home > performing art > magic dances of the street > onying >


A singular and striking form of Balinese religious expression is still perpetuated at some Odalan, in which devotees, who are usually elder women, are 'visited' by the gods and dance in an ecstatic 'trance' state, with daggers and spears.

Like the dancers the devotees often inhale quantities of pungent incense before becoming possessed. The dancing are orderly enough at the beginning : the step and gestures rather resemble ceremonial Baris.

But suddenly, first one, then several, and then all of the dancers are crying and shouting, their bodies taut and shaking with tension. First the kris is extended high in the right hand and brandished, and then the dancer presses it to her chest, straining to stab herself.

A few male priests are also among the struggling, shuddering, women. Some dancers hurl themselves to the ground as they try, uselessly, to pierce their bodies with the two-foot kris. They report feeling a rush of 'hot' emotion, and an itching of the skin during the rite.

Priest and older female attendants move calmly among the dancers with bottles of holy water, sprinkling those who need restraint or relief. Adult men in squads surge here and there to help control particularly violent participants.

Then, slowly, one by one the devotees slump limply as the god leaves them. They are carried into a small pavilion to be brought out of trance with additionally holy water.

The self-stabbing tests and demonstrates the strength of the god who possesses the dancer. Once possessed, the dancer is invulnerable to harm and proves it.

The self stabbing (onying) is not associated with any particular deity, has no particular story, and it is not necessarily associated with any other performances at all.

Copyright 2012, Bali-Island.com Indonesia