7 Iban gods from Raja Chenanum

Part 2 Iban augury



The Iban pay careful attention to the behaviour of birds and animals for their actions are thought to convey warnings, guidance, or foretell future occurrences. Particularly important are the flight and calls of the augural birds. Bird omens are associated by the Iban with the most powerful of all their gods, Sengalang Burong, who is believed to have principal charge over prophetic communication between the deities and mankind. For this reason, it is necessary to begin this study of augury with an account of the mythological traditions that surround Sengalang Burong, as these traditions are a major source of Iban belief relating to augury and account in part for the significant place it holds in Iban life. The augural birds are Sengalang Burong’s followers, and it is through Sengalang Burong’s teaching of Sera Gunting described in this chapter that knowledge of augury is believed to have been acquired by the Iban.

In ancient times there lived a deity named Raja Chenanum whose nickname (julok) was Raja Chenuda. He and his family lived on top of Rabong Reminang Mountain. Raja Chenanum married Endu Dara Jata by whom he begot Raja Durong whose nickname (julok) was Lumpong Tibang Bebaring. Raja Durong also lived on top of a high hill. He married Endu Kumang Cheremin Bintang who was also called Tukoh Lawang Pinggai Bekaki. By her he begot Raja Jembu, whose seat was a tall, sacred whetstone, believed to be the ultimate source of the whetstone owned by individual Iban farmer to this day. The latter married Endu Endat Baku Kansat who owned various kinds of agricultural charms. She was also called Endu Kumang Baku Pelimbang, the keeper of a very effective charm believed to be able to swell the earthly wealth of man. They begot the following children:

1. Aki Lang Sengalang Burong also called Aki Jugu Menaul Tuntong. He was also known as Biduk Linggar Natar Disenggal Gumbang Besabong and married Indai Kechendai Bepantak Jirak, also called Endu Dara Sentaba Balun Kupak.

2. Matai Tuai Raja Menjaya, also known as Manang Langgong Ngembuan Puchong Penyangga Nyawa.

3. Raja Simpulang Gana, who also known as Rangkang Kirai Raja Sua (Siva). He married Endu Sudan Cheremin Bulan, also called Endu Serentam Tanah Tumboh. Her other names were Endu Cherembang Cheremin Bintang Subang Bekaki and Genarang Tanggui Buloh.

4. Tuan Bhiku, Iman Bunsu Raja Petara (the high priest of Bunsu Raja Petara). He is also known as Pantan Inan Raja Jedia and possessed a charm which can cause tangible things of all kinds to become inexhaustible. Some lemambang (bard) mentioned that Bhiku Bunsu Petara is a woman who is married to Bujang Pasang Pareh.

5. Raja Selampandai who was called Raja Selampeta or Raja Selampetoh, (old blacksmith of Bunsu Raja Petara) who forged and shaped the human body upon his anvil.

6. Raja Anda Mara who was known as Gangga Gunggong or Gangga Ganggai, the bestower of luck upon mankind. His wife was Endu Sengkulas Sabit Mas Meriek Merejan, also known as Endu Kumang Petakang Bunga Tanam, and she owned a miraculous stone charm, batu kemarau, which can cause drought upon the earth. She also kept another charm, called batu man, which can make men become extremely wealthy (such as today’s millionaires).

7. Ini Inda Rabong Menoa was also known as Ini Inee Rabong Hari, the greatest of all the manangs or shamans. She lived in the heavens above all of the other deities and spirits except for Bunsu Petara. She was also known as Ini Andan and was the wife of Aki Ungkok.


As mentioned above Sengalang Burong married Indai Kechendai Bepantak Jirak. Almost as soon as they were married, Indai Kechendai became terminally ill. Each day her condition deteriorated; all of the food that she ate made her sick and as a consequence she grew steadily thinner. As her condition grew worse, Aki Lang Sengalang Burong became worried and called for his sister, Ini Inda Rabong Menoa, from her abode in heaven.

When she arrived, Ini Inda examined her sister-in-law. By studying her palpations Ini Inda determined that nothing was wrong with her sister-in-law physically. So she looked fixedly at a flame through her quartz crystal (batu Karas) and from its indications, she discovered that Indai Kechendai Bepantak Jirak’s soul was seriously disturbed by nothing other than her own name.

“Your name”, she said, “must be changed as soon as possible by another name in a betawai ceremony for bepindah nama (change of name) by a shaman”. She asked her brother Aki Lang Sengalang Burong to look for a manang, or shaman, to perform the pelian betawai ceremony for changing his wife’s name in order to save her life.

Aki Lang Sengalang Burong was puzzled at this. He told Ini Inda that he and his people had never had a manang.

“You cannot possibly live without a manang”, said Ini Inda.

Worried by his sister’s request, Aki Lang Sengalang Burong gathered his people together in order to persuade one of them to be consecrated as a manang by Ini Inda. But no one would agree to undergo consecration which saddened Sengalang Burong greatly.

Finally Aki Lang Sengalang Burong persuaded his own brother, Raja Menjaya to become a manang. The latter was very reluctant, but his resistance was overcome by his elder brother and Ini Inda his sister, and he eventually agreed to be consecrated in a bebangun consecration ceremony conducted by his sister, Ini Inda. After he had been made a manang, he was known as Menjaya Manang Raja, and was also called Manang Langgong, Ngembuan Puchong Penyangga Nyawa (“The keeper of a bottle charm for longevity”), the Manang Bali (transvestite shaman), the famous brother of Aki Lang Singalang Burong. As Manang Bali he became a very powerful shaman who, when he died in later years, became the patron saint of all Iban shamans of subsequent generations down to the present time.

