The Balinese shaman and healer ( Balian ) – part 2


When researching another chapter in this book, Budi and I went to a village that was new to me to collect information about the pelelintangan astrological chart. I had been told that the father of our prospective informant was a balian. When we entered the house compound, we were greeted by an elderly man who, from his manner and dress, we inferred to be the father. While we were waiting for the son to show up, I mentioned to Budi that the man who greeted us was probably the balian. Budi was extremely upset.

“you must not mention that out loud here!”

“why, “ I said. “that man is a balian isn’t he?”

“yes, but you don’t mention things like that. He might hear you.”

” what’s wrong with mentioning something if it’s obviously true?”

This lead to the usual impasse that results when I am being obstinate. I remember another visit to take a small gift to a pemangku who lives in our village. The father of the pemangku hinted that he would like to have a blank notebook in which to write some notes. When we had departed Budi mentioned to e that it might be a good idea if I bought a notebook and gave it to this man. I asked why. People are forever asking me for gifts. Budi pointed out that the man was known as a balian who was engaged in, as Budi put it, a “deep” study of various subjects – and it is just a good idea to keep people like that on your side. I bought the book.

Some years ago a Balinese friend, knowing of my interest in witchcraft, offered to take me to a balian who, he said, was known to be involved in this sort of activity. My friend led me straight to the informant’s house and forthwith asked the man if he would please tell me what he knew about witchcraft. Of course, the balian denied any knowledge of the subject. When I got home and told Budi he hit the roof in dismay. One never, ever, mentions this subject. What a stupid thing to do. Now we have an enemy, and he probably is a leyak who can couse us all sorts of trouble. It was a stupid thing to do, I discovered later. And the man who offered to lead me to the witch was not very knowledgeable about such matters.

Balinese are not usually general practicioners ,There are a number of varieties, each specializing in a particular area of knowledge, including massage, finding lost objects, preparing love potions and protective amulets, delivering babies, or dispensing medicines. A balian tulang specializes in setting broken bones. Balian Manak is a midwife. There is not much difference between the way some of these practitioners function and the practices of health personnel who operate the PUSKESMAS, or village clinic that is found is most small towns in Bali.

Balian Tenung is the usual name for a balian whose specialty is divining or prophesying. The powers of such Balians, however, are almost never directed toward foretelling the future or predicting events. Nor do clients ask for this service. Instead, the diviner is asked to do such things as locate lost objects, reveal a thief, or fid the identity of a baby. I have noticed a characteristic lack of concern for the future in many of my Balinese friends. I am an incurable planner, and I am forever asking Budi or his wife whether they are going to go to such and such an odalan next week, or whether they want to go to the movies next Saturday night. The reply is always that they really haven’t made any plans yet, and I would just have to wait and see how they fell when the time comes.

source : Balinese sekala & niskala .

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