The Manbos of Mindano - Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences, Volume XXIII, First Memoir
by John M. Garvan
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It is rare, however, that a Manbo has so far forgotten himself as to draw down the resentment of this kindly deity, and render propitiation necessary. I, however, witnessed a case wherein it was considered expedient to placate his anger; I was requested to take the necessary steps, as I was considered the object of his wrath. My Manbo oarsmen desired to discontinue the journey at an early hour of the afternoon, but for several reasons I wished to reach a certain point before nightfall, so a little ruse was resorted to. I granted their request to rest and they very promptly went to sleep. Not long afterwards I struck a few blows on the outriggers with a piece of iron. The Manbo could explain it in no other way except that the local tagbnua had been displeased with my demeanor, for had I not, they said, gone into the forest in the vicinity of his arboreal dwelling and, notwithstanding their advice to the contrary, given vent to loud and disrespectful vociferations. As we were in the vicinity of the balte tree it was unanimously decided to push on. At the next few stopping places the ruse was repeated, so that no doubt was any longer entertained as to the supposed cause of the occurrence, the wrath of the tagbnua. Several little incidents, such as striking a hidden snag, and the increase of the flood, both of which were also attributed to this spirit's malign influence, heightened their fear. They finally begged me to stop for the purpose of sacrificing one of my chickens to the offended deity. We finally reached the desired spot and the supposed supernatural sounds were heard no longer.





The bailn[1] is a man or woman who has become an object of special predilection to one or more of those supernatural friendly beings known among the Manbos as diuta. This will explain why the word diuatahn is frequently used, especially by the mountain people, instead of bailn. I was frequently told by priests that this special predilection of the deities for them is due to the fact that they happened to be born at the same time as their divine protectors. This belief, however, is not general.

[1] Bai-ln is probably a transformation of the Malay word be-li-an, a medicine man. (Mandya, Bagbo, and Subnun, ba-li-n.)

As a result of the favor in which the supernatural beings hold him, the priest becomes the favorite and familiar of spirits with whom he can commune and from whom he can ask favors and protection both for himself and for his friends. Hence he is regarded by his fellow tribesmen in the light of a mediator through whom they transact all their business with the other world. In the hour of danger the bailn is consulted, and after a brief communion with his spirit Mends he explains the measures to be adopted, in accordance with the injunctions of his tutelary deities. Should a balte tree have to be removed from the newly selected forest patch, who else could coax its spirit dwellers not to molest the tiller of the soil, if not the bailn? Should a tribesman have a monstrous dream and no one of all the dream experts succeed in giving a satisfactory interpretation, the bailn is called in to consult the powers above and ascertains that the dream forebodes, perhaps, an impending sickness and that an offering of a white fowl must be made to Manug, the protector of the sick. And should this offering prove unavailing, he has recourse to his supernal friends again and discovers that a greater oblation must be made to save the patient. And if there is a very unfavorable conjunction to omens, who else but the bailn could learn through his divine friends the significance thereof and whether the home must be abandoned or the project relinquished?

At every turn of life, whether the deities have to be invoked, conciliated, or appeased, the Manbo calls upon the priest to intercede for himself, for his relatives, and for his friends.

The office of priest may be said to be hereditary. I found that with few exceptions it had remained within the immediate circle of the bailn's relatives. Toward the evening of life the aged priest selects his successor, recommending his choice to the diuta. In one instance that I know of the mother, a bailn, instructed her daughter in the varieties of herbs which she had found to be acceptable to her familiars, and I was told that such is the usual procedure when the priest himself has a personal concern in the succession.

But no matter how proficient the bailn-elect may be in the sacred rites and legendary songs of the order, he is not recognized by his fellow tribesmen until he falls into the condition of what is known as dundan, a state of mental and physical exaltation which is considered to be an unmistakable proof of the presence and operation of some supernal power within him. This exaltation manifests itself by a violent trembling accompanied by loud belching, copious sweating, foaming at the mouth, protruding of the eyeballs, and in some cases that I have seen, apparent temporary loss of sight and unconsciousness. These symptoms are considered to be an infallible sign of divine influence, and the novice is accordingly recognized as a full-fledged priest ready to begin his ministrations under the protection of his spiritual friends. I know of one case on the lower Lamlga River, a tributary of the Kasilaan, where a certain individual[2] became a bailn without previous premonition and without any aspirations on his part. He was a person of little guile and one who had never had any previous training in the practices of his order.

[2] Bya (or Brio) is the young man referred to.

When he receives a familiar deity the new priest becomes endowed with five more spirits or soul companions, for his greater protection and for the prolongation of his life. It is evident that his duties as mediator create a deadly hate on the part of the evil spirits toward him; hence the need of greater protection, such as is said to be afforded by the increase in number of spirit companions. It is generally believed that, due also to this special protection, the priests are more long-lived than ordinary men. I was informed by some that with the increase of each familiar there was an addition of five more souls or spirit companions, but I did not find this to be the common belief.


(1) The priest holds converse with his divine friends, whose form he sees and describes, whose words he hears and interprets, and whose injunctions, whether made known directly by personal revelation or through divination or through dreams, he announces. When under supernal influence he is not a voluntary agent but an inspired being, through whose mouth the deity announces his will and to whose eyes he appears in visible incarnation.

(2) By means of his friendship with these unseen beings he is enabled to discover the presence of the inveterate enemies of human kind, the bsau, and even to wound them. I investigated two[3] cases of the latter kind and found that not a shadow of doubt as to the truth of the killing and as to the reality of this last-mentioned power was entertained by those who had been in a position to see and hear the facts.

[3] San Luis and San Miguel.

(3) As a result of the favor with which he is looked upon by the beneficent deities, he is enabled to discover the presence of various spirits in certain localities, and he knows the proper means of dealing with them. This statement applies to the spirits of "souls"[4] of the departed whose wishes and wants he interprets; to the spirits of the hills and the valleys, the tagbnua, whose favor must be courted and whose displeasure must not be provoked, and to the whole order of supernatural beings that people the Manbo world, with the exception of the blood spirits, the worship of whom falls to the war priests.

[4] Um-a-gd.


On first becoming acquainted with the bailn system, I was very dubious, to say the least, of the sincerity and disinterestedness of these favorites of the gods. But long and careful observation and frequent dealings with them have thoroughly convinced me of their sincerity. They affect no austere practices, no chastity, nor any other observance peculiar to the order of priesthood in other parts of the world. They claim no high prerogatives of their own; they can not slay at a distance nor metamorphose themselves into animals of fierce aspect. They have no cabalistic rites nor magic formulas nor miraculous methods for producing wondrous effects. In a word, as far as my personal observation goes, they are not impostors nor conjurers, plying thrifty trade with their fellow tribesmen, but merely intermediaries, who avail themselves of their intimacy with powers unseen to solicit aid for themselves and for their fellows in the hour of trial or tribulation. "I will call on Si Inimigus" (her diuta's pet name, his real name being Si Inmpo), said a priestess of the Kasilaan River to me once when I consulted her as to the sickness of a child, "and I will let you know his answer." On her return she informed me that the child had fallen under the influence of an evil spirit and that Si Inimigus required the sacrifice of a pig as a token of my good will towards him and also as a gratification of a desire that he felt for such nourishment. She departed as she came, never asking any compensation for her advice.

I might cite many cases of a similar nature that passed under my personal observation and in which I made every endeavor to discover mercenary motives. I frequently interrogated men of political and social standing as to the possibility of hypocrisy and deceit on the part of the priests. The invariable answer was that such could not be the case, as the deities themselves would be the first to resent and punish such deception. One shrewd Manbo of the upper Agsan assured me that the Manbos themselves were wise enough to detect attempts at fraud in such matters.

Moreover, the fact that the priest incurs comparatively heavy expenses is another evidence of his sincerity, for, in order to keep his tutelary spirits supplied with the delicacies they desire, he must offer constant oblations of pig and fowl, since he believes that when these spirits are hungry they lose their good humor and are liable to permit some evil spirit to work malice on him or on some of his relatives. Of course his relatives and friends help to keep them supplied, but at the same time he probably undergoes more expense himself than any other individual.

