The Island of the Gods, the Ocean, and Enlightenment: Bali, Indonesia

Otherworldly forces in Bali, personal experience

I am only responsible for what I say, not what you hear (c)

This is the kind of story that never gets voiced. It’s not something that’s ever talked about openly and in the first person. Even my close friends in Bali didn’t know about it – I didn’t tell anyone. It’s easier to keep silent. To forget, to sort myself out, to find outside reasons.

But, one day comes the realization (and thank you for this amazing people who surround me) that it is not easier to keep silent. A storyteller’s mission is far from just positively inspiring words and romantic imagery, but to candidly reveal the ambiguous and difficult aspects of being. Even though I have every chance of being misunderstood, I want to tell about my experience with spirits in Bali. May this story help and provide answers for those facing something similar.

Everyone and everywhere in Bali will tell you about some “different” energy of the place. This is nothing new. Neither is the fact that the name “Island of the Gods” has long been affirmed for this tiny corner of land in the Indian Ocean. By the most conservative count, there are more than 20,000 temples here. Where have you seen more within such a space?

Ceremonies and offerings to the spirits take place daily. Imagine, 3.5 million people worship both good and, if I may say so, evil spirits every morning and evening, thereby keeping the earth in balance. No one is trying to deny the dark aspect here. It exists on an equal footing with the light. By the way, black magic is widespread on the island in addition to healing.

My personal opinion is that such active, synchronous and, once again, daily worship of spirits makes them more material, more capable of influencing the physical world. Let’s just say it’s all more manifest in Bali. But I’ve never tied otherworldly forces to a limited space. I didn’t believe in house people or in the spirits of specific houses, I didn’t even think about it. And, of course, I wasn’t afraid of it. Of who? Gods? Spirits? I was glad of them. For me Bali was an island with great energy, where “something” was in the air.

My first home in Bali was far away, in the Dreamland area. I loved it right away. After the hostels and hotels in Nepal, I found comfort. At first I lived with a friend, but after a month she returned to Moscow and I inherited the house. On the day of her departure, we arranged a small farewell party, I went to bed early and she and another friend stayed up late. At night my friend left for the airport, and her friend went to bed in the second bedroom so she wouldn’t have to ride her bike home at night.

At about 4 a.m. I was awakened by frightened eyes:

– Olesia, close the door behind me. I went home. I can’t sleep here.

– You’re crazy, what happened. What time is it?

– It’s 4:00 a.m. I’m on my way.

– It’s a two-hour bike ride, so go back to sleep and ride in the morning,” I didn’t really know what was going on, not really awake yet.

– What was that sound? – she suddenly shrieked.

I didn’t hear anything at all, so I listened:

– Yes, it is a plane landing. The airport is near.

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– Olesya, I’m going. That’s it. I can’t sleep here.

She left very frightened. We didn’t talk about it anymore and we never came back to this story. I was fine in this house for 4 months until I moved to the most fashionable place in Bali, Seminyak, when I started a new job.

I got a job at a five-star hotel that was just getting ready to open. During the first months, the employees were provided with accommodation in a hotel nearby, and as soon as the first villas were ready we – that is, 10 foreign employees who were contractually entitled to a full compensation package – moved to live in the hotel.

Ta-da. I was moving into a newly-renovated villa with a private pool of a swanky five-star hotel, which cost about $1,000 a night to stay in. We each got a villa for personal use and all the hotel services in addition. Pleasant, I must say. The remaining villas were not ready yet, our task included testing the accommodation (because we then have to sell it), but I can say that the management was trying and everything was ready to the maximum for our arrival.

The boys helped with things, I finally got everyone out and jumped in the pool while testing the stereo system. After playing with my novelties, I went to bed, since no one cancelled work in the morning.

I woke up at 3 a.m. in a cold sweat. My body was shaking from unreasonable fear. In my head was spinning only one phrase: “Something is wrong here, something is wrong here.

