Talk on the pagan rites of the people of Mount Singai

Before Christianity came to Mount Singai, the Bisingai (Bidayuh people of Mount Singai) believed in a divine presence in the environment and that the spirits of the land played an important role in determining the success and failure of their daily activities.

Many of the rites and rituals, handed down from generation to generation, were focused on paddy farming which was central to the Bisingai’s livelihood and survival.

The ‘adat sumuk babai’ or system of beliefs require them to appease the spirit so that it is safe to farm the land, make the harvest bountiful by getting rid of pest and disease, and give thanks to the spirits for their bountiful harvest.

Paddy planting has many stages and each stage has an accompanying ritual, for example ‘gawia bipisa tana’, to find out whether the spirit allows the farmer to farm that particular piece of land, or ‘gawia oran’, to appease the spirit of the land, especially the land en route to the farm so that they do not destroy the farm.

During a talk this Aug 13 starting at 3 pm at Old Courthouse, University Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation professor Dr Andrew Alek Tuen will tell the story about the rites of the various rituals and their meanings.

Andrew grew up within a pagan environment and his mother and elder sister were priestesses (dayung boris).

He and his family were converted to Christianity in 1973.

Andrew maintained an interest in the pagan belief systems, and has been assisted by his cousin, Boniface Dowell, a former RTM broadcaster in his personal research in this area.

The talk is organised by the Sarawak Heritage Society, an NGO committed to raising awareness in the community on the preservation of Sarawak’s culture and heritage.

All are welcome to come and learn about these practices which form a part of Sarawak’s cultural and religious heritage.

The one-hour talk will be conducted in English and admission is free.

Register by sending an email to: sarawakheritagesociety@gmail.com.

For more information, call 012 8090 414 or visit their website at sarawakheritagesociety.com or Facebook page at www.facebook.com/shs.sarawakheritagesociety

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