11 September 2009

Sumpah Pocong...

Sumpah Pocong is often referred to as the ultimate oath. However, it is more like an oath of innocence. Sumpah pocong involves the oath taker being wrapped in white cloth and then swearing an oath to their innocence. The white cloth that the oath taker is wrapped in resembles the death robes or shroud that Muslims are buried in. Therefore, the sumpah pocong is considered to be the ultimate oath because one is said to risk death or chronic illness if they lie about their innocence while wrapped up.

The sumpah pocong has always been a part of the Indonesian cultural landscape, and there is many a horror film that uses the pocong as a means of instilling fear. However, the sumpah pocong is coming back to the fore as a means of attempting to clear one's name in legal disputes. Prita Mulyasari, who has been battling the state and public prosecutors in a defamation matter has recently offered to take one, a sumpah pocong that is, as a means of declaring her innocence of a defamation charge.

I am not sure how the sumpah pocong would do this other than perhaps to indicate that Prita did not intend to defame Omni International Hospital. But, a more pertinent question would be, "how long should the courts wait to see whether Prita has told the truth?" This is important because the risk of lying while doing the sumpah pocong is death or chronic illness. It is my understanding that death and chronic illness may not necessarily be instantaneous if the oath taker tells a little fib about their innocence.

In any event, in a case from Banyuwangi in East Java, Rahmatulloh has offered to take a sumpah pocong to prove that he is innocent of charges that he is a shaman (dukun) and that he did not kill his nephew, Hamid, by using black magic on him. Hamid's father, Pon, claimed that Rahmatulloh used black magic to kill his son as his son was healthy one day and then died after suffering from some bizarre symptoms. This presupposes that bizarre symptoms are indicative of black magic. Maybe, the villagers need to sit down and watch a few episodes of House to see that bizarre and weird symptoms are not always indicative of black magic.

TV One carried some coverage of the sumpah pocong being performed. The sumpah pocong oath is usually done in a local mosque under the guidance of an agreed religious leader of the relevant community.

The video is in Indonesian and is embedded below.


anong said...

I expect a few luckily unapprehended persons use the maaf lahir dan batin line to erase a few major discrepancies at Idul fitri too.

Rob Baiton said...


Yep, and probably at other times as well.

anong said...

Lebaran, Anang Siap Maafkan KD

from Detik

Im sorry but this makes me feel ill.

Rob Baiton said...


Just makes me smile :)

Carl Parkes said...

Black magic is always great fun, but the rituals must be taken with a great big grain of salt. Otherwise, enjoy!

Rob Baiton said...


Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. Comments are always appreciated.

I am sure that sumpah pocong has always been happening. I just found it interesting that it is now being offered up as "evidence" in court proceedings as an unequivocal measure of one's innocence.

Anggara said...

"The sumpah pocong has always been a part of the Indonesian cultural landscape" According to HIR, it is can be similar as "sumpah pemutus" but this kind of evidence did not recognize in our criminal procedure code

H. Nizam said...

Good explanation. I just want to emphasize that Sumpah Pocong is not part of the Indonesian legal system therefore there's no legal consequences.

Rob Baiton said...


I have a copy of the HIR in a box somewhere, still unpacking my books, I had 20 or so boxes of books when I moved :D

Thanks for sharing. I remember something vaguely about it being similar to the 'sumpah pemutus'.


No, but it is interesting that it is being offered up in the Prita case as proving her innocence. This does not necessarily have to be adduced as evidence in a court of law.

I think it is being used to exonerate her in the court of public opinion, and it is also a way of ratcheting up the pressure on the judges.

Judges are people, they are not sequestered away, so they read newspapers and listen to radios and the like. So, if you are even slightly superstitious and believe in the serious negative consequences that one may suffer if they tell fibs during a sumpah pocong, then you might be swayed irrespective of whether it can be legally adduced as evidence or not :D

Interesting play on the part of Prita's lawyers.

lawko said...

I wonder if she would be willing to thrust her hand into a pot of boiling water to fetch out a stone as well.

At least in this case medical experts could be brought and the judges might be able to sleep better.

Are you for real in this comment?? I find what you say quite disturbing; a panel of judges all swayed by confessions in a limp sheet?? And are you suggesting that by exonerating her they will be in fact acknowledging the "mood and beliefs" of the (primitive) Javanese culture??

Rob Baiton said...


Would it make any difference if she did? Should it?

Why not for real?

I might answer in more detail later...on the iPod at the moment.

Whose panties? ;)

lawko said...

ok thanks. keep up the good work. Btw I did check the Aust Constit - one mention of god, and in the Preamble as well...

....with the blessing of God. But we are not exhorted to actually believe

lawko\ said...

For your (morbid) interest:

trial by ordeal

In customary law, a test of guilt or innocence in which the accused undergoes dangerous or painful tests believed to be under supernatural control. Ordeals by fire or water are the most common. Burns suffered while passing through fire (as in Hindu custom) or rejection (i.e., being buoyed up) by a body of water (as in witch trials) would be regarded as proof of guilt.

and, inn ordeal by accursed morsel, the accused was required to eat a piece of meat with a feather or other foreign body in it, and was adjudged guilty if he choked. When in 1215 the Lateran Council of the church forbade clergy to take part in ordeals, they fell into disuse and were eventually replaced by jury trial.

