The Pagan Tribes of Borneo
by Charles Hose and William McDougall
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We conclude, then, that the various superstitions entertained by these tribes in regard to animals are not to be looked upon as survivals of totemism, but that they may all be explained in a simpler and more satisfactory manner.

Suggested Theory of the Origin of Totemism

Before bringing this chapter to an end, we would point out that among the facts we have described there are some which seem to suggest a possible and, indeed, as it seems to us, a very natural and probable mode of origin of totem-worship. We refer to the varieties of the NGARONG of the Ibans and sporadic analogous cases among the other tribes. We have seen that the NGARONG may assume the form of some curious natural object, or of some one animal distinguished from its fellows by some slight peculiarity, which receives the attentions of some one man only. In such cases the NGARONG is hardly distinguishable from a fetish. In other cases the man, being unable to distinguish the particular animal which he believes to be animated by his NGARONG, extends his regard and gratitude to the whole species. In such a case it seems difficult to deny the name "individual totem" to the species, if the term is to be used at all. In other cases, again, all the members of a man's family and all his descendants, and, if he be a chief, all the members of the community over which he rules, may come to share in the benefits conferred by his NGARONG, and in the feeling of respect for it and in the performance of rites in honour of the species of animal in one individual of which it is supposed to reside. In such cases the species approaches very closely the clan-totem in some of its varieties. (In speaking of the "Kobong" of certain natives of Western Australia, Sir G. Grey[148] says, "This arises from the family belief that some one individual of the species is their nearest friend, to kill whom would be a great crime, and to be carefully avoided.")

Of similar cases among other tribes of guardian-animals appearing to men in dreams and claiming their respect and gratitude, we must mention the case of Aban Jau, a powerful chief of the Sebops, a Klemantan sub-tribe. He had hunted and eaten the wild pig freely like all his fellow-tribesmen, until once in a dream a wild boar appeared to him, and told him that he had always helped him in his fighting. Thereafter Aban Jau refused, until the day of his death, to kill or eat either the wild or the domestic pig, although he would still consult for omens the livers of pigs killed by others.[149]

We have described above (vol. ii., p. 76) how a Kayan may become blood-brother to a crocodile in a dream, and may thereafter be called Baya (crocodile), and how in this way one Kayan chief had come to regard himself as both son and nephew to crocodiles, and how he believed that they brought him success in hunting and carried him ashore when (in a dream) he had fallen into the river. The cousin of this chief, too, regarded himself as specially befriended by crocodiles because his great-grandfather had become blood-brother to one in a dream. So it is clear that the members of the family to which these young men belong are likely to continue to regard themselves as related by blood to the crocodiles, and bound to them by special ties of gratitude.

In another case we saw how all the people of one household regard themselves as related to the crocodiles and specially favoured by them, explaining the relation as due to one of their ancestors having become a crocodile. In another case we saw that some ill-defined relation to the gibbon is claimed by a community of Kenyahs whose house is decorated with carvings of the form of the gibbon, and whose members will not kill the gibbon. And in yet another case we saw that a Kayan house is decorated with conventionalised carvings of some animal whose species has been forgotten by the community. In each of these last three cases, it seems highly probable that the special relation to the animal was established by some such process as we see going on in the preceding case; so that we seem to have in this series one case of incipient totemism and others illustrating various stages of decay of abortive beginnings of totemism. And it is easy to imagine how in the absence of unfavourable conditions such beginnings might grow to a fully developed totem-system. For suppose that in any one community there happened to be at one time two or more prosperous families, each claiming to be related with and protected by some species of animal as the result of friendly overtures made by the animals to members of the families in their dreams. It would then be highly probable that members of other families, envious of the good fortune of these, would have similar dream experiences, and so come to claim a similar protection; until very soon the members of any family that could claim no such protection would come to be regarded as unfortunate and even somewhat disreputable beings, while the faith of one family in its guardian-animal would react upon and strengthen the faith of others in theirs. So a system of clan-totems would be established, around which would grow up various myths of origin, various magical practices, and various religious rites.

It is well known that such dreams as convince the Iban, the Kayan, and the Kenyah of the reality of his special relation to some animal, and lead him to respect all animals of some one species, produce similar results in other parts of the world. We quote the following passages from Mr. Frazer's remarks on individual totems in his book on totemism: — "An Australian seems usually to get his individual totem by dreaming that he has been transformed into an animal of that species." "In America the individual totem is usually the first animal of which a youth dreams during the long and generally solitary fast which American Indians observe at puberty." Such dream experiences are then the VERA CAUSA of the inception of faith in individual totems among the peoples in which totemism is most highly developed; and among the tribes of Sarawak we find cases which illustrate how a similar faith, strengthened by further dreams and by the good fortune of its possessor, may spread to all the members of his family or of his household and to his descendants, until in some cases the guardian animal becomes almost, though not quite, a clan-totem. The further development of such incipient totems among these tribes is probably prevented at the present time, not only by their agricultural habits, but also by their passionate addiction to war and fighting and head-hunting; for these pursuits necessitate the strict subordination of each community to its chief, and compel all families to unite in the cult of the hawk to the detriment of all other animal-cults, because the hawk is, by its habits, so much better suited than any other animal to be a guide to them on warlike expeditions.[150]

The prevalence of the belief in a Supreme Being must also tend to prevent the development of totemism.


In Chapter VI. we have described most of the superstitious beliefs and practices connected with the PADI plant and the rice.

It is not clear that any other plants are regarded as be-souled; but we mention here certain customs in connection with some of them that seem to point in that direction. The SILAT, a common jungle palm, figures most prominently in rites and beliefs of the Kayans. The leaves of this palm are used to decorate the heads taken in war; and on the occasion of any ceremonial use of the heads, fresh leaves are always hung upon or about them. No other leaves will serve this purpose, though it is difficult to say in what the special virtue of this plant consists. The leaves of the same plant are hung about the doorway of a new house when the people first take up their abode in it; but it is hung in such a way that passers-by do not brush against it, and children especially are kept away from it. It is commonly hung about the altar-posts of the gods; and it is a strip of this leaf that is tied about the wrist of a sick man to confine his soul to his body at the close of the soul-catching ceremony. It is tied also about the wrists of men returning from any warlike expedition. When applied for any ceremonial purpose it is called ISANG; and it is not until it has been so used that it becomes an "unclean" object. It is used in its merely material aspect for roofing leaf shelters in the jungle, and is put to other similar uses to which the broad tough leaves are well adapted. Most or all of the peoples use the leaves of this plant in the same ways as the Kayans.

LONG, a species of CALADIUM, is commonly hung, both root and leaves, upon the door of a room to mark that it is LALI (tabu) owing to sickness, harvesting, or any other circumstance.

OROBONG, a weed (not unlike the foxglove in appearance) which always grows freely among the young PADI, is gathered by the female friends of any woman passing through the ordeal of childbirth. They boil the leaves and wash her body with the decoction on several days following the delivery. It is held that, if this is not done, the woman's abdomen will not regain its normal state. This usage also is common to the Kayans with many other tribes.

The leaves of the DRACAENA are sometimes tied beneath the prow of a boat during journeys to distant parts (as mentioned on p. 70, vol. ii.); they are also hung upon the tombs and, with the ISANG, upon altar posts, when the rites are performed.

The Ibans and some of the Klemantans will not make the first stroke in cutting down the TAPANG tree (ARBOURIA), alleging that, if they do so, great troubles will befall them.

Supplementary Note on the NGARONG

Since correcting the proofs of this chapter we have come upon a brief account of the guardian spirits of the Iban, which corroborates our account of the Ngarong. It is contained in a series of papers entitled RELIGIOUS RITES AND CUSTOMS OF THE IBANS OR DYAKS OF SARAWAK, BORNEO, written by Leo Nyuak (an Iban educated in a mission school), and translated by the Very Rev. Edm. Dunn (ANTHROPOS, vol. i. p. 182, 1905). In this account the guardian spirit is called TUA, and we are told that ,The TUA or guardian spirit of an Iban has its external manifestation in a snake, a leopard, or some other denizen of the forest. It is supposed to be the spirit of some ancestor renowned for bravery, or some other virtue, who at death has taken an animal form ... it is revealed in a dream what animal form the honoured dead has taken."


Magic, Spells, and Charms

Magic is in a comparatively neglected and backward condition among the Kayans and Kenyahs, Punans, Ibans, and the more warlike up-country Klemantans. On the other hand, some of the coastwise tribes of Klemantans, especially the Malanaus and Kadayans, cultivate magic with some assiduity.

The Kayans dislike and discourage all magical practices, with the exception of those which are publicly practised for beneficent purposes and have the sanction of custom.

In the old days they used to kill those suspected of working any evil by magic. There are no recognised magicians among them other than the DAYONGS, and these, as we have seen, perform the functions of the priest and the physician rather than those OF the wizard or sorcerer.

