The Seen and the Unseen, 3


3.1 Ė Robert J. Barrett : "Performance, Effectiveness and the Iban Manang".
















the dead





















exactly right

p. 236 exorcism by tricking an evil spirit

"exorcists enjoining the patient to laugh at ... the demons who had previously dominated him/her. Exorcisms work because of ... the demons being themselves controlled and ridiculed by the exorcistís trickery."

p. 237 healing by liberation of the tonal

"For the Kaluli, illness is caused by a personís invisible pig aspect having become injured within a spirit world. During the seíance, the mediumís spirit child searches for this pig aspect, releases it from a spirit trap". [Oneís animal-soul {Aztec /tonal/} may "posit "para-normal" effects".]

pp. 239-240 powers of the manan




"The power of the manang is derived from spirits. Potential initiates are called in dreams usually in the fourth or fifth decade of life and, although it is common to put up a token resistance by pleading the excuse of domestic duties, all eventually succumb to the insistent command, on pain of ... madness. The commanding being, or yang[,] may be ..., more commonly, an animal spirit, and it subsequently provides spirit assistance ... . ...effectiveness resides with the yang, manang ... talking in hushed and reverent tones about the strength of their particular yang. ... In explaining the relative contributions to the spirit journey ...,


a manang compared the yang to an aeroplane and the manangís soul to a passenger. ... manang were called in dreams by the soul of their departed father or grandfather, himself a manang.

Curative power is materialized in charms (ubat). These small, powerful (bisa) objects ... derive from spirits, their location revealed to the manang in dreams." {The locations of power-objects are likewise disclosed to Californian (Penutian) shamans in dreams.}


"serara` bunga (separation of the flowers) ceremony" : "its purpose is to achieve a clear-cut separation between the dead and living, and there is some urgency to schedule this ceremony if the dead have returned to interfere with the living, as evidenced by ... bad dreams ... . ... Manang also perform pelian to deal with bad dreams (jai> mimpi), as well as smaller scale rites to neutralize bad omens (penabar burong) {Sumerian namburbi rituals likewise canceled evil omens} or neutralize a breach of taboo (penabar pemali)".

pp. 242-243 spiritual transpiration; plant-aspect of human soul

p. 242

"Spirits leave invisible wounds (pansa> utai), depositing stones or other smal objects inside. Conversely, it is through the anterior fontanelle that the semengat leaves the tuboh in dreams, illness and death.

... within dreams the soul thinks, feels a range of emotions, is capable of seeing, hearing, and smelling, and engages in speech and social interaction. It, too, possesses intentionality and is capable of certain moral actions as choice and resistance. ... within dreams, souls appear to be physically embodied. ... Such experiences are endowed with the same accent of reality as waking experiences and have much the same evident value as an eye-witness account."


"A moral infraction ... (say a woman leaving her underwear on the clothes line at night ...) leads to her semengat aspect being ... seduced (kuchau antu, anu> antu), or even possessed and betrothed (tunang antu) by a spirit".


"Dream reality is also the obverse of waking reality. ... The soul is not fixed in space like the body but leaps geographical and cosmic distances to interact with far away people or the dead. ... dream experiences are ... especially

p. 243

... with the dead, who are experienced as being more or less the same age and appearance as they were just before they died. However to the Iban, the salient difference between the waking and dreaming reality is that beings who are invisible in the former (semengat, hantu, and sebayan) are visible within dream reality."


"... humans are also described as having a plant aspect (ayu or bunga), which thrives in health and becomes choked with weeds and wilts in illness. This ... is invisible to wide awake mortals but visible to mythic manang who clear around it, shade it, transplant it and tend it back to health."

pp. 243-244 reality of spirits and of souls of the dead

p. 243

"In myth, spirits were originally the same as humans but became separated and estranged from men as a result of sibling conflict. It was at his point that spirits became invisible. Now they wander at large ..., though they congregate in uninhabited places such as jungle copses, hill tops midway between longhouse communities, or among unused equipment in seldom frequented spots in the longhouse loft or under the floor boards. They are seen or heard in these locations, usually at night, but this is only a fleeting appearance (ayan) for they disappear (lesap) ... . Appearances are characteristic :

a pair of red eyes high on a fig tree at night,

a tall, black figure in the jungle with a high conical head,

small figures flitting in the loft.


