Part 2 out of 11
the great gallery, is hung a row of human heads (Pl. 38), trophies
obtained in war, together with a number of charms and objects used
in various rites.
Alongside the inner wall of the gallery stand the large wooden mortars
used by the women in husking the PADI. Above these hang the winnowing
trays and mats, and on this wall hang also various implements of
common use -- hats, paddles, fish-traps, and so forth.
The gallery is reached from the ground by several ladders, each
of which consists of a notched beam sloping at an angle of about
45[degree], and furnished with a slender hand-rail. The more carefully
made ladder is fashioned from a single log, but the wood is so cut as
to leave a hand-rail projecting forwards a few inches on either side
of the notched gully or trough in which the feet are placed. From
the foot of each ladder a row of logs, notched and roughly squared,
and laid end to end, forms a foot-way to the water's edge. In wet
weather such a foot-way is a necessity, because pigs, fowls, and dogs,
and in some cases goats, run freely beneath and around the house, and
churn the surface of the ground into a thick layer of slippery mire.
Here and there along the front of the house are open platforms raised
to the level of the floor, on which the PADI is exposed to the sun
to be dried before being husked.
Under the house, among the piles on which it is raised, such
boats as are not in daily use are stored. Round about the house,
and especially on the space between it and the brink of the river,
are numerous PADI barns (Pl. 40). Each of these, the storehouse of
the grain harvested by one family, is a large wooden bin about 10
feet square, raised on piles some 7 feet from the ground. Each pile
carries just below the level of the floor of the bin a large disc of
wood horizontally disposed, and perforated at its centre by the pile;
this serves to prevent rats and mice gaining access to the bin. The
shingle roof of the bin is like that of the house, but the two ends
are filled by sloping surfaces running up under the gables. There
are generally also a few fruit trees and tobacco plants in the space
cleared round about the house; and in the space between it and the
river are usually some rudely carved wooden figures, around which
rites and ceremonies are performed from time to time.
Kayan villages generally consist of several, in some cases as many
as seven or eight, such houses of various lengths, grouped closely
together. The favourite situation for such a village is a peninsula
formed by a sharp bend of the river.
Of the houses built by the other peoples, those of the Kenyahs very
closely resemble those of the Kayans. The Kenyah village frequently
consists of a single long house (and with the Sea Dayaks this is
invariably the case), and it is in many cases perched on a high
steep bank immediately above the river. Some of the Klemantans also
build houses little if at all inferior to those of the Kayans, and
very similar to them in general plan. But in this as in all other
respects the Klemantans exhibit great diversities, some of their
houses being built in a comparatively flimsy manner, light timber
and even bamboos being used, and the roof being made of leaves. The
houses of the Muruts are small and low, and of poor construction.
The Sea Dayak's house differs from that of the Kayan more than any
of the others. The general plan is the same; but the place of the
few massive piles is taken by a much larger number of slender piles,
which pass up to the roof through the gallery and chambers. Of the
gallery only a narrow passageway alongside the main partition-wall
is kept clear of piles and other obstructions. The floor is of split
bamboo covered with coarse mats. An open platform at the level of the
floor runs along the whole length of the open side of the house. There
are no PADI barns about the house, the PADI being kept in bins in the
roofs. The roof itself is low, giving little head space. The gallery
of the house makes an impression of lack of space, very different to
that made by the long wide gallery of a Kayan or Kenyah house.
Although the more solidly built houses, such as those of the Kayans,
would be habitable for many generations, few of them are inhabited for
more than fifteen or twenty years, and some are used for much shorter
periods only. For one reason or another the village community decides
to build itself a new house on a different and sometimes distant site,
though the new site is usually in the same tributary river, or, if on
the main river, within a few miles of the old one. The most frequent
causes of removal are, first, using up of the soil in the immediate
neighbourhood of the village, for they do not cultivate the same
patch more than three or four times at intervals of several years;
secondly, the occurrence of a fatal epidemic; thirdly, any run of bad
luck or succession of evil omens; fourthly, the burning of the house,
whether accidentally or in the course of an attack by enemies.
On removing to a new site the planks and the best of the timber of a
well-built house are usually towed along the river to the spot chosen,
and used in the construction of the new house.
After the houses the most important of the material possessions of the
people are their boats. Each family possesses at least one small boat
capable of carrying seven or eight persons, and used chiefly for going
to and from the PADI fields, but also for fishing and short journeys
of all kinds. In addition to these the community possesses several
larger boats used for longer journeys, and generally at least one long
war-boat, capable of carrying 50 to 100 men. Each boat, even one of
the largest size, is hollowed from a single log, the freeboard being
raised by lashing narrow planks to the edge of the hollowed log. In
the middle of a large boat is a section, the freeboard of which is
raised still higher, and which is covered by an arched roof of palm
leaves. The boat is crossed at intervals of some three feet by seats
formed of short planks, each supported at both ends by projections of
the main timber, to which they are lashed with rattan. In travelling
on the lower reaches of the rivers, the rowers sit two on each bench,
side by side and facing the bow. On the upper reaches, where rapids
abound, a deck is made by laying split bamboos along the length of the
boat upon the benches, and the crew sits upon this deck in paddling,
or stands upon it when poling the boat over rapids.
In addition to the clothes, houses, and boats, and the domestic
animals mentioned above, and to the personal ornaments and weapons
to be described in later chapters, the material possessions of the
Kayans consist chiefly of baskets and mats.
The baskets are of various shapes and sizes, adapted to a variety
of uses. The largest size holds about two bushels of PADI, and is
chiefly used for transporting grain from the fields to the house
(Fig. 4). It is almost cylindrical in shape, but rather wider at
the upper end. Four strips of wood running down from near the upper
edge project slightly below, forming short legs on which the basket
stands. The upper end is closed by a detachable cap, which fits inside
the upper lip of the basket. It is provided with a pair of shoulder
straps, and a strap which is passed over the crown of the head. These
straps are made of a single strip of tough beaten bark. One end of it
is attached to the foot of the basket; a second attachment is made
at the middle of the height, forming a loop for the one shoulder;
the strip is then looped over to the corresponding point on the other
side, forming the loop for the head, and then carried down to the foot
of the basket on that side to form the loop for the other shoulder.
A smaller cylindrical basket, very neatly plaited of thin and very
pliable strips of rattan, is used for carrying the few articles which
a man takes with him in travelling -- a little rice and tobacco,
a spare waist cloth, a sleeping mat, perhaps a second mat of palm
leaves used as a protection against rain, a roll of dried banana
leaves for making cigarettes, perhaps a cap for wear in the house, and,
not infrequently nowadays, a bright coloured handkerchief of Chinese
silk. The lip of the basket is surrounded by a close set row of eyes
through which a cord is passed. To this cord a net is attached,
and is drawn together in the centre of the opening of the basket
by a second cord, in order to confine its contents. This basket is
provided with shoulder straps only.
In addition to these two principal baskets, each family has a number
of smaller baskets of various shapes for storing their personal
belongings, and for containing food in course of preparation (Fig. 5).
The mats are of many shapes and sizes. The largest are spread on
the raised part of the floor, both of the gallery and of the private
chambers, when a party sits down to eat or converse. Each individual
has his own sleeping mat, and each family has a number of mats used
for drying, husking, winnowing, and sieving the PADI.
The bamboo water-vessel consists of a section of the stem of the
bamboo, closed at the lower end by the natural septum, the upper end
having a lip or spout formed at the level of the succeeding septum. A
short length of a branch remains projecting downwards to form a handle,
by means of which the vessel can be conveniently suspended. These
vessels are used also for carrying rice-spirit or BORAK; but this
is stored in large jars of earthenware or china. The native jar of
earthenware is ovoid in shape and holds about one gallon, but these
are now largely superseded by jars made by the Chinese.
Each family possesses some dishes and platters of hardwood (Figs. 6
and 7), and generally a few china plates bought from traders; but a
large leaf is the plate most commonly used.
Rice, the principal food, which forms the bulk of every meal, is
boiled in an iron or brass pot with lip, handle, and lid, not unlike
the old English cauldron; it has no legs, and is placed on a tripod of
stones or suspended over the fire. This metal pot, which is obtained
from the Chinese traders, has superseded the home-made pot of clay
(Fig. 8) and the bamboo vessels in which the rice was cooked in former
times. A larger wide stewpan is also used for cooking pork, vegetables,
and fish. The Kayans smoke tobacco, which they cultivate in small
quantities. It is generally smoked in the form of large cigarettes,
the finely cut leaf being rolled in sheets of dried banana leaf. But
it is also smoked in pipes, which are made in a variety of shapes, the
bowl of hardwood, the stem of slender bamboo (Fig. 9). Sea Dayaks chew
tobacco, but smoke little, being devoted to the chewing of betel nut.
In every house is a number of large brass gongs (TAWAK), which are
used in various ceremonies and for signalling, and constitute also
one of the best recognised standards of value and the most important
form of currency. Besides these largest gongs, smaller ones of various
shapes and sizes are kept and used on festive occasions (Pl. 45). All
these gongs are obtained through traders from Bruni, China, and Java.
Beside the gongs a Kayan house generally contains, as the
common property of the whole household, several long narrow drums
(Fig. 10). Each is a hollow cylinder of wood, constricted about its
middle, open at one end, and closed at the other with a sheet of
deer-skin. This is stretched by means of slips of rattan attached to
its edges, and carried back to a stout rattan ring woven about the
constricted middle of the drum; the skin is tightened by inserting
wedges under this ring.
In most houses two or three small brass swivel guns may be seen
in the gallery, and a small stock of powder for their service is
usually kept by the chief. They are sometimes discharged to salute a
distinguished visitor, and formerly played some small part in repelling
attacks. The domestic animals of the Kayans are fowls, goats, pigs,
and dogs. The latter live in the house, the others run free beneath
and around the house.
The material possessions of the other peoples differ little from those
of the Kayans. Almost every Sea Dayak possesses, and keeps stored at
the back of his private chamber, one or more large vases. These were
formerly imported from China, but are now made by the Chinese of the
towns in Borneo. The commonest of the highly prized jars are of plain
brown brightly glazed earthenware, standing about three feet in height
on a flat bottom (Pl. 48); each is ornamented with a Chinese dragon
moulded in relief (BENAGA), or some scroll designs which, though very
varied, go by the name of RUSA (=deer) and NINGKA. A Dayak will give
from 200 to 400 dollars for such a jar. Rarer and still more highly
prized is a jar similar to these, but wider, very highly glazed, and
bare of all ornament save some obscure markings. Eight perforated
"ears" project just below the lip, and serve for the attachment of
a wooden or cloth cover. This jar occurs in two varieties, a dark
green and a very dark brown, which are known respectively as GUSI
and BERGIAU, the latter being the more valuable. Other smaller and
less valued jars are the PANTAR and the ALAS. The jars of the kinds
mentioned above are valued largely on account of their age; probably
all of them were imported from China and Siam, some of them no doubt
centuries ago. Besides these old jars there are now to be found in
most of the Sea Dayak houses many jars of modern Chinese manufacture,
some of which are very skilful imitations of the old types; and
though the Dayak is a connoisseur in these matters, and can usually
distinguish the new from the old, he purchases willingly the cheap
modern imitations of the old, because they are readily mistaken by
the casual observer for the more valuable varieties (Pl. 47).
