Adat Asal Kitai Iban

Monday, December 22, 2008
Adat Asal Kitai Iban

Through acts of creation, and out of the dissolution and reconstitution of society, myths reveal a sacred cosmos that both transcends, and at the same time sanctions the established moral and social order. Thus, myths are not only a guide to culture; we see how nature and human spirit shape a society.

The traditional Iban view believed that this world (dunya tu) is separated from, and yet influenced by events and by actions of “beings” in a series of inter-connected unseen realms. The gods or Petara and other beings, like the Orang Panggau, spirits and antu, inhibit this unseen realm.

Very generally, the gods are associated with the sky (langit).

A small number, such as Raja Niram and Dara Rambai Garuda, make their domain in the world of the dead (menoa Sebayan) where they lead the spirits of the dead.

The term Petara refers to all supernatural beings that have benevolent intentions toward humankind. They are considered anthropomorphic supernatural, having all the physical and psychological characteristics of human beings.

Like humankind, they live in longhouse communities, farm and engage in migrations and warfare. Unlike human being, they possess supernatural powers that permit them to perform miraculous deeds and have the ability to metamorphose themselves into other forms at will.

Humankind (mensia) share “this world” with other “living things” (utai idup) – with plants (utai tumboh or “growing things”) and animals (jelu) – but also with the spirits or antu, who, like the Petara, are ordinarily unseen and possess supernatural power.

In contrast to the petara, the antu are generally, although not always, said to be hostile to human purposes. The most dreaded spirit feeds on human souls, causing sickness and death, or consume the material wealth of humankind (antu rua).

The antu domains are believed to be in an unseen dimension, entered into by human beings chiefly through dreams (mimpi). Dream are said to be the direct experience of the human soul (samengat). In this dream world, the soul of human beings, physical object and other beings are similarly active giving this unseen world a waking reality.

Intermediate between humankind and the petara in the sky is a third major category of supernatural, the Orang Panggau. These are the heroes and heroines of the mythic Panggau-Gellong world.

Their domain is said to lie between the visible world and the sky.

Thus in myth and ritual liturgy, those who journey to visit the gods and goddesses frequently pass through the Panggau-Gellong world to make their way to the homes of the petara.

Like the gods, these heroes and heroines possess supernatural powers and are believe to be capable of metamorphosis.

Being great mythical heroes, they are credited with exemplary physical ability, beauty, creativity, skills in craftsmanship and other attributes of humankind.

They are, for example, the patrons of women weavers and male warriors.

Their prowess is the subject of vast oral epic literature among the Iban society.

Like the gods and goddesses, the Orang Panggau are beneficent and acts in ways that further human purposes and this makes them the invisible intermediaries.

During major Gawai festivals, they represent the gawai sponsor in inviting, welcoming and entertain the gods and goddesses whom the human bards have called down from the sky to bless and participate, unseen, in the ritual work of the Gawai.


Posted by Tekura Pansuh a.k.a Mensia Berani at 11:09 AM


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