Messengers or tipsters? Some cautious though concluding thoughts on Brunei-Dusun augury.
Self-evidently, what is felt to be personally "concluding" for these two ethnographers should not be taken as "conclusive" by others. Yet as the use of omens was already very much "a discipline in decline" by the last quarter of the twentieth century (for reasons which will be duly explained), and some of the great repositories of the ancient knowledge have by now passed from the scene, (2) it may be rather optimistic to hope that any future scholars will contrive to gather new empirical material on it either.
At least the corpus of published work on Bornean augury generally will continue to provide grist for theoretical mills. We, too, propose to start by scanning some of the literature for comparative reference points, with an outwards glance at first--from Borneo to the hill tribe country of central Vietnam (Section 1). It is hoped in this variegated light to be able to build modestly on the position or positions taken in R. Kershaw (1998b) about the basic supernatural dynamics of Brunei-Dusun augury: initially at the end of Section 1; then further in 2, as part of the Brunei-Dusun profile; but especially in 3, where attitudes towards and basic application of the traditional augural science are discussed. (3)
Now at some point in the course of a comparative overview it would not be impossible to be influenced in the direction of looking closely for a divine role in Brunei-- Dusun augury. While the influence of ingrained but unsubstantiated assumption in other literature about the role of gods in predicting events and outcomes, through messengers sent to man, certainly needs to be identified and handled with care, such caution is superfluous where a case has been demonstrated for any particular group at the highest level of empirical and analytical excellence. Nevertheless it may be possible to invoke equally unassailable work which shows that divine intervention of this kind is not an invariable Bornean norm--albeit the absence of it need not, indeed, deprive omens of an innate causal power of their own.
Whatever the logic, and empirical dynamics, of the system as it was, we shall also examine in Section 2 the changing socio-economic milieu of the Brunei-Dusuns, with special reference to factors which appear to impinge negatively on the continued practice of Brunei-Dusun omen-reading. Section 3 comprises an extended but general account of attitudes, past as well as present, toward the omen creatures and other signs, and how in principle the system worked in the guidance of human decision-making in the past, but for all intents and purposes does not work today. A precise set of "technical" indications as to how the location or direction of movement of birds at the time of seeing or hearing them was to be interpreted, is then provided in Appendix 1. But neither in this Appendix nor in Appendix 2, which lists all the known omen-birds of seven ethnic groups, should readers expect to meet startling insights into the significance of either direction or choice of species respectively, whether among the Brunei Dusuns, or comparatively, between the Brunei Dusuns and other Bornean groups. As an interim conclusion, we hope it will not appear merely tautological, but at least a little philosophical, to suggest that it is because the Dusuns have withdrawn from contact with nature that nature ceases to communicate with them--a situation which has further reactive ramifications which not every observer may regard as entirely "functional." (4)
1. Paradigms of the Divine
At the point of beginning to assemble our thoughts for this presentation, we were felicitously made aware of a forthcoming, 23-strong collection on the subject of birds as divine messengers in Southeast Asian societies (Le Roux and Sellato 2006). The title of the work suggested a very high degree of relevance to our subject--even if a model of divine intervention seemed alien to the Brunei-Dusun case, while the titles of the individual papers, with only two exceptions, turned out to hold less promise of relevance to augury on any terms than did the title of the collection. (5)
In the event, the paper by Albert Marie Maurice at first extends some unintended comfort to the skeptic in its chosen area of "messengers of the gods," by seeming stronger on preconception than empirical confirmation. To start with, the author suggests that primitive peoples will very naturally have thought that birds were intermediaries with the celestial powers because winged creatures so easily escape earthly bondage through the gift of flight. However, it is stressed that no bird, to the author's knowledge, has been identified with a god (as incarnation of a divinity) by any tribe of the High Plateau of Central Vietnam. Moreover, while there is some evidence of messenger status in decorative motifs and talismans, as well as some general indications in creation myths, and while a species of laughing thrush is definitely an agricultural omen-bird for the Bahnar and Reungao, Maurice admits that it is uncertain whether the latter bird is actually believed to translate the will of the gods. As for the Jorai, the fact that they make offerings when cutting down trees allows the "possibility" to be admitted that, for them, certain birds are intermediaries between spirits and men (but Maurice seems reluctant to take a chance on anything stronger than "possible"; and indeed why there should be a connection between such propitiation and the suggested role of birds is not at once obvious). At this point it is posited (more optimistically, perhaps), from the reputed "multiplicity of exchanges" between men and spirits, that souls (at least) will likely be found to assume bird form. Several credible instances are given of reincarnation of the human soul in the form of an eagle, and it appears that the goddess of padi, too, manifests herself to certain tribes in the shape of a bird. Yet the reader must again wonder whether such instances, even when backed by general assertion about the interlinking of the whole of nature under superior powers, lend solid support to the thesis of "birds as divine messengers" (rather than, here, as incarnate spirits). Furthest of all from such demonstration is the example of people using hornbill feathers in their ritual headdresses to emulate the role of gods. Not much more helpful is the origin myth in which a bird (merely presumed to be an envoy of the gods or the spirits) appears to guide a hero-founder on his providential way. One senses that Maurice uses a language of elegant restraint to insinuate some quite strong personal conviction about the gods intervening through birds, while tacitly conceding that the ethnographic material is not sufficient to make a convincing case for this. In his Conclusion he claims that in Vietnam interpretation of bird flight is the clearest sign of imagined ancient links with birds and nature generally (an epoch of harmony), but he reiterates his doubt whether any bird in the High Plateau has been attributed with a divine identity--certainly nothing like the ancient Egyptian falcon--and even queries whether the hill tribes really attach much credence to birds as would-be messengers. (Indeed some might ask how, without a god with a message to convey, birds could become message-bearers: bearers for whom?) This ambivalent discourse fades off into some romantic observations about birds having a superior sense of earthly magnetism, as seen in their migrations; therefore men are not puerile if they assent to being guided by avian movements. But in thus switching from the metaphysical realm via romanticism to modern science, the author leaves us with no clear conclusion on the situation of hill tribe belief from the late 19th to late 20th centuries.
In this light, it is tempting to wonder what could prompt a search for such an elusive god or gods in the first place. Have some Western scholars conceivably labored under an ethnocentric disposition to assume that all mankind, at some point in individual tribal histories, has embraced or will embrace a hierarchical conception of the "other world," with a supreme god acting and communicating through prophets and lesser messengers, including non-human representatives of the animal kingdom as well as other supernatural agents? When a Christian missionary--Scharer (1946)--can write a detailed theology of "the idea of the divine" among the Ngaju Dayaks of South Borneo with a loving care and perception which seem in striking contradiction with his religious mission, it is not unnatural to surmise whether an element of ethnocentric preconception was in play; or at least a keen interest in discovering affinities with Western theology which could serve as a basis for reassuring would-be converts that a change of faith is but a redefinition of what is already known, not a leap into the unknown. Somewhat (and yet, not totally) by contrast, another kind of predisposition to discover belief in a hierarchy of the supernatural may be present where an ethnic group exposed to state-promoted Islamization programs needs to refute, defensively, the type of demoralizing propaganda which depicts them as animistic if not Satanic heathen--though the plea of affinity may just as dangerously reassure Muslim proselytizers that the ethnic group is ripe for conversion (and why should it not do so, if Dusun writers have already been influenced, unconsciously, towards monotheism?)! (6)
A less "conspiratorial," and almost certainly more valid, approach to Scharer's work would be to see him as an anthropologist with no salient predisposition, who recorded what he met in South Borneo with appropriate scholarly dispassion. The inclination towards this assessment can only be strengthened in light of Scharer (1966). One should more especially note that Scharer (1946) did not "ethnocentrically" postulate a single or unitary supreme divinity of the Ngajus but stressed its bi-sexual duality. (7)
Meanwhile, a similar honesty surely pervades the inconclusive lines of Maurice (2006). What is perhaps most imperative in a critic is to eschew any preconception whatsoever about ancient Southeast Asian religion, whether in terms of formal theological structures as a defining characteristic of all supernatural belief in the area, or the preconception that fluidity and imprecision are the norm. But also to be avoided is an expectation that a relatively low level of elaboration will be a block to augury as such. Maurice's work belies this, however sparsely--though we should not ignore the possibility that central Vietnam might have been found to be higher on the scale of elaboration in any case, had that august scholar not had to depend so heavily on library research in the early French sources for most of his data. A perfectly logical alternative for any culture is that there is relative theological elaboration, yet it does not constitute the foundation for the augury, i.e., the omens are not messages from the supreme spirit or god. But even then there is still the possibility that the omen creatures are sent but have gained an independent power of causal action which disqualifies them from being accurately called "messengers." At all events, one would hope that the "stronger" cases may stimulate reflection on the dynamics of augury in any system which is manifestly or seemingly "weaker," either in its theological elaboration as such, or in the extent of any integration between belief about the divine and the practice of augury. As has been pointedly argued with reference to a group in the Sabah highlands--in Harrison (1979)--the apparent absence, or very low level, of "conventional" (i.e., theatrical-style) ritual in a Bornean society can be seriously misleading to foreign researchers whose preconceptions were formed by the academic literature on places such as Bali!
After these in some ways digressive lines we would wish to turn again more precisely to augury, and with specific reference to the Iban, whose theology sits indisputably on the "stronger" side of the spectrum. Thanks, possibly, to the very degree of theological elaboration, as much as the numerically dominant position of the ethnic group in Sarawak, we (and they) are by now blessed with a not inconsiderable anthropological literature in English. It is gratifying, also, to meet substantial mutual confirmation as between the accounts of different writers. The "theology" is in fact key to the augural system more than to anything else in Iban life--though we are urged to mark the fact that omens guide the Iban in steering a personal and communal course through all the complexities of adat on which a community depends for its harmony (Sather 1980, 2006). There is a beneficent supreme god, Singalang Burong, who sends his sons-in-law down to earth as omen-bearers, appearing to the Iban in the form of specific bird species. Singalang Burong himself is met in the shape of a bird, the Brahminy kite, but he does not usually play the part of an omen himself. (8) It comes as no surprise to read that expert augurs (tuai burong) played a crucial role in major, man-initiated divination during its heyday. A newcomer to the subject might, however, be surprised to learn of the extent of attempted human manipulation of omens, especially of the negative ones in order to neutralize them and achieve a better outcome--with the undeniable implication that the omens themselves are in some degree or in certain circumstances causal. Yet although man can intervene, the gods' advice (though not dictatorial) must be taken seriously; the presence of omens shows that the gods have taken notice of men, itself a token of favor (Sather 1985:3). (9)
At the time of writing, the present two authors only had knowledge of one specifically dedicated source on augury among the Kenyah: the Right Reverend Bishop Antony Galvin, Vicar-Apostolic of Miri Vicariate in the 1960s--a man who may possibly be judged less indulgent towards the culture of his ethnic proteges than Hans Schairer was, though correspondingly truer to the mission of his church. He was unstinting in his recognition of the keen observation of bird behavior, species by species, on the part of the Kenyah, yet saw this aptitude (with apparent condescension or regret) as a natural corollary of their practice of "animism." Consistently, we are not enlightened, even speculatively, as to the perceived source of augurai messages. Are we to imagine that the "animistic" Kenyahs saw the birds themselves as incarnations of spirits? So far from exploring this idea, or the alternative possibility of a belief in a non-Christian godhead, Galvin quickly attempts (apparently by way of compliment) to put a more scientific slant on the reading of omens, by saying that "even the taking of auguries is less superstitious than one would imagine...," for it reveals a real understanding of the natural hazards of the environment (Gaivin 1972:53). A little more potential for anthropological analysis and stimulation of interest is revealed towards the end of the paper, where the Bishop records that in times gone by Kenyahs invoked omen creatures and spirits with chants of conjuration, and knew how to call to eagles to induce them to fly in a way that created a positive omen (Galvin 1972:58-59); but as far as this goes, there is again no hint of any possible power above and beyond the spirits or the omen-givers themselves. As stated earlier, it is one of our predispositions that the existence of such a power is not a precondition for augury, but it would be helpful to know whether the absence of any reference to one in the bishop's study reflects its absence for the Kenyah or an element of episcopal predisposition in this connection. At least we have, for comparison with augury in other groups, the benefit of Galvin's clear indication that omens were manipulated, which implies that they possessed a power to cause, in some way, the events predicted, wherever the omens may have come from.
It is not the case that Bishop Galvin lacked time or motivation for detailed research, for his paper includes two full pages devoted to a list of 77 bird species known to the Kenyah (not all omen-bearers, of course), with their Kenyah and English names. This is why one feels a pang of disappointment at having to seek the vital theological indications from a much earlier source--however authentic these indications may appear to be, once located. That gratifying feel of authenticity is due, not least, to the fact that the material was collected at a time before the inroads of modernization and erosion of traditional belief, but also to a telling capacity of the two early 20th century ethnographers, Charles Hose and William McDougall, to ask what we would regard as "the right questions." The Kenyah indeed had a conception of a supreme god, we learn, and his name was Bali Penyalong. They also looked to Bali Flaki, a hawk, to guide and help them in many ways, and they expressed gratitude to him, but
we do not think that they conceive him as a single great spirit, as some of the other tribes tend to do; they rather look on the hawks as messengers and intermediators between themselves and Bali Penyalong, to which a certain undefined amount of power is delegated. No doubt it is a vulgar error with them, as in the case of professors of other forms of belief, to forget in some degree the Supreme Being, and to direct their prayers and thanks almost exclusively to the subordinate power, which, having concrete forms, they can more easily keep before their minds. They regard favourable omens as given for their encouragement, and bad omens as friendly warnings. We were told by one very intelligent Kenyah that he supposed that the hawks, having been so frequently sent by Bali Penyalong to give them warnings, had learnt how to do this of their own will, and that sometimes they do probably give them warning or encouragement independently without being sent by him. (10)
For our purposes it is germane, firstly, that the omen birds of the Kenyah were seen as having an incipient independence of action, detached from the power of their master. (No indication is given, unfortunately, regarding the possibility of manipulation of these "messengers," but it may be logical to guess that, being thus endowed with a little independent power, these birds would not only have been thought capable of causing events, but also supposed amenable to the influence of humans, so that untoward events might be diverted or favorable outcomes achieved, as Galvin briefly reported.) But at the same time, there is a distinct Supreme Being always in the background, and he is the normative source of augural guidance. Taking this account at face value, one would conclude that the Kenyah system had much in common with the Iban counterpart, but was nevertheless characterized by some ambivalence and thus a greater flexibility."