More often spirits are experienced by the soul in dreams, where ... they characteristically masquerade as animals or humans. ... Dreaming of an attractive person of the opposite sex is prima facie evidence that oneís soul has been seduced by a spirit. Even dreaming of oneís spouse ... may be a spirit in disguise. ... Spirits are also a source of benign power that are sought after to help executing dangerous projects."

p. 244

"The soul leaves the body shortly after death and travels to the land of the dead (menoa sebayan). This region ... has a this-world location in the Kapuas river basin ..., associated in legend with the origin of the Iban people. There, the dead ... are fully embodied beings who live a mundane and material existence in their longhouse, working their hill padi or sitting on the veranda talking. ... this region lies in a different cosmic domain on the other side of the mythic gate to the earth, where everything is opposite to this world. Day becomes night there, light becomes dark, bad becomes good and fish becomes fowl. Invisible to the waking eyes, the dead are visible to the soul ... in dreams ... since they often wish to help. ... Iban contend that from the point of view of one reality, everything in the other is reversed ...; day/night, waking/sleeping, light/dark and, most fundamentally, visible/invisible. ... For example, ... within dream reality, the soul is visible to other souls but normally invisible to spirits."

pp. 244-246 visibility of soul during illness; diagnosis from dreams; stone charms for use in palpation; patching with charm; diagnosis with crystal at night


curing by manan


"In illness, the visible body boundary is punctured by invisible wounds. ... The soul now becomes visible (tampak) to spirits and the dead who, in turn, make their appearance to the soul."


[use of dream-reports in curing illnesses :] "Dream reports are more elaborate and narrated in a muted, intense tone ... . Dreams provide clues to the fate of the soul and indicate to the manang which pelian rites to perform. Hearing a dream of drowning, for example, he performs a pelian using a fishing net. Dreams of kin are also relevant ... . Manang add their own dreams which have a special authority". {North American Indian shamans frequently cited their own dreams while curing a patient.}


[palpation :] "Manang ... began with firm, massaging movements of their fingers across the patientís ... (depending on the symptom location), drawing up and pinching the skin at the end of each pass. They would repeat these seeping movements with a stone charm in their hand, or carefully hold one stone charm to the affected site and percuss it gently with a second, held in the other hand. {Traditional Chinese medical use of metal sphaires is similar.} Unlike ordinary Ibans, they can see and feel invisible wounds in the skin and palpate evidence of illness that lies deep within the body Ė ... as a quivering sensation ... to feel these vibrations. ...


The term for this procedure, begama>, can be translated as groping and in common use means to feel oneís way in the dark. ...


Finally, the manang closes the spirit wound ... using a covering or patching charm (ubat penampal) ... . ... the procedures up to this point ... are all routinely performed by the non-shamanic Malay and Iban dealers (dukun)."


"By now it is dark and the manang turns his gaze on the patientís soul by looking at a quartz crystal (batu karas) held at armís length with a ... flame directly behind. Within the crystal he sees an image of the soul ... . ... the crystal itself is called a seeing stone (batu ilau) , although the world ilau does ... refer ... to the perception of spirits ... . {cf. [Skt. mythic names] /ILVala/ & /ILa-Vr@ta/; [Latin geographic name] /ILVa/} The stone is also named penampak manang, because it make the soul visible, obvious ... (tampak). ...


The process is termed mandang (to show, exhibit or expose) or ninjau (to scan from a high vantage). ... The taller the soul, the more visible it is to spirits. The more distant the soul, the further along the road to the dead it has travelled."

277, n. 3:1:3

"Saribas manang only used the crystal to visualize the soul, but .Freeman (1967:323) reports that in the Baleh region, it is also used to visualize the plant aspect, to see if it is wilting, wee choked or vigorous."

