If You Die In This Country, Your Skull Will Be Removed, SEE WHY
Jun. 25, 2020
Nyobeng is a ritual in which human skulls were taken through mengayau, or headhunting, are cleansed in Sebujit hamlet in Bengkayang regency, a long way from the city.
One such recent ritual began with hundreds of men and women in traditional costumes adorned with beads and animal bones welcoming visitors. They carried mandau (swords), blowpipes, and ram guns.
As the guests arrived, the participants aimed their guns at the sky and fired a salute, also intended as a courtesy for their ancestors before starting the nyobeng.
Then a local community leader threw puppies up into the air as visitors attempted to slash it as it fell with swords, repeating the process if the animal fell to the ground alive.
The elder then repeated the process with a chicken. Later, residents tossed chicken eggs in the direction of the guests. Breaking eggs in such a way is seen as evidence of sincerity. As the welcoming ceremony continued, white and yellow rice was scattered as mantras were chanted by communal elders.
A number of local girls served tuak (palm wine) before the guests were taken to the Rumah Balug, a traditional house in the middle of the hamlet.
This annual event, taking place after the harvest as an expression of gratitude to God, drew a large number of visitors to Sebujit, not only from West Kalimantan, but also from Sarawak, Malaysia. The peak of nyobeng was the bathing of skulls taken by headhunters in the past.
The Dayak Bidayuh people believe that the body from the neck upward symbolizes the identity of a person. Dried human skulls are believed to have the strongest magic powers on earth.
A freshly taken head is even said to be able to rescue a village from an epidemic. Furthermore, with some concoctions added, skulls are considered effective for inviting rain, increasing harvests, and warding off evil spirits.
The more dried skulls are gathered, the greater their supernatural powers will be. Such beliefs have led to the special bathing rite so that the strength of former enemies continues to emanate to provide protection and fortune. Its main purpose was to appease the spirit of the skulls so that it would not harm the villagers.
The practice of headhunting among the Dayak society came to an end in 1894 at a general meeting of community elders in Tumbang Anoi, Central Kalimantan. Headhunting had previously been seen as a symbol of bravery and a way of saving people from a plague. However, the elders' consensus was not fully communicated.
In West Kalimantan, for instance, according to Waliman (45), the former head of Hli Buei village, there was still headhunting practiced during the late 1940s.
The hamlet is accessible by river and land transportation. When travelling by water, ensure that the stream is high. In the dry season, it's hardly passable, as the riverbed is packed with shrubbery. By land, it is about 14 kilometers from the intersection of Jagoi Babang. Despite the yellow-soil road leading to the destination, travelers will be offered mountain and forest scenery typical of the interior bordering Malaysia.
Customary community chief Amin said that the Nyobeng tradition, inherited from the Bidayuh people's forebears, had been carried on by bathing skulls that were kept in the Balug house.
According to Amin, local ethics groups frequently hunted for each other's heads. It is said that some villagers at the time were told in their dreams that the heads would guarantee the safety and welfare of the hamlet if they could be stored in a high place.
Eventually, the circular Balug house was built on tall stilts. Today it symbolizes a place of peace. While headhunting has long been abandoned by Dayak Bidayuh people, the nyobeng ritual continues to be preserved as a traditional way to manifest peace and gratitude for good harvests.
A Sebujit youth figure and the chairman of the Dayak Bidayuh ritual committee in Hli Buei, Gunawan, said that the nyobeng ritual had replaced headhunting as a thanksgiving ritual for villagers. Comprising 104 families, the Dayak Bidayuh community is scattered in places as far away as Malaysia.
Hli Buei village has become one of the traditional tourist destinations, promoted by the regency administration of Bengkayang. Apart from the nyobeng skull bathing ritual, visitors can see a traditional Balug house, a duplicate of which has been built at the Taman Mini Indonesia Indah, Indonesia miniature park in East Jakarta. The Balug house is about 20 meters high, soaring above the rest of the hamlet.
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