Part 5 out of 11
an old man tatued in the original, Ukit manner is met. We give a
figure of a design on the back of the thigh of such a relic of better
days. (Pl. 143, Fig. 5).
The Bakatan and Ukit women tatu very little, only the forearm, on the
metacarpals, and on the back of the wrist; characteristic designs
for these parts are shown in Fig. 74, and Pl. 143, Figs. 7, 8. The
central part of the forearm design is an anthropomorphic derivative,
judging by the name TEGULUN; the lines are termed KILANG, and KANAK
and GEROWIT are also conspicuous; GEROWIT IS also the name of the
design for the metacarpals; the two stars joined by a line on the
wrist are termed LUKUT, and it is possible that their significance is
the same as that of the Kayan LUKUT tatued in the same place by men,
but we have no evidence that this is the case.
Nieuwenhuis figures [9, Pl. 80] a Bakatan tatued on the chest in the
The only other designs, apparently of Kalamantan origin, are those
figured by Ling Roth [7, p. 87]. Three of these are after drawings
by Rev. W. Crossland, and are labelled "tatu marks on arm of Kapuas
Kayan captive woman." The designs are certainly not of Kayan origin;
the woman had in all probability been brought captive to Sarawak, where
Mr. Crossland saw her, and it is unfortunate that exact information
concerning the tribe to which she belonged was not obtained. The
designs, if accurately copied, are so extremely unlike all that are
known to us that we are not able to hazard even a guess at their
provenance or meaning. The other design figured on the same page
is copied from Carl Bock; it occurred on the shoulder of a Punan,
and is said by Mr. Crossland to be commonly used by the Sea Dayaks
of the Undup. We met with a similar example of it (Pl. 138, Fig. 7)
on an Ukit tatued in the Kayan manner, but could get no information
concerning it, and suppose that it is not an Ukit design. Hein
[6, Fig. 90] figures the same design, and Nieuwenhuis [8, p. 240]
alludes to a similar. We may note here that the designs figured on
page 89 of Ling Roth's book  as tatu designs are in our opinion
very probably not tatu designs. They were collected by Dr. Wienecke in
Dutch Borneo, and appear to be nothing but drawings by a native artist
of such objects in daily use as hats, seat-mats, baby-slings, and so
on. We communicated with Dr. J. D. E. Schmeltz of the Leyden Museum,
where these "tatu" marks are deposited, and learnt from him that they
are indeed actual drawings on paper; there are ninety-two of them,
apparently all are different isolated designs, and they are evidently
the work of one artist. There is not a tribe in Borneo which can
show such a variety of tatu design, and indeed we doubt if ninety-two
distinct isolated tatu designs could be found throughout all the length
and breadth of the island. Moreover, as can be seen by reference to the
cited work, the designs are of a most complicated nature, not figures
with the outlines merely filled in, as in all tatu designs known to
us, but with the details drawn in fine lines and cross-hatching, which
in tatu would be utterly lost unless executed on a very large scale.
Sea Dayak Tatu.
The Sea Dayaks at the present day are, as far as the men are concerned,
the most extensively tatued tribe in Borneo, with the exception
of the Bakatans, Ukits, Kahayans, and Biajau; nevertheless, from
a long-continued and close study of their tatu, we are forced to
the conclusion that the practice and the designs have been entirely
borrowed from other tribes, but chiefly from the Kayans. For some time
we believed that there were two characteristically Sea Dayak designs,
namely, that which is tatued on the throat (Figs. 75 and 76) and that
on the wrist (Pl. 143, Fig. 7), but when later we studied Bakatan tatu
we met with the former in the GEROWIT pattern on the throat of men, and
the latter in the LUKUT design on the wrist of the women. A Sea Dayak
youth will simply plaster himself, so to speak, with numerous isolated
designs; we have counted as many as five of the ASU design on one thigh
alone. The same design appears two or three times on the arms, and even
on the breast, though this part of the body as well as the shoulders
is more usually decorated with several stars and rosettes. The backs
of the hands are tatued, quite irrespective of bravery or experience
in warfare; in fact we have frequently had occasion to note that a man
with tatued hands is a wastrel or a conceited braggart, of no account
with Europeans or with his own people. This wild and irresponsible
system of tatu has been accompanied by an inevitable degradation of
the designs. There is a considerable body of evidence to show that the
Sea Dayaks have borrowed much in their arts and crafts from tribes who
have been longer established in Borneo; but it must be confessed that
in their decorative art they have often improved upon their models;
their bamboo carvings and their woven cloth are indeed "things of
beauty." But their tatu involves, not an intelligent elaboration
of the models, but a simplification and degradation, or at best an
elaboration without significance. Figs. 1 -- 6, Pl. 137, are examples
of the Sea Dayaks TUANG ASU or dog design. The figures show the dog
design run mad, and it is idle to attempt to interpret them, since
in every case the artists have given their individual fancies free
play. When the profession of the tatu-artist is hereditary, and when
the practice has for its object the embellishment of definite parts
of the body for definite reasons, we naturally find a constancy of
design; or, if there are varieties, there is a purpose in them, in
the sense that the variations can be traced to pre-existing forms,
and do not depart from the original so widely that their significance
is altogether lost. With the borrowing of exogenous designs arises such
an alteration in their forms that the original names and significance
are lost. But when the very practice of tatu has no special meaning,
when the tatu-artist may be any member of the tribe, and where no
original tatu design is to be found in the tribe, then the borrowed
practice and the borrowed designs, unbound by any sort of tradition,
run complete riot, and any sort of fanciful name is applied to the
degraded designs. Amongst the Kenyah tribes the modification and
degradation of the dog design has not proceeded so far as amongst
the Sea Dayaks, and this may be explained by their more restrained
practice of tatu and by the constant intercourse between them and
the Kayans, for they always have good models before them. Pl. 137,
Fig. 3, illustrates the extreme limit of degradation of the dog design
amongst Sea Dayaks; it is sometimes termed KALA, scorpion, and
it is noteworthy that the representation of the chelae and anterior
end of the scorpion (A) was originally the posterior end of the dog,
and the hooked ends of the posterior processes of this scorpion design
(B), instead of facing one another as they did when they represented
the open jaws of the dog, now look the same way; the rosette-like eye
of the dog still persists, but of course it has no significance in the
scorpion. A curious modification of this eye is seen in another Sea
Dayak scorpion design figured by E. B. Haddon [4, Fig. 19]. Furness
[3, p. 142] figures a couple of scorpion designs, but neither are
quite as debased as that which we figure here. Furness also figures a
scroll design, not unlike a Bakatan design, tatued on the forearm, and
termed TAIA GASIENG, the thread of the spinning wheel; a similar one
figured by Ling Roth [7, p. 88] is termed TRONG, the egg plant. On the
breast and shoulders some forms of rosette or star design are tatued
in considerable profusion; they are known variously as BUNGA TRONG,
the egg plant flower, TANDAN BUAH, bunches of fruit, LUKUT, an antique
bead, and RINGGIT SALILANG. A four-pointed star, such as that shown in
Fig. 64, is termed BUAH ANDU, fruit of PLUKENETIA CORNICULATA; since
this fruit is quadrate in shape with pointed angles, it is evident that
the name has been applied to the pattern because of its resemblance to
the fruit. Furness figures examples of these designs and also Ling Roth
[7, p. 88]. We figure (Figs. 75, 76, 77) three designs for the throat
known sometimes as KATAK, frogs, sometimes as TALI GASIENG, thread of
the spinning wheel, and no doubt other meaningless names are applied
to them. Two of the figures (Figs. 75, 77) are evidently modifications
of the Bakatan GEROWIT design, but here they are represented with the
tatu pigment, whilst with the Bakatans the design is in the natural
colour of the skin against a background of pigment, I.E. the Dayak
design is the positive of the Bakatan negative. Furness figures two
examples of the throat design, one with a transverse row of stars
cutting across it; the same authority also figures a design for the
ribs known as TALI SABIT, waist chains, consisting of two stars joined
by a double zigzag line. The same design is sometimes tatued on the
wrist, when it is known as LUKUT, antique bead; it is also tatued on
the throat [7, p. 88], and attention has already been drawn to the
probable derivation of this design also from a Bakatan model.
It is only very seldom that Sea Dayak women tatu, and then only in
small circles on the breasts [7, p. 83] and on the calves of the legs.
As a conclusion to the foregoing account of Bornean tatu we add a table
which summarises in the briefest possible manner all our information;
its chief use perhaps will lie in showing in a graphic manner the
blanks in our knowledge that still remain.
We do not consider that tatu can ever be of much value in clearing up
racial problems, seeing how much evidence there is of interchange of
designs and rejection of indigenous designs in favour of something
newer; consequently we refrain from drawing up another scheme of
classification of tatu in Borneo; at best it would be little more
than a re-enumeration of the forms that we have already described in
more or less detail.
Table showing the Forms of Tatu Practised by the Tribes of Borneo
Character of Designs.
Part of Body Tatued.
Object of Tatu.
Isolated designs, representing the dog, a bead, rosettes and
stars. Serial designs on hands.
Inside of forearm, outside of thigh, breasts, wrist and points of
shoulders. Back of hand sometimes.
Sign of bravery in some forms, to ward off illness in others.
Serial designs of complex nature, geometrical, anthropo- and
The whole forearm, back of hand, the whole thigh, the metatarsal
surface of the foot.
Chiefly for ornament, for use after death, for cure of illness.
As amongst Kayans, with some degradation of design and alternation
Same as with Kayans.
Sign of bravery in some cases. Chiefly for ornament.
As amongst Kayans.
The whole forearm, back of hand, metatarsal surface of foot.
Geometrical serial designs, discs, ? isolated designs.
Arm from shoulders to wrist; calf of leg.
Designs employed by Kayan [male] [male]
Forearms and legs.
Simple geometrical design.
Forearm and back of hand.
? ? same as Kayan designs.
Simple geometrical designs (low-class [female]
[female]), anthropomorphic designs, copied
from other tribes (high-class [female] [female]).
Forearm and back of hand, front and sides of the thigh and the shin.
Long Glat and Uma Luhat.
? not at all.
Complicated serial designs, chiefly of zoomorphic MOTIF.
As with Kayan [female] [female], but also with lines
round the ankles. Tatu of forearms
not so extensive.
Chiefly ornament, for use in the next world.
Simple geometrical design ("stippled")
Forearm and back of hand.
Stomach, breast, arm.
Partly as tally of enemies slain.
Scroll designs and circles
Above the knee-cap; on the breast (Practice obsolescent).
Arm and back of hand.
As with Dusuns
As with Dusuns
Zigzags and chevrons.
Forearms, the lower part of the leg.
