The Shaman

Profile of a shaman

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The Shaman in Bali – an encounter by Mark Ulyseas.

There comes a time in life when one is confronted with diversities that addles the brain and confuses the inbuilt compass that is the guide for navigating the Seen and Unseen. Here in Bali many among us have tasted the bitterness of reality that ambushes us time and again – loss of wealth, loss of self respect, a gut wrenching loss of a partner and more. In this despair we seek to rejuvenate our spirit through prayer and meetings with holy men.

The following is the portrait of a Balinese holy man who is a beacon for lost souls. The writer had the privilege and honour to meet him in person to pick his brain and inscribe for posterity his life. No amount of verbosity can aptly describe this truly remarkable man; therefore one has resorted to brevity.

He has been a shaman for the last 12 years.

About 12 years ago he was afflicted by an illness that sapped his energy and drew him close to death. It was ‘diagnosed’ by a shaman in his family that a ‘Taksu’ (spirit) had set up home in his body and was forcing him to renounce the life of a ‘normal’ person and to become a shaman. The ‘Taksu’ residing in him is the son of the God of Lempuyang temple, Dewa Rambut Sudana. The shaman continues to recharge his energy by visiting many holy places with offerings. In return the spirits residing at these holy places honor the shaman by bestowing on him spiritual energy.

However, even though he has been granted the powers to ‘cure’ and ‘guide’ people with various ailments including heartbreak he cannot demand a fee but has to rely solely on their generosity. The shaman can only become rich, in a manner of speaking, in mind and body.

He meditates and performs rituals every 15 days – Full Moon (Purnama) and Dark Moon (Tilem). These rituals are performed at twilight (Santi Kala). On these auspicious days he does not shower and eats only white rice cooked by his wife at home.

For the last 12 years he has not had a haircut. The shaman’s matted tresses which is meters long is tied up and covered with a cloth. He believes that cutting and shaping his hair would bring sickness to his body. Also, it is a sign of shedding the ‘ego’ and the ‘no shower routine’ is seen as giving up worldly pleasures in service to the spirit world and God.

Shaman and his son
The Shaman with his son. Photograph by Mark Ulyseas

The land that his humble dwelling is built on has been ‘loaned’ to him without any charge like rent etc. If the land is sold by the present owner then the shaman and his family (wife and five small children) will move somewhere else. He is confident the villagers will give him another place to reside. The shaman and his family live at the mercy of the spiritual and material elements like the generosity of villagers and visitors who bring food and drink.

Some of the ‘usual’ requests made by visitors:
Foreigners – How or will they ever meet the right partner and/or a solution to failed/ing relationships.
Balinese – A cure for ailments, solutions to family problems and guidance on how to change one’s life for the better.

Matur Suksama

© Mark Ulyseas, published in 2009, Bali, Indonesia

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