In the Name of Love: Bali’s Notorious ‘Love Magic’

Culture | Written By, Sachi Kondo |

Whilst witchcraft was largely condemned in the ancient west, professional magic practitioners are widespread in Bali even today. With black magic being a popular resort to attract love, bending another’s will for admiration is not an uncommon practice on the island. Should we be worried?

The old Indonesian saying ‘cinta ditolak, dukun bertindak’ (when love rejects, the shaman projects) may sound like a witty rhyme but it’s no laughing matter. The aphorism is often known as a storybook joke depicting the desperation of someone who, blinded by love, is committed to defying the impossible through black magic — which possibly has normalised the modern day take on it.

For the believers, pining with unrequited love doesn’t stop at the heartbreak of moving on. With no sense of caution or remorse, one would turn to a paranormal in the name of desire.

Pelet, as it’s colloquially known, is believed to be an effective love spell to win over your object of desire and make them fall in love with you. Whether or not Lady Luck has a role to play, many people have attested to its powerful hold.

Pelet experts are still sought after today to help a desperate admirer bewitch their pined-for lover through various paranormal means.

Some forms involve making dolls or wayang(shadow puppets) with mantras and spells to be deposited to, whilst others use psychic charms transferred to objects, such as a bracelet or cigarettes, for the desired lover to keep possession of.

In Bali, the most common form is ‘JaranNguyang’, a ritual originated from antiquity that is still practised today. The oral literature has been said to charm the opposite sex (there is a different mantra for same-sex relationships) and can only be cured by another ancient literature called LontarRatu Ning Usada.

It works once the spell-caster performs several rites. They will have to fast and read special mantras whilst imagining the person they desire, or simply ask a shaman to do the deed. The spell may strike the modern reader as obsessive, of the stalker kind, even misogynistic, as, rather than seeking love the intention suggests seeking control and domination.

If the spell indeed works, victims find themselves going crazy at the thought of the spell’s caster. Victim’s are said to even one to end their own life if unable to see the other person, among other out of the ordinary behaviour.

Scared you might be under a Balinese love spell? Well, here are some symptoms to look out for: You often feel uneasy, restless, and have difficulty sleeping due to the ‘presence’ of someone’s shadow in the room, or being in a semi-conscious condition. This is often observed by other people. Or, you feel a strong magnetic force towards that person all the time; an unnatural urge to see the person.

Present day, you can easily find contacts for ‘love doctors’ be it online or advertised on the street, even through word of mouth. Perhaps the social approval or lack of disapproval, if you will enables, the recourse of such spells to accommodate desperation.

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