The Island Of Bali, Indonesia




Offerings to evil spirits are in themselves polluted and are left to be eaten by the village scavengers, the hungry dogs. The devils receive elaborate sacrifices on certain occasions and on special days, every fifth (klion) and every fifteenth (kadjeng klion) day; but, as they are greedy by nature, the little offerings given them every day - a few grains of rice, a few flower petals, and a coin or two - are enough to distract them from their evil intentions. They become particularly obnoxious at sundown, and on these special dates the women of each household place in front of their gates trays of food, flowers, and money, next to a burning coconut husk.

Great calamities will fall upon the village when the butas predominate or when they are angry. Then they cause epidemics, the loss of crops, and so forth, and only by the most elaborate ceremonies of purification and great offerings of blood sacrifices can the pollution of the village be wiped out.

Nyepi. Once a year, at the spring equinox, every community holds a general cleaning-out of devils, driving them out of the village with magical curses and rioting by the entire population. This is followed by a day of absolute stillness, the suspension of all activity, from which the ceremony takes its name. Nyepi marks they New Year and the arrival of spring, the end of the troublesome rainy season, when even the earth is said to be sick and feverish (panas) . It is believed that then the Lord of Hell, Yama, sweeps Hades of devils, which fall on Bali, making it imperative that the whole of the island be purified.

There is great excitement all over Bali at this time, and on the days before nyepi everybody is busy erecting altars for the offerings and scaffolds for the priests at the village crossroads Since no cooking is allowed on nyepi day, the food for the next day is prepared and there are melis processions all over Bali to take the gods to the sea for their symbolical bath. The celebration proper extends over a period of two days: the metjaru, the great purification offering, and nyepi, the day of silence. On the first day the Government allows unrestricted gambling and cockfighting, an essential part of the ceremony, because the land is cured by spilling blood over impure earth.

In Den Pasar round after round was fought all morning; crowds of men gathered in the meeting hall of every bandjar, each bringing his favorite fighting cock in a curious satchel of fresh coconut leaves, handle and all, woven over the cock's body, its tail left sticking out so as not to damage the feathers. Each satchel was cut open and the cocks presented to the audience to announce the matches. The betting began; excited enthusiasts waved strings of kepengs and silver ringgit and yelled at each other. A vicious steel blade five inches long and sharp as a razor was attached to the right foot of each cock in place of the natural spur, which was cut off. When both contenders were ready and the bets had been placed, the referee and the time-keeper went to their places and gave the signal to start, beating a small gong.

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