Visiting a Healer in Bali

magic drawing
made surya
woman healer
body worker
By Madé Surya

For several years it has become the “In Thing” for tourists to pay a visit to a healer during their holiday in Bali. With the release of the film based on the wildly popular book “Eat Pray Love”, the demand has exceeded all boundaries. I have been told that the concierge at all the top hotels in the Ubud area are expected to know directions to the Pengosekan home of Ketut Leyir, the Balian featured in the book.

But how many of these tourists bother to learn even the slightest bit of protocol regarding such a visit, or study even the most cursory Indonesian in order to greet them? I have been asked to translate for visits to Balian by visitors who landed in Bali 2 days prior, and who had no background in Bali-Hindu culture or religion, something the anthropologists and historians have written volumes about. How to put what they are hearing and experiencing into the larger context that it is set?

Basic Facts about Balians

Balinese trade information about Balians with skill and charisma, because we do not believe in anyone who declares himself a “Healer”. There are bogus practitioners, some quite famous.

Most Balians were “chosen”, they did not choose. They came to discover their gifts in the course of trying to heal themselves.

Balians do not advertise, draw attention to themselves, or like to be addressed as Balian. This can invite jealousy and bad feelings.

Balian Etiquette

  • Real Balians receive their gifts from a spirit, based on Bali Hindu philosophy. They credit this spirit with giving them their gift of healing. Others through a very long intensive study and initiation from a well-known healer(s) or High Priest(esses). They are the Balinese equivalent of a “doctor”, who has to follow an etiquette and moral code, which is not that different than the modern doctor.
  • Healers are not regarded like movie stars or celebrities so don’t treat them like one.
  • There are so many types of healers who work on specific problems, from broken bones to broken heart, mental disorders to “mysterious” problems, so chose one that is appropriate for you.
  • Expect that it will be a process--expect to receive several treatments at least and that you might have to change Balians if one does not work.

    * It is not an instant process; so don’t expect to be healed on your way to the Airport.

  • Balinese bring an offering to a healer, with a token of appreciation (fee) inside. At the conclusion of the day, the healer dedicates this offering to their spirit in the family temple. People give what they can afford. Foreigners should give at least 100,000rp. Think of what you pay your Doctor! Your offering should never be less than what you are paying your guide or driver.
  • Balians are regarded on a status similar to priests. Consequently if you visit one, you should show respect by dressing in a sarong and temple scarf.
  • Remember always to give your offering with your right hand, and never point the bottoms of your feet at the healer. Never ever touch their head or face, which is the most sacred part of their (and your) body.


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