Ethnographic Arms & Armour
 

Go Back   Ethnographic Arms & Armour > Discussion Forums > Keris Warung Kopi
User Name
Password
FAQ Members List Calendar Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read


Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Old 19th May 2010, 04:10 AM   #1
A. G. Maisey
Member
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 4,516
Default Apropos display

The keris is a symbol of the male.

This is recorded in the earliest Javanese literature and is still the case today. I doubt that there is anybody who would challenge this assertion.

In Javanese culture, even numbers are feminine numbers, and uneven numbers are male numbers.

The waves in a keris must always be of an uneven number --- we can hardly have a symbol of the masculine bearing feminine characteristics.

Where keris are displayed they are correctly displayed as an uneven quantity, for this reason the traditional display racks (ploncon) used in Jawa to display keris always hold an uneven number of keris.

If we display our keris in a even quantity we are, in my opinion, exhibiting a lack of cultural sensitivity, and acting in a way that could draw anything from a quietly amused smile to harsh criticism, from people who are Javanese, or who are accustomed to Javanese mores.
A. G. Maisey is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 19th May 2010, 04:58 AM   #2
Gavin Nugent
Member
 
Gavin Nugent's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 2,402
Default Thank you for Sharing

Thank you for sharing.

Cultural etiquette in many facets of weapons collecting is I know very important. Having bought several Katana of late I have been reading a great deal on the correct way to handle and view blades in viewings and exhibitions. I am sure the community at large will benefit from this knowledge shared above as it has the possibility to be to the detriment of personal relationships and developments with others who have cultural and spiritual connections to the Keris.
A couple of questions though, by default, through the number of curves, does this display etiquette extend to all countries that Keris are found?
Is there a correct process/protocol that should be adopted when handling the Keris itself in the company of others?

Gav
Gavin Nugent is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 19th May 2010, 07:47 AM   #3
A. G. Maisey
Member
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 4,516
Default

I cannot speak for all countries where we find the keris, I can only speak for Jawa.

Yes, protocols do exist, but I will not get involved in explanations here, it would take too long, and is too open to misunderstanding.

In a western context, common western weapons etiquette is probably good enough. If you find you have need of Javanese etiquette, I'm sure that you will be coached by somebody on the spot before you embarrass anybody.
A. G. Maisey is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 19th May 2010, 02:45 PM   #4
David
Keris forum moderator
 
David's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: The Great Midwest
Posts: 5,252
Default

I have no doubt that what you say here is correct Alan, but i have seen Javanese Blawong designed specifically to hold two keris. Is there some special purpose or significance to these?
David is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 19th May 2010, 05:51 PM   #5
guwaya
Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 45
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
The keris is a symbol of the male.

This is recorded in the earliest Javanese literature and is still the case today. I doubt that there is anybody who would challenge this assertion.

In Javanese culture, even numbers are feminine numbers, and uneven numbers are male numbers.

The waves in a keris must always be of an uneven number --- we can hardly have a symbol of the masculine bearing feminine characteristics.


The keris in its completness is a symbol of the male - going into details we can devide again into male and female aspects.

In opposition we have the textiles as a symbol for the female princip.

This is not a special javanese concept but it is to find all over the archipelago.

But comming from an outside culture with our learned thinking and how to view things - which we will never be able to lay besides - we have to be careful with interpretations about especially believing concepts of cultures we do not belong to or better, were we not were born into.

The interpretation of uneven numbers of a javanese keris-blade as a symbol for the male princip of the keris is in my eyes or after my understanding an overinterpretation.

"The waves in a keris must always be of an uneven number --- we can hardly have a symbol of the masculine bearing feminine characteristics."

What is with the attribution of the keris-blade in general with the snake or naga, a female princip representing the underworld (female) and kept under control by the hilt which usually represent the male princip (ganesha, ancestor, raksasa, dewa, etc.).

As already said above, the system of even - uneven numbers, male - female, white - black, up -down etc. is not a specific javanese matter, it is to find all over the archipelago and represents the polaristic worldview of the cultures.

To overtake the sample with the uneven numbers of a javanese keris blade, as a symbol for the male princip, to Sumba hinggi, which is reflecting in general the female princip, would say, that the always uneven number of panels, the hinggis are devided into, would reflect the female princip - and who wants to postulate this?

In my eyes, the uneven numbers of a keris blade or the panels of a hinggi just reflect the polaristic princip. In Jawa there is a system known or discussed as moncapat lima (2+1=3; 4+1=5; 8+1=9 etc.) and its facily said based on the stucture of the old-javanese villages which where structured in the way of the 4 points of the compas and the over all standing 1 center-point (market place) so we come to 4+1=5 and so on.

This you also can reflect to the wavy keris-blade if sometimes the question comes if there are blades with even numbers. The answer is no, as you always have to ad this over all standing centre. In traditional villages there not only has been the market place but also the highest godness(es) etc. (think of western vilages, what is in the centre, the church, the pub and the market - places to pray and to meet).

The are other interprations besides just the male and female aspect, although it always will be a part of it but this will go to far here. Who is interested into it should read the assays from Rassers and the so-called "Leidener School" and the critism upon it.

