Batak Shaman's Staff
Batak Shaman's Staff
Batak Shaman's Staff
Batak Shaman's Staff
Batak Shaman's Staff
Batak Shaman's Staff
Batak Shaman's Staff
Batak Shaman's Staff
Batak Shaman's Staff
Batak Shaman's Staff
Tribal Bod Mod

Batak Shaman's Staff

Regular price $1,400.00 $0.00 Unit price per
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Item details

Vintage from the 1940s

An elaborately carved shaman's staff, 'tunggal panaluan', from the Lake Toba Batak people of Sumatra, Indonesia. It displays the typically complex expression of ancient Batak iconography on a hardwood stick. Warm deep dark rich patina. This is an exceptionally long staff, measuring about 78 inches overall.

"The most powerful members of a Batak community are the ritual specialists, known as datu. Batak datu, or shamen, are erudite men with a long esoteric history encompassing both white and black magic. They have the power to exercise power even after death. Like walking encyclopedias, they are well educated and proficient in science, history, medicine, theology and economics.
Becoming a Batak shaman is not a matter of choice, rather, as in many cultures, one is most often identified at a young age and obligated to serve a long apprenticeship. Their repertoire includes the ability to cast spells, influence the weather, find lost objects, and diagnose and treat physical and metal illnesses. They are also highly trained and prolific artist/craftsmen, required to produce their own sacred objects and medicines. The accordion style shaman books, written in the Batak language to preserve their healing and magical knowledge, are works of art in themselves."

Datu are experts in religion, and are most often members of the village's founding family. These specialists, who are exclusively male, are able to cure the sick, contact the spirits of the dead, and predict auspicious days for particular events. A datu's most important possession is his ritual staff, the tunggal panaluan, made of special wood that symbolizes the tree of life. Since such a specialist is required to create his own personal staff, tunggal panaluan vary widely in style, form and length. Datu "animate" or activate the power of the figures by filling them with a magical potion, known as pupuk. Pupuk is considered to be extremely powerful and can only be stored in specific types of containers such as the hollow horns of water buffalo, special wooden or bamboo vessels, or Chinese trade ceramics. Potent and greatly feared, these ornate shamanic staffs are used in esoteric rites to ward off evil, protect villages and foretell the future.

This staff adheres to a general Batak iconographic form that in turn is highly personalized and historically specific for the datu that created it. The finial figure sports a hank of human hair and is inlaid with tiny seed beads. The finial figure represents the current datu and sits upon a column of eight stacked anthropomorphic figures representing the genealogy of the shaman. Two figures have the requisite carved holes for the pupuk. Mingled with the ancestral figures are six buffalo heads signifying the accumulation of traditional status wealth. The rear of the staff presents a long snake along with lizards or geckos. Both reptiles are guardians, with the snake channeling power to and along the staff. Lower figures have poker work decorations and all reptiles have tiny seed bead eyes. About two thirds down the staff is a smooth handgrip which marks a division in the ancestral column. Continuing immediately below the hand grip is the final figure in the stack, a female, standing upon a stack of two buffalo heads with a larger lizard facing down the staff. Below the lizard is a long downward facing snake that terminates at the last lizard, completing the entire array.

As mentioned above, there is an overall deep rubbed patina which adds to the striking display presence of this staff. In addition, there is a fragrant old woodsmoke essence that suggests a long presence inside wood fuel-burning Batak structures. This sweet primal essence cannot be artificially duplicated and is only present with genuine, tribally sourced artifacts.