Saturday, August 13, 2011

girls playing hand games

girls playing hand games,
washing our laundry, simple
actions, deep meaning

A pair of girls are playing a hand game on the bale while Robin and I wash our clothes in a bucket on our porch. As Robin is twisting her wet kamben she says, "A pregnant woman would not do this because it might strangle the baby with its cord." This statement reminds me so much of my superstitious grandmother that I laugh. But as a westerner living and working with the Balinese people, Robin respects their beliefs. She says a lot of them make sense when you understand the Balinese world view. The cosmos is divided into three worlds. The gods and spirits of ancestors reside in the upper world (swah), living humans reside in the middle world (bwah), and demons reside in the lower world (bhur). Geographical locations follow the same system, with mountains being swah, the plains, bwah, and the ocean, bhur. The human body also follows this tripartite division, with the head being swah, the torso, bwah, and the legs and feet, bhur. Robin tells me that Balinese will not walk under a clothesline for fear of underwear touching their heads. Laundry can't be hung in trees, or else the fruit and flowers can never be used for offerings again. Instead, laundry has to be laid on special bushes. A baby's feet are not allowed to touch the earth for the first 210 days (one year in the wuku calendar), until the tedak siten ceremony. I look up at the girls playing on the bale and ask, "Is it okay to pat children on the head?" Robin shakes her head but assures me that any actions done out of ignorance will be expiated by some offerings. Thank goodness for undoing rituals!

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