GAWAI SAKIT (Curing the Sick Rituals)

GAWAI SAKIT (Curing the Sick Rituals)

It is the responsibility of the immediate family member’s to seek cures for any member of their family who has fallen sick. It will be reflected in the member of their society on how much trouble and care they take to seek treatment for their sick family members. The whole longhouse members will make effort to give assistance to the affected family.

“Bedara Mata” or “Bedara Mansau”

When an Iban is sick, the first thing his family will do to cure him is to celebrate a “Bedara Mata” or “Bedara Mansau” ceremony. At either one of these ceremonies, offerings are made to the deities and the spirits of past manangs, so that they will come to treat the sick person with miracles and spiritual charms.


If the sick man is not cured by the Bedara ceremonies, the family will call for a manang to perform a pelian ceremony for him. The kind of pelian per­formed depends on information the manang obtains from his quartz crystal (batu karas or batu ilau). The kinds of pelian ceremonies are as follows:

Ni Gempong semangat?

In his pelian chants, the manang invites Menjaya Raja Manang and the souls of great manangs of the past to come to assist him with charms and miraculous healing.

Gawai Sakit

If the sick man is not cured by these pelian, the family will hold a Gawai Sakit festival for his recovery. To conduct this rite, a group of bards (lemambang) is invited to sing their pengap songs. When the feast is about to end, a sacrificial piglet is ceremoniously killed in order to obtain information from its liver which is carefully examined by the bards and other experts present.

Pig liver divination

The indications of the piglet’s liver can vary. If its liver and gall are “too good” i.e. the shape of the liver is excellent and the water inside the gall blad­der is clear (chiru) instead of being green, it is not good, but indicates that the sick man cannot be cured of his sickness. If its gall is green and tiny veins ap­pear under the thin outer tissue of the liver, it indicates that the sick man will soon be cured. But if the indication is doubtful to the minds of the bards and other experts, the conditions of the sick man in the future remains likewise doubtful; he will either be cured or not.


If a sick man cannot be cured by treatment and ceremonies of the dukun, manang or lemambang, sometimes he begs his relatives to send him to a retreat (nampok) at the top of a mountain or near a waterfall known to be inhabited by spirits. His is left alone in a solitary place with of­ferings and expects to meet the spirits he hopes will come to cure him. In other words, he recognizes that his illness is beyond human cure and seeks the direct intercession of the spirits who may or may not come to his aid. If he cannot be cured, then he awaits death.


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