Before moving on to the Brunei-Dusun case, we are able to cite two more examples of divine pre-eminence and bestowal of augury, accompanied by causality of omens plus (as typically revealed by) their potential manipulation by the recipients. The first, and surely most fascinating, case is that of the Kayan, as described by yet another eminence of Borneo's anthropological scene. The starting point has to be, not Laki Tenangan, the supreme and protecting god of the Kayan, identified in a classic early 20th century source, (12) but an effectively (or in retrospect, after the great religious reform) "unfriendly" female goddess known as Dipuy, who was responsible for the existence of omens and had taught them to the Kayan as well as sending the punishments that were incurred (including, in some cases, death) when any taboo, omen-linked or otherwise, was infringed. "Some characteristics of Kayan religion set it apart from other central Borneo religions. The old religion had an unusually large number of taboos and prohibitions, and its ceremonies were elaborate and noticeably expensive. This may be correlated with the fact that Kayan society had more marked social cleavages and greater economic exploitation than its central Borneo neighbours" with an observed "greater anxiety about religious prohibitions" than among the Kenyah, in the 1930s. (13) According to the great religious reformer, Jok Apuy, at least, Dipuy's religion was a corrupt deviation from the original religion bestowed by the (likewise female) guardian spirit, Bungan Malan. She appeared to Jok Apuy in a dream and informed him of this. (14)
It would not be at all true to say that the old religion was completely swept away, we understand. In fact it was a condition of the success of the new--especially in blocking the inroads of Christianity (at least for a period) which was part of its rationale--that it did incorporate much of the old, and that the aristocratic class lent its authority to the new version by co-opting it. The claim to be a return to "pristine belief" was clearly legitimating, as with many religious reform movements elsewhere. One is also struck by the fact that, with respect to the headhunting ritual, "Most men ... are not convinced that the old taboos have entirely disappeared, because the spirits in charge of these taboos may not have accepted with good grace Bungan's return to power" (see Rousseau 1998:203). On the other hand, Bungan had undoubted potency, as the investigator had occasion to note when people proved reluctant to physically demonstrate how the now redundant bird omens had been read under the old system, lest this should give the impression that the demonstrator had switched loyalty back to Dipuy, which would anger Bungan (Rousseau 1998:70). This is not to say, however, that Bungan was difficult to please. It sufficed to lift up an egg in offering to her before starting an undertaking, in order to be fully protected from anything untoward. (15)
This brings us to the issue of greatest import for our present study. Under the new system there was in fact little to fear by way of accident or disaster, for besides the lifting of the onerous practices, the omens which had previously brought mishap (i.e., at least if they were ignored and no evasive action was taken) were "abolished" too. There are surely two critical points involved here: (a) whereas omens only worked if they were perceived (the hearer/viewer being a crucial part of the equation), they were nevertheless not mere messages but causal to the event predicted, for the recipient of the signal was not only able to take evasive action but could act to turn the omen round and give it a positive meaning; (b) but as man could thus intervene against ad hoc causality, it seems to us like a fairly logical extension from such potential that man could also vitiate the impact of omens by arranging with a "higher authority" (in this case, the restored divine patroness, Bungan) to suspend their causal impact in a blanket way, i.e., not by removing the birds, etc., from the environment, but by removing the adherents of the new religion from the category of those who had to heed the messages and thereby validate them. (16)
But we are even more taken by the importance of the said divine power behind the old augural system of the Kayan. Would it not be precisely because the Kayan divinity was precisely known and powerful--but severe rather than benign in relation to the augural dynamics--that the Kayan embraced a revolutionary liberation from that bondage?
At this point we may turn to the second example of divine pre-eminence and sponsorship of augury, etc., whose subjects/adherents (the Berawan) were likewise swept by the Bungan religious reform. The rhetorical question in the previous paragraph does not stand up too well when one meets an essentially similar structure, which in spite of lacking the notorious rigor to which the Kayan were subject, experienced the same historical outcome. Is it conceivably the divine power alone which paradoxically makes the system vulnerable, because it presents a clear target? With reference to the Berawan, Metcalf (1976:115) not only records of these neighbors of the Kayan in the upper Baram, putatively a subgroup of the Kenyah, that they were swept by the Adat Bungan movement like other Kenyah subgroups and the Kayan themselves, but he distinctly infers that among the reasons why the Berawan were affected was the fact of having a spirit world of very different structure from the Ibans'. Where the Iban supreme god is not really more than a primus inter pares, among a neatly delineated pantheon of named spirits, the Berawan's equivalent figure is a supreme god, indeed creator, Bili Ngaputong, incomparably greater than any other spirit. However, he is surrounded by a vaguer, less comprehensively known spirit world than the Iban know. Metcalf attributes the vulnerability of the Berawan religion to this "fluidity," not to the salience of the supreme god.
The "fluidity" is most contrasted in the realm of augury: this is to say, although Iban augurs summon no birds, compared with the Berawan augurs who summon the eagle (plake), the former do have complex rules for interpreting the calls that come their way--though the "rigid formalism" invoked by Metcalf (1976:110) is surely a misplaced epithet. The Berawan, by contrast, "with less than two thousand souls, cannot agree about details of augury with their next-door neighbors." Moreover, it is far from clear that Bili Ngaputong, sometimes conflated with Bili Plake, is synonymous with the bird plake in the same way as Singalang Burong appears to men as lang. Meanwhile, under ideas shared between the Berawan and the Iban, omen creatures only forecast, do not directly interfere (Metcalf 1976:116). Thus they are in theory not equivalent to spirits/deities, but should act as their messengers only.
Nevertheless and at the same time, it does appear that the Berawan used to call upon plake to intervene, as if he were indeed synonymous with Bili Plake. This established effective structural identification with Bili Ngaputong--the theologically enabling condition, as it were (unfulfilled in the Iban system), for Bili Plake to intervene in human affairs, following supplication. (17) In sum, the principal omen-bird of the Berawan possessed causative power virtually in principle, not merely by exceptional manipulation as with Iban omen birds. (Also, in relation to the important sub-theme of manipulation, one notes that the Berawan augur not only summons plake, but when he appears, urges him to wheel left for the most auspicious effect (Metcalf 1976:104). We have speculated that the salience of a supreme god, not "fluidity," may have contributed to the "vulnerability" of the Kayan religion in a time of cultural unease and ferment. Yet the power of men to mold the god into a helper, when he appeared as a bird, might have been expected to spare him as a target of ire, allowing him a longer lease of life. But in the event, after the Kayans' Dipuy was displaced, her benign successor, Bungan, did not last long either, at least in the face of Christian inroads.
Unfortunately, this attempt to pinpoint "vulnerability" and our hypothesis proposing this as the crucial factor in the collapse of an ancient religion and augural system, are substantially speculative: in the general mold of Metcalf's article, to be sure, but not concordant with it, nor with an iota of new data to back it up. We must hope that our discussion has prepared the ground for the subject of Brunei-Dusun augury in a not irrationally stimulating way. The basic framework that has emerged reserves a place for a supreme divinity, but such an entity may (in all the Borneo cases above), or may not (as, possibly, among the Vietnam hill tribes) be found. If one is extant, and at the same time augury is present, the omens may (Iban), or may not (Kayan, Kenyah/Berawan) be sent by the supreme divinity himself (or herself), or can even be himself (Berawan); and they may be voices which warn (thus, messengers, being sent by the divinity: Iban) or causal agents (thus, not "messengers," strictly speaking, even if holding a certain "delegated power" under divine agency: Kenyah/Berawan; and by no means "messengers" if not in any way envoys of such agency: Kayan). Minor manipulation aside, the Brunei-Dusun case does not exactly replicate any of the Borneo data reviewed so far, since although the Dusuns have a strong sense of divinity and do not lack a system of augury, divine agency has nothing to do with either the founding of augury or the dispatch of the omens, which by definition cannot be "messages," nor their bearers "messengers." (18) It is immediately diagnostic that augurs are unknown to the Brunei-Dusuns, in contrast to the deliberate seeking of omens by specialists among the Iban (as also the Maloh), Kayan, Kenyah, and Berawan. (19)
2. A Brunei-Dusun Social and Religious Profile
The Dusuns of Brunei are a branch of the Bisaya, perhaps 15,000 strong in the 1980s, being most strongly represented in the Tutong District, with small numbers in the Belait and Brunei Districts. Accurate enumeration is rendered difficult partly by the suppression of the Dusun category from national censuses (although they still feature in the State Constitution as one of the seven indigenous ethnic groups of the country); partly also by the inexorable inroads of Islamic conversion (which does not, ironically, bestow the legal status and privileges of a "Malay," even while it subverts the traditional, and constitutionally legitimated, non-Muslim identity of the Dusun ethnic group). (20) But then, in any case, linguistic assimilation (to Malay) through education and urban employment are making the Dusuns ever more difficult to distinguish from the "mainstream," whether for the observer or in the minds of younger Dusuns themselves. (21)
Bernstein (I 997) gives a coherent overview of causes and effects in, respectively, the areas of modernization in the Brunei rural milieu and Brunei-Dusun "deculturation." Yet it seems just a little sweeping to say, merely, that "contemporary Dusun village life gives the distinct impression of containing remnants of an earlier, integrated cultural system" (p. 167). Which changing cultural system does not, by definition, reveal "remnants"? Or, in so far as ritual (and an absolutely central ritual, at that) was alive and well in several locations, is it reasonable to generalize the residuality or collapse of cultural integration that was observed in a single location, to the ethnic group as a whole? Augury (which Bernstein does not cite), was certainly in steep decline by 1992, but the temarok ritual (which he does) was still sufficiently in evidence for the present two authors to be able to write subsequently about "Dusun religion" with the confidence of hardy, not to say posteriorly hardened, denizens of the night. This is a curiously sensitive issue for us, for without such repeated nocturnal exposure and physical tests we could scarcely claim, now, to be writing with authority on a "conception of the divine" in Dusun culture, for the vital purpose of demarcating that from the practice of augury. (22)
This being said, however, we would not wish to deny that the recruitment of new belian has been languishing, for reasons which it is not facile to relate to the spread of secondary education. That is, education results in many intelligent young women obtaining work in town, including positions as government clerks and teachers, and becoming often resident in town, whether before or after marriage. Not only are they physically distant from their native village, but education and modern-sector employment tend to erode their faith in the ancestral religion, even were they not constantly exposed to the taunt of Islamic indoctrinators that, while it is perfectly modern to have a religion, the Dusuns, at best, have "no religion," which is a very serious blemish indeed. To such an extent are modern young Dusuns capable of seeing and evaluating themselves through Brunei-Malay eyes, that some of them may even be found participating in government-sponsored theatrical parodies of Dusun ritual and mores, staged as "the Dusun cultural contribution" to major national festivals. (23)
Meanwhile, in the villages the decline of riziculture erodes the relevance of the old religion for the remaining inhabitants. Be it noted that temarok--as a semi-cosmic drama staged by female priestesses (belian) summoning any of a number of divine spirits (singly and compositely called derato)--is first and foremost a harvest ritual, with a powerful secondary function as a rite of healing. Even the private monthly prayers in which a belian "passes" or "frees" food for her own ritual dependants' consumption, gives pride of place to rice. Yet it does not follow from the erosion of relevance that belief as such is undermined. Paradoxically, the corrosive social modernization generated outside the village may also supply a new cultural impetus to balance economic evisceration, in the form of a perception that temarok is a vital asset in ethnic perpetuation. Not only the present two authors used to jump in their car and hit the Tutong trail on the eve of many a Brunei weekend, but also do numbers of the better-to-do urban kin of families sponsoring a ritual in the ancestral village. Not a little of the expense of a major ritual is funded from the urban, not the rural, economy. (24)
At any rate, there were several locations around the year 1990 where the institution of temarok was in a relatively "healthy" condition, or at least superficially so. Faith in the presence and power of derato was still tangible, even though among the belian themselves one might hear expressions of a decline of confidence--confidence, that is, in the power of the divinity known to them, not its actual presence in themselves--as the evidence became compelling that derato was not punishing defectors to Islam, even an occasional defector from the ranks of the belian. If one wishes to pinpoint an example of decline in a cultural practice due to economic modernization, it is not at temarok that one should look most searchingly, but (as has been indicated) at augury. At this point, two illustrations will suffice. When people set out for Tutong Town or Bandar Brunei by car, the sound of the engine blocks out the warning cry of a red-headed tailorbird concerned about hazards lurking along the way; not that the hazards are exactly what they used to be, either, when people had to trek several miles on foot along lonely trails. And in rice farming, where the Department of Agriculture now supplies insecticide to protect the crop, the forecasting of an insect pest has become otiose. However, one may record that in the late 1980s the older generation who were still planting the family fields would still consult omens (angai) to a small extent, as also the stellar signs (pyamo), while they also at times blamed the smaller yields of recent years on the neglect of omens and stellar signs by most Dusuns. At all events, the negative impact of modernization, as with temarok, is not directly on belief in augury "in principle" but much more on the activities for which omen-taking was deemed requisite.
But it is also germane that as omens are not believed to emanate from a divine source, any decline of belief in the latter cannot logically have any causal relationship to decline in omen-taking. Although some highly experienced belian can call a small number of very special derato who are reputed to be extremely powerful (and potentially fatal to any host of less than highest spiritual resilience), it bears noting that these special derato are in no way equivalent to a "higher god" in a hierarchy of the divine, to which an imaginative analyst might look if searching for a source of messages. More to the point, all these beings in their various realms only communicate with initiated belian in the context of temarok, wherein these priestesses act as their uniquely privileged vessels and mediators with the laity. As a matter of fact, although this divinity is "ethnically exclusive"--that is, a god who cares for, or imposes rules on, Dusuns only (just as, analogously in Dusun minds, Allah guards the Malays on condition of some irrationally stringent taboos)--it would be possible in theory for a Dusun never to have received even an indirect prescription (e.g., a food restriction) from derato if he or she had somehow never been taken on as the ritual dependant of a belian. Although this would be a very unusual case, we can at any rate, and once more, state emphatically that derato is/are not involved with, or concerned about, the mundane concerns of any Dusuns seeking their livelihood. For this, augury is relevant. (25) Yet nor does the art of omen-reading entail a role for augural specialists, from whose existence, apart from inferring the phenomenon of divinity as such (by reference to personnel other than belian), one might well deduce that such divinity is the source of omens. (26)
3. Attitudes and Application
To put it rather crudely, augury for the Brunei-Dusuns is a component in their supernatural affairs but not part of their religion, unless by the very broadest possible definition of "religion." At this point, one further segment may be incorporated into the interpretative edifice. It has been argued in the most detailed discussion of Brunei-Dusun augury to date (see R. Kershaw 1998b:43) that the omen-birds of this group are not always identified as species in the way an ornithologist aspires to do, or as the Ibans do, but rather that the omen comprises only a call, and one which may emanate from more than one species. At least this is conspicuously so in the case of the woodpecker calls (uit-uit). At the same time, the little spiderhunter, for one, is significant almost entirely in terms of direction of flight and thus has to be identified as a distinct species by sighting (consequently, being thus known by sight, sasat is also recognized as being the particular species making the little spiderhunter calls--though ironically the call of augural relevance does not seem to be the one from which the Dusun name of the bird is derived onomatopoeically). Be this as it may, with a generally low premium on species identification as opposed to picking up bird calls, Dusun augury has another good reason for not being supposed to be about receiving messages from the gods or the spirits, for is it not reasonable that a "messenger" should be identified as a particular species if thus appointed? At least it should be a necessary, though not sufficient, condition of being a messenger!
To one's chagrin, although it may seem plausible to deny the role of messenger by this argument, as an addition to the stronger points about exclusion from the religious framework and the absence of augurs, a new question at once fills the gap. If, as we have begun to believe, the omen-bearers to the Dusuns are merely benevolent tipsters, not acting on behalf of a Dusun deity or other guardian spirits, how is it that they are so well-disposed towards the Dusuns as to make such important advice available to them? Is it a case possibly, of the human party having a much more dynamic role than has usually been found (or acknowledged) in studies of other Bornean groups, i.e., the sounds are present in the environment all the time but take on the function of advice only as--precisely as--a human being in that locality hears it, interprets it and (as the case may be) acts on it? Rather than suppose a special relationship between the local birds and the Dusuns which the birds have conceived, let us instead postulate that the human party subjectively initiated it--and never expected it to yield the kind of perfect intelligence of events to come which might be looked for from a godly custodian of their own tribe. It is true that every tribe has its "own" omen-birds but this would be perfectly explicable by reference to the particular avian fauna found in the area of residence. To state a truism, only birds of the area can be consulted since there are no others available. Where Dusuns live in proximity to Ibans, there is some overlap with their omen-birds; but we should not think of this as necessarily "borrowing from the Ibans," only as a sensible sensitivity to the sounds of a shared natural environment--notwithstanding the highly ethnic-specific role of the Iban omen-birds. (27) The warnings picked up by Dusuns would in principle be accessible to all human residents of their area. The birds are gifted with a magical omniscience, we may posit, but do not hold a watching brief as guardians of the Dusun people as such. The function, when activated by Dusun interpretation and response, is protective for them, but the signs are not targeted at the group. It is certainly not an offense against the omen-bearer itself to ignore what appears to be negative advice: one is simply taking a chance with fate, hoping to be endowed with a level of innate luck robust enough to see one safely through the predicted difficulties. (28)
This view of Dusun perception, based on many individual commentaries, gains some reinforcement from the "pragmatism" of Dusun behavior where a negative omen was heard but an undertaking could not be indefinitely postponed without serious economic or social disadvantage. It is now appropriate to move on to a more detailed dissection of the Dusun "theory of omens," including the conceptions of a "good" and a "bad" sign (and even if a moral dimension is excluded, is it sensible to speak of "good" and "bad" if, for instance, the omens are only "advisory" in a permissive, non-mandatory way?); whether harmful events which do appear to be credibly foretold can be averted, e.g., by manipulating the omen to achieve a more favorable forecast, or whether nonattendance is the only safe option; and how to act if no augural sign is forthcoming when one is needed. At a more sociological level we shall have to address the reasons for decline of augury compared with earlier, but still remembered, decades.
