Salacious Oddities of Balinese Lore

“For the Balinese, the village ones I mean, those little touched by modernity and Brahmins’ influence, sex is an obsession. It can at times take a physical form: after all it was pretty common until recently to forcefully kidnap a woman to marry her. The subsequent wedding cleansed the injury. What we now call a

Jean Couteau

Pan Kaler, Balinese Healer

There are in Bali several kinds of traditional healers. The closest to the Western idea of a doctor is the balian usada: his knowledge rests on the control and knowledge of sacred lontar books and on the availability of medicinal herbs he alone knows where to collect and how to concoct. Although the potency of

The Fate of a Piece of Land in Bali

Gung Lingsir, the old prince of Abian Gombal, was now back outside, sitting cross – legged on the verandah of his old pesaren pavilion. He was lost in thoughts. He had had a near call with death, but now, with the fever gone and having lost a few pounds, he could once again run the

Spirits and Gods of the Mountain

One of the main problems when talking about Balinese “religion” is related to the very fact of “defining” it, and beyond, to the fact that by defining it, we frame it in a conceptual framework, we associate to its boundaries that do not exist in the mind of the people involved. The misunderstandings that ensue

Cult of the Mountain and Ancestors

  Text Jean Couteau with Wayan Westa, Photos by Georges Breguet It all started very simply, the shrills of insect, followed by the frightened shriek of crows and other birds. Then all over the slopes, it was the rumbling down of screaming monkeys. By then, the trembling of the ground had become first a tremor,

The Unfortunate Charm of the Legong Dancer

Like everything, wise Balinese men will tell you, even their island too is subjected to the law of the Rwabhinneda, the complementary opposites. Light and Darkness; male and female; good and bad; serious and funny, and so forth. I spend much of my writing time talking about the positive, or funny sides of Balinese culture,

The Balinese Gigolo

When he pulled up next to me, riding his big BMW bike, I immediately knew he was a beach boy, a “Kuta cowboy”, as we say here. His long hair was red from too much sun and salt. He was broad-shouldered, darkly handsome and looked straight into your eyes in an almost provocative way, very

Warni: Another Sad Story

People sometimes say that quarrelling is the salt and pepper of a couple’s life. Hardly a day goes by in Warni’s life when she does not quarrel with her Sasak man from Lombok (Sasak people are the main ethnic group from the island). They never set any special time for their daily fight: it might

The Story of Gatot, The Javanese Barber in Bali

Gatot was really fed up with his job as’ a Kernet (conductor) of a run down Oplet (collective taxi) between the terminals (stations) of Banyuwangi and Pesanggaran, in East Java. Although he could sometimes, on good days, make as much as 40,000 rupiah (about 25.50 US$), he had also noticed that there were ever more

Garuda: The Myth & The Symbol

  Garuda, Indonesia’s symbol. Steeped in both legend, mythology and modern symbolism the Garuda bird (be it the God bird of myth or Javan Eagle of modern interpretation) holds an esteemed position in the eyes and hearts of Indonesian citizens. Here, our culture writer Jean Couteau brings us closer to the story of Garuda of ancient

Bodily Care in Bali: Toothbrushing, Delousing & Bathing

Balinese are nowadays basically like you and me. So when they kiss, it is on the mouth. Yet, if you pay attention, or are in the middle of a kiss, you may notice a difference. All of a sudden, and without understanding his/her logic, you may see your Balinese partner take himself/herself off your mouth,

Balinese Religion

Changes in Balinese Religion: Hinduism Strengthens

When we talk about Balinese religion, we tend to immobilise it into intemporality, as if the kind of religious belief and practice that existed 100 years ago when the Dutch took over Bali, was still valid today. Of course the Balinese continue referring to a belief system that combines cult of ancestors and natural forces

Caste in Modern Balinese Hinduism

Since the puputans (fight to the end) of 1906 and 1908, which destroyed the political system of Bali and integrated the island into the Dutch-run archipelago, the Balinese quadripartite caste system (Brahmana, Satria, Wesia and Sudra) has undergone many changes, some inherent to the economic transformation of Balinese society itself, other origination in the exposure

Now Bali