7. THE MYTHOLOGICAL ORIGINS OF AUGURY
The Iban pay careful attention to the behaviour of birds and animals for their actions are thought to convey warnings, guidance, or foretell future occurrences. Particularly important are the flight and calls of the augural birds. Bird omens are associated by the Iban with the most powerful of all their gods, Sengalang Burong, who is believed to have principal charge over prophetic communication between the deities and mankind. For this reason, it is necessary to begin this study of augury with an account of the mythological traditions that surround Sengalang Burong, as these traditions are a major source of Iban belief relating to augury and account in part for the significant place it holds in Iban life. The augural birds are Sengalang Burong’s followers, and it is through Sengalang Burong’s teaching of Sera Gunting described in this chapter that knowledge of augury is believed to have been acquired by the Iban.
In ancient times there lived a deity named Raja Chenanum whose nickname (julok) was Raja Chenuda. He and his family lived on top of Rabong Reminang Mountain. Raja Chenanum married Endu Dara Jata by whom he begot Raja Durong whose nickname (julok) was Lumpong Tibang Bebaring. Raja Durong also lived on top of a high hill. He married Endu Kumang Cheremin Bintang who was also called Tukoh Lawang Pinggai Bekaki. By her he begot Raja Jembu, whose seat was a tall, sacred whetstone, believed to be the ultimate source of the whetstone owned by individual Iban farmer to this day. The latter married Endu Endat Baku Kansat who owned various kinds of agricultural charms. She was also called Endu Kumang Baku Pelimbang, the keeper of a very effective charm believed to be able to swell the earthly wealth of man. They begot the following children:
1. Aki Lang Sengalang Burong also called Aki Jugu Menaul Tuntong. He was also known as Biduk Linggar Natar Disenggal Gumbang Besabong and married Indai Kechendai Bepantak Jirak, also called Endu Dara Sentaba Balun Kupak.
2. Matai Tuai Raja Menjaya, also known as Manang Langgong Ngembuan Puchong Penyangga Nyawa.
3. Raja Simpulang Gana, who also known as Rangkang Kirai Raja Sua (Siva). He married Endu Sudan Cheremin Bulan, also called Endu Serentam Tanah Tumboh. Her other names were Endu Cherembang Cheremin Bintang Subang Bekaki and Genarang Tanggui Buloh.
4. Tuan Bhiku, Iman Bunsu Raja Petara (the high priest of Bunsu Raja Petara). He is also known as Pantan Inan Raja Jedia and possessed a charm which can cause tangible things of all kinds to become inexhaustible. Some lemambang (bard) mentioned that Bhiku Bunsu Petara is a woman who is married to Bujang Pasang Pareh.
5. Raja Selampandai who was called Raja Selampeta or Raja Selampetoh, (old blacksmith of Bunsu Raja Petara) who forged and shaped the human body upon his anvil.
6. Raja Anda Mara who was known as Gangga Gunggong or Gangga Ganggai, the bestower of luck upon mankind. His wife was Endu Sengkulas Sabit Mas Meriek Merejan, also known as Endu Kumang Petakang Bunga Tanam, and she owned a miraculous stone charm, batu kemarau, which can cause drought upon the earth. She also kept another charm, called batu man, which can make men become extremely wealthy (such as today’s millionaires).
7. Ini Inda Rabong Menoa was also known as Ini Inee Rabong Hari, the greatest of all the manangs or shamans. She lived in the heavens above all of the other deities and spirits except for Bunsu Petara. She was also known as Ini Andan and was the wife of Aki Ungkok.
THE FAMILY OF SENGALANG BURONG
As mentioned above Sengalang Burong married Indai Kechendai Bepantak Jirak. Almost as soon as they were married, Indai Kechendai became terminally ill. Each day her condition deteriorated; all of the food that she ate made her sick and as a consequence she grew steadily thinner. As her condition grew worse, Aki Lang Sengalang Burong became worried and called for his sister, Ini Inda Rabong Menoa, from her abode in heaven.
When she arrived, Ini Inda examined her sister-in-law. By studying her palpations Ini Inda determined that nothing was wrong with her sister-in-law physically. So she looked fixedly at a flame through her quartz crystal (batu Karas) and from its indications, she discovered that Indai Kechendai Bepantak Jirak’s soul was seriously disturbed by nothing other than her own name.
“Your name”, she said, “must be changed as soon as possible by another name in a betawai ceremony for bepindah nama (change of name) by a shaman”. She asked her brother Aki Lang Sengalang Burong to look for a manang, or shaman, to perform the pelian betawai ceremony for changing his wife’s name in order to save her life.
Aki Lang Sengalang Burong was puzzled at this. He told Ini Inda that he and his people had never had a manang.
“You cannot possibly live without a manang”, said Ini Inda.
Worried by his sister’s request, Aki Lang Sengalang Burong gathered his people together in order to persuade one of them to be consecrated as a manang by Ini Inda. But no one would agree to undergo consecration which saddened Sengalang Burong greatly.
Finally Aki Lang Sengalang Burong persuaded his own brother, Raja Menjaya to become a manang. The latter was very reluctant, but his resistance was overcome by his elder brother and Ini Inda his sister, and he eventually agreed to be consecrated in a bebangun consecration ceremony conducted by his sister, Ini Inda. After he had been made a manang, he was known as Menjaya Manang Raja, and was also called Manang Langgong, Ngembuan Puchong Penyangga Nyawa (“The keeper of a bottle charm for longevity”), the Manang Bali (transvestite shaman), the famous brother of Aki Lang Singalang Burong. As Manang Bali he became a very powerful shaman who, when he died in later years, became the patron saint of all Iban shamans of subsequent generations down to the present time.
After this consecration, Ini Inda and her brother Menjaya Manang Raja performed a betawai pelian ceremony in which they sang a long chant for replacing the name of Sengalang Burong’s wife with a new name. Several names were chosen and each of these was attached to a ball of rice. Each rice ball was placed near the other on a plank for a manok tawai (divining cock) to peck. The rooster pecked a rice ball which carried the name of Endu Sudan Brinjan Bungkong, who was also known as Endu Diu Tiong Menyelong, the names by which Sengalang Burong’s wife was, and is still known to the Iban to this day.
This account of the curing of Sengalang Burong’s wife and the con¬secration of his brother as manang bali provide the mythological charter of Iban shamanism. The procedures used for his consecration are believed to have been transmitted from Ini Inda to successive generation of Iban through Sengalang Burong’s brother Menjaya Manang Raja and are thought to be the same as those followed when present day manang are consecrated.
On the night of a manang’s consecration, husked rice (beras) which had been presented to the initiate shaman by his relatives for the occasion is carefully spread on a mat of medium size at the open air verandah, covered by awnings of nipah palm leaves, according to the teaching of Ini Inda. Early on the next morning, all of the officiating manang examine the rice to determine whether there are any marks on it. If marks are found and are interpreted as having been made by one of the following animal or spirit familiars, the name given to the newly consecrated manang will be as follows:
Name of The Familiar (lyang) – Name of Manang (Bejulok)
Tekura (tortoise) - Begura
Lelabi (river turtle) – Jelapi
Ridun (a kind of black beetle) – Bekok
Ringin (otter) - Menjayan
Landak (porcupine) – Guyak
Menaul (hawk) – Sada’
Gerasi (demon/huntsman) – Jegong
The selection of a manang’s metaphorical name, or julok, is still made this way at the time of his or her consecration.
Sometime after he was consecrated as a manang, Menjaya Manang Raja separated himself from Aki Lang Sengalang Burong’s family and settled on the top of Mount Rabong in the Ketungau region of Indonesian Borneo. After his brother had left him, Sengalang Burong and his followers moved to the Mt. Tutup range in the upper Merakai region east of Mt. Tiang Laju near Engkilili town in Sarawak. As Menjaya Manang Raja lived to many years and eventually died on Mt. Rabong, whenever an Iban manang dies, he firmly believes that his soul will settle on this mountain top with the souls of deceased shamans of past ages.
After she was cured by Ini Inda and Menjaya Manang Raja in the betawai ceremony, Endu Sudan Brinjan Bungkong, Endu Diu Tiong Menyelong, begot children in the following order:
1. Endu Dara Tinchin Temaga also called Endu Cherebok Mangkok China, wife of Ketupong, son of Igat Gelai Lempai Baju, also known as Bujang Sebanang Mali Lebu.
2. Endu Langgu Ketusong Ngembai, also called Dayang Kumang Bunga Entekai, wife of Beragai, son of Bujang Sebabang Bunga Ringkai.
3. Endu Kechapah Dulang Midong also called Endu Kumang Bunga Ketunsong, wife of Bejampong whose title (gelar) was Bujang Geliga Tandang, son of Engkang Engkerama, also known as Duat Igat Jingga Menoa.
4. Endu Bentok Tinchin Pengabas, also called Endu Letan Bepulas Mas, wife of Pangkas, son of Lachau Kuring Lansik Merening Bara Api, also called Langgong Janang, Berani Kempang Nyandang ka Banang Mata Seligi.
5. Endu Kechapang Dulang Mas also called Endu lyak Bunga Libas, wife of Embuas, son of Raja Taka who was also called Mau Manjan Begeman Nangkup Dabong.
6. Endu Moa Puchong Pengabas, also known as Endu Pinggai Besai Nadai Meretas, wife of Kelabu Papau Nyenabong, son of Jimbun Bulan.
7. Endu Dara Chempaka Tempurong Alang, or Patri Langit Dayang Kumang, wife of Kunding Burong Malam, son of Bujang Kesui’ee Sekunding Mupong.3
8. Ajee Brani Ngilah Bulan whose title (gelar) was Menteri Suka Raja Rengayan, the husband of Endu Lilih Sintong Benih Pulut Belangian, the daughter of Raja Simpulang Gana, also known as Rangkang Kirai Raja Sua.
After the separation of Menjaya Raja Manang from Aki Lang Sengalang Burong and his people, the latter’s son-in-law Beragai was consecrated a manang by Menjaya Raja Manang. Due to his role as a manang, Beragai came to be known as Sematai Manang Burong, the shaman of the birds in Sengalang Burong’s house.
Sengalang Burong was a powerful chief with many followers who lived in a large longhouse, together with his daughters and their husbands. The rest of his followers were serfs (jaum) and slaves (ulun) whom he had captured in war, although some had later redeemed themselves.
Sengalang Burong’s youngest daughter, Endu Dara Chempaka Tempurong Alang, married and lived with her husband, Kunding Burong Malam, in the latter’s longhouse. For this reason the voice of Burong Malam is not counted by the Iban among the augural voices of Singalang Burong’s other sons-in-law, all of whom appear as birds in the earthly World.
Sengalang Burong’s only son Ajee Brani Ngilah Bulan, married the youngest daughter of Raja Simpulang Gana and became one of the most important men in his father-in-law’s house at Nanga Temaga Gelang on the shore of the Java Sea.
THE ARRANGEMENT OF BILEK APARTMENTS IN SINGALANG BURONG’S LONGHOUSE
Above illustrations (L-R): Pangkas, Beragai, Ketupong, Sengalang Burong, Bejampong, Embuas, Kelabu Papau, Nendak
In Sengalang Burong’s house the family apartments or bileks of his daughters and their husbands were built in the order shown in the sketch above. Nendak was a poor client, and not a son-in-law, and could not afford to build a full-sized family bilek like the others. So he built a small room (pelaboh) joined at the end of Sengalang Burong’s longhouse. For this reason, the voice of Nendak is not as effective an omen as the voices of Singalang Burong’s sons-in-law. Only if the nendak or White-rumped Shama flies directly across the road, an omen known as mimpin or ngeraup, will a man put off whatever he is doing and respect the omen with a day long holiday from work. Ketupong, the husband of Sengalang Burong’s eldest daughter was appointed by Sengalang Burong to become his leading warrior and the leader of the omen birds. The next most trusted warriors and leaders were Beragai and Embuas. The importance of the others is in accordance with the order of their family bileks, that is to say, their proximity to Sengalang Burong’s bilek. Those further away are less powerful, and Nendak is the least powerful.
At the time of one of Sengalang Burong’s war expeditions against his traditional enemy, a demon named Beduru, one of his slaves named Engkerasak asked for approval from Sengalang Burong to lead the other warriors to attack the enemy’s house. His request was promptly turned down by the latter who said that he was only his slave and therefore had no power to command the other warriors. “It is true that when I was still a child I was your slave, but I have long been freed after redeeming myself with a cannon”, replied Engkerasak.
Another slave named Kunchit also asked Sengalang Burong for his approval to lead an attack on Beduru’s house. “No!” said Sengalang Burong, “as you too have once been my slave. You cannot lead the other warriors.”
“It’s true that I was your slave when I was a boy, but as I have freed myself with a blowpipe long ago, I am now a free man,” said Kunchit. But Sengalang Burong turned down his request also.
“I will lead the warriors to attack the enemy’s house with all our might,” said Empulu.
“Your family was my oldest slaves,” said Sengalang Burong, “and you cannot be trusted to take the lead.”
“It is true that my family was once your slaves, but we have freed ourselves, and therefore we are now free men,” replied Empulu. Sengalang Burong did not app ove this request either.
“I want to lead this attack,” said Beragai.
“You shouldn’t become the leader, my son-in-law,” replied Sengalang Burong, “because your command is too soft, like the young leaf of the bunut fruit tree when warmed nears the fire.”
“Let me lead our warriors to attack the enemy’s house,” said Pangkas alias Kutok.
“No!” said Sengalang Burong, “as when you speak you talk too repetitiously in saying a thing. You speak much but act little,” replied Sengalang Burong.
“Who then amongst us is able to be a leader in war?” asked all his sons-in-law.
“Only my son-in-law, Ketupong can be the leader, as when he speaks he follows his words promptly with action,” said Sengalang Burong.
These were the judgments of Sengalang Burong on the character and Native power of his followers and sons-in-law. He chose Ketupong, his senior son-in-law, to be the leader of his people in war.
After their victory over Beduru and his people, Ketupong and the other sons-in-law of Sengalang Burong left by sailing boat to trade overseas. After they were gone, Ketupong’s wife Endu Dara Tinchin Temaga lost her way while walking in the forest. While she walked aimlessly, she appeared in the form of a bird at the compound outside the longhouse of a man named Menggin. On seeing the bird, Menggin took up his blowpipe and shot it. Menggin shot the bird twice and it fell dead to the ground. When Menggin reached the spot where it had fallen he saw only a piece of a woman’s skirt on the ground. So he rolled it up and placed it inside his temilah the bamboo case in which he carried his poison darts. Three days later Endu Dara Tinchin Temaga reappeared and was seen by the children as she bathed in the nearby river. She was a very beautiful woman. Her body was bright and glittering and her eyes flashed like glass. All the tree leaves round about were beautifully glittering from the reflection cast on her bright eyes and body.
DARA TINCHIN TEMAGA MARRIES MENGGIN
After she had taken her bath she walked to Menggin’s longhouse. As she entered the building, all who saw her became perplexed on seeing her ex¬traordinary beauty. The walls and floors of the house as she passed along the gallery were bright and sparkled. Eventually when she reached Menggin’s family bilek she went straight inside, where she was cordially asked to be seated by Remi, the mother of Menggin. But she would not sit. Instead she asked to know where Menggin was. Remi informed her that Menggin was sitting outside at his bachelor’s place (panggau) on the ruai gallery. Hearing this, Endu Dara Tinchin Temaga walked to Menggin to ask where he kept her skirt. Menggin said he did not know about a skirt. She said it must be in his possession. Finally, Menggin took out his temilah and draw the skirt from it, which he handed to Endu Dara Tinchin Temaga.
After she had dressed herself, Endu Dara Tinchin Temaga took her seat on a beautiful mat which was laid by Remi on the floor for her in the bilek. And as she was sitting with Menggin’s mother, the latter asked who she was and from where she had come. She told her that her home was in a far country, and that her purpose in coming was to marry Menggin, if he would consent to be her husband.
That night after the people of the longhouse had taken their evening meal, they all came to Menggin’s bilek to meet the visitor. They asked Menggin’s mother who the visitor was and where she had come from. Remi told them that she had come from a far away country in order to marry Menggin.
On hearing this all of the people in the longhouse were very pleased. They asked Remi and her brother, Sampar, whether they agreed with the visitor’s purpose in coming to them. After a long pause, Sampar said that a strange thing like this was not new to his family. “When my sister Remi married Menggin’s father Rukok,” he said, “the latter also was a man who came from a far away country. After that union my family has always been successful in farming which has caused us to become wealthy in property. Now as far as I am concerned, I have no objection, if my nephew wishes to marry this woman,” he said.
