04 March 2011


An after the fact disclaimer: I just woke up with a terrible nightmare in which an enraged mob of angry Balinese Buddhists were threatening to tear me limb from limb for defaming their religion after my blog went viral and PETA got into the act. Okay guys, I know you're only there in my subconscious - and maybe the viral part is a little wishful thinking - but chill, please. I only saw the baby pig with my eyes and heard it squeal with my ears. As for the chicken, goat and dog - I was only told that they were also going to be sacrificed and the implication was that they were also about the same age as the piglet.

Tirtigangga, Bali - Nyepi Day: How's that for an arresting headline? Well, some kinds of them do anyhow. We'll get to that later.

Yesterday was special. The day before Nyepi Day. (If you don't know what Nyepi Day is, read the last post.) I was met at my hotel by Pak Agus who had requested, nearly demanded, that I accompany him to see the festivities of the day. I was happy to comply. He is a smart, friendly, genial and generous man who also speaks good English. That meant that my limited Indonesian wouldn't stand too much in the way of my getting a good sense of what's going on.

I followed him on his motorbike, in my rental jeep, to his family compound in a small mountain village not too far from where I'm staying. I was invited for lunch. Everyone in his family speaks at least some English, mostly because they all do now or have worked in the tourist biz. They could not have been more welcoming or friendly, but they'd already eaten. I was left to help myself to a great spread of rice or rice cakes with pork (Balinese and people deep in the jungles are the only Indonesians who regularly eat pork - most of the rest are Muslim) done three ways, banana wrapped grilled minced beef, a very tasty sambal (chili sauce) and a few other things. I sat by myself on a pleasantly breezy verandah in front of the main house and had an excellent, if a little odd, lunch.

Soon it was time to go to a nearby Balinese Buddhist ceremony, but first I needed to be appropriately dressed:
The ceremony was held in the market building in the town square. When we got there it was filled with men dressed in white and women in the usual big crayon box full of colors. There were kids running around and teenagers looking bored and texting their friends like they now do all over the world. There was a mountain of offerings of all kinds - baskets of fruit and vegetables and cakes with roasted chickens artfully splayed across the front of them, cases of soda pop, immense floral displays, whole roast pigs, piles of meat and more. An old man in a very regal, gaily festooned hat presided over the whole affair from an altar where he was well attended by men and boys. Everyone sat around, chatting in low tones, letting the ceremony go about its business buoyed by their presence.

Then it began to rain - hard. Everyone bunched closer together to avoid getting too wet. Umbrellas came out and were set in front of the raised platform of the market building to prevent splashing. A group of women had no umbrellas, but a shop keeper who was open across the aisle from them was more than happy to charge them the extortionate - it's already raining, too bad, take it or leave it - price that umbrella sellers all over the world charge once the rain starts. (I made a joke about it in Indonesian to the group of old women sitting near me and they laughed heartily. It filled my head with linguistic pride.)

Finally some guys brought out a very cute baby pig in a wicker basket. I asked Pak Agus what that was for - though I had my suspicions. This is Bali. I don't care if they are Buddhists or not, but they kill stuff for their gods. They have very demanding, bloodthirsty gods here.

Yep, a sacrifice. And that wasn't all. They were also going to sacrifice a chicken (well, duh, who doesn't do that?), a baby goat (okay, been there, done that), and a puppy. A puppy?

Well, when it comes to sacrifices, or dinner for that matter, I'm egalitarian. I see little worse in slaughtering a pig or a cow then a puppy or a kitty cat. Ya gotta do, what ya gotta do and as we humans are on top of the food chain, watch out everything else. Still, even my hard heart took a slight erratic beat at the puppy thing - Westernized sentimental sap that I am.

And I'm not 100% certain, but it seems to me that they had some children do the honors. They make horror movies about these sorts of things, don't they? Kid forced to butcher puppy, grows up to be serial killer in crazy mask butchering sorority girls, or something like that. Well here, presumably, in a different culture, they grow up to be model citizens, passing long honored traditions down to their kids.

Sometime not long after the killing stopped, the praying began. They do seem to go hand in hand in most cultures, do they not? The rain stopped, too.

When the praying stopped, pandemonium broke loose as everybody rushed to take back their offerings and take them home - after parading them through the street in front of the building first - so that they wouldn't spoil beyond the point of being edible.

Apparently there are spirits who live around your house. When you make your offering, the spirits climb aboard and you then carry them to the ceremony. The ceremony though, unceremoniously pushes them out of your offering and into the spirit world invoked by the ceremony. So at the end, your offering now cleared of spirits, you can take it home and eat it. Anything else would be a waste.

So now some pictures. Don't worry, there are no pictures of puppies or anything else being slaughtered. I couldn't get close enough and it was too dark, so you're spared.
My host, Pak Agus and his father.

And here's a little preview of my next blog post (possibly later today):

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