Evidence of the existence of traditional healers in Bali date back to the 1300's, yet the healers practicing today are an amalgam of the techniques of indigenous healers and the influence of Hinduism, just as the Hinduism of Bali is an amalgam of indigenous animism, Buddhism and the Hinduism of India. As the influence of the Hindu religion permeates all aspects of life in Bali, it is also at the core of the treatment used by the Balian.
The Balinese religion incorporates tantric aspects of deliverance through magico-religious means (this influence being from the ancient east Javanese kingdoms). The Balian incorporates these various philosophical approaches to produce a cosmology of healing and "dis-ease". The Balians The system of traditional medicine in Bali has become institutionalized in the culture and specialization both in technique and expertise exist. The Balian Apun utilize physical manipulation of the body and set broken bones; the Balian Manak are midwives; the Balian Tenung are diviners; the Balian Metuunan are those who are able to be possessed by souls of the dead. These are the specialists.
The majority of traditional healers are generalists who treat a variety of conditions and are known as either Balian Usada or Balian Tapakan. The Balian Usada, often referred to as a literate healer, aquire their skills by formalized study of classical texts on the subject of healing (the "usadas'). They specialize in the use of the ancient palm leaf manuscripts (lontar) to give advise and treatment after eliciting symptoms from the client. The Balian Usada go through a process of apprenticeship to prepare for consecration (mawinten) by the community and the Hindu religion. All Balian Usada are male.
The Balian Tapakan obtain their mystical healing power (sakti or ilmu) by way of supernatural inspiration. They serve as mediators between their client and the mystical forces to which they have been chosen to have the ability to access. They act as spirit mediums to obtain advise concerning sickness, family problems and other matters of importance to their clients. This Balian undergoes no formal training but is eventually recognized by their community as a healer and is eventually consecrated as such after a formal training in priestly duties.
Balians are consecrated practitioners who also perform many priestly functions and are highly esteemed by the Balinese, often referred to by the honorific title "jero". Many practitioners utilize techniques that cross the boundaries of their title. For example, a Balian Tapakan may be able to be possessed by souls of the dead or utilize massage to treat their clients. Spiritual Power