The Pagan Tribes of Borneo
by Charles Hose and William McDougall
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It is only very seldom that Sea Dayak women tatu, and then only in small circles on the breasts [7, p. 83] and on the calves of the legs.

As a conclusion to the foregoing account of Bornean tatu we add a table which summarises in the briefest possible manner all our information; its chief use perhaps will lie in showing in a graphic manner the blanks in our knowledge that still remain.

We do not consider that tatu can ever be of much value in clearing up racial problems, seeing how much evidence there is of interchange of designs and rejection of indigenous designs in favour of something newer; consequently we refrain from drawing up another scheme of classification of tatu in Borneo; at best it would be little more than a re-enumeration of the forms that we have already described in more or less detail.

Table showing the Forms of Tatu Practised by the Tribes of Borneo

Character of Designs. Part of Body Tatued. Cermonial. Object of Tatu.

Kayan [male] Isolated designs, representing the dog, a bead, rosettes and stars. Serial designs on hands. Inside of forearm, outside of thigh, breasts, wrist and points of shoulders. Back of hand sometimes. None Sign of bravery in some forms, to ward off illness in others.

[female] Serial designs of complex nature, geometrical, anthropo- and zoomorphic. The whole forearm, back of hand, the whole thigh, the metatarsal surface of the foot. Very elaborate Chiefly for ornament, for use after death, for cure of illness.

Kenyah [male] As amongst Kayans, with some degradation of design and alternation of name. Same as with Kayans. None Sign of bravery in some cases. Chiefly for ornament.

[female] As amongst Kayans. The whole forearm, back of hand, metatarsal surface of foot. None Ornament.

Kenyah-Kalamantan. Peng [male] Geometrical serial designs, discs, ? isolated designs. Arm from shoulders to wrist; calf of leg. ? ? Ornament.

[female] Designs employed by Kayan [male] [male] Forearms and legs. ? ? Ornament.

Lepu Lutong [female] Simple geometrical design. Forearm and back of hand. ? ?

Uma Tow [male] ? ? same as Kayan designs. ? ? ?

[female] Simple geometrical designs (low-class [female] [female]), anthropomorphic designs, copied from other tribes (high-class [female] [female]). Forearm and back of hand, front and sides of the thigh and the shin. Some. ?

Long Glat and Uma Luhat. [male] ? not at all.


[female] Complicated serial designs, chiefly of zoomorphic MOTIF. As with Kayan [female] [female], but also with lines round the ankles. Tatu of forearms not so extensive.

Chiefly ornament, for use in the next world.


Uma Long [female] Simple geometrical design ("stippled") Forearm and back of hand. ? ?

Dusun [male] Lines Stomach, breast, arm. None Partly as tally of enemies slain.

Murut [male] Scroll designs and circles Above the knee-cap; on the breast (Practice obsolescent). None. ?

[female] Parallel lines. Arm and back of hand. ? None. ? Ornament.

Kalabit [male] As with Dusuns As with Dusuns ? ?

[female] Zigzags and chevrons. Forearms, the lower part of the leg. Very little. ?

Long Utan [female] Complicated serial geometrical designs. As with Long Glat. ? ?

Biajau [male] Complicated serial geometrical designs, scrolls, zoomorphs, etc. Almost the whole body including the face amongst some of the sub-tribes. ? With some sub-tribes to signify success in war and love, manual dexterity, etc.

[female] ? ? ? ? as with Long Glat. ? ?

Ot-Danum, Ulu Ajar, etc. [male] Curved lines, discs, and simple geometrical designs. On breast, stomach, outside of arms and thighs, calf of leg. ? None. In some cases a sign of bravery.

[female] Simple designs like those of the Uma Tow Kenyahs (low-class [female] [female]). High-class [female] [female] like Long Glat? Shin, thigh, and calf of leg. ? ?

Kahayan [male] Chequer design. On breast, stomach, throat, arms. ? ?

Bakatan and Ukit [male] Chiefly scroll and circle designs. Nearly all represented in "negative." Jaws, throat, breast, back, shoulders, forearms, thighs, calf of leg, ankles, feet and backs of hands. Obsolete. Sign of bravery and experience in war, symbol of maturity.

[female] Anthropomorphic, lines, representation of a bead. Forearms, wrist, metacarpals. None. Ornament.

Sea-Dayak [male] Degraded Kayan and Bakatan designs. ALmost every part of the body, except the face. None. Ornament.

[female] Small circles. Breasts and calves of legs. None. Ornament.


1. Beccari, Dr. O., NELLE FORESTE DI BORNEO (1902). 2. Bock, Carl, THE HEAD-HUNTERS OF BORNEO (1882). 3. Furness, W. H., THE HOME LIFE OF BORNEO HEAD-HUNTERS (1902). 4. Haddon, E. B., "The Dog-motive in Bornean Art" (JOURN. ANTH. INST., 1905). 5. Hamer, C. den, IETS OVER HET TATOUEEREN OF TOETANG BIJ DE BIADJOE-STAMMEN. 6. Hein, A. R., DIE BILDENDEN KUNSTE BEI DEN DAYAKS AUF BORNEO (1890). 7. Ling Roth, H., THE NATIVES OF SARAWAK AND BRITISH NORTH BORNEO (1896), vol. ii. 8. Nieuwenhuis, Dr. A. W., IN CENTRAL BORNEO (1900). vol. i. 9. Nieuwenhuis, Dr. A. W., QUER DURCH BORNEO (1904), vol. i. 10. Schwaner, Dr. C. A. L. M., BORNEO (1853 — 54); cf. Ling Roth, vol. ii. pp. cxci to cxcv. 11. Whitehead, J., EXPLORATION OF MOUNT KINA BALU, NORTH BORNEO (1893).

Brief references to tatu will also be found in the writings of Burns, Brooke Low, MacDougall, De Crespigny, Hatton, St. John, Witti, and others, but notices of all these will be found in Mr. Ling Roth's volumes.

Explanation of Plates.

Plate 136.

Fig. 1. — Kayan dog design (UDOH ASU) for thighs of men. From a tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1054.104.)

Fig. 2. — Uma Balubo Kayan dog design. From a tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1054.90.)

Fig. 3. — Sea Dayak scorpion design (KELINGAI KALA) for thigh, arm, or breast of men. From a tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1054.99.)

Fig. 4. — Kenyah dog design, copied from a Kayan model. From a tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1054.108.)

Fig. 5. — Kayan dog design. From a tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1054.106.)

Fig. 6. — Kayan dog design. From a tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1054.88.)

Fig. 7. — Kayan double dog design for outside of thigh of man. From a tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1054.31.)

Fig. 8. — Kayan designs of dog with pups (TUANG NGANAK). A=pup. For thigh of man. From a tatu-block in Sarawak Museum. (No. 1054.57.)

Fig. 9. — Kenyah jaws of centipede design (LIPAN KATIP), for breast or shoulder of man. From a tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1054.20.)

Fig. 10. — Kenyah crab design (TOYU). A=mouth (BA), B=claw (KATIP), C=back (LIKUT), D=tail (IKONG). From a tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1054.71.)

Plate 137.

Fig. 1. — Sea Dayak modification of the dog design. From a tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum.(No. 1054.102.)

Fig. 2. — (No. 1054.101.)

Fig. 3. — (No. 1054.67.)

Fig. 4. — (No. 1054.109.)

Fig. 5. — (No. 1054.70.)

Fig. 6. — But known as "scorpion" (KALA) pattern.From a tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1054.69.)

Fig. 7. — Barawan and Kenyah modification of the dog design, known as "hook" (KOWIT) pattern. From a tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1054.63.)

Fig. 8. — (No. 1054.75.)

Fig. 9. — Kenyah modification of the dog design, but known as the "prawn" (ORANG) pattern. From a tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1054.89.)

Plate 138.

Fig. 1. — Kayan three-line pattern (IDA TELO) for back of thigh of woman of slave class. From a tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 166A Brooke Low Coll.)

Fig. 2. — Kayan four-line pattern (IDA PAT) for back of thigh of woman of middle class. From a tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1434.)

Fig. 3. — Kayan (Rejang R.) three-line pattern (IDA TELO) for back of thigh of women of upper and middle classes. From a tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1054.2.)

Fig. 4. — Kayan (Uma Pliau) design for front and sides of thigh of high class women. A = TUSHUN TUVA, tuba root; B = JALAUT, fruit of PLUKENETIA CORNICULATA; D = KOWIT, interlocking hooks. From a tatu-block in coll. C. Hose.

Fig. 5. — Kayan design for front of thigh of woman of high class. A = TUSHUN TUVA; B = DULANG HAROK, bows of a boat; C = ULU TINGGANG, hornbill's head; D = BELILING BULAN, full moons. From a tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1432.)

Fig. 6. — Barawan design for the shoulder or breast of men. From a drawing.

Fig. 7. — Design of uncertain origin, on the calf of the leg of an Ukit man.

Plate 139.

Fig. 1. — Kayan (Rejang R.) design known as IDA TUANG or IDA LIMA for back of thigh of women of high rank. Note the hornbill heads at the top of the design. From a tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 166D Brooke Low Coll.)

Fig. 2. — Kayan (Rejang R.) design; compare with Figs. 5 and 11. From a tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 166C Brooke Low Coll.)

Fig. 3. — Long Glat hornbill design (after Nieuwenhuis). This is tatued in rows down the front and sides of the thigh.

Fig. 4. — Kayan (?) hornbill design, known, however, as the "dog without a tail" (TUANG BUVONG ASU). From a tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1054.8.)

Fig. 5. — Kayan (Rejang R.) tatu design known as "dog without a tail" (TUANG BUVONG ASU) pattern, for front and sides of thigh of women of high rank. From a tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 166G, Brooke Low Coll.)

Fig. 6. — Kayan three-line and four-line design (IDA TELO and IDA PAT) for back of thigh of women of low class. From a tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1435.)

Fig. 7. — Uma Lekan Kayan anthropomorphic design (SILONG), tatued in rows down front and sides of thigh.

