The strange journey of Latawalujwa in Java, from two pre-Islamic goddesses to an elastic term for God

Merle Ricklefs

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    In the early history of Islam, pre-Islamic female goddesses named Al-Lat and al-'Uzza were regarded as particular threats to the new faith. They appeared in one of the oldest surviving Modern Javanese manuscripts, a Caritanira Amir written no later than 1629, as Lata wa-l-'Uzza, their names being joined by the Arabic conjunction wa. This appears to be the key to later Javanese misunderstanding of these two names as a single one: Latawalujwa (or close variants thereof). This misunderstanding is even to be found in a Javanese translation of the Qur'an in Javanese (rather than Arabic) script, which refers to a singular "idol named Latawalnguza." From the 18th to the early 20th centuries we find several Javanese examples of this singular name being used for a divinity, sometimes for God himself, sometimes for other sorts of divinities. The origin of this name in the two pre-Islamic idols seems to have been entirely forgotten.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalArchipel
    Volume98
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2019

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