Chapter 26


1991-09-18, Kuta

     "Whatever man gives me
     In true devotion: 
     Fruit or water,
     A  leaf, a flower,
     I will accept it. 
     That gift is love,  
     His heart's devotion."

                   Bhagavad Gita,  Chapter IX

     "Surely you knew that Man is the only living thing that confers 
      meaning on inanimate objects."

           'Pictor's Metamorphosis'      Hermann Hesse


I chant the mantra, calling in the Four Brothers: Mycenium, Amniotic Fluid, Blood and Placenta. Evoking these spiritual protectors I become enclosed in a bubble of unshakable serenity.

I walk down the small dirt brown path that is a side street in Pengostanan, passing small bungalows, temples, offerings in all the yards to the gods, dogs barking at my heels, a cock crowing in mid-morning, my heart filled with apprehension and anticipation.

I am returning to the home of Ketut Liyer, Shaman.

Ketut has his usual throng of patients. He does not turn away anyone, regardless of the complaint or request. It could be a headache, infection, some spell of black magic, or a simple chart reading for a newborn baby, indicating past reincarnations and what the future holds.

Today I am one of those patients, and have requested a ritual for my personal journey. We have decided that I need protection against Black Magic. This can prove troublesome at times, and in this part of the world is endemic.

As I await my turn with him he explains again the various illnesses and problems people are coming to him for. He is specific about the remedies provided. Here a herb to relieve headache taken from the leaf and bark of the Dadap tree. For another patient, a prayer.

The Balian takes a break, and tells me the story of his taking magic mushrooms once or twice. He relates his experience of flying and seeing many unusual colors - dizzying and at times frightening.

He describes the trip like sleeping, a waking dream. Everything around him unstable as if he had entered the realm of the spirits. He remembers an uneasy sense that he might never return to the safe and familiar world that he left when he ate them.

When he 'awoke' he was tired and felt ill. Ketut does not like mushrooms. Says he prefers meditation.

"Meditasi is the key to Heaven, you know!" He laughs and then explains how he climbs the seven levels, like chakras, 'till he reaches the crown, then communes with Saraswati, the Goddess. And - Nirwana!

Now it's my turn. I sit upon the bed, cross-legged, relaxing as Ketut prepares his Table, his Mesa with my offering.

His wife has earlier assisted me in obtaining this sacred basket. It is large. A woven bamboo bowl full of fruit, flowers, carved bamboo figures rising high. I place rupiah, Indonesian money, in it to complete the value for the god's appeasement and for Ketut's pocket.

Lighting incense sticks, preparing holy water, methodically selecting flowers, placing them in bowls, Ketut prepares his Mesa. Lifting a flower between two fingers of his right hand, he dips the flower in a pot of water and begins to spray the offering with the sacred water.

Now chanting to the Spirits, his hand moving in ritualistic Mudra, a tender caress of fine water raining from the purple flower, he blesses me and his Mesa.

Somehow, I trust this healer. Don't know where he will take me, I can feel the uncertainty raise up, and with that, excitement. There's something to this and I might as well suspend any disbelief.

A different reality, although lived quite naturally. If it's good for the natives out here in Paradise-land, it certainly won't hurt me!

Raising the brass bell with its four cornered handle, like the four directions, between thumb and fore-finger in his left hand, he begins a chant to the beat, an invocation. The bell, swaying rhythmically, is fascinating. Slow, repetitious, the bell tone striking, ringing, calling the Dukun into that trance space where healing springs forth.

Within moments Ketut has entered another realm. He is entranced, transformed, in communication with the spirit world. The energy shifts around the bed and a new clarity emerges as I am carried along.

Here is ancient tradition, enacted under a modern sun. I feel, as I am sitting here, cross-legged, hands outstretched, palms up, that I am delving into antiquity. I am engaged in something old, solid and accepted.

It is alien to me, yet visions of Don Emilio and Don Antonio, in the South American jungles, surface like spontaneous dreams as I am bathed in holy water. At least he doesn't use that noxious brew that Emilio swore by.

Dipping the holy water with the flower, he starts at my fontanel, the opening to the seventh chakra at the crown, working toward my forehead, eyes and face, then my body. Blessing and cleansing in the purity of water. All with chants to Saraswati, the goddess, and Hyang Widi, the ultimate refuge for safety and protection.

Reaching up to the rafters he removes one of the many bamboo leaf books, his Lontars.

These are the medicine books handed down from his father. Lontars, strips of bamboo, inscribed with directions, plant remedies, drawings, mantras, prayers. In the center of the leaves, a small hole; a string runs through, attached at the ends to old Chinese coins to secure and close the pages.

Ketut consults a certain Lontar, the book that reveals to him those mystic words of power, and finds the appropriate page. He notes the instructions on their script and placement upon my body.

These are 'Words of Power', Ketut explains. They will protect me from an assortment of evils which may come to disturb my existence.

Taking a modern fountain pen in hand, he inscribes the first word on my tongue. This will protect me from evil things entering my mouth.

Next, a letter on my forehead, at my third eye. Another on the back of my neck, my ears, my throat.

As he works down my body, he tells me that many of these markings are Sanskrit, the old language. These 'Words of Power' will give me strength, stamina and endurance.

A vibration can be felt around the bed. As I sit there I feel a subtle charge in the atmosphere. Not just the excitement - something more, as if an invisible cloak has draped itself casually around my body.

Another flourish, more water, another chant. Ketut is finished and he smiles. He instructs me; there are two prayers, or mantras, that I must learn. These are like meditations and will serve me well.

The first is named 'Mantra Aku':


My Self, My Power, Comes From The East

I Am Self
Coming From The Middle.
My Powers Flow Together
With The Wind.
My Body Is Like
A Strong Stone.
If Anyone Evil Is Near Me,
They Will Burn.
If I Speak
Black Magic They Will Die.
I Will Not Die Before My Time.
I Will Not Die.
If Bad Things Come,
They Must Pass By, Always.

The Shaman continues and imparts the Mantra of The Four Brothers, instructing me to chant this at breakfast and before sleep.

I am leaving Pengostanan, and Ubud for now, heading back to Denpasar and encounters with other healers. Still seeking novelty in the daily spirituality on the island, and now safe in my voyage, protected from invisible harm.

Copyright 1994 Steven Gilman

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