Fig. 8. — Kayan bead (LUKUT) design, tatued on the wrist of men.

Fig. 9. — ,, ,, ,,

Fig. 10. — ,, ,, ,, From a tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1054.62.)

Fig. 11. — Portion of Uma Lekan Kayan design for back of thigh of women of high rank (after Nieuwenhuis).

Plate 140.

Fig. 1. — Tatu design on the forearm of an Uma Lekan Kayan woman of high rank. From a rubbing of a carved wooden model in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1398.)

Fig. 2. — Tatu design on the thigh of an Uma Lekan Kayan woman of high rank. From a rubbing of a carved wooden model in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1398.)

Fig. 3. — Tatu design on the forearm of an Uma Phan Kayan woman of high rank. A = BELILING BULAN, full moons; B = DULANG HAROK, bows of a boat; C = KAWIT, hooks; D = DAUN WI, leaves of rattan; E = TUSHUN TUVA, bundles of tuba root. From a carved wooden model in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1431.)

Fig. 4. — Kenyah design, representing the open fruit of a species of mango (IPA OLIM), tatued on breasts or shoulders of men. From a tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1054.14.)

Fig. 5. — Kayan (Baloi R.) KALANG KOWIT or hook design for back of thigh of woman of high rank. From a tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1054.54.)

Plate 141.

Fig. 1. — Design on the hand of a Skapan chief tatued in the Kayan manner. From a drawing.

Fig. 2. — Design on the arm of a Peng man. From a drawing by Dr. H. Hiller of Philadelphia.

Fig. 3. — Design on the arm of a Kabayan man. From a drawing by Dr. H. Hiller of Philadelphia.

Fig. 4. — Design on the forearm of a Lepu Lutong woman. From a drawing.

Fig. 5. — Design on the forearm of a Long Utan woman. From a rubbing of a carved model in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1430.)

Fig. 6. — Design on the thigh of a Long Utan woman. From a rubbing of a carved model in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1426.)

Fig. 7. — Kenyah design, representing the DURIAN fruit (USONG DIAN), tatued on the breasts or shoulders of men. From a tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1054.17.)

Plate 142.

Fig. 1. — Tatu design on the forearm of a Kalabit woman. From a drawing.

Fig. 2. — Tatu design on front of leg of a Kalabit woman. C = BETIK LULUD, shin pattern. From a photograph.

Fig. 3. — Tatu design on back of leg of a Kalabit woman. A = BETIK BUAH, fruit pattern; B = BETIK LAWA, trunk pattern. From a drawing.

Fig. 4. — Tatu design on front of leg of the same Kalabit woman. D = BETIK KARAWIN; E = UJAT BATU, hill-tops. From a drawing.

Fig. 5. — Tatu design on the forearm of an Uma Long woman. From a drawing.

Fig. 6. — Tatu design on arms and torso of a Biajau man of low class. From a drawing by a Maloh.

Fig. 7. — Tatu design on leg of Biajau man of low class. From a drawing by a Maloh.

Fig. 8. — Tatu design on shin of Biajau woman of low class. From a drawing by a Maloh.

Fig. 9. — Kajaman design representing the fruit of PLUKENETIA CORNICULATA (JALAUT), tatued on the breasts or shoulders of men. From a tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1054.21.)

Fig. 10. — Tatu design on the biceps of an Ukit man, said to represent a bead (LUKUT). From a drawing.

Plate 143.

Fig. 1. — Design (GEROWIT, hooks) tatued on the breast of a Bakatan man. From a tatu-block in the collection of H.H. the Rajah of Sarawak.

Fig. 2. — ,,

Fig. 3. — Design (AKIH, tree gecko) tatued on the shoulder of a Bakatan man. From a drawing.

Fig. 4. — ,,

Fig. 5. — Design tatued on the calf of the leg of an Ukit. From a photograph.

Fig. 6. — Tatu design on the foot of a Kayan woman of low class. From a drawing.

Fig. 7. — Design representing an antique bead (LUKUT), tatued on the wrist of a Bakatan girl. From a drawing.

Fig. 8. — Design (GEROWIT) tatued on the metacarpals of a Bakatan girl. From a drawing.

Fig. 9. — Design (KANAK, circles) on the back of a Bakatan man. From a tatu-block.

Fig. 10. — Design (GEROWIT) tatued on the throat of a Bakatan man. From a photograph.


Ideas of Spiritual Existences and the Practices Arising From Them

The Kayans believe themselves to be surrounded by many intelligent powers capable of influencing their welfare for good or ill. Some of these are embodied in animals or plants, or are closely connected with other natural objects, such as mountains, rocks, rivers, caves; or manifest themselves in such processes as thunder, storm, and disease, the growth of the crops and disasters of various kinds. There can be no doubt that some of these powers are conceived anthropomorphically; for some of them are addressed by human titles, are represented by carvings in human form, and enjoy, in the opinion of the Kayans, most of the characteristically human attributes.

Others are conceived more vaguely, the bodily and mental characters of man are attributed to them less fully and definitely; and it is probably true to say that these powers, all of which, it would seem, must be admitted to be spiritual powers (if the word spiritual is used in a wide sense as denoting whatever power is fashioned in the likeness of human will and feeling and intelligence), range from the anthropomorphic being to the power which resides in the seed grain and manifests itself in its growth and multiplication, and which seems to be conceived merely as a vital principle, virtue, or energy inherent in the grain, rather than as an intelligent and separable soul.[88]

It has been said of some peoples of lowly culture that they have no conception of merely mechanical causation, and that every material object is regarded by them as animated in the same sense as among ourselves common opinion regards the higher animals as animated. On the difficult question whether such a statement is true of any people we will not presume to offer an opinion; but we do not think that it could be truthfully made about any of the peoples of Borneo. It would be absurd to deny all recognition or knowledge of mechanical causation to people who show so much ingenuity in the construction of houses, boats, weapons, and a great variety of mechanical devices, such as traps, and in other operations involving the intelligent application of mechanical principles. These operations show that, though they may be incapable of describing in abstract and general terms the principles involved, they nevertheless have a nice appreciation of them. If a trap fails to work owing to its faulty construction, the trapper treats it purely as a mechanical contrivance and proceeds to discover and rectify the faulty part. It is true that in this and numberless similar situations a man's movements may be guided by his observation of omens; but if, after obtaining good omens, he has success in trapping, he does not attribute the successful operation of the trap to any, activity other than its purely mechanical movements; though it may be, and probably in some such cases is, true that the Kayan believes the omen bird to have somehow intervened to direct the animal towards the trap, or to prevent the animal being warned against it. The Kayan hangs upon the tomb the garments and weapons and other material possessions of the dead man;[89] and it would seem that he believes that some shadowy duplicate of each such object is thereby placed at the service of the ghost of the dead man. This, it might be argued, shows that he attributes to each such inert material object a soul, whose relation to the object is analogous to that of the human soul to the body. But such an inference, we think, would not be justified. As with the Homeric Greeks, the principle of intelligence and life is not to be altogether identified with the ghost, or shade, or shadowy duplicate of the human form that is conceived to travel to the Kayan Hades. The soul seems to be rather an inextended invisible principle; for, as the procedure of the soul-catcher[90] shows, it is regarded as capable of being contained within, or attached to, almost any small object, living or inert. It would seem, then, that after death the visible ghost or shade of a man incorporates and is animated by the soul; and that the visible shade of inert objects is, like themselves, inert and inanimate.

There is, then, no good reason to suppose that the Kayans attribute life, soul, or animation to inert material objects; and they do not explain the majority of physical events animistically.

The spiritual powers or spirits may, we think be conveniently regarded as of three principal classes: —

(1) There are the anthropomorphic spirits thought of as dwelling in remote and vaguely conceived regions and as very powerful to intervene in human life. Towards these the attitude of the Kayans is one of supplication and awe, gratitude and hope, an attitude which is properly called reverential and is the specifically religious attitude. These spirits must be admitted to be gods in a very full sense of the word, and the practices, doctrines, and emotions centred about these spirits must be regarded as constituting a system of religion.

(2) A second class consists of the spirits of living and deceased persons, and of other anthropomorphically conceived spirits which, as regards the nature and extent of their powers, are more nearly on a level with the human spirits than those of the first class. Such are those embodied in the omen animals and in the domestic pig, fowl, dog, in the crocodile, and possibly in the tiger-cat and a few other animals.

(3) The third class is more heterogeneous, and comprises all the spirits or impalpable intelligent powers that do not fall into one or other of the two preceding classes; such are the spirits very vaguely conceived as always at hand, some malevolent, some good; such also are the spirits which somehow are attached to the heads hung up in the houses. The dominant emotion in the presence of these is fear; and the attitude is that of avoidance and propitiation.

The Gods

The Kayans recognise a number of gods that preside over great departments of their lives and interests. The more important of these are the god of war, TOH BULU; three gods of life, LAKI JU URIP, LAKI MAKATAN URIP, and LAKI KALISAI URIP, of whom the first is the most important; the god of thunder and storms, LAKI BALARI and his wife OBENG DOH; the god of fire, LAKI PESONG; gods of the harvest, ANYI LAWANG and LAKI IVONG; a god of the lakes and rivers, URAI UKA; BALANAN, the god of madness; TOH KIHO, the god of fear; LAKI KATIRA MUREI and LAKI JUP URIP, who conduct the souls of the dead to Hades.

Beside or above all these is LAKI TENANGAN, a god more powerful than all the rest, to whom are assigned no special or departmental functions. He seems to preside or rule over the company of lesser gods, much as Zeus and Jupiter ruled over the lesser gods of the ancient Greeks and Romans.

