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The Pagan Tribes of Borneo by Charles Hose and William McDougall

Part 6 out of 11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Animistic Beliefs Connected with Animals and Plants[126]

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

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

At break of day, before I was up, Tama Bulan was washed by the women
at the river's brink with water and the blood of pigs to purify him
for his journey, and later in the morning the people set to work
to seek omens and a guarantee of their safety on the journey from
the hawks that are so numerous here. A small shelter of sticks and
leaves was made on the river-bank before the house, and the women
having been sent to their rooms, three men of the upper class[129]
sat under this leaf-shelter beside a small fire, and searched the sky
for hawks. After sitting there silently for about an hour the three
men suddenly became animated; one of them took in his right hand a
small chick and a stick frayed by many deep cuts with a knife, and
waved them repeatedly from left to right, at the same time pouring
out a rapid flood of words. They had caught sight of a hawk high
up and far away from them, and they were trying to persuade it to
fly towards the right. Presently the hawk, a tiny speck in the sky,
sailed slowly out of sight behind a hill on the right, and the men
settled themselves to watch for a second hawk which must fly towards
the left, and a third which must circle round and round. In the course
of about half-an-hour two hawks had obligingly put in an appearance,
and behaved just as it was hoped and desired that they should behave;
and so this part of the business was finished, and about a score
of men bustled about preparing for the next act. They brought many
fowls and several young pigs, and a bundle of long poles pointed
at either end. Before the house stand upright two great boles of
timber; the upper end of each of them is carved into a rude face and
crowned with a brass gong (Pl. 157). These are two images of the one
Supreme Being, Bali Penyalong, and they seem to be at the same time
the altars of the god. A tall young tree, stripped of all but its
topmost twigs, stands beside one of them, and is supposed to reach to
heaven or, at least, by its greater proximity to the regions above,
to facilitate intercourse. As to the meaning of this and many other
features of these rites it is impossible to form any exact idea, for
the opinions of these people in such matters are hardly less vague
and diversified than those of more civilized worshippers. Tama Bulan,
in his character of high priest,[130] took his stand before one of
these images, while a nephew, one of the three men who had watched
the hawks, officiated before the other and went through exactly the
same ceremonies as his uncle, at the same time with him. Tama Bulan
held a small bamboo water-vessel in his left hand, and with a frayed
stick in his right hand sprinkled some of the water on the image,
all the time looking up into its face and rapidly repeating a set
form of words. Presently he took a fowl, snipped off its head and
sprinkled its blood upon the image, and so again with another and
another fowl. Then he held a young pig while a follower gashed its
throat, and as the blood leapt out he scattered it on the image, while
the score of men standing round about put their hands, some on him,
some on one another; maintaining in this way physical contact with one
another and with their leader, they joined in the prayer or incantation
which he kept pouring forth in the same rapid mechanical fashion in
which many a curate at home reads the Church service. In the house,
meanwhile, four boys were pounding at two big drums to keep away from
the worshippers all sounds but the words of their own prayers.[131]
Then another fowl and another pig were sacrificed in similar fashion
at each altar, and the second part of the rite was finished by the men
sticking the carcases of the slaughtered beasts each one on the point
of a pole, and fixing the poles upright in the earth before the images.

Tama Bulan now came up into the house to perform the third and last
act. A pig was brought and laid bound upon the floor, and Tama Bulan,
stooping, with a sword in his right hand, kept punching the pig gently
behind the shoulder as though to keep its attention, and addressed it
with a rapid flow of words, each phrase beginning "O Bali Bouin." The
pig's throat was then cut by an attendant, and Tama Bulan, standing up,
diluted its blood with water and scattered it abroad over all of us
as we stood round about him, while he still kept up the rapid patter
of words. Then he pulled off the head of a fowl and concluded the
rites by once more sprinkling us all with blood and water. Everyone
seemed relieved and well satisfied to have got through this important
business, and to have secured protectors for all the party during
the forthcoming journey. For the three hawks will watch over them,
and are held to have given them explicit guarantees of safety. The
frayed stick that had figured so largely in the rites was stuck
under the rafters of the roof among a row of others previously used,
and there it will remain, a sign and a pledge of the piety of the
people, as long as the house shall stand. And then as Tama Bulan,
pretty well covered with blood, went away to wash himself, I felt as
though I had just lived through a book of the AENEID, and was about
to follow Father Aeneas to the shores of Latium.

This elaborate rite, so well fitted to set agoing the speculative
fancy of any one acquainted with the writings of Robertson Smith and
Messrs. Jevons and Frazer, was one of the first that we witnessed
together. After giving all our facts we shall return to discuss some
of the interesting questions raised by it, but it will be seen that
we are far from having discovered satisfactory explanations of all its
features. Obscure features to which we would direct attention are the
use of the fire and the frayed stick, for these figure in almost all
rites in which the omen-birds are consulted or prayers and sacrifices
made. The Kenyahs seem to feel that the purpose of fire is to carry
up the prayers to heaven by means of the ascending flame and smoke,
in somewhat the same way as the tall pole planted by the side of
the image of Bali Penyalong facilitates communion with the spirit;
for they conceive him as dwelling somewhere above the earth.

Before going out to attack an enemy, omens are always sought in
the way we have described, and if the expedition is successful
the warriors bring home not only the heads of the slain enemy, but
also pieces of their flesh, which they fix upon poles before the
house, one for each family, as a thank-offering to Bali Flaki for
his guidance and protection. It seldom occurs that a hawk actually
takes or eats these pieces of flesh, and that does not seem to be
expected. Without favourable omens from the hawks Kenyahs will not
set out on any expedition, and even when they have secured them,
they still anxiously look out for further guidance, and may be
stopped or turned back at any time by unfavourable omens. Thus,
should a hawk fly over their boat going in the same direction as
themselves, this is a good omen; but if one should fly towards them
as they travel, and especially if it should scream as it does so,
this is a terribly bad omen, and only in case they can obtain other
very favourable omens to counteract the impression made by it will
they continue their journey. If one of a party dies on the journey,
they will stop for one whole day for fear of offending Bali Flaki. If
a hawk should scream just as they are about to deliver an attack,
that means that some of the elder men will be killed in the battle.

Bali Flaki is also consulted before sowing and harvesting the rice
crop, but besides being appealed to publicly on behalf of the whole
community, his aid may be sought privately by any man who wishes to
injure another. For this purpose a man makes a rough wooden image in
human form, and retires to some quiet spot on the river bank where
he sets up a TEGULUN, a horizontal pole supported about a yard above
the ground by a pair of vertical poles. He lights a small fire beside
the TEGULUN, and, taking a fowl in one hand, he sits on the ground
behind it so as to see through it a square patch of sky,[132] and so
waits until a hawk becomes visible upon this patch. As soon as a hawk
appears he kills the fowl, and with a frayed stick smears its blood on
the wooden image, saying, "Put fat in his mouth" (which means "Let his
head be taken and fed with fat in the usual way"), and he puts a bit
of fat in the mouth of the image. Then he strikes at the breast of the
image with a small wooden spear, and throws it into a pool of water
reddened with red earth, and then takes it out and buries it in the
ground. While the hawk is visible, he waves it towards the left; for
he knows that if it flies to the left he will prevail over his enemy,
but that if it goes to the right his enemy is too strong for him.

When a new house is built, a wooden image of Bali Flaki with wings
extended is put up before it, and an offering of mixed food is put on a
little shelf before the image, and at times, especially after getting
good omens from the hawks, it is offered bits of flesh and is smeared
with pig's blood. If the people have good luck in their new house,
they renew the image; but if not, they usually allow it to fall into
decay. If, when a man is sitting down to a meal, he espies a hawk in
the heavens, he will throw a morsel of food towards it, exclaiming,
"Bali Flaki!"

We have seen that during the formal consultation of the hawks the
women are sent to their rooms. Nevertheless many women keep in the
cupboards in which they sleep a wooden image of the hawk with a few
feathers stuck upon it. If the woman falls sick she will take one
of these feathers and, waving it to and fro, will say, "Tell the
bad spirit that is making me sick that I have a feather of Bali
Flaki." When she recovers her health Bali Flaki has the credit of it.

Although Kenyahs will not kill a hawk, they would-not prevent us from
shooting one if it stole their chickens; for they say that a hawk
who will do that is a low-class fellow, a cad, in fact, for there
are social grades among the hawks just as there are among themselves.

Although the Kenyahs thus look to Bali Flaki to guide them and help
them in many ways, and express gratitude towards him, we do not think
that they conceive of him as a single great spirit, as some of the
other tribes tend to do; they rather look upon the hawks as messengers
and intermediators between themselves and Bali Penyalong,[133] to
which a certain undefined amount of power is delegated. No doubt it is
a vulgar error with them, as in the case of professors of other forms
of belief, to forget in some degree the Supreme Being, and to direct
their prayers and thanks almost exclusively to the subordinate power,
which, having

concrete forms, they can more easily keep before their minds. They
regard favourable omens as given for their encouragement, and bad
omens as friendly warnings.[134] We were told by one very intelligent
Kenyah that he supposed that the hawks, having been so frequently
sent by Bali Penyalong to give them warnings, had learnt how to do
this of their own will, and that sometimes they probably do give them
warning or encouragement independently without being sent by him.

All Kenyahs hold Bali Flaki in the same peculiar regard, and no
individuals or sections of them claim to be especially favoured by
him or claim to be related to him by blood or descent.

Other Omen-birds

Kenyahs obtain omens of less importance from several other birds. When
favourable omens have been given by the hawks, some prominent man is
always sent out to sit on the river-bank beside a small fire and watch
and listen for these other birds. Their movements and cries are the
signs which he interprets as omens, confirming or weakening the import
of those given by the hawks. Of these other omens the most regarded are
those given by the three species of the spider-hunter (ARACHNOTHERA
CHRYSOGENYS, A. MODESTA, and A. LONGIROSTRIS). All three species are
known as "Sit" or "Isit." When travelling on the river, the Kenyahs
hope to see "Isit" fly across from left to right as they sit facing the
bow of the canoe. When this happens they call out loudly, saying, "O,
Isit on the left hand! Give us long life, help us in our undertaking,
help us to find what we are seeking, make our enemies feeble." They
usually stop their canoes, land on the bank, and, after making a
small fire, say to it, "Tell Isit to help us." Each man of the party
will light a cigarette in order that he may have his own small fire,
and will murmur some part at least of the usual formulas. After seeing
"Isit" on their left, they like to see him again on their right side.

