One-Month-Seven-Day Cleanse

This is why I can never leave Bali. She curls her green tendrils through my mind, whispers secrets in my ears. She tests my patience and challenges my strange Western ways. Our differences fascinate me and she’s generous with opportunities to explore them. So when Wayan invited me to her baby’s one-month-seven-day ceremony, there was no question I would attend.

I was present when Ketut’s daughter, Nengah, had her three-month-feet-can-now-touch-the-ground celebration. That was an eye-opener! But this ceremony comes earlier. Wayan explained that forty-two days after her son was born, Hindu tradition dictates they must summon a holy man to cleanse both her and the baby. (Note that a month on the Balinese calendar is 35 days plus 7 equals 42!)

When I arrived at their home on the back of Ketut’s motorbike, they had just entered the family temple.

Aunties, uncles, and friends gathered while incense swirled from offerings to both benign and dark spirits and the holy man rang his bell chanting prayers.

It wasn’t until the priest prayed blessing and sprinkled holy water over the family, that I noticed the chickens. Arya, their older son, held two young birds that appeared to be wearing miniature sarongs. Were they his pets, I wondered, thinking it strange that pet chickens would be allowed at such a holy moment.

Later, over a heaping plate of suckling pig, chicken betutu, and stewed jackfruit, yet another facet of Balinese Hindu tradition was imparted to me by Komang, the children’s father.

According to him, during gestation the placenta is considered the baby’s brother. It nurtures, nourishes, and protects the infant prior to birth. Now that the baby was born and the afterbirth buried with another sacred rite of it’s own, a symbolic replacement of the in utero sibling in the form of two chickens was necessary; a brother and a sister perhaps? Or did they symbolize the dual spirit realms: malignant and benign? I’ve heard different stories from different villages. They all have their own interpretation of this Macolongan Ceremony.

When I quizzed Ketut for details I found there was more to the story. “You must first talk about Upacara Magedong-gedongan,” he said, letting the words roll out of his mouth like slippery marbles. When I tried to repeat it my tongue flapped helplessly.

“Upacara ma-ma-ma…?” Pathetic, I know.

“Seven month ceremony before the baby comes,” he said. That I could repeat. “But in my village we do not do this ceremony. What if the baby dies? No good. So we wait until baby three month ceremony and then we do everything already not done.”

“So in your village you don’t have a one-month-seven-day…,” he didn’t let me finish.

“Oh, must do that one! Baby and mother cannot go into temple until that ceremony finished. Must first make clean. Long time ago father cannot go into temple also. But what if many babies are born? Nobody to work in the temple! So that rule must be changed. Now only mother and baby cannot.”

Curiosity wasn’t satisfied. “Why forty-two days, Ketut? Why that long?”

“Because until then baby is only blood and skin. Now bones too. More strong.”

This is how it goes, sometimes for hours when I’m gleaning tidbits of village lore from Ketut. Bit by bit a convoluted picture emerges that may or may not be accurate. But it’s close, as close as a foreigner can get to the mysteries of animistic Hinduism practiced here.

For me, the afternoon was perfect. I met Wayan over seven years ago and now she is like a bossy younger sister! Komang, her husband, a charming host with impeccable English, pointed out that he and I were both wearing orange shirts and purplish-pink sarongs! Only in Bali!

We laughed a lot. Jokes are a way of life here and it’s good for the soul to be on the receiving end of Balinese humor. Not only that, I got my ‘baby fix!’ Tiny Komang Junior gave me a high five and let me cuddle him without a peep. Thank you Wayan and Komang. May you and your family be blessed with long life and happiness. Om swastiastu.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. sageblessings
    Jul 21, 2017 @ 21:59:20

    Love this Sherry. Thanks so much for asking all the questions which gives your readers so much information. Delightful.

    Like

    Reply

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