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Entries in bali religion (4)


A Visit to a Balinese Healer 

A Visit to a Balinese Healer or Balian~ Photos and Video

A recommended experience on all of our tours and a staple of our Wellness Tours is a visit to a local Balinese healer or Balian (sometimes referred to as a dukun). There are many types and styles of Bali Usada or healing in Bali and it takes some time to find the right method and practitioner.  There are essentially four types of traditional healers in Bali. Very briefly, a Pica or Paica works with objects, The Balian Usada studies the Lontars (ancient sacred texts), The Ketakson who serves as a medium or link between the living and the deceased, and the last group is a combination of some or all of the above.


Some healers use hands on techniques like massage or applied kinesiology to move energy, remove blockages, realign meridians and such. While others employ a less invasive approach to energy work similar to Reiki. And others use offerings, tinctures, holy water, astrology, herbal medicines called Jamu, and other traditional homemade remedies. In most cases it is a mixture of several approaches.
Bali wellness healer yogaA Balinese Healer uses her breath to dissipate to illness
I won't comment here on the efficacy of the treatments or the healers themselves, but I will say that I have witnessed some surprising outcomes over the years. Certainly some healers are more gifted than others, so your milage may vary, but it is always an interesting and worthwhile experience. I have seen some people experience near miraculous results, and some receive no tangible proceeds. It has, however, resulted closer to the former rather than latter.
Bali wellness retreat healerUsing Holy Water, a Balinese Balian blesses our tour participants for a safe and rewarding journey
On a recent Balifornian Culture Tour, two participants wanted to seek the help of a Balinese healer. We didn't have much lead time so our "go-to" healers were not available, but we were able to find one with a good reputation that was willing to see them. She is primarily a Ketakson so she acts as a channel to the other world. Occasionally, when a person dies an offering or ceremony is missing or incomplete. A Ketakson can help in these matters and provide the family with the missing piece to allow the dead to travel safely to the next world. 
Bali tour wellness retreatShafts of light illuminate the healing area where The Balian provides closure for a grieving family
We arrived at her compound and waited in the courtyard with a couple dozen others. She was with a family in the open air "treatment area". There was a grieving family around her listening intently as she channeled a recently deceased loved one. I am a bit more skeptical of the telekinesis style of healing versus a more hands on approach, but she was able to sense details clairvoyantly that surprised us and hit home with the family.
Bali wellness healing retreatA Tour Participant peers into the courtyard where a healing session is taking place

Here is a very brief video of the prayer used in the healing session.

When it was time for our tour participants to receive counsel, they took turns sitting in front of the healer while she recited prayers and blessed them with holy water and flowers. Their palms were read as we translated the healers messages. We were told the reading was accurate and the suggestions were valid.
Bali tour healer wellnessOthers look on as The Healer works with other community members
I have not mentioned the healers name or village as occasionally a healer will gain fame and appointments for the villagers may become more scarce as well as expensive.  If this healer or a practitioner of other forms of traditional Balinese healing is of interest to you, please just contact us.
This is a far from exhaustive recap of the visit and certainly only touches the surface when it comes to Balinese Healing. For more information please contact us directly and we can arrange more specific sessions for you during your visit.



Related Blog Posts...

The Sacred Rituals of Besakih ~ And the Gods came down to Bali… A photo/video essay.


Bali Photo of the Day ~ Hindu Priest Blesses Holy Daggers


Ngaben ~ The Traditional Balinese Cremation Ceremony


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The Human Blood Sacrifice Ritual of The Bali Aga

As discussed in previous blog posts (here and here), The Bali Aga or Bali Mula is a little known ethnic group on the paradise island of Bali and they provide an incredibly unique look back to Bali’s past and serve as a living museum of a 17th century lifestyle. 

Bali ceremony wellness retreatThe Bali Aga village of Tenganan hosts the bloody ceremony of Mekare KareThey are a secretive and private group whose ancestors predate Hinduism in Bali.  Culturally they are quite different from the rest of Bali’s population and have clung tightly to their history and ceremonies that are unlike any others on the island or the rest of Indonesia.

Bali villas ritual tourTwo youg Bali Aga boys battle during Mekare Kare

Only two Bali Aga villages remain.  The villages of Tenganan and Trunyan are located North West of Candi Dasa and Amed, in Eastern Bali and both are a stronghold of ancient native traditions.

