A sacred garden grows along the southern edge of a Balinese village. The trees’ branches bear more than just fruit: they’re also draped with coconut shells containing human placentas.
In Bali, Indonesia, a newborn’s placenta is seen as an invisible, spiritual sibling to the child (the word for placenta, Ari-Ari, translates to “younger sibling”). Traditionally, the placentas are bathed in fragrant, floral water, then sealed inside a coconut shell before being buried beneath a plant within the family’s yard.
But the village of Bayung Gede has a different custom. In this village’s Setra Ari-Ari (placenta graveyard), the placenta-carrying coconuts are hung from the branches of the bukak trees, forming a sacred garden. The residents of Bayung Gede have been following this unique tradition for centuries. According to local legend, the custom is as old as the village itself.
It’s believed that the bukak tree’s sap and fruit can help absorb the smell of the decaying organs. After a tree has been adorned with placentas, its branches are sliced to better release the sap held within.