Finally, as further proof of the absence of mercenary motives, it may be stated that the priest is not entitled to any share of the sacrificial victim except that which he eats in company with those who attend the sacrifice and the subsequent consumption of the victim.


The priest has no political influence as a rule. I am acquainted with none and have heard of very few priests, who have attained the chieftainship of a settlement, even among the conquistas, or Christianized Manbos, who live within the pale of the established government. But in matters that pertain to the religious side of life their influence is paramount, for it is chiefly due to them that tribal customs and conditions are unflinchingly maintained. The following incident is an illustration of this influence:

During a visit which I made to the Lamiga River, a western tributary of the Kasilaan River, I met Mandahann, a warrior chief. Among other matters I referred to the ridiculously low price, 0.50 per sack, at which Manbos were wont to sell rice to the Bisya peddlers who at that time were swarming in the district. I suggested that they dispose of their rice at the current Bisya rate of P2.50 per sack. He replied that he had been of that opinion for some time, but that the four priests of his following had decided that an increase of the customary value of rice would entail a mysterious lessening of the present crop and a partial or even total loss of that of next year, the reason assigned by them being that such an action would be displeasing to Hakidan, the goddess of rice, and to Tagamling, the protector of other crops. These deities, he assured me, were very capricious, and when they took umbrage at anything, they either caused the rice in the granaries to diminish mysteriously, or brought about a failure in the following year's crop.[5]

[5] The killing of Mr. Ickis, of the Bureau of Science, according to an account that I received, also demonstrates the influence exerted by the priests.

To the priests may be ascribed the rigid adherence to tribal practices and the opposition to modern innovations, even when the change confessedly would be beneficial to them.


The priest has no distinctive dress, but while officiating garbs himself with all the wealth of beads, bells, and baubles that he may have acquired. As a rule he has an abundance not only of these but of charms, talismans, and amulets, all of which are hung from his neck, or girded around his waist. These charms have various mystic powers for the protection of his person and some of them are said to have been revealed to him by his favorite deities. While performing the invocation and the sacred dance on the occasion of a greater sacrifice, he always carries, one in each hand, a parted palm frond with the spikes undetached.

All the rites of the Manbo ritual consist of one or more of the following elements: Invocation, petition, consultation, propitiation, and expiation. The priest is, in fact, either alone or aided by others of his kind, the officiant in nearly every religious ceremony; laymen merely sit round and take desultory interest in the ceremonial proceedings.

These rites are the following:

(1) The betel-nut offering.[6]

[6] Pag—pug.

(2) The burning of incense.[7]

[7] Pag-pa-l-na.

(3) Ceremonial omen taking.[8]

[8] Ti-ma-ya.

(4) Prophylactic fowl waving.[9]

[9] K-yab to m-nuk.

(5) The death feast.[10]

[10] Ka-ta-p-san.

(6) The sacrifice of a fowl or of a pig[11] to his own tutelaries in the event of sickness or in the hour of impending danger.

[11] Hn-ag to ka-hi-m-nan.

(7) The offering of a fowl or of a pig to Taphgan, the goddess of grain during the season of rice culture.

(8) The harvest ceremonies in honor of Hakidan for the purpose of securing an abundant crop and of protecting the rice from sundry insidious enemies and dangers.

(9) The birth ceremony in honor of Mandit for the protection of the recently born babe.

(10) Conciliatory offerings to the demons during epidemics, as also in cases where the power of the evil spirits is thought to predominate over that of the kindly deities. Madness and inordinate sexual passion, as also the continuance of an epidemic after incessant efforts have failed to secure the aid of the friendly spirits are illustrations of the power of the evil spirits.

(11) Lustration[12] either by anointing with blood or by aspersion with water.

[12] Pa-as.

(12) The betel-nut omen.[13]

[13] Ti-ma-a to man—on.

(13) The invocation of the diuta with the sacred chant.[14]

[14] Td-um.


The bagni or warrior priests are under the protection of preternatural beings called tagbsau, whose bloodthirsty cravings they must satisfy.

This peculiar priesthood is not hereditary, but is a pure gift from warlike spirits, who select certain mortals for favorites, constantly guard them against the attacks of their enemies, teach them the use of various secret herbs whereby to render themselves invisible and invulnerable, bestow upon them an additional number of soul companions that in some indefinable way protect them against the ire of the resentful slain, and in general afford them an immunity from all dangers, material and spiritual.

It is believed that when the warrior priest dies his soul companions return to the war spirits from whom they proceeded, and with whom they take up their eternal abode upon the far-off mountain heights. Upon their return to these heights it is said that they are pursued by a monstrous crowd of inexorable demons and vexed spirits of those that have fallen victims to their arm, but that, owing to the power and vigilance of the mighty gods of war, they reach their last home unscathed.

Like the priest, a war chief is recognized as a priest when he falls into that state of paroxysm that is considered to be of preternatural origin. This condition is usually the result of a wild fight, in which, after slashing down one or more of the enemy, he eats the heart and liver of one of the slain and dances around in ungovernable fury. I have been frequently informed that the companions of a man thus possessed cautiously withdraw while he is under this influence, as he might do something rash. I witnessed the actions of several bagni during ceremonial performances to the tagbsau, and I felt no little fear as to what might be the outcome of the warrior chiefs fury.

What has been said of the sincerity of the ordinary priest and of his disinterestedness and freedom from mercenary motives applies equally to the war chief in his position as war priest.

In return for the protection accorded to his select ones the gods of war require frequent supplies of blood and other delicacies, the denial of which would render the favorite liable to constant plaguing by his protectors in their efforts to make him mindful of their needs. In another chapter we shall see the means whereby the bagni keeps himself in the good graces of his inexorable deities.[15]

[15] For a full description of the rites peculiar to the warrior chief as priest the reader is referred to Chapter XXVI.




The differences which I observed in the performance of ceremonies in different localities appear to be due to the vagaries and idiosyncrasies of the individual performers and not to any established system. But in the main these variations are not essential. For example, in certain localities the blood of the pig as it issues forth from the lance wound is sucked from the wound, while in others it is caught in convenient receptacles and then drank. In the following pages I will attempt to give a description of the accessories, the sacrifices, and their associated ceremonies which may be considered general for the Manbos of the middle and upper Agsan.



[1] Ka-m-lig.

The priest has no special residence nor any special religious structure except a little wooden shed and a few ceremonial trays that will be described later. His house is not more capacious nor pretentious than that of anyone else, in fact it is often less so, but it may be recognized always by the presence of the drum and gong, by the little religious shed near by, and by the presence of a few lances, bolos, daggers, and various other objects that are considered heritages,[2] handed down from his predecessors in the priestly office. It is not unusual for the priest, especially among the Christianized Manbos, to have two houses, one for the residence of his family and another which, by its seclusion, is better adapted for the celebration of religious rites. Hither he may repair, after assisting perhaps at the Catholic services in the settlement, to perform the pagan ceremonies that for him have more truth and efficacy than the Christian rites. While in the settlement and in contact with Christians, he is to all appearances a Christian, but in the moment of trial or tribulation he hies him to the seclusion of his other house and, in the presence of his fellow believers, performs the primitive rites in honor of beings who, to his mind, are more potent to help or to hurt than the hierarchy of Catholic belief.

[2] n-ka.

In this second house, then, will be found, without fail, not only the priestly heirlooms, but all such objects as have been consecrated[3] either by himself or by one of the settlement to the friendly deities. It may be remarked here that these consecrated objects can not be disposed of except by performing a sacrifice, or by making a substitution, usually in the form of pigs and fowl which ipso facto become consecrated, and are eventually sacrificed to the proper deity.

[3] Sin-ug-b-han.


The altar house is a rude bamboo structure consisting of four posts, averaging 1.8 meters high, upon which is a roof of palm thatch. About 45 centimeters beneath this are set one or two shelves for the reception of the oblation bowls and dishes. The whole fabric is decorated with a few fronds of palm trees,[4] and covers a space of approximately 2.4 square meters.

