Tuesday, November 07, 2006


I have a small collection of Southeast Asian swords, including the kris. They hang in my studio, known here at Galatea as "Babaylan Lodge."

I've never forgotten the first time Michelle Bautista visited my literary site for Babaylans here on the mountain. She looked at the swords, picked a kris off of its wall-stand and started talking about its spirit. Well, as Wikipedia puts it:

Discussing the essence of the kris is a complicated topic. For the most part, blades were considered to almost be alive in some cases, or at the very least holders of special powers. Krises could be tested two ways. A series of cuts on a leaf, based on blade width and other factors, could determine if a blade was good or bad. Also, if the owner slept with the blade under their pillow and had a bad dream, the blade was unlucky and had to be taken away. It is important to note that just because a blade was bad for one person didn’t mean it would be bad for another. Harmony between the owner and the kris was critical.

Some krises helped prevent fires, death, agricultural failure and myriad other problems. Likewise, they could do more than prevent problems; some krises brought on fortuitous harvests and other events. Krises could also have tremendous killing power. There are legends of krises moving around on their own and killing individuals they disliked. When making a blade, the empu could infuse into the blade any special spiritual qualities and powers the owner desires.

Because some krises are considered sacred, and people believe they contain magical powers, specific rites needed to be completed to avoid calling down evil fates. For example, pointing a kris at someone is thought to mean that they will die soon, so in ceremonies or demonstrations where ritualized battles are fought with real krises, the fighters will perform a ritual which includes touching the point of the blade to the ground to neutralize this effect.

Which is all to say, I'm pleased to share the cover of Michelle's forthcoming and inaugural poetry collection, Kali's Blade (Meritage Press, 2006) -- isn't it GORGEOUS!!! Artist, activist and Kali practitioner Marirose Taruc made the paintings specially for Michelle's book -- don't you sense this female warrior's...Beauty?!

Heee! I ADORE women warriors! As in Michelle behind whose back I will happily hide any time!