Agusan Manobo Possession-Ritual, 4-7



Burning speech


p. 149 burning of feather or of hair

Manobo burns a chicken feather when he or she repeatedly dreams of a spirit who, inexplicably, is believed to wish to befriend the dreamer.

Likewise, when there is very loud thunder, Manobos speak to the skyworld deity of weather, and burn human hair outside their houses.”

pp. 150-153 possession-‘speech’; swift-vision spirit; eucharist; war against swine

p. 150

Mediums ... are said to be possessed (yana-an), a word which also means speech.”

p. 151

all mediums have a spirit called Daligmata (fast vision) that aids in the ritual for recovering the lost souls of dying patients (gudguden).”

p. 152

The animal sacrifice is cooked and eaten by ritual participants”.

p. 153

In pig sacrifice, the spirit usually executes the sa-ut (war dance), ... indicating he is a bagani (warrior).”

{periodic ritual war against swine is characteristic of Papua.}

pp. 154, 195 inarticulate vocalizations by specific possessing-spirits; articulate vocalizations by specific possessing-spirits

p. 154

the K__go would shout and

the Man__ngan would shriek.”

p. 195

spirit voices ... –

the Manobo-speaking male elder from Manwali named Sul__an,

the singing maiden from the mountain named Sab__kan, and

the Visayan –

all channeled into what we call “languages,” possessed the medium”.

pp. 205, 213-214, 221 revelation by spirit-maiden




The spirit-maiden literally reveals (nangen) the visions of other worlds”. [p. 394, n. 4:117 : “Sab__kan, the singing spirit, is a maiden.”]


the souls are now in Ma-ibuyan, a place where souls go after death. Thus the singing spirit ... says that the patients’ souls are


approaching that place of death ... : ... there is a place called Ma-ibuyan where the dead go and ... spirits .. feel compassion for them.”


The singing spirit, which had seen the souls of the patients heading towards the place of death, saw ... the return of the personal spirits previously “owned” ... to the ... clan ..., this set of spirits (including the bird spirit that momentarily seized the medium officiating at the end)”.

The last statement of the singing spirit ... concerns a command ..., reminding the audience not to go near the lake.”

p. 233-234, 237 witch flirtatious

p. 237

she “owned” a “different” spirit that “flies” and is a witch ..., because she had a Tagabayew “flirtatious” spirit that made her dance with exposed genitals.”

p. 233

That is Tagabayew, who loves to dance with a skirt up to here. One can see the slit of her ass. ...

p. 234

That vagina can be seen indeed.”



Personal songs


pp. 249-250, 257-259 the double (twin-soul)




kadengan-dengan (... a ‘double’ or ‘twin soul’) ... is perceived to be naturally located outside of a person’s body. ... This ... seems akin to ... “snake twins” in other parts of the Philippines, where a snake and a human being are paired, each affecting and resembling the life of the other. [“S-TPh”] ... .

{cf. Aztec /coatl/, indifferently meaning both 'twin' and 'snake'.}

... the kadengan-dengan ... resides in the skyworld. The kadengan-dengan is the double living in another world”.


One tuber refers to the actual human ... and the other to the kadengan-dengan ... believed to reside in the skyworld. This twin human figures are wiped with various species of plant leaves.”


the carved double (binata-bataq).”


Uttered in the magical spells, the plants’ characteristics ... are said to “pass through” (tuhut) the ... double’s body and thus insure ... well being.”


names of the plant-species, with the leaves whereof the binata-bataq is wiped :-


purported meaning


glittering” (migbelew-bilew)


creeps” (natey-tey)


rise” (egpakabangun)


return” (eg-uli)

S-TPh” = Ebermut Rudolph : “Snake-Twins of the Philippines : Observations on the Alter-Ego Complex”. PHILIPPINE QUARTERLY OF CULTURE AND SOCIETY, Vol. 16, Nos. 3-4 (1988):250-80.

pp. 269-270 musical instruments




tuwali (chip-on-ledge flute)

kuget (spike flute)


pendag (lip-valley flute)

kubin (bamboo jaw harp)

takumboq (bamboo slit drum)

pp. 277-278, 400 pity; interposer; permission

p. 277

Manobo song embodies sentiments of pity that mediums ... express when they “see” persons on their journeys around the cosmos”.

p. 278

Like land which is “owned” by nature spirits but “used’ by the people, Manobo ted-em, especially in ritual context, is also “owned” by spirits. ... ted-em ... voices of the spirits ... which are explicitly recognized as such manifest a kind of ownership similar to that of dream songs by Temiar mediums who would, Roseman (1998) suggested, be more appropriately called “interposer” than “composer.””

p. 400, n. 5:50

Manobo spirit mediums do not really “compose” their songs; instead they channel the vocal force of the spirit-outsiders in their bodies”.