Remi said that she also consented to Menggin’s marriage. After hearing Sampar’s and Remi’s views, they called for Menggin who was sitting at the gallery outside to come in to discuss the woman’s intention to marry him.
As Menggin was sitting with the people in the room, his mother informed him that the purpose of the woman’s visit was to marry him. She told him that his uncle Sampar and she herself did not oppose the marriage if he wished it. Menggin said that he agreed to have her for his wife, if the union was agreeable to them, and to the woman herself.
A simple melah pinang wedding ceremony was held that night in the house. And as soon as the areca nuts (buah pinang} had been split, the woman informed all of the people present that her name was Endu Dara Tinchin Temaga, or Endu Cherebok Mangkok China, and that she was the eldest daughter of the deity Sengalang Burong. By this melah pinang ceremonial wedlock, she said, she and Menggin were now husband and wife.
Some months after she married Menggin, Endu Dara Tinchin Temaga conceived and finally delivered a very beautiful baby son whom the couple called Sera Gunting. He was very much loved by his parents, grandmother and all the people of the longhouse.
One morning while Menggin was doing his work on the verandah outside the family room, his wife suddenly slipped away, leaving the baby sleeping in a swinging cradle (wa) in the inner room. Sometime after she had gone, the baby started to cry inconsolably. On hearing his voice, Menggin went into the room to find out why his son was crying. When he entered the room, he did not see his wife, nor could he guess where she had gone. So he tried to divert the child attention.. But the baby would not stop crying. He pointed his tiny fingers toward the riverside outside the longhouse. Due to this, Menggin surmised that his wife was bathing in the river, so he carried the baby there. But his wife was not there. The baby who was still crying pointed his fingers toward the path in front of them; Menggin carried him there and walked along the path till they were overcome by the night.
That night Menggin and his baby slept under a very rough windscreen (dunju) made of fern leaves. Early the next day, the baby started to cry again, with his tiny fingers pointing along the path. Menggin carried him till they reached the banks of a huge lake. As they stopped at the edge of the lake, the baby who was crying, pointed his fingers towards the far shore. Menggin became very worried as he did not know how deep the huge lake was and how he would be able to carry his son across.
Eventually, after he had overcome his hesitation, he took up the baby and walked across it. The lake was very shallow; at its deepest spot it came only to Menggin’s waist. After about two hours, they reached the opposite bank. From there Menggin carried his son, following the direction of his fingers, till they eventually reached Sengalang Burong’s old house site, known as Tansang Kenyalang, where they stopped for a while.
From here Menggin took his son and walked further along the path, till they finally came to a longhouse bathing place, where Menggin saw his wife who had just finished her bath. He walked straight up to her and hand¬ed her their baby.
Menggin then took his bath in the river, while his wife bathed the baby nearby. After she bathed her son, she breast feed him. After this, Endu Dara Tinchin Temaga told Menggin that the nearby settlement was her father’s and his followers’ longhouse.
MENGGIN AND SERA GUNTING IN SINGALANG BURONG’S HOUSE
Before Menggin carried his son into Singalang Burong’s house, Endu Dara Tinchin Temaga explained to Menggin that her father’s family bilek was close to her own at the centre of the longhouse and that the space under the floors of the loft was crowded with hanging skulls taken by the warriors from their enemies in past war expeditions.
“The three bilek on both sides of Singalang Burong’s bilek,” she said, “are the bileks of his daughters, and their respective husbands. The rest belong to his former serfs and slaves.”
She informed him that her father was a fierce, conservative old man, who did not like to be bothered or to talk to anyone he did not recognise. “All the men and women who live with him,” she said, “are his slaves, with the exception of my youngest sister, Endu Dara Chempaka Tempurong Alang. These slaves will look after you and our son while you stay with them.”
Endu Dara Tinchin Temaga advised Menggin as to what he should do while staying with her father’s family. She advised him that at the time of taking his meal. he and his son must only eat food from a plate where a lalat (fly) is perching.
“When you go to bed you can only sleep inside a mosquito curtain on which is perch a fire fly.” Lastly, she warned Menggin not to walk together with her into Sengalang Burong’s longhouse.
As soon as she had finished advising Menggin, she left and walked alone to the longhouse. After she had gone, Menggin took his son along the same path to the longhouse building. As they entered, all of the people they passed along the ruai invited them to sit at their individual galleries. But Menggin refused, as they intended only to take their seats at Sengalang Burong’s gallery.
As they reached Sengalang Burong’s ruai, one of his slaves invited them to take their seats on the gallery. They did so, but Sengalang Burong who sat nearby did not speak a word to them. He simply muttered to say that the strangers appeared thin and hungry people who were coming to look for padi grain. From that time on Menggin was only entertained by Sengalang Burong’s slaves who talked to him only about domestic work as they did to all people who came to visit them.
That night when they were asked to take their meal, Menggin and his son took their food from a plate where they saw a fly was perching. Accordingly at sleeping time, they slept inside a mosquito curtain on which was perched a fire fly, as the rest of the mosquito nets belonged to Sengalang Burong’s slaves and his one unmarried daughter, Endu Dara Chempaka Tempurong Alang.
Menggin and his son stayed with Sengalang Burong’s family for one full year. Menggin did all of the man’s work for the family while Sera Gunting was looked after by his mother and aunt.
One day when Sera Gunting was already able to walk, he went straight to hug Sengalang Burong who was sitting on his raised seat at the upper gallery of his family house. As he hugged him, Sengalang Burong asked who he was. “I am your grandson, Sera Gunting,” replied the boy. “You are not my grandson as I have no grandchildren,” said Singalang Burong. “Surely I am your grandson as I am the son of your daughter and my father Menggin,” replied Sera Gunting. As they argued over this, Sengalang Burong said that only if the child could prove that he was his grandson by undergoing the three trials he would give him, would he accept him as his real grandson.
Sera Gunting was successful in all of the trials set by his grandfather. From that day onwards Sengalang Burong was very fond of Sera Gunting and he liked to speak with him as grandfather to grandson. But he did not like to speak to Menggin who often sat near him on the gallery.
MENGGIN AND SERA GUNTING RETURN HOME
One morning the people of Sengalang Burong’s longhouse heard the repeated sound of cannons fired by Ketupong and his friends as they returned from their overseas trading. On hearing this, Endu Dara Tinchin Temaga immediately asked Menggin and Sera Gunting to return to their house for fear of her husband Ketupong. Obeying her wishes, they left immediately for home.
At this time Sera Gunting was still a young boy. At his father’s house, he was taught by his father and granduncle to do all work which should be done by a young boy of his age. Eventually, as he grew to bachelorhood, he helped his family to farm, but without success. When he joined his granduncle’s war expeditions, he could not slay any of the enemy like other warriors. Due to his many failures, he was ridiculed by the people as “a grandson of Singalang Burong for nothing.” As ridicule was heaped on him day after day, Sera Gunting became very disappointed and angered and decided to visit the house of his grandfather Sengalang Burong in order to gain the old man’s advice.
When his family learned of his intention, they tried to persuade him not to go. But Sera Gunting insisted that he must, as it would be useless for him to continue to be unsuccessful for the rest of his life.
SERA GUNTING’S VISIT TO SENGALANG’S HOUSE
Early the next morning Sera Gunting set out for the land of Sengalang Burong. As he walked up and down the hills and rivers, he eventually met a certain man whose name was Bulan (moon) who enquired where he was going. He told him that he was on his way to Sengalang Burong’s house. The man told him he was the moon who waxed bigger and waned smaller once in every lunar month.
“If you see the full moon,” said the man, “you must stay away one day from your work to respect me. If you do not respect me with a day’s holiday, one member of your family will die in due course. This act of respect is known as tebarerak rumpang,” he went on. “Accordingly, if you see a new moon you must respect it by refraining from work for a day.” It was and is because of these teachings of the moon to Sera Gunting that all Iban to this day respect the new and full moon with a day holiday from farm work.
After he had listened to the advice of the moon, he continued his journey till he met seven women who told him that they were seven sisters called Bintang Tujoh. “If you see us (Pleiades) sitting together just before dawn inside a halo at the middle of the sky, you must start to plant your padi on earth. If we have moved out from the halo of the sky, your padi will not grow properly,” said the sisters.
After he heard the advice of Bintang Tujoh, he went on walking till he met three women who introduced themselves as the sisters called Bintang Tiga (three stars). “If you see us sitting in the middle of the heaven fifteen days after the appearance of Bintang Tujoh you must commence to plant padi in your earthly farm. We appear in the vault of the heaven in order to help all farmers, who are unable to use the Pleiades due to bad weather or because of other un-foreseeable circumstances,” they said.
Having heard this, Sera Gunting walked on till he reached Tansang Kenyalang where he and his father had stopped on their way to visit his grandfather’s house more than a decade earlier. From here he walked slowly towards the longhouse bathing place where he took his bath. While bathing in the river no one seemed to recognise him, as he had now grown to bachelorhood. Finally, after he had dressed himself he walked to his grandfather’s longhouse. As he reached Singalang Burong’s gallery, he went straight to hug the old man at his raised seat. Surprised, Sengalang Burong asked who he was who dared to come and hug him in this way. He said that he was his grandson Sera Gunting who came to visit him. When Sengalang Burong learned who he was, he was happy and was very fond of talking to him.
When Endu Dara Tinchin Temaga heard that her son had come, she went from her family room to meet him. She begged him not to stay with her in order not to embarrass Ketupong, her husband, who did not know of her affair with Menggin. Instead, she advised Sera Gunting to live with his grandfather and aunt, Endu Dara Chempaka Tempurong Alang. Due to his mother’s advice, Sera Gunting did not stay with her, but stayed in the family bilek of his grandfather and aunt.
Some week afterwards, as he was talking with Sengalang Burong, Sera Gunting told his grandfather that he had come to him as he had been very unfortunate in all he did in his father’s house. “I was farming but was unable to get enough rice for food like other farmers; I joined my granduncle’s war expeditions but was never able to kill any enemy.” He continued that due to his bad luck in doing things, he was scorned and shamed by all the people in his country. “They say that I am your grandson for nothing.”
“Oh, this is because you do not use omens in all that you do,” replied his grandfather.
On hearing what his grandfather said, Sera Gunting was puzzled as he had never heard anyone talk about augury in his father’s house.
Sengalang Burong told Sera Gunting that everything man does must follow in accordance with the voices of the augural birds.
“All your uncles that is, my sons-in-law in this house, are my representatives or messengers who carry my commands to the world of man” he said. He pointed out to him the order of their family bileks on both sides of his own in his longhouse. “They must not speak across my gallery. If they do, those who have then will be cursed by being unable to live prosperously all the days of their life,” he said.
After Sera Gunting had heard his grandfather’s explanation regarding the order of family bileks in his longhouse, he asked him whether the voices of empitu, empulu, engkerasak and kunchit, who were his former serfs and slaves, are to be used as omen.
“No!” replied his grandfather, “You must not obey their voices as they are my slaves and serfs. Only the voices of my sons-in-law, who are your uncles, are to be obeyed. The voice of nendak, who is poor can only be obeyed when the bird of the same name in your world flies from either side across the traveller’s road in front of him; otherwise Nendak’s voice will only strengthen the voices of my sons-in-law,” he said.
Sengalang Burong went on to say that:
1. If you bring with you on your way to manggol, at the start of clearing the bush for a new farm, an augury stick (tambak burong) that you have pulled from the ground at the moment when you heard the voice of Ketupong and, as you walk further, you hear the voice of Beragai, these are excellent omens, as their family bileks are close to one another at the same end of the house. These omens indicate that you will reap an abundant harvest at the end of the year.
2. If you bring with you a tambak burong you have pulled from the ground at the moment you heard the voice of Bejampong and, as you walk on to your farm, you hear the voice of Embuas, these, too are excellent omens which foretell that you will reap an abundant harvest at the end of the year. These omens are called Burok Penyedai, i.e. they indicate that you will reconstruct your place for storing grain due to the heavy weight of the harvest.
3. If you bring with you a tambak burong you have pulled from the ground at the moment you heard the voice of Embuas and, as you walk further on to your farm, you hear the voice of Bejampong; they are excellent omens which indicate an excellent burning of your farm clearing. The padi will grow luxuriantly on the ashes at your farm. These omens are known as Pesok Bandir, i.e. consumes even the butteress of huge tree stumps.
4. If you bring with you a tambak burong that you have pulled from the ground at the moment you heard the voice of Ketupong and, as you walk on to your farm, you hear the voice Bejampong, they are the worst omens, as they speak across my family bilek. They are cursed by me who will cause you, or others, who hear them to eat the asi pana (mourning rice) owing to the death of a member of the family sometime in the year.
5. If you bring with you a tambak burong you have pulled from the ground at the moment you heard the voice of Bejampong and, while you walk further to your farm, you hear the voice of Ketupong, they are also bad omens which indicate that a medicine man (dukun) will ceremonially burn the resin powder while doctoring a sick member of your family sometime during the year. This omen is known as Burong Beperai.
6. If you bring a tambak burong you have pulled from the ground at the moment you heard the voice of Beragai and, while you walk on to your farm, you hear the voice of Bejampong, they are also bad omens which foretell the hanging of the woven blanket curtain (sapat) around the corpse of a member of your family during the year.
7. If you bring a tambak burong you have pulled from the ground at the moment you heard the voice of Embuas and, as you walk on to your farm, you hear the voice of Pangkas; these are bad omens which foretell that a member of your family will die within the year.
8. If you bring a tambak burong you have pulled from the ground at the time you heard the voice of Beragai and, as you walk further to your farm, you hear the voice of Kelabu Papau Nyenabong, they are omens which indicate the shedding of tears for a corpse of a member of your family who will die during the year.
9. If you bring a tambak burong you have pulled from the ground at the moment you heard the voice of Beragai and, as you walk on to your farm, you hear the voice of Ketupong, they are very good omens. They indicate that many of the cords which tie your carrying baskets will need to be replaced due to the long and repeated use made of the baskets in transporting padi after the harvest to your house from the fields.
10. Seven days after you have completed manggol, the clearing of your farm, you should hear the voice of Kelabu Papau Nyenabong, as it blinds, or makes invisible your padi fields to the eyes of animals and other pests throughout the rest of the year.
Burong Rama, Omens that Guide Daily Conduct.
After Sengalang Burong had taught Sera Gunting all of the various omens observed by the farmer when he performs the initial clearing of seven days, he explained to him other kinds of omens as follows:
1. Ketupong (Rufous Piculet): If you go hunting animals in the forests or go fishing in the river, you should not hear the voice of the Ketupong bird from the left side of the road, as it is a “lazy bird”, which foretells your failure in obtaining game or fish you look for during the day.
2. If you hear the voice of Ketupong from the right side of the road while on your way to fish or hunt, it indicates that you will catch only a small amount of fish, or that you will kill only a small animal.
3. If you hear the Ketupong bird repeatedly chirp in or near your farm in the evening, it indicates that your padi and other plants will be devoured by animals and insects from that time until harvest.
4. If you frequently hear the voice of Ketupong during the clearing and felling of trees at your farm early in the year, and if the farm land that you are working has always yielded good harvests in past years, it is a bad omen which tells that you will never again have a good harvest from that particular area of land.
5. If you bring a cock which has lost a previous fight and, while you are on your way to the cockfighting pit, you hear the voice of Ketupong either from the right or left hand side of the road, is a good omen which indicates that your cock will win the fight that day.
6. If a manang (shaman) or dukun (medicine man) on his first trip to doctor a sick person in a certain area of the country in which he has never practiced his art before, hears the voice of the Ketupong bird either from the right or left side of the road when he walks towards the sick person’s house, it is a good omen which indicates that from that time onwards, his curing will be strongly felt by the people in that region.
7. If while you gather the bamboo for making an enclosure for your chickens, you hear the voice of Ketupong, it is a bad omen which indicates that, all the chicks you put in the enclosure will die.
8. If, when you go to your farm, you hear the voice of Ketupong and later hear the voice of Beragai and the voice of Kelabu Papau Nyanabong, they give to you an excellent omen, which indicates that your harvest at the end of the year will be excellent. This triple omen is called Burong Empalang.