– Olesya, do not go crazy. Nonsense. Calm down,” I told myself.

The fear kept building up.

– I had to turn on the light and the TV, I had to distract myself.

I got up and turned on the light.

– All this nonsense, just the first time in a new place anything can happen, – I reassured myself aloud, though how many times in my life I have slept in new places, in different countries and cities? Nothing like this had ever happened. The lighting brought relief, and I began to let go. But suddenly the lights went out all over the house. My villa was de-energized. It was no fun at all. My inner fear was no longer inhibited, there was only one thought in my head now, one that I strenuously didn’t want to allow. But there was one thought. As if from the outside.

I was ready to go outside, I did not want to stay in the house, even began to dress, but to walk to the guards, who were only at the hotel entrance, at least 10 minutes through a completely dark area was even worse. The hotel on the other hand is new – the lighting on the walkways has not yet been made, the phone line is not yet connected. And most importantly. The total main thing (which I found out much later) – the hotel was not held a ceremony. That is, it has not been consecrated in the traditions of Hinduism. In other words – no one had fed the spirits yet, and this is serious.

According to local beliefs, it is strictly forbidden to hold ceremonies in an unfinished house, as well as to live in it. And our hotel was not ready, only half of the villas. So we lived against all the beliefs of Balinese Hinduism – in a den of “unkind” spirits.

What abandoned cities are silent about

In my house, a real concert began. I started calling my mother to get my mind off things. Just as we started talking, the phone went off. At the same moment, something started banging against my glass door. I couldn’t reach home, nor could I move, but at some point the call went through. My mother was very frightened for me:

– Daughter, what’s wrong? What’s going on?

– Mom, I’m scared… There’s…

-Why are you silent?

How to tell my mother that you have a night concert, while remaining adequate and not to let the person close to her know that her only daughter, perhaps a little bit of that on “this” Bali?

– Daughter, quickly tell me what’s going on?

– Mom, there’s…uh…perfume…” I could barely make it out, hoping that at least Mom had enough sense.

– Yes … Mom, my light went out, something threw in the glass, I do not know what to do …

– Perfume? Okay. Go back to Kamchatka – there are no spirits here – my usually always worried about me mom suddenly remained very cold-blooded. I was shaking. She was silent. And then she said a phrase that fundamentally changed my experience in what was, by the way, a very beloved future villa:

– Look, daughter, you always know how to negotiate with everyone. Make an agreement with these spirits, too, I beg you very much. You still have to live there and live there. Come on, introduce yourself to them, tell them why you came there, and go to sleep, you have to get up early tomorrow.

I hung up, lay down, and…began to get acquainted with the spirits. I did not ask anything, even immediately told them (the spirits) that I will not ask them to “not touch me”, “protect me” or “help me. I just live here now. And, in general, I’m not a bad person, even interesting. They are, I think, interesting in some ways, too.

To this “mantra” I fell asleep. And in the morning I woke up feeling up. Instead of fatigue from a “fun” night, I felt an indescribable burst of energy. Apparently, the contact had been made.

– Thank you,” I said in the air, “let’s be friends!

Since then, my house became my fortress. In fact, I’d even forgotten about the first night’s incident. Until some friends came to visit me.

That was about three months later. My, at the time, boyfriend and a photographer friend of ours came to see me – we decided to do a photo shoot at the villa. It didn’t work out from the beginning. My friend was always doing professional photo shoots, and now not a single good quality picture came out. The photographer felt uncomfortable, even though we knew each other well and it was not the first time we worked together. And when they shoot me alone, it works fine, but together – total crap.

And then something happens that causes panic in the boys, and anger in me – we begin to increase the sound of the music. On its own. Moreover, the villa had a great sound system, so the sound was getting very loud. A couple of seconds of hesitation, I fly up to the center and turn it off completely.

– It’s the spirits,” Hendry, the photographer, says immediately. He is a Muslim from Java, has lived on the island for a long time and accepts the rules of the game. No Indonesian will ever doubt the existence of these forces and their influence on the physical world.

