"Island of the Spirits" by John Stanmeyer


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John Stanmeyer spent five years living in Bali, creating this reportage through the uninhibited and timeless lens of a Holga. His photographs capture practices from decades past, transcending the temporal as they live on today and into the unforeseen future. This body of work only stresses the historicity of spiritual life of Bali, consisting of deeply layered imagery that is witnessed, under- stood and explained in full by few, yet practiced by millions.
Published by Afterhours Books (info@afterhoursgroup.com), the book is available in both Regular Bookstore Edition and Special Signed Limited Edition of 150.

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"Island of the Spirits" by John Stanmeyer

  1. 1. Dedicated to the wonderful peopleof Bali who were so kind to acceptme deep into Balinese societyto witness their exceptionallyunique culture. Also to my wife,Anastasia, and children Richard,Konstantin and Francesca Merapi.
  2. 2. F o r E w o r d B y w a d E d av I SI n T roduC T Ion By a na STa SI a STa n m Ey Er
  3. 3. for ewor dh ow do we begin to understand an island culture where nothing is as it appears? where physical form is a veneer beneath which symbols and spirits dwell, where metaphor mingles with myth, and all life is honed by religious practice and faith? where men and women, young and old, pay homage to the dictates of tradition, reflexively, with-out effort, as readily as they breath air or draw water from a well. where every daily act, the gatheringof wood, the planting of a rice field, the feeding of a child, takes on ritual significance, becoming aprayer for the wellbeing and survival not just of the community but of the entire universe. an ancientculture where there is no separation between the mundane and the sacred, the material and the im-material, where the dead find release in fire or comfort on a bed of grass, as the physical body slowlyseeps back into the earth, even as the living anticipate their rebirth in the realm of light and darknessthat is eternal existence. where trance is a space not to be feared but rather entered with impunity, asreadily as a child returns to the family hearth, a swallow to its nest. where every leaf is the image ofthe tree, each branch of the tree a memory of a river, all the canopy of the forest a stage upon whichdemons, ancestral beings, and nature spirits prance and preen. where humans are but physical formsconceived to give life to the sublime, where children learn right and wrong by watching shadows play,even as they laugh and frolic in the loving gaze of their elders. a land where ritual is not divorced fromlife, but rather is the lubricant that allows all the multiple parts of the physical, spiritual and meta-physical realms to come together and perform their eternal roles in total synchronicity. what are weto make of Bali, with its primordial memories of fire, where animistic forces, deities unknown andnameless, remain potent to this day? and what of its ancient Hindu rites, the baroque rituals, theprayers and celebrations, today still so constant and commonplace on the island that one can almostforget that in their antiquity they invoke the very birth of the religious impulse. and then the softoverlay of Buddhism, a wisdom doctrine of loving compassion, a late arrival but always a profoundinfluence. when we bear witness to such a kaleidoscopic world, either as travelers or through photo-graphs as stunning as these extraordinary images in this beautiful book, we are forced to ask chal-lenging questions. How did Bali, just one of thousands of islands flung like jewels the length of theIndonesian archipelago, become the locus of such intense religiosity and zeal, such a garden of cul-
  4. 4. tural delights? what beyond exotic appeal draws us back again and again to this iconic land of revela- asked this question, the cultures of the world respond in 7,000 different voices, and these collectivelytion and insight, reflection and tranquility? why is Bali so vitally important, even to those who have comprise our human repertoire for dealing with all the challenges that will confront us as a speciesnever had the good fortune to visit, to run a hand through a field of rice, or see puppets dance in space. over the next 2,500 generations, even as we continue this never-ending journey. This lesson of an- people often ask me why it matters if such wondrous yet exotic cultures and their belief systems thropology, given new meaning and authority by the insights of genetics, encourages all peoples todisappear. what importance does it have to an american family if some distant and isolated society is begin to think in new ways. Indeed nothing that has emerged from science in my lifetime, save per-extinguished through assimilation or violence, if their dreams and spiritual beliefs articulated through haps the vision of the Earth from space brought home by apollo, has done more to liberate the humanritual fade away from the world? does it matter to the people of Texas if the people of Bali lose their spirit from the parochial tyrannies that have haunted us since the birth of memory. once we trulyculture? probably not. no more that the loss of Texas would matter to the Balinese. But I would argue understand that every culture is a unique way of life, ethically inspired and inherently right, it be-that the loss of either way of life does matter to humanity as a whole. over the last decade, geneti- comes obvious that no one culture is exceptional. none has a monopoly on the path to the future. Eachcists have proved to be true something that philosophers have always dreamed. we are all literally has something to say to the world. modernity is not some objective force removed from the con-brothers and sisters. Studies of the human genome have left no doubt that the genetic endowment of straints of culture. and it is certainly not the true and only pulse of history. It is merely a constellationhumanity is a single continuum. race is an utter fiction. we are all cut from the same genetic cloth, of beliefs, convictions, economic paradigms that represent one