Regarding "good" and "bad," it will not surprise students of Southeast Asia to hear that what we are dealing with here is not guidance as to morally right or wrong action. All the actions which are implicitly urged or prescribed (including the action of avoidance, after receiving a "bad" omen) are actions entirely in the self-interest of the person or persons advised, but all morally right by that very criterion. This "right conduct" is personal-goal oriented. (Some scholars might detect a pursuit of "power" in a modest degree.) Normally the pursuit of a personal goal will not be damaging to others, but in a case of going on a raid against the Muslim Tutongs of Tanjong Maya some 110 years ago, the goal was precisely to do damage. (And generally, when Dusuns give an example of guidance by auguries, it will be framed in terms of competition or rivalry.) Yet the "morality" or otherwise of an undertaking was not a matter for comment or calculation by the augury--only whether it could safely be ventured or not. Nor is an omen itself innately good, in the sense of virtuous, or innately bad, in the sense of nefarious. Besides, the guidance given is essentially "for information," not mandatory. It is certainly not morally culpable to ignore an omen; be the negative consequences (if any) as they may, they are "upon your own head"--and as a memorial to stupidity, not moral shortcoming!
Very importantly, the omen does not control the event predicted, let alone cause it, so a human being cannot divert harm by trying to adjure or adapt the sign through, say, the offices of a dokun, belian, or enlisted spirit. (29) One's only truly protective recourse (if the time and location of a nefarious event have been correctly intuited) is total evasion, by staying away or abstention. There are, it is true, events which cannot be avoided at any price, notably sickness or death, but the leading experts, Narak Buntak and Pangan Runtop, were of one mind that this kind of information does not properly fall within the category of angai at all. Then on the other hand there are relatively "bad" omens which foretell lack of success in an enterprise, such as fishing or hunting, whereby the individual who decided to go ahead would simply be wasting his time, not placing life or limb at risk. (30) Needless to say, when the forecast is encouraging, no adaptive response is requisite--though undoubtedly the added confidence gained may in practice cause people to commit more energy to the activity and thereby enhance its success. No offerings are ever called for, by way of expressing gratitude or reverence either to the omen-birds or any divine agency, in Iban style, precisely because of the fact Oust stated) that these omens have not the remotest pretension to control the events predicted, and the fact (previously rehearsed) that they are not messengers acting on behalf of any other supernatural party. Not many Dusuns have addressed the quandary posed by "good" omens which are followed by "bad" events. However, those who have, explain that the divergent outcome could be due to factors such as the action of a more powerful spirit who was wronged, or disobedience to previous prohibitions (pantang) which rendered that person spiritually vulnerable (katula, kesabon). Omens basically never err. (31)
A "good" omen will be characterized colloquially by phrases such as the following: diri moncoi ('one is doing well'); diri kalap ('yourself will [be able to] get'); diri nggirak ('you yourself will laugh'); diri manang ('you yourself will win'); jati nggirak di-soro ('we'll laugh at them'); angaijati, angai diri ('our own omen'); ipon rumo ncisi ijun nggirak kito ('your opponent's teeth will be bared and you' II be laughing at the sight'). Good omens from particular omen-birds may be noted by a special verb derived from the bird's name: diri mancag ('you've been favorably tipped by sancag [thick-billed spiderhunter]'); diri nguit di-rumo ('you'll do an uit [woodpecker] on your opponent'); rumo suat uit gama mu ('your opponent will suffer an uit from you'). If a second omen call overlaps with the first one heard, in a permutation which gives a highly positive indication, then ikou ngaranggong di-rumo ('you have outmaneuvered your rival'). (32)
A "bad" omen (angai raat), correspondingly, may be spoken of as follows: musu diri ('you are your own enemy'); suat ala diri ('you will become a loser'); suat rumo manang ('[you'll] allow [suffer] your rival to win'); rumo kanon ('your adversary gets [devours] you'); rumo rakon ('your opponent laughs'); rumo nggirak di-diri ('your opponent laughs at you'); angai rumo ('your opponent's omen'); diri suat sosol ('you'll be forced to rue'); diri nyosol ('you'll rue'); diri andi moncoi ('it's not good for you'); ipon diri ncisi or incisi ipon mu ('your teeth will be bared'). Where a woodpecker is the omen-bearer: tagon rumo nguit ('you'll allow [order[ your opponent to do an uit on you'); diri suat uit ('you'll fall prey to [suffer] an uit'). Where a second omen overlaps the first one heard, but giving a strongly counteractive indication, it may be said that rumo ngaranggong di-diri ('your opponent has trumped you'). The worst example of an angai raat ('abominable augury') from Dusun oral history was the incident cited where the sign was an event in itself. (33) Any "bad" omen may be referred to as a sign "necessitating avoidance," i.e., tolak angai ('averting the prediction'). (34)
It may be appropriate to postpone discussion of the effects of modernization until the end of the section, but at this stage the range of situations for which augury was traditionally deemed relevant should certainly be laid out, together with reference to "who, when, and where" ("where" will usually be self-evident from the activity, such as rice-planting, but there was also the question for wayfarers of the distance from one's house at which one could allow a "bad" omen to cause the trip to be aborted). A broad outline of prescribed responses has already been given, but we must shortly introduce the species of omen-birds and other sources of information, even if postponing the more "mechanical" matter of direction of movement and location of call, and their interpretations, together with the interpretation of dreams, till Appendix 1 (however, the limited lore of non-avian omens apart from dreams will be included with each type as it is introduced towards the end of this section).
"In the old days" (but still very much within the living memory of the elderly in the late 1980s), omens were consulted without fail at the beginning of the rice-planting cycle; when choosing a site for a new house; before setting out to visit someone (often an ailing person) at some distance, which would entail an absence of several nights; before going to buy a buffalo, but also in advance of raiding in order to steal one; before fishing (usually innocuous, as we have noted), or a jungle expedition for hunting, trapping, camphor collection or taking wild bees' nests (it was as much on the way to the jungle as during the specific activity that a chance accident might befall); before seeking to settle a dispute, for instance over recovery of a debt, or going to arrange a marriage; and (relatively recent) before a competitive cockfight. However, as the Dusuns never were, according to oral tradition, literally "headhunters," the question of consulting augury in advance of this kind of activity rarely arose. (35) The few skulls in Dusun possession, which were paraded most famously in kukui processions at the 100th-day (or later) wakes of the most eminent departed, seem to have been acquired by treacherous murder or execution of slaves. (36)
The Dusuns were sufficiently subject to the "thrall of augury" to be very reluctant to pursue any more hazardous undertaking--such as hunting or jungle work--if no omen whatsoever was forthcoming. Absence of any omen was known as angai liong ('a silent augury'). In the event of setting out from home for the purpose of any activity which was either far enough away, or in some way hazardous enough, to require some encouragement from augury--but then not receiving any guidance within the first mile--one had three options: (a) to turn back and try again the following day and the third day (or the third day could be timed to fall after an interval of one day, the intermitted day being called baolot); (b) if there was a relevant dream, take guidance from that; (c) weigh the relative riskiness of the enterprise, and at a low level of risk go ahead, hoping that one's unrevealed nasip (innate luck) was good enough to see one through any hazards. Work in the jungle might certainly be considered to be at the lower end of the risk scale, and therefore worth chancing if the object of the work was important. If cutting down trees, one should simply take extra care. At worst, one might experience misfortune in some other sphere, whereby one could lose in a cockfight, be disappointed in hunting or fishing, suffer a bad harvest, or succumb to a chronic malady. Narak Buntak of Ukong, being a dokun, was more aware of risk (especially the planting of hostile charms) and less likely to take a chance than some of his contemporaries. Yet even he would not fail to visit a dying friend or attend a birth in his capacity as a midwife. His rule for himself was that his response to a "bad" omen could be flexible in proportion as the purpose was urgent (ajar kuat).
In fact, in instances where the mission was urgent, but potentially unfavorable omens were not absent, Narak would simply not listen for them. They "passed him by," so to speak--or was it he who passed them by?! No dilemma was faced by anyone who perceived a relatively "bad" sign on an excursion after the first mile. By that point--defined as where one could no longer hear the cock's crow from home--one did not need to heed signs at all. In case of such an alert, one would not turn back, but merely take note of the warning and observe extra care during the rest of the journey. A good sign heard late would similarly boost the confidence with which, armed with the original good omen, one had set out. Basically, signs received late are no longer omens.
In the event of receiving a "bad" omen within the first mile from home, however, one should wait a while, then try again, but after three abortive attempts give up. If attendance at a cockfight was the intention, one might go but only as a spectator. One could cry off from a meeting scheduled to arrange a wedding, by sending word of the bad omen but proposing an alternative date. However, the rule for weddings themselves was really Draconian: no alternative date could be set for the journey of the bridegroom to the bride's house; it could be attempted on the two succeeding days, but in face of triple failure the promise of marriage would have to be retracted (mundur), for the intention had not met the omen test (andi kelapas arlgai). (37) By contrast, in rice cultivation, it is essential to understand that--at the extreme end of the spectrum from the Kayan of historical repute (38)--the Brunei-Dusuns never faced the predicament arising from an imperative to abandon cultivation. They were saved from embarrassment by another "three day rule," viz. if the omens were persistently negative for such a period, the farmers would simply move to another site. (39) Omens were also taken into account at the start of harvesting, but postponement would not be for more than three days. Another example of the application of "common sense" is seen in the attitude that if an omen noticed on a journey spoke of"trouble back home," one might be well-advised to retrace one's steps, not because the event was one that could be averted (in this case by one's presence rather than through absence) but because if one returned, at least one would be there to deal with the problem! (40)
Perhaps the salience of "common sense" complements the total absence of specialized augurs (which is consistent, in turn, with the lack of any ritual procedures around the taking of omens, and the absence of a religious nexus): every man (or woman) is entitled, and qualified, to observe and interpret the omens which impinge on his (or her) activity of the moment. We emphasize once again that the Dusun magician (dokun), albeit a specialist, is not a specialist for augury. A belian can seek omens, but not by virtue of her religious calling, so she is no different from any other woman; besides, belian, until at least a few decades ago, were like other women in never traveling much, so their interest in augury normally only came into play at the initial stage of rice planting. (41)
Turning now to the identity of the omen-bearers and how the Dusuns distinguish among the sounds (often a plurality of the katab kabang--'sounds from the mouth'), and how well they identify the various species when manifested visually, let us first remind ourselves that in the few cases where sighting is relevant, position or direction of flight in relation to the observer is what counts, but where the call constitutes the omen, again position in relation to the observer is usually decisive. If we take the woodpecker family first, the relevant names of (a) and (c) refer primarily to sounds, not species (of which there are several possibilities): (a) uit-uit (high, lilting piping; expressed as a verb, the bird is said to nguit or ngaruit); (b) teguru ('the drumming bird', the sound being nggandang kayu--not the heavy tapping known as matok, recognized as the sound of a bird "at work," i.e., searching for food, with no augural significance); (42) (c) kancirek (staccato chatter or laugh--an alarm call). Not that the Dusuns lack a generic name for "woodpecker" or are unaware of the bird family from which the omens issue: platok (indeed a synonym for the teguru is platok angai); but the point is that for augural purposes, only the sounds are relevant, hence neither the woodpecker family nor a more precise species is specified when referring to these omens. As a matter of fact, the uit-uit sound tends in practice not to have the importance of that of the teguru, as it is more likely to be heard in the jungle, at a point beyond the usual maximum distance for taking advice on whether to proceed with an undertaking. (43)
A midget woodpecker, no bigger than the European wren, is the rufous piculet, consulted as an omen-bird by every one of the six other ethnic groups of Borneo of whose augury we have been able to read. Sad to report, it has become rare in the lower-to-middle Tutong River area, and we have never seen it. Those who remember the tik badan can describe well its manner of creeping, mouse-like, up and around the trunk and boughs of trees near the house. For omen purposes two calls are noted: (a) a fairly drawn-out alarm call, "tek-tek-trrrrrr;" and (b) a slow "tiiiiik." For completeness one should mention also (c), a rapid "tik-tik-tik-tik...." from which the bird manifestly derives its name; but being its "normal call" (katab gala: 'a mere sound'), this is not an omen. (44)
An omen-bird consulted particularly for journeying is sasat (little spiderhunter). For the most part it is the pattern of its flight as you proceed that is indicative; and the specifications are quite complex. The observed movement of a little spiderhunter, not its call, is more usually the omen as the species is neither secretive nor likely to be confused with any other: the disproportionate length of its beak and correspondingly top-heavy appearance guarantee that. However, there is one special call that it makes, which is feared as a warning of severe danger: an angry (or alarmed), churring "saaaat," which is contrasted with the better known, sibilant "si-siit" which gives the species its various names all over Borneo. (45)
The other spiderhunter on the Dusun list is the thick-billed species, known from its call as sancag. As noted above, there is a verb, mancag, based on its name, which expresses the state, or action, of winning out after receiving encouragement from that omen (or if your opponent is favored, he thwarts you under that auspice). One may even memancag when working the fields, being favored as in a "state of grace" but not exactly "winning" over anything--unless one is imagined to be "getting the better" of the agricultural task or the usual difficulties. As the thick-billed spiderhunter approaches close to houses, like the little spiderhunter does, it is recognized by appearance as well as sound. Generally, only the sound, "cag-cag-cag," counts. However, there is one combination of sound with a direction of flight that is also significant (see Appendix 1 for detail).
Whereas the little spiderhunter is almost invariably a bird to be sighted, the tailorbird is exclusively for hearing. The bird is called in Dusun jiriot, a name which unmistakably evokes the commonest call of the red-headed species: a strident threenote chirrup, repeated several times, which lends itself to European representation as "pi-chi-poo." However, painstaking interviewing has elicited the fact that this--or a two-note variant--is only one of four recognized omen sounds. The relatively languid three-note form is called in Dusun layod; a slightly faster, two-note "kucit, kucit, kucit," is known as karujou, but they are not interpreted differently. Somewhat more attention is paid to no less than three separately named variants of the tailorbird's alarm call: (a) a single, frightened, very rough and drawn-out "siaaaak," called in Dusun the kancang call (kancang means 'high-pitched,' but is only used for this call of this bird); (b) several utterances of this in close succession, each note being very slightly shorter than when uttered singly, and which are dubbed, as a set, sarak (meaning 'in rapid succession'); (c) a burst of the same, each note even shorter, which Dusuns hear as "confident and determined" and name as the siou call (meaning 'brave, daring'). Given such minute distinctions in Dusun observation, readers will not be surprised to learn that the interpretation of these calls tends towards complexity (see Appendix 1).
As eagles are not usually seen close at hand, and in the absence of an ornithological theology a la Iban, certainly no specific species is meant by the term kaniu. However, the two relevant calls which Dusuns take note of when an eagle is espied in the sky--the common call dubbed ngalatio and an angry cry named ngalangas--make us think of the crested serpent-eagle, which is reasonably common in the Dusuns' area, and whose common call, at least, we know well and hear as a plaintive, whistling mew ("tiiu, tiiu") almost identical with the call of European buzzards at fledging time. We are able to be so certain of our identification of this eagle of Borneo because the species is in fact bold enough to perch on bare trees near Dusun settlements, looking out for the chance to snatch a hen. While it is mainly the calls that are taken into account, a circling motion (wheeling in the sky) also used to count in the specific context of a wedding procession. Some elderly Dusuns have pointed out, however, that in the times when settlements were still surrounded by jungle, and journeys to another settlement bound to take the traveler through jungle, the flight of eagles would normally have been obscured from view by the tree canopy. (46)
We have already pointed out that experts did not count information about inexorable events as angai at all, since such information leaves no room for any adaptive response, properly speaking. (It is tanda gala--"only a sign'; or ngara gala--'talking [for information] only'.) A particular kind of event that could not be averted was the death foreshadowed by the sight of a male paradise flycatcher (ncluyon) "floating," shroud-like, between the high jungle trees. It is not the death of the observer that is foretold--hence, in part, the fact that evasive action is not apposite--but the death of a relative, including a new relation by marriage, or someone in the communal house. Curiously, though, one should not approach the bird when it is seen sitting in a tree, lest it may fly off--as if its flight could in some way trigger the morbid event. There is also a rule about sightings on the way to the rice field, which does cast the bird much more as an omen-bearer. Very clearly in the non-omen category is the fruiting-call of the Indian cuckoo (kuang kaput) or the forecast of rain by the black and yellow broadbill (pelopou). A different kind of exception to the basic category of Dusun omen-birds is the (Javan) frogmouth (bugang), which is actually a cause of evil being attracted into its (and the human observer's) proximity; by this token one can engage in a quasi-manipulation of the event--not by staying away, but by chasing away the bird itself by loud banging or gunfire! Nevertheless, be it noted that this bird is not conceptually a conveyor of angai either.