[4] The fronds used are one or more of the following palms: Betel nut, anibung, kagyas, and coconut.

The ceremonial salver[5] is a rectangular wooden tray, generally of ilg-ilg wood, usually decorated with incised, traced, or carved designs, and having pendants of palm fronds. It is the ceremonial salver on which are set out the offerings of pig, fowl, rice, betel nut, and other things for the deities.

[5] Ban-k-so.

The sacrificial stand[6] also is made out of ilg-ilg wood. It consists of a disk of wood set upon a leg, and is used for making the offerings of betel nut and other things.

[6] Ta-l-dung.

When it is decided to make an offering of a pig, a sacrificial table[7] of bamboo is set up close to the house that has been selected as the place of sacrifice. Upon this is bound the victim, lying on its side. Over it are arched fronds of betel-nut and other palms. This stand is used exclusively for the sacrifice of a pig. It is a rude, unpretentious structure.

[7] g-ka.


Fronds of the coconut, betel nut and other palms are the only decorations used at ceremonies. The betel-nut fronds, however,[8] enjoy a special preference, being used in every important ceremony when they are obtainable. No other leaves and no flowers, unless the bloom of the betel nut be considered such, are used as decorations.

[8] Known as ba-ga-bai.

The consecrated objects, consisting of such things as lances, bolos, daggers, and necklaces, are frequently set out upon a ceremonial structure or put in the ceremonial shed in order to give more solemnity to the occasion, and it is not infrequent to find the structure draped with cloth, preferably red.


[9] Man—ug.

Sacred images are of neither varied nor beautiful workmanship. At best they are but rudimentary suggestions of the human form, frequently without the lower extremities. Varying in length from 15 to 45 centimeters they are whittled with a bolo out of pieces of byud wood, or of any soft white wood when byud is not obtainable. More elaborate images are furnished with berries of a certain tree[10] for eyes and adorned with tracings of sap from the kayti or the narra tree, but the ordinary idol has a smearing of charcoal for eyes and mouth and a few tracings of the same for body ornamentation.

[10] Ma-gu-ba.

Images are made in two forms, one representing the male and distinguished by the length of its headpiece and occasionally by the representation of the genital organ, the other representing the female, and distinguished most frequently by the representation of breasts, though in a good image there is often a fair representation of a comb.

Images are intended for the same use as statues in other religions. They are not adored nor worshiped in any sense of the word. They are looked upon as inanimate representations of a deity, and tributes of honor and respect are paid not to them, but to the spirits that they represent. I have seen rice actually put to the lips of these images and bead necklaces hung about their necks; but in answer to my inquiries the response was always the same that not the images, but the spirits, were thereby honored.

It is principally in time of sickness that these images are made. They are placed somewhere near the patient, generally just under the thatch of the roof.

The priest almost invariably has one, or a set of better made ones, which he sets out during the more important ritual celebrations and before which he places offerings for the spirits represented. In a sacrifice performed for the recovery of a sick man on the upper Agsan, I saw two images, one male and one female, carried in the hand by the presiding priests and made to dance and perform some other suggestive movements.

Occasionally one finds very crude effigies of deities carved on a pole and left standing out on the trail or placed near the house. These are supposed to serve for a resting place for the deities that are expected to protect the settlement or the house. This practice is very common when fear of an attack is entertained, and also during an epidemic.


Offerings consist, in the main, of the blood[11] and meat of pig and fowl, betel-nut quids, rice, cooked or uncooked, and an exhilarating beverage. But occasionally a full meal, including every obtainable condiment, is set out, even an allowance of water, wherewith to cleanse[12] the hand, being provided for the visiting deities. Such offerings are set out upon consecrated plates[13] which are used for no other purpose and can not be disposed of.

[11] No reference is here made to human blood, a subject which will be found treated in Chapter XXVI.

[12] Pag-h-gas.

[13] A-p-gan.

As a rule the offerings must be clean and of good quality. The priest is very careful in the selection of the rice, and picks out of it all dirty grains. Cooked rice given in offering is smoothed down, and, after the deity has concluded his mystic collation is examined for traces of his fingering.

The color of the victims is a matter of importance, too, for the divinities have their special tastes. Thus Sugdan, the god of hunters, prefers a red fowl, while the tagbnua display a preference for a white victim.



(1) The betel-nut offering.[14]

[14] Pag—pug.

(2) The burning of incense.[15]

[15] Pag-pa-l-na.

(3) The address or invocation.[16]

[16] Tawg-twag.

(4) The ceremonial omen taking.[17]

[17] Pag-ti-n-ya.

(5) The prophylactic fowl waving.[18]

[18] K-yab to mn-uk.

(6) The blood unction.[19]

[19] Pag-lm-pas.

(7) The child ceremony.[20]

[20] Tag-un-n to b-ta'.

(8) The death feast.[21]

[21] Ka-ta-p-san.

(9) The sacrifice of fowl or pig.[22]

[22] Ka-hi-m-nan.

(10) The rice planting.[23]

[23] Tp-hag.

(11) The hunting rite.[24]

[24] Pag-o-md-an.

(12) The harvest feast.

(13) The conciliation of evil spirits.

(14) The divinatory rites.

(15) The warrior priest's rites.

(16) Human sacrifice.[25]

[25] Hu—ga.

A description of the more important of these ceremonies will be found distributed throughout this monograph under the various headings to which such ceremonies belong. Thus the child ceremony is placed under the heading "birth," the death feast in the chapter on death, the warriors' sacrifice in that portion of this sketch which treats of the warrior. For the present only the minor and more general ceremonies that may be performed separately, or that may enter into the major ceremonies as subrites, will be described.


The betel-nut tribute.—In all dealings with the unseen world, the offering of betel nut is the first and most essential act, just as it constitutes in the ordinary affairs of Manbo life the essential preliminary to all overtures made by one man to another. The ceremony may be performed by anyone, but partakes of only a semireligious character when not performed by a bailn.

The ceremony consists in setting out on a consecrated plate,[26] or in lieu of it on any convenient receptacle, the ordinary betel-nut quid, consisting of a slice of betel nut placed upon a portion of buyo leaf, and sprinkled with a little lime. The priest who has more than one divine protector, must give a tribute to each one of them. In certain ceremonies seven quids are invariably set out by him, always accompanied by an invocation, the strain of which is usually very monotonous and always couched in long periphrastic preambles. It is really an invitation to the spirit whose aid is to be implored to partake of the offering.

[26] A-p-gan.

Out in the lonely forest the hunter may set his offering upon a log for the spirit owner of the game, or if in the region of a balete tree, he may think it prudent to show his deference to its invisible dwellers by offering them this humble tribute. Again, should a storm overtake him on his way, and should he dread the "stony tooth" of the thunder, he lays out his little offering, quite often with the thought that he has in some unknown way annoyed Antan, the wielder of the thunderbolt, and must in this fashion appease the offended deity.

The offering of incense.—This ceremony appears to be confined to priestesses. I have never seen a Manbo priest offer incense. The resin[27] of a certain tree is used for the purpose, as its fragrance is deemed to be especially pleasing to the deities. The priestess herself, or anyone else at her bidding, removes from the pod[28] at her side, where it is always carried depending from the waist, a little of the resin and lights it. It is then set on the altar or in any convenient spot. The direction of its smoke is thought to indicate the approach and position of the deity invoked. As the smoke often ascends in a slanting direction, it frequently directs itself toward the suspended oblation trays. This is taken as an indication that the deity is resting or sitting upon the bankso tray, in which case he is called bankashan, or on the taldug, when he is said to be talidgan. This ceremony is preliminary to the invocation.

[27] T-gak to ma-gu-bi.

[28] This is the pod of a tree called ta-b-ki.

The deities are very partial to sweet fragrances like that of the betel nut frond and of the incense and seem to be averse to strange or evil smells. Hence fire and smoke are usually avoided during the celebration of regular sacrifices, as was stated before. On one occasion I wished to do a favor by lending my acetylene lamp during a ceremonial celebration, but it was returned to me with the information that the smell was not acceptable to the presiding deities.