way of doing things, of going about theall descendants of a relatively small number of individuals who walked out of africa some 60,000 complex process of organizing human activities. our technological prowess may have no rivals butyears ago and then, on a journey that lasted 40,000 years, some 2500 generations, carried the human this does imply that our way of life represents the paragon of humanity’s potential. If the criterion ofspirit to every corner of the habitable world. If we are all cut from the same fabric of life, then by excellence shifts, for example, to the capacity of a people to thrive in a truly sustainable manner, withdefinition we all share essentially the same mental acuity, the same raw genius. whether this intel- a true reverence and appreciation for the earth, the western paradigm suffers. If the imperatives driv-lectual potential is exercised through technological innovation, as has been the great achievement of ing the highest aspirations of our species were to be the power of faith, the reach of spiritual intuition,the west, or through the untangling of complex threads of memory inherent in a myth, a priority of the philosophical generosity to recognize the varieties of religious longing, then our dogmatic conclu-the Balinese, is simply a matter of choice and orientation, adaptive insights and cultural priorities. sions would again be found wanting. Extreme would be one word for a civilization that contaminatesThere is no universal progression in the lives and destiny of human beings, no hierarchy of progress with its waste the air, water and soil; that drives plants and animals to extinction on a scale not seenin the history of culture, no Social darwinian ladder to success. The victorian notion of the savage on earth since the disappearance of the dinosaurs; that tears down the ancient forests, empties theand the civilized, with European industrial society sitting proudly at the apex of a pyramid of advance- seas of fish, and does little to curtail industrial processes that threaten to transform the chemistry andment that widens at the base to the so-called primitives of the world, has been thoroughly discredited physics of the atmosphere. Climate change has become humanity’s problem; but it was not humanity— indeed, scientifically ridiculed for the racial and colonial conceit that it was, as relevant to our lives as a whole that provoked the crisis. during the renaissance and well into the Enlightenment, in ourtoday as the 19th century conviction that the earth was but 6000 years old. The brilliance of scientific quest for personal freedom, we in the European tradition liberated the human mind from the tyrannyresearch and the revelations of modern genetics have affirmed in an astonishing way the essential of absolute faith, even as we freed the individual from the collective, which was the sociological equiv-connectedness of humanity. The myriad of cultures of the world are not failed attempts at moder- alent of splitting the atom. and, in doing so, we also abandoned many of our intuitions for myth,nity, let alone failed attempts to be us. They are unique expressions of the human imagination and magic, mysticism, and, perhaps most importantly, metaphor. The universe, declared rené descartes inheart, unique answers to a fundamental question: what does it mean to be human and alive? when the seventeenth century, was composed only of “mind and mechanism.” with a single phrase, all sen-
  5. 5. tient creatures aside from human beings were devitalized, as was the earth itself. “Science,” as Saul real sense, this determines the ecological footprint of a culture, the impact that any society has on itsBellow wrote, “made a housecleaning of belief.” phenomena that could not be positively observed and environment. a child raised to believe that a mountain is the abode of a protective spirit will be ameasured could not exist. The triumph of secular materialism became the conceit of modernity. The profoundly different human being from a youth brought up to believe that a mountain is an inert massnotion that land could have anima, that the flight of a hawk might have meaning, that beliefs of the of rock ready to be mined. a boy raised to revere a forest as the realm of the divine will be a differentspirit could have true resonance, was ridiculed, dismissed as ridiculous. For several centuries, the person from a child taught to believe that such forests are destined to be logged. The full measure ofrational mind has been ascendant, even though science, its finest expression, can still in all its bril- a culture embraces both the actions of a people and the quality of their aspirations, the nature of theliance only answer the question how, but never come close to addressing the ultimate question: why. metaphors that propel them onward. Herein, perhaps, lies the essence of the relationship betweenThe inherent limitation of the scientific model has long provoked a certain existential dilemma, famil- many indigenous peoples and the natural world. Life in the malarial swamps of new guinea, the chilliar to many of us taught since childhood that the universe can only be understood as the random ac- winds of Tibet, the white heat of the Sahara, leaves little room for sentiment. nostalgia is not a traittion of minute atomic particles spinning and interacting in space. But more significantly, the reduc- commonly associated with the Inuit. nomadic hunters and gatherers in Borneo have no conscioustion of the world to a mechanism, with nature but an obstacle to overcome, a resource to be exploited, sense of stewardship for mountain forests that they lack the technical capacity to destroy. what thesehas in good measure determined the manner in which our cultural tradition has blindly interacted cultures have done, however, is to forge through time and ritual a relationship to the earth that iswith the living planet. as a young man, I was raised to believe that the coastal forests that sur- based not only on deep attachment to the land but also on far more subtle intuition — the idea that therounded my home in British Columbia existed to be cut. This was the essence of the ideology of scien- land