Writing as daily offering
During our recent Bali writer’s retreat while we beavered away at our writing, a family member from our compound quietly did the rounds of offerings. Dressed in a sarong and waist-sash, a young girl, woman or male relative will usually perform this daily ritual.
“A jepun flower is dipped into a bowl of tirta (water taken from a holy spring) and delicately sprinkled over the canang sari and incense to complete the fusion of earth, fire, wind and water. After three waves of the palm facing downward accompanied by a prayer, the smoke carries the essence of the offerings up to God.”
Our host Kadek Kris explained that when these daily rituals are performed (three times a day: at dawn, noon and dusk) and the perfumed incense wafts heavenward, it is an opportunity to open all the senses to awakened observation, to be still and reflect.
The canang sari are small baskets containing “white lime, red betel-nut and the green sirih or gambier plant — each representing a major Hindu God of the Trimurti — Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu. On top are placed four flowers that symbolise sincerity and love: white petals in the east of the little box for the God Iswara; red for the fiery Brahma in the south; yellow flowers — usually jepun, or ‘frangipani’ — for the God Mahadeva in the west; and blue or green for cool Vishnu in the north. “
“The average Balinese compound requires about 15 canang — the small, square, daily offerings — to be placed in strategic areas around the home and family temple. The Padma, or temple statue in the north-eastern corner, needs two. The statue next to it — the Tugu, responsible for home security — also receives two. A fifth is left on the ground in between them to placate the lower spirits.
The next is balanced on top of a compound’s well or water-bore — for watery Vishnu. Brahma, the God of Fire in the kitchen, is offered one. Other single offerings are placed in the main bedroom, on the family gazebo (or bale bengong), and one on the ground in the middle of the compound for Ibu Pertiwi, Mother Earth. The last four go outside. The Pengapit lawang — the little shrines either side of a compound gate — receive one each, and the final two are placed between them on the ground for the lower spirits. Only by honouring both the higher and lower spirits of a household can negativity be balanced with positivity — thus ensuring family harmony.”
As writers we battle the demons of negativity on a daily basis. A ritual to appease the sneaky sabateur, the negative critic, the dastedly dictator, the avid avoider, the ribald resister, seems like a good idea. Like Balinese women who spend hours of the day making palm leaf offerings, we spend hours making our writing. Keeping the writing demons at bay as we offer our writing to the writing gods (including Saraswati, goddess of knowledge, music and the arts), can help us resist all the ego-emotional traps we can so easily fall into during our writing day.
On the other pages here you will find offerings made by the writers attending our Backstage Bali 2017 writers retreat.
Each day we used a different sense to go backstage, behind the scenes of our writing, opening to a deeper layer of sense imagery and awareness. The results as you will see, were quite astounding.
Read more from our Backstage Bali Mag here.
Jan Cornall is a writer/performer/teacher who mentors writers and leads international writing workshops and retreats.www.writersjourney.com.au
Next trips heading out:
Taste of Tibet, June 7–18, a 12 day creative tour for writers and artists.
Backstage Bali, Oct 14–21, seven days, mountains and ricefields retreat.
Moroccan Caravan, Mar 4–17, 2018. A camel riding/writing adventure into the Sahara.
© Jan Cornall 2017