Some of the DAYONGS make use at certain ceremonies of a rough mask carved out OF wood, or made from the shell of a gourd. The mask is merely an oval shell with slits for eyes and mouth, generally blackened with age and use. It may be worn during the soul-catching ceremony, but not during attendance on the recently deceased. This use of a mask is not known to us among any other of the peoples (Pl. 151).

The medicine man of the Ibans is known as MANANG; the MANANGS are more numerous than the DAYONGS of the Kayans; they are more strictly professional in the sense that they do but little other work, depending chiefly on what they can earn by their treatment of disease and by other ways of practising upon the superstitions of their fellows. They generally work in groups of three or four, or more in cases of serious illness, and, with the imitativeness and disregard for tradition characteristic of the IBAN, they have developed a great variety of procedures,[151] into most of which the element of deliberate fraud enters to a much greater extent than into the practice of the Kayan DAYONGS. The Sea Dayak MANANG is usually covered with skin disease (tinea) and shirks all hard work with the other members of the village.

A peculiar and infrequent variety of Sea Dayak MANANG are the MANANG BALI. They are men who adopt and continuously wear woman's dress and behave in all ways like women, except that they avoid as far as possible taking any part in the domestic labour. They claim to have been told in dreams to adopt this mode of life; they are employed for the same purpose as the more ordinary MANANGS, and they practise similar methods.

Among the IBANS certain persons get a bad reputation for working harm by magic. They are said to be cunning in sorcery (TAU TEPANG), and these persons may properly be said to be sorcerers or witches. They are believed to work harm in many ill-defined ways, especially to health; but their procedures are not generally known; they probably include poisoning, but, like the practices of our European witches in recent times, they probably have but little existence outside the timorous imaginations of the people. Such persons are disliked and shunned, though not killed as they would be among Kayans or Kenyahs. They are not professional sorcerers, I.E. their help is not called in by other persons who wish to work evil on their enemies, for others do not dare to do this. At the present time in Sarawak, if a man accuses another of practising TEPANG, he is liable to be sued for libel and fined.[152]

Black Magic

The most important of the magical practices is one known and occasionally resorted to among all the peoples for the purpose of bringing about the death of a personal enemy. We describe the procedure as carried out by the Sebops (Klemantans), but in all essentials the account holds good for all or nearly all the peoples. It is not usual to invoke the aid of any recognised magician. The man whose heart is filled with hatred against another will retire secretly to a spot at the edge of a PADI field, or of some other clearing, where he can see a large expanse of sky and yet feel sure of being unobserved. Here he sets up the BATANG PRA, a pole supported horizontally some six or eight feet above the ground, its ends resting on two vertical poles. A little figure of a man or woman (according to the sex of the person aimed at), which has been carved for the purpose out of soft wood, is fixed upright in the ground beneath the BATANG PRA. This is called TEGULUN KALINGAI USA, which, literally translated, is "the reflected image of the body." The operator makes a fire beside the TEGULUN, digs a small hole in the ground, and fills it with water coloured with ferruginous earth. This pool is called BAWANG DAAR,[153] the lake of blood. Sitting before the TEGULUN he scans the space of sky framed by the BATANG PRA, searching for some hawk upon the wing. As soon as he sees a hawk within this area, he addresses it, waving in one hand a small frayed stick, and saying, "Put fat in the mouth of So-and-So," and he puts a bit of pork fat into the mouth of the TEGULUN. Then saying, "Send him to BAWANG DAAR," he immerses the TEGULUN in his pool of reddened water; and taking it out again he thrusts into it a little wooden spear. After this he buries the TEGULUN in a hole in the ground, covering it with earth. (Only people who die by violence or of some much-feared disease are normally buried in this fashion.) This done he keeps shouting to the hawk to go to the left, at the same time waving his stick in that direction. If the hawk passes out of the area of operations towards the right, he knows that his attempt will not succeed, and he desists for the time being; if it flies out to the left he knows that his arts will prevail, and he addresses the hawk as follows: —

"BALI FLAKI TUAI MUSIT, OU MATEI IYA KALUNAN ITO TAMA ODOH (the name of the victim), TUJU KAU, BALI FLAKI, MIEU TUOR BAWANG DAAR AU MULOH USUK, BALI FLAKI, MIEU NIAK BOIN NA ALAM UJUN, PALA UJA MATEI SAGAM; MATEI DAAR KAYU SAGAM; MATEI SUAT; MATEI AIOH SAGAM; MATEI MANYAT ALAM SUNGEI; MATEI PADAM; MATEI NAKAP BAYA; MATEI SAKIT ULUN; MATEI SAKIT USOK." (Translation runs — "O Bali Flaki, go your way, let this man Tama Odoh die; go and put him in the lake of blood, O Bali Flaki; stab him in the chest, Bali Flaki, put fat of pig in his mouth that he may die to-morrow (this is equivalent to — let his head be taken; for fat is always put in the mouth of the head taken in battle); let him be killed by a falling tree, to-morrow; let him die from a wound; let him die by the hand of his enemy, tomorrow; let him be drowned, to-morrow; let him die of a deadly disease; let him be caught by a crocodile; let him die of pain in the head; let him die of pain in the chest.") It will be observed that the formula calls upon the hawks to give effect to the malevolent wishes, so that the operation is not one of direct magical or sympathetic action, but rather is one by which the aid of a higher power is invoked. This feature of the process renders it one which the strongest minded cannot pooh-pooh.

With this comprehensive curse the rite is concluded and the vengeful man returns home and secretly observes his enemy. The latter may become aware that magic is being worked against him through dreaming that fat is put into his mouth; and as he is probably more or less aware of the hatred of his enemy, it is not unlikely that such a dream will come to him.[154] There can be no doubt that, if in this or any other way a man learns that he has been made the object of a magical attempt of this sort, he, in many cases, suffers in health; and it is probable that in some cases such knowledge has proved fatal. If it is discovered that any man has attempted to injure another in this way, he falls into general reprobation, and, if the case can be proved against him, heavy damages in the form of pigs, gongs, etc., may be awarded by the house-chief.

A curse is sometimes imposed without formality, and in the heat of the moment, in the face of their enemy. Under these circumstances the curse is usually muttered indistinctly, and seems then to work upon the victim all the more powerfully. The words used are similar to those of the curse written out above.

A characteristic bit of Iban magic is the following: — A man, angered by finding that some one has deposited dirt in or about his property or premises, takes a few burning sticks and, thrusting them into the dirt, says, "Now let them suffer the pains of dysentery."

Therapeutic Magical Procedures

It was said in Chapter XIV. that the Kayans treat disease by three distinct methods, namely, by soul-catching, by drugs and regimen, and by extraction of the supposed cause of the trouble. This last operation seems to fall under the head of magic and may be described here. It is usually performed by the DAYONGS, and is applied more particularly in cases in which localised pain is a prominent feature of the disorder. The DAYONG comes provided with a short tube, prepared by pushing out the core of a section of the stem of a certain plant of the ginger family. After inquiring of the patient the locality of his pains, he holds up the polished blade of a sword, and, gazing at it as one seeing visions, he sings a long incantation beginning: —


The crowd of people, men and women, sitting round the central figure, join in the BALI DAYONG, which recurs as the refrain at the end of each verse, intoning in loud deep voices. It seems clear from the use of the words BALI DAYONG that the whole is addressed to some superior power; for no human DAYONG, and indeed no human being, is addressed or spoken of with the title BALI. And it would perhaps be more correct, therefore, to describe the address as a supplication rather than an incantation, and the whole operation as a religious rite rather than a magical procedure. But we are here on the disputed borderland between magic and religion, and other features incline us to regard the process as magical rather than religious.

During the singing of a number of verses in this way, the DAYONG seems to become more and more distraught and unconscious of his surroundings; and when the singing ceases he behaves in a strange manner, which strikes the attendant crowd with awe, starting suddenly and making strange clucking noises. Then he produces the tube mentioned above, and pressing one end upon the skin of the part indicated by the patient as the seat of the pain, he sucks strongly, and, presently withdrawing it, he blows out of it on to his palm a small black pellet, which moves mysteriously upon his hand as he exhibits it to the patient and his friends as the cause of the pain; and if the patient has complained of more than one seat of pain, the operation is repeated. It only remains for the DAYONG to return gradually with some violent gestures and contortions to his normal state, and to receive his fee, which properly consists of the sword used by him in the ceremony, and a live fowl. The whole procedure is very well adapted to secure therapeutic effects by suggestion. The singing and the atmosphere of awe engendered by the DAYONG'S reputation and his uncanny behaviour prepare the patient, the suction applied through the tube gives him the impression that something is being drawn through his skin, and the skilful production of the mysterious black pellet completes the suggestive process, under the influence of which, no doubt, many an ache or pain has suddenly disappeared. On one occasion, one of us being a little indisposed in a Klemantan house, we made an opportunity to examine the methods of the DAYONG a little more closely than is usually possible, by inviting one to undertake the extraction of his pains. We were then able to realise more vividly the suggestive force of the procedure, and to see that the black pellets were bits of dark beeswax which were carried upon the finger-nails of the DAYONG, and surreptitiously introduced by him into his mouth as they were required for exhibition after being blown through the tube; we could see also that the mysterious movements of the pellets upon his palm were produced by the help of short fine hairs protruding from it. It seems impossible to deny the presence of a certain element of fraud in this procedure, but we think that it would be hasty and uncharitable to assert that the DAYONG'S attitude is wholly one of fraud; we must remember that our most orthodox medical practitioners accord a legitimate place in their armamentarium to MISTURA RUBRA (solution of burnt sugar) and to similar aids whose operation is purely suggestive.

