Primitive Mystical Beliefs, & Mbah Maridjan

Oct 27th, 2010, in Featured, News, by

Jusuf Kalla chides the residents of the slopes of Mt Merapi for believing in Javanese superstition, instead of trusting the government and science.

At the eruption of Mount Merapi on 26th October about 28 people died, likely due to their unwillingness to obey official warnings about the imminent eruption of the smouldering volcano, and leave the area.

Former vice president and now head of the Indonesian Red Cross/Palang Merah Indonesia said of the loss of life

People should obey the government’s rules. Don’t trust in local beliefs and superstitions, or your own experiences.

Mbah Maridjan

Mbah Maridjan

Kalla was likely referring to the people’s belief that so long as the “gatekeeper” of Mount Merapi, Mbah Maridjan, remained on the mountain’s slopes, there could be no danger, as Mbah Maridjan was believed to have special, mysterious knowledge of the condition of the volcano.

Mbah Maridjan, who had refused to leave his beloved volcano, died with his neighbours. Kalla went on tempo

They were wrong; the people’s beliefs were wrong.

The 28 people who lost their lives were killed by bursts of hot air released by the volcano late on Tuesday, with many of them having been found in or around the mystical figure’s house in the village of Kinahredjo, close to the volcano’s crater.

36 Comments on “Primitive Mystical Beliefs, & Mbah Maridjan”

  1. Muhammad Yani says:

    These are exactly the last words of journalist Yuniawan Wahyu Nugroho. The editor of likes to write the words that light and playful and he was nrimo in living his life. I copied the words from his facebook website. Now for us what left were tears and regret. Regret as we didn’t give an advice for him to be more careful and we didn’t ask him not to get too close to the location of the eruption. Actually there is no journalistic values at all of interviewing Mbah Marijan especially when having to sacrifice lives. Mbah Marijan had a tradition or way of thinking in abnormality, a tradition that has long benn had by hundreds of years to tens of thousands or even millions of Indonesian people, especially who have never enjoyed a higher education. This is a reflection that is very valuable for Indonesian journalists. They are never given a big salary and are never insured their lives by the local media companies they work, but just are similar minded Mbah Marijan, far too willing to take risks without common sense. Is this the result of ignorance in the country? Whatever had happened would not hurt us however to read and contemplate the last words of Yuniawan.

    In transalation:

    It is vain for you to get up early and sit up late, and
    eat bread obtained with difficulty – for he gave to those who loved him at bedtime.

    Hahahahaha durno the priest, has kumbayana child, handsome boy but his leg of horse, no idea why it is like that that the priest Durna heheheehehehe mblogodog monyor-monyor (he claimed hsmsel as the puppet master Ki Hadi Sugito) hahahahahaha.

    Oops why so expensive? No, this is not love cheap anyway, if not believe just asked to the shop. Though the shop next door had a sister hahahahahaha.

    “It was cheap, Brother, if you do not believe it ask the shop next door please” Whereas the shop next door, sister store, hahahaahahaha.

    Don’t be easily shocked, neither be surpised, neither feel as you were a big boy, always be in good morality and alert, good is seen, bad is detected, how lucky is the ensane, the luck comes to those who have good morality hehehehe the journalist, steady, ready treated, hell he would treat me in a restaurant, come anytime.

    Downloaded just “ARABIC LANGUAGE THE LORD’S PRAYER” on

    That life might stop by dropping by for a drink, so just have a drink, let you drink, drink once more, once more, hihihi.
    Because not to exclude the Lord forever. Because though he cause grief, he also loved by the greatness of love. His faithful.

    My love belongs to me, to me directed passion.
    Allah is Great, Allah is Great, the Great God in every word, especially with Word of Life which redeem us from sin amen adherents please.

    My love get its doors, but my love is gone, vanished, as I fainted when she disappeared. I sought him, but not met, I called, but no response.
    Hahahaahaha very horror, the same duo the princess want?

    Although much should I write to you, I do not want to do it with paper and ink (or via facebook), but I hope to come himself to you and talk face to face with you, so that our joy in completeness.

  2. diego says:

    I guess several “mystical believes” saying the world is flat are wrong, and primitive, too.
    Can you help me name some / all of them?

  3. Agan says:

    -Is it cold out there or you are happy to see me?
    -Do you work for Mexpost? I thought I saw you checking out my package.
    -You’ve got 206 bones in your body, want one more?
    -Trust me I’m a doctor.

  4. Ross says:

    Mbah Marijan believed in himself and in his mystical faith. He has paid a heavy price for that and it seems harsh to deride him now. He came across as a decent old stick!

