BALI CULTURE INFORMATION

 

 
 
The Island Of Bali, Indonesia

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RITES AND FESTIVALS

GODS AND DEMONS: OFFERINGS AND
EXORCISMS

Good and evil, right and left, gods and demons, are banded into two opposing factions, constantly at war, in which the weapons are their magic powers and the stakes the lives and interests of the Balinese themselves, compelling them to propitiate both sides so as not to attract the wrath of either party. Only by the proper balance between the negative and positive forces are they able to maintain the spiritual harmony of the community.

This is particularly important at certain times, such as childbirth, menstruation, death in the village, or when a crime that disturbs the magic balance of the village has been committed; circumstances that weaken and pollute the protective life power of the individual or of the village and render them vulnerable to the attacks of evil.

The antithesis of the state of normalcy, of health and cleanliness (sutji, ening) is for a person or a community to be sebel, unclean, physically and spiritually polluted and run down, a condition that must be cured by cleansing factors and ceremonies to give added strength to the soul - the making of offerings, the use of purifying water and fire, and the recitation of secret magic words by a qualified priest, the three elements of Balinese ritual.

To counterbalance the healthy influence of the gods who produce cleanliness, luck, and fertility, there are evil spirits responsible for all illness and misfortune. Among the countless demons that crowd the spirit world of the Balinese, some, like the raksasas, are inoffensive giants and ghouls that belong to literature, but the invisible causes of evil are disagreeable butas and kalas, symbols of malice and coarseness, that haunt desolated places, the seashore, and the deep forests and infest the " dangerous " parts of the village, the crossroads and the cemetery. The butas and kalas have no other mission on earth than to annoy and persecute humans, making people ill, disturbing and polluting everything. They can go into people's bodies and make them insane or turn them into idiots.

The tangible gifts to the gods, the offerings (pebanten) (see page 310) like the presents given to human beings, consist of fruits, cakes, rice, flowers, money, chickens, and pigs. They are given in the same spirit as presents to the prince or to friends, a sort of modest bribe to strengthen a request; but it is a condition that they should be beautiful and well made to please the gods and should be placed on well-decorated high altars.

Their devils. however, the Balinese treat with contempt, and the offerings intended for evil spirits are generally a smelly mess of half-decayed food which is disdainfully thrown to the ground. The deities are served with the essence (sari) of the offerings, which is fanned towards the place they supposedly occupy, carried by the rising smoke of the incense. Ordinary people take what is left - the material part is later taken home and eaten. Thus both gods and the donors enjoy the banquet. The magic people, the many Balinese possessed by supernatural powers, are not allowed to touch these left-overs from the feast of the gods, the food without the essence.

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