A few nights ago in a carved roofless temple, under the full moon, all 500 people in my village sat cross legged on the ground. Each freshly bathed in beautiful ceremonial clothing. Men, myself included, with sharp ornate krises in their sash, women perfumed and glowing under the moon. A stick of incense burning in front of each of us. Praying hands raised with a flower between a thousand hands while a Hindu priest chanted the Ramayana story. A toddler wandered between us happily babbling to each he passed. Everyone touched him, offered their lap. Everyone welcoming caring, everyone family. Everyone raising him, smiling, caring for another’s child. No strangers, except me, and I welcomed like the toddler by everyone.
The beautiful gilded carved stone ark in the temple opened. From it the Barong emerged, a costume with two men, for the villagers the Barong was inhabited by the Gods. Under the moon we followed behind the Barong, a long winding procession down streets and through the moonlit rice paddy purifying the village. The eldest men came up and softly held my hand telling me the stories of the village and its gods, smiling a welcome in the reflected glow of the moon.