Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Bornean and Sumatran tribal cosmologies. (Abstracts)

There are terrestrial maps, maps of the heavens, of the seas, and in Southeast Asia there are cosmographic maps setting out the journey that the soul has to take in the afterlife, and maps used for divination. Surviving maps are found on bamboo, paper and other media. Among the most interesting are those used in mortuary cults, especially those practiced in Borneo and Sumatra. In this article the author concentrates on maps produced by the Ngaju Dayak, depicting the three worlds of their belief system. There is one made by the Ot Danum, as well as one made by the Madang of Sarawak. In his discussion of these maps, the author draws attention to the geographical specificity of the mortuary chants. He then turns his attention briefly to divination, comparing divination charts of the Kayan and the Iban with those produced by the Batak in Sumatra. He concludes his description by stating that these groups of people happen to have been thoroughly studied and, because of the activities of missionaries, much of their material culture has been preserved in museums. The richness of their symbolism may well be echoed in the cultures of other, less intensively studied groups in Indonesia