Next in importance to the spider-hunters are the three varieties of
like to hear the trogan calling quietly while he sits on a tree to
their left; but if he is on their right, the omen is only a little
less favourable.[135] On hearing the trogan's cry, they own it, as
they say, by shouting to it and by stopping to light a fire just as
in the case of "Isit."

KIENG, the woodpecker (LEPOCESTES PORPHYROMELAS), has two notes,
one of which is of good, the other of had omen. If they have secured
good omens from the birds already mentioned, they will then try to
avoid hearing KIENG, lest he should utter the note of evil omen; so
they sing and talk and rattle their paddles on the sides of the boat.

Other omen-birds of less importance are ASI (CARCINEUTES MELANOPS),
whose note warns them of difficulties in their path, and UKANG (SASIA
ABNORMIS), whose note means good luck for them. TELAJAN, the crested
rain-bird (PLATYLOPHUS CORONATUS), announces good luck by its call
and warns of serious difficulties also.

KONG, the hornbill (ANORRHINUS COMATUS), gives omens of minor
importance by his strange deep cry. The handsome feathers of another
species of hornbill (BUCEROS RHINOCEROS), with bold bars of black and
white, are worn on war-coats and stuck in the war-caps by men who are
tried warriors, but may not be worn by mere youths. The substance of
the beak of the helmeted hornbill (RHINOFLAX VIGIL) is sometimes carved
into the form of the canine tooth of the tiger-cat, and a pair of these
is the most valued kind of ear-ornament for men. Only elderly men,
or men who have taken heads with their own hands, may wear them. One
of the popular dances consists in a comical imitation of the movements
of the hornbill, but no special significance attaches to the dance;
it seems to be done purely in a spirit of fun. Young hornbills are
occasionally kept in the house as pets.

We know of no other bird that plays any part in the religious life
of the Kenyahs or affects them in any peculiar manner.

The Pig

All Kenyahs keep numerous domestic pigs, which roam beneath and
about the house, picking up what garbage they can find to eke out
the scanty meals of rice-dust and chaff given them by the women. It
seems that they seldom or never take to the jungle and become feral,
although they are not confined in any way.

The domestic pig is not treated with any show of reverence, but rather
with the greatest contumely, and yet it plays a part in almost all
religious ceremonies, and before it is slaughtered explanations are
always offered to it, and it is assured that it is not to be eaten. We
have seen that, in the rites preparatory to an important and dangerous
expedition, the chief was washed with pig's blood and water, and
that young pigs were slain before the altar-post of Bali Penyalong,
and their blood sprinkled on the post and afterwards upon all or most
of the men of the household. It is probably true that Bali Penyalong
is never addressed without the slaughter of one or more pigs, and
also that no domestic pig is ever slaughtered without being charged
beforehand with some message or prayer to Bali Penyalong, which its
spirit may carry up to him. But the most important function of the
pig is the giving of information as to the future course of events
by means of the markings on its liver.[136]

Whenever it becomes specially interesting or important to ascertain the
future course of events, when, for example, a household proposes to
make war, or when two parties are about to go through a peace-making
ceremony, a pig is caught by the young men from among those beneath
the house, and is brought and laid, with its feet lashed together,
before the chief in the great gallery of the house. And it would seem
that the more important the ceremony the larger and the more numerous
should be the pigs selected as victims. An attendant hands a burning
brand to the chief, and he, stooping over the pig, singes a few of
its hairs, and then, addressing the pig as "Bali Bouin," and gently
punching it behind the shoulder, as we have already depicted him,
he pours out a rapid flood of words. The substance of his address
is a prayer to Bali Penyalong for guidance and knowledge as to the
future course of the business in hand, and an injunction to the soul
of the pig to carry the prayer to Bali Penyalong.

Sometimes more than one chief will address one pig in this way; and
then, as soon as these prayers are concluded, some follower plunges
a spear into the heart or throat of the pig, and rapidly opens its
belly in the middle line, drags out the liver and lays it on a leaf
or platter with the underside uppermost, and so carries it to the
chief or chiefs. Then all the elderly men crowd round and consult as
to the significance of the appearances presented by the underside of
the liver. The various lobes and lobules are taken to represent the
various districts concerned in the question on which light is desired,
and according to the strength and intimacy of the connections between
these lobes, the people of the districts represented are held to be
bound in more or less lasting friendship. While spots and nodules in
any part betoken future evils for the people of that part, a clean
healthy liver means good fortune and happiness for all concerned.

The underside of the liver, which alone is significant, varies
considerably from one specimen to another, and this must prevent
any very definite and consistent identification of the parts with
the different districts of the country. The rule generally observed
is to identify the under surface of the right lobe (ARTI TOH) with
the territory of the party that kills the pig and makes the enquiry;
the adjacent part of the left lobe (SUNAN) with the territory of any
party involved in the question which adjoins that of the first party;
and the under surface of the caudal extremity (ARTI ARKAT) with that
of any remoter third party (see Fig. 79). If the ridge that runs up
between the right and left lobes is sharp, it indicates that there
will still be some bad feeling (or, as they say, the swords are still
sharp). A gall-bladder which is long and overlapping indicates more
trouble between the parties to the right and left; but one which
is sunk almost out of sight in the substance of the liver is a sign
that no further trouble is to be expected. The grooves on the under
surface of the right lobe stand for the waterways and, if they are
strongly marked, imply freedom of intercourse. Notches at the free
edges stand for past injuries suffered (the scars of wounds received,
as it were); and if these are equally marked in the several parts they
indicate peace, because it is implied that no balance of old scores
remains to any one of the parties concerned. A sore or abscess in any
part foretells the speedy death of one of the chiefs of the people
of that part.


It is obvious that this system of interpretation, which is common
to nearly all the peoples, gives much scope for the operation of
prejudice, suggestion, and ingenuity. But the group of interpreting
chiefs and elder men generally achieves unanimity in giving its

The omens thus obtained are held to be the answer vouchsafed by Bali
Penyalong to the prayers which have been carried to him by the spirit
of the pig.

If the answer obtained in this way from one pig is unsatisfactory,
they will often kill a second, and on important occasions even a
third or fourth, in order to obtain a favourable answer. Unless they
can thus obtain a satisfactory forecast, they will not set out upon
any undertaking of importance.

After any ceremony of this kind the body of the pig is usually
divided among the people, and by them cooked and eaten without further
ceremony. But we have seen that, after the ceremony in preparation
for an expedition, the bodies of the young pigs whose blood was
scattered on the altarpost of Bali Penyalong were fixed upon tall
poles beside this altar-post and there left; and this seems to be the
rule in ceremonies of this sort, though it is not clear whether the
carcases are left there as offerings to the hawks or to Bali Penyalong,
or because they are in some sense too holy to be used as food after
being used in such rites.

Probably Kenyahs never give to the spirits in this way the whole body
of a large pig, but only of quite small pigs, and in this they are
probably influenced by considerations of economy.

It may be said generally that Kenyahs do not kill domestic pigs simply
and solely for the sake of food. The killing of a pig is always the
occasion for, or occasioned by, some religious rite. It is true that
on the arrival of honoured guests a pig is usually killed and given to
them for food; but its spirit is then always charged with some message
to Bali Penyalong. It is said that, when the pig's spirit comes to
Bali Penyalong, he is offended if it brings no message from those
who killed the pig, and he sends it back to carry off their souls.

On many other occasions also pigs are killed; thus, on returning
from a successful attack on enemies, a pig is usually killed for
each family of the household, and a piece of its flesh is put up on
a pole before the house; and during the severe illness of any person
of high social standing, pigs are usually killed, and friendly chiefs
may come from distant parts, bringing with them pigs and fowls that
they may sacrifice them, and so aid in restoring the sick man to
health. On the death of a chief, too, a great feast is made, and
many pigs are slaughtered, and their jaw-bones are hung up on the
tomb. A pig is sometimes used in the ceremony by which a newly-made
peace is sealed between tribes hitherto at blood-feuds, but a fowl
is more commonly used.

The wild pig which abounds in the forest is hunted by the Kenyahs,
and when brought to bay by the dogs is killed with spears, and it
is eaten without ceremony or compunction by all classes. The wild
pig is never used as messenger to the gods, and its liver is not
consulted. The lower jaws of all wild pigs that are killed are cleaned
and hung up together in the house, and it is believed that if these
should be lost or in any way destroyed the dogs would cease to hunt.

The domestic fowls are seldom killed for food, and their eggs too can
hardly be reckoned as a regular article of diet, though the people
have no prejudice against eating them. And it would seem that the
fowls are kept in the main for ceremonial Purposes, and that their
table use is of very secondary importance.

Fowls are killed on many of the occasions on which pigs are sacrificed,
and, as we have seen in the description of the ceremony at Tama
Bulan's house, their blood may be poured upon the altarposts of
Bali Penyalong. It would seem that fowls and pigs are to some extent
interchangeable equivalents for sacrificial purposes. Perhaps the most
important occasion on which the fowl plays a part is the performance
of the rite by which a blood-feud is finally wiped away. The following
extract from the journal previously quoted describes an incident of
this kind: --

In the evening there was serious business on hand. Two chiefs, who
some years ago were burned out of their homes in the Rejang district
by the government, have settled themselves with their people in the
Baram district. They had made a provisional peace with the Kayans
some years ago, but the final ceremony was to be performed this
evening. The two chiefs of the immigrants, who had remained hitherto
in a remote part of the house, seated themselves at one side, and
the Kayan chiefs at the other, and Tama Bulan and ourselves between
the two parties. First, presents of iron were exchanged. In the old
days costly presents of metal-work used to be given; but, as this led
sometimes to renewed disputes, the government has forbidden the giving,
in such ceremony, of presents of a greater value than two dollars. So
now old sword-blades are given, and the other essential part of the
present has been proportionately reduced from a full-grown fowl to a
tiny chick. After much preliminary talking, two chicks were brought
and a bundle of old sword-blades, which Tama Bulan, in his character
of peace-maker, carries with him whenever he travels abroad. A chief
of either party took a chick and a sword and presented them to the
other. Then one led his men a little apart and began to rattle off
an invocation beginning, "O sacred (Bali) chick," snipped off its
head with the sword, and with the bloody blade smeared the right
arm of his followers as they crowded round him. The old fellow kept
up the stream of words until every man was smeared; and then they
all stamped together on the floor raising a great shout. Then the
other party went through a similar performance; and the peace being
thus formally ratified, we sat down to cement it still further by a
friendly drinking bout.

