Powers of Blessing [Mamasa Toraja in Sulawesi]

pp. 9-12 orientation as to location


location of Toraja tribes



in __ Sulawesi


Central [actually, north-central]


South [actually, south-central]


location of Tae> Toraja subtribes



in the __






The tae>-speaking Toraja dwell between the town of Palopo (to the east) and the town of Majene (to the west).


"The name Mamasa is derived from the Toraja word mamase, which means ‘to be nice to somebody’."

p. 9, fn. 1 "Bare>e and tae> are the words used for negation." {cf. distinction between 3 dialects of French on the basis of words used for affirmation : /oi:l/ (/oui/) & /oc/}

pp. 17-19 legend of events immediately after the deluge




After the deluge Nenek Ponka Padan, seeking to find other survivors of that deluge, traveled from east to west, along with his nephew (Polo Padan) and his niece (Tamallin). Having "arrived on the top of a mountain",


Ponka Padan "sent Tamallin to climb a tree to see if she could detect any sign of life. To the west Tamallin noticed smoke ... . ... They went towards the smoke seen by Tamalillin. At first, they climbed another mountain which they gave the name Kapusaan, ‘something that leads astray’. ... On top that mountain Tamalallin suddenly died. ... Then the group ... arrived at a very big tree, where ... a boat had somehow ended up in the tree and was jammed between its branches. ... When they searched in the vicinity of the tree, they found a cave ... . After Pongka Padang entered the cave to investigate, he thought he saw a very big snake, ular sawa, with golden skin ..., its skin turned out to be a dodo ampire, ... a very expensive cloth. {cf. dream-cloth for the dead (on p. 105)} A woman and her slave appeared from the cloth. [This woman called herself] ‘Torijene>’ which means ‘human being from the water’. ... During the big flood, the boat of Torijene> was stranded in the branches of a waringin [or, berinin (fn. 28)] tree.


[Torijene> kindled a fire to attract the attention of any other survivors of the deluge.] At that moment, Tamalillin, the niece of Pongka Padang, looked from the top of the mountain Mambulillin in her direction.She saw the smoke, far away at Buntu Bulo. ... Torijene> gave birth to a boy. A bird, tiku-tiku, came to them with a small rice stalk. {cf. at >rarat.-mountain, the dove bringing the olive-twig} Also a serre>-serre>, a tumimmi, a tuwiwi, a bukku>, and a dangan-dangan came to them ... . ... Torijene> had six other children with Pongka Padang, all girls."


progeny of those 6 daughters :


her progeny




deformed "without a head and without feet"


"one dead and one alive"


"eleven healthy children, all of them boys"

pp. 22-25 creator-deity & ghosts




"There is a god considered to be the creator, To Metampa (Mamasa) or Puang Matua (Tana Toraja)".


"The souls of some people can leave their bodies at night in search of the flesh or blood of dying people. Such a person, most often a woman, is called poppok when she ‘flies out’ in the night."

"The spirit of a woman who died during childbirth can become trouble some, especially for men. ... Such a spirit,


in Mamasa called tabelutto>, goes out at night to frighten men who are walking outside the village. ["The tabelutto> is feared by men during forty days after the funeral of the woman." (p. 23, fn. 38)] Sometimes the tabelutto> enters another woman, who then begins to scream hysterically."


"When somebody dies, he or she becomes a spirit called bombo that eventually travels to the land of the dead ... in which case nothing is to be feared from the bombo. However, some bombo are not accepted into the land of the dead, because necessary rituals were not performed. This can happen to people who die without relatives, or far away from home in other countries. ... Often such a spirit is called anitu. ... Some people with extraordinary abilities can see the bombo. They are called the ‘seers of the bombo’, the toma>ita-ita bombo. The bombo stays in and around the house where the deceased is kept before the funeral. During this time, the bombo is offered small bits of food. ... After the burial, the bombo does not immediately depart for the land of the dead. It waits until the third day under the high part of the roof in front of the house, the paraba>ba."


