A Balinese wedding: our dear Meri becomes an Ibu

Our dear friend and colleague at Threads of Life, Meri, was married the end of July. As is the Balinese custom, the husband’s family traveled to the bride’s home to oversee the important Nyedek, Ngidih and Mejapti rituals before she was able to move into her husband’s family’s home where the wedding ceremony was held.

The Nyedek was the first part of the ritual discussions where the groom’s family and elders of their community spoke with Meri’s father and uncles to confirm that they had made all the preparations for Meri to move to their home. They assured Meri’s family that they had chosen an auspicious day with the approval of their community and blessings from the high priest. 

The second ritual discussion between the two families was the Ngidih, between the adat administrators and elders from each family, along with the bride and groom, sought agreement about the ceremony required at Meri’s family home.

Before any ceremony takes place, including the Mepejati and wedding, there is a purification ceremony called Mebiyakala. This purification involves letting go of any disturbing energy and receiving positive energy in preparation for a life change. Chinese coins and white cotton threads and white rice mixed with turmeric along with chopped dadap (Erythrina variegata) leaves were placed on the back of the bride's hands. She then threw her hands backwards indicating that she would not look back but needed to walk forward into her new life direction. Balls of dried rice were given for her to hold before she crossed her arms across her chest and tossed the rice balls over her shoulders. Dried coconut leaves were burned signifying Brahma, the god of fire, was witnessing the ceremony. Cotton thread was strung between two dadap (Erythrina variegata) branches to symbolize balance. Meri then circled this offering three times and then used fire to break this thread, symbolizing the fire that will be used in the household hearth for her well-being. A ceremony like this is performed at every stage of a person's life as they change their station and prepare for a new challenge.

The final Mepejati ritual was performed whereby Meri prayed in her family temple as a descendant of her father’s house for a last time, letting her ancestors know that she was moving to her new husband's home. After the groom’s family witnesses this ritual parting by Meri, they leave for the man’s home to prepare offerings from the woman’s home to place in her new temple where she will then be introduced to her husbands’ ancestral line with another ceremony.

Mepejati is the most moving ritual for the bride because this is the time when she has to leave the family where she was born and grew up. The family left behind are also very sad to lose their child and worry if she will be happy with her husband's family. There are lots of tears at this time. This is a phase of life that every woman in Bali must go through. 

Congratulations on your new life, Meri, from all of us at Threads of Life. May your new life be harmonious and happy.