Cultural Beliefs Concerning a Newborn Baby

P. showing a “gelang tangkal,” which is tied on the wrist of Diga (name of the baby).

The below information was obtained from Mr. Ahmad (Bapak Ahmad), who is 74 years old. Mr. Ahmad resides on the north side of the Batang Hari River, north of the City of Jambi, in the village named “Jambi Kecil.” The below information was further confirmed and reconfirmed by several more families that were interviewed, to ensure information was accurately noted.

Mr. Ahmad indicated that many Indonesian traditions do not always originate from their religion (Islam), but from traditional beliefs that pre-date Islam.

Day 7, After the Birth of a Baby

On this day a “syukuran” (thanksgiving event) is conducted, in which several events take place.

  • An amulet (gelang tangkal) is tied on the baby’s wrists, ankles, and waist. The amulets will be worn for 1 year or longer.  Amulets like this are believed to protect the body and soul from evil spirits, as well as ensure a wonderful personality and success throughout their life.
    • The ceremony of tying on the bracelets is conducted by a dukun,” or spiritual practitioner. Not a leader from the local mosque.
    • The question was asked about why the 7th day, and not another day for these events. One answer was that nobody knows, it’s just their tradition. Another person responded that this day has a connection with the below mentioned sacrifice that takes place on this day, the “aqiqah.”
  • The baby is given a name. For Muslims, names will frequently come from the Al Qur’an. One family we interviewed indicated that their young child, which was under the age of 1, was given a name that was a combination of the parent’s names. The father’s name was “Budi,” and the mother’s name was “Mega.” They named the baby boy, “Diga” (using the last two letters of the parent’s names). This is a non-traditional practice, but acceptable. Some parents have indicated that they will change the name of their baby several times to confuse evil spirits. That customary belief is mostly found on the island of Java.   People in Jambi said they don’t follow that custom.

    P. showing the “gelang tangkal” tied on the ankle of Diga (name of the baby).

  •  The child’s hair is cut (cukuran). Doing this will remove bad luck from the child. On the evening of this syukuran (thanksgiving event), there is prayer and readings from the Al Qur’an. The next morning the baby’s hair is cut (only a small amount—the child is not shaved). The hair is then buried in the ground around the home, or in a field. The hair of a newborn child is considered to be unlucky, so it will be cut off and buried. If this is not conducted, the child can expect to have unfortunate occurrences throughout their life. (Some indicated that the hair-cutting event takes place on the 90th day after birth.)
  • Aqiqah, or sacrifice of 1 or 2 goats. If the 7 day old child is a boy, 2 goats must be sacrificed. If it is a girl, only 1 goat needs to be sacrificed.

Day 40, After the Birth of a Baby

On this day the child is allowed to leave the home. If the child is taken out of the home before the 40th day, they can experience various types of disturbances from evil spirits. Most parents still follow this tradition.