"the leader of the death rituals, the priest of the dead, called tomebalun, is summoned immediately when somebody dies. The ritual he must perform cannot be postponed. The sunga> ... on the day of death ... must return to its origin. To facilitate the return of the sunga>, the tomebalun beats a cock to death against the stairs ... . ... The ritual is called perembasan. ... The important objective is that the soul of the cock guides the sunga> of the deceased to heaven and announces its arrival to the gods." ["the cock must not only announce the coming of a new soul, but also make a place for the soul of the deceased in the world beyond." (25, n. 44)]


"However, the sunga> can only become an ancestral deity that is able to render blessings after uniting with the bombo". ["The bombo unites with its sunga> in about three years." (25, n. 45)]

pp. 27-28 the 4 types of houses for the 3 social classes


tana> __ (‘__ land’)

banua __ (‘__ house’)


social class


bulawan (golden)


with woodcarvings

1st [= nobility]


bassi (iron)


its outside walls are painted black

2nd = the rich


[golden & iron]


walls are not painted

1st & 2nd




no horizontal slats

3rd = karurun (commoners)

p. 34 religious officials


for __

indo> parean


indo> banne tau

marriage & birth

puan tondok

life in the village

puan timbu

water-supplies & irrigation

tomebalun ma>dika

burials of the nobility

tomebalun saronnak

burials of the lower classes

pp. 50, 56, 61 cosmology




"Entrances can be found from the earth to the underworld through deep lakes ..., and to the upper world via a staircase that connects heaven and earth. Underworld and upper world are directly connected without a route through the earth : ... through a sea". [There is "this direct connection also in several myths in Mamasa : Talibannang, and Bittoe>-toe>." (p. 50, fn. 3)]


"The wilderness on the surface of the earth and the underworld are connected through ... ponds". ["In many myths in Mamasa : Talibannang, Mannakebai, Sarakka Bulawan, Rampen Manik, La Inampa, ... deep pools function as ... the entrance between two worlds : earth to underworld, but also underworld to heaven and heaven to earth. When in songs of the maro ritual in tana Toraja a woman ascends to heaven, she returns to earth by way of a deep pool. ... The way to and from heaven goes through the water of a sea or the water of a deep pool. Often a water snake guides the way. Such an animal appears also ... to guide the woman back to earth and wake her up after the long journey to heaven." (p. 56, fn. 17)]


"The rituals of the west are held in connection with the burial of the dead {likewise the Kemetian rituals for the dead are western}, who set off and travel toward the transcendent realm of the dead. ... myths tell about journeys to the realm of the dead lead by special guides [such as, "a crocodile" (p. 61, fn. 9)] who show the way and assist in crossing the dangerous river ["salu makkatibe>" (p. 61, fn. 8)] that separates the world of the living from the world of the dead."

p. 56, fn. 16 "In Tana Toraja, the realm of the dead is called Puya, in Mamasa Pollondong."

p. 56, fn. 18 Among the Sa>dan (in Tana Toraja), "the underworld can appear in some myths as the source of important trees like the sendana tree and the sugar palm tree."

p. 60 In Sa>dan (of Tana Toraja) myth, "heaven borders on earth in the north by means of a big sea. ... the way to the god of heaven, Puang Matua, is sought and eventually found in the north. There lies the path of the gods. ... When the gods send special representatives like priests to the earth, they enter the earth in the north. ... The gods come to humans via the north, but humans invoke the gods in the east." {prayer directed from human to precatory deities in the east would be transmitted by the gods in the east to the efficacious deities in the north, who would send thence the blessings upon humans}

p. 61, fn. 6 "In Puya reigns Pong Lalondong and in Pollondong a female deity, indo> Robo."

p. 153 According to Sa>dan belief, "In the north, where heaven and earth come together in an immense sea, the path of the gods is found. On the other hand, the path of the sons of the gods, who came to earth, is found in the south."

pp. 51-55 description of Sa>dan cosmogony, as per :- H. van der Veen : The Merok Feast. The Hague, 1965.

p. 77 sacrificial offerings, measured in inanna ("female water buffalo", p. 77, fn. 7 : her horn’s length) {cf. name of Sumerian goddess /IN-ANNA/}

name of offering

its actuality

para kayu ("rack for the wood")

small animals : chickens, hounds, swine

messampinna ("used for wrapping")

"clothes, used to attire the dead"


water buffaloes

{in India, waterbuffalo is animal-vehicle of death-god Yama}

pp. 103-108 caerimony of burial of metabu (stones from the wilderness) to commemorate the dead


metabu caerimony


pp. 103-106 invocation of the deities (transl. of vs. in RS)

4. "May the ‘one hundred hairs’ of the gods of the west ... not rise up hearing my words."