Invocation.—The invocation is a formal address to the deities, and on special occasions even to the demons, when it is desired to make a truce with them. It is the prerogative of the priest in nearly all ceremonies. As a rule it begins in a long, roundabout discourse and extends itself throughout the whole performance, continuing at intervals for a whole night or longer in important ceremonies. It may be participated in by one priest after another, each one addressing himself to his particular set of divinities and beseeching them by every form of entreaty to be propitious.

The invocation to the good spirits is made at the discretion of the officiating priest, either in the house or outside, and in a moderate voice, but the invocation to the evil ones is shouted out in a loud voice usually from the opening around the walls of the house, as it is considered more prudent to keep the demons at a respectful distance.

In addressing his gods the Manbo proceeds in about the same way as he does when dealing with his fellow men. He starts well back from the subject and by a series of circumlocutions slowly advances to the point. The beginning of the invocation is ordinarily in a laudatory strain; he reminds his divinities of his past offerings, descants on the size of the victims offered on previous occasions, and the general expenses of past sacrifices. He then probably recalls to their minds instances where these sacrifices had not been reciprocated by the deities. Having thus intimated to the invisible visitors, for they are thought to be present during these invocations, that he and his people are somewhat ill pleased, he goes on to express the hope that in the future and especially on this occasion they will show themselves more grateful. He next proceeds to enumerate the expenses which in their honor are about to be incurred. The fatness and price of the pig are set forth and every imaginable reason adduced why they should be well pleased with the offerings and make a bountiful return of good will and friendship. The spirits may be even bribed with the promise of a future sacrifice, or they may be threatened with desertion and the cessation of all worship of them.

After a long prologue the priest makes an offering of something, it may be a glass of brew, or a plate of rice, and confidentially imparts to his spirits the object of the ceremony. In this manner the invocation is continued, interrupted at intervals by the sacred dance or by periods of ecstatic possession of the priest himself.

Prophylactic fowl waving.—The fowl-weaving ceremony may be performed by one not of the priestly order. The performance is very simple. A fowl of no special color is taken in one hand and, its legs and wings being secured to prevent fluttering, it is waved over the person or persons in whom the evil influence is thought to dwell and at the same time a short address is made in an undertone to this same influence,[29] bidding it betake itself to other parts. The chicken may be then killed ceremonially and eaten, but if it is not killed it becomes consecrated and is given to the priest until it can be disposed of in a ceremonial way on a future occasion.

[29] Ka-d-ut.

This ceremony is very common, especially after the occurrence of a very evil dream or a bad conjunction of omens or in case of severe sickness or on the erection of a new house or granary. On one occasion it was performed on me under the impression, it is presumed, that I was the bearer of some malign influence.

I have never been definitely informed as to the reason for the efficacy of this rite, nor of its origin. Tradition handed down by the old, old folks and everyday experience are sufficient foundation for the popular belief in its efficacy.

Blood lustration.—When a fowl or a pig has been killed sacrificially, it is customary to smear the blood on the person or object from whom it is desired to drive out the sickness, or in order to avert a threatened or suspected danger, or when it is desired to nullify an evil influence. The ceremony is performed only by a priest and in the following way: Taking blood in a receptacle to the person for whose benefit it is intended, the priest dips his hand in it and draws his bloody finger over the afflicted part, or on the back of the hand and along the fingers in the case of a sick person, or on the post of the house, thereby leaving bloody stripes. During the operation he addresses the indwelling evil and bids it begone. This ceremony usually follows the preceding one and is performed in all cases where the previous ceremony is applicable, if the circumstances are considered urgent enough to call for its performance.

I once saw a variation of this ceremony. Instead of killing the fowl the priest made a small wound in one leg and applied the blood that issued to a sick man. The fowl then became the property of the priest and could never be eaten, for the evil influence that had produced the sickness in the man was supposed to have passed into the fowl.

Lustration by water.—Lustration by water is somewhat similar in its purpose to the preceding ceremony. It is performed as a subrite among the Christianized Manbos of the lake region. I am inclined to think that it is only an imitation of an institution of the Catholic Church because I never saw it performed by non-Christian Manbos.

The following is the cermony[sic]: When the divinities are thought to have eaten the soul or redolence[30] of the viands set out for them, and to have cleansed their hands in the water provided for that purpose, the priest seizes a small branch, dips it in this water and sprinkles the assembly. Though, on the occasions on which I witnessed this rite, the recipients did not seem to relish the aspersion, as was evinced by their efforts to avoid it, yet it was believed to have great efficacy in removing ill luck and malign influences.[31]

[30] B-ho and um-a-gd.

[31] Pa-ad.




Religion is so interwoven with the Manbo's life, as has been constantly stated in this monograph, that it is impossible to group under the heading of religion all the various observances and rites that properly belong to it.[1] I will now give an account of the sacrifice of a pig that took place on the Kasilaan River, central Agsan, for the recovery of a sick man. This sacrifice may be considered typical of the ordinary ceremony in which a pig is immolated, whether it be for the recovery of a sick man or to avert evil or to solicit any other favor.

[1] The reader is referred to Chapter XV for a description of the important religious ceremonies and beliefs connected with the subject of death, to Chapter X for rice culture ceremonies, to Chapter XIV for the birth ceremony. Descriptions of various other ceremonies will be found scattered through this monograph, each under its proper heading.

I arrived at the house at about 4 p.m. Near the pole leading up to the house stood the newly erected rectangular bamboo stand.[2] On this, with a few palm fronds arched over it, was tightly bound the intended victim, a fat castrated pig. Within a few yards of this had been erected the small houselike structure,[3] which has been described already. It contained several plates full of offerings of uncooked rice and eggs, which had been placed there previously. The ceremonies began shortly after my arrival. Three women of the priestly order sat down near the ceremonial house and prepared a large number of betel-nut quids for their respective deities, but the spectators never ceased for a moment to ask for a share of them. Finally, however, the quids were prepared and placed on the sacred plates, seven to each plate. Then one of the priestesses placed a little resin upon a piece of bamboo and, calling for a firebrand, placed it upon the resin. The other two priestesses, seizing in each hand a piece of palm branch, proceeded to dance to the sound of drum and gong. They were soon joined by the third officiant. All three danced for some five minutes until, as if by previous understanding, the gong and drum ceased, and one of the priestesses broke out into the invocation. This consisted of a series of repetitions and circumlocutions in which her favorite deities were reminded of the various sacrifices that had been performed in their honor from time immemorial; of the number of pigs that had been slain; of the size of these victims; of the amount of drink consumed; of the number of guests present; and of an infinity of other things that it would be tedious to recount. This was rattled off while the spectators were enjoying themselves with betel-nut chewing and while conversation was being carried on in the usual vehement way. Then the drum and gong boomed out again and the three priestesses circled about in front of the ceremonial shed for about five minutes, after which comparative quiet ensued and another priestess took up the invocation. During her prolix harangue to the spirits the other two busied themselves, one in rearranging the offerings in the little shed, the other in lighting more incense, while the spectators continued their prattle, heedless of the services. After an interval of some 10 minutes the sacred dance was continued, the priestesses circling and sweeping around with their palm branches waving up and down as they swung their arms in graceful movements through the air. This continued for several minutes, until one of them stopped suddenly and began to tremble very perceptibly. The other two continued their dance around her, waving their palm fronds over her. The trembling increased in violence until her whole body seemed to be in a convulsion. Her eyes assumed a ghastly stare, her eyeballs protruded, and the eyelids quivered rapidly. The drum and gong increased their booming in volume and in rapidity, while the dancers surged in rapid circles around the possessed one, who at this period was apparently unconscious of everything. Her eyes were shaded with one hand and a copious perspiration covered her whole body. When finally the music and the dancing ceased her trembling still continued, but now the loud belching could be heard. No words can describe the vehemence of this prolonged belching, accompanied as it was by violent trembling and painful gasping. The spectators still continued their loud talking with never a care for the scene that was being enacted, except when some one uttered a shrill cry of animation, possibly as menace to lurking enemies, spiritual or other.

[2] Ag-kan.