The Kayans seem to have no very clear and generally accepted dogmas about these gods. Some assert that they dwell in the skies, but others regard them as dwelling below the surface of the earth. The former opinion is in harmony with the practice of erecting a tree before the house with its branches buried in the ground and the root upturned when prayers are made on behalf of the whole house; for the tree seems to be regarded as in some sense forming a ladder or path of communication with the superior powers. The same opinion seems to be expressed in the importance attached to fire and smoke in prayer and ritual. Fire, if only in the form of a lighted cigarette, is always made when prayers are offered; it seems to be felt that the ascending smoke facilitates in some way the communication with the gods.

While some gods, those of war and life, of harvest and of fire, are distinctly friendly, others, namely, the gods of madness and fear, are terrible and malevolent; while the god of thunder and those that conduct the souls to Hades do not seem to be predominantly beneficent or malevolent.

LAKI TENANGAN seems to be the supreme being of the Kayan universe. He is conceived as beneficent and, as his title LAKI implies, as a fatherly god who protects mankind. He is not a strictly tribal god, for the Kayan admits his identity with PA SILONG, and with BALI PENYLONG, the supreme gods of the Klemantans and Kenyahs respectively. In this, we think, the Kayan religion shows a catholicity which gives it a claim to rank very high among all religious systems.

LAKI TENANGAN has a wife, DOH TENANGAN, who, though of less importance than himself, is specially addressed by the women. The god is addressed by name in terms of praise and supplication; the prayers seem to be transmitted to him by means of the souls of domestic pigs or fowls;[91] for one of these is always killed and charged to carry the prayer to the god. At the same time a fire is invariably at hand and plays some part in the rite; the ascending smoke seems to play some part in the establishment of communication with the god. As an example of a prayer we give the following. The supplicant, having killed a pig and called the messengers of the god, cries, "Make my child live that I may bring him up with me in my occupations. You are above all men. Protect us from whatever sickness is abroad. If I put you above my head, all men look up to me as to a high cliff."

Similar rites are observed on addressing DOH TENANGAN. The following was given us as an example, "Oh! DOH TENANGAN, have pity upon me; I am ill — make me strong to-morrow and able to find my food."

The Kayans are not clear whether Laki Tenangan is the creator of the world. He does not figure in the Kayan creation myth.[92] There seems to be no doubt about his supremacy over the other gods; these are sometimes asked by Kayans to intercede with him on their behalf.[93]

As regards the minor departmental gods, it is difficult to draw the line between them and the spirits of the third class distinguished above. All of them are approached at times with prayers and with rites similar to those used in addressing LAKI TENANGAN. Several wooden posts, very roughly carved to indicate the head and, limbs of a human form, stand before every Kayan house. When the gods are addressed on behalf of the whole household, as before or after an important expedition, the ceremony usually takes place before one of these rudely carved posts.[94] But the post cannot be called an idol. It is more of the nature of an altar. No importance attaches to the mere posts, which are often allowed to fall away and decay and are renewed as required. A similar post may be hastily fashioned and set up on the bank of the river, if a party at a distance from home has special occasion for supplication.

An altar of a rather different kind is also used in communicating with the gods. It seems to be used especially in returning thanks for recovery of health after severe illness. It consists of a bamboo some four or five feet in length fixed upright in the ground. The upper end is split by two cuts at right angles to one another, and a fresh fowl's egg is inserted between the split ends (Pl. 145). Leaves of the LONG, (a species of CALADIUM), a plant grown on the PADI field for this purpose, are hung upon the post. These leaves serve merely to signalise the fact that some rite is going forward; they are also hung, together with a large sun hat, upon the door of any room in which a person lies seriously ill, to make it known as LALI or tabu; and in general they seem to be used to mark a spot as pervaded by some spiritual influence, or, in short, as "unclean." The bodies of fowls and pigs sacrificed in the course of the rites performed before such an altar-post are generally hung upon sharpened stakes driven into the ground before it, I.E. between it and the house, towards which the post, in the case of posts of the former kind, invariably faces; and the frayed sticks commonly used in such rites are hung upon the altar-post. Such posts are sometimes fenced in, but this is by no means always the case (Pl. 144).

The Kayans seek to read in the behaviour of the omen birds and in the entrails of the slaughtered pigs and fowls indications of the way in which the gods responds to their prayers. For they regard the true omen birds as the trusty messengers of the gods. After slaughtering the pigs or fowls to whose charge they have committed their petitions, they examine their entrails in the hope of discovering the answer of the gods; and at the same time they tell off two or three men to look for omens from the birds of the jungle.[95] If the omens first obtained are bad, more fowls and pigs are usually killed and omens again observed; and in an important matter, E.G. the illness of a beloved child, the process may be repeated many times until satisfactory omens are forthcoming. Whatever may have been the origin and history of such rites, it seems to be quite clear that the slaughtering of these animals is regarded as an act of sacrifice in the ordinary sense of the word, I.E. as an offering or gift of some valued possession to the spiritual powers; for, although on some occasions a pig so slaughtered is eaten, those stuck upon stakes before the altar-post are left to rot; and the idea of sacrificing, or depriving oneself of, a valued piece of property is clearly expressed on such occasions in other ways; E.G. a woman will break a bead of great value when her prayers for the restoration to health of a child remain unanswered, or on such an occasion a woman may cut off her hair.[96]

The custom of approaching and communicating with the gods through the medium of the omen birds, seems to be responsible in large measure for the fact that the gods themselves are but dimly conceived, and are not felt to be in intimate and sympathetic relations with their worshippers. The omen birds seem to form not only a medium of communication, but also, as it were, a screen which obscures for the people the vision of their gods. As in many analogous instances, the intercessors and messengers to whose care the messages are committed assume in the eyes of the people an undue importance; the god behind the omen bird is apt to be almost lost sight of, and the bird itself tends to become an object of reverence, and to be regarded as the recipient of the prayer and the dispenser of the benefits which properly he only foretells or announces.[97]

We have little information bearing upon the origin and history of these Kayan gods. But a few remarks may be ventured. The names of many of the minor deities are proper personal names in common use among the Kayans or allied tribes, such as JU, BALARI, ANYI, IVONG, URAI, UKA; and the title LAKI, by which several of them are addressed, is the title of respect given to old men who are grandfathers. These facts suggest that these minor gods may be deified ancestors of great chiefs, and this suggestion is supported by the following facts: —

First, a recently deceased chief of exceptional capacity and influence becomes not infrequently the object of a certain cult among Klemantans and Sea Dayaks. Men will go to sleep beside his grave or tomb, hoping for good dreams and invoking the aid of the dead chief in acquiring health, or wealth, or whatever a man most desires. Sea Dayaks sometimes fix a tube of bamboo leading from just above the eyes of the corpse to the surface of the ground; they will address the dead man with their lips to the orifice of the tube, and will drop into it food and drink and silver coins. A hero who is made the object of such a cult is usually buried in an isolated spot on the crest of a hill; and such a grave is known as RARONG.

Secondly, all Kayans, men and women alike, invoke in their prayers the aid of ODING, LAHANGand his intercession with LAKI TENANGAN. That they regard the former as having lived as a great chief is clearly proved by the following facts: firstly, many Kayans of the upper class claim to, be his lineal descendants; secondly, a well-known myth,[98] of which several variants are current, describes his miraculous advent to the world; thirdly, he is regarded by Kayans, Kenyahs, and many Klemantans as the founder of their race.

The Kenyahs also invoke in their prayers several spirits who seem, like ODIN LAHANG, to be regarded as deceased members of their tribe; such are TOKONG and UTONG, and PA BALAN and PLIBAN. From all these descent is claimed by various Kenyah and Klemantan sub-tribes; and that they are regarded as standing higher in the spiritual hierarchy than recently deceased chiefs, is shown by the prefix BALI,[99] commonly given to their names, whereas this title or designation is not given to recently deceased chiefs; to their names the word URIP is prefixed by both Kayans and Kenyahs. The word URIP, means life or living; the exact meaning of this prefix in this usage is obscure, possibly it expresses the recognition that the men spoken of are, though dead, still in some sense alive.

A further link in this chain of evidence is afforded by the Kenyah god of thunder, BALINGO. This spirit, it would seem, must be classed among the departmental deities, being strictly the Kenyah equivalent of LAKI BALARI of the Kayans; and all the Kenyahs and many Klemantans seem to claim some special relation to BALINGO,[100] while one Madang (Kenyah) chief at least claims direct descent from him.[101]

The last mentioned instance completes the series of cases forming a transition from the well remembered dead chief to the departmental deity, the existence of which series lends colour to the view that these minor gods have been evolved from deceased chiefs. The weakness of this evidence consists in the fact that the series of cases is drawn from a number of tribes, and is not, so far as we know, completely illustrated by the customs or beliefs of any one tribe.

There is, then, some small amount of evidence indicating that the minor gods are deified ancestors, whose kinship with their worshippers has been forgotten completely in some cases, less completely in others. If this supposition could be shown to be true, it would afford a strong presumption in favour of the view that LAKI TENANGAN also has had a similar history, and that he is but PRIMUS INTER PARES. For among the Kayans, as we have seen, a large village acknowledges a supreme chief as well as the chiefs of the several houses of the village; and in the operations of war on a large scale, a supreme war chief presides over a council of lesser chiefs. And it is to be expected that the social system of the superior powers should be modelled upon that of the people who acknowledge them.

On the other hand, none of the facts, noted in connection with the minor gods as indicating their ancestral origin, are found to be true of LAKI TENANGAN, except only his bearing the title LAKI, which, as we have seen, is the title by which a man is addressed as soon as he becomes a grandfather. The name TENANGAN is not a proper name borne by any Kayans, nor, so far as we know, does it occur amongst the other peoples. LAKI in Malay means a male. The name is possibly connected with the Kayan word TENANG which means correct, or genuine. The termination AN is used in several instances in Malay (though not in Kayan) to make a substantive of an adjective. The name then possibly means — he who is correct or all-knowing; but this is a very speculative suggestion.

