The Toba Batak are the largest subgroup of the Batak, a group of related peoples living in the highlands of northern Sumatra. Partly as a result of the mountainous nature of their territory and their fierce reputation, the Toba Batak remained independent and relatively isolated until the second half of the nineteenth century. Their indigenous religion involved a pantheon organized around the sky god Mula Jadi and the serpentine god of the underworld Naga Pahoha. Today, the Toba Batak are overwhelmingly Christian.

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Traditional Culture(1840-1865)Expand All +
Belief +

Supernatural Beings

Nature Spirits Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Loeb (1974), pp. 90
Nature god(s) Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Sibeth (1991), pp. 65-66
Ancestral spirits Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Sibeth (1991), pp. 76-80
Deified ancestor(s) Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Sibeth (1991), pp. 67
Lebar (1972), pp. 22
Loeb (1974), pp. 90
God(s) Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Sinaga (1981), pp. 18, 68-75, 83-86, 91-92, 96-97, 109-124
Sibeth (1991), pp. 65

Supernatural Punishment

Supernatural punishment for impiety Present (Source)
Loeb (1974), pp. 80, 84

Afterlife and Creation

One's actions while living can affect the nature of one's afterlife Actions while living are one factor in determining the nature of one’s afterlife (Source)
Sibeth (1991), pp. 79
The actions of others after one has died can affect the nature of one's afterlife Actions of others after one has died are the principal determinant of the nature of one’s afterlife (Source)
Sibeth (1991), pp. 67, 76
Myth of humanity’s creation Present, and creationist (Source)
Sibeth (1991), pp. 65
Sinaga (1981), pp. 95-96
Primordial pair Absent (Source)
Sibeth (1991), pp. 65
Sinaga (1981), pp. 95-96
Culture hero(es) Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Sinaga (1981), pp. 24, 132-133, 136

General Features

Forces of nature are controlled by or imbued with the supernatural Present (Source)
Sibeth (1991), pp. 65

Classes of Tapu

Kinship tapu Present (Source)
Loeb (1974), pp. 84, 95
Resource management tapu Absent (Source)
Loeb (1974), pp. 93-96
Social hierarchy tapu Present (Source)
Loeb (1974), pp. 66, 95

Mana

Mana as a personal quality Absent (Source)
Blust (2007)
Keesing (1984)
Blevins (2008), pp. 262
Mana related to social influence or technical skill Absent (Source)
Mana as a spiritual or religious concept Absent (Source)
Blust (2007)
Keesing (1984)
Blevins (2008), pp. 262
Practice +

General Supernatural Practices

Headhunting Absent (Source)
Sibeth (1991)
Lebar (1972), pp. 20-23
Costly sacrifices and offerings Absent (Source)
Loeb (1974), pp. 90-91
Size of largest ritual social group Larger than a local community, no larger than the largest political community in the culture (Source)
Sibeth (1991), pp. 39
Political and religious differentiation Considerable overlap between religious and political leaders (Source)
Sibeth (1991), pp. 39

Rites

Piercing Absent from culture (Source)
Loeb (1974), pp. 25-26
Genital cutting Present in the culture as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Loeb (1974), pp. 68
Scarification Absent from culture (Source)
Loeb (1974), pp. 25-26
Tattooing Present in culture, but not as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Lebar (1972), pp. 21
Tooth pulling Absent from culture (Source)
Lebar (1972), pp. 21
Loeb (1974), pp. 67-68
Social Environment +
Population 120000 (Source)
Lebar (1972), pp. 20
Population of largest political community 100,000 or more (Source)
Sibeth (1991), pp. 39
Importance of Patrilateral descent High (Source)
Sibeth (1991), pp. 59
Importance of Matrilateral descent Low (Source)
Sibeth (1991), pp. 59
Polygamy Limited polygyny (Source)
Lebar (1972), pp. 21
Marital residence Patrilocal or virilocal - with husband's kin (Source)
Lebar (1972), pp. 21