A few large vases of Chinese porcelain, usually covered with elaborate
designs in colour, are to be found in most of the houses of the other
peoples (Pl. 47).
The Social System
The Kayans constitute a well-defined and homogeneous tribe or
people. Although their villages are scattered over a wide area,
the Kayan people everywhere speak the same language and follow
the same customs, have the same traditions, beliefs, rites, and
ceremonies. Such small differences as they present from place to
place are hardly greater than those obtaining between the villagers
of adjoining English counties. Although communication between the
widely separated branches of the people is very slight and infrequent,
yet all are bound together by a common sentiment for the tribal name,
reputation, tradition, and customs. The chiefs keep in mind and hand
down from generation to generation the history of the migrations of
the principal branches of the tribe, the names and genealogies of the
principal chiefs, and important incidents affecting any one branch. At
least fifteen sub-tribes of Kayans, each bearing a distinctive name,
are recognised. The word UMA, which appears in the names of each
group, means village or settlement, and it seems probable that these
fifteen sub-tribes represent fifteen original Kayan villages which
at some remote period, before the tribe became so widely scattered,
may have contained the whole Kayan population. At the present time
the people of each sub-tribe occupy several villages, which in most
cases, but not in all, are within the basin of one river.
In spite of the community of tribal sentiment, which leads Kayans
always to take the part of Kayans, and prevents the outbreak of
any serious quarrels between Kayan villages, there exist no formal
bonds between the various sub-tribes and villages. Each village is
absolutely independent of all others, save in so far as custom and
caution prescribe that, before undertaking any important affair (such
as a removal of the village or a warlike expedition), the chief will
seek the advice, and, if necessary, the co-operation of the chiefs
of neighbouring Kayan villages. The people of neighbouring villages,
especially the families of the chiefs, are also bound together by
many ties of kinship; for intermarriage is frequent.
As was said above, a Kayan village almost invariably consists of
several long houses. Each house is ruled by a chief; but one such
chief is recognised as the head-chief of the village.
The minor and purely domestic affairs of each house are settled
by the house-chief, but all important matters of general interest
are brought before the village-chief. In the former category fall
disputes as to ownership of domestic animals and plants, questions
of compensation for injury or loss of borrowed boats, nets, or other
articles, of marriage and divorce, and minor personal injuries, moral
or physical. The matters to be settled by the head-chief sitting in
council with the subordinate chiefs are those affecting the whole
village, questions of war and peace and of removal, disputes between
houses, trials for murder or serious personal injuries.
The degree of authority of the chiefs and the nature and degree of
the penalties imposed by them are prescribed in a general way by
custom, though as regards the former much depends upon the personal
qualities of each chief, and as regards the latter much is left to his
discretion. The punishments imposed are generally fines, so many TAWAKS
(gongs), PARANGS (swords) or spears, or other articles of personal
property. On the whole the chief plays the part of an arbitrator and
mediator, awarding compensation to the injured party, rather than that
of a judge. In the case of offences against the whole house, a fine
is imposed; and the articles of the required value are placed under
the charge of the chief, who holds them on behalf of the community,
and uses them in the making of payments or presents in return for
services rendered to the whole community.
The chief also is responsible for the proper observation of the omens
and for the regulation of MALAN (tabu) affecting the whole house; and,
as we shall see, he takes the leading part in social ceremonies and in
most of the religious rites collectively performed by the village. He
is regarded by other chiefs as responsible for the behaviour of his
people, and above all, in war he is responsible for both strategy
and tactics and the general conduct of operations.
For the maintenance of his authority and the enforcement of his
commands the chief relies upon the force of public opinion, which,
so long as he is capable and just, will always support him, and will
bring severe moral pressure to bear upon any member of the household
who hesitates to submit.
In return for his labours on behalf of the household or village the
Kayan chief gains little or nothing in the shape of material reward. He
may receive a little voluntary assistance in the cultivation of his
field; in travelling by boat he is accorded the place of honour and
ease in the middle of the boat, and he is not expected to help in
its propulsion. His principal rewards are the social precedence and
deference accorded him and the satisfaction found in the exercise
If the people of a house or village are gravely dissatisfied with
the conduct of their chief, they will retire to their PADI-fields,
building temporary houses there. If many take this course, a new
long house will be built and a new chief elected to rule over it,
while the old chief remains in the old house with a reduced following,
sometimes consisting only of his near relatives.
The office of chief is rather elective than hereditary, but the
operation of the elective principle is affected by a strong bias in
favour of the most capable son of the late chief; so in practice a
chief is generally succeeded by one of his sons. An elderly chief will
sometimes voluntarily abdicate in favour of a son. If a chief dies,
leaving no son of mature age, some elderly man of good standing and
capacity will be elected to the chieftainship, generally by agreement
arrived at by many informal discussions during the weeks following
the death. If thereafter a son of the old chief showed himself a
capable man as he grew up, he would be held to have a strong claim on
the chieftainship at the next vacancy. If the new chief at his death
left also a mature and capable son, there might be two claimants, each
supported by a strong party; the issue of such a state of affairs would
probably be the division of the house or village, by the departure of
one claimant with his party to build a new village. In such a case
the seceding party would carry away with them their share of the
timbers of the old house, together with all their personal property.
The Kenyahs form a less homogeneous and clearly defined tribe than
the Kayans; yet in the main their social organisation is very similar
to that of the Kayans, although, as regards physical characters and
language as well as some customs, they present closer affinities with
other peoples than with the Kayans, especially with the Klemantans. The
Kenyah tribe also comprises a number of named branches, though these
are less clearly defined than the sub-tribes of the Kayan people. Each
branch is generally named after the river on the banks of which its
villages are situated, or were situated at some comparatively recent
time of which the memory is preserved. In many cases a single village
adopts the name of some tributary stream near the mouth of which it
is situated, and the people speak of themselves by this name. Thus it
seems clear that the named branches of the Kenyah tribe are nothing
more than local groups formed in the course of the periodical
migrations, and named after the localities they have occupied.
The foregoing description of the relations of a Kayan chief to
his people applies in the main to the Kenyah chief. But among the
Kenyahs the position of the chief is one of greater authority and
consideration than among the Kayans. The people voluntarily work for
their chief both in his private and public capacities, obeying his
commands cheerfully, and accepting his decisions with more deference
than is accorded by the Kayans. The chief in return shows himself
more generous and paternal towards his people, interesting himself
more intimately in their individual affairs. Hence the Kenyah chief
stands out more prominently as leader and representative of his people,
and the cohesion of the whole community is stronger. The chief owes his
great influence over his people in large measure to his training, for,
while still a youth, the son or the nephew of a chief is accustomed
to responsibility by being sent in charge of small bodies of followers
upon missions to distant villages, to gather or convey information, or
to investigate disturbing rumours. He is also frequently called upon to
speak on public occasions, and thus early becomes a practised orator.
Among Klemantans, Muruts, and Sea Dayaks each house recognises a
headman or chief; but he has little authority (more perhaps among the
first of these peoples than among the other two). He acts as arbitrator
in household disputes, but in too many cases his impartiality is not
above suspicion, save where custom rigidly limits his preference.
Among both Kayans and Kenyahs three social strata are clearly
distinguishable and are recognised by the people themselves in each
village. The upper class is constituted by the family of the chief
and his near relatives, his aunts and uncles, brothers, sisters, and
cousins, and their children. These upper-class families are generally
in easier circumstances than the others, thanks to the possession
of property such as brass ware, valuable beads, caves in which the
swift builds its edible nest, slaves, and a supply of all the other
material possessions larger in quantity and superior in quality to
those of the middle- and lower-class families.
The man of the upper class can generally be distinguished at a glance
by his superior bearing and manners, by the neatness and cleanliness
of his person, his more valuable weapons, and personal ornaments,
as well as by greater regularity of features. The woman of the
upper class also exhibits to the eye similar marks of her superior
birth and breeding. The tatuing of her skin is more finely executed,
greater care is taken with the elongation of the lobe of the ear,
so that the social status of the woman is indicated by the length
of the lobe. Her dress and person are cleaner, and generally better
cared for, and her skin is fairer than that of other women, owing no
doubt to her having been less exposed to the sun.
The men of the upper class work in the PADI-fields and bear their share
of all the labours of the village; but they are able to cultivate
larger areas than others owing to their possession of slaves, who,
although they are expected to grow a supply of PADI for their own
use, assist in the cultivation of their master's fields. For the
upper-class women, also, the labours of the field and the house are
rendered less severe by the assistance of female slaves, although
they bear a part both in the weeding of the fields, in the harvesting,
and in the preparation of food in the house.
The chief's room, which is usually about twice as long as others, is
usually in the middle of the house; and those of the other upper-class
families, which also may be larger than the other rooms, adjoin it
on either side.
In all social gatherings, and in the performance of public rites and
ceremonies, the men of the upper class are accorded leading parts,
and they usually group themselves about the chief. Social intercourse
is freer and more intimate among the people of the upper class than
between them and the rest of the household.
The upper class is relatively more numerous in the Kenyah than in the
Kayan houses, and more clearly distinguishable by address and bearing.
The middle class comprises the majority of the people of a house in
most cases. They may enjoy all the forms of property, though generally
their possessions are of smaller extent and value, and they seldom
possess slaves. Their voices carry less weight in public affairs;
but among this class are generally a few men of exceptional capacity
or experience whose advice and co-operation are specially valued
by the chief. Among this class, too, are usually a few men in each
house on whom devolve, often hereditarily, special duties implying
special skill or knowledge, E.G. the working of iron at the forge,
the making of boats, the catching of souls, the finding of camphor,
the observation and determination of the seasons. All such special
occupations are sources of profit, though only the last of these
enables a man to dispense with the cultivation of PADI.
