By: M. Farid W Makkulau
BEFORE attempting to understand the mysteries of the ‘Bissu Dewatae’ Community, one must have some understanding of who and what they are.
Their sphere of influence deals with the spiritual but outside the teachings of Islam. They are preservers of the ‘Old ways’ practiced by the people prior to the coming of Islam.
In the days of the many kingdoms in south sulawesi, no royal court was complete without its Bissu contingent.
See too: Bissu di Siang dan Biksu di Siam
Bissu are these male transvertite shamans resplendent in female make up were the custodians of Bugis old tradition, born to the feudal and religious regalia.
They also performed the religious ceremonies, some of which are still practiced today.
Invocation to the various forces of nature such as rain, sun, and wind are still practiced by a people whose lives are primarly agricultural and therefore dependant on these forces for their survival and success.
By virtue of their highly developed psychic powers, which were believed to be supernatural power, the Bissu were the most valued royal advisors.
The Bissu Dewatae live by a well-defined discipline that can’t be sustained by those who don’t see this life style as sacred calling. It required years of study and esoteric training.
All of Bissu member are required to learn the secret language which they use in incantations and when communicating with the spirit world and with the deities of the sun, rain, earth, and other natural forces.
Many become mediums for communication with the spirit world, and develop astonishing powers of precognition.
See too: To Boto dalam Kehidupan Bissu
Many people in Bugis Makassar society depend upon Bissu for advice in romantic matters and other problems of everyday life.
All become adept at self-in-duced trance during which their body become invulnerable and can’t be cut or pierced by knives or other sharp objects. This is a frequent demonstrationof their power in Bissu ritual.
Visitors to Pangkep during the time of the spring rice planting in November can witness on of the year’s most spectacular ceremonies which last for seven days. Other shorter ceremonies are scheduled throught the year.
Today’s Bissu support themselves primarily as highly skilled beauticians and social planners for weddings, khitanan, and private performance of the Bissu mysteries.
See too: To Boto in Bissu Life
In other countries, performances by male transvertites have a decidedly erotic flavor and can’t be compared to the Bissu Dewatae whose performances are spiritual and considered sacred.
The sexuality of the performers is not a featured aspect of their transvertitism.
There are several other Bissu communities throughout the Bugis lands but the Bissu Dewatae of Pangkep are the most revered and respected of all.
Their leader, Puang Matoa Bissu, who resides at the ArajangE Palace in Pangkep, is essentially the pontiff of the Bissu people everywhere. (***)