Every so often we meet someone who stops us on in our tracks. It could be their work, their passion, or simply because of who they are.
Often they’re not the big stars, the famous, the fancy.
They are driven by a deep calling to follow their passion, and work hard regardless of public perception or approval.
While at times we are all guilty of labeling things we don’t know much about, we are wise to stop and carefully consider those who bravely and courageously transcend culture, spirituality and gender: inspiring change and paving new paths.
Meet Gede Parma.
The son of a Balinese father and Australian mother, Gede was raised primarily in Australia, spending summer holidays here with his father’s side of the family.
As a child he became interested in witchcraft, bridging his father’s world of Balinese Hinduism with his own spiritual interests.
He has spent over thirteen years formally studying and practising witchcraft and had his first formal initiation in 2007.
In his 20’s he dove deeper into questions of gender and sexuality and now chooses to identify as genderless, referring to himself as both male or female and often goes by the name Fio.
He teaches seminars and workshops internationally in witchcraft and shamanism, and works one on one as a healer.
Gede is a busy witch but Inspired Bali spoke to him during Bali Spirit Festival between the workshop he was leading.
Where did it all begin?
My mother came to Bali when she was young and fell in love with my father, and they married. I was born here in Bali, in Singaraja, then we moved to Australia where my sister was born in Queensland.
My father is very traditional, very religious and very spiritual, so his whole compass of the universe is situated here in Bali.
When he moved to Australia it disrupted everything. My mom actually sent him back to Lovina, on the north coast, to live because she knew he couldn’t live contently in Australia.
My parents remain happily married and monogamous to this day, however they continue to live apart for ten months of the year.
Recently with the move of both me and my sister to Bali, my mother has also been spending more time here. So I grew up away from my father.
For this reason, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually I was really raised by my mother.
My father loves and supports what I do. He’s very proud of me. He loves that I’ve written books, that I teach and travel.
Do you feel Balinese?
Well, ummm…I’m not culturally Balinese. It’s confusing. I don’t speak Balinese and only speak some Indonesian.
I mostly live in the expat world here, whatever that means. But when I go and spend time with my father and his side of the family I do have a deep connection to him and his family.
I just had this very interesting revelation the other day when I realized I would probably now say I’m a child of Bali.
And what that means is that there is a spirit on this island which is unlike any other land in the world. And it’s a part of me. It’s in my blood, heart and spirit.
So how does the exposure to your dad’s world influence you?
Well, I was raised with magic as being normal here and I think that had a tremendous effect on my life.
Also, my father’s father and mother were all what people call ‘balians’.
I was exposed to all sorts of ceremonies and rituals during my holidays here that most kids just don’t see.
Where did you train and study to become a witch?
Well when I was eleven or twelve I heard the word witch and I knew it was my word, without ever understanding what it meant.
I quickly embraced myself as Witch and opened to Wild Nature and the Limitless Cosmos and the techniques and material I was learning from books to ‘train’.
And you train by going through a crisis – in the shamanic way. It’s excruciating and challenging, and complex to explain.
For some it’s like a mental illness or it looks like that anyway, or for others it’s actually a physical illness.
Regardless, everything you learn in this process (from the spirits and the human teachers), teaches you about Witchcraft.
We’re rebels! When you look at the history of witchcraft you’ll find many examples of when it was a rebellion against institutions, like Catholicism.
The Catholic Church feared us so much that they killed hundreds and thousandsof us.
So, as this issue is on communication, how do you communicate with the spirit world?
Okay, well I make a circle, because a circle is a container and a compass, it means you have directions with east, north, west, south, above and below.
Directions are important for my tradition. We put lots of emphasis on the direction of things, like the Balinese.
In the Craft, like in physics, we have six directions.
Once the space is created I induct people or myself into a trance or altered state, by beating on a drum or shaking on a rattle, chanting or something.
Then I stop and wait and see what happens. I don’t do guided meditation scene-by-scene, image-by-image.
I don’t want to influence what is happening but prefer to allow people to have their own experience.
Walk me through a typical day with Gede Parma.
I have had to learn to resist looking at my phone first thing in the morning, which took some self discipline.
Now I start my day by going to my altar, or if I am too tired I just stay in bed. Either place, I have a breathing practice which is similar to yoga pranayama.
I praise the mother of the earth, I praise the ancestors, and I give thanks to the magical and mysterious world we live in.
Then the rest of the day is spent working on various things. I’ll read cards, do a ceremony, write, maybe lead a workshop or do a little spell for people around town.
I have many friends who have businesses here and they’ll say something weird is happening and ask if I can come over and lend a magical hand.
I travel a lot to America and Australia to teach in places like Pagan shops, mystic academies and sometimes I teach at universities, for an Anthropology class or something similar.
I am invited to Pagan gatherings, often those around High Priestesses or training covens that often take place in peoples homes.
I earn a living doing readings and leading workshops.
How does your identity as transgendered intersect with your spiritual practices?
I don’t really hold to any gender identity – this can be encompassed by the broader term of ‘transgendered’ which is different to ‘transexual’ in which a chemical and physical change between sexes happens.
I am biologically male, but my narrative, my feeling, is that my gender is wild, ever-evolving or rather that it doesn’t matter; that it doesn’t have bearing on how I live my life.
For others gender means a lot, and that is a sacred experience as well.
For me being non-gendered, or genderful, means I find it very easy to change my consciousness at will – one classic definition of magic.
Someone asked me once if I believe in life after death, expecting that I would say something profound, and I said ‘I don’t know’. I mean I talk to the dead, but I don’t know about afterlife.
You were recently invited to teach at Bali Spirit Festival. How did that go?
Bali Spirit was a delightful experience.
I don’t usually teach magic or shamanic and witchcraft technique to people who aren’t already completely in the flow of their own practice or identify as witches.
Everyone was very “in for it”, engaged, and vividly present. I admired this greatly – the willingness, joy and daring – important to journeying with magic!