I've learned a few things from the Balinese about good and evil while here, and it's been good medicine in the face of these horrors.
Omar and I were lucky to be here for the Kuningan holiday - a celebration of good triumphing over evil that happens every 210 days, according to the Balinese lunar calendar. We were told we'd be welcome to watch, but we wanted to participate.
So the day before, we asked the two caretakers of our villa, Putu and Made, if they planned to go to temple tomorrow for Kuningan. "Yes, Kuningan," Made smiled, not really understanding my question.
I looked from her tiny, Balinese frame to my busty, Italian one and hesitated. She seemed to understand because she covered her mouth in a giggle and said, "Don't worry. I borrow from someone else!"
The words of our expat yoga teacher rang in my ears from earlier in the week, "Where I grew up in Spain and Italy, I learned that god is far away - in the church or cathedral." She had said, in her thick Spanish accent. "But Balinese children grow up learning that God is inside of them. God is everywhere. This is why the Balinese people are so friendly. They are not just doing their job for tourists. They see God in you."
That same evening, we returned to the temple for the traditional Barong dance/parade. This is an ancient ritual involving music, dancing, and elaborate costumes of monsters - both good and bad. We paraded through the dark streets with hundreds of villagers playing music, holding their children on their shoulders, and handing out food and drink. We followed the monsters for four hours as they completed their battle and good triumphed over evil at last.
What is fascinating to me is that, yes, the Balinese are kind, open-hearted people. They see God in you; they use flowers and beautiful offerings in their ceremonies. But they also use monsters. Lots and lots of them. Big, scary, bloody monsters with rows of razor sharp teeth, fierce eyes, tongues hanging down to the ground, and severed heads clasped in their upraised hands. And sometimes good monsters change into evil ones, or the evil ones into good. It's a very fine, amorphous line.
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Hello! I'm Melanie Munir, founder of Professional Wild Woman - a women's empowerment business dedicated to helping women who are tired of feeling either "too much" or "not enough" to connect to their inner wildness so they can create work that allows them the fullest expression of their unique voice. Welcome!