Petulu’s Sacred Herons


One of Petulu’s Sacred Heron

The following is an excerpt from my memoir:

“A period of mass murder blighted the islands of Indonesia in 1965, when more than 5% of the population of Bali were massacred. The small village of Petulu, located a few miles north of Ubud is home to mass graves from this terrible period in the island’s history.

In the last week of October 1965, the villagers decided to hold a cleansing ceremony, and on November 7 large numbers of herons arrived in Petulu for the first time. A welcome ceremony followed for the herons, during which the officiating priest fell into a trance, and learned that the birds were there to guard the village. It is believed that they are the lost souls of those who died in the massacres.

Documents325Herons return to Petulu at dusk

When I heard the story of Petulu, I put a village visit at the top of my holiday wish list. I learned that the herons forage for food (mainly eels), from dawn till dusk, so I hired a local taxi driver – Erick- to collect me in time for their evening return to the village. As we arrived, the trees were filling with birds, many of them nesting. It was a truly wondrous sight.


Nesting in the trees

“There is a warung (cafe) over there, where you can sit and watch,” Erick suggested.


The warung among the paddy fields

So I tentatively stepped along a little path through the paddy fields, and joined half a dozen others watching the heron spectacle. A little later, I gazed in wonder through a pair of complementary binoculars and marvelled at such a beautiful miracle, after the atrocities of the past.

Each and every day of my visits to Bali in 2013 and 2014 were blessed with beauty. In my next post I will share my experiences of a royal cremation ceremony.”

My memoir includes many stories of my time in Bali, together with journeys to India, Rome, Morocco, Lourdes…

If you enjoyed this post you might like my other posts on Bali The Balinese Priests Bell and A Balinese Royal Cremation Ceremony

Brigid P. Gallagher is a retired natural medicines therapist, passionate organic gardener and author of “Watching the Daisies- Life lessons on the Importance of Slow,” a holistic memoir dedicated to the art of mindfulness and healing from debilitating illness.

Categories: Bali

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  1. This is so timely, I am planning a trip to Bali for the end of the year. I need to go read your other posts now. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. The Great Blue Heron is my favorite local bird (here on Long Island, NY), but your herons are intriguing. How amazing to have seen them appear in the circumstances you described. I am envious of your trip to Bali and your heron event. Thanks so much for sharing the specialness of that moment.

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  3. Amazing that something so beautiful could come out of something so horrific. I Googled Petulu and learned some more interesting facts about the bird’s behaviors and how when they first came to the island people would capture them for food but then later freed them because the folks who took part supposedly saw spirits.

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      • Oh that’s lovely to hear Brigid.. I’m glad to say I can’t imagine what it’s like.. and I’m now touching wood! I’m so glad you’re on the ‘better side’…
        I can imagine however what a wonderful experience seeing those herons was! xx

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      • Thanks Wendy. Yes Bali was filled with beautiful memories. Every day something special crossed my path. Lots of synchronicity that mostly cost nothing but were priceless. How is life with you? Are you happy with self hosting? X

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      • It’s a place that I would love to go to one day.. definitely on my bucket list!
        The ‘self hosting’ transfer went relatively smoothly.. I’m working my way through a few hiccups and ‘technology ‘ issues and hope I’m not driving everybody away in the meantime.. Generally speaking, so far so good overall and it will definitely enable me to move it forward better in the longer term.. The only issue has been that trying to get the set up right has meant a bit less time for witing and reading posts but I’m trying to catch up on reading and then I can get back to writing more regularly too… Thanks for asking Brigid.. much appreciated xx

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  4. I feel bad for tragic history… I really can’t understand how humans could mass murder their own specie… thank you for sharing to us stories of your travel Brigid. I love the pictures! My cousin will marry his indonesian fiance in Indonesia next month. It will be my first time to visit the country. 😊 I hope your book is doing great! ☺

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  5. The thought of the herons being the souls of those who died gives me chills. What a beautiful idea. They are such elegant, breathtaking birds. A past that is defined in tragedy can often times start to heal when time and renewal allows.❤️ Lovely story. ~Anne

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