Another ceremony in which the fowl plays a prominent part is that by
which the wandering soul of a sick person is found and led back to
his body by the medicine-man. This is described in Chapter XIV.

It seems clear that the fowl, like the pig, is used on these occasions
as a messenger sent by man to the Supreme Spirit. In most cases when
a fowl is slaughtered in the course of a ceremony, it is first waved
over the heads of the people taking part in it, and its blood is
afterwards sprinkled upon them.

In the blood-brotherhood ceremony, when each of the two men drinks
or smokes in a cigarette a drop of the other's blood drawn with a
bambooknife, a fowl is in many cases waved over them and then killed,
and occasionally a pig also is killed. In such a case the man who
has killed the fowl will carry its carcase to the door of the house,
and there he will wave towards the heavens a frayed stick moistened
with its blood, while he announces the facts of the ceremony to Bali
Penyalong. So that here again the fowl seems to play the part of a
messenger. The carcase and the bloody stick are afterwards put up
together on a tall pole before the house. After going through this
ceremony a man is safe from all the members of the household to
which his blood-brother belongs; and in the case of two chiefs all
the members of either household are bound to those of the other by
a sacred tie.

Fowls' eggs are sometimes put on the cleft poles as sacrifices. In
one instance, when we were engaged in fishing a lake with a large
party in boats, we came upon a row of eight poles stuck upright at
the edge of the lake, each holding a fowl's egg in its cleft upper
end. These had just been put there by the crew of one of the canoes
as an offering to the crocodiles, which were regarded as the most
influential of the powers of the lake and able to ensure us good sport.

In such cases the eggs are probably economical substitutes for fowls,
as seems to be indicated by the following facts: When Kenyah boys enter
a strange branch of the river for the first time, they go, each one
taking a fowl's egg in his hand, into the jungle with some old man, who
takes the eggs, puts them into the cleft ends of poles fixed upright
in the earth, and thus addresses all the omen-birds collectively,
"Don't let any harm happen to these children who are coming for
the first time to this river; they give you these eggs." Sometimes
instead of eggs the feathers of a fowl are used; and both the eggs
and feathers would seem to be substituted for fowls, as being good
enough in the case of mere children performing a minor rite.

When the belly of a fowl is opened there are prominent two curved
portions of the gut. The state of these is examined in some cases
before the planting of PADI, and sometimes before attempting to catch
the soul of a sick man. If the parts are much curved, it is a good
omen; if straight or but slightly curved, it is a bad omen.

The Crocodile

Like all other races of Sarawak, the Kenyahs regard the crocodiles
that infest their rivers as more or less friendly creatures. They fear
the crocodile and do not like to mention it by name, especially if
one be in sight, and refer to it as "old grandfather." But the fear
is rather a superstitious fear than the fear of being seized by the
beast. They regard those of their own neighbourhood as more especially
friendly, in spite of the fact that members of their households are
occasionally taken by crocodiles, either while standing incautiously
on the bank of the river or while floating quietly at evening time
in a small canoe. When this happens, it is believed either that the
person taken has in some way offended or injured one or all of the
crocodiles, or that he has been taken by a stranger crocodile that has
come from a distant part of the river, and therefore did not share
in the friendly understanding usually subsisting between the people
and the local crocodiles. But in any case it is considered that the
crocodiles have committed an unjustifiable aggression and have set
up a blood-feud which can only be abolished by the slaying of one
or more of the aggressors. Now it is the habit of the crocodile to
hold the body of his victim for several days before devouring it,
and to drag it for this purpose into some muddy creek opening into
the main river. A party is therefore organised to search all the
neighbouring creeks, and the first measure taken is to prevent the
guilty crocodile escaping to some other part of the river. To achieve
this they take long poles, frayed with many cuts, and set them up on
the river-bank at some distance above and below the scene of the crime
and at the mouths of all the neighbouring creeks and streamlets; and
they kill fowls and pray that the guilty crocodile may be prevented
from passing the spots thus marked. They then search the creeks,
and if they find the criminal with the body of his victim they kill
him, and the feud is at an end. But, if they fail to find him thus,
they go out on the part of the river included between their charmed
poles, and, with their spears tied to long poles, prod all the bed of
this part of the river, and thus generally succeed in killing one or
more crocodiles. They then usually search its entrails for the bones
and hair of the victim so as to make sure that they have caught the
offending beast. But, even if they do not obtain conclusive evidence
of this kind, they seem to feel that justice is satisfied, and that
the beast killed is probably the guilty one.

Except in the meting out of a just vengeance in this way, no Kenyah
will kill a crocodile, and they will not eat its flesh under any
circumstances. But there is no evidence to show that they regard
themselves as related by blood or descent to the crocodiles or that
their ancestors ever did so.

When Kenyahs go on a journey into strange rivers or to the lower part
of the main river, they fear the crocodiles of these strange waters,
because they are unknown to them, and any one of them might easily
be mistaken by the crocodiles for some one who has done them an
injury. Some Kenyahs tie the red leaves of the DRACAENA below the
prow of their boat whenever they go far from home, believing that
this protects them from all danger of attack by crocodiles.

The Dog

In all Kenyah houses are large numbers of dogs, which vary a good
deal in size and colour, but roughly resemble large, mongrel-bred,
smooth-haired terriers. Each family owns several, and they are fed with
rice usually in the evening; but they seem to be always hungry. The
best of them are used for hunting; but besides these there is always
a number of quite useless, ill-fed, ill-tempered curs; for no Kenyah
dare kill a dog, however much he may wish to be rid of it. Still less,
of course, will he eat the flesh of a dog. The dogs prowl about, in
and around the house, much as they please, but are not treated with
any particular respect. When a dog intrudes where he is not wanted it
is usual to click with the tongue at him, and this is usually enough
to make him pass on; but blows with a stick follow quickly if the
animal does not obey. They display little affection for their dogs,
and they do not like children to touch or play with the dogs, but of
course cannot altogether prevent them.

One young Kenyah chief, on being questioned, said that the reason
they will not kill dogs is that they are like children, and eat and
sleep together with men in the same house; and he added that, if a
man should kill a dog, he would go mad.

If a dog dies in the house, the men push the carcase out of the
house and into the river with long poles, and will on no account
touch it with their hands. The spot on the floor on which the dog
died is fenced round with mats for some few days in order to prevent
the children walking over it.

It is usual for the Kenyah men to have one or more designs tatued on
their forearms and shoulders. Among the commonest of these designs
are those known as the prawn and the dog (see Chap. XII). They seem
to be conventionalised derivatives from these animal forms. It is
said that the dog's head design was formerly much more in fashion
than it is at the present time.

Deer and Cattle

Very few Kenyahs of the upper class will kill or eat deer and wild
cattle. They believe that if they should eat their flesh they would
vomit violently and spit out blood. They have no domestic cattle, and
the buffalo does not occur in their districts. Lower-class Kenyahs
and slaves, taken as war-captives from other tribes, may eat deer
and horned cattle, but they must take the flesh some little distance
from the house when they cook it. A woman who is pregnant, or for
any other reason is in the hands of a physician, has to observe the
restrictions with regard to deer and cattle more strictly than other
people, and she will not touch or allow to be brought near her any
article of leather or horn.

The war-coats of the men are often made of the skin of goats or deer,
and any man may wear such a war-coat. But when a man has a young son,
he is particularly careful to avoid contact with any part of a deer,
lest through such contact he should transmit to his son in any degree
the timidity of the deer. On one occasion when we had killed a deer,
a Kenyah chief resolutely refused to allow its skin to be carried in
his boat, alleging the above reason.

The cry or bark of the deer (CERVULUS MUNTJAC) is a warning of danger,
and the seeing or hearing of the mouse-deer or PLANDOK (TRAGULAS NAPU)
has a like significance.

The Tiger-cat

The only large species of the FELIDAAE that occurs in Borneo is the
tiger-cat (FELIS NEBULOSA). Kenyahs will not eat it, as men of some
tribes do, but will kill it; and they fashion its handsome spotted
skin into war-coats. Such coats are worn only by men who have been
on the war-path. The canine teeth of the tiger-cat are much prized
as ornaments; they are worn thrust through holes in the upper part
of the shell of the ear, but only by full-grown men. KULEH, the name
of this beast, is sometimes given to a boy.

The true tiger does not now occur in Borneo, and it is doubtful
whether it ever was a native of the island. Nevertheless the Kenyahs
know it by name (LINJAU) and by reputation, and a few skins are in
the possession of chiefs. No ordinary man, but only a distinguished
and elderly chief, will venture to wear such a skin as a war-coat,
or even to touch it. These skins have been brought from other lands
by Malay traders, and it is probable that whatever knowledge of the
tiger the Kenyahs possess has come from the same source.

A chief will sometimes name his son LINJAU, that is, the Tiger.

Other Animals

A carnivore (ARCTOGALE LEUCOTIS) allied to the civet-cat warns of
danger when seen or heard.

There is a certain large lizard (VARANUS) that is eaten freely by
other tribes, but Kenyahs may not eat it, though they will kill it.

They regard the seeing of any snake as an unfavourable omen, and will
not kill any snake gratuitously.

Kenyahs, like all, or almost all the other natives of Borneo, are more
or less afraid of the Maias (the orang-utan) and of the long-nosed
monkey, and they will not look one in the face or laugh at one.

In one Kenyah house a fantastic figure of the gibbon is carved on
the ends of all the main crossbeams of the house, and the chief said
that this has been their custom for many generations. He told us
that it is the custom, when these beams are being put up, to kill a
pig and divide its flesh among the men who are working, and no woman
is allowed to come into the house until this has been done. None of
his people will kill a gibbon, though other Kenyahs will kill and
probably eat it. They claim that he helps them as a friend, and the
carvings on the beams seem to symbolize his supporting of the house.

