BALI CULTURE INFORMATION

 

 
 
The Island Of Bali, Indonesia

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WITCHCRAFT

WITCHES, WITCH-DOCTORS, AND THE
MAGIC THEATRE

" Rapung's uncle, the temple-keeper and a famous story-teller, had great magic powers but he did not practise evil magic. When he was deprived of his office as keeper of the temple because of a scandalous love affair, he created such a disturbance that he was thrown into jail. Although supposedly locked tip in a cell. he was seen at night in the village and it was said that often1slept in his own house. He used his magic knowledge mainly a defence against his enemies, and, as in the case of the Pemetjutan wayang show, he gave the names of leyaks in wayang performances through the Twalen puppet. Once his lamp went out during the performance and, without stopping, he spit on the wick and the light flared up again. He held a memorable battle with a leyak chief disguised as a one-winged garuda bird fought him in the form of a baldheaded raksasa. He was defied by the chief of Blahbatoeh, a famous witch; the story-teller took up the challenge and turned into a sea that engulfed the leyak, turned into a mad motor-car."

Most frequently leyaks appear as dancing flames flitting from grave to grave in cemeteries, feeding on newly buried corpse, or as balls of fire and living shadowlike white cloths, but also in the shapes of weird animals: pigs, dogs, monkeys, or tigers. Witches often assume the form of beautiful mute girls who make obscene advances to young men on lonely roads at night.

Leyaks .ire, however, progressive and now they are said to prefer more modern shapes for their transformations; motor-ears and bicycles that run in and out of temples without drivers and whose tires pulsate as if breathing. There are even leyak airplanes sweeping over the roof-tops after midnight. Children cry during the night because they see leyaks that become invisible on approaching to gnaw at their entrails. Then the child becomes sick and soon dies; that explains the high death-rate among children.

The ever unwilling patients of the modern hospital in Den Pasar claim to have seen strange shadows under doors and flocks of monkeys that grimace at them through the windows; the congregation of sick, magically weakened people naturally attracts legions of leyaks and for this reason they fear having to go to the hospital. Witches congregate under the kepuh trees always found in cemeteries, but they are also attracted to the " male " papaya tree (that which bears no fruit) and like to carry on their orgies of blood and their love affairs under its shadow; consequently these trees are never permitted to grow within the village limits.

I was told that to see the leyaks that happen to be about, one must stand naked and, bending over suddenly, look between one's legs. They can be recognized by the flames (endeh) that issue out of their hanging tongues and from the top of their heads. This does not work with foreigners, because the levaks " are shy and do not show themselves to outsiders "; thus, even the Balinese who fear leyaks so that they dare not mention the word leyak are not in the least impressed with the bravery of a skeptical stranger who walks alone at night into a cemetery or some such leyak-ridden place.Oueen of the leyaks and undoubtedly the most interesting character on the island is the blood-thirsty, child-eating Rangda, the witch-widow mistress of black magic.

A curious ceremony in the temple of a neighbouring village introduced Rangda to us. It was well after midnight, and although the date for the temple feast was still far off, there was a crowd, mostly women, in the courtyard sitting in a circle around a man who appeared to be in a trance. Next to him sat the old pemangku, the temple priest, quiet all concentrating attending to the incense that burned in a clay brazier before a monstrous mask with enormous fangs.

The community, it seemed, was having a wave of bad luck and they were asking Rangda to advise them, through the medium, of what she quired to leave them alone. The stillness of the night, the incese, and the dim light of the petrol lamp, all aided the feeling that the spirit of the dreaded witch was really there. Soon the oracle began to twitch and foam at the mouth, making painful efforts to talk.

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