Complicated serial geometrical designs.
As with Long Glat.
Complicated serial geometrical designs, scrolls, zoomorphs, etc.
Almost the whole body including the face amongst some of the
With some sub-tribes to signify success in war and love, manual
? ? as with Long Glat.
Ot-Danum, Ulu Ajar, etc.
Curved lines, discs, and simple geometrical designs.
On breast, stomach, outside of arms and thighs, calf of leg.
In some cases a sign of bravery.
Simple designs like those of the Uma Tow Kenyahs (low-class
[female] [female]). High-class [female] [female] like Long Glat?
Shin, thigh, and calf of leg.
On breast, stomach, throat, arms.
Bakatan and Ukit
Chiefly scroll and circle designs. Nearly all represented in
Jaws, throat, breast, back, shoulders, forearms, thighs, calf of leg,
ankles, feet and backs of hands.
Sign of bravery and experience in war, symbol of maturity.
Anthropomorphic, lines, representation of a bead.
Forearms, wrist, metacarpals.
Degraded Kayan and Bakatan designs.
ALmost every part of the body, except the face.
Breasts and calves of legs.
1. Beccari, Dr. O., NELLE FORESTE DI BORNEO (1902).
2. Bock, Carl, THE HEAD-HUNTERS OF BORNEO (1882).
3. Furness, W. H., THE HOME LIFE OF BORNEO HEAD-HUNTERS (1902).
4. Haddon, E. B., "The Dog-motive in Bornean Art" (JOURN. ANTH. INST.,
5. Hamer, C. den, IETS OVER HET TATOUEEREN OF TOETANG BIJ DE
6. Hein, A. R., DIE BILDENDEN KUNSTE BEI DEN DAYAKS AUF BORNEO (1890).
7. Ling Roth, H., THE NATIVES OF SARAWAK AND BRITISH NORTH BORNEO
(1896), vol. ii.
8. Nieuwenhuis, Dr. A. W., IN CENTRAL BORNEO (1900). vol. i.
9. Nieuwenhuis, Dr. A. W., QUER DURCH BORNEO (1904), vol. i.
10. Schwaner, Dr. C. A. L. M., BORNEO (1853 -- 54); cf. Ling Roth,
vol. ii. pp. cxci to cxcv.
11. Whitehead, J., EXPLORATION OF MOUNT KINA BALU, NORTH BORNEO (1893).
Brief references to tatu will also be found in the writings of Burns,
Brooke Low, MacDougall, De Crespigny, Hatton, St. John, Witti, and
others, but notices of all these will be found in Mr. Ling Roth's
Explanation of Plates.
Fig. 1. -- Kayan dog design (UDOH ASU) for thighs of men. From a
tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1054.104.)
Fig. 2. -- Uma Balubo Kayan dog design. From a tatu-block in the
Sarawak Museum. (No. 1054.90.)
Fig. 3. -- Sea Dayak scorpion design (KELINGAI KALA) for thigh, arm, or
breast of men. From a tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1054.99.)
Fig. 4. -- Kenyah dog design, copied from a Kayan model. From a
tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1054.108.)
Fig. 5. -- Kayan dog design. From a tatu-block in the Sarawak
Museum. (No. 1054.106.)
Fig. 6. -- Kayan dog design. From a tatu-block in the Sarawak
Museum. (No. 1054.88.)
Fig. 7. -- Kayan double dog design for outside of thigh of man. From
a tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1054.31.)
Fig. 8. -- Kayan designs of dog with pups (TUANG NGANAK). A=pup. For
thigh of man. From a tatu-block in Sarawak Museum. (No. 1054.57.)
Fig. 9. -- Kenyah jaws of centipede design (LIPAN KATIP), for
breast or shoulder of man. From a tatu-block in the Sarawak
Museum. (No. 1054.20.)
Fig. 10. -- Kenyah crab design (TOYU). A=mouth (BA), B=claw (KATIP),
C=back (LIKUT), D=tail (IKONG). From a tatu-block in the Sarawak
Museum. (No. 1054.71.)
Fig. 1. -- Sea Dayak modification of the dog design. From a tatu-block
in the Sarawak Museum.(No. 1054.102.)
Fig. 2. -- (No. 1054.101.)
Fig. 3. -- (No. 1054.67.)
Fig. 4. -- (No. 1054.109.)
Fig. 5. -- (No. 1054.70.)
Fig. 6. -- But known as "scorpion" (KALA) pattern.From a tatu-block
in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1054.69.)
Fig. 7. -- Barawan and Kenyah modification of the dog design,
known as "hook" (KOWIT) pattern. From a tatu-block in the Sarawak
Museum. (No. 1054.63.)
Fig. 8. -- (No. 1054.75.)
Fig. 9. -- Kenyah modification of the dog design, but known as the
"prawn" (ORANG) pattern. From
a tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1054.89.)
Fig. 1. -- Kayan three-line pattern (IDA TELO) for back of
thigh of woman of slave class. From a tatu-block in the Sarawak
Museum. (No. 166A Brooke Low Coll.)
Fig. 2. -- Kayan four-line pattern (IDA PAT) for back of thigh of woman
of middle class. From a tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1434.)
Fig. 3. -- Kayan (Rejang R.) three-line pattern (IDA TELO) for back
of thigh of women of upper and middle classes. From a tatu-block in
the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1054.2.)
Fig. 4. -- Kayan (Uma Pliau) design for front and sides of thigh
of high class women. A = TUSHUN TUVA, tuba root; B = JALAUT, fruit
of PLUKENETIA CORNICULATA; D = KOWIT, interlocking hooks. From a
tatu-block in coll. C. Hose.
Fig. 5. -- Kayan design for front of thigh of woman of high class. A
= TUSHUN TUVA; B = DULANG HAROK, bows of a boat; C = ULU TINGGANG,
hornbill's head; D = BELILING BULAN, full moons. From a tatu-block
in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1432.)
Fig. 6. -- Barawan design for the shoulder or breast of men. From
Fig. 7. -- Design of uncertain origin, on the calf of the leg of an
Fig. 1. -- Kayan (Rejang R.) design known as IDA TUANG or IDA LIMA for
back of thigh of women of high rank. Note the hornbill heads at the
top of the design. From a tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 166D
Brooke Low Coll.)
Fig. 2. -- Kayan (Rejang R.) design; compare with Figs. 5 and 11. From
a tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 166C Brooke Low Coll.)
Fig. 3. -- Long Glat hornbill design (after Nieuwenhuis). This is
tatued in rows down the front and sides of the thigh.
Fig. 4. -- Kayan (?) hornbill design, known, however, as the "dog
without a tail" (TUANG BUVONG ASU). From a tatu-block in the Sarawak
Museum. (No. 1054.8.)
Fig. 5. -- Kayan (Rejang R.) tatu design known as "dog without a tail"
(TUANG BUVONG ASU) pattern, for front and sides of thigh of women
of high rank. From a tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 166G,
Brooke Low Coll.)
Fig. 6. -- Kayan three-line and four-line design (IDA TELO and IDA
PAT) for back of thigh of women of low class. From a tatu-block in
the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1435.)
Fig. 7. -- Uma Lekan Kayan anthropomorphic design (SILONG), tatued
in rows down front and sides of thigh.
Fig. 8. -- Kayan bead (LUKUT) design, tatued on the wrist of men.
Fig. 9. -- ,, ,, ,,
Fig. 10. -- ,, ,, ,, From a tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No.
Fig. 11. -- Portion of Uma Lekan Kayan design for back of thigh of
women of high rank (after Nieuwenhuis).
Fig. 1. -- Tatu design on the forearm of an Uma Lekan Kayan woman
of high rank. From a rubbing of a carved wooden model in the Sarawak
Museum. (No. 1398.)
Fig. 2. -- Tatu design on the thigh of an Uma Lekan Kayan woman of
high rank. From a rubbing of a carved wooden model in the Sarawak
Museum. (No. 1398.)
Fig. 3. -- Tatu design on the forearm of an Uma Phan Kayan woman
of high rank. A = BELILING BULAN, full moons; B = DULANG HAROK,
bows of a boat; C = KAWIT, hooks; D = DAUN WI, leaves of rattan; E =
TUSHUN TUVA, bundles of tuba root. From a carved wooden model in the
Sarawak Museum. (No. 1431.)
Fig. 4. -- Kenyah design, representing the open fruit of a species
of mango (IPA OLIM), tatued on breasts or shoulders of men. From a
tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1054.14.)
Fig. 5. -- Kayan (Baloi R.) KALANG KOWIT or hook design for back
of thigh of woman of high rank. From a tatu-block in the Sarawak
Museum. (No. 1054.54.)
Fig. 1. -- Design on the hand of a Skapan chief tatued in the Kayan
manner. From a drawing.
Fig. 2. -- Design on the arm of a Peng man. From a drawing by
Dr. H. Hiller of Philadelphia.
Fig. 3. -- Design on the arm of a Kabayan man. From a drawing by
Dr. H. Hiller of Philadelphia.
Fig. 4. -- Design on the forearm of a Lepu Lutong woman. From
Fig. 5. -- Design on the forearm of a Long Utan woman. From a rubbing
of a carved model in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1430.)
Fig. 6. -- Design on the thigh of a Long Utan woman. From a rubbing
of a carved model in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1426.)
Fig. 7. -- Kenyah design, representing the DURIAN fruit (USONG DIAN),
tatued on the breasts or shoulders of men. From a tatu-block in the
Sarawak Museum. (No. 1054.17.)
Fig. 1. -- Tatu design on the forearm of a Kalabit woman. From
Fig. 2. -- Tatu design on front of leg of a Kalabit woman. C = BETIK
LULUD, shin pattern. From a photograph.
Fig. 3. -- Tatu design on back of leg of a Kalabit woman. A = BETIK
BUAH, fruit pattern; B = BETIK LAWA, trunk pattern. From a drawing.
Fig. 4. -- Tatu design on front of leg of the same Kalabit woman. D =
BETIK KARAWIN; E = UJAT BATU, hill-tops. From a drawing.
Fig. 5. -- Tatu design on the forearm of an Uma Long woman. From
Fig. 6. -- Tatu design on arms and torso of a Biajau man of low
class. From a drawing by a Maloh.
Fig. 7. -- Tatu design on leg of Biajau man of low class. From a
drawing by a Maloh.
Fig. 8. -- Tatu design on shin of Biajau woman of low class. From a
drawing by a Maloh.
Fig. 9. -- Kajaman design representing the fruit of PLUKENETIA
CORNICULATA (JALAUT), tatued on the breasts or shoulders of men. From
a tatu-block in the Sarawak Museum. (No. 1054.21.)