9. If on your way to your farm, you hear the voice of Ketupong and later you hear the voice of Beragai and the voice of Pangkas (Kutok), these give you a good omen which indicates an abundant harvest at the end of the year. This triple omen is known as Burong Betampi, “winnowing bird”.
10. Ketupong can shriek two kinds of shrieks: (a) a slow tik! tik! tik! and (b) a quick tik-tik-tik-tik-tik, made repeatedly. If a very well-to-do man hears the slow shrieks made by Ketupong his luck in obtaining wealth will gradually diminish. If he hears the quick shrieks, it is known as laboh jaloh and indicates that his luck in gaining wealth is completely ended. These two kinds of omens are favorable only for poor people who in due course will become extremely wealthy after hearing them. In other words, they indicate a change in the personal fortunes of the hearer, whether he is rich or poor.
11. If an experienced hunter or fisherman leads his followers to hunt the forests or to fish along the river, and at the same time as he finds the foot prints of an animal, he hears the slow voice of Ketupong, it indicates that the animal will be killed by a younger hunter and not by himself as the leader of the party. The same may happen to an experienced man when he leads his followers to trade overseas. If after he (the leader) has found a trader to trade with, any of his followers hears the voice of Ketupong while working in the forests, it indicates that the leader will get less profit than his followers. If any one of them hears the quick repeated voice of the Ketupong bird (jaloh) it warns of possible harm to the life of the trading leader on the trip.
12. If you hear the voice of Ketupong while engaged in initial clearing (manggol), it is a bad omen which foretells that your labor that year will be unsuccessful, i.e. you will not get sufficient padi at the end of the year. If however, the land on which you farm has yielded only poor harvests in the past, the result will be reversed.
13. If as you gather the materials for building a new house or hut, you hear the voice of Ketupong it is not a good omen. It indicates that while you occupy that house or hut, you will always be sick. And also as long as you are living in that house you cannot get sufficient rice and other necessities.
14. If you ask to use other people’s land to farm and, if that land is good and you hear the voice of Ketupong there, it is a very good omen which indicates that you will get a lot of padi while you farm the land. Besides, the grass will not hinder the growth of your padi.
15. If on your way to fish or hunt, you hear the voice of Ketupong or the voice of Kelabu Papau Nyenabong while you are still near your house, it is a bad omen which indicates that your catch that day will not be more than a hollowful of the munti bamboo.
16. If as you go to fish or hunt, you hear the voice of Ketupong far away from your home, it is a good omen which indicates that you shall make a large catch that day. If you hear it near your house it indicates you will return empty handed.
17. If you climb a tree while waiting for the coming of an animal and you hear the voice of Ketupong, it is a good omen, which indicates that the animal will soon approach. But if it does not come within half an hour, you had better go home, as the animal will not come along that way.
18. If the Ketupong bird flies into the longhouse, enters the loft (sadau) near the ceiling of the building, then returns by the way it came, it is a bad omen if the head of the family who owns the sadau is an elderly man. The bird is thought to be seeking out the family head and foretells a shortening of his life. To neutralize this omen, the family must leave the house for three nights and on the day they return, a manang or orang tau makai burong should be asked to place his ubat penabar burong charms in a cup of water and to smear the family apartment with the water into which the charms have been placed. If the family head is a young man, this omen is highly auspicious. It indicates that he will become a famous warrior a chief out¬ranking all other chiefs in the district.
19. When the dwellers have all come to live in a new longhouse, and they hear the repeated shrieks of jaloh, it is an excellent omen, known as burong tutup batu, which indicates that they are living safely, as if inside a house made of stone where no sickness may disturb them.
20. If a Ketupong bird flies into the longhouse and, as it reaches the gallery of the third family, it turns back and leaves the house by the way it entered, it is an excellent omen which brings good luck to you, known as burong nganjong tuah.
21. If a Ketupong bird flies into the longhouse building from the open air platform (tanju), it is called burong tawai, which indicates that you in the longhouse will celebrate a grand Bird Festival, or Gawai Burong, for your victory over enemies. It also foretells that guests will return from the tanju at the end of the festival day.
22. If you visit a sick person and hear the repeated shrieks of jaloh, it is a good omen which foretells that the sick man will soon recover from his illness.
23. If you want to poison fish with tubai (derris) poison, but the one of you in the fishing party who first dug up the derris roots hears the shrieks of Ketupong, it is a bad omen, which indicates that the river where you will do the fishing will be flooded by heavy rain or that the river will prove to be without fish.
24. If you hear the shrieks of Ketupong when you go to call for the manang (shaman) to cure a sick person whose age is above fourteen years, it is a good omen, which indicates that the sick person will soon recover from his or her illness. But if you hear it when you call the manang to treat a sick child, it is not a good omen and indicates that the child cannot be cured by the shaman you summon.
25. If you hear the voice of Ketupong on the day you finish felling the trees in your farm, it is an extremely bad omen which foretells that it will be the last time you will farm in your life, i.e. you will die before the next farming season begins.
26. When after traveling by boat, you land at your destination where you want to tap wild rubber or jelutong and you hear the voice of Ketupong, it is a very good omen which foretells that people will be surprised on seeing the heaps of rubber you have tapped there, when you sell it to the trader. But if you have been working at that place previously, the omen is not good, as it foretells that you will get nothing more from the trees, or if you collect a lot of rubber at that place you may fall sick as a result of this omen.
27. If you hear the voice of Ketupong or Ketupong/Jaloh or the voice of the barking deer (kijang) on your way to collect rottan for the tying of your baskets for collecting the honey combs from a bee tree (tapang), or for you to make tali tekang, i.e. rope for climbing the tree, it is a bad omen which foretells that one of the climbers will instantly die by falling from the tree. For this reason, you should cancel your work completely as the Ketupong has warned you of the misfortune and the Jaloh also informed you that it will be the last time you will climb a tree. The voice of Kijang also foretells a fatal accident.
28. If you and two other hunters go along the same way and, when you are about to scatter from one another into the jungle, you hear the voice of Ketupong, it indicates that one of you who has never killed any animal before will kill one during this expedition. If all of you have killed animals before, this time the youngest hunter will kill the game.
29. During your hunting trip and while you are still looking for a tree branch to sit on while waiting for the coming of the game, you hear the shrieks of a Ketupong bird or, at the moment you start to climb the tree, you hear the repeated call of the Kuchay bird, which is known as Jeritan Kuchay, it is an omen which tells you that the animal will come your way very soon. You must therefore, climb and settle on the tree branch as quick as you can.
30. If you find a female Ketupong bird laying her eggs in a hole in a tree when you are working on your farm, it is a good omen if you can visit that place frequently within five days from that day. If you find it laying eggs during the dibbling season (maia nugal) it is also a good omen, if you respect it with a small feast known as mudas, and smear the hole where the eggs are found ceremonially with the blood of a hen of kepayang coloration. Besides this, you must also make five offerings to it. If you find the Ketupong bird laying eggs inside a hole as high as your head, it is not a good omen; it indicates that you will reap insufficient padi at the end of the year. In addition you must not eat this rice before you ask the manang to neutralize it with water in which his batu penabar burong charms have been placed.
31 If at anytime after you have finished your seven days of initial clearing, you hear the voice of Ketupong, which causes you to stay away from work one day, it is a bad omen. It indicates that you will not get much padi from the land at the end of the year. But if you farm other people’s land and hear the same omen, it indicates that the owner of the land will be surprised on seeing the good harvest you have obtained from his farmland.
32. If you hear the voice of Ketupong when you are still doing your seven days of initial clearing, rather than the voice of Beragai or Pangkas which you expect to hear in addition to your tambak burong, it is not a good omen. It foretells that the growth of padi on the land you are working will be worse than in previous years. But if this land is not good farmland, and you hear the same omen, it indicates that you will reap a good harvest at the end of the year.
33. If, as a young man collects the wooden materials for building a house or a hut, he hears the voice of Ketupong as he collects any beam which he will use to make part of the house above his head, it is a good omen. It indicates that in the future he will become the leader of his people. But if the hearer is already a longhouse headman, it foretells that he will be replaced by another man as headman, particularly if he hears the voice of Ketupong when he leaves the forest in which he was collecting materials.
34. If a poor man collects a beam for his penyambut sadau, the shelf on which his valuable jars are placed, and hears the voice of Ketupong, is a good omen which foretells that these beams will be weighed down by the weight of property, padi or jars. But if he has heard the voice of Ketupong then he hears the voice of jaloh, it indicates that he will become a very rich man in a short time, but will become poor again later on.
35. If you go to fish or hunt and hear the voice of Ketupong at the compound of your house it is a good omen. It indicates that you will have an excellent catch that day. If you hear its voice on the right side of your path outside your house compound it is also a good omen, which foretells that you are likely to have a good catch that day. But if you hear its voice when you are far away from your house, it indicates that your catch will only fill the hollow of a internode of bamboo.
36. If you pay a visit to a sick person and when you are still walking near your own house, you hear the voice of Ketupong is not a good omen. Its indication is that the sick person you visit may not be cured. But if you hear the voice when you are already half way from your house, it is a good omen, if when you arrive at the house of the sick person, you give to him any kind of food that you have brought with you; as a result of eating it he may be quickly cured. But if you visit a sick person who is younger than you and hear this omen, it is not a good omen. Your food will not cure his illness.
8. INTERPRETATION OF THE CALLS AND FLIGHT OF THE AUGURAL BIRDS
The major augural birds, as explained in the preceding chapter, are conceived of by the Iban as Sengalang Burong’s six sons-in-law, namely Ketupong, Beragai, Pangkas, Embuas, Bejampong and Kelabu, and his one dependant client, Nendak. The relative strength of the messages carried by each bird is thought to vary in terms of its relative seniority and the location of his family apartment relative to that of Sengalang Burong. Should the calls of different augural birds be heard in sequence, one shortly after the other, the order of their calls also affects the message which the calls convey. Thus the meaning of the initial call may be re-enforced, negated, or an altogether new message conveyed.
As a general rule, the sequential calls of birds whose family rooms are thought to be located at opposite sides of Singalang Burong’s bilek are interpreted as a warning of impending ill-luck. The birds are said to be “speaking across” their father-in-law’s bilek, an act which is symbolically equated with a violation of the strict Iban prohibition on the use of the parent-in-law’s personal name. Like the breach of this prohibition among ordinary Iban, calls across the bilek of Sengalang Burong are thought to provoke automatic ill-luck, or busong.
Interpretation of the messages conveyed by the augural birds varies with the particular activity engaged in by the person who receives them. A major set of omens of utmost importance to the Iban are the burong kena manggol, those received during the initial clearing of rice fields. These omens are thought to foretell the course of the agricultural year and upon their correct observation is believed to depend on an individual’s farming success or failure for the coming year. These omens are described in the previous Chapter 7, as they are believed to have been recounted by Sengalang Burong to his grandson, Sera Gunting.
Also described were the burong rama, the omens of everyday activities, such as fishing, hunting, traveling, cockfighting and honey collection. In the earlier sections of this monograph the principal omens connected with the construction of a new longhouse were also described. These, too, are of great importance because they are thought to give indication of the future health and collective well-being of those who make the longhouse their home. Equally important are omens which were observed in the past during head hunting raids and warfare. Their significance is indicated by the association of augury with Sengalang Burong, the Iban god of warfare, and formerly there existed a complex code of bird augury observed by war parties in the field. This is briefly described in the next Chapter 9.
In addition, the flight and calls of each of the augural birds carries its own particular message. Interpretation of its message depends primarily on four major sets of variables:
1. The place at which the call is heard, the conditions under which it is heard and the direction of the call relative to the hearer;
2. The nature of the call itself and its possible occurrence in a sequence with the calls of other augural birds;
3. The direction from which an augural bird flies across a person’s path, the individual’s purpose of travel and the place at which the bird crosses his path relative to his place of departure or destination; and
4. The condition of the person who hears a call or sees the flight of a bird, his status and age, or that of the person to whom the omen bears reference.
Some omens indicate a change in fortune and their meaning depends upon the past success or accomplishments of the individual who hears or encounters the omen. Others vary in meaning depending upon a person’s relative age or upon his status, as, for example, a curer or community leader. The terms raup and pimpin, meaning left to right and right to left, respectively, are used only to refer to the directions of flight of the augural birds, and not to the location of calls. It is generally expected that augural birds or animals will be seen or heard in front or to the side, but sometimes they are heard directly behind the person or they are seen approaching from the rear. This condition, called nyubok, is almost always considered unlucky, regardless of any other meaning of the call or appearance. Thus the appearance of an animal which is regarded as burong laba, a stroke of good luck, when seen in front or to the side, becomes an ill-portent when it is seen directly from behind. In general, it is said to “surprise” the person who sees it, and thus it shortens his life.
In the present chapter, the chief omens conveyed by each of the augural birds are described in turn beginning with those associated with Ketupong.
JALOH – KETUPONG (RUFOUS PICULET)
1. No old and experienced farmer should hear the voice of jaloh at the start of his annual farm work, for if he hears it, it indicates that his luck will be down and that his family will suffer economic difficulties. Only the young farmer should hear the voice of jaloh, as it indicates an improvement in his for tunes.
2. When an ordinary farmer hears or is approached by jaloh or sees the jaloh fly from his right to left (mimpin), or vice versa (ngeraup), and if he has an old person in his family, it is a very bad omen, which indicates that the latter will die sometime soon within the year. This is known as madam ka sulok mata i.e., an omen which closes the eye lids of an old person in death.
3. If a man goes by boat to a large well known pool (lubok besai) to fish, and on his way paddling there, he hears the voice of jaloh from the right, it is a good omen. It indicates that he will catch many big fish that day.
4. If you call for a manang or a dukun to cure a sick young man or a young woman, and the man you call for is coming with you when you hear the voice of jaloh, is a good omen which indicates that the sick person will soon be cured. If you hear this omen when you call for the medicine man to cure a child, it is inauspicious, as the omen is too strong for a child.
5. If you carry property from your parent’s house to your own house after you have divided it with your brothers and sisters, and you hear the voice of jaloh, it is a bad omen which indicates that your own heir, who would have eventually inherited the property, will die young.
6. If you hear the voice of jaloh, while you are on your way to visit sick grown up person, it is a very good omen which indicates that the sick person will not die.
BERAGAI (SCARLET-RUMPED TROGON)
1. If you bring a cock which has already won a fight into the cockfighting ring, and you hear the voice of Beragai from the right hand side of your path towards the ring, it is a bad omen which indicates that your cock will be wounded in its legs and loose the fight. If the cock has not won a fight before, it indicates your shouts for its coming victory.
2. If when you are doing farming work before the firing of your farm, you are followed by Beragai flying along the road that you are walking, you should honour it with offerings in a mudas ceremony before the firing of your farm takes place. The effect of the voice of Beragai is good, but is only effective before firing.
3. If the voice of Beragai is the first omen you hear when you begin to open farms in a new country which you have just settled, it is a good omen that predicts that you and your followers will be known to other people as prosperous, well-off farmers and traders. Many people will come to buy your products. But, on the other hand, as long as you remain settled there none of the men of your community will become a great leader.
4. If a Beragai bird flies into your longhouse and perches above the centre of the ruai (gallery), it is a good omen which predicts that many visitors will come to purchase padi from the people of your house due to their success in farming.
5. If you visit a sick man and hear the voice of Beragai, it is a good omen which foretells that the life of the man you visit will be long and in many future occasions he will still be able to joke and laugh with you. It is also equally good if, on your way back from visiting a sick man, you hear the voice of Beragai, as it predicts that the man you visited will enjoy your company when you meet him next time.
6. If you hear the voice of Beragai near the house of your wife, during the first visit to her house after marriage, it is not a good omen. It predicts that your first child will die in infancy. This omen is called gugor mayang pinang. In order to neutralize it you must divorce your wife for a month, which is known as belega, but later you may marry her again. If you hear the voice of Beragai anywhere along the road during this visit it is also not good. It foretells that you may have a number of children but that the majority of them will die young.
7. If you are leading a number of fishermen to fish and you hear the voice of Beragai, it is not a good omen. It is known as burong puang raga and indicates that you will return empty handed. But if you hear the voice of Beragai when you are already fishing, it is an omen which predicts that you may catch fish abundantly.
8. If you hear the voice of Beragai the day you finish felling trees on your farm, it indicates that your farm will not burn properly when it is fired later on due to rain or lack of wind.