Most of the coastwise tribes seek to drive away epidemic disease by the following procedure: — One or more rough human images are carved from the pith of the sago palm and placed on a small raft or boat, or full-rigged Malay ship, together with rice and other food carefully prepared. The boat is decorated with ribbons of the leaves and with the blossoms of the areca palm, and allowed to float out to sea with the ebb-tide in the belief or hope that it will carry the sickness with it.

Among the Ibans, if a man has deceived people in a serious matter by means of a malicious lie, and if the untruth is discovered, one of the deceived party takes a stick and throws it down at some spot by which people are constantly passing, saying in the presence of others, "Let any one who does not add to this liar's heap (TUGONG BULA) suffer from pains in the head." Then others do likewise, and the nature of the growing heap becoming known, every passer-by throws a stick upon it lest he should suffer pains. In this way the heap grows until it attains a large size, in some cases that of a small haystack, and, being known by the name of the liar, is a cause of great shame to him.

When any man has his hair cut or shaved, he sees that the hair cut off is burnt or otherwise carefully disposed of. This is common to all the Borneans. It would seem that this is not prompted by fear of any definite harm, nor is there, so far as we know, any recognised way of using the hair cut off to work injury to its former owner. The custom seems rather to be due to the fact that shields and swords are decorated with the hair of enemies by Kenyahs and others; therefore it is felt that to use a man's hair for this purpose is almost equivalent to taking his head; and it is well to guard against this possibility. No doubt also it is vaguely felt that if the hair of one's head should come into the possession of any other person, that person would acquire some indefinable power over one.

Magical practices for the injury of enemies and rivals are more various and frequent among the coastwise Klemantans, especially the Bisayas, Kadayans, and Malanaus. It is probable that they have learnt much of this from the Malays. One variety is to hang up at the edge of a PADI field a yam or other root covered with projecting spikes of bamboo cane. This is done openly to spoil the crop.

Another trick is to tie under a bench in the boat of one's enemy a pebble, generally of quartz. This is supposed to make the boat so heavy that it can only travel very slowly.


These practices involve the application of charms. Charms are extensively used by all the peoples, least so by Kayans. In every house is at least one bundle of charms, known as SIAP AIOH by the Kenyahs, by whom more importance is attached to it than by any of the other tribes. This bundle, which is the property of the whole household or village, generally contains hair taken from the heads that hang in the gallery; a crocodile's tooth; the blades of a few knives that have been used in special ceremonies; a few crystals or pebbles of strange shapes; pig's teeth of unusual shape (of both wild and domestic pig); feathers of a fowl (these seem to be substitutes for Bali Flaki's feathers, which they would hardly dare to touch); stone axe-heads called the teeth of Balingo;[156] and ISANG, I.E. palm leaves that have been put to ceremonial use (Fig. 80).

The whole bundle, blackened with the smoke and dust of years, hangs in the gallery over the principal hearth beside the heads, usually in a widemeshed basket. It constitutes the most precious possession of the household, being of even greater value than the heads. No one willingly touches or handles the SIAP, not even the chief. And when it becomes necessary to touch the bundle, as in transferring it to a new house, some old man is specially told off for the duty; he who touches it brings upon himself the risk of death, for it is very PARIT to touch it, I.E. strongly against custom and therefore dangerous.[157] Its function seems to be to bring luck or prosperity of all kinds to the house; without it nothing would prosper, especially in warfare.

Many individuals keep a small private bunch of SIAP, made up of various small objects, of unusual forms, generally without any human hair (Fig. 81). These are generally obtained through dreams. A man dreams that something of value is to be given him, and then, if on waking his eye falls upon a crystal of quartz, or any other slightly peculiar object, he takes it and hangs it above his sleeping-place; when going to bed he addresses it, saying that he wants a dream favourable to any business he may have in hand. If such a dream comes to him, the thing becomes SIAP; but if his dreams are inauspicious, the object is rejected. Since no one can come in contact with another man's SIAP without risk of injury, the inconvenience occasioned by multiplication of SIAP bundles puts a limit to their number. Nevertheless a man who possesses private SIAP will carry it with him attached to the sheath of his sword, and special hooks are provided in most houses for the hanging up of such swords (Fig. 82).

There are many instances of SIAP of specialised function. A man specially devoted to hunting with the blowpipe will have a special blow-pipe SIAP tied to his quiver (this is especially common among Punans). He will dip this SIAP in the blood of every animal he kills, so that it becomes thickly encrusted. This is thought to increase or preserve its virtue.

Another special kind of SIAP is that which ensures a man against hurt from firearms, through causing any gun aimed at him to miss fire.

The Ibans use personal charms which they call PENGAROH; but in accordance with their more individualistic disposition, they have no important charm common to the whole household corresponding to the household SIAP of the other peoples. The objects composing the PENGAROH are an assortment even more varied and fantastic than the SIAP of other peoples. In many cases they are carried with small china pots of oil, which are used to rub on the body as a universal remedy.

A curious object to be occasionally seen in some Sea Dayak houses is the empugau. It is a blackened bundle hung in a basket among the heads above the hearth. It is covered with the smoke and soot of ages, and though it is generally claimed as the property of some one man who has inherited it from his forefathers, even he knows nothing of its history and composition, and is unwilling to examine it closely. It is regarded by the Ibans as the head of some half-human monster. On careful examination of several specimens we have found the EMPUGAU to consist of a large cocoanut in its husk, tricked out with a rude face mask having part of the fibrous husk combed out to look like hair. The Ibans regard it with some awe, and it seems probable that it has formerly played some part in magical procedures.

Love Charms

Love charms are used by most of the peoples, though the Kayans and Kenyahs are exceptions, since they prefer to rely chiefly upon the power of music and personal attractions. These charms are in almost all cases strongly odorous substances. The Iban youth strings together a necklace of strongly scented seed known as BUAH BALONG. This he generally carries about with him, and, when his inclination is directed towards some fair one, he places it under her pillow, or endeavours to persuade her to wear it about her neck. If she accepts it, he reckons her half won.

Klemantans, among whom love charms go by the generic name SANGKIL, make use of a variety of charms, of which one of the most used is a scented oil that they contrive to smuggle on to the garments or other personal property of the woman.

Those that have had much contact with Malays make use of pieces of paper on which they scrawl certain conventional patterns.

Charms are used by Ibans to ensure success in trapping. The trapper carries a stick one end of which is carved to represent the human form (Fig. 83). He uses this to measure the appropriate height of the traps set for animals of different species.

All the peoples observe a large number of restrictions in regard to contact with objects, especially articles of food. Some of these are mentioned in other chapters. Here we notice a few typical instances. In Chapter XV. we related that each of the peoples avoid certain animals; in some cases they avoid not only killing or touching these animals, but also even very remote relations with them: as, for example, taking food from a vessel in which their flesh has been cooked on some previous occasion; coming within the range of the odour of the object; coming into a house in which there is any part of such an animal.

The evil resulting from breach of any such prohibitions generally takes the form of wasting sickness with pains in the head, chronic cough, dysentery, or spitting of blood. When a Kenyah has knowingly for any reason, or unintentionally, come in contact with any one of the forbidden objects, or if he finds himself suffering from any of these things, and therefore suspects that he has unwittingly come under their influence, he subjects himself to a process of purification. At break of day he descends, with other members of his family, to the brink of the river provided with a chicken, a sword-blade, two frayed sticks, and a length of spiky vine known as ATAT. This latter is bent into the form of a ring, within which he takes his stand and awaits the appearance of Isit (the spider hunter — one of the omen-birds). He calls it by name, Bali Isit; and as soon as Isit calls in reply, he pours out a long-winded address, charging him to convey to Bali Penyalong his prayer for recovery or protection. Then he snips off the head of the chicken, and wipes some of its blood on the frayed sticks and on the ring. The ring, with the chicken and the frayed sticks, are then lifted above his head by his attendants, and water is poured upon them from a bamboo, so that it drips from them on to his head. Eight times the ring is lifted up, and each time the pouring out of the water is repeated. Then, standing on the blade of the sword, he again addresses the omen-bird as before. This completes the rite, which is known as LEMAWA.

A similar rite of purification is practised by most of the other peoples. In some cases the principal feature of the rite of purification is being spat upon by the chief.

It may be broadly said that all these peoples are constantly on the alert to provide against unknown dangers; that, having no definite theories of causation, they are apt to accept every hint of danger or hurtful influence suggested by the attributes and relations of things, and to seek to avoid these influences or to ward them off or counteract them by every means that in any way suggests itself to their minds as possibly efficacious.