The lower class is made up of slaves captured in war and of their
descendants, and for this reason its members are of very varied
physical type. An unmarried slave of either sex lives with, and is
treated almost as a member of, the family of his or her master,
eating and in some cases sleeping in the family room. Slaves are
allowed to marry, their children becoming the property of their
masters. Some slave-families are allowed to acquire a room in the
house, and they then begin to acquire a less dependent position; and
though they still retain the status of slaves, and are spoken of as
"slaves-outside-the-room," the master generally finds it impossible
to command their services beyond a very limited extent, and in some
cases will voluntarily resign his rights over the family. But in this
case the family continues to belong to the lower class.
The members of each of these classes marry in nearly all cases within
their own class. The marriages of the young people of the upper
class are carefully regulated. Although they are allowed to choose
their partners according to the inscrutable dictates of personal
affinities, their choice is limited by their elders and the authority
of the chief. Many of them marry members of neighbouring villages,
while the other classes marry within their own village.
A youth of the upper class, becoming fond of some girl of the
middle class, and not being allowed to marry her (although this is
occasionally permitted), will live with her for a year or two. Then,
when the time for his marriage arrives (it having perhaps been
postponed for some years after being arranged, owing to evil omens,
or to lack of means or of house accommodation), he may separate from
his mistress, leaving in her care any children born of their union,
and perhaps making over to her some property -- as public opinion
demands in such cases. She may and usually will marry subsequently
a man of her own class, but the children born of her irregular
union may claim and may be accorded some of the privileges of their
father's class. In this way there is formed in most villages a class
of persons of ambiguous status, debarred from full membership in the
upper class by the bar-sinister. Such persons tend to become wholly
identified with the upper or middle class according to the degrees
of their personal merits.
Marriages are sometimes contracted between persons of the middle and
slave classes. In the case of a young man marrying a slave woman,
the owners of the woman will endeavour to persuade him to live with
her in their room, when he becomes a subordinate member of their
household. If they succeed in this they will claim as their property
half the children born to the couple. On the other hand, if the man
insists on establishing himself in possession of a room, he may succeed
in practically emancipating his wife, perhaps making some compensation
to her owners in the shape of personal services or brass ware. In this
case the children of the couple would be regarded as freeborn. It is
generally possible for an energetic slave to buy his freedom.
Less frequent is the marriage of a slave man with a free woman of the
middle class. In this case the man will generally manage to secure
his emancipation and to establish himself as master of a room, and to
merge himself in the middle class. In the case of marriage between two
slaves, they continue to live in the rooms of their owners, spending
by arrangement periods of two or three years alternately as members
of the two households. The children born of such a slave-couple are
divided as they grow up between the owners of their parents.
On the whole the slaves are treated with so much kindness and
consideration that they have little to complain of, and most of them
seem to have little desire to be freed. A capable slave may become
the confidant and companion of his master, and in this way may attain
a position of considerable influence in the village. A young slave is
commonly addressed by his master and mistress as "My Child." A slave
is seldom beaten or subjected to any punishment save scolding, and
he bears his part freely in the life of the family, sharing in its
labours and its recreations, its ill or its good fortunes. Nothing
in the dress or appearance of the slave distinguishes him from the
other members of the village.
Very few men have more than one wife. Occasionally a chief whose wife
has borne him no children during some years of married life, or has
found the labours of entertaining his guests beyond her strength,
will with her consent, or even at her request, take a second younger
wife. In such a case each wife has her own sleeping apartment within
the chief's large chamber, and the younger wife is expected to defer
to the older one, and to help her in the work of the house and of
the field. The second wife would be chosen of rather lower social
standing than the first wife, who in virtue of this fact maintains
her ascendancy more easily. A third wife is probably unknown; public
opinion does not easily condone a second wife, and would hardly
tolerate a third. In spite of the presence of slave women in the
houses, concubinage is not recognised or tolerated.
The choice of a wife is not restricted by the existence of any law
or custom prescribing marriage without or within any defined group;
that is to say, exogamous and endogamous groups do not exist. Incest
is regarded very seriously, and the forbidden degrees of kinship are
clearly defined. They are very similar to those recognised among
ourselves. A man may under no circumstances marry or have sexual
relations with his sister, mother, daughter, father's or mother's
sister or half sister, his brother's or sister's daughter; and in
the case of those women who stand to him in any of these relations
in virtue of adoption, the prohibitions and severe penalties are
if possible even more strictly enforced. First cousins may marry,
but such marriages are not regarded with favour, and certain special
ceremonies are necessitated; and it seems to be the general opinion
that such marriages are not likely to prove happy. Many young men of
the upper class marry girls of the same class belonging to neighbouring
villages of their own people, aid in some cases this choice falls
on a girl of a village of some other tribe. A marriage of the latter
kind is often encouraged by the chiefs and elder people, in order to
strengthen or to restore friendly relations between the villages.
The initiative is taken in nearly all cases by the youth. He begins
by paying attentions somewhat furtively to the girl who attracts his
fancy. He will often be found passing the evening in her company
in her parents' room. There he will display his skill with the
KELURI, or the Jew's harp, or sing the favourite love-song of the
people, varying the words to suit the occasion. If the girl looks
with favour on his advances, she manages to make the fact known to
him. Politeness demands that in any case he shall be supplied by the
women with lighted cigarettes. If the girl wishes him to stay, she
gives him a cigarette tied in a peculiar manner, namely by winding
the strip which confines its sheath of dried banana leaf close to
the narrow mouth-piece; whereas on all other occasions this strip is
wound about the middle of the cigarette. The young man thus encouraged
will repeat his visits. If his suit makes progress, he may hope that
the fair one will draw out with a pair of brass tweezers the hairs
of his eyebrows and lashes, while he reclines on his back with his
head in her lap. If these hairs are very few, the girl will remark
that some one else has been pulling them out, an imputation which
he repudiates. Or he complains of a headache, and she administers
scalp-massage by winding tufts of hair about her knuckles and sharply
tugging them. When the courtship has advanced to this stage, the girl
may attract her suitor to the room by playing on the Jew's harp,
with which she claims to be able to speak to him -- presumably the
language of the heart. The youth thus encouraged may presume to remain
beside his sweetheart till early morning, or to return to her side
when the old people have retired. When the affair has reached this
stage, it becomes necessary to secure the public recognition which
constitutes the relation a formal betrothal. The man charges some
elderly friend of either sex, in many cases his father or mother,
to inform the chief of his desire. The latter expresses a surprise
which is not always genuine; and, if the match is a suitable one,
he contents himself with giving a little friendly advice. But if
he is aware of any objections to the match he will point them out,
and though he will seldom forbid it in direct terms, he will know
how to cause the marriage to be postponed.
If the chief and parents favour the match, the young man presents
a brass gong or a valuable bead to the girl's family as pledge of
his sincerity. This is returned to him if for any reason beyond his
control the match is broken off. The marriage may take place with
very little delay; but during the interval between betrothal and
marriage the omens are anxiously observed and consulted. All accidents
affecting any members of the village are regarded as of evil omen,
the more so the more nearly the betrothed parties are concerned in
them. The cries of birds and deer are important; those heard about the
house are likely to be bad omens, and it is sought to compensate for
these by sending a man skilled in augury to seek good omens in the
jungle, such as the whistle of the Trogan and of the spider-hunter,
and the flight of the hawk from right to left high up in the sky. If
the omens are persistently and predominantly bad, the marriage is put
off for a year, and after the next harvest fresh omens are sought. The
man is encouraged in the meantime to absent himself from the village,
in the hope that he may form some other attachment. But if he remains
true and favourable omens are obtained, the marriage is celebrated if
possible at the close of the harvest. If the marriage takes place at
any other time, the feast will be postponed to the end of the following
harvest. After the marriage the man lives with his wife in the room
of his father-in-law for one, two, or at most three years. During this
time he works in the fields of his father-in-law and generally helps
in the support of the household, showing great deference towards
his wife's parents. Before the end of the third year of marriage,
the young couple will acquire for themselves a room in the house and
village of the husband, in which they set up housekeeping on their
own account. In addition to these personal services rendered to the
parents of the bride, the man or his father and other relatives give
to the girl's parents at the time of the marriage various articles
which are valuable in proportion to the social standing of the parties,
and which are generally appropriated by the girl's parents.
Divorce is rare but not unknown among the Kayans. The principal grounds
of divorce are misconduct, desertion, incompatibility of temper and
family quarrels; or a couple may terminate their state of wedlock
by mutual consent on payment of a moderate fine to the chief. Such
separation by mutual consent is occasioned not infrequently by the
sterility of the marriage, especially if the couple fails to obtain a
child for adoption; the parties hope to procure offspring by taking
new partners; for the desire for children and pride and joy in the
possession of them are strongly felt by all. The husband of a sterile
wife may leave the house for a long period, living in the jungle and
visiting other houses, in the hope that his wife may divorce him on
the ground of desertion, or give him ground for divorcing her. On
discovery of misconduct on the woman's part the husband will usually
divorce her; the man then retains all property accumulated since
the marriage, and the children are divided between the parents. The
co-respondent and respondent are fined by the chief, and half the
amount of the fine goes to the injured husband. Misconduct on the
part of the man must be flagrant before it constitutes a sufficient
ground for his divorce by his wife. In this case the same rules are
followed. Among the Kayans the divorce is not infrequently followed
by a reconciliation brought about by the intervention of friends;
the parties then come together again without further ceremony. There
is little formality about the divorce procedure. In the main it takes
the form of separation by mutual consent and the condonation of the
irregularity by the community on the payment of a fine to the chief.
Adoption is by no means uncommon. The desire for children, especially
male children, is general and strong; but sterile marriages seem to be
known among all the peoples and are common among the Kenyahs. When a
woman has remained infertile for some years after her marriage, the
couple usually seek to adopt one or more children. They generally
prefer the child of a relative, but may take any child, even a
captive or a slave child, whose parents are willing to resign all
rights in it. A child is often taken over from parents oppressed
by poverty, in many cases some article of value or a supply of PADI
being given in exchange. Not infrequently the parents wish to have
the child returned to them when their affairs take a turn for the
better, owing to a good harvest or some stroke of luck, and this is
a frequent cause of dissensions. Usually the adopted child takes in
every way the position of a child born to the parents.
Some of the Klemantans (Barawans and Lelaks in the Baram) practise a
curious symbolic ceremony on the adoption of a child. When a couple has
arranged to adopt a child, both man and wife observe for some weeks
before the ceremony all the prohibitions usually observed during
the later months of pregnancy. Many of these prohibitions may be
described in general terms by saying that they imply abstention from
every action that may suggest difficulty or delay in delivery; E.G. the
hand must not be thrust into any narrow hole to pull anything out of
it; no fixing of things with wooden pegs must be done; there must be
no lingering on the threshold on entering or leaving a room. When the
appointed day arrives, the woman sits in her room propped up and with a
cloth round her, in the attitude commonly adopted during delivery. The
child is pushed forward from behind between the woman's legs, and,
if it is a young child, it is put to the breast and encouraged to
suck. Later it receives a new name.
