Mystery, Myth & Magic


Bali Has Soul

Culture | Sep 03, 2015

Minutes later I find myself in front of a trio of flouncing lady-boy trancees who are welcoming the mighty god of the mask of the Topeng SIdakarya Sudha into their temple. The gamelan is clanging, the exquisite temple forecourt is packed and the sun is shining in on the woven penjor banners fluttering above. Last […]

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Indonesian Nationalism, With A Smile

Culture | Aug 01, 2015

On the 17th of August, Indonesia celebrates Independence Day with a day of parades and revelry. On such patriotic occasions foreigners the world over are usually relegated to being mere outsiders. Perhaps not so in this country, though, as an interesting anecdote taught me… On the 17th of October a few years ago, as I […]

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The Purpose of Offerings and The Balinese Story Of Sangjaya Kesunu

Culture | Apr 02, 2015

Unlike religions from the Middle-East, which rest on a “revelation” transmitted through the entreaties of prophets, and in the case of Christianity, of a Messiah, Balinese religion rests on the notion of cosmic balance. The Universe and Man are considered as “similar” to one another. They consist of the same five elementals (Panca Maha Bhuta) […]

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A Question of Time : The Difference Between Balinese and Westerners

Culture | Dec 29, 2014

Here is a story of Ni Luh Koncreng, in which the way the Balinese see, feel and interpret time is illustrated. You can guess, of course, it is quite different to how Westerners view the very same aspect.  We are in the compound of Ni Luh Koncreng, an old, wrinkled Balinese lady. She is cutting […]

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Understanding Reincarnation, The Balinese Way

Culture | Dec 01, 2014

You’ve heard about reincarnation, right? Of course you have. But my guess is that you have heard about the formal, reformed-Hindu version of it, “You will reincarnate as a dog if you behave like one”, meaning, you will bear the consequences of your deeds in your future incarnation(s). While some narrow-minded Balinese will insist this […]

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Islam & Tolerance in Bali

Culture | Jul 03, 2014

Indonesia is a nation of 250 million people, 88% of whom are registered as Moslems. Bali is the only region of the country where the majority of the population is Hindu – although Balinese Hindus, make up only 2% of the Indonesian population. In Bali, 90% of the population is classified as Hindu, but the […]

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Ngendag : The Awakening of the Dead

Culture | Jan 02, 2014

Historian and art critic Jean Couteau brings us stories depicting the life on Bali, sometimes real, sometimes myth, always meaningful. Here he shares the story of Ngendag , a Balinese ritual in which buried corpses are exhumed to be cremated. This and other stories can be found in Jean Couteau’s book, Myth, Magic and Mystery in Bali .  […]

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Makakawin the Ancient Reading of the Lontar Ancient Texts

Culture | Nov 29, 2013

The first thing one notices in the shadows of the dimly-lit temple is the mysterious mumbling of human voices, which is not quite that of a chant, but not quite that of normal conversation either. If one approaches the bale (open pavilion), one sees a small group of men, sitting in the lotus position around […]

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Buy A Bererong

Culture | Oct 28, 2013

  Westerners and modern people have a bad habit when it comes to making money: they have a rational approach to economics. You work, they say, save and invest, and then you will earn x % or more, if lucky, in one or five years. There is little pleasure to be had, and no fear. […]

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Sauh Munyi – A Promise to the Gods

Culture | Sep 27, 2013

  The practice of oath taking is very common among the Balinese. It takes the form of barter. “If I am bestowed this favour from the gods, I will fulfil such and such a promise”. It can also apply to a promise between humans. “If I get what I wish for, I will do this […]

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