Wednesday, August 17, 2011

balian manak

balian manak,
catching babies, healing
all who come for help

Every day I witness my friend Robin Lim's incredible work. In 1995 she founded Yayasan Bumi Sehat, Healthy Mother Earth Foundation, a birthing and medical clinic for poor people. Today we are going to a nearby family compound on one of her many house calls. On the way, Robin explains that Balinese believe illness is caused by an imbalance between the patient and the spirit world. The patient may have neglected to make the proper offerings to some deity, broken some religious custom, or may be the target of black magic. In Bali there are different types of traditional healers, called balian. A balian manak is a midwife, a balian tulang is a general practitioner, a balian apun gives therapeutic massages, a balian kebal makes  love potions and magical amulets to protect against spiritual attack, and a balian taksu communicates with the spirit world in a trance to find out what offerings or ceremonies are required to cure the patient. Robin is both a midwife and a medical practitioner. Today I get to see her in both roles as she checks a pregnant woman. Through the door I watch Robin laying her ear against the woman's round brown belly. Then we join other family members gathered on the small tiled porch, where Robin hands out homeopathic remedies. One woman with twin girls is epileptic and the epilepsy medication caused one of the girls to be retarded. She is like a little caged bird chirping "Eep! eep!" Robin hugs the little girl, giving her the best medicine of all.

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