Keris Power

The Keris is a mystical weapon. For the most part, blades were consider to be powerful “living Keris” (Keris hidup), or at the very least, holding special powers. Many people believe keris are inhabited by a spirit (isi). A keris might have power for good, or for evil.  This could be tested in two ways:  A seris of cuts on a leaf, based on the blade width and other factors as described below could determine its nature. 

The power of a keris derives from all of its attibutes but most importantly, the pattern (pamor) shown in the metal of the blade and the choice of wood (kayu), and pattern on the wood (pelet), for the warangka (upper part of the sheath) and gander (lower part of the sheath).  See here for Examples of Kayu and Pelet on the Warangka

Tanjeg, the compatibility of keris and owner

The estimate of compatibility of a keris with a prospective owner is called tanjeg. Harmony between the owner and the keris was critical.  If the owner of a keris slept with it under his pillow and had a bad dream with terrifying creatures, the blade was unlucky and had to be taken away.  This did not necessarily mean the keris was evil, only that it was incompatible with that person. If the dream did not appear, this would be repeated each night until the dream comes.  The choice of a good Keris goes with a thorough knowledge of the power, the magic and the wealth of each pattern to match the owner’s personality and needs.

Magical Power (Tuah)

The keris is always considered as protective. In traditional Malay houses, a keris would be secured to the main roof beam to protect the house. Stories abound of keris flying out of their sheaths and attacking an enemy, of keris rattling in their sheaths at the approach of danger, of killing an enemy by just pointing at someone.  Some keris helped prevent fires, death, agricultural failure and myriad other problems. Likewise, they could do more than prevent problems; some keris brought on fortuitous harvests and other events. Keris could also have tremendous killing power. There are legends of keris moving around on their own and killing individuals they disliked. When making a blade, the empu (spiritual maker of the keris) could infuse into the blade any special spiritual qualities and powers the owner desires.

Some keris are considered sacred and because people believe they contain magical powers, specific rites needed to be completed to avoid calling down evil fates. For example, pointing a keris at someone is thought to mean that they will die soon, so in ceremonies or demonstrations where ritualized battles are fought with real keris, the fighters will perform a ritual which includes touching the point of the blade to the ground to neutralize this effect.

Relative to the Hulu (handle), the keris blade should always make a certain angle, never perpendicular.  This represents an omen that someone, of any rank and position, should always respect and comply not only with the Creator, but also with each other.

In the community, the keris is more important than its luck, beauty, iron or pamor.  Keris give the impression of power and exude prestige, or they might be haunted and frightening.

In Central Java, the keris is important in the marriage ceremony which is conducted in traditional dress.  The keris is worn by the man at his waist as a symbol of manliness.  If a bride cannot attend the ceremony in person, she is represented by the keris.  The keris is a symbol of heritage.

Keris as a weapon

The keris was not created solely as a weapon to kill.  It is more of a spiritual weapon.  The keris adds courage and confidence to its owner.  It can help avoid disease and reactions from plants.  It can smooth interaction and prevent interference.