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Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller

Unlike the Toba Batak, their more populous and powerful neighbours in northern Sumatra, the western Karo Batak today claim they have no creation myth. Yet certain clues point to shared cosmogony among several Batak groups, now reinforced by Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller’s discovery of a very old traditional house among the western Karo. The symbolic decoration of the house eliminates all doubt: the western Karo once viewed the cosmos as divided into three worlds – Upper, Middle and Lower. The giant dragon who lived in the Lower World carried the Middle World (where humans reside) on its back, while the Upper World was the abode of a supreme deity accompanied by his sons, spirits and the souls of human ancestors who had been rich and powerful.