It is possible that the Kayans owe their conception of a supreme god to their contact. with the Mohammedans. But this is rendered very improbable by the facts: firstly, that the Kayans have had such intercourse during but a short period in Borneo, probably not more than 300 years, (though they may have had such intercourse at an earlier period before entering Borneo); secondly, that among the Sea Dayaks, who have had for at least 150 years much more abundant intercourse with the Mohammedans of Borneo than the Kayans have had, the conception has not taken root and has not been assimilated.

The Kenyah gods and the beliefs and practices centering about them are very similar to those of the Kayans. This people also recognises a principal god or Supreme Being, whose name is BALI PENYLONG, and a number of minor deities presiding over special departments of nature and human life. The Kenyahs recognise the following minor deities: BALI ATAP protects the house against sickness and attack, and is called upon in cases of madness to expel the evil spirit possessing the patient. A rude wooden image of him stands beside the gangway leading to the house from the river's brink; it holds a spear in the right hand, a shield in the left; it carries about its neck a fringed collar made up of knotted strips of rattan; the head of each room ties on one such strip, making on it a knot for each member of his roomhold. Generally a wooden image of a hawk, BALI FLAKI, stands beside it on the top of a tall pole.

The Kenyahs carve such images more elaborately than the Kayans, who are often content merely to indicate the eyes, mouth, and four limbs, by slashing away with the sword chips of wood from the surface of the log, leaving gashes at the points roughly corresponding in position to these organs. The Kenyahs treat these rude images with rather more care than do the Kayans; and they associate them more strictly with particular deities. The children of the house are not allowed to touch such an image, after it has been once used as an altar post; it is only when it is so used, and blood of fowls or pigs sprinkled upon it, that it seems to acquire its uncleanness."[102]

BALI UTONG brings prosperity to the house. BALI URIP is the god of life; he too has a carved altarpost, generally crowned with a brass gong. BALINGO is the god of thunder.

BALI SUNGEI is the name given to a being which perhaps cannot properly be called a god. He is thought of as embodied in a huge serpent or dragon living at the bottom of the river; he is supposed to cause the violent swirls and uprushes of water that appear on the surface in times of flood. He is regarded with fear; and is held to be responsible for the upsetting of boats and drownings in the river. It is not clear that he is the spirit of the river itself; for floods and the various changes of the river do not seem to be attributed to him.

BALI PENYALONG, like Laki Tenangen, has a wife BUNGAN. She is not so distinctly the special deity of the women folk as is DOH TENANGAN among the Kayans.

A special position in the Kenyah system is occupied by BALI FLAKI, the carrion hawk, which is the principal omen bird observed during the preparation for and conduct of war. Something will be said of the cult of BALI FLAKI in a later chapter; but we would note here that this bird is peculiar among the many omen-birds of the Kenyahs, in that an altar-post before the house is assigned to him, or at least one of the posts rudely carved to suggest the human figure is specially associated with BALI FLAKI, and in some cases is surmounted by a wooden image of the hawk. It seems to us probable that in this case the Kenyahs have carried further the tendency we noted in the Kayans to allow the omen birds to figure so prominently in their rites and prayers as to obscure the gods whose messengers they are; and that BALI FLAKI has in this way driven into the background, and more or less completely taken the place of, a god of war whose name even has been forgotten by many of the Kenyahs, if not by all of them.

Peculiar adjuncts of the altar-posts of the Kenyahs are the DRACAENA plant (whose deep red leaves are generally to be seen growing in a clump not far from them) and a number of large spherical stones, BATU TULOI. These are perpetual possessions of the house. Their history is unknown; they are supposed to grow gradually larger and to move spontaneously when danger threatens the house. When a household removes and builds for itself a new home, these stones are carried with some ceremony to the new site (Pl. 144).

We reproduce here a passage from a paper published by us some ten years ago[103] in which we ventured to speculate on the development of the Kenyah belief in a Supreme Being.

We cannot conclude without saying something as to, the possible origin of their conception of a beneficent Being more powerful than all others, who sends guidance and warnings by the omen birds, and receives and answers the prayers carried to him by the souls of the fowls and pigs. It might be thought that this conception of a beneficent Supreme Being has been borrowed directly or indirectly from the Malays. But we do not think that this view is tenable in face of the fact that, while the conception is a living belief among the Madangs, a Kenyah tribe that inhabits a district in the remotest interior and has had no intercourse with Malays, the Ibans, who have had far more intercourse with the Malays than have the Kayans and Kenyahs, yet show least trace of this conception. As Archdeacon Perham has written of the Ibans, there are traces of the belief in one supreme God which suggest that the idea is one that has been prevalent, but has now almost died out. We are inclined to suppose that the tribes of the interior, such as the Kenyahs and Kayans, have evolved the conception for themselves, and that in fact Bali Penyalong of the Kenyahs is their god of war exalted above all others by the importance of the department of human activity over which he presides; for we have seen that they had been led to conceive other gods — Balingo, the god of thunder, Bali Sungei, the god of the rivers, whose anger is shown by the boiling flood, and Bali Atap, who keeps harm from the house, while the Kayans have gods of life, a god of harvesting, and other departmental deities. It seems to us that the only difficult step in such a simple and direct evolution of the idea of a beneficent Supreme Being is the conception of gods or spirits that perform definite functions, such as Bali Atap, who guards the house, and the gods that preside over harvesting and war, as distinct from such gods or nature-spirits as Balingo and Bali Sungei. But there seems to be no doubt that this step has been taken by these peoples, and that these various gods of abstract function have been evolved by them. And it seems to us that, were a god of war once conceived, it would be inevitable that, among communities whose chief interest is war and whose prosperity and very existence depend upon success in battle, such a god of battles should come to predominate over all others, and to claim the almost exclusive regard of his worshippers. Such a predominance would be given the more easily to one god by these people, because the necessity for strict subordination to their chiefs has familiarised them with the principles of obedience of subjects to a single ruler and of subordination of minor chiefs to a principal chief; while the beneficence of the Supreme Being thus evolved would inevitably result; for the god of battles must seem beneficent to the victors, and among these people only the victors survive. Again, this conception is one that undoubtedly makes for righteousness, because it reflects the character of the people who, within the community and the tribe, are decent, humane, and honest folk.

We are conscious of presumption in venturing to adopt the view that the conception of a beneficent Supreme Being may possibly be neither the end nor the beginning of religion, neither the final result of an evolution, euhemeristic, totemistic, or other, prolonged through countless ages and generations, nor part of the stock-in-trade of primitive man mysteriously acquired. Yet we are disposed to regard this conception as one that, amid the perpetual flux of opinion and belief which obtains among peoples destitute of written records, may be comparatively rapidly and easily arrived at under favourable conditions (such as seem to be afforded by tribes like the Kenyahs and Kayans, warlike prosperous tribes subordinated to strong chiefs), and may as rapidly fall into neglect with change of social conditions; and we suggest that it may then remain as a vestige in the minds of a few individuals only to be discerned by curious research, as among the Ibans or the Australian blacks, until another turn of Fortune's wheel, perhaps the birth of some overmastering personality or a revival of national or tribal vigour, gives it a new period of life and power.

We still regard as highly plausible the view suggested in this passage. We would add to what we have written only a few words in explanation of what may seem to be a difficulty in the way of this view. It was mentioned above that the Kayans recognise a god of war, TOH BULU. This fact may seem incompatible with the view that the idea of LAKI TENANGAN has been reached by exalting the god of war above his fellow-departmental deities; but it is not, we think, a fatal objection. For TOH BULU seems to be a god of but small account with the Kayans; his name figures but little in their rites; and the name itself indicates his subordinate position; for TOH is, as we have seen, the generic name for spirits of minor importance, and BULU is the Kayan word for feather; TOH BULU, literally translated, is then the feather-spirit or spirit of the feathers. It seems possible, therefore, that TOH BULU was nothing more than the spirit concerned with the hornbill's feathers, which are the emblems or badges of acknowledged prowess in battle; and that with the exaltation of the original god of war above his fellows, this minor spirit concerned in warfare has acquired a larger sphere and importance.

With the Kenyahs similar processes, we suggest, have led to the exaltation of BALI PENYALONG, the original god of war, into the position of the Supreme Being, and of BALI FLAKI, his special messenger, into the position, or almost into the position, of the god of war. This view derives, we think, considerable support from the fact that the Kenyahs recognise no special god of war; and in view of their tendency to create deities to preside over each of the great departments of nature and of human activity, the absence from their system of a special god of war requires some special explanation such as we have offered above.

The Klemantan gods are more numerous and more vaguely conceived, and the whole system seems more confused than that of the Kayans or Kenyahs. It is probable that the Klemantan tribes have borrowed freely from these more powerful neighbours. Many of them are very skilful in wood-carving, and it is probably largely owing to this circumstance that they make a larger number of images in human form. Some of these are kept in the house, while others stand before the house like those before the Kayan houses. The former are generally more highly regarded, and it is before them that their rites are generally performed. It seems not improbable that these stand for the gods proper to these people, and those outside the house for the borrowed gods.

The supernatural beliefs and cults of the Sea Dayaks differ so widely from those described above that we think it best to bring together in one place (vol. ii., p. 85) what we have to say about them.

The Lesser Spirits of Ill-defined Nature

In the second of the three classes of spiritual beings distinguished above (vol. ii., p. 4) we put the souls of men and of some of the animals. Some account of beliefs connected with these will be given in the following two chapters. We conclude this chapter by describing the spirits of the third class, spirits or intelligent powers vaguely conceived, of minor importance, but imperfectly individualised and not regularly envisaged in any visible forms or embodied in any material objects. The generic Kayan name for spirits of this class is TOH. All the spirits of this class seem to be objects of fear, to be malevolent, or, at least, easily offended and capable of bringing misfortunes of all kinds upon human beings.

