2020 took a turn that no one could have predicted. While many of us were either in lockdown or practising social distancing, people all over the world are trying to find ways to keep people safe from becoming infected with the coronavirus. It has actually been reported that in Indonesia, authorities are taking a very different approach to try and 'scare' some of their locals who are not willing to change their daily routines into staying at home.
As regions nationwide have enforced restrictions on people’s movement in an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19, some local authorities are resorting to unorthodox methods in imposing the virus control measures.
Young people from Kesongo hamlet of Kepuh village in Central Java’s Sukoharjo regency, for example, stayed at the entrance gate to the hamlet dressed up as pocong (shroud ghosts of Indonesian legend).
"The pocong is not to scare residents; instead, we want to educate residents on the fact that coronavirus causes death. It is a shock therapy, as people usually [pay more attention] to anything related to death," Anjar Panca, the keeper of Kesongo’s Al Himmah mosque, said on Wednesday.
The pocong guards monitor guests coming into the hamlet and make sure residents obey the government's restrictions on social gatherings.
"During the past three days, no residents were seen going out at night. Apparently, they're scared of the fake ghost," Anjar claimed.
In some areas it seemed to have the opposite effect. Instead of being scared to stay inside, locals instead were curious and wanted to spot the elusive 'pocong' for themselves. Changing tact, local volunteers now only come out in a more spontaneous nature, perhaps making the sightings more believable or more worthy of being feared.
"One way to keep them from going out during the COVID-19 pandemic is resorting to kating (scaring people) with myth or local folklore. Our ancestors used to do it to scare children to prevent them from going out at night," village head Marianus Samsung told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
In our Western world, many of us would think it was Halloween and would be more curious not scared, so what is it about the pocong that it could be used as a viable tactic to keep locals inside with fear?
Two youngsters in Kepuh village in Sukoharjo, Central Java, stand guard dressed as pocong (shrouded corpses) at the entrance to their village to keep residents in as part of restrictive measures to curb the spread of COVID-19. (Courtesy of/Kesongo Hamlet)
A pocong is one of the most well known or popular ghosts in Indonesian mythology. Going along the with theme that ghosts are dressed in a white sheet, the pocong is dressed head to toe and wrapped in a burial shroud. The same kind of shroud a person would be buried with. It is tied to the body with cloth around the neck, arms and legs. You could essentially think of it as a person who was buried wearing the shroud coming back to life. As the feet are tied or bound, it is widely believed that pocong do not walk but instead fly or teleport to where they need to go. Horror movies have used a different approach and show the pocong hopping as their feet are bound together with cloth.
In terms of facial features, the face is often said to be green and decayed with no eyes, again giving weight to the idea that it has literally come from the grave. The belief is that after a person has died, their soul roams the Earth for approximately 40 days. Once these 40 days is over, their soul is either freed and the ties that bound them are said to be released. If these ties are not released, the soul is not freed and instead takes the form of a pocong.
While many fear the pocong, legend also says that if your hug a pocong and undo their ties, you are helping to release their soul and in return you will receive good luck and wealth.
Image Source https://www.indonesiamatters.com/1866/pocong-horror/
There are different descriptions and different stories surrounding pocong as it is largely based on mythology, however one thing that does seem to be consistent is the fear surrounding this mysterious figure. Some believe the pocong to be evil which is exaggerated in Indonesian horror movies - while others believe it is the soul trapped inside the body seeking help to be freed.
At a time in the world where people are urging others to stay home, this outside of the box idea may just work for these areas where the pocong is strongly feared. It couldn't of course work in Western society as you would have groups of paranormal investigators out in force trying to investigate the phenomena. It highlights to us the strong divide in paranormal belief across the world and just how differently we see things!
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