Thread: Centipede Aceh
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Old 4th May 2020, 01:54 AM   #13
josh stout
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The "five deadly venoms" isn't just a classic kung-fu film. The centipede, snake, lizard, scorpion and toad are the classic deadly animals of Chinese folklore. Indonesian mythology holds similar ideas about venomous animals, including a widespread belief in poisonous lizards (not so ridiculous considering the Komodo dragon, a toxic Indonesian lizard with lots of untested relatives.).

The keris is clearly a snake (or more properly, a regal naga), and its use would be like a striking snake, rather than a slicing or chopping technique. It is very interesting though, to see someone has switched in another of the deadly animals, even if it is a recent depiction.

I am posting a related obat (medicine) bottle from Sumatra, perhaps Aceh. It has five deadly animals that are a little different than the Chinese versions. This obat bottle has a Snake, lizard, spider (replacing toad), and a combination centipede/scorpion. Both aspects are clear, from the pincers of the scorpion, to the sinuous body of the centipede with the characteristic forked tip. The snake is represented by carved bands of scales, with the bands in the form of straps. The venoms can be represented in part, and combined, to multiply the effect. The combined power of the venoms gives the medicine its power, or from another point of view, represents the power of the medicine within. At the top of the bottle is a stopper in the form of a crouched figure similar to a keris hilt. This is an obvious reference to a sick figure being cured by the medicine in the bottle, but it is also a figure containing the magic of the deadly venoms. In my opinion, the handle of the keris is similarly controlling a venomous snake, which, can then be seen as ritualistically equivalent to a centipede.

I wouldn't be surprised to someday see a lizard keris.
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