The most important of these TOH are perhaps those associated with the dried human heads that hang in every house. It seems that these spirits are not supposed to be those of the persons from whose shoulders the heads have been taken. Yet they seem to be resident in or about the heads, though not inseparable from them. They are said to cause the teeth of the heads to be ground together if they are offended or dissatisfied, as by neglect of the attentions customarily paid to the heads or by other infringement of custom. The heads are thus supposed to be animated by the TOH; if a head falls, through the breaking of the rattan by which it is suspended, it is said to have thrown itself down, being dissatisfied owing to insufficient attention having been paid to it. This animation of the heads by the TOH is illustrated by the treatment accorded by the people to the heads from the time they are brought into the house. Having been dried and smoked in a small hut made for the purpose, they are brought up to the house with loud rejoicings and singing of the war chorus. For this ceremony all members of the village are summoned from the fields and the jungle, and, when all are assembled in the houses, every one puts off the mourning garments which have been worn by all since the death of the chief for whose funeral rites the heads have been sought. Everyone having donned the ordinary attire, the men carry the heads in procession adorned with DAUN SILAT, the dried and frayed leaves of a palm, before one of the altar posts that stand between the house and the river. There fowls and pigs are sacrificed in the usual way, and their blood is scattered upon the assembled men with a wisp of shredded palmleaves.

Then the procession carries the heads into the house and up and down the gallery. The men dressed in their war coats, carrying shields and swords, drawn up in a long line, sing the war chorus, and go through a peculiar evolution, known as SEGA LUPAR. Each man keeps turning to face his neighbours, first on one side, then on the other, with regular steps in time with all the rest. This seems to symbolise the alertness of the warriors on the war-path, looking in every direction. The heads, which have been carried by old men, are then hung up over the principal hearth on the beam on which the old heads are hanging; they are suspended by means of a rattan, of which one end is knotted and the other passed upward through the FORAMEN MAGNUM and a hole cut in the top of the skull. After this the men sit down to drink, and the chief describes the taking of the heads, eulogising the warrior who drew first blood in each case, and who is credited with the glory of the taking of the head. Then follows a big feast, in every room a pig or fowl being killed and eaten; after which more BORAK is drunk, the war chorus breaking out spontaneously at brief intervals. BORAK is offered to the heads by pouring it into small bamboo cups suspended beside them; and a bit of fat pork will be pushed into the mouth of each. The heads, or rather the TOH associated with them, are supposed to drink and eat these offerings. The fact that the bits of pork remain unconsumed does not seem to raise any difficulty in the minds of the Kayans; they seem to believe that the essence of the food is consumed.

At all times the heads hanging in the house are treated respectfully and somewhat fearfully. When it is necessary to handle them, some old man undertakes the task, and children especially are prevented from touching them; for it is felt that to touch them involves the risk of madness, brought on by the offended TOH or spirits of the heads.

The fire beneath the heads is always kept alight in order that they shall be warm, and dry, and comfortable. On certain special occasions they are offered BORAK and pork in the way mentioned above.

On moving to a new house the heads are temporarily lodged in a small shelter built for the purpose, and are brought up into the house with a ceremony like that which celebrates their first installation. The Kayans do not care to have in the house more than twenty or thirty heads, and are at some pains occasionally to get rid of some superfluous heads — a fact which shows clearly that the heads are not mere trophies of valour and success in war. The moving to a new house is the occasion chosen for reducing the number of heads. Those destined to be left are hung in a hut built at some distance from the house which is about to be deserted. A good fire is made in it and kept up during the demolition of the great house, and when the people depart they make up in the little head-house a fire designed to last several days. It is supposed that, when the fire goes out, the TOH of the heads notice the fact, and begin to suspect that they are deserted by the people; when the rain begins to come in through the roof their suspicions are confirmed, and the TOH set out to pursue their deserters, but owing to the lapse of time and weather are unable to track them. The people believe that in this way they escape the madness which the anger of the deserted TOH would bring upon them.

The precautions described in the foregoing paragraph illustrate very well the power for harm attributed to the TOH of the heads and the fear with which they are regarded. Nevertheless these beings are not wholly malevolent. it is held that in some way their presence in the house brings prosperity to it, especially in the form of good crops; and so essential to the welfare of the house are the heads held to be that, if through fire a house has lost its heads and has no occasion for war, the people will beg a head, or even a fragment of one, from some friendly house, and will instal it in their own with the usual ceremonies.

The TOH of the heads are but a few among many that are conceived as surrounding the houses and infesting the tombs, the rivers, the forests, the mountains, the caves, and, by those who live near the coast, the sea; in fact every locality has its TOH, and, since they are easily offended and roused to bring harm, the people are careful to avoid offence and to practise every rite by which it is thought possible to propitiate them. Death and sickness, especially madness, accidental bodily injuries, failure of crops, in fact almost any trouble may be ascribed to the malevolent action of Toh. Examples of the way conduct is influenced by this belief are the following: —

In clearing a patch of jungle in preparation for sowing PADI, it is usual to leave a few trees standing on some high point of the ground in order not to offend the TOH of the locality by depriving them of all the trees, which they are vaguely supposed to make use of as resting-places. Such trees are sometimes stripped of all their branches save a few at the top; and sometimes a pole is lashed across the stem at a height from the ground and bunches of palm leaves hung upon it; a "bull-roarer," which is used by boys as a toy, is sometimes hung upon such a cross-piece to dangle and flicker in the breeze.[104]

Again, young children are held to be peculiarly subject to the malevolent influence of the TOH. We have already mentioned that no name is given to a child until it is two or three years of age, in order to avoid attracting to it the attention of the TOH. For the same reason the parents dislike any prominent person to touch an infant; and if for any reason such contact has taken place, it is usual to give the mother a few beads, which she ties about the wrist or ankle of the child, "to preserve its homely smell" as they say, and so, it would seem, avoid the risk of the TOH being attracted by the unusual odour of the child. Parents who have lost several young children will give to a child, when the time comes for naming it, some such name as TAI (dung), or TAI MANOK (birds' dung), or JAAT (bad), in order that it may have a better chance of escaping the unwelcome attention of the TOH. If for any reason it is suspected that the attention of some evil-disposed TOH has been drawn to a child (and the same practice is sometimes observed by adults under similar circumstances), a sooty mark is made upon the forehead, consisting of a vertical median line and a horizontal band just above the eyebrows. This is thought to render it difficult for the TOH to recognise his victim. Such a black mark is worn more especially on going away from the house. Sea Dayaks sometimes go farther under such circumstances. They place the new-born child in a small boat and allow it to float down river, and standing upon the bank call upon all the evil spirits to take the child at once, if they mean to take it, in order that the parents may be spared the greater bereavement of losing it some years later. If, after floating some distance down stream, the child is found unhurt, it is carried home, the parents feeling some confidence that it will be "spared" to grow up

Again, on going to the territory of people who have recently come to friendly terms with their village, men will make a black mark across the forehead with soot in order to disguise themselves from the TOH of this region. In the main, although all regions are infested with TOH those of the locality in which a man dwells are regarded by him as less dangerous than those of other parts; for experience has shown him that in the neighbourhood of his own village he may behave in certain ways with impunity, whereas in distant regions all is uncertain. It is for this reason that, when boys enter any river or branch of the river for the first time, a special rite is performed. An old man will take them apart from the company to some spot on the bank of the river, and, calling all the spirits of the place, will ask them to favour the boys and to give them vigorous life. An egg (which on this occasion is spoken of only by the name OVE = sweet potato) is offered to the spirits on behalf of each boy (or sometimes merely a fowl's feather) by placing it in the split end of a bamboo stick thrust into the ground. Not until this rite has been performed are the boys considered to be safe in the strange region.

The more remote and inaccessible the region, the more are the TOH of it feared; rugged hill tops and especially mountain tops are the abodes of especially dangerous TOH, and it was only with difficulty that parties of men could be induced to accompany us to the summits of any of the mountains.

The influence of the TOH is not always pernicious; certain spots become credited with the presence of TOH of benign influence. Thus, tradition relates of a streamlet (Telang Ading) falling over the rocky bank of the Baram river some little distance below the mouth of the AKAR, that a wild pig recently killed with spears fell into it and was allowed to lie there, and that after a little while it jumped up and made off Through this event the streamlet has acquired a great reputation, and passing boats generally stop in order that the crews may splash some of the water on their heads and faces, and so be cured of any ailments they may happen to have at the time. These therapeutic effects are attributed to the TOH of the stream.

The TOH play a considerable part in regulating conduct; for they are the powers that bring misfortunes upon a whole house or village when any member of it ignores tabus or otherwise breaks customs, without performing the propitiatory rites demanded by the occasion. Thus on them, rather than on the gods, are founded the effective sanctions of prohibitive rules of conduct. For the propitiation of offended TOH fowls' eggs and the blood of fowls and of young pigs are used, the explanations and apologies being offered generally by the chief or some other influential person, while the blood is sprinkled on the culprit or other source of offence.

The beliefs and practices of the Kenyahs and Klemantans in regard to spirits of this class are very similar to those of the Kayans. They designate them by the same general name, TOH.

We are doubtful whether the Sea Dayaks can properly be said to have any religion. They believe in a number of mythical and legendary heroes in whose honour they indulge in heavy feasting; but none of these seem to be credited with the attributes of a god, or to evoke on the part of the people the specifically religious emotions and attitudes — awe, reverence, supplication, trust, gratitude, and hope. Their cult of the PETARA seems to show traces of Javanese and Hindu influence or origin. They believe in a multitude of ill-defined spirits which they speak of as ANTU, and towards which their attitude is very similar to that of the Kayans towards the TOH. Some further account of Iban superstitions will be found in Chapter XV.


Ideas of the Soul Illustrated by Burial Customs, Soul-Catching, and Exorcism

As among ourselves, several very different systems for the cure of sickness are practised among the Kayans, and these seem to imply very different theories of the cause of disease. But the Kayans, less consistent or more open-minded than ourselves, are not divided into sects, each following one system of therapeutics, but rather the various systems are held in honour by all the people, and one or the other is applied according to the indications of each case. Thus, bodily injuries received accidentally or in battle are treated surgically by cupping, splints, bandaging, and so forth. Familiar disorders, such as malarial fever, are treated medically, I.E. by rest and drugs. Cases of severe pain of unknown origin are generally attributed to the malign influence of some TOH,[105] and the method of treatment is usually that of extraction.[106] Madness also is generally attributed to possession by some TOH. But in cases of severe illness of mysterious origin that seems to threaten to end mortally, the theory generally adopted is that the patient's soul has left his body, and the treatment indicated is therefore an attempt to persuade the soul to return. The first two modes of treatment are not considered to demand the skill of a specialist for their application, but the third and fourth are undertaken only by those who have special powers and knowledge.

