BALI CULTURE INFORMATION

 

 
 
The Island Of Bali, Indonesia

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WITCHCRAFT

WITCHES, WITCH-DOCTORS, AND THE
MAGIC THEATRE

On discovering the cause of the epidemic, Erlangga ordered his soldiers to go and kill the witch. They stole into her house while she slept and stabbed her in the heart, but Tjalon Arang awoke unhurt and consumed the daring soldiers with her own fire. The witch went once more into the cemetery and danced with her pupils, dug out corpses, cutting them to pieces, eating the members, drinking the blood, and wearing their entrails as necklaces. Begawati appeared again and joined in the bloody banquet, but warned Tjalon Arang to be careful. The witches danced once more at the crossroads and the dreadful epidemic ravaged the land; the vassals of Erlangga died before they could even bury the corpses they bore to the cemeteries.

The desperate king sent for Mpu Bharada, the holy man from Lemah Tulis, the only living being who could vanquish the witch. Mpu Bharada planned his campaign carefully. He sent Bahula, his young assistant, to ask for the witch's daughter in marriage. Highly flattered, the mother gave her consent and after a happy and passionate honeymoon Bahula learned from his wife the secret of Tjalon Arang's power, the possession of a little magic book, which he stole and turned over to his master.

The holy man copied it and had it returned before the disappearance could be noticed. The book was a manual of righteousness and had to be read backwards. The holy man was then able to restore life to those victims whose bodies had not vet decayed. Armed with the new knowledge, he accused the witch of her crimes, but she challenged him by setting an enormous banyan tree on fire by a single look of her fiery eyes. Bharada foiled the enraged witch by restoring the tree, and she turned her fire against the holv man. Unmoved, he killed her with one of her own mantras; but she died in her monstrous rangda form and Bharada, to absolve her of her crimes and enable her to atone for them, revived her, gave her human appearance, and then killed her again.

It is only in the legend that Rangda could be vanquished; the Balinese perform the story of her struggle with Erlangga in a play, but always stop before the point where the tide turned against the witch.

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