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Swarthmore College

Publication Date

Spring 2023

Program Name

Indonesia: Arts, Religion, and Social Change


An archetype is essential for expressing an understanding of symbols and adding depth to the meaning derived from everyday life. It is a connection of source and meaning through the lens of the human experience. In the case of the ocean, people all over the world turn to the sea as a source of healing and a symbol of the murkiness of the unconscious mind. This holds true for the people of Bali as their beautiful Island is in deep connection with the force of the ocean. From the everyday contact like fishing and relaxing at the beach, to the ritual and ceremonial importance like Melasti, the seas surrounding the island of Bali have become a purifying, yet destructive archetype of power.

The Balinese people have a deep respect for the ocean and its power, which is reflected in their daily lives and spiritual practices. The ocean serves as a reminder of the fragility of life and the importance of living in harmony with nature. It is a symbol of fertility and life giving force. However, as it is also a powerful and unpredictable force, it demands respect and caution from those who rely on it for their livelihoods and cultural traditions.

By reflecting on practices involving the ocean like fishing, surfing, purification ritual and meditation, the ocean truly embodies the Balinese principle of Rwa Bhineda. As it not only is a source of creation, but also is revered as a force of destruction, whether this be the power to take lives or natural disaster.

Thus, this study dives into the blue world of the oceanic powers of life giving yet also taking. Finally I attempt to apply the cultural understanding of the ocean to conservation efforts and how this can aid in spreading awareness surrounding the current environmental issues. Most marine environments, especially coral reefs, are in a critical state. There are few solutions to problems of pollution and global warming, while maintaining an ideology of consumption. We can turn to traditional cultures like the Balinese who have successfully lived sustainably for generations before globalization to pave the way for a more environmentally friendly future.


Asian Studies | Environmental Studies | Human Ecology | Other Arts and Humanities | Other Languages, Societies, and Cultures | Pacific Islands Languages and Societies | Place and Environment | Sociology of Culture


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