The Penihings still live in dread of the head-hunting raids of the Ibans of Sarawak, and the probability of such attacks no doubt caused the recent establishment of a garrison at Long Kai. The Long-Glats on the Merasi, a northern tributary to the Mahakam, are also constantly on guard against the Ibans. Until lately these inveterate head-hunters would cross the mountains, make prahus, then travel down the Upper Mahakam, and commit serious depredations among the kampongs, killing whomsoever they could, the others fleeing to the mountains. As one Penihing chief expressed it to me: "The river was full of their prahus from the Kasao River to Long Blu." Their last visit was in 1912, when the Bukats reported that a number of Ibans had arrived at the headwaters of the river, but the raid did not materialise, and they retired without making prahus. These raids have naturally brought about much intermingling of the tribes on the Mahakam River, and sometimes three or more may be found living in one kampong.

About twenty years ago there was much fighting in these remote parts of Borneo among Penihings, Saputans, Penjabongs, and Bukats, each tribe making head-hunting raids into the dominions of another, and all being constantly exposed to the fury of the Ibans from the north. Head-hunting raids may include assaults on kampongs, but very often they are cowardly attacks on small groups of unsuspecting people, men, women, and children. The heads thus secured appear to be as highly valued as those acquired under more heroic conditions. The fact is also noteworthy that the heads of Malays are appreciated, but, with few exceptions, not those of white people. Several times I heard of Malay rattan or rubber gatherers who had been disposed of in that way. The head is severed by one stroke.

As a typical case of head-hunting I give the following description of a raid which, twelve years previous to my visit, was made by ten Bukats upon a small party of Saputans who were on a babi hunt. Among the Penyahbongs, Saputans, Punans, and Penihings a woman may accompany her husband or another man on the chase, carry a spear, and assist in killing pig or deer. Bear she does not tackle, but, as my informant said, "even all men do not like to do that." She also carries her own parang, with which she may kill small pigs and cut down obstacles in her path. The hunting-party, one man and three women, had been successful. The babi had been killed with spears and, in accordance with custom, the head had been cut off with a parang. The carcass had been cut up and the three women carried the meat in the coarse-meshed rattan bags on their backs, while the man bore the head on his shoulder, all homeward bound, when the Bukats attacked them. Only one woman escaped.

The slayers hurried off with the three heads, being afraid of the people of the kampong which was not far away. As usual the heads were tied by the hair to the handle of the shield, and were thus carried to the place where the rattan bags had been left, inside of which they were then placed.

After taking heads the men are on the run for two or three days, travelling at night with torches, and in the evening they make a big fire to dry the heads. The brains, because of the weight, may have been taken out the first evening; this is done through the foramen, and a hole is made with a spear point in the top of the skull. The hair has first been cut off and taken care of, to be tied as ornaments to shields or plaited round the handle of the sword. The Katingans, however, throw away the hair with the flesh. Apprehensive of pursuit, they may dry the head but a little while each night, grass being tied round it when carried. Sometimes damar is used to dry the flesh and the eyes.

The last night out the head-hunters always sleep near their kampong, and early next morning, while it is still dark, they come singing. The people of the kampong waken, array themselves in their best finery, and go to meet them, the women wearing their newest skirts and bringing pieces of nice cloth to present to the conquerors. The man who cut the head carries it suspended from his neck until it is taken from him by a woman who gives him the cloth to wear instead, possibly as a badge of heroism. It makes no difference whether this service is performed by his wife, an unmarried woman, or another man's wife. The singing ceases and all proceed to the kampong, to the house of the kapala, where the heads are hung from the beam at the head of the ladder, and the cloths which were bestowed upon the victors are returned to the women. The heads are left hanging, while for the festivities connected with their arrival a hut, called mangosang, is constructed, consisting of an airy shelter made of two rows of bamboo stalks supported against each other, and profusely adorned with the inevitable wood shavings.