14. "there in the south, in the area of Rano, when the parents of Bongga di Rano had their throats cut. ... at the beginning of the big world, when the breath of life was beaten away with force from the parents of Bongga Muane."


39. "What was kept with care, even in sleep, will emerge as a new cloth. What was preserved carefully, even in dreams, will emerge with the open." {dead woman’s dream will unfold as [scene embroidered on] cloth, in world of the dead}


46. "May it be that the ancestors are awake and overwhelm her who is asleep with honour." {awaking her in the world of the dead}


"The god in the realm of the dead, Indo> Robo (Mamasa) or pong Lalondong (Tana Toraja), must prepare the spirit of the deceased for its transfer to heaven."


"the stones are called ‘bones of the earth’ (verses 9, 16, 25, 44). ... they form a backbone for the earth and thus for the people that live there." {cf., in the myth of Deukalion & his wife Purrha, "Mother Earth, whose bones were the rocks" (GM 38.d)}

108, fn. 18

"the nobility who are described as the ‘bones of the earth’ "

RS = Jeanine Koubi : Rambu Solo>, ‘la fume’e descend’; la culte des mortes chez les Toraja du Sud. Paris, 1982.

pp. 112-113 rice-goddess & the stars




"Totiboyong as a female deity. ... Totiboyong, the rice goddess."


"The rice-growing season starts when the so>bok has identified the ... constellation of stars, called asi-asi. ... The constellation asi-asi resembles a chicken." ["for the constellation of the ‘chicken’ the myth of Tulangdidi" (p. 113, fn. 5)] {Pleiades}

pp. 129-134 conducted by toburake-priestess : mekolon ritual, calling the attention of mourners to return {in aequivalent Chinese & Mongolian ritual, the soul of the dead itself is called to return into the dead body}




"Come back! Although you are high in the layers of heaven, in the centre of heaven, ... although you are in the moon or in the sun, you must now return. Take the sound of the pindan ["porcelain saucer" {cf. Bodish "singing bowls"}] and the kamaru [(= Skt. d.amaru) drum] and use it as a bridge."


reasons (considerations) for the soul to return to the dead body : beaded mat, silver pillow; water buffaloes, rice-fields; servants.


"Before the family eats the meat of the pig, the toburake brandishes a leaf of the red dragon blood plant, taken from the lalundun, over the heads of the family members ... . ... Then ... ears of the slaughtered pig are ceremonially thrown by the toburake through the window of the kitchen, facing south : the direction of the dead". {in India, the direction of Yama}


"The sound of her kamaru and pindan does not only call the mourning spirits back to earth, but functions as a sort of bridge connecting heaven and earth as well. The Toraja word is tetean, a bridge made of rattan ... . According to the myths of the Toraja, a river exists between the world of the living and the world of the dead. A swaying tetean


connects the two worlds ... . ...

Only through performance of the mekolong the separation from the sphere of death takes place. People who do not effect this ritual separation ... are said to lose their minds." ["Somebody who is called ‘crazy’ ... is ... put ... in a cage." (p. 134, fn. 11)]

pp. 146-149 Mamasa toburake priestess




among the Mamasa :

in ritual concerning __

the officiant in charge is __


a man, the tomebalun


a woman, the toburake


"In Mamasa, the word tambolang has two meanings. It is the name for a stork and for a bamboo flute. Headhunters, coming back from the wilderness to the village, play this flute." {so, headhunting is a homosexual-derived perversion there; just as it is homosexual priests who promote headhunting among the Iban of Borneo}


"The toburake ... received her authority through her mother, who gave her a ring as a sign of her dignity when she installed her daughter in her office. ... She follows the traditions she received from her mother and grandmother."


"The performance of the toburake ... to heal people from illness is called diburakei. ... The sound of the drums should frighten the spirit that caused the illness, and make it flee."