Finally is to say: The system of the even and uneven numbers is not just a system of male and female but it is system of the polaristic worldview with the male and female parts as counterparts and an all overstanding central part where both other parts become one.

So far at the moment - usually I have no time - but this theme I couldn't let run without a comment.

guwaya

Last edited by guwaya : 19th May 2010 at 06:11 PM.
guwaya is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 19th May 2010, 11:08 PM   #6
A. G. Maisey
Member
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 4,516
Default

I thank you, Guwaya, for your opinions and for expanding my intentionally simplistic comment into a broader cultural context.

If the simplistic interpretation of cultural correctness that I have put forward is an "overinterpretation", then it is an overinterpretation that is found in practice in Jawa today, and seemingly, at all times in the recorded past.

I doubt that I have ever seen any display of keris in Jawa itself, where the number of keris in a displayed group of keris was an even number.

I intended my comment as a very basic explanation of a common cultural more.

I did not intend it in any way as any sort of explanation of, nor comment upon, cultural polarities, nor the well known cultural phenomenon of duality.

However, since you have opened this subject, and since it is one in which I have some little interest, then let us not stop with the facile gloss that you have presented, but rather, let us continue to explore this subject.

You have raised a number of matters, which I will attempt to identify below; please correct me if I incorrectly state your intent.

1)--- female aspects to be found in the keris

2)--- textiles as a female attribute

3)--- commonality of cultural traits throughout the Indonesian Archipelago

4)--- interpretation of the characteristics of a culture

5)--- misinterpretation (overinterpretation) of male symbolism attached to the uneven number of waves in a keris blade

6)--- this interpretation, which I quote in its entirety:- "What is with the attribution of the keris-blade in general with the snake or naga, a female princip representing the underworld (female) and kept under control by the hilt which usually represent the male princip (ganesha, ancestor, raksasa, dewa, etc.)."

7)--- symbolism of the hinggi of Sumba (man's shoulder cloth, ikat)

8)--- the philosophy of cosmic balance


I complement you upon your ability to have been able to raise such a broad range of matters within such a small area of text, however, since most of us will perhaps not be particularly familiar with some of the matters that you have brought to our attention, I do hope that you can find time to expand upon these matters.

Of the matters that I have identified above, I personally find #6 to be of considerable interest, and I would be most interested to read your argument in support of this assertion.

Could you please oblige?

Last edited by A. G. Maisey : 19th May 2010 at 11:42 PM.
A. G. Maisey is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 19th May 2010, 11:38 PM   #7
A. G. Maisey
Member
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 4,516
Default

David, regarding these double blawongs.

The blawong actually has its roots as a wall decoration, not as something used to display keris. You can still sometimes see the old blawongs in village houses that are just a picture of a wayang character, or some other significant thing, hung as probably a protective device.

At some point, keris with particularly protective qualities began to be placed on these picture boards.

I have a number of old blawongs, the oldest probably dating to the second half of the 19th century, none of these old blawongs have been made specifically to hold keris, but have had holes to accept a cord to hold a keris put into them, seemingly, as an after-thought.

It seems to me that these double blawongs, and blawongs made to accept tombak and pedang and other things in all sorts of combinations, are a comparatively recent development and are a purely commercial production, intended only as wall displays.

We could theorise about the place of the double blawong:-

as Guwaya has pointed out, Javanese thought and culture is permeated by the concept of duality;

within a Javanese house, parts of the house can be identified as male, parts as female;

sometimes keris will be found in pairs, one male, one female, usually as a patrem;

if the keris is hung on the wall as a protective device, and that keris has a paired mate, then if the full protective effect is to take place, it can only take place within the presence of the pair, rather than only one of the pair;

because of the duality of the house, and the duality of paired keris, there is no contradiction in this, as the keris have been put together not as a displayed item, but as protective device, and protective effect flows from the concept of duality.

I repeat:- theorization.

I have never heard this, nor read it, nor even considered the question, but if we want to play cultural guessing games, I'm as willing as the next to float unsupported ideas.

Just don't hold me to them.

We can have discussion, we can have theory, we can have assertion, and we can have fact.

The above is neither assertion, nor fact.

Fact must be supported by evidence or logical argument.

Assertion must be something that the asserter truly believes to his own satisfaction.

What I have given you is theory as a part of discussion.

But I'll also give you an assertion:- double blawongs were produced to provide a marketable commodity to be purchased by people to whom Javanese cultural mores did not apply.
A. G. Maisey is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 20th May 2010, 01:39 PM   #8
rasdan
Member
 
rasdan's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Kuala Lumpur
Posts: 321
Default

G'day Alan,

Thank you for an interesting explanation. What about kerises that are attributed as female or a patrem, if it have luk why do you think it still have odd numbered luks? Or is it a female keris or a patrem must be a straight one? Does a straight keris portrays both gender etc?
rasdan is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 20th May 2010, 02:58 PM   #9
Marcokeris
Member
 
Marcokeris's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Italy
Posts: 766
Default

About the symbolism of this thread:
There is a book "Der javanische "Keris" : Funktion und sozio-religiose Symbolik by Wolfgang Spielmann" written in german language that i think would be very interesting (but i don't know this language)
About this book : there are any Forum friend that has some news about a future english version of the work?
Marcokeris is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 20th May 2010, 03:51 PM   #10
David
Keris forum moderator
 
David's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: The Great Midwest
Posts: 5,252
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
It seems to me that these double blawongs, and blawongs made to accept tombak and pedang and other things in all sorts of combinations, are a comparatively recent development and are a purely commercial production, intended only as wall displays.


