• Chris Edwards

Dispatch from North Bali: 2012

Updated: Jan 4, 2021

This story appeared in the local media. As is often the case, truth is stranger than fiction. Not sure if the bride wore white.

The Bali Post reports that Sangit, Buleleng, North Bali was awash with frantic activity on Tuesday, 4 October 2011, as the entire village gathered on the ocean’s shore to participate in the ritual drowning of a cow.

The ill-fated cow, sentenced to an early watery grave, was known to have recently been sexually violated by a 25 year old man from the village, identified only as “MS.”

Sexual intercourse with an animal is viewed by most Balinese as “salah karma,” entailing grave consequences in the order of the cosmos.

The incident between the man and the bovine occurred in September and became known to the entire village, who termed the encounter a “disaster,” demanding group prayers and special offerings be made.

According to the village chief or “Klian” of Sangsit, the required cleansing ceremony required the drowning in the ocean of the cow that had been carnally known by MS.

On Tuesday morning, the hapless animal was ritually cleansed at a village temple and then dressed in colourful cloths, symbolizing the adornments of a “bride” to be wed to MS.

Afterwards the cow was loaded into a local boat, hauled out to sea and pushed overboard, where it was allowed to drown.

Meanwhile MS was compelled to remove his clothing which were symbolically thrown into the water with his “bride”, representing his own drowning. Fresh clothing were given to the man on the boat who, when he returned to shore, was considered ritually cleansed of his sin.

The entire ceremony cost around RP 40 million (US $4,450) and was paid from contributions from all members of the village. Surprisingly MS (known to be a man of limited financial means) was not asked to make any financial contributions for the ceremony by his fellow villagers.

The traditional and ritual head of the village, Jro Gede Segara, told The Bali Post that the act was committed by the village member while the perpetrator was “under a spell and not conscious of his actions. The incident was part of a natural cycle committed unintentionally, (because of this) the village must receive the consequences as matter of fate” explained Segara.

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