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Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Last Bidayuh(Land Dayak) Priestess(Dayung Boris) in West Borneo.

LEFT:Bidayuh priestess "tall hat.". It dates from the mid 20th century. The ribs are rattan splits.

40 YEARS OLD in YEAR 2008) .


The Bidayuh Priestess (Dayung Boris) as Gawai Dayak Maiden.
The most important part of Gawai Dayak is played by the high priestesses or "dayung boris" who undertake the preservation and well-being of the rice spirit. They also conduct elaborate rituals to ensure a successful harvest the following year.
These high priestesses are usually elderly ladies who are well-respected by the entire clan and selected to conduct the festival. There is a meaning behind every single event done during the Gawai Dayak and all must be observed strictly. The locals believe that failure to observe omens and any mistake made can result in an epidemic or some other form of destruction to the padi and the people. 
While the job of erecting the shrine and poles that resemble ladders for the spirits to descend to earth is left to the men, and the shaman keeps a close eye on the proceedings, the priestesses sit on a long swing made of dug-out tree trunk hung onto the longhouse balcony and sing in an archaic Bidayuh dialect. They are richly dressed in mostly black hand-woven costumes lavishly decorated with antique beads and silver.
What these priestesses sing are hymns and they are sung throughout much of the celebration. The hymns, much akin to the psalms in the Christian Bible, relate heroic tales of past warriors in conquering hardship, obstacles and enemies in their struggles to lead the community towards progress and development. 
The hymns are passed down orally through generations of Chief Priestesses. Until recently, few efforts have been made to document either the hymns or the rituals.
Arrayed in front of these priestesses are the offerings or "sadie" which will be presented to the gods to bestow blessings on the village. The offerings will later be placed in the shrine. The "sadie" consists of rice and meat to appease the spirits. An open platform would also be built to hold some of the offerings. 
All through the night, food is served. "Tuak" would be consumed with joy and there would be much dancing. And as some people started to look a little sleepy, one of the high priestesses will announce that it is time for the final ritual of the Gawai Dayak.
The Ritual Perform by DAYUNG BORIS( Priestess) "NGUGUH":
The Grand Finale during Gawai Dayak..
 Nguguh(Final Ritual of Gawai Dayak )
DURING NGUGUH RITUAL perform by BIDAYUH PRIESTESS during Gawai Festival.
 The shaman and the priestesses dance around the shrine holding the "ajang" to the accompaniment of the drums and gongs. The high priestess observes the entire ceremony, ensuring that all the rituals are performed correctly. Tobacco, rice and other commodities, which were previously wrapped in small bundles and left on the altar, are symbolically offered to the Gods. 
The "ajang" is a basket filled with "pogang" (glutinous rice cooked in bamboo) and "sukuoi" (rice wrapped in leaf) and the purpose of these items is to share the earnings of the rice spirit. The women participating in this ritual then enter a trance and start dancing away. At some point they will suddenly fall down one by one. Villagers will already know what to expect and some are ready to support the ladies as they start falling. The shaman will later call them out of their trance and the "sadie" will be opened to signify the end of the "nguguh."
A dying Bidayuh Custom-The Priestess(Dukun@Manang)
"I saw part of the rituals when I was very very young. The part when the old ladies sat at the wooden swings and sangs songs that I could not understand. The old Bidayuh(Link) Ladies can predict the weather quite accurately by looking at the moon, the night sky or by listening to frogs or crickets.Or how to camouflage yourself so the river spirit would not disturb you.The spirits that roamed the jungle and how you should not fear them but regards them as human. That means greeting them as you entered their 'homes'.Ages ago, when my ancestors worship a different type of God, a certain ritual were done by selected women or priestess to put up prayers for the well being of the village.Nowadays, only sometime in June during Gawai and selected villages, the rituals are again done by selected few priestess."(Quoted from Young Generation Bidayuh Lady)
The documentary about THE LAST DAYUNG BORIS.

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