Dowes 'susuk' work like a charm for some?
By Emmy Fitri
JAKARTA (JP): Nobody's perfect, we are told, but some of us will do almost anything to prove the saying wrong.
Almost anything goes in the pursuit of being a flawless human being, at least from the outside.
Those hopeful of putting right the deficiencies that nature gave them often turn to paranormals and supernatural practices, despite warnings from others of possible dangers.
A popular method in the country is susuk, involving the placement of pieces of metal, animal parts or gems in the body which are supposed to give off special, magical powers.
They are frequently used to improve a person's beauty, attractiveness to others or luck.
Some famous female stars are reported to have had the charms placed in their body (usually their cheeks or forehead) to give them great beauty and success.
One singer, who was no great beauty when she started her career, has blossomed into a slim and stunning woman. Rumor has it she resorted using the charms to get ahead in both her career and her love life.
Tycoons are reported to use paranormals to insert the charms and gain a business edge over their rivals.
The charms have long been part of Javanese culture, primarily used by women to win the mate of their dreams and by businesspeople to secure success.
A captain in the Army's Special Force (Kopassus) said he had two gold needles inserted in his right fist and one of his legs.
"I was often sent to the jungles of East Timor and Aceh to fight the rebels whose fierce actions were often discussed among us," Khalis said recently.
"As a human being I also had a fear that something would happen to me. So in early 1989 I returned to my hometown in East Java and had the needles inserted in my body."
Although Khalis said he continued to pray five times a day as part of his religious obligations as a Muslim, he argued that use of the needles was a different matter.
He rationalized his use of the needles as part of tradition, and vouched for their power.
"I once punished 10 people (Army personnel) with my fist. I beat them all night for their indiscipline; some were bleeding from their noses and cuts on their chins while I did not feel a thing in my fist," he recalled proudly.
However, he had the needles removed after he was diagnosed with kidney problems and heart disease. He was afraid the diseases were caused by use of the needles.
Mohammad Luqman Hakiem, who described himself as a "Sufiolog", said the preagrarian society in the country held strong inclinations for such metaphysical beliefs.
He said in more modern times when religious beliefs remained shallow people would resort to such practices when religious institutions were unable to calm their disquiet.
"Back in 1996 to 1997, when the economic crisis hit almost all people from all walks of life, the paranormal practices have mushroomed and (their practitioners) have gotten their windfall as many people come to them," Luqman said.
"They even come for consultation about their personal problems and some seek shortcuts to improve their lives."
Beauty, soulmates, wealth, luck, bravery and even power are offered by the paranormals at various prices.
A paranormal, Si Jambrong, said the needles were merely accessories like lipstick, face powders, earrings, jewels or gold necklaces.
He said that if treatment and the process of insertion were correct there would be no side effects.
"One's self-confidence can be lifted using accessories and makeup and that's the way with susuk. The needles are only the medium," he said.
The insertion of items into the flesh works logically, he said.
"There is nothing weird about that, as it can be explained scientifically. Once a client has decided to come to my place, he or she is already psychologically influenced so that what I do to them will work."
He did not want to say if spells were in the needles.
"That's my part and I think it is too complicated to be told to anyone. You don't have to read any textbooks, all you need is to learn from nature."
Jambrong has a wide range of susuk products, including the well-known samber lilin (from the wing of an insect), diamonds, gold, buluh perindu (taken from a plant) and mani gajah (elephant's sperm).
He opened his practice in 1996 and initially operated in South Jakarta's Blok M Plaza until he felt that his customers could not be accommodated in his small kiosk. He moved to an East Jakarta hotel in 1997.
"There is no fixed price here except for the consultation, you have to pay Rp 100,000. The consultation fee is part of the cooperation with the hotel management," he said, adding that potions and the susuk were priced differently.
He said the price depended on the clients' needs and their ability to pay. He claimed he was once paid Rp 50 million to insert a samber lilin into a businessman from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Jambrong, whose real name is Jangkung Sujarwo, was educated in Islamic boarding schools in East Java. He said his clients included housewives, young women, businesspeople and soldiers.
He said he only helped those who were unable to help themselves.
"It is clearly advised in all religions that if you pray to God, you'll get what you want. But many people do not want to do that alone. I am here just to help," Jambrong said.