Roseman (1998) = Marina Roseman : “Singers of the Landscape”. AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST, Vol. 100 (1998):106-121.



Reluctance & shame


p. 281 Visayan-inspired innovations in ritual




offerings to the spirits are placed on a table that Manobos call sangga. This contrasts with the older type of ... rituals where food ... is placed on a grass mat on the floor.”


the syncretic ritual uses the guitar”.


a major portion ... is cooked with spices and salt, making this entirely different from the older type of ritual where food for the spirits is never salted.”


the beverages offered to the spirits, [modern-style beverages,] and consumed by ritual participants”.

p. 283 Ma-ibuyan

mediums from the barrios now say that souls of the dead go to a place called Ma-ibuyan. This seems to be at the highest tip of the mountain where it touches the skyworld. ... For Manobo mediums in town, Ma-ibuyan is just like a temporary holding area; souls eventually end up in the skyworld.”

pp. 284-285 excuses for, and punishments inflicted by spirit-helpers upon, converts to Christianity


disadvantages of conversion


[A certain male spirit-medium] had ... subscribed to


[Christianity] by explaining that his skyworld spirit helper was the one who commanded him to do so. ... . the mountain spirit had already made every attempt to inflict pain on his body when he attended the services of [Christians]. ... His neighbors knew that the mountain spirit was the one causing the pain. His wife, for example, had become mentally ill. ... [The male spirit-medium himself] had an accident in the forest ... . His son committed suicide”.

[The male spirit-medium]’s kin explained that his misery was caused by his refusal to remember his spirit helpers anymore. The woman who told ... this ... further commented on another woman, the language assistant of the [Christian] missionary couple, whose body became paralyzed a few months after she began to work for the missionaries ... . ... Her neighbor told ... spirit familiar of her father (inherited from her paternal grandfather) was responsible for harming her, forcing her to go back to honoring the family’s spirit familiars.”

p. 295 sharing of food {a communistic trait}

In everyday life, Manobos ... eat ... food ... first inviting the onlooker to share the food. There is a particular term, tungka-en, for the effect of not sharing food ... . The equivalent word for this in Visayan is busung. Eating and not sharing with others is shameful.”

pp. 308-310 reluctances in ritually compromised situations (including simulated reluctance as a gesture of politeness)




one medium in the barrio who said that her spirit helpers have revealed to her in a dream that they do not want presentations of their traditional song and dance displayed in public. She mentioned another medium in town ... who said that his spirit helpers did not want their songs tape-recorded.”


In many of these songs, singers say they are ... expressing the difficulty of their compromised situation. ... This has a powerful rhetorical effect because the hesitancy of the act of speaking enhances


the gesture of giving. By explicitly saying to the listener that it is difficult for him to give, yet in the end ... giving, the singer enlarges the value of the gift.”

p. 312 when houses are abandoned

Manobos generally abandon their houses when a family member has died in it.”

{This is likewise true of some South American tropical-forest tribes (e.g., the Warau).}

pp. 319-320 Manobo non-table vs. Visayan table

p. 319

the commensal meal at the end of the ritual – steamed rice and burnt {grilled} pork – was distributed to the ritual participants on banana leaves placed on the floor.”

p. 320, Pl. 17

Visayan-style “Illuminated food offerings displayed on a table” : “Note the cooked rice shaped like the mythical mountain inuntudan, with cooked egg on top of it ... . These offering are salted and mediums do the trance dancing to the accompaniment of ... guitar.” [cf. p. 281]



Song & sacrificing


183,. 352-356 tutelary spirits




Manobos supplicate spirit familiars (baylan) who have already been “domesticated” by human beings through the language of sharing. These tutelary spirits have names, and they are invoked to enter the house during a ritual in order to cure the sick and prognosticate the future. This class of spirits contrasts strongly with bound impersonal ones, who have not taken a liking to human society, preferring instead to stay in their abodes.

