Mystery, Myth & Magic

What does Arjuna’s Path to Enlightenment Have to do With World Peace?

Culture | Feb 27, 2019

If we want to understand Balinese culture, we have to look deeply into its complex roots. Just as a tree draws its essence from an intricate and dispersed root system, the essence of today’s Balinese culture draws from ancient beliefs in animism and a pantheon of gods and ancestors, and the much later absorption of […]

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Refusing to Become a Mangku Priest

Culture | Feb 15, 2019

Who are the priests in Bali? Most of you have probably seen pictures of high priests, the pedandas, or even seen them on the roads or in temples. They are easily recognisable because they tie their long hair into a knot on top of their heads or wear a tiara while reading mantras. Pedandas are […]

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The Curse from the ‘Niskala’ Unseen World

Culture | Jan 28, 2019

A story about Sekala and Niskala, the seen and unseen world or forces, that are believed to exist in Bali. Dr. Jean Couteau brings yet another one of his Balinese stories – sometimes myth, sometimes a mystery, but always meaningful: These are the objective facts: Gobler was tired. It was night, and he wanted to get home before […]

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Tri Hita Karana : Explaining the Balance in Bali

10 Years of Celebrating Bali | Jan 20, 2019

The Balinese – and other Indonesian – culture(s) managed to achieve a high level of sophistication without any excessive pressure upon the balance of Mother Nature. I am sure all of you, all readers, love bananas. They are ubiquitous in Bali. On roadsides, in back gardens, but weirdly enough, not in plantations. Why? Very simply […]

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Beware Bali’s Fanged Monster, Jero Gede Mecaling

Culture | Dec 20, 2018

These hot and humid days are the most difficult times in Bali. But make no mistake. It is not because of the rainy season. It is because the guardians of hell are cleaning their cauldron. Yes, they do a little housekeeping at this time of year. Suratma, who judges all souls at the gates of […]

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The Construction of Balinese Hinduism

Culture | Nov 26, 2018

Most of you, dear readers, when coming to Bali, already have a certain idea of the island. An iconic idea, which encompasses, as you probably know, just a small part of reality. So you must certainly have been told that Bali is the only Hindu island in Indonesia — and you have been told so […]

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A Woman’s “Impurity” Within Balinese Belief

Culture | Oct 03, 2018

If there has been an important behavioural notion that has been imported from India to Bali, it is the notion of purity, or rather the avoidance of impurity, nirmala – not impure.  To the Balinese, spiritual impurity is indeed a dreadful condition. First place, it is niskala (invisible) by nature, thus subjected to forces that […]

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The Ins and Outs of Balinese Dogs

Culture | Sep 17, 2018

Have you ever seen a Balinese dog? I am sure you must have. These small, ugly animals are everywhere. They lurk in every corner in groups of four or five, peering at you in defiance with their small beady eyes, their tails jigging in the air. If you are, like myself, a white-skinned Caucasian, they […]

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How Balinese Criticise Those They Love The Most : Their Priest

Culture | Aug 30, 2018

When Westerners think of Balinese priesthood, they are usually awed and, accordingly, embarrassed by “excessive respect”. It must be said that the view of a pedanda priest, lotus-sitting on his platform and jingling his genta bell to call down the gods to the rite he is performing, is highly impressive and calls for spontaneous respect. […]

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Purgatory in Paradise : Where the Sinful Soul Goes

Culture | Jul 25, 2018

“The superiority of purgatory over hell or paradise is that is has a future” – Chateaubriand In these days of religious radicalism, the word paradise most often evokes the 40 virgins attributed to each martyr fallen in the holy war against crusaders, Zionists and other heretics and blasphemers. But considering the news from Syria and […]

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