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Old 26th April 2009, 03:50 PM   #1
Rick
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Default Pakem and Keris

As I understand it the kingdoms of old Jawa each had a Book (or similar file) containing line drawings of the various keris dhapurs of that particular kingdom .
Only members of royalty could designate an accepted dhapur .
Am I laboring under a delusion ?

I would love some clarification and more detail on this subject .

Even some pictures of these keraton pages ??

One of the criteria we judge the quality of a keris by is its adherence to the constraints of the drawn line; correct ?

So we work for perfection within a strictly proscribed form; correct ?
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Old 26th April 2009, 06:26 PM   #2
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Hi Rick, Marco posted these a while back, drawings by Empu Djeno. Don't know if these were the accepted sanctioned dapur, but they look good to me.

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...highlight=djeno
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Old 26th April 2009, 06:31 PM   #3
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Rick

There are two different copies of line drawings of Dapurs from the Surakarta court floating around. There are about 160 dapurs of kerises and 51 dapurs of tombaks in these drawings.

One copy is a xerox of full size drawings and the other is a copy of reduced size drawings collected in a bound printing entitled "Dhapur, Buku Gambar Bentuk Keris Dan Tombak". My copy of the book has several missing pages (replaced with double copies of the next page).

These seem to have come out of the Kraton under PBX in 1920. These are not different copies of the same thing as one copy is the blade itself (which is the real intention of the listings) while the other has a Solo grip on the blades of the kerises while the tombaks are plain steel in both issues.

Now that I got to that portion of the new translation of Groneman's work on the Javanese Kreis there is a bunch of this information there also. I haven't cross checked this info with the others yet.

If you can get hold of a copy of one of these it should satisfy your wish.

I also just noticed that the bound book I mentioned is advertised in the back of Kris magazine Vol 13/2008 for Rp 150,000 or 250,000 depending on the paper size. Email majalah_keris@yahoo.co.id and see if they can help you out. They are bundling up loose issues of Keris magazine and selling them on the same page. They might be selling all of the other book that are advertised in this area of the magazine.

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Old 26th April 2009, 08:11 PM   #4
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Thanks Mick .
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Old 26th April 2009, 10:06 PM   #5
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Depends what we want to think of as "Old Jawa", Rick.

The pakems of which I know are all pretty recent productions, by which I mean all produced within the last couple of hundred years at the extreme outside.

I believe that in the Old Jawa of , say, prior to the Java War, the names and attributes of the various dhapurs would have been part of the special knowledge of highly placed empus.

Perhaps the bureaucracy of the kratons only became involved after the keris became elevated to court art, and many of its traditions had already been forgotten.

There is a degree of variation between the pakems of which I know, and this is only to be expected, bearing in mind the environment that has produced these pakems.

For many of the older dhapur, we can find reference to the empu who made that dhapur, and under which ruler he worked.

For more recent dhapur, this information is lacking.

However, when we think of "information" we must consider the concept of information in a Javanese way, and what this means is that the information presented as fact, is actually a concensus of opinion that has morphed into myth ---or maybe the other way round.In any case, it is Javanese fact, not necessarily fact as some of us may consider fact to be.

However, having said that, yes, if we make a particular dhapur, then we must make it exactly according to the required ricikan for that dhapur, and we need to follow an identified pakem in determination of the required ricikan.
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Old 26th April 2009, 10:46 PM   #6
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Thanks Alan,
At what point in time did the keris become court art ?
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Old 27th April 2009, 01:02 AM   #7
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I do not know Rick. But I can guess.

We know that during the Kartasura period there was a resurgence of Javanese national pride, we also know that by the early 19th century the keris in Jawa had become not much more than an item of dress. During the 19th century and through into the early 20th century Javanese pride was taking a beating from the extremes of Dutch administration.

In an attempt to regain some national pride it seems that Javanese attention became more focussed on those things over which the Javanese themselves had control, and in which the Dutch overlords could not interfere, or perhaps did not want to interfere.

Thus "Javaneseness" found itself being expressed in those things that were for the most part outside the understanding of the foriegners.

Those things that prior to the Javanese War had only a touch of mysticism associated with them were elevated to a mystic stature that was out of reach of the foriegners, even though a couple of hundred years earlier, the superstition and belief in magic that was harboured by the Dutch at that time very probably contributed to the Javanese attitude to mysticism and superstition.

