Thanks to Ibu Cat Wheeler for this great post in the Bali Advertiser on the ancient role of the Balian, or traditional healer.
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Thus the ancient role of the Balian, who is guided by the gods to aid humans through mysticism and ritual, is reduced to just another item on the tourist itinerary to be sandwiched between a massage and a cycling tour.
“I’ve had people tell me they need to be at the airport by five o’clock but still have a few hours, so take me to a healer,” said I Made Surya, who is named in Lonely Planet On-line Travel as the leading authority on Balinese healers. “These are not people with problems to be solved; they look on it as entertainment.”
Balians are traditional healers who play an important part in the local culture by treating physical and mental illness, removing spells and channeling information from the ancestors. The Balian is an instrument of divine healing, and the client enters a covenant to receive this healing with respect, reverence and humility. There are about 8,000 practicing in Bali, outnumbering medical doctors. Anthropologists and scholars have been studying Balians for almost a century but the book Eat, Pray, Love focused international attention on the men and women of magic for the first time. Since then Surya has seen an escalating demand to be taken to ‘a healer’, even by people who had nothing wrong with them.