itself is breathed into being by human consciousness. mountains, rivers, and forests are not per-tific forestry that I studied in school and practiced in the woods as a logger. The rotation cycle — the ceived as being inanimate, as mere props on a stage upon which the human drama unfolds. For theserate at which forests were to be felled across the province, and thus the foundation of sustained yield societies, the land is alive, a dynamic force to be embraced and transformed by the human imagina-forestry — was based on the assumption that all of the old growth would be cut and replaced with tree tion. This sense of belonging and connection, this spirit of place, is nowhere more perfectly ex-farms. The intrinsic value of these rare and remarkable rainforests had no place in the calculus of the pressed than on the hills and beaches, in the forests and terraced fields, and among all the mountainplanning process. This cultural perspective was profoundly different from that of the indigenous shrines and nestled hamlets of Bali. The Balinese remind us every day that the planet is not simply apeople, the First nations. If I was sent into the forest to cut it down, a Kwakwaka’wakw youth of commodity, a raw resource to be consumed at our whim. and, as this most beautiful of books reveals,similar age was traditionally dispatched during his Hamatsa initiation into those same forests to con- they teach us that there are indeed other ways of thinking, other ways of being, other ways of orient-front Huxwhukw and the Crooked Beak of Heaven, cannibal spirits living at the north end of the ing ourselves in social, spiritual and ecological space. This is an idea that can only fill us with hope.world, all with the goal of returning triumphant to the potlatch that his individual spiritual disciplineand fortitude might revitalize his entire people with the energy of the wild. The point is not to ask wa d e d aV I sor suggest which perspective is right or wrong. Is the forest mere cellulose and board feet? was it anthropologist wade davis is one of the most influential western advocates for the world’s indigenoustruly the domain of the spirits? Is a mountain a sacred place? does a river really follow the ancestral cultures. He is the author of numerous books, including his 1985 best-seller The Serpent and thepath of a serpent? do the ancestors really hover over a field of rice, bringing blessings and fertility? rainbow, is a national geographic Explorer-in-residence and is a passionate advocate for preservingwho is to say? ultimately these are not the important questions. what matters is the potency of a be- what he has dubbed the “ethnosphere.”lief, and the manner in which a conviction plays out in the day-to-day lives of a people. For in a very
  6. 6. I n trodUCt Ion death, is accompanied by rituals, some carefully planned and others impromptu. If you want toa learn about Hinduism in the early centuries of India, Bali might be the place to go. whatever texts big tree isn’t just a big tree to the Balinese. It’s a graveyard. a temple. Its limbs thrive can be found there quite possibly represent a tradition closer to the original sources than can be with life from the other world, spirits reaching out and exhuming energy into our found today in India. For the majority of Balinese, the religion connects to 4th century pre-colonized tangible world. It is worshipped and adorned with the most holiest of offerings. and India. Hindu teachings were first introduced to the island sometime early in the first millennium yet, it is what it is. a tree. In Bali, even inanimate objects are not what they appear to ad. The oldest Indianization evidence was some locally made clay stupas and seals dated to thebe. an ox made of paper-mâché and bamboo, a wooden mask, a shadow puppet are mediums into and eighth or ninth century. Fragments of religious text found on them were written in an old northout of the other world. Balinese life is guided by religion. End of story. But, the end is only the Indian script and in the tantric tradition, with strong emphasis on magic. That tradition carriesbeginning of so much more. This form of worship is not textual, not mandated by a supreme docu- forward through the centuries in Balinese culture and is reflected in the occurrences of trance andment nor overtly organized. It’s not kept within the confines of a church or a temple or a mosque or focus on witchcraft. The practices and beliefs have evolved not only from the natural evolution ofa synagogue or a house. It transcends the obvious and becomes a world of its own, in a world of ev- time, but from outside influences from China and Java that are Buddhist- and animist-based. Theeryday living, within every element of existence. It permeates every pore of this small island within result is a form of Hinduism quite different from its Indian sources. The majority of Balinese con-Indonesia, with rituals focused on purification and cleansing of the soul, mind, body, home, land, sider themselves descendants of noble warriors from the Hindu Javanese empire majapahit, whichearth, universe. These practices are handed down and adopted by rote, a sense of familiarity through once ruled what is now western Indonesia from 1293 to 1500 and is considered to be one of the great-familial understanding. The apparent simplistic religious rituals are a complex mix of Hinduism est and most powerful empires in the history of Southeast asia. Its dominance also extended intoand Buddhism, ancestor worship and animism, structured in a series of rites and festivals that present day Singapore, malaysia, Brunei, southern Thailand, the philippines and East Timor. Thismark the stages from birth until death and beyond. Some 93 percent of Bali practices what is called empire is sometimes seen as the precedent for Indonesia’s modern boundaries, and in the 16th cen-agama Hindu dharma, a religion, so to speak, that demands so much from the people who willfully tury, the kingdom shifted to Bali as muslim kingdoms began to dominate. a small segment of thepractice it. Everyday activities are special and require a ceremony. For instance, the age-old activity population is called Bali aga, or