Mystics and witchdoctors


From the time we left Jogjakarta, we seemed to lose our hold on luck. In Surabaya, we lost our typewriter and with it many of our notes and addresses. My health slowly became worse and worse. Nothing seemed to work smoothly.

We were in Bali where we had started, I was ill and stayed in my room, Betty went to the bank collecting money which had arrived from Australia.

She put the money in her bag and walked along Jalan Gadjah Mada, the main street of Denpasar. She bought a few things in shops. At one point, she remembered, there was a crowd of people on the street and she was jostled, just as we were in Jakarta, when I lost the jacket.


Instantly the thought of pickpockets flashed through my mind. Men pushed around me, bumping me. I was soon out of the crush and immediately reached for my bag which hung from my shoulder by a strap. The buckle clasp was closed but I stopped on the pavement to check the contents. My wallet had gone and with it all the money I had just collected from the bank, 100,000 rupiah, approximately two hundred dollars Australian. I hadn’t one rupiah left as I made my stunned way to the Police Station. My little knowledge of the language seemed to have disappeared with the money. I wept with frustration and shock as I attempted to talk to two young policemen who were so embarrassed that they could only laugh at me.

I felt very sorry for myself till the supervising officer appeared. He indicated I was to get on the back of his motor-bike and away we went to what I imagined would be David and consolation. Instead I was delivered to the large central Police Station. I could see it was now absolutely essential to speak in Indonesian.

The police officer had no light of hope in his eye as I told my story. He put down the particulars carefully, typing with one finger, he smiled wryly and shook his head pityingly.

I was allowed to go. Back at the hotel David went perhaps a little paler but others grew excited as I told what had happened. They all had the same advice: `consult a dukun’.


The word, ‘Dukun’ is translated loosely as ‘witchdoctor’; the term seems strange in a civilised country such as Indonesia. Dukuns are healers, dukuns can see the future, find lost property and help in all kinds of ways. All our advisers had their own stories of how dukuns had recovered their stolen goods or saved their lives when evil spells had been cast.

`Can you find us a dukun?’ we asked. The loss of money was an excuse to search for something which could defy logic. `No problem’, they said and they consulted each other about the whereabouts of dukuns until the consultations turned to arguments and the purpose was lost. Then, when we mentioned dukuns, we received blank looks. `What dukun?’

`There is a very good dukun in Tabanan’, somebody said, but could tell us no more.

Now, we were going to Tabanan to visit a painter, Kay It (his wife Eni, is one of the beauties of Tabanan which is noted for beautiful women). Without much hope, we asked him if he knew of the famous dukun. Kay It is a charming man, big and easy going. ‘Oh yes’, he said casually, `he is a relation’.

Kay It obligingly took us to the house of his relation, Kim Tin, who explained that he was not a dukun, but a kebatinan, not a witchdoctor but a mystic. Kim Tin had a strong face and a searching gaze. We sat with him and told him about the robbery.

Kay It spoke English so we thought it better that he translate rather than trust the story to our shaky Indonesian. When Betty had proceeded a little, speaking to Kay It, Kim Tin said a few words. `There is no need for me to translate’, said Kay It. `He cannot understand English, but he is understanding your story.’

Of course, Kim Tin did not seem to hold out much hope of finding the money. He would meditate, he said and he asked us to think of him at eleven o’clock that night.

On the subject of my illness he said: `You have met a man similar to me. Not the same, but a man with powers. You met him in Java. He passed on some of his power to you. This made you strong for a short time, but has left you very weak’.

‘Yamto Bloody Magic’ I said to myself.

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