The head-hunters, who must take their food apart from their associates and in the presence of the heads, now bring water from the river to boil rice, in bamboo, outside on the gallery. When the cooking is finished the heads are brought to take part in the meal, being hung near the place where the men are to eat and about half a metre above the floor, to be out of reach of dogs. A pinch of rice is put into the hole at the top of the skull and the head is addressed in the following words: "Eat this rice first. Don't be angry. Take care of me. Make this body of mine well." During the period of restrictions imposed on the hunters the heads remain at the same place, sharing the meals as described.

For twelve days the hunters do no work and refrain from eating meat, vegetables, fish, salt, and red pepper, rice being the only permissible food. They are obliged to take their food on the gallery, and those who have never been on such expeditions before must also sleep there during that time. A man who has taken part three or more times may join his wife, but he must take his meals on the gallery. When twelve days have passed no more food is given to the heads, which are hung on the beam again, three to five being placed together in a rattan basket, with leaves around them. At the triennial festival, tasa, blood of pig or fowl mixed with uncooked rice, is offered to the heads.

Usually the head-hunting raids were, and are still to a limited extent, carried far away into distant regions and may occupy several months. The Saputans, who were devotees to the custom, would go as far as the river Melawi in the southwest to Sarawak in the north, as well as to the Murung or Upper Barito River in the east. Sometimes only two to five men would go, but usually there were about ten - an equal number remaining behind in the kampong. Controleur W.J. Michielsen, quoted before, relates an instance of a Dayak from Serayan, whose daughter had been killed by a Katingan head-hunter, who pursued the marauders to their homes, and, on the occasion of the festivities incident to the return of the members of the raid, he cut the head from the murderer of his child while the celebration was in progress. His action was so sudden that they were totally unprepared, and no attempt was made to prevent his escape with the head.

In times gone by when a Saputan man, woman, or child died it was the custom for a member of the family to go forth to look for a head. In the case of an ordinary person one was deemed sufficient, but for a chief five to ten were necessary. When taking a head a cut was made in the slain man's chest with a parang; into the wound the raiders then put their forefingers and sucked the blood from them.

Each head-hunter carried rice in a rattan basket, but he depended for food mainly on sago-palms and wild animals that were killed. After such an expedition has been determined upon, the preparations may occupy a year or even longer, but usually about three months. When all is ready for a start, a delay of from one to four days may be caused by unfavourable interference of an omen bird. Should a bird chance to repeat the omen when another start is made, the party must return to the kampong and wait a long time. The Dayaks are very much guided in their actions by omens taken not only from birds but also from incidents, and merely to hear a certain bird is sufficient reason to change all plans.

When leaving their kampong to take part in an expedition to New Guinea the Penihings heard the cry of a bird called tarratjan, and requested the lieutenant in charge to wait four days. He replied, naturally, that the Company (government) does not employ birds in making decisions, and while the Dayaks offered no further objection they declared to him that one of them would surely die. According to my informant it so happened that before arriving at the island one man died. If at such a time a large tree should be seen falling, he said, then they would like to give up the trip to New Guinea entirely, but being afraid of the Company they go, notwithstanding the warning.

If a head-hunting party sees a large tree fall, the expedition is abandoned, and no young men who took part can ever join another venture of the same kind. Old and experienced men, after the lapse of a year, may resume operations. In case of meeting a centipede a head-hunting expedition must return immediately to the kampong, and for four years no such enterprise may be undertaken.

The purposes of head-hunting are manifold. The slain man is believed to change into a servant and assistant in the next life. When a chief dies it becomes an essential duty to provide him with heads, which are deposited on his grave as sacrifices, and the souls of which serve him in the next life. Heads taken for the benefit of kampong people are hung in the house of the kapala to counteract misfortune and to confer all manner of benefits. An important point is that the presence of the heads from other tribes, or rather of the souls residing in them, compels evil antohs to depart. A kampong thus becomes purified, free from disease. The killing of a fowl is not sufficient to accomplish this; that of a pig helps a little, a water-buffalo more, but to kill a man and bring the head makes the kampong completely clean.