One other omen-bird of lesser significance is the scarlet-rumped trogon (tempagak or mpagak), the laughing bird, which is little met in the area; but if it is heard, naturally you hope to be assured from the location of the call that "the laugh is on your opponent," in other words, that "you are laughing." In the past it was said to be able to take possession of a belian and make her burst into fits of frightful laughter--but this is not an augural matter. A non-omen species which merits mentioning is the crimson sunbird (kasuit apui) because its appearance in a rice field is taken to forecast a good yield. (47) As for the Indian cuckoo (kuang kaput), just mentioned as heralding fruiting, there is a strongly causal element in its call, for if it failed to call in season, one had grounds for fearing that the trees would not yield fruit for two or three more seasons to come. (48) Yet another "announcing," not "forewarning," bird is the nightjar (ndutur or sandutur, also called bugang tana or 'ground-bugang'--being in Tutong District the large-tailed nightjar), whose call is taken as a sign that a heat wave or heat wave-related epidemic is about to abate. (49) Children were also told that its incessant "tuu-tuu-tuu ..." through the night was the sound of death, so they had better be still! Meanwhile, the common coucal (bubut), which booms out its "buut, buut, buut" call at the approach of dusk--and for this reason could never have become an omen-bearer, since people do not leave their houses on any normal enterprise at that time of day--is reputed to project news from the location of call, both good and bad. Generally, the residents of a communal house would then "keep their ears open," even "be on their guard," knowing that the coucal could be absolutely relied upon for accuracy, whatever the news in question might turn out to be. However, the event would not be one that could be avoided as in response to an omen proper. (50) Then there was the crestless fireback (telibou), unmistakably identifiable from Pangan Runtop's description of its chicken-like size and behavior, e.g., of the cock-bird in charge of a bevy of hens; his plumage; and the low vibrant call ("ntuuuk"--like a person calling) which people found quite "angry" when uttered in the dark close to the steps of the house. They would chase it away if it came so close. Yet generally it was a jungle bird and of little concern, certainly not in connection with augury. (51)
We revert to the intriguing case of the bugang (frogmouth--also called bugang sawat, or 'bugang-up-above'): not an augural bird, yet deeply feared and a byword for evil, even among the young folk of today who are otherwise unfamiliar with bird lore. Being believed to attract noxious forces into its vicinity, or to be itself possessed by malignant spirits, it should be chased away, using gunshot or magic. If one were to acknowledge its presence by name, the worst possible harm would be guaranteed--in the form, for instance, of being enmeshed in the bird's magic and led from one's path when out in the jungle. Its urine was also poisonous: any person on whom a drop fell would be petrified at once, and any sapling thus touched would wither instantly. Someone who is kesabon--spiritually vulnerable after being irreverent to animals--should be worried when hearing it. In point of fact, the advice not to acknowledge the bird was quoted for self-protection against a phenomenon which informants did not call bugang but kuang kulit. Its disembodied voice goes further in its versatility, being able to foretell that you or your close relatives, or even not-so-close relatives, are about to face hard times. This is announced by a loud "kuang-kuang" call (cognate, Dusuns suggest, with aro kurang, 'to be short of'), several nights in succession close to the steps of your house. Just to add to the mystery, these sounds can emanate with slight differences from the mousedeer (planok), wild boar (ramo), cat (anjang), magpie-robin (pelita), and eagle (kaniu). Thus some Dusuns believe it most likely that kuang kulit is a malevolent spirit which is using an animal, or a bird, as a "mouthpiece," or is appearing in such a form. It was noted that these sounds also issue from close to the ground; they portend imminent calamity or death within the community. Now clearly, real eagles, as one example, do not call from close to the ground, least of all at night, and the obvious possibility springs to our minds that what has been heard on occasion was a bird making an aquiline mewing sound. Pangan Runtop's assertion that the kuang kulit was capable of itself taking, or taking on, the form of an eagle, as a kuang kulit kaniu, and his claim that he had once killed one of these "hybrids" (it had eagle-like features--a hooked beak--but not an eagle's claws, he remembered) strengthens this suspicion. We are moreover strongly inclined to suspect that kuang kulit is none other than the frogmouth, but with several mythical traits additional to the attributes of the bugang. (52)
The non-avian omen-bearers will now be listed, with indications as to their interpretation, such as there are. While no hepatoscopy was ever practiced, some animals have been reported to be omen-bearers, e.g., the long-tailed macaque (kara) in certain directions away from oneself, (53) and the crocodile (buayo) in a certain direction, (54) not to mention a certain threatening posture of that reptile. (55) Some informants, but not all, mentioned a particular movement of the mousedeer (planok) as significant. (56) The python (lanut ndolon) conveys augural signs, (57) as does the tarsier (mplii). (58) Red ants (kilau podos) have their own special way of communicating a message in the rice field, to the effect that the rice of the person stung would not grow well in that place. A cicada (nderaii) could make some people feel nervous in close proximity to it, as they thought it to be the toy of a demon called Isi Nunok, whose own arrival might be heralded by the insect. (59) The gecko (sosok) is augural in a small way. (60)
Apart from the animal kingdom, warning signs were read for instance into incidents of a tree trunk falling (punggor maba), or a branch, with no obvious "motivation": on the left it meant a serious threat for those you were about to visit, on the right for yourself or those left behind at home. Thunder claps (guntor) were significant in certain situations: they would deter you from collecting rice for seed the next year; or if heard close to harvest time, they reminded the Dusuns of katab barud ramo ('the sound of grubbing pigs') and hence were a warning that wild boar might well arrive to eat your rice. Incomplete rainbows too (bungkang), at certain times, had significance, especially as foretellers of death from wounding by an iron implement. (61) Also up in the sky, the rice-sowing zodiac (bintian pyamo) traditionally played a major part in determining the correct organization of the first part of the cycle of riziculture; but in this function, these are not omens. (62) Ndaki, the frothy natural soap of olden times, was used for prediction of the outcome of cockfights, by bathing the fighting birds in the foam and observing how long it took to dissipate. At the frivolous end of the spectrum, a newly married couple are "tested" as to their prospects of good fortune and happiness when they return, three days after the wedding, to the groom's house for a short visit to his parents. This is in the context of the foot-washing ceremony (ngagu atis), but the "omens" are sought in a sireh leaf which the bridegroom has to tear behind his back, whereby if a jagged half were to emerge in his left hand, the bride will be unreliable, but if in his right hand, he is the unreliable partner; and also by sharing a betel quid, to see whose spittle, when expectorated into a plate, is red and portends robust health. In practice, the risk of an unfavorable outcome is eliminated by using a young sireh leaf, which will always tear neatly down the rib, and a young betel nut, which will absolutely reliably cause red saliva. Not totally different in its basic conception is the practice, in the course of funeral ceremonies, of seeking a prediction of the length of one's life from the mass of burnt residue of the death torch, which one has trimmed off by the end of each day (so that the torch may continue to burn) and re-examines the following morning. One's longevity would be raised in direct proportion to any lessening of the mass of the burnt matter during the night: i.e., the less left, the longer the life--or so the attendant ghosts were said to be trying to convey through this mysterious happening. (63)
A very special kind of "bad" omen, which acts like a permanent stain of bad luck or irredeemable curse--in effect, as the cause of more misfortune to come, not the mere predictor thereof--comes into being where an awful catastrophe occurs, such as the death of the owner of a field in the field itself, which makes it unsafe to use forever by that family.
Needless to say, dreams are taken very seriously too. However, except as used to confirm previous predictions, dreams normally only come into prominence where no other augury is available. They never render a previous omen inapplicable. The different types of experience encountered in dreams are related to a postulated journey of the soul while its master or mistress is asleep. The extensive lore of dreams is recorded in Appendix I, but let us note in this section the absolute imperative of heeding any dream which features oneself dying, being killed, or suffering an accident. It was self-evident to the community of Bukit Udal that if the university graduate and teacher, Madam Musing, had heeded the dream in which he saw himself being killed in his own car when hit by another at high speed, he would have arranged an exorcism, thereby escaping the collision in January 1986, more or less as foretold, which resulted in his being roasted alive inside his vehicle because not only did it catch fire but its self-locking mechanism was activated by the impact. The need for some preventive measure was emphasized in retrospect by Narak Buntak, who pointed out that the victim's parents were already tempting fate by calling him "Madam" (evoking the very similar madan, 'to spin, be giddy'). Madam had added to the risk by using a number plate which had been involved in a previous accident. This number plate had been duly exorcized, but in combination with a name like his, and such a dream, not even a high degree of innate luck would be equal to the odds.
Once again, in this incident and its interpretation (like the case of catastrophes which become, in themselves, omens of further misfortune), we seem to be meeting something akin to a "stain" of predestined tragedy. At least the inherent causality of the predictive signs can only be neutralized by strong counter-measures informed by acute awareness of danger. The standard form of exorcism is the bagabas ritual, in which a household gathers to witness, in the framework of a special, short temarok held at the end of a month, a black cockerel or hen being borne around the room and passed in a circular motion over the head of the person (or heads of all those persons) to be protected. Thereafter, to have the exorcism confirmed, the bird is thrown onto the floor, pointing towards the east, which is the auspicious direction for the bird to take. (It is appropriate to note, here, that the provision of protection against predicted bad fortune can also be provided by a belian within the temarok itself.) Next morning a nominal blood-letting is performed from the bird's toe or under its wing. (64)
The bagabas ritual brings us to the tricky question of manipulation of omens. While it is true to state, as a basic rule, that Dusun omens are not held to be causal, and that therefore the question of trying to manipulate them for a favorable result is superfluous, on the occasion of a bagabas the members of the household will form a passage blocked at the western end, so that the chicken has no choice but to scurry towards the east. Or if it does run--or fly up--towards the west, the procedure is repeated. There are a few other examples of manipulation that we could cite. The presumed effectiveness of exorcizing the force of (or behind) a death-to-come, as predicted by a dream and made more likely by other inauspicious indications, has just been illustrated by reference to the death of Madam Musing. By way of a much milder example: on rare occasions, usually when an omen was sought as to the likely recovery of a person from illness, a little manipulation might be practiced. And where a cockfight had been promised in return for a patient's recovery, the family of the patient would only commit their very best bird, and that against an inferior specimen, in the interests of ensuring victory, since victory was a portent of recovery being permanent. Another example relates to the practice, after a burial, of seeking an indication as to whether any further deaths were to be expected in the same household. The omen was to be sought by filling a bamboo cylinder with water, hanging it from the ceiling, then attempting to cleave it in two with a parang (slashing knife, machete). If it could not be cleft with one stroke, the omen was "bad." To avoid this very outcome, the family would choose a type of bamboo which was unlikely to resist the blow.
We have remarked above that all omens were accurate--they 'never lied' (andi nggobou)--and thus were always taken seriously in the past. Yet at the same time, paradoxically, the essentially pragmatic Dusuns did not see an auspicious omen as an absolute guarantor of success. Technically, an excellent omen merely indicated that there were no extrinsic forces working against you, and to that extent your efforts had an excellent chance of being rewarded. The same rule could be applied, inversely, to the "bad" ones: one might always be able to avoid the worst by innate luck or extra vigilance (a "bad" omen was not equivalent to a curse). Certainly, a clear "don't," sometimes seen as the same as a prohibition or taboo (panlang), was not the norm. If and when a "good" omen was imperative in order to give reassurance after some evident bad luck--bad luck which one had attempted to override by some other means, such as medicine for an illness, but where the ultimate outcome was still uncertain--one could even give a little helping hand to augury, e.g., in the case of engineering a favorable outcome of a cockfight staged in gratitude for this--as yet provisional--cure.
Nevertheless, in general, Dusuns did not see omens as having power to influence the outcome of any event or course of action. Consistently, therefore, as we have argued, they did not usually attempt to manipulate the indications given by omens, in the way recorded in varying manifestations from the Iban, Kayan, Kenyah, and Berawan. Nor did they grant the omens any special status, or display the affection or awe due to divinity, as seen in the attitudes associated with Iban augury (side by side with the existence of some "manipulation" in the latter case). At all events--and we may cite a broadly apposite (if subtly ambivalent) formulation referring to the Berawan and Iban cases simultaneously--"Omens are never accidental and it is for men to plumb their meaning correctly. Omen creatures always seek to help men; when they give bad omens they only warn of danger, they do not cause it" (Metcalf 1976:110). Of course, as with Kayan phenomena, if they are not observed, omens are without effect: that is, in a sense they only become omens by virtue of connecting with a human being; the omen-bearers, as free agents, are not commanded to make any such connection (Rousseau 1998:74). Dusun augury constituted a framework of constraints, almost a "discipline"; it had characteristics of a system of social control inasmuch as elders taught the rules to their successors and thereby inculcated a certain fear of unknown forces. But at the same time, the system provided a framework of guidelines for navigating the perils of life, precisely so that life should not be totally beset by anxiety. The friendly "tipsters" of this study are not sent by benevolent divinities, and least of all are they themselves divinities. Yet by this very token Dusuns have not been burdened by the extra, even greater fear of a sadistically domineering god or goddess intent on punishing any infringement of taboos. In short, the Dusuns have had nothing equivalent to the Kayans' fundamental, pre-Bungan taboo on ignoring an unfavorable omen, imposed by a divine authority under its principle of "being cruel to be kind."
Our discussion of the Brunei-Dusuns has by now lapsed more generally into the past tense. Most of the augury described in this section was described by elderly experts to one of the authors. This article is essentially an exercise in reconstruction of an art which had almost ceased to be practiced by the later years of the twentieth century. Among the more destructive aspects of modernization as regards the practice of augury, we would identify, much more than any decline in belief in the possibility or efficacy of these signs from the animal kingdom, the impact of transportation by car and the introduction of artificial fertilizers and pesticides. In the case of cars, either journeys have become much less hazardous (the danger of road accidents notwithstanding!), or the calls of omen-birds are no longer heard above the noise of the engine. Today, as swidden agriculture has ceased, great jungle trees are no longer felled--at most only trees in secondary jungle, and that by chainsaw, not axe; this has removed one potent source of mortality. As regards fertilizers and pesticides, all the precautions are taken in advance of any malign event--by way of insurance, as it were, not because any particular misfortune is anticipated, or indeed needs to be, in view of the precautions themselves.