    Let’s instead divert our attention to raising funds for all those folks in that area, and the ones up in Sumatra’s tsunami, and for the flood victims right here in Jakarta.
    Anyone got any good ideas who will receive and pass on donations and not rip them off?

    Oya, I’ve elsewhere suggested our esteemed legislators might like to cancel their ridiculous overseas trips and devote the money thus saved to helping the above unfortunates.
    Any odds offered on whether the MPs may give serious thought to my proposal?

  5. diego says:

    Any odds offered on whether the MPs may give serious thought to my proposal?

    You need to change your nationality to WNI first, then maybe, _maybe_, they will have a look at your proposal.

  6. Ross says:

    No, diego, I’ll just float the notion, and let some of the many Indonesian citizens who are appalled by those junkets take it from there.

  7. diego says:

    Well, Ross,

    judging from the comment of chairman of DPR (senate?), the answer is… “no”

    (Marzuki: Tsunami, consequence of living on an island)

  8. Chris says:

    Jusuf Kalla chides the residents of the slopes of Mt Merapi for believing in Javanese superstition, instead of trusting the government and science.

    Of course, the government is entirely honest and trustworthy, and can always be believed…

  9. camion says:

    What is even more mystical & primitive is the recent Tsunami,where hundreds have died.The Early Warning devices had been vandalised & left unrepaired.Many people obviously never learn from past mistakes in the decisions they make that end up killing far too many innocent people. A bigger stick is needed for some to come into line if by chance that that could ever happen

  10. Aprianti says:

    I believe in Mbah Maridjan more than the government. At least he knows the meaning of commitment.

  11. hafiz says:

    As much as I appreciate Mbah Maridjan’s commitment to his job, I can’t help but wonder why didn’t he evacuate or at least tell his neighbors to when Merapi started spewing out more volcanic ash than usual? It’s not like anyone’s going to steal it while he’s away.

  12. Tence says:

    @ Hafiz

    I didn’t warn his neighbours because he was a deluded old man who believed his own predictions. It is sad that cost him his life but even sadder it cost other peoples lives.

  13. venomaxus says:

    we have to understanding this from javanese traditional culture. We won’t understand the motivation behind Maridjan’s action to not leave Merapi from modern culture. He did it not because he don’t believe in government, but he did it because he have responsibility to “protect” mount Merapi. The definition of “protect” itself are far from our understanding as big city modern citizen. He (Mbah Maridjan) define “protect” as an act to keep in faith and loyalty from Sultan Hamengkubowono’s order no matter what happen (even if it could jeopardize his own live)

  14. camion says:

    Blind Faith often gets you killed or injured or murdered & tortued by the overly faithful as the history books have recorded.Less faith & loyalty might save you in more ways than you realise including your sanity :-))

  15. Astrajingga says:


    mBah Maridjan has to protect the vulcano?
    Is he megalomaniac or delusional?

  16. ajieadnan says:

    Mbah Maridjan… I wish this country leaders can sacrifice their self to fulfill their responsible just like he did

  17. venomaxus says:

    @astrajingga: As I said, we will never able to understand his motivation if we still using our straight logic and modern logical approaches. He is old man that almost never experienced any level education. His understanding about “protection” and “faith” are far different.

    Protect itself as I said above, plus, he protect it (mt. Merapi) not from physically, but from spiritually. He protect Mt. Merapi from any further angry, because he believe that Mt. Merapi has it own spirit, just like us human. Thus although merapi has erupted physically, he still believe that merapi aren’t “erupted” spiritually. And since he is the Protector of Merapi, he has full responsibility to avoid it happen no matter if it could jeopardize his own soul..

  18. BrotherMouzone says:

    I think it’s fair to assume that Mbah Maridjan was either a) a scam artist or b) mentally ill. He claimed to commune with the spirits of the mountain and somebody who makes such a claim has to be either a tad mental or engaged in a long con.

    If he was mentally ill, then the fact that he influenced villagers to stay put despite the risks is simply an unfortunate tragedy. If he was running a scam (and one assumes that he made a fair living off donations) then, frankly, his death is not a huge loss to the world…

  19. geoff says:

    It seems harsh to label Mbaj Marijidan as either a scam artist or mentally ill simply on the basis that he had different beliefs to you and was prepared to die for him.

    I think it’s fair to assume that he was simply a very committed gentleman who truly believed in what he said.

    Please BrotherMouzone, don’t allow intolerance of others to taint your life.

  20. camion says:

    Geoff,its better to be tainted for criticism than dead from phoney beliefs as mankind has killed billions prematurely in the process of its existence.The world is littered with the phonies & far to many die because of them for numerous reasons. Only a deluded or disturbed person would die for phoney beliefs & that includes most wars.Or would you prefer to tolerate all stupid beliefs Hhmmm!!! (regardless of how interesting it makes life & the pages of history books & the media.)