Among the Kayans the professional soul-catcher, the DAYONG, is generally a woman who has served a considerable period of apprenticeship with some older member of the profession, after having been admonished to take up this calling by some being met with in dreams — often a dream experienced during sickness. The DAYONG does not necessarily confine his or her activities to this one calling; for in a large village there are usually several DAYONGS, and the occasions demanding their services recur at considerable intervals of time. The relatives of the sick man usually prefer to call in a DAYONG from some other village. The DAYONG is expected to make the diagnosis and to determine upon the line of treatment to be practised. If he decides that the soul or BLUA of the patient has left his body, and has made some part of the journey towards the abode of departed souls, his task is to fall into a trance and to send his own soul to overtake that of his patient and to persuade it to return. The ceremony is usually performed by torch-light in the presence of a circle of interested relatives and friends, the patient being laid in the midst in the long public gallery of the house.

The DAYONG struts to and fro chanting a traditional form of words well known to the people, who join in the chorus at the close of each phrase, responding with "BALI-DAYONG," [107] I.E. "Oh powerful DAYONG;" the meaning and intention of this chorus seem to be that of the "Amen" with which a Christian congregation associates itself with the prayer offered by its pastor. For the chant with which the DAYONG begins his operations is essentially a prayer for help addressed to LAKI TENANGAN, or, in case of a woman, to DOH TEMANGAN also.

The DAYONG may or may not fall and lie inert upon the ground in the course of his trance; but throughout the greater part of the ceremony he continues to chant with closed eyes, describing with words and mimic gestures the doings of his own soul as it follows after and eventually overtakes that of the patient. When this point is reached his gestures generally express the difficulty and the severity of the efforts required to induce the soul to return; and the anxious relatives then usually encourage him by bringing out gongs or other articles of value, and depositing them as additions to the DAYONG'S fee. Thus stimulated, he usually succeeds in leading back the soul towards the patient's body. One feature of the ceremony, not quite logically consistent with its general scheme, is that the DAYONG takes in his hand a sword and, glancing at the polished blade with a startled air, seems to catch in it a glimpse of the wandering soul.[108] The next step is to restore the soul to the body. The DAYONG comes out of his trance with the air of one who is suddenly transported from distant scenes, and usually exhibits in his palm some small living creature, or it may be merely a grain of rice, a pebble, or bit of wood, in which the captured soul is in some sense contained. This he places on the top of the patient's head, and by rubbing causes it to pass into the head. The soul having been thus restored. to the body, it is necessary to prevent it escaping again; and this is done by tying a strip of palm-leaf about the patient's wrist.

A fowl is then killed, or, in very severe cases of sickness, a pig, and its blood is sprinkled or wiped by means of the sword or knife upon this confining bracelet. In mild cases the fowl may be merely waved over the head of the patient without being killed. The DAYONG then gives directions as to the MALAN (the tabus) to be observed by the patient, especially in regard to articles of diet, and retires, leaving his fee to be sent after him.

This ceremony clearly involves a curious confusion of symbolical and descriptive acts, which are not ordered in strict consistency with any clearly defined theory of the nature of the soul and of its relations to the body, or of the exact nature of the task of the soul-catcher.

The catching of souls is practised in very similar fashion among all the peoples of Borneo, even by the Punans, though the details of the procedure differ from tribe to tribe.

Mental derangement is commonly attributed to possession by evil TOH, and exorcism is practised among some of the tribes, but very little by the Kayans, who generally content themselves with confining any troublesome madman in a cage.

No doubt the catching of the soul does make strongly for the recovery of the patient, through inspiring him with hope and confidence. But it cannot always stave off death. If, in spite of the operations of one soul-catcher, the patient's strength still sinks, some other practitioner is usually called in for consultation. In the case of a chief the help of three or even four may be invoked successively or together; and the ceremony of catching the soul may be repeated again and again with greater elaboration of detail, and may be prolonged through many hours and even days with brief interruptions.

When all these efforts prove unavailing, despairing relatives sometimes put the end of a blow-pipe to the dying or dead man's ear (or merely their lips) and shout through it, "Come back, this is your home, here we have food ready for you." Sometimes the departed soul is believed to reply, "I am far from home, I am following a TOH and don't know the way back."

If, in spite of all these efforts, the patient dies, a drum is loudly beaten (or in case of a female a TAWAK) in order to announce the decease to relatives and friends gone before, the number of strokes depending upon the rank and sex of the departing spirit. The corpse is kept in the house during a period which varies from one night for people of the lower class, to three nights for middle class folk, and ten days for a chief. During this time the dead man lies in state. The corpse has a bead of some value under each eyelid;[109] it is dressed in his finest clothes and ornaments, and is enclosed within a coffin hollowed from a single log, the lid of which is sealed with resin and lashed round with rattans.

The coffin is covered with a particular design in red and black and white, and is placed in the gallery on a low platform, surrounded by the most valuable personal property of the dead man, whose family will take pains to make the display of property as imposing as possible. A fire is kept burning near the coffin, and small packets of cooked rice and of tobacco are placed upon it for the use of the dead man's soul. Hundreds of cigarettes are hung in bundles about the platform by people of the house, sent by them as tokens of kindly remembrance to their departed friends, who are believed to be able to recognise by smell the hands that made each bundle. During the whole period the dead man is attended continuously by at least two or three mourners, either relatives or, more rarely, hired mourners, who from time to time throughout both day and night wail loudly, renewing their wailing at the arrival of each party of friends or relatives.

These parties come in from neighbouring villages in response to news of the death sent them by special messengers, and in the case of an influential chief several thousand men and women sometimes congregate in this way to do him honour.

Upon the arrival of any person of importance, gongs and drums are beaten, and the dead man is informed of the fact by the DAYONG or by a relative. The visitor is led to a scat near the coffin, where he will sit silently or join in the wailing, until after a few minutes he enters into conversation with his hosts. When all the expected guests have arrived, pigs are slaughtered and a feast is made.

While the coffin lies in the house all noises other than the wailing are avoided in its immediate neighbourhood, and the children, dogs, and fowls are kept away from it. The DAYONG will sit beside the coffin occasionally brandishing a sword above it in order to keep in check the TOH who, attracted to the neighbourhood of the corpse, might grow too bold.

On the day appointed for the removal of the corpse it is the duty of the DAYONG to instruct the dead man's soul how to find his way to the other world; this he does, sitting beside the coffin and chanting aloud in doleful tones. For (curiously enough in view of the theory implied by the soul-catching ceremony) the man's soul is regarded as remaining in, or in the proximity of, the body so long as it remains in the house. This is one of several indications that the Kayans vaguely distinguish two souls — on the one hand the ghost-soul or shade, which in dreams wanders afar, on the other hand the vital principle. It would seem that so long as this vital spark remains in the body the ghost-soul may return to it; but that, when death is complete, this vital spark also departs, and then the ghost-soul will return no more.

The use of the word URIP further bears out this interpretation. In common speech URIP means alive, but it is applied also as a prefix to the names of those recently deceased, and seems to mark the speaker's sense of the continuance of the personality as that which has life in spite of the death of the body.

Thus BLUA and URIP seem to mark a distinction which in Europe in different ages has been marked by the words soul and spirit, ANIMA and ANIMUS, psyche and pneuma, and which was familiar also to the Hebrews. In this, of course, Kayan thought on this subject does but follow on the lines of many other peoples of more advanced civilisation.

When the DAYONG has completed his instructions, the rattan lashings about the head of the coffin are loosed. Since this is the moment at which the soul is believed to take its final departure from the body, it is probable that this custom of unlashing the coffin is connected with the idea of facilitating its escape, although we have obtained no definite statement to this effect. At the same time the fire that has been kept burning by the coffin is allowed to die out. To the coffin, which is shaped roughly like a boat, two small wooden figures are attached — a figure of a woman at the head, a male figure at its foot. These figures are not improbably a vestige of a bygone custom of killing slaves, whose souls would row the boat of the dead man on his journey to the other world. This interpretation is borne out by the fact that a live fowl is usually tied to one of these wooden figures. The coffin is then conveyed out of the house by lowering it to the ground with rattans, either through the floor, planks being taken up for the purpose, or under the caves at the side of the gallery. In this way they avoid carrying it down the house-ladder; and it seems to be felt that this precaution renders it more difficult for the ghost to find its way back to the house.[110] All this is done with great deliberation, the coffin being brought by easy stages to the river bank. There it is laid in a large boat gaily decorated with bright-coloured cloths, which is paddled down river to the graveyard, followed by the boats of the mourning friends, who refrain from speaking to any persons encountered on the way. The tombs of the village are on the river bank some quarter of a mile below the house, generally on the opposite bank. Here the final resting-place of the coffin has been prepared by erecting a great log of timber, which is large in proportion to the social standing of the dead man. In the case of a chief the log is of ironwood, some three feet or more in diameter and some thirty feet in length. One end of this is sunk some four or five feet into the ground. The erecting of such a massive support is a task of some difficulty, achieved by first digging the pit at the foot of the log and then hauling up the other end with a rough windlass. The upper end, which is always the root-end of the log, is cut in the form of a deep cleft, just wide enough to receive the coffin. Above the cleft a large slab of hardwood forms a cover for the coffin, and this is often elaborately carved (see Pls. 152, 153). In some cases two, and in others even four, smaller poles are used for the support of the coffin, but this usually only to avoid the labour of erecting one very large one. The coffin is lifted into this cleft by the aid of a scaffolding which is built around the large pole, and which afterwards falls away when the lashings are cut. On landing at the graveyard the mourners carry the coffin between the two parts of a cleft pole which are fixed in the ground so as to make a large V (this is called NYRING, the wall), and all the mourners are expected to pass through this cleft, each, in doing so, placing his foot upon a fowl which is laid bound upon the ground. The coffin is then lifted to its cleft, and the weapons, implements, and war clothes, the large hat, the cooking-pot, and in fact any articles of personal property that may be of use to the departing soul, are hung upon the tomb.[111] If a gong is hung up, it may be cracked or pierced beforehand, but it is not usual among Kayans to spoil other articles before hanging them on the tomb.[112] The scaffolding about the tomb is then caused to fall away, and it only remains for the mourners to purify themselves. This they do with the help of the lower jaws of the pigs that were consumed at the funeral feast. The jaws are placed together with water in a gong or other basin, and the DAYONG, taking a fowl's feather, sprinkles drops of water from the basin upon all the assembled mourners, pouring out the while a stream of words, the purport of which is — may all evil things, all sickness and such things be kept away from you. Then the mourners return in a single file through the V formed by the cleft pole, each one again placing his foot on the fowl (which dies before the end of the ceremony), spitting as he goes through, and exclaiming, "Keep off evil" (BALI JAAT, I.E. literally, spiritual or supernatural evil). When all have passed through, the upper ends of the two parts of the cleft pole are brought together and lashed round with rattans; and a small tree, pulled up by the roots, and having its branches cut away, is laid beside the pole with its roots turned towards the grave (this is called SELIKANG); and on the other side of the pole is put another vertical pole with a cross-piece tied at its upper end. Fire is left burning beside these structures. In this way the Kayans symbolically prevent any of the uncanny influences of the graveyard following the party back to the house; though they do not seem to be clear as to whether it is the ghosts of the dead, or the TOH of the neighbourhood, or those which may have contributed to his death, against whom these precautions are taken. This done, the whole party returns as quickly as possible to the village, halting only to bathe on the way.

