Overview

Kumang


Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

East Asia

The mother goddess of the Ibans, the Sea Dayaks of Borneo. Kumang, ‘whose back was white’, scorched by the setting sun, had charge of paradise, which was the home of Bujang, the first Iban. This land was situated near Mecca, whence Bujang's descendants wandered to Sumatra, then to Borneo, often in the company of tribal divinities. Possibly this legendary migration from West Asia is a reference to the arrival of important ideas, perhaps carried by a few leaders, rather than any actual movement of people. A sense of proximity with the spiritual world is an everyday feature of life in Iban longhouses, villages under one roof, and during each gawai, or festival, it is customary to invite the attendance of both ancestors and deities. There are also many tales of the appearance of the god in dreams.

On one occasion Kumang appeared to a shy young warrior and informed him that a petrified bamboo shoot he had found was in fact a charm-stone which would make him a great war leader. Head-hunting was until recent times the crowning proof of manhood, not least because the possession of heads bestowed magical power. War leaders have a tua, or guardian spirit. If the tua is the python, it signified that he is guided in battle by his ancestors; if it is the cobra, he is guided by Kling, the god of war. Snakes are the most common guardian spirits, but other tua are wild cats and deer. One normally learns of one's tua by means of a dream.

Subjects: Religion.


Reference entries

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.