CHAPTER XXXIII

KASUNGAN - THE WEALTH OF THE DAYAKS - ANIMISM - GUARDIANS OF THE DEAD - HUGE SERPENTS - CROCODILES - GOVERNMENT OF DAYS GONE BY - KATINGAN CUSTOMS AND BELIEFS

Next day we arrived at Kasungan, where we were offered quarters in a large room in the "onder's" house. There was no news of our steamer, the Selatan, and I remained about a week. The "onder," a Kahayan who had been here twenty-five years, had the intelligence and reliability that seems characteristic of the Dayaks of the Kahayan and Kapuas Rivers, and, as a matter of course, possessed extensive knowledge of the Katingan. He had lately been converted to Christianity. The kampong was quite large, and although it has been subject to the influence of Malay traders a long time and quite recently to that of a missionary, still the natives offered considerable of interest. It is only eight years since the communal house obtained. Before some of the houses stand grotesque kapatongs, and the majority of the population lives in the atmosphere of the long ago. I was still able to buy ethnological articles and implements which are becoming increasingly difficult to secure.

On entering a house the salutation is, Akko domo (I (akko) arrive). To this is answered, Munduk (Sit down). On leaving the visitor says, Akko buhao (I am going). To which is responded, Come again. On my way to visit a prominent Katingan I passed beneath a few cocoanut trees growing in front of the house, as is the custom, while a gentle breeze played with the stately leaves. "Better get away from there," my native guide suddenly said; "a cocoanut may fall," and we had scarcely arrived inside the house before one fell to the ground with a resounding thump half a metre from where I had been standing. Eighteen years previously a Katingan had been killed in this way as he descended the ladder. Eleven years later another was carrying his child on his back when a cocoanut of small size hit and killed the little one.

The man whose house I visited was rich, according to Dayak standard, not in money, but in certain wares that to him are of equal or greater value. Besides thirty gongs, rows of fine old valuable jars stood along the walls of his room. There are several varieties of these blangas, some of which are many hundred years old and come from China or Siam. This man possessed five of the expensive kind, estimated by the "onder" at a value of six thousand florins each. He consented to have one of the ordinary kind, called gutshi, taken outside to be photographed; to remove the real blanga, he said, would necessitate the sacrifice of a fowl. To the casual observer no great difference between them is apparent, their worth being enhanced by age. In 1880 Controleur Michielsen saw thirty blangas in one house on the Upper Katingan, among them several that in his estimation were priceless. Over them hung forty gongs, of which the biggest, unquestionably, had a diameter of one metre. Without exaggeration it represented, he says, a value of f. 15,000, and he was informed that the most valuable blangas were buried in the wilds at places known only to the owner. No European had been there since Schwaner, over thirty years previously, passed the river.

In front of another house was a group of very old-looking stones which are considered to be alive, though such is not the belief with reference to all stones, information in that regard being derived from dreams. Those on view here are regarded as slaves (or soldiers) of a raja, who is represented by a small kapatong which presides in a diminutive, half-tumbled-down house, and who is possessed by a good antoh that may appear in human shape at night. When the people of the kampong need rice or have any other wish, a fowl or pig is killed; the blood is smeared on the raja and on the slaves, and some of the meat is deposited in a jar standing next to him. When advised of what is wanted the raja gives the slaves orders to see that the people are supplied.

At each side of the base of a ladder, a little further on, stood a post with a carving of a tiger-cat grasping a human head and guarding the entrance. They are a protection to the owner of the house against evil antohs; it is as if they were saying: "Keep away, antoh! You see I slew a man, so you know what will happen to you!"

The bones of dead persons were kept at the back of at least one dwelling, inside the appropriate small house provided for the purpose, and some curious kapatongs of large size were to be seen, some of which had guarded the dead for more than a hundred years. One has the head of a good antoh, showing big corner teeth and out-hanging tongue, as he watches that no bad antohs come to injure the dead man's soul.

A woman carrying a betel box is believed to watch well because when chewing betel one does not sleep; but in her case there must always be a male kapatong near by, for a woman alone is not sufficient protection. Betel makes the mouth and lips beautiful in the estimation of the natives, therefore many kapatongs are seen with betel box in hand.

A very extraordinary guardian of the dead is a loving pair, the man's arm placed affectionately over the shoulder of his companion. Lovers do not sleep, hence they are good at watching, reasons the Dayak.