In Indonesia black magic is known as Ilmu Hitam and practitioners of the dark arts can be found on almost every island of this vast archipelago. A belief in magic crosses cultural and religious barriers. Magic and the paranormal sit easily alongside a belief in Muhammed, Christ and the Hindu Gods.

As a tourist, the easiest way to learn about magic in Indonesia is at the local markets in large cities. In places like Beringharjo Market, Yogyakarta, street traders sell magical talismen, oils, spells and clothing imbued with magical properties. You can also see evidence of the crossover between pre-Islamic beliefs and current Islamic beliefs in the Quranic verses and scrolls that are sold as talisman and sit in liquid vials or have been applied to clothing.

buffalo market toraja

Another place that you might see magic performed is at public ceremonies. Dukuns – the name for witch doctors in Indonesian – are frequently paid to control the weather. In large cities throughout Indonesia, dukuns are hired to ensure there is no rain at large public ceremonies and weddings. Dukuns may also be hired to control volcanic activity. The Sultan of Yogyakarta for instance had a Spiritual Gatekeeper for Mount Merapi who died in the last major eruption in 2010.




However, like with all things in life, Indonesian magic has a dark side. Ilmu Hitam is practiced just as widely as other forms of magic, but it is less talked about. The aims can often be the same as “white magic,” but the spells and rituals are very different. An exteme example is the kidnapping and beheading of babies who are born on certain days in the Javanese calender to bring wealth and luck to families whose houses the babies are buried in front of.

pasar bolu toraja

Indonesian black magic can also be used against people. The Indonesian Intelligence Agency (BIN) famously contemplated using black magic to assassinate the Human Rights activist Munir Saib Thalin, before deciding on the more practical course of poisoning him.

The practice of casting spells against a person is called Rapuh in East Java. Samples of personal items, such as clothing, hair and fingernails are often required for such spells to be successful.

Rantepao Market

A belief in Magic is one of many superstitious belief that Indonesians hold. Pilgrimages to the graves of local religious leaders and natural landmarks – such as mountains – across Indonesia are another set of beliefs that go back to a pre-Islamic age. These pilgrimages can mix a modern belief in Islam and a reverance for religious figures with animalistic and pagan beliefs.

An interesting example is the pilgrimage to Genung Kemukus, a local religious site in Java, which, it is estimated, was visited by 3.5 million people in 2005. Genung Kemukus is a fascinating place, because alongside prayer, pilgrims also come together to have sex with each other, which is supposed to bring luck as well as wealth.




The belief in magic in Indonesia is a subject that brings to light many of the contradictions of the country. Look closely and you will find a set of beliefs that incorporate the old with the new and would shatter many peoples views of Islam in Indonesia.

Bolu Market Toraja

Resources

If you are interested in learning more about black magic in Indonesia, check out some of these interesting resources:

Indonesia’s fixation with black magic
Genung Kemus: A Swingers Guide to Islam
Black Magic in Tana Toraja
Black Magic in Yogyakarta

Published by Nico

Originally from England, I'm slowly traveling the world on a whim. I love traveling, have an avid fear of heights and can normally be found googling location of the best coffee shop wherever I happen to be.

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12 Comments

  1. WOW! What a unique topic and exceptional coverage! I had no idea that the dark arts were so prevalent in Indonesia. It’s amazing that even the Indonesian Intelligence Agency considered using black magic for their own advancement.

    Very interesting… Love you blog, by the way!

  2. Thank you so much
    I am intersting to about dark arts in indonesia
    I have been Thailand and Cambodia and laos searching about something important about that
    And looking for apartner to traveling with me and searching about that together
    Hope finde my partner to shear an important trip and spcle adventure together

  3. Hey, I’m Ebon Talifarro, my class (8th grade) wants to interview you, would you have time to answer a few questions?

  4. Planning for an adventurous trip to Indonesia for this purpose only.
    Thanks for the valuable information.
    I’ve heard about the famous “witch doctor” Ki Joko Bodo but couldn’t find his contacts. I watched on the youtube some of his interviews, he is amazing

  5. No smoke without fire. Westerners like my self do not believe this. Until you get effected by it. For me my belly bloated and my head felt like hit by a truck. I was also always fatigue and doctor could not find the reason it took me few years before i realised what it was. therefor i could counter act it. Even before i laughed at people believing it, ignorantly i laughed and at the same time i was affected by it without knowing it . Today i know better. If you have unexplained fatigue or health problems that doctors dont know what it is its highly possible its black Magic. Thai girls from isan are famous for making black magic to meet farang. So these farang might become slowly sick without knowing the cause as they laugh away black magic. During medieval europe there was witch hunt why were they so scared for them if it has no effext.

    1. Is it real?? My bf have a feeling that his ex did a black magic to him. As the girl always messaged him and told him that i wish you will get a bad karma and something ba happen to you. His ex is from indonesia.

  6. Hello,there I saw your adds here that you are doing black magic as well..so o needed your help to bring it back my love one if it’s possible please could you help me… thanks

  7. I am feeling like I am under back magic effect.
    I am married but since few weeks ago the feeling of love is gone and I can not stop thinking of a indonesian woman which I had an affair.
    I asked to divorce my wife, but she didn’t agree and said I could be under some sort of spell.
    Can anyone help me to see if this could be truet?

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