The Making of a Keris Blade

Making a Keris is a very complicated and difficult process; these are one of the most complicated swords known in weaponry to make. There are considerations of the master Keris sword smith which involve certain materials and procedures in the creation of the blade and hilt as with any other blade or sword, but with the Keris there are also spiritual and symbolic considerations that must be implemented in order for this fine weapon to be considered a Keris and not a simple dagger.

In regard to the physical characteristics of the blade, several components come into play. Kerises are made from different iron ores, meteorite and even metal from fallen aircraft. and often contain nickel. A sword smith who makes these particular blades is called Empu. The Empu makes the blade in layers of these different metals. Some blades can be made in a relatively short time, while the more magnificent and intricate of these weapons can take many years to complete. High quality Kerises are created by folding the metal that forms the blade dozens or even hundreds of times and by handling this process with the utmost precision. There are Keris blades that carry the imprints of the Empu's thumbs, which they use during the forging process.

The different metals formed into the blade, combined with various chemicals, give the steel its distinctive “patterned” appearance. These patterns on the blade are called “pamor” or “pamir.” Blades are acid etched after forging to bring out the brilliance and darkness of the metals used. A mixture of lime juice and arsenic or various strengths of acid are used to create different patterns on the blade which is sometimes referred to as a watered steel pattern.

The other half of Keris creation has to do with the religious significance and symbology crafted into the blade. Most consider this aspect more important than the physical characteristics. Spiritual and mystic methods are employed by Empu’s during the creation process and it is these that give Keris their magical and mysterious quality. First, and most importantly, for a Keris blade to be considered genuine it must consist of two exacting parts; the “Wilah” and the “Ganja.” These two parts of the blade unite during the making of the blade to form the symbol of God, Eternity, Creativity, and Prosperity. The bottom end of the blade, or Wilah, at its widest part is called the “Pesi,” and it is this part that penetrates the ganja, which is a separate piece that makes the base of the blade. This process or union of the Pesi and the Ganja makes the union of what is called the “lingga-yoni;” Lingga-Yoni an ancient representation of fertility.

The word Wilah can be correctly translated into “the blade” but there is no word in English for the word Ganja. There is also nothing like the Ganja in any other weapon making form anywhere in the world. This process is specific to the Archipelago, and thus, very unique. Westerner’s often erroneously call the ganja a guard or a tang and explain how it functions in combat without realizing that this misconception is considered insulting to the culture that makes the Keris and the philosophy behind it’s creation. Without the symbolic Lingga-yoni union depicted in the union of the Wilah and the ganja a blade cannot be called a Keris. For the people of Southeast Asia, where these blades originate, the Keris are, first and foremost, a symbol of God.

Keris also have a “Gandik” which signifies the front of the blade. When the Keris is held upright with the Ganja parallel to the floor the whole blade should appear to be leaning forward or bending over. The reason for this symbology is to signify humility. It is a religious belief of the makers of Keris that the trait of humility is one of a man of God; therefore, the blade must display this characteristic in its styling.

Lastly, but no less important, a Keris blade is made using iron from the earth and meteorite, or metal from the heavens as a symbol of the union of man and God. It is no no coincidence that these two materials are used, it has strong spiritual significance to both the sword smiths and the eventual owners of the blades. The two metals, one from Heaven and one from Earth are repeatedly beaten together and folded until at last a thin sheet of steel is sandwiched by layers and layers of alternating iron and meteorite and the Keris is shaped. A dagger can be shaped exactly like a Keris with a wavy pattern, however it cannot be called a Keris if it is not forged between the hammer and anvil or if forged only from one type of metal without the fold and layer technique.

Keris indeed are works of art both physically and spiritually. One should consider the great amount of work involved in the making of these stunning blades and respect this process when examining a Keris blade.

Many believe that a properly made Keris, crafted by a Keris Smith who is knowledgeable in supernatural forces, will afford its owner physic protection, financial prosperity, harmony in life and elevated social status. The finest made blades are thought to possess a magical or spiritual force. This is known to Indonesian’s as “Khodam” or Servitor, Khodam is a spiritual force or intelligence which “lives” in the Keris. In this regard the Khodam provides guidance and offers protection to its owner. All blades sold on this site contain their own unique Khodam sprit genie, which makes them highly prized and valued amongst collectors.

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