By the 19th century the Dutch had moved forward from their 17th century beliefs and superstitions, but the social conditions in Jawa had seen an intensification of these beliefs amongst the Javanese, in part, as a balance to the oppression of the Dutch.

So, by the mid 19th century the keris in Jawa was well and truly a magical object, as Europeans understood magic, whereas previously it had been a power object as that was understood within the framework of traditional Javanese society.

We can find examples of what we now refer to as "keris art" in keris that date to the 17th century , and prior to this, however, I doubt that at that time we were looking at an art form , but rather at art being used to ornament an object that still had a number of practical uses.

My own feeling is that the keris was elevated to a defined art form in the courts of Jawa as a part of that response of the Javanese rulers to Dutch overlordship. To put that within a time-frame, perhaps mid-19th century forward. It certainly was in full blossom by the PBX era---roughly 1890 to 1940.

Bear in mind, this is opinion only.
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Old 27th April 2009, 01:49 AM   #8
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Thanks Alan, sometimes all we have to go by is opinion .
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Old 27th April 2009, 06:24 PM   #9
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Thanks for you opinion on this subject Alan. As Rick points out sometimes opinions are the best we have to go on.
Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
So, by the mid 19th century the keris in Jawa was well and truly a magical object, as Europeans understood magic, whereas previously it had been a power object as that was understood within the framework of traditional Javanese society.

Could you go into this difference a bit further Alan. I think it might be helpful to more definitively establish what we mean by "magical object" vs. "power object".
Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
We can find examples of what we now refer to as "keris art" in keris that date to the 17th century , and prior to this, however, I doubt that at that time we were looking at an art form , but rather at art being used to ornament an object that still had a number of practical uses.

So practical purposes would be, of course, as a physical weapon and on a royal level as a way to hold, assign and distribute power. Can we extend this list further?
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Old 28th April 2009, 03:35 AM   #10
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By "power object" I mean something that is related to a power, or a level of power, within a unit of human organization, thus something which symbolizes, represents or indicates a phenomenon external to the object itself.

By "magical object" I mean something that is believed to be related to occurrences that are not easy to explain by conventional reasoning, thus something which contains within itself the ability to cause or contribute to phenomenon in either a direct or an indirect way.

The primary practical purpose of a keris in the Jawa of 14th to 17th centuries appears to have been as the symbol of the masculine; there are repeated references to this in old inscriptions and literature. To extend the list past this we need to consider time and place. In my original post I was thinking in terms of Mataram and Majapahit, but to produce a comprehensive accounting of all the possible purposes and functions of the keris we need to extend the time frame from its first appearance up until the present day.

The door is open:- who wishes to enter?
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Old 28th April 2009, 02:31 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
The door is open:- who wishes to enter?


I am game.
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Old 28th April 2009, 03:54 PM   #12
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So what about legends surrounding the keris Taming Sari and Hang Tuah. I believe this story is supposed to take place in the 15th century. This is a keris which i would say was supposed to be embued with "magickal" properties.
So was this legend thought up thought up much later or is it an early example of viewing the keris as a "magical object".
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Old 29th April 2009, 12:00 AM   #13
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The taming sari legend is Malay, I'm talking Jawa.

A legend.

Do we know the earliest version of this legend?

Yes, it refers to events which supposedly took place in the 15th century, but when did the legend arise? Do we know when it first appeared? Do we know the original version? Do we know how it developed? Any inscribed plates, stone inscriptions, lontars?

I am not very well versed in Malay folk beliefs, but my bet is that the taming sari legend probably came into being around the beginning of the 19th century, maybe even later.

Quite frankly, I would prefer to disregard this type of discussion. I do not find it very enlightening , nor productive.
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Old 29th April 2009, 01:57 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
The taming sari legend is Malay, I'm talking Jawa.

A legend.

Do we know the earliest version of this legend?

Yes, it refers to events which supposedly took place in the 15th century, but when did the legend arise? Do we know when it first appeared? Do we know the original version? Do we know how it developed? Any inscribed plates, stone inscriptions, lontars?

I am not very well versed in Malay folk beliefs, but my bet is that the taming sari legend probably came into being around the beginning of the 19th century, maybe even later.

Quite frankly, I would prefer to disregard this type of discussion. I do not find it very enlightening , nor productive.

