Mystery

Bali is shrouded in mystery, there are so many things that go on here which are inexplicable. Black and white magic are used on a daily basis, to attack and protect. People seem to be able to go in to a trance at the drop of a hat. Dancers can stab themselves with a knife and be unharmed, and dance over hot coals without feeling a thing, all with the encouragement of frenzied chanting, as can be seen in this photo below:bali superstitions

Next is the belief that if you feel sick, it is because there is too much wind in your body, which can be expelled through the use of cups, or horns, as can be seen here:agus masuk angin

or the burning of incense to keep away bad spirits:

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and the biggest mystery of all, is how these structures that are paraded around the streets every year and then ceremoniously burned before we all hide away and meditate for 24 hours can bring peace to the island

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However, it is this mystery that brings people back to Bali again and again, it holds so much mystique and intrigue, and for those like me, who call this island home, it has an inexplicable draw. So much so that going back to England just is not an option.

Empty for 24 hours

Here are a couple of shots of the empty streets in Bali today. I did not venture out to take these, as we are not allowed out of our house. But, there are some local “pecalang” that have the job of patrolling the streets to make sure no one goes outside, and they took these photos. Its pretty amazing, and hats off to the Balinese culture for maintaining this ritual every year, despite the amount of money lost from closing down all the ports. This proves that their strong beliefs are more important to them than money. I think we should all take a look at our own priorities. I am certainly enjoying slowing down, and living in the moment. I have my family here, all forced to be together, rather than everyone doing their own thing. We are playing games, chatting, and appreciating each other.

By simply stopping for 24 hours, this island is reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 30,000 tons, and by not using electricity it is reducing the electricity consumption by 60%, saving around 290 megawatts of power. Amazing, just think if every country all around the world did this just one day a year!! Its really not that hard.IMG_0684 IMG_0686

Ogoh ogoh

Last night was the ogoh ogoh parade, where papier mâché monsters are paraded through the streets and then burned to release the evil spirits lurking inside. The Balinese spend months creating these creatures and the details are truly spectacular. It almost seems a waste to burn them. However to not burn them would risk keeping those evil spirits alive, and we really do not want to risk that. Superstitions run high here, and I have seen enough to know that these things are very real.

The characteristics that feature in almost every single ogoh ogoh are long teeth, long nails and bulging eyes. Here is a small selection from last night:   

      

Day before Nyepi

It’s the day before Nyepi, and everyone has been stocking up on food. It’s crazy really, it’s one day, but the way people are behaving you would think it  is at least a week. So we have our food supply, and bag of games to play, and we are ready for the day ahead. We went out this evening to the beach to see the sunset, watched the ogoh ogoh parade, and are now home, where we will stay for the next 30 hours. It’s a yearly tradition, where the whole of Bali shuts down for 24 hours, the airport and shipping ports are closed, there is no traffic on the roads. Everyone stays in their houses, quietly, with the lights off, meditating, or in our case, playing games quietly. It’s a time for reflection, and to bond as a family. I love it, and think he rest of the world could learn from this tradition. 

Nyepi

Nyepi is the Balinese New Year, and it falls around March every year. It is not the same day each year, as it is based on the Balinese calendar, and always falls when there is no moon. There are various ways that the Balinese prepare for this important day:

1. The youth of each village build large papier mache monsters (Ogoh Ogoh) for months leading up to this event. These monsters can take any form, but often have long nails and large breasts. They are made to represent the dark and evil spirits. They are brightly decorated, and paraded around the streets the night before Nyepi

2. A Melasti ceremony is performed three or four days before Nyepi day. This is when the Balinese all wear white ceremonial clothes, and walk in a procession to the sea, bringing various religious items to be cleansed in the water. They also will cleanse themselves, to get rid of any bad influences, and thoughts.

3. The night before Nyepi, the Ogoh Ogoh are paraded in the streets, and then burned, to release the bad spirits. Homemade bamboo fireworks are set off to create a lot of noise and confusion

4. Starting at dawn the next day, for 24 hours, everyone must stay inside, and not use any electrical appliances or fire. Traditionally, the Balinese will fast on this day, and spend much of the day in meditation.The streets are empty, and this is believed to trick the bad spirits in to thinking that everyone has disappeared.

What this means for you as tourists:

1. There are no flights coming in or out of Bali for the 24 hour period.

2. You will not be permitted to leave the hotel grounds. Black out curtains will be applied to the windows in your rooms, to prevent any lights that you may be using being seen from the outside.

3. You will be free to move within the hotel grounds, but please be courteous and try not to make too much noise. Keep use of lights to the minimum.

4. If you have a medical emergency, please contact the hotel staff, and special compensation will be given for you to be escorted to a hospital.

Melasti Day

It is Melasti day in Bali today, where all the Balinese dress in white and parade to the nearest beach. They bring with them their religious symbols from the temple, to be blessed in the ocean. The people will also wash themselves, to wash away any sins, and purify themselves before the Balinese new year, (Nyepi). In the same way that we start a new year with resolutions, the Balinese need to start their new year with a clean soul. The celebrations continue for the next 2 days, culminating with the Ogoh Ogoh parade on Friday night. The whole island will then be silent for 24 hours, from dawn on Saturday until dawn on Sunday, to cleanse the island of any bad spirits. Everyone will stay at home, the streets will be deserted, and no lights will be used. It is a wonderful idea, and one that the rest of the world could learn from. We all need to slow down and be quiet for at least one day a year!