mountain Balinese. They live mainly in the village of Tenganan,of opening the subak, which is the first watering of the land for new rice, is called magpag. people isolated across the vast Lake Kintamani near Candidasa in eastern Bali, and in the village of Tru-go the water spring to pray that the water source is clean and plentiful, and that the irrigation canal nyan located at the edge of Lake Batur across Toya Bungkah village. The Bali aga are unique be-is open. Here in Bali, the invisible world has been legalized; the unconscious and conscious is one. cause their ancestors were closely tied to the kingdoms which existed before the majapahit conquestHuge tracts of land, such as uluwatu and Tanah Lot in the island’s southern part, are kawasan suci, and were never fully subjugated by the new majapahit rulers and their Balinese heirs. althoughor zoned holy. There is no text for the layperson on how to cremate or how to worship ancestors. some say that the ancestors of the Bali aga predate other Balinese arriving to the island, others haveThere is no step-by-step lesson plan for religious rituals that focus on rites of the human (manusa challenged that assumption. But there are definitely differences between them and other Balinese,yadnya), of the dead ( pitra yadnya), of the gods (dewa yadnya), of priests (rsi yadnya), and of de- most notedly the absence of caste. The Bali aga are tall and slender with pale skin, with filed andmonic forces ( butha yadnya). Every phase of a person’s life, from pregnancy to birth, from birth to blackened teeth and with most men still in long hair. They don’t cremate the dead, but simply lay
  7. 7. them out in nature to decompose. The photos within this documentary only emphasize the point barong’s enemy is rangda, the widow witch and demon queen of the leyaks, other scary mythologi-that we are truly connected to the other world, and something else drives one’s body and mind. Fall- cal creatures that are sometimes to blame for illnesses or death. a barong can be in the form of aing into trance during a ceremony isn’t unusual or odd. It’s actually a form of balancing and a bless- lion, a boar, a tiger, a dragon and a serpent, and performances are repeated throughout Bali of hising, and an indication that a ceremony has been successful. a young man named Sugi gives the struggles against rangda. In the dance drama Calon arang, the barong responds to rangda’s useexample of his deceased grandfather talking to him through his body. “one side of my head is listen- of magic to control and kill her to restore balance. Balinese customs differ from one region to an-ing, and the other side, my mouth, was controlled by something else. we don’t depend on logic; we other, but what connects everyone is the feeling towards the island, the spirits, the ancestors and thedepend on a calling from our inner side of our life. It’s not physical; it’s spiritual. our inside world.” other world. The visible world is sekala, and the invisible world is niskala. ( Kala is time. Sekala is although Indian Hinduism’s influence is an integral part of Balinese religious life, it is but a thin depending on time. niskala is time that is not relevant.) purification, for the Balinese, is based onlayer over a deep foundation of earlier worship and animist cults. This is quite apparent by the Ba- somya, which is to bring everything to a form of zero. The starting point. The purification of nyepi,linese’s everyday life that seems to be preoccupied with fears of harm from witches and black magic Bali’s day of silence followed by its lunar new year, is with the concept of somya, whose conjugationand with propitiating many kinds of nature spirits, demons and especially ancestral spirits. For is sunia and sunyi, which equals sepi, which equals nyepi. Sepi is silence. another crucial part ofanyone who has spent a bit of time in Bali, this “obsession” is unfolded daily and is evident with the Balinese spirituality is melasti, a journey to the water source where holy items from a temple arevery public performance of rituals that reveal the Balinese worldview of the universe played out in bathed. Every ceremony, whether it be in a temple, in a home, or at a roadside, starts with this puri-the constant effort for balance and harmony through ritual purification, or tirta. This macrocosm is fication ceremony, with the largest one held several days before nyepi. In any given Balinesein synergy with the microcosm of the body and soul, and with symbolism as an integral part of ev- Hindu home, there are three shrines: one for the god of the universe, Surya, another for the god ofery religion, Bali takes that a step further. The symbolism takes shape and spirit and form and is a the land, penungun Karang, and a shrine for the god of ancestors, Sanggahkemolan. It’s the com-conduit and a tool for the gods and for the humans. masks give form to godly and chthonic forces. fort of knowing that the ancestors are nearby and existing in a place where dialogue between theShadow puppets, wayang kulits, human beings become the tools for spirits to express themselves in real world and other world is fluid, that keeps the Balinese rooted in Bali and the family unit strong.a tangible way. The dalang, or puppeteer, sometimes uses this opportunity to teach people morals For one local woman in her 40s, her earliest memories are of her parents talking to her about herand lessons about life. For instance, he might teach children that taking drugs or lying to their ancestors and bringing her to their shrines within the family’s grounds. She would master the ritu-parents is a bad thing. This is also a place to debate current political and social issues. and it is al- als through observation at home, then at school beginning at the age of 7, where children learn notways there to entertain. The Balinese not only take heed in the good spirits, but also the bad to only about their religion but also how to pray and make ceremonial offerings. By the time she was aensure their life remains in balance. and through special ceremonies, the spirit is put into these young adult, doing the ritual offerings and prayer was as natural as washing her face in the morn-elaborately made masks that are deemed sacred and kept in temples. Take the barong, not only a ing. To her, the ritual is a form of expressing love, of keeping everything in balance in the universe.symbol but “alive,” a powerful element in Balinese mythology and performances as the king of spir- when she cooks, she offers a bit to the gods: a pinch of salt, a dab of rice, perhaps even a bit of coffeeits who also evokes fear. Banas pati rajah is the fourth “brother” or spirit child that accompanies a or some egg. Everyone has a recollection about spirits, with ghosts dwelling side-by-side with us.child through life. This is also the spirit that animates the barong, energized to life by darkness. The This same woman recalls when she was a child, playing with her friends in her bedroom at day’s