The ordeal here is a mite more easier on the penyumpah??

Rob Baiton said...


Perhaps reading what I said again and in the context of the particular case.

I think I premised the relevant part with the fact that judges are human. Human beings have beliefs, even if that belief is to believe in nothing.

People still believe in the sumpah pocong. Now, whether you or I think it is a crock is irrelevant. The point I was making was that if a judge happened to believe in such a practice then perhaps as a human being they may be swayed by that.

I am actually suggesting that being swayed does not mean writing a decision that says despite the evidence to the contrary because a sumpah pocong was done then the accused is obviously innocent and free to go with the thanks of the court. What I am suggesting is that the court, if it was swayed would then go about constructing a decision that would hold legal water and not be overturned on appeal.

When in the context of defamation the sumpah pocong might encourage the judges to look harder, and perhaps more favourably on the evidence presented by the defense as it seeks to prove the defenses to defamation.

For example, the misdiagnosis of dengue fever instead of mumps could go to the truth of the statements made about unprofessional service (in the Prita case). Maybe the sumpah pocong seals the deal in the judge's mind.

My understanding is that amongst Javanese the kejawen is still strong.

I am guessing that primitive refers to the fact that sumpah pocong is seemingly a superstitious ritual practice and in modern and advanced societies we would not bother ourselves with such fantasy?

Indeed. However, the end result of a sumpah pocong if you tell a fib or two is far from a happy experience.

lawko said...

I hope others read your comments and they are not just a treat to me.

Yes kejawen is strong in my estimation too, but so are another million other beliefs - these guys tend to believe in anything! I guess they dont have the tools to discriminate?? I would think among the 50 million or so farmers and fishers in Java, most just keep their head down; and most would not really need to analyse events too much (apart from a natural disaster or two). Life just goes on for them. Nevertheless a Sumpah Pocong or two at the local mosque would break the monotony no doubt. Or am I being too cynical?

Ill check your views on the Constitutional court soon.

Rob Baiton said...


Cannot really say whether the comments are a treat to others as well.

Nevertheless, I always respond to comments no matter where they come from.

Yes and no on the 50 million farmers and fishermen (and fisherwomen) and the analysis.

I am not sure it is as simple as "breaking the monotony".

belajar bahasa inggris said...

banyuwangi is my home town.very near with bali therefore our culture and language heavily influented by hindu balinese culture.

santet / black magic is still very popular in banyuwangi.especially for native communities, orang Osing.

when i was in the village, i use to witnessed the villagers destroy the house of suspected tukang santet and than drive him out of the village.or watching suspected tukang santet follow ritual to remove his magic power in order to be accepted to the community again.normally witnessed by villagers, religious leader and government representative.

when my grandfather suddenly pass away.people talking that it was a result of santet.my grandfather is succesfull "tempe" seller,with his bycicle he went from village to village and he has a lot of loyal customer.people talking that some jealous "tempe" seller sent santet/ black magic.

i use to believe what we in the village believe. but after spend sometime to be TKI and live outside of my village (country as well)and with the help of internet, newspaper, and all better educated people and society around me.my perception i think start to change.

i use to tell my friend about the cause of my grandfather death which is a result of black magic, and my friend said " do you ever think the possibility that it may be caused by poison as result of wrong process in making tempe"

i just shut up, because i realize i never think of that. we in the village never know about forensic,etc.

having spent so much time outside my village, my perception totally has shifted.

i just share my experience, about law thing in prita case, sorry i still can not catch up. but i always love to read your blog.my priority now is to belajar bahasa inggris. although i think impossible to be as good as university graduate but i try my best.

by the way Banyuwangi means fragrant water. according to the legend.the princess of banyuwangi(blambangan) ask her husband to stab her with his dagger and throw her body to a river to prove that she is innocent from wrong doing accusation. and the water turn out to be smell fragrant and clean without blood.that's as a proof that the princess actually innocent.

come and visit green and beautiful banyuwangi, the best tourism spot kawah ijen (green crater) plengkung (surfing spot) grajakan, kalibaru,etc

terima kasih

lawko said...

a very moving comment from B'wangi

Rob Baiton said...


Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment, again. Comments are always appreciated. I am particularly grateful that you have taken the time to read the post and found the courage to comment in a language which is not your first. And, better still, you do an excellent job!

Santet / black magic is not only restricted to Hindu influenced cultures in Indonesia. That said, I understand that santet is a big part of Balinese culture for some at least.

My condolences on the loss of your grandfather. However, you should not feel stupid for believing in santet. You should feel good though about having broadened your horizons and perspectives.

You do not have to go to university to be a good speaker of English. The key is practice. It might be a little cliche now but it remains true, "practice makes perfect". Keep at it and you will surely get better.

Hopefully, reading my blog helps in terms of introducing new words that can be incorporated into your vocabulary.

Yes, I had heard the legend of Banyuwnagi. I think I heard about that when I was doing some research on something else (might have been ninjas or something similar).

Hopefully, one day I will have the pleasure of passing through and spending a little time in Banyuwangi (the place of fragrant water).

Thank You.

отели в барселоне said...

To my mind everybody have to glance at this.