Balinese Healer

Healers in Bali are a good example of practitioners of magico-medical knowledge. Their medical diagnosis and practice needs to be understood within the magical, animistic worldview of Bali in which spirits permeate reality. Understanding healing practices in Bali necessitates an examination of this worldview, as well as the particular practices and negotiations that the healers engage in with patients. 
Cokorda rai balinese healer
The concept of healers (Balian in Balinese, Dukun in Indonesian) is a broad one, with practitioners ranging from traditional healers of mental or physical illnesses, to bone setters, massage therapists, mediums, and clairvoyants. Balians are ubiquitous in Bali. McCauley (1964) estimates that there is one healer for every 500 people while Muninjaya (1982) estimates that there are one for every 1000. According to Prof. Luh Katut Suryani (personal communication) the number of traditional healers has increased in Bali in the decade from 1988-1998 from 2500 traditional healers to 3500.
Balians tend to specialize in one particular area, and they often even specialize in a particular kind of illness. We can reduce the welter of kinds of Balians found described in the literature to three types:1) Balian Usada. These are the traditional healers who have studied lontars, books inscribed on palm leaves, often written in Kawi, or Old Javanese; lontars are the sacred texts of the Balinese, and some of them relate to healing. As sacred, the lontars are efficacious for healing in two ways; on the one hand, they contain descriptions of illnesses, how to diagnose them, and how to cure them; on the other and, the lontars themselves contain magical power, which can be effective in healing. However, this aspect of the lontars perhaps relates more to the third category of healers. In a survey conducted in 1978 by the Department of Health in Bali (quoted in Muninjaya, p 39), it was found that 42% of the healers were Balian Usada.2) Balian Takson. Comprising 46% of the healers (Muninjaya, 1982), Balian Takson are mediums, usually trance mediums who receive information from the spiritual world. These healers are often consulted by the Balinese. In my study of them (Edge, 1993), I found that the Balians diagnosed illnesses to be due to the failure to carry out ritual obligations, often toward ancestors, and normally the healing was predicated on making the appropriate offerings, bringing their lives and the transcendent world back into balance.3) Balian Paica. These are healers that possess a power object. As indicated above, sometimes this object is a lontar or set of lontars, but often it is a stone or even an object that purportedly has been materialized during meditation. The survey (Muninjaya, 1982) found that 12% of healers fit into this category. While the classic instance of this category relates to having a power object, we can put into this category others who have discovered through dreams or through intuition a special healing technique; sometimes these techniques are combined with the use of a power object, and sometimes they are not.

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