Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/92

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84
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

I believe that other large hawk-like birds are used as omens. The Brahminy Kite is popularly supposed in India to be the sacred Garuda, the mythical bird, half eagle and half man, which, in Hindu mythology, is the Vahana, or vehicle of Vishnu. Whenever Bengali children see one of these birds they cry out:

Let drinking vessels and cups be given to the Shankar Chil (Brahminy Kite),

But let the Common Kite get a kick on its face.

There is a kingfisher that lives in the jungle (Carcineutes melanops) which is not a particularly lucky bird. If, when they are making a trap, the Ibans hear the long, mournful whistle of the 'Membuas,' they know that, although the trap will catch things, it will only be after an interval of ten to fourteen days that they will have any luck. On other occasions it is not unusual for them to catch little partridges, such as Rollulus rouloul, directly they have set up the trap, but often, under ordinary circumstances, it will be a day before they catch anything.

The Kenyahs apparently dislike this bird, which they call 'asi,' as it is not very favorable; in fact, they would rather not see it.

The white-crested hornbill (Berenicornis comatus), which has a moderate-sized black-keeled casque on its beak and bare blue orbits and throat, is an omen that is sought for by Kenyahs and Kayans, particularly by the latter, when felling jungle for planting and when going on the war-path. The Kenyahs use it slightly, and the Ibans not at all; it is, in any case, an omen bird of secondary importance.

The trogon, called by the Ibans 'Papau' (Harpactes diardi), is particularly useful to these people when hunting in the jungle for deer, pigs, etc., as it is a sure sign that they will obtain something that day; the bird's note of 'Pau, pau, pau,' infuses fresh energy into them. Supposing some Ibans were making a spring-trap (panjok), the moment one of them heard the cry of the 'Paupau' or 'Beragai' (H. duvauceli), he would at once snap off or cut off a small twig with a parang; the small piece of wood then cut or broken off is used for the release of the trap; the man would at the same time remark to the bird, 'Here we are.'

Other tribes such as the Kenyahs and Punans use Harpactes diardi as an omen, but it is not an important one. H. duvauceli, on the contrary, is of very considerable importance to the Kenyahs when going on the war-path, it being one of the omens of which it is imperative to obtain a sight or hearing. H. kasumba is employed indifferently with H. diardi.

Lepocestes porphyromelas is one of the most important of the omen birds, as it makes two perfectly distinct notes, one of which is favorable and the other unfavorable. On a rainy day it calls 'tok, tok, tok,' but