Freeman (1967) = Derek Freeman : "Shaman and Incubus". PSYCHOANALYTIC STUDY OF SOCIETY 4:315-344.

pp. 247-248 cure is actually performed by yan during mananís praestigitation




"logic which lay beneath the manangís prestigitation" : "it is the yang (commanding spirit) who actually performs the treatment, not the


manang himself. Whether or not the manang actually extracts a stone [p. 246 : "removal of a small stone miraculously extracted from within the body."], what happens is that as the manang enacts the treatment, the yang simultaneously removes the illness from the patientís body. ... An experienced manang stated the conundrum by explaining that it was both sleight of hand (silap mata) and at the same time it was not sleight of hand {"sleight of hand" involving (with the assistance of the commanding spirit) temporarily hypnotizing in oblivion the human viewers}, because it worked through the yang." {Apparently implying that the state of temporary hypnosis induced in the viewers by the commanding spirit, enableth the removal (if possible) of any evil spirit by merging it into the oblivion.}

pp. 249-250 pelian as a 3rd reality, for restoration of soul




"The pelian is treated as a third reality, distinct from everyday life and also from that of the dead, spirits or gods. Through the media of chant and enactment the manang builds pelian reality by means of representation. Ritual objects represent or stand for (ambi ka) other objects and the manang himself employs mime or pretense (ngaga> diri, ngelulu> ka)."

"Pelian are named by their central action (.g. killing a spirit, bebunoh antu) or the scene at which the action takes place (e.g. the spiritís iron cage, sankar besi)."


"The chant ... culminates with the manang enacting the recapture, ... during which his soul, accompanied by the yang, carries out the actual soul retrieval. The manang reawakens with the soul, substantiated by a small black seed, in the palm of his hand. He inserts the rescues soul back into the patientís head by placing the seed over the region of the anterior fontanelle."

p. 251, 253 myth of origin pagar api shrine


pagar api


"The pagar api is the point of departure and return for the journey and has been likened to a boat landing ... . ... (the manang circumambulates it) as well as a means of travel (a ladder of ascent and descent {Jacobís ladder, hung down side of a ship} or a boat with painter, flag and ... a paddle)."


There is "a legend (cherita tuai) ... concerning the origin of the pagar api, in which Jarai, one of the original manang, meets with the demon antu gerasi at a tree while out hunting. Both have killed female pig-tailed macaques (nyumboh) which they roast on a fire. recognizing, however, that they have actaully killed each otherís wives, they agree to exchange corpses and each returns home with the body of his respective wife. For Jaraiís part, as he get closer to home, his wifeís body become smaller and smaller until it transforms into her soul, as tiny as a millet seed within the palm of his hand. Arriving home, ... the soul is cooled and does not stick to his palm. When he enters the longhouse he finds that while he was away hunting his wife died of a painful illness ... Ė so he places the soul into his wifeís body and she comes to life again. The pagar api is indeed the tree where manang and spirit encounter in a reciprocal killing and retrieval of wives."


"Literally translated, pagar means fence or barrier and api means fire ... . ... pagar api referred to a barrier of fire, for it represented the fire on which the macaques were roasted. The fire formed a barrier for the manang against the antu gerasi, for Jarai heaped it with lukai wood, the smoke of which blinds, weakens and repels spirits." {Because each hunter unsuccessfully briefly possessed the wife of the other, the fire may also repraesent a resistance posed by each woman against her non-husband; similarly as the fire which surroundeth each sleeping valkyrja (such as, Brynhild) defendeth her against the sexual attentions of any strange men.}

p. 252 (Table 1) symbolic referents of elements of the pagar api



rush mat (tikai bemban)

mananís boat

small jar (kebok)

container for the soul

spear (sankoh)

path of mananís journey

banana leaf

flag of mananís boat

notches in stem of banana leaf

ladder of ascent & descent

red thread (ubon mansau)

to bind the soul (penanc^an semenat)


used to catch soul

white thread

the "stalk" of the soul (tampok semenat)

duku sword

soul-strengthener (kerin semenat)

plate bound in rotan

mananís shield (terebai manan)

pua> kumbu> weaving

mananís wings

pp. 255-256 the 2 basic categories of pelian




For the 1st category, "recovering the soul from spirits (jalai ngagai antu)", "the manang use stage props to represent the spiritís lair which, in actuality, is said to be located in the jungle not far from the longhouse."