Although the Kayans regard a madman as possessed by an evil spirit, they seem to have no traditional methods of casting out the spirit; but some of the Klemantans practise a rite of exorcism; this varies in detail from tribe to tribe, and attains the greatest elaboration among the Malanaus. The rite is known as BAYOH, and bears a general resemblance to the corresponding Malay rite known as BERHANTU. The Malanaus are Klemantans of the coast regions of Sarawak, most of whom have recently become converted to Islam, while all of them have been much influenced by contact with Malays. The following account is reproduced from a paper published by one of us (C. H.) in the REVIEW OF THE FAR EAST (Feb. 1907), to the editor of which we are indebted for permission to make use of the paper: —

The ceremony of casting out evil spirits is of frequent occurrence among Malanaus, and the noise of gongs and drums throughout the night, lasting every night for sometimes a whole week, cannot fail to impress even a casual observer.

The natives of Niah, who are Malanaus, believe in a multitude of spirits, good and bad, great and small, important and of little account. At the head of these is Ula Gemilang, the sea divinity, a power who works for the good of man.[158] Adum Girang is another spirit of the sea, as also is Raja Duan, who has power over the sun, a spirit who is distinguished, when he appears in human form, by his white head-cloth. Majau is said to be pre-eminently rich. Aiar Urai Arang is said to be a small child whose mother is Aiar. Besides these there are other powerful spirits of the sea, the land, the up-river country, and so forth, and each is attended by innumerable slaves and attendants of ghostly kind; they have influence of many kinds over the dwellers in this world, some for good, others very much for evil. Madness is caused by various evil spirits throwing themselves into mortals, ghosts with red eyes which flash like lightning. The "amok" devil which comes from the swamp, differs from those which drive people to commit suicide — these again being quite distinct from those which cause merely harmless lunacy.

It not infrequently happens that when a woman (or more rarely a man) is insane or is very ill, she is urged to admit that a devil has possessed her, and to become a medicine woman. By this means she becomes well of her complaint, and at the same time acquires the power of helping others to cast out devils. But she is not able of her own accord to determine whether she shall become a medicine woman or not. For three nights she is taken through the ceremony of BAYOH, afterwards to be described, without a rattan swing, and then for three nights with the swing. If the indications are favourable, some three weeks are allowed to elapse before she undergoes the final test of five nights with the swing. The first BAYOH is to satisfy the people, the second to appease the demon; and if her malady is cured by the eleven nights of artificial hysteria, she is considered to have been accepted both by men and spirits in her new role of exorciser.

As one woman expressed it, she is now "in with the demons." Even then, however, it does not follow that she is able to see when an evil spirit has ceased to possess a person. One old female, who had worked at BAYOH for fifteen years, admitted that if a devil went into herself she could turn it out, but only a more powerful woman than herself could turn devils out of others.

Two forms of BAYOH are known to the people of Niah, but it is only with the BAYOH SADONG that there is any need to deal here. The other form is used by the Punans, or mixed Punans and Malanaus. If it is supposed that some illness is due to possession by an evil spirit, it is decided to call the medicine women and get the unwelcome visitant to depart, though it is not considered possible in all cases to turn a demon out of his mortal abode. Offerings of eggs and fowls to the good spirits having proved fruitless, a day is fixed for the BAYOH, preferably shortly after a good harvest, and the household begins its preparations for the occasion. As powerful spirits are to be invited to the house, the room where they are to appear is decked with a profusion of ornaments suited to such exalted guests. Great tassels of white shavings are hung upon the walls, a white cloth adorned with the blossoms of the areca palm hides the rafters, and these graceful inflorescences are spread out fanwise over the doors and among the shavings. In one corner a hollow cone of areca blossoms and shavings spread over a framework of rattan is suspended from a rafter; and a model of a ship or raft is placed just outside an open window. As the function takes place at night, candles of beeswax are set about to give light. At the appointed time brass dishes are put on the floor with rice of many colours — yellow, red, and blue — spread in patterns of crocodiles; popcorns of rice and maize, water, and washing utensils, boxes of betel ready for chewing, tobacco, and cigarettes, to appease the varied appetites of the spirits invoked. just after sundown the neighbours troop in and settle themselves round the room, the ill-mannered pushing themselves in front. Certain of the villagers agree to form the band. Soon the house is full of people, boys and old men contentedly chewing and smoking, women retiring to darker parts of the room to gossip. A person of importance will be received with some show of civility, but without any definite ceremony. Arabian incense, KAMANYAN, which is used nowadays because the native GARU has too high a value for export to be consumed at home, disperses a not unpleasant smell through the gathering. Then the fun begins, gongs and drums are struck, and the strains of music sound through the village. With intervals of a quarter of an hour every two hours, the monotonous melody proceeds until seven the next morning, to be resumed, in all probability, the next night for another twelve hours, and perhaps maintained night after night for a whole week.

The medicine women — one, two, or three, rarely four in number — have collected in the middle of the room. Generally experienced by years of performing, they are often too old to be attractive, despite the gorgeous raiment with which they conceal their aged frames and the hawkbells which jingle as they move. At first they collect round the earthenware censers to warm their hands. They then begin to step with the music and wave their arms, hissing loudly through their teeth the while, and occasionally breaking into a whistle. After a time they sit down and nod this way and that to the music, as though engaged in training the muscles of the neck. But the drums and gongs go faster, till the long hair of the woman flies round with her head. The whistling is varied by a chant, SADONG, in an ancient language now barely understood.

"Why do you speak? Why do you SADONG? Why are you such a long time? As long as it takes a pinang (areca) to become old? The fruit of the cocoanut has had time to reach maturity and drop. Come to this country below the heavens. What do you wish? What is your desire? I have come to heal the sick one who lies on the floor, feeble and unable to rise, thin and shrivelled like a floating log. Have pity from your heart and prevent my soul from parting from my skin and my bones from failing away. This sickness is very severe and I am unable to contend against it."

One of the women goes to the patient, who, clad in black, sits alone on a mat, and brings her a pinang blossom to hold, covering her head with a cloth. The unfortunate being is then brought to the hollow cone of shavings and seated within it; it is then whirled round till the white shreds rise like a ballet dancer's skirt. Gradually the sick person is worked up to a frenzy, and, keeping time with the music, the medicine women sway about and wag their heads. So the proceedings go on, with weird fantastic dancing, nodding, howling, whistling, chanting, for all the hours of the tropical night. Then the medicine women are whirled round in the cone, and one by one they fall into a faint, to be recovered by fanning with the pinang blossom. They dance about and brush against the onlookers as though unable to control their movements, and are only kept at a distance by finding handfuls of rice flung in their faces. The point of giddiness and hysteria eventually reached can only be compared with certain stages of drunkenness.

The outsider will find it difficult to detect much method in the madness, but on more sober occasions the performers can offer intelligible explanations of their behaviour. The account given by an old medicine woman at Niah, and confirmed by the man who conducts the ceremonies at the same village, shows that the part taken by the spirits is quite as definite as the performance of the exorcisers. Attracted by the music, the followers of the chief evil spirits gather round the house when the BAYOH has begun, and hunt about. These little demons ask the chief medicine woman, "Why have you called us?" She replies, "Tell your master that I have called you because there is a person here sick." They then go back and fetch the more powerful spirit whom they serve. This demon comes up from the sea to the JONG, a small ship or raft that stands behind the house (Fig. 84), and finds his way up the rope ladder. He asks the BAYOH woman, "Why have you called me, mother?" She answers, "I have called you because there is a sick person here. You can help him! See whether you can help him or not." If the demon finds the sickness beyond his power to cure, he says, "I cannot help you; get some one else"; and the next night another one is invoked, until the evil spirit is cast out of the patient. If for seven nights the attempt is made in vain, the BAYOH is stopped and medicines are tried again, but with little hope that they will do much good. One of the BAYOHS I saw at Niah was on behalf of a slightly mad woman, who became very violent during the performance. She was said to be mad because she had become a Mohammedan, and it was explained that the Malanau demons had no power over the evil spirits of Islam. The poor woman was consequently put into stocks in her own room, and not long afterwards recovered.

When a big spirit comes into one of the medicine women, as they say, like a flash she feels its presence, but does not see its form. If it agrees to help, the woman goes on with the regular BAYOH, and soon feels confident that she is able to make the patient well. She asks for rice and other food, and spirit made from fruit, which she eats and drinks to gratify the demon within her. She calls upon the people to see that the viands are good, but not from any selfish motive, for it is said that she is not aware that she is eating at all. The coloured rice, which has been prepared, is the spirit's share, and eggs are also given. The demon invoked to help calls out to the evil spirit in possession of the sick person, "You stay in this craft whilst I sit here." "If you don't wish to stay here you can go to the woods, or your former abode." The evil spirit then goes from the patient into the basket prepared for his reception, and is then induced or ordered to depart by the demon in the medicine woman. What remains of the food set apart for the spirit is scattered along the river. The BAYOH is stopped, and thanksgiving offerings are floated out to sea that the exertions of the supernatural powers may not have been in vain, or these gifts may be taken into the jungle, where the hollow cone and raft are also placed or hung from a tree.