  21. geoff says:

    Camion, while I don’t disagree with your point about living being better than dying, I do honestly believe that intolerance of the beliefs of others is wrong.

    Personally I no more believe in spirits living within volcanoes than I do that an omnipotent God of the Christian Kind exists or that the supreme of any other faith is valid. I do though, accept that others have the right to believe whatever they wish, and yes, I believe that I tolerate very, very many stupid beliefs.

    The death of this gentleman, and any other who chose, misguidedly, to stay with him surely can’t be compared with the millions who have died through warfare.

    Frankly, you should perhaps ask why people still choose to live at all on the side of Merapi, which is notoriously volatile.

  22. camion says:

    Wrong !!! ??? Beliefs are fine,BUT… when beliefs step over the mark to harm anyone,mentally or physically,it becomes intolerable.It becomes criminal.Many people are sucked in via gullibility or hope that the loonies of this world preach, their voodoo or their politics is often unregulated (such as most religion) that it perpetually causes so much misery. The people on Merapi live on the mountain for numerous reasons including the Phoney.The comparison was not declared,but relevent,regardless if only one person was killed or a million ,via the numerous phoney beliefs.Education needs to be improved.

  23. geoff says:

    The certainty of your beliefs and opinions, while impressive, may well be misguided. However I respect your right to those views none the less.

    I have always found that name calling (“loonies”, a pejorative term derived from the word lunatic, itself based on a belief that people become mentally unstable at the time of the full moon..ironic that you should fall back on such a term don’t you think?) is unproductive and to be avoided.

    My understanding (maybe flawed, certainly not 100% accurate I’m sure) is that people live on Merapi as a result of fertile ground arising from its volcanic origin. The sad thing is that Indonesia is such a fertile and fruitful country that if properly managed its resources would more than feed its needs and those of it people. People who would not then have to resort to living in such precarious places.

    The ruling elite if the country however, keep the people suppressed through the simple expedient of retaining the wealth for themselves rather than sharing it, and consequently forcing poverty, servitude and reliance upon myths and legends for survival upon the underclass who inhabit such places.

    While corruption and graft still exists and is accepted as a way of life, and while such massive amounts of wealth sit in the hands of so very few, then this situation will prevail.

    You are quite correct that education is the way forward, of that there can be no doubt, but I would suggest that educating people out of poverty and into real jobs that enable the creation and distribution of wealth will be more valuable than a hundred lessons in denying mountain spirits.

  24. BrotherMouzone says:


    “I would suggest that educating people out of poverty and into real jobs that enable the creation and distribution of wealth will be more valuable than a hundred lessons in denying mountain spirits.”

    But it’s not an “either/or” situation. The kind of education that lifts Indonesia from poverty will also mean the death of primitive (and in this case, fatally retarded) beliefs.

    Everybody should be entitled to their own beliefs; but governments do have a right, indeed, a responsibility, to step in when the individual’s beliefs threaten the lives of others. Sure, some adults made an (un)informed decision to stick around while the lava poured, but children also died as a result of this stupidity.

    Hopefully the Sultan will have the sense to make the next gatekeeper a professor of volcanology and save us going through this all again next year… and the year after that… and the year after that… and the year after that…

  25. geoff says:

    @ BrotherMouzone

    I totally agree with your point about the next gatekeeper being a scientist who actually understands what they are dealing with. Absolutely correct.

    As for the removal of primitive beliefs, that is a judgement call Brother. My judgement is that any belief system that ascribes supernatural powers to an omnipotent entity that somehow polices and safeguards humanity is, in itself, primitive, be that being God, Buddah or any other.

    Only when we free ourselves from those primitive shackles, and accept that we are all responsible for our own destiny will we truly progress.

  26. Lairedion says:

    any belief system that ascribes supernatural powers to an omnipotent entity that somehow polices and safeguards humanity is, in itself, primitive, be that being God, Buddah or any other.

    Buddha is the one exception of what you’re describing here.

  27. geoff says:

    I stand corrected.

  28. Lairedion says:

    Alright geoff… 😉

  29. diego says:

    Buddah hahahaha….. I guess it’s as offensive as calling muslim’s god Allha….

  30. geoff says:

    Yep, it was a schoolboy error, I must admit.

    However my point stands, while I don’t beieve in mystics controlling the behaviour of volcanoes, it seems no more ridiculous a notion than any religious doctrine. That I don’t believe though, doesn’t give me the right to badge believers as loonies or madmen.

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