Friday, March 27, 2009

(in Bali)

My good friend Newman sends us this report of New Year celebrations in Bali (25 March):

It's Nyepi Day here. That's Balinese New Year.


The evening before; New Years Eve, you make a racket and chase out all the demons and bad energies that have taken up residence in your house over the year. Then you sit quietly at home all day Nyepi Day. You are not allowed to go out on the streets, certainly not drive a vehicle (medical emergencies excepted). If you are really serious about it, you don't cook or talk for the day.

The idea is that the demons and lost souls that have accumulated in the nooks and crannies of your home over the year will be chased out and then (because things are so quiet and still) think that there is no life in the house; so they'll go find some place else to hang out and your place will be energetically cleaned out.

It's perhaps evident to the Balinese that destructive energies seem to take up residence in the emotional bodies of boys and young men in particular. Thus in the month preceding Nyepi groups of youths in each Banjar are organized to build the baddest monster they can imagine. These monsters are called "Ogoh ogoh"


and can range from one to four meters high and take the form of traditional Balinese "Buta Kala" (forces of evil) or contemporary versions of the same (Punk Rockers , Grim Reapers and Bikers have been popular in more recent years.). They are mounted on bamboo platforms and are the carried by the teams of young men or boys that built them in a Nyepi Eve Ogoh Ogoh parade. The monsters in the Ubud parade line up on Jalan Raya and Jalan Monkey Forest and one by one are rushed into the central space of this main crossroad in the center of town (cross roads are the gathering places of dark energies in many world cultures). The parade is accompanied by the marching gamelan of the banjar and the boys rush at the crowds with their huge raucous creations.


There is an air of Carnival about the whole evening as thousands of people gather to see the spectacle. There is also a great sense of competition between the different teams and the harnessing and channeling of this energy is perhaps akin to sending young men off to war, in this case a symbolic, artistic war that is part of a larger energy cleansing ceremony for the whole community. Fireworks and explosions continue into the night until midnight. The Ogoh Ogoh Parade does for the larger community what the banging of pots and pans does for the home; negative energies are stirred up out of their lairs and the whole of the next day find nobody about in the village; so they go find someplace else where they can bother people (perhaps someplace that never stops, I can think of a few that definitely seem to have more than the normal share of negative energy !).

Consequently today; Nyepi day, is beautifully quiet, perhaps like Bali was a hundred years ago before there were any cars or motorbikes (I live in the middle of the rice padis, so it's not so noisy here anyway.). I love this day, one is forced to stop the fast pace of life and reflect. I think the whole planet could use to do the same. I can hear birds and roosters, morning doves and wind chimes. The rainy season has wound down and it is cool in the mornings now and quite hot in the afternoons. It's lovely.

Our friend and maskmaker
extraordinaire Newman winters in
Bali where he lives and works with
local carvers and mask makers.

There are some fine examples of Newm's work at Newman's Commedia Mask Company.

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