The Magical Kris-A A +A
Saturday, October 12, 2013
A FILIPINO home isn't complete without a plaque of the "Weapons of Moroland." On it, one can find weapons like the long and thin sundang, the thick leaf-shaped barong, the crocodile-like kampilan, and the susuwat cleaver among others - but usually the most striking of all the blades is the kris. With its beautiful wavy design, it stands out from the other curved or straight blades because it has its own unique shape.
No sword in the Eastern or Western world resembles the kris, which is what makes it uniquely Southeast Asian. The logic behind the curvy blade is actually quite simple: the design of the blade will tear more flesh when one's opponent is stabbed, in contrast to a traditional knife or dagger, which leaves a clean, straight cut, the kris has the potential to do more damage and make a different cut every time it is thrust into its victim, almost like a giant steak knife.
The kris is actually more than just a pretty dagger. The kris is actually believed to be a magical weapon. Not even the katana has this quality. Normally, a sword or a blade is deemed "magical" when it is either forged by an extremely skilled blacksmith, wielded by a noble hero, or sent down from the heavens by the gods themselves. The kris, however, is an exception - all properly made krises are considered to be "magical", or almost "alive" since forging one in the traditional way requires the smith to call on spirits to possess the blade.
Now, when the ritual calls for spirits, the weird thing about it is that no one knows if the spirits are good or bad. A good spirit will grant you bravery while you hold the blade, a bad spirit... well, you wouldn't be able to cut a leaf with that thing if a bad spirit was in it. There are legends of kris daggers moving around by themselves and killing individuals at will. It is said that if a true kris master calls his weapon by name, it will stand upright. The truly "blessed" krises were supposed to prevent fires, death, and problems that might arise on the farm. Now, it is believed that the blades had sentience - and, therefore, if one didn't particularly like its owner, it would bring him bad luck in battle or on the farm.
The kris was sometimes treated as a minor god by its wielders back in the day, so much so that warriors sometimes made offerings to their own weapons at a shrine. It was also believed that pointing a kris at someone meant that they would die soon (well, if the wielder was planning on stabbing him, that'd be sooner rather than later), which is why silat practitioners point their blades to the ground.
All in all, the kris, steeped in tradition and folklore, is not only a symbol of national strength and courage, but also apparently one of the most magical blades out there, although I fear that most of the blades being produced nowadays are being possessed by evil spirits instead of good.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on October 12, 2013.