"The toburake performs in rambu tuka> and never in rambu solo>, except in the case of the death of another toburake." ["When a toburake is to be buried, colleagues come to the place where the burial is going to be held. They wear their offical clothes and sound the kamaru of the deceased." (p. 148, fn. 25)]


" ‘The toburake is responsible for ... the religion from beneath the earth and not from above’. ... ‘It is the religion that comes from beneath ... surfacing in the deep water-pool’. The religion in which the toburake functions ... does not emanate from heaven, but comes up from beneath, out of ... the water in the earth". {cf. Daoist likening (as, in the Dao De Jin) of yin (the feminine) to that water which seeketh the lowest place.}

p. 144 "The tomebalun officiates as priest for the dead in death rituals, carrying out the ... rules of the gods oriented toward death."

pp. 140-145 Sa<dan homosexual male "toburake"




Among the Sa>dan, however, "male priests behaving as women were officiating in rituals for life ... . ... those priests, called toburake tambolang, not only acted as women in the rituals in which they officiated, they also began to live as transvestites in their daily life. [Likewise among] the neighboring Bugis people ... transvestite priests are in office under the name bissu. [Among the Sa<dan,] the word bingsu means female priest and ... it is an older form of bissu." ["Among the Bugis people men behaving as women and women behaving as men was and is a common phenomenon, respectively called calabai and calalai" (p. 142, fn. 8).]


"Among the Ngadju of Southern Kalimantan (Borneo) are found the basir, men who adopt the dress and way of life of women and serve as priests and shamans". "In addition, transvestite priests called toburake tambolang also appeared in


eastern parts of Tana Toraja, bordering on the Bugis territory of Luwuk."


"In Tana Toraja, two kinds of toburake were reported, the toburake tattiku> and the toburake> tambolang. Tattiku> and tambolang are names for birds. The first one is a small bird with a sharp cry and the second one is a kind of stork with a white tail, a partly white neck and a black back. ... The burake officiates at the la>pa> feast. ["This feast is also called ma>bua>" (fn. 16).] ... the male burake ... wears female clothes and even his voice gradually attains the qualities of the voice of a woman."

marriage of man with dream-woman from python ["Bongga Karadeng is ... a tomanurun" (p. 152)]

pp. 150-1 Mamasa

p. 151 Mamasa

Cabinda (L, 223-7)

(p. 150) "The [6] slaves ... [by means of their hooks] followed the rattan.

"Bongga Karadeng, guided by a dream,

(L, p. 223) "Mavungu went ... to sleep he dreamed : In his dream he saw a beautiful woman speaking to him. "Oh Mavungu, ... Cut open the python and you will see something ... .""

... the dog of Bongga Karadeng ... killed ... a python. ...

finds ... the drum ... skin ... made of the skin of a python."

(L, p. 224) "So Mavungu ... went to the forest shown in the dream, ... seized the python, and

Bongga Karadeng ... cut ... and


cut it open as instructed.

... a girl appeared ... . Her name was Baringan."

"the first toburake"

There he uncovered the very beautiful woman who had spoken in the dream."

After initially speaking with her husband Bonga Karaden, Barinan ceased to do so;

"the sound of the kamaru carries

(L, p. 226) This woman told her husband Mavungu not to speak with his father; and

(p. 151) however, by the ruse of his being enclosed in "a shroud ... of the bark of a tree",

as far as the edges of heaven."

(L, p. 227) in order to enforce this prohibition, "the woman closed up the house with all her strength to keep Mavungu inside."

he induced her to speak to him.


However, he spoke with his father nevertheless.

L = John M. Janzen : Lemba, 1650-1930. Garland Publ. Inc., NY, 1982.

pp. 160-167 conducted by toburake-priestess, for women : pa>bisuan ritual




"The women in the pa>bisuan ritual are called tobisu, ... who ... climb the barana>. The deities possess them. In Mamasa, the ritual is sometimes called the ma>ihi feast. This name is derived from the characteristic sound that is made by the women at the beginning of the ritual when they run away from the village into the wilderness. They scream ‘i-i-i-i, ihiii’. ... The women would loosen their clothes and their hair while running." "Men, who play the drums, toma>gandang, assist the toburake. At times men carry women on their shoulders to bring them from the barana> tree to the place where the women dance ... . These men have a special name during the ritual : pompe. {cf. /POMPano/ tribe in Philippines} ... Sometimes a man has a feeling that


the deities call him to become a pompe. In that case, he goes together with the tobisu into the woods and climbs the barana> tree in dedication to the deities of the forest. After this experience, he can act as pompe in following rituals."

"The beginning of the ritual goes back to a pledge (in Indonesian : nazar [<arabic]; in Toraja : samaya [Skt.]) that a woman made to the gods. ... When the time has come to keep the pledge, the toburake and the drummers ... fix the day for the pa>bisuan in accordance with a favourable position of the moon. This deliberation, at which the family is present or represented, is called ditempo."