9. If you hear the voice of Beragai as you ceremonially tie the ears of your padi (nyumba) you begin to harvest, it is a good omen which predicts that a lot of visitors will come to eat rice with you after the harvest is over.
10. If you hear the voice of Beragai while you are carrying your inheritance from your parents’ house to your own, it predicts that you will have a large number of heirs to divide the property among that you are carrying.
11. If you hear the voice of Beragai when you land your boat on your way to hunt or when you go fishing, it is a good omen which predicts joy in obtaining a lot of whatever you are looking for that day.
12. If you hear the voice of Beragai on your way to sell rubber sheets to the trader, it is a good omen which foretells the joy of the latter who buys your product for a high price.
13. If you hear the voice of Beragai near the landing place of your wife’s house on your way to visit her family after marriage, it is a doubtful, or tau enda omen, “a mixed blessing”, which predicts that your children in the future will be very wealthy, but the majority of them will die in their prime.
14. If you hear the voice of Beragai far away from your house, while you are on a hunting expedition, it is not a good omen, but it predicts the joy of animals which escape from you.
15. After you have finished with the seven days of initial clearing (manggol) and you hear the voice of Beragai, which causes you to stay away from work, it is a good omen which indicates joy over a good harvest at the end of the year; but at the same time, your farm will be disturbed by monkeys and other animals who will devour plants in the farm other than padi.
16. If the Beragai bird flies directly across the front of your path from right to left (mimpin), while you are on your way to cut the shrubs and secondary growth on your farm, it is a good omen which foretells that the growth of your padi will be excellent that year. But at the same time a lot of animal will come to disturb the other crops in your padi field.
17. If a successful hunter or fisherman hears the voice of Beragai on his way to hunt animals or to fish in the river, it is not a good omen, but predicts that he will return home empty handed. If an inexperienced young hunter or fisherman hears the voice of Beragai, it is a good omen which predicts that his basket will be heavily laden with catch.
18. If you go to work in a far away country and you hear the voice of Beragai, it predicts that you will not be healthy while working there, or may fail to gain any profit from your journey.
PANGKAS OR KUTOK (MAROON WOODPECKER)
1. If a poor farmer hears the voice of Pangkas while he clears or fells the trees on his farmland, it is a good omen which increases his luck in farming. If it is heard by a very well-to-do farmer, it is not a good omen as it indicates that the success he already enjoys may be withdrawn.
2. If you hear jeritan Pangkas, the voice of Pangkas at the moment you begin farm work, it is a good omen which indicates that padi will be with you in the year, meaning you will reap an excellent harvest. This call is also favourable when heard at the outset of other undertakings, and is sought by men as they set out on travels or trading expeditions, begin to clear fields, or start to hunt or fish in the jungle.
3. If you are fashioning a piece of wood into a handle for your knife or a spear shaft when you hear the voice of Pangkas, you must not use the wood for the purpose intended as later the weapon will fatally wound its user. But if you are cutting wood for the handle of an inherited spear or knife when you hear the jeritan Pangkas exactly when you cut it, it is a good omen that indicates that you will successfully kill your enemy in war using the weapon.
4. If you hear the voice of Pangkas while you are working in your farm, and later you hear the voice of Beragai and finally the voice of Ketupong, it is not a good omen, because Ketupong utters to you words of two interpretation, i.e. the Ketupong and Jaloh words, which can cause you to suffer from ill-health and die in due course.
5. If you hear the voice of Pangkas while on your way to pay your first visit to your wife’s house after your wedding, it is not a good omen and you should divorce her temporarily for one month and later you should split the ritual areca nuts again in a small marriage ceremony for your reunion as husband and wife.
6. If you are on your way to a hunting expedition and you hear the voice of Pangkas on the right side of the road, it is not a good omen, as it indicates that your dogs will bark at the animal and follow it too far away from you. If you hear the same omen from the left side of the path, it is also not good and indicates failure in killing the game you seek.
7. If you hear the voice of Pangkas on the day you complete the felling of trees on your farmland, it is not a good omen, as it indicates that your padi will not grow well. If it does grow well, your own health will be bad in due course.
8. If you hear the voice of Pangkas Kutok at harvest time it is not a good omen as it foretells that you will reap your grain in a short time at the end of the year, which shall cause famine to your family.
9. If you hear the voice of Pangkas or Kutok on your way to tap wild rubber in another country, it is a bad omen, which indicates failure in obtaining anything during the trip. Or if you do obtain the rubber, you will sell it when the price of the commodity is very low, and the price will rise again after you have sold it.
10. If you hear the voice of Pangkas to your right as you go on a hunting ex¬pedition, it indicates that early that morning a big wild boar will be held at bay by the barking of your dogs, and you will kill it only after a number of your dogs have been wounded by its tusks.
11. If as you bring your inherited property from your parents’ house to your own, you hear the voice of Kutok, it is not a good omen, as it indicates that regret will fall on you from those who see the loss of this property from your family’s possession.
12. If you hear the voice of Kutok as you land at a place where you intend to collect jungle produce, it is an omen of regret, as you will get nothing at that place.
13. If as you are following warriors to war, you hear the voice of Kutok as you reach the gathering of the war party, it is an unsatisfactory omen, as when you fight you will kill an enemy, but will not be able to collect his head and will be left empty handed. This omen is known as burong lebu, “omen of futility”.
14. When you leave the war camp and you hear the voice of Pangkas from the right hand side of the road, you should respect it with another night stay in the camp, as this omen becomes an omen for the whole war party who may have regret due to their weakness in the coming fight. If you respect it, the omen will be neutralized.
15. If you hear the voice of Pangkas on the right side of the path you are following as you reach the war camp, it is an excellent omen which indicates that you will be very strong in fighting your foe in the coming battles.
EMBUAS (BANDED KINGFISHER)
1. If while you dress yourself in your house to join a cockfighting game, you hear the voice of Embuas, it is a good omen which indicates that your cock will win its fight. But if when you have already reached the bathing place of your longhouse on the way to the cockfighting pit, its interpreta¬tion will be the opposite.
2. If you notice an Embuas bird flying towards you from the downhill while you are dibbling padi in your farm, it indicates that it comes to seek an order from the deity of the Earth, Raja Simpulang Gana. If it flies from the hilltop downwards, it comes to ask for an order from his father-in-law, Sengalang Burong, the interpretation of these omens is as follows:
a. A few generations of your descendants will become very successful in their trading ventures;
b. If you respect it with offerings in a mudas rite, you must kill a very fat pig, as these deities will not eat the thin meat of a piglet; and
c. If the omen is connected with Sengalang Burong you have to raise coloured flags on seven tall poles near the offerings.
3. If an Embuas bird flies towards you during the clearing season (maia nebas), it is an excellent omen as it will raise up your fortune causing your family to be known by many people in the land round about.
4. Embuas is nicknamed the *’mourning bird” (burong sinu). If it flies into your house and perches on you, it is not a good omen. It foretells that you will be distressed by the deaths of a number of very close relatives. If it alights on the perch of your fowls (gelanggang manok), it is a good omen which foretells that your family will prosper.
5. If you find an Embuas bird has nested outside the wall of your house, it is called burong tau enda, that is a mixed blessing, as described later. It indicates that at first you will accumulate considerate property, but later the child who should inherit it will die.
6. If you visit a sick person who is older than you, and you hear the voice of Embuas after you have seen the roof of his house, it indicates that the sick person will be instantly cured after your visit.
7. If as you return from visiting your parent’s house or your own child’s house, you hear the voice of Embuas as you leave, it is a very bad omen which indicates that it will be the last time you visit that house. To neutralize it you should return and stay there for another night. If you hear it while you are already half way to your own house or more, it is an excellent omen called the “omen of longevity”, burong gayu.
8. If you are going on a hunting trip, and you hear the voice of Embuas from the right side of your path, it is a good omen which indicates that you will kill a large wild-boar that day. Its tusks may become a charm (pengaroh) for farming or for war.
9. If when you carry property from your parents’ house, you hear the voice of Embuas, while you are still near the formers’ house, it is called burong sinu, “mourning omen”, and foretells that you will live a short life. If you hear it half way from the house to your own, it is an excellent omen known as the “omen of longevity”. If you hear it very close to your own house, it is more excellent yet, as it indicates that the property you bring will be safe and secure in the hands of your descendants.
10. If you hear the voices of two Embuas birds on opposite sides of the road, one on one side the other on the other side, near your house, it is an omen called burong surong api, “omen of handing fire to one another.” If you hear this omen when setting out to hunt, it indicates that you will kill a number of small animals. This same omen is also called burong ngiring anak, “bird that leads its chicks”, and cannot be used as a farming omen.
11. If you are hunting and have found traces of an animals’ hoof prints when you hear the voice of Embuas, it is a good omen, which indicates that you will soon kill the game. The calls of Ketupong and Kelabu Papau Nyanabong are not favourable for hunting and fishing. The voice of Ketupong indicates that you will be empty handed and the voice of Kelabu Papau Nyanabong indicates the blindness of you and your dogs in failing to see the game or fish you are looking for.
12. If you hear the voice of Embuas from the left side of the path when you reach the gathering of warriors during a war expedition, it is not a good omen. It indicates that you will be very tired during the battle, and will not be able to kill your foe.
13. If when you visit a man who has long been critically ill and he is very much older than you, and when you are still near your house, you hear the voice of Embuas on the left side of your road, and as you walk half way on you hear the voice of Beragai on the right side of your road and later when you see the roof of the house of the sick man, you hear the voice of Ketupong, the effects of these omens are as follows:
- Right hand voice of Embuas means mourning over the death of the sick person;
- Right hand voice of Beragai means happy bird (burong gaga), that is the joy of Sebayan that receives the soul of the dying person; and
- Right hand voice of Ketupong means speedy recovery.
14. If you visit a sick person who is much older than you, and you hear the voice of Embuas midway on your journey or after you have seen the roof of his or her house, it is a good omen which indicates longevity for the sick person you are visiting.
15. If you are returning from collecting wild rubber in a far away country, and you hear the voice of Embuas when you are about to leave your landing place, it is not a good omen, and is known as burong sinu, the “mourning omen”. It indicates that you or one of your friends in the party will not see that place again due to death.
BEJAMPONG (CRESTED JAY)
1. When you do a day of the seven days work of initial clearing and you hear the voice of Bejampong, it foretells that the land you are farming will be dry and your padi will not grow well. But if after you hear it, you hear the voice of Embuas, it is a good omen, as it indicates that Embuas comes and flies up as high as the height of the raras tree before it perches at the place where Bejampong has sat and shrieked. This indicates that he over powers the voice of Bejampong. As Embuas owns a charm which can dissolve the earth and cool it, your padi may now grow luxuriantly.
2. If a manang (shaman), a dukun (medicine man), or a lemambang (bard) hears the voice of Bejampong while travelling on his way to cure a sick person, it is a good omen if he never before doctored anyone who lives in the same direction as the patient he is going to visit. It foretells that the sick person he wishes to cure will be well. Likewise, in the future, if he is invited to treat a patient in that part of the country, his healing work will be effective.
3. It is taboo for a longhouse to be entered by a Bejampong bird. If it happens, it predicts that the settlement will soon catch on fire and burn. A manang should be called as soon as possible to neutralize this omen.
4. If you and your newly wedded wife pay your first visit (nyundang pinang) after your marriage to the latter’s house and you hear the voice of Bejampong on the right side of the road, it is a good omen. It predicts that your children in the future will obtain considerable wealth. But later their children will always be childless so there will be no one of their own issue to inherit their property.
5. If you are on your way to call for a manang or a dukun to cure a sick person, arid you hear the voice of Bejampong, and if the sickness is a sudden one, the patient will be cured instantly by the manang or the dukun you call for. If the patient has been ill for a long time, he will continue to be sick for a long time more.
6. If you bring a newly adopted child into your house, and you hear the voice of Bejampong on the right side of the road, it is a good omen which predicts that the child and his or her descendants will always politically dominate other people in your house or country for centuries.
7. If you hear the voice of Bejampong on your way to clear the secondary growth on your farm, it is an ill-omen. It predicts that the husks of your padi will be empty.
8. If you are on your way to visit a sick child, and you hear the voice of Bejampong on the left hand side of the road, it is a good omen. The child will soon be cured. But if you hear it from your right hand side, the child will remain sick for a long time.
KELABU PAPAU NYANABONG (DIARDS TROGON)
1. If you bring your cockerel to fight in the cockfighting ring, and hear the voice of Kelabu on the right hand side of the road as you approach the menalan, it is a good omen. It indicates that the other cock will automatically become spiritually blind and not be able to kick your cock properly, which will cause it to lose the fight. If you hear the voice of the same omen bird on the left hand side of the road near the menalan, it is also a good omen, but it is weaker than one heard to the right. If you hear the voice of this bird when you are midway to the menalan, either from the right or left side of the road, is not a good omen. It is good only if you hear it either when you leave your house or at the end of your walk to the cock-fighting pit.
2. If you hear the voice of Kelabu on the way to your farm, or the Kelabu follows you or flies directly across your path, either ngeraup or mimpin, and if you have an old person living in your family, it is a bad omen. It foretells that the old person, who is the oldest in your bilek, will die soon after you hear or see this omen.
3. If you are looking for a piece of wood in the jungle from which to make a knife handle or a shaft for a spear which you will use in hunting, and you hear the voice of Kelabu, it is not a good omen, but indicates that if you use the weapons while hunting, you will not be able to see the animal properly and so not be able to kill it.
4. If you hear the voice of Kelabu a day after you have finished your seven days of initial clearing (manggol), it is a good omen. It spiritually blinds the eyes of all the animals and pests so that they cannot see your farm throughout the year. But after harvest you must be quick to transport all your property back to your longhouse, as many things may endanger it on your farm at the close of the farming year.
5. If you visit a sick person and you hear the voice of Kelabu near his or her house, it is a good omen, which predicts that the patient will soon recover from his or her illness. But if you hear its voice while you are still very far away from the patient’s house, it is not a good omen, but indicates that the sick person will remain long in bed.
6. If you move away from the longhouse and stay elsewhere due to an epidemic of illness and you hear the voice of Kelabu, it is an excellent omen. It indicates that the eyes of the spirit of the disease will be blinded and not see you, so that you will be safe*
7. If as you and your wife pay a first visit (nyundang Pinang) to the latter’s house after marriage, you hear the voice of Kelabu, it is not a good omen. If your health remains good after hearing this omen, then you and your future descendants will forever be dominated by people of other families.
8. If you hear the voice of Kelabu as you come near your wife’s house on your first visit there after marriage, it is a bad omen, which indicates that your wedlock will not last long due to the death of either one of you. In order to neutralize this omen the husband must divorce his wife temporarily (belega) for one month, after this they may split the areca nut in a small marriage ceremony for their re-union.
9. If you are on a hunting trip, and you hear the voice of Kelabu, it is a useless omen, burong rabun, which indicates that you may not see the game clearly that day and in due course you will return home empty handed.
10. If on the day you finish felling the trees on your farm, you hear the voice of Kelabu, it is a very good omen which indicates that no eyes of animals, evil spirits or pests may see the things you plant in your farm that year.
11. When you tie the ears of your padi in a ceremony (nanchang padi) before you start reaping and you hear the voice of Kelabu, is not a good omen, but indicates that your fame will be very low. Your relatives and friends will no longer be fond of you.
12. If as you bring your inheritance from your parents’ house to your own house, you hear the voice of Kelabu, it is a bad omen and predicts that this inheritance will not increase.
13. If you hear the voice of Kelabu while midway to your wife’s house on your first visit there after marriage, it is a bad omen which indicates that some misfortune will disgrace you sometime during this traditional visit.
14. If you hear the voice of Kelabu while you are hunting, it is an unsatisfactory omen which blinds your dogs from seeing game clearly. In due course you will find it better to stop your hunting for a day and return home.
15. If you are returning from the jungle in order to sell your products to a trader and you hear the voice of Kelabu on the way, it is an auspicious omen and tells you that the eyes of the demons and malevolent spirits will not see you and, in due course, you will return in good health.
16. If you hear the voice of Kelabu when you are about to attack an enemy camp, it indicates that you will not be able to kill your foe due to supernatural blindness of your eyes, even though the raid that you are participating in is successful.
NENDAK (WHITE-RUMPED SHAMA)
1. If a Nendak bird flies close to you when you are cutting the bush in your farm, it is not a good omen, as it acts as a messenger to tell you that you will be fined by another man with whom you have a dispute.
