Twins and customs in Bali and Java


Talking about Jevon's haircut today Ika and I discussed twins. In Bali the birth of male and female twins (kembar buntjing) is considered bad omen for the family and indeed the whole village is considered ritually unclean (sebel). The words used to describe the mixed twins (manak salah) come under the title of 'child blunder' and are blamed on the father.

Once the birth has been reported the village priest will close the temple with a sign of taboo (sawen) meaning village ceremonies will come to a standstill and the cultural life of the village is halted. Needless to say you don't want to be the one who is responsible for this. The newborns and their parents are exiled for 42 days, together with their house which has been moved, after which it will be burned. On returning to the village an elaborate and expensive metjaru purification ceremony will take place, the guilty father footing the bill. If he has no money he must sell his land and might even have to beg from house to house. In the 1800's a father might even become a village slave until he could repay the cost of the ceremony. In communal Bali good luck and bad luck affect not only a person but their family and community.

Ika told me that nowadays in Java the mixed twins must be separated for maybe 3-4 years. They can be reunited afterwards. I know that in the villages in Bali when a young child has an accident the local traditions will be of paramount importance, rather than the police. Autopsies will probably not happen if it's a family affair, so one wonders what goes on behind the scenes.

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In high caste Balinese families the birth of mixed is a good omen and if they marry each other it will bring prosperity. Ika told me that in Java the former landlord of the neighborhood had a fair amount of land and didn't want to share it with other families. Not wanting his kids to marry outsiders he forced them to marry each other. Pretty weird but not the norm.