Yes , i realize this is a Malay legend. Of course, according to the legend Taming Sari was a keris from the Javanese kingdom of Mojopahit so it must of adhered to the pakem of that kingdom.
Alan, i am not sure what you mean exactly by "this type of discussion". You brought the concept of "magical object" vs "power object" into this discussion. I am merely following that thread and trying to understand when the concept of the keris as a "magical object" developed. I do realize this is a tangent from the original topic, but personally i would find such information very enlightening and productive.
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Old 29th April 2009, 07:58 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
By "power object" I mean something that is related to a power, or a level of power, within a unit of human organization, thus something which symbolizes, represents or indicates a phenomenon external to the object itself.


Mr. Maisey - above you are referring to the keris as an object that bears or symbolizes powers which are external to the keris itself. As I have understood it the keris is mostly a personal item, yet you are referring it also as a "totem" item tied to a group of people or an organization that unites them.

Could you please tell what kinds of powers in your opinion can the Javanese keris symbolize or represent and what roles does it bear when looked upon from this perspective either from the viewpoint of the man in possession of the keris or the society in which he lives in? You may choose the period of time in which your answer is based upon freely.

Thanks,

J.
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Old 29th April 2009, 11:09 PM   #16
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David, what I mean by this "this type of discussion" is the mixing of legend and myth with historical relativity.

Legend and myth are by their very nature flexible entities:- they can and do change generationally, thus the legend that our grandparents heard is very likely different in some respects to the one we read when we throw the question into google. When these differences extend over long periods of time, and are additionally encapsulated within an oral tradition, their value for historical reference is somewhat more than doubtful.

The court babads of Jawa are often confused with legend by some people, and with history by other people, and in fact, seem to be a mix of both, but for the researcher, the big advantage with the babads is that they are written, and can--- to a degree--- be taken back to a point of origin, permitting analysis. We cannot do this with a legend or myth, or other folk tale.

As to affixing a point in time for the development of the keris as a magical object, this would be a good topic for serious research, as I do not believe that this specific topic has ever been seriously tackled. We can get some sort of an idea of this from the old literature. In early Javanese literature the keris seems to be represented as a power object, and with some talismanic properties, but it does not seem to be represented as a "fly through the air, find its own way home" object. My own gut feeling is that this pure magical character of the keris probably did not take hold until well into the 19th century. It may have had a begining during Kartasura---very big "may"--- but I really think that in Jawa it probably did not become "magic" until "Javaneseness" increased during the 19th century in a reaction to Dutch oppression.As I said:- green field for a serious researcher:- I believe that this is something that might be able to be pretty well nailed down.

Jussi, the keris can fulfil a number of roles; it is not just a single thing with a single character, and whatever characters it has can change over time. In early Jawa---C 14th century---- it was referred to as "the symbol of a man". Undoubtedly it was, and remains so, but it was also a weapon. In the hands of a waterfront thug, how much of a symbol was it? In the hands of a palace courtier, how much of a weapon was it?

By the early 19th century in Jawa the keris had become pretty much an item of dress. It was still occasionally used as a weapon, but anybody who could afford to would carry a keris as a part of formal dress.

In my "Naga" paper I looked at the power associated with the keris, and of course here we are talking of the pusaka keris, both royal and of a clan. Briefly it is the power to bond present custodian with past custodians and with the clan members of the present generation.A clan nexus if you will.

In the context of royal gift to a representative of the royal authority, it binds the king--- God's representative on earth--- to the minor ruler or governor, and the governed populace to the governor, and thus to the ruler. The ruler represents God, God is the cosmos, thus it bonds the lowliest subject to God. A bonding agent, thus a power object, and in a different dimension , representative of the Naga Basuki, and perhaps even holding the essence of the Naga Basuki.

The primary power of the keris is its binding character. Relate this to its acknowledged symbolic status as the symbol of masculinity. It is not difficult to understand why the keris became such a power object in old Jawa.

As Javanese society developed and absorbed differing influences, the original concepts associated with the keris mutated from the select knowledge held by the keris smiths and the religious leaders into folk beliefs. These folk beliefs have now replaced the original beliefs associated with the keris. Nothing strange about this:- time changes all things.