The whole household of which the dead man was a member continues in mourning for a period which is long in proportion to his social standing; the mourning rules are observed most strictly by the nearest relatives. The signs of mourning are the wearing of bark-cloth or of clothes made yellow with clay, allowing the hair to grow on the parts of the head and face usually kept shaved,[113] and the putting aside of ornaments such as ear-rings, necklaces, or the substitution of wooden ear-rings for the metal ones commonly worn by the women. All music, feasts, and jollifications are avoided. The period of mourning can only be properly terminated by a ceremony in which a human head plays an essential part. Where the influence of the European governments has not made itself felt, the death of a chief necessitates the procuring of a fresh head, and a party may be sent out to cut off in the jungle, on the farms, or on the river, some small party of a hostile village. The common people must postpone the termination of their mourning until some such occasion presents itself. Nowadays in the districts in which head hunting has been suppressed, an old head, generally one surviving from an earlier period, is borrowed or begged for the purpose from another village, and is brought home with all the display properly belonging to a return from successful war (see Chap. X). As soon as the head is brought into the house the period of mourning terminates amid general rejoicing. The head, or a fragment of it, or the bundle of palm leaves (DAUN ISANG) with which it has been decorated, is hung upon the tomb.[114]

In case of any dispute regarding the division of the property of a dead man, his ghost may be called upon by a DAYONG and questioned as to the dead man's intentions; but this would not be done until after the harvest following upon the death. The ceremony is known as DAYONG JANOI. A small model of a house, perhaps a yard in width and length, is made and placed in the gallery beside the door of the dead man's chamber. Food and drink of various kinds as prepared for a feast are placed in this house, together with cigarettes. The DAYONG chants beside the house, calling upon the soul of the dead man to enter the soul-house, and mentioning the names of the members of his family. From time to time he looks in, and after some time announces that all the food and drink has been consumed. The people accept this statement as evidence that the ghost has entered the soul-house.[115] The DAYONG acts as though listening to the whispering of the soul within the house, starting and clucking from time to time. Then he announces the will of the ghost in regard to the distribution of the property, speaking in the first person and reproducing the phraseology and peculiarities of the dead man.[116] The directions so obtained are usually followed, and the dispute is thus terminated. But in some cases the people apply a certain test to verify the alleged presence of the ghost. A shallow dish (often a gong) of water is placed near the soul-house, and a ring-shaped armlet of shell is placed vertically in this basin, the water covering its lower half. A few fine fibres of the cotton-seed are thrown on to the surface of the water, and by tapping on the planks the people keep these in movement. If the threads float through the ring, that is conclusive evidence of the presence of the ghost; but so long as the threads cannot be got to pass through the ring, the people are not satisfied that the ghost is present.

Ideas of Life After Death

The soul of the dead man is supposed to wander on foot through the jungle until he reaches the crest of a mountain ridge. From this point he looks down upon the basin of a great river, the LONG MALAN, in which five districts are assigned as the dwelling-places of souls, the destination of each being determined by the mode of death. The ghosts of those who die through old age or disease go to APO LEGGAN, the largest of these districts, where they live very much as we do in this life. Those who die a violent death, whether in battle or or by accident, go to the basin of a tributary river, LONG JULAN, where is BAWANG DAHA (lake of blood); there they live in comfort, and become rich though they do no work: they have for wives the ghosts of women that have died in child-bed. Those that have been drowned find a home beneath the rivers, and are supposed to become possessed of all property lost in the water by their surviving friends; this place (or places) bears the name of LING YANG. The souls of still-born children dwell in TENYU LALU; they are believed to be very brave, owing to their having experienced no pain in this world. Finally, suicides[117] have assigned to them a special district, TAN TEKKAN, where they live miserably, eating only roots, berries, and other jungle produce.

Other districts of this great country are vaguely assigned to the souls of Malays and other peoples. It is generally said that the left bank of the river is the place of the tribes of Borneo, while the right bank is assigned to all other peoples; and the soul is especially warned by the DAYONG to avoid the right bank lest it should find itself among foreigners. These beliefs seem to involve some faint rudiment of the doctrine of POST-MORTEM retribution or, at least, compensation, — a rudiment which does not appear in the beliefs of the other peoples.

The departed soul standing on the mountain ridge surveys these regions; and it is not until he stops here to rest that he becomes aware that he is finally separated from his body. This fact is brought home to him by the arrival of the ghost-souls of the various articles hung upon his tomb, which hurry after him, but only overtake him at this his first resting-place; and he bewails his unhappy fate.

There are current among Kayans several versions of the further journey of the soul. The ghost descends the mountain to the banks of LONG MALAN, which river he must cross to reach his appointed place. The river must be crossed by means of a bridge consisting of a single large log suspended from bank to bank. This log, BITANG SEKOPA, is constantly agitated by a guardian, MALIGANG by name. If the ghost has during the earthly life taken a head, or even merely taken part in a successful head-hunting raid, a fact indicated by the tatuing of the hands, he crosses this bridge without difficulty; but if not, he falls below and is consumed by maggots or, according to another version, is devoured by a large fish, PATAN, and so is destroyed. When the ghost reaches the other bank, he is greeted by those of his friends who have gone before, and they lead him to their village. Some part of the journey is generally regarded as made by boat, though it is not possible to make this fit consistently into the general scheme. Another point on which opinion is very vague is the part played by LAKI JUP URIP, a deity or spirit whose function it is to guide the souls to their proper destinations.

In many Kayan villages stories are told of persons who are believed to have died and to have come to life again. This belief seems to have arisen in every case from the person having lain in a trance for some days, during which he was regarded as dead. The Kayans accept the cessation of respiration as evidence of death, and they assert that these persons cease to breathe.[118]

It seems that such persons usually give some account of their experiences during the period in which they have deserted their bodies. They usually allege that they have traversed a part of the road to the land of shades, and describe it in terms agreeing more or less closely with the traditional account of it current among the Kayans. Since in these cases the person is thought to be dead, no efforts are made by the DAYONG to lead back his departing soul, and its return has to be explained in some other way. In some cases the returned soul describes how he was turned back by MALIGANG, the awful being who guards the bridge across the river of death.[119]

Mr. R. S. Douglas, Resident of Baram, has recently reported a similar belief held by the Muriks, a Klemantan tribe, where it is supported by the following legend. The soul or spirit of a certain man, UKU PANDAH by name, left his body two years before the time appointed as the term of its incorporate life, and gained admittance to the land of shades in the shape of a pig. It was, however, recognised by the ruler of that land, and ordered by him to return to its mortal body. The command was obeyed, and UKU PANDAH, having been dead for two days, came to life again and lived for two years, during which he described to his friends the country of the dead of which he had thus obtained a glimpse; and this knowledge has been preserved by the tribe.

The beliefs and traditions of the various tribes in regard to the other world seem to have been confused through the intercourse between them, so that it is not possible to mark off clearly what features properly belong to each of the tribes. The general features are. similar with all the peoples. The Kenyah story is very similar to that of the Kayans, though the names of the various places are different, and they usually conceive the first part of the soul's journey as being made by boat on the river.

TAMA KAJAN ODOH, the MADANG chief whose line of descent from BALINGO is given on p. 12, vol. ii., made us a rough map of the land of the shades (Fig. 78) and of the country traversed by the ghost on its journey thither. This was done in the way maps of their own country are always made by the Borneans, namely, he laid upon the floor bits of stick and other small objects to represent the principal topographical features and relations. We tested the trustworthiness of his account by asking him to repeat it on a subsequent occasion; when he did so without any noteworthy departure from the former description. A point of special interest is the appearance in the land of shades of the house of BALI PENYALONG and of OKO PERBUNGAN (which seems to be the MADANG name for the wife of the Supreme Being). This map brings out clearly what seems to be the essential feature of all these schemes, namely, that the land of shades is the basin of a river divided by a mountain ridge from that from which the ghost departs.

