WITCH-DOCTORS, MAGIC, AND MEDICINE
were two medicine-men, two balians among the friends that
often visited us. One of these was a learned, serious, middleaged
man who practised medicine and was progressive enough to
adopt some Western medicines like quinine tablets for malaria,
to which, however, he added Balinese magic by reciting formulas
over them. He liked to discuss the methods of foreigners
and often came to us to ask for medicines.
The other balian was the extreme reverse; he enjoyed the
terrifving reputation of teacher and chief of bands of leyaks,
and our friends had warned us in whispers that many of the
old women of our leyak-ridden neighbourhood were his pupils;
nobody had the slightest doubt of his great magical powers.
His appearance was as demoniac as his reputation: enormous
fingernails on knotty long fingers, halfextinguished little
eves burning still with a wicked gleam, and a great, bloody
cave for a mouth; entirely toothless and always crimson
with betel juice. He dressed smartly in a blue silk saput,
and his gestures showed a rather studied elegance. He was
gay and solicitous, but he loved to appear mysterious at
Our two friends belonged to the two arch-types of Balinese
balians. One was the inspired mystic who works through fits
of temperament and trances to fight the evil forces and
who by his inherent sakti is able to dominate the supernatural
spirits. Shamanism is his medium; he can see " far
away " by going into a trance and looking into a mirror
or a container with water.
Through his self-induced trances he comes in contact with
his assisting spirit, perhaps his father's, a former great
balian, whose reputation establishes the prestige enjoyed
by the son; thus possessed by his assisting spirit, he is
able to go into the spirit world and fight the wrongdoer.
During the trances the balian growls and mumbles monologues
similar to those in plays, in which he relates his adventures
he dances entranced, elegant versions of duels with malignant
spirits. I was told that such a balian can see a guilt in
the eyes of a boy or a girl who is still " pure "
- that is, uncontaminated by sexual intercourse. By going
into a trance, balians are also able to trace the past history
of an old kris or some similar object.
While the intuitive witch-doctor (balian ngengengan) work
mainly through his inspiration and his inherent sakti, the
learned balian (balian wisada) " who can read,"
depends for his effectiveness on a mixture of practical
medicine and religious magic learned from palm-leaf manuscripts
(lontar or rontal) . Although not a priest, he knows all
tile Food and evil gods and the mannner of their approach;
he understands the calendar and knows the proper formulas
and magic words, cabalistic symbols, and so forth, which
he combines with real medical knowledge, of ma; sage, herbs,
and roots. 'Hills, assisted by the faith of his patient
he can perform real cures.
A balian inherits his father's wisdom, his sakti, and the
accessories of his ritual: magic stones and coins which
are placed iv water that is given to the patient to drink,
calendars and chart, for horoscopes, but mainly old treatises
on magic and medicine the possession of which alone already
gives balians certain powers. Besides the aforementioned
manuscripts on " right ' and " left " magic,
they own special books on love magic (pengaseh) , collections
of models for pictorial amulets (tetumbalan) . and books
on medicine and medical recipes (wisada and tetulak) These
are copied when the old ones have become too worn, and the
discarded palm-leaves are burned to prevent them from falling
into the wrong hands; the burned remains are then eaten
by the owner in order not to waste any of their magic power.
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