In parts of Indonesia, especially Java and Bali, a dukun fills the role of shaman and healer. Also known as a bomoh, this traditional specialist uses ancient rituals and a natural pharmacopeia to heal physical and spiritual ills. Much of Southeast Asia is modernized, but the dukun and bomoh are still sought despite religious prohibitions of their art. Recently, bomohs have come under scrutiny for scams involving unscrupulous practitioners who molest patrons or con them out of money and property.
Most people in the area are Muslim, but a strong belief in ancient practices still underlies modern life. The dukun uses a deep and extensive knowledge of herbs and natural medicines to treat illness or invoke help from the spirit world. Bomoh practices lean toward the black arts, and are used to perform revenge or retaliation spells against someone who has wronged a patron. A dukun may perform a love spell or advise someone about their future through fortune telling. Exorcisms require a very skilled dukun.
Gurus teach new practitioners who are usually descendants of practicing or previous dukuns, since the powers are believed hereditary in most cases. Dukuns are usually men, and women take on the role in midwifery, weddings, and as spirit mediums, but not sorcerers or diviners. A specific magical skill possessed by a dukun is called his ilmu, the ability to find lost objects or predict the future. Most dukuns specialize in curing, sorcery, or divination rather than performing all skills.
Dukuns do not make a substantial living from their art. The profession is considered a humanitarian one, and a good dukun will not charge much, if anything, for his services. Most dukuns are part time practitioners, making their main living from working a parcel of land. A well-off dukun may be suspected of running a con game, and this has been true in many cases involving false bomohs stealing from their patrons.
During the Islamic Revival that began in the 1970s, dukuns and bomohs were shunned and forbidden to practice out of religious and legal prohibitions against black magic and trafficking with spirits. Many people still consulted with them, however, and fraudulent practitioners soon set themselves up to fill the gap. Common crimes perpetrated by false bomohs are rape or molestation as part of a ritual or scamming victims out of copious amounts of money or property. This has resulted in many areas outlawing these practices to protect people.