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Indonesia's rain-averting shamans back in business after pandemic hiatus

Indonesia's rain-averting shamans back in business after pandemic hiatus

Traditional rain shaman, Ki Joko Sapu Jagat, 57, carries out a ritual following the ease of restrictions amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic as Indonesia's traditional rain charmers get back in business in Bekasi, on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia, October 16, 2021. REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana

BEKASI, Indonesia: Seated cross-legged amid a fog of incense and platters of fragrant offerings, dishes of red chillies, garlic bulbs and frangipani petals, Indonesian shaman Ki Joko Sapu-Jagat prepares at home the night before his first day back on the job.

After a months-long interruption, Indonesia's rain shamans who conduct ceremonies to keep rain away, are back in business, with large-scale events now permitted under eased COVID-19 restrictions.

While many might be sceptical, several Indonesians believe in the ability of these "pawang hujan", or "rain-diviners", to control the weather.

In a nation that experiences sudden monsoon downpours for months each year, these rain shamans are often hired to keep weddings, concerts, and even government events rain-free.

"In principle we work without changing nature. Instead we fortify the area where the event is," said Ki Joko, 57, staring up at a patch of ominous grey clouds, as he explained how he creates an invisible barrier of protection to move clouds to other places.

Traditional rain shaman, Ki Joko Sapu Jagat, 57, carries an offering and incense sticks, following the ease of restrictions amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic as Indonesia's traditional rain charmers get back in business in Bekasi, on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia, October 17, 2021. REUTERS/Adi Kurniawan
Traditional rain shaman, Ki Joko Sapu Jagat, 57, gets ready for a ritual following the ease of restrictions amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic as Indonesia's traditional rain charmers get back in business in Bekasi, on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia, October 16, 2021. REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana

Ki Joko's first day back on the job involved an outdoor wedding in Bekasi, West Java, attended by 400 people, on a day when the weather forecast predicted storms and a 75 per cent chance of rain.

Surveying the venue's leafy perimeter, Ki Joko, in a Javanese shirt and batik bandana, stopped at a quiet corner and planted precious heirlooms, including a handful of small bronzed keris, or daggers, into the earth around a plate of fresh flowers.

Traditional rain shaman, Ki Joko Sapu Jagat, 57, lights incense sticks for a ritual following the ease of restrictions amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic as Indonesia's traditional rain charmers get back in business in Bekasi, on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia, October 16, 2021. REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana

Ki Joko comes from an ancestral line of Balinese rain shamans, and has been a "pawang hujan" for decades, picking up the craft from his mother in his late teens.

"Their work is between 70 to 100 per cent successful," noted venue manager Yata. "There are situations where the conditions are extreme and they can't prevent it, so finally it rains. But their presence is very helpful for outdoor events like this."

Despite the grey skies looming over the nuptials, no rain was shed during the ceremony, Reuters observed.

"Whatever your weather-related problem, leave it to me," said the slight, bespectacled shaman.

Source: Reuters/dv

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