Gender and Religion

The cosmology of the Balinese links dual spheres: the heavenly sphere of the gods, the sun and the mountain, and the earthly sphere of the goddesses, the earth and crops. In esoteric contexts, maleness (purusa, penis) is associated with the spiritual dimension, with the heavens, the god Akasa, provider of water and symbol of the fertilizing element, and with essence. In contrast, female-ness is associated with the chthonian dimension, with the earth and the goddess of the earth, Ibu Pertiwi, provider of food and symbol of fertility, and with substance (perdana). The fecundity of women is associated with the fertility of soil and with agricultural fertility generally. It is the fusion of the two complementary sexual principles (rua-bhinneda, the two that are different: the purusa and the perdana) which ultimately creates and maintains the cosmos and animates all life.

Priests and healers are sakti (supernaturally powerful) because of their ability to mediate between the realms of the supernatural and the everyday. Both men and women can be sakti, but women are associated with dark chthon-ian powers and are thought to be more likely than men to practice black (or left, pangiwa) magic. Women's repro-ductivity is a double-edged sword; they are valued for their fertility, but considered both powerful and dangerous, and subject to transformative change—through menstruation, conception, parturition, and menopause. At these times women are rendered impure (sebel), and hence vulnerable to bewitchment and able to wield ambiguous power.

There are various types of priests, ranging from pedanda, who must be of brahmana birth and have undergone a long training, initiation, and baptism under the tutelage of a senior pedanda, to the more humble village temple caretaker priests, pemangku, who can be of any caste and are chosen and supported by the local temple congregation. A priest is generally perceived as a male person, but the position is held by a married couple, and the wife (mangku isteri, e.g.) can officiate at rites, sacralize holy water, etc.

Healing is traditionally dominated by men and includes a wide range of occupational specializations such as bone-setting, spirit possession, massage, midwifery, herbal treatments, exorcism, divination, dispensing of charms (especially for love magic), and textual knowledge.

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Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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