The elderly experts did not say that omens had disappeared from the environment, nor even (unlike derato) that they had become "less powerful": only that the need to listen for them had become progressively redundant, in a world where human circumstances and needs have been transformed, often beyond recognition. One could apply the dictum of Metcalf (1976:110), "The process of interpretation ... is situational in nature," just as much to a Dusun world which has lost its need for augury as to the specific events and situations to which it was still, just about, relevant thirty-odd years ago. Conceivably, Brunei-Dusun augury could have been a little more resilient if it had had a "theological" dimension, with divine messengers, instead of independent "tipsters" not conceived of as serving any group in particular. Yet is it not a fact that all indigenous groups of rural Borneo are facing a crisis, in which culture as a whole has been losing much of its relevance as a protective resource, even at the diffuse but vital level of identity-marking and the survival of distinct ethnic groups? The traditional cultures of rural society in general, let alone particular practices such as augury, are especially prone to erode as former "tribes" become involved in the urban economy or government employment: or, as one might put it with augury very much in mind, withdraw from contact with nature and suffer the corollary condition of no longer receiving privileged communication from the natural world. (65)
How to Read Brunei-Dusun Bird Omens and Dream Omens
The various bird species of relevance have been listed, and their calls described, in Section 3, above. It was noted that direction of flight is significant in some cases; even a mere appearance in the air may count. But more usually, calling (katab kabang, 'sound from the mouth') is the point of reference, with the addition of drumming for the woodpeckers (referred to as katab kayu, 'sound on a tree'--a term which also includes the non-augural matok, 'tapping'). As we shall see, the position of a heard bird in relation to the listener is normally significant. But one very dynamic dimension which must be clarified at once is that certain combinations of bird calls, from two birds of the same species or of different species, have significance. This "doubling" or "overlapping" is called ranggong. If a second omen sound is heard on the opposite side from the first (and before the first has finished), the second call is the decisive one if the bird is of the same importance as the first, or more important, in the augural hierarchy. If the second call is on the right, it is almost always a good sign; if on the left, usually bad. But the "status" of the respective birds counts a great deal: the preferred sequence is jiriot (a minor omen, angai diok) overlapped by teguru (a major omen, angai gayo). In olden times the process of overlapping, where the second omen was regarded as eclipsing the first, was called manga (probably cognate with the modern word mangala, 'to defeat'). In the case of drumming, no other bird is qualified to eclipse it; but a second teguru on the right after one on the left promises success and gains in cockfights, and spoils in a raid or hunt, while conversely if the second is heard from the left, it is "bad news" all round.
The rule for teguru heard singly is that from the right it is good for all endeavors ("we laugh at our opponents"). On the left, it is bad for everything: journeys would be better canceled; one might be about to fall ill; one may fall prey to an enemy, or lose in a cockfight. In the possibly somewhat hypothetical activity of headhunting, the Dusuns of yore would fear that an expedition was fated to 'pierce our eyes' (melalang mato), a synonym for bad luck. No doubt omens were listened to with more than the usual attention at the start of such expeditions, with the result that augury itself contributed to their rarity in practice!
The little spiderhunter (sasat) comes into its own chiefly for journeying, being used if it flies past or around you close to your head, but not high above your head. Ahead of you passing from left to right, it is seen as "meeting you on your right"--a good sign, as it seems to take you on your journey, with a promise of an abundant harvest, a good catch offish, spoils in hunting, or success in a cockfight (at least an outcome which leaves your own bird uninjured). On the contrary, if sasat flies in front of you from right to left, it is "meeting you on your left," which signifies that it wants to take you home, because no success awaits you in any enterprise. You might even become the focus of someone with ilmu (magical power--in this case, malignant magic). The failure of a journey might include inability to help someone recover who is ill. As for a bird flying past you from behind, its intention clearly is to spur you on to your destination: it will not be long before your snare or traps are filled; you rice will do well. In the opposite direction, i.e., from the front towards you and onwards to the rear--or from behind, overtaking you but then turning back--it wishes you to know that there is no point in pursuing your intentions: you'll tire yourself with no gain (your snare may snap or fish-trap break open--at least you must hurry to retrieve them); or there may even be danger for the folk back home (sickness; marauders?), who will lack your necessary succor if your absence is extended. Another bad sign is if the bird circles you (ngaliling), i.e., 'puts you in an enclosure' (ngalubong): this means that if you go a long way you are unlikely to return, perhaps being killed in an ambush or dying from sickness, certainly being unable to escape if meeting an enemy. However, an even more complex maneuver, comprising flight from right to left followed by the same bird then flying back from left to right, is a good omen because it indicates that the bird is "meeting you on your right, on its second pass". On the other hand, left to right, followed by right to left, is "meeting you on your left on its second pass," which is bad. Switching direction, in this and other contexts, is called in Dusun sirong.
Having discussed the various possible flight paths, we have to conclude the lore for sasat by recording one sound which is significant: this is the sharp, single note, "sat," uttered without apparent provocation, e.g., with no other sound elsewhere which might have alarmed the bird and which you should have heard (but as you did not, very possibly indicates the presence of a bad spirit close by, which only the bird is aware of). Such a call, an angai madan ('omen which puts you in a spin, makes you faint'), spells a high degree of danger for the hearer.
The rules for the ubiquitous jiriot (tailorbird) omens are complex and detailed in a very high degree. As was stated in Section 3, above, kancang, sarak and siou are variants of the same strident call, whereas layod is a much gentler and more relaxed utterance. The basic "personality" of each call is described respectively as follows: kancang, the single alarm note, "siaaaak," long and high-pitched, is perceived as an angai madan, really alarming (mbo gala aro musu: 'wherever you go there is an enemy'); sarak is a burst of "siaaak, siaaak, siaaak ..." sounds, in quick succession (the word means exactly that), and is pretty bad, because it reminded people in times gone by of the sharp blow severing the suspended bamboo tube (pigison bulu) after a burial; the shorter notes of siou, by contrast, being between sarak and layod in forcefulness (kediok katab do, andi ni sarak, andi ni lambut) are heard as confident, determined, indeed daring ('daring' being the basic meaning of the word), but whether you yourself are the daring one, or your enemy, depends on position, as we shall see; and lastly, layod, the familiar "kucit, kucit, kucit," is heard as relaxed and cheerful, a soothing, soft call (katab lambut) with on the whole pleasant connotations, though this could benefit your opponent. We will discuss the precise indications for sarak, siou and layod, and from there move on to the rules of interpretation for overlapping (ranggong) calls and a somewhat different phenomenon called bila bulu ('splitting the bamboo').
The basic rule on sarak is that it is negative from either side, i.e., both left and right. Whenever you hear it, you will regret your undertaking if you persist with it, for you might well trip on a tree stump, or slip up, and be injured; or you could even be killed, or at any rate fall ill and not return from a journey. A rice crop, if affected by a pest, could get it in a severe form. Generally, if one hears the call while working in the field or in the jungle, it is no longer a proper omen, but reminds us to be on our guard and not careless, even if there was a favorable omen at the outset. More specifically, if on your way to somewhere (within the first mile) you hear the sound from the front, it indicates "danger ahead" (awaiting you); if it is heard from close behind you, the folk left behind are either in danger owing to your absence, or one of them is about to fall ill and die (so the others need you). On the other hand, however, and this may seem totally paradoxical to a non-Dusun, the very sharpness of the call can mean that on that day you are going to prove more hot-tempered than you usually are, and therefore can accept a fight with confidence, in fact any challenging activity such as hunting, fishing, camphor-seeking, or just earning money!
There is even more ambivalence in siou omens. Although in principle the left is not good--as when the portended aggressiveness or daring is found in your opponent, or in his fighting-cock when pitted against yours, or in the wild boar which attacks your rice; or where the sickness of a friend you are visiting with a cure stands to resist your ministrations--if the sound refers to your rice crop, it could well mean that the rice itself has the capacity to surge ahead, yet on the other hand this could be counteracted when the quality of daring is "raging furiously" (rampant) in an attacking pest. The guarantee for an excellent rice crop is to hear siou on the right, at least if there is good rainfall; the crop will prevail even against a pest, though magical formulas may need to be mobilized. Siou on the right is also a portent of success in hunting, cards, and cockfights. As for a call heard at some distance to the rear (likud), this is an all-clear.
The soothing layod is certainly not seen as a bad omen, although on the left it favors your opponent: for instance, if you lose in a cockfight, your opponent will easily take your money because you have lost the heart to challenge him or stand up to him. As for your rice crop, it too will succumb, because of lacking the fighting spirit. Buffaloes will be dear to buy (sanokot--'sticking' [to its present owner]). But from the right, needless to say, layod is especially positive: in fact, it is the very best omen for "everything connected with ourselves"--it is "our omen." One should add that there is a faster version of the layodthat Dusuns recognize; they call it karujou. But it is equivalent and equal to layod in every respect.
Greater complexity awaits us, naturally, in the matter of "overlapping." The basic rule of ranggong, as has been explained, is that the second omen heard overrides the first, with the relative augural status of the two birds having significance in the bargain as well. In the case of the ubiquitous tailorbirds, it can often happen that two birds of this species call in quick succession, sometimes using different calls from their repertoire. Here there is a supplementary rule: that the call from the right speaks of you, the one from the left speaks of your opponent. So if sarak from the right declares that you are hot-tempered on that day, a siou from the left counters it by saying that your opponent is daring--and the more likely to succeed. Alternatively, if you are attributed with daring by a right-side siou, and then hear another siou from the left, you and your opponent are predicted to be of equal size; it is then purely the relative weakness of either that will determine the outcome. But supposing that layod sounds on the right, followed by siou on the left: in such a case, you are predicted to be slow, and (although siou is not seen basically as a harbinger of misfortune) you may be unable to resist a foe in the shape of a chronic sickness or aggressive fighter or resilient prey. You will tire yourself out in pursuit of a spoil, because the hunted wild boar is too ferocious; or your rival will be more than a match for you in a cockfight or settlement of a dispute. This ranggong is potentially fine when your reassuring layod refers to rice growing, for the siou could well mean that the rice will have the requisite staying power to overcome any problems; only if the pugnacious quality attaches to a powerful pest which successfully attacks the rice, is the combination unwholesome. If you get the siou from the right, in connection with, say, rice cultivation, and layod is then heard on the left, this is a splendid combination, for not only are you yourself dynamic in the task, but a fine rice crop is assured independently. The combination of sarak on the right with layod on the left, in the context of a straightforward rivalry, means you will be appropriately hot-tempered, while your adversary will be slow, enabling you to win; it is also good for traveling some distance, because you are strong and fearless. Again with rice cultivation, the odds could be stacked doubly in your favor, for you will be hot-tempered in tackling any rice pest, should a pest, under the simultaneously inauspicious sarak from the right, not be sufficiently counteracted by the pro-rice layod on the left. We note that in the context of rice, the "adversary" in the combination is not the rice itself but the sickness afflicting the rice, though it is the rice that can be cured (malap ruon). Lastly, sarak from the right followed by the same from the left means jati andi taan, "we won't last' (not that your rival is in a much better position: inan o andi moncoi, 'the other guy is not O.K.').
Types of double tailorbird ranggong where left comes before right follow more or less a diametrically opposite pattern of rules, to the extent that your opponent--still under the auspices of the left-side sign--has to be countered from the right by a sign which foreshadows your own potential, whatever it may be, in the encounter to come. Sarak from the left suggests that your opponent is hot-tempered; nevertheless, layod from the right overrides this easily, so you can be assured of getting your way. A similarly favorable combination is siou from the left, indicating a dynamic opposite number, but followed by layod from the right, which gives you assurance of coming out best in the dispute or deal. This combination is especially liked by rice growers, since the rice is forecast to be "dynamic," while the farmer himself is assured of well-being: the right side entirely complements the left, it is not a contest of opposites. As for sarak on both sides, here we meet another version of complementarity: both your opponent and yourself will be hot-tempered in a fight; although the fight alone may decide the winner of the two, given the even odds, by no means should one be deterred from engaging with the foe. However, for other pursuits, from rice growing to travel, where sarak is taken in its ominous sense, the call from the right complements the call from the left by reinforcing it and making the outlook far worse, i.e., bad is added to bad (tamba lagi raat). Obviously, if the left side predicts a sluggish performance by the foe, in the form ofa layod, but from the right there is an indication from a siou that you yourself will be dynamic, the prospects are very positive. It is roughly the same with a left-side layod and a right-side sarak: you yourself will be hot-tempered and able to overcome a sleepy antagonist; nor will you be prone to illness. This is a good combination for hunting, cockfighting and any other contest. On the other hand, should a rice pest suddenly afflict your rice--possibly without warning, as a left-side layod should be a good indication for the rice, though as was pointed out above, layodcan well infer that the crop is somewhat less than resilient--your own temperament under the sign of sarak could be altogether too fiery to deal with the menace (kasiou kou nguru--'you are [too] impatient to heal [it]'). Thus it is clear that the sign which foretells your own performance has to be read in the context to which it applies: although signs from the right are said to "favor" oneself, the quality to which they refer may not be "functional" to one's own interest in every context. Lastly, in connection with ranggong involving tailorbirds, two combinations with the little spiderhunter have been pointed out to us: (a) layod on either side, followed by a sasat seen meeting you on your right (flying from left to right) is a very good omen; (b) sarak on either side, followed by a sasat meeting you on your left (flying from right to left) is bad in the same measure.
A special kind of omen-from-two-sides is one comprising any sound from one side, "echoed" after a pause by an identical call from the other side. The exact repetition of one call, with a pause between, is the distinguishing mark. Because it has the quality of an echo, it is called bila bulu (literally, 'splitting the bamboo'). The two sounds must be of precisely equal length, to count for this category. Moreover, ira third call is heard, on the same side as the first, it must again be balanced by an "echo" on the other side. When a layod is involved (as often it is), a call from the left echoed from the right is held to forecast a long and happy life. Right side echoed from the left, however, is not deemed to be so positive: e.g., in a contest you may lack the energy to stand up to your opponent; he might take your money from you easily in a cockfight. Still, this is otherwise a good omen.
A feature of woodpecker omens that is immediately striking is that when the piping call, uit-uit, is heard in a relevant place (i.e., not in the jungle, outside the range for normal relevance--though that is where its voice, unlike drumming, is more likely to be heard) a call from the left is regarded as "good," a call from the right as "bad." This reverses the more normal preference for omens from the right. Thus, when a woodpecker nguit from the left, you are assured that, in some contest, ipon rumo ncisi, ijun nggirak kito ('the teeth of your opponent will be bared, you will laugh at the sight'); if from the right, ipon diri neisi ('your teeth will bared [in anger]'), or, as it can be expressed, rumo nguit ikou ('your opponent does an uit on you'), in getting the better of you in a cockfight. These omens are used for all activities and undertakings. In the case of rice growing, a call from the right can mean that your crop might succumb--the verb is nguit (derived from uit)--to a pest. However, if this does occur, there is consolation in a later call from the left, which promises that your rice should pull through: andi pa raat penyakit o ('that sickness will not be a disaster'). A very bad omen is the chattering alarm call, "cek-cek-cek-ceeek" (the kancirek, also dubbed katab mulud, literally 'sound in flight'), always uttered in flight as the bird flies away. In the past, when it was sometimes heard at the foot of the stairs, no one would dare to venture out for anything on that day. That sound heard from either left or right is bad. Interestingly, the verb used here identifies an uit-uit as the source of the trouble, even though the call heard is kancirek, as: ikou suat uit ('you suffer an uit') or rumo nguit dijun ('your adversary does an uit on you'). As for the drumming of woodpeckers--the omen of the teguru--there is an extremely "bad" manifestation, where it is heard on the left and then followed by uit-uit on the right. But in general, any type of call would be ignored in favor of drumming, which is attributed with heavier augural weight.
The miniscule woodpecker called by the Dusuns tik badan (a name which identifies the species, the rufous piculet, as specifically as the sound it makes, since the bird is usually easy enough to see when calling) is "consulted" mainly in advance of a cockfight or dispute, but not for farming. This preference sets the omen somewhat apart from the majority whose application is not narrowly defined. There are three types of sound: (a) an alarm call of one long burst, "tek-tek-trrrrrr," labeled the terkajut ('frightened') call; this is the call most commonly used for augural purposes; when heard on the left, your opponent, or his fighting-cock, will be weak (madan); if from the right, you yourself will be madan in any situation (your fighting-cock will be in that state too: how could he not be if you yourself are?), and any news you receive will be disturbing. As with the uit-uit woodpeckers, we see that again left is "good," right "bad." (b) The slow "tek-tek-traaaa" call, which spells no danger from whatever side it is heard. (c) A rapid succession of staccato sounds, "tek-tek-tek-tek ...," which is recognized as the bird's normal call--'merely a noise' (katab gala)--and as such is normally ignored.
The "cag-cag-cag" call of sancag (thick-billed spiderhunter) is also interpreted in the conventional way as far as preference for the right-hand side is concerned. From the left, rumo mancag diri ('your opponent will better you [with a sancag]')--though this only basically means that you yourself are unable to mamancag ('prevail'), i.e., your efforts are in vain, there is no real danger awaiting you, only a lack of reward for labor; if you fall ill, you will have little resistance. Conversely, from the right, the omen means that you are favored or will prevail (memancag) in any enterprise of the moment. However, it must be noted that a call from the left followed by the experience of the same bird flying at you, portends not just lack of success but a positive danger; even worse is a call from a distance, followed by the bird making a direct approach on the wing, which Dusun augural lore sees as an 'attack' (nyarang).
