Releasing Chickens (or other animals)

[Ayam Lepas]

Ayam LepasThis is a very old batik pattern found in the area of Jambi known as SEKOJA (the other side of the river from the City of Jambi).

Ayam Lepas
This is a very old batik pattern we found at the business called Siti Hajir.

After praying at a grave, and receiving the blessing prayed for, it is said that people need to ensure they fulfill any vow they may have made. Some people will release animals before their blessing is received, and some will do it afterwards. If it is a chicken they release, it is referred to as “ayam lepas” (chicken release). Chickens are the most common, but people also release:

  • Goats
  • Cows
  • Water Buffalo
  • Geese and Ducks
  • Fish are released into rivers.
  • Eggs are placed by the graves, specifically eggs from a black chicken.

Sometimes these animals are merely released and other times they are potong(ed), that is, their necks are cut as a sacrifice and the blood is drained into a hole in the ground. The animals are then eaten by the one sacrificing it, and often shared with others in the neighborhood.

Sacred Grave of Panglima Kuning (husband)

Sacred Grave of Panglima Kuning (husband)

The caretaker (juru kunci) of the sacred graves of Panglima Kuning and Panglima Hitam, said that after the people release chickens at the grave, the chickens will wonder around the village like all the other chickens. The “released” chickens will eventually be eaten by him and his family when they need it for a meal.

We were told that people who release chickens at the grave of Orang Kayo Hitam (translated: black rich person) must release a black chicken, in accordance with the name of the person buried there. Some say that by releasing a black chicken you are symbolically and intentionally involving yourself with black magic.

There are no clear methods or directions given on how to pray or offer these sacrifices at graves. Different villages will release animals in different ways.




Makam Keramat

(sacred graves)

Sacred graves are common in Indonesia, as many people are known to travel to them (bezirarah) and pray for every imaginable desire or need.

Here are a few of the things people will pray for at these graves:

  • To pass a test in school.
  • To cause someone to fall in love with them (love spell).
    • This will make them appear more beautiful to others.
    • This is also done to help them find a marriage partner.
  • To receive healing.
  • To bless a business.
  • To bless land prior to it being cleared and planted.
    • This special prayer is for obtaining permission from spirits that reside in and around this piece of land. The prayer could also be for the purpose of clearing the area of any spirits that would hinder the prosperity of that land.
  • Prior to entering into battles with enemies.
  • Protection from evil spirits.
  • Protection from any type of danger.
  • Winning gambling numbers.
    • Some say that when your prayers have evil motives, like to gamble or to hurt others, the evil will come back to haunt you.
    • People at the grave called “Makam Syech Keramat Tinggi,” say that people who’ve prayed for winning gambling numbers, or for other evil purposes, have reported that fierce tigers have rushed out of the brush and attacked them. Others reported that they were attacked by giant centipedes.

Releasing Chickens

and Other Animals

at Sacred Graves

C. speaking with men who were praying at the grave of Putri Ayu.

Upon arrival at the grave of Putri Ayu, an elderly woman was currently enjoying her lunch of rice, chicken, and an assortment of vegetables. I sat down next to the grave and quietly waited for her to finish, while observing a horde of ants making off with a large cockroach leg.

After she finished, and her letting out a long deep burp, I asked her her name as I introduced myself. She told me her name was Ibu Sopia and that she has been the caretaker of the grave of Putri Ayu for five years.

I explained to Ibu Sopia that I was a language student, and to study the language I incorporate the study of Jambi history and culture, and that at this time I was currently gathering information on the practice of releasing animals (ayam lepas) at graves considered to be sacred (makam keramat).

Ibu Sopia explained to me that in addition to praying at sacred graves, people will also bring offerings, such as various types of flowers, like:  Bunga kemboja, bunga melati, bunga tanjung, bunga cempaka or bunga kantil. Chinese Indonesians, following Buddhism  or Confucius religions, will also offer apples, oranges, and bananas, while burning incense.

After concluding prayers at sacred graves, Ibu Sopia told me that people will then release a chicken, goat, cow, and at times, some people will even release a water buffalo. Ibu Sopia said that at the grave of Putri Ayu, people release chickens around 2-3x per month, whereas a goat will be released about 1x every three months. She said the she has never seen people released a cow or a water buffalo there for as long as she’s been the caretaker of the grave (5 yrs).`



Chicken Dreams

In Jambi there’s a considerable amount of mysticism associated with chickens, insomuch that some even say that dreams with chickens in them have a spiritual meaning, and these dreams can be interpreted as follows:

The Lean Ayam Kampung. (Neighborhood Chicken)

The Lean Ayam Kampung
(Neighborhood Chicken)

  • If in your dream you see many chickens, it means that your life will be filled to satisfaction.
  • If you dream of chickens that are laying eggs, it means that you will soon encounter good luck.
  • If you dream of chickens flying to the top of a tree, or to a branch of a tree, it means you will soon receive money from someone.
  • If you dream of a hen locked up, it means you will obtain goodness.
  • If you dream of giving food to a chicken, it means you will obtain success and your business or activities will move forward.
  • If you dream of getting a rooster, you will soon have a child or grandchild.
  • If you dream of your chicken being stolen, it means that something sad is going to take place.
  • If you dream of raising chicks, it means that you should become nervous or worried about your economic condition at this time.
  • If you dream of chasing chickens, it means you will obtain a helper in whatever task you are working on.
  • If you dream of offering a chicken as a sacrifice, it means you will become a great person.
  • If you dream of obtaining a chicken, it means you will soon have a child or grandchild.
  • If you dream of eating chicken meat, it means you will soon get some property of value.

Kuburan Panjang

(Long Graves)

The two sacred graves called "Kuburan Panjang" are located in a dense area overgrown with bamboo.

The two sacred graves called “Kuburan Panjang” are located in a dense area overgrown with bamboo.

While talking with people along the roads outside the City of Jambi, we were informed that there were some sacred graves just off the main road, and being very much interested in the history and legends these graves are associated with, we decided to take a short detour to see them.


The Reincarnation of Putri Ayu

It was said that the crocodile was a Tomistoma schlegelii (a type with a long pointed snout.

It was said that the crocodile was a False Gharial, or  Tomistoma Schlegelii (the crocodile which has a long pointed snout). This picture was taken at a crocodile breeding farm in Jambi.

We came upon an interesting event that took place in February 2009, and it was what is believed by many to have been the reincarnation of a famous Jambi personality, Putri Ayu.1

According to legends, this woman was to have been the wife of a former sultan/king. You can read our translated legend about this woman with this link, as well as read about her sacred grave with this link.


Sacred Graves

(Makam Keramat)

The Sacred Grave of Panglima Hitam (wife)

The Sacred Grave of Panglima Hitam
(The wife of Panglima Kuning.)

There are two sacred graves in the Village of Kubu Kandang which the local people say have provided great blessings to the people that pray there. The information we received about these two graves came from Pak (Mr.) Turamli (83 yrs), whose home is the closest to the graves.

Pak Turamli said that people pray for every type of imaginable blessing at those graves. People frequently come to these graves, and after prayer, release a chicken (ayam lepas) as an offering to the spirit of the deceased. Pak Turamli told us that eventually he and his family will eat that chicken.