Bali's Mystical 'Rain Stoppers'
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because what if you could guarantee that the weather wouldn’t ruin your wedding day in Bali?
By Leslie Nguyen-Okwu
Bali’s brilliant sunsets and crystal waters make this paradise island a dream getaway. That is, until the torrential downpour. But the pawang hujan, Bali’s mystical rain stoppers, promise to chase away the unwanted precipitation — or your money back, guaranteed.
Bali’s infamous wet season lasts from November to March, but more than a million tourists last year braved the risk of nonstop drizzle to experience their own little piece of paradise. Every year, foreign tourists and locals alike shell out hundreds of dollars for a clear, sunny day via shamanistic powers. There are even hotels, wedding planners and golf courses in Bali that have their own on-call pawang hujans to ensure some respite from the rain.
Bali native I Made Warmana is the go-to rain shaman at the Saint Regis Bali Resort, a luxury beachfront hotel that sits on the Indian Ocean. For $300, Warmana will use his rain-stopping rituals to clear the skies for outdoor weddings, conference events, religious ceremonies, funerals — you name it. He will also provide his services for two million rupiah, or $164, if you call him directly. (His calendar, however, is booked for all of December. Such is life for a rain shaman in the wet season.)
In Bali, the pawang hujan is one of many types of shamans, or dukuns, who cater to all sorts of magical and mystical day-to-day needs.
According to Warmana, it’s a matter of deep prayer, meditation and offerings to the universe. He also uses smoke from burning incense to push the clouds away and divert the rain elsewhere in Bali. Success depends less on meteorology and more on faith, he stresses. “Even if you pay a hundred million [rupiah], it’s not going to happen. This is about prayers and belief, that the universe will receive the prayers and belief with positive energy,” he says.
Katrina Simorangkir, a wedding planner who runs Bali Weddings International, helps connect some of her clients to pawang hujan to ensure good weather for their big wedding day. She explains that these spiritual rain powers are a Balinese belief and not an exact science. But “people who come to Bali are coming for that spiritual experience anyway.” In other words, it’s not for those who come to party and surf.
In Bali, the pawang hujan is just one of many types of shamans, or dukuns, who cater to all sorts of magical and mystical day-to-day needs. The long list includes black magic shamans for sorcery, healing shamans for health and car shamans for, well, your car. “Your car got problems? Headlights not working? Bad brakes? Funny noises? Don’t take it to a mechanic — go get it smoked and chanted over by a dukun mobil,” explains Doug Meikle, an Australian who moved with his partner to Bali in 2010.
Meikle says he is still a skeptic and has yet to see a rain shaman work his magic, although he has attended a handful of rain-free weddings in Bali shielded by an “invisible umbrella” while rain poured in the distance. “Of course, it could be due to topographical peculiarities, but ‘pawang hujan’ sounds so much more romantic,” Meikle jests.
This OZY encore was originally published Dec. 7, 2014.