Ambarita is located about 3km from Tomok on Samosir Island and is the home of the village of Siallagan which has become a tourist attraction for its cultural and historical past.
The village is surrounded by stone walls and entry is through a small gate and nearby stands a statue representing King Siallagan, who was the first man to discover Siallagan, take control of the area and opened it to outsiders.
In the centre of the courtyard, which is lined on one side by traditional Batak houses, there is a large tree which shades the stone chairs and small round table left by King Siallagan. It was on these chairs that the King brought justice to the criminals in the village. If a person was caught committing crimes such as stealing, cheating or murdering, they would be taken to the King and tribal leaders to be dealt an appropriate punishment. One form of punishment was to place the criminal in stocks and another was to have the criminal beheaded.
The death sentence carried a very strict rule which needed to be followed. Once the execution date had been determined, the criminal was held in stocks in a wooden cage under the King’s house as a prisoner. On the execution day, under the watch of the local leaders, the prisoner was taken out of the stocks and was given the chance to say their last words or request a last meal of their choice. They were then taken to the stone chairs, where the executioner would test if they had magic power by slightly cutting the prisoner’s skin to see whether or not they bled. If there was blood, it meant no magic was present and the execution could take place immediately.
There are two conflicting stories as to what happened to the criminals as far as removing magic goes.
The first theory is that if there was no blood, it was believed magic was present and the executioner would have to say special spells before scraping the cutter on the ground to remove it. After performing this ritual, the magic power of the prisoner would be gone and the execution would take place before throwing the body away into a ravine near Lake Toba.
The second theory is that once the prisoner was beheaded, it was believed that the magic power would still be present in the body, so that once the person was reincarnated the magic would remain with them. Therefore, certain parts of the body were eaten by fellow Bataks (who were known to be cannibals in the past) to remove the magic once and for all.
Also to be seen in the village is the ‘Pustaha’, which is a traditional Batak cultural book of medicine which contains notes, occult sciences, information on spells, how to resist evil, predictions of both good and bad, and how to forecast dreams. This book is written with Batak characters and the cover is usually made of wood, bark, or bamboo and is decorated with a traditional motif or carving of the lizard god, who symbolises Boraspati ni Tano.
The science written in the pustaha can be divided into three major parts – a living science, a science that destroys life and a way to foresee the future, and is usually used by a ‘dukun’ (shaman) or a student studying to become a dukun.
Although this village has now been set up for tourists and you can become overwhelmed by sellers trying to sell souvenirs as you try to leave, it is nonetheless a great experience to learn more about the Batak culture and traditions as we continue on our journey in the magical land of Batak…