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Commonly referred to as the pagan people of Malaysia, the Batek religion was founded on rituals beliefs and regulated behaviors ascribed to them by the hala asal or superhuman beings (Endicott and Endicott 34). The Batek embrace the belief that these superhuman beings reside in three realms, the upper world, the earth and the underworld. It is the hala asal who were and are still believed to regulate natural processes as well as implement an array of prohibitions (Endicott and Endicott 35). Some of the community members among the Batek possess the ability to communicate with the superhuman beings via trance, dreams, songs and rituals. The well-being of the Batek was dependent on the manner with which they adhered to specific rituals and behaviors prescribed by the hala asal. The hala asal were believed to be male, others believed them to be male, others considered them as transgender while others opted not to specify on their gender.
The hala were the shaman people among the Batek who could commune with the hala asal (Endicott and Endicott 36). The hala prayed to the superhuman beings to ensure that the Batek had bounty foods, good health and peace with nature. The shaman were also believed to have superhuman wives or husbands depending on whether the shaman was a man or woman.
The rituals conducted by the Batek projected no element of gender discrimination. Both genders performed rituals in the same manner. They held rituals in large huts constructed by both genders though each had a specific role in the building process. During rituals, the genin would initiate the songs where soon after the shaman went to trance to communicate with the hala asal on behalf of the community (Endicott and Endicott 36). Incantations and spells were common in their way of life though not known by all. In most instances an individual well versed with the incantations and spells for a wide array of purposes. For instance, spells were used to shield honey harvester from bee stings as well as keeping wild tigers away from human contact. One of their most unique rituals was the blood sacrifice (Endicott and Endicott 37).
The ritual was done in instances where there was heavy thunderstorm believed as a form of retribution for failure to adhere to regulated behaviors. For instance laughing at a butterfly could cause Gobar, a superhuman being to cause thunderstorm (Endicott and Endicott 37). Anay Batek person who believed he or she had broken a prohibition was expected to cut his or her skin and draw a few drops of blood. The blood was then mixed with rainwater and thrown upwards to the sky to appease Gobar. In case a prohibition had been broken by a child, his or her parents were expected to perform such a blood sacrifice on behalf of the child (Endicott and Endicott 38).
The ethical code for social conduct among the Batek people maximized on personal autonomy as well as freedom (Endicott and Endicott42). It was however common to encounter the group’s members working in unison when required. These ethical values were entrenched their values, religious beliefs sanctions, norms, and day to day practices. Batek ethical elements encompassed respect for others, personal autonomy, food sharing, assisting others, nonviolence and non-competition (Endicott and Endicott 44-48). Batek ethics define their social lifestyles and more so, the relations prevailing between men and women.
The Batek also possessed some contradicting principles. For example, they believed that a person could not be forcibly compelled to do what they did not wish to do. The ethical values are passed on to younger generations via the application of rhetoric and during parental upbringing (Endicott and Endicott 43). For instance, in accordance with values concerning cooperative autonomy, when a young one opted to ignore a parent’s or elders advice, the instructors simply disregarded such negative attitude as the child was yet to come to terms with wisdom behind such advice. Batek ethics and religion was similarly passed on to children through myths, stories, ritualized practices and songs.
The Tanyogn was the natural leader while the Tahon was considered as Tanyogn’s wife. The main attribute differentiating the Tahon from Tanyogn is that Batek men were physically more endowed compared to their women (Endicott and Endicott 36). The image of Chinloy and Kawun offers an impression of a simple couple sharing life experiences in unison and appreciating one another abundantly (Endicott and Endicott 32). One can conclusively point out that they are indeed a happy and contented couple. The married life of the Batek was such that men did not consider women inferior and the same applied for the women. The man and his wife considered each other with equal measure (Endicott and Endicott 41).
Endicott, Kirk, and Karen Endicott. “The headman was a woman.” Denver: Waveland (2008).