[Culture/Spirituality] The Legend of Barong & Rangda
This new series will explore the origin stories and characteristics of legendary demons, spirits and deities from various cultures across the globe, examining the historical significance and cultural impact of these mythological creatures in their respected country of origin.
For our first instalment we're delving into the story behind two of the most important spiritual figures in Balinese mythology, Barong and Randga, with original photographs taken by resident creative Denholm Hewlett.
The eternal mystical conflict between Rangda and Barong is one of the most famous and ancient folklore legends in Balinese culture, portrayed through native dance performances to represent the balance between the natural world and the forces of good and evil existing in spiritual harmony.
Barong and Rangda masks can be found in almost every hindu temple in Bali, and are said to bring protection to the masses. In Balinese folklore and religious traditions, it's crucial to understand that gods, demons and witches are not considered to be entirely "good" or entirely "evil" entities, they inhabit a mystical grey area of intertwining positive and negative energies that represent the dichotomy between darkness and light.
From the light, came the existence of Barong, the ruler of light. From the darkness, came the existence of Rangda, the ruler of destruction and chaos.
Rangda is one of the most important figures in Balinese mythology and ritualistic healing traditions. The incarnation of Calon Arang, the legendary witch that wreaked havoc in ancient Java throughout the 10th century. She is depicted as an elderly naked siren with intense demonic eyes, razor harp claws, ghostly white hair, deranged tusk-fangs, and a hideously long tongue. Rangda is the odious child-eating goddess of the underworld, the malevolent grand witch of the graveyard realm.
The master of black magic, she leads a fearsome army of ghostly leyak spirits to terrorise the Balinese people with her sadistic strain of witchcraft. Although the character of Rangda is widely feared and considered by many inhabitants of Bali to be the personification of evil, she is simultaneously revered as an important protective force of nature on the island of Bali - the black goddess mother of transformational chaos and destruction.
The Barong is a sacred mystical guardian who valiantly protects the Javanese people from the terrifying witchcraft of his nemesis Rangda. Barong is the protector of Balinese culture and the bringer of good fortune. He is engaged in a never ending magical conflict with the forces of darkness, Rangda, and her inexhaustible army of sinister headless yeyak ghost witches.
The Barong is an ancient mythological creature, resembling a hybrid between a lion, cow, dragon, and Pekingese dog, brandishing a fierce red face with large sharp teeth, covered in thick white fur adorned with gilded golden jewellery, armour and small sacred mirrors. Barong is revered as the king of the spirits and the expeller of bad fortune.
He is the Javanese personification of positive energy and is believed to possess profound healing powers from the world of spirits. The true origins of this creature are somewhat of mystery, dating far back in time to days of early animist worship which pre-dates the influence of Hinduism in Bali.
This was a time when residents of the island still believed in the supernatural protective power of animals. This complexed allegory of mystical song and dance represents the invisible elemental forces of nature that humanity experience throughout the changing seasons.
~ Full gallery of Barong & Rangda photographs by Denholm Hewlett below ~
Also check out this video below of a traditional Barong & Rangda Kris dance performance in the city of Ubud in Bali ~
Stay tuned for our next instalment of the demonology series !
~ Psychic Garden