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Death Rituals Taboos Between Kadazan and Iban

By Jasonyew55123 Jul 22, 2013 1013 Words
Death Rituals Taboos between Kadazan and Iban

The death rituals between these two cultures very much different especially the way of respecting the dead’s. First, how the Iban funeral when someone are dead. The first phase in the process is called “pana”. Here, the deceased body is cleaned, and put into the families apartment gallery and the body is covered with a blanket. Friends and family from the longhouse “rumah” may bring food, as a gift of respect and condolence to the family. Families who live in the nearby longhouses and apartments, may also bring food to the “bilik”. The traditional food gift to bring to the mourning family is black rice. During this time, the people living in the deceased person's “bilik”, will throw out food as offerings. These offerings are considered one of the most crucial parts of mourning because If these food offerings are not made, it is believed possible that the spirit will come back to haunt them. Then after a day of hosting the body for viewing, the body is buried at a funeral service.

Next, the second stage does not just effect the person immediate family. This stage, known as “ulit”, is the stage of general mourning all through the longhouse, where a whole list of taboos is imposed on the longhouse community as a whole. During this phase of mourning, there are three major things set by the elders decision in longhouse. First, the belongings of the deceased are placed in a box, not to be seen until the end of this mourning phase. Second, the household obeys a list of taboos to prevent the offense of the spirit. For example, no laughing or shouting inside the longhouse, no wearing of fine clothes; the people may only wear worn cloth clothing, as spirits dislike dirty things, no felling trees near the home, no wearing of jewelry, and even a ban of shooting guns near the house. Lastly, symbols are hung on the fence in front of the house, in order to show visitors, as well as the neighborhood, which taboos the home is happening in mourning. These symbols include, a dirty and worn cloth, to show the taboo on fine clothing. Hanging a piece of wood with a stick attached by string to represent a gong, symbolizing cannot make loud noise. It is also a great disrespect to strike this gong. The taboo on the longhouse, however, will only be lifted after the burial of the deceased and a hunting ceremony.

Lastly, the general mourning. First, a chicken is waved over the heads of all of the attendees. A bird is then killed, and the hunter plucks several feathers off and dipped in the birds blood and then used to smear chickens blood on the right hand of everyone in attendance. Finally, the box is cut open, and the belongings of the deceased returned. Now is the Kadazan death funeral. When a death occurs in a village, everyone is informed. A taboo which must be observed is that no one must do any kind of work on the day of the funeral includes the work of planting rice. It is believed that any work done on such an occasion can only bring misfortune, However, this taboo does not apply should the deceased die far from his own village. First of all, the body is washed and then dressed in fine clothes and sprinkled with rose-water. Sometimes, if the deceased was a cigarette, a cigarette is placed in his mouth. The body is kept in the house from three to seven days before it is buried. While the body is in the house, all the occupants must keep awake. Whoever falls off to sleep will be splashed with water. The purpose of keeping awake is to watch out for the devil or genie which in the guise of a large bird that will try to take away the body. When the bird come, the day will become very gloomy and there will be thunder and lightning, which will give the creature chance to sneak into the house and look for the body. This bird is known as the “pendaatan” bird. In order to avoid the bird's come, cloth is hung around the body. There should be an atmosphere of complete calm and silence in the house; there should be no idle chatter or angry words. In this quietness, there will a slow beating of gongs or drums, the sound of which the Kadazans refer to as Surabaya. These gongs or drums may only be beaten three times a day, sun sets, midnight and the sun rises the following morning. The greatest care is taken to prevent a cat from jumping over the corpse, for the Kadazans believe that if this happens the dead man will be transformed into a dangerous and terrifying giant. No coffin or burial jar is used, they are carried to the burial ground wrapped up in cloth and tied to a pole which can be easily lifted. It is carried in procession to the grave to the accompaniment of gongs and drums, firecrackers and gunfire. On arrival to the grave, a spell is cast over the body by an elderly. The grave itself is swept with green betelnut leaves so as to prevent the spirits of those who have come along being left behind there. After this has been done, the grave is filled in. A small hut with an zinc roof and with beautiful designs carved on its plank walls is erected over the grave. A shirt, a clean metal cigar/cigarette box, cigarettes and similar items are placed in the middle of the hut. The family of the deceased will send food to the hut every afternoon for seven day, because it is believed that during this period the soul of the dead man has not yet left the body and so still requires food from its living relatives. No one is allowed to disturb these things. Anyone found doing so will be fined a chicken or five dollars.

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