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The Barong

The witch has a contender for supremacy in a fantastic animal, a mythical " lion " called Barong. Because of an ancient. feud with Rangda, he sides with human beings to thwart her. evil plans, and the Balinese say that without his help humanity would be destroyed. While Rangda is female, the magic of, the left,"" the Barong is the " right," the male. Rangda is the night, the darkness from which emanate illness and death. the Barong is the sun, the light, medicine, the antidote for evil.

Every community owns a set of the costumes and masks of both characters. These masks have great power in themselves and are kept out of sight in a special shed in the death temple of the village. They are put away in a basket, wrapped a magic cloth that insulates their evil vibrations, and are uncovered only when actually in use, when the performer-medium is in a' trance and under the control of a priest, and not before offerings have been made to prevent harm to the participants. At, the feasts of the death temples their masks are uncovered and exhibited in one of the shrines. It is a good precaution to sprinkle. These masks with holy water when someone is sick in the village.

Like the Rangda, the Barong is treated with great respect and the Balinese address him by titles such as Banaspati Radja," " Lord of the jungle," or as Djero" Gede', " The Big One," rather than as Barong, which is only a generic name for his sort of monster.
Despite his demoniac character, the Barong materializes in a trance play in which be is made to act foolishly and to dance for the amusement of the crowd. His costume consists of a great frame covered with long hair, with a sagging back of golden' scales set with little mirrors. A beautifully arched gold tail sticks out of his rump and from it hang a square mirror, a bunch of peacock feathers, and a cluster of little bells that jingle at every move. Under a high gilt crown is his red mask, too small for his body, with bulging eyes and snapping jaws. The power of the Barong is concentrated in his beard, a tuft of human hair decorated with flowers. The Barong is animated by two specially trained men who form the front and hind quarters of the animal, the man in front operating the mask with his hands.

In Pemecutan the Barong play began with a performance of djauk, a group of boys wearing grinning white masks, who danced to the delicate tunes of a legong orchestra called in this case bebarongan. After the dance the two Barong performers went under the costume that lay inanimate on two poles, the mask covered by a white cloth. Like a circus prop-horse, the Barong danced, wiggling his hind quarters, lying down, contracting and expanding like an accordion, snapping his jaws, and in general behaving in a comic, rather undignified manner for his awesome character. After his gay outburst of animal spirits, he began a long dance, staring around as if astounded by magic visions that filled the air. He was constantly on the alert for invisible enemies, growing more and more alarmed, clicking his teeth like castanets as the tempo of the music increased. Firecrackers began to explode at the far end of the arena, startling the Barong, and when the smoke cleared, the figure of Rangda appeared, yelling curses at the Barong, who appeared humiliated by her insults. But eventually he reacted and they rushed at each other, fighting and rolling on the ground until the Barong was made to bite the dust.

In the meantime a group of half-naked men sitting on a mat went into a trance. They were the assistants of the Barong against Rangda. A priest consecrated some water by dipping the Barong's beard into it, and sprinkled the men, who shook all over as if in an epileptic fit. With their eyes glued on the Rangda, they got up, drawing their krisses, advancing like fidgety automatons towards the witch, who awaited them ready with her white cloth, her weapon, ready in her raised band. Suddenly she ran after them, but just then one of the priests on watch noticed something unusual in her behavior and passed the word that she was out of control. She was caught by a group of strong men and led away, but not before she had put a spell on the entranced men by joining the thumbs of her outstretched hands and yelling a curse.

By the spell, the krisses in the hands of the men turned against them, but the magic of the Barong hardened their flesh so that, although they pushed the sharp points of the daggers with all their might against their naked chests, they were not even hurt. This was the explanation the Balinese gave of the strange exhibition and it seemed inconceivable that they were faking such was the earnest force with which they seemed to try to stab themselves. Some leaped wildly or rolled in the dust, pressing the
krisses against their breasts and crying like children, tear streaming from their eyes. Most showed dark marks where the point of the dagger bruised the skin without cutting it, but blood began to flow from the breast of one, the signal for the watchmen to disarm him by force.

It is said that only by a complete trance can the dance be performed with impunity; otherwise a man will wound himself or hurt others. They were closely watched and if one of them gave signs of returning to consciousness he was quickly and violently disarmed. Possessed as they are, they have supernatural strength and it takes many men to hold them down. Even after the kris has been wrenched away they continue to dance with a blank stare and with the right fist still clenched as if grasping the kris handle. To take the men out of the trance, they were led, one by one, to where the Barong stood; someone sucked the bleeding chest of the wounded man and stuck a red flower in the cut. The pemangku wiped the face of each man with the beard of the Barong dipped in holy water, and gradually the hysterical men came out of the trance, dazed, simply walking away as if they did not know what had happened to them.



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