The Punans add some picturesque incidents. According to their version, a huge helmeted hornbill[120] (RHINOFLAX VIGIL) sits by the far end of the bridge across the river of death, and with its screams tries to terrify the ghost, so that it shall fall from the bridge into the jaws of the great fish which is in league with the bird. On the other side of the river IS UNGAP, a woman with a cauldron and spear. UNGAP, if appeased with a gift, aids the ghost to escape from the monstrous bird and fish. Pebbles or beads are put in the nostrils of the Punan corpse in order that they may be presented to UNGAP.

The Punans recite or sing a story in blank verse descriptive of this passage of the soul. It is sometimes sung in very dramatic fashion, the performer acting the principal incidents and pitching his voice in a doleful, though musical, minor key. Such a recitation of the passage of the soul, delivered by a wild and tragic figure before an intently listening group of squatting men and women illuminated by flickering torchlight, is by no means unimpressive to the European observer. The following lines are a rough literal translation of a fragment of the story which describes the meeting with UNGAP of BATANG MIJONG, a departed soul: —


BATANG MIJONG stands waving his shield.

The helmsman SARAMIN with body of brass will carry over BATANG MIJONG.

BATANG MIJONG seeks the place of the Punans.

Good journey to you, BATANG MIJONG.

BATANG MIJONG, O, why are you called?


Why do you question me, why do you stare at me?


Your limbs are shapely, smooth is your skin and slender your body.

My eyes are dazzled by your bodily perfections.

Some of the Malanaus, one of the many branches of the Klemantan people, hold peculiar views about the soul. Each man is credited with two souls. After his death one of these goes to some region in the heavens where it becomes a good spirit that assists at the BAYOH ceremonies.[121] The other makes a journey to a world of the dead much like APO LEGGAN of the Kayans; and the journey involves the crossing of the river on a single log, the passage of which is disputed by a malign being, who tries to shake the nerve of the ghost by flinging ashes at him as he traverses the bridge. Other Malanaus (of Muka) describe this opposing power as a twoheaded dog, MAIWIANG by name, whom it is necessary to propitiate with the gift of a valuable bead. For this reason a bead of some value is fastened to the right arm of the corpse before the coffin is closed. It is said of the Malanaus that they were formerly in the habit of killing several slaves at the tomb of a chief; and, since it was believed that, if the victims died a violent death, their souls would not go to the same place as the dead chief, and would thus be of no service, they were allowed to die from exposure to the sun while bound to the tomb. Now that homicide is prohibited, these people arrange a great cock-fight; and there can be little doubt that the death of many of the birds is felt to compensate in some degree for the enforced abstention from homicide.

The last case on record of the killing of a slave at the entombment of a chief occurred about fifteen years ago among the Orang Bukits (Klemantans) in Bruni territory. The son of the dead chief (Datu Gunong) went to Bruni city, and there bought an aged slave from one of the principal officers of state. The slave was kept in a bamboo cage until the day of entombment, when he was killed, each of the funeral guests inflicting a small wound with a spear. His head was hung on the tomb. From circumstantial accounts of this incident which reached one of us, we infer that those who took part in this brutal act were moved only by a sense of duty and that the co-operation was repugnant to all of them.[122]


The Kayans, as well as most of the peoples, regard madness as due to possession by an evil spirit,[123] but the Malanaus extend this theory to many other forms of disease, and practise an elaborate rite of exorcism. This will be described in the chapter (XVI.) dealing with charms and magical practices.

It will be gathered from what has been said in the foregoing pages that the life after death is regarded as not in any way very different from this life, as neither a very superior nor an inferior condition; although, as we have said, those who die a violent death are believed to have a rather better lot, and suicides a worse fate, than others. Social distinction and consideration, especially such as is achieved by the taking of heads in war, is carried over into the life after death; and men are anxious that outward marks of such distinction should go with them. This is undoubtedly one of the grounds for tatuing the body. Among the Kayans a man's hands are only fully tatued when he has taken a head; while the social status of a woman is marked by the degree of fineness of the tatuing.[124] It follows that death is neither greatly feared nor desired; but an old man will sometimes affirm that he is quite ready or even desirous to die, although he may seem cheerful and fairly vigorous.

The Kayans believe in the reincarnation of the soul, although this belief is not clearly harmonised with the belief in the life in another world. It is generally believed that the soul of a grandfather may pass into one of his grandchildren, and an old man will try to secure the passage of his soul to a favourite grandchild by holding it above his head from time to time. The grandfather usually gives up his name to his eldest grandson, and reassumes the original name of his childhood with the prefix or title LAKI, and the custom seems to be connected with this belief or hope. There is no means of discovering whether the hope is realised. The human soul may also, in the belief of all the peoples, be reincarnated in the body of almost any animal; but opinions in regard to this matter are very vague. Thus the Kayans believe that the objection of the Mohammedan Malays to the eating of pig is due to reincarnation of their souls in animals of that species, which belief naturally causes some vexation to the Malay traders.

Among the Kayans and other peoples sceptics are to be found, and, as no inquisitorial methods are in vogue among them, such persons will on occasion give expression to their doubts about the accepted dogmas, although speech about such topics is generally repressed by some touch of awe. One man, for example, argued in our hearing that he could hardly believe that man continues to exist after death, for, said he, if men and women still lived after death, some of those who have been very fond of their children would surely return to see them, and would be in some way perceived by the living. But all such discussions are usually terminated with the remark, "NUSI JAM?" ("Who knows?")

The Kenyahs' disposal of their dead is very similar in all respects to the Kayan practice. But the burial customs of most of the Klemantan tribes are different. Their usual practice is to keep the coffin containing the corpse in the gallery of the house until the period of mourning is terminated. A bamboo tube carried down through the floor to the ground permits the escape of fluids resulting from decomposition. The coffin itself is sealed closely with wax, and elaborately decorated with carved and painted wood-work. After several months or even years have elapsed a feast is made (the feast of the bones); the coffin is opened and the bones taken out and cleaned. They are then packed into a smaller coffin or a large ovoid jar, which is carried to the village cemetery. There it is placed either in the hollowed upper end of a massive post, or into a large wooden chamber containing, or to contain, the remains of several persons, generally near relatives. These tombs are in many cases very elaborately decorated with painted woodwork.

Since the Klemantans who use the jar to contain the bones are not capable of making such large jars, but procure jars of Indo-Chinese and Chinese manufacture, it seems probable that the jars are comparatively modern substitutes for the smaller wooden coffin or bone-box. Only the richer folk can afford the luxury of a jar.

A rather different procedure is sometimes adopted by the same Klemantans who use the wooden coffins, namely, the corpse is placed in a jar a few days after death. Since the mouth of the jar is generally too small to admit the corpse the jar is broken horizontally into two parts by the following ingenious procedure. The jar is sunk in the water of the river until it is full of water and wholly submerged; it is held horizontally by two men, one at either end, just beneath the surface of the water. A third man strikes a sharp downward blow with an axe upon the widest circumference of the jar; it is then turned over and he strikes a second blow upon the same circumference at a spot opposite to the first. At the second stroke the jar falls in two, sometimes as cleanly and nicely broken as though cut with a saw.[125] The corpse is then packed in with its knees tied closely under the chin; the upper part of the jar is replaced and sealed on with wax. When the time of the feast of the bones arrives, the jar is reopened, the bones cleaned, and replaced in the jar.

This mode of jar burial is commonly practised by the Muruts, and is commoner in the northern parts of the island than elsewhere. It may be added that the jars used are generally valuable old jars, and that the cheap modern copies of them find little favour.

The Klemantans put selected pieces of the property of the deceased within the tomb, but do not generally hang them on it externally as the Kayans and Kenyahs do.

The Sea Dayaks bury their dead in the earth, generally in a village graveyard on the river banks not far from the house. The body, together with personal property, is merely wrapped in mats and laid in a grave some three feet in depth. It is not usual to keep it in the house for some days as the Kayans do, and the burial is effected with comparatively little ceremony. The grave of the common man is not marked with any monument, but that of a chief may be marked by a SUNGKUP; this consists of two pairs of stout posts, at head and feet respectively; each pair is erected in the form of an oblique cross; the upper end of each post is carved in decorative fashion. Two broad planks laid between the lower parts of these crossed posts form a roof to the grave. In the case of a man noted for great success in farming or fighting, a bamboo tube may be sunk through the earth to the spot just above the root of the nose, and through this they speak to him and pour rice spirit in order to strengthen their appeal.

The Land Dayaks of upper Sarawak, as well as some other Klemantan tribes in South Borneo, are peculiar in that they burn the dead, or the bones alone after the flesh has dropped away. The burning of the whole body is in some tribes carried out by the richer families only; the bodies that are not burned are buried in the earth.


Animistic Beliefs Connected with Animals and Plants[126]

Many of the animals, both wild and domesticated, are held by the Kenyahs in peculiar regard; those that most influence their conduct are the omen-birds, and among the omen-birds the common white-headed carrion-hawk (HALIASTER INTERMEDIUS) is by far the most important. The Kenyahs always observe the movements of this hawk with keen interest, for by a well-established code of rules they interpret his movements in the heavens as signs by which they must be guided in many matters of moment, especially in the conduct of warlike or any other dangerous expeditions.[127] The hawk is always spoken of and addressed as BALI FLAKI, and is formally consulted before any party of Kenyahs sets out from home for distant parts.

To illustrate the formalities with which they read the omens we will transcribe here a passage from a journal kept by one of us. The occasion of the incidents described was the setting out of a large body of Kenyahs from the house of Tama Bulan (Pl. 27), a chief who by his personal merits had attained to a position of great influence among the other Kenyah chiefs, and who had been confirmed in his authority by His Highness the Rajah of Sarawak. The object of the expedition was to visit and make peace with another great fighting tribe, the Madangs, who live in the remotest interior of Borneo.[128] Tama Bulan, whose belief in the value of the omens had been slightly shaken, was willing to start without ceremonies, and to make those powers which he believed to protect us responsible for himself and his people also. But the people had begged him not to neglect the traditional rites, and he had yielded to their wishes.

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