In other parts of the same house are carvings of the bangat,
SEMNOPITHECUS HOSEI, but the old chief regards these as much less
important and as recent innovations.

We do not know of any other animals to which especial respect or
attention is paid by the Kenyahs.

Animal Cults of the Kayans

The white-headed hawk (Bali Flaki) of the Kenyahs has its equivalent
among the Kayans in the large dark-brown hawk, which they call Laki
Neho. But as it is not possible to distinguish these two kinds of
hawks when seen flying at some distance, they address and accept all
large hawks seen in the distance as Laki Neho.

The function and powers of Laki Neho seem to be almost identical
with those of Bali Flaki. He is a giver of omens and a bringer of
messages from Laki Tenangan. The following notes of a conversation
with an intelligent Kayan chief will give some idea of his attitude
towards Laki Neho. It must be remembered that these people have no
priesthood and no dogmatic theologians to define and formulate beliefs,
so that their ideas as to the nature of their gods and their abodes and
powers are, though perhaps more concrete, at least as various in the
minds of different individuals as are the corresponding ideas among
the average adherents of more highly developed forms of religion;
and perhaps no two men will agree exactly on these matters, and any
one man will freely contradict his own statements.

Laki Tenangan is an old man with long white hair who speaks Kayan
and has a wife, Doh Tenangan. They sometimes see him in dreams, and
if fortunate they may then see his face,[137] but if unlucky they see
his back only. In olden times powerful men sometimes spoke with him,
but now this never occurs. He dwells in a house far away. Laki Neho
also has a house that is covered with palm leaves and frayed sticks. It
is in a tree-top, yet it is beside a river, and has a landing-place
before it like every Kayan house. This house is sometimes seen in
dreams. It is not so far away as the house of Laki Tenangan. At first
our informant said that help is asked directly of Laki Neho; but,
when pressed, he said that Laki Neho may carry the message to Laki
Tenangan. Some things Laki Neho does of his own will and power; for
example, if a branch were likely to fall on a Kayan boat he would
prevent it, for Laki Tenangan long ago taught him how to do such
things. When a man is sick, Kayans appeal to Laki Neho; but if he does
not make the patient well they then appeal to Laki Tenangan directly,
killing a pig, whose spirit goes first to the house of Laki Neho,
and then on to the more distant house of Laki Tenangan. For they
believe that in such a case the patient has somehow offended Laki
Neho by disregarding or misreading his omens. A man suffering from
chronic disease may himself pray to Laki Tenangan. He lights a fire
and kills a fowl, and perhaps a pig also, and calls upon Laki Neho to
be his witness and messenger. He holds an egg in one hand and says,
"This is for you to eat, carry my message direct to Laki Tenangan
that I may get well and live and bring up my children, who shall be
taught my occupations and the true customs." The fire is lighted to
make Laki Neho warm and energetic.

It will be seen from the above account that the Kayans have formed
a concept of the power of the hawks in general, and have given it a
semi-anthropomorphic character, and we shall see below that the Sea
Dayaks have carried this process still further.


The Kayan's attitude towards the crocodile is practically the same as
the Kenyah's. We append the following notes of a conversation with a
young Kayan chief, Usong, and his cousin Wan:There are but very few
Kayans who will kill a crocodile except in revenge. But if one of their
people has been taken by a crocodile they go out together to kill the
criminal, and they begin by saying, "Don't run away, you've got to
be killed, why don't you come to the surface? You won't come out on
the land because you have done wrong and are afraid." After this he
will perhaps come on land; and if he does not, he will at least float
to the surface of the water, and is then killed with spears. In olden
days Kayans used to make a crocodile of clay and ask it to drive away
evil spirits; but now this is not done. A crocodile may become a man
just like themselves. Sometimes a man dreams that a crocodile calls
him to become his blood-brother, and after they have gone through
the regular ceremony and exchanged names (in the dream), the man
is quite safe from crocodiles. Usong's uncle has in this way become
blood-brother to a crocodile, and is now called "Baya" (the generic
name for the crocodile), while some crocodile unknown is called Jok,
and Usong considers himself the nephew of the crocodile Jok. Usong's
father has also become blood-brother to a crocodile, and Usong calls
himself a son of this particular unknown crocodile. Sometimes he
asks these two, his uncle- and his father-crocodiles, to give him
a pig when he is out hunting, and once they did give him one. After
relating this, Usong added, "But who knows if this be true?"

Wan's great-great-grandfather became blood-brother to a crocodile,
and was called "Klieng Baya." Wan has several times met this crocodile
in dreams. In one dream he fell into the river when there were many
crocodiles about. He climbed on to the head of one, which said to him,
"Don't be afraid," and carried him to the bank. Wan's father had
charms given him by a crocodile and would not on any account kill
one, and Wan clearly regards himself as being intimately related to
crocodiles in general.

The Kayans regard the pig and the fowl in much the same way as the
Kenyahs do, and put them to the same uses. The beliefs and customs
with regard to deer, horned cattle, dogs, and the tiger-cat, are
similar to those of the Kenyahs save that they will not kill the
last of these. They are perhaps more strict in the avoidance of
deer and cattle. One old chief, who had been ailing for a long time,
hesitated to enter the Resident's house because he saw a pair of horns
hanging up there. When he entered he asked for a piece of iron, and
on returning home he killed a fowl and a pig, and submitted to the
process of having his soul caught by a DAYONG, lest it should have
incurred some undefined injury in the neighbourhood of the horns.

The Kayans avoid the skin of the tiger even more strictly than the
Kenyahs or any other tribe; even a great chief will not touch a
tiger-skin, and we have known one refuse to enter a house because he
knew that it contained a tiger-skin war-coat.

Like the Kenyahs, the Kayans entertain a superstitious dread of the
Maias and the long-nosed monkey, but the DOK (MACACUS NEMESTRINUS),
the coco-nut monkey of the Malay States, has special relations to
them. It is very common in their district, but they will kill it only
when it is stealing their rice-crop; and they will never eat it as
other peoples do. There is a somewhat uncertain belief that it is a
blood-relative, and the following myth is told to account for this. A
Kayan woman of high class was reaping PADI with her daughter. Now it
is against custom to eat any of the rice during reaping; and when the
mother went away for a short time leaving the girl at work, she told
her on no account to eat any of the rice. But no sooner was the mother
gone than the girl began to husk some PADI and nibble at it. Then
at once her body began to itch, and hair began to grow on her arms
like the hair of a DOK. Soon the mother returned and the girl said,
"Why am I itching so?" The mother answered, "You have done some wicked
thing, you have eaten some rice." Then hair grew all over the girl's
body except her head and face, and the mother said, "Ah, this is what
I feared, now you must go into the jungle and eat only what has been
planted by human hands." So the girl went into the jungle and her
head became like a DOK'S, and she ceased to be able to speak.

The DOK does not help them in any way, but only spoils their crops. A
very popular dance is the DOK dance, in which a man imitates very
cleverly the behaviour of the DOK. It is a very ludicrous performance,
and excites boisterous mirth. They say it is done merely in fun.

In one Kayan house the ends of all the main crossbeams that support the
roof are ornamented with fretwork designs, which are clearly animal
derivatives and apparently all of the same animal. The form suggests
a crocodile, and some of the men agreed that that was its meaning,
while others asserted that it was a dog. No doubt it was originally
one or other of these, but has now become a conventional design merely,
and its true origin has been forgotten.

A pattern which seems to be derived from the outline of a dog,
and which goes by the name KALANG ASU ( = dog-pattern), occurs in a
great variety of forms in the decorative art of the Kayans, and also,
though to a less extent, in that of the Kenyahs. It is tatued on arm
and thigh, is reproduced in beadwork, and carved in low relief on
decorative panels.[138]

Neither Kayans nor Kenyahs make much use of snakes of any kind,
but there is one snake with red head and tail (BATANG LIMA) which,
when they see it in the course of a journey, they must kill, else
harm will befall them. Again, if they see a certain snake just as
they are about to enter a strange river or a strange village, they
will stop and light a fire on the bank in order to communicate with
Laki Neho. Kayans will not eat any species of turtle or tortoise.


The following notes of a conversation with the Orang Kaya Tumonggong,
the influential chief of the Long Pata people (one of the many groups
of Klemantans), show that these people regard the hawk in much the
same way as the Kenyahs do: The hawk, BALI FLAKI, is the messenger
of "Bali Utong," the Supreme Being. When a party is about to set
out on any expedition they explain their intentions to BALI FLAKI,
and then observe the movements of the hawks. If a hawk circles round
over their heads, some of the party will fall sick on the journey and
probably will die. If the hawk flies to the right when near at hand,
it is a good omen; but if it flies to the right when at a distance, or
to the left, whether near or far, that is a bad omen. The people then
light a fire and entreat the hawk to give a more favourable sign, and
if it persists in going to the left they give up the expedition. If,
while the omens are being read, the hawk flaps his wings, or screams,
or swoops down and settles on a tree, the omen is bad. But if it
swoops down and up again, that is good. If two or three hawks are
visible at the same time, and especially if they all fly to the right,
that is very good; but if many are visible, and especially if they fly
off in different directions, that is very bad, for it means that the
enemy will scatter the attacking force. If the hawk should capture a
small bird while it is under observation, that means that they will
be made captives if they persist in their undertaking. The hawk is
not claimed as a relative by Klemantans. They take omens from various
other birds in matters of minor importance.

Klemantans use the domestic pig and fowl as sacrificial animals just
as the Kenyahs and Kayans do, and they have the same superstitious
dread of killing a dog. One group of them, Malanaus, use a dog in
taking a very solemn oath, and sometimes the dog is killed in the
course of this ceremony. Or instead of the dog being killed, its tail
may be cut off, and the man taking the oath licks the blood from the
stump; this is considered a most binding and solemn form of oath. The
ceremony is spoken of as KOMAN ASU, I.E. "the eating of the dog."