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– They are jealous of me, David said.

– What. – I was furious. Probably as furious as my mother was when I called her and voiced my fears the first night.

– It was nothing. It’s just the way the acoustics work, no one here is jealous. Okay? – I looked at the guys, put the music back on quiet like it was before. – Let’s keep shooting. It’s all good. I have a great villa, I know.

We continued on. Not five minutes later, the music screamed throughout the villa, gently growing louder and louder. Needless to say, no one had touched the remote and nothing like this had ever happened before, given that I listen to music every day?

The guys, being both Indonesian, just kept repeating that it was spirits and we should get out of here at the very least. And stop filming. Something’s not right. The spirits don’t like it. We can’t go on. We went out to the pool. I started first, surprising my friends by being completely calm:

– Guys, anyway, there are spirits in my villa, yes. But, they’re okay. I have a good rapport with them. All I ask is that you introduce yourselves and tell me about yourselves. Especially you – I looked at David – tell me why you’re here and how you feel about me. Just say it all about yourself, and I’ll introduce you, too. It was out of the question that my close friends couldn’t come to me.

Needless to say, what happened next? Great pictures – one better than the next. We filmed until the end. Things got better, the music wasn’t weird anymore – the atmosphere wasn’t either.

In the aftermath, my friends came to see me without any problems, no jealousy scenes or anything like that. As for the music, it came on by itself a couple of times – once when I overslept for work. It just played and woke me up.

As for the hotel itself, for six months after it opened, it operated without ceremony, which terrified many employees, especially native Balinese. Stories abounded. The night managers swore by how they were called to the front desk from rooms that no one lived in and were silent on the phone. And in Bali, you don’t mess around with that sort of thing.

When everything was finished, the ceremony did take place. Rumor has it that it cost the hotel $4,000, which pretty shocked the foreign management, but that’s normal for the island – they spend a lot of money on offerings. At the ceremony, I first saw a sacred fight of roosters with knives on their spurs to the first blood, the defeated rooster is killed as a sign of respect for the spirits. In addition, there are many rituals with sacrifices and ceremonies.

As far as I know, the hotel is doing well now.

There are many more such stories on the island than it seems, they are just talked about in whispers, and not always.

Bali – the Island of the Gods.

Read the most interesting essay on Bali from the ethnographer and organizer of ethnographic tours, Elena Butko! Why is the island of Bali called the “Island of the Gods”.

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Bali is called the Island of the Gods, not only because it is very beautiful and has many temples, but also because of an ancient legend. According to this legend, the gods who created the islands of Indonesia decided to keep the island of Bali, the most beautiful of the islands. They gave people the opportunity to cultivate the island and enjoy the gifts of its blessed land, but only on the condition that people will bring a portion of their wealth as a gift to his divine masters.

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It may be only a legend, but Balinese, despite the development of tourism, continue to honor Traditions and live in the closest contact with their Divinities and the souls of ancestors, and every day bring them gifts – food, flowers, praises and prayers. By the way, isn’t that why Bali is the only island in Indonesia that has kept the Hindu faith and hasn’t accepted Islam, imposed by the invaders. Isn’t that why the Balinese are such smiling, bright and happy people?

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The Balinese believe sacredly that the Gods are present at all religious ceremonies and festivities, and a place of honor is specially prepared for them – sometimes it is a stone throne or a large square stone, sometimes it is a bamboo palanquin decorated with palm leaves, rice straw and flowers. It is in front of this “throne of the gods” that priests and dancers perform their religious dances to the music of the traditional Balinese orchestra, gamelan. Then the priest strikes the wooden bell – which means “the gods have come, they are here”! “The bell is a very interesting thing – it is always placed in the square where the Balinese family villagers gather. The bell is a tree trunk two man’s tall, suspended on a rope from the roof of a special canopy on four poles. A hole is cut in the middle of the trunk, in which the “bell’s tongue” is suspended – buffalo tibia bone. Part of the bell on top is carved in the form of a human head; possibly depicting an “ancestor”. “Bells” more often than not there are several – a large one and a couple of smaller ones. Every significant event in the life of a Balinese village-community is celebrated with the ringing of bells! The Temple is also called to the Temple on the occasion of holidays with the striking of bells.