After this consecration, Ini Inda and her brother Menjaya Manang Raja performed a betawai pelian ceremony in which they sang a long chant for replacing the name of Sengalang Burong’s wife with a new name. Several names were chosen and each of these was attached to a ball of rice. Each rice ball was placed near the other on a plank for a manok tawai (divining cock) to peck. The rooster pecked a rice ball which carried the name of Endu Sudan Brinjan Bungkong, who was also known as Endu Diu Tiong Menyelong, the names by which Sengalang Burong’s wife was, and is still known to the Iban to this day.

This account of the curing of Sengalang Burong’s wife and the con¬secration of his brother as manang bali provide the mythological charter of Iban shamanism. The procedures used for his consecration are believed to have been transmitted from Ini Inda to successive generation of Iban through Sengalang Burong’s brother Menjaya Manang Raja and are thought to be the same as those followed when present day manang are consecrated.

On the night of a manang’s consecration, husked rice (beras) which had been presented to the initiate shaman by his relatives for the occasion is carefully spread on a mat of medium size at the open air verandah, covered by awnings of nipah palm leaves, according to the teaching of Ini Inda. Early on the next morning, all of the officiating manang examine the rice to determine whether there are any marks on it. If marks are found and are interpreted as having been made by one of the following animal or spirit familiars, the name given to the newly consecrated manang will be as follows:

Name of The Familiar (lyang) – Name of Manang (Bejulok)
Tekura (tortoise) – Begura
Lelabi (river turtle) – Jelapi
Ridun (a kind of black beetle) – Bekok
Ringin (otter) – Menjayan
Landak (porcupine) – Guyak
Menaul (hawk) – Sada’
Gerasi (demon/huntsman) – Jegong

The selection of a manang’s metaphorical name, or julok, is still made this way at the time of his or her consecration.

Sometime after he was consecrated as a manang, Menjaya Manang Raja separated himself from Aki Lang Sengalang Burong’s family and settled on the top of Mount Rabong in the Ketungau region of Indonesian Borneo. After his brother had left him, Sengalang Burong and his followers moved to the Mt. Tutup range in the upper Merakai region east of Mt. Tiang Laju near Engkilili town in Sarawak. As Menjaya Manang Raja lived to many years and eventually died on Mt. Rabong, whenever an Iban manang dies, he firmly believes that his soul will settle on this mountain top with the souls of deceased shamans of past ages.

After she was cured by Ini Inda and Menjaya Manang Raja in the betawai ceremony, Endu Sudan Brinjan Bungkong, Endu Diu Tiong Menyelong, begot children in the following order:

1. Endu Dara Tinchin Temaga also called Endu Cherebok Mangkok China, wife of Ketupong, son of Igat Gelai Lempai Baju, also known as Bujang Sebanang Mali Lebu.

2. Endu Langgu Ketusong Ngembai, also called Dayang Kumang Bunga Entekai, wife of Beragai, son of Bujang Sebabang Bunga Ringkai.

3. Endu Kechapah Dulang Midong also called Endu Kumang Bunga Ketunsong, wife of Bejampong whose title (gelar) was Bujang Geliga Tandang, son of Engkang Engkerama, also known as Duat Igat Jingga Menoa.

4. Endu Bentok Tinchin Pengabas, also called Endu Letan Bepulas Mas, wife of Pangkas, son of Lachau Kuring Lansik Merening Bara Api, also called Langgong Janang, Berani Kempang Nyandang ka Banang Mata Seligi.

5. Endu Kechapang Dulang Mas also called Endu lyak Bunga Libas, wife of Embuas, son of Raja Taka who was also called Mau Manjan Begeman Nangkup Dabong.

6. Endu Moa Puchong Pengabas, also known as Endu Pinggai Besai Nadai Meretas, wife of Kelabu Papau Nyenabong, son of Jimbun Bulan.

7. Endu Dara Chempaka Tempurong Alang, or Patri Langit Dayang Kumang, wife of Kunding Burong Malam, son of Bujang Kesui’ee Sekunding Mupong.3

8. Ajee Brani Ngilah Bulan whose title (gelar) was Menteri Suka Raja Rengayan, the husband of Endu Lilih Sintong Benih Pulut Belangian, the daughter of Raja Simpulang Gana, also known as Rangkang Kirai Raja Sua.

After the separation of Menjaya Raja Manang from Aki Lang Sengalang Burong and his people, the latter’s son-in-law Beragai was consecrated a manang by Menjaya Raja Manang. Due to his role as a manang, Beragai came to be known as Sematai Manang Burong, the shaman of the birds in Sengalang Burong’s house.

Sengalang Burong was a powerful chief with many followers who lived in a large longhouse, together with his daughters and their husbands. The rest of his followers were serfs (jaum) and slaves (ulun) whom he had captured in war, although some had later redeemed themselves.

Sengalang Burong’s youngest daughter, Endu Dara Chempaka Tempurong Alang, married and lived with her husband, Kunding Burong Malam, in the latter’s longhouse. For this reason the voice of Burong Malam is not counted by the Iban among the augural voices of Singalang Burong’s other sons-in-law, all of whom appear as birds in the earthly World.

Sengalang Burong’s only son Ajee Brani Ngilah Bulan, married the youngest daughter of Raja Simpulang Gana and became one of the most important men in his father-in-law’s house at Nanga Temaga Gelang on the shore of the Java Sea.


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