With the Katingans a head hanging in the house is considered a far better guardian than the wooden figures called kapatongs, which play an important part in the life of that tribe. Any fear of resentment on the part of the liao (departed soul) residing in the head is precluded by their belief that the Katingan antoh gave him the order to watch.

"If no heads are brought in there will be much illness, poor harvest, little fruit, fish will not come up the river as far as our kampong, and the dogs will not care to pursue pigs," I was told by a Penihing who had taken part in a head-hunt and served his sentence in Soerabaia. "But are not people angry at losing their heads?" I asked him. "No," he answered, "we give the heads food on their arrival and every month afterward, and make fire every evening to keep them warm. If they feel cold, then they get angry." The man who has taken a head is considered a hero by the women, and if unmarried is certain to secure a desirable wife, but it is erroneous to assert that the taking of a head was or is a necessary condition to marriage.

The government of the Dutch Indies, with energy and success, is eradicating the evil head-hunting custom. Military expeditions involving great expense from time to time are sent into remote regions to capture a handful of culprits. By exercising tact it is not difficult finally to locate the malefactors, and indeed the tribe may deliver them. It must be remembered that the Dayaks themselves have no idea that there is anything wrong in taking heads, and the government very wisely does not impose the death penalty, but the transgressor is taken to Soerabaia, on Java, to undergo some years of hard labour - from four to six, I understand. To "go to Soerabaia" is extremely distasteful to the natives, and has proved a most effective deterrent. On account of their forced stay at this remote island city such Dayaks learn to speak Malay and several times I have employed them. They are usually among the best men of the kampong, resourceful, reliable, and intelligent, and may serve also as interpreters.

In his report on a journey to the Katingans in 1909 Captain J.J.M. Hageman says:

"By nature the Dayak is a good-tempered man. The head-hunting should not be charged against him as a dastardly deed; for him it is an adat. In the second place, he possesses very good traits of character, as evidenced by his hospitality and generosity. Our soldiers, some sixty in number, obtained a meal immediately in every kampong. When a Dayak goes on a journey in a friendly region he may be sure of receiving shelter and food in every house.

"They are distrustful of foreigners, but if he has gained their confidence they give assistance freely in every respect. Loving their liberty in a high degree they prefer not to be ordered. The cowardly manner in which they cut heads is no criterion of their courage."

It would not be in accordance with facts to suppose that head-hunting has altogether been eliminated in Borneo. It is too closely identified with the religious life of the natives, but in time a substitute probably will be found, just as the sacrifice of the water-buffalo supplanted that of slaves. The most recent case that came to my notice on the Mahakam was a Penihing raid from Long Tjehan to the Upper Barito five years previously, in which four Murung heads were taken.

It is extraordinary that such a revolting habit is practised in a race the ethics of which otherwise might serve as a model for many so-called civilised communities, these natives being free to an unusual degree from the fault of appropriating what belongs to others and from untruthfulness. The fact that the Dayaks are amiable in disposition and inclined to timidity renders this phase of their character still more inexplicable. The inevitable conclusion is that they are driven to this outrage by religious influences and lose their self-control. As of related interest I here note what Doctor J.M. Elshout, who had recently returned from Apo Kayan, communicated to me. He had spent three years at the garrison of Long Nawang among the fine Kenyahs and spoke the language. "As soon as one enters upon the subject of taking heads one no longer knows the Kenyah. Of his mild and pacific disposition little or nothing remains. Unbounded ferocity and wantonness, treachery and faithlessness, play a very great part; of courage, as we understand the meaning of the word, there is seldom a trace. It is a victory over the brua (soul) of the man who lost his head, and the slayer's own brua becomes stronger thereby. If opportunity is given they will take heads even if they are on a commercial trip. Outsiders, even if they have been staying a long time in the kampong, run a risk of losing their heads."