Most Klemantans will kill and eat both deer and cattle freely. But
there are exceptions to this rule. Thus Damong, the chief of a
Malanau household, together with all his people, will not kill or
eat the deer CERVULUS MUNTJAC, alleging that an ancestor had become
a deer of this kind, and that, since they cannot distinguish this
incarnation of his ancestor from other deer, they must abstain from
killing all deer of this species. We know of one instance in which
one of these people refused to use again his cooking-pot, because
a Malay who had borrowed it had used it for cooking the flesh of
deer of this species. This superstition is still rigidly adhered to,
although these people have been converted to Islam of recent years.

On one occasion another chief resolutely refused to proceed on a
journey through the jungle when a mouse-deer, PLANDOK, crossed his
path; he will not eat this deer at any time.[139]

The people of Miri, who also are Mohammedan Malanaus, claim to be
related to the large deer, CERVUS EQUINUS, and some of them to the
muntjac deer also. Now, these people live in a country in which deer
of all kinds abound, and they always make a clearing in the jungle
around a tomb. On such a clearing grass grows up rapidly, and so the
spot becomes attractive to deer as a grazing ground; and it seems not
improbable that it is through frequently seeing deer about the tombs
that the people have come to entertain the belief that their dead
relatives become deer, or that they are in some other way closely
related to the deer.

The Bakongs, another group of Malanaus, hold a similar belief
with regard to the bear-cat (ARTICTIS) and the various species of
PARADOXURUS; in this case the origin of the belief is admitted by
them to be the fact that, on going to their graveyards, they often
see one of these beasts coming out of a tomb. These tombs are roughly
constructed wooden coffins raised a few feet only from the ground,
and it is probable that these carnivores make their way into them,
in the first place, to devour the corpse, and that they make use of
them as lairs.

The relations of the Klemantans to the crocodiles seem to be more
intimate than those of other tribes. One group, the Long Patas, claim
the crocodile as a relative. The story goes that a certain man named
Silau became a crocodile. First he became covered with itch, and he
scratched himself till he bled and became rough all over. Then his
feet began to look like a crocodile's tail; as the change crept up
from his feet to his body, he called out to his relatives that he was
becoming a crocodile, and made them swear that they would never kill
any crocodile. Many of the people in olden days knew that Silau became
a crocodile; they saw him at times and spoke to him, and his teeth
and tongue were always like those of a man. Many stories are told of
his meeting with people by the river-side. On one occasion a man sat
roasting a pig on the river-bank, and, when he left it for a moment,
Silau took it and divided it among the other crocodiles, who greatly
enjoyed it. Silau then arranged with them that he would give a sign
to his human relatives by which the crocodiles might always be able
to recognise them when travelling on the river. He told his human
friends that they must tie leaves of the DRACAENA below the bows of
their boats; this they always do when they go far from home, so that
the crocodiles may recognise them and so abstain from attacking them.

If a man of the Long Patas is taken by a crocodile, they attribute
this to the fact that they have intermarried to some extent with
Kayans. When they come upon a crocodile lying on the river-bank, they
say, "Be easy, grandfather, don't mind us, your are one of us." Some
of the Klemantans will not even eat anything that has been cooked in a
vessel previously used for cooking crocodile's flesh, and it is said
that if a man should do so unwittingly his body would become covered
with sores.

If a crocodile is seen on their left hand by Long Patas on a war
expedition, that is a bad omen; but if on their right hand, that is
the best possible omen.

The Orang Kaya Tumonggong tells us that in the olden times the
crocodiles used to speak to his people, warning them of danger, but
that now they never speak, and he supposes that their silence is due
to the fact that his people have intermarried with other tribes. The
Long Patas frequently carve a crocodile's head as the figurehead for
a war-canoe.

The Batu Blah people (Klemantans) on returning from the war-path make
a huge effigy of a crocodile with cooked rice, and they put fowl's
eggs in its head for eyes and bananas for teeth, and cover it with
scales made from the stem of the banana plant. When all is ready it
is transfixed with a wooden spear, and the chief cuts off its head
with a wooden sword. Then pigs and fowls are slaughtered and cooked,
and eaten with the rice from the rice-crocodile, the chiefs eating
the head and the common people the body. The chief of these people
could give us no explanation of the meaning of this ceremony; he
merely says they do it because it is custom.

One community of Klemantans, the Lelak people, lived recently on the
banks of a lake much infested with crocodiles. Their chief had the
reputation of being able to induce them to leave the lake. To achieve
this he would stand in his boat waving a bundle of charms, which
included among other things teeth of the real tiger and boars' tusks,
and then address the crocodiles politely in their own language. He
would then allow his boat to float out of the lake into the river,
and the crocodiles would follow him and pass on down the river.

Many, probably all, Klemantans put up wooden images of the crocodile
before their houses, and many of them carve the prow of their
war-canoes into the form of a crocodile's head with gaping jaw.

Some of the Muruts make an effigy of the crocodile from clay for use
on the celebration of a successful expedition.

The Punans

The Punans make use of all the omen-birds that are used by the Kenyahs,
and they regard them as in some degree sacred, and not to be killed or
eaten. They seem to read the omens in much the same way as the Kenyahs
do; but they are not so constant in their cult of the omen-birds, and
Punans of different districts differ a good deal from one another in
this respect. In fact, it is doubtful whether those that have mixed
least with the other peoples pay any attention to the omen-birds;
and it seems not unlikely that the cult of the omen-birds is in
process of being adopted by them.

With the exception of these birds there is probably no wild animal of
the jungle that the Punans do not kill and eat. They refuse to eat
the domestic pig, but this, they say, is because they know nothing
of it, it is strange to them. Having no domestic pigs and fowls,
they of course do not sacrifice them to their gods, nor do they seem
to practise the rite of sacrifice in any form.

They give the names of various animals to their children, and they
use these names in the ordinary way.

The crocodile seems to be regarded as a god by the Punans -- they speak
of it as Bali Penyalong. (This, as we have already said, is the name
of the Supreme Spirit of the Kenyahs.) They sometimes make a wooden
image of it, and hang it before the leaf shelter or hut in which they
may be living at any time; and if one of their party should fall ill,
they hang the blossom of the betel-nut tree on the figure, and the
medicine-man addresses it when he seeks to call back the wandering
soul of his patient.

Punans certainly ascribe significance to the behaviour of a few animals
other than those observed by the other peoples. Thus, if they see
a lizard of any kind upon a branch before the shelter in which they
are encamped, and especially if it utters its note, they regard this
as a sign that enemies are near.

The Sea Dayaks or Ibans

The Ibans do not seem to have any conception that corresponds closely
to the Supreme Spirit of the races with which we have already
dealt. Archdeacon Perham[140] has given an account of the Petara
of these people, showing how it is a conception of one god having
very many manifestations and functions, each special function being
conceived vaguely as an anthropomorphic deity. He has described also
the mythical warrior-hero and demi-god Klieng, and the god of war,
Singalang Burong. As Archdeacon Perham has said, this last deity has
a material animal form, namely, the white-headed hawk, which is the
Bali Flaki of the Kenyahs, and plays a somewhat similar part in their
lives. But Singalong Burong is decidedly more anthropomorphic than Bali
Flaki; he is probably generally conceived as a single being of human
form living in a house such as the Ibans themselves inhabit; whereas
Bali Flaki, even if sometimes conceived in the singular as the great
Bali Flaki, is very bird-like. We have seen that the Kayans describe
their hawk-god, Laki Neho, as dwelling in a house, which, though in
the top of a tree, has a landing-stage before it on the river-bank.

In the case of the Kayans, the conception is only half-way on the road
to a full anthropomorph; whereas with the Ibans the change has been
completed and the hawk-god is completely anthropomorphic. Corresponding
with this increased importance and definition of the anthropomorphic
hawk-god, we find that for the Mans the virtue has departed out of the
individual hawks, and that they are no longer consulted for omens;
for the Ibans say that Singalang Burong never leaves his house,
and that for this reason they do not take omens from the hawks when
going on the war-path. Nevertheless, he is the chief or ruler over all
the other omen birds, who are merely his messengers. He thus seems
to have come to occupy almost the supreme position accorded to Bali
Penyalong by the Kenyahs. The following notes are the statements made
upon this subject by a very intelligent Iban of the Undup district:
Once a year they make a big feast for Singalang Burong and sing for
about twelve hours, calling him and Klieng and all the Petara to the
feast. (This is the ceremony known as BURONG GAWAI. It is a most
tedious and monotonous performance after the first few hours.) In
olden days Singalang Burong used to come to these feasts in person
as a man just like an Iban in appearance and behaviour. At the end of
the feast he would go out, take off his coat, and fly away in the form
of a white-headed hawk. Now they are not sure that he comes to their
feast, because they never see him, Singalang Burong is greater than
Klieng, although, it is Klieng that gives them heads in war. Singalang
Burong married an Iban woman, Kachindai Lanai Pantak Girak, and he
gave all his daughters in marriage to the omen-birds. Dara Inchin
Tembaga Monghok Chelabok married Katupong (SASIA ABNORMIS); Dara
Selaka Utih Nujut married Mambuas (CARCURENTIS); Pingai Tuai Nadai
Mertas Indu Moa Puchang Penabas married Bragai (HARPACTES); Indu
Langgu Katungsong Ngumbai Dayang Katupang Bunga Nketai married Papau
(HARPACTES DIARDI); and, lastly, Indu Bantok Tinchin Mas Ndu Pungai
Lelatan Pulas married Kotok (LEPOCESTES). He had also one son, Agi
Melieng etc., who married the daughter of Pulang Gana, the god of
agriculture, her name being Indu Kachanggut Rumput Melieng Kapian.

It was amusing and instructive to hear this Iban rattle off these
enormous names without any hesitation, while another Iban sitting
beside him guaranteed their accuracy.

In the olden days, it is said, there were only thirty-three individuals
of each kind of omen-bird (including Singalang Burong). But although
these thirty-three of each kind still exist, there are many others
which cannot be certainly distinguished from them, and these do not
give true omens. It would be quite impossible to kill any one of
these thirty-three true representatives of each kind, however much
a man might try.

Nevertheless, if an Iban kills an omen-bird by mistake, he wraps it
in a piece of cloth and buries it carefully in the earth, and with
it he buries rice and flesh and money, entreating it not to be vexed
and to forgive him, because it was all an accident. He then goes home
and will speak to no one on the way, and stays in the house for the
rest of that day at least.