2. If you are on a journey, but have just left your house when a Nendak bird flies directly across the road from the left to right (ngeraup), it is not a satisfactory omen. It is known as raup moa malu, an omen which foretells that something will cause you to feel ashamed (malu) that day or sometime during your trip.
3. If the Nendak bird flies across the path on which you are traveling from the right hand side at the midway point of your journey to another person’s house, it is a good omen, raup ulih, which indicates that you will get anything you want during the trip. This kind of omen is also excellent if you see it on your way to work in your padi field.
4. If you see a Nendak bird fly from the left side of the road towards your right in front of you (raup) as you go to cut the bush on your padi land, it is also an unfavorable omen, the same as if you see it fly in the same direction when you leave the longhouse on the way to your farm. This particular omen is known as raup rau and foretells that you will be empty handed at the end of the year, i.e. an indication of your bad harvest.
5. If after you have finished clearing (nebas) your farm, you see the Nendak bird fly from your right hand side to your left, it is not a good omen. It predicts that someone will exceed you in obtaining more padi at the end of the year. But if you see it fly from the same direction at the end of the path to your farm, it is a good omen, known as raup ulih, which indicates that you will get a lot of padi that year.
6. If you see the Nendak bird fly from the right side of the path towards your left (mimpin), it is more effective than the raup indications mentioned in No. 5 above.
7. When you are traveling to your farm in order to start your first harvest (matah), and you see a Nendak bird fly from the right side of the road towards the left (mimpin), it is not a very good omen. It indicates that your harvest at the end of the year will be very slow.
8. If a Nendak bird flies from the end of the longhouse into the building, it is an omen which bears the message that one of the young men of the house will soon be fined for having sexual intercourse with a woman in another village who has now conceived and will claim that the young man is the father of her unborn child.
9. If you and your spouse pay a first visit to the latter’s house after your, marriage and if you hear the voice of a Nendak bird from the right side of the road, it predicts that you will have a number of male children in the future. If you hear its voice from your left hand side it indicates you will have more daughters than sons.
10. If as you go to hunt or fish, you hear the voice of a Nendak bird from the right side of the road, and later you hear the voice of Beragai from the left side of the road, they indicate that your carrying baskets will be filled to the rim with the meat or fish you will bring home that day.
11. If you are going to collect honey from a bee tree and, as you come near the tree, you hear the voice of a Nendak bird on the left hand side of the road, it is a good omen, and indicates that you will collect a large amount of honey and young bees.
12. If you hear the voice of a Nendak bird from the right hand side on the way to collect honey from a bee tree, it is also a very good omen which indicates success.
13. If when you leave your house to collect honey, you hear the voice of a Nendak bird from the left side of the road it predicts a heavy rainfall which may cause the climbers to be unable to climb the tapang tree.
14. If as you move into a new longhouse you hear the voice of Nendak birds thrice, one from the right hand side of the road and the others from the left, they are good omens. They predict that you will be healthy while living in this building.
If the households have all settled in the new building when the voice of jaloh is heard, it is also a very good omen, as it means that they will be as safe as if they are living in a house made of stone, and malevolent spirits may not see them or endanger their lives.
It should be added that the voice of a Nendak bird is primary for strengthening omen and reinforces the message carried by the calls of the other augural birds. Its voice, when heard alone, is significant and is mainly used as burong kena bejalai, an omen for travel. Its flight is considered to be a more powerful portent, but only when it is raup or pimpin should it be respected by staying away from farm work for a day; never otherwise.
RAUP (LEFT TO RIGHT) ENGGAU PIMPIN (RIGHT TO LEFT); INDICATION OF DIRECTION IN THE FLIGHT OF THE OMEN BIRDS)
1. If you see an omen bird when you leave your house for your farm fly from the left hand side of the road to the right, it is called raup. This is an omen only for a prosperous farmer. It indicates that the farmer will gather a lot of padi at the end of the year. If you see an omen bird fly in front of you from the right hand side of the road to the left, it is called pimpin. This is also a good omen and predicts a year of plenty. But if these omens are encountered by a farmer who had never been successful in farming, they indicate that his harvest will be very bad at the end of the year.
2. If you see an omen bird fly from either side of your path, raup or pimpin, in front of you while you are walking half way from your house to your farm, it is a bad omen which foretells that other farmers will gather more padi than you at the end of the year.
3. If on the day that you begin initial harvesting, called nyumba or matah, you notice a Nendak bird fly in front of you from the left hand side of the road to the right, raup, it is bad, as it indicates that your harvest will be slow and unsatisfactory for various reasons, such as sickness. As a result, you will be unable to gather as much padi as you had expected.
4. When you are farming land that belongs to other people, and on your way to start work there, you encounter an omen bird flying either from the right side of your path towards the left or vice-versa, that is either raup or pimpin, it indicates that the owner of the land will ask you to farm it again during the year that follows. If you see the same omen again on the other days of that week, it may cause you to suffer from shame, raup moa malu, as jt indicates that you will gather your padi unsatisfactory at the end of the year. As a result the owner is likely to refuse to allow you to farm the land on the following year.
5. If a person returns to his or her house from visiting a sick person and notices an omen bird flying in front from either side of the road, pimpin or raup, it forbids the person from returning home, as the sick person will die shortly on the same day, if he does so. Instead he should return to the home of the sick person in order to cancel the omen.
6. If you are going to cut the undergrowth on your farmland during the clearing season (maia nebas) and you see an omen bird flying across the road from the right side towards the left in front of you, it is called a sundang menarang omen, which sadly predicts the death of your unmarried daughter sometime during the year.
7. If as you bring a cock which has previously won a fight to contest in the cockfighting ring, you notice an omen bird flying across from the right to the left side of your path pimpin, it is a bad omen which foretells that your cock will lose its fight that day. But if the same omen is noticed by a man who is an expert in tying the metal spur (taji) to the cock’s leg, it indicates that all cocks whose legs are tied by him with his metal spur that day will win their contests.
8. If as you bring a cock which has never fought (manok bungas) in ring before, you notice an omen bird flying from the left to the right side of your path, raup, when you are walking towards the cockfighting ring, it indicates that the cock will easily win its fight on that day, especially if you see the omen bird when you are still near your house.
9. If, on the way to your padi field, you notice a Bejampong bird flying from the left side of the path to the right side, raup, it is a bad sign which indicates that the ears of your padi will be almost empty that year. If you see a Beragai flying from the same direction, it indicates that pests and animals will spoil all the things you plant, including the padi, although after harvest you will find that the padi you have gathered is more than enough to feed your family.
9 THE OMENS OF SIMPULANG GANA
AUGURIES OF SIMPULANG GANA
After Sengalang Burong had taught Sera Gunting the various ways in which to use the voices of the omen birds, how to interpret their actions as they fly from left to right or right to left, and the manner in which the voice of a Nendak bird helps to strengthen the voices of the other birds, he also explained to him how to interpret the omens conveyed by his brother Simpulang Gana’s serfs, slaves and followers as follows:
1. If you hear the voice of the tuchok lizard during the day, it is an excellent omen and indicates that your efforts will be blessed with success.
2. If you hear the voice of tuchok while you are working in your padi field, it indicates that you will fill several padi bins with grain at the end of the year. Singalang Burong also told Sera Gunting that whenever a person hears the voice of tuchok he should pull up a living plant which he should take home as a tambak burong, or augury stick, for future use.
3. If you hear the voice of tuchok anytime before noon, it is an omen that foretells that your farm work that year will be very successful. But the tambak burong that you pull up at the time must not be brought home straight away, but instead, should be put in a rough temporary shed made of leaves. Only after you have made the tambak burong an offering of food, may it be brought home for safekeeping.
4. If you hear the voice of tuchok while you are tapping wild rubber in the forest, it is a good omen which tells you that the tuchok will safeguard you and the rubber you work while you remain at that place. Soon afterwards you should leave a lump of rice at the place where you heard it as an offering of thanksgiving.
5. If you hear the voice of belangkiang, a lizard with a white stripe around its mouth, the interpretation of this omen is very similar to that of the tuchok lizard. But if you see that its stomach is full of eggs, you should slash it with a knife. The number of eggs which come out of it will equal the number the padi bins you will fill after your harvest at the end of the year.
6. It is good for the farmer to see the belangkiang. If you see one you must smear the place where it is seen with the blood of a chicken. On the other hand, if you see it with its mouth open, it is a dangerous omen which can end your life within the year. In order to escape this danger, you should call for a manang to neutralize it (penabar burong) with water in which his stone charms have been placed.
7. If you find the dead body of a belangkiang, you should bury it properly under the ground with clothes, and should erect a tiny hut over its burial place.
8. It is taboo for anyone to see a belangkiang creep into a heap of dried, dead tree leaves (rau). The interpretation of this omen is death to the one who sees it. In order to escape from danger, a manang should be asked to neutralize it with (penabar burong) water into which his stone charm has been placed, as soon as possible.
9. If you hear the tinkling voice of the mengalai, a kind of tiny centipede, during the day time, it foretells your longevity. It is nol considered as an omen if you hear it at night as it naturally makes a tinkling voice at night time. When its call is heard at night, however, it tells you that one of your dead relatives is asking you for food. In order to respond to its request, you should throw a small amount of rice towards the sound. In Iban belief, mengalai is a slave of the goddess Indai Billai who dwells in the realm of the dead.
10. If you hear the voice of a cicada, ngingit, at noon in your padi field, it is a taboo which may endanger your life. In order to save yourself you should ask the manang to neutralize it with his penabar burong charm as soon as possible. If you hear it late in the evening you may ignore it, as it usually shrieks for several hours just before sunset.
11. If you hear the tinkling voice of Selampandai, the Divine Blacksmith, who appears in the form of a centipede, at noon in your padi field, it is a taboo which endangers your life. You should call upon the manang to neutralize it for you.
12. If you hear the voice of Selampandai below or in your house at night, it is a joyful omen which predicts the birth in of a child to your family. If you hear its tinkling voice towards the loft or communal gallery it predicts that the child will be a son. If you hear its voice towards the family sleeping place in the bilek, it predicts the child will be a daughter.
13. After a woman has conceived, if she or the other members of her family have not yet heard the voice of Selampandai, a manang should be asked to perform his pelian bekumbai Selampandai to call upon Selampandai to look after her health.
14. If you notice a great number of ulat bulu, hairy caterpillars, in your padi field it predicts that you will gather a lot of padi from your farm at the end of the year. If they are not many, they should not be considered as an omen, but simply a natural occurrence.
15. If you hear the shriekings of a black locust, Burong Malam (night omen), the only son-in-law of Singalang Burong who does not live in his father-in-law’s house, in your padi field during the day time, it indicates that you will gather a large amount of grain at the end of the year.
16. If your cooked provisions for a day’s work are eaten by ulat, or maggots, in your farm hut, it may turn into a good omen if you eat all the food and maggots together. The prediction of this omen is for a year of plenty.
17. If the batu pengansah, the sharpening stone which you keep in your farm hut, is entirely covered by sampok, white ants, it is a good omen which predicts a year of plenty. The interpretation is the same, if your sharpening stone is covered by other kinds of ants (semut).
18. If you notice a kendawang, or coral snake, laying across your path, while you are on your way to start initial clearing (manggol), it is an omen which Prevents you from farming that particular piece of land. If you do, this omen may endanger your life.
19. If you notice either a tedong (cobra Naga spp.) kendawang (coral snake, Matlcom spp.), belalang (Hamadrgad, Naja Hannah) or sawa (python) while you clear the bush in your farm within the seven days of the manggol you should not farm that land as this omen may endanger your life. But if you see one of these snakes coiled inside the fenced offering in your field, it is a good omen which predicts a year of plenty.
20. If you notice a snake when you draw water from a stream for your lunch, it is a good omen which foretells a year of plenty. But if you see it dive in the water or enter a hole near the river, it is a bad omen which may endanger your life. If you notice a monitor lizard (menarat) behaving in a similar way, the result will be the same.
21. Burong nganjong laba is the name given to an omen which sends a stroke of luck. All animals which approach you from the front in your padi field are sending you a stroke of luck. In contrast, all those that approach from behind are called burong nyubok, “stalking omens”. These are ill-portents which bring you bad luck. They may endanger the life of other members of your family beside yourself within the year.
22. If an animal peeps (nyengok) at you from the edge of your padi field and then runs away, it is known as burong nyengok, a peeping omen. This is a taboo which may endanger your life or the life of a member of your family within the year.
23. If you see a sambar deer (rusa), or a barking deer (kijang), or a leopard cat (Remaung daan), or a bear (beruang) while you are walking along the path to your padi field, it is a bad omen which may endanger your life. In order to neutralize this omen, you should call for a manang to smear you with water in which his batu penabar burong charms have been placed as soon as you can.
24. If you notice that a mousedeer (pelandok) is running into a stream on your farm before you burn it, it indicates that your firing will not be satisfactory. If it does not dip itself in the water it may become a good omen. It also becomes a good omen, if you see it running up a hill; such an omen indicates that your luck is on the ascent, as you seek wealth.
25. If you see a slow loris (bengkang) or a tarsier (ingkat) coming slowly and tamely towards you, it brings luck to you. If you see either approach in a wild state, it indicates that luck will not come your way,
26. If you find a number of turtle eggs in your padi field it foretells the number of padi bins you will fill that year with grain. If you see a turtle dive into the water it may endanger your life if you do not call for a manang to neutralize it.
27. If you find the gamang bersarang hornets are making a nest inside your padi bin, it is an omen which lifts up your luck and brings prosperity.
28. If you find renyuan (honey bees) are building their combs filled with honey in your house, it is a good omen which indicates that wealth will pour in to you continually. If the comb is without honey it predicts that nothing of value will come to you as long as you occupy the house.
29. If you find a long comb which is full of young bees in your padi field, it is an omen which foretells that your farm will produce plenty of padi grain. If you find the honey comb is empty of young bees, it indicates that your padi will not produce much grain.
30. If you see bees alight on a tree branch in your rice field, you must leave the place instantly, so that you may not see them flying away, which is known as burong nyinggah. If you then see them alight and then fly away it is an omen which endangers the life of a member of your family, including possibly yourself.
31. It is a bad omen to find the corpse of an animal or bird (rangkah) in your padi field. If you are careful you should abandon your farm at once, as no one may neutralize its effect from endangering your life.
32. If a barking deer (kijang) comes into your longhouse building and returns the same way it came, it is not a good omen and is known as a burong ngabas, a spying omen. To neutralize it, you and the inhabitants of the longhouse must vacate the settlement for three days before you may re-occupy the house.
33. It is a bad omen to see a barking deer walking or standing at your settlement’s landing place. It foretells that the carrying of a coffin by boat will take place there soon for a burial at the cemetery.
34. If you are on your way to visit a sick man and, as you come near his house, you hear the bark of a barking deer on the right hand side of the road, it is an omen which foretells that the sick man will soon be cured. But if you encounter a similar omen while you are still near your own house, its indication is the opposite and is known as burong sinu, mourning omen.
35. If you return from visiting relatives and, while you are still walking near the house, you hear the bark of a barking deer, it indicates that they will soon suffer from illness. If you hear it near your own house, you will be sick soon.
36. If you and your wife hear the barking of the barking deer as you step on the ladder of your wife’s longhouse on your first visit there after your marriage, it is an excellent omen. Such an omen was encountered by a chief named Repun “Betuah” and his wife Muna of the Rimbas, Saribas, on their first visit to latter’s house after their marriage. In later years all Betuah’s thirteen children established very well-off families with many famous offspring.
37. If you hear the barking of a barking deer during the first night you sleep with your wife it is an excellent omen. This same omen was heard by the famous Chief Minggat during the first night he slept with his wife Jara. In latter years all Minggat’s sons were chiefs and famous warriors, as were Minggat and all his brothers.
38. If you are followed by a barking deer on your way to call for a manang (shaman) to doctor a sick man, is an excellent omen. It predicts that the sick man will soon be cured after the manang has applied his medicine.
39. If you hear the bark of a barking deer on your way to perform the first day of initial clearing of your padi field, it is the worst omen and prevents you from farming any land in the same direction for three years. If you do, the result will be disastrous both to yourself or another member of your family. You should abandon the site at once and look for a new farm in another direction.
40. If you see a barking deer coming in front of you at anytime during the farming year at your padi field, it is a good omen which predicts a year of plenty.
