I love Bali: The Magic of Bali
In the 1990s, there was a big poster showing the scary witch Rangda, posted above the front desk of the Denpasar immigration office, with an equally provocative caption: “You do not need drugs to experience the magic of Bali” splashed in red around the she-demon, like a blood stain, befitting her evil character.
I had presumed, back then, that if you were to visit Bali for the first time and were immediately exposed to such grotesque images of demonic faces on stone statues, grinning and growling at you everywhere you went; barong, monkeys, dragons and a myriad of other mythical creatures’ masks hanging in all the “arts shops”; to say nothing of the wooden penises for sale, in a very wide range of sizes and colors; you might well have felt as if you had just taken a psychedelic drug. But no illegal drugs were needed - it is magical, after all.
In reality, illegal drugs are the one thing you should not be associated with while in Bali, for they can magically transform you into the afterlife, or into a lifetime of imprisonment.
I was so impressed by the poster at the immigration office that I asked the official if I could have a copy of it. No luck, for it was the very last one of its kind, marking the end of this stage of the government’s anti-drugs campaign.
Perhaps the demise of such effectively scary propaganda has caused the upsurge of drug-smuggling in recent years.
So what about the real magic of Bali? The black (or even the white) magic you hear or read about in books? You may even have seen some traditional dramatic performances, depicting those opposing sides in contest, but with no apparent or clear winner. What is that all about?
Well, the magic is within you (black or otherwise), say the wise men of Bali.
The very moment that harmful intentions, ill-will, greed or covetousness arise within, you have created black magic. Simply put, black energy.
We all know how dangerous black energy is for our own well-being, and even worse, of course, when directed toward others.
On the other hand, when we generate love and kindness in our hearts, it will be reflected toward others as friendliness and, indeed, happiness. You do not need a particular reason to be happy.
In fact, people do not care why you are happy, but your happiness will shine through nevertheless. It’s magic, remember? So this good and evil is inherent in Balinese culture; both are recognized as being equally important for the equilibrium of our cosmos. In the seen and the unseen worlds.
Logically speaking, the good is not possible without the bad, say the wise men of Bali.
Outwardly, these good and evil forces are played out in Balinese religious ceremonies, Balinese arts, music, drama and indeed in all facets of Balinese life.
a poet, lives in Ubud