Suro, the Javanese month of beginnings, was more generous than Father Christmas has ever been to me. It had pockets full of whimsical surprises. One of them was discovering Tutup Ngisor, a village lost on the slopes of volcano mountain Mirapi. This is a very special place where art is a form of religion, all residents from birth devote their life to dance, music, and poetry, and spirits govern the course of their lives. To celebrate the Javanese New Year the village organized a 3-day festival with rituals, dances, and theater performances. The main happening was Jathilan, the ancient horse trance dance through which the dancers can communicate with the ancestors. This year happened something unexpected. Suddenly before the dance had started during the initial procession the eldest members of the community started falling into trance – they were screaming, laughing, weeping. Their empty bodies were dragged into the village shrine and the grandfather of the head family came to make a prayer and to bring the mask that was forgotten to be included in the procession. According to the grandfather the spirit of the mask got angry and tried to interrupt the ritual. To calm the angry spirit the mask had to be taken around the village. After the sacred walk the peace was restored and the celebration of Suro continued.
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