Long Live the Kris

The Balinese kris (or keris) is a ceremonial dagger historically used as a weapon of execution (secondarily to a spear) and, in contemporary times, seen only in dance performances or on days of great ceremonial importance.


Traditionally considered one of man’s most valuable possessions, the ornately decorated and often bejeweled kris, its blade often sculpted in a wavy form, was stored in a special shrine in the family temple, removed only for significant occasions, such as connecting with spirits during a trance dance or on auspicious days such as Tumpek Landep (meaning “to be sharp”) when all possessions made of metal are decorated with offerings.

Boys perform with krisses - Mio Cade on Flickr
Boys perform with krisses – Mio Cade on Flickr

Today, the kris is rarely worn – except at traditional ceremonies such as tooth-filing or by male dancers, who sling the daggers behind their backs.

That may be so, among the Balinese..

But in a remote part of Bali, two expat women (I being one) have managed to resurrect the magical and fatal powers of the kris – but in a slightly modified, modernized form. Indeed, merely by virtue of circumstance, we have become Kris-wielding warriors.

In appearance it’s not qIMG_7907uite the same as a traditional Balinese dagger. But I would argue that our Kris is nevertheless endowed with mysterious and deadly strength, and similarly laden with poisonous attributes – much like the original daggers of ancient times were infused with poison during forging to ensure that injury was fatal.

Our unwitting but blameworthy victims? Unidentifiable, flying, buzzing, biting mites of such a tiny size that they manage to escape detection by the human eye.

At first contact with our Kris, an airborne insect is met with instantaneous death, sizzling at the slightest touch, zapped into the hereafter.

At any hour of the night, Patricia and I can be found wielding these wand-like pint-sized battery-operated replicas of tennis rackets, taut nylon ‘strings’ replaced (inIMG_7909 the Kris) with electric wires holding enough power to smite the life out of any unwanted creatures.

Perhaps we look like a couple of wild women in trance, waving our Krises all around our heads, sweeping them across our quilts to rid surfaces of any fallen bugs. Imagine how we might react – with joy of course! – when we hear that monumental ‘zap!’ accompanied by a flash of light. Ahhh, another one bites the dust.

This Kris, my friends, has become one of our most valuable possessions, our go-to weapon of execution up here in Penatahan. My hope is that neither of us ever falls into real trance with Kris in hand, triggering an irrepressible need to zap each other – and ourselves.


      1. Funny for sure. I have a plug in zapper on my back porch and although I don’t use it much, in the past a moth would fly into it and not just get zapped but kind of momentarily explode in a ball of fire. I suppose I shouldn’t enjoy that.

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