It is very difficult to obtain admission that a particular child
has been adopted and is not the actual offspring of the parents;
and this seems to be due, not so much to any desire to conceal the
facts as to the completeness of the adoption, the parents coming to
regard the child as so entirely their own that it is difficult to find
words which will express the difference between the adopted child and
the offspring. This is especially the case if the woman has actually
suckled the child.
The child remains nameless during the first few years, and is spoken
of as UKAT if a boy, OWING if a girl, both of which seem to be best
translated as Thingumybob; among the Sea Dayaks ULAT (the little grub)
is the name commonly used. It is felt that to give the child a name
while its hold of life is still feeble is undesirable, because the
name would tend to draw the attention of evil spirits to it. During
its third or fourth year it is given a name at the same time as a
number of other children of the house. The name is chosen with
much deliberation, the eldest son and daughter usually receiving
the names of a grandfather and grandmother respectively. Male and
female names are distinct. The name first given to any person is
rarely carried through life; it is usually changed after any severe
illness or serious accident, in order that the evil influences that
have pursued him may fail to recognise him under the new name; thus
the first or infant name of Tama Bulan was Lujah. After bearing it a
few years he went through a serious illness, on account of which his
name was changed to Wang. Among the Klemantans it is usual under these
circumstances to name the child after some offensive object, E.G. TAI
(dung), in order to render it inconspicuous, and thus withdraw it from
the attention of malign powers. After the naming of a couple's first
child, the parents are always addressed as father and mother of the
child; E.G. if the child's name is OBONG, her father becomes known as
TAMA OBONG, her mother as INAI OBONG, and their original names are
disused and almost forgotten, unless needed to distinguish the
parents from other persons of the same name, when the old names are
appended to the new; thus, Tama Obong Jau, if Jau was the original
name of Tama Obong; and thus Tama Bulan received this name on the
naming of his first child, Bulan (the moon), and when it is wished to
distinguish him in conversation from other fathers of the moon he is
called Tama Bulan Wang. If the eldest child OBONG dies, the father,
Tama Obong Jau, becomes OYONG JAU; if one of his younger children
dies, he becomes AKAM JAU; if his wife dies, he becomes ABAN JAU;
if his brother died, he would be called YAT JAU; and if his sister,
HAWAN JAU; and if two of these relatives are dead, these titles are
used indifferently; but the deaths of wife and children are predominant
over other occasions for the change of name. An elderly man who has
no children receives the title LINGO, and a woman, the title APA
prefixed to his or her former name. A widow is called BALU. The names
of father and mother are never assumed by the children, and their
deaths do not occasion any change of name, except the adoption of
the title OYAU on the loss of the father, and ILUN on the loss of
the mother. These titles would be used only until the man became a
father. When a man becomes a grandfather his title is LAKI (E.G. LAKI
JAU), and this title supersedes all others. A child addresses, and
speaks of, his father as TAMAN, and his mother as INAI or TINAN,
and all four grandparents as POI. The parent commonly addresses the
child, even when adult, as ANAK, or uses his proper name. A father's
brother is addressed as AMAI, but this title is used also as a term
of respect in addressing any older man not related in any degree,
even though he be of a different tribe or race. They use the word
INAI for aunt as well as for mother, and some have adopted the Malay
term MA MANAKAN for aunt proper. The same is true of the words for
nephew and niece -- the Malay term ANAK MANAKAN being used for both.
The terms used to denote degrees of kinship are few, and are used
in a very elastic manner. The term of widest connotation is PARIN
IGAT, which is equivalent to our cousin used in the wider or Scotch
sense; it is applied to all blood relatives of the same generation,
and is sometimes used in a metaphorical sense much as we use the
term brother. There are no words corresponding to our words son and
daughter, ANAK meaning merely child of either sex. There are no words
corresponding to brother and sister; both are spoken of as PARIN,
but this word is often used as a title of endearment in addressing or
speaking of a friend of either sex of the same social standing and age
as the speaker. The children of the same parents speak of themselves
collectively as PANAK; this term also is sometimes used loosely and
metaphorically. A step-father is TAMAN DONG; father-in-law is TAMAN
DIVAN; forefather is SIPUN, a term used of any male or female ancestor
more remote than the grandparents; but these are merely descriptive
and not terms of address. A man of the upper class not uncommonly
has a favourite companion of the middle class, who accompanies him
everywhere and renders him assistance and service, and shares his
fortunes (FIDUS ACHATES in short); him he addresses as BAKIS, and the
title is used reciprocally. A title reciprocally used by those who are
very dear friends, especially by those who have enjoyed the favours
of the same fair one, is TOYONG (or among the Sea Dayaks -- IMPRIAN).
This list includes all the important Kayan terms used to denote
personal relations and kinship, so far as we know; and we think it
very improbable that any have escaped us. There seem to be no secret
names, except in so far as names discarded on account of misfortune are
not willingly recalled or communicated; but a child's name is seldom
used, and adults also seem to avoid calling on one another by their
proper names, especially when in the jungle, the title alone, such as
OYONG, or ABAN being commonly used; apparently owing to some vaguely
conceived risk of directing to the individual named the attentions
of malevolent powers.
The foregoing account of the social organisation of the Kayans applies
equally well to the Kenyahs, except that some of the titles used
are different. The Klemantans and Muruts, too, present few important
differences except that the power of the chiefs is decidedly less,
and the distinction of the social strata less clearly marked, and
slaves are less numerous. The Sea Dayak social organisation is also
similar in most of its features. The most important of the differences
presented by it are the following: -- Polygamy is not allowed, and
occurs only illicitly. Both parties are fined when the facts are
discovered. Divorce is very common and easily obtained; the marriage
relation, being surrounded with much less solemnity, is more easily
entered into and dissolved. Infidelity and mutual agreement are the
common occasions of divorce. Either party can readily secure his or
her freedom by payment of a small fine. There are both men and women
who have married many times; a tenth husband or wife is not unknown;
and a marriage may be dissolved within a week of its consummation.
The Sea Dayak, like all the other peoples, regards incest very
seriously, and the forbidden degrees of kinship are well understood
and very similar to those of Kayans.
A Sea Dayak village consists in almost every case of a single house,
but such houses are generally grouped within easy reach of one
another. Very few slaves are to be found in their houses, since the
Ibans usually take the heads of all their conquered enemies rather
than make slaves of them.
Inheritance of Property
At a man's death his property is divided between his widow and
children. But in order to prevent the disputes, which often arise
over the division of inheritance, an old man may divide his property
before his death. The widow becomes the head of the room, though a
married son or daughter or several unmarried children may share it
with her. She inherits all or most of the household utensils. Such
things as gongs and other brass ware, weapons, war-coats, and boats,
are divided equally among the sons, the eldest perhaps getting a
little more than the others. The girls divide the old beads, cloth,
bead-boxes, and various trifles. The male slaves go to the sons,
the female slaves to the daughters. Bird's nest caves and bee trees
might be divided or shared among all the children.
It happens not infrequently that one son or daughter, remaining
unmarried, continues to live in the household of the parents and to
look after them in their old age. To such a one some valuable article,
such as a string of old beads or costly jar, is usually bequeathed.
Among the Sea Dayaks the old jars, which constitute the chief part
of a man's wealth, are distributed among both sons and daughters;
if the jars are too few for equal distribution, they are jointly
owned until one can buy out the shares of his co-owners.
The members of a Kayan household are bound together, not merely by
their material circumstances, such as their shelter under a common
roof and their participation in common labours, and not merely by
the moral bonds such as kinship and their allegiance to one chief and
loyalty to one another, but also by more subtle ties, of which the most
important is their sharing in the protection and warning afforded to
the whole house by the omen-birds or by the higher powers served by
these. For omens are observed for the whole household, and hold good
only for those who live under the one roof, This spiritual unity of
the household is jealously guarded. Occasionally one family may wish
for some reason, such as bad dreams or much sickness, to withdraw
from the house. If the rest of the household is unwilling to remove
to a new house, they will oppose such withdrawal, and, if the man
insists on separating, a fine is imposed on him, and he is compelled to
leave undisturbed the roof and all the main structure of his section
of the house; though the room would be left unoccupied. Conversely
Kayans are very unwilling to admit any family to become members of
the household. They never or seldom add sections to a house which
has once been completed; and young married couples must live in
their parents' rooms, until the whole household removes and builds
a new house. Occasionally a remnant of a household which has been
broken up by the attack of enemies is sheltered by a friendly house;
but the newcomers are lodged in the gallery only until the time comes
for building a new house, when they may be allowed to build rooms for
themselves, and to become incorporated in the household. Another plan
sometimes adopted is to build a small house for the newcomers closely
adjoining the main house, but joined to it only by an open platform.
Appendix to Chapter V
Tables showing Kinship of the Kenyahs of Long Tikan (Tama
Bulan's house) in the Baram District of Sarawak.
We have made out tables showing the kinship of the inhabitants of
several Kenyah long houses and of one Sea Dayak house, following
the example and method of Dr. W. H. R. Rivers. These tables have
not revealed to us indications of any peculiar system of kinship;
but we think it worth while to reproduce one of them as an appendix
to the foregoing chapter. The table includes all the inhabitants of
the house living in the year 1899, as well as those deceased members
of whom we are able to obtain trustworthy information. The arrangement
is by door or room, but since on marriage some shifting from one room
to another takes place, some individuals appear under two doors.
In these tables the names of males are printed in ordinary type,
those of females in italics; and the following signs are used: --
= for married to.
= indicates the children of a married couple.
implies that the individual below whose name it occurs reached adult
life, but died without issue.
implies a child dead at early age, sex and name unknown.
[male] implies male child not yet named.
[female] implies female child not yet named
? individual of unknown name.
(1) Sidi Karang's Door.
Sidi Karang = SIDI PENG (A Long Paku Kenyah).
Baiai Gau = ULAU.
Other Members of the Room.
Tama Aping Layong = BALU BUON.
Lutang (nephew of Sidi Karang).
Mang = BORU TELLUN.
Luat = ?
Lesun = BALU ULAN.
Luyok = OYONG TURING. (See Door 6.)
ITANG WING = Lara Wan.
(2) Ajong's Door.