The eagle (kaniu) has two types of call: the ngalateo (the common, mewing call); and the ngalangas (an angry sound, "aaaak"). Eagle omens are to be used mainly for journeys over a distance, or to a cockfight. Ngalateo from the left is inauspicious: you are unlikely to return from the journey; or your opponent will win in the contest. For normal, low-risk activities, the call is perceived as a warning to take care but is not of great value, being the eagle's habitual call. Likely defeat in a contest is expressed as diri suat alap ('you are likely to get "eagled"'--alap-alap being the name for one of the family). Heard from the right, this call is auspicious for any type of journey and the activity at the end of it. By contrast, the ngalangas sound is "bad" on either side; but specifically, if the call is heard from the left, your hosts at the end of a journey are likely to suffer (more likely than you: note, here, the parallel with the jiriot rule that left can refer to 'the other' more than, necessarily, your own misfortune); but if from the right, you yourself will suffer from ill health on, or as a result of, the journey. In the past, people would definitely cancel a journey upon hearing ngalangas. The other type of indication from eagles is a circling flight, said to ngilung diri ('enclose you [protectively]') in some circumstances, not least when a wedding party is accompanying the bridegroom to the bride's house, since the circle described in the sky is masam luang kilong ('like the cavern of the [bridal] bedstead [within the curtains and mosquito-net]'). However, a circling flight may just as easily be read as inauspicious, in terms of excessive rainfall or some other misfortune on the way: the coming event is one which will ngalubong jati (literally: 'bury us'), or it comprises something that will imminently ngalibong diri ('make you dizzy').
The scarlet-rumped trogon (the 'laugher,' known to Dusuns as tempagak) is little seen or heard in the Bukit Udal/Ukong area, but the folk there had a rule for it if ever it was heard close to a settlement. As its call (katab ragak) so much reminded people of human laughter (katab irak), from the left it was deemed to mean that rakon rumo or rumo nggirak di-diri ('the opponent is laughing'; '[your] opponent laughs at you'). Note, as in other examples that the call from that side does not directly mean misfortune for yourself, but by referring to your opponent, in a sense favorable to him, it logically signifies that you will not do well. From the right, however, the laughter is ours: jati nggirak di-rumo ('we laugh at the opponent'--not at all a case of "the laugh is on us!"); so we may confidently undertake a journey, work in the fields, hunt and fish, or take our fighting-bird to a cockfight. There is also a ranggong rule for this bird call: if heard from the left followed by right, it is favorable to your purpose.
Regarding the paradise flycatcher, which is not technically an omen-bird, we cannot add much to what was briefly stated in Section 3 of the main text. The rule about sightings on the way to the rice field, which does cast the bird much more as an omenbearer, is that if it flies past you, at low level, you must return home for the day. Pangan Runtop of Bukit Udal described this omen as "truly evil."
If a bird of any species is killed by crashing accidentally into a tree-trunk or part of a house (whether its posts or superstructure), it automatically becomes a sign of looming misfortune: it is bad for you (if you see it), or could mean that someone in the house may meet the same fate (if his house is the scene of the accident). The event is called lagawou katapi tiap kayu ('a bird flying into any kind of wood'). It is not an angai (an omen which foretells an event which can be avoided), but a sign of something ineluctable. The malign event to which one is due to fall victim will very likely be the work of a noxious spirit in the vicinity. It is precisely the presence of this spirit, or whatever, that has brought down the bird, either directly or by distracting it so that it could not avoid the looming hazard. This pattern of cause and effect is analogous to the workings of a frogmouth presence in the vicinity of humans: it is not itself an evil force but attracts evil forces which will do you harm, though not without warning you of the danger in advance--also by its presence!
Other birds which are subject to interpretation by Dusuns but not technically omen-bearers, are the crimson sunbird, Javan frogmouth, Indian cuckoo, large-tailed nightjar, common coucal, black and yellow broadbill, and crestless fireback. Our account of the significance attached to their sounds or a sighting, in Section 3 of the main text, will suffice.
As a very simple summary of basic interpretation of bird omens, we may say that a manifestation on one's left predicts success to one's opponent, or to human, animal, or other forces in nature other than oneself. Then, either one should abandon the intended action or take additional precautions. Upon hearing certain teguru sounds, or seeing certain patterns of flight by sasat or kaniu, one must not proceed under any circumstances. The ncluyon and bugang/kuang kulit are bearers of bad news, or warn of the presence of evil, but the events or the evil in question are not in general principle avertable. Hence, these signs are not properly called angai.
It was noted above in Section 3 of the main text that dreams are taken very seriously, but they only come into prominence where no other augury is available, though they may also be used to confirm previous predictions. They never render a previous omen inapplicable. "A dream," in Dusun, is nupi.
To address this topic now in further detail, it must be stressed again that omens from the natural environment are valued above dreams, thus dreams are not usually considered at all, unless there is no other omen to hand; a dream which reinforces an omen is welcomed; a dream which contradicts a natural omen does not render it ineffective. There is also an apparent tendency of informants who have had extensive contact with Muslims to bestow special importance on dreams, as witness one characterization of dreams as telingo Nabi ('ears of the Prophet')--by a person who called the omen-birds mato Nabi ('the Prophet's eyes'). Although, in general, dreams are accorded low priority--which is surely an attitude well in accord with common sense, given that no one can be sure of having a relevant dream, or any dream, at the time when guidance is consciously needed--it is noteworthy that omens in dreams were commonly sought by a selected person (the headman) before the onset of communal field-preparation. Apart from the element of manipulation, this even represents an arguable exception to the rule that the Dusuns have no formal augurs. In the event that the appointed dreamer had three inauspicious dreams in succession, the chosen site for the clearance and cultivation had to be abandoned. The owner of a new house stays in it for a night before the rest of the family, and postpones entry for two or three days in the event of a bad dream. In any context, not only rice cultivation, luck is really on your side if you dream of the same favorable event twice over. Examples of dream reinforcing dream also represent a detachment of dream augury from the more normal requirement of some sort of valuation by reference to a conventional omen, or activation by the absence of one.
A further example of manipulation of dreams--with a necessary element of auto-suggestion--is seen in the reputed practice of some Sino-Dusuns, even today, of burning incense near the cock who is to be entered in a fight on the morrow. This is not for fortifying the bird, but is hoped to induce a dream of cockfighting in the bird's owner. If the dream is favorable, he will go ahead with his intention. Afficionados confess that these "good" dreams do not come true with absolute reliability, but in a case of disappointment the blame would be placed on innate bad nasip in the protagonist, which has outweighed the omen.
One of the quainter aspects of the more general rules for Dusun dream interpretation, when first met by the foreign learner, is the idea that occurrences in dreams often (but to add to confusion, not invariably!) have a reverse meaning from the values of waking experience. Thus, if a dream features laughter by anyone, including yourself, the corresponding emotion in real life would be tearfulness, hence caution or trepidation is advised in facing the activity to which the dream is taken to relate. Conversely, when in the dream someone is seen weeping, the relevant event or activity in real life is one which will bring joy.
More straightforward is the interpretation of a scene in which you are pursuing someone. This portends good luck in your forthcoming undertaking. On the negative side, the following scenes are all given an "obvious" meaning in terms of real life: an experience of someone trying to apprehend you, to which you respond by trying to run away; someone falling off, or down from, something; traveling in a vehicle at night and colliding with a buffalo; any personal feeling of fear. However, the interpretation is "obvious" only in the general sense that the dream is understood to be inauspicious, not that the exact scene will be replicated. Thus, for instance, any of the four examples just cited would be taken to indicate that it would be foolish to undertake a trip to settle a dispute or engage in cockfighting, either as an owner (with bird) or punter (with money). Similarly, dreams relating metaphorically to death should be taken as a warning not to go on an extended trip to anywhere. These include dreams in which the sun or moon appear, as they are emblematic of the salong (the death-torch which burns at the house of someone who died, during their 14-day wake period); in which someone is seen dragging a buffalo (interpreted as signaling the imminent death of someone close); or where a bees' nest hangs suspended between the branches of a tree (symbolizing the action of nyaan bangka: 'the carrying of a corpse' by two people on their shoulders).
As for dreams of death or near-death which are painfully direct--that is, in which you yourself have an accident, or are dying, or are killed--these have to be taken very seriously, as a portent that you will suffer precisely such a tragedy unless very serious action is taken, namely: not avoidance through absence or avoidance (as in response to a conventional omen) but a positive act to wipe out the "stain" or curse, preferably by means of a temarok bagabas or ritual bathing by a belian. (The process or effect is called nggabas nupi raat, 'exorcising an evil dream.')As we saw in Section 3 of the main text, the ghastly tragedy of the teacher Madam Musing, roasted alive in his own car, was believed to have been avoidable if only he had heeded the predictive dream and arranged for appropriate, countervailing measures of exorcism.
On the positive side, again, there is a reasonably straightforward, though metaphorical, extrapolation from dreams about healthy infants, born or to be born, to the predicted health of a rice-crop. Thus a dream about caring for a child is "good" for rice planting. If the child is a boy, it is particularly auspicious for hill rice; if a girl, for wet rice. If you see a child walking well, this means that your rice will "follow in its footsteps" and grow well too. Dreaming about a pregnant woman should generally be followed by a good harvest.
List of Academically Reported Omen-Birds in Sarawak, Brunei, and Sabah
The ethnic groups recognizing the various listed species as omen-birds are entered below each species in an approximate geographical order, moving from west to east: viz., (1) Maloh; (2) Iban; (3) Kayan; (4) Kenyah; (5) Berawan; (6) Brunei-Dusun of Bukit Udal/Ukong (abbreviated to "Br-Dusun"); (7) Kadazan-Dusun (entered simply as "Kadazan"). The sources tapped are respectively, (1) King; (2) Freeman (plus work by Banks, Jensen, Richards, Sandin, Sather--see bibliography); (3) Rousseau (plus Richards); (4) Galvin (plus Freeman, Richards); (5) Metcalf; (6) R. Kershaw, (1998b); and (7) Shim. Surprisingly, perhaps, only one species is recognized by all seven of the ethnic groups: the rufous piculet. It sometimes seems to require historical proximity between two groups for "sharing" to occur--a phenomenon that is surely "cultural," not merely a reflection of the fact that the same species will impinge on two groups inhabiting a single geographical zone. The virtually identical omen list of the Maloh and lban is cited by King (1975) precisely in order to suggest historical proximity and cultural fusion. But we make no attempt to hypothesize "cultural significance" in species choice in any significant sense. With the Iban, religious myth provides something of a lead-in, but how, in general, would one begin to account for the non-use of birds whose calls are conspicuously beautiful, such as the racket-tailed drongo or the straw-headed bulbul, which are neither too ubiquitous nor too unusual to have been discounted for either of those two reasons? General neglect of the otherwise sometimes "totemic" hornbill also seems surprising.
Incidentally, it seemed best not to include, even for the sake of distant, mainland comparison, the omen-birds recognized by a number of hill tribes of the high plateau of Central Vietnam. Maurice (2006), while very readably allusive and wide-ranging in every sense, depends considerably on earlier ethnographic literature, and is consequently not himself strong on precise species identification. Let it suffice to note loose references to a woodpecker or two, hornbills and munias, while only the racket-tailed drongo and white-crested laughing thrush are named unambigously in connection with omen-bearing for several tribes (the latter bird is not known in Borneo anyway).
The bird families appear below in the same order as in Smythies (1960). (66)
Eagles, kites, hawks (esp. crested serpent-eagle in Brunei): Kenyah; (67)
Berawan; Br-Dusun. (68) Brahminy kite (specific bird): Maloh; (69) Iban; (70) Kayan; (71) Kenyah. (72) Black eagle (specific bird): Kadazan. Honey buzzard: Kayan. [Crestless fireback: Br-Dusun.] (73) [Indian cuckoo: Br-Dusun.] (74) [Common coucal: Br-Dusun.] (75) Barred eagle owl: Berawan. [Frogmouths (probably Javan in Brunei): Br-Dusun.] (76) [Large-tailed nightjar: Br-Dusun.] (77) Trogons (5 species of upper Baram--i.e., Baram/Tutoh/Tinjar): Berawan. (78) Scarlet-rumped trogon (specific bird): Maloh; Iban; (79) Br-Dusun. (80) Diard's trogon (specific bird): Maloh; Iban; (81) Kenyah. Orange-breasted trogon (specific bird): Kenyah. (82) Banded kingfisher: Maloh; Iban; (83) Kayan; (84) Berawan. (85) Rufous-backed kingfisher: Berawan; Kadazan. (86) Stork-billed kingfisher: Berawan. Ruddy kingfisher: Kadazan. (87) Hornbills (sundry species): Maloh; (88) lban. (89) Rufous piculet: Maioh; Iban; (90) Kayan; Kenyah; Berawan; Br-Dusun; (91) Kadazan. Woodpeckers (medium size/piping cry) (esp. banded in Brunei): Br-Dusun. Woodpeckers (medium size/drumming) (incl. rufous in Brunei): Kenyah (?); (92) Br-Dusun. Woodpeckers (medium size/alarm cry) (incl. buff-rumped in Brunei): BrDusun. Maroon woodpecker (specific bird): Maloh; Iban; (93) Kayan; Kadazan. (94) Banded woodpecker (specific bird): Kayan. (95) Grey-and-buff woodpecker: Berawan. (96) Buff-rumped woodpecker: Berawan. Buff-necked woodpecker: Berawan. (97) Grey-capped woodpecker: Berawan. [Black and yellow broadbill: Br-Dusun.] (98) White-rumped shama: Maloh; Iban. (99) Striped tit-babbler: Kadazan. (100) Tailorbirds (all 4 in upper Baram; 3 in Brunei, esp. red-headed): Berawan; BrDusun. [Paradise flycatcher: Br-Dusun.] (101) Spiderhunters (all species of upper Baram): Berawan. Little spiderhunter (specific bird): Maloh; Kayan; Kenyah; Br-Dusun. Thick-billed spiderhunter (specific bird): Br-Dusun. Greater yellow-eared spiderhunter (specific bird): Kayan. White-eye: Kayan. Spangled drongo: Berawan. (102) Violet-backed starling: Kenyah. Crested jay: Maloh; Iban; (103) Kenyah; (104) Berawan. Slender-billed crow: Kadazan.
Corrigenda in Four Other Publications on the Brunei-Dusuns
The misidentification, in E. M. Kershaw, ed. (1994:156-61) of the Indian cuckoo as a roller, has already been corrected (by the culprit!) in R. Kershaw (1998b:55-56), but perhaps merits an additional flagging here.
R. Kershaw (1998b) itself succumbed to some anomalies at the printing stage. The more important are the omission of the male symbol for the paradise flycatcher (bird no. 3 on p. 39) and the placing of the "Wood-peckers" sub-heading within the box for the rufus piculet (bird no. 11 on p. 40) whereas it should introduce the next three species (nos. 12-14). These and a few lesser corrigenda have already been noted in BRB 30(1999):4. One more could be added: p. 36, n. 19, line 7, read "columns" (plural). Furthermore, reflecting E.M.K's extensive interviews in Dusun, a shift has taken place in the relevant section of the present article, in that the word teguru is acknowledged to refer to a bird only (albeit an unspecific "drumming bird"), not a sound first and foremost as is the case with uit-uit and was previously implied also for teguru. It is diagnostic that there is no verb with the sense of "to be teguru'ed" (cf. our translation, 'suffer an uit,' first introduced in Section 3). The omen is the drumming sound, to be sure, but this is called nggandang kayu.
E. M. Kershaw and R. Kershaw (1998) suffered somewhat from intervention by its editor, who also declined to accept a corrigenda slip for a later issue of SEAJSS. All the following items comprise needed restorations of the original text: p. 1, para. 2, line 10 delete "the" after "acknowledge"; p. 4, para. 3, line 12: delete "over" after "glossed"; p. 7, para. 3, line 7: the phrase "a normal ritual in progress" should be changed back to "a normally progressing ritual"; p 8, para. 2, line 13: for "affecting" read "effecting"; p. 9, para. 3, line 1: add "still holds" after "argument"; p. 21, para. 3, lines 9-12: the phrase "with a strong transcendental dimension" originally described the State's nation-building plans, not Dusun religion, and should be relocated accordingly.
