Susuk: magical beauty on golden pins


Although magical-religious practices exist in practically all cultures, the truth is that some are always better known than others. Many, like the magic of Indonesia, recover their contact with the modern world through cinema or, as in this case, medical studies that expose practices that tried to go unnoticed. Susuk is one of them. Susuk is the practice, carried out by a dukun, in which different elements, invisible from the outside, are inserted into the body and face to enhance or provide certain characteristics to the person who wears them. The most common insertions are very thin gold needles, which are inserted into the face to provide and increase beauty, and which are more common among the female gender, or to obtain spiritual or physical protection, in which case they can be inserted into the skin of the part of the body that one prefers, considering that part weaker or prone to accidents, such as knees, back, hips or neck, believing that this is strengthened, or for other purposes, as the insertion into the genitals would claim.

The history of the susuk seems to begin among wealthy young women who were looking for a husband: wealthy, because it is not so easy to obtain gold so refined as to create pieces with such minimal thicknesses. Said pins are enchanted before, during and after their manufacture and use: they are, therefore, talismans in themselves (susuk muka - "hidden amulet"), and their magical function was, in effect, to attract the opposite sex, through the increase of beauty in the face and body in which they are. However, due to its relationship with other practices such as acupuncture or gemology, many consider that its first use was purely medical and even prosthetic, although its esoteric meaning is not denied, since the materials have specific intentions and "capacities". , such as those susuk made to reinforce vulnerable physical health. Furthermore, one can request a susuk with a specific goal, for example, success or power, and carry the talisman concealed in the skin without arousing suspicion. Curiously, rumors spread about the dictator and second president of Indonesia, Hali Mohammed Suharto, that he carried susuk, having achieved military success for his overthrow and later for his maintenance in power.

Other commonly inserted objects are also silver needles, copper diamonds and other minerals, herbs and spices, iron, pearls and even certain animal parts. Gold or silver is also introduced under the skin directly in a liquid state. All this is done during a specific, painless ritual with invisible results. Any object with some kind of magical value can be used in this practice, which obviously requires a pulse and physiological knowledge, which is why the person in charge of it is the dukun, who would be the Indonesian healer shaman specialized in traditional medicine and spiritual (which in Malaysia is called bomoh). These healers are also specialized in spells and conjurations, being able to perform or eliminate them, whatever their purposes, hence their practices are branded as witchcraft.

Dukun are plentiful in Java, but they also operate on all islands and the mainland, and it's not too difficult to locate one, given Indonesia's religious plurality. However, the majority religion, Islam, coexisting with civil laws, persecutes the practices of the dukun considering them witchcraft (a sin, haraam), so there is a closed circle around who would resort to these traditional practices, both from the dukun and the pawang, shamans mostly from Malaysia who are more dedicated to nature magic. Despite the fact that the latter are dedicated to said magic (helping the crops, attracting rain or sun, etc.) and the liberation of those possessed by spirits, they are also included in the sorcerers' bag. Even so, since susuk is a practice with invisible results, many Muslims also make use of it.

The knowledge of the dukun is very similar, in the case of susuk, to the principles of acupuncture, since they also do it to relieve pain, heal injuries or correct circulation problems, or various diseases that are considered to be influenced by spirits. malignant In fact, the dukun also know how to expel them from the body through pricking and massage. All these acts, including the susuk, are accompanied by chants to the spirits and different divinities, and spells to fulfill the request.

An example of a susuk ritual is the insertion of two pieces of gold the size of fishbones, one into each cheek, on a full moon night. The wearer must memorize a jampi (spell) that he will pronounce while the dukun or bomoh introduces them with precision. It is said that through this enchantment, the dukun invokes a spirit that helps him not to leave a mark on the patient's skin. Both the piece and the wearer's skin will be cleaned with an essence of water and herbs, very often aloe, which is well known to heal and moisturize. This and other herbal and floral preparations should be used during the following weeks. However, at dawn the day after the ritual there will be no trace of it.

The dukun or bomoh are also skilled at removing foreign objects from the body, from splinters to shells, animal remains, or other objects that may have been introduced into the person by other sorcerers for malevolent purposes, with the help of malevolent spirits. This would be the version of "black magic" and authentic witchcraft of the susuk, which would be part of what in Indonesia is called santet. Based on homeopathic magic and with acts reminiscent of definitions and voodoo, among many rituals, one of them is the santet susuk, consisting of the insertion, without counting on the will of the person who is sought to be harmed, in such a way that objects that are considered harmful, dangerous or bewitched, in the same way invisible and consequently, very difficult to discover for those who do not know that they have been subjected to this spell. Sorcerers are aided by spirits that help them in this arduous task, making the bewitched person physically or mentally ill, unless a doctor or a dukun discover the strange object and manage to extract it.

Being a bearer of susuk implies certain taboos to respect, which include refusing certain foods, such as meat skewers, going under stalls, and of course, openly revealing their use. Some patients are warned of karmic changes, since the natural course of things will be altering. All this is well reflected in the films that echo this practice, such as P. the seed of evil (2005), Susuk (2008), or Santet (2018). The susuk is considered to have a certain power of its own, which the individual must learn to live with; if the person is not able to handle or control said power, perhaps it will end up driving him crazy, being the most terrible thing to fall into the violent savagery to which one can be dragged by the spirits that control the power of the susuk, perverted by evil use of it.