Mawa Ontong (Long Belukun Kenyah) = ? (Long Belukun Kenyah woman).
Anjong = NGINO (Long Tikan).
(3) Mawa Jungan's Door.
Mawa Hungan (see Imoh's door) = MAWA UJONG.
(4) Imoh's Door.
Jilo = ?
Imoh = TINA APING POYONG, (sister of NGINO, see Door 2)
formerly = Tama Aping Lalo. (see Door 5).
(5) Pallavo's Door.
Maga = ?
PALLAVO (unmarried at 60).
Tugan (weak-minded slave).
Tama Aping Lalo = (1st wife) TINA APING POYONG (see Door 4) = (2nd
wife) USUN (Likan Kenyah).
Anie Tapa (weak-minded) = ?
(6) Oyong Turing's Door.
Seling = ?
Sidi Ontong = ?
OYONG LUJOK = Oyong Turing.
BALU ATING = ?
Laro Libo (Long Palutan Kenyah) = LARA ULAU.
(7) Balu Kran's Door.
Lingan (a Likan Kenyah) = ?
Tama Aping Mawa = BALU KRAN (see Door 8).
(8) Balu Uding's Door.
Sawa Taja = ?
BALU UDING = Mawa Imang.
KENING (unmarried sister of Mawa Imang).
(9) Aban Moun's Door.
Aban Moun = TELUN.
Tama Sook Bilong = TINA SOOK BUNGAN.
Tama Aping Salo = ? (Long Belukun Kenyah).
TINA APING ODING.
(10) Aban Magi's Door.
Aban Magi (see Door 13) = TINA APING KRAN.
(11) Lara Wan's Door.
Mawa Liva = (1st wife) TINA WAN = (2nd wife) UTAN URING
Lara Wan = LARA LANAN (Long Paku).
(12) Tama An Lahing's Door.
Batan = TINA LAHING.
Tama an Lahing = TINA AN PIKA.
ODING = Balari.
BALU TATAN = Wan Tula (son of Balaban).
Tama Owing Laang = NOWING UBONG (daughter of Aban Imang,
an Uma Poh Kayan).
(13) Oyu Irang's Door.
Sorang (Long Tikan) = SINJAI (Long Tikan) (sister of Aban Magi,
see Door 10; and Lara Libo, see Door 6).
Other members in the Room.
BALU TUBONG (sister of Sorang) = ? (a Long Tikan man).
ABING URAI (sister of Balu Tubong) = Aban Madan (Long Paku).
(14) Balu Usan's Door.
BALU USAN (Long Palutan) = Aban Siliwa (Long Palutan).
BALU MENO (niece of Balu Usan) = Aban Meggang (Long Peku).
(15) Balu Buah's Door.
Tegging = BALU MUJAN.
BALU BUAH = Lara Lalu (Long Belukun Kenyah).
Abing Liran = LOONG LAKING.
(16) Oyong Kalang's Door.
Oyong Kalang (Long Palutan Kenyah) = OYONG NONG (Long Palutan Kenyah).
Sago = ?
(17) Sidi Jau's Door.
Tama Owing Lawai (Lepu Tau) = TINA OWING KLING (sister of Tama
Sidi Jau = PAYAH LAH (Uma Poh Kayan).
Balari = UDING.
Other People in the Room.
TINA APING UDING (Long Palutan) = Tama Aping Toloi (Long Tikan).
BALA KEYONG = Aban Batu.
Oyu Lalu = ?
Aban Jok (Murut x Kayan).
KANGIN (sister to Mang, see Door 1).
Aban Oyu (Murut) = BALU MONG.
(18) Aban Tingan's Door.
Aban Langat (Punan) = TINA OYU (Punan).
Aban Tingan = BELVIUN (2nd wife).
Tama Lim Balari = ?
Laki Ludop (see Door 19) = OAN BUNGAN (Long Belukun).
Tama Bulan (see Door 19).
Aban Tingan = PAYA (1st wife, daughter of Paran Libut,
his 1st cousin).
LAN = Balan (Long Belukun Kenyah)
Tina Owing Kling (see Door 17).
Aban Muda (Murut) = NUING LABAI
Abo = BALU VANG.
Oan Igan, child of Mapit (Long Palutan), brother of Jilo (see Imoh's
Lujah } brothers.
(19) Tama Bulan's Door.
Laki Ludop = BUNGAN (see Door 18).
Tama Bulan Wang = (1st wife) PENG = (2nd wife) PAYAH WAN
(Uma Poh Kayan).
BULAN = Luja (Uma Plian Kayan).
Balari and Livang (1st cousins of Tama Bulan, adopted
by him as sons).
OBONG = Wan (son of Aban Tingan her 1st cousin).
For all the peoples of the interior of Borneo, the Punans and
Malanaus excepted, the rice grown by themselves is the principal
food-stuff. Throughout the year, except during the few weeks when the
jungle fruit is most abundant, rice forms the bulk of every meal. In
years of bad harvests, when the supply is deficient, the place of rice
has to be filled as well as may be with wild sago, cultivated maize,
tapioca, and sweet potatoes. All these are used, and the last three,
as well as pumpkins, bananas, cucumbers, millet, pineapples, chilis,
are regularly grown in small quantities by most of the peoples. But
all these together are regarded as making but a poor substitute for
rice. The cultivator has to contend with many difficulties, for in
the moist hot climate weeds grow apace, and the fields, being closely
surrounded by virgin forest, are liable to the attacks of pests of
many kinds. Hence the processes by which the annual crop of PADI is
obtained demand the best efforts and care of all the people of each
village. The plough is unknown save to the Dusuns, a branch of the
Murut people in North Borneo, who have learnt its use from Chinese
immigrants. The Kalabits and some of the coastwise Klemantans who
live in alluvial areas have learnt, probably through intercourse with
the Philippine Islanders or the inhabitants of Indo-China, to prepare
the land for the PADI seed by leading buffaloes to and fro across it
while it lies covered with water. The Kalabits lead the water into
their fields from the streams descending from the hills.
With these exceptions the preparation of the land is everywhere very
crude, consisting in the felling of the timber and undergrowth, and
in burning it as completely as possible, so that its ashes enrich
the soil. After a single crop has been grown and gathered on land so
cleared, the weeds grow up very thickly, and there is, of course,
in the following year no possibility of repeating the dressing of
wood ashes in the same way. Hence it is the universal practice to
allow the land to lie fallow for at least two years, after a single
crop has been raised, while crops are raised from other lands. During
the fallow period the jungle grows up so rapidly and thickly that by
the third year the weeds have almost died out, choked by the larger
growths. The same land is then prepared again by felling the young
jungle and burning it as before, and a crop is again raised from
it. When a piece of land has been prepared and cropped in this way
some three or four times, at intervals of two, three, or four years,
the crop obtainable from it is so inferior in quantity that the
people usually undertake the severe labour of felling and burning
a patch of virgin forest, rather than continue to make use of the
old areas. In this way a large village uses up in the course of some
twelve or fifteen years all the land suitable for cultivation within
a convenient distance, I.E. within a radius of some three miles. When
this state of affairs results, the, village is moved to a new site,
chosen chiefly with an eye to the abundance of land suitable for the
cultivation of the PADI crop. After ten or more years the villagers
will return, and the house or houses will be reconstructed on the old
site or one adjacent to it, if no circumstances arise to tempt them
to migrate to a more distant country, and if the course of their life
on the old site has run smoothly, without misfortunes such as much
sickness, conflagrations, or serious attacks by other villages. After
this interval the land is regarded as being almost as good as the
virgin forest land, and has the advantage that the jungle on it can
be more easily felled. But since no crop equals that obtainable from
virgin soil, it is customary to include at least a small area of it
in the operations of each year.
Each family cultivates its own patch of land, selecting it by
arrangement with other families, and works as large an area as the
strength and number of the roomhold permits. A hillside sloping down
to the bank of a river or navigable stream is considered the choicest
area for cultivation, partly because of the efficient drainage,
partly because the felling is easier on the slope, and because the
stream affords easy access to the field.
When an area has been chosen, the men of the roomhold first cut down
the undergrowth of a V-shaped area, whose apex points up the hill, and
whose base lies on the river bank. This done, they call in the help of
other men of the house, usually relatives who are engaged in preparing
adjacent areas, and all set to work to fell the large trees. In the
clearing of virgin forest, when very large trees, many of which have
at their bases immense buttresses, have to be felled, a platform of
light poles is built around each of these giants to the height of about
15 feet. Two men standing upon this rude platform on opposite sides
of the stem attack it with their small springy-hafted axes (Fig. 11)
above the level of the buttresses (Pl. 55). One man cuts a deep notch
on the side facing up the hill, the other cuts a similar notch about
a foot lower down on the opposite side, each cutting almost to the
centre of the stem. This operation is accomplished in a surprisingly
short time, perhaps thirty minutes in the case of a stem two to three
feet in diameter. When all the large trees within the V-shaped area
have been cut in this way, all the workers and any women, children,
or dogs who may be present are called out of the patch, and one or
two big trees, carefully selected to form the apex of the phalanx,
are then cut so as to fall down the hill. In their fall these
giants throw down the trees standing immediately below them on the
hillside; these, falling in turn against their neighbours, bring
them down. And so, like an avalanche of widening sweep, the huge
disturbance propagates itself with a thunderous roar and increasing
momentum downwards over the whole of the prepared area; while puny
man looks on at the awful work of his hand and brain not unmoved,
but dancing and shouting in wild triumphant delight.