The Ibans read omens not only from the birds mentioned above as the
son-in-law of Singalang Burong, but also from some other animals. And
it is interesting to note that they have made a verb from the
substantive BURONG (a bird), namely, BEBURONG (to bird), I.E. to take
omens of any kind, whether from bird or beast. An excellent account
of the part played by omens in the life of the Ibans has been given
by Archdeacon Perham in the paper referred to above, and we have
nothing further to add to that account.

The hornbill must be included among the sacred birds of the Iban,
although it does not give omens. On the occasion of making peace
between hostile tribes, the Ibans sometimes make a large wooden
image of the hornbill and hang great numbers of cigarettes upon it;
and these are taken from it during the ceremony and smoked by all the
men taking part in it. On the occasion of the great peace-making at
Baram in March 1899, at which thousands of Kenyahs, Kayans, Klemantans,
and Ibans were present,[141] the Ibans made an elaborate image of the
hornbill some nine feet in height, and hung upon it many thousands of
cigarettes, and these were smoked by the men of the different tribes,
all apparently with full understanding of the value of the act.

A special deity or spirit, Pulang Gana, presides over the rice-culture
of the Ibans, but the crocodile also is intimately concerned with
it. The following account was given us by an intelligent Iban from
the Batang Lupar: --

Klieng first advised the Ibans to make friends with Pulang Gana, who is
a PETARA and the grandfather ("AKI") of PADI. Pulang Gana first taught
them to plant PADI and instructed them in the following rites: --

On going to a new district Ibans always make a life-size image of a
crocodile in clay on the land chosen for the PADI-farm. The image is
made chiefly by some elderly man of good repute and noted for skilful
farming. Then for seven days .the house is MALI, I.E. under special
restrictions -- no one may enter the house or do anything in it except
eat and sleep. At the end of the seven days they go to see the clay
crocodile and give it cloth and food and rice-spirit, and kill a fowl
and a pig before it. The ground round about the image is kept carefully
cleared and is held sacred for the next three years, and if this is not
done there will be poor crops on the other farms. When the rites have
been duly performed this clay crocodile destroys all the pests which
eat the rice. If, in a district where Ibans have been long settled,
the farm-pests become very noxious, the people pass three days MALI and
then make a tiny boat of bark, which they call UTAP. They then catch
one specimen of each kind of pest -- one sparrow, one grasshopper,
etc. -- and put them into the small boat, together with all they need
for food, and set the boat free to float away down the river. If this
does not drive away the pests, they resort to the more thorough and
certainly effectual process of making the clay crocodile.

Many Ibans claim the live crocodile as a relative, and, like almost
all the other peoples, will not eat the flesh of crocodiles, and will
not kill them, save in revenge when a crocodile has taken one of their
household. They say that the spirit of the crocodile sometimes becomes
a man just like an Iban, but better and more powerful in every way,
and sometimes he is met and spoken with in this form.

Another reason given for their fear of killing crocodiles is that
Ribai, the river-god, sometimes becomes a crocodile; and he may become
also a tiger or a bear. Klieng, too, may become any one of five beasts,
namely, the python, the maias, the crocodile, the bear, or the tiger,
and it is for this reason that Ibans seldom kill these animals. For
if a man should kill one which was really either Ribai or Klieng,
he would go mad.

The Ibans are by nature a less serious-minded and less religious
people than the Kenyahs and Kayans, and they have a greater variety of
myths and extravagant superstitions; nevertheless, they use the fowl
and the pig as sacrificial animals in much the same way as the other
tribes. They eat the fowl and both the wild and domestic pig freely,
except in so far as they are restrained by somewhat rigid notions of
economy in such matters. The fowl plays a larger part than the pig in
their religious practices, and its entrails are sometimes consulted
for omens.

Ibans will kill and eat all kinds of deer, but there are exceptions
to this rule. The deer are of some slight value to them as
omen-givers. Horned cattle they will kill and eat, but they are not
accustomed to their flesh, and few of them relish it.

Ibans have numerous animal fables that remind one strongly of AEsop's
fables and the Brer Rabbit stories of the Africans. In these KORA,
the land-tortoise, and PLANDOK, the tiny mouse-deer, figure largely
as cunning and unprincipled thieves and vagabonds that turn the laugh
always against the bigger animals and man.[142]

The NGARONG or Secret Helper

An important institution among some of the Ibans, which occurs but
in rare instances among the other peoples, is the NGARONG[143]
or secret helper. The NGARONG IS one of the very few topics in
regard to which the Ibans display any reluctance to speak freely. So
great is their reserve in this connection that one of us lived for
fourteen years on friendly terms with Ibans of various districts
without ascertaining the meaning of the word NGARONG, or suspecting
the great importance of the part played by the notion in the lives
of some of these people. The NGARONG seems to be usually the spirit
of some ancestor or dead relative, but not always so, and it is not
clear that it is always conceived as the spirit of a deceased human
being. This spirit becomes the special protector of some individual
Iban, to whom in a dream he manifests himself, in the first place
in human form, and announces that he will be his secret helper; and
he may or may not inform the dreamer in what form he will appear in
future. On the day after such a dream the Iban wanders through the
jungle looking for signs by which he may recognise his secret helper;
and if an animal behaves in a manner at all unusual, if a startled
deer stops a moment to gaze at him before bounding away, if a gibbon
gambols about persistently in the trees near him, if he comes upon a
bright quartzcrystal or a strangely. contorted root or creeper,[144]
that animal or object is for him full of a mysterious significance
and is the abode of his NGARONG. Sometimes the NGARONG, then assumes
the form of an Iban and speaks with him, promising all kinds of help
and good fortune. If this occurs the seer usually faints away, and
when he comes to himself again the NGARONG will have disappeared. Or,
again, a man may be told in his dream that if he will go into the
jungle he will meet his NGARONG in the form of a wild boar. He will
then, of course, go to seek it, and if by chance other men of his
house should kill a wild boar that day, he will go to them and beg
for its head or buy it at a good price if need be, carry it home
to his bed-place, offer it cooked rice and kill a fowl before it,
smearing the blood on the head and on himself, and humbly begging
for pardon. Or he may leave the corpse in the jungle and sacrifice a
fowl before it there. On the following night he hopes to dream of the
NGARONG again, and perhaps he is told in his dream to take the tusks
from the dead boar and that they will bring him good luck. Unless he
dreams something of this sort, he feels that he has been mistaken,
and that the boar was not really his secret helper.

Perhaps only one in a hundred men is fortunate enough to have a secret
helper, though it is ardently desired by many of them. Many a young man
goes to sleep on the grave of some distinguished person, or in some
wild and lonely spot, and lives for some days on a very restricted
diet, hoping that a secret helper will come to him in his dreams.

When, as is most commonly the case, the secret helper takes on the
form of some animal, all individuals of that species become objects
of especial regard to the fortunate Iban; he will not kill or eat
any such animal, and he will as far as possible restrain others from
doing so. A NGARONG may after a time manifest itself in some new form,
but even then the Iban will continue to respect the animal-form in
which it first appeared.

In some cases the cult of a secret helper will spread through
a whole family or household. The children and grandchildren will
usually respect the species of animal to which a man's secret helper
belongs, and will perhaps sacrifice fowls or pigs to it occasionally,
although they expect no help from it; but it is asserted that if
the great-grandchildren of a man behave well to his secret helper,
it will often befriend them just as much as its original protege.

The above general account of the secret helper is founded on the
descriptions of many different Ibans, and we will now supplement it
by describing several particular instances.

Anggus (an Ulu Ai Iban of the Batang Lupar) says that every Iban who
has no NGARONG hopes to get some bird or beast as his helper at the
BEGAWAI, the feast given to the PETARA. He himself has none, but he
will not kill the gibbon because the NGARONG of his grandfather,
who died twenty years ago, was a gibbon. Once a man came to his
grandfather in a dream and said to him, "Don't you kill the gibbon,"
and then turned into a grey gibbon. This gibbon helped him to become
rich and to take heads, and in all possible ways. On one occasion,
when he was about to go on the war-path, his NGARONG came to him in
a dream and said, "Go on, I will help you," and the next day he saw
in the jungle a grey gibbon which was undoubtedly his NGARONG. When
he died he said to his sons, "Don't you kill the gibbon," and his
sons and grandsons have obeyed him in this ever since. Anggus adds
that when a man dreams of a NGARONG. for the first time he does not
accept it, and will still kill animals of that kind; nor is a second
dream enough; but when he dreams the same dream a third time, then
his scepticism is overcome and he can no longer doubt his good fortune.

Anggus himself once shot a gibbon when told to do so by one of us. He
first said to it, "I don't want to kill you, but the TUAN who is
giving me wages expects me to, and the blame is his. But if you are
really the NGARONG of my grandfather, make the shot miss you." He
then shot and missed three times, and on shooting a fourth time he
killed a gibbon, but not the one he had spoken to. Anggus does not
think the gibbon helps either his father or himself.

Payang, an old Katibas Iban, tells us that he has been helped by
a python ever since he was a youth, when a man came to him in a
dream and said, "Sometimes I become a python and sometimes a cobra,
and I will always help you." It has certainly helped him very much,
but he does not know whether it has helped his children; nevertheless
he has forbidden them to kill it. He does not like to speak of it,
but he does so at our request. Payang concluded by saying that he
had no doubt that we white men have secret helpers, very much more
powerful than the Iban's, and that to them we owe our ability to do
so many wonderful things.

Imban, an Iban who had recently moved to the Baram river from the
Rejang, had once when sick seen in a dream the LABI-LABI, the large
river-turtle (TRIONYX SUBPLANUS), and had made a promise that if he
should recover he would never kill it. So when he settled on the Baram
river as head of a household, he attempted to impose a fine on his
people for killing the LABI-LABI, insisting that it was MALI to kill it
or bring its carcase into his river. They appealed to one of us as the
resident magistrate, and it was decided that if Imban wished to insist
on this observance he must remove to a small tributary stream. This
he has done, and a few of his people have followed him; and on them
he enforces a strict observance of his cult of the river-turtle.