The medicine women work for a fee, and it is likely enough that the length of the BAYOH is influenced to some extent by their pay. Sometimes the ceremony is most gorgeous. A rattan swing, covered with a beautiful cloth, is provided for the women and the patient to swing in, with a platform near at hand to receive the evil, spirit. Sometimes Ula Gemilang himself is invoked. On these occasions the expenditure is profuse. A box is placed in the middle of the room with a handsome covering. The walk up the floor is covered with cloth of gold thread. There are seven candles in seven brass sticks, seven betel stands, and seven men carrying spears. When the god arrives, seven people carry the umbrella over his head. If every thing is not perfectly satisfactory in his judgment, he demands through the medicine woman whose body he has occupied some expensive gift, and if this is refused she may fall in a dead faint. Rice is thrown on her and she is fanned with the pinang blossoms, but the women who attend to her only share her fate and also become senseless. Eventually they recover, but there is now but little hope for the patient, for Gemilang is angry. In a despairing mood the BAYOH women then seek help from lesser powers.

Needless to say, the women bear out their part of the pantomime with great skill, becoming "possessed" at the proper time, snatching at the sick person's head as though to catch the evil spirit, and so forth. It is probable that in some cases the ceremony works a cure by suggestion. In any case the villagers have not too many occasions for social gatherings and feasts, and since those who hold BAYOHS must offer a good deal of hospitality to their neighbours, such meetings in a village are exceedingly popular with all except those who wish to go to sleep.


Myths, Legends, and Stories

Among all the peoples of Borneo a number of myths are handed on from generation to generation by word of mouth. These are related again and again by those who make themselves reputations as story-tellers, especially the old men and women; and the people are never tired of hearing them repeated, as they sit in groups about their hearths between supper and bed-time, and especially when camping in the jungle. The myths vary considerably in the mouths of different story-tellers, especially of those that live in widely separated districts; for the myths commonly have a certain amount of local colouring. Few or none of the myths are common to all the peoples; but those of any one people are generally known in more or less authentic form to their neighbours.

Although many of the myths deal with such subjects as the creation of the world, of man, of animals and plants, the discovery of fire and agriculture, subjects of which the mythology has been incorporated in the religious teachings of the classical and Christian worlds, the mythology of these peoples has little relation to their religion. The gods figure but little in the myths, and the myths are related with little or no religious feeling, no sense of awe, and very little sense of obligation to hand them on unchanged. They are related in much the same spirit and on the same occasions as the animal stories, of which also the people are fond, and they may be said to be sustained by the purely aesthetic or literary motive, rather than the religious or scientific motives. In fact it is not possible to draw any sharp line between myths and fables. If it is asked, Do the people believe the myths? no clear answer can be given; for few of the myths have any direct bearing upon practical life, and therefore belief in them is not brought to the test of action, the only test that can reveal the reality of belief, or indeed differentiate belief from merely unreflective acceptance of a story. Where such practical bearing is not altogether wanting, we commonly see conduct regulated in conformity with the myth or story, as in the case of the story of the bat carrying to the creatures in the river the news of the intention of the people to poison the water.

A certain number of the Bornean myths and legends have been published in Mr. Ling Roth's book and elsewhere, especially those of the Ibans. We have chosen for reproduction some representative specimens that have not hitherto appeared in well-known publications. A few stories that properly belong to this chapter are scattered in other parts of this book.

We give first in a condensed form the substance of a long rambling creation-myth current among all branches of the Kayan people. This myth is sung in rhymed blank verse, a fact which is partly responsible for the wealth of names occurring in it.

In the beginning there was a barren rock. On this the rains fell and gave rise to moss, and the worms, aided by the dung-beetles, made soil by their castings. Then a sword handle (HAUP MALAT) came down from the sun[159] and became a large tree. From the moon came a creeper, which hanging from the tree became mated with it through the action of the wind.[160] From this union were born KALUBAN GAI and KALUBI ANGAI, the first human beings, male and female. These were incomplete, lacking the legs and lower half of their trunks, so that their entrails hung loose and exposed. Leaves falling from the tree became the various species of birds and winged insects, and from the fallen fruits sprang the fourfooted beasts. Resin, oozing from the trunk of the tree, gave rise to the domestic pig and fowl, two species which are distinguished by their understanding of matters that remain hidden from all others, even from human beings. The first incomplete human beings produced PENGOK NGAI and KATIRA MUREI; the latter bore a son, BATANG UTA TATAI, who married AJAI AVAI and begot SIJAU LAHO, ODING LAHANG, PABALAN, PLIBAN, and TOKONG, who became the progenitors of the various existing peoples. ODING LAKANG is claimed as their ancestor by the Kayans, and also by the Kenyahs and some of the Klemantan tribes.

TOKONG is claimed as ancestor by the Sebops (a tribe of Klemantans) and by the Punans. The former attribute to him the introduction of head hunting. The story goes that once upon a time, when TOKONG and his people were preparing to attack a village, he was addressed by the frog, who called out, "WONG KA KOK, TETAK BATOK." This fairly represents the cry of this species of frog (BUFO); and TETAK BATOK in the Sebop language means "cut through the neck." At first the people, who hitherto had taken only the hair of their enemies to adorn their shields, scoffed at this advice; but the frog assured them that the taking of heads would bring them prosperity of every kind, and demonstrated the procedure he advised by decapitating a small frog. TOKONG therefore determined to follow the frog's advice and carried away the heads of his enemies; this was followed immediately by increased prosperity. As the party returned home and passed through their fields the PADI grew very rapidly. As they entered the fields the PADI was only up to their knees, but before they had passed through it was full-grown with full ears. As they approached the house their relatives came to meet them, rejoicing over various pieces of good fortune that had befallen them. The words of the frog thus came true, and Tokong and his people continued to follow the new practice, and from them it was learned by others.

Although the help of the stars is not needed by the Borneans in directing their course when travelling, since all but very short journeys are made on the rivers, most of them are familiar with the principal constellations, and name them in accordance with the resemblances they discover to men, animals, and other objects. Some of the tribes determine the arrival of the season for sowing PADI by the observation of the stars. Thus the LONG KIPUTS (Klemantans) name the great square of Pegasus PALAI, the PADI storehouse (these houses are generally square); the Pleiades they call a well; and the constellation of which Aldebaran is a member they call a pig's jaw. They measure the altitude of a star by filling a tall bamboo vessel with water, inclining it until it points directly to the star, and then setting it upright again, and measuring the height at which the surface of the water remaining in the vessel stands above its floor. Orion is interpreted as the figure of a man, LAFAANG, in much the same way as by Europeans; but his left arm is thought to be wanting. They tell the following story about LAFAANG, who of course is regarded as of their own tribe.

The Story of LAFAANG

The daughter of PALAI (the constellation Pegasus) fell in love with a Long Kiput youth, LAFAANG by name, and invited him to ascend to the heavens, warning him at the same time that the customs in her celestial home were very different from those of earth. The girl was very beautiful, and LAFAANG was not slow to find his way to her father's house. PALAI, surprised to see this mortal visitor, enquired of his daughter, "Who is this man, and why does he come here?" "It is the man I wish to wed," replied the girl. The kind-hearted father told her to give her lover food, and consented to the realisation of her hopes. So LAFAANG took up his abode in the house of PALAI and was wedded to his daughter. But in spite of repeated instructions, LAFAANG found it very difficult to conform to the customs of his adopted country. He put his food into his mouth with his fingers instead of using a needle for the purpose, and by doing so distressed his wife, who chid him for his disobedience to her instructions. On the morrow of his arrival he was invited to clear a patch of jungle for a PADI field; and his wife told him that, in order to fell a tree, he was merely to lay the axe she gave him at the foot of the tree, which would forthwith fall to the ground. But habit was too strong to be controlled, and, when LAFAANG set his hand to the task, he fell to chopping at the tree. But though he chopped with might and main he made no impression, and his gentle spouse was horrified to see the crudeness of his methods. On the next day he was told to watch PALAI at work felling the trees. Squatting in the jungle he saw how the great trees fell when PALAI merely laid the blade of the axe at the foot of each one. This spectacle filled LAFAANG with terror and he would have ran away, but that his wife reproached him for cowardice. On the following day he set to work again; and once more forgetting his lesson, he began to chop at the stems of the trees. This gross breach of custom was punished by the fall of a tree from the patch of jungle hard by that on which PALAI was at work; for the tree in falling cut off LAFAANG'S left arm. Disgusted by these disagreeable incidents and by the awkward appearance of his wife, who was now far advanced in pregnancy, LAFAANG made up his mind to return to his own people. His wife reproached him for his intention; but, when she could not alter his determination, she gave him sugar-cane tops and banana roots, previously unknown to men, and let him down to earth by means of a long creeper. Before he reached the ground he heard the cry of his new-born child, and begged to be allowed to go back to see him. But his entreaties were unavailing, and weeping bitterly, he alighted on the earth at TIKAN ORUM (a spot in the upper Baram district). Still his disobedience was not overcome; for, although he had been told to plant the sugar-cane and banana by merely throwing them on the ground, he planted them carefully in the soil; and to this day a tall coarse grass (BRU) grows on the spot. Nevertheless some sugar-cane and banana plants grew up; but they were of an inferior quality, and such they have remained wherever they have spread in this world. LAFAANG died among his own people on earth, but the bright constellation that bears his name and shape still moves across the heavens, reminding men of his journey to the world above the sky and of the misfortunes he suffered there.[161]