[3] Ka-m-lig.

It was some 10 minutes before the paroxysm ceased, and then the now conscious priestess broke forth into a long harangue in which she described what took place during her trance, prophesying the cure of the sick man, but advising a repetition of the sacrifice at a near date, and uttering a confusion of other things that sounded more like the ravings of a madman than the inspirations of a deity. During all this time frequent potations were administered to the spectators, so that in the early night everyone was feeling in high spirits.

After the first priestess had emerged fully from the trance the drum and gong resounded for the continuation of the dance. In turn the other priestesses fell under the influence of their special divinities and gave utterance to long accounts of what had passed between them. It was at a late hour of the night that the whole company retired to the house, leaving the victim still bound upon his sacrificial table.

The religious part of the celebration was then abandoned, for the priestesses took no further part. Social amusements, consisting of various forms of dancing, mimetic and other, were performed for the benefit of the attendant deities and finally long legendary chants[4] by a few priests consumed the remainder of the night.

[4] Td-um.

Next morning at about 7 o'clock the ceremonies were resumed by the customary offering of betel nut and by burning of incense, but instead of dancing before the small religious house the three priestesses, joined by a priest, took up their position near the sacrificial table on which the victim had remained since the preceding day. The invocations were pronounced in turn, followed by short intervals of dancing. During these invocations the victim was bound more securely, and a little lime was placed on its side just over the heart. The priest then placed seven betel-nut quids upon the body of the pig and made a final invocation. A rice mortar was placed at the side of the sacrificial table, a relative of the sick man stepped upon it, and, receiving a lance from the hands of the male priest, poised it vertically above the spot designated by the lime and thrust it through the heart of the victim.

One of the female priestesses at once placed an iron cooking pan under the pig and caught the blood as it streamed out from the lower opening of the wound. Applying her mouth to the pan she drank some of the blood and gave the pan to a sister priest.[5] At the same time a little was given to the sick man, who drank it down with such eager haste that it ran upon his cheeks. One of the priestesses then performed blood lustration by anointing the patient's forehead with the remainder of the blood. A few others, of whom I was one, had these bloody ministrations performed on them.

[5] Not infrequently the blood is sucked from the upper wound. This is a custom more prevalent among the Mandyas than among the Manbos.

The priest and priestesses at this period presented a most strange spectacle. With faces and hands besmirched with clotted blood, they stood trembling with indescribable vehemence. Their jingle bells tinkled in time with the movement of their bodies. The priestesses recovered from their furious possession after a few minutes, but not so the male priest, for to prevent himself from collapsing completely he clutched a near-by tree, shading his eyes with his bloodstained hand. The drum and gong came into play again and the priestesses took up the step, circling around their entranced companion and addressing him in terms that on account of the rattle of the drum and the clanging of the gong could not be heard. He finally emerged, however, all dazed and covered with perspiration. Through him a diuta announced the recovery of the patient, at which yells of approval rang out, and then began a social celebration consisting of dancing and drinking. This was continued till the hour for dinner, when the victim was consumed in the usual way.

In this instance, as in many others witnessed, the sick man recovered, and with a suddenness that seemed extraordinary. This must be attributed to the deep and abiding faith that the Manbo places in his deities and in his priests. The circumstances of the sacrifice are such as to inspire him with confidence and, strong in his faith, he recovers his health and strength in nearly every case.


(1) The betel-nut tribute to the gods of war.

(2) The supplication and invocation of the gods of war.

(3) The betel-nut offering to the souls of the enemies.

(4) The various forms of divination.

(5) The ceremonial invocation of the omen bird.

(6) The tagbsau's feast.

(7) Human sacrifice.

The first two ceremonies differ from the corresponding functions performed by the ordinary priests in only two respects, first that they are performed in honor of the war spirits, and secondly that the invocation includes an interminable list of the names of those slain by the officiating warrior chief and by his ancestors for a few generations back.

The sacred dance for the entertainment of the attending divinities with which this invocation and supplication is repeatedly interrupted will be described later on.


The ceremony is performed only before an expedition, with a view to securing the good will of souls of the enemies who may be slain in the intended fray. As was set forth before, souls, or departed spirits, seem to have a grievance against the living, and are wont to plague them in diverse ways. Now, in order to avoid such ill will as might follow the separation of these spirits from their corporal companions, a ceremony is performed by the warrior priest in the following way: He orders an offering of rice to be set out upon the river bank, or on the trail over which the spirits are expected to wing their way, and hastens to invite them to a conference. Then a number of pieces of betel leaf are set out on a shield, so that each soul or spirit has his portion of betel leaf, his little slice of betel nut, and his bit of lime. Then the warrior chief, or some one else at his bidding, addresses the souls without making it known that an attack[6] is soon to be made. It is then explained to these spirits that they are invited to partake of the offering in good will and peace, that the warrior priest's party has a grievance against their enemies, and that some day they may be obliged to redress the matter in a bloody way. The souls next are urged to forego their displeasure, should it become necessary at any time to redress the wrongs by force and possibly slay the authors of them. The invisible souls are then supposed to partake of the offering and to depart in peace as if they understood the whole situation.

[6] I was informed that a sometime friend or distant relative of the enemy is generally selected for this task.

There is an incident, which is said to occur during the above ceremony, that deserves special mention, as it illustrates very pointedly the spirit in which the ceremony is performed. All arms are said to be placed upon the ground and carefully covered with the shields in such a way that the spirit guests will be unable to detect their presence on their arrival. The betel-nut portions are placed upon one of the upper shields.


The betel-nut cast.[7]—This form of divination is never omitted, according to all accounts. In the instance which I witnessed the procedure was as follows: The leader of the expedition invoked the tagbsau, informing him that each of the quids represented one of the enemy, and beseeching him (or them) to indicate by the position of these symbols after the ceremony the fate of the enemy. The warrior priest or his representative, lifting up the shield with one hand under it, and one hand above it, turned it upside down with a rapid movement, thus precipitating the quids on the floor. Now those that fell vertically under the shield represented the number of the enemy who would fall into their clutches, while those that lay without the pale of the shield represented the individuals who would escape, and to whose slaughter accordingly they must devote every energy. There are numerous little details in this, as in most other forms of divination, each one of which has an interpretation, subject, it would appear, to the vagaries of each individual augur.

[7] Ba-ls-kad to ma-m-on.

Divination from the bgug vine.—Before leaving the point from which it has been decided to begin the march two pieces of green rattan, the length of the middle finger and about 1 centimeter thick, are laid upon the ground parallel to each other and about 2.5 centimeters apart. One of these stands for the enemy and the other for the attacking party. A firebrand is then held over the two until the heat causes one of them to warp and twist to one side or the other. Thus if the strip that represents the enemy were to begin to twist over toward that of the aggressors, while that of the latter twists away from the former, the omen would be bad, for it would denote the flight of the assaulting party. Should, however, the rattan of the aggressors twist over and fall on the other, the omen would be auspicious and the march might be entered upon.

The various twists and curls of these strips of rattan are observed with the closest attention and interpreted variously. Should the omen prove ill, the tagbsau must be invoked and other forms of divination tried until the party feels assured of success.

Divination from bya squares.—The bya is a species of small vine, a fathom of which is cut by the leader into pieces exactly the length of the middle finger. These pieces are then laid on the ground in squares. Should the number of pieces be sufficient to constitute complete squares without any remainder the omen is bad in the extreme, but should a certain number of pieces remain the omen is good. Thus if one piece remains the attack will be successful and of short duration. If two remain, the outcome will be the same, but there will be some delay; and if three remain, the delay will be considerable, as it will be necessary to construct ladders.[8]

[8] Pa-ga-hag-da-nn.

When any of the omens taken by one of the above forms of divination prove unpropitious, the tagbsau must be invoked and other divinatory methods tried until the party is satisfied that a reasonable amount of success is assured. But should the omens indicate a failure or a disaster, the expedition must be put off or a change made in the party. Thus, for instance, the bad luck[9] might be attributed to the presence of one or more individuals. In that case these persons are eliminated and the omens repeated. It is needless to say that the observance of all the omens necessary for an expedition, together with the concomitant ceremonies, may occupy as much as three days and nights.