The fallen timber must now lie some weeks before it can be burnt. This
period is mainly devoted to making and repairing the implements to
be used in cultivating, harvesting, and storing the crop, and also
in sowing at the earliest possible moment small patches of early
or rapidly growing PADI together with a little maize, sugar-cane,
some Sweet potatoes, and tapioca. The patches thus sown generally lie
adjacent to one another. If the weather is fine, the fallen timber
becomes dry enough to burn well after one month. If much rain falls
it is necessary to wait longer in the hope of drier weather. Choosing
a windy day, they set fire to all the adjacent patches after shouting
out warnings to all persons in the fields. While the burning goes on,
the men "whistle for the wind," or rather blow for it, rattling their
tongues in their mouths. Some of the older men make lengthy orations
shouted into the air, adjuring the wind to blow strongly and so fan
the fire. The fire, if successful, burns furiously for a few hours
and then smoulders for some days, after which little of the timber
remains but ashes and the charred stumps of the bigger trees. If the
burning is very incomplete, it is necessary to make stacks of the
lighter timbers that remain, and to fire these again. As soon as the
ashes are cool, sowing begins. Men and women work together; the men go
in front making holes with wooden dibbles about six inches apart; the
women follow, carrying hung round the neck small baskets of PADI seed
(Fig. 12), which they throw into the holes, three or four seeds to
each hole. No care is taken to fill in the holes with earth. By this
time the relatively dry season, which lasts only some two months,
is at an end, and copious rains cause the seed to shoot above the
ground a few days after the sowing. Several varieties of PADI are in
common use, some more suitable for the hillsides, some for the marshy
lands. On any one patch three or four kinds are usually sown according
to the elevation and slope of the part of the area. Since the rates of
growth of the several kinds are different, the sowings are so timed
that the whole area ripens as nearly as possible at the same moment,
in order that the birds and other pests may not have the opportunity
of turning their whole force upon the several parts in turn. The men
now build on each patch a small hut, which is occupied by most of the
able-bodied members of the roomhold until harvest is completed, some
fourteen to twenty weeks after the sowing of the PADI, according to
the variety of grain sown. They erect contrivances for scaring away
the birds; they stick bamboos about eight feet in length upright in
the ground every 20 to 30 yards. Between the upper ends of these,
rattans are tied, connecting together all the bamboos on each area
of about one acre. The field of one roomhold is generally about four
acres in extent; there will thus be four groups of bamboos, each
of which can be agitated by pulling on a single rattan. From each
such group a rattan passes to the hut, and some person, generally a
woman or child, is told off to tug at these rattans in turn at short
intervals. Upon the rattans between the bamboos are hung various
articles calculated to make a noise or to flap to and fro when the
system is set in motion. Sometimes the rattan by which the system of
poles is set in movement is tied to the upper end of a tall sapling,
one end of which is thrust deeply into the mud of the floor of the
river. The current then keeps the sapling and with it the system of
bamboos swaying and jerking to and fro. The Kayans admit that they have
learnt this last "dodge" from the Klemantans. The watcher remains in
the hut all day long, while his companions are at work in the field;
he varies the monotony of his task by shouting and beating with a pair
of mallets on a hollow wooden cylinder. The watcher is relieved from
time to time, but the watch is maintained continuously day and night
from the time that the corn is about two feet above the ground until
it is all gathered in. In this way they strive with partial success
to keep off the wild pigs, monkeys, deer, and, as the corn ripens,
the rice-sparrow (MUNIA).
When the hut and the pest-scaring system have been erected, the men
proceed to provide further protection against wild pig and deer by
running a rude fence round a number of closely adjacent patches of
growing corn. The fence, some three to four feet high, is made by
lashing to poles thrust vertically into the ground and to convenient
trees and stumps, bamboos or saplings as horizontal bars, five or
six in vertical row. When this is completed the men take no further
part until the harvest, except perhaps to lend a hand occasionally
with the weeding. This is the time generally chosen by them for long
excursions into the jungle in search of rattans, rubber, camphor,
and for warlike expeditions or the paying of distant visits.
It is the duty of the women to prevent the PADI being choked by
weeds. The women of each room will go over each patch completely
at least twice, at an interval of about one month, hoeing down the
weeds with a short-handled hoe; the hoe consists of a flat blade
projecting at right angles from the iron haft (Fig. 13). The latter
is bent downwards at a right angle just above the blade, in a plane
perpendicular to that of the blade, and its other end is prolonged
by a short wooden handle, into the end of which it is thrust. The
woman stoops to the work, hoeing carefully round each PADI plant, by
holding the hoe in the right hand and striking the blade downwards and
towards her toes with a dragging action. In working over the patch in
this careful fashion some three weeks are consumed. In the intervals
the women gather the small crops of early PADI, pumpkin, cucumbers,
and so forth, spending several weeks together on the farm, sleeping
in the hut. In a good season this is the happiest time of the year;
both men and women take the keenest interest and pleasure in the
growth of the crop.
During the time when the grain is formed but not yet ripe, the people
live upon the green corn, which they prepare by gathering the heads and
beating them flat. These are not cooked, but merely dried in the sun,
and though they need much mastication they are considered a delicacy.
During the time of the ripening of the corn a spirit of gaiety and
joyful anticipation prevails. It is a favourite time for courtship,
and many marriages are arranged.
The harvest is the most important event of the year. Men, women, and
children, all take part. The rice-sparrows congregate in thousands as
the grain begins to ripen, and the noisy efforts of the people fail
to keep them at a distance. Therefore the people walk through the
crop gathering all ripe ears. The operation is performed with a small
rude knife-blade mounted in a wooden handle along its whole length
(Figs. 14, 15). This is held in the hollow of the right hand, the ends
of a short cross bar projecting between the first and second fingers
and between thumb and first finger. The thumb seizes and presses the
head of each blade of corn against the edge of the knife. The cars
thus cropped are thrown into a basket slung round the neck. As soon
as a large basket has been filled by the reapers, its contents are
spread out on mats on a platform before the hut. After an exposure of
two or three days, the grain is separated from the ears by stamping
upon them with bare feet. The separated grain passes through the
meshes of the coarse mat on to a finer mat beneath. The grain is then
further dried by exposure to the sun. When the whole crop has been
gathered, threshed, and dried in this way, it is transported in the
large shoulder baskets amid much rejoicing and merry-making to the
PADI barns adjoining the house, and the harvest festival begins.
The elaborate operations on the BADI FARM that we have described might
seem to a materialist to be sufficient to secure a good harvest;
but this is not the view taken by the Kayans, or any other of the
cultivators of Borneo. In their opinion all these material labours
would be of little avail if not supplemented at every stage by the
minute observance of a variety of rites. The PADI has life or soul,
or vitality, and is subject to sickness and to many vaguely conceived
influences, both good and bad.
Determination of the Seasons
The determination of the time for sowing the seed is a matter of so
great importance that in each village this duty is entrusted to a man
who makes it his profession to observe the signs of the seasons. This
work is so exacting that he is not expected to cultivate a crop of
PADI for himself and family, but is furnished with all the PADI he
needs by contributions from all the other members of the village.
It is essential to determine the approach of the short dry season, in
order that in the course of it the timber may be felled and burned. In
Borneo, lying as it does upon the equator, the revolution of the
year is marked by no very striking changes of weather, temperature,
or of vegetation. In fact, the only constant and striking evidences
of the passage of the months are the alternations of the north-east
and the south-west monsoons. The former blows from October to March,
the latter from April to September, the transitions being marked by
variable winds. The relatively dry season sets in with the south-west
monsoon, and lasts about two months; but in some years the rainfall
during this season is hardly less abundant than during the rest of
The "clerk of the weather" (he has no official title, though the
great importance of his function secures him general respect) has
no knowledge of the number of days in the year, and does not count
their passage. He is aware that the lunar month has twenty-eight
days, but he knows that the dry season does not recur after any
given number of completed months, and therefore keeps no record of
the lunar months. He relies almost entirely upon observation of the
slight changes of the sun's altitude. His observations are made by
the help of an instrument closely resembling the ancient Greek gnomon,
known as TUKAR DO or ASO DO (Pl. 60).
A straight cylindrical pole of hardwood is fixed vertically in the
ground; it is carefully adjusted with the aid of plumb lines, and
the possibility of its sinking deeper into the earth is prevented by
passing its lower end through a hole in a board laid horizontally on
the ground, its surface flush with the surface of the ground which
is carefully smoothed. The pole is provided with a shoulder which
rests upon this board. The upper end of the pole is generally carved
in the form of a human figure. The carving may be very elaborate,
or the figure may be indicated only by a few notches. The length of
the pole from the collar to its upper extremity is made equal to
the span from tip to tip of outstretched arms of its maker, plus
the length of his span from tip of the thumb to that of the first
finger. This pole (ASO DO) stands on a cleared space before or behind
the house, and is surrounded by a strong fence; the area within the
fence, some three or four yards in diameter, being made as level and
smooth as possible. The clerk of the weather has a neatly worked flat
stick, on which lengths are marked off by notches; these lengths are
measured by laying the stick along the radial side of the left arm,
the butt end against the anterior fold of the armpit. A notch is
then cut at each of the following positions: one notch about one
inch from the butt end, a second opposite the middle of the upper
arm, one opposite the elbow, one opposite the bend of the wrist,
one at the first interphalangeal joint, one at the finger-tip. The
other side of the rod bears a larger number of notches, of which the
most distal marks the greatest length of the mid-day shadow, the next
one the length of the mid-day shadow three days after it has begun
to shorten, the next the length of the shadow after three more days'
shortening, and so on. The mid-day shadow is, of course, the minimal
length reached in the course of the day, and the marks denoting the
changes in length of the shadow are arrived at, purely empirically,
by marking off the length of the mid-day shadow every three days.
The clerk of the weather measures the shadow of the pole at mid-day
whenever the sun is unclouded. As the shadow grows shorter after
reaching its maximal length, he observes it with special care, and
announces to the village that the time for preparing the land is near
at hand. When the shadow reaches the notch made opposite the middle
of the arm, the best time for sowing the grain is considered to have
arrived; the land is therefore cleared, and made ready before this time
arrives. Sowing at times when the shadow reaches other notches is held
to involve various disadvantages, such as liability to more than the
usual number of pests -- monkeys, insects, rats, or sparrows. In the
case of each successful harvest, the date of the sowing is recorded
by driving a peg of ironwood into the ground at the point denoting
the length of the mid-day shadow at that date. The weather prophet
has other marks and notches whose meaning is known only to himself;
his procedures are surrounded with mystery and kept something of
a secret, even from the chief as well as from all the rest of the
village, and his advice is always followed.
The method of observing the sun described above is universal among the
Kenyahs, but some of the Kayans practise a different method. A hole is
made in the roof of the weather-prophet's chamber in the long-house,
and the altitude of the mid-day sun and its direction, north or south
of the meridian, are observed by measuring along a plank fixed on
the floor the distance of the patch of sunlight (falling through the
hole on to the plank) from the point vertically below the hole. The
horizontal position of the plank is secured by placing upon it smooth
spherical stones and noting any inclination to roll. The sunbeam which
enters this hole is called KLEPUT TOH (=the blow-pipe of the spirit).
Some of the Klemantans practise a third method to determine when
the time for sowing is at hand, using a bamboo some feet in length
which bears a mark at a level which is empirically determined. The
bamboo is filled with water while in the vertical position. It is
then tilted till it points towards a certain star, when of course
some water escapes. After it has been restored to the vertical, the
level of the surface of the remaining water is noted. The coincidence
of this level with the mark mentioned above indicates that the time
for sowing is come.
