Protection from Evil Spirits

Inai, or Daun Pacar

Living in a culture different than the one we grew up in presents us with opportunities to learn about other people’s ways of life. The majority of people are happy to answer questions about their culture because they realize you are interested in what is important to them.

In the Jambi Province we saw people with orange / red fingernails and toenails. We inquired about the reason for it and the information below is what we found.

Inai, or Daun Pacar

The dye used to color the fingers and nails is called “Inai,” or “Daun Pacar.” This dye comes from a leaf that is ground very fine then mixed with rice, charcoal, and gambir. We have even seen the dye used to draw a 2” circle on the palms of the hands. Whether the dye is on the fingernail, toenail, or down to the first joint of the finger, the purpose is the same.

When researching cultural traditions it is difficult to find a book that contains details about the traditions. When situations like that arise, numerous people have to be interviewed to gather information. But with this procedure you will get answers that are vastly different because there are many ethnic groups in Indonesia. Each one of these ethnic groups will have a slightly different slant on their traditions.  So, as it applies to “Daun Pacar,” there is no one answer that is correct—its purpose varies based on the individual, extended family, or ethnic group.

These are the responses we received from people who explained the purpose of this dye:

  1. To show others they just got married. A bride and groom applies it two times, once on each of the two days prior to a wedding. It’s done 2x so the coloring will last longer. Some say it will last from 1 week to 1 month.
  2. It’s used when someone is looking to meet someone of the opposite sex, specifically for marriage.
  3. It’s used for cleaning the nails of people who have recently passed away (prior to burial).
  4. It’s used as a traditional antiseptic for small cuts.
  5. It’s used merely as a decoration.
  6. It’s used as protection from evil spirits.

We have seen Daun Pacar on babies, and we knew they were not getting married, nor seeking a marriage partner. We asked an elderly couple  why it was used on babies and they explained that this is “tangkal,” “jimat,” or an amulet that will protect the baby from evil spirits. It is also believed that the dye will protect whoever wears it from evil spirits, not just babies. Strings tied around the waist, wrists, and ankles of babies are also used for spiritual protection. You can read our post about that by clicking this link.