Fig. 10. -- Tatu design on the biceps of an Ukit man, said to represent
a bead (LUKUT). From a drawing.
Fig. 1. -- Design (GEROWIT, hooks) tatued on the breast of a Bakatan
man. From a tatu-block in the collection of H.H. the Rajah of Sarawak.
Fig. 2. -- ,,
Fig. 3. -- Design (AKIH, tree gecko) tatued on the shoulder of a
Bakatan man. From a drawing.
Fig. 4. -- ,,
Fig. 5. -- Design tatued on the calf of the leg of an Ukit. From
Fig. 6. -- Tatu design on the foot of a Kayan woman of low class. From
Fig. 7. -- Design representing an antique bead (LUKUT), tatued on
the wrist of a Bakatan girl. From a drawing.
Fig. 8. -- Design (GEROWIT) tatued on the metacarpals of a Bakatan
girl. From a drawing.
Fig. 9. -- Design (KANAK, circles) on the back of a Bakatan man. From
Fig. 10. -- Design (GEROWIT) tatued on the throat of a Bakatan
man. From a photograph.
Ideas of Spiritual Existences and the Practices Arising From Them
The Kayans believe themselves to be surrounded by many intelligent
powers capable of influencing their welfare for good or ill. Some of
these are embodied in animals or plants, or are closely connected with
other natural objects, such as mountains, rocks, rivers, caves; or
manifest themselves in such processes as thunder, storm, and disease,
the growth of the crops and disasters of various kinds. There can be
no doubt that some of these powers are conceived anthropomorphically;
for some of them are addressed by human titles, are represented by
carvings in human form, and enjoy, in the opinion of the Kayans,
most of the characteristically human attributes.
Others are conceived more vaguely, the bodily and mental characters
of man are attributed to them less fully and definitely; and it is
probably true to say that these powers, all of which, it would seem,
must be admitted to be spiritual powers (if the word spiritual is
used in a wide sense as denoting whatever power is fashioned in the
likeness of human will and feeling and intelligence), range from the
anthropomorphic being to the power which resides in the seed grain and
manifests itself in its growth and multiplication, and which seems to
be conceived merely as a vital principle, virtue, or energy inherent
in the grain, rather than as an intelligent and separable soul.
It has been said of some peoples of lowly culture that they have no
conception of merely mechanical causation, and that every material
object is regarded by them as animated in the same sense as among
ourselves common opinion regards the higher animals as animated. On
the difficult question whether such a statement is true of any people
we will not presume to offer an opinion; but we do not think that it
could be truthfully made about any of the peoples of Borneo. It would
be absurd to deny all recognition or knowledge of mechanical causation
to people who show so much ingenuity in the construction of houses,
boats, weapons, and a great variety of mechanical devices, such as
traps, and in other operations involving the intelligent application
of mechanical principles. These operations show that, though they
may be incapable of describing in abstract and general terms the
principles involved, they nevertheless have a nice appreciation of
them. If a trap fails to work owing to its faulty construction, the
trapper treats it purely as a mechanical contrivance and proceeds
to discover and rectify the faulty part. It is true that in this
and numberless similar situations a man's movements may be guided by
his observation of omens; but if, after obtaining good omens, he has
success in trapping, he does not attribute the successful operation of
the trap to any, activity other than its purely mechanical movements;
though it may be, and probably in some such cases is, true that the
Kayan believes the omen bird to have somehow intervened to direct
the animal towards the trap, or to prevent the animal being warned
against it. The Kayan hangs upon the tomb the garments and weapons
and other material possessions of the dead man; and it would seem
that he believes that some shadowy duplicate of each such object is
thereby placed at the service of the ghost of the dead man. This, it
might be argued, shows that he attributes to each such inert material
object a soul, whose relation to the object is analogous to that of the
human soul to the body. But such an inference, we think, would not be
justified. As with the Homeric Greeks, the principle of intelligence
and life is not to be altogether identified with the ghost, or shade,
or shadowy duplicate of the human form that is conceived to travel to
the Kayan Hades. The soul seems to be rather an inextended invisible
principle; for, as the procedure of the soul-catcher shows, it
is regarded as capable of being contained within, or attached to,
almost any small object, living or inert. It would seem, then, that
after death the visible ghost or shade of a man incorporates and is
animated by the soul; and that the visible shade of inert objects is,
like themselves, inert and inanimate.
There is, then, no good reason to suppose that the Kayans attribute
life, soul, or animation to inert material objects; and they do not
explain the majority of physical events animistically.
The spiritual powers or spirits may, we think be conveniently regarded
as of three principal classes: --
(1) There are the anthropomorphic spirits thought of as dwelling in
remote and vaguely conceived regions and as very powerful to intervene
in human life. Towards these the attitude of the Kayans is one of
supplication and awe, gratitude and hope, an attitude which is properly
called reverential and is the specifically religious attitude. These
spirits must be admitted to be gods in a very full sense of the word,
and the practices, doctrines, and emotions centred about these spirits
must be regarded as constituting a system of religion.
(2) A second class consists of the spirits of living and deceased
persons, and of other anthropomorphically conceived spirits which,
as regards the nature and extent of their powers, are more nearly on
a level with the human spirits than those of the first class. Such
are those embodied in the omen animals and in the domestic pig, fowl,
dog, in the crocodile, and possibly in the tiger-cat and a few other
(3) The third class is more heterogeneous, and comprises all the
spirits or impalpable intelligent powers that do not fall into one or
other of the two preceding classes; such are the spirits very vaguely
conceived as always at hand, some malevolent, some good; such also
are the spirits which somehow are attached to the heads hung up in
the houses. The dominant emotion in the presence of these is fear;
and the attitude is that of avoidance and propitiation.
The Kayans recognise a number of gods that preside over great
departments of their lives and interests. The more important of
these are the god of war, TOH BULU; three gods of life, LAKI JU URIP,
LAKI MAKATAN URIP, and LAKI KALISAI URIP, of whom the first is the
most important; the god of thunder and storms, LAKI BALARI and his
wife OBENG DOH; the god of fire, LAKI PESONG; gods of the harvest,
ANYI LAWANG and LAKI IVONG; a god of the lakes and rivers, URAI UKA;
BALANAN, the god of madness; TOH KIHO, the god of fear; LAKI KATIRA
MUREI and LAKI JUP URIP, who conduct the souls of the dead to Hades.
Beside or above all these is LAKI TENANGAN, a god more powerful
than all the rest, to whom are assigned no special or departmental
functions. He seems to preside or rule over the company of lesser
gods, much as Zeus and Jupiter ruled over the lesser gods of the
ancient Greeks and Romans.
The Kayans seem to have no very clear and generally accepted dogmas
about these gods. Some assert that they dwell in the skies, but
others regard them as dwelling below the surface of the earth. The
former opinion is in harmony with the practice of erecting a tree
before the house with its branches buried in the ground and the root
upturned when prayers are made on behalf of the whole house; for the
tree seems to be regarded as in some sense forming a ladder or path of
communication with the superior powers. The same opinion seems to be
expressed in the importance attached to fire and smoke in prayer and
ritual. Fire, if only in the form of a lighted cigarette, is always
made when prayers are offered; it seems to be felt that the ascending
smoke facilitates in some way the communication with the gods.
While some gods, those of war and life, of harvest and of fire, are
distinctly friendly, others, namely, the gods of madness and fear,
are terrible and malevolent; while the god of thunder and those that
conduct the souls to Hades do not seem to be predominantly beneficent
LAKI TENANGAN seems to be the supreme being of the Kayan universe. He
is conceived as beneficent and, as his title LAKI implies, as a
fatherly god who protects mankind. He is not a strictly tribal god, for
the Kayan admits his identity with PA SILONG, and with BALI PENYLONG,
the supreme gods of the Klemantans and Kenyahs respectively. In this,
we think, the Kayan religion shows a catholicity which gives it a
claim to rank very high among all religious systems.
LAKI TENANGAN has a wife, DOH TENANGAN, who, though of less importance
than himself, is specially addressed by the women. The god is addressed
by name in terms of praise and supplication; the prayers seem to be
transmitted to him by means of the souls of domestic pigs or fowls;
for one of these is always killed and charged to carry the prayer
to the god. At the same time a fire is invariably at hand and plays
some part in the rite; the ascending smoke seems to play some part
in the establishment of communication with the god. As an example
of a prayer we give the following. The supplicant, having killed a
pig and called the messengers of the god, cries, "Make my child live
that I may bring him up with me in my occupations. You are above all
men. Protect us from whatever sickness is abroad. If I put you above
my head, all men look up to me as to a high cliff."
Similar rites are observed on addressing DOH TENANGAN. The following
was given us as an example, "Oh! DOH TENANGAN, have pity upon me;
I am ill -- make me strong to-morrow and able to find my food."
The Kayans are not clear whether Laki Tenangan is the creator of the
world. He does not figure in the Kayan creation myth. There seems
to be no doubt about his supremacy over the other gods; these are
sometimes asked by Kayans to intercede with him on their behalf.
As regards the minor departmental gods, it is difficult to draw the
line between them and the spirits of the third class distinguished
above. All of them are approached at times with prayers and with
rites similar to those used in addressing LAKI TENANGAN. Several
wooden posts, very roughly carved to indicate the head and, limbs
of a human form, stand before every Kayan house. When the gods are
addressed on behalf of the whole household, as before or after an
important expedition, the ceremony usually takes place before one
of these rudely carved posts. But the post cannot be called an
idol. It is more of the nature of an altar. No importance attaches
to the mere posts, which are often allowed to fall away and decay and
are renewed as required. A similar post may be hastily fashioned and
set up on the bank of the river, if a party at a distance from home
has special occasion for supplication.
An altar of a rather different kind is also used in communicating
with the gods. It seems to be used especially in returning thanks for
recovery of health after severe illness. It consists of a bamboo some
four or five feet in length fixed upright in the ground. The upper
end is split by two cuts at right angles to one another, and a fresh
fowl's egg is inserted between the split ends (Pl. 145). Leaves of
the LONG, (a species of CALADIUM), a plant grown on the PADI field
for this purpose, are hung upon the post. These leaves serve merely
to signalise the fact that some rite is going forward; they are also
hung, together with a large sun hat, upon the door of any room in
which a person lies seriously ill, to make it known as LALI or tabu;
and in general they seem to be used to mark a spot as pervaded by
some spiritual influence, or, in short, as "unclean." The bodies
of fowls and pigs sacrificed in the course of the rites performed
before such an altar-post are generally hung upon sharpened stakes
driven into the ground before it, I.E. between it and the house,
towards which the post, in the case of posts of the former kind,
invariably faces; and the frayed sticks commonly used in such rites
are hung upon the altar-post. Such posts are sometimes fenced in,
but this is by no means always the case (Pl. 144).