"Before the ritual pa>bisuan can be held it must be determined that nobdy in the family has died in the last three years without performing mekolong ... . ... Before pa>bisuan can begin, another ritual must be held first, melambe", but only in the case of there having occurred "the death of a family member" within the last "several years."


1st stage : "Men ... drummers, toma>gandang, ... are called by the toburake. ... In the house of the woman pledged to hold the ritual, the drummers


start to beat their drums in a special, mysterious way. ... the toburake says a special praise-prayer, a singgi>, ... as follows :

Everything that worries ...

I roll it up like a pakis plant ["fern with curling" fronds] ...

I throw it ... in a deep whirlpool ... .

The toburake has a special shawl, sura>, which she swings over the fire ... . With the sura> she fans the women, who start to tremble all over their bodies. They scream ‘iiii, i-i-i-hii’, while running out of the house towards the woods. ...


They also scream and loosen their hair and clothes while running."


2nd stage : "While screaming the women ... loosen their hair ... and sway their arms. It looks as if they are flying. {so, is the screaming intended to repraesent the call of a flying bird?} The flying towards the forest is called ditamba dewata, be called by the gods. ... The women are possessed by the dewata who will show them the tree to climb and to dance on its branches ... . ... The drummers constantly beat the drums all night long with a special rhythm appropriate for this night, lewa-lewa. It is called the rhythm of the monkeys. ... the women will get lost in the wilderness if they can no longer hear the drums. ... ‘If they get lost, they will be transformed into monkeys and disappear forever’. At the end of the night the dewata guides the women to the barana> tree. ... most women left their clothes behind when running into the forest. ... People say that the leaves of the barana> are engraved, barana> kendaun sura>. {in >islam, there is believed to be a divine tree on the leaves whereof the fates of all humans are indicated} ... The dewata taking possession of the women is the dewata pasau>. [For men,] It is dangerous to ridicule this female deity. ...


When the women leave the village running towards the forest screaming, men must not look at them [because the women are discarding their clothing, streaking nude]. The women have become tobisu, dewata baine, female deities. ... People say that [ridicule of these goddesses by men] will be punished by turning the head of the offender by a quarter [turn, i.e. to a right angle] and to fix it in that position."


3rd stage : "Before dawn, the dewata lead the women to a barana> tree. It is said of the tree that dewata stick to it. ... When the women arrive, the tree is thought to lower its branches to lift the women up. However, [physically] there must be a rattan ladder made by


one of the pompe to help the women. ... After climbing the barana> the women dance in trance on branches of the tree. ... The women dance in the tree until dawn. ... in that night the women become dewata bisu. ... balo>-balo>, a magical object ..., ... confers on the owner the magical power to climb the tree and dance on its branches. In fact, the balo>-balo> ... consists of the leaves of a certain plant that the women hold in their hands during the whole night. ...


The descent of the women from the barana> tree takes place when the first light of the sun become visible. ... One of the pompe places a rattan ladder ... for the women to climb down the tree."


4th stage : "The toburake is now sounding her kamaru. ... The toburake hands the women coloured shawls, sura> ... . When the women descend from the tree they are not allowed to touch the ground. They will be carried on the arms and shoulders of two pompe. ...


During the day the tobisu sleep and throughout the night they perform the bisu dances. During these dances the women wear ... the palo-palo, a sort of diadem with feathers. ... To lead the tobisu in their dancing, the toma>gandang use several rhythms, tarakiki>, salendo>-lendo>, and pamose."


5th stage : "For this ritual a special expression is used : ‘a pig is ... like a staircase, which leads upwards’. {this is a substitute for the primaeval staircase to heaven, which existed until "Puang Matua took away the flight of stairs that connected heaven and earth" (p. 205)} ... The tobisu ...


must touch the pigs with their feet. {thus, the women symbolically climb a staircase consisting of living swine} Before the women climb the stairs to enter the house, ... The toburake sprinkles the pigs with water from her porcelain bowl, the pindan. ... The toburake ... uses ... blood to make a sign in the right palm of the tobisu. {symbolic of stigmata?} This act is called ditoding."

VERHANDLINGEN VAN HET KONINKLIJK INSTITUUT VOOR TAAL-, LAND- EN VOLKENKUNDE, 229 = Kees Buijs : Powers of Blessing from the Wilderness and from Heaven. KITLV Pr, Leiden, 2006.