41. If you see a loris or a tarsier near the hill top of your padi field it is not a good omen, though it will not harm your life. It will cause your luck to be unpredictable and may cause you to become ill, though not fatally.
42. If you see either a loris or a tarsier approaching you on the lower ground of your rice field, it is good and predicts a year of plenty.
43. If you see a loris or a tarsier carrying its young, it predicts that your daughter will marry a man who already has a child by an earlier marriage, or she will conceive by her boy friend who will not take her for his wife. If your child is male he will elope with a woman who already has a child.
44. If you see a loris or a tarsier on the centre of a hill in your rice field, it indicates an empty year, i.e. you shall not gather enough grain for food at harvest time.
45. If you find a scaly anteater, tengiling, in the loft above your family apartment, it is a good omen which foretells that you will soon become a very well-off man. It is also a good omen if you find it in your inner room as it predicts that you will become a very successful farmer.
46. If a monitor lizard enters your section of the longhouse from the outer part of the inner gallery it is a dangerous omen which predicts the death of a member of your family.
47. If a monitor lizard enters your section of the longhouse at your ruai gallery, it foretells that you will purchase one bedil canon in that year. But if it enters your house at the centre of the ruai, it indicates that a corpse will lie there sometime within the year. If it enters the house at the outer gallery (panggau) it means that a lot of strangers will come to buy padi from you. If you see it creep on the ground underneath your house it indicates that an evil spirit will come to bring misfortune to you. For the latter you should call the manang to neutralize it as soon as you can.
48. If you see a Pangolin or scaly anteater (tengiling) climbing up a tree and then returning again to the earth and entering a hole, it predicts that your life in the future will be crowned with success, as safe as in the hole, looked after by the deity Simpulang Gana.
49. If you hear the call of an owl (Menaul pok) in the morning, it is a good omen which predicts that someone will come to wait for your return from work to purchase padi from you. If you hear its call in the afternoon it is a bad omen which predicts that you will be saddened by the death of a mem¬ber of your family, those appearance will resemble a napping owl.
50. If you notice a monitor lizard hide itself in a cluster of smoked head trophies above the hearth over the longhouse gallery, it indicates sadness due to the death of a beloved one in your family.
51. If you see a centipede, kemebai, a millipede, sempada, or a kobali, a kind of green lizard, enter your longhouse you should make an offering as soon as possible, so that this omen will not endanger your health.
52. If you find drops of blood of an unknown man, animal, bird or spirit in your house, you must instantly make offerings for it. Otherwise you must desert the house to stay elsewhere in order to avoid danger to your life.
53. If anyone in the longhouse hears the frightening voice of an evil spirit called Sabut Temaga in any part of the building, he must tell the elders, so that the inhabitants may desert the settlement and live elsewhere until the manang or dukun has neutralized the building with water of his penabar burong stone charms.
54. If anyone in the longhouse notices that a frog, raong, is sitting on a chicken roost underneath the floor of the house, it is taboo, as the raong frog skin is thought to contain derris poison which may fatally poison the inhabitants of the settlement. A manang should be called to neutralize this omen.
55. If a mother finds a frog (raong) sitting on the seat where she customarily sits while cooking in the kitchen and the frog itself faces the kitchen, if she has a bachelor son, it indicates that he will soon marry a wife who will cook there, but if raong is seen in the middle of the family room, it is a bad omen which may endanger the life of one of the family. A manang should be called to neutralize it as soon as possible.
56. If you kill a sambar deer (rusa) that is running from the down river at your longhouse landing place it is a favorable omen. It predicts that a number of trading boats will come to buy produce from you offering good prices.
57. If a sambar deer walks along the road from the longhouse bathing place towards the longhouse and is killed close to the house, it is an auspicious omen which brings good luck to the people of the settlement.
58. If a sambar deer is seen standing on the path leading to the settlement’s bathing place it is not a good omen. It is known as burong sandik santubong and foretells that a coffin will be made at that spot sometime in the future.
59. If a sambar deer is seen standing at a place where bathers usually dress after bathing, it is a good omen which predicts a crowd of guests will dress there while attending a happy festival at the longhouse.
60. If you find an owl perched at the upper part of the family room (bilek atas) it is a taboo. For a woman, it foretells sadness due to the death of her husband and her approaching widowhood. If it perches at your section of the ruai, is also a taboo. It predicts sadness due to the death of your husband or wife.
61. If your house is visited by a great number of indu kutu hari flies, it indicates that your gallery will be clouded by the dust of your padi after harvest at the end of the year.
62. If your house is visited by a great number of meat flies (langau) it indicates that you and your family will be disliked by other people, including your own close relatives.
63. If an anthill grows at the side of the path which leads from the longhouse to the landing place, it is an omen which predicts that heaps of produce, such as rice or rubber sheets, will be gathered for sale by the people of the settlement to the river traders.
64. If the anthill grows high on the ground beneath the family room (bilek) in the longhouse, it predicts that the heirs of the family will be childless as long as the anthill lasts.
65. If lightning strikes fruit trees in front of the open drying platform (ujong tanju) of the longhouse, it indicates that a lot of healthy children will be born in that settlement from that time onwards, as long as it is occupied.
66. If a person finds a tarsier inside an Irun jar where rice is kept, it is a bad omen which predicts that the house will catch on fire. The survivors who hide themselves from being burnt are like the tarsier who sits inside the Irun jar.
THE OMENS OBSERVED DURING A WAR EXPEDITION
After Singalang Burong had finished teaching Sera Gunting the omens generally used for farming and other kinds of work, he told him that he would not explain to him the omens used by warriors when they go to war, as later he would ask him to join a war expedition led by his son-in-law Ketupong.
A few days later Ketupong led the people of his father-in-law’s house in an attack on Beduru, also known as Nising, and his people, the latter and his followers being the arch enemy of Singalang Burong. During the preparation for the warpath, Singalang Burong equipped Sera Gunting with his most effective war charms in the form of a taring babi (boar’s tusk), a bamboo shoot stone (batu tubu) and a deer’s horn (tandok rusa).
“All these charms,” he said, “will cause you to kill your foes successfully.” Besides equipping him with war charms, he also lent him his own nyabor knife which he had used to kill a number of enemies. “If you are unable to slay your foes after you have been equipped with my own charms and war knife,” he said, “you can never expect to be successful in future wars.”
Then Ketupong and his warriors left the house for the enemy’s country. After some hours of traveling, Ketupong suddenly jumped to the right side of the path and made a click of his tongue (engkelak). On seeing what Ketupong had done, Beragai jumped to the left side of the path and coughed. In performing these actions the warriors assured Sera Gunting that these were good omens known as sandik belantan chawit which predict their victory over the enemy. Ketupong and Beragai returned to join their comrades-in-arms on the path.
They left that place and walked as fast as they could towards the enemy’s country. After some hours of traveling, Pangkas suddenly jumped to the right side of the path and shouted. On hearing his shout the warriors assured Sera Gunting that they will safely come to the country of the enemy.
Eventually on the fourth day of their march, they reached the boundary of the enemy’s country, where Bejampong suddenly jumped to the left side of the path and laughed. On hearing this, all the warriors said that the enemy would not be aware of their coming attack.
From here they walked again. After some time Embuas jumped to the left side of the path and wept loudly. “This is a very good omen,” said all the warriors, “as it predicts the sorrow of our foes due to our coming raid.”
They walked on again, and as they come nearer to Beduru’s big longhouse, Papau Nyenabong jumped to the left side of the path and coughed. “Oh! What an excellent omen,” cried all the warriors, “as it pre¬dicts the blindness of our enemy’s eyes from seeing us.” They call this omen madam ka suloh mata musoh, to blind the eyes of the enemy.” They stopped at this place, so that Ketupong could fix the right time for their attack on Beduru’s house.
Shortly before the break of day they surrounded and attacked Beduru’s settlement. Among the warriors, Sera Gunting first slayed an elderly women while they walked to fetch water in the river. Eventually after the fighting was over Ketupong was happy on seeing all the warriors had killed their enemy victoriously. On their arrival home Sengalang Burong was pleased to learn that his grandson Sera Gunting had been successful in killing a num¬ber of enemies during the fight. These war omens were sought and followed by Iban war leaders whenever they led their warriors on the warpath in the past.
BURONG LABA (THE STROKE OF LUCK)
After this war, Sengalang Burong taught Sera Gunting how to respect the kind of omen called laba, “stroke of luck”, as follows:5
1. If you see a mousedeer (pelandok) coming towards you from the front, you have to return to your house and respect it with a day holiday. After this you must smear the place where you saw the mousedeer with the blood of one large cock or a hen to increase the effectiveness of the omen.
2. If you see a barking deer (kijang) coming towards you from the front, you must go home and respect it with three days holiday. After this you have to smear the place with the blood of two large chickens to increase its effectiveness.
3. If you see a sambar deer (rusa) coming towards you from the front, you have to respect it with five days holiday. After this, you have to smear the place where the deer was seen with the blood of a pig of any size.
4. If you see a clouded leopard cat (Remaung daan) coming toward you from the front you have to stay away from work for seven days. After this, you have to smear the place with the blood of a sow which has three times delivered young or a male pig which already has tusks.
If the grave of an ancestor is covered by an anthill, this is a good sign that indicates that the deceased intends to safeguard the future well-being of his descendants and will confer favors on those who are especially capable. However, if the earth over the grave of an ancestor, parent, child, or other close family member sinks (lengkap), this is a bad omen that indicates future ill-luck, poverty, and lack of success. Those who see it should immediately fill the sinking ground with earth.
The appearance of fungi (kulat) on an heirloom jar (tajau) is a grave ill-omen. It forewarns the death of the jar owner and extinction of the line heirs entitled to its inheritance. It must be neutralized as soon as possible with offerings and by smearing the jar and its owner with the blood of a sacrificial pig. The owner may also seek to sell the jar in order to avoid the consequence of this omen.
10 STRENGTHENING AND NEUTRALIZING OMENS
If a farmer hears the voice of the Beragai (Scarlet-rumped Trogon) or Nendak (White-rumped Shama), while he is carrying his whetstone (batu umai) to his farm to start initial clearing (manggol), it is a good omen. In due course, he should leave his whetstone and augury sticks at his shelter (dunju) when he returns home in the evening. If he hears the voice of other omen birds on this trip, he must only leave his whetstone, and not his other implements.
If a farmer encounters or hears an animal omen on the way from his house to his farm, or vice versa, the place where the animal was encountered must be smeared with pig’s blood, and not with the blood of a chicken. Only pig’s blood may be used to neutralize the effect of animal omens.
The most important work that the farmer does before his family starts to harvest their padi is ceremonially to tie (nanchang) together three clumps of padi with a kikat padi creeper and a piece of red cotton (ubong mansau). At the center of these clumps, a chong tree1 stick is planted upright in the ground. The padi which has been tied in this way must not be reaped during the harvest. Instead, it is cut and brought home the day after the harvest is finished. The person who brings the padi home from the field must wrap it neatly with a piece of cloth. In the house it must be kept in a secure place, so that rats, insects and the like will not destroy it. Immediately after hari nanchang, the farmer and his family must stay away from work for a day to respect this sacred ceremony.
On the next day a senior member of the family starts his or her nyumba the first stage of reaping the farm. This work is done for three successive mornings, during the cool early hours of the morning in order to avoid the hot sun and the hearing of omen birds and the encountering of animals. All padi reaped during the three days of nyumba must be husked, that is made into rice (beras), as soon as possible in order to neutralize any bad omens that the farmer and his family may have heard or encountered during the year.
The way to neutralize the sacred padi sumba, the rice reaped during the nyumba period, is to put three small heaps of this rice together with a set of implements consisting of a duku (knife), beliong (adze), kapak (axe), sepit, (pincer), batu umai (whetstone) and a lekar (a basket on which the cooking pot, or periok, is placed near the kitchen). After this, a prayer is recited while a chicken is waved to beseech good health and a good harvest that year. When this is done, the rice (beras) used in the performance is eaten by the farmer’s chickens. It must not be eaten by men or they will suffer from tekok (gotre). Because of this, work must be done as quickly as possible so that children will not gather around and disturb the ceremony. After the ceremony is completed, rice made from the padi sumba may be eaten freely without ill effect. After the padi sumba has been neutralized, the farmer and his family begin the main harvest.
If a farmer sees the auspicious omen of laba rusa (sambar deer) at his farm, to make it effective, he should kill a sow that has delivered young or a male pig that has tusks. The animal’s blood is smeared on offerings that are placed in nine saucers on a frame about 3.5 feet above the ground and on four other offerings hung from the top of tuat, bamboo sticks.
If a farmer sees the good omen of laba kijang (barking deer) at his farm, to make it effective, he should kill a pig of not less than 25 katies weight. Its blood is smeared on seven saucers of offerings placed on a frame about two feet above the ground.
If a farmer sees the good omen of laba pelandok (mousedeer) at his farm, to make it effective, he should kill a piglet. Its blood is smeared on five offerings placed on the frame one foot from the ground.4
If a farmer sees the good omen of laba ingkat or laba bengkang (tarsier or loris), the offerings are also to be smeared with the blood of a pig, as that of laba rusa above. The number of offerings made should be nine, however, and they are to be placed in rough Kalingkang baskets hung from the top of bamboo poles.
If a farmer encounters a raup kelabu, raup beragai, raup bejampong, raup embuas or raup pangkas bird omen, he should made seven offerings in baskets raised on bamboo sticks. These offerings must be smeared with the blood of two cocks. Note here, again, that chicken sacrifice is used in connection with bird omens, whereas pigs are used in connection with animal omens.
If a farmer is followed by a flying ketupong bird when working in his farm, he should make five offerings to it. One of these is to be buried in the ground; another is to be put in a bamboo stick in the ground with the upper end forming a container known as a seregang. The other three are to be put on a frame nearby. All are smeared with the blood of a chicken.
After the farmer has completed his seven days of initial clearing, and as he starts his nebas (clearing the undergrowth), if he hears the voice of rusa (sambar deer), jaloh (Rufous Piculet), kijang (barking deer), or rimau daan (clouded leopard cat), he has to make an enclosure on the ground as soon as he has burned his farm. Later as he starts to plant his padi (nugal), he must plant the seeds of his family’s sacred padi pun at each corner of the squared sapat enclosure he has made. In addition to these observances, he has to place one plate (chapak) at each corner of the sapat and at three of the four corners he must place batu kuai stones, white pebbles taken from the river bed, to neutralize this dangerous omen.
If a farmer sees a mousedeer (pelandok) while cutting trees in his farm, he must immediately cut three tree branches to bury between the rau (fallen leaves) and the ground. When this is done, he has to return to look for tambak burong bejampong and tambak burong pangkas augury sticks. Both these are tied by him to his torch (sempun) on the morning when he is about to fire his farm. But before firing takes place he must first walk to the spot where he saw the pelandok. On arriving there, he has to bang the ground with his fist with the following words:
“O Pelandok, nuan enda tau enda bejimat,
Laban Bejampong seduai Pangkas
Ngiga tajau ke di lalai ka nuan.
Enti nuan enda bejimat
Tajau nuan deka di temu seduai.”
“Oh spirit of mousedeer,
You have to be careful,
As Bejampong and Pangkas,
Are looking for a jar,
That you have hidden.
If you are not careful,
They will find your jar.”
After he has finished reciting these words, the farmer must rebury the three sticks he buried at the time he saw the pelandok deeper in the ground. When this is done, he will walk back to his torch. On arriving where he left it, he slaps the torch with the following words:-
“O, Bejampong seduai Pangkas,
Seduai bejimat ke ngiga tajau Pelandok,
Laban iya udah ngelalai ka iya tegoh
Ba endor ke kukoh.”
“Oh, Bejampong and Pangkas,
You must look for Pelandok’s jar carefully,
As he has hidden it,
In a very secure place.”
After he had finished with his short prayers, the farmer starts to fire his farm.5
THE TUAI BURONG
An individual may seek auguries before embarking upon any important undertaking. Ordinarily he does so privately on behalf of his own family. However, there are occasions on which auguries are sought for a whole community, and this task is the responsibility of a community augur, or tuai burong.
The Tuai Burong is an acknowledged expert in the interpretation of omens and traditionally enjoyed an influence in the longhouse second only to that of the Tuai Rumah. His role was regarded as even more important than that of the bards, or lemambang. Major community rituals in which significant auguries are sought, such as those involved in the founding of a new longhouse or in opening new fields, are carried out by community families under the supervision of the Tuai Burong. In addition he is consulted by others for the interpretation of dreams and personal auguries and for advice on how to strengthen favorable omens or to neutralize those that are inauspicious.
