Sea Serpents, Sly Pirates and Clever Priests
There is an enchanting mystical temple in Bali. Tanah Lot.
Perched on a huge rock outcrop offshore in the Indian ocean, it's only accessible for a couple of hours twice daily on the ebb and turn of the tides adding to the romance of it. After that the ocean reclaims that holy rock, surrounding it with rips and currents closing off the expanse along with your escape or guarantee of safe passage often sweeping away those that think they are better than the might of an ocean.
Myths and legends surround this place. It is said to have many layers of protections given by the gods themselves.
Of course, if you don't believe in such things, you could try to swim to it if you like. It's not far, a mere stones throw. That is, if you are willing to run the gauntlet of poisonous sea snakes said to inhabit the waters surrounding the temple. Oh, then there's also the mother of all, a legendary giant sea serpent locals believe protects this sacred place from evil spirits, thieves and intruders. You know, like those fearsome creatures and sea monsters drawn on old nautical charts and maps devouring ships along with the entire crew, whole, making that one word, sea serpent, the stuff of every sailors nightmares.
It's easy to envision her, tail anchored around the rock, swaying and drifting those strong currents of the briny waters. Ceaselessly moving as the broiling ocean has for centuries. The serpent guardian keeping a watchful eye on visitors and tourists, interlopers and locals, occasionally surfacing for a breath on the oceanside away from prying eyes... ooooh it gives me goosebumps! Actually, writing this, it still does... but then again, I am a sailor and it is supposed to. During my many years at sea in the Navy I saw many things, and most grateful that a sea serpent was not amongst them.
Tanah Lot held a mystique, a special wonder for me as I hiked around to the adjacent headland for a better vantage point. Standing upon that headland with the ocean thundering below, the legend remained a legend as patiently standing surrounded by windswept trees no serpent revealed herself to me. Nonetheless, I love the romance of it all, the mythology. Where does it come from? Surely others wonder this as well. What or Who was the birthplace of such a legend?
Perhaps a clever priest, saying he saw rippling movement under the waves and that the gods had blessed them with an all powerful guardian and protector.
Maybe a sly pirate telling tall tales of sea serpents to protect his treasure from thieves, looters and those up to no good.
Or, perhaps in the innocence of a terrified fisherman's imagination after seeing one or several sea snakes washed up onto the rocks, their bodies gleaming and menacing in the light writhing like monsters from the deep. Running back to his village hysterical, shouting about his encounter with a giant sea serpent only for them to have disappeared upon his return with witnesses, washed away with the tide, back to the watery depths from whence they came.
Who knows, maybe the gods did send these protections to guard the temple. Nests of poisonous sea snakes, dangerous waters and a giant serpent guardian. The Balinese believe it, so why shouldn't we.
They hold their celebrations and ceremonies, always guaranteed safe passage bringing their offerings to the gods in wondrous golds, yellows and reds so there has to be something to it.
This the joy of travel my darling little travel baggers. Experiencing an entire culture. It's beliefs and its legends, real or imagined, seen or unseen, proven or myth. They are fascinating to me and it is one of my all time favourite things when travelling exotic lands. So promise me, that the next time you travel you will stop and ask a local about their myths and legends. Or, most importantly, what protects that place, spirits and guardians, protectors and safe guards. After all, even if you don't believe, it is best to show respect to the unseen forces of this world. Now don't forget to throw salt over your left shoulder and have a wonderful day.