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Pandanas mats were spread, more trays packed with assorted small offerings brought out, the mother knelt in front of the spriest. nursing the baby on her lap. The priest intoned prayers and scattered holy water. Daylight faded, kerosene lamps illuminated the kneeling group. An offering appeared to come to life, as i day-old chick, fastened atop it in a palm leaf "cage" broke loose and tried to scramble for freedom over the pile of food and flowers; on which it was perched. An elderly woman, a wad of betelnut clamped between her lips, grabbed the chicken, thrust it back into. it leafy prison and replaced it atop the offering.

The chick was making another. effort to escape, when I found, a young woman standing beside me, firmly clutching a half-grown pullet with both hands. Good grief Did this mean I had to watch a couple of birds decapitated as part of the offering My stomach did a few backflips before I learnt that it is traditional to have a chicken at a christening. The bird is kept as a living emblem of the occasion, and grows up with the baby, who, when old enough a~ understand, is "introduced" to the christening chick.

Well, that accounted for the poultry - but now another item caught my attention. Standing brazenly beside the priest was large blue plastic baby's bath. Surely the guest of honour was not. going to be dunked in holy water as well as sprinkled with it. Thankfully, the tub was only symbolical because, while the old lady, still contentedly chewing betel, was retrieving the wandering chicken for the third - or was it the fourth - time, the priest said a final mantra and stood up.

The christening party was over.Gently Ariaso was carried into the house and put
To bed.
True, she did not have the name her parents had hoped for. Instead she had the one chosen by the gods - and better.ariaso, echoed his wife.
Ariaso,ariaso,murmured nyoman ,smiling down at his tiny daughter.


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