  8. 8. end. Hearing unfamiliar footsteps outside her door, she looked outside and saw white figures pass- along the coastline for the water blessing. The Balinese cannot live without their ancestors —ing by. She wasn’t scared; dusk was the time when people should keep quiet in their homes as ge- and they wouldn’t dare to even try, or else their world can turn upside-down. when someonenies, spirits and gods wander about, after the sun goes down but before it’s fully dark. “This is a dies, the body is cremated and released into a body of water. Then, the family draws the spiritland where souls and spirits intermingle with us,” she says. “For some in the western world, having into a small vessel and takes it on a majar-ajar, or a tour of temples. at the end of the tour, thespirits dwell among us is a scary idea, almost something out of a horror movie. But in Bali, this an spirit goes to the family temple in family’s home, and then the extended family goes to theessential element of life, an important way of balancing good and evil to establish harmony.” The kawitan (main clan temple) every six months. The relatives are guiding the spirit to the highestBalinese find peace with the gods and with the earth through this balance and, just as importantly, level in this world, and take pilgrimages to the main temples. Each family has its own tradition,through purification. In essence, purification is the freedom from sin, guilt and defilement. It is the its own route, and members might seek guidance from a priest or a medium. “There’s no linesense of purification that is repeated in various forms in many of these photographs. From the back- between the consciousness and subconsciousness,” says Sugi. “when I welcome you to Bali,yard of Stanmeyer’s home nestled within a Balinese village, to the everyday village ceremonies, to I welcome you to my visible world. But, the Balinese world is a different world. This world is con-holy places blended into the lush, natural settings throughout the island. one involuntarily follows nected to another world. we’re living within at least two different worlds.” above religion,this path of cleansing — from birth until death. This is the essence of Bali, with a religion that was above god, there is the ancestors. Everything in life is connected to the ancestors: If someone isoftentimes termed as agama Tirta, or the religion of holy water. Balinese Hinduism does not em- sick, it might be a sign from an ancestor and a ritual must be done to rectify what is off balance inphasize cycles of rebirth and reincarnation, but instead is more preoccupied with a myriad of local the spiritual world. In this dreamlike existence, sometimes you wake up, and sometimes you let theand ancestral spirits that are capable of harm. purification is the ceremonial removal of what reli- dream bring you somewhere. It’s a personal reality. The intangible and tangible merge into one.gion deems unclean. For the Balinese, this transformation can be done by way of water, body altera-tion and fire. one of many important ceremonies is held when a baby is 105 days old. until that time, a na s ta s I a s ta n M e Y e rthe baby doesn’t touch the ground because it has a pure soul and shouldn’t be tainted by earthly anastasia Stanmeyer has been a writer for wmore than 20 years. She moved to asia in 1996 withthings. The child is considered divine, not yet recognized by the world and is carried everywhere. at her husband, John, and spent the next 12 years living in Hong Kong and Indonesia, and travelingthree months, when the baby touches the ground for the first time in this ceremony and is “baptized” throughout the region. She has written for Time, newsweek, Christian Science monitor and otherin water, the infant becomes a full member of the family. one morning, one of many given morn- international publications, focusing on the human condition and social issues.ings in any given year, scores of people line up along the shores of pantai petitenget to dip theirchildren into the water, marking tiga bulanan for the child. The chaotic sound of bronze keyedgamelans crowd the air from a nearby temple on the beach, along with the pungent smell of incense,as a sort of organized chaos files in and out of the nucleus of prayer. a procession of smiling, beauti-fully dressed women walk without missing a beat with offerings towering perfectly on top of theirheads. This intense energy beneath the relentless sun extends outward as people also congregate