The Human Blood Sacrifice Ritual of The Bali Aga

The Tenganans still practice an ancient rite known as Mekare Kare, which is a ritual blood sacrifice. This annual ritual fighting of its tribe members is a sight unlike any other that I have seen in South East Asia.  Mekare Kare is the highlight of the 3 day Udaba Samba celebration that occurs in May or June. 

best bali tour ritualThe mediator struggles to maintain control during the blood sacrifice ritualI have been to many villages that hold fighting ceremonies between male combatants with all manner of weapons including bamboo poles, whips, swords, shields, animal parts, etc.  Many tend to be tame and are more of a ceremonial fight than actual combat. (That’s easy for me to say as I stand on the sideline with my camera.)  While there is bloodshed and fierce competition at times during the Mekare Kare battle, the combatants always leave with a smile and maintain love for one another.  But lets be clear, these fighters are armed with razor sharp weapons that do damage and cause great pain.

bali travel photographyThe Pandanus Tree provides the razor sharp weapons used in the blood ritualPreperation for the Bali Aga ceremony

In the days preceding the big event the thorny Pandanus tree, much like a succulent, with razor sharp spines are harvested and compiled into packets of ten leaves at a length of approximately 14 inches (36 centimeters).  They also carry a rattan-woven shield to protect them from their opponent’s attempts to smack and rake the thorns into his flesh.

bali ceremony religion tourA bundle of Pandanus leaves create the weapon used in the Bali Aga Ceremony

Before the fight commences, participants drink rice wine or tuak (a strong fermented local palm alcohol- for more on tuak, click here).  This ritual symbolizes the brotherhood and love amongst the tribe. The fighting is judged and managed by a mediator who looks out for the safety of all combatants and makes sure no one falls off the platform or suffers injuries inconsistent with the battle proper. Battles last 5 to 10 minutes and the fighter who inflicted the most damage and draw the most blood with the thorny weapon is crowned the victor.

Bali art and culture tourThe crowd shouts and brandishes thier Pandan weapons during the ritual fighting

The Blood Sacrifice Battle of The Bali Aga

Early in the ceremony the young boys face off against one another and subsequent matches pit older opponents against one another.

bali wellness retreat ceremonyYoung boys are the first combatants in the Bali Aga ritual blood sacrificeAfter the battle a special traditional liquid medicine is administered to the injured (which tends to be just about everyone). Then the entire village prepares food and drink for an elaborate feast, which must follow the Balinese sacrifice of human blood.

bali villa wellness ritualThe battle scars from the blood sacrifice ritual in Bali, Indonesia

I want to reiterate that travel into these parts of Bali is not for everyone and can result in violence if the traveler is unaccustomed to the ways of the Bali Aga.  It is highly recommended to use the services of a guide or tour company like Balifornian or the many other qualified and knowledgeable companies in Bali.

bali sacrifice ceremony wellnessThe big men take thier turn battling it out during the Mekare KareHave you seen a unique ceremony or ritual like this in your travels?  Please leave a comment below and tell us about it.

Happy (and safe) Travels from The Balifonians!


Some basics on Bali and its Culture

Bali Culture

Bali is an Indonesian island that is rich in indigenous culture. A lot pf people say that Bali culture is unique and that the people of Bali have always been contented with the "now." If you ask a Balinese person what heaven is like, the probable answer will be "just like Bali". This only goes to show that most Balinese people are happy to be where they are and never worry.

One factor that contributes to this laidback lifestyle is the culture of close family ties in Bali. In the Balinese culture, support is always available. Balinese extended families are so tightly knit that all members usually reside in the same complex.

Hinduism is one of the main religions in Bali. The Bali culture is based on a form of this religion, which is called "Hindu Darma". This religion reached the island during the eleventh century. Most of the family customs and traditions as well as community lifestyles of the Balinese people are influenced by this. The religious influence even expands widely into the arts, which makes Bali distinct from the rest of Indonesia.

In spite of the influx of tourists to the island, Balinese people have managed to preserve their culture. Almost every native of Bali is an artist in some form or another. Parents and villagers have passed on their skills to their children, who all seem to have inclinations either to music, dance, painting, and decor.

Another remarkable mark of the Bali culture is the series of ceremonies and rituals known as the Manusa Yadnya. This marks the different stages of Balinese life. Cremation is very popular on this island - and unlike in the West, death is a joyous and colorful event for the Balinese.

Indeed, Bali has a rich culture, making it distinctive from the rest of the islands in Indonesia.


How to see the most interesting Balinese rituals

Balifornian Tours can get you to more authentic Balinese rituals than most other tour groups.  We will know what ceremonies are taking place and where they are as we have a huge extended network of friends and family.

Photos by Michael Doliveck