(Notes for the Abu Dhabi Bar Mitzvah)

Archive for spirit

Next of Soul — أقارب الروح

His house was out past the rice fields and the cocks crowing in the late afternoon. Through the narrow stone entrance, small stone houses gathered together with roofs like the bristles of a broom. In an open hut on stilts, Jero the tapakan sat on a white tile stage at his guests’ shoulder height, dressed ceremonially in white sarong, white shirt, and white headdress.

My family and I were seated below him on a wooden bench, introduced by Bagus, the son of the high priest of Ubud, who spoke in a mixture of High Balinese and vernacular Indonesian. Bagus had suggested we pay this visit in the spirit of openness and curiosity — the business of the tapakan (literally, “foundation”), his role in the community, was to communicate with the dead, with spirits, with the pasts and futures we had no access to on our own.

[Listen along here:]

He sat flanked by offerings of flowers and fruit, and the basket my mother had presented to him from her head, as custom demands. From atop the bananas of our basket, a wrinkled woman plucked a 50,000 rupiah note and left the tapakan to his work. He lit three sticks of incense and pressed his head to the plastic wrapped, wooden post of the hut.

There were few other formalities of introduction. To Bagus, whose name is conferred on all members of the priestly class and may translate to “good” or “posh” or “beautiful” or “dandy”, our host confirmed that we were Christians. (We weren’t — still aren’t — but dared not interrupt.)

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