The Story of USAI

The following myth, current under several forms among the Klemantans, accounts for a number of the geographical features of the Baram district, in which it was told us. The story was evoked from an old man of the Long Kiputs by a question as to his views about the nature of the stars. He explained that the stars are holes in the sky made by the roots of trees in the world above the sky projecting through the floor of that world. At one time, he explained, the sky was close to the earth, but one day USAI, a giant, when working sago with a wooden mallet accidentally struck his mallet against the sky; since which time the sky has been far up out of the reach of man. Our informant, warming up with the excitement of the recital, went on to give us the following history of USAI: —

USAI was the brother of the guardian of the shades of men. His wife desired to have a large prawn that lived in the Baram river; so USAI built a dam across the river at LUBOK SUAN (a spot where the river is about 250 yards in width) and baled out the water below it, seizing the crocodiles with his fingers and whisking them out on to the bank. While this operation was in progress, the dam gave way; and USAI'S wife was drowned in the sudden rush of water. In vain he sought for his wife, weeping bitterly. Disconsolately he waded down the river. At the mouth of the PELUTAN he wept anew, throwing aside the crocodiles as he explored the bed of the river. At LONG SALAI he found his wife's coat and wept again. At LONG LAMA he found his wife's waist-cloth and gave up hope, and at TAMALA he clucked like a hen, so great was his grief. Still he went on wading down the river. The water, which at LONG PLUSAN was only just above his ankles, reached his middle at the mouth of the TUTAU, and covered all his body at the place where the Tinjar (the largest tributary) flows into the Baram. At the mouth of the ADOI he wailed aloud, "ADOI, ADOI!" (a sorrowful cry in common use, nearly the equivalent of our Alas!). He began to shiver with cold, but at the mouth of the BAKONG he wept again. When he reached LUBOK KAJAMAN he was out of his depth (this is a part known to be very deep) and colder than ever; but he kept on, and presently the water reached only to his belly, and when he reached the sea it came only to his knees. (There is a shallow bar at the river mouth.) On seeing the boundless ocean, USAI gave up the search and strode down the coast to Miri, where he lived on charcoal and ginger. (The belief is widely held that the people of Miri, formerly ate charcoal in large quantities.) The people of Miri seemed to him like maggots; and they, taking him to be a great tree, climbed up on him. When he brushed them off, he killed ten men with each sweep of his hand. The Miri people set to work to hew down this great tree, and blood poured from USAI'S foot as they worked. Then USAI spoke to them, asking them what sort of creatures they might be, and said, "Listen to my words. I am about to die. My brains are sago, my liver is tobacco. Where my head falls there the people will have much knowledge, where my feet lie will be the ignorant ones." Then, his legs being cut through, he fell with a mighty crash, his head falling towards the sea, his feet pointing up river. ("This accounts for the fact that white men and Chinese know so many things, while the people of Borneo are ignorant" said our informant; but this was probably his own comment.) The Miris, of whom a thousand were killed by the fall of USAI, have beautiful hair, because his head fell in their district; but the other people have only such hair as grew on USAI'S limbs. The mosquitoes that existed in the time of USAI were as big as fowls, and their bites were terribly painful. The people hewed them into small pieces, so that now they are the smallest of the animals; but their bite is still painful.

The Iban Story of Simpang Impang

The following story, which is an old favourite among the Ibans (Sea Dayaks) of the Batang Lupar, will serve to illustrate, with its many heterogeneous features, the myth-making faculty of this imitative and fun-loving people. It will be noticed that the story combines the characters of a creation-myth, an animal fable, and a fairy tale: —

Once upon a time some people were looking for edible vegetables in the jungle, when they came upon a huge python, which they took to be a log. Sitting upon it to cut up their vegetables, they by chance wounded it, and caused the python's blood to flow out. Recognising then the nature of their resting-place, the people cut up the python and began to cook its flesh. Then heavy rain began to fall, and it rained like anything for days and days, so that all the land was covered with water, and only the top of TIANG LAJU (the highest peak of the Batang Lupar district) stood out above the flood. All the people and animals were drowned except one woman, a dog, a rat, and a few other small animals, which climbed to the top of this mountain. The woman, seeking shelter from the rain, noticed that the dog seemed to have found a warm place beneath a creeper. The creeper was swaying in the wind and rubbing against a tree, and thus was warmed by the friction. The woman, taking the hint, rubbed the creeper hard on a piece of wood, and so for the first time produced fire. Having no husband the woman took the creeper for her mate, and soon afterwards gave birth to a son, who was but one-half of a human being, having one arm, one leg, one eye, and so on. This child, SIMPANG IMPANG, whose only companions were the animals, often complained bitterly to his mother of his incompleteness. One day SIMPANG IMPANG discovered some PADI grain which the rat had hidden in a hole. He spread it out to dry on a leaf, which he put on top of a stump. On this the rat demanded the PADI back; and when SIMPANG IMPANG refused it, he grew very angry, and swore that he and all his race would always retaliate by taking the PADI of men whenever they could get at it. While they were disputing, SELULAT ANTU RIBUT, the wind-spirit, came by and scattered the PADI grains far and wide in the jungle. SIMPANG IMBANG looked round in anger and astonishment, and could perceive nothing but the noise of the wind. So he set out with some of his companions to get back his corn from the wind-spirit, or know the reason why. After wandering for some days he came to a tree on which were many birds; they picked off its buds as fast as the tree could push them out. SIMPANG IMPANG asked the tree to tell him the way to the house of the wind-spirit; and the tree said, "Oh, yes, he came this way just now, and his house is far away over there. When you come to it, please tell him I am tired of putting out my leaves to have them bitten off by these rascal birds, and that I want him to come and end my miserable life by blowing me down."

SIMPANG IMPANG went on and came to a lake, which said, "Whither are you going, friend?" And when he answered that he was going to find the wind-spirit, the lake complained that its outlet to the river was blocked with a lump of gold, and told him to get the wind-spirit to blow away the obstruction. SIMPANG IMPANG promised to put in a word for the lake, and, passing on, came to a cluster of sugar-canes and bananas. "Whither are you going, friend?" said they. "I'm going to the wind-spirit" he answered. "Oh! then, will you please ask him how it is we have no branches like other trees; we should like to have branches like them."[162] "Yes, I'll remember it," said SIMPANG IMPANG, and, passing on, he soon came to the home of the wind-spirit. There he heard a great noise of wind blowing, and the wind-spirit said, "What do you want here, SIMPANG IMPANG." He answered angrily that he had come to demand the PADI that the wind-spirit had carried away. "We'll settle the dispute by diving" said the wind-spirit,[163] and he dived into the water; but being only a bubble, he very soon popped up to the surface. Then SIMPANG IMPANG called on his companion the fish to dive for him; and when the windspirit saw that he had no chance of coming out the winner in this ordeal, he said, "No, this is not fair, we'll settle the matter by jumping," and he leapt right over the house. SIMPANG IMPANG called on the swift as his substitute, and the swift, rising from the ground, jumped right out of sight. Still the wind-spirit would not give in. "We'll have another test; let's see who can go through this blow-pipe"; and he went whistling through. Then SIMPANG IMPANG did not know what to do, for none of his companions seemed able to help him. But he had forgotten the ant, until a little squeaky voice called out, "I can do it"; and forthwith the ant crawled through the blow-pipe. Still the wind-spirit would not give in, and SIMPANG IMPANG was very angry, and seizing his father, the fire-drill, he set the windspirit's house on fire. Then at last the wind-spirit called out that he would make compensation for the PADI he had taken away. "But," said he, "I haven't any gongs or other things to pay you, so I'll make you a whole man with two arms and two legs and two eyes." SIMPANG IMPANG accepted the bargain, and was overjoyed to find himself a whole man. Then he remembered the messages he had brought from the tree and the lake, and the wind-spirit promised to do as he was asked. And then SIMPANG IMPANG put to him the question of the bamboo and of the banana plant; and the wind-spirit said, "They have no branches because human beings are always offending against custom; they often utter the names of their father-in-law and mother-in-law, and sometimes they walk before them in going through the jungle; that is why the bamboo and the banana have no branches."

Kenyah Fable of the Mouse-deer and the Tortoise

Animal fables are current among all the peoples of Borneo, and are frequently repeated and listened to with much enjoyment; some individuals who acquire the reputation of being good story-tellers are frequently called upon to practise their art. Closely allied with this enjoyment of fables is the practice of describing incidents of social or tribal intercourse in fables, parables, or allegories, which are made to suit the occasions and to point the appropriate moral.

