Mother of All Ceremonies

Another day, another ceremony on the island of the gods. Today the Balinese gather at temples to celebrate Pagerwesi – which literally means iron fence. It’s the day when people pray for awareness and strength in defending themselves against evil forces in the year to come. In the middle of yoga class, the percussive sounds of gamelan music began to ring through the air outside the studio.. not an unwelcome auditory addition to our meditative practice.

Most ceremonies last one day, or up to 3 days at most. But once in a very long while, the ceremony lasts upward of one week and the villagers pull out all the stops; the main village (desa) temple (pura dalem) is gussied up, extensive preparations begun long before the auspicious day(s), and penjors decorated and planted in front of every house in the neighborhood (banjar).

Lucky me: I spent a few days taking in one of those once-in-a-lifetime events last week. It was an unprecedented cleansing, refreshing, re-energizing for the temple spirits in Mas. The villagers bid adieu to some old (and rusty!) spirits, with a monumental send-off in the temple and at the beach. New and more powerful spirits were invited and welcomed in to temple grounds, some from neighboring banjars. Equally over-the-top, full of joy, excitement, hustle and bustle.

The spectacles, too many to list and explain, were wonders to behold (and occasionally participate in): Prayers. Offerings. Sprinkling and drinking of holy water. High priests. Low priests. Invited guests from around Bali. Music. Gamelan groups. Dance. Dance. And more dance. A sacred (i.e. no-filming) dance too. Burial of offerings and valuables in temple ground. A parade with, and slaughter of, sacrificial animals – and not just pigs! Food & feast: Skinned, chopped, cooked – spiced up with mountains of garlic and onion. A lottery. Gambling and card-playing. Cock-fighting. Laughter. Speeches. Gratitude. Tears.

Even buffalos are blessed - dunking their hooves into offerings - as a step closer towards sacrifice and rebirth



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