[9] Pa-ad.


[10] Pan-u-ag-tu-ag to li-m-kon.

Though at the beginning of ordinary journeys the consultation of the omen bird is of primary importance, yet before a war expedition it acquires a solemnity that is not customary on ordinary occasions. This ceremony is the last of all those that are made preparatory to the march.

The warrior priest turns toward the trail and addresses the invisible turtledove, beseeching it to sing out from the proper direction and thereby declare whether they may proceed or not. In one of the instances that came under my personal observation a little unhulled rice was placed upon a log for the regalement of the omen bird, and a tame pet omen bird in an adjoining house was petted and fed and asked to summon its wild mates of the encircling forest to sing the song of victory. Many of the band imitate the turtle bird's cry[11] as a further inducement to get an answer from the wild omen birds that might be in the neighborhood.

[11] This is done by putting the hands crosswise, palm over palm and thumb beside thumb. The cavity between the palms must be tightly closed, leaving open a slit between the thumbs. The mouth is applied to this slit and by blowing in puffs the Manbo can produce a sound that is natural enough to elicit in many cases response from a turtledove that may be within hearing distance. In fact, I have known the birds to approach within shooting distance of the artificial sounds.


In the ceremonies connected with, the celebration in honor of his war lord the warrior priest is the principal personage, but he is usually assisted by several of the chief priests of the ordinary class. Such is the general account, and such was the procedure in the ceremony that I witnessed in 1907, of which the following are the main details and which will serve as a general description of the ceremony:

The appurtenances of the ceremony were identical with those described before under ceremonial accessories, except that a piece of bamboo, about 30 centimeters long, parted and carved into the form of a crude crocodile with a betel-nut frond hanging from it, was suspended in the diminutive offering house referred to so many times before. Objects of this kind, like this piece of bamboo, have a mouthlike form and vary from 30 to 60 centimeters in length. They are, as it were, ceremonial salvers on which are set the offerings of blood and meat and gbag[12] for the war deities.

[12] G-bag is the nape of the neck, and here refers to that of a pig.

In the ceremony that I am describing I noticed a plate of rice set out on an upright piece of bamboo, the upper part of which had been spread out into an inverted cone to hold the plate. The pig had been bound already to its sacrificial table, but was ceaseless in its cries and in its efforts to release itself. Several war and ordinary priests, covered with all their wealth of charms and ornaments, were scattered throughout the assembly. The war priests particularly presented an imposing appearance, vested in the blood-red insignia of their rank. Around their necks were thrown the magic charm collars, with their pendants of shells, crocodile teeth, and herbs.

About 5 o'clock in the afternoon of the day in question the ceremony was ushered in in the usual way by several male and female priests. The warrior priests did not take part till the following day, though during the night they chanted legendary tales of great Manbo fights and fighters. The following morning, however, they led the ceremonies.

During the whole performance there seemed to be no established system or order. Both warrior priests and others took up the invocation and the dance as the whim moved or as the opportunity allowed them. One noteworthy point about the ceremony was the ritual dance of the warrior priests in honor of their war deities. Attired as they were in the full panoply of war, with hempen coat and shield, lance, bolo, and dagger, they romped and pirouetted in turns around the victim to the wild war tattoo of the drum and the clang of the gong. Imagining the victim to be some doughty enemy of his, the dancer darted his lance at it back and forth, now advancing, now retreating, at times hiding behind his shield, and at others advancing uncovered as if to give the last long lunge. Under the inspiration of the occasion their eyes gleamed with a fierce glare and the whole physiognomy was kindled with the fire of war. The spectators on this particular occasion maintained silence and attention and manifested considerable fear. It is believed that the warrior priest, being under the influence of his war god, is liable to commit an act of violence.

At the time I did not understand the tenor of the invocations that followed each dance, but was informed that they are such as would be expected on such an occasion, namely, an invitation to the spirits of war to partake of the feast and a prayer to them to accompany the party and assist them in capturing their enemies.

When the moment for the sacrifice arrived the leader of the party, the chief warrior priest, danced the final dance and, stepping up to the pig, plunged his spear through its heart, and, applying his mouth to the wound, drank the blood. Several of the other priests caught the blood in plates and pans and partook of it in the same manner. The leader put the blood receptacle under the wound and allowed some of the blood to flow into it. He then returned it to the diminutive offering house. The ordinary priests fell into the customary trance, but the war-priest, together with several of the spectators, took the blood omen. Apparently this was not favorable, for they ordered the intestines to be removed at once and examined the gall bladder and the liver.

The priests emerged from their trance and no further ceremonies were performed except the taking of omens. This occupied several hours and was performed by little groups, even the young boys trying their hand at it.

When the pig had been cooked it was set out on the floor and was partaken of in the usual way. There was little brew on hand. I learned that on such occasions it is not customary to indulge to any great extent in drinking.

The party expected to begin the march that afternoon; but as the scouts had not returned they waited until the next morning.

When the march was about to begin, and while the party still stood on the river bank, the leader wrenched the head off a chicken and took observations from the blood and intestines. These were not as satisfactory as was desired, but were considered favorable enough to warrant beginning the march tentatively. Upon the entrance of the party into the forest the omen bird was invoked; its cry proved favorable, and the march began.


[13] Hu—ga.

I never witnessed a human sacrifice nor was I ever able to verify the facts in the locality in which one had occurred, but I have no doubt that such sacrifices were made occasionally by Manbos in former times.

It is not strange that a custom of this kind should exist in a country where a human being is a mere chattel, sometimes valued at less than a good dog. When it is considered that in Manboland revenge is not only a virtue but a precept, and often a sacred inheritance, it stands to reason that to sacrifice the life of an enemy or of an enemy's friend or relative would be an act of the highest merit. From what I have observed of Manbo ways I can readily conceive the satisfaction and glee with which an enemy would be offered up to the war deities of a settlement, slowly lanced or stabbed to death, and then the heart, liver, and blood taken ceremonially. A very common expression of anger used by one Manbo to another is "huagon ka," that is, "May you be sacrificed."

I find verbal evidences of human sacrifices in those regions only that are near to the territory of the Bagbos and the Mandyas. This leads me to think that the custom is either of Bagbo or of Mandya origin.

The Jesuit missionary Urios[14] makes mention of the case of Maligan who lived on the upper Simlao, contiguous to the Mandya country. In order to cure himself of a severe illness he had a little girl sacrificed. Urios describes the punitive expedition sent out against him, and the death of Maligan by his own hand.

[14] Cartas de los PP. de la Compaa de Jess, Cuaderno V, letter from Father Saturnine Urios, Patrocinio, Sept. 16, 1881.

I have heard of numerous cases, especially in the region at the headwaters of the Bobo, Ihawn, and Sbud Rivers. One particular case will illustrate the manner in which the ceremony is performed. My authority for the account is one who claimed to have participated in the sacrifice.

A boy slave, who belonged to the man that arranged the sacrifice, was selected. The slave was given to understand that the object of the ceremony was to cure him of a loathsome disease from which he was suffering.[15] The preparatory ceremonies were described as being of the same character as those which take place in the ordinary pig sacrifice for the war spirit, namely, the offering of the betel-nub tribute, the solemn invocation of the war spirits and supplication for the recovery of the officiant's son, the sacred dance performed by the warrior priests, and the offering of betel nut to the soul of the slave that it might harbor no ill will against the participants in the ceremony.

[15] To-bu-kw.

The slave, the narrator informed me, was left unmolested, being entertained by companions of his age until the moment for the sacrifice arrived, when he was seized and quickly bound to a tree. The warrior priest, who was the father of the sick one, then shouted out in a loud voice to his war spirits asking them to accept the blood of this human creature, and without further ado planted his dagger in the slave's breast. Several others, among whom my informant was one, followed suit. The victim died almost instantly. Then each one of the warrior priests inserted a crocodile tooth from his neck collar[16] into one of the wounds and they became, as the narrator put it, tagbusaun; that is, filled with the blood spirit. The reader is left to imagine the scene that must have followed.

