MOUNT MERAPI, Central Java (AP): As thousands of people flee Indonesia’s erupting Mount Merapi, the 80-year-old man entrusted by Javanese royalty to watch over the volcano’s spirits is going nowhere — and insists the mountain is safe.

“There is no risk,” Maridjan said outside his home just six kilometers from the crater, which was billowing ash and searing hot gas clouds Monday. “I am still waiting here.”

He leads yearly ceremonies when rice and flowers are thrown into the crater to appease spirits that he and most other nearby villagers believe live over the mountain, which rises from the heart of Indonesia’s mystical island of Java.

“People have to realize that Maridjan is not a god,” said Widi Sutikno, the official coordinating the government’s emergency operation, who noted that Yogyakarta’s current ruler Sultan Hamengkubuwono X has called for all to leave the mountain.

But Maridjan, who inherited the honorary position from his father, insists he will not go, saying he is waiting for a sign from the long-dead king who appointed him. A handful of other people in his village are also staying behind with him.

One police officer sent to persuade him to come down off the mountain says he, too, is an admirer.

“He has a special connection to Mount Merapi,” said Eko Rudi, as he walked off to perform the midday Islamic prayer. “When I am with him, I feel like a child talking to his father.”

Smoking Mount Merapi.

This is an evident case of tradition and magic over ruling the common sense of modern day science. The fact that Maridjan is staying isn’t the surprise, as in every country there are people who will believe anything (In the east it’s spirits, in western countries it’s aliens).

The surprise is groups people feel a “connection” enough with him (including local authorities) to stay in the village, while only 6 kilometers away a large volcano is bubbling like an hot kettle.

This still shows a large trust in superstition (and signs from a long dead king) even in the modern day world, Even though science as proven otherwise countless times.

“There is no risk” eh? Famous last words.

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