Tutelary spirits, however, are accompanied by other spirit companions during rituals, but they only stay at a distance outside the house. However, these companion-spirits are equally


recognized since they are given food offerings. Human beings treat spirit familiars as persons and they talk to them during rituals.

Mediums are chosen by spirits to practice healing and to specialize in religious lore. ... When a bound spirit desires (kiham) to “befriend” a medium-to-be, the medium-to-be’s offspring die and the medium-to-be suffers illnesses ranging from mental imbalance to near death experiences. ... Divinatory rituals called suyad are held each year where a senior officiating medium deciphers the identity and origin of the desiring spirits ..., most of the time bargaining and offering animal sacrifices as substitutes for the harm that the spirits are causing in mediums’ bodies. The rituals span “seven” years and thus constitute a kind of instruction or apprenticeship where mediums-to-be learn the complexity of Manobo religious thought and the lore behind the ritual practices. ... The medium literally sacrifices in order than he or she can heal. ... During the years of the suyad, ... different voices emerge ..., that is, ... spirits are able to speak in the body of the medium-to-be until the “seventh” year is reached ... . ... Mediums sing during moments when the conversations in ritual turn to the topic of death ... . By doing so, mediums share this experience with ritual sponsors or the patient’s family who cannot see what mediums can and human existence is thus affirmed by the medium’s song of compassion. ...


In conjunction with ritual offerings, humans bring spirits into the ritual space through rhetorical invocations that foreground the sentiment of pity. In elaborate ritual ..., this sentiment is the main factor drawing spirit familiars into the ritual space. ... These invocations foreground the hearer-spirits, using either “full” pronouns for spirit familiar or “independent” pronouns for bound spirits.”


The distinctions speakers make in addressing spirits therefore suggests the distinction between “bound” personal spirits which are addressed with the “independent” pronouns and the personal spirit familiars who are addressed with the “full” forms.”


Once the spirits possess mediums’ bodies, conversations between human beings and spirits begin. These take up the greater bulk of ritual time, since they are entirely bargaining in character ... . Mediums speak multiple voices, juxtaposed one after the other. ... Mediums, as in the manganito seance conversation documented by Hiromu, do not enunciate well-formed statements. Rather they offer incomplete, pithy statements that the interpreter and audience fill in ... . ... This makes the human-spirit conversations dialogical. ...


The mute spirit cannot speak, but reveals itself only through bodily gestures.

Bird spirits are generally no longer felt and incarnated in rituals, since their trees were mercilessly cut for the capitalists’ profit.

I was not able to document rituals where ... [there were] spirits who were said to climb trees and dance on thatched rooftops.”

the singing spirit, either originating from the distant mythical mountain or the skyworld, enters the medium’s body when topics of ritual conversations are about movements of lost souls (umagad) to places of death or of spirits approaching persons. The singing spirit, often called the mountain spirit who enchants and who gives advice (tagabayew), reveals these movements to participants who cannot see. In effect, ... the spirits reveals {reveal} a secret to listeners about spirit visions of souls of dying persons and incoming spirit forces. ... Mediums disclose words of pity in song as they see the visions. ...


Song is believed to be a kind of weeping (ajenged), and it reveals things far beyond what human vision can see. Manobos view persons who suddenly weep without apparent reasons as prophets. In an all-night ritual se’ance, for example, called gudguden {cf. /GUDGoDah/ 'troop' (Strong’s 1412) }, mediums possessed by the daligmata spirit sing about the personal history of severely sick persons, dramatizing the search for lost souls and recovering them from harmful forces through the intervention of the mediums’ spirit helpers. ... It is associated with the “fast vision” spirit who does not have any specific physical space as residence.”

Hiromu = Shimizu Miromu : “Communicating with Spirits : Southwestern Pinatubo Negritos”. EAST ASIA CULTURAL STUDIES, Vol. 13, No. 4 91983):129-67.


CURRENT RESEARCH IN ETHNOMUSICOLOGY, Vol. 4 = Jose` S. Buenconsejo : Songs and Gifts at the Frontier : Person and Exchange in the Agusan Manobo Possession Ritual. Philippines. Routledge, NY & London, 2002.