Joka’ju – Flores’s Days of Silence

Joka’ju – Flores’s Days of Silence

An ancient tradition that’s been passed down for generations, the Joka’ju Ceremony is conducted by the Lio people in Ende, to express their thanks and gratitude to God and their ancestors. The word Joka’ju means to repel evil spirits. The ceremony is conducted yearly and in doing so, it is hoped that the village will be free of misfortune, bad luck and diseases.

One day before the actual ceremony, villagers roam about to catch pigs, goats and chickens that they may find wondering about – on this day, the animals are free for all and the owners are not allowed to get angry or prevent anyone from taking their livestock. The Mosalaki, or Ceremonial Heads will go from door to door asking for contributions of rice.

The ceremony will begin in the evening when all livestock caught in the afternoon is then presented to the spirits of the ancestor by the Mosalaki accompanied by traditional music and the sound of gongs. This sound marks the beginning of the annual Joka’Ju.

The next morning, the entire village will then commence into silence – for four days, no one is allowed to work, light a fire outside their homes, go gardening or work on their farms, pluck any plant, fruit or flowers, fight or even bury the dead. On these days, everyone must just stay indoors in quiet contemplation and relaxation. In this way, it is very much similar to the Balinese Nyepi, also held once a year for the purpose of cleansing and to repel evil spirits.

Should any of the villagers break any of the above rules, they will face a fine in the form of livestock, cash, rice or all of the above.  The entire purpose of the Joka’Ju is to remind the local people that they should appreciate each other, the plants and land around them.

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Best of Flores – Flores Plus Magazine

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