Bali is a land of over 10,000 temples where many Balinese spend over one-third of their time preparing for and participating in spiritual ceremonies. We take you to an insight of understanding and experience of the mysteries and magic of Balinese spirituality. Far more than the ordinary tourist experience, we don’t just visit sites – we seek to understand them from the inside out by learning what’s important about them and by interacting with them through ritual, ceremony and meditation.
The book and Eat Pray Love movie have turned the spotlight on balians, (dukuns/shamans) the traditional healers who play an important part in Bali’s culture by treating physical and mental illness, removing spells and channeling information from the ancestors.
Travelers seem to have added a visit to the balian to their Bali ‘must-do’ lists, right along with snorkeling, a cremation ceremony and a trip to the spa. But a visit to a balian is a serious matter, not a tourist sideshow. The balian is an instrument of divine healing, and the client enters a covenant to receive this healing with respect, reverence and humility. Ask yourself why you want to visit a Balian, whether it is out of curiosity, to learn a little about traditional healing arts or because you are ill and genuinely need a healing?
What is a Balian?
A Balian is committed to service, and may never turn anyone away. Tourists who casually enter the Balian’s compound expecting to be seen often delay the healer from working with the genuinely ill Balinese who have come to see him or her. Because of this, foreign visitors (including resident expats) should make an appointment with the Balians who prefer this. Visitors are advised to dress appropriately with arms and legs covered, and don’t point your feet at the healer (or any other Indonesian). Women should not be menstruating. Our professional guide will be a translator as many Balians do not speak English.
What can you expect when you consult a Balian? Your experience will be very public, with all the other clients watching avidly. The healer may make magic, create fire, use mudrahs, draw patterns on your body, spit wads of chewed herbs on your skin, apply scented oils, poke you with sharp sticks and/or give you a deep tissue massage or manipulation that will be very painful indeed. You will probably howl; most people do. But you will probably feel better.
Every village has at least four Balians. There are about 8,000 practicing in Bali, which has about four times as many Balians as doctors. They are at the forefront of community health, and Balinese will often visit the Balian before going to a conventional doctor for treatment. The relationship between the two disciplines is interesting. The head of the Balian Association is a medical doctor whose father and grandfather were Balians, and the Hindu University in Denpasar has a faculty of traditional healing. Many Balians will refer a client to a doctor, hospital or pharmacy and doctors may discreetly suggest a visit to a Balian if mainstream medical treatment is not effective.
There are four kinds of Balians:
- The first kind is a Ketakson who acts as a channel between the client and God. Ketaksons evoke the spirit of a dead person, and pass on information to the family about what kinds of offerings are needed for cremations and other ceremonies. They can also channel living people to give guidance or locate missing objects. Most of the female Balians are Ketakson.
- The Pica/PaicaBalian is a medium who may not be a formal student of magic. This kind of Balian receives physical objects which appear and disappear spontaneously and are used during healing sessions.
- The BalianUsada is a person who either has the intention to become a Balian or may receive divine knowledge during a severe illness. These people decide to further their knowledge by studying the lontars (sacred texts) and with recognized healers. The lontars, thousands of ancient texts in Kawi script, contain information on ethics, anatomy, traditional herbs, meditation, yoga, tantra and other subjects. The Balians also study both white and black magic, which are very similar except for the intention of the practitioner.
- The fourth kind of Balian combines all of the above. Many may appear crazy or psychotic, or hear voices, while the wisdom in entering them.
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