The Kayans seek to read in the behaviour of the omen birds and in the
entrails of the slaughtered pigs and fowls indications of the way in
which the gods responds to their prayers. For they regard the true omen
birds as the trusty messengers of the gods. After slaughtering the pigs
or fowls to whose charge they have committed their petitions, they
examine their entrails in the hope of discovering the answer of the
gods; and at the same time they tell off two or three men to look for
omens from the birds of the jungle. If the omens first obtained are
bad, more fowls and pigs are usually killed and omens again observed;
and in an important matter, E.G. the illness of a beloved child,
the process may be repeated many times until satisfactory omens are
forthcoming. Whatever may have been the origin and history of such
rites, it seems to be quite clear that the slaughtering of these
animals is regarded as an act of sacrifice in the ordinary sense
of the word, I.E. as an offering or gift of some valued possession
to the spiritual powers; for, although on some occasions a pig so
slaughtered is eaten, those stuck upon stakes before the altar-post
are left to rot; and the idea of sacrificing, or depriving oneself of,
a valued piece of property is clearly expressed on such occasions in
other ways; E.G. a woman will break a bead of great value when her
prayers for the restoration to health of a child remain unanswered,
or on such an occasion a woman may cut off her hair.
The custom of approaching and communicating with the gods through the
medium of the omen birds, seems to be responsible in large measure
for the fact that the gods themselves are but dimly conceived,
and are not felt to be in intimate and sympathetic relations with
their worshippers. The omen birds seem to form not only a medium of
communication, but also, as it were, a screen which obscures for the
people the vision of their gods. As in many analogous instances,
the intercessors and messengers to whose care the messages are
committed assume in the eyes of the people an undue importance;
the god behind the omen bird is apt to be almost lost sight of,
and the bird itself tends to become an object of reverence, and to
be regarded as the recipient of the prayer and the dispenser of the
benefits which properly he only foretells or announces.
We have little information bearing upon the origin and history of
these Kayan gods. But a few remarks may be ventured. The names of
many of the minor deities are proper personal names in common use
among the Kayans or allied tribes, such as JU, BALARI, ANYI, IVONG,
URAI, UKA; and the title LAKI, by which several of them are addressed,
is the title of respect given to old men who are grandfathers. These
facts suggest that these minor gods may be deified ancestors of great
chiefs, and this suggestion is supported by the following facts: --
First, a recently deceased chief of exceptional capacity and influence
becomes not infrequently the object of a certain cult among Klemantans
and Sea Dayaks. Men will go to sleep beside his grave or tomb, hoping
for good dreams and invoking the aid of the dead chief in acquiring
health, or wealth, or whatever a man most desires. Sea Dayaks sometimes
fix a tube of bamboo leading from just above the eyes of the corpse
to the surface of the ground; they will address the dead man with
their lips to the orifice of the tube, and will drop into it food
and drink and silver coins. A hero who is made the object of such a
cult is usually buried in an isolated spot on the crest of a hill;
and such a grave is known as RARONG.
Secondly, all Kayans, men and women alike, invoke in their prayers the
aid of ODING, LAHANGand his intercession with LAKI TENANGAN. That they
regard the former as having lived as a great chief is clearly proved
by the following facts: firstly, many Kayans of the upper class claim
to, be his lineal descendants; secondly, a well-known myth, of
which several variants are current, describes his miraculous advent
to the world; thirdly, he is regarded by Kayans, Kenyahs, and many
Klemantans as the founder of their race.
The Kenyahs also invoke in their prayers several spirits who seem,
like ODIN LAHANG, to be regarded as deceased members of their tribe;
such are TOKONG and UTONG, and PA BALAN and PLIBAN. From all these
descent is claimed by various Kenyah and Klemantan sub-tribes; and
that they are regarded as standing higher in the spiritual hierarchy
than recently deceased chiefs, is shown by the prefix BALI,
commonly given to their names, whereas this title or designation is
not given to recently deceased chiefs; to their names the word URIP
is prefixed by both Kayans and Kenyahs. The word URIP, means life or
living; the exact meaning of this prefix in this usage is obscure,
possibly it expresses the recognition that the men spoken of are,
though dead, still in some sense alive.
A further link in this chain of evidence is afforded by the Kenyah
god of thunder, BALINGO. This spirit, it would seem, must be classed
among the departmental deities, being strictly the Kenyah equivalent
of LAKI BALARI of the Kayans; and all the Kenyahs and many Klemantans
seem to claim some special relation to BALINGO, while one Madang
(Kenyah) chief at least claims direct descent from him.
The last mentioned instance completes the series of cases forming a
transition from the well remembered dead chief to the departmental
deity, the existence of which series lends colour to the view that
these minor gods have been evolved from deceased chiefs. The weakness
of this evidence consists in the fact that the series of cases
is drawn from a number of tribes, and is not, so far as we know,
completely illustrated by the customs or beliefs of any one tribe.
There is, then, some small amount of evidence indicating that the minor
gods are deified ancestors, whose kinship with their worshippers has
been forgotten completely in some cases, less completely in others. If
this supposition could be shown to be true, it would afford a strong
presumption in favour of the view that LAKI TENANGAN also has had
a similar history, and that he is but PRIMUS INTER PARES. For among
the Kayans, as we have seen, a large village acknowledges a supreme
chief as well as the chiefs of the several houses of the village;
and in the operations of war on a large scale, a supreme war chief
presides over a council of lesser chiefs. And it is to be expected
that the social system of the superior powers should be modelled upon
that of the people who acknowledge them.
On the other hand, none of the facts, noted in connection with
the minor gods as indicating their ancestral origin, are found to
be true of LAKI TENANGAN, except only his bearing the title LAKI,
which, as we have seen, is the title by which a man is addressed as
soon as he becomes a grandfather. The name TENANGAN is not a proper
name borne by any Kayans, nor, so far as we know, does it occur
amongst the other peoples. LAKI in Malay means a male. The name is
possibly connected with the Kayan word TENANG which means correct,
or genuine. The termination AN is used in several instances in Malay
(though not in Kayan) to make a substantive of an adjective. The name
then possibly means -- he who is correct or all-knowing; but this is
a very speculative suggestion.
It is possible that the Kayans owe their conception of a supreme
god to their contact. with the Mohammedans. But this is rendered
very improbable by the facts: firstly, that the Kayans have had
such intercourse during but a short period in Borneo, probably not
more than 300 years, (though they may have had such intercourse at
an earlier period before entering Borneo); secondly, that among the
Sea Dayaks, who have had for at least 150 years much more abundant
intercourse with the Mohammedans of Borneo than the Kayans have had,
the conception has not taken root and has not been assimilated.
The Kenyah gods and the beliefs and practices centering about them
are very similar to those of the Kayans. This people also recognises
a principal god or Supreme Being, whose name is BALI PENYLONG, and a
number of minor deities presiding over special departments of nature
and human life. The Kenyahs recognise the following minor deities:
BALI ATAP protects the house against sickness and attack, and is
called upon in cases of madness to expel the evil spirit possessing
the patient. A rude wooden image of him stands beside the gangway
leading to the house from the river's brink; it holds a spear in
the right hand, a shield in the left; it carries about its neck a
fringed collar made up of knotted strips of rattan; the head of each
room ties on one such strip, making on it a knot for each member of
his roomhold. Generally a wooden image of a hawk, BALI FLAKI, stands
beside it on the top of a tall pole.
The Kenyahs carve such images more elaborately than the Kayans, who
are often content merely to indicate the eyes, mouth, and four limbs,
by slashing away with the sword chips of wood from the surface of the
log, leaving gashes at the points roughly corresponding in position
to these organs. The Kenyahs treat these rude images with rather more
care than do the Kayans; and they associate them more strictly with
particular deities. The children of the house are not allowed to
touch such an image, after it has been once used as an altar post;
it is only when it is so used, and blood of fowls or pigs sprinkled
upon it, that it seems to acquire its uncleanness."
BALI UTONG brings prosperity to the house. BALI URIP is the god of
life; he too has a carved altarpost, generally crowned with a brass
gong. BALINGO is the god of thunder.
BALI SUNGEI is the name given to a being which perhaps cannot
properly be called a god. He is thought of as embodied in a huge
serpent or dragon living at the bottom of the river; he is supposed
to cause the violent swirls and uprushes of water that appear on the
surface in times of flood. He is regarded with fear; and is held to be
responsible for the upsetting of boats and drownings in the river. It
is not clear that he is the spirit of the river itself; for floods and
the various changes of the river do not seem to be attributed to him.
BALI PENYALONG, like Laki Tenangen, has a wife BUNGAN. She is not
so distinctly the special deity of the women folk as is DOH TENANGAN
among the Kayans.
A special position in the Kenyah system is occupied by BALI FLAKI,
the carrion hawk, which is the principal omen bird observed during
the preparation for and conduct of war. Something will be said of
the cult of BALI FLAKI in a later chapter; but we would note here
that this bird is peculiar among the many omen-birds of the Kenyahs,
in that an altar-post before the house is assigned to him, or at
least one of the posts rudely carved to suggest the human figure is
specially associated with BALI FLAKI, and in some cases is surmounted
by a wooden image of the hawk. It seems to us probable that in this
case the Kenyahs have carried further the tendency we noted in the
Kayans to allow the omen birds to figure so prominently in their
rites and prayers as to obscure the gods whose messengers they are;
and that BALI FLAKI has in this way driven into the background, and
more or less completely taken the place of, a god of war whose name
even has been forgotten by many of the Kenyahs, if not by all of them.
Peculiar adjuncts of the altar-posts of the Kenyahs are the DRACAENA
plant (whose deep red leaves are generally to be seen growing in a
clump not far from them) and a number of large spherical stones,
BATU TULOI. These are perpetual possessions of the house. Their
history is unknown; they are supposed to grow gradually larger and to
move spontaneously when danger threatens the house. When a household
removes and builds for itself a new home, these stones are carried
with some ceremony to the new site (Pl. 144).
We reproduce here a passage from a paper published by us some ten
years ago in which we ventured to speculate on the development
of the Kenyah belief in a Supreme Being.