In E. M. Kershaw (2000), the following corrigenda were almost entirely due to errors or proofreading oversights in Scotland: p. 4, n. 1, line 1: after "folkloric" add "features"; p. 9, n. 1, line 1: for "four" substitute "five"; p. 13, line 24: for "Garea" read "area"; p. 17, para. 2: the six kinship terms introduced here ought to be in the glossary too; p. 23, line 7: for "panda Cecilia" (attributed to a maverick spelling-checker at Phillips, ME!), read "pandai sekola"; p. 63, line 1: before "previous" add the words "with no"; p. 63, line 30: for "contributed" read "attributed"; p. 97, in the heading of Section (b): read "Ngayat"; p 110, line 5: "umou kingkin" should be added to the main glossary; p. 139, line 15: change "bahagian" to "bagian"; p. 155, line 16: after "shaft" delete "of areca palm"; p. 174, line 24: for "lank" read "flank"; p. 252: "labangan" belongs in the R.H. column; p. 257: "ngtangan" should read "ntangan," and be relocated alphabetically; p. 263: the definition of "tad sawat" should read "from on high"; p. 286: six index items (papa, snake, summoning, swing, tebuu, wooden palatial house) are wrongly indented--being substantive, not subdivided categories.
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Eva Maria and Roger Kershaw
295 Clashnessie, Lochinver
Scotland IV27 4JF
(1) As is recorded particularly in the three previous publications listed in the References under our joint names, we were resident in Brunei Darussalam almost continuously between 1984-1994, through the employment of R. K. in the Ministry of Education. For both of us this was already a very late beginning in Borneo, although to have started there with an academic background in other states, societies and languages of the area no doubt had certain advantages. For a minimal definition of the ethnic group of present concern, see R. Kershaw (1998:29, n. 1).
(2) We have in mind particularly Narak Buntak (Ukong) and Pangan Runtop (Bukit Udal).
(3) In the course of presenting the Brunei-Dusun omen-bird list afresh, two important anomalies in its original presentation (i.e., in R. Kershaw 1998b:39, 40) will be corrected. These are also precisely noted in Appendix 3. Appendix 1 is used for a detailed presentation of the significance of augural sights and sounds, bird by bird.
(4) E.g., in terms of authority in the community, though the decline of ritual is a much more important element (as both cause and effect) in declining social cohesion (see E. M. Kershaw and R. Kershaw 1998; E. M. Kershaw 2000). Further on the subject of error, we would draw attention to corrigenda both in the article and book just mentioned, and also in E. M. Kershaw, ed. (1994), using Appendix 3.
(5) The "little bird" who alerted us (augurally?) to this publishing event was none other than the editor of BRB. Owing to publication delays in Paris, we depended on the kind agreement of Professor Sellato, not to mention some sacrifice of time and effort on his part, in enabling us to have an advance sight of the papers selected from the collection, viz. Maurice (2006) and Sather (2006). The latter was requested for the obvious reason of its Borneo locus, in combination with Professor Sather's known expertise on the "active intercession of the gods [of the Iban] in this world" (cf. Sather 1985:30); the former because its title foreshadowed an equal degree of insight into the divine power/powers behind ornithological omens, albeit not in island Southeast Asia.
(6) The idea that scholarship can be used to pre-empt (and confirm) state propaganda--though with emphasis on the benefits for the state interest rather than the target minority--was mooted by R. Kershaw (1998b:31) with reference to Bantong (1985:108).
(7) The female manifestation of the highest divinity is Djata, who resides in the underworld, or the realm of water. She had not, at Scharer's time of writing, been given a name by either the Muslims or the Christians. The silence of the latter is connected, Scharer suggests (and surely humorously), with the fact that it is his own Protestant mission that is active in South Borneo: Protestants reject the Roman Catholic cult of the Virgin Mary! Scharer (1946:18).
(8) The gods themselves were believed to practice augury: this is why they could impart their knowledge of the art to the Ibans, via a "culture hero," Sera Gunting (whose part spirit-parentage means that Singalang Burong is an Iban ancestor) (cf. Sandin 1980:93-108; Jensen 1974:8386). A virtually identical "genealogical theology" is claimed for the neighboring Maloh by King (1975).
(9) The absence of dictation is consistent with the non-hierarchical quality of the gods' society, a counterpart of the Ibans' own (personal communication, C. Sather). At any rate, careful interpretation by the augurs remains at a premium. There is an interesting but, upon analysis, otiose objection to Freeman (1960:79, n. 15) by Jensen (1974:137-38), where he takes issue with a reputed understanding by the former that omens are in principle causal because the Iban note that an omen was right, after the event, if it predicted the event correctly. Freeman's words at that point do not contain anything to contradict his position that omens are essentially advisory. Another curious example of "much ado about nothing" is the attribution to Hose and McDougall (1912 II:87) by Jensen (1974:128) of the claim that because of the impossibility of distinguishing the 33 birds of each augural species which are the genuine, and hence reliable, ones (because the majority were supposed not to be), therefore omen status was extended to the whole genus! In fact the two earlier writers were clearly saying not that the whole genus, but only the whole of each species, was afforded that courtesy status--this in connection with Iban thinking about the embarrassment of killing an omen-bird by mistake. A more serious disagreement has occurred between Sather (1980:xliv) and Jensen (1974:127) over the latter's assertion that omens are significant only as a departure from the divinely appointed natural order of adat. Rather, in Sather's observation, it is because omens are normal events, which in past experience have correlated with future eventualities, that they should be consulted in order to provide some protection from the inherent vagaries of nature-in-general.
(10) Hose and McDougall (1912 11:57-58). We will forgive their sly dig at the Roman Catholic persuasion, and wonder mischievously if Bishop Galvin read it! On the subject of species identification, the "hawk" referred to in this source becomes an "eagle" under the almost identical name of plake for the Berawan: see below, in our discussion of Metcalf (1976). We are confident that most groups in Borneo are eclectic in naming more than one raptor by a single generic name. The Brunei-Dusuns with their "kaniu" certainly include more than one species, ranging from the goshawk, through kites and buzzards, to eagles. See further in notes 46 and 67, below.
(11) For their elaborated (and admiring) thoughts on the origin of the conception of a beneficent Supreme Being, which these two early authors firmly refuse to attribute to contact with the Malays, see Hose & McDougall (1912 II:16-18). Unlike Singalang Burong, Laki Penyalang apparently does not take the form of a bird to descend to earth, nor is he mentioned to be an ancestor of the tribe through any union of a divine with a human being, as through Seragunting in the case of the Iban. However, as quoted in the previous paragraph, the hawk, Bali Flaki, has in some ways subsumed the godly attributes and status of the higher power who sent him.
(12) See Hose and McDougall (1912 II:6, 12). They surmise that Laki' Tenangan could be primus inter pares, the minor deities just possibly being deified ancestors, as with the Kenyah. However, one has to be aware of some mild reservations regarding Hose's notes on the Kayan, in Rousseau (1998:14). Indeed, he identifies the foremost spirit as Doh Tenangan, a venerable woman; her husband, Lake' Tenangan, is otiose.
(13) Rousseau (1998:8) citing earlier authorities (omitted in this quotation and paraphrase).
(14) Rousseau (1998:23) quoting a Kayan history and handbook of the reform, which he later translated and published, with an Introduction, as Lake' Baling (2002). However, it was also claimed that the Kayans' own neglect or forgetfulness of the correct rules had contributed to the regime becoming unduly onerous (Rousseau 1998:32; Lake' Baling 2002:84).
(15) On the relationship of the reform to Christianity among both Kayan and Kcnyah, through three stages culminating in the victory of Christianity, see more especially Metcalf (1977). In Indonesian Kalimantan, thanks partly to the complex relationship of the Indonesian state to Islam, possibly also because Islam has failed to appeal to the Ngaju as well as Christianity has contrived to do to upcountry groups in Sarawak, modernizing and self-defensive religious reform has achieved institutionalization as Hindu-Keharingan. On this rather separate subject, see Weinstock (1981), Ave (1982), Schiller (1986), Tsing (1993:273).
(16) Rousseau (1998:74) is particularly emphatic that, unlike the Iban model as presented by Jensen (1974:138), Kayan omens did not merely convey advice or warnings, but were distinctly causal (though on p. 73, n. 31, he notes that one subgroup, the Baluy Kayan, do not assume intentionality, nor see the omen animals as messengers of spirits). He also stresses that Dipuy was not involved in individual occurrences, only responsible for the existence of omens generally. We imagine that this may explain why Bungan could then declare the omens generally inapplicable for her adherents, as they switched allegiance to her.
(17) And this surmise is strengthened, Metcalf points out, by the early account of Bali Flaki in Hose and McDougall (1912 11:15), writing about the Kenyah. Or Hose and McDougall (1912 II:18) as cited by us in note II, above. Metcalf (1976:117) refers to such intervention-cure-causality as a "flaunting" of the correct rules, but from the discussion as a whole appears to mean "flouting."
(18) The reference to Dusun omen-birds as "'messengers of the spirits sent to warn or encourage men" in Bantong (1985:105) has to be acknowledged but this assertion from the Brunei Museum is not elaborated or vindicated by any research notes from the Dusun hinterland. It is tempting to wonder if in some way the literature on the Iban stimulated a hypothesis of similarity which the pressures of a bureaucratic career prevented from being followed up in the author's ancestral village.
(19) Among multiple reputed Maloh parallels with the Iban, King (1975:147) concludes with a reference to omen-seeking in the jungle by a tau pabeo. Specialists in omen-seeking are curiously missing from Rousseau (1998:68), or elsewhere in the book (he only lists some birds as "sought omens" as opposed to "spontaneous omens"); however, see Hose and McDougall (1912 i:16870) for a detailed account of the role of augural specialists in preparations for war in those days. The equivalent section for the Kenyah is Hose and journey rather than war expeditions). Metcalf (1976) gives considerable detail on the activity of the Berawan augurs in his time (revealing much affinity with the Kenyah of old).
(20) See, further, on the constitutional position, R. Kershaw (1998a). On the inroads of Islam, see E. M. Kershaw (2000, esp. Chapters. 11-12, pp. 191-206). This work also appears to be the only published source in book length on Brunei-Dusun religion at the present time.
(21) On linguistic trends, see E. M. Kershaw (1992); Martin (1995). The latter is also valuable in calculating population numbers.
(22) Temarok, Bernstein reports, was known to be practiced in only 10 villages in 1992, seemingly only 1/9 of his total tally of 91. We would not take issue with "10" as a round figure (and provided that each "village" is defined to include several hamlets and a considerable number of participating households), but Bemstein fails to mention the bringing of rice from far-flung villages for initiation by competent belian at their rituals. When one reads also that "many foods are required to be initiated" (we know only of rice, fruit and eggs--being "freed for consumption," as we would put it), one gains the impression of a program of strictly diurnal, and probably short-term, anthropological sorties to the outback. Local intelligence points to the role of indigenous bureaucratic "minders" in thus limiting access for the University of Kent. For more on this subject, see R. Kershaw (1998b:33-34, notes 11-14).
(23) See the fourth picture, and the commentary, in E. M. Kershaw and R. Kershaw (1998:14, 23) respectively, with our characterization, "choreographed culture." Not only the role of government sponsorship must be stressed in setting up these entertainments, but also that of the same indigenous bureaucratic personnel who play minder to foreign researchers (see previous note). In both ways, arguably, their intervention may be obliquely inhibiting to cultural maintenance.
(24) The timing of major rituals, invariably at weekends on the international calendar, not in line with lunar reckoning, was no coincidence. One would also meet men from Seria--Shell workers with musical ability--called in to play in the percussion (gandang) ensemble. But one area of cultural decline beyond rescue is the narration of folktales, as was noted with brief social analysis in E. M. Kershaw, ed. (1994:ix) and in E. M. Kershaw and R. Kershaw (1999:140).
(25) Or as the stylish phraseology of one Dusun intellectual put it, the "lawful occasions" which the omen system (at least as structured visually by his own grid) should enable "any Dusun, who follows the Kepercayaan lama," to engage in "in good heart" (Bantong 1985:107).
(26) In an area which transcends mere "mundane concerns," there is a role for specialist mediators but they are not augurs: rather, they are the belian when approached before (e.g., to request), or during, a temarok by supplicants seeking a cure for either a physical malady or mental affliction. The belian mediates the healing intervention of derato. The only role with some affinity to an augur is that of the dokun, who deals with the more "animist" kind of spirits.
(27) Cf. "The gods, in their omniscience, ensure that an augury is seen or heard only by those for whom it is intended" (Freeman 1960:80).
(28) On the matter of the apparently benign disposition of omen-bearers: some Dusuns have indeed begun to wonder if there isn't an element of protective concern, which in turn would imply a messenger role on behalf of some higher, benign authority. There does not seem to be any other reasonable explanation of supernatural solicitude, some muse.
(29) Some very minor deviations from the rule of non-manipulation will be mentioned below. Dokun means 'magician.'
(30) We take it that references to fishing have referred typically to river fishing, usually with fish-traps or nets which might already be in the water, only needing to be visited. However, in the 1930s crocodiles were still present in the rivers in some numbers: a distinct danger. But the upriver Dusuns (and there were always a few) who went "out to sea" certainly did not venture beyond the estuaries.
(31) Related intimately to the question of the reverence which we find to be lacking, one should expect to discover that omen-birds can be trapped and eaten. One very interesting and rational opinion (given by Pangan Runtop of Bukit Udal) was that when you eat the bird, you are not eating the omen, so of course you may eat it! He allowed that if, hypothetically, all omen-birds were slaughtered, then there would be no more omens, but we note how much in his thinking the birds themselves lacked any tangible power and personality. However, Timor Bandang (also of Bukit Udal), being he who described omen-birds as "the eyes of the Prophet," had come to view the eating of one of these creatures as improper, being perhaps in some sense sacrilegious.
(32) A linguistic point to be noted here is that while the normal meaning of rumo is 'friend,' in the context of augury it denotes one's rival or vis-a-vis. For further detail of the rules for overlapping omens, see under jiriot (tailorbird) in Appendix I.
(33) Namely, the death of a headhunting leader during a raid, which the rest of the war party took seriously enough to abandon the fight and flee. We mention this because it was included in Pangan Runtop's
wide-ranging review of the subject. In fact. the war-leader was a Kayan attacking Dusuns, not vice-versa, it was not Dusun pugnacity or martial skills that won the day, but the magic of a great Dusun leader, Orang Kaya Pemancha Saging (by causing the Kayan blowdarts to swing round in the air and return to strike the marksmen). As we shall point out below, generally augury is not relevant for headhunting, because the Dusuns were not a credible headhunting society.
(34) But as noted, strictly speaking, this is a matter of avoiding the event, not of changing the prediction, which is ineluctable except inasmuch as one's absence from the predicted event would vitiate a tragedy which was to involve oneself alone. A dangerous flood could not be averted but one's own death in that flood could be, by one's absence from the scene.
(35) We are aware that this assertion flies in the face of some Dusun intellectual proclivity in the construction of their tribal past (see Bantong 1985:109), comprising a grid which in the "Pursuit" section of six columns allocates column 5 to "war, etc." Admittedly, Bantong does not in his article refer explicitly to "headhunting," but the martial quality of his ancestors, even contemporaries, is more than implicit where, for instance, the tailorbird is said to be informing Dusuns that "one may go to war with confidence" if it calls from front left, on a low pitch (Bantong 1985:106). Yet there is an even more "exotic" feel to the assertion (likewise p. 106) that a Dusun should listen for bird calls and only then ask himself what activity he is currently engaged in or considering. We acknowledge that in a limited way, the tailorbird's calls may be read differently by activity, e.g., a cockfight as opposed to a journey, but one would first be conscious of, or would have started, the chosen activity and only then listen for relevant omens.
