Barong dances, among the most sacred in Bali, symbolize the intertwining of good and evil and the complex relationship between man and the supernatural. The term barong can apply to the dance, the mask, or the character depending on context. The barong animal mask represents good, and its types include the tiger, boar, and buffalo; the most characteristic, however, is the barong kek, a mythical animal. Two men dance; the one in front carries the barong mask, which is sacred and must never touch the ground. Evil is personified by Rangda—literally "widow," but interpreted as a witch associated with spirits of the dead. Several men armed with keris (daggers) accompany Rangda when she enters. Under her influence, they go into a trance and stab themselves, but are protected from injury by Barong's presence. Barong's eventual victory is taken to affirm his protection of the village. Both barong and rangda masks are kept in the village temple between performances. Though interpreted as good versus evil, the two sides are more equivocal, and Barong's victory is never regarded as conclusive.
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