Friday, June 22, 2012
BELIEF IN DREAMS (MIMPI) BY Revd. WILLIAM HOWELL
From the earliest times dreams were regarded as presaging the woes or foretelling the joys or good fortune of mankind. It was looked upon as almost impious to disregard a vision or dream for they were supposed to be sent by the Celestial Power for the guidance of man, and as such belief lingers even now amongst educated persons in civilized countries, how much more should we expect to find it among the uncivilized barbarians. So the lives of the Dyaks are strongly influenced by such hallucinations, dreams being looked upon by them as either the imperative commands of the gods or else warnings sent by them presaging good or evil, and their daily life and pursuits are necessarily guided by them to a great extent.
We look upon a dream as a slight and ill arranged action of the thinking faculties during a state of partial sleep.The dream or thought is merely a momentary impression perfectly natural in its operation, the state of mind which causes it being produced by temporary functional derangement, the stomach being usually more or less out of order, and no dreams can take place during a sound sleep.
The Dyaks affirm that the gods or spirits are instrumental in bringing about dreams and one can only come to the conclusion that they are not aware that they or their imaginations constitute their gods.
The following are instances of the effect of dreams on the Dyaks:—
1. If a medicine man (manang) has a dream ordering him to change his sex he must do so at once as in the case of Manang Bali in the chapter of Manang.
2. It often happens that when Dyaks are accused of theft their defence is that they are the recipients of imperative commands from the gods. Once a man was fined six times for theft and he announced that he intended to steal once more in order to complete the number of times ordered by the gods, as after the last theft he would be a wealthy man.
3. A woman was known to have committed adultery several times, saying that it was not her fault as she was only carrying out the instructions of the gods conveyed to her in dreams, and should she fail to do so she would come to an untimely end or else become a raving lunatic.
4. Newly married couples often divorce as the result of bad dreams, and the same reason is put forward to account for the breaking of engagements or pledges.
5. Cases are known of Christian Dyaks turning apostates and of heathens being converted as the result of dreams.
6. If dreams are often the cause of houses being deserted and of farming lands already cleared being given up. It is not at all rare to hear either a man or woman relating a dream to the effect that the spirits have told them that they are hungry and are in want of food, with the result that the whole house at once organizes a feast with offerings for the spirits.I think that I have said enough to show what effect dreams have on all transactions amongst Dyaks, and though this subject would fill many volumes it is more or less confused, and I may draw my conclusion that the Dyak belief in both dreams and omens is most detrimental to the teaching of Christianity and that it is important to teach them to disregard both of these.