  9. 9. aCk now l e d ge M e n ts p l at e d e s C r I p t I o n st o the Balinese for their astonishing generosity and warmheartedness that inspired and illuminated 1 Sumbu offerings are placed upon bamboo poles prepared for a pengelukatan (purification) ceremony on petitenget me for more than five years while living and working on this book in Bali. To I wayan Tilik Jati, Beach. These offerings are part of a three-month baby ceremony. 2 Babies’ feet touch the ground for the very first time whose infectious laughter and kindness was always by my side, assisting and guiding me all across in the surf on petitenget Beach as part of the pengelukatan (purification) ceremony. Babies are blessed by Sang Hyang pertiwi (The mother Earth) and become full members of their families; previously they were considered divine and not the island through so many layers of Balinese spirituality. To yudhistira dharma, who also assisted yet recognized as part of worldly life. 3 a Balinese woman prepares offerings upon an exposed rock considered sacred,me at many spiritual ceremonies, along with helping me prepare all of the photographs in this book. To Sugi Lanus during an anniversary ceremony for Batubolong Temple in Canggu. 4 a group of followers from the Tambawarasfor adding clarity to the descriptions of the photographs with his staggering acumen into Balinese spiritualism. Temple at Tabanan regency prepare to perform a melasti ceremony at Tanah Lot Temple in Tabanan. melasti is aTo I wayan Juniartha, for his support and friendship as well as guiding me on other stories I’ve done over the years cleansing ceremony in which this temple’s sacred items were carried to the sea to be purified or re-purified. 5 a priestin Bali. To my dear friends Lukman Bintoro and made nagi for their collaboration whenever unique ceremonies blesses a family with holy water after praying on a rock facing the ocean at Batubolong Temple on Canggu Beach. 6 a woman performs a ceremony in a rice field in Selemadeg, Tabanan. She prays to the dewi Sri goddess to bless herwere taking place on the island. To I nengah Sudana, for his wisdom and knowledge of Balinese culture which family with a good harvest. 7 a bride standing before her village’s communal kitchen waits to be introduced with thehelped to properly describe each image contained in this book, along with sincere appreciation for allowing me to groom to other residents. This is part of the rituals during an elaborate wedding ceremony within the Tenganandocument the rare and sacred mapepada ritual held at his home in Tabanan. added thanks to viviana dewi ang, community. 8 a group of women in Tenganan village prepare for the sacred abuang dance performance in which theyher husband Bill goetz, ni Kadek Sri warden and desi Kurniasih for their friendship and insight connecting me will be accompanied by Selonding, a sacred ensemble of gamelan music. Tenganan children wear the finest geringsing,to some of the ceremonies presented in this book. To my sister-in-law, maria Bakkalapulo, who shares the same or sacred cloth, and beautiful gold jewelry. 9 Bali aga ladies wear traditional Tenganan pegringsingan clothingpassion to preserve the unique culture and music of the Balinese, at times joining me to some of the ceremonies during a perang pandan ceremony in Tenganan village, Karangasem. pegringsingan comes from word geringsing, which is divided into two words: gering, meaning sick; and sing, meaning no. They hope that by using pegringsingandepicted in this book, each of us with audio recorders in hand. To ni made Suyatni, ni wayan Seni, ni made costumes, the community can be spared of all diseases. 10 offerings are carried back home after a melasti (purification)Sari and I made Sukarma, who taught me so much about the Balinese way of life with their daily rituals at our ceremony at petitenget Temple. 11 women bless the perimeter of a home in munduk Juwet, Tabanan, with incense andhome, villa Tandeg, and who gently inspired my children about Bali culture, along with a lifetime of kindness and food before the sacrifice of a cow. This ceremony is to give thanks to a wish made long ago that was granted to thefriendship. and special thanks to ratu Kakiang. To my wife, anastasia, who supported this project from the family. 12 a lady is in trance during a closing anniversary ceremony at Temple penataran agung ped, located in nusabeginning along with understanding my deep immersions into all work I do which often demands so much of my penida in Klungkung. 13 Three women carry offerings to Bale agung Temple at Tenganan village during a wedding ceremony within the Bali aga, the Balinese ancient community. 14 Carrying a sacred kris, a groom walks to the Baletime and energy away from the family. Loving appreciation for putting up with me. For my children, richard, agung Temple in Tenganan village, where the ancient Bali aga community is located, to pray and receive blessingsKonstantin and Francesca, who were so blessed to have grown up in the middle of a mystical rice field surrounded prior to marriage. 15 Balinese Hindus enter the sacred waters that pour into a pool at the Tirta Empul Temple inby some of the most kind and affectionate people I’ve ever met. They are forever enlightened. To Lisa Botos, gainer regency. 16 villagers bathe at a sacred river next to the Tirta Empul Temple in Tampaksiring village, gianyar.for her friendship and brilliant eye in helping me edit from more than 500 images down to the 56 photographs This is a ritualistic cleansing after a Siwalatri, or the night of Siwa ceremony, that gives thanks to the god of Siwa forcontained in this book. To Farida Suteja, owner of Standard Foto, for her help in finding many rolls of a specific the dissolution of sins. 17 an offering is laid on the ground under a sacred tree near the entrance of Tirta Empultype of 120 film and handling all the film processing between Bali and Jakarta. and to our adopted families Temple in Tampaksiring, gianyar. 18 a young man in denpasar waits his turn during a potong gigi (tooth filing) ceremony. Filing of the human fang teeth alters one’s spiritual status into a mature human filled with goodness so thatin Banjar Tandeg, thank you for five magical years of inspiration, kindness and acceptance. not only to me and after death, the person’s spirit will unify with ancestors in heaven. 19 a basket that contains an offering of food, moneymy ever-present camera and audio recorder, but also for embracing my family so graciously into your village and ornately designed palm leaves is presented in front of the entrance during the anniversary ceremony of Batuthat surrounded our home in Tibubeneng, Canggu. our lives and souls are forever enriched, connecting me, my Bolong Temple in Badung. 20 dozens of people deep in trance are held by relatives during a pengerebongan ritual inwife and our children to the brilliance of your culture and to the entire remarkable island where you call home. the petilan Temple in denpasar. The ceremony, conducted once every 210 days, is to get rid of epidemics and disasters.
