WITCH-DOCTORS, AND THE
performance of wayang kulit, the shadow-play, is such an
ordinary occurrence in Den Pasar that it was unusual and
intriguing one evening to find the town aroused by news
of a shadow-play to take place that night in the outskirts,
and we tagged along with the Balinese members of our household
to watch the show.
The streets were filled with people from the neighbouring
villages, all going our way, and we found the open square
of Pemetjutan, where the show was already in progress, jammed
with an eager crowd trying to push their way within hearing-distance
of the little screen, a focus of flickering light for a
restless, dark sea of human heads.
We were accustomed to see sober groups sitting quietly even
at performances of the most famous story-tellers, but on
this occasion the crowd was so great that we could not approach
the screen near enough even to distinguish clearly the shadows
of the leather puppets.
So unusual was the sudden interest in the performance that
the high-collared, helmeted Dutch officials, ordinarily
unconcerned with the " nonsense of the natives," asked nervous
questions among the crowd. Everything in the performance
went on as usual, except for a line of Balinese characters
painted across the screen which said: " I, Ida Bagus Ktut,
dare to tell." . . . We inquired what he dared to tell and
from various sources we pieced together the following story:
For many months a feud had raged between two enemy factions
of leyaks, witches, the spirits of living people given to
everybody knew because in Pemetjutan the leyaks in battle
were seen every night in the form of blue flames darting
among the coconut trees. The villagers fell sick by the
score and many died suddenly of mysterious, unexplained
deaths, but the wounds that had killed them became evident
if the bodies were washed with specially blessed coconut
water. The leader of one faction of witches was a well-known
dealer in coffee, a woman of low caste named Makatjung,
famous for her strong character and her natural magic powers.
Her child had suddenly died, and in her despair Wakatjung
refused to leave his grave; night came and she fell asleep
over it. In a dream the child spoke to her and blamed for
his death a princess of Djerokuta, also reputed in the neighbourhood
to be a powerful witch. Mad with rage, 1\Iakatjung went
to the princess and accused her of the murder of her child.
The princess did not deny it, and the leyak war was on.
It was supposed that the tide had turned against the faction
of the noblewoman, and Matakjung, to make her victory known
to the public, had engaged the daring story-teller to re-enact
the events in a wayang performance and give out the names
of her enemy's allies. To add to the suspense, it was rumoured
that the story-teller, the son of Badung's most famous witch-doctor,
had stolen the names he was about to make public from his
father's records of clients for formulas of witchcraft.
[ 1 ] - [
2 ] - [ 3 ] - [
4 ] - [ 5 ]