I don't think this is the place to produce a list of all the possibilities in respect of the power concept, nor the magic concept, but working from what I have written above, it is possible to find all of these answers in already published works.
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Old 30th April 2009, 03:12 AM   #17
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Sorry if i was not clear enough Alan. I have no intention of leading this conversation it a jumbled mix of myth and legend with historical relativity. We are in complete agreement here. It may well be true that we might never be able to establish when this legend as we know it today took hold. I am not aware of any writings from the times that might help to nail this down, but i also do not know that such evidence does not exist. So i was just poising the question. Maybe someone else on this forum might have better knowledge as to when this legend was first written down.
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Old 30th April 2009, 04:56 AM   #18
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Understood David.

However, we would need to consider more than just when the Taming Sari story is first in hard copy.It would very probably have been a part of verbal tradition before it was ever recorded, and to nail that down would be more than a little difficult.

Legends, myths, folk stories, and most particularly the stories that a people tells to its children, are wonderful indicators of the values of a society, but I fear that they are not really of much use in historical inquiry. A social barometer if you will, rather than an historical one.

History itself is often open to question --- we all know all that "victors write the history books", which makes of history a set of beliefs agreed upon by most people, but a very great part of what we agree history to be can be proven to be fact. It is very often very difficult to find any fact at all in a folk tale.
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Old 30th April 2009, 10:37 AM   #19
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Mr. Maisey,

thank you for your explanation. As I am a mere simple man I like to keep things as simple as possible so that I can better understand them. The way you described the kerises role as a power object and a binding instrument sounds --- to me --- not much different from how the Crucifix was used and seen in ancient times amongst the true believers of Christianity. - Different culture yet fulfilling basically the same purpose within that culture.

Yes?
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Old 30th April 2009, 12:53 PM   #20
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Sorry Jussi, I cannot comment on that.

I understand some things : I do not understand other things.

Comparison between the role of the keris in Javanese society, and some Christian beliefs is beyond my ability.
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Old 30th April 2009, 02:23 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
Understood David.

However, we would need to consider more than just when the Taming Sari story is first in hard copy.It would very probably have been a part of verbal tradition before it was ever recorded, and to nail that down would be more than a little difficult.

Legends, myths, folk stories, and most particularly the stories that a people tells to its children, are wonderful indicators of the values of a society, but I fear that they are not really of much use in historical inquiry. A social barometer if you will, rather than an historical one.

History itself is often open to question --- we all know all that "victors write the history books", which makes of history a set of beliefs agreed upon by most people, but a very great part of what we agree history to be can be proven to be fact. It is very often very difficult to find any fact at all in a folk tale.

Well yes Alan, but i am not looking for any fact or historical accountability in the legend of Taming Sari. My question is not if this story really happened, but when the people started telling the story with a magickal element to it. I am just trying to see if it is possible that the idea of the magickal properties of the keris started at an early time in it's development than the 19th century. It may not be possible to nail this down at all without written evidence as i would think it would be impossible to verify how a legend was told at any given time in an oral tradition. But if there is an early written copy that might give us some ideas.
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Old 30th April 2009, 02:29 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jussi M.
Mr. Maisey,

thank you for your explanation. As I am a mere simple man I like to keep things as simple as possible so that I can better understand them. The way you described the kerises role as a power object and a binding instrument sounds --- to me --- not much different from how the Crucifix was used and seen in ancient times amongst the true believers of Christianity. - Different culture yet fulfilling basically the same purpose within that culture.

Yes?

Sorry Jussi, you lost me here. How would you say that the keris serves the same purpose in Indonesian cultures as the crucifix does in Christian societies?
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Old 30th April 2009, 05:29 PM   #23
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Jussi,
I opine that we can see a good example of the keris as a power symbol in the sending of the keris(s)(?) and their bearers to Bali during Majapahit times .

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Old 30th April 2009, 07:09 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David
Sorry Jussi, you lost me here. How would you say that the keris serves the same purpose in Indonesian cultures as the crucifix does in Christian societies?


I said "fulfilling basically the same purpose". Key word here is basically.

If the keris in Java represents God it has basically the same purpose as the Crucifix or a cross in Christianity where it too is a symbol of God. Of course what is considered as the Nature of God differs but I am not talking about religion here - I am merely asking whether the keris had/has in itīs own cultural set the same purpose as the Crusifix or a cross had in itīs own cultural set.

