© 2023 Dr. M. Sheppard

Dances Evening Watch Midnight Watch Morning Watch Patient Dancing Fire Dance Finale

Evening Watch Dances

This watch typically starts about 9pm. There is a bed or mattress for the Patient in front of the house opposite the Performance Area. The Patient is dressed in white clothes. The Edura announces the purpose of the ceremony to the Audience of family and neighbours. The Patient is seated or lain in their place.

Next the Performance Area is purified with pure water sprinkled on the ground with areca flowers. The water is mixed with sandalwood, coconut milk and turmeric  and distributed with a coconut flower whisk from a new clay pot.

Namaskaraya verse in praise of  Buddha and the main Deities are sung asking them to help cure the Patient. These songs advise the Patient that they need to focus their thoughts on Buddha and his teachings and on the power of the Deities to effect a cure.

First the Edura (Healer) makes the offerings to the ghosts. He summons them by blowing on his bamboo pipe and smoking the incense (dummala) over a brazier. At the same time he sings the 7 mantra that tell of a former Buddha when priests did not do offerings properly and were transformed into ghosts. He summons the ghosts and asks them to take the offerings. Buddha and the Deities are named. This takes about 1 hour and then the offering basket is taken into the house into a room not in use.

Then the Edura goes through the house throwing flaming dummala to purify it and draw the ghosts away from the house. This is to prevent the ghosts stealing the offerings intended for the demons.

The Edura usually wears a white sarong with a wide, tight red sash. On the floor in front of the Patient are placed  5 objects : leaf of lily, length of kiressa vine, coconut wooden rice pestle with iron ring, fistful of unhusked rice. These are curative and protective (Kapferer p 193) e.g. demons are afraid of iron.

Chairs are placed in front of the Patient on which are the 5 offering baskets for Buddha, Deities and demons. They are placed in this order - from the Patient’s left to right: Mal bulat (for Buddha & Guardian Deities - it contains flowers (mal) & bulat leaves & a small clay pot of purified water. This remains near the Patient throughout the ceremony as protection. The next baskets are for the demons -  Kalu Yaka, Siri Yaka, Suniyam Yaka, & Mahasona. (For details see section on Offerings.)

A live cock is also placed here on the ground. Dummala is smoked over these offering baskets and the cock to call the demons to these and hope that the demons will take their offerings and the cock instead of troubling the Patient. The Exorcist blows on  a bamboo  pipe and the Drummers sound a special drum roll announcing  the start. Mantra (spells) and songs are chanted at each basket. These summon  and command the demons to take their offerings. N.B. the bamboo pipe in the Edura’s left hand. He blows on this to summon the demons.

The Exorcist blows on  a pipe and the Drummers beat a special drum roll announcing  the start. Spells and songs are chanted at each basket. These  summon  and command the  demons to take their offerings.

Checking that all items are present

Edura and another Dancer often dance  as they sing about each of the offering baskets and the demons addressed

Evening Watch

Next the other Dancers appear from the Demon Palace. For the Evening Watch series of dances they customarily wear layers of white skirts and  short red jackets decorated with beads. On their heads they wear ornate coloured crowns also decorated with pearl beads. Around their waists they have tight white and red sashes.

At the start of this series of dances they hold tufts of leaves in each hand which as the dances continue, they later exchange for lighted torches. They juggle with these torches as the dances become more energetic, sometimes juggling between each other. They also do acrobatics –  whirling, leaping, cartwheels and somersaults etc.  The dances are accompanied by drum beats.  In this series of dances they represent demons meeting up for their regular evening dance.  

From time to time one of “demons” converses with a Drummer, as follows::

Yakka(demon): "What is going on here? What does this noise mean, urunanse?"

Drummer: "Somebody has fallen ill."

Yakka : "What are you going to do about it?"

Drummer:  "We will give him a medicine."

Yakka:  "That will not be of any use! There is no point in it! Give me twelve presents and I will cure him. But I must have my reward".

The dances become more and more spirited. The coconut leaves are exchanged for lighted torches with which the dancers may juggle. At times they “throw fire” to purify the area from the Demons

Then they start to twirl, often leaping high into the air or somersaulting or cart wheeling around the Performance Area.

At times they “throw fire” to purify the area from the Demons

At the end of the dance they retire to the Demon Palace. Then follows the Mat Dance (see next section)

You Tube Video Links:

Evening Watch Dances before Mat Dance Part 1

Evening Watch Dances before Mat Dance Part 2