The pig festival: All-night ritual and feast ends the first phase of the ceremony in Muara Tae

foto-4The first phase of the ceremony drew to a close with the pig festival, which required extensive preparations, both spiritually and practically, as hundreds of people from neighboring villages were invited. The preparation phase was called Lamaak Lehoai, during which the shaman chanted mantras for each phase of preparation. Different destinations have different music: there is a specific song and music for going to the forest for wood, another for going to the village, another for the river and so forth. When this ritual was finished, they held the public event, which marked the end of the first phase of the ceremony. Here is Masrani’s report from the village:



pig festivalTHE CEREMONY of Beliant Longan has come to its climax. At the climax night we made offerings of 14 pigs and 22 chickens. The ceremony was attended by hundreds of people from Muara Tae and neighboring villages including Lempunah, Belusuh, Mancong, Kaliq, Rikokng, and others. The climax of Beliant was held all night long by 10 shamans (peliant/pawang sentiu), two female shamans and two timek shamans. All kinds of special dances and music for the rituals were performed. Many rituals were conducted that night. 

Spiritually, at the climax all the spirits of ancestors, protector spirits, and the Divine were present with us all. Prayers were said to restore the life of the living. That means our forests, water, air and us in our physical and spiritual being. Requests were made for strength in our fight for our ancestral lands.

The animal offering is a sign of gratitude to the Supreme power, ancestor spirits, and protector spirits for all gifts they have given us. The actual offering is made with the Tangai ceremony the morning after the climax. After the Tangai, we had three days of fasting.

Before this climax, on Sunday, June 15, we conducted the Benae ceremony in which we visited sacred places like the old long house of Kelumpakng, 5 km east of Muara Tae. There we believe that the protectors spirits reside. From time immemorial, they have been protecting us from many dangers and difficulties — even during war time. The purpose of the ceremony was to ask for strength in the fight of Muara Tae for the forest and for all friends wherever they are. The ceremony was conducted in one day, and at the climax we offered five pigs and five chickens.

foto-6At the time of this writing, various rituals as part of the closing of Belian Longan are still running, including the Pesarakng ritual by the beliant sentiu shaman, and the Ngejarukng riitual by the beliant timek shaman. 

The Pekapa ritual by the beliant nawe shaman is a ceremony to bless toddlers who are touching the soil for the first time and taking a bath in the river for the first time. In this ceremony, the children of humans are united with nature as their living space, then they are prayed for and strength requested for them from the juata tonoi — the guardian spirit of nature who lives on the earth — and they are bathed in the Nayan River as a sign of cleansing so that the future life of the toddlers will always be clean from illness and anything bad. This ritual is an obligation for every Dayak Benuaq child who was recently born and can be done at any Belian Longan ceremony.

Then we will conduct Nempuk Balai, a spiritual way to bring the platforms of the ceremony — the spiritual buildings — to the sky where the protector spirits are.

This is what I can share presently with you all, friends. Thank you. Masrani

HERE IS A VIDEO to give you a taste of the pig festival:



dispute landsTHE PEOPLE OF MUARA TAE ARE NOW doing extensive preparations for the next phase of the ceremony, where they will host a distinct ceremony at each of the four sites where Muara Tae land has been falsely sold by people in neighboring villages and sections of it bulldozed by palm oil companies without permission. This map was created in 2012 by government officials and shows the traditional boundaries of Muara Tae. The sticks mark out the areas along the borders that are in dispute. These are the areas that the tribe is seeking to protect from bulldozing, where the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil has ordered the member companies to hold community meetings and settle disputes before continuing to clear land and plant — which they have not done. Unfortunately, the RSPO does not enforce their policies, and so the companies continue to be certified sustainable.

As you can see, the disputed areas are very large sections of ancestral forest, and very little territory — just that little triangle — will be left for the tribe if the boundaries are changed by officials, as the companies are lobbying them to do so that they can keep the Muara Tae land that was encroached on or sold to them by neighboring villages for as little as 800,000 rupiah per hectare (less than $8). The four locations of conflict involve the boundaries between Muara Tae and Ponok village, Muara Tae and Kenyanyan village, Muara Tae and Utaak Nayan, and Muara Tae and Utaak Melinau.

As soon as the exact dates of these ceremonies are clear, formal invitations will be issued to leaders and representatives of the village in question, along with the respective company and goverment officials involved. There will also be an open invitation for anyone from the respective village who would like to attend. For each of these ceremonies, structures will be built at the location as the sacred center of the ceremony. There will be symbolic objects and food offerings, including pig and chicken, and everyone will be fed.

foto-3AT THESE CEREMONIES, the shaman invites everyone to come into deep alignment with truth and gives each person an opportunity to share their perspectives on the situation. All are encouraged to let go of the viewpoints that consider only themselves and come to an agreement based on truth and the good of all concerned. If an agreement is reached, the ceremony ends here. But if an agreement is not reached, then the ancestors are called on to bring things back into balance for the good of all concerned, and the ceremony continues.

Traditionally, calling on these high ancestors to resolve the conflict is a very serious move. It is only done in the most intractable circumstances, when the very survival of the tribe is threatened and an agreement is not reached. Turning the conflict over to the ancestors to resolve means that no direct physical confrontation need occur. Essentially, the people “let go and let God.”

If necessary, the ceremony proceeds to the buffalo offering and feast, when the decree of the ancestors is brought to the earth. Rituals will continue after the ancestor’s decree.


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