THE SPIRIT DOLL HYPE AND ITS STRONG BOND WITH INDONESIAN CULTURE
Strange as it seems, the trend takes off quite easily due to subconscious ties we have affected by longstanding culture.
Spirit dolls are increasingly becoming popular after being adopted by national celebrities. The phenomenon of adopting human-shaped spirit dolls to be cared for like their own children is vehemently viral on social media.
The spirit doll is usually raised or adopted because it is believed to bring good luck to its owner. Several Indonesian artists who are rumored to have adopted spirit dolls are Ivan Gunawan, Celine Evangelista, Ruben Onsu, Soimah, and Furi Harun.
Ivan Gunawan, who reportedly adopted two male dolls, claimed that he cared for and treated them not like dolls but babies — although, it was also later reported that he gave them up recently.
On the other hand, for Furi Harun, behind a spirit doll adoption lies a noble intention to guide, care for and pray for the disturbed spirits of dead children.
"The goal is to guide and pray for the spirits of children or fetuses who have been aborted so that they can all return to God," explained Furi, who has collected hundreds of spirit dolls and started this spirit doll adoption business.
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Is it legit?
Researcher and cultural practitioner at the Faculty of Cultural Sciences, University of Indonesia (FIB UI), Dr. Sunu Wasono, told Kompas: "It's a man-made object. The spirit doll hype seems to be echoed for business purposes only."
However, Sunu conceded that some people believe that the object or material can be possessed by something, such as spirit or energy — which, in some beliefs, can be in the form of particular jinn or spirits.
For those who have this belief, the phenomenon is not limited to dolls only. Any object, such as a dagger, stone, stick, or belt, can be filled with invisible unnatural powers.
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A cultural observer from the Faculty of Cultural Sciences (FIB) at the Universitas Sebelas Maret (UNS) Surakarta, Drs. Tundjung Wahadi Sutirto, M.Si, said the phenomenon of spirit dolls in Indonesia has existed for a long time. This tendency is closely related to the development of animism and dynamism.
In various historical treasures and literature, it is believed that there has been a strong reliance on the power of spirits or the spiritual world among our people since the Mesolithic era.
Then, the presence of Hindu-Buddhist teachings had further enriched the existing belief in spirits, which encouraged humans to try to live and build harmony with spirit entities.
In Javanese mythology, for instance, there is a supernatural practice using visual media, such as dolls, to start a dialogue with spirit entities.
In fact, there are also phenomena of supernatural "games" using puppets or visualization of human forms in several regions, such as Jalangkung or Nini Thowok or Nini Thowong.
"In the tradition of performing arts, the performers often claim to be possessed by the spirit in their performances. It is often found in Java, such as Jathilan, Sintren, Jaran Kepang, and so on," said Tundjung in an article on the UNS official website.
He said that stories in the wayang world also strengthen the belief in spirit incarnations in the world of worldly life.
"For example is the puppet story of Bambang Ekalaya who created the Durna statue as a visualization of a teacher who is proficient in teaching archery and is biologically superior to Arjuna, who deems Durna as a mentor," he explained.
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