BALI CULTURE INFORMATION

 

 
 
The Island Of Bali, Indonesia

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THE WITCH-DOCTORS, MAGIC, AND MEDICINE

The Balinese love a clear skin and they are disturbed by the prevalent skin diseases, from the ugly but harmless kurab, a skin discolouration produced by a parasitic fungus, to itches, framboesia, and tenacious tropical ulcers. The kurab (called bulenan when in small patches) appears as whitish spots on the brown skin and spreads all over if not checked. It is cured by rubbing the affected areas with lalang Grass, but it has been discovered that it disappears quickly with salycilic alcohol from the Chinese druggists.Itches are cured with lemon juice, coconut oil, and frequent baths in hot water in which legundi and ketawali leaves are macerated.

People after middle age complain of " bone trouble," rheumatism, due to the extreme humidity of the island, and as a preventive they wear bracelets of kayu uli, a sort of black coral from Borneo. It is said that the pain can be driven out by marking the feet with a hot iron, which does not hurt the patient because " the teeth of the fire are taken away by a mantra." Headaches are cured by massage, but it helps to spray the forehead with a mixture of crushed ginger and mashed bedbugs. For stomachache they drink the red infusion of medarah bark from Java.

A cough is relieved by drinking an infusion of blimbing buluh flowers mixed with parched, grated coconut, also sprayed externally on the throat. Head colds are cured by massage, but it is good for sneezing to smell a piece of telor bark three times. Such are the most common of domestic remedies, but for each illness there are seven medicines used consecutively when the preceding ones fail to give relief. The keystone of Balinese medicine is the principle of " hot " and " cold," irritating and refreshing, also applied to foods. Thus a heated or irritated condition is cured by a cooling-medicine.

The Balinese are helpless in the case of infected wounds, but it is always a means of breaking the ice with a foreign neighbour to ask for medicine for an infected cut covered with a greenish mess and wrapped in a dirty rag. Rose treated many such cases soon after our arrival in Belaluan and eventually we had a great circle of faithful friends who brought presents of food to show their appreciation.

On our return trip we found that the full responsibility for such cases had fallen on our American friends Jack and Katharane Mershon, former dancers, who had settled on the malarial Sanur coast, where they conducted an improvised but effective free clinic. They spent their spare money on medicines and took turns every day treating scores of people, often coming from afar with the most frightful sores. The disinterested work of the Mershons made them the idols of the neighbourhood and they are known only as tuan doctor and nyonya doctor. There is of course a fine modern hospital in Den Pasar, but the Balinese prefer the more informal, sympathetic clinic of the Mershons.

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