Once upon a time PLANDOK (the tiny mouse-deer) and KELAP (the water-tortoise) went out together to find fruit. They found a tree laden with ripe fruit close by a house. "I can't climb up that tree," said PLANDOK, "but I'll give you a leg up, and then you can get on to that branch." So he pushed up KELAP on to the lowermost branch. KELAP threw down all the fruit, but then didn't know how to get down, and called to PLANDOK for help. "Oh! get down anyway you like," said PLANDOK. "But I can't get down forwards and I can't get down backwards." "Then throw yourself down," said PLANDOK, and KELAP threw himself down and came to the ground with a great thud. The people in the house heard the sound and said," There's a durian falling." Then PLANDOK began to divide the fruit into heaps. "This is for me and that's for you," he kept calling out; and every time he put some more fruit to KELAP'S heap, he shouted louder than before. "Hello," said the people in the house, "there's somebody dividing something," and they ran out to see what was going on. PLANDOK skipped away with his share of the fruit, and left KELAP to hide himself as best he could under the broad leaves of a Caladium plant. The people saw the tree stripped of its fruit, and KELAP'S tracks on the ground soon led to the discovery of his hidingplace. "Here's the thief," said the people, "let's put him in the fire." "Oh yes," said KELAP, "please put me in the fire; last time they put me in the fire they only half did the thing, and left one side quite untouched by the fire."[164] "0h! that won't do," said the people, "let's squeeze him in the sugar-cane press." "Oh yes, please squeeze me in the press," said KELAP, "last time they put me in the press they only squeezed one side of me."[165] "Then that won't do either," they cried, "let's throw him into the river." "Oh! don't throw me into the river," said KELAP, and began to weep. So they threw him into the river. KELAP swam out to the middle of the river and, putting up his head above the surface, called out, "That's alright, this is my home." At this the people saw that he had got the better of them, and determined to turn the tables by poisoning the water with TUBA.[166] The bat overheard what they were saying, and at once flew off to KELAP, and advised him to get out of the river. "No, I shall stay here," said KELAP, "this is the safest place for me," and he went and stood quite still among the big stones in the shallow water.

Presently the people began to beat out the TUBA root on the stones, and one man, taking KELAP'S back for a stone, began to beat his TUBA upon it. Then KELAP made his back sink lower little by little, so that the water began to cover it. "Hello!" said the man, "the water's rising, it's no good trying to poison the river when the water's rising." So they went home.

The Kenyah Story of the BELIRA Fish

The BELIRA is a fish that has an extraordinary number of bones. The following story accounts for this exceptional number of bones and, in conjunction with the foregoing story, explains why Kenyahs, when proposing to poison the river with TUBA in order to take the fish, speak of their intentions only in parables.

The fish began to complain that they were so often caught by men who poisoned the river. So they decided they must have a DAYONG who could make rain for them[167] so as to prevent the poisoning of the water. They asked one fish after another to become a DAYONG; but all refused until they came to the BELIRA, who said he would do his best to become a DAYONG and to make rain for them, if each of the other fishes would give him a bone. They accepted the bargain and each gave him a bone, and that is why the BELIRA has so many bones.

The Story of the Stupid Boy

The following Klemantan story illustrates the taste of the people for the comic: —

One day SALEH and his father set out in their boat for their farm. "Look out for logs" (I.E. floating timber), said SALEH'S father. They had not gone very far when SALEH sings out, "I see some timber." ,Where?" says his father. "Why, there on the bank," says SALEH, pointing to the jungle. "Oh! you silly," says his father, "go on." So they went on and landed, and the father, leaving SALEH to cook some rice in the large pot, began to cut down some trees. Presently he came back and found SALEH with the pot upside down over the fire, and nothing cooked. "What are you at?" cries the father. "Well," says SALEH, "I put the pot over the fire as you told me to do, but when I poured the water on it, it all ran into the fire and put it out." "You stupid boy, you should have put the pot on the other way up." But you didn't tell me so," says SALEH.

The father had chipped his axe, so he sends SALEH home to fetch another. SALEH sets out gaily singing, the blade of the axe lying in the bow of the boat. Soon the boat strikes a snag and overboard goes the axe-blade. "Oh, bother!" says SALEH, "but never mind, I'll mark the place," and he whips out his knife and cuts a notch in the gunwale of the boat at the spot where the axe fell in. Arriving at the landing stage before his father's house, he begins to dive into the water to find the lost axe-head, and continues vainly seeking it till his mother comes out to ask what he is doing. "I'm looking for the axe that fell into the water just at this notch, as I was coming down river," says SALEH. "Oh! you are a stupid," says his mother, and fetches him a new axe. SALEH goes back to his father, who has found a fruit tree. He tells SALEH to gather the fruit in his basket while he goes on felling trees. Presently the father comes back and finds SALEH fastened with his back to the tree by the shoulder-basket, which he has put right round its stem, and his legs going up and down. "Hello! what ARE you up to now?" says the father. "Why, I'm carrying away the whole tree to save trouble," says SALEH, "and I'm watching the clouds up there to see how fast I'm walking with this tree on my back."

A Story with a Moral

We conclude this chapter with an example of a fable which points a moral. It is told by the Barawans of their neighbours, the Sebops (both are Klemantan tribes), who, they say, put off every task till the morrow.

One wet night KRA, the monkey, and RAONG, the toad, sat under a log complaining of the cold. "KR-R-R-H" went KRA, and "Hoot-toot-toot" went the toad. They agreed that next day they would cut down a KUMUT tree and make themselves a coat. of its bark. In the morning the sun shone bright and warm, and KRA gambolled in the tree-tops, while RAONG climbed on the log and basked in the sunlight. Presently down comes KRA and sings out, "Hello, mate! How are you getting on?" "Oh! nicely," says RAONG. "Well, how about that coat we were going to make?" says KRA. "Oh! bother the coat," says RAONG, "we'll make it to-morrow; I'm jolly warm now." So they enjoyed the sunshine all day long. But, when night fell, it began to rain again, and again they sat under the log complaining of the cold. "KR-R-R-H," went KRA, and "Hoot-toot-toot" went RAONG. And again they agreed that they must cut down the KUMUT tree and make themselves a coat of its bark. But in the morning the sun was shining again warm and bright; and again KRA gambolled in the tree-tops and RAONG sat basking in the sunshine; and again RAONG, said, "Oh! bother the coat, we'll make it tomorrow." And every day it was the same, and so to this day KRA and RAONG sit out in the rain complaining of the cold, and crying "KR-R-R-H" and "Hoot-toot-toot."


Childhood and Youth of a Kayan

From the time that the parents of a Kayan become aware of his existence they faithfully observe, without intermission until his appearance in the world, certain tabus. Or, in their own language, they are MALAN and certain things and acts are LALI for them. The belief that the child will resemble in some degree the things which arrest the glance of his mother while she carries him (LEMALI) is unquestioningly held and acted upon; hence the expectant woman seeks to avoid seeing all disagreeable and uncanny objects, more especially the Maias and the long-nosed monkey; she observes also the tabus imposed upon sick women in general, and besides these a number of other tabus peculiar to her condition, most of which apply to acts or situations which may symbolise any difficulty in delivery of the child; for example, she must not tie knots, she must not thrust her hand into any narrow hole to pull anything out. The tabus of the latter class are observed by the husband even more strictly, if possible, than by the wife. The woman must also avoid certain kinds of flesh and fish. It frequently happens that the woman begins to crave to eat a peculiar soapy earth (BATU KRAP), and this is generally supplied to her.

The woman will also take positive measures to ensure the prosperous course of her pregnancy and delivery. At the quickening she sacrifices a young pig and charges it to convey her prayer to Doh Tenangan; and on the occurrence of any untoward incident, such as a fall, the prayer and sacrifice are repeated. The carcases of the victims are stuck upon poles before the house near her door, and the inevitable feathered sticks, smeared with blood, are thrust behind a roof beam in the gallery opposite her door.

In every Kayan house are certain elderly women (not the DAYONGS) who have a reputation for special knowledge and skill in all matters connected with pregnancy and childbirth. One of these is called in at an early stage; she makes from time to time a careful examination of the patient's abdomen and professes to secure the best position of the child.

She has also a number of charms, which she hangs in the woman's room, and various unguents, which she applies externally. But all these procedures are surrounded by a veil of secrecy which we have failed to penetrate. And, in fact, all information in regard to the processes of childbirth is difficult to obtain, for all Kayans are very reticent on the matter, even among themselves.