pelian __

employeth __

to signify __


sankar besi

3 swords arranged on the mid-ruai

spiritís iron cage whence the captive soul is sprung


luban batu

3 stones arranged on the ruai floor

rock-cave lair of a tigre-spirit


kara penjuan

2 bamboo uprights erected outside on the outer veranda, and tied together at the tips (into "A"-shape)

"a well-known haunt of spirits, the upper branches of the parasitic fig plant."


long wooden pestles hanging down

ae:rial roots of parasitic fig


For the 2nd category, "travel toward the land of the dead to recapture the soul (jalai ngagai sebayan)", similar stage-props are ritually employed :


pelian __


its signification


tintin lanjan

middle of the ruai

"intermediate zone between the world of the living and the world of the dead."


large upturned wooden mortar

solitary hill in this intermediate zone


7 such upturned wooden mortars

"ridge of seven peaks ... from ... this world toward the world of the dead."


titi rawan (etc.)


Mandai river, separating the world of the living from the world of the dead


wooden pestle placed transversely across the tempuan

"the "bridge of fear" which crosses this river and separates the living from the dead."



"waterfall on the Limban river, deeper within the land of the dead."


Pelian for the "obviously dying" are intended as "a graphic display of what could not be broached in conversation Ė the futility of any attempt to cure".

pp. 256-257 some incidents enacted by the manan in the pelian


its significance

p. 256 "the manang, seated on a large plate, slides down the ladder from the door to the ground below (belanchar ba> wong Limban). This represents his soul slithering down the waterfall at the Limban river".

{Slithering would imply clambering down an inclined cataract, rather than a true waterfall.}

"In ... the ruai of the longhouse of the dead, he enacts a tug of war with the dead (belian bebatak lampong)."

{The manan, and the rulers of the dead, are each pulling on the recently-arriven soul.}

"in bedagang bilang lawang, ... he walks from bilik to bilik pretending to trade, though he is

actually searching for the sick personís soul.

He might masquerade as a visitor (nemuai) entering each bilik in turn, though his true purpose is to locate the lost soul which

[p. 257] comes into his sintong basket, attracted by the smell of the patientís clothes which have been hidden there."

{Similar to this use (on p. 257) of sinton basket would be the Maori worship of the clothes-hamper deity, Takataka-putea, often mentioned (e.g., in TPK, p. 89) in conjunction with the waterfall-deity (similar to the "waterfall" on p. 256) Marere-o-tona.}

NgKPK = Anaru Reedy (transl.) : The Teachings of Pita Kapiti. Canterbury U Pr, 1997.

pp. 257-258 nature of the chant




"the manang first bites the sword {scil., the hilt of the sword : cf. Hiltebeitel} to strengthen and protect his own soul, and then begins to chant ... . It is ... an adagio, in which the words are drawn out in long tones that oscillate between two and tree notes just a semitone or a tone apart. Each line progresses into a characteristic trill which is very difficult to execute, then comes to an emphatic and very abrupt end that accents the terminal rhyming syllable. ... The chant is composed of lines that contain runs of internal rhymes and ends with syllables that rhyme with terminal syllables of adjacent lines. ... The language of the chant is jako dalam or "deep language," in contrast to everyday, obvious or shallow Iban (jako mabu>). ... The language is archaic, employing words and phases of forebears rarely used nowadays and referring to equipment long since outdated ... . ...


The chant is also ... cryptic; a series of puzzles that the listener must decipher to make the meaning obvious. Of all the chants in the Iban corpus, the pelian chants are recognized as being the hardest to understand. In some parts, the language is so deep that even expert interpreters cannot make sense of it. These sections are described as the language of spirits (jako antu) or the language of the dead (jako sebayan)".


[relation of the manan to his chant :] "At times he is self-reflexive, describing his own equipment and actions in the third person. ... During breaks between pelian he runs commentaries on the nature of the pelian itself. One manang would achieve an alienation effect by breaking off the chant momentarily to comment on the characters. After singing about one ancestor ..., the manang stopped to scoff at him".

pp. 259-261 excursion to the land of the dead and back Ė Pelian Nyembayan


Pelian Nyembayan


the __ birds

were associated with the __

their calls being heard during the __










"The Semalau birds were too busy inspecting grave goods ...,


the Tiup Api birds ... were singing in the deep of the night, and


the Kuong Kebat birds were preoccupied with tying up the bones of the dead."