The Sea Dayaks are guided by the observation of the position of
The appropriate season having been determined, it is necessary to
secure good omens before the preparation of the land can be begun. A
pig and a fowl having been sacrificed in the usual way, and their
blood sprinkled upon the wooden figures before the house, two
men are sent out in a boat, and where they first see a spider-hunter
they land on the bank and go through the customary procedures. The
calls and appearances of various birds and of the MUNTJAC are of chief
importance. Some of these are good, some bad in various degrees. When
a preponderance of favourable omens has been observed, the men return
to the house to announce their success. They will wait two whole days
if necessary to secure a favourable result. During their absence
a strict MALAN or LALI (tabu) lies upon the house; no stranger may
enter it, and the people sit quietly in the house performing only
the most necessary tasks. The announcement of the nature of the omens
observed is made to the chief in the presence of a deeply interested
throng of both sexes. If the omens observed are considered to be bad,
or of doubtful import, the men go out for a second period; but if they
are favourable, the women of each room perform the private rites over
their stores of seed PADI, which are kept in their rooms. After the
pros and cons have been fully discussed, the chief names the day for
the beginning of the clearing operations.
At the beginning of the sowing the house is again subject to MALAN for
one day. During the growth of the PADI various charms and superstitious
practices are brought into use to promote its growth and health,
and to keep the pests from it. The PADI charms are a miscellaneous
collection or bundle of small articles, such as curious pebbles and
bits of wood, pigs' tusks of unusual size or shape, beads, feathers,
crystals of quartz. Kayans as a rule object to pebbles and stones
as charms. Such charms are generally acquired in the first instance
through indications afforded by dreams, and are handed down from
mother to daughter. Such charms contained in a basket are usually
kept in a PADI barn, from which they are taken to the field by the
woman and waved over it, usually with a live fowl in the hand, while
she addresses the PADI seed in some such terms as the following:
"May you have a good stem and a good top, let all parts of you grow
in harmony, etc. etc." Then she rapidly repeats a long customary
formula of exhortation to the pests, saying, "O rats, run away down
river, don't trouble us; O sparrows and noxious insects, go feed on
the PADI of the people down river." If the pests are very persistent,
the woman may kill a fowl and scatter its blood over the growing PADI,
while she charges the pests to disappear, and calls upon LAKI IVONG
(the god of harvests) to drive them out.
Women alone will gather the first ears of the crop. If they encounter
on their way to the fields any one of the following creatures,
they must at once return home, and stay there a day and a night, on
pain of illness or early death: certain snakes, spiders, centipedes,
millipedes, and birds of two species, JERUIT and BUBUT (a cuckoo). Or
again, if the shoulder straps of their large baskets should break
on the way, if a stump should fall against them, or the note of the
spider-hunter be heard, or if a woman strikes her foot by accident
against any object, the party must return as before.
It will be clear from the foregoing account that the women play the
principal part in the rites and actual operations of the PADI culture;
the men only being called in to clear the ground and to assist in
some of the later stages. The women select and keep the seed grain,
and they are the repositories of most of the lore connected with
it. It seems to be felt that they have a natural affinity to the
fruitful grain, which they speak of as becoming pregnant. Women
sometimes sleep out in the PADI fields while the crop is growing,
probably for the purpose of increasing their own fertility or that
of the PADI; but they are very reticent on this matter.
The Harvest Festival
When the crop is all gathered in, the house is MALAN to all outsiders
for some ten days, during which the grain is transported from the
fields to the village and stored in the PADI barns. When this process
is completed or well advanced, the festival begins with the preparation
of the seed grain for the following season. Some of the best of the
new grain is carefully selected by the women of each room, enough for
the sowing of the next season. This is mixed with a small quantity
of the seed grain of the foregoing seasons which has been carefully
preserved for this purpose in a special basket. The basket contains
grains of PADI from good harvests of many previous years. This is
supposed to have been done from the earliest time of PADI planting,
so that the basket contains some of the original stock of seed, or
at least the virtue of it leavening the whole. This basket is never
emptied, but a pinch of the old PADI is mixed in with the new, and
then a handful of the mixture added to the old stock. The idea here
seems to be that the old grain, preserving continuity generation after
generation with the original seed PADI of mythical origin, ensures
the presence in the grain of the soul or spirit or vital principle of
PADI. While mixing the old with the new seed grain, the woman calls
on the soul of the PADI to cause the seed to be fruitful and to grow
vigorously, and to favour her own fertility. For the whole festival
is a celebration or cult of the principle of fertility and vitality --
that of the women no less than that of the PADI.
The women who have been delivered of children during the past year
will make a number of toys, consisting of plaited work, in the shapes
of various animals filled with boiled rice (Fig. 16). These they
throw to the children of the house, who scramble for them in the
gallery. This seems to be of the nature of a thank-offering.
At this time also another curious custom is observed. Four water
beetles, of the kind that skates on the surface of the still water, are
caught on the river and placed on water in a large gong. Some old man
specially wise in this matter watches the beetles, calling to them to
direct their movements. The people crowd round deeply interested, while
the old man interprets the movements of the beetles as forecasting
good or ill luck with the crops of the following season, and invokes
the good-will of Laki Ivong. Laki Ivong is asked to bring the soul
of the PADI to their homes. Juice from a sugarcane is poured upon the
water, and the women drink the water, while the beetles are carefully
returned to the river. The beetles carry the messages to Laki Ivong.
When these observances have been duly honoured, there begins a
scene of boisterous fun. The women make pads of the boiled sticky
new rice, and cover it with soot from their cooking vessels. With
these they approach the men and dab the pads upon their faces and
bodies, leaving sooty marks that are not easily removed. The men
thus challenged give chase, and attempt to get possession of the rice
pads and to return the polite attention. For a short space of time a
certain license prevails among the young people; and irregularities,
even on the part of married people, which would be gravely reprobated
at all other times, are looked upon very much less seriously. It is,
in fact, the annual carnival. Each roomhold has prepared a stock of
BURAK from the new rice, and this now circulates freely among both men
and women, and large meals of rice and pork are usually eaten. All
join in dancing, some of the women dressed like men, some carrying
PADI-pestles; at one moment all form a long line marching up and
down the gallery in step to the strains of the KELURI; some young
men dance in realistic imitation of monkeys (DOK), or hornbills, or
other animals, singly or in couples. Others mimic the peculiarities
of their acquaintances. The women also dance together in a long line,
each resting her hands on the shoulders of the one going before her,
and all keeping time to the music of the KELURIES as they dance up
and down the long gallery. All this is kept up with good humour the
whole day long. In the evening more BURAK is drunk and songs are sung,
the women mingling with the men, instead of remaining in their rooms
as on other festive occasions. Before midnight a good many of the men
are more or less intoxicated, some deeply so; but most are able to
find their way to bed about midnight, and few or none become offensive
or quarrelsome, even though the men indulge in wrestling and rough
horseplay with one another. After an exceptionally good harvest the
boisterous merry-making is renewed on a second or even a third day.
The harvest festival is the time at which dancing is most
practised. The dances fall into two chief classes, namely, solo dances
and those in which many persons take part. Most of the solo dances take
the form of comic imitations of the movements of animals, especially
the big macaque monkey (DOK), the hornbill, and big fish. These dances
.seem to have no connection with magic or religion, but to be purely
aesthetic entertainments. The animals that are regarded with most awe
are never mimicked in this way. There are at least four distinct group
dances popular among the Kayans. Both men and women take part, the
women often dressing themselves as men for the occasion (Pl. 61). The
movements and evolutions are very simple. The LUPA resembles the dance
on return from war described in Chap. X. In the KAYO, a similar dance,
the dancers are led by a woman holding one of the dried heads which is
taken down for the purpose; the women, dressed in war-coats, pretending
to take the head from an enemy. The LAKEKUT Is a musical drill in which
the dancers stamp on the planks of the floor in time to the music. The
LUPAK is a kind of slow polka. In none of these do the dancers fall
into couples. A fifth dance, the dance of the departure of the spirit,
is a dramatic representation by three persons of the death of one of
them, and of his restoration to life by means of the water of life
(this is supposed to be brought from the country which is traversed
on the journey to the land of shades). This dance is sometimes given
with so much dramatic effect as to move the onlookers to tears.
The Daily Life of a Kayan Long House
A little before dawn the cocks roosting beneath the house awaken the
household by their crowing and the flapping of their wings. The pigs
begin to grunt and squeal, and the dogs begin to trot to and fro in
the gallery. Before the first streaks of daylight appear, the women
light the fires in the private rooms or blow up the smouldering embers;
then most of them descend from the house, each carrying in a basket
slung on her back several bamboo water-vessels to be filled from the
river. Many of them bathe at this time in the shallow water beside
the bank, while the toilet of others consists in dashing water over
their faces, washing their mouths with water, and rubbing their teeth
with the forefinger. Returning to the house with their loads of water
(Pl. 63), they boil rice for the household breakfasts and for the
dinner of those who are to spend the day in the PADI field or the
jungle. The boiled rice intended for the latter use is made up in
packets wrapped in green leaves, each containing sufficient for a meal
for one person. About half-past six, when the daylight is fully come,
the pigs expectant of their meal are clamouring loudly for it. The
women descend to them by ladders leading from the private rooms, and
each gives to the pigs of her household the leavings of the meals
of the previous day. About the same time the men begin to bestir
themselves sluggishly; some descend to bathe, while others smoke
the fag ends of the cigarettes that were unfinished when they fell
asleep. Then the men breakfast in their rooms, and not until they are
satisfied do the women and children sit down to their meal. During all
this time the chronically hungry dogs, attracted by the odours of food,
make persistent efforts to get into their owner's rooms. Success in
this manoeuvre is almostly always followed by their sudden and noisy
reappearance in the gallery, caused by a smart blow with a stick. In
the busy farming season parties of men, women, and children will set
off in boats for the PADI fields taking their breakfasts with them.
After breakfast the men disperse to their various tasks. During some
three or four months of the year all able-bodied persons repair
daily to the PADI fields, but during the rest of the year their
employments are more varied. The old women and invalids remain all
day long in the rooms; the old men lounge all day in the gallery,
smoking many home-made cigarettes, and perhaps doing a bit of carving
or other light work and keeping an eye on the children. The young
children play in and out and about the house, chasing the animals,
and dabbling among the boats moored at the bank.
