Edit Blog Post
Published: November 9th 2017
Sea views outside my hotel
Once most of Timor was animist. Then came the Portuguese and they brought a Catholic Jesus, followed by the Dutch who brought a Protestant Jesus. The interior, for long remained animist, but the onslaught of Jesus from the coast could not be stopped indefinitely. And now just one village remains. Notwithstanding that, most of their fellow Timorese are only nominally Christians.
Boti, however, is not even nominally Christian. The Chief of Boti decided to stand by the religion and traditions of his ancestors, followed by an ever shrinking population. There are now just 360 of them, and sooner rather than later none will be left, as it is becoming ever harder to find suitable wives within this narrow pool. With suitable, I mean wives which are not closely related to their future spouses. Most of the 360 are from the same family, so wives are sought elsewhere, like in other surrounding villages. Those wives, though, don’t follow the old ways, and don’t want to follow them, and so Boti’s animist future looks very bleak indeed.
The new Chief hasn’t found a wife yet, so there is no heir. His brother, who moved to another village, has a child, who
Old Dutch cemetery
is being raised in Boti, to ensure the continuity of the line and traditions. But whether this will work is another tale. The Chief wasn’t around when I visited. He was working the fields with the other men of Boti, which is the old custom.The fields belong to the village, as opposed to one family. The women, meanwhile, weave and cook. The calendar consists of nine days, and on the ninth day, they rest and worship their two Gods, the God of Heaven and the God of Earth.
The Chief isn’t an extremists, he allows each member of his community to decide for themselves whether they want to follow the old ways, or not. Many choose to go to Indonesian schools and leave the village, a few decide to eschew the schools and learn the arts, crafts and traditions of their ancestors. The old Chief had 4 sons, only one, the current Chief was raised the traditional way, the others went to school and left, and, of them, as mentioned before, one has given over a son to be educated solely in the traditions of Boti.
There are two circles in Boti, the inner and outer circle, within
This man was from Zutphen, which isn't far from where I live in Holland
the inner only the 360 live, while in the outer it is a mix of Christians and animists.
Boti is a quiet and peaceful place, and I had an interesting talk to the Chief’s brother, who happened to be passing by, possibly to visit his (young) son who is living there. After giving the customary gift of betel nut, which is very popular around these parts, I was given coffee and snacks and shown around the Chief’s compound.
So much for Boti, and its two Gods. Before Boti, there was Kupang, and Kupang was hot, and sticky. It is nearing the end of the dry season, but the rain hasn’t arrived just yet. And it is always hottest right before the wet season’s starts. Kupang is spread out. It hasn’t got much of interest to a tourist, which doesn’t mean it isn’t a pleasant town. I wasn’t all that bad, and the food was good. There be pork in these parts, which makes a difference after all the fish I had been eating.
After Kupang there was Soe, which was the jumping off point for my sojourn to Boti. And also to Niki-Niki’s Wednesday market, and to
Canal in Kupang
Nome, the last head-hunting village on Timor. Now, this sounds more exciting than it really is. Nome, was actually a frontier village, a garrison of sorts for one of the several little Kingdoms that occupied the highlands of Timor. It was located on a strategic location, surrounded by cliffs on three sides. On the one open side they built a low defensive wall topped by cacti, to keep out any enemies that tried to come from the back.
From this ‘fort’ the warrior cast that was stationed in Nome, patrolled the borders and fought of enemies. If they won, they decapitated the deceased and after a 4 day ritual, they sent the skulls to their King. If they lost… I presume the same happened to them, and their skulls probably would end up adorning the halls of the rival King. To ensure such a fate wouldn’t befall them, they consulted the Gods, and a stick and a chicken egg, as you do, which would tell them if they would win or lose the battle. Obviously if the stick and egg indicated a loss, they wisely decided to stay put and not engage. As far as I could tell, it
all had to do with the lengths of the Chiefs’ arms (though that is my own conclusion, after watching my guide demonstrating the ceremony), the Chief of the fort being the one who was in charge of the ritual. One would hope their Chiefs had long arms, or else they would be holed up in that fort indefinitely.
I, meanwhile, have consulted my own stick and chicken egg and concluded it is time to move to the next place. This done, I ate the egg for breakfast, hopefully I didn’t jinx myself!
In a unexpected turn of events, after thinking long and hard on what the chicken egg actually had to say and carefully remembering the direction the stick pointed me in, I decided it really told me to go to Kefamenanu and from there make my way to Temkessi. Unfortunately I only realised my mistake concerning the egg and the stick after returning from Timor Leste, but I made up for it by going to said places as soon as I arrived back in West Timor. And in keeping with that I am adding a bit to this here blog, including all knew photos! Sounds like an
advertisement, doesn't it? Temkessi is possibly the most beautifully situated of the traditional villages in West Timor, at the end of road so to speak. A bad road at that. But I had an experienced motorcycle rider at my disposal, who had to ask the way, as this was his first time too. He found it though, and we both walked around and climbed a peak with wonderful views. So, I thank the egg and stick for correcting my initial mistake, without them I wouldn't have seen Temkessi!
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