Letīs concentrate on the cross. It has myriad of purposes that all apply to it varying from the circumstances and the person who is wearing it. - It is a symbol that joins people to a larger body or organization, thus belonging to a group that follow structured set of practices than reinforce the unifying core that brought those people together in the first place: common Faith. Thus the Cross acts as a binding instrument joining people together.

The cross hence has the power of differentiating people onto "us" and "outsiders", it also reinforces political and commanding power in the hands of the person who is working for the body described above (think equivalents of "Church", "Pope", "Cardinal", "Priest" etc.) and also shows and creates rank as the more meaningful the person in the organization the more expensive the Cross usually is. In this regard the cross acts as a tool for transferring perceived values from it to the bearer of it (eg. expensive Cross => person of power)...

I could go on with the various functions that a cross has or which can be attached to it in the cultural setting it is a relevant symbol in but the plot is already clear. - I am asking whether the keris, basically, function in the same manner and for the "same" purposes?

Now one thing I need to add on after reading your replies to my posting is the clarification of the terms I chose to use as I get the implication I have mismanaged to write clearly what I wanted to express. Here goes, please bear me

I am a Finn. English is not my native language. I am writing of a Javanese phenomena I know very little about to an international audience with different backgrounds. Add these variables to this equation of 1+1+1+1+1 and it becomes evident that some might get 4, some 6 and some something different. So, I feel I need to clarify what I meant.

In Finnish the word that means cross (risti) is used when speaking of any cross like in "crossroad" (risteys: +). In daily language when speaking about the cross (+) as a Christian symbol it is is used interchangeably with the word Crucifix (krusifiksi) which identifies were are not talking about just any cross like in "crossroad" but only of the symbol of Christianity - "the" cross. Depending on who is talking most of the time one just uses the common word for cross and it has to be deduced from the situation whether the talk is about just any cross like in "crossroad" or is the talk is about the cross as the symbol of Christianity. In the case someone chooses to use the specific word - Crucifix (krusifiksi) instead of the usual word cross (risti) one is emphasizing the fact that one is not talking about just any cross but the symbol of Christianity, the symbol which caries deep powers within and is a symbol of those powers.

As I was talking about symbols of power I chose to use the word Crucifix instead of cross because of my Finnish background and the difference in emphasis these two words (Crusifix vrs. cross) have in the culture I live in and am a part of.

Now... the Finnish word for the act of crucifixion (ristiinnaulitseminen = to nail on a cross) is referenced to the word that in Finnish mean just any cross (risti) like in "crossroads" instead of the word that is used when emphasizing that one is talking about the symbol of Christianity.

I wanted to explain this as I am just not aware of what kind of differences does the words Crucifix and cross bear in the ears of those of you who do not have Finnish backgrounds. To make it as clear as possible I am not drawing any similarities in between the keris or the act of Crucifixion. Nor do I want to draw any similarities in between Javanese culture or religions in Java to Christianity or any other religion for that matter. Religion is not the point here - the point is were/is the keris used or were it /is it attached with similar instrumental and/or symbolical loadings as the Crusifix/cross in Western Christian cultures and were/are they used on a similar way as tools for transferring perceived values, power and rank amongst the body of people who fall under its influence?

I hope I have made myself better understandable this time around. Sorry

Thanks,

J.
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Old 30th April 2009, 09:01 PM   #25
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Thanks Jussi, i did understand you completely the first time. Though i can see why you have drawn this comparison i don't find it to be a particularly valid or compelling one and i think that if i were to use it to try to explain to a Christian who had no understanding of the keris what it's function was or is in Indonesian cultures it would be totally misleading.
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Old 30th April 2009, 10:34 PM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David
Thanks Jussi, i did understand you completely the first time. Though i can see why you have drawn this comparison i don't find it to be a particularly valid or compelling one and i think that if i were to use it to try to explain to a Christian who had no understanding of the keris what it's function was or is in Indonesian cultures it would be totally misleading.


So what you are saying is that the mechanisms of transferring perceived power and status via symbolic means tied onto a tangible format such as the keris, cross or a Mercedes-Benz as a more common totem item in our time cannot be viewed from this mechanical viewpoint alone? - I am concentrating just on the question what. I am not concentrating on the questions why or how. In my opinion you have to know the what first in order to understand the why. Then you become able in understand the how.