A still more interesting case is the following one: -- A community of
Ibans were building a new house on the Dabai river some years ago,
and one day, while they were at work, a porcupine ran out of a hole
in the ground near by. During the following night one of the party
was told by the porcupine in a dream to join their new house with
his (the porcupine's). So they completed their house; and ever since
that time they have made yearly feasts in honour of the porcupines
that live beneath the house, and no one in the house dare injure one
of them, though they will still kill and eat other porcupines in the
jungle. They have had no death in the house during the seven years that
it has been built, and this they attribute to the protecting power of
the porcupines; and when any one is sick, they offer food to them, and
regard their good offices as far more important than the ministrations
of the MANANG (the medicine-man). Last year some relatives of these
Ibans moved to this village, and for three months the knowledge of
the part played by the porcupines was hidden from them as a mysterious
secret. At the end of that time this precious mystery was disclosed to
the new-comers, and the porcupines were feasted with every variety of
cooked rice, some of it being made into a rude image of a porcupine,
and with rice-spirit and cakes of sugar and rice-flour, salt and
dried fish, oil, betel-nut, and tobacco. Several fowls were slain,
and their blood was daubed on the chin of each person in the house,
a ceremony known as ENSELAN. The liver of one fowl was carefully taken
out and put with the food offered to the porcupines, that they might
read the omens from it; and they were then informed of the arrival of
the new-comers. The fowls were waved over the heads of the people by
the old men, while they prayed the porcupines to give them long life
and health, and a token of their goodwill in the form of a smooth
rounded pebble. On an occasion of this sort it is highly probable
that the required token will be found; for the secret helper would no
doubt be surreptitiously helped by some member of the household who,
being deficient in faith, prefers to make a certainty of so important
a matter rather than leave it entirely to the NGARONG.

Inquiries made since the publication of the facts reported in the
foregoing paragraphs have shown us that the cult of the NGARONG
or secret helper is probably not common to all branches of the Sea
Dayaks people. We have heard of its occurrence amongst the Ulu Ai
Dayaks both of the Batang Lupar and Rejang districts, but we have no
positive knowledge of its occurrence among other branches unless the
custom known as NAMPOK has some connection with it.


We have now to discuss some problems suggested by a review of the
facts set forth above, and to bring forward a few additional facts
that seem to throw light on these questions.

The question that we will first discuss is this: Are all or any of the
instances of peculiar regard paid to animals, or of animals sacrificed
to gods or spirits, or of the ceremonial use of their blood, to be
regarded as institutions surviving from a fully developed system of
totemism now fallen into decay? It will have been noticed that many of
the features of totemism, as it occurs in its best developed forms,
occur among the people of one or other of the tribes of Sarawak. We
have, in the first place, numerous cases in which a whole community
refuses to kill or eat an animal which is believed to protect and
aid them by omens and warnings and in other ways, and in which the
animal is worshipped with prayer and sacrifice (E.G. the hawk among
various tribes); we have at least one instance of a community claiming
to be related to a friendly species (Long Patas and the crocodile),
and having as usual an extravagant myth to account for the belief; we
have the domestic animal that is sacrificially slain, its blood being
sprinkled on the worshippers and its flesh eaten by them, and that is
never slain without religious rites (pig of the Kenyahs and Kayans); we
have the animal that must not be killed tatued on the skin of the men
(the dog), or its skin worn by fully grown men only (the tiger-cat), or
images of it made of clay or carved in wood and set up before the house
(the hawk and crocodile); we have also the animal that is claimed as
a relative imitated in popular dances (the Dok-monkey of the Kayans);
the belief that the souls of men assume the form of some animal that
must not be killed or eaten (deer and the ARCTOGALE among Klemantans);
the observance by invalids of a very strict avoidance of contact with
any part of an animal that must not be killed or eaten in any case
(horned cattle among many Kenyahs and Kayans).

Not only do we see these various customs, which in several parts of
the world have been observed as living elements of totem-cults, and
which in other parts have been accepted as evidence of totem-worship in
the past, but in the agricultural habits of the people we may see an
efficient cause of the decay of totemism, if at some time in the past
it has flourished among them. For it has been pointed out, especially
totemism seems to flourish most naturally among tribes of hunters, and
that the introduction of agriculture must tend towards its decay. Now
there is some reason to suppose that the introduction to Borneo of
rice and of the art of cultivating it is of comparatively recent
date. Crawford reckoned that the cultivation of PADI was introduced
to the southern parts of Borneo from Java some 300 years ago, and
into the northern parts from the Philippine Islands about 150 years
ago. But whatever the date of the occurrence may have been, it seems
to be certain that, by the introduction of PADI cultivation from some
other country, most of the tribes of Sarawak were converted, probably
very rapidly, from hunting to agriculture. This conversion must have
caused great changes in their social conditions and in their customs
and superstitions; and, if totemism flourished among them while they
were still simple hunters, its decay may well have been one of the
chief of these changes.

A second factor that would have tended to bring about this change is
the prevalence of a belief in a god or beneficent spirit more powerful
than all others, and more directly concerned with the welfare of
his worshippers, however this belief may have come into being. And a
third factor that may have tended in the same direction is the custom
of head-hunting, and the important part played by the heads in the
religious life of the people. For there is some reason to think that
head-hunting is a comparatively young institution among the tribes
of Sarawak.

But in spite of all this, and although we do not think it is possible
completely to disprove the truth of the hypothesis that some or all
of these animal cults are vestiges of a once fully developed totemic
system, we are inclined to reject it. We are led to do so by four
considerations. In the first place, if by totemism we mean a social
organisation consisting in the division of a people into groups or
clans, each of which worships or holds in superstitious regard one
or more kinds of animal or plant, or other natural objects to which
the members of the group claim to be related by blood or by descent,
then it seems to us sufficiently wonderful that this system should
have existed among peoples so remote from one another in all things,
save certain of the external conditions of life, as the Indians
of North America and the natives of Australia. And it seems to us
that to invoke the aid of the hypothesis of totemism in the past to
explain the existence of a set of animal or plant superstitions in
any particular case is but to increase the mystery that shrouds their
origin; for unless it can be shown that the adoption or development
of totemism by any people brings with it immense advantages for them
in the struggle for existence, every fresh case in which the evidence
compels us to admit its occurrence, whether in the past or as a still
flourishing institution, can but increase the wonder with which we
have to regard its wide distribution.

Secondly, we have in the total absence of totemism among the Punans
very strong ground for rejecting the suggestion of its previous
existence among the Kenyahs. For in physical characters, in language,
and, as far as the difference in the mode of life permits, in customs
and beliefs, the Punans resemble the Kenyahs so closely that we must
assume them to be closely allied by blood; and it seems probable
that the Punans have merely persisted in the cultural condition from
which the Kenyahs and other tribes have been raised by the adoption
of agriculture and the practice of building substantial houses. Yet,
as we have said, the Punans, although in that condition of nomadic
hunters which is probably the most favourable to the development and
persistence of totemism, observe hardly any restrictions in their
hunting, and in fact seem to kill and eat with equal freedom almost
every bird and beast of the jungle, shooting them with the blow-pipe
and poisoned darts with consummate skill. The only exceptions to
this rule are, so far as we know, the omen-birds, a carnivore, and
a lizard, and, as we have said, it seems doubtful whether even these
are excepted in the case of Punans who have not had much intercourse
with other peoples.

Thirdly, although it may be said that even at the present time many
of the features of the religious side of totemism are present, we
have not been able to discover any traces of a social organisation
based upon totemism. There is no trace of any general division of
the people of any tribe into groups which claim specially intimate
relations with different animals, except in the case of the Klemantans;
and in their case such special relations seem to be the result merely
of the different conditions under which the various scattered groups
now live. There are no restrictions in the choice of a wife that might
indicate a rule of endogamy or exogamy. There are no ceremonies to
initiate youths into tribal mysteries; certain ceremonies in which the
youths take a leading part are directed exclusively to training them
for war and the taking of heads in battle. We know of no instance
of any group of people being named after an animal or plant which
is claimed as a relative; and in the case of the more homogeneous
tribes, such as the Kenyahs and Kayans, all prohibitions with regard to
animals and all benefits conferred by them are shared equally by all
the members of any one community, and, with but very few exceptions,
are the same for all the communities of the tribe.

Lastly, we think it unnecessary to regard the various animal
superstitions of these tribes as survivals of totemism, because
it seems possible to find a more direct and natural explanation of
almost every case. The numerous cases seem to fall into two groups:
the superstitious practices concerned with the sacrificial animals,
the pig and fowl on the one hand, and all those concerned with the
various other animals on the other hand. These latter may, we think,
be regarded as the expression of the direct and logical reaction of
the mind of the savage to the impression made upon it by the behaviour
of the animals.

It has been admirably shown by Professor Lloyd Morgan[145] how
we ourselves, and even professed psychologists among us, tend to
overestimate the complexity of the mental processes of animals;
and there can be no doubt that savages generally are subject to
this error in a very much greater degree, that, in fact, they make,
without questioning and in most cases without explicit statement even
to themselves, the practical assumption that the mental processes of
animals -- their passions, desires, motives, and powers of reasoning
-- are of the same order as, and in fact extremely similar to, their
own. That the Kenyahs entertain this belief in a very practical manner
is shown by their conduct when preparing for a hunting or fishing
excursion. If, for example, they are preparing to poison the fish
of a section of the river with the "tuba" root, they always speak
of the matter as little as possible, and use the most indirect and
fanciful modes of expression. Thus they will say, "There are many
leaves floating here," meaning, "There are plenty of fish in this
part of the river." And these elaborate precautions are taken lest
the birds should overhear their remarks and inform the fish of their
intentions -- when, of course, the fish would not stay to be caught,
but would swim away to some other part of the river.

Since this belief seems to be common to all or almost all savages
and primitive peoples, it would be a strange thing if prohibitions
against killing and eating certain animals and various superstitious
practices in regard to animals were not practically universal among
them. Bearing in mind the reality of this belief in the minds of these
peoples, it is easy to understand why they should shrink from killing
any creature so malignant-looking and powerful for harm as a snake,
and why they should feel uneasy in the presence of, and to some extent
dread, the MAIAS and the longnosed monkey, creatures whose resemblance
to man seems even to us somewhat uncanny. Their objection to killing
their troublesome and superfluous dogs seems to be due to a somewhat
similar feeling -- a recognition of intelligence and emotions not
unlike their own, but mysteriously hidden from them by the dumbness of
the animals. In the same way it is clear that it is but a very simple
and logical inference that the crocodiles are a friendly race, and
but the clearest dictate of prudence to avoid offending creatures so
powerful and agile; for if the crocodiles were possessed of the mental
powers attributed to them by the imagination of the people, they might
easily make it impossible for men to travel upon the rivers or dwell
on their banks. A similar process would lead to the prohibition against
the eating of the tiger-cat, the only large and dangerous carnivore.