In all other respects the pregnant woman follows her ordinary mode of life until the pains of labour begin. Then she is attended by the wise woman and several elderly relatives or friends. She sits in her room which is LALI to all but her attendants and her husband; and she is hidden from the latter by a screen of mats. During the pains she grasps and pulls on a cloth fixed to a rafter above and before her. The pains seem to be severe, since the woman generally groans and cries out; but the duration of labour is commonly brief, perhaps two or three hours only. The attendants' great anxiety is lest the child should go upward, and to prevent this they tie a cloth very tightly round the patient about the upper part of her abdomen. During the pains two of them press down with great force upon the uterus, one from each side. The wise woman professes to accomplish version by external manipulation, if she judges that the feet are about to present. But we do not know whether her claim to so much skill is well founded. If the after-birth does not follow immediately upon the child, the attendants become very anxious; two of them lift up the patient, and, if it does not soon appear, an axe-head is tied to the cord in order to prevent its return within the body, and possibly that the weight may hasten its extrusion. We have no reason to suppose that any internal manipulation is attempted at this or any other stage of labour or of pregnancy. Immediately after delivery the cord is tied and cut across with a bamboo knife. If the child does not cry at once, its nostrils are tickled with a feather.

The after-birth is usually buried or merely thrown away. But if the child is born enclosed in the membranes (with a caul), they are dried and preserved by the mother. It is said that, when dried, it is pounded to a powder and mixed with medicines administered to the child in later years.

If labour is unusually difficult or prolonged, or if accidents happen, the news spreads quickly through the house; and, if the attendants begin to fear a fatal issue, the whole household is thrown into consternation, for death in childbirth is regarded with peculiar horror. All the men of the house, including the chief and boys, will flee from the house, or, if it is night, they will clamber up among the beams of the roof and there hide in terror; and, if the worst happens, they remain there until the woman's corpse has been taken out of the house for burial. In such a case the burial is effected with the utmost despatch. Old men and women, who are indifferent to death, will undertake the work, and they expect a large fee.

The body, wrapped in a mat, is buried in a grave dug in the earth among the tombs, instead of being put in a coffin raised on a tall post; for the soul of the woman who dies in childbirth goes, with the souls of those who fall in battle, or die by violence of any kind, to Bawang Daha (the lake of blood).

If twins are born, one is chosen, generally the boy, if they are of different sexes. The other is got rid off by exposure in the jungle. The avowed motive for this practice (which, of course, is rapidly passing away under the influence of the European governments) is the desire to preserve the life of the survivor; for they hold that his chances of life are diminished not only by the necessity of dividing the mother's care and milk between the twins, if both survive, but also by the sympathetic bond which they believe to exist between twins, and which renders each of them liable to all the ills and misfortunes that befall the other; and to Kayans the loss of a child of some years of age is a calamity of the first magnitude, whereas the sacrifice of one of a pair of new-born twins is hardly felt.

At the moment the child is completely born, a TAWAK or a drum (according as it is male or female) is beaten in the gallery with a peculiar rhythm. All members of the household (I.E. all whose rooms are under the roof of the one long house, and who, therefore, are under the same omens and tabus) who are within the house at this moment have the right to a handful of salt from the parents of the child; and all members who are not under the roof at the moment are expected to make a present of some piece of iron to the child. This is an ancient custom, which is no longer strictly observed, and which seems to be undergoing a natural decay.

During the confinement of a woman, Kayans (more especially those of the upper Rejang) sometimes perform a dance which is supposed to facilitate delivery. It is commonly performed by a woman, a friend or relative of the labouring woman, who takes in her arms a bundle of cloth, which she handles like a baby while she dances, afterwards putting it into the cradle (HAVAT) in which a child is carried on the back. An old story relates the origin of this dance as follows. A widow died in childbirth, and the child was given to a woman who happened to be dancing at the time of its birth, and who afterwards became a very influential and prosperous person.

When the delivery has been normally accomplished and all goes well, the mother at once nurses the child; and a woman of the lower class may resume her lighter household duties within twenty-four hours. A woman of the upper class may remain recumbent for the most part of several days or even weeks. For seventeen days the mother wears threads tied round the thumbs and big toes, and during this time she is expected to avoid heavy labour, such as farm-work and the pounding of hadi. There seems to be no trace of any such custom as the COUVADE, though the father observes, like the mother, certain tabus during the early months and years of the child's life, with diminishing strictness as the child grows older. The child also is hedged about with tabus. The general aim of all these tabus seems to be to establish and maintain about the child a certain atmosphere (or, as they say, a certain odour)[168] in which alone it can thrive. Neither father nor mother will eat or touch anything whose properties are thought to be harmful or undesirable for the child, E.G. such things as the skin of the timid deer (see vol. ii. p. 72), or that of the tiger-cat; and the child himself is still more strictly preserved from such contacts. Further, nothing used by or about the child — toys, garments, cradle, or beads — must be lost, lent, sold, or otherwise allowed to pass out of the possession of the parents; though, if one child has thriven, its properties are preferred to all others for the use of a younger brother or sister. It is important also that no stranger shall handle or gaze too closely upon the child; and when it is put down to sleep in the parents' room, the mat or rude wooden cradle on which it lies is generally surrounded by a rough screen. The more influential the stranger, the more is his contact to be feared; for any such contact or notice may attract to the infant the unwelcome and probably injurious attentions of the TOH. For the same reason it is forbidden, or PARIT, to a child to lie down on the spot where a chief has been sitting or where he usually reposes. And it is a grave offence for a child to, jump over the legs of a reclining chief; but in this case the disrespect shown is probably the more important ground of the disapprobation incurred.

If any such contact has unwittingly occurred, or if, for example, a Kayan mother has consented to submit an ailing child to inspection by a European medical man, the danger incurred may be warded off by the gift from the stranger to the child of some small article of value. In a similar way the breach of other tabus, such as the entering of a room which is LALI, may be rendered innocuous.

The infant is carried by the mother almost continuously during the waking hours of its first year of life; it is generally suspended in a sling made of wood or of basket-work, resembling in shape the baby's swing familiar in our nurseries; the child sits on a semicircular piece of board, its legs dependent, its knees and belly against the mother's back, and its own back supported by the two vertical pieces of the cradle (see Pl. 166). The mother nurses the infant in her arms during most of her leisure moments, and she hushes it to sleep by crooning old lullabies as she rocks it in her arms or in a cradle suspended from a pliable stick.[169] The father hardly handles it during its first year, but many fathers nurse and dandle the older infants for hours together in the most affectionate manner; and, if the child's grandfather is living, he generally becomes its devoted attendant.

About the end of its first year the infant begins to crawl and toddle about the room and gallery, to sprawl into the hearth and eat charcoal, and to get into all sorts of mischief in the usual way. During the first year he lives chiefly on his mother's milk, but takes also thick rice-water from an early age.

Towards the end of the first year the lobes of the ears are perforated, and a ring (or, in the case of a girl, several small rings) is inserted in each. Of childish affections of health, the commonest at this age is yaws (FRAMBOESIA) about the mouth. Kayan mothers believe that every child must go through this, and that one attack protects against its recurrence; and the rareness of the disease in adults seems to bear out this belief. Most of the children are weaned about the end of their second year.

During the next years, until the boy is five or six years of age, he remains always under the care of his mother. He spends the day running about within and around the house and among the boats at the landing-place, playing with his fellows, chasing the pigs and fowls, and bathing in the river. The children are in the main what is commonly called good, they cry but little, and quarrels and outbreaks of temper are few. During the boy's third year a hole is punched in the shell of each ear. A single blow with a bamboo punch takes out a circular piece; into this a circular plug of wax or wood is inserted. The girl, on the other hand, has more rings added to the lobes of her cars, which gradually yield to the weight, and begin to assume the desired character of slender loops. During these years the boy normally takes the first step of his initiation as a warrior by striking a blow at a freshly taken head, or, if need be, at an old one (see vol. ii. p. 169).

It is at some time in the course of these years, usually not earlier than the beginning of the child's third year, that he first receives a name. The occasion of the rite is a general naming of all the children of the house of suitable age; and the time is determined by the conclusion of a successful harvest; for a general feast is made for which much rice and BURAK are required, and these cannot be spared in a year of poor harvest. For each child who is to be named a small human image in soft wood is prepared. This is an effigy of Laki Pesong, the god whose special function it is to care for the welfare of the children. A small mat is woven and a few strips of rattan provided for each child. Each child sits with his (or her) mother in the gallery beside the door of their room, and the parents announce the name they propose for the child. Then the father, or some other man, after killing a chick or young pig, lays the image on the mat before the child, passes one of the rattan strips beneath it, and, holding the image firmly with a big toe on each end of it, pulls the strip rapidly to and fro, until it is made hot by its friction against the image, and smoke begins to rise. While this goes on, the same man, or another, pours out a stream of words addressed to Laki Pesong, the sense of which is a supplication for an answer to the question, "Is this a suitable name? Will he be prosperous under it? Will he enjoy a long life?" etc. He continues the sawing movement until the strip breaks in two. The two pieces are then compared; if they are of unequal length, this result is regarded as expressing the approval of the proposed name by Laki Pesong; if they are of approximately equal length, the god is held to have expressed his disapproval, and another name is proposed and submitted to the same test. If disapproval is thus expressed several times, the naming of the child is postponed to another occasion (Pls. 53, 168).

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