I was on about day 2 or 3 of being very ill, as in roughly one-third of a 24-hour period in the bathroom, half in bed, and the rest of the time, semi-functioning in a hunched over position holding my stomach. While most people said I had “Bali belly,” the voice of paranoia in me said, ‘coincidentally all your symptoms are the same as those of malaria.’
On this day my Healing Arts program was to go to see a Balian Usada near Ubud. I was so looking forward to this, and I figured, maybe he could help me recover faster, so despite alternating feeling like I would puke or faint, I went along.
When it was my turn for a consultation, after doing a diagnostic check on me and not finding any chronic conditions, he tells me, ‘you healthy, what can I do for you?’ I said, ‘yes, normally I am healthy, but these last few days I’m very sick to my stomach.’ And he says, ‘oh yes,’ then poking my toes, ‘you have some problem here and here and here, but not here,’ while I writhe in pain. ‘Ok, let me see your stomach, oh yes, problem here. I help you. But no more drinking water alone; when you drink water you must eat something. Eat something with salt, with sugar. Eat-drink, eat-drink together. But now, I make something to help you, and I put here,’ pointing to my lower abdomen. Then he wanders off.
Little did I know what was in store for me. Until he comes back. Chewing. I had heard stories.
I’d heard stories of people being ‘spit’ on by Balians, but hardly believed it. And now I was going to be next.
Chew, chew, chew, then, ‘pchet, pchet, pchet,’ masticated green plants come flying out of his mouth onto my belly, sarong, and shirt.
It didn’t feel like anything, just a bit perturbed that I now had someone’s spit running down the sides of my waist. And that was it. (Just what it looks like in the picture.) I did feel a little bit better that day, and followed his advice to have crackers with my water. But in the end “Bali belly” ran its course and it took a few more days before recovery.
Believe it or not, there is a special technique that Balians, or any Balinese healers, must learn to correctly masticate the herbs. It involves holding the tongue down so as to minimize saliva production and prevent accumulation of liquids in the herbs. Ever tried eating without moving your tongue? It’s a lot more difficult than it sounds.
While chewing the herbs, the healer thinks of the goal he is trying to accomplish, telling the herbs their purpose, and passing his intention into the herbs through his chewing.
Then using 2 fingers pressed over the lips to guide the spitting, the healer projects the chewed herbs onto the appropriate area. And the patient is required to allow the spit and herbs to remain for anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours, without wiping them off.
Other Spitting Stories
I wasn’t the only lucky one getting spit on. During my later observation of this healer, a diver with a sinus infection came and asked the healer to speed up his time to recovery. So the Balian went and found some herbs, including ginger, and after masticating them, spit them onto the man’s cheeks and nose. The man was very taken aback by this, but then he relented and sat there with other patient’s eyeing him funnily. Meanwhile the herbs were getting hotter and hotter, but the man was told you must wait until they are very hot and they dry before you can wipe them off. Fortunately for him, they never seemed to get unbearably hot. Unlike in the next case…
One of the ladies in my Healing Arts program had gone to see this healer on a previous trip on a day where she, coincidentally, had severe cramp-like pains in her stomach. Much like he did for man with the sinus infection, the healer chewed up the herbs and spit them all down the side of her face. (I’m not sure why her face when she had a stomach problem *-^) And then told her that they’d get hotter but that she wasn’t allowed to wipe them off for at least 1 hour. Soon after, she left his house and in the car, her traveling companions were all taking photos of the green goop down the side of her face. Meanwhile it became hotter, and hotter. And hotter. Until it was burning. She said she seriously felt her face was on fire. But it wasn’t time to wipe them off yet. Just burning hot… And then they started to cool down. Right about that time she could also wipe her face.
This same lady had the joy of being spit on by the same healer on the face again this time. Luckily this time it didn’t burn, but she counts herself proud to have been spit on twice.
While not a well-known or widely used technique, masticating herbs and transferring healing power from the healer through spit and herbs to the patient is used by some Balian healers. (Click the links in the post above to learn more about Balinese healing.)
I wonder if this happens in other shamanistic healing traditions as well. Does anyone have any similar experiences? Or perhaps you’ve joined the ranks of us having been spit on by a Balian and would like to share your story?