A Bali Myth: Knock-Knock, Who’s There?

Culture | Written By, Sachi Kondo |

On the island, if a ‘knock knock’ comes to you late at night, mid-slumber, it might just be a visitor from another realm. ..

You may have heard of the old superstition that says hearing three knocks in the dead of night, with seemingly no cause, means death is at your doorstep. You might have grown out of such an old wives’ tale, but to the Balinese this isn’t purely nonsense.

Like most of us, the Balinese know that unexpected knocks at the door shouldn’t be really entertained, but here on the island of the gods those knocks bear a slightly more endearing story, one that doesn’t suggest an invitation from the Grim Reaper.

According to a Balinese myth, when you hear knockings from an unknown source, be it at the door or at your bedroom window, you are blessed with a rather untimely visitation from your ancestors. You may get awakened in the middle of the night by incessant knockings or unexplainable footsteps, whilst several cases have heard whispers from familiar voices summoning their name.

The Balinese have immense respect for their ancestors— visible everyday in their prayers and ceremonies, or the biggest holiday Galungan which celebrates the homecoming of ancestral spirits to Earth and Kuningan,which marks the time they return back to heaven. But come these eerie ‘visiting hours’, the ancestors are treated like nothing more but wind in the night. Their advice? Just go back to sleep. The belief is that if you open the door for them, you’re actually accepting an invitation to enter their world.

Another, less heartfelt, version of the superstition is hearing knockings at ungodly hours reveals your family’s association with black magic. And if you open the door, a leak(read as leyak) – a mythological figure of Balinese witchcraft, which can come in the form of a head with a very long tongue and sharp fangs – will ‘lick’ you, causing a deathly sickness or even death itself.

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