Unlike the shamans and dukun described presently, who act as Orang Tau Makai Burong, the Tuai Burong receives no customary payment for his services. In the Saribas, the Tuai Burong is universally a senior man respected by his neighbors. He is usually a traditional historian. Besides omens, he is expected to be skilled in the interpretation of dreams and in reading the livers of pigs sacrificed during major rituals for the purpose of divination.
ORANG TAU MAKAI BURONG OR DUKUN BURONG
Besides neutralizing omens with the blood of a pig or chicken and by making offerings, farmers and others who have observed bad omens or dreams often ask the orang tau makai burong to neutralize them, literally “to eat the omen” (makai burong). The orang tau makai burong, a person adept at neutralizing omens, may be either a dukun or a manang who has at least one of the following kinds of charms for neutralizing omens and dreams:
1. Batu penabar burong (stone for wiping away the effect of an omen or dream)
2. Batu kerat udun (stone in the form of an udun fish slice)
3. Batu kerat adong (stone in the form of an adong fish slice)
4. Batu anak Buau (petrified child of the buau spirit)6
It must be explained that not all manang and dukun possess such charms and only those who do possessed them are able to neutralize omens and dreams. These charms are either given to them by the spirits in their dreams or are handed down from their forebears who were themselves able to neutralize omens.
When the farmer comes to enlist the help of the orang tau makai burong, he will bring with him young leaves of edible plants taken from his farm which are required by the orang tau makai burong to neutralize omens encountered there. These leaves must not be eaten before they are neutralized. In his turn, the orang tau makai burong fills a cup with water and then placed his stone charms into the cup together with bits of the young leaves taken from the farmer’s field. He bites a few bits of the leaves and then smears his own head with water from the cup, before he similarly smears the man who asks him to neutralize his omen or dream. After this the orang tau makai burong pours the water into a bottle for the man to take home. Finally, the man pays the orang tau makai burong his fee as follows:
1. One chapak plate for kurong samengat, the cage for the soul of the orang tau makai burong.
2. One bikong, a bent knife used for weeding grass, for kering samengat, strengthening the soul of the orang tau makai burong, and
3. One dollar (Malaysian ringgit) or wang satu ringgit.
After he reaches home, the farmer will proceed to his farm where he smears the land and plants with the water given him by the orang tau makai burong. When this is done, he returns home to smear all the members of his family and himself with the same water, called ai penabar burong.
After this, members of the farmer’s family may rejoice as they believe that the bad luck indicated by the dream or omen may no longer disturb them. It is to be noted that not all the result of orang tau makai burong are regarded as serasi or samitan (effective) in curing or neutralizing bad omen or dreams. Some of them may be effective for one man, but not for others. Therefore a man who requires the service of the orang tau makai burong should choose who is particularly favorable to him or his family based on their past experiences.
BURONG NGAJONG LABA (ANIMALS WHICH SEND A STROKE OF LUCK)
When Singalang Burong and his brothers separated from the other deities and from the Iban ancestors, Raja Simpulang Gana, one of Singalang Burong’s younger brothers and the Iban god of agriculture, assured the latter that only the following kinds of animals are empowered by the deities to send a stroke of luck (nganjong laba) to human farmers in the world of man:
Name of animal in Iban – Description in English
Belangkiang – A lizard with a white stripe along its mouth
Ulat Bulu – Hairy caterpillar
Ingkat - Tarsier
Bengkang – Slow Loris
Menarat - Monitor Lizard
Pelandok – Mousedeer
Landak – Porcupine
Kijang – Barking deer
Beruang – Bear
Jani or Babi Babas – Wild boar
Rusa – Sambar deer
The names of these animals and insects are mentioned in the chants for the Farm and Whetstone Festivals when Raja Simpulang Gana and the members of his family, together with these animal and insect slaves, come in procession from the spiritual world to attend these festivals celebrated in the longhouses of their human hosts.7
The bards (lemambang) must be very careful when mentioning the order of their procession (tangkan nurun ngabang) in the festival chants. If they recite it incorrectly, it is said that the indications of the liver of the sacrificial piglet killed for the feast will be made complicated and so rendered impossible to divine accurately. This is because the spirits are believed to walk behind each other’s wives, and confusing their order implies adulterous relations. Due to this the inexpert bards will always leave out this part of the chants.
No bird omen sends a stroke of luck to human farmers, but, instead, the augural birds convey warnings or guidance to the travelers, hunters, farmers or traders in the various ways described earlier.
The traditional Iban strongly believes that he may gain fore knowledge of the future through omens and dreams. For this reason Iban leaders in past centuries intentionally sought dreams in particular. Many ventured to solitary places to sleep in order to meet spirits from whom they hoped to receive charms assuring them of invulnerability and success in war, prosperity in farming and trading, or special powers to cure the sick.8
Iban parents in the olden days taught their children to be well-behaved during sleeping hours to respect those seeking dreams. Anyone who woke up early was expected to walk quietly and take special care not to disturb those who were still sleeping. Otherwise, a person was likely to be regarded as “ill-mannered”.
It is also believed that no one can achieve greater renown, be braver in war, or richer than others without his success being first foretold in dreams. It is thought that all prosperous farmers and adventure some traders must have received prior dreams, sent to them from Raja Simpulang Gana and Anda Mara, respectively, to which they owe their unusual success. But favorable dreams come only to those who are capable, by effort and natural abilities, of achieving what is foretold. The gods and deities are believed to judge human character and appear with favor only to those who are worthy, diligent and attentive to their guidance. The same is thought to be true of omens; their blessing is enjoyed only by those who are worthy to receive it.
The personal dreams, which foretell the general course of an individual’s future life, occur to an individual when they are in their youth, during their bachelor or maidenhood days. It is also believed that the dreams of grandparents, that occur while a grandchild is still in its mother’s womb, are especially significant and foretell the infant’s future life.
The Iban, in general, accord greater importance to dreams than to omens. This is because the effect of omens is thought to be short-lived. A favorable omen is sought to ensure success of a venture or undertakings which is mostly a short term activity. The most powerful omens foretell events of seven successive years at most and generally give only immediate indications. Even favorable omens will not persuade an individual to disregard his dreams. When dreams and omens give conflicting indication, the former always takes priority in determining an individual’s course of action.
1. IBAN CUSTOMARY LAW
1. When this system of fines was originally established in early Brooke days, the use of money was not widespread so that fines were reckoned in weights of brass. Although brass is no longer used in paying fines, names of weights have been preserved to describe specific fines within the scale. Monetary equivalents were officially amended in 1961, as shown here in column three, and this scale of fines is still in use. Amounts are in Malaysian dollars (ringgit).
2. The scale of fines which Tuai Rumah are authorized to impose in the Second Division are named after the types of jars which were used in payment of fines during the early Brooke period and before. Again these are now paid in money equivalents. As noted here, in all other Divisions of Sara¬wak, outside the Second Division, fines imposed by both the Tuai Rumah and Penghulu are reckoned in terms of mungkul, with one mungkul pre¬sently valued at one Malaysian dollar. Howell and Bailey in their Sea Dyak Dictionary (1900) also give tables of traditional Iban fines to which the interested reader is referred (Howell and Bailey, 1900, Appendix, pp. 20-22).
3. Together a duku and a beliong are equal in value to a nyabor knife. The nyabor knife is a war sword of the highest quality. Together these knives and the adze are produced to strengthen the soul of those affected by the offender’s actions. Without this compensation, it is believed, guiltless people living in the same longhouse or river area as the offender may be¬come ill and possibly die owing to the weakened state of their souls. The kebok jarlet is used for containing the soul.
In this regard, as Heppell has noted (1975: 133), the Iban notion of the soul (samengat) has a. significant legal dimension. In addition to serious offences that provoke kudi, any act committed by another that harms an individual or his property is thought also to harm his soul. An injured or weakened soul impairs its owner’s ability to resist the depreda¬tion of hostile spirits. In this condition the injured party is thought to be especially vulnerable to attack and may, in consequence, suffer illness and possible death. The Iban remedy is to “strengthen the soul” (kering samengat) of the injured party or others affected by the offence. This is done ritually by the use of the objects described here, the metal imple¬ments imparting strength and the jars symbolically sheltering the soul. Heppell has hypothesized that the ritual strengthening of the soul was the earliest conventionalized means of making reparation in Iban culture and that payments in value, fines and indemnities, developed only later and, perhaps, partially out of this convention (1975:134ff and 280). Whatever the case, these ritual payments remain an important aspect of Iban law and any offender who refuses to pay them, or is slow in doing so, is held responsible for whatever harm subsequently befalls the injured party, and he may be fined accordingly. This notion is an important inducement to settlement.
4. The manumission of slaves and the abolition of slavery by the Brooke Government are described later in this study (pp .81-83).
5. Freeman gives a brief, but excellent account of the juridical role of the longhouse headman and the procedures of dispute settlement with special reference to the Baleh Iban (cf. Freeman Report on the Iban (1970), pp. 114-16). For a more extended treatment, documented with case material from Batang Ai, see Heppel’s chapter, “Contention – The face-to-face hearing” (1975:226ff.)
6. There is another way in which the Iban legal system encourages a settle¬ment without recourse to formal hearings. This is through the institution of adat satengah. If an offender comes forward at once, acknowledges his guilt and offers compensation, he is frequently fined only half (satengah) of the amount that would be otherwise imposed if the matter was decided in public litigation (see Heppell 1975: 100). Adat satengah is most often applied in cases of accident or minor negligence.
7. Mr. Arundell, the District Officer at Lubok Antu, his Iban wife and daughter fled to the Ulu Ai, where they found refuge among the Iban after the arrival of the Japanese in Sarawak in 1941. Later they were mur¬dered, and in the absence of formal government, Penghulu Ramba and his brothers, Ngindang and Rantai, and other chiefs of Ulu Ai called for a diving contest between the three men later executed for the murders and their principal accuser, Mikai, which Mikai won. Before the war the three accused men had been sentenced by Mr. Arundell to imprisonment for taking part in the Asun Rebellion and so had a personal grievance against him. After the wail they were tried by a military court, found guilty of the murders and executed.
Up until the end of the 1920′s diving contests were not infrequent, and the author personally witnessed two contests at Betong before they were officially abolished. I have elsewhere published on the origin of the diving contest, as witnessed by the deities (Sandin 1957b), and have re¬corded remembered contests of ten generations ago (cf. Sandin 1957a: 125-27 and 1971:28-29).
8. Batempoh and bepalu are regarded as separate conventions by the Saribas Iban, and Heppell is in error when he suggests that batempoh is the Saribas term for bepalu and that the same term covers both conventions (1975: 188). He provides, however, an extended and thoroughly documented account of the traditional institution of bepalu among the Ulu Ai Iban, together with an excellent discussion of its significance and inherent limitations as a procedure for resolving contention (1975: 177ff; 1976.)
9. The actual date on which the ngarembang is held is determined by the Tuai Rumah’s dreams. Clearing cannot begin as long as the headman is troubled at night by inauspicious dreams.
10. These are Ketupong (Rufous Piculet), Bejampong (Crested Jay), Beragai (Scarlet-Rumped Trogon), Embuas (Banded Kingfisher), Pangkas (Maroon Woodpecker), Kelabu Papau Nyenabong (Diards Trogon), Nendak (White-Rumped Shama) and Burong Malam (a kind of cricket). The omen birds and the system of augury associated with them are described at length in Part 2 of this monograph.
11. The general term balang, used to describe these various ritual offences, refers to an act which left undone, or a prohibited act which when performed, has a spiritually deleterious effect not only on the individual who is directly culpable, but on those around him as well.
12. The bearing of flowers by the lily indicates success for the farmer in the coming harvest. This sacred lily is believed by the Iban to have been acquired for mankind by the agricultural god, Simpulang Gana, from the goddess Endu Kelinah (Sandin 1976b). Botanically the engkenyang appears to be varied. The editor has seen only one engkenyang plant, belonging to a family at Tanjong longhouse, Paku, which was identified from leaf cuttings as a species of Monochoria, family Pontederiaceae.
2. ADAT RELATED TO MARRIAGE, INCEST AND ADULTERY WITH IN-LAWS
1. A brief account of Iban incest rules and marriage preferences in relation to the kinship system is provided by Freeman (1960b). Elsewhere Freeman (1958 and 1970; 28-55) has also described several aspects of family adat not directly treated here, particularly the property-bearing nature of the bilek family, provisions for the retention of a family estate and its inheritance and division on the occasion of family partition. I have recorded at considerable length the Iban myths and oral traditions concerned with the origin and reform of incest rules and fines; see, for example, my Sengalang Burong (1962), pp. 13-19 and 66-70.
2. Berangkat means literally to get up, depart, or go off together. The offence ordinarily occurs when a spouse moves into the room of another person before obtaining a divorce from the former husband or wife. It is considered to be a more serious offence than simple adultery. The transgressor may also be a widow or widower who begins to live with another person before the end of mourning observances and the payment of tebalu fees. This latter offence is called berangkat antu. For a further discussion of berangkat see Sandin (1964a), “Iban berangkat (elopement)”, SarawakGazette90, no. 1275, pp. 102-103.
3. ADAT RELATED TO DEATH AND MOURNING
1. Sandin (1962), pp. 13-19.
2. The coffin is brought to the cemetery before daybreak because in the other world night and day are said to be reversed and it is therefore still daylight in Sebayan.
3. Believed to be located between the headwaters of the Kalis and Mandai tributaries of the Kapuas River in West Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo.
4. Situated near the banks of the lower Ketungau tributary of the Kapuas. Its lofty top can be seen clearly from many places in the Second Division of Sarawak.
5. Ini Inda is believed to live above all the other deities in heaven. Sometimes she is called Ini Inee and in the chants of the shaman and bards, she is referred to as “Ini Inda Rabong Menoa, Ini Inee Rabong Hari”. The occasion of the consecration is described in Part 2 of this study.
6. Black rice is symbolic of mourning. In the Sebayan after world, where appearances are reversed, black rice becomes white and is the ordinary fare of the souls of the dead.
7. This mourning period (ulit) was officially fixed by the Second Rajah in 1863 at Fort James, Skrang. His intention was to prevent it from becoming excessively long and so interfering with the public and causing hardship to the survivors.
8. During the early 1900s, Chinese grave-robbers regularly plundered Iban graves so that all property left above ground is now broken by the mourners to prevent it from being removed.
9. The cutting of the hair is done in order to prevent the mourners from be¬coming demented with grief and to guard their health.
10. The stalks of the flowers which are severed are said by the Iban to symbolize the ties of earthly affection linking the deceased to his or her surviving kinsmen. This does not mean, however, that once the besarara bunga rite is performed, the survivors should ignore the dead. One of their duties is to commemorate the deceased with a Gawai Antu festival, during the celebration of which it is believed that the souls of the dead are collectively recalled and feasted. The names of dead ancestors are also remembered in the oral genealogies, particularly if they gained renown while alive, as war chiefs, pioneers, famous weavers or men of wealth.
4. RELIGIOUS FESTIVALS
1. Sandin (1977), pp. 181-88. The crabs, which have first been smoked, are burned particularly for Simpurai or Bunga Nuing, who is the chief warrior under Keling of Panggau Libau.
2. Sandin (1977).
3. I have published elsewhere (1976b) texts of the songs of the Pangkong Tiang festival. Howell, in a short article in the Sarawak Gazette, mentions the ceremony but was unaware of its name.
4. This musical form is described by D. Maceda in his paper, “Field record¬ing Sea Dayak Music.” Sarawak Museum Journal 11, n.s. 19-20 (1962): 486-500; and in my paper, “Iban Music” (1974).
5. The places to which these-pests are sent vary from region to region and the places mentioned in the Gawai are generally the homeland of groups with whom the performers were traditionally on terms of hostility in the past. The wording here is from Saribas.
6. The spirits, particularly the souls of the deceased being honored, are likely to disturb the workers preparing the baskets unless respected with offerings.
7. A complete set of garong baskets is on display in front of the longhouse exhibition in the Sarawak Museum, Kuching. For a further description, see Sandin, “Garong Baskets”, Sarawak Museum Journal 11, n.s. 21-22 (1963): 321-326.
8. The glutinous rice prepared for brewing of tuak (rice wine) for all Gawai is cooked outside the longhouse on a special cooking platform, called raran, over an open fire, and is never prepared on the ordinary family hearth.
