BURONG NGAJONG LABA (ANIMALS WHICH SEND A STROKE OF LUCK)
When Singalang Burong and his brothers separated from the other deities and from the Iban ancestors, Raja Simpulang Gana, one of Singalang Burong’s younger brothers and the Iban god of agriculture, assured the latter that only the following kinds of animals are empowered by the deities to send a stroke of luck (nganjong laba) to human farmers in the world of man:
Name of animal in Iban – Description in English
Belangkiang – A lizard with a white stripe along its mouth
Ulat Bulu – Hairy caterpillar
Ingkat – Tarsier
Bengkang – Slow Loris
Menarat – Monitor Lizard
Pelandok – Mousedeer
Landak – Porcupine
Kijang – Barking deer
Beruang – Bear
Jani or Babi Babas – Wild boar
Rusa – Sambar deer
The names of these animals and insects are mentioned in the chants for the Farm and Whetstone Festivals when Raja Simpulang Gana and the members of his family, together with these animal and insect slaves, come in procession from the spiritual world to attend these festivals celebrated in the longhouses of their human hosts.7
The bards (lemambang) must be very careful when mentioning the order of their procession (tangkan nurun ngabang) in the festival chants. If they recite it incorrectly, it is said that the indications of the liver of the sacrificial piglet killed for the feast will be made complicated and so rendered impossible to divine accurately. This is because the spirits are believed to walk behind each other’s wives, and confusing their order implies adulterous relations. Due to this the inexpert bards will always leave out this part of the chants.
No bird omen sends a stroke of luck to human farmers, but, instead, the augural birds convey warnings or guidance to the travelers, hunters, farmers or traders in the various ways described earlier.
The traditional Iban strongly believes that he may gain fore knowledge of the future through omens and dreams. For this reason Iban leaders in past centuries intentionally sought dreams in particular. Many ventured to solitary places to sleep in order to meet spirits from whom they hoped to receive charms assuring them of invulnerability and success in war, prosperity in farming and trading, or special powers to cure the sick.8
Iban parents in the olden days taught their children to be well-behaved during sleeping hours to respect those seeking dreams. Anyone who woke up early was expected to walk quietly and take special care not to disturb those who were still sleeping. Otherwise, a person was likely to be regarded as “ill-mannered”.
It is also believed that no one can achieve greater renown, be braver in war, or richer than others without his success being first foretold in dreams. It is thought that all prosperous farmers and adventure some traders must have received prior dreams, sent to them from Raja Simpulang Gana and Anda Mara, respectively, to which they owe their unusual success.
But favorable dreams come only to those who are capable, by effort and natural abilities, of achieving what is foretold. The gods and deities are believed to judge human character and appear with favor only to those who are worthy, diligent and attentive to their guidance. The same is thought to be true of omens; their blessing is enjoyed only by those who are worthy to receive it.
The personal dreams, which foretell the general course of an individual’s future life, occur to an individual when they are in their youth, during their bachelor or maidenhood days. It is also believed that the dreams of grandparents, that occur while a grandchild is still in its mother’s womb, are especially significant and foretell the infant’s future life.
The Iban, in general, accord greater importance to dreams than to omens. This is because the effect of omens is thought to be short-lived. A favorable omen is sought to ensure success of a venture or undertakings which is mostly a short term activity. The most powerful omens foretell events of seven successive years at most and generally give only immediate indications. Even favorable omens will not persuade an individual to disregard his dreams. When dreams and omens give conflicting indication, the former always takes priority in determining an individual’s course of action.