It is my belief that people everywhere despite time, place, religion, tribe or culture have something in common, main thing being that people in all places and times are hierarchically organized social creatures. From this viewpoint, if you can drop off all that is unique to a particular culture and see what is same to all cultures everywhere, I bet you will notice a certain amount of patterns or practices that share the same goals everywhere. - This despite the fact that the outer layers of each culture differentiate it from all the rest. One should seek what is the inner content instead of being blinded by the outer layers that surround it.

Fact is that people are people. And people everywhere, at all times and places, have formed groups in which the members interact between each other and between other groups. This leads to politics and politics leads to exercises of gaining, maintaining and transferring perceived and executable true power within the community one is a part of and between separate communities such as tribes, countries, economic systems or religions.

Politics and the exercises of power associated with politics lead to hierarchy. Hierarchy leads to symbolism and symbolism leads to a need for a formation of tangible objects that can manifest, transfer and contain powers that aid in gaining a higher ranking or status within the community. The ultimate rank in all cultures of course belongs to a supreme mythical entity - "God or Gods" - whom only can be communicated with via those special anointed ones who - so it has been agreed in the social agreement that forms a cornerstone of the culture in question - have the power to do so.

Usually these anointed ones hold a rather high standing on the culture in one form or another, what ever it may be. So my question still stands as I think it has not been answered yet. I am personally of the opinion that even so the keris and the culture that gave birth to it and nurtured it is unique, many of itīs functions are not when looked upon from this point of view.

Now whether this viewpoint is valid in trying to get a hold of the phenomena called keris is, of course, arguable. I am just trying to understand the role it had on its culture on a broad perspective. Too much detailed information tends to cloud the forest from the trees.

If it is so that the keris had been or is used as a medium for transferring perceived value (think sports sponsoring), storing perceived value (absolute € value), symbol for showing rank and gain perceived rank (why do business men dress well?). If this is true it is so then that the keris is not unique in the mechanisms of power loaded within it; even though that the manifestations are indeed unique to the culture that gave birth to it and nurtured it.

Thanks,

Last edited by Jussi M. : 30th April 2009 at 10:44 PM.
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Old 30th April 2009, 11:03 PM   #27
A. G. Maisey
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Jussi, English may not be your native language, but I assure you, you handle it beautifully, far better in fact than many native born Australians who are sufficiently educated to pursue a university education. There is very little defect in your English, and I believe that we understand you perfectly.

However, my personal problem with your analogy of cross (or crucifix) : keris, is that the cross is framed in a Christian setting, and the keris is framed in a Javanese setting. I have a limited understanding of the philosophies applied in both settings, and I cannot align one with the other.

Many years ago a professor of Chinese culture said to me that it was not possible to refer to a Chinese concept of "heaven", because the Chinese word that we translated into the Christian words (in western languages) as "heaven" had an entirely different meaning for Christians to the meaning for the Chinese of the Chinese word that we translated as "heaven". To understand this Chinese concept of "heaven" we in fact needed to be Chinese, or at least to learn the a Chinese language and understand the Chinese value system and philosophies.

You tell us that the cross (crucifix) is a symbol of God. Is it ?

For the sake of discussion let us agree that it is, but what was the early Christian concept of God?

Now, is the early Christian concept of God the same, or similar to the early Javanese concept of God?

The keris is not representative of the "God" concept, but rather representative of the binding power of the Naga Basuki, which is quite different to God. Most especially different to "God" in any sense that we can understand this idea within our western philosophical frame of reference.

To me, there is no similarity between the symbolism of the Christian cross and the nature of the keris. But perhaps this is because my understanding of the way in which the early Javanese people thought, and the way in which early Christians thought is very, very far from perfect.We are talking here about value systems and philosophies of two groups of people who existed far in the past. Present day Javanese do not have the same values nor world view as their 13th century forebears, present day Christians are very different to 5th century Christians.

Additionally, when we talk of keris symbolism, we need to clarify which persona of the keris we are talking about:- is it the keris in general, or the keris as pusaka?

In pre-Islamic Jawa the keris was first and foremost the symbol of the masculine.

However, when it was a royal gift it assumed a different character, and when it was a clan pusaka, the character was different again. When it existed as a royal pusaka, again the character it had was differrent to the character of other keris. But even as the royal keris pusaka it still symbolised the masculine.

But, did the 14th century Javanese farmer, or sailor, or thug consider that his personal keris was primarily a symbol, or did he consider it in a different light?

