In Joshua Oppenheimer's The Look of Silence (2014) (sequel to The Act of Killing [2012]), at least two of the killers speak (rather casually and openly) about drinking the blood of victims. They said it was in order not to go crazy and there was a suggestion that this gave them strength. (I believe these events all take place in Aceh in North Sumatra.)

Is this a "common" Indonesian tradition or custom? Or was this practice peculiar to the events of the mid 1960s?

Googling, I find The Economist reporting on the Sampit conflict circa 2001 that among the Dayaks on Borneo:

according to tradition, once at war he [a Dayak] must kill someone and drink the victim's blood.

  • no, this did not take place in Aceh. Dayaks are restricted to Borneo (also known as Kalimantan).
    – jwenting
    Jul 24, 2018 at 5:15
  • @jwenting: "no, this did not take place in Aceh." You want to back that up? From around the 6:50 mark in the movie: "Where he is living in 1965?" // "Aceh." "In Aceh in 1965, many people died." ... "In Aceh, nothing happened?" // "No."
    – user3521
    Jul 24, 2018 at 5:33
  • As I stated, the Dayak people don't live in Aceh. So either these events did not involve the Dayak or they did not take place in Aceh.
    – jwenting
    Jul 24, 2018 at 5:38
  • @jwenting: Oh OK. Thanks for the brilliant insight.
    – user3521
    Jul 24, 2018 at 5:54

1 Answer 1


This LA Times article by Richard C. Paddock (currently at the New York Times) attests that the practice was revived around the turn of the Millenium. Dayak tribespeople, upset with their treatment by Madurese settlers, revived their century dormant headhunting traditions (my emphasis):

Before their killing rampage ebbed, the Dayaks had slaughtered nearly 500 Madurese, according to the Indonesian government. Dayak leaders say their warriors killed 2,000. Hundreds were beheaded in towns, villages and the jungle as they tried to flee. Headless corpses with their hearts ripped out could be seen along the roadside.

Some of the modern-day headhunters followed the ancient rituals of drinking the blood and eating the hearts of the people they killed to subdue their victims' spirits and absorb their magic.

So we have this ritual practice (headhunting) occurring roughly between 1997 and 2001, with claims of several hundred Madurese settlers as victims. At least two reputable journalists report that at least some of the Dayak warriors drank their victims' blood, though the precise meaning of that ritual varies between the two accounts.

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