We cannot conclude without saying something as to, the possible
origin of their conception of a beneficent Being more powerful
than all others, who sends guidance and warnings by the omen birds,
and receives and answers the prayers carried to him by the souls of
the fowls and pigs. It might be thought that this conception of a
beneficent Supreme Being has been borrowed directly or indirectly
from the Malays. But we do not think that this view is tenable
in face of the fact that, while the conception is a living belief
among the Madangs, a Kenyah tribe that inhabits a district in the
remotest interior and has had no intercourse with Malays, the Ibans,
who have had far more intercourse with the Malays than have the Kayans
and Kenyahs, yet show least trace of this conception. As Archdeacon
Perham has written of the Ibans, there are traces of the belief in
one supreme God which suggest that the idea is one that has been
prevalent, but has now almost died out. We are inclined to suppose
that the tribes of the interior, such as the Kenyahs and Kayans, have
evolved the conception for themselves, and that in fact Bali Penyalong
of the Kenyahs is their god of war exalted above all others by the
importance of the department of human activity over which he presides;
for we have seen that they had been led to conceive other gods --
Balingo, the god of thunder, Bali Sungei, the god of the rivers,
whose anger is shown by the boiling flood, and Bali Atap, who keeps
harm from the house, while the Kayans have gods of life, a god of
harvesting, and other departmental deities. It seems to us that the
only difficult step in such a simple and direct evolution of the idea
of a beneficent Supreme Being is the conception of gods or spirits that
perform definite functions, such as Bali Atap, who guards the house,
and the gods that preside over harvesting and war, as distinct from
such gods or nature-spirits as Balingo and Bali Sungei. But there
seems to be no doubt that this step has been taken by these peoples,
and that these various gods of abstract function have been evolved by
them. And it seems to us that, were a god of war once conceived, it
would be inevitable that, among communities whose chief interest is war
and whose prosperity and very existence depend upon success in battle,
such a god of battles should come to predominate over all others,
and to claim the almost exclusive regard of his worshippers. Such a
predominance would be given the more easily to one god by these people,
because the necessity for strict subordination to their chiefs has
familiarised them with the principles of obedience of subjects to
a single ruler and of subordination of minor chiefs to a principal
chief; while the beneficence of the Supreme Being thus evolved would
inevitably result; for the god of battles must seem beneficent to
the victors, and among these people only the victors survive. Again,
this conception is one that undoubtedly makes for righteousness,
because it reflects the character of the people who, within the
community and the tribe, are decent, humane, and honest folk.
We are conscious of presumption in venturing to adopt the view that
the conception of a beneficent Supreme Being may possibly be neither
the end nor the beginning of religion, neither the final result of
an evolution, euhemeristic, totemistic, or other, prolonged through
countless ages and generations, nor part of the stock-in-trade of
primitive man mysteriously acquired. Yet we are disposed to regard
this conception as one that, amid the perpetual flux of opinion and
belief which obtains among peoples destitute of written records,
may be comparatively rapidly and easily arrived at under favourable
conditions (such as seem to be afforded by tribes like the Kenyahs
and Kayans, warlike prosperous tribes subordinated to strong chiefs),
and may as rapidly fall into neglect with change of social conditions;
and we suggest that it may then remain as a vestige in the minds of a
few individuals only to be discerned by curious research, as among the
Ibans or the Australian blacks, until another turn of Fortune's wheel,
perhaps the birth of some overmastering personality or a revival of
national or tribal vigour, gives it a new period of life and power.
We still regard as highly plausible the view suggested in this
passage. We would add to what we have written only a few words in
explanation of what may seem to be a difficulty in the way of this
view. It was mentioned above that the Kayans recognise a god of war,
TOH BULU. This fact may seem incompatible with the view that the idea
of LAKI TENANGAN has been reached by exalting the god of war above
his fellow-departmental deities; but it is not, we think, a fatal
objection. For TOH BULU seems to be a god of but small account with
the Kayans; his name figures but little in their rites; and the name
itself indicates his subordinate position; for TOH is, as we have
seen, the generic name for spirits of minor importance, and BULU is
the Kayan word for feather; TOH BULU, literally translated, is then
the feather-spirit or spirit of the feathers. It seems possible,
therefore, that TOH BULU was nothing more than the spirit concerned
with the hornbill's feathers, which are the emblems or badges of
acknowledged prowess in battle; and that with the exaltation of the
original god of war above his fellows, this minor spirit concerned
in warfare has acquired a larger sphere and importance.
With the Kenyahs similar processes, we suggest, have led to
the exaltation of BALI PENYALONG, the original god of war, into
the position of the Supreme Being, and of BALI FLAKI, his special
messenger, into the position, or almost into the position, of the god
of war. This view derives, we think, considerable support from the
fact that the Kenyahs recognise no special god of war; and in view of
their tendency to create deities to preside over each of the great
departments of nature and of human activity, the absence from their
system of a special god of war requires some special explanation such
as we have offered above.
The Klemantan gods are more numerous and more vaguely conceived,
and the whole system seems more confused than that of the Kayans or
Kenyahs. It is probable that the Klemantan tribes have borrowed freely
from these more powerful neighbours. Many of them are very skilful in
wood-carving, and it is probably largely owing to this circumstance
that they make a larger number of images in human form. Some of these
are kept in the house, while others stand before the house like those
before the Kayan houses. The former are generally more highly regarded,
and it is before them that their rites are generally performed. It
seems not improbable that these stand for the gods proper to these
people, and those outside the house for the borrowed gods.
The supernatural beliefs and cults of the Sea Dayaks differ so widely
from those described above that we think it best to bring together
in one place (vol. ii., p. 85) what we have to say about them.
The Lesser Spirits of Ill-defined Nature
In the second of the three classes of spiritual beings distinguished
above (vol. ii., p. 4) we put the souls of men and of some of the
animals. Some account of beliefs connected with these will be given
in the following two chapters. We conclude this chapter by describing
the spirits of the third class, spirits or intelligent powers vaguely
conceived, of minor importance, but imperfectly individualised and not
regularly envisaged in any visible forms or embodied in any material
objects. The generic Kayan name for spirits of this class is TOH. All
the spirits of this class seem to be objects of fear, to be malevolent,
or, at least, easily offended and capable of bringing misfortunes of
all kinds upon human beings.
The most important of these TOH are perhaps those associated with the
dried human heads that hang in every house. It seems that these spirits
are not supposed to be those of the persons from whose shoulders
the heads have been taken. Yet they seem to be resident in or about
the heads, though not inseparable from them. They are said to cause
the teeth of the heads to be ground together if they are offended or
dissatisfied, as by neglect of the attentions customarily paid to the
heads or by other infringement of custom. The heads are thus supposed
to be animated by the TOH; if a head falls, through the breaking of
the rattan by which it is suspended, it is said to have thrown itself
down, being dissatisfied owing to insufficient attention having been
paid to it. This animation of the heads by the TOH is illustrated by
the treatment accorded by the people to the heads from the time they
are brought into the house. Having been dried and smoked in a small
hut made for the purpose, they are brought up to the house with loud
rejoicings and singing of the war chorus. For this ceremony all members
of the village are summoned from the fields and the jungle, and,
when all are assembled in the houses, every one puts off the mourning
garments which have been worn by all since the death of the chief for
whose funeral rites the heads have been sought. Everyone having donned
the ordinary attire, the men carry the heads in procession adorned
with DAUN SILAT, the dried and frayed leaves of a palm, before one
of the altar posts that stand between the house and the river. There
fowls and pigs are sacrificed in the usual way, and their blood is
scattered upon the assembled men with a wisp of shredded palmleaves.
Then the procession carries the heads into the house and up and down
the gallery. The men dressed in their war coats, carrying shields and
swords, drawn up in a long line, sing the war chorus, and go through
a peculiar evolution, known as SEGA LUPAR. Each man keeps turning to
face his neighbours, first on one side, then on the other, with regular
steps in time with all the rest. This seems to symbolise the alertness
of the warriors on the war-path, looking in every direction. The
heads, which have been carried by old men, are then hung up over
the principal hearth on the beam on which the old heads are hanging;
they are suspended by means of a rattan, of which one end is knotted
and the other passed upward through the FORAMEN MAGNUM and a hole cut
in the top of the skull. After this the men sit down to drink, and
the chief describes the taking of the heads, eulogising the warrior
who drew first blood in each case, and who is credited with the glory
of the taking of the head. Then follows a big feast, in every room a
pig or fowl being killed and eaten; after which more BORAK is drunk,
the war chorus breaking out spontaneously at brief intervals. BORAK is
offered to the heads by pouring it into small bamboo cups suspended
beside them; and a bit of fat pork will be pushed into the mouth of
each. The heads, or rather the TOH associated with them, are supposed
to drink and eat these offerings. The fact that the bits of pork remain
unconsumed does not seem to raise any difficulty in the minds of the
Kayans; they seem to believe that the essence of the food is consumed.
At all times the heads hanging in the house are treated respectfully
and somewhat fearfully. When it is necessary to handle them, some old
man undertakes the task, and children especially are prevented from
touching them; for it is felt that to touch them involves the risk
of madness, brought on by the offended TOH or spirits of the heads.
The fire beneath the heads is always kept alight in order that they
shall be warm, and dry, and comfortable. On certain special occasions
they are offered BORAK and pork in the way mentioned above.
On moving to a new house the heads are temporarily lodged in a small
shelter built for the purpose, and are brought up into the house with
a ceremony like that which celebrates their first installation. The
Kayans do not care to have in the house more than twenty or thirty
heads, and are at some pains occasionally to get rid of some
superfluous heads -- a fact which shows clearly that the heads are
not mere trophies of valour and success in war. The moving to a new
house is the occasion chosen for reducing the number of heads. Those
destined to be left are hung in a hut built at some distance from
the house which is about to be deserted. A good fire is made in it
and kept up during the demolition of the great house, and when the
people depart they make up in the little head-house a fire designed
to last several days. It is supposed that, when the fire goes out,
the TOH of the heads notice the fact, and begin to suspect that they
are deserted by the people; when the rain begins to come in through
the roof their suspicions are confirmed, and the TOH set out to pursue
their deserters, but owing to the lapse of time and weather are unable
to track them. The people believe that in this way they escape the
madness which the anger of the deserted TOH would bring upon them.
The precautions described in the foregoing paragraph illustrate very
well the power for harm attributed to the TOH of the heads and the
fear with which they are regarded. Nevertheless these beings are not
wholly malevolent. it is held that in some way their presence in the
house brings prosperity to it, especially in the form of good crops;
and so essential to the welfare of the house are the heads held to be
that, if through fire a house has lost its heads and has no occasion
for war, the people will beg a head, or even a fragment of one,
from some friendly house, and will instal it in their own with the
The TOH of the heads are but a few among many that are conceived
as surrounding the houses and infesting the tombs, the rivers, the
forests, the mountains, the caves, and, by those who live near the
coast, the sea; in fact every locality has its TOH, and, since they
are easily offended and roused to bring harm, the people are careful
to avoid offence and to practise every rite by which it is thought
possible to propitiate them. Death and sickness, especially madness,
accidental bodily injuries, failure of crops, in fact almost any
trouble may be ascribed to the malevolent action of Toh. Examples of
the way conduct is influenced by this belief are the following: --
In clearing a patch of jungle in preparation for sowing PADI, it is
usual to leave a few trees standing on some high point of the ground
in order not to offend the TOH of the locality by depriving them
of all the trees, which they are vaguely supposed to make use of as
resting-places. Such trees are sometimes stripped of all their branches
save a few at the top; and sometimes a pole is lashed across the stem
at a height from the ground and bunches of palm leaves hung upon it;
a "bull-roarer," which is used by boys as a toy, is sometimes hung
upon such a cross-piece to dangle and flicker in the breeze.