(36) A kukui is remembered as late as about 1947 one staged to restore "balance" after the upheavals, tear, and deprivation of the Japanese occupation. Owing to its dangerously irrational impact on Dusun listeners, "the British" reputedly banned even the playing of the rhythm. We imagine that this order was made at the time of the 1962 Rebellion, when possession of firearms was also banned. If such a ban still existed, it was breached by a gandang ensemble of old-timers in 1994, playing at Timor's house for the benefit of the more musical of the present two writers--his most privileged moment often years in Brunei. In principle three bars of the rhythm should be inserted at the climax of temarok buayo and temarok lanut (the crocodile and snake rituals, in which the head is severed and carried round the room).
(37) It was feared that such an inauspicious wedding would lead quickly to divorce, or that one of the partners might fall ill or die, or that their livelihood would not be guaranteed.
(38) See Rousseau (1998:72), quoting a British writer in the late 1880s and a Dutch scholar of the 1890s, both of whom knew of a year or years in which the Kayan had cancelled rice cultivation altogether because of adverse omens.
(39) Someone persisting with cultivation at his original, but inauspicious, site might certainly suffer personal misfortune, including injury or death, or loss of the rice crop to a pest.
(40) An example of behavior-switching with a different motive, not so much tinged with "common sense," is seen where a journey to visit someone who is sick is cancelled in view of a "bad" omen. Indeed it may be more prudent for the would-be visitor not to go, but not for fear of consequences for oneself: it is the sick person who may find his or her condition worsening if the visit takes place. On the other hand, the warning would be ignored if one were going as a curer (see the last sentence of the previous paragraph but one).
(41) In referring in this study to "elderly experts" on augury, we mean intelligent men whose long experience made them leading repositories of augural knowledge--as of much else. We found their reminiscences indispensable, but this does not mean that anyone in the community was formerly "appointed" to interpret omens for other individuals or the community.
(42) So this eliminates the great black woodpecker as an omen-bearer for any properly knowledgeable Dusun (cf. Kershaw 1998b:40-41, n. 32). The expression katab kayu ('noise on a tree') refers to any tapping or drumming.
(43) For the most likely species, see R. Kershaw (1998b:40-41, 55). But see an important new commentary in Appendix 3, below. Two other kinds of small birds were mentioned, tegiris and terukod, which tap in rapid succession though very softly, and hence are also grouped as teguru. Tegiris is mentioned more often than terukod; we suspect the referent to be the brown-capped woodpecker. Carved wooden woodpeckers in bright colors are met in temarok punggor ('hollow tree-trunk temarok') in which a tree trunk is represented--the woodpeckers being used as decoration thereon; they have no function.
(44) The idea that sounds heard when a bird is "going about its daily work" are not of augural interest was seen in the previous paragraph. In basic principle, all omens are conveyed by somewhat unusual or random manifestations of the bird's calls or behavior.
(45) Regrettably, R. Kershaw (1998b) is silent on the calls of the little spiderhunter, in spite of emphasizing sounds over species.
(46) Now that a wedding party is most likely to proceed by car, a "bad" eagle omen is highly unlikely to be noticed, even though the view of the sky is more open these days. By the by, a divergent opinion on the augurally relevant raptor has been recorded by the Brunei Museum, but this is contested by R. Kershaw (1998b:40, n. 30). For one thing, the Brahminy kite is not much given to wheeling high in the sky. (In fact Bernard Sellato in a personal communication has expressed a dissenting view on this, having been told by Kenyah that this bird--their pelaki--does circle above their heads. We would certainly wish to stress that the Brunei-Dusuns do not exclude the Brahminy kite from their concept of kaniu, which embraces at least six nameable species of raptor; among these the crested serpent-eagle--the local chicken thief-- is clearly the one known as kaniu kasimbit, while kanui alap-alap, which takes chicks from underneath houses, could well be the crested goshawk. N.B. Brunei Dusuns only regard the larger raptors as omenbearers.)
(47) It seems to symbolize goodness, at least if heard in the morning. This bird was unfortunately omitted from R. Kershaw (1998b).
(48) For the folktale about its mournful pleas (its lakang) fur fruit, see E. M. Kershaw, ed.(1994:156-61)--with the deplorable misnaming of the species at the time of going to press with that collection, which has been registered, with an excuse, in R. Kershaw (1998b:55-56). (See also Appendix 3, below.) The Dusun name--and render--its "'imploring" call as numbui bua, 'to implore for fruit'; R. Kershaw (1998b:56) renders it "pee-pee-pee-poo."
(49) Actually, like the previous species, it is said to be 'pleading' (lakang)--in its case, not for the fruit to come but for the heat to abate.
(50) In former years, the good news could include an increase in the price of rubber.
(51) Another name which seems to lead to the crestless fireback is bulun. Conceivably, such "confusions" arise because Dusuns give a different name to the female of a species, perhaps not realizing that birds of distinctly different appearance are of the same species. In this instance we have some reason to think that telibou is the female, bulun the male. Not only the crimson sunbird but also the nightjar and coucal, as well as the crestless fireback failed to find a place in R. Kershaw (1998b).
(52) It is not surprising that deep unease is engendered by the bugang. All nocturnal calls close to the house (or even more, under the house) can excite it. We ourselves have found the frogmouth eerie enough even in daylight, not only because of the spooky quality of its wheezes and whistles, but because they are ventriloquial (or there may be two birds involved). This ghostly effect is magnified at night, when the calls might well seem to be coming from beneath the house. See also, at greater length, R. Kershaw (1998b:42, n. 35; 56). There are references to an even more magical manifestation of the bugang in some Sabah folktales: see E. M. Kershaw and R. Kershaw (2006:177).
(53) Namely, snapping at you (bagogol) on your right is inauspicious, on your left auspicious.
(54) If met, or seen following your boat, on your right. (This is auspicious.)
(55) Viz., pointing its open jaws at you: if you are on your way to a fight, this should be taken as a warning that your opponent will "devour" you. As a peddler, or just paddling along, one should take a threatening posture by a crocodile as a warning of dangers approaching.
(56) If a mousedeer were seen running across the area slashed for rice-sowing, it was inauspicious enough to make one move to another site--for some informants but not all. If one was looking for wood and tree bark for a house, and a mousedeer cut across ahead of one, the search shold be abandoned for the day.
(57) A python seen lying in the rice field with its head high above the ground indicates the height to which the rice stems will grow. Correspondingly, if its head is resting on the ground, this means that the ears of the rice will be empty of grain and the stems pushed over by the wind.
(58) If seen running out of an area to be sown, this was regarded as a sign of either a bad harvest to come, or of problems at home, either now or at a later date (being thus trouble-ridden, one is said to be in a state of lilii, i.e., 'tarsiered,' as it were--from the Dusun name of the animal).
(59) People would push it away, if possible before it made a noise. Its sound was taken as an intimation of something unpleasant, but nothing more precise than that. Another insect given mild significance is the klabang (butterfly), which if it flies past the verdandah or into the house announces an imminent visit.
(60) If it spoke just as you were getting up to leave the house for a journey, you sat down again--but only until the call had finished. However, if you were of very nervous disposition, you might well abandon a journey if three calls were heard in succession. Note also the special case of the very rare white gecko; if and when a specimen is seen climbing up into a house, it must be chased off or killed if possible, because it is believed to be the food of thunder, which will follow its prey and create an inauspicious bang over one's house (see following paragraph).
(61) The time in question was in the early hours, when the rainbow would often be seen as double. The implement could be an axe, and invariably these wounds were self-inflicted, by accident.
(62) See R. Kershaw (1998b:44-50) for the four Dusun constellations in question. An omen function is present, at best, where action is postponed for a day because a star is flickering. This complex subject E.M.K. hopes to discuss in a future article.
(63) Today oil lamps have superseded the salong. Another "unexplained event" which bodes well is the reliably increased volume of rice poured back into the sacks on the morning after every "crocodile temarok"! See E. M. Kershaw (2000:163).
(64) If the chicken in question is a cockerel, he can later be used in cockfights, as he is regarded as likely to win, be fierce, not get injured, etc. The belian who "owns" the said cockerel as manok belian ('chicken of the belian') must be informed of the intention to use him as a fighting-bird. Neither a cockerel nor a hen used in this ritual can be slaughtered and eaten. For a more detailed
(65) Some of the difficulties of conceptualization and comprehension of traditional behavior and belief, which native researchers experience after being long removed from rural society, or the low valuation which they place on accurate research, are also in their way symptomatic of the inroads of urbanization and one of its concomitants, "career pressures." By way of sequel to note 35, it is notable that none of the challenging assertions mentioned there is elaborated upon in a more substantial piece of work (Bantong 1993). The latter study not only neglects ethnic history but, almost entirely, the subject of augury too--apart from a list of omen-birds which makes good the earlier omission of the all-important medium-sized woodpeckers, as noted in R. Kershaw (1998b:42). (The importance of woodpeckers was indicated above, but will be expounded in detail in Appendix 1.) As for the theme of "privileged communication," now redundant, another manifestation of it may be explored in animal folktales (E. M. Kershaw and R. Kershaw 2006).
(66) The reason for the large number of Berawan entries is that Metcalf (1976) is assiduous in listing the "lesser omen birds" of that group, but generally no distinction is made, below, between "principal" and "lesser" birds where any author has made such a distinction. The English names of a few Borneo birds have undergone revision since the publication of Smythies (1960): where relevant, the name used below reflects the usage in Francis (1984).
(67) Galvin (1972) lists both an "eagle" (in Kenyah, pelaki) and a "hawk" (in Kenyah, kong). Nothing more specific is given in English.
(68) But see R. Kershaw (1998b:40, n 30) on Dusun ambivalence as to whether the eagle was traditionally relevant, at least at the start of a journey. See further, note 46, above.
(69) A lesser augural bird, according to King (1975).
(70) As discussed earlier, although this bird (lang to the Iban) is regarded as the physical manifestation of the chief spirit and father of augury, Singalang Burong, he does not in fact often play the part of an omen-bearer. However, he has the responsibility fur making known the will of the gods, sending his messengers (the other omen birds) for this purpose. Banks (1983:104) notes him as an "additional" bird of augury.
(71) While this bird was observed by all the Baluy Kayan communities according to Rousseau, not every single bird on his list of eight for the Kayan was common to all. Richards (1972:76) describes this bird as a "principal" bird of augury for the Kayan.
(72) Added as a Kenyah bird on the authority of Freeman (1960:79, n. 13). Galvin (1972) does not mention it but Banks (1983:104) does--as an "additional" bird of augury for them, and so does Richards (1972:76).
(73) Not strictly an omen-bird at all, but a tiresome nocturnal caller which has tended to worry Dusuns.
(74) This bird was listed in R. Kershaw (1998b;41) but under reservation, as it is not technically an omen-bearer, being unconcerned with the outcome or vagaries of a human enterprise. However, in announcing the fruiting season it does play a predictive role: if it failed to call, there would very definitely be no fruit.
(75) Not strictly an omen-bird at all, but believed to give forewarning of some impending "news."
(76) See R. Kershaw (1998b:41). This bird was listed in that article under reservation because it does not foretell an event: rather, as noted in Section 3, above, it attracts harm into its vicinity. But this being so, one may certainly avoid the harm by scaring the bird away, as well as leaving the vicinity (i.e., by avoidance).
(77) Not strictly an omen-bird, but an announcer of a weather event, the end of a heat wave.
(78) But at only one of three Berawan locations named by Metcalf (1976:100) is each of these five trogons (Diard's, Whitehead's, scarlet-rumped, orange-breasted, cinnamon-rumped) given the same indigenous name.
(79) Called beragai by the Iban.
(80) It was only slightly known to Dusuns of Ukong, being essentially a jungle bird, infrequently met (R. Kershaw 1998b:39--40, n. 29).
(81) Named both papau and senabong according to its different cries. Richards (1972:65) and Sandin (1977:3) give kalabu as an alternative name for papau.
(82) But Galvin (1972:54) attributes some improbable plumage to this bird, raising a certain doubt about its identification.
(83) The Iban name is embuas.
(84) Rousseau lists one bird which he could not identify, named kase. As the Berawan call the banded kingfisher (but also the forest or ruddy kingfisher) ase, ache or mate, it is tempting to surmise that the bird in question is this kingfisher. And in fact, the text by Lake' Baling (2002:65) (in Rousseau's translation) itself mentions the banded kingfisher.
(85) Named at three Berawan longhouses as if a single species with the next on our list: See the intricate table provided by Metcalf (1976:100).
(86) The claim in R. Kershaw (1998b:39, n. 28) that this species is only seen as an omen-bearer in eastern Sabah was unfortunately made before the author was aware of Metcalf (1976) and his observations on the upper Baram.
(87) The fifth bird on the list in Shim (1993). Confusingly, he gives it the scientific name of a different species.
(88) The rhinoceros hornbill, a lesser augural bird, according to King.
(89) Richards (1972:75-79) records that some inlbrmants mentioned both the helmeted and the rhinoceros as possible omen-bearers. Hose and McDougall (1912, 11:59) mention one hornbill as a minor omen-bearer, using a now superseded scientific name (conceivably it refers to the white-crested).
(90) Named both ketupong and kikih according to different cries; the latter is given by Freeman (1960:83), Richards (1972:64), Sandin (1977:3), and Sather (2006:774), but not by Jensen (1974). In addition, Sandin (1977:3) and Sather (2006:774) give jaloh as an alternative to kikih.
(91) In R. Kershaw (1998b:40), although indeed the piculets belong to the larger woodpecker family, the word "woodpeckers" alongside species II at the top of that page should have headed the next two boxes, for birds 12 and 13.
(92) Galvin (1972:57) includes in a list of nine omen-birds supplied by the headman of Long Ikang, a bird which is named selatok in Kenyah but which Galvin nowhere identifies with an English name or other indication. In the absence of a woodpecker among the other eight, and with a Kenyah name not distant from the Malay word for woodpecker, pelatok, one might very speculatively wonder whether the Kenyah, like the Brunei Dusun, have affixed a meaning to woodpecker drumming.
(93) The lbans note two calls of this species, which cause it to be called either pangkas or kutok.
(94) The sixth bird on the Shim (1993) list is not named, but with a call said to be interpreted much as the maroon woodpecker, R.K. wonders if it is not the maroon woodpecker in another guise.
(95) Rousseau (1998:70) understands that this bird was not a major omen.
(96) This species is more or less conflated with the next on our list at the two Berawan locations where it is observed: see the intricate table in Metcalf (1976:100).
(97) This species is apparently conflated with the next on our list at the Berawan location where both are observed (see again Metcalf (1976: 100).
(98) Like the Indian cuckoo and paradise flycatcher in this list, the broadbill was originally entered for the Brunei-Dusuns (see R. Kershaw 1998b:42) under reservation, because what it foretells or attracts is not an event that can be permitted or inhibited by participation/avoidance respectively. The coming event in this case is rainfall.
(99) Iban name: nendak.
(100) Shim thinks the tit-babbler known as an omen-bird by his group (the seventh on his list), may be the fluffy-backed tit-babbler, but from his description of its call (which R.K. knows because the bird is very common at Sukang in Belait district), there is reason to suspect the striped.
(101) R. Kershaw (1998b:39) listed this bird among the other omens but with strong reservation and mainly because it appears in Bantong (1985). The reservation was due to the fact that a sighting of the male of the species foretells a death, not a nefarious event that can be avoided by a change of plan as in normal responses to an omen. However, as was noted in Section 3, above, one might well retrace one's steps on a journey, fearing that the death in question is scheduled to occur in one's own home during one's absence. Unfortunately the biological symbol for "male" was omitted from box 3 on the 1998 list, though "male" is specified in n. 27, below it.
(102) Previously called--and so named by Metcalf--the hair-crested drongo. But identification is somewhat clouded by the fact that Metcalf uses the scientific name for the bronzed drongo.
(103) Called bejampong by the Iban.
(104) As with the reputed orange-breasted trogon, Galvin (1972:54) attributes some improbable plumage to this bird.
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|Title Annotation:||RESEARCH NOTES|
|Author:||Kershaw, Maria Eva; Kershaw, Roger|
|Publication:||Borneo Research Bulletin|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2007|
|Previous Article:||Negara Brunei Darussalam: obituary 2007.|
|Next Article:||Abu Bakar's rebellion, 1879 (1).|
|Healing flora of the Brunei Dusun. (Research Notes).|
|Traditional medicinal plants of the Dusun Tobilung of Kampong Toburon, Kudat, Sabah, Malaysia.|
|Notes from the editor.|