The Island Of Bali, Indonesia



Every Balinese believes that his body, like an electric battery, accumulates a magic energy called sakti that enables him to withstand the attacks of evil powers, human or supernatural, that seek constantly to undermine his magic health. This sakti is not evenly divided; some people are born with a capacity to store a higher charge of magic than others; they become the priests, witch-doctors, and so forth, endowed with supernatural powers.

The sakti can be trained to serve them at will by the systematic study of the arts of magic and meditation, but people whose hearts are contaminated by evil use the magic science to harm their enemies, or simply to satisfy their lowest instincts.

The Balinese use the term sakti like our " holy " or " sacred," but meaning, rather, charged with a magic (positive or negative) power that emanates from people as well as from objects like Rangda and Barong masks, or from places regarded as magically dangerous (tenget or angker) , like caves, rivers, and ancient remains. One often hears of the sakti of living people who could hardly be regarded as holy, like our coffee-dealer Makatjung; I was told of an old prince who was so sakti he could floor anyone by simply staring at him.

The normal way to bring out the dormant sakti is to undergo mawinten -the initiation ceremony of priests, magicians, dancers, and actors, to give them the luck, beauty, cleverness, and personal charm that enable them to be successful. Story-tellers and singers of epic poems (kekawin) have magic syllables inscribed on their tongues with honey to make their voices sweet. The ceremony is performed by a priest who, after cleansing and purifying the person through a maweda, writes invisible signs over his forehead, eyes, teeth, shoulders, arms, and so forth. with the stem of a flower dipped in holy water.

An explanation of the Balinese attitude in regard to personal magic can be found in the principle that constantly obsesses them-strong and weak, clean and unclean. Thus, the individual is magically strengthened when he is in the state of psychic purity (ening, sutji, nirmala) acquired through the performance of the cleansing ritual. The antithesis of this is the often mentioned sebel condition, uncleanliness, when a run-down soul renders one vulnerable to the attacks of evil. A person becomes sebel automatically at the death of relatives, during illness or menstruation, after having children, and so forth.

In cases of bestiality, temple vandalism, incest, the birth of twins of each sex, the entire community becomes polluted and has to be purified by complicated and expensive sacrifices. Not even the deities are free from becoming sebel, and, like any other woman, Rangda and the death goddess Durga are sebel once every month.

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