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Balinese temple, by the way, does not look like the traditional temples in India and Indochina. It consists of three large square courtyards, one inside the other. Each courtyard is entered through a beautifully sculpted, carved gate, most often made of two separate halves, resembling wings stretched to the sky. Steps of the low stairs, guarded by stone lions and vultures, dragons and feathered snakes, or statues of armed guards of the human form with very heavy feet, monkey toes and fangs lead to the gates. The bas-reliefs that adorn the walls and gates of the innermost courtyard are particularly delicate. Inside the courtyards are altar-houses made of bamboo and palm leaves, less often wooden, on staves or poles. Balinese people place their offerings to the deities in these huts.

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And this pagoda on the photo – on Lake Bratan – is a symbol of the “cosmic mountain” Meru, which is everywhere in Hinduism means the universe. Once a year on Lake Bratan the Balinese hold a magnificent ceremony of ritual sacrifice to the lake goddess, Devi Danu. At the Pagoda and on the shores of the lake gather many Balinese in festive sarongs, decorated with flowers.

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And out of the side gate of the temple comes a procession led by a priest dressed in white. Behind him are his assistants, and one of them leads a white buffalo! This is the best buffalo of the herd, chosen by the elders! The procession walks to a large, colorfully decorated boat. Here the priest’s assistants push the struggling buffalo into the boat, and tie all four legs together with one noose! Together with the bound buffalo, the priest and his entourage in the boat slowly swim to the middle of the lake. When the boat finally reaches the middle of the lake, the Priest recites prayers for a few minutes, then splashes water from a small vessel on the buffalo’s head and body, and. his loud shout, and the priests all lift the bound buffalo together and push the animal with a heavy stone on its feet into the water! Agitated waves run across the blue surface of the lake around the boat, gurgling air bubbles burst out and . everything goes quiet. Back the boat returns very quickly. The sacrifice is made!

Helen Butko

After this ceremony, the peasants believe that their labor of sowing rice will now be successful. The sacrifice is made, the goddess, of course, heard the priest’s call: “Devi Danu! Give us plenty of rice and other grains! Devi Sri, give attention to your children!” Devi Danu – “Goddess of the Lake,” Devi Gunung – Goddess of the Mountain, Devi Sri – Goddess of Rice – all are most likely titles of the same, ancient Mother Goddess.

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And Lake Bratan, where the ceremony takes place, is revered by the Balinese as the “distributor of water,” which gives rise to underground springs and springs that feed rivers, and. rice plantations. Rice is, for Balinese, a staple food, manna from heaven. So how does one grow rice? Here are the mountains in the south of the island becoming more and more gradual and passing into the plain. At first the jungle is interrupted only here and there by ledges of rice terraces; then the trees disappear and everywhere in front of us amazingly beautiful cascades of rice paddies.

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Here is a peasant in a straw hat plowing a field, walking almost knee-deep in water behind a plow with a white buffalo. In another field, the first sprouts of rice can already be seen – delicate green stalks rising above the water. On another terrace, women in cone-shaped hats are transplanting seedlings in neat rows in a large field. They plant each stalk separately, dipping their hands into the water up to their elbows. They do their work deftly and skillfully – with song. The rice grows quickly; in just a few weeks it will turn yellow and the harvest will begin! The Bali people harvest two crops a year. This year the rice is growing well, in full ears. The Goddess of Rice, Mother Nature, favors her children on the island of Bali. The harvest festival will be a joyous occasion.

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I invite you on my ethnographic tours to tell you even more about the traditions and customs of the peoples of Asia. Interview with Elena Butko.

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