Again, young children are held to be peculiarly subject to the
malevolent influence of the TOH. We have already mentioned that no
name is given to a child until it is two or three years of age, in
order to avoid attracting to it the attention of the TOH. For the same
reason the parents dislike any prominent person to touch an infant;
and if for any reason such contact has taken place, it is usual to
give the mother a few beads, which she ties about the wrist or ankle
of the child, "to preserve its homely smell" as they say, and so, it
would seem, avoid the risk of the TOH being attracted by the unusual
odour of the child. Parents who have lost several young children will
give to a child, when the time comes for naming it, some such name as
TAI (dung), or TAI MANOK (birds' dung), or JAAT (bad), in order that
it may have a better chance of escaping the unwelcome attention of
the TOH. If for any reason it is suspected that the attention of some
evil-disposed TOH has been drawn to a child (and the same practice is
sometimes observed by adults under similar circumstances), a sooty mark
is made upon the forehead, consisting of a vertical median line and
a horizontal band just above the eyebrows. This is thought to render
it difficult for the TOH to recognise his victim. Such a black mark is
worn more especially on going away from the house. Sea Dayaks sometimes
go farther under such circumstances. They place the new-born child in
a small boat and allow it to float down river, and standing upon the
bank call upon all the evil spirits to take the child at once, if they
mean to take it, in order that the parents may be spared the greater
bereavement of losing it some years later. If, after floating some
distance down stream, the child is found unhurt, it is carried home,
the parents feeling some confidence that it will be "spared" to grow up
Again, on going to the territory of people who have recently come to
friendly terms with their village, men will make a black mark across
the forehead with soot in order to disguise themselves from the TOH
of this region. In the main, although all regions are infested with
TOH those of the locality in which a man dwells are regarded by him as
less dangerous than those of other parts; for experience has shown him
that in the neighbourhood of his own village he may behave in certain
ways with impunity, whereas in distant regions all is uncertain. It
is for this reason that, when boys enter any river or branch of the
river for the first time, a special rite is performed. An old man
will take them apart from the company to some spot on the bank of
the river, and, calling all the spirits of the place, will ask them
to favour the boys and to give them vigorous life. An egg (which
on this occasion is spoken of only by the name OVE = sweet potato)
is offered to the spirits on behalf of each boy (or sometimes merely
a fowl's feather) by placing it in the split end of a bamboo stick
thrust into the ground. Not until this rite has been performed are
the boys considered to be safe in the strange region.
The more remote and inaccessible the region, the more are the TOH
of it feared; rugged hill tops and especially mountain tops are the
abodes of especially dangerous TOH, and it was only with difficulty
that parties of men could be induced to accompany us to the summits
of any of the mountains.
The influence of the TOH is not always pernicious; certain spots
become credited with the presence of TOH of benign influence. Thus,
tradition relates of a streamlet (Telang Ading) falling over the
rocky bank of the Baram river some little distance below the mouth
of the AKAR, that a wild pig recently killed with spears fell into
it and was allowed to lie there, and that after a little while it
jumped up and made off Through this event the streamlet has acquired a
great reputation, and passing boats generally stop in order that the
crews may splash some of the water on their heads and faces, and so
be cured of any ailments they may happen to have at the time. These
therapeutic effects are attributed to the TOH of the stream.
The TOH play a considerable part in regulating conduct; for they are
the powers that bring misfortunes upon a whole house or village when
any member of it ignores tabus or otherwise breaks customs, without
performing the propitiatory rites demanded by the occasion. Thus on
them, rather than on the gods, are founded the effective sanctions
of prohibitive rules of conduct. For the propitiation of offended
TOH fowls' eggs and the blood of fowls and of young pigs are used,
the explanations and apologies being offered generally by the chief
or some other influential person, while the blood is sprinkled on
the culprit or other source of offence.
The beliefs and practices of the Kenyahs and Klemantans in regard to
spirits of this class are very similar to those of the Kayans. They
designate them by the same general name, TOH.
We are doubtful whether the Sea Dayaks can properly be said to have any
religion. They believe in a number of mythical and legendary heroes in
whose honour they indulge in heavy feasting; but none of these seem
to be credited with the attributes of a god, or to evoke on the part
of the people the specifically religious emotions and attitudes --
awe, reverence, supplication, trust, gratitude, and hope. Their cult
of the PETARA seems to show traces of Javanese and Hindu influence or
origin. They believe in a multitude of ill-defined spirits which they
speak of as ANTU, and towards which their attitude is very similar
to that of the Kayans towards the TOH. Some further account of Iban
superstitions will be found in Chapter XV.
Ideas of the Soul Illustrated by Burial Customs, Soul-Catching,
As among ourselves, several very different systems for the cure of
sickness are practised among the Kayans, and these seem to imply
very different theories of the cause of disease. But the Kayans,
less consistent or more open-minded than ourselves, are not divided
into sects, each following one system of therapeutics, but rather the
various systems are held in honour by all the people, and one or the
other is applied according to the indications of each case. Thus,
bodily injuries received accidentally or in battle are treated
surgically by cupping, splints, bandaging, and so forth. Familiar
disorders, such as malarial fever, are treated medically, I.E. by
rest and drugs. Cases of severe pain of unknown origin are generally
attributed to the malign influence of some TOH, and the method
of treatment is usually that of extraction. Madness also is
generally attributed to possession by some TOH. But in cases of severe
illness of mysterious origin that seems to threaten to end mortally,
the theory generally adopted is that the patient's soul has left
his body, and the treatment indicated is therefore an attempt to
persuade the soul to return. The first two modes of treatment are not
considered to demand the skill of a specialist for their application,
but the third and fourth are undertaken only by those who have special
powers and knowledge.
Among the Kayans the professional soul-catcher, the DAYONG,
is generally a woman who has served a considerable period of
apprenticeship with some older member of the profession, after having
been admonished to take up this calling by some being met with in
dreams -- often a dream experienced during sickness. The DAYONG does
not necessarily confine his or her activities to this one calling;
for in a large village there are usually several DAYONGS, and the
occasions demanding their services recur at considerable intervals of
time. The relatives of the sick man usually prefer to call in a DAYONG
from some other village. The DAYONG is expected to make the diagnosis
and to determine upon the line of treatment to be practised. If
he decides that the soul or BLUA of the patient has left his body,
and has made some part of the journey towards the abode of departed
souls, his task is to fall into a trance and to send his own soul
to overtake that of his patient and to persuade it to return. The
ceremony is usually performed by torch-light in the presence of a
circle of interested relatives and friends, the patient being laid
in the midst in the long public gallery of the house.
The DAYONG struts to and fro chanting a traditional form of words
well known to the people, who join in the chorus at the close of each
phrase, responding with "BALI-DAYONG,"  I.E. "Oh powerful DAYONG;"
the meaning and intention of this chorus seem to be that of the "Amen"
with which a Christian congregation associates itself with the prayer
offered by its pastor. For the chant with which the DAYONG begins his
operations is essentially a prayer for help addressed to LAKI TENANGAN,
or, in case of a woman, to DOH TEMANGAN also.
The DAYONG may or may not fall and lie inert upon the ground in the
course of his trance; but throughout the greater part of the ceremony
he continues to chant with closed eyes, describing with words and
mimic gestures the doings of his own soul as it follows after and
eventually overtakes that of the patient. When this point is reached
his gestures generally express the difficulty and the severity of
the efforts required to induce the soul to return; and the anxious
relatives then usually encourage him by bringing out gongs or other
articles of value, and depositing them as additions to the DAYONG'S
fee. Thus stimulated, he usually succeeds in leading back the soul
towards the patient's body. One feature of the ceremony, not quite
logically consistent with its general scheme, is that the DAYONG takes
in his hand a sword and, glancing at the polished blade with a startled
air, seems to catch in it a glimpse of the wandering soul. The
next step is to restore the soul to the body. The DAYONG comes out
of his trance with the air of one who is suddenly transported from
distant scenes, and usually exhibits in his palm some small living
creature, or it may be merely a grain of rice, a pebble, or bit of
wood, in which the captured soul is in some sense contained. This he
places on the top of the patient's head, and by rubbing causes it to
pass into the head. The soul having been thus restored. to the body,
it is necessary to prevent it escaping again; and this is done by
tying a strip of palm-leaf about the patient's wrist.
A fowl is then killed, or, in very severe cases of sickness, a pig,
and its blood is sprinkled or wiped by means of the sword or knife
upon this confining bracelet. In mild cases the fowl may be merely
waved over the head of the patient without being killed. The DAYONG
then gives directions as to the MALAN (the tabus) to be observed by
the patient, especially in regard to articles of diet, and retires,
leaving his fee to be sent after him.
This ceremony clearly involves a curious confusion of symbolical and
descriptive acts, which are not ordered in strict consistency with any
clearly defined theory of the nature of the soul and of its relations
to the body, or of the exact nature of the task of the soul-catcher.
The catching of souls is practised in very similar fashion among all
the peoples of Borneo, even by the Punans, though the details of the
procedure differ from tribe to tribe.
Mental derangement is commonly attributed to possession by evil TOH,
and exorcism is practised among some of the tribes, but very little
by the Kayans, who generally content themselves with confining any
troublesome madman in a cage.
No doubt the catching of the soul does make strongly for the recovery
of the patient, through inspiring him with hope and confidence. But
it cannot always stave off death. If, in spite of the operations
of one soul-catcher, the patient's strength still sinks, some other
practitioner is usually called in for consultation. In the case of a
chief the help of three or even four may be invoked successively or
together; and the ceremony of catching the soul may be repeated again
and again with greater elaboration of detail, and may be prolonged
through many hours and even days with brief interruptions.
When all these efforts prove unavailing, despairing relatives sometimes
put the end of a blow-pipe to the dying or dead man's ear (or merely
their lips) and shout through it, "Come back, this is your home, here
we have food ready for you." Sometimes the departed soul is believed
to reply, "I am far from home, I am following a TOH and don't know
the way back."
