The Balinese shaman and healer ( Balian )

Sickness in Bali is almost universally viewed as the result of a state of disharmony between the individual and his surroundings. In this sense, illness is no different from various other kinds of misfortunes: an accident, crop failure; the death of a family member losing a job. Whenever one of these misfortunes occurs, a Balinese will assume that he, the sufferer, has done something inappropriate: violated a religious law or custom, perhaps by mistakenly stepping over a sacred object allowed his hubris to exceed that allowed by his position, perhaps by calling someone by too low a name been disrespectful of a deity, perhaps by not makng the appropriate offerings on an important anniversary.

In short, when fallen ill, a Balinese will assume that he or she has been pramada, “insubordinate,” and seeks less a cure than a kind of atonement. There is another possibility as well, that the misfortune has been deliberately caused by an enemy who found a soft spot when the sufferer’s defenses were down and too weak to repel the leyak , “black magic,” of the enemy. The enemy has open to him a very wide range of possible ways to cause harm, from the very obvious to the fiendishly clever.

When stricken by these misfortunes and ills, the Balinese see a special kind of doctor. “ Balians very often defined as “traditional healer” or “witch doctor.” Balians very often do practice healing. But they do a great many other things as well. A better term would be “shaman,” or the Indonesian equivalent, dukun. the point is that balians are not all healers, but spiritualism plays an important role in the functions of all of them.

It need not be a misfortune that leads a person to a balians. One common reason for a consultation is to determine the identity of the spirit that has been born into the body of a newly arrived baby. It is commonly believed that the spirit is that of one of the baby’s ancestors, reborn into the same family. Just which one it is will be important in determining at which kawitan , or clan temple, offerings should be made, and to which spirit prayers should be directed if the baby should fall ill.

Nor need the misfortune be sickness. A balians may be consulted in order to determine the location of a lost object or the identity of a thief. The family of my assistant, Budi, regularly consults a balian who lives in Jimbaran in order to determine the proper auspicious day, dewasa, for carrying out some sort of project. This balians is seldom consulted for curing purpose. But he is in great demand for officiating at rites of passage ceremonies, such as otons, weddings, and other relatively small family rituals.

A balian owes his power to the fact that he has the ability to penetrate into the mystical world beyond the here and now – ito the niskala plane of existence. This is a fearsome place, and only those with great many knowledge and power dare venture into it. In a great many cases people become balians because they themselves once suffered some sort of serious sickness. They consulted a balian, who indicated that the sickness could only be cured if the patient learned to communicate with a particular spirit, who would then neutralize the cause of the illness. The patient did this, and having established a mystical connections with the spirit, became a balian himself. In cases like these, the person- spirit becomes the one to whom the balians ownes his powers. And it is to this spirit that the balian directs his prayers and offerings in order to satisfy the requirements of his clients. Sometimes a sufferings person my go into trance and see a spirit without the intercession of a third party – this can also lead him or her to become a balian. It should be added that many of the pemangkus (lay priest) I know in my village owe their present professions to similar circumstance – sickness and cure through the intervention of specific spirit.

Cases like the above are very rare, because most people do not venture into the spiritual world on their own. It is pramada and risky. And the kinds of sickness that would causes a balian to suggests that his client establish such a deep, and potentially dangerous, relationship with a spirit must be very serious indeed. In fact, the attitude of the average Balinese toward a balian is great respect mixed with a little fear. Since the activities of balians involve mystical forces, and since the balian has the power to control the flow and ebb of these forces, he is just as capable of using his power to inflict evil upon others as he is of using it to help them. This fear is not usually expressed. But one gets the impression that it is definitely not a good idea to cross these people – they are just too close to the practice of black magic.

source : bali sekala niskala.

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