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Religions of South Asia

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Religions of South Asia

Batek ethics

The Batek people ethical code of social conduct maximizes on individual autonomy and freedom though it is common to find group members working together when such a need arises. These ethical values are ingrained in the group’s values, sanctions, norms, religious beliefs and day to day practices. Batek ethical attributes concerning respecting others, individual autonomy, sharing food, assisting others, non-competition and nonviolence are evident in their actions and train of thought. The ethics of these people define social lifestyles as well as interactions between men and women.

Cooperative autonomy

As with all other ethical ideals, there tends to be the issue of contradicting principles. For instance, the Batek people believe that an individual cannot be compelled or pushed to do what he or she does not feel the need to do. For instance, the belief that the superhuman deities were the sole bearers of punishment and judgement compelled others to leave it to the gods if one was not ready to do what was considered as proper.

These values are passed on through to the younger generations through the use of rhetoric and parental upbringing. For instance, in line with the values of cooperative autonomy, when a child opted to disregard a parent’s or elders instructions, the instructors simply ignored the negative attitude since the child were yet to comprehend the wisdom behind such instruction. Batek religion and ethics were also passed on to children through stories, myths, songs, and ritualized practices. As children developed, they followed such instruction out of respect. In cases where an individual exhibited a departure from Batuk ethics, he or she was shunned by others.

The Tanyogn were considered the natural leaders as they could do what men could do while the Tahon could not perform some functions the women could. The only attribute different between the Tahon and the Tanyogn is that men were physically stronger than women. Women were said to consider men as afraid of conducting blood rituals when a child broke a prohibition and was only compelled to do so when very scared.

The picture of Chinloy and Kawun gives the impression of a couple who share their life experiences together and appreciate each other a lot. One can comprehensively point out that they are indeed a happy and contented couple.

  1. Who is the god Karei, among the Semang people of the Malay Peninsula?

Karei is a god revered and worshipped by the Semang people who inhabited the Malay Peninsula. This god was believed to be the generator of thunder and punished the Semang people for sins committed. The god was originally worshipped and highly dreaded by the wild tribes of Perak and later, the customs of this particular people was endorsed by the Negritos, a community that also includes the Semang.

  1. What things offend Karei? Do these offenses have much in common?

Every time there was an intense and sustained thunderstorm, the Semang believed that Karei was displeased. As such, any adult within the tribe aware of his or her misdeeds took to appeasing the god by offering a blood sacrifice. The sins that were believed to anger Karei were referred to as lawaid karei. The sins included burning a leech, playing roughly and rowdily; using vulgar language; playing with animals; mocking a monkey; sleeping very near to one’s own youngster of the opposite gender; killing specific birds and hornets; incest; drawing water from a burnt bamboo or rusty pot; exhibiting joy during a reunion; murder and looking at one’s own image in the daylight.

The actions of the Semang that enrage the Karei god are attributable to the letting of blood, interfering with the sanctity of family and peace with Karei’s animals also inhabiting the forests. Karei is said to become angry when the people of Semang became too jovial. Blood on the other hand, was known to bring about a closer bond between an individual and the spiritual world. Burning of the leech found on a community member was believed to attract forest tigers to the individual which may lead to his or her death. Incest, adultery and other related misdeeds were believed to bring on bad omens to a family. Causing harm to animals believed to be Karei’s was also believed to bring about his wrath.

  1. How is Karei likely to punish those who committed offenses against him or his creatures?

Failure to offer a blood sacrifice was believed to present dire consequences to the Semang people. The consequences included; floods emanating from the ground, trees falling down from the roots and community members being washed away by floods.

  1. What do people do to gain Karei’s forgiveness or to prevent his wrath?

To avert Karei’s wrath, the Semang people were keen to offer a blood sacrifice during a thunderstorm. Women, men and adolescents would upon hearing thunder proceed to stabbing the shin with a knife or bamboo splinter. The blood was then wiped onto a bamboo receptacle. The mixture was then sprinkled upwards to the four corners of the heavens to appease the god. An individual conducting this rite was seen to also shout ‘stop’ while offering the sacrifice. If the storm continued, everyone within the community was expected to follow the rite.

