Encountering Horse Spirits

Trip Start Jun 15, 2006
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Trip End Jul 15, 2006


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Flag of Indonesia  ,
Sunday, July 2, 2006

First of 3 days over-night visiting Borobudur, the largest Buddhist stupa in Indonesia (the world?). On the way there we stopped at Candi Mendut, the first place 8th/9th century Buddhists would have stopped on their pilgrimmage to Borobudur. A rather small temple which houses the largest statue of Buddha in the country. The outside is adorned with beautiful reliefs of lessons portrayed with animals.
About 100 yards from the north side there is the most fantastic tree I have ever seen in my whole entire life. I wish I was wearing better shoes, I really wanted to climb it.
Also nearby, a newly built (within the last 5 or 6 years) Buddhist monastery. On the grounds there were gifts from Buddhist groups around Asia, really showcasing the connections between followers of the faith. I circumembulated a bohdi tree and admired the peace found within the gates.

While stopping to eat lunch at the Tingal Youth Hostel (beautiful - and cheap too - one night in the dormotory is 15,000Rp - nicer, private rooms range from $4 to $30 American), we heard a band warming up across the street. We were soon informed that within the hour there would be a trance dance performance. I don't know how many of you are familiar with Indonesian trance dancing but it is some crazy stuff. I had seen a documentary on it a while back - glass eating kind of stuff. Naturally we went to investigate. We waited around for about 10 minutes (talking to some locals in alternating broken Indonesian and English) before 6 teenagers appeared flanked by 3 older men - all brightly adorned.
The dancing started, subtle, in unison. These particular dancers were aiming to access the horse spirits, so their meditative dance included Javanese hobby horses. After a while, we realized they were possessed. As the crowd grew, the guys began dancing with more animation, wandering between the "dance floor" and the table of offerings. They eagerly ate flower petals and fruit as curious onlookers were mesmorized by their eyes, feet, and the music. After some time, the older gentleman began to "detox" the boys by removing the spirits from their bodies in a process involving very little body contact, but looking nonetheless painful.
Don't worry, I video-recorded a lot of the dance, and I will upload it to the blog when I get a chance, so you can all see what I saw.

I'm not even going to talk about Borobudur, save it all for tomorrow, present I have not the willpower to do it justice. Instead, I will move on to another oddity.
After spending the afternoon exploring the temple were deicided to take some horse carriages to a restuarant nearby for dinner.
For some reason, one of the horses was especially jittery, kicking quite a bit before we all got in. No one really wanted to get on the jumpy horse's carriage, so Kathleen, Tiff, and I decided to be brave. We also hoped the horese would calm down once it started walking. No such luck - it was kicking and going nuts while we were leaving the hotel grounds. By the time we got to the gate, the horse was really spooked, running straight into it, causing the top to collapse on us passengers. We jumped off - no way anyone would get back on. We walked back to the hotel, deciding dinner there would be the safest thing to do.
Scariest horse mojo... ever. And totally not a coincidence after having experienced the trance dance.
Over dinner we discussed other eerie experiences we have all had - ghost stories, encounters with spirits - and went to bed all feeling a little on edge...

In addition, I would just like to say diets with rice as a staple food do nothing for one's daily need of fiber. But I am finally adjusting. I pooped twice today!
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