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  Rangda

In south balinese villages it is typical for two examples of a particular, truly remarkable, mask to be kept. This is the fierce mask of long-tongued Rangda, the witch, widely shown in films and books about Bali.

One of the two Rangda is customarily kept in the Pura Desa, the village temple, where it serves to protect the village from harm, just as the Barong of various kinds are kept to protect the smaller banjar (ward association).

The second mask, which like its counterpart is cut from the living wood of the Rangdu (kapok) tree and consecrated in a special ceremony, is kept in the Pura Dalem ('death temple'). There it protects the village against the buta who congregate in low, dirty, and dangerous places like the nearby graveyard.

In common with every magically-powerful thing, the Rangda mask is regarded with respect and is considered potentially dangerous, but despite its fierce and grotesque appearance the mask is regarded as benevolent force in the life of the community.

The two masks are given the names Ratu Dalem (monarch of the temple) and Ratu Desa (monarch of the village).

In Kesiman village, Badung Province, is Pura Pengrebongan (meeting temple), a place of worship sacred to the mask of Barong and Rangda. Its Odalan (calendrical temple festival) famous all over Bali for the cock-fights held in connection with the festivities.

The occasion is always host to a great gathering of the Barong and Rangda from the villages nearby. Thirty or thirty five of the powerful masks are there, as well as more than a dozen Rangda.

The great gathering takes place in the Jeroan. This is the only time the Barong ever enter that area. With their followers gathered around them, the mighty masks and costumes are set down on the ground, while prayers are offered to the goddess of the temple.

Tension mounts as the prayers continue. Concentration of energy in the space is enormous. The concentration of power in the courtyard and the descent of the goddess brings on the same onying possession experienced by the old women.

The young men who follow the Barong are stronger than the old women and their gyrations with the kris are more acrobatic. Each dancer has a personal style of doing the stabbing. Some lean back, bent almost double with exertion, while others throw themselves to the ground with two kris pressed point first to their eyeballs. The participants are rarely injured.

The buta, presumably gorged with blood shed for their benefit at the cock-fight, are driven forth by the horrendous din. Another purpose of the event is the re-consecration of the powerful masks by the descending goddess.

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