22 June 2010

...and another dispute judgement: mongoi tolop

If you thought mitugi is horrifying, there's another one that could force a guilty party to admit that they are guilty even before the judgement is begun. This one is called mongoi tolop literally "go dunk (in the river)". (oh well, actually it's hard to tell which one is more scary- dipping your hands in boiling water, or being under the water for a long time!)

The disputing parties are taken to a river- nowadays there are hardly any rivers that are deep enough for this purpose, at least in Bundu Tuhan area, I think, but before, there were. As in mitugi the momolian started the rite with a long, thorough chant, asking mother nature to reveal the truth. Then the two disputing parties were asked to dunk; head under water naturally. It won't be made easy for them; all the villagers would be by the river bank, eagerly waiting to see who's the guilty party (Naturally that would give them something juicy to talk about till another exciting event happened). The dunk was not timed but an elderly aunt said it was quite long. The guilty party would be opusakan "suffocated" even to the extent of almost drowning. But the innocent party would come out of the water like a hero- no shortness of breath at all.

The funniest thing ever when an elderly person recount this kind of story to you is that they mention names, the person who once went through it, suffered the embarrasment of being opusakan, and, ..err..., even their descendents, excitedly at that. I said to myself; "thank god i don't know these people". Would have been awkward if I did because I'd be so tempted to go and ask them the details of the event...

13 June 2010

Mitugi: a traditional judgement

Traditionally, no Dusun ever needed a judge to fight for their case. The truth was revealed in a ceremony called mitugi. The two parties in need of judgement will be judged using a pot of boiling water in front of the villagers.

A momolian "shaman" would start the ritual by boiling a pot of water. Then she (a shaman was normally a she) would chant over the water to reveal the truth. When the water boiled, the two disputing parties would be called over to dip their hands in the water.

Those who have once witnessed the ceremony testify that one of the parties would end up with a scald, apparently the guilty party. The other one would come out unscathed.

I wonder how did that happen...An elderly aunt said it's because everybody believed in that kind of judgement. And because the momolian had done a thorough chant asking the nature to cooperate, to reveal the truth to save the innocent party. The energy was purified, sort of. Thus, the truth was revealed that way.

If a mitugi were to be conducted nowadays, I wonder if anyone would ever survive it at all :-)

04 June 2010

Separation Ritual (Death Ritual)

Once upon a time, the Dusuns conducted a separation ritual for a widow. I sat with an elderly aunt-in-law and listened to her fascinating recount of the ritual. This is her point of view:

"Now you would think that it is because of sadness that a widow turns mentally unstable. But we used to think that it was because the separation ritual wasn't conducted properly, thus the spirit of the spouse kept coming back to her. To us, the living and the dead cannot mix. That would bring harms- in the form of illnesses. That is why it is very important to have this ritual conducted immediately after the burial."

The dead was buried as soon as all the family members were gathered. If it was inevitable that the family had to wait for any family members who came from a distance, a wake would be held. Somebody had to stay awake near the coffin the whole night long. They took turn to sleep. No music was allowed. The only sound allowed was an incessant gong beat for a few minutes, immediately after the person died, to announce the death to all the villagers.

The family of the dead had to provide meals for the visitors. If the family was well-off, they would slaughter a buffalo. Otherwise, they would just slaughter chickens. The meal provision lasted till after the burial.

When the dead had been buried, the separation ritual for the widow would be done. A momolian (bobolian, bobohizan) "wise woman"/"shaman" would perform the ritual. (Unfortunately, the aunt had so much to tell me we didn't have the time to go through the step-by-step of the ritual). She would command the spirit of the spouse to stay in his new world, and not come home to their spouse anymore, for death separated them, and the bond they once had was severed. After the ritual, the spouse was expected to go on living a normal life.

The mourning period was three days. For three days, none of the family members was allowed to work or leave the house. They were expected to cry and got over it within that period so they can move on after.

Tough. The Dusuns do not like wallowing in sadness, much less self-pity. They are supposed to do a one off expression of sadness session and move on. This leads me to one question: with regards to sadness, how Dusun am I?