  10. 10. The word pengerebongan probably originated from the phrase “ngerehang barong” or “recharging the magical power is assisted by relatives while trying to walk three times around a temple courtyard during a pengerebongan ritual inof the barong,” which are protective deities in the form of mythological beasts. 21 a woman is in trance during a the petilan Temple in denpasar. 40 a group of women are offered incense to become more entranced, breaking intomelasti ceremony at the pura Tanah Lot, a 15th-century temple and one of Bali’s holiest sites situated just off the coast tears and singing during a melasti (cleansing) ceremony on petitenget Beach on the day before Balinese new yearof Tabanan. This unique ceremony is held to purify and make sacred the pralinggan Ida Betara, or god temple shrine, known as nyepi. 41 a woman carries a pasepan (fire bowl) on her head as a symbol of Lord Brahma, worshipping himcarried from its sister temple in Tambawaras. 22 people are deep in spiritual trance at Tanah Lot Temple during a as a upasaksi (witness) during a mapepada ceremony at Banjar Juwet munduk in Tabanan. 42 a woman sprinkles amelasti ceremony of the items from the Tambawaras temple in Tabanan. This is part of a ngenteg Linggih ceremony mixture of two types of Balinese rice wine — arak and berem — over offerings of food during a pengelukatan orof the Tambawaras temple, which is a special ceremony for re-purification and re-making sacred the pralinggan Ida cleaning ceremony in the ancient Bali aga village of Tenganan in Karangasem. 43 a dalang (puppet master) brings toBetara (the symbol of gods and sacred items of temple). This ngenteg Linggih is a dedication or rededication (ngenteg life wayang kulits (shadow puppets) during an anniversary ceremony at agung ped penataran in nusa penida,linggih means “erecting the seats”) of a temple after rebuilding or major renovations. 23 at the Tanah Lot Temple in Klungkung. The puppet is the character of Calon arang, used to tell stories of good triumphing over evil. 44 a HinduTabanan, people partake in a cleansing ceremony before returning to Tambawaras Temple. 24 a man deep in trance at priest prays during the anniversary ceremony for a temple in Banjar Tandeg in Tibubeneng, Canggu. The spirituala cleansing ceremony under the sacred Tanah Lot Temple, enters a cage with a spear. 25 a cow is sacrificed during a event, which happens every six months, is a means of reviving the temple shrine and conjuring up magical powers formapepada ritual held to purify such an animal offering. Taking place in munduk Juwet, Tabanan, this ceremony is for items that are most venerated. 45 a giant ogoh-ogoh is paraded at night through the village of Tibubeneng in Cangguthe Sanghyang rare angon, the god of cattle and livestock. 26 a cow is sacrificed during a ceremony to Sanghyang on the eve of nyepi, or the Balinese day of Silence. The primary purpose of creating ogoh-ogohs is the purification ofrare angon (god of cattle and livestock) during the mapepada ritual that is held to purify the animal offering at a the natural environment of any spiritual pollutants emitted from the activities of living beings, especially humans. 46villager’s home in munduk Juwet, Tabanan. 27 after sacrificing a cow, a family reconstructs the animal using its head, Beneath a sacred tree, a man watches a procession during an upacara pengabenan (cremation ceremony) in Banjarbones and skin as part of an offering placed upon coconut leaves during a penguripan ceremony in munduk Juwet, Tandeg, Canggu. 47 a relative carries ashes after a cremation, then scatters them into the ocean on a beach inTabanan. 28 young Bali aga men use sharply thorned pandan leaves to fight each other during a perang pandan ritual Tibubeneng village, Canggu. 48 members of the Baris gede stand guard as a prelude to a royal cremation in ubud.in Tenganan village. Thrashing one another until severely bleeding, the participants do this to show their respect to These men will perform a sacred dance before the fire is lit to begin the actual cremation. Such a dance is considereddewa Indra (god of war). 29 people collect water from the sacred ocean that will be used during a melasti (cleansing) the ultimate homage to the deceased. It also represents the meeting of figures in the underworld, such as Sang dorakala.ceremony on a remote stretch of beach in Canggu. 30 a man in trance rolls in the surf along petitenget Beach during 49 relatives of the deceased pray, comb his hair and bless his body at their home in ubud the day before the man is tomelasti before nyepi, the Balinese new year marking the day of silence. 31 Balinese Hindus walk to a melasti ceremony be cremated. 50 a high priest, or ratu pedanda, is held by her followers during a ceremony in ubud. when such a holyon the beach at petitenget Temple. They carry pengawin-awin (the temple’s regalia) that consist of nawasanga (the nine person prays, he or she is called a living Siwa and is believed to deliver direct messages or requests from the gods. Thatgods) weapons; pagut umbrella; and lelontek, umbul-umbul and kober (ceremonial flags). 32 men carry offerings to the is why the revered person is held and does not touch the ground. 51 Family member carry the remains of Tjokordegods before entering the Bug Bug village in Karangasem after coming down from an overnight ceremony at the Isteri muter up the cremation tower during one of the last ubud royal Family cremations. The cremation pyre symbolizespuncak gumang Temple located atop gumang Hill. 33 a mixture of translucent white arak and red berem (two types the macrocosm in which the human microcosm will eventually merge. 52 a large statue in the shape of a sacred cow,of rice wine) is poured during a melasti ceremony at Tanah Lot in Tabanan. This is symbolic of ang and ah, two sacred or lembu, is being carried by family and friends of the deceased down central ubud prior to the start of a cremationHindu words meaning woman and man, respectively. according to the Balinese faith, this tetabuhan is the favorite ceremony for one of the members of the ubud royal Family. 