Conflict

Conflict within communities Moderate (Source)
Sibeth (1991), pp. 39-48
Conflict between communities of the culture Frequent, occurring at least yearly (Source)
Lebar (1972), pp. 22
Sibeth (1991), pp. 47
Conflict with other cultures Rare or never (Source)
Sibeth (1991), pp. 21-25
Lebar (1972), pp. 22
Cultural Isolation +
Contact with other cultures Frequent, through trade, warfare, travel, etc. (Source)
Sibeth (1991), pp. 22
Distance to closest landmass inhabited by a different culture (km) 0.0 (Source)
Ethnologue (Map of Sumatra) (2014)
Distance to African or Asian mainland (km) 131.8 (Source)
Ethnologue (Map of Sumatra) (2014)
Daft Logic Distance Calculator (2014)
Pre-Austronesian population Present: Clear evidence of human occupation prior to Austronesian settlement (Source)
Bellwood (1995), pp. 109
Hindu / Buddhist influence on supernatural belief Evidence of Hindu / Buddhist influence on supernatural belief. (Source)
Sibeth (1991), pp. 14, 21
Cribb (2000), pp. Map 2.21
Loeb (1974), pp. 77-78
Islamic influence on supernatural belief No evidence of Islamic influence on supernatural belief, but culture is known to have had (Source)
Sinaga (1981), pp. 27
Christian influence on supernatural belief No evidence of Christian influence on supernatural belief, but culture is known to have had (Source)
Sibeth (1991), pp. 21-23
Sinaga (1981), pp. 27-28
Subsistence and Economy +

Land-based means of subsistence

Animal husbandry as a source of food Minor (Source)
Lebar (1972), pp. 21
Land-based hunting performed by individuals Minor (Source)
Sibeth (1991), pp. 34
Land-based gathering Medium (Source)
Loeb (1974), pp. 25
Land-based hunting performed by one or more groups Minor (Source)
Sibeth (1991), pp. 34
Agriculture / Horticulture Principal (Source)
Lebar (1972), pp. 20
Sibeth (1991), pp. 32

Water-based means of subsistence

Fishing and water-based hunting performed by one or more groups Medium (Source)
Lebar (1972), pp. 21
Fishing and water-based hunting performed by individuals Medium (Source)
Lebar (1972), pp. 21
Water-based gathering Minor (Source)
Sibeth (1991), pp. 31-35
Lebar (1972), pp. 20-21

Commercial Activity

Trade / wage labour as a source of food Minor (Source)
Sibeth (1991), pp. 34
Lebar (1972), pp. 22
Metalworking Present (Source)
Lebar (1972), pp. 21
Physical Environment +

Geographical Range of Culture

Number of islands inhabited by culture One (Source)
Sibeth (1991), pp. 8

Features of Island with Largest Culture Population

Latitude 2.3 (Source)
Sibeth (1991), pp. 8
Google Maps (2014)
Longitude 99.0 (Source)
Sibeth (1991), pp. 8
Google Maps (2014)
Island type (island with largest culture population or largest island if unknown) Continental island (Source)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (Sunda Shelf) (2014)
Island Size (km²) 480793.0 (Source)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (Sumatra) (2014)
Maximum elevation (meters) 3800.0 (Source)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (Sumatra) (2014)
Post Contact History(1865-2014)Expand All +
Religious History +

Conversion

Role of social status in conversion process Primarily a top-down process, although inroads had already been made with the general population. (Source)
Cunningham (1958), pp. 37
Purba (2005), pp. 215
Use of force in conversion Medium (Source)
Purba (2005), pp. 215-218
Resident missionary involvement in conversion process Present, and from non-Austronesian societies (Source)
Purba (2005), pp. 215-216
Adoption of a world religion Present and predominant (Source)
Rodgers (1993), pp. 41
Purba (2005), pp. 208
Secular History +

Demographic and Social Changes

Foreign government systems Present, and of high importance (Source)
Rodgers (1993), pp. 40
Immigration Low (Source)
Rodgers (1993), pp. 38
Purba (2005)
Language shift Medium (Source)
Rodgers (1993), pp. 38
Foreign education systems High (Source)
Rodgers (1993), pp. 40