If, in spite of all these efforts, the patient dies, a drum is loudly
beaten (or in case of a female a TAWAK) in order to announce the
decease to relatives and friends gone before, the number of strokes
depending upon the rank and sex of the departing spirit. The corpse
is kept in the house during a period which varies from one night for
people of the lower class, to three nights for middle class folk,
and ten days for a chief. During this time the dead man lies in
state. The corpse has a bead of some value under each eyelid;
it is dressed in his finest clothes and ornaments, and is enclosed
within a coffin hollowed from a single log, the lid of which is sealed
with resin and lashed round with rattans.
The coffin is covered with a particular design in red and black and
white, and is placed in the gallery on a low platform, surrounded by
the most valuable personal property of the dead man, whose family will
take pains to make the display of property as imposing as possible. A
fire is kept burning near the coffin, and small packets of cooked
rice and of tobacco are placed upon it for the use of the dead man's
soul. Hundreds of cigarettes are hung in bundles about the platform
by people of the house, sent by them as tokens of kindly remembrance
to their departed friends, who are believed to be able to recognise
by smell the hands that made each bundle. During the whole period the
dead man is attended continuously by at least two or three mourners,
either relatives or, more rarely, hired mourners, who from time to
time throughout both day and night wail loudly, renewing their wailing
at the arrival of each party of friends or relatives.
These parties come in from neighbouring villages in response to news
of the death sent them by special messengers, and in the case of an
influential chief several thousand men and women sometimes congregate
in this way to do him honour.
Upon the arrival of any person of importance, gongs and drums are
beaten, and the dead man is informed of the fact by the DAYONG or by
a relative. The visitor is led to a scat near the coffin, where he
will sit silently or join in the wailing, until after a few minutes
he enters into conversation with his hosts. When all the expected
guests have arrived, pigs are slaughtered and a feast is made.
While the coffin lies in the house all noises other than the wailing
are avoided in its immediate neighbourhood, and the children, dogs,
and fowls are kept away from it. The DAYONG will sit beside the
coffin occasionally brandishing a sword above it in order to keep
in check the TOH who, attracted to the neighbourhood of the corpse,
might grow too bold.
On the day appointed for the removal of the corpse it is the duty
of the DAYONG to instruct the dead man's soul how to find his way to
the other world; this he does, sitting beside the coffin and chanting
aloud in doleful tones. For (curiously enough in view of the theory
implied by the soul-catching ceremony) the man's soul is regarded as
remaining in, or in the proximity of, the body so long as it remains in
the house. This is one of several indications that the Kayans vaguely
distinguish two souls -- on the one hand the ghost-soul or shade,
which in dreams wanders afar, on the other hand the vital principle. It
would seem that so long as this vital spark remains in the body the
ghost-soul may return to it; but that, when death is complete, this
vital spark also departs, and then the ghost-soul will return no more.
The use of the word URIP further bears out this interpretation. In
common speech URIP means alive, but it is applied also as a prefix to
the names of those recently deceased, and seems to mark the speaker's
sense of the continuance of the personality as that which has life
in spite of the death of the body.
Thus BLUA and URIP seem to mark a distinction which in Europe
in different ages has been marked by the words soul and spirit,
ANIMA and ANIMUS, psyche and pneuma, and which was familiar also
to the Hebrews. In this, of course, Kayan thought on this subject
does but follow on the lines of many other peoples of more advanced
When the DAYONG has completed his instructions, the rattan lashings
about the head of the coffin are loosed. Since this is the moment at
which the soul is believed to take its final departure from the body,
it is probable that this custom of unlashing the coffin is connected
with the idea of facilitating its escape, although we have obtained
no definite statement to this effect. At the same time the fire
that has been kept burning by the coffin is allowed to die out. To
the coffin, which is shaped roughly like a boat, two small wooden
figures are attached -- a figure of a woman at the head, a male
figure at its foot. These figures are not improbably a vestige of a
bygone custom of killing slaves, whose souls would row the boat of
the dead man on his journey to the other world. This interpretation
is borne out by the fact that a live fowl is usually tied to one of
these wooden figures. The coffin is then conveyed out of the house
by lowering it to the ground with rattans, either through the floor,
planks being taken up for the purpose, or under the caves at the
side of the gallery. In this way they avoid carrying it down the
house-ladder; and it seems to be felt that this precaution renders it
more difficult for the ghost to find its way back to the house.
All this is done with great deliberation, the coffin being brought
by easy stages to the river bank. There it is laid in a large boat
gaily decorated with bright-coloured cloths, which is paddled down
river to the graveyard, followed by the boats of the mourning friends,
who refrain from speaking to any persons encountered on the way. The
tombs of the village are on the river bank some quarter of a mile
below the house, generally on the opposite bank. Here the final
resting-place of the coffin has been prepared by erecting a great log
of timber, which is large in proportion to the social standing of the
dead man. In the case of a chief the log is of ironwood, some three
feet or more in diameter and some thirty feet in length. One end of
this is sunk some four or five feet into the ground. The erecting
of such a massive support is a task of some difficulty, achieved
by first digging the pit at the foot of the log and then hauling up
the other end with a rough windlass. The upper end, which is always
the root-end of the log, is cut in the form of a deep cleft, just
wide enough to receive the coffin. Above the cleft a large slab of
hardwood forms a cover for the coffin, and this is often elaborately
carved (see Pls. 152, 153). In some cases two, and in others even
four, smaller poles are used for the support of the coffin, but this
usually only to avoid the labour of erecting one very large one. The
coffin is lifted into this cleft by the aid of a scaffolding which
is built around the large pole, and which afterwards falls away when
the lashings are cut. On landing at the graveyard the mourners carry
the coffin between the two parts of a cleft pole which are fixed in
the ground so as to make a large V (this is called NYRING, the wall),
and all the mourners are expected to pass through this cleft, each,
in doing so, placing his foot upon a fowl which is laid bound upon
the ground. The coffin is then lifted to its cleft, and the weapons,
implements, and war clothes, the large hat, the cooking-pot, and
in fact any articles of personal property that may be of use to the
departing soul, are hung upon the tomb. If a gong is hung up,
it may be cracked or pierced beforehand, but it is not usual among
Kayans to spoil other articles before hanging them on the tomb.
The scaffolding about the tomb is then caused to fall away, and it
only remains for the mourners to purify themselves. This they do
with the help of the lower jaws of the pigs that were consumed at the
funeral feast. The jaws are placed together with water in a gong or
other basin, and the DAYONG, taking a fowl's feather, sprinkles drops
of water from the basin upon all the assembled mourners, pouring out
the while a stream of words, the purport of which is -- may all evil
things, all sickness and such things be kept away from you. Then the
mourners return in a single file through the V formed by the cleft
pole, each one again placing his foot on the fowl (which dies before
the end of the ceremony), spitting as he goes through, and exclaiming,
"Keep off evil" (BALI JAAT, I.E. literally, spiritual or supernatural
evil). When all have passed through, the upper ends of the two parts of
the cleft pole are brought together and lashed round with rattans; and
a small tree, pulled up by the roots, and having its branches cut away,
is laid beside the pole with its roots turned towards the grave (this
is called SELIKANG); and on the other side of the pole is put another
vertical pole with a cross-piece tied at its upper end. Fire is left
burning beside these structures. In this way the Kayans symbolically
prevent any of the uncanny influences of the graveyard following the
party back to the house; though they do not seem to be clear as to
whether it is the ghosts of the dead, or the TOH of the neighbourhood,
or those which may have contributed to his death, against whom these
precautions are taken. This done, the whole party returns as quickly
as possible to the village, halting only to bathe on the way.
The whole household of which the dead man was a member continues
in mourning for a period which is long in proportion to his social
standing; the mourning rules are observed most strictly by the nearest
relatives. The signs of mourning are the wearing of bark-cloth or of
clothes made yellow with clay, allowing the hair to grow on the parts
of the head and face usually kept shaved, and the putting aside of
ornaments such as ear-rings, necklaces, or the substitution of wooden
ear-rings for the metal ones commonly worn by the women. All music,
feasts, and jollifications are avoided. The period of mourning can
only be properly terminated by a ceremony in which a human head plays
an essential part. Where the influence of the European governments
has not made itself felt, the death of a chief necessitates the
procuring of a fresh head, and a party may be sent out to cut off
in the jungle, on the farms, or on the river, some small party of a
hostile village. The common people must postpone the termination of
their mourning until some such occasion presents itself. Nowadays in
the districts in which head hunting has been suppressed, an old head,
generally one surviving from an earlier period, is borrowed or begged
for the purpose from another village, and is brought home with all
the display properly belonging to a return from successful war (see
Chap. X). As soon as the head is brought into the house the period of
mourning terminates amid general rejoicing. The head, or a fragment
of it, or the bundle of palm leaves (DAUN ISANG) with which it has
been decorated, is hung upon the tomb.
In case of any dispute regarding the division of the property of a
dead man, his ghost may be called upon by a DAYONG and questioned
as to the dead man's intentions; but this would not be done until
after the harvest following upon the death. The ceremony is known
as DAYONG JANOI. A small model of a house, perhaps a yard in width
and length, is made and placed in the gallery beside the door of the
dead man's chamber. Food and drink of various kinds as prepared for a
feast are placed in this house, together with cigarettes. The DAYONG
chants beside the house, calling upon the soul of the dead man to
enter the soul-house, and mentioning the names of the members of his
family. From time to time he looks in, and after some time announces
that all the food and drink has been consumed. The people accept this
statement as evidence that the ghost has entered the soul-house.
The DAYONG acts as though listening to the whispering of the soul
within the house, starting and clucking from time to time. Then he
announces the will of the ghost in regard to the distribution of the
property, speaking in the first person and reproducing the phraseology
and peculiarities of the dead man. The directions so obtained
are usually followed, and the dispute is thus terminated. But in some
cases the people apply a certain test to verify the alleged presence of
the ghost. A shallow dish (often a gong) of water is placed near the
soul-house, and a ring-shaped armlet of shell is placed vertically in
this basin, the water covering its lower half. A few fine fibres of the
cotton-seed are thrown on to the surface of the water, and by tapping
on the planks the people keep these in movement. If the threads float
through the ring, that is conclusive evidence of the presence of the
ghost; but so long as the threads cannot be got to pass through the
ring, the people are not satisfied that the ghost is present.