The Susuk practice has had a great impact outside the Asian world as a result of medical advances, since radiotherapy has exposed the images of these needles and foreign objects inside the bodies when the person has undergone an x-ray, giving rise to to studies, due to the clarity and impact of its images, about the possible infections that can take place in the skin due to corrosion or movement of objects on the skin, etc., as well as the precision of its placement, its possible and sometimes proven therapeutic use, and the complications that could arise in cases of surgery, for example on the chest or back, and more frequently on the jaws- since the cheeks (and the face in general) is where they are most inserted these needles, to enhance beauty, with great incidence in women. From a medical and anthropological point of view, the importance lies in recognizing this type of practice and treating it with respect and discretion, and as far as possible, trying to maintain it without affecting the operation or the person. From the point of view of the news, the images, in some cases with dozens of metal pins, invisible to the eye and painless, are always surprising.

The extraction of these objects must be carried out by a surgeon, who does not usually recommend it if they do not imply a risk for other operations, or, where appropriate, a dukun. However, removing the susuk implies the immediate disappearance of its effects, the most notable being the disappearance of beauty in the face and premature aging, which are possibly due to the internal injuries left behind and the end of stretching or clamping. who, voluntarily or involuntarily, made the numerous little needles. However, as it is an unnatural addition, all susuk must be removed from a corpse before carrying out the corresponding funeral, since otherwise, the spirit of the deceased could not rest in peace, tied to the spell that guarantees youth or protection. before death. Others think that, due to the protection of the spell, a bad, slow and painful death will be suffered, since the spell will fight to defend itself against illness or accidents, becoming much more aggressive to fulfill its natural mission. Many people choose to call a dukun or bomoh when they are old and do not require as much luck or beauty. This, on the other hand, causes whoever has requested said service to be exposed to their family, or even to the public, about the use of this magical practice. Among the Muslim people who have been subjected to this ritual, it is the norm and necessity to remove the pieces introduced into the body and face before dying and being buried, in order to carry out the rite of washing and shrouding according to their custom.

For all the complications that it entails, currently, especially in esoteric markets such as Yogyakarta or Beringharjo, they have a "plan b" for the same ritual, somewhat modernized. On the one hand, the implantation of magical elements within jewelry and piercings, much more visible but easier to remove or replace, including gold capsules or covers, or gold dental prostheses, which for women is a good replacement of the mandibular susuk. It is also common in Malaysia to apply a mixture of gold and magic water, which is applied to the skin until it is absorbed, being considered a much less invasive technique, and in which many other herbal and animal ingredients are used, the iridescent insect samber lilin, commonly used among men, despite the fact that its amulets and concoctions are quite expensive. On the other hand we have drinkers and filters that include bits of gold, silver or minerals, which are considered to remain in the body, fulfilling the same functions. Some of these vials keep inside small talismans with sacred texts, including those of the Koran.

Although Islam pursues the practice, as said before, the truth is that in a pluralistic context and, for a large part of the population, polytheistic, the addition of one more religious thought is easy. In addition, the Islam practiced there is not always "orthodox", and many believe that, as long as its aims are positive, and especially in relation to health, there is nothing wrong with the use of amulets, talismans or spells, which in the end fulfill like devotions.

Legislation around magic and witchcraft is complex in Indonesia. Magic and witchcraft are a widespread belief in Indonesia. Although Islam prohibits witchcraft, this does not imply that its existence and affectation are not believed. While Islam coexists with Hinduism, indigenous divinities and spirits, magic continues its course on two open and contiguous fronts: first, the people who seek and use it want to feel free from it and at the same time protected from attacks by those who they condemn their practices; the second, those who fear witchcraft (and see here the difference with magic) also want to feel protected from these practices, that they be persecuted and punished. The law has ended up literally and exclusively prohibiting black magic, including witches in the criminal section. However, for the punishment of any criminal, material proof is necessary, and ordinary people know very well that magic can be, even in the case of susuk, practically invisible, so there are many cases in which people take the law into their own hands and organize raids and even murders of those suspected of having put a spell on someone who has fallen ill. With double standards, they also do not hesitate to consult a bomoh or dukun to identify and locate spells and culprits, as well as heal those affected. At least these shamanic profiles can find their safe place in aesthetics and in traditional and spiritual medicine.

Pietro Viktor Carracedo Ahumada -


-Arishiya Thapasum, Faraz Mohammed, Susuk-Black Magic Exposes "White" by dental radiographs. Journal of Clinical and Diagnosis Research, v.8, 2014.

-Geertz, C. The Religion of Java. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1976.

-Mohd Kassim Hj Ali. Traiditonal Malaysian jewellery. Utusan publications, SDN BHD, 2008

-Watson, C. W., Ellen, R. (Ed.) Understanding Witchcraft and Sorcery in Southeast Asia. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1993.

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