Lot: 21

Magic staff "tungkot malehat"

Indonesia - Sumatra, Toba - Batak

Provenance Size Starting price / estimated price
Austrian Private Collection (coll. in situ in the 1990s) H: 66.9 inch 6000 EUR / 12000 EUR

wood, base

The male figure wears an elaborate hairstyle made of "ijuk" fibres, which are extracted from the bark of the sugar palm. The dark shiny patina is the result of repeated ritual rubbing with raw eggs, animal blood and palm wine.

Magic wands "tungkot malehat" are among the most important utensils of the "datu" priests. In secret rituals charged with magical substances "pupuk", they become objects of great power used for the well-being of the community.

They were often used as supernatural weapons to fight off evil spirits and were employed as aids to promote healing or to affect the weather and they can also play a role in affairs of state, can act as a guarantor for truces and agreements.

Staffs were believed to have so much power that, to prevent disaster, they were never stored inside the house but under the eaves of the "datu's" hut. Small separate buildings "pantangan" were sometimes built to house the most powerful examples.


Sibeth, Achim & Bruce W. Carpenter, Batak Sculpture, Singapore 2007, p. 64 ff.