Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/91

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83
THE OMEN ANIMALS OF SARAWAK.

surprised that no harm had befallen him. Hose chaffed him about his legs and was 'pleased to see that they had become untied!'

The small viverrine carnivore (Arctogale leucotis) is one of the most important omens for Kenyahs and Kayans, who, however, have a particular dread of coming into contact with it. Lest it should produce sickness, they will never even touch a piece of its dried skin. It is not an omen for the Ibans, nor for the Punans, who even kill and eat it. After having obtained other omens, the Kayans are glad to see the munin, as it is useful in conjunction with other omens, but they do not like to hear it squealing.

The screeching of the large hawk (Haliastur intermedius), which is closely allied to or a sub-species of the Brahminy kite (H. Indus), is a cautionary sign with the Kayans, and though it is not in itself a bad sign, they will generally return home from any enterprise on hearing it, if they were still taking omens, or, at all events, they will remain where they are for a day. What the Kayans and Kenyahs most desire when 'owning' a hawk is to see it skim silently, without moving its wings, either to the right or to the left. Any other action than this, such as a swoop down or continued flapping of the wings, is considered unfavorable. Something bad is going to take place; they do not know what it may be or to whom it will happen, and one who sees the hawk do this turns away his face or retires to some place out of the sight of the hawk, lest, on being observed, he should be the one on whom the misfortune will fall. On such an occasion no one speaks a word, and all return into the house and wait from ten minutes to half an hour. If they are very anxious to go on again that day, they slip quietly out of the house, so that the hawk may not see them, get into their boats and start on their journey.

If the hawk appears on the wrong side when men are paddling, a few days away from home and nearing another village, they immediately turn the boat right round, pull to the bank and light a fire. By turning round they put the hawk on the right side, and, being satisfied in their own minds, they proceed on their journey as before.

The hawk, or, as the Ibans call it, Sengalong Burong, is a very important being. The little woodpecker (Sasia abnormis), 'Katupong' is his son-in-law, being married to Dara Inchin Temaga Indu Monkok Chilebok China, a poetical hantu, who mentions in her songs the names of all the mouths of the rivers in their order from Sarawak River to some distance up the coast. (This is probably the remnant of a migration saga.) The smallest of the trogons, Harpactes duvauceli, 'Beragi,' also married another daughter of Sengalong Burong.

Although this is the most important of any Iban omen bird, it is his sons-in-law that are most used. Food is offered to Sengalong Burong.