"Bunsu Bubut, the coucal bird who stands near the bridge of fear that crosses into the land of the dead itself, singing her mournful cry whenever a soul passes over ... had indeed sent a woman take [the infant patient]ís soul across Ė she saw them hurry along the river of the dead. ... .

... the dead themselves were gathering to see the monitor lizard ... . ... Crowding closer to peer at the lizard, they were surprised and amused to see that this curious creature had one leg missing. Here lay the deception, for in the instant that the dead were caught off guard by their own curiosity, Manang ...ís yang snatched [the infant patient]ís soul and spirited it back to the land of the living again at breakneck speed." Each mythic manan used his own yan to recapture a soul :


yan of mythic Manan __

is a __















the daimon Nadin Gerasi





"As they passed the old ruins of the former longhouse, the trees were flowering and fruiting profusely and when they bathed in a stream, the stones of the river bed turned miraculously into charms (ubat penchelap)".


"At the end of the chant Manang ... grasped the duku> sword in his right hand and suddenly lay down ... . ... After about 40 seconds, he emitted several queer, high-pitched moaning sounds ... . The soul clasped in his right hand, he returned to the bilik-apartment and placed it on [the infant patient]ís head, repeating the same procedure for [the infant patient]ís mother as well."

(Apparently, the monitor lizard is the yan of Manan Jimbau.)

pp. 262-263 attracting a spirit to the longhouse Ė Pelian Muru Antu


Pelian Muru Antu


Rite to reprimand "a female antu buyu, who, in the Saribas, amy be an old hag who lives either in the ruins of deserted longhouses ... or in the loft among disused paddy bins. A food offering had been hung on a tree as bait just outside the back door ... . ... He implored her to show herself by using the highly-refined language of respect and flattery. He called her by extravagant praise names and sang in adoration of her beautiful tattooed body, describing the patterns in elaborate poetic detail. The spirit was attracted to the longhouse through the language of courtship. ... . ... . ... he continued to attract her with bells and the piring offering, and when she finally appeared, his language suddenly changed from the adoring blandishments of seductions into the stern rebuke ... . ...


Once the spirit was taught how to behave (ngajar antu) ..., he returned to the polite style of respect and apologized profusely for dealing so harshly with her."

pp. 263-264 enactment of pelian




"Manang enact the recapture of the patientís soul with a sudden, grasping movement, as in the pelian betansang where the manang leaps to seize the soul from a spiritís nest (represented by a sintong-basket attached high on a longhouse upright) ... . In the ... pelian tinting lanjan, after circling so many times around the ridge of seven upturned mortars, the manang without notice jumps onto the ridge and leaps nimbly from peak to peak ... . ... he scrambles around on the floor, ... grabbing at the soul as if it were darting this way and that. The Iban word ngerampas or snatching, conveys the sense of sudden pouncing on the soul unawares."


"On recovering ..., the manang has the patientís soul clasped in his hand. This ... he displays as a visible object (the tiny, black seed), washes and cools it down with water prior to placing it on the patientís head. Here, the manang is ... enacting ... the myth of Jarai, who washed his wifeís soul before entering his longhouse."

pp. 265-267 involvement of audience; performance-amulets




"Members of the audience, especially ... ritual experts ..., ... critique the quavering quality of the manangís voice. ... Manang themselves use ... humble self-disparagement".


"In the pelian betanam ayu, ... a cordyline palm ... is planted near the longhouse ... . The words of the pelian chant praise this tree ..., its branches laden with riches, reaching as far as Thailand and Singapore."

"Most manang carry charms given


to them by their yang to assist in the performance,

ubat pengingat for memory,

ubat pemanchal for courage to perform in front of an audience, and so on."