[16] Ta-ti-hn.

Human sacrifice takes place in other forms, according to universal report. Thus one hears now and then that a warrior chief had his young son kill a slave or a captive in order to receive the spirit of bravery through the power of a war deity, who would impart to him the desire to perform feats of valor. Three warrior chiefs informed me personally that they had done this in order to accustom their young sons to the sight of blood and to impart to them the spirit of courage. I have no doubt whatsoever of the truth of their statements, as they were made in a matter-of-fact, straightforward way, as if the affair were a most natural occurrence. Accounts of such performances may be overheard when Manbos speak among themselves.

There is also another way in which human lives are sacrificed, but it partakes less of ceremonial character than the two previous methods. I was given the names of several warrior chiefs who had practiced it. The following are the details: If the warriors have been lucky enough to kill an enemy during a fray and at the same time to secure human booty in the form of captives, they are said on occasions to turn one or more of these same captives over to their less successful friends in order that the latter may sate their bloody thirst and feel the full jubilation of the victory. I was informed that the victims are dragged out into the near-by forest, speared to death or stabbed, and thrust with broken bones into a narrow round hole. That this is true I have every reason to believe, for I heard these reports under circumstances of a convincing nature. Furthermore, such proceedings would be highly typical of Manbo character and would probably occur among any people that valued human life so lightly and that cherished revenge so dearly. What could be more natural and more pleasing in the exultation of victory and in the wildness of its orgies than to deliver a captive, probably a mortal enemy, to an unsuccessful friend or relative that he too might glut his vengeance and fill his heart with the full joy of victory?




The Manbo not only consults his priest in order to determine the will of the deities but he himself questions nature at every step of life and discovers, by what he considers definite and unerring indications, the course that he may pursue with personal security and success.

To set down the multitudinous array of these signs would be to attempt a task of extreme prolixity and one encompassed with infinite uncertainties and seeming contradictions.

Upon being questioned as to the origin of these manifold omens and auguries the Manbo can afford no further information than that they have been tried for long generations and found to be true. Show him that on a given occasion the omen bird's cry augured ill but that the undertaking was a success, and he will explain away the apparent inconsistency. Show him that the omens were auspicious and that the enterprise was a failure and he will ascribe the failure to an unnoticed violation of a taboo or to the infraction of some tribal custom which aroused the displeasure of a deity.

In every undertaking he must have divine approbation to give him assurance. If one omen is unsatisfactory, he must consult another, and if that one fails also, he tries a third, and after various other trials, if all are unfavorable, he suspends or discontinues the work until he receives a more favorable answer. After getting a satisfactory omen he proceeds with the full assurance of success.

There can hardly be said to be professional augurers in Manboland. Here and there one finds one with a reputation for skill but this reputation is never so great as to overcome differences of opinion on the part of others who also claim to be experts. In fact, where a combination of good and bad omens occurs, it is customary to hold a long consultation until the consensus of opinion inclines one way or the other.


The following are a few of the accidental omens that portend ill:

(1) Sneezing when heard by one who is about to leave the house, prognosticates ill luck for him. He must return to the house and wait a few minutes in order to neutralize the bad influence.[1]

[1] Pan-d-ut.

(2) It is an evil portent to see a snake on the trail. The traveler must return and wait till next day, or if that can not be done, recourse must be had to other omens, such as the egg omen, or the suspension omen, in order to determine beyond a doubt what fortune awaits him.

(3) Should a frog, a large lizard, or any other living creature that is a stranger to human habitations, enter a house, the portent is unlucky and means must be taken at once to discover, through divination, the exact significance of the occurrence. In such cases the egg omen is tried, and then the suspension omen, and others until no doubt is entertained as to the significance of the unusual occurrence.

(4) The settling of bees on the gable ornaments of a house, or even in the immediate vicinity of the house, is a sure intimation of the approach of a war party or even of certain death, unless the occurrence has taken place during the rice-planting season and in the new clearing. The fowl-waving ceremony and the blood lustration must be performed immediately and other omens taken at once to determine whether these ceremonies were sufficient to neutralize the threatened danger. I arrived at a house on the upper Karga, shortly after the occurrence of this portent, and took part in the countervailing ceremonies. According to all reports the belief in this omen and the neutralization of it by the above-mentioned ceremonies is common to Manbos and Maggugans.

(5) The howling of a dog while asleep portends evil to the owner. This omen is considered very serious and the evil of which it is an intimation must be averted by prompt means. Moreover, the dog must be sold.

(6) The appearance of shooting stars, meteors, and comets prognosticates sickness.

(7) The breaking of a plate or of a pot before an intended trip is of such evil import that the trip is postponed until the following day.

(8) The discovery of blood on an object when no satisfactory explanation of its presence can be found is an omen of very evil import.

(9) The nibbling of clothes by mice is an evil sign, and, though the clothes need not be discarded, neutralizing means must be resorted to.

(10) The finding of a dead animal on the farm is of highly evil import and no means should be left untried toward offsetting the threatened ill.

(11) The crying of birds at night is considered ominous; the sound is thought to be the voice of evil spirits who with intent to do harm have metamorphosed themselves into the form of birds.


As already stated, dreams are believed to be pictures of the doings of the soul companions of the Manbo and in some mystic way are thought to foreshadow his own fate. Should a person yell in his sleep it is a proof that his soul or spirit is in danger, and he must be instantly aroused but not rudely.[2] The belief in dreams is strong and abiding and plays no small part in the Manbo's religious life.

[2] If not awakened at once he may fall into a condition in which he is said to be pa-ga-tam-i-un, a term that I have failed to learn the meaning of.

The interpretation of them, however, is so variable and so involved in apparent contradictions that I have obtained little definite and reliable information. In cases where Manbo experts differ, and where other forms of divination have to be employed to determine whether a dream is to be considered ominous or otherwise, it is not suprising[sic] that a stranger should have received little enlightenment on the subject.

Much more importance attaches to the dreams of the priest than to those of ordinary individuals, for the former are thought to have a more general application and to be more definite in their significance. But the difficulty of interpretation may frequently make the dream of no value because it may happen that the future must be determined by recourse to other divinatory methods.

There is a general belief that both the ordinary priest and the warrior chief may receive a knowlege[sic] of future events in their dreams and also may receive medicine, but I know of only one case in which the latter claim was made. In that case a priest maintained that he had been instructed in a dream to fish for eels the following day. He stated that he had done so and that he had found a bezoar stone which he had given to a sick relative of his.

However, when once the dream has been interpreted to the satisfaction of the dream experts as ill-boding, means must be taken immediately to avert the impending evil. A common method of doing this is by the fowl-waving ceremony and in serious cases by the blood-lustration rite.



[3] Bu-d-kan, a species of creeper.

I witnessed the taking of this omen both in 1905, before the war expedition referred to on previous pages, and also at the time of the selection of a new town site for the town of Monacayo[sic] on the upper Agsan. As a rule the omen is taken on occasions of this kind. The procedure in the rite is as follows:

A piece of a vine one fathom long is cut up into pieces the length of the middle finger; these pieces are then arranged as in the figure shown herewith as far as the number of the pieces permits. The sides of the square and the pieces which radiate from the corners are first laid in position. One piece is then placed in the center, and those which remain are set at right angles to the rectangle. (See fig. 2c, e.)

The six pieces of vine that are set at right angles to the rectangle, as in figure 2a, represent the ladders or poles by which entrance is gained to the house, represented in this case by the rectangle itself. The pieces that radiate from the four corners represent the posts that support the house. Now, whenever the pieces of vine are not sufficient to form even one "ladder," it is evident that all hopes of entering the house and getting the enemy are vain. The principle of the omen consists in the observation of the presence and number of ladders, and of the length of the central piece which represents the inmates of the house to be attacked. The following are some of the main and more intelligible figures.


As there is no side piece or "ladder" in Figure 2b, c it is a sign that the house of the opponent can not be entered. In Figure 2c the shortness of the central piece is an indication that one of the attacking party will be wounded. This configuration is called lahgan[4] and is very inauspicious.

