Photo by Eric Deeran on Unsplash

Jelangkung or Jailangkung is a very old game that has existed for at least 1500 years. In Belitung, this game is played in a full moon night. Young people like it a lot because they will be able to communicate with the spirits of the dead.

Before the game starts, they should prepare a wooden doll. The jelangkung doll is made of a coconut half-shell and two wooden sticks.

First, draw a face on the coconut shell and tie the wooden sticks to make a cross. The coconut shell needs to be attached to the cross, and then tie a pen or marker at the lower end of the wooden cross. Afterwards, put a bunch of keys on the neck of the doll and dress it with used clothes.

This game is usually played by three or four people. They go to find a quiet place, so that nobody will disturb them when the game is going on.

In the moonlight, they take out the glutinous rice, cakes, tea or arrack and put them on the ground. After burning kemenyan (incense), two people stand on the left and right holding the jelangkung doll.

One of them stands in front of the creepy doll and say, “Jelangkung, jelangsing, we have a small party and invite you to play with us. You may come if you want and go if you feel bored. If you join our party, please move your body to tell us that you’re here.”

While the coconut shell doll is loaded with a spirit, it feels a little heavy and starts swaying back and forth. The people who hold the jelangkung doll may lower their hands to let the pen or marker touch the paper below. It will draw symbols or mysteriously write a person’s name or something else.

Whenever the spirit write some signs and symbols that are not easy to understand, just guess and interpret them as capable as you can. Don’t be too sure of your interpretation because it is only a probable outcome.

The spirit that you invite may write in Indonesian, English or Mandarin or other languages. You may ask the spirit to leave if you don’t understand the words or sentences written on the paper.

In China, people call this game Cai Lan Gong. For Cai Lan Gong, you use a bamboo basket instead of a coconut shell doll. The pen or marker is attached to the base of the bamboo basket. Cai Lan Gong has long been considered extinct in China. Perhaps you won’t have the chance to see such a game anymore if you visit China.

If you like horror, I recommend you watch the Indonesian Jelangkung movies. There, you can see how people invite spirits at haunted places.

The strange bamboo basket on the wall
A friend of mine tried to play Jelangkung with a bamboo basket. After he returned home, he hung the basket on the wall.

He couldn’t sleep well and heard strange sound on the wall as though the basket were moving back and forth, but there was no wind blew in from outside.

He got up from bed and slightly opened the door. He looked at the basket on the wall. He waited for quite a while, but the basket remained silent.

While he lay down on bed, he heard the strange sound again. It was very disturbing and made him hard to close his eyes. He didn’t dare to go to peep at the bamboo basket the second time. He lay with his eyes wide open the whole night until the roosters crowed at daybreak.


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