the end of the Balinese year, during the last months of
the rainy season, epidemics of malaria and tropical fevers
make their appearance because evil spirits and leyaks are
in the ascendancy; then even the earth is said to be sick.
It is believed that the fanged demon living on the little
island of Nusa Penida, Djero Gede Metjaling, comes to Bali
then in the form of a fiery ball that, upon coming ashore,
explodes into a thousand sparks that spread in all directions.
As their glow dies, they release evil forces that go to
spread illness and misfortune.
is a propitious time for leyaks to prey on human beings;
because of the predominance of evil forces, the village
is then magically weakened. The dogs gather at the crossroads
and howl all night and the owls hoot, predicting deaths
in the village. Quantities of offerings are made to placate
the devils, and the benign spirits are implored to come
down to earth, through the body of a medium, to advise and
protect the distressed community.
A performance of sanghyang dedari is one of the most effective
exorcisms; two little girls, trained to go into a trance,
are chosen from all the girls of the village for their psychic
aptitudes by the temple priest, the pemangku, to receive
in their bodies the spirits of the heavenly nymphs, the
beautiful dedari Supraba and Blue Lotus (Tundjung Biru)
Choruses of men and women are formed and the training begins.
Every night, for weeks, they all go to the temple, where
the women sing traditional songs while the men chant strange
rhythms and harmonies made up of meaningless syllables,
producing a syncopated accompaniment for the dance that
the little girls, the sanghyangs, will perform. By degrees
the little girls become more and more subject to the ecstasy
produced by the intoxicating songs, by the incense, and
by the hypnotic power of the pemangku.
training goes on until the girls are able to fall into a
deep trance, and a formal performance can be given. It is
extraordinary that although the little girls have never
received dancing lessons, once in a trance they are able
to dance in any style, all of which would require ordinary
dancers months and years of training to learn. But the Balinese
ask how it could be otherwise, since it is the goddesses
who dance in the bodies of the little girls.
the girls are ready, they are taken to the death temple,
where a sanggar agung, a high altar, has been erected, filled
with offerings for the sun. The Pemangku sits facing the
altar in front of a brazier where incense of three sorts
is burned. The little girls wear ear-plugs of gold, heavy
silver anklets, bracelets, and rings. Their hair is loose
and they are dressed in white skirts. They kneel in front
of the altar on each side of the priest. The women singers
sit in a circle around them, while the men remain in a group
in the back. Their jewellery is removed and is put in a
bowl of water; small incense braziers are placed in front
of each girl. After a short prayer by the priest the women
is the smoke of the incense, the smoke of the sandalwood,
the smoke that coils and coils upwards towards the home
of the three gods.
We are cleansed to call the nymphs to descend from heaven.
We ask Supraba and Tundjung Biru to come down to us, beautiful
in their bodices of gold.
Flying down from heaven, they fly in spirals, fly down from
the North-East, where they build their home.
Their garden is filled with golden flowers that grow side
by side with the pandanus, the scorpion orchids, the tigakantju,
pineapples, soli and sempol, their tender leaves gracefully
drooping; drooping they spread their perfume through the
Our thoughts shall rise like smoke towards the dedari, who
will descend from heaven.
the girls begin to drowse and fall in a sudden faint. The
women support their limp bodies in a sitting-position, and
after a while the girls begin to move again, as if suffering
intense pain, then trembling all over and swaying faster
and faster, their heads rolling until their loose hair describes
a wide circle. From this time on the girls remain with closed
eves and do not open them until the end of the ceremony,
when they are taken out of the trance.
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