Mount Merapi in Indonesia sadly claimed its spiritual “keeper” on Tuesday. As The Australian reports: “The body of Mbah Maridjan, one of Indonesia’s most admired mystics, was found yesterday morning in his house in ash-blasted Umbulharjo village, prostrated as if in prayer, according to searchers. Maridjan, 83, was entrusted with interpreting and placating Mount Merapi’s spirit.”
Although Maridjan’s supplications appeared to have been successful in 2006, they seem to have failed this week. He certainly had courage behind his spiritual convictions, which are described as “Islam Kejawen, traditional undogmatic Javanese Islam suffused with animism.”
The BBC’s story provides some additional detail:
For years Maridjan had led ceremonies at the volcano, dispersing rice or flowers in or around the crater in an effort to appease spirits. If there were to be an eruption, many villagers believed Maridjan would be warned in a vision.
Local beliefs are a mix of Islam, Indonesia’s most predominant religion, and those dating from the island’s Hindu-Buddhist period. One tradition is the annual Labuhan ceremony, an auspicious event where the palace makes offerings to spirits, including the Goddess of the South Sea, Kanjeng Ratu Kidul. It was Maridjan who helped ensure such rituals were upheld.
There is something truly poignant about this story, which I think may have something to do with Maridjan’s non-dogmatic and syncretic spiritualism, which is fairly typical of Southeast Asia.