Toba Batak people / Container for Magical Substances / 19th-early 20th centuryToba Batak people
Container for Magical Substances
19th-early 20th century

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Creator Nationality: Asian; Southeast Asian; Indonesian; Tobá
Creator Name-CRT: Toba Batak people
Title: Container for Magical Substances
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1800
Creation End Date: 1933
Creation Date: 19th-early 20th century
Creation Place: Indonesia
Object Type: Decorative Arts and Utilitarian Objects
Classification Term: Containers
Materials and Techniques: Pottery, wood
Dimensions: H. 13 1/2 in. (34.3 cm)
AMICA Contributor: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1988.124.2a,b
Credit Line: Gift of Fred and Rita Richman, 1988

Prior to the widespread adoption of Christianity in the early twentieth century, magic formed an important element in Batak religious practice. Religious specialists, known as 'datu,' performed both benign and malevolent magic using a variety of ritual paraphernalia. The most sacred and powerful of the datu's objects was the potion container, or 'guri guri.' These containers held 'puk puk,' a powerful substance made from a ritually executed human victim. Puk puk, it was believed, could force the victim's spirit to do the datu's bidding.

The containers themselves were often imported Chinese ceramics, but the Batak carved elaborate wooden stoppers to seal the mouths of the vessels. Many stoppers, such as this example, depict human figures riding horselike creatures called 'singa.' Combining aspects of horses, snakes, lions, and other animals, singa are mythical creatures associated with fertility and supernatural protection.

AMICA ID: MMA_.1988.124.2a,b
AMICA Library Year: 2000
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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