9. The specific ancestors whose names are recited vary from one community to another. All who are mentioned here are famous leaders of the Saribas Iban. For texts of the Gawai Antu chants see Sandin (1972).
5. THE ORDER OF LIFE IN A LONGHOUSE
1. See also my “Iban Way of Life” (1976a).
2. This cock is not killed, but is allowed to die a natural death. If an individual knowingly kills a manok tawai, he is fined similar to the fine imposed for slashing the sacred cordyline described earlier. Today a manok tawai is seldom used to determine a name, except when a name is changed (pindah nama) owing to the illness of the name-bearer.
3. Sera Gindi is the deity attributed with the creation of water, the rivers and seas, or, by some accounts, this deity is one facet of a single, triple-faceted divinity who is also responsible for the creation of land as Sera Gindah, and of light, as Sera Gindee.
4. A spear is used only if the child being bathed is a boy. If it is a girl, a weaving rod is used instead.
5. Some examples of lullabies collected by the author have been translated and published by Carol Rubenstein (1973).
6. The meaning is that many are betrayed by falseness disguised with sweet words.
7. Needham (1971) refers to similar names, used reciprocally between mends among the Sarawak Penan, as “friendship-names”. See also Howell (1963), p. 168.
8. When I interviewed him as to why Iban war leaders, chiefs and aristocrats kept great numbers of slaves and serfs in the past centuries, Mujah anak Mambang, a noted Iban historian and leading genealogist, whose age was 90 years in 1953, answered as follows:
The Ibans were warlike people who, between farming years, invaded and conquered their enemies in many parts of Sarawak. In this way many of them captured foes who became their slaves. All the debtors who were unable to repay their debts also became the serfs of their creditors.
If a man’s spring trap killed another man, the trapper was required to compensate the victim’s family with one genuine old menaga jar or with cash and other property equivalent to the cost of the jar. If the trapper was unable to pay the compensation as demanded by the chief, he became the serf of the deceased’s family together with his descendants after him. They remained so until they could free themselves by paying compensation or were freed by their master in the legal ceremony of Gawai Batimbang.
If a woman was pregnant, but refused to identify the man responsible up to the fourth month of her pregnancy, she was fined if anyone fell ill and died in due course as a consequence. If she was unable to pay the fine, she must surrender herself to become the salve of the victim’s family.
In the early 1880′s, the second Rajah of Sarawak decreed that no native leader was any longer able to enslave anyone as had been the custom of their forefathers. Due to this proclamation, many Iban and Malay leaders in Sarawak sold their slaves or received compensation from the latter.
Those slaves who were unable to compensate their masters were upgraded by the gawai betimbang ceremony. After the up gradation of a slave, if anyone still insulted them as such, the latter was fined by the government one picul ($28.80) as mentioned earlier. The imposition of this fine was declared by the Rajah personally to a large gathering of native chiefs at Fort Alice in Simanggang in 1882. After this royal decree was announced, a number of Gawai Batimbang was held. In Ulu Krian of the Kalaka district, Tuai Rumah Doo held a triple festival of Gawai Antu, Gawai Batu and Gawai Batimbang. At the last feast, a slave, Manang Semut, was formally freed. The most honored guest at this feast was Luwi a longhouse chief of Penom from the Paku district. He was the carrier of the sangkoh timbang spear during the festival procession.
After the procession had encircled the communal galleries of the longhouse, an aristocrat named Enggu from Paku asked why Luwi was leading a grand procession with men and women, boys and girls and the musicians beating the gongs and drums. Luwi told Enggu that he led the procession along the house in order that he might free Manang Semut who was his slave and make him a free man.
“If he wants to farm in the future, he has full right to farm the land of chief Saang, chief Bedilang, chief Kaya and chief Bana. He is now entitled to enjoy the fruits from the fruit trees planted by these chiefs.”
Luwi warned that no one shall try to stop Manang Semut from making use of the land that belongs to him (Luwi) and his forebears. Finally he told Enggu that Manang Semut and all his children and their future descendants were automatically his and his descendants’ relatives and friends.
He finally said that anyone in the future who still called Semut and his descendant slaves, with this spear will my descendants and I pierce them. Having said the same words at every gallery along the house, Luwi led the procession to the open air verandah (tanju) to kill the pig whose liver will indicate the future welfare of Semut and his heirs. After the indication from the pig’s liver was known, Semut shouted three times to say that his status had now been upgraded as high as that of Luwi. Having said this, he served all the guests, males and females, along the galleries, with his tuak wine.
In the middle Paku region in 1886, Penghulu Garran “Lembang Batu” (Rock Cleaver) of Tanjong Empaka held a betimbang ceremony in addition to his other festivals. During the betimbang, Garran adopted Manyi and her daughter Rioh, his former slaves, to be his sister and niece.
Dunggat and Budin “Grasi” adopted their slave Buntak as a son, in addition to their own children. Saang “Rumpang” adopted Kesulai to be his sister and Dindu (f) adopted Semada (f) to be her sister respectively.
At the end of the procession, Budin “Grasi” informed his enquirers that he walked in procession around the longhouse galleries with a band of slave masters and mistress to upgrade the status of their slaves.
“In the case of my brother Dunggat and I,” he said, “We now adopt Buntak to be our son and become the brother of Ketit and Mulok, the sons of Dunggat, and for the brother of Lumpoh and Ujih my own sons. Now that Buntak is our son, he has full right to use our land,” he said. “If anyone after this calls him our slave, with this spear will I pierce him. If the people of Paku call him slave, with this spear I and the people of Entanak will attack them. If the people of Entanak call him a slave, with this spear also the people of Paku may attack them,” he said.
After these words had been repeated at every gallery of the longhouse, Budin killed the pig at the open air verandah (tanju). After the pig’s liver had been read and its indication had been studied by the experts, Buntak shouted three times to say that he now was as noble as Ketit and Mulok, Lumpoh and Ujih. To end the ceremony, Buntak served the guests and hosts with his tuak timbang (wine) with great joking along the galleries of the house.
There exists an extensive early European literature on slavery. This present account draws heavily upon my earlier paper, “Betimbang: Slaves freed by Iban adoption”, Sarawak Gazette, 90, no. 1278, (1964): 193-194.
In this account of Mujah anak Mambang, I have changed the names of the slaves he mentions in the examples he cites of past betimbang ceremonies. These names are entirely fictitious. The names of other persons, Places and the details of what occurred are, in all other respects, exactly as Mujah described them to me. In contemporary Iban society it is a serious offence to make public reference to the former slave status of an individual, whether this person is alive or not, and he, or in the latter case, his descendants are entitled to bring suit and demand damages against any¬one who does so. If I were to record here the names of these persons I would thus be guilty of a breach of that very aspect of Iban adat that I am here describing.
6. WEAVING, TRADITIONAL PASTIMES, DANCE AND MUSIC
1. The only extended treatment of Iban weaving, based primarily on museum collections, is Haddon and Start Iban or Sea Dayak Fabrics and Their Patterns (1936), Cambridge University Press. The book contains a useful account of traditional weaving methods and design motifs.
2. Tarum is a cultivated plant (Clerodendron disparifolium, var. pubiflorum) grown by the Iban specifically as a blue or black dye.
3. In Iban legend the mythic hero Beji built an ironwood ladder to the heavens to ascertain whether the gods truly exist or not. When termites caused the tree on which the ladder was erected to collapse, Beji and his followers fell to their deaths.
4. Sandin, “Cock-fighting: the Dayak national game,” Sarawak Museum Journal, 9, n.s. 13 (1959): 23-32.
5. The Saribas author, William Duncan, has recently published (1975) a detailed account in Iban of this complex code of fighting cock coloration.
6. I have elsewhere presented a brief summary of Iban musical forms and traditional instruments (1974). Some examples of Iban songs may be found in Carol Rubenstein, “Poems of Indigenous peoples of Sarawak.” Sarawak Museum Journal Special Monograph, no.2. Kuching: The Museum, 1973.
7. THE MYTHOLOGICAL ORIGINS OF AUGURY
1. It is to this sacred whetstone that the Iban pray for the blessing of their individual sacred batu umai (sharpening stones) during the Gawai Batu, or Whetstone Festival. The Gawai Batu is held once in about four years, as deemed necessary by the community, at the beginning of the farming season (see Chapter Four, pp. 44-45). Raja Jembu is also known as Meta or Metha Raja Pengibai, a name that indicates a possesor of great wealth (pengibai).
2. Ini Inda is also known as Ini Inee. I have described the Iban traditions concerned with Singalang Burong and his brothers and sisters at some what greater length in my earlier monograph, Gawai Burong: The Chants and Celebrations of the Iban Bird Festival (1977: 2-6, 181-85). A later monograph in this same series is planned which will deal specifically with the traditions of Ini Inda and Menjaya Manang Raja and the ritual performances (pelian) of the Iban shaman, including the consecration and betawai ceremonies, as they are conducted by contemporary Iban manang.
3. “Burong Malam” is Kunding’s praise name, or ensumbar. The name itself means “night omen”. The term burong refers either to an omen, or more literally, a bird. Despite his name, “Burong Malam” has the earthly form of a cricket. The burong malam cricket is also an augural animal and the chirping sound it makes is thought to bear prophetic meaning, like the calls of Singalang Burong’s other sons-in-law. It is generally heard at night, however, rather than during the day. At the time in which the subsequent story of Menggin and Sera Gunting takes place, Endu Dara Chempaka Tempurong Alang is still unmarried and lives in her father’s bilek apartment. After it is discovered that she and Sera Gunting have committed incest, and they are pardoned by her father, she marries Kunding and joins him at his father’s longhouse.
4. This expedition against the demon Beduru, or Nising, is recounted in the narrative songs of the Gawai Burong. For a textual version of these exchanges between Singalang Burong and his followers, as they are sung by the bards during this gawai, see my Gawai Burong (1977:91 -93).
5. Each of these followers is represented in the earthly world by a bird. Engkerasak is the Spiderhunter (Arachnothera spp.).
6. The Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker (Prionochilus thoracious, Temminck).
7. A general name for the Bulbul (Pycnonotus spp.).
8. The panggau is a raised platform at the outer edge of the gallery which was traditionally reserved for the male members of the bilek. Here male visitors and unmarried men slept at night. From the panggau, the bachelors could quickly rally to the defence of the longhouse should it be attacked by surprise.
9. According to Saribas traditions, Remi married a spirit called Rukok, who was also known as Damu, and who assumed the form of an invincible warrior and led the followers of his father-in-law against the Kantu Dayaks. In this manner, Rukok paid Remi’s bride wealth in head trophies and revenged the earlier slaying of her brothers by the Kantu. Shortly after Menggin’s birth, Rukok returned to the spirit world.
10. Sera Gunting is also known as Siu or Surong Gunting.
11. To speak across their father-in-law’s gallery is symbolically equated with addressing the father-in-law by his personal name. In Iban society, use of the personal name of a parent-in-law (mentua), particularly in direct address, is strictly prohibited. Violation of this prohibition (pemali) is believed to call down automatically upon the violator a state of spiritual ill-fateness (tulah or sial). See Chapter Five, p. 77
12. See Chapter Three “Adat Related to Death and Mourning”, for a discussion of the hanging of the sapat curtain during the death rites.
13. Burong rama is a general category of omens referring essentially to those that regulate everyday conduct, as opposed to those related to specific activities in which augury is highly important and around which an elaborate body of observances exists, such as warfare, for example, or the construction of a new longhouse.
14. This bird brings with him a carrying basket full of “blinder” (engkerabun) to make invisible the padi to animals and pests during the year.
15. Honey is collected at night, when the bees are inactive, and the task of climbing the tall tapang trees is dangerous. Aside from the physical dangers involved, the Iban believe that the climber may also be endangered by a cat-like spirit that dwells in honey trees, the antu rembia. The antu rembia is thought to punish those who fail to heed the warnings of unfavorable dreams and omens by causing them to suffer mishap. See Chapter One, pp. 21-22.
16. The kuchay bird is one of Singalang Burong’s slaves. Kuchay is not identified by Symthies (1960) by its Iban vernacular name and is described by Howell and Bailey (1900:81) simply as “a species of very small bird”.
17. Mudas is a small feast held in the farmer’s field to either neutralize or strengthen an omen, usually the latter. Immediately after offerings have been made a pig is sacrificed, either a piglet or a mature pig depending on the nature of the omen, and its liver is divined.
8. INTERPRETATION OF THE CALLS AND FLIGHT OF THE AUGURAL BIRDS
1. During the narrative chants of the Gawai Burong festival, the augural birds who appear in the songs as warriors, individually enact the correct sequence of favorable omens.
2. As the Kelabu bird is thought to carry with him a basketful of blinding charms, it is therefore a valuable bird in war as it may blind the enemy and similarly in agriculture as it may blind the pests that threaten the farmer’s crops.
3. The term rabun refers to a blindness in which the eyes appear to be normal. It may describe either an inherited, natural condition or a tem¬porary blindness believed to be caused by the use of a blinder charm (engkerabun). As a natural infirmity, rabun blindness is said to affect the sufferer’s vision particularly in twilight, at dusk or before sunrise. As mentioned above, Kelabu is associated with magical invisibility, owing to his possession of blinding charms.
4. Indai Billai is one of the chief goddesses of Sebayan, the realm of the dead. She is thought to be extraordinarily greedy and while preparations are underway for a Gawai Antu festival to commemorate the dead offerings must be made to her on a special shrine rugan, mornings and evenings until the night of the festival celebration. Without these offerings, she will disturb the preparations by making the tuak wine sour, for example, or by tampering with the food.
5. Selampandai is believed to fashion the body of the child shortly after conception. Every child is the product of a separate act of fashioning, and because of this connection, Selampandai is invoked during a traditional Iban wedding in order to assure the fruitfulness of the couple’s union.
6. The kendawang is an important augural snake to the Iban. Haile (1958: 750) identifies it as the coral snakes (Maticora spp.) of which are two known species in Sarawak (M. bivivgata and M. intestinalis). Both are highly venomous, although generally retiring and is not aggressive. It is sometimes confused with the harmless Cylinder snake (Cylindrophis rufous), known to the Ibans as ular bangkit, which it closely resembles in coloration. The kendawang is a shy snake and will not bite ordinarily unless accidentally tread upon. The Iban believe that a person is likely to be bitten by the kendawang only if he is puni, which is, supernaturally imperiled as a result of his refusal to accept, or proffer, hospitality, especially food. As mentioned here, the other augural snakes are the cobra (tedong), hamadryad (belalang) and python (sawa).
7. See note 4 to Chapter Seven.
8. A “stroke of luck” (laba) omen may be encountered three times during the beginning of the farming year: during the manggol, nebas and nebang seasons. It is conveyed only by the eleven slaves of Simpulang Gana and should be honoured by a mudas feast in addition to the other ritual observances described here.
9. Remaung daan is thought to convey the luck from Bujang Inin, whose julok is Tegong Remaung Lubang, the spiritual son of Bunsu Remaung.
10. STRENGTHENING AND NEUTRALIZING OMENS
1. Chong is the Saribas name of a small tree or woody shrub (Leea aculeata), known as kemali to the Rejang Iban and Second Division Malay. It has many ritual uses for the Iban (Sather 1977b: 158).
2. See Sather (1977b) for a discussion of the symbolic meaning of the chong and kikat padi plants used during the nanchang rite.
3. In eating this rice, the chickens taken into themselves, and so neutralize, the ill-luck of inauspicious omens that otherwise threaten the harvest and the health of the family.
4. If a snake is found coiled around any of these platforms, or around the poles from which offerings are hung, it is also seen as a favorable omen.
5. The meaning of this ritual behaviour is complex. The pelandok is an omen that foretells rain unless it is neutralized with an offering. The augury sticks associated with Bejampong and Pangkas are used as such an offering in this case in order to prevent rain so that the firing of the farmer’s field will be successful.
6. The antu buau, which has the form of a hawk, appears as a spirit in dreams to bestow this charm. Its shape is thought to resemble the buau chick.
7. See Sandin (1967) and Harrisson and Sandin (1966).
8. I have discussed the traditional importance of dreams to Iban leaders in my “Iban Hero Dreams and Apparitions”, Sarawak Museum Journal 14, n.s. 28-29(1966): 91-123.
Taken from a book Iban Adat & Augury by Benedict Sandin & Prof. Clifford Sather