from the hulu if the owner chooses. As i stated, one of my Bali keris came to me this way. There are substainal nicks on the ridge of the sogokan that look like the blade parried a sharp object at one time, and the end of the blade was broken off at some point (this appears to be an old repair) and reshaped to create a shorter keris. Now, all this damage might have taken place during some cultural/social function, but it seems to me unlikely. Keep in mind that, not unlike the English and the French in their wars in the Americas, the Dutch were very good at getting various Indonesian tribes to fight on there side against their Indonesian brothers, so the keris bearer was not always up against a well armed dutch soldier, but may end up fighting another keris bearer.
Certainly, for the most part, you are correct that the main function of the keris has become non-military. But you simply can not discount that some keris have been used in battle and were meant to be used that way.