It's For More Than Drinking
Arak isn't only used for recreational purposes, it's widely utilized
for medicinal and religious reasons. Many balians,
who are practitioners of traditional Balinese medicine, prescribe
it externally to relieve aches and pains as well as a part of
cures for more serious problems. One balian gave
me a list of herbs and roots, telling me to mix them in a base
It's also used in Balinese Hindu religious
ceremonies. Typically it's poured from a bottle into
a tapan, a ladle made from a banana
leaf. The worshiper or priest holds the tapan in
the left hand and wafts the essence of the arak with his right
hand, often using a flower held between the fingers to aim
it towards the gods in a gesture called ngayabang.
Then, shifting the tapan to the right hand, the arak is poured
on the ground as an offering to the spirits. This second act
is called matabuh, which refers
to the spilling of a liquid on the ground as an offering to
the lower spirits. Arak used for this purpose is very low quality.
The good stuff is saved for drinking.