[4] From la-hg, to carry on a pole between two or more persons.

In Figure 2d the necessary ladders are present and the inmates of the house will be reached. The omen is favorable and is called hagdanan.[5]

[5] From hgdan, a pole ladder.

In Figure 2e there are the necessary means of getting access to the house as may be seen by the presence of the three "ladders" at right angles to the house. Moreover, the piece representing the inmates is shorter, an indication of great slaughter. This is a most favorable omen and, as there will be great weeping as a result of the killing, it is called luha'an.[6]

[6] From l-ha, a tear.

In Figure 2f the absence of a piece within the rectangle is symbolical of the flight of the inmates of the house so that the intended attack is put off for a few days and a few scouts sent forward to reconnoiter.

There are several other combinations to which different interpretations may be given according to whether the omen is employed for a war expedition or for the selection of a new site, but the above figures give a general idea of this method of divination.[7]

[7] The interpretation of these figures can not be given in greater detail because the Manbos themselves can not always give consistent explanations of them.

Should the above omen prove unfavorable, the sacrifice of a pig[8] or of a chicken in honor of the leader's war gods should be performed, and then another attempt to secure a favorable omen by the use of the vine may be made.

[8] D-yo to tag-b-sau.


[9] T-ko.

The rattan-frond omen is taken to determine either the success of a prospective attack or the suitability of a new site for a house or farm. The observation is performed in the following way: A frond of rattan one fathom in length is taken and its midrib is cut into pieces each the length of the middle finger, as in the preceding omen, but in such a way that each piece of the midrib retains spikes, one on each side. These two spikes are then tied together, thus forming a kind of a ring or leaf circle. All these leaf circles are taken in one hand and thrown up into the air. Should any of these circlets be found entwined or stuck together when they reach the ground the omen is considered unlucky, for it denotes that one or more of the enemy will engage in a hand-to-hand fight with the attacking party.[10] Should, however, the different leaf circles reach the ground without becoming entangled, the omen is excellent. There are a great variety of possible interpretations arising from the number of tangles, each one of which has a special name and a special import, but I am unable to give any further reliable information as to these. This rattan-frond omen appears to be used very rarely. In fact, in some districts no great reliance seems to be placed on it by many with whom I conversed.[11]

[10] The omen is then said to be na-ba-k-an. The exact meaning of this term, I am unable to state.

[11] For other omens of a similar nature see Chapter XXVI.



The ordinary manner of divining future events by this method is to suspend a bolo or a dagger that has been consecrated to a deity and from its movement, or from the absence of movement, obtain the desired information. In case of emergency such a common-place object as an old smoking pipe may be used.

The object is suspended, preferably in front of a sacrificial tray, or table, and then questioned just as if it were a thing of life. The answers are somewhat limited, being confined to "yes" and "no," and are expressed by the faint and silent movement or by the utter quietude of the object suspended. Movement denotes an affirmative response to the question, quietude or lack of movement a negative answer.

I was often struck with the childlike simplicity displayed by the taker of the oracle In the particular case wherein a pipe was employed, the party wished to discover whether it would be safe for him to proceed on a journey the following day. The pipe by a slight gyratory motion at once intimated its assent. He then besought it to make no mistake, and, after carefully stilling the movement of his oracle, repeated the question two different times, receiving each time an affirmative answer. The consultation was made within a heavy hempen mosquito net of abak fiber, and, as the pipe had been suspended in a position where the heated air from the candle could affect it, it is not surprising that it displayed a tendency to be in constant movement.


[12] Ti-ma-ya to a-t-yug.

A fresh egg, or one that is known still to be in good condition, is broken in two and the contents gently emptied into a plate or bowl. If the white and the yoke remain separated, the omen is favorable but if they should mix, it is of ominous import. Should the egg prove to be rotten, the omen is thought to be evil in the extreme. I never in a single instance witnessed the failure of this omen. I was informed, however, that on occasions it has proved unfavorable.


Hieromancy is a form of divination that is resorted to on all occasions where the object of a sacrifice is one of very great importance. I witnessed this form of divination practiced upon the departure of a war party in the upper Agsan in 1907.


The blood from the neck of a sacrificed chicken or from the side of a pig is caught, usually in a bowl. If it is found to be of a bright, spotless red, without any frothing or bubbles, the omen is excellent, but the appearance of foam or dark spots, or blotches is regarded as indicative of evil in a greater or less degree according to the number and size of the spots. The appearance of circular streaks in the blood is highly favorable, as it is taken as an indication that the enemy will be completely encircled, thereby assuring the capture of all the enemy or their annihilation. In this, as in all other omens, the interpretation is given by those who are considered experts. I can afford no reliable information as to the rules governing the interpretation. Answers to inquiries show that in the interpretation of this omen there is involved an infinity of contradictions, uncertainties, and intricacies.


Before the expedition referred to above I observed a peculiar method of determining which of the warriors would distinguish himself.

The leader of the expedition seized a fowl, made a short invocation, wrenched the head from the body and allowed the blood of the beheaded bird to flow into a bowl. When all the blood had been caught in this vessel, the leader held up the still writhing fowl, leaving the neck free. Then several of those present addressed the fowl, beseeching it to point out the ones who would display most valor during the attack. Naturally, through the violent action of the muscles, the neck was twisted momentarily in a certain direction. This signified that the person in whose direction it pointed would show especial courage during the fray. The fowl was questioned a second and a third time with the result that it always pointed more or less in the direction of some one of the party famed for his prowess, which person was then and there acclaimed as one of the Hectors of the coming fight.

I was repeatedly assured that this omen is always consulted before all war expeditions[13] or war raids. In the lake region of the Agsan Valley the omen is interpreted differently for it is said to be good if the neck finally twists itself towards the east or towards the north.

[13] Mag-i-yau is a word used by nearly all tribes in Mindano to express a band of warriors on a raid, or the raid itself. Mr. H. O. Beyer, of the Bureau of Science, tells me that the word is used also by some northern Luzon tribes. I myself found it in use by the Negritos of the Guman and Kaulman rivers in western Pampanga.


The only rule with regard to the gall bladder is that it should be of normal size in order to denote success. An unusually large, or an unusually small one, prognosticate, respectively, misfortune or failure.[14] When the gall bladder is unusually large, however, the omen gives rise to great misgivings and calls for a very careful observance of the following omen, for it portends not only failure but disaster.

[14] In the former case the omen is said to be gu-ts and in the latter case g-pus.


This omen is taken from the liver of pigs only. In the observation of it dark spots and blotches are an indication of evil and are counted and examined as to size and form. For all of these there is a corresponding interpretation, varying, probably, according to the idiosyncrasies of each individual augur.

On occasions of great importance such as war raids, or epidemics, this omen is always consulted. But it is taken with great frequency in other contingencies as an auxiliary omen to overcome the influence of previous evil ones.


[15] Ps-ud. This appendix is a small blind projection found on the intestines of fowls.

I have never determined whether the appendix of a pig is a subject for augury or not. If it is, it escaped my observation. The appendix of a chicken, however, is invariably observed as an auxiliary to the observation of the liver and the gall of a pig. If it is found to be erect, that is, at right angles to the intestine, it is considered a favorable omen but if found in a horizontal or supine position with reference to the intestine, it is said to be highly inauspicious. In every case which I saw the omen was favorable.



Divination by birds is confined practically to the turtledove.[16] This homely inert creature is considered the harbinger of good and evil, and is consulted at the beginning of every journey and of every undertaking where its prophetic voice can be heard. Should its cry forebode ill, the undertaking is discontinued no matter how urgent it may be. But should the cry presage good, then the project is taken up or continued with renewed assurance and a glad heart, for is not this bird the envoy of the deities and its voice a divine message?

[16] Li-m-kon.

No arguments can shake the Manbo's[17] faith in the trusty omen bird. For him it can not err, it is infallible. For every case you cite him of its errors, he quotes you numberless cases where its prophecies have come true, and ends by attributing the instance you cite to a false interpretation or to divine intervention that saved you from the evil prognosticated by the bird.

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