The origin of the prohibitions against killing and eating deer and
horned cattle is perhaps not so clear. But it must be remembered that
until very recently the only horned cattle known to the tribes of the
interior were the wild cattle (the Seladang of the Malay peninsula),
very fierce and powerful creatures. These wild cattle hide themselves
in the remotest recesses of the forests, and, as they are but very
rarely seen, they may well be regarded as somewhat mysterious and
awful. Deer, on the other hand, abound in the forests, and, like most
deer, are very timid; and it is perhaps their timidity that has led in
some cases to the prohibition against their flesh, for we have seen
how a Kenyah chief feared lest his little son, safe at home, should
be infected with the deer's timidity if he himself a hundred miles
away should come in contact with the skin of one. In another case we
have seen that by the people of one community deer are regarded as
relatives, or as containing the souls of their ancestors, and that
this belief probably had its origin in the fact that deer are in
"the habit of frequenting the grassy clearings made about the tombs
by the people. And we saw that a similar belief in respect of certain
carnivores probably had a similar origin.

We think that even the elaborate cult of the hawk and of the other
omen-birds is to be explained on these lines. If we think of the
hawk's erratic behaviour, how he will come suddenly rushing down out
of the remotest blue of the sky to hover overhead, and then perhaps
to circle hither and thither in an apparently aimless manner, or
will keep flying on before a boat on the river, or come swiftly to
meet it, screaming as he comes, -- if we think of this, it is easy to
understand how a people whose whole world consists of dense forests and
dangerous rivers, a people extremely ignorant of natural causation,
yet intelligent and speculative, and always looking out for signs
that shall guide them among the mystery and dangers that surround
them, may have come to see in the hawk a messenger sent to them by
the beneficent Supreme Being. For this Being is vaguely conceived by
them as dwelling in the skies whence the hawk comes, and whither he so
often returns. And then we may suppose that the messenger himself has
come to be an object of worship in various degrees with the different
tribes, as seems to be the rule in all religious systems in which
servants of a deity mediate between him and man.

The origin of the various rites in which the fowl and pig are
sacrificed, and their blood smeared or sprinkled on men or on the
altar-posts of gods, or on the image of the hawk, and their souls
charged with messages to the Supreme Being -- the origin of this
group of customs must be sought in a different direction. To any
one acquainted with Robertson Smith's RELIGION OF THE SEMITES,
idea naturally suggests itself that these animals are or were true
totems, of which the cult has passed into a late stage of decay. It
might be supposed that, being originally totem animals, they thereby
became domesticated by their worshippers; that they were occasionally
slain as a rite for the renewal of the bond between them and their
worshippers, their blood being smeared or sprinkled on the latter,
and their flesh ceremonially eaten by them; and that the eating of
them has become more and more frequent, until now every religious
rite, of however small importance, is made the occasion for the
killing and eating of them. It might also be supposed that, with the
development or the adoption of the conception of a Supreme Being,
the original purpose and character of the rites had become obscure,
so that the slaughtered animals are now regarded in some cases as
sacrifices offered to the deity.

But we do not think that this tempting hypothesis as to the origin of
the rites can be upheld in this case. In the first place, the wild
pig of the jungle is hunted in sport and killed and eaten freely by
all the various tribes, and is, in fact, treated on the whole with
less respect and ceremony than perhaps any other animal. Secondly,
the domestic pig differs so much from the wild pig that Mr. Oldfield
Thomas has pronounced it to be of a different species, and it seems
possible that it has been introduced to Borneo by the Chinese at
a comparatively recent date. Further, there is reason to suppose
that the custom of sacrificing pigs and fowls arose through the
substitution of them for human beings in certain rites. For there
is a number of rites of which it is admitted by the people that the
slaughter of human beings was formerly a central feature; of these,
the most important and the most widely spread are the funeral rites
of a great chief, the rites at the building of a new house, and those
on returning from a successful war expedition. In all these fowls
or pigs are now substituted as a rule, but we know of instances in
which in recent years human beings were the victims. Thus some years
ago, on the death of the chief of a community of Klemantans (the
Orang Bukit), a slave was bought by his son, and a feast was made,
and the slave was killed through each man of the community giving
him a slight wound. This was said to be the revival of an old and
almost obsolete custom. In another recent case, when a mixed party
of Kayans and Kenyahs returned from a successful war expedition, only
the Kenyahs had secured heads. The Kayans therefore took an old woman,
one of the captives, and killed her by driving a long pole against her
abdomen, as many of them as possible taking part by holding and helping
to thrust the pole. The head was then divided among the parties of
Kayans, and pieces of the flesh were hung on poles beside the river,
just as is done with the flesh of slain enemies and with the flesh of
the pigs that are always slaughtered on such occasions. It was said
that this killing of a human being was equivalent to killing a pig,
only much finer.

Kayans tell us that they used to kill slaves at the death of a chief,
usually three, but at least one, and that they nailed them to the tomb,
in order that they might accompany the chief on his long journey to
the other world and paddle the canoe in which he must travel. This is
no longer done, but a wooden figure of a man is put up at the head
and another of a woman at the foot of the coffin of a chief as it
lies in state before the funeral. And a small wooden figure of a man
is usually fixed on the top of the tomb, and it is said that this
is to row the canoe for the chief. A live fowl is usually tied to
this figure, and although it is said to be put there merely to eat
the maggots, we think there can be no doubt that we see here going
on the process of substitution of fowl for slave.

In building a new house it is customary among almost all these tribes
to put a fowl into the hole dug to receive the first of the piles
that are to support the house, and to allow the end of the pile to
fall upon the fowl so as to kill it. The Kenyahs admit that formerly
a girl was usually killed in this way, and there is reason to believe
that in all cases a human victim was formerly the rule, and that the
fowl is a substitute merely.[146]

In the following cases, too, we see the idea of substitution of fowls
or pigs for men.

It is customary with the Malanaus of Niah to kill buffalo, and also
to kill fowls, and put them together with eggs on poles in the caves
in which the swifts build the edible nests, in order to secure a good
crop of nests. One year, when the nests were scanty they bought a slave
in Brunei, and killed him in the cave, in the hope of increasing the
number of nests.

It was formerly the custom to exact a fine of one or more slaves as
punishment for certain offences, E.G. the accidental setting fire to
a house. At the present time, when slaves are scarcer than of yore,
they are rarely given in such cases, but usually brass gongs; and
the gongs are always accompanied by a pig.

Now, when slaves were killed and nailed to the tomb of a chief,
the purpose was perfectly clear and simple. It Was done in just the
same spirit in which the weapons and shield and clothing are still
always hung on the tomb of a deceased warrior, in order, namely,
that his shade may not be without them on the journey to the other
world. On the introduction of the domestic pig it may well have become
customary for the poorer classes, who could not afford to kill a
slave, or for families which owned no slaves, to kill a pig as in
some degree a compensation for the want of human victims. If such
a custom were once introduced, it may well have spread rapidly from
motives of both economy and humanity; for a slave is as a rule very
kindly treated by his master, and in many cases comes to be regarded
as a member of the family.

We may suppose, too, that it was formerly the custom to kill a slave
when prayers of public importance were made to the Supreme Being, in
order that the soul of the slave might carry the prayer to him. If this
was the case, the substitution of pig for slave, on the introduction
of the domestic pig, may be the more readily conceived to have become
customary, when we remember that these people regard the souls of
animals as essentially similar to their own.[147] If such a custom of
substitution once gained a footing, it would naturally become usual to
take the opportunity of communicating with the higher powers whenever
a pig was to be slaughtered.

This view, that in all sacrifices of the pig and fowl these are
but substitutes for human victims, finds very strong support in the
following facts: -- The Kalabits, a tribe inhabiting the north-western
corner of the Baram district, breed the water-buffalo and use it in
cultivating their land. It has probably been introduced to this area
from North Borneo at a recent date. The religious rites of this people
closely resemble those of the tribes with which we have been dealing
above; but in all cases in which pigs are sacrificed by the latter,
buffaloes are used by the Kalabits.

The rite of sprinkling the blood of pigs and fowls on men and on the
altar-posts and images may, we think, be an extension or adaptation
of the blood-brotherhood ceremony. We have seen that with the Kayans
and Kenyahs the essential feature of this ceremony is the drawing of
a little blood from the arm of the two men, each of whom then drinks
or consumes in a cigarette the blood of the other one. Such a rite
calls for no remote explanation; it seems to have suggested itself
naturally to the minds of primitive people all the world over as a
process for the cementing of friendship. When two hostile communities
wished to make a permanent peace with one another, it would be natural
that they should wish to perform a ceremony similar to the rite of
blood-brotherhood. But the interchange of drops of blood between large
numbers of persons would obviously be inconvenient; and if the idea of
substituting fowls and pigs for human victims had once taken root in
their minds, it would have been but a small step to substitute their
blood for human blood in the peacemaking ceremonies. We have seen
above that in such a ceremony fowls are exchanged by the two parties,
so that the men of either party are smeared with the blood of the fowl
originally belonging to the other party. It may be that here, too, the
blood of slaves was formerly used, but of this we have no evidence. The
custom of smearing the blood of fowls and pigs on the two parties to
a friendly compact having been arrived at in this way, the rite might
readily be extended to the cases in which the hawk, represented by
his wooden image, or the Supreme Being, also represented by an image,
is invoked as one of the parties to the compact. We are inclined to
think that in some such way as we have here suggested, namely, by the
substitution of pigs and fowls for human victims, and of their blood
for human blood, the origin of the customs of sacrificing fowls and
pigs, and of ceremonially sprinkling their blood, may be explained.

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

Suggested Theory of the Origin of Totemism

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Supplementary Note on the NGARONG

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


Magic, Spells, and Charms

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

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