Ideas of Life After Death
The soul of the dead man is supposed to wander on foot through the
jungle until he reaches the crest of a mountain ridge. From this
point he looks down upon the basin of a great river, the LONG MALAN,
in which five districts are assigned as the dwelling-places of souls,
the destination of each being determined by the mode of death. The
ghosts of those who die through old age or disease go to APO LEGGAN,
the largest of these districts, where they live very much as we do
in this life. Those who die a violent death, whether in battle or
or by accident, go to the basin of a tributary river, LONG JULAN,
where is BAWANG DAHA (lake of blood); there they live in comfort, and
become rich though they do no work: they have for wives the ghosts of
women that have died in child-bed. Those that have been drowned find a
home beneath the rivers, and are supposed to become possessed of all
property lost in the water by their surviving friends; this place
(or places) bears the name of LING YANG. The souls of still-born
children dwell in TENYU LALU; they are believed to be very brave,
owing to their having experienced no pain in this world. Finally,
suicides have assigned to them a special district, TAN TEKKAN,
where they live miserably, eating only roots, berries, and other
Other districts of this great country are vaguely assigned to the souls
of Malays and other peoples. It is generally said that the left bank
of the river is the place of the tribes of Borneo, while the right bank
is assigned to all other peoples; and the soul is especially warned by
the DAYONG to avoid the right bank lest it should find itself among
foreigners. These beliefs seem to involve some faint rudiment of the
doctrine of POST-MORTEM retribution or, at least, compensation, --
a rudiment which does not appear in the beliefs of the other peoples.
The departed soul standing on the mountain ridge surveys these regions;
and it is not until he stops here to rest that he becomes aware that
he is finally separated from his body. This fact is brought home to
him by the arrival of the ghost-souls of the various articles hung
upon his tomb, which hurry after him, but only overtake him at this
his first resting-place; and he bewails his unhappy fate.
There are current among Kayans several versions of the further
journey of the soul. The ghost descends the mountain to the banks
of LONG MALAN, which river he must cross to reach his appointed
place. The river must be crossed by means of a bridge consisting
of a single large log suspended from bank to bank. This log, BITANG
SEKOPA, is constantly agitated by a guardian, MALIGANG by name. If
the ghost has during the earthly life taken a head, or even merely
taken part in a successful head-hunting raid, a fact indicated by
the tatuing of the hands, he crosses this bridge without difficulty;
but if not, he falls below and is consumed by maggots or, according
to another version, is devoured by a large fish, PATAN, and so is
destroyed. When the ghost reaches the other bank, he is greeted by
those of his friends who have gone before, and they lead him to their
village. Some part of the journey is generally regarded as made by
boat, though it is not possible to make this fit consistently into
the general scheme. Another point on which opinion is very vague is
the part played by LAKI JUP URIP, a deity or spirit whose function
it is to guide the souls to their proper destinations.
In many Kayan villages stories are told of persons who are believed
to have died and to have come to life again. This belief seems to
have arisen in every case from the person having lain in a trance for
some days, during which he was regarded as dead. The Kayans accept
the cessation of respiration as evidence of death, and they assert
that these persons cease to breathe.
It seems that such persons usually give some account of their
experiences during the period in which they have deserted their
bodies. They usually allege that they have traversed a part of the
road to the land of shades, and describe it in terms agreeing more
or less closely with the traditional account of it current among
the Kayans. Since in these cases the person is thought to be dead,
no efforts are made by the DAYONG to lead back his departing soul,
and its return has to be explained in some other way. In some cases
the returned soul describes how he was turned back by MALIGANG,
the awful being who guards the bridge across the river of death.
Mr. R. S. Douglas, Resident of Baram, has recently reported a similar
belief held by the Muriks, a Klemantan tribe, where it is supported
by the following legend. The soul or spirit of a certain man, UKU
PANDAH by name, left his body two years before the time appointed as
the term of its incorporate life, and gained admittance to the land of
shades in the shape of a pig. It was, however, recognised by the ruler
of that land, and ordered by him to return to its mortal body. The
command was obeyed, and UKU PANDAH, having been dead for two days,
came to life again and lived for two years, during which he described
to his friends the country of the dead of which he had thus obtained
a glimpse; and this knowledge has been preserved by the tribe.
The beliefs and traditions of the various tribes in regard to the other
world seem to have been confused through the intercourse between them,
so that it is not possible to mark off clearly what features properly
belong to each of the tribes. The general features are. similar
with all the peoples. The Kenyah story is very similar to that of
the Kayans, though the names of the various places are different,
and they usually conceive the first part of the soul's journey as
being made by boat on the river.
TAMA KAJAN ODOH, the MADANG chief whose line of descent from BALINGO
is given on p. 12, vol. ii., made us a rough map of the land of the
shades (Fig. 78) and of the country traversed by the ghost on its
journey thither. This was done in the way maps of their own country
are always made by the Borneans, namely, he laid upon the floor bits of
stick and other small objects to represent the principal topographical
features and relations. We tested the trustworthiness of his account
by asking him to repeat it on a subsequent occasion; when he did so
without any noteworthy departure from the former description. A point
of special interest is the appearance in the land of shades of the
house of BALI PENYALONG and of OKO PERBUNGAN (which seems to be the
MADANG name for the wife of the Supreme Being). This map brings out
clearly what seems to be the essential feature of all these schemes,
namely, that the land of shades is the basin of a river divided by
a mountain ridge from that from which the ghost departs.
The Punans add some picturesque incidents. According to their version,
a huge helmeted hornbill (RHINOFLAX VIGIL) sits by the far end
of the bridge across the river of death, and with its screams tries
to terrify the ghost, so that it shall fall from the bridge into the
jaws of the great fish which is in league with the bird. On the other
side of the river IS UNGAP, a woman with a cauldron and spear. UNGAP,
if appeased with a gift, aids the ghost to escape from the monstrous
bird and fish. Pebbles or beads are put in the nostrils of the Punan
corpse in order that they may be presented to UNGAP.
The Punans recite or sing a story in blank verse descriptive of this
passage of the soul. It is sometimes sung in very dramatic fashion,
the performer acting the principal incidents and pitching his voice
in a doleful, though musical, minor key. Such a recitation of the
passage of the soul, delivered by a wild and tragic figure before an
intently listening group of squatting men and women illuminated by
flickering torchlight, is by no means unimpressive to the European
observer. The following lines are a rough literal translation of
a fragment of the story which describes the meeting with UNGAP of
BATANG MIJONG, a departed soul: --
UNGAP SPEAKS --
BATANG MIJONG stands waving his shield.
The helmsman SARAMIN with body of brass will carry over BATANG MIJONG.
BATANG MIJONG seeks the place of the Punans.
Good journey to you, BATANG MIJONG.
BATANG MIJONG, O, why are you called?
BATANG MIJONG SPEAKS: --
Why do you question me, why do you stare at me?
UNGAP ANSWERS --
Your limbs are shapely, smooth is your skin and slender your body.
My eyes are dazzled by your bodily perfections.
Some of the Malanaus, one of the many branches of the Klemantan
people, hold peculiar views about the soul. Each man is credited
with two souls. After his death one of these goes to some region in
the heavens where it becomes a good spirit that assists at the BAYOH
ceremonies. The other makes a journey to a world of the dead much
like APO LEGGAN of the Kayans; and the journey involves the crossing
of the river on a single log, the passage of which is disputed by a
malign being, who tries to shake the nerve of the ghost by flinging
ashes at him as he traverses the bridge. Other Malanaus (of Muka)
describe this opposing power as a twoheaded dog, MAIWIANG by name, whom
it is necessary to propitiate with the gift of a valuable bead. For
this reason a bead of some value is fastened to the right arm of
the corpse before the coffin is closed. It is said of the Malanaus
that they were formerly in the habit of killing several slaves at
the tomb of a chief; and, since it was believed that, if the victims
died a violent death, their souls would not go to the same place as
the dead chief, and would thus be of no service, they were allowed
to die from exposure to the sun while bound to the tomb. Now that
homicide is prohibited, these people arrange a great cock-fight; and
there can be little doubt that the death of many of the birds is felt
to compensate in some degree for the enforced abstention from homicide.
The last case on record of the killing of a slave at the entombment
of a chief occurred about fifteen years ago among the Orang Bukits
(Klemantans) in Bruni territory. The son of the dead chief (Datu
Gunong) went to Bruni city, and there bought an aged slave from one
of the principal officers of state. The slave was kept in a bamboo
cage until the day of entombment, when he was killed, each of the
funeral guests inflicting a small wound with a spear. His head was
hung on the tomb. From circumstantial accounts of this incident which
reached one of us, we infer that those who took part in this brutal
act were moved only by a sense of duty and that the co-operation was
repugnant to all of them.
The Kayans, as well as most of the peoples, regard madness as due
to possession by an evil spirit, but the Malanaus extend this
theory to many other forms of disease, and practise an elaborate rite
of exorcism. This will be described in the chapter (XVI.) dealing
with charms and magical practices.
It will be gathered from what has been said in the foregoing
pages that the life after death is regarded as not in any way very
different from this life, as neither a very superior nor an inferior
condition; although, as we have said, those who die a violent death
are believed to have a rather better lot, and suicides a worse fate,
than others. Social distinction and consideration, especially such
as is achieved by the taking of heads in war, is carried over into
the life after death; and men are anxious that outward marks of
such distinction should go with them. This is undoubtedly one of
the grounds for tatuing the body. Among the Kayans a man's hands are
only fully tatued when he has taken a head; while the social status
of a woman is marked by the degree of fineness of the tatuing.
It follows that death is neither greatly feared nor desired; but an
old man will sometimes affirm that he is quite ready or even desirous
to die, although he may seem cheerful and fairly vigorous.
The Kayans believe in the reincarnation of the soul, although this
belief is not clearly harmonised with the belief in the life in another
world. It is generally believed that the soul of a grandfather may
pass into one of his grandchildren, and an old man will try to secure
the passage of his soul to a favourite grandchild by holding it above
his head from time to time. The grandfather usually gives up his
name to his eldest grandson, and reassumes the original name of his
childhood with the prefix or title LAKI, and the custom seems to be
connected with this belief or hope. There is no means of discovering
whether the hope is realised. The human soul may also, in the belief
of all the peoples, be reincarnated in the body of almost any animal;
but opinions in regard to this matter are very vague. Thus the Kayans
believe that the objection of the Mohammedan Malays to the eating of
pig is due to reincarnation of their souls in animals of that species,
which belief naturally causes some vexation to the Malay traders.
Among the Kayans and other peoples sceptics are to be found, and, as
no inquisitorial methods are in vogue among them, such persons will
on occasion give expression to their doubts about the accepted dogmas,
although speech about such topics is generally repressed by some touch
of awe. One man, for example, argued in our hearing that he could
hardly believe that man continues to exist after death, for, said he,
if men and women still lived after death, some of those who have been
very fond of their children would surely return to see them, and would
be in some way perceived by the living. But all such discussions are
usually terminated with the remark, "NUSI JAM?" ("Who knows?")