  1. What most puzzles Needham about this set of beliefs and practices?

The fact that burning of a leech angers the Karei god and the belief that the same action served to attract a tiger to the person indicated that what was of great importance to the Semang is human blood. As such, it is only when Karei demanded sacrifice as during a thunderstorm that blood was to be offered.

  1. What groups visited by Needham himself and other than the Semang also had a very similar set of beliefs? Who are they? Where were they located?

Other peoples with beliefs similar to the Semang include the Penan people. The Penan are basically forest nomads though over time, some groups opted to settle down and form communities. The Penan often travel the forests for extended periods enabling them to meet and relate with other nomadic people therein. As such there are the Eastern and Western Penan people. Needham visited the Eastern Penan people whom he witnessed their commonness of religious beliefs with those embraced by the Semang. The Penan inhabit Long Baung situated on to the Apoh River’s west bank. The Apoh River is Tutoh’s tributary which flows into the larger Baram.

  1. Did Needham have any direct experiences that showed him that people took this rite of ‘menyat apun’ or begging of pardon quite seriously? Illustrate? What did his friends not want him to do about the leeches?

While living with the Pena, Needham came to observe that as much as these people sought to appease their god with blood offerings, they did not think too seriously of thе entire issue. For instance, in one of his journeys with the Penan people, they happened to transverse through a part of the rainforests on Mount Kalulong. This was a region awash with leeches and it took a very short time for the creatures to begin sucking on their bodies. At days end, the group sat by a fire and began extracting the leeches. They Penan made sure not to cause the leeches to dispense any blood and were keen to do so even when the leeches were in the groin area Needham located one extraordinarily huge one and instinctively tossed it into the fire. All the while, he had been observing the Penan toss the extracted leeches back to the forest growth. The result was one of the group members responding strongly making it known to Needham that such an action was unacceptable while another group member simply stated that it did not mean much.

  1. Earlier writers called the ritual involved the “blood sacrifice” of the Semang. Does this seem to fit? What were Karei and other deities supposed to do with the blood they receive?

As much as the ritual involved very little blood, it is worthy to note that it is worthy to refer to it as such. The Karei god and other deities all used the blood to bathe their chest with.

  1. How similar to Karei is the Batek thunder deity called Gobar or Gubar? How does another deity named Ya assist Gobar in enforcing his rules or prohibitions, lawac? Endicotts pages 34 to 38.

The two deities have similar attributes in that the Batek and the Semang revered them as those who accorded punishment to those who failed to adhere to the group’s ethical values. For instance among the Batek, the prohibitions were referred to as the lawac and were similar to those of the Semang. The Ya was a superhuman deity who ensured that the wrongs done by the Batek towards Gobar were not judged by other human beings. This was aimed at ensuring peaceful coexistence among the members of this community.

  1. If adults suspect a child may have violated a lawak exhibition, what do they do to make the child part of the ritual for atonement? Do they actually take blood from the child? How will Gobar and Ya know that the child has been directly implicated in the rite of forgiveness?

In the event that a child violated Lawak, the child was not affected by drawing blood from his body. Instead his parent’s blood was used for atonement ritual. In this way, Gobar and Ya could understand that the child violated lawar and it is for this reason that his parent’s have used their blood to atone for his sins.

  1. Importance of respecting other Batek?

The Batek respect each other such that no individual within the group is compelled to force the other to do anything that they do not want to voluntarily perform. The ke’oy disease is one that catches a member of the Batek group when he or she feels affected by another. The symptoms include a deep feeling of emotional hurt such that the individual is dull and unable to speak or socialize with others. The woman caught with the illness was only healed of it when other women and her husband rubbed on their blood on to her chest. She felt better and expressed the reasons for her ke’oy and soon after, her father in-law believed to have been the cause of it offered a blood sacrifice relieving the woman of her ailment.

 

 

 

 

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