844 days, 20,256 hours, 1,215,360 minutes, or 72,921,600 seconds. That is the approximate duration of my world tour. I never wanted it to end and now, in a manner of speaking, I suppose it never has to. If you wish to go by country do so by clicking on one above. They are numbered in the order I visited them, more or less. If you enjoy reading about it even a tenth as much as I enjoyed living it then you will not have wasted your time. Grab a refreshing beverage, settle in a comfortable chair, and make a journey across the world, experiencing it as I did. Then get off your ass and check it out for yourself. You're not getting any younger.

Underbelly Bali (Black Magic, Indonesia)

For an updated version of this post/website, go here.

There is a darker side to the animism that is such an intricate part of Balinese culture. It's magic. Black magic. I am talking about curses, possessions, hexes, and a myriad of other phenomenon more befitting the likes of Haiti than the island of Bali. A month and a half here and I had not even the slightest inkling of this underbelly. I hate being clueless.

I was lucky enough to be invited to a dinner party by a German expatriate. In attendance was an Australian women that had been living here for over five years. She had quite a tale to tell.

At one point during her sojourn she suffered a terrible injury as a result of a motorbike crash. She veered off a bridge and crashed into the water below breaking her back in the process. Ouchie. While convalescing she enlisted the help of a local woman to assist in her recovery at home.

One night she claims to have witnessed the supernatural possession of her home aide in a manner fit for The Exorcist. After some Hollywood style contortions and a complete change in demeanor a 'new' woman emerged claiming to be a completely different person. So disturbing was this sequence that her husband was summoned to assist but upon seeing his 'wife' subsequently broke down into tears.

After the woman recovered a couple hours later (with no memory of the incident) she claimed to know exactly who had done this to her. No question about it. Her possession was orchestrated by an adversary and she knew who it was responsible. Payback time. (Duuum-duh-dum-duuum....duuuuuuummm!)

The Aussy told me that if I were to question an expatriate living in Bali for any length of time as to whether or not they believe in magic the answer would be unanimous: Does a tiger shit in the jungle? Yes.

Remember the accident? Team Australia (Obviously her name eludes me) is quite certain dark forces were at play. When she arrived in Bali there were many locals vying for her attention and she is certain that one or more individuals developed a grudge. This might explain why at one point she found curious items lying around her house to include small bags containing lockets of hair. Charms? Curses? Unique fetishes? Who the hell knows but if you ask her someone channeled their negativity nefariously thereby facilitating her motorcycle mishap (insert ominous score here).

When she was in the process of building a home one of the workers spotted a 'spirit' wandering through the forest. Apparently, wandering spirits are not good. Not good at all! Construction halted until a shaman/priestly type was summoned to purify the area. In every Balinese home you will find a small offering stand somewhere within prominently displayed and in constant use. Keep the spirits happy or face their wrath.

Consequently, I did a little asking around and discovered that the existence of magic is a foregone conclusion in Balinese society. However, most folks are hesitant to discuss it openly, especially in the presence of foreigners. This partially explains my obliviousness.

A small business owner in Ubud told me that magic is for the unsophisticated and uneducated (He did so without even a hint of irony). Only those of an ignorant ilk trifle with such forces for the most part. Want to exploit the dark arts to seduce a potential mate? You can do so but the consequences will, in the long run, be dire. The use of magic for personal gain only leads to hardship and ruin which explains why most avoid that path (Or do they?). Exploiting the dark arts selfishly will only lead to a short term advantage. In the long term disaster awaits the trifler. Don't be a trifler.

However, it is not all 'black'. When an individual passes out of the living realm contact is made with the recently departed in order to fulfill his or her wishes. Only way to be sure. Miss your dear old dad? No reason you can't visit the local shaman and make a long distance call. The business man I referenced above relayed a story about his uncle that desperately missed his father who passed five years previous. He wanted very much to speak with him. Off to the holy man he went.

Although it may not be obvious at first there are some deep ramifications to this belief system. The bombings in 2002 and 2004 left a deep impression on residents of the island. Imagine if instead of placing the blame on outside forces you were too look inward and examine your own behavior as a contributing cause of the calamity? One man I spoke to says many had done just that and interpreted the attacks as an indictment of their own actions and the weakening of their faith. In his words many Balinese had 'lost their way' and felt the disaster was a a signal from the gods instructing them to shape up.

What do I make of this? Beats the hell out of me. None of what you hear and half of what you see. My mind is wide open to the unexplainable but all I have now is heresy and speculation. I believe they believe it. Still, I've experienced none of it and, in fact, this is the first I have heard of such things (at least here anyway). I'd like to see more but I have a feeling attempting to penetrate this underbelly will not be met with the warmest reception. Real or imagined I'd like to avoid being cursed just the same.

I am not ready to start mixing spider legs and goat urine just yet, but I think I'll put the flying broomstick on layaway just to be safe. If you want to read more start by throwing 'black magic' and 'Bali' into Google and see what springs up. You might want to stuff a rabbit's foot in your ass just to be safe. Good luck.


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'Love me or hate me, but spare me your indifference.' -- Libbie Fudim