Jussi, we use words as the tool to move an idea from our own thoughts into the thoughts of somebody else. However, this will only work when both parties to the transaction of idea exchange possess the same words and the same frames of reference to enable them to understand the words used in the same way.

I'm sorry Jussi, but I lack the ability to align the symbolism of the Christian cross with the symbolism of the Javanese keris.


David , we're both on the same page.

But let's look at the question.

To establish when the Malay people first began to give purely magical properties to the keris, we need to examine Malay literature. I myself have only a passing knowledge of Malay literature, but I do know that we have a mention of Hang Tuah in the Sejarah Melayu, and I think that dates from the early 17th century.

Then we have the Hikayat Hang Tuah, and I believe that the earliest version of that dates from about 200 years ago.

We could perhaps start by looking at Sejarah Melayu and examining the way in which taming sari is mentioned in the earliest version of that work, that could then be compared with the mention in the earliest version of Hikayat Hang Tuah.

Let's say that we find taming sari mentioned in Sejarah, and let's say it has a full blown magical nature in that mention. That will establish that by the 1600's Malay people had already given the possibility of a magical nature to the keris.

But it does not establish when this began, only that it was in place by the 1600's.

Let's say that there is no mention of taming sari as a magical object in Sejarah, but there is in Hikayat.

This can be used to demonstrate that by the 1800's that magical nature was accepted, but it does not necessarily mean that such a nature did not exist in the 1600's.

As I said in a previous post, this would be a good topic for serious research. Such research would entail as a minimum the reading of all the works in Malay literature with a mention of both Hang Tuah, and taming sari, and that reading would need to be of the original texts, not translations nor transcriptions. Maybe there's a Phd there for somebody.
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Old 1st May 2009, 12:31 AM   #28
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Yes Jussi, people are people and they have tended to organise themselves into similar social, cultural, tribal formats.

Yes, at the most basic level a cross probably generated certain thoughts and emotions in a an early Christian, and a keris probably generated certain thoughts and emotions in an early Javan.

All of that I think we can accept without argument.

However, I do not think that the thoughts and emotions of an early Christian, which were generated by the image of a cross, would have been in any way similar to the thoughts and emotions of an early Javan when he considered the keris, in any of its personas.

If we want to understand the place of the keris in Javanese culture, we need to first understand that culture. The nature of Javanese society and its culture has changed over time, so we need to relate our understanding to a specified period. To do this is not easy and requires a lot of time and study. All we can do in a discussion group such as this is to touch upon the superficial aspects.

At a superficial level, yes, both the cross and the keris expressed a certain symbolism for the groups to which they related, but that which each symbolised was different.
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Old 3rd May 2009, 08:07 PM   #29
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Thank you Mr. Maisey, I think the logic you have applied to this matter is impenetrable. I would like to ask what do the persons on this forum who have first hand experience in dealing with both people from Western cultures as well as those living in Javanese culture think as the most difficult aspects for a Westerner to grasp regarding the Javanese culture? - I acknowledge the question is pretty widespread on how it can be interpreted but then again so is the phenomena we are discussing also. I gather there are no "right" answers to this question nevertheless I am certain there must be some aspects regarding the Javanese culture that are more difficult for an Westerner to accept and realize than most.

So, what cultural aspects do lay dormant in plane sight under the camouflage of more visible layers of the Javanese culture from the Westerners standpoint?

Boy, I do hope I am not the only one interested on these things? - Based on how busy this thread has been it seems like this place is turning onto an internet version of the dialogue between the brothers in Rainman



Thanks,

J.

Last edited by Jussi M. : 3rd May 2009 at 08:48 PM.
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Old 3rd May 2009, 08:36 PM   #30
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Dear Jussi,
only one short story to this. Some years ago I've been in Surabaya by a friend (not javanese, he is from Madura) and bought some keris by him. I reach him with a taxi and let wait the taxi driver in the front of the house. Later when we sit again inside the taxi the driver ask me what I buy over there. I take out one keris (I am sitting with my wife in the back) and show him the keris. He nearly have had an eccident because he so frightened by seeing the keris and get a gooseflesh. My wife, she is also Indonesian, told me to take away the keris. The complete time when we sitting inside the taxi he told me storys about the magic of keris. I have underestimated the credence of the magic from keris by Indonesian people complete.
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