A Magical Wishing Lake – Rachel Lovelock

In April 2015, almost exactly 200 years to the day since Tambora had erupted and caused the tsunami that had filled Satonda’s crater with seawater. I was standing at the side of the lake, and I had a dilemma. In 2000, I had visited the lake for the first time. I had made a wish and it had come true. It was the type of wish that doesn’t come true immediately – along the lines of “I wish I could still be living in Indonesia and still be living my dream many years from now” – but after 15 years I could confidently say that it had come true. I made a new wish and I gave thanks for the happy outcome of the original wish but I didn’t make an offering…

The local people believe that the lake is magical, and the residents of Nangamiro village in Sumbawa have long journeyed to Satonda to make a wish by tying a small stone or a piece of coral to one of the ‘wishing trees’ at the edge of the lake. If a wish comes true, the wishmaker is bound to return to the lake and give thanks in the form of an offering.

Four months later, I was on a SeaTrek Sailing Adventure, as a guest on the beautiful Ombak Putih.

Chance, fate, luck, or that whole ‘living the dream’ thing had brought me back to Satonda again but my original wish and my new wish had both been weighing rather heavily on my mind. My first wish had come true but I hadn’t made the required offering, did that mean that my equally-important second wish might not come true? Well, now I was being given the chance to rectify the situation. I would make an offering and I would reinforce my second wish. But what sort of offering?

I couldn’t possibly kill an animal, and while I was totally prepared to give thanks by offering up something of value, I would want someone else to appreciate it, I couldn’t bear to waste something precious by throwing it into the lake. I then remembered that the animist element of any religion in Indonesia requires the ritualistic shedding of blood. In the Balinese village of Tenganan, for example, there is an annual theatrical fight known as ‘mekare-kare,’ which takes place between the young men, utilising prickly pandanus leaf whips. Each dual lasts only a few seconds; as soon as blood is drawn, the game is over. There are no winners and no losers because the objective is to draw blood as an offering to the gods.

I made my decision; I would make a blood offering to the lake.

One of the other guests on the Ombak Putik was a former nurse, and she readily agreed to perform the operation – lakeside! A sterilised needle and a quick prick to the tip of my forefinger, and the job was done. I washed the tiny speck of blood off my finger in the salty, healing waters of the lake. I then tied a small piece of coral to one of the wishing trees and reiterated my second wish. Again, it’s not the type of wish that comes true instantly, and it’s not solely dependent on luck. Yet, I’m quietly confident that many years from now I’ll be able to look back and say, “Yep, from my experience, Satonda wishes really do come true.”