Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/88

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80
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

THE OMEN ANIMALS OF SARAWAK.
By A. C. HADDON, F.R.S.,
CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY.

THE cult of the omen animals is of such importance in the daily life of most of the tribes of Borneo that it is desirable that more attention should be paid to it by those who have the opportunity of studying it at first hand.

The Venerable Archdeacon J. Perham has given a full account of the Iban or Sea Dayak religion in the 'Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society' (Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 8), which has been reprinted by Ling Roth in his book, 'The Natives of Sarawak and British North Borneo.' Mr. Ling Roth has also compiled some other scattered references on omens (Vol. I., pp.231-231). Although the following notes are very imperfect, they contain some new facts derived from Dr. C. Hose, and also, thanks to information derived from Dr. Hose, I am able for the first time to give a fairly complete list of the omen animals of Sarawak, with their scientific names. I have taken the liberty of abstracting the following account of the way in which birds are 'used,' as the Ibans say, from Archdeacon Perham's most valuable papers, as it is the best description known to me of what is of daily occurrence in Borneo:

The yearly rice farming is a matter of much ceremony as well as of labor with the Dayaks, and must be inaugurated with proper omens. Some man who is successful with his padi will be the augur and undertake to obtain omens for a certain area of land, which others besides himself will farm. Some time before the Pleiades are sufficiently high above the horizon to warrant the clearing the grounds of jungle or grass, the man sets about his work. He will have to hear the nendak (Cittocincla suavis) on the left, the katupong (Sasia abnormis) on the left, the burong malam (a locust) and the beragai (Harpactes duvauceli) on the left, and in the order I have written them. As soon as he has heard the nendak, he will break off a twig of anything growing near and take it home and put it in a safe place. But it may happen that some other omen bird, or creature, is the first to make itself heard or seen, and in that case the day's proceeding is vitiated; he must give the matter up, return and try his chance another day; and thus sometimes three or four days are gone before he has obtained his first omen. When he has heard the nendak, he will then go to listen for the katupong and the rest, but with the same liability to delays; and it may possibly require a month to obtain all those augural predictions, which are to give them confidence in the result of their labors. The augur has now the same number of twigs and sticks as birds he has heard, and he takes these to the land selected for farming and puts them}}