3.2 Ė Clifford Sather : "Repraesentation of the Shaman in Iban Comic Fables".

pp. 285, 315 sky; mt. Rabon

p. 285

"the sky (langit), the principal domain of the gods (petara) and celestial shamans, which is said "to cover" (bap), or overlay, "this world" like the lid of a rice bin. Beneath the central zenith of the sky is Mount Rabong associated with the Shamanic Goddess Ini Inda."

p. 315, n. 3:2:5

"Mount Rabong ..., to return to its summit (tuchong) ... parallels the recovery of the patientís soul and its reinsertion into the body through the fontanlle. Mount Rabong is an actual mountain located on the true left bank of the Ketungau river in West Kalimantan ... . ... It is also the site of Manang Raja Menjayaís consecration as manang bali>, "transformed" or transvestite shaman, by his sister the Goddess Ini Inda, and the abode of the souls of deceased manang, ... their own special land of the dead."

pp. 285, 315-316 constituents of a human

p. 285

"human beings (mensia) also possess, as attributes of both body and soul, "appearance" (gamal), name (nama) and "vitality."

p. 315, n. 3:2:6


its significance

"appearance" (gamal)

"individualís unique persona"



"character" (pendiau)

"individuating aspects"

p. 316, n. 3:2:6

To an "individualís spiritual gamal are associated conditions of ritual jeopardy or favor, as revealed, for example, by omens and dreams".

pp. 285 316 spiritual ayu-plant {Skt. /ayus/ Ďlongevityí}

p. 285

"Vitality" "is symbolized by an unseen plant counterpart (ayu or bunga) representing the mortal aspect of personality. Thus, ayu flourishes in health, but in sickness is said "to wither" (layu>); and in death, "to die" (parai)."

p. 316, n. 3:2:8

"In the pelian bejereki, ... the sabang ayu, literally the "cordyline of vitality" ... is represented by a cordyline ... set in an irun jar ..., which, after the pelian is over, is planted by the manang in the earth below the longhouse entry ladder. In the pelian bejereki the plant symbolizes the ... plant counterpart, of the about-to-be-born child in the womb of the expectant mother".

p. 290 spiritual heat

"the yang often threaten a new initiate with madness ... if he refuses to take up the "calling" (kumbai), and, once he does take it up, the "work" (pengawa) he performs is itself potentially "hot" (panas)." "This calling might be Ďhotí; perhaps this work is Ďhotí ".

pp. 291, 317 categories of fables; theme of hero-fool

p. 291

"the Iban distinguish between

the ensera, composed fictional marratives, and

the cherita (or jerita), a ... category that includes myths, historical narratives, ... and eye-witness reportage.

The ensera comprise primarily the hero sagas (Orang Panggau), and the morality fables, ... and including both animal tales (ensera jelu) [p. 316, n. 3:2:13 : "Concerned chiefly with tortoise (tekura>) and Mousedeer (pelandok)."] and comic fables (ensera Paloi, or ensera Apai Aloi)." [Apai Aloi is "known as Saloi, Sali, Sali-ali, Pak Sali, or simply Tambap (Fool)" (p. 317, n. 3:2:16).]

pp. 316-7, n. 3:2:14

among the __

the comic-hero is named __

Naju Dayak

Bapa Paloi

p. 317, n. 3:2:14

Gerai Dayak

Pa> Aluwi

Salako (Selako)

Pa> Aiai {Alai?}


Ma> Alui


Abu Nawas [<arabic name]

pp. 303, 319 geographical locality of Paloi

p. 303

"Paloi lives with his wife and two children, Aloi and Laminda, in a longhouse above Nanga Gelong and below Nanga Panggau Libau."

p. 319, n. 3:2:26

"Keling is the chief of the Panggau Libau heroes; Laja is the second in command ...; while Sempurai, whose ancestry is semi-demonic, is strongest.

The Gelong heroes are led by Tutong, whose sister Kumang is the wife of Keling. Tutong is the spiritual patron of blacksmiths (tukang kamboh) and ... forger of weapons. ... Sempurai ... is a figure of mercurial temper ... and brute physical strength."


BORNEO RESEARCH COUNCIL MONOGRAPH SERIES, Vol. 2 = Robert L. Winzeler (ed.) : The Seen and the Unseen : Shamanism, Mediumship and Possession in Borneo. College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, 1993.