Economic Changes

Changes in means of subsistence Medium (Source)
Rodgers (1993), pp. 39
Causey (2007), pp. 266-268
Exportation of goods to other cultures Present and substantial (Source)
Rodgers (1993), pp. 38

Modern Infrastructure

Vehicles and roads Present and widely used (Source)
Rodgers (1993), pp. 39
Air travel Absent (Source)
Causey (2007), pp. 259
Sea port Absent (Source)
Causey (2007), pp. 259

Loss of Autonomy

Nature of loss of autonomy Largely involuntary (Source)
Rodgers (1993), pp. 39
Loss of political autonoomy High (Source)
Rodgers (1993), pp. 39, 40
Current Culture(2014)Expand All +
Belief +

Religious Demographics

Unofficial religious syncretism High: (Source)
Purba (2005)
Institutional religious syncretism Medium (Source)
Purba (2005), pp. 208-209, 220, 221-233
Dominant world religion Christianity (Source)
Purba (2005), pp. 208
External Links
References
Bellwood, P. (1995). Austronesian Prehistory in Southeast Asia: Homeland, Expansion and Transformation. P. Bellwood, J.J. Fox, & D. Tryon (Eds.), The Austronesians: Historical and Comparative Perspectives (pp 113-114). Canberra, Australia: ANU Press.

Blevins, J. (2008). Some Comparative Notes on Proto-Oceanic *Mana: Inside and Outside the Austronesian Family. Oceanic Linguistics, 47 (2), 253-274. Retrieved from http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/ol/summary/v047/47.2.blevins.html

Blust, R. (2007). Proto-Oceanic *Mana Revisited. Oceanic Linguistics, 46(2), 404-423. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20172322

Causey, A. (2007). 'Go Back to the Batak, it's Safe There': Tourism in North Sumatra during Perilous Times. Indonesia and the Malay World, 35 (103), 257-271. DOI: 10.1080/13639810701676383.

Cribb, R. (2000). Historical atlas of Indonesia. Surrey, UK: Curzon Press.

Cunningham, C. E. (1958). The Postwar Migration of the Toba-Bataks of East Sumatra. Southeast Asia Studies, Cultural Report Series. New Haven, CT: Yale University.

Daft Logic Distance Calculator. (2014). http://www.daftlogic.com/projects-google-maps-distance-calculator.htm.

Encyclopaedia Britannica (Sumatra). (2014). In Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/573120/Sumatra

Encyclopaedia Britannica (Sunda Shelf). (2014). In Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/573755/Sunda-Shelf

Ethnologue (Map of Sumatra). (2014). Map of Indonesia, Sumatra. Ethnologue. Retrieved from http://www.ethnologue.com/map/ID_sm_

Google Maps (2014). Retrieved from maps.google.com

Hirosue, M. (1994). The Batak Millenarian Response to the Colonial Order. Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 25 (2), 331-343. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20071661

Keesing, R. M. (1984). Rethinking "mana". Journal of Anthropological Research, 40(1), 137-156, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3629696.

Lebar, F. (Ed.). (1972). Eastern Sumbanese in Ethnic Groups of Insular Southeast Asia. Volume 1: Indonesia, Andaman Islands, and Madagascar. New Haven, CT: Human Relations Area Files Press.

Loeb, E. M. (1974). Sumatra: Its History and People. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Oxford University Press. (Originally published 1935).

Purba, M. (2005). From Conflict to Reconciliation: The Case of the "Gondang Sabangunan" in the Order of Discipline of the Toba Batak Protestant Church. Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 36 (2), 207-233. Retrived from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20072645

Rodgers, S. (1993).Batak’. Encyclopedia of World Cultures (Vol V, pp 38-41). New York, NY: G.K. Hall & Co.

Sibeth, A. (1991). Living with Ancestors: The Batak Peoples of the Island of Sumatra. London, U.K: Thames and Hudson.

Sinaga, A.B. (1981). The Toba Batak High God: Transcendence and Immanence. St Augustin, West Germany: Anthropos Institute.