Imagine a place were being unfaithful is not only an acceptable behavior, but can also lead to good luck.
There is a mountain in Indonesia where people do pilgrimages to have sex with random strangers in order to be blessed with the energy of a prince buried there. It sounds like an excuse created by someone who’s not entirely sure of monogamy. But, according to the report from ABC Australia, it’s true.
Gunun Kemukus is best known as the sex mountain. In this mountain lie the remains of young Prince Pangeran Samodro who, during the sixteenth century, escaped there with Queen Nyai Ontrowulan, his stepmother. One day they were discovered there having sex and were murdered. According to the Wetonan cycle, the ritual should be done every 35 days, seven times, with the same stranger. Finishing the ritual will result in good fortune, money, and prosperity in business.
This remote mountain receives up to eight thousand people on its best nights. The pilgrims begin with a prayer call for the last prayers of the day. Then, they place flowers on the graves, wash themselves on the springs close by, and start looking for their unknown partner.
According to Keontjoro Soeparno, psychologist from the University of Gadjah Mada, “Most people who do the ritual are small business owners. They hope that if they complete the ritual, their businesses will improve, make good money, and be successful.”
Pilgrims come here for economic purposes and to help their families. However, most do it in secret. Men will lie, saying they’re going to the mosque, and instead go up looking for a woman. According to them, the physical aspect is not important, as long as they have a good heart and the same determination to finish the ritual.
As for the women who come here to be blessed, they tend to avoid cameras or any device that could expose them. They cover their faces with veils and don’t take them off until they enter the small rooms that have been conditioned for the pilgrims throughout the years.
Ibu Winda is around the age of sixty, and instead of enjoying her blessing after doing the seven cycles of the ritual, keeps going to Gunung Kemumus to see the man she shares a secret life with. He promised her that if they lasted three years doing the ritual, he would take her to fulfill her pilgrimage to Mecca.
He went looking for her in her town, but she denied knowing him to her husband and family. Now they limit themselves to phone calls and meeting at Kemukus every 35 days.
The ritual is not an Islamic practice. It’s a mixture of Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Animism rites and beliefs known as Kejawen. Since the eighties and nineties, businesses have flourished in what was once a tree-filled mountain. In the past, people would arrive and have sex in a solemn ritual in touch with nature. Today, there are bars, karaoke, restaurants, and a small red-light district, since prostitution has become quite the business. Kemukus has ceased to be holy land and is now a victim of the oldest thriving industry out there, sex.
Whether it’s to earn divine favors or to simply have a reason to be with someone other than their spouses, the number of people who visit here increases each year. Sex mountain is a religious site that has gotten the attention of authorities, who now charge parking fees, yet continues to stay open. Sometimes religion can beat even the strongest moral convictions.
A legend born from adultery has turned into a pilgrimage of many. These customs can appear strange to foreigners, yet these acts demonstrate human nature’s continuous need for communion with another in an intimate manner.
Translated by María Suárez