Yes, i would agree that these double blawongs are being made commercially with the intent for display. However you stated earlier:
If we display our keris in a even quantity we are, in my opinion, exhibiting a lack of cultural sensitivity, and acting in a way that could draw anything from a quietly amused smile to harsh criticism, from people who are Javanese, or who are accustomed to Javanese mores.
For me this begs the question, why then would Javanese people who are accustom to Javanese mores create such a display piece for the commercial market? It seems unlikely that they were being swamped with requests from foreigners who don't know any better for double blawongs. So would you say then that possibly the idea for these is born out of a more ritual concept of being intended as a protective display for the home, meant for an esoteric pairing of two keris? Otherwise i don't understand why Javanese people would get the idea to commercial produce these in the first place.
Photos below borrowed from Adni.
Attached Images
 
David is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 20th May 2010, 11:29 PM   #11
A. G. Maisey
Member
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 4,516
Default

David, let me try to explain the idea of "Jawa".

If you look at a map you will see an island that is identified as Jawa (or Java) as a part of Indonesia.

But to traditional Javanese people, this island is not The Land of Jawa. Jawa to the Javanese is the place where the Javanese language is spoken, and the core area of this is Central Jawa, in the localities under the influence of the Karatons of Surakarta and Jogjakarta.

Within this Land of Jawa there are people from many different ethnic backgrounds, there are people who identify themselves as Arab, Indian, European, Chinese, Balinese, Madurese. There are Javanese people who, although Javanese, pay lip service only to Javanese cultural mores, and seem to think of themselves as Indonesians, rather Javanese. There are Javanese people who are very rigorous in their devotion to Islam, or to Christianity or Buddhism, and the tenets of their faith prevent them from acting in ways that are not in accord with their religious beliefs.

Then there are people who identify themselves first and foremost as Javanese.However, just because they do identify as Javanese does not necessarily mean that they understand or practice every principle of being Javanese. They may recognise a principle if reminded of it, but the reality of every day life no longer requires that they practice those principles on a day to day basis.

To this demographic that I have outlined above we can add all those people who live outside the Land of Jawa, and we then have the demographic from which the buyers of keris are drawn.

A trader will sell anything that his customers will buy. If a buyer wants something, it is a trader headed for bankruptcy who does not ensure that he makes every effort to provide what the buyer wants.

David, you have asked:- "--- why then would Javanese people who are accustom to Javanese mores create such a display piece for the commercial market?---"

I feel that if you consider what I have written above, you will have the answer to your question.

The truly Javanese people whom I know and who have a number of keris, do not ever place those keris on public display. A man may have many keris, and he may think of himself as a keris collector, but his collection will not be on display.It might be necessary to visit that man several times before he will allow you to see one of his keris. My daughter's brother-in-law is a collector of keris, and he is a Javanese who follows Javanese philosophy. He keeps his keris in a locked wooden cupboard in a particular room of his house that is not open to visitors. Because I'm family, I have been into this room and I have seen and handled his collection, but not even a friend will normally be permitted into this room, and that friend will only only see one or two keris at any one time, which will be brought into the front visitors area for him to see.

Empu Suparman had a display of 7 keris in his front visitors room. They were keris that he himself had made. His three personal keris were kept in a locked cupboard in a private room and were never seen by anybody except very close friends or family.

In a village situation a family may have a keris that is considered to have certain protective powers. From time to time that keris may be placed in a public area of the house, it may be hung high on a wall, and if the family also has a blawong, it may be hung on the blawong, but it is unlikely that it will be a permanent fixture in that public position.

I could go on all day quoting similar examples, but it is probably sufficient to say that to a person who truly subscribes to Javanese philosophy and standards, it is anathema to place his personal keris on public display.

But the bulk of people who are members of this discussion group are not traditional Javanese. Yes, there are members here who are ethnic Javanese, but I rather doubt that many of those people are hardcore traditional Javanese.

So possibly we need to ask ourselves if it really matters to us how we keep, store, display and treat our keris.

If a collector in New York or Sydney or Amsterdam has a primary focus on the physical object and only a more or less general interest in the attendant culture, he can probably display his keris in any way he wishes.

However, if his involvement in keris study is perhaps a little deeper, he may wish to follow at least some of the basic principles of traditional Javanese society and culture.
A. G. Maisey is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply


Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

vB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump



All times are GMT. The time now is 12:26 AM.


Powered by: vBulletin Version 3.0.3
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Posts are regarded as being copyrighted by their authors and the act of posting material is deemed to be a granting of an irrevocable nonexclusive license for display here.