Container for magical substances (naga morsarang), 19th–20th century
Indonesia, Sumatra, Toba Batak people
Horn (buffalo), wood; H. 20 1/2 in. (52.1 cm)
Gift of Fred and Rita Richman, 1987 (1987.453.1)
Among the Batak people of Sumatra, the datu, or ritual specialist, required a variety of containers made of different materials to hold his supernaturally powerful mixtures and potions. This vessel, known as a naga morsarang, consists of the hollow horn of a water buffalo, its outer surface incised with curving foliate designs. In the interior of the horn, the earth deity Boraspati Ni Tano is represented in the form of a lizard, a motif that occurs on other ritual objects such as divination books.
The horn's pointed end is carved in the form of a seated human figure. The wider, open end is plugged with an elaborate wooden stopper that depicts the singa (a zoomorphic underworld deity) with four human figures riding on its back. These human figures may represent the succession of ritual masters who preceded the datu who owned the container. It is also possible that the figures are related to mythical characters portrayed on other ritual implements.
Friday, June 22, 2007