Iban customary law for death and mourning

3. ADAT RELATED TO DEATH AND MOURNING.

ADAT MATI ENGGAU RABAT (DEATH RITES AND NIGHT VIGIL)

Immediately upon death, all members of the deceased’s family and other relatives present at the death bed will weep for the deceased for about ten minutes or more. At this time two pestles are laid at the passage (tempuan) at both ends of the longhouse, in order to stop the ghosts of former relatives from entering the house from the other world. The corpse is then cleaned with a soapy lather made from the pounded skins of the langgir fruit. Having done this, three yellow marks of turmeric (kunyit) are made on the deceased’s forehead. As this is done, his or her hair is oiled and combed after which the body is dressed in good clothes as instructed by the teachings of the god Pun-tang Raga to the ancestor Serapoh many generations ago.

BESARARA BUNGA (SEPARATING THE FLOWERS)

A month or two after the opening of the ulit mourning period, the deceased’s family will now sever the bonds of affection between the deceased and the members of his or her family remaining in this world in a final rite of farewell. To accomplish this, manang, or shaman, is invited by the bereaved family to recite the incantations of the besarara bunga ceremony, meaning, literally, “the separating of the flowers”. Ordinarily this is done as soon after the opening of ulit as possible because the Iban believe that the dead may endanger their loved ones and cause their death so that their souls may join them in the other world, if these ties of affection between the living and the dead are not spiritually separated.10

NGETAS ULIT (FORMAL CLOSING OF THE MOURNING PERIOD)

Some days after the three-month ulit mourning period has expired, the deceased’s family gathers together the people of the longhouse to their ruai gallery for the family head to inform them of his family’s intention to close the mourning period with a ngetas ulit ceremony. He will beg all the people to stay at home the next day to witness the opening ceremony. After this, the restric­tions of the ulit period, unlike pana, fall only on the deceased’s family.

http://gnmawar.wordpress.com/adat-iban/part-1-iban-adat-law-and-custom/

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