A few of the able-bodied men employ themselves in or about the house,
making boats, forging swords, spear-heads, iron hoes, and axes,
repairing weapons or implements. Others go in small parties to the
jungle to hunt deer and pig, or to gather jungle produce -- fruits,
rubber, rattans, or bamboos -- or spend the day in fishing in the
river. During the months of December and January the jungle fruits --
the durian, rambutan, mangosteen, lansat, mango, and numerous small
sour fruits (Pl. 65) -- are much more abundant than at other times;
and during these months all other work is neglected, while the people
devote themselves to gathering the fruit which forms for a time almost
their only food.
Except during the busy PADI season the work of the women is wholly
within the house. The heaviest part of their household labour is the
preparation of the rice. After breakfast they proceed to spread out
PADI on mats on the open platforms adjoining the gallery. While the
PADI is being dried by the exposure to sun and wind on these platforms,
it must be protected from the domestic fowls by a guardian who, sitting
in the gallery, drives them away by means of a long bamboo slung by
a cord above the platform. Others fill the time between breakfast and
the noonday dinner by bathing themselves and the children in the river,
making and repairing clothing, mats, and baskets, fetching more water,
cleaning the rooms and preparing dinner. This meal consists of boiled
rice with perhaps a piece of fish, pork, or fowl, and, like breakfast
and supper, is eaten in the private rooms.
As soon as dinner is over the pounding of the PADI begins
(Frontispiece, Vol. II.). Each mortar usually consists of a massive
log of timber roughly shaped, and having sunk in its upper surface,
which is a little hollowed, a pit about five inches in diameter and
nine inches in depth. Into this pit about a quarter of a bushel of
PADI is put. Two women stand on the mortar facing one another on
either side of the pit, each holding by the middle a large wooden
pestle. This is a solid bar of hardwood about seven feet long, about
two inches in diameter in the middle third, and some three or four
inches in diameter in the rest of its length. The two ends are rounded
and polished by use. Each woman raises her pestle to the full height
of her reach, and brings it smartly down upon the grain in the pit,
the two women striking alternately with a regular rhythm. As each
one lifts her pestle, she deftly sweeps back into the pit with her
foot the grain scattered by her stroke.
After pounding the PADI for some minutes without interruption,
one woman takes a winnowing pan, a mat made in the shape of an
English housemaid's dustpan, but rather larger than this article,
and receives in it the pounded grain which the other throws out of
the pit with her foot.
Both women then kneel upon a large mat laid beside the mortar; the
one holding the winnowing pan keeps throwing the grain into the air
with a movement which causes the heavier grain to fall to the back of
the pan, while the chaff and dust is thrown forward on to the mat. Her
companion separates the rice dust from the chaff by sifting it through
a sieve. A considerable quantity of the dust or finely broken rice
is formed by the pounding in the mortar, and this is the principal
food given to the pigs. The winnowed grain is usually returned to the
mortar to be put through the whole process a second time. The clean
rice thus prepared is ready for the cooking-pot.
The winnowing and sifting is often done by old women, while the
younger women continue the severer task of plying the pestle. In the
Kayan houses the mortars are in many cases double, that is to say,
there are two pits in the one block of timber, and two pairs of women
work simultaneously. In the middle of the afternoon the whole house
resounds with the vigorous blows of the pestles, for throughout the
length of the gallery two or more women are at work beside each room,
husking the day's supply of rice for each family.
For the women of all the peoples, except the Punans, the husking of
the PADI is a principal feature of the day's work, and is performed
in much the same fashion by all. The Kenyahs alone do their work out
of doors beside the PADI barns, sometimes under rude lean-to shelters.
When this task is completed the women are covered with dust; they
descend again to the river, and bathe themselves and the children
once more. They may gather some of the scanty vegetables grown in
small enclosures near most of the houses, and then proceed to prepare
supper with their rice and whatever food the men may have brought
home from the jungle. For now, about an hour before sundown, the men
return from expeditions in the jungle, often bringing a wild pig, a
monkey, a porcupine, or some jungle fruit, or young shoots of bamboo,
as their contribution to the supper table; others return from fishing
or from the PADI fields, and during the sunset hour at a large village
a constant stream of boats arrives at the landing-place before the
house. Most of the home-comers bathe in the river before ascending
to the house. This evening bath is taken in more leisurely fashion
than the morning dip. A man will strip off his waist-cloth and rush
into the water, falling flat on his chest with a great splash. Then
standing with the water up to his waist he will souse his head and
face, then perhaps swim a few double overhand strokes, his head going
under at each stroke. After rubbing himself down with a smooth pebble,
he returns to the bank, and having resumed his waist-cloth, he squeezes
the water from his hair, picks up his paddle, spear, hat, and other
belongings, and ascends to the gallery. There he hangs up his spear
by jabbing its point into a roof-beam beside the door of his chamber,
and sits down to smoke a cigarette and to relate the events of his
day while supper is preparing. As darkness falls, he goes to his
room to sup. By the time the women also have supped, the tropical
night has fallen, and the house is lit by the fires and by resin
torches, and nowadays by a few kerosene lamps. The men gather round
the fireplaces in the gallery and discuss politics, the events of the
day, the state of the crops and weather, the news obtained by meetings
with the people of neighbouring houses, and relate myths and legends,
folk-tales and animal stories. The women, having put the children
to bed, visit one another's rooms for friendly gossip; and young
men drop in to join their parties, accept the proffered cigarette,
and discourse the sweet music of the KELURI, the noseflute,
and the Jew's harp (Figs. 17, 18, 19). Or Romeo first strikes up
his plaintive tune outside the room in which Juliet sits with the
women folk. Juliet may respond with a few notes of her guitar
(Fig. 20), thus encouraging Romeo to enter and to take his place in
the group beside her, where he joins in the conversation or renews
his musical efforts. About nine o'clock all retire to bed, save a few
old men who sit smoking over the fires far into the night. The dogs,
after some final skirmishes and yelpings, subside among the warm ashes
of the fireplaces; the pigs emit a final squeal and grunt; and within
the house quietness reigns. Now the rushing of the river makes itself
heard in the house, mingled with the chirping of innumerable insects
and the croaking of a myriad frogs borne in from the surrounding
forest. The villagers sleep soundly till cock-crow; but the European
guest, lying in the place of honour almost beneath the row of human
heads which adorns the gallery, is, if unused to sleeping in a Bornean
long house, apt to be wakened from time to time throughout the night
by an outburst of dreadful yelpings from the dogs squabbling for the
best places among the ashes, by the prolonged fit of coughing of an
old man, by an old crone making up the fire, by the goats squealing
and scampering over the boats beneath the house, or by some weird
cry from the depths of the jungle.
In the old days the peace of the night was occasionally broken an hour
before the dawn by the yells of an attacking force, and by the flames
roaring up from bundles of shavings thrown beneath the house. But
happily attacks of this kind are no longer made, save in some few
remoter parts of the interior where the European governments have
not yet fully established their authority.
The even tenor of the life of a village is interrupted from time to
time by certain festivals or other incidents -- the harvest festival;
the marriage or the naming of a chiefs son or daughter; the arrival of
important guests (one or more chiefs with bands of followers coming
to make peace, or nowadays the resident magistrate of the district);
the funeral of a chief; the preparations for war or for a long
journey to the distant bazaar of Chinese traders in the lower part
of the river; the necessity of removing to a new site; an epidemic
of disease; the rites of formally consulting the omens, or otherwise
communicating with and propitiating the gods; the operations of the
soul-catcher. The more important of these incidents will be described
in later chapters. Here we need only give a brief account of the way
in which some of them affect the daily round of life in the long house.
A visiting chief will remain seated in his boat, while a follower
announces his arrival and ascertains that there is no MALAN (TABU) upon
the house which would make the presence of visitors unwelcome. Such
MALAN affecting the whole house or village obtains during the storing
of the PADI for ten consecutive days, during epidemics of sickness
in neighbouring villages, and at the time when the preparation
of the farm land begins. If a favourable answer is returned, the
visitor remains seated in his boat some few minutes longer, and
then makes his way into the gallery, followed by most of his men,
who leave their spears and shields in the boats. If the visitor is an
intimate friend, the chief of the house will send a son or brother
to welcome him, or will even go himself. Arrived in the gallery,
the visitor advances to the central platform where the chief of the
house awaits him, unstrings his sword from his waist, hangs it upon
any convenient hook, and sits down beside his host; while his men,
following his example, seat themselves with the men of the house in a
semicircle facing the two chiefs. The followers may greet, and even
embrace, or grasp by the forearm, their personal friends; but the
demeanour of the chief's is more formal. Neither one utters a word or
glances at the other for some few minutes; the host remains seated,
fidgeting with a cigarette and gazing upon the floor; the visitor
sitting beside him looks stolidly over the heads of his followers,
and perhaps clears his throat or coughs. Presently a woman thrusts
into the semicircle a tray of freshly made cigarettes. One of the
men of the house pushes it forward towards the principal visitor, who
makes a sign of acceptance by lightly touching the tray; the other,
crouching on his heels, lights a cigarette with an ember from the fire,
blowing it into a glow as he waddles up to present it to the visiting
chief. The latter takes it, but usually allows it to go out. By this
time the chief of the house is ready to open the conversation, and,
after clearing his throat, suddenly throws out a question, usually,
"Where did you start from to-day?" The embarrassing silence thus
broken, question and answer are freely exchanged, the cigarette of
the visitor is again lighted at the fire by a member of the household,
and conversation becomes general. Not infrequently the host, becoming
more and more friendly, throws an arm across his guest's shoulders
or strokes him endearingly with the palm of his hand.
In the meantime the women are busy preparing a meal, a pig having
been killed and hastily cut up. When it is ready, the visitors, if
old friends, are invited to partake of it in the chief's room. But
if they are not familiar acquaintances, the meal is spread for them
in the gallery on platters placed in a long row, one for each guest;
each platter containing many cubes of hot boiled pork and two packets
of hot boiled rice wrapped in leaves. The space is surrounded with a
slight bamboo fence to keep away the dogs. In either case the visitors
eat alone, their hosts retiring until the meal is finished. As the
chief's wife retires, she says, "Eat slowly, my children, our food is
poor stuff. There is no pork, no fish, nothing that is good." Before
withdrawing, one of the people of the house pours a little water from
a bamboo vessel on the right hand of the visiting chief, who then
passes on the vessel to his followers. With the hand thus cleansed
each guest conveys the food to his mouth, dipping his pieces of pork
in coarse salt placed in a leaf beside his platter; and when he has
finished eating, he drinks water from a bamboo vessel. The chief,
and perhaps also one or more of his upper-class companions, leaves a
little of the pork and a little rice on the platter to show that he
is not greedy or ravenous; and his good breeding prompts him to prove
his satisfaction with the meal by belching up a quantity of wind
with a loud and prolonged noise, which is echoed by his followers