[Photography] Barong & Rangda
Psychic Garden's new Demonology series shall explore the genesis stories and characteristics of legendary demons, spirits and deities from cultures across the globe, examining the historical and cultural impact of these mythological creatures globally and in their respected country of origin.
For our first instalment we're delving deep into the story of the two most important spiritual figures in Balinese mythology, Barong and Randga, illustrated with photos 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.
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. Barong and Rangda masks can be found in almost every hindu temple in Bali, and are said to bestow protection to the masses.
From the light, came the existence of Barong, the ruler of light and prosperity. From the darkness, came the existence of Rangda, the ruler of destruction and chaos. Rangda is one of the most key 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.
Rangda 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 Rangda is widely feared and considered to be the personification of evil, she is simultaneously revered as a key protective force of nature on the island of Bali - the black goddess mother of transformational chaos and destruction.
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 all across Bali as the king of good spirits and the expeller of bad fortune.
In Balinese folklore, Barong is said to have been created by the God Shiva, who ordered the creature to go to the human world to eat up all the monsters that existed. After Barong ate all the monsters, he was the only one left, so he ate his own body, leaving just his head. People later found his head alive and put it on an altar to worship Shiva's creation that brought balance to the world. This is why, in traditional Barong performances, humans give him a body, so that Barong can continue his eternal attempt to eat himself.
The legendary Barong is the sacred mystical guardian who valiantly protects the Javanese people from the terrifying witchcraft of his nemesis Rangda. Barong is said to be the protector of Balinese culture and the bringer of good fortune. This magical beast is engaged in a never ending magical conflict with the forces of darkness, Rangda, locked in a constant battle against her inexhaustible army of sinister headless yeyak ghost witches.
Barong 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, a time when residents of the island still believed in the supernatural protective powers bestowed to humanity through animals. This complexed allegory of mystical song, music and dance represents the invisible elemental forces of nature that humanity experience throughout the changing seasons.
We hope you enjoyed our first Demonology article. Check out this video below of a traditional Barong & Rangda Kris dance ~
~ Psychic Garden