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The Tuyul Phenomenon Has Made

an Excitement in Indonesian

Newspapers, Scientists Say This

Jakarta, CNBC Indonesia – Two people fighting over accusations of keeping tuyul is not a fictional story, but it happened in early January 1977 in Solo. At that time, a commotion broke out between Mrs. Rokayah and Mrs. Wignyo, a resident of Tegalrejo village, Solo.

Chronologically, this commotion started with reports from Rokayah, a trader and kiosk owner, who often lost money. He complained that every night the money he saved kept decreasing, even though there was no sign of anyone entering the kiosk other than Rokayah himself.

“IDR 15,000 was saved at night, IDR 13,000 was left in the morning. The next night IDR 20,000, the next morning IDR 15,000 remained. And so on,” wrote the Barata Sunday newspaper (January 1977 edition).

This situation made Rokayah think mystically, moreover, many people said that there was tuyul involvement in this incident. The reason is, for Javanese people, tuyul are known as spirits who like to steal money.

At first, Rokayah didn’t believe it. However, over time he became irritated and wanted to find out the cause himself.

The way to do this is by praying and fasting. For three days without stopping, Rokayah continued to fast and broke his fast only with water. Next he said various prayers at night. Until finally, this method produced results.

“Suddenly he was shocked because that night he saw two strange creatures enter his kiosk. The creatures, the size of babies, nimbly entered the kiosk through the keyhole. Then, they went straight to a drawer where they kept money. One was under the table. , the other one went into the operating drawer,” wrote Barata Sunday.

The creature was apparently a tuyul. Without thinking, Rokayah immediately caught the tuyul-tuyul with his left hand.

Then, the woman immediately hit the tuyul and asked who it belonged to. However, Rokayah was shocked when he found out about the tuyul boss. It turned out that the owner was Mrs. Wignyo, her own neighbor. Until finally, when the next day arrived, a commotion broke out.

In the Barata Minggu report , Wignyo’s mother apparently attacked Rokayah’s mother while getting angry. He did not accept that Rokayah caught him in the act and hurt his tuyul, a reaction that confirmed that he was the guardian of the tuyul.

Even so, Rokayah still doesn’t feel guilty. After all, the fact is that he was a victim because his money had been stolen. After that, it is no longer known what the continuation of this theft case was. However, one thing is certain: this incident caused a stir in the city of Solo and became the focus of the local media.

From this case, Solo residents learned how to catch tuyul in Mrs. Rokayah’s style, such as fasting and breaking the fast only with water.

Does Tuyul really exist?

The above problems are often commonplace in Javanese society. US anthropologist, Clifford Geertz in Javanese Religion (2013) also highlights the phenomenon of Javanese people’s activities which are believed to maintain tuyul. In fact, he specifically explained that there are several characteristics of tuyul keepers, such as suddenly becoming rich, being stingy, often wearing used clothes, and always eating food from poor people.

The tuyul narrative in people’s minds is actually created from socio-economic jealousy. This started when economic liberalization occurred in the Dutch East Indies which made many people suddenly rich.

The increase in one’s wealth makes farmers jealous. Because, they are of the view that cultivating wealth is an open process. As a result, the farmers view their wealth as thanks to theft involving supernatural and invisible creatures.

So, envious farmers always accused the nouveau riche of using illegitimate means to gain wealth.

As a result of these accusations, wrote Ong Hok Ham in another book entitled From Problem Priayi to Nyi Blorong (2002), successful traders and entrepreneurs lost their status in society. They are considered “despicable” because they amass wealth from haram means, namely allying themselves with Satan. In fact, this all happened as a result of changes in Dutch colonial policy which caused businessmen to be hit by the windfall.