Superstitions, magic and spirituality play a very large role in every day life here in Bali. For those that have not spent much time here, it may be hard to understand just how prevalent these things are. However, after 20 years of living in Bali and more strange experiences than I can count, I can assure you, its very real.
Every ceremony that is performed has a spiritual element.Those dances that you watch and may think are performed purely to entertain tourists, have a very spiritual meaning. Particularly the fire dance, where the man enters a trance at the end, and walks on hot coals. That is not just for show. Everyone here is extremely in tune with their spirituality, and that is why so many healers and such are drawn to this magical island.
Almost anything can be explained in terms of magic and spirits. Most illnesses and even deaths will be surrounded by various non medical theories. A girl in my office died of organ failure, and to me, it was clear that it started with her liver, and spread. However, her family strongly believed that someone had put a curse on her. I had a hard time believing that one, as there was a definite medical explanation for her ailments. However, there are times when the doctors can find nothing wrong,and turn to witch doctors or priests for explanations.
In the recent case of Angeline, an 8 year old girl who disappeared from outside her house, it has been 2 weeks, and the police are coming up blank. Nothing makes logical sense, and so even they are now turning to a paranormal for advice. This is being reported in the newspapers as if it is a perfectly reasonable step in the investigations. One of the paranormals is quoted as saying that Angeline is still in her house area, but has been taken in by kind spirits that are caring for her. While she is in their care, she will not be visible to humans. He says they will return her within 2 weeks. I guess only time will tell if this is true.
A similar thing happened to my own son, Kajika, aged 4, in Tabanan, Bali. He was playing around outside my house with his brother Kai, during the day, when I was at work. At some point Kai must have been distracted and when he looked back, Kajika was gone. He disappeared for a few hours, and when asked, none of the neighbors had seen of heard of him. He then magically reappeared just before sunset, saying that a man had taken him to play by the river. No-one had seen a man resembling the description Kajika had given, that day or since. It is one of many mysteries that we have never solved.
Another aspect of Balinese life that can be made or broken by magic is the realm of business. There are certain locations that, no matter what business is created, they are doomed to fail. It is claimed that the location is “angker” or “haunted”. Various ceremonies can be performed to cleanse the site, but if they are not done properly, nothing will change. Even if the site is cleansed, if you rub a Balinese the wrong way, it can also be your downfall. The Balinese are jealous by nature, and having the power of black magic in the wrong hands can result in devastating effects.
There are so many things in Bali that seem to not make sense when judged by a western mind, and if you are going to make a life here, it is important to keep an open mind. By doing so, you will open yourself to many wonderful and amazing experiences that cannot be found anywhere else on the planet.