Monday, December 5, 2011

deep in the river

deep in the river
they found him kneeling by a rock
his hands in prayer

The Balinese belief in magic runs as deep as a river, and everything gets categorized as good or evil, white or black. While we are sitting at a little outdoor restaurant overlooking the river, the dark water flowing past flat black boulders reminds Robin of a story about black magic involving the eldest son of a family she knows well. As is traditional in Bali, sons remain at home to take care of their parents while daughters go to live with their husband. In this family, the eldest son married first and his wife came to live in the family compound. The second son hated his sister-in-law so much that he married out of the family, a terrible thing to do because he was to inherit from his uncle, a wealthy wood carver. He found a girl who had no brothers so the family would take him in as their son. His mother cried for days and the family disowned him. A year later, his older brother drowned, the day after he found out that his wife was a balian hitam, a "black healer," who did black magic. He was a good swimmer, but he went down and did not come up. Mangku Liyer, a balian putih, "white healer," told Robin that they found the young man right where he went down, kneeling by a rock, his hands in prayer, no sign of struggle. Perhaps he was hit by an electric eel, but clearly black magic was involved. The second son told Robin that if he'd known, he would never have done that to his mother. But he escaped having to marry his brother's widow, the witch.

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