In the old times, pre-Islamic period, the position of bissu is the adviser or the king. Their main rule is to lead any spiritual and sacred ceremonies, to take care the kingdom heritages artifacts, and to heal the sick ones. In this current time, these functions are taken away from them. With the influences of religion, governance, and modern way of life, the bissu can not perform their roles in the community. Interestingly, some small clusters in South Sulawesi, Indonesia, still preserve these community groups.

As the most numerous of the three major ethnic groups in South Sulawesi, Indonesia, Bugis society recognizes five genders groups, i.e. makkunrai (women), oroane (men), calabai (men who look like women), calalai (women who look like men), and bissu. The term of bissu is usually generated with divergent theories regarding the definitive origins of gender transcendent and as a all aspects of genders combined to form a whole.

Additionally as creature who acts as liaison between the king, man, and gods in the days of empire, bissu also associated sacred. The old language of Bugis, bissu is referred as holy man who is not menstruating (because even as they are women and men), or bleeding (because their bodies can not be penetrated by any metal or tin). And they are called as sacred because they play function as priest.

Despite the decreasing numbers of bissu in South Sulawesi, there is one community who still exist. Since the death of previous puang matoa (the highest leader of bissu community), Puang Saidi, there was no succession. And after several years, in 2017, the new leader had been elected by the board members of traditional adat. Puang Nani was the new puang matoa.

In this inaugural ceremony, the bissu community in Pangkep District perform their sacred dance in arajang (the palace). This ceremony is one of others that bissu community usually perform, rice planting rituals, chants recording, drumming, and ceremonies central to the life of the bissu priests. One of the ceremony that always held is mappalili in the early growing season or around the month of November.



Bissu Juleha is making up herself before performing the sacred dance in front the people in Arajang of Segeri, Pangkep District, South Sulawesi, Indonesia. Mappalili is presented before the planting season in this area. Group of bissu will show their abilities in applying weapons.


Bissu Juleha is referred as the skillful and respected bissu among others after the former Puang Saidi. After the death of the previous puang matoa, Bissu Nani is inaugurated as the successor.


The bissu with her glorious customs does final check up before performing. They are referred as shamans and ancient priest in the kingdom era.


Another woman priest also attends the inauguration procession and dance performance. Aside of bissu, as gender transcendent, other gender groups also contributes to the bissu community.


During the ceremony, other transgenders also attend. In almost areas of South Sulawesi, the community respects the presences of transgender as part of the community itself.


A man touches the final fixes before the bissu performs the sacred dance. Some ornaments, mainly related to crops and plantations, are used for the ceremony.


Two old ladies produce sounds from ceramic friction and bamboos as marks of the performance begin. The women shamans are participating during the bissu sacred dance performance.


The mappalili dance will be performed by four bissu members and leaded by Bissu Nani as the puang matoa. Mappalili is usually performed at night time as the processions before planting seasons.


Bissu Nani, as the leader of bissu community in Segeri, Pangkep District, leads the group of dancers to the hall of palace. The puang matoa of bissu usually wears white uniform for the processions.


Behind the leader, other bissu dancers will come to the hall. Before the processions, the bissu will do some prayers to ask for their save, and the succession of community in planting the crops in this season.


The bissu will sit down in circle and in front of them, a pile of rice and any other crops are prepared by the helpers. The dance is to ask for the safety and success of planting season for the community.


All of the processions will be leaded by puang matoa. By applying sacred and traditional verses of prayers, they will ask the permissions of god in providing them safety and success in every day of life.


Among the bissu, the community leaders also present to accompany the prayers. As the respected groups in the community since kingdom era, the bissu is associated with any significance of rituals and praying.


After the prayers, the bissu will start the processions. They will walk around the offerings in front of them while enchant the prayers in ancient Bugis language.


Each of the bissu brings iron or steel weapon, called as badik, with them. The prayers mostly ask for their safeties in applying the weapon to their bodies. It is a proof that they are not bleeding by penetrated iron and steel weapon.


Aside of weapon, the bissu also usually brings hand-hold fan with them. It is the mark of feminism of the bissu.


Then, the main show is started. Each bissu will use the weapon and apply them to their bodies. None of the weapon penetrates the body part, even the most fragile parts such as eyes, throat, and chests.


All of bissu will shows their best performance of invulnerability to iron and steel weapon. After the processions, there will be no blood and wound of the bodies.


During the performance, the spectators will cheer them up. In some occasions, the bissu will lay down on a weapon under the bodies.


As the show end, the bissu will sit down around the offerings for expressing their gratitude to god and other people who participate in the processions. And they will enchant other prayers for saying thank you. They also will ask some contributions from the spectators.