53 The remains of an effigy are burned and what appearsdrink of Bhuta Kala, magic creatures who also guard the safety of the universe. By giving the tribute in the form of to be the shadow of a man emerges within the flames after a cremation in ubud, Bali. 54 The cremation tower containingtheir favorite food and drink, those creatures will not disturb the ritual celebration and actually help keep the universe the remains of Tjokorde Isteri muter burns during one of the last ubud royal Family cremations. The tower symbolizesand human life prosperous. 34 offerings placed upon the trunk of a sacred tree during melasti (cleansing ceremony) the macrocosm in which the human microcosm will eventually merge. 55 Human skulls sit in rows in the cemetery atinside the grounds of the petitenget Temple. 35 a man stabs himself with a dagger while in trance during the sacred the Trunyan village, home of the traditional Bali aga people who live in the caldera of mount Batur, an active volcanomelasti ceremony in petitenget, as millions of Balinese practice this cleansing ceremony prior to the start of their new in northern Bali. The Bali aga people of this village do not cremate their dead. Their ancient custom is to leave theyear. 36 an elder stabs himself while in trance at Tenganan, an isolated mountain village in the Karangasem regency bodies of the deceased only covered in a sheet with offerings placed upon and around the corpse located under a sacredof East Bali. This is one of the oldest traditional villages in Bali where the community combines Bali aga culture with tree that emits a scent to cloak the smell of decaying bodies. once the body has decomposed, the bones are scattered onits own distinctive mores. 37 a man attempts to stab himself with a kris dagger during a mass trance ritual at petilan the ground and the skulls placed upon this alter-like table within the forested cemetery. 56 Two men in trance pointTemple in denpasar. 38 a woman deep in trance is held by relatives during a pengerebongan ritual in the petilan krises, or kerises, into the air during melasti on petitenget Beach. The kris is an asymmetrical dagger with a distinctiveTemple in denpasar. The word pengerebongan probably originated from the phrase “ngerehang barong” or “recharging wavy blade. Kris -making in Bali is done by the pande clan who carry out the old rituals which could infuse the bladesthe magical power of the barong,” which are protective deities in the form of mythological beasts. 39 a woman in trance with mystical properties. Krises are considered almost alive because they are viewed as vessels of good or evil spirits.
  11. 11. j o h n s ta n m e y e rJohn Stanmeyer is a founding member of the prestigious vII photo agency. For 12 years he lived in Asia,five of which were spent living with his family in the middle of a ricefield in Canggu in Bali, documentingmajor historical events in the region. Stanmeyer has worked in over 60 countries focusing on societal issues,conflict, health and social injustice, delving deeper in recent years for the preservation of disappearingcultures. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Robert Capa, Magazine Photographer of theYear as well as numerous World Press awards. Stanmeyer works on assignment regularly for NationalGeographic Magazine, was on contract for over 10 years with Time Magazine, and contributes regularly to otherinternationally renowned publications. He is co-author of three books, WAR, Rethink and Tsunami. When noton the road, he lives with his wife and three children on a farm in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts. colophonThis first edition of ‘Island of the Spirits’ by John Stanmeyer is limited to 3000 copies. Photography andContent Copyright © 2010 John Stanmeyer. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproducedor transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording orany other information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. PHOTOGRAPHY John Stanmeyer TexT Wade Davis and Anastasia Stanmeyer TexT eDITOR AnastasiaStanmeyer CReATIve DIReCTOR Lans Brahmantyo PROJeCT COORDINATOR Cherry Salim CReATIve/CONTeNT MANAGeR Celvie Toramaya ARTISTIC DIReCTOR Chandra Rahmatillah BOOK DeSIGNeR Adi HandoyoGunawan ILLUSTRATOR Rully Jatmiko and Marryana Sutaryo PHOTO eDITOR Lisa Botos SeqUeNCeRLans Brahmantyo and Oscar Motuloh PRODUCTION Reza Inovani and Nasrudin DeSIGNeD/PUBLISHeDBY Afterhours ®, Jalan Merpati 45, Jakarta 12870, Indonesia, phone +62 21 8306819 PAPeR Coated Matte150gsm SCAN ScanStation PHOTOGRAPHIC POST-PRODUCTION Apple Aperture PRINTING Indonesia Printer ISBN 978-602-97507-1-3 Printed in Duotone: PANTONe Cool Gray 6c and PANTONe Black. Made in Indonesia
  12. 12. Island of the spIrItsSpirits are everywhere in Bali. Trees, temples, mountains, stones, water appear sacred to the Balinese,all serving as a hand reaching out and into the otherworld of ancestors and gods and the maelstromof good and evil. Balinese spiritual culture has its roots in Indian Hinduism, Buddhism and ancientanimist beliefs, first originating in east Java. Centuries-old ceremonies with deeply layered ritualsare very much alive today. John Stanmeyer spent five years living in Bali, creating this reportagethrough the uninhibited and timeless lens of a Holga. His photographs capture practices fromdecades past, transcending the temporal as they live on today and into the unforeseen future.This body of work stresses the historicity of spiritual life of Bali, consisting of deeply layeredimagery that is witnessed, understood and explained in full by few, yet practiced by millions. P H O T O G R A P H S B Y J O H N S TA N M e Y e R F O R e W O R D B Y WA D e D Av I S I N T R O D U C T I O N B Y A N A S TA S I A S TA N M e Y e R www.afterhoursgroup.com