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?