Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Walking Corpse Of Tana Toraja

A corpse is "called up" by a shaman before walikng to burial site
This is a story told by a native Toraja friend:


“As native to Toraja, I am always asked by my friends about the uniqueness of the culture of Tana Toraja; especially regarding the phenomena of “walking corpse”. I was born and raised in Tana Toraja until I am exposed to the customs and culture in Tana Toraja although I dare not say that I have mastered all of the knowledge of the origin and natty gritty bits of Toraja customs.


The story about walking corpse existed since old times. Perhaps hundreds of years ago there was a civil war between the West Toraja and the East Toraja. In the war; the people from West Toraja was defeated. Legend has it that while the casualties of East Toraja were few, they carried their dead; but all of the West Toraja casualties walked back to their village.  Because of this incident, the war was regarded as a draw. Hence the offspring of Tana Toraja always bury the dead by making the corpse walk by itself into the burial pit.


I have witnessed the “walking corpse” myself around 1992 while I was still in standard three. At that time, the mother of Pongbarrak died. As with custom of Toraja, the corpse would not be buried immediately but must follow a set of burial customs (rambu solo’). At that time, the body of the deceased was bathed and it was put in to a special bedroom before the corpse can be put into a coffin.


It was on the third night that the entire family assembled to discuss about the details of the burial process to be carried out. I was sitting at the centre of the house then. It was around 10 o’clock at night, all of a sudden I heard a commotion in the house where a few women ranted hysterically. Due to curiosity, I turned my head to the direction of the commotion and only to find that the corpse was walking out of the room! My friend and I shouted hysterically in fear and without having a second thought, we rushed out of the house back to our fathers. It was later that I have learnt that it was Pongbarrak who has tested a spell that caused his late mother to walk.


We seldom heard of Toraja people practise this type of ritual now a day although there are some people who have mastered the walking corpse knowledge. But they still practise the magic on slaughtered animals such as chicken or buffalo. It was said that even with a broken neck; the animal can still stand and run rampantly!”


Well, you don’t have to believe in what I have told you just now. Visit Tana Toraja in Sulawesi and find out yourself! Get the first hand account from the natives yourself!

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