Pustaha (Batak bark book of divination from Sumatra; wooden covers with lizard carved in relief on front cover), 19th century.

Gift of S. T. and Margaret D. Harris.

The Batak tribe of Sumatra inscribed incantations and magic cures used by witch doctors on thin strips of tree bark folded accordion style and enclosed in wooden covers. This very traditional volume, with a carved lizard design on the wooden cover and text in black and red ink, contains pages decorated with insects and other designs. The lizard, a common theme among the Batak, symbolizes prosperity, the fertility of the earth, and the underworld.

Batak Bark Book


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