CHAPTER XIII

DAYAK CURE OF DISEASE - EVIL SPIRITS AND GOOD - ANIMISM - BLIANS, THE PRIEST-DOCTORS - THE FEAST OF RUBBER-GATHERERS - WEDDINGS - IN PRIMITIVE SURROUNDINGS

A day or two later the kapala, evidently solicitous about our comfort, asked permission to perform for three consecutive nights certain rites for the purpose of curing several sick persons. The reason for his request was that they might be noisy and prove disturbing to our rest. The ceremonies consisted in singing and beating drums for three hours, in order to attract good spirits and drive away the evil ones that had caused the illness. One of the patients, who had malaria, told me later that he had been cured by the nightly service, which had cost him forty florins to the doctor.

Among the aborigines of Borneo whom I visited, with the possible exception of the Punan nomads, the belief in evil spirits and in good ones that counteract them, both called antoh, is universal, and to some extent has been adopted by the Malays. Though various tribes have their own designations (in the Duhoi (Ot-Danum) untu; Katingan, talum; Kapuas, telun; Kahayan, kambae), still the name antoh is recognised throughout Dutch Borneo. Apprehension of evil being predominant in human minds, the word is enough to cause a shudder even to some Malays. There are many kinds of both evil and good antohs; some are male, some female, and they are invisible, like the wind, but have power to manifest themselves when they desire to do so. Though sometimes appearing as an animal or bird, an antoh usually assumes the shape of a man, though much larger than an ordinary human being. Caves in the mountains are favourite haunts of evil antohs. In the great rivers, like the Barito and the Katingan, are many of huge size, larger than those in the mountains. Trees, animals, and even all lifeless objects, are possessed by antohs good or bad. According to the Katingans the sun is a benevolent masculine antoh which sleeps at night. The moon is a feminine antoh, also beneficent. Stars are the children of the sun and moon - some good, some bad.

To drive away malevolent antohs and attract benignant ones is the problem in the life philosophy of the Dayaks. The evil ones not only make him ill and cause his death, but they are at the bottom of all troubles in life. In order to attract the good ones sacrifices are made of a fowl, a pig, a water-buffalo, or, formerly, a slave. Hens' eggs may also be proffered, but usually as adjuncts to the sacrifice of an animal. If a child is ill the Katingan makes a vow that he will give Antoh from three to seven eggs or more if the child becomes well. If it fails to recover the offering is not made.

The blood is the more precious part, which the Bahau of the Mahakam, and other tribes, offer plain as well as mixed with uncooked rice. The people eat the meat themselves, but some of it is offered to the well-disposed antoh and to the other one as well, for the Dayaks are determined to leave no stone unturned in their purpose of defeating the latter. The Duhoi (Ot-Danums) told me: "When fowl or babi are sacrificed we never forget to throw the blood and rice mixture toward the sun, moon, and 'three of the planets.'" With the Katingans the blian (priest-doctor) always drinks a little of the blood when an animal is sacrificed.

Singing to the accompaniment of drums, gongs, or the blian's shield, and dancing to the sound of drums or gongs, are further inducements brought to bear on the friendly antohs, which are attracted thereby. According to the belief which prevails in their primitive minds, the music and dancing also have a deterrent effect upon the malicious ones. Both evil and good antohs are believed to congregate on such occasions, but the dancing and music have a terrifying effect on the former, while on the latter they act as an incentive to come nearer and take possession of the performers or of the beneficiary of the function by entering through the top of the head. A primitive jews'-harp, universally found among the tribes, is played to frighten away antohs, and so is the flute.

A kindly antoh may enter a man and become his guardian spirit, to whom he occasionally offers food, but it never remains long because that would make the man insane. One must not step over a person, because a benevolent antoh that may be in possession is liable to be frightened away, say the Katingans and other Dayaks. In dancing with masks, which is much practised on the Mahakam, the idea is that the antoh of the animal represented by the mask enters the dancer through the top of his head.

The Penihings and Long-Glats of the Mahakam have an interesting belief in the existence of a friendly antoh which reminded me of the superstition of the "Nokken" in the rivers of Norway. It lives in rivers, is very rarely beheld by mortals, and the one who sees it becomes rich beyond dreams of avarice. The Long-Glats call it sangiang, a survival of Hindu influence. An old man in Long Tujo is reported to have seen this antoh, and according to him it had the appearance of a woman sitting underneath the water. No doubt other tribes have the same belief.