NYOBANG is a ceremony to feed the guardian of the defense of a village against seen and unseen enemy. It also can be used to mitigate the local weather of the area to meet the need of the people. It is done in an established Head House when ancestral heads obtained before the Brooke era. During the Brooke Regime till to-day, head hunting in Sarawak was banned and enforced. Prior to this hunting maybe carried out by a village if a calamity occurred such famine or an epidemic if it is foretold that only the ceremony of a new head to be introduced to the Head House is needed. That ceremony called MUKAH in Bidayuh is the highest of this nature. NYOBANG is the second.
MUKAH was done in the original village, Gumbang, in 1974 to stop a strange epidemic which killed over thirty young children. However the people went to a village across the village to “seek” for an old head which was in the Head House. Death stopped according to the Village Elder as soon as that evening when they asked for the Head to be introduced into the Gumbang Head House.
NYOBANG was almost become a thing of the past until we were inspired by the healing story of the Gumbang community in 1974 during my interview with the Elders of the area during the Community Based Eco-tourism Project sponsored by UNDP where my duty was to do the Traditional knowledge survey. While they have special knowledge of healing certain illnesses which are not effectively dealt with modern medicine on individuals, it was also found that a communal problem of mysterious deaths as occurred at Gumbang village in 1974 could be done inspired to revive the custom of feeding and taking care of the Head House. Nyobang was done both at Kampong Gumbang and Kampong Tringgus under the new funding from Demmark Embassy DANIDA as a follow-up study into the Traditional Knowledge of the respective areas under Krokong Central Committee for Health, Development and Security also known as JKKK Pusat.
Now we are happy to note that Padang Pan has joined Gumbang as the fourth village in our area to carry out the ceremony. It was a joyous occasion for the people who also hosted 23 “official” visitors from Kampong Sebujit(Bulun) led by their ceremony Chief Priest, a warrior Pak Amin. This cross border joint ceremony is now biennial event for Kampong Gumbang, Sebujit (Bulun) and now Padang Pan. Next year the Padang Pan people will be invited to attend the same ceremony at Kampong Sebujit. As of to-night, they will officially become “sister” village status as existed between Kampong Sebujit(Bulun) and Gumbang now. Being ‘sister” villages meant now they are brothers and sisters in spirit and manner where in either village they would protect and help each other when other needed. It is the Bidayuh diplomacy without any paid diplomats. It would not be possible to witness to-day event without UNDP CBET program.
If you are curious to know which are the second and third village which have carried out the Nyobang ceremony since we began the UNDP and DANIDA Eco-tourism projects under their respective Tropical Forests funding, it is as follows.
Kampong Tringgus was the first done by a Priest and his assistants from Kampong Bulung, Botok, doing the ceremony to bring out Tringgus ancestral heads which were left in dilapidated hut just behind one house into their empty Head House built earlier. It was successfully done until one drunk interrupted the ceremony during their consultation period. Till to-day, they have not been able to work together to do another one.
The other third village which carried the NYOBANG ceremony is Kampong Blimbin as a mitigation ceremony to halt four series of bunches of mysterious deaths up to eight in a series. It was an emergency ceremony where a new Head House was to be done within eight days and the ceremony before the Paddy ripened or else more would die according to one Elder whom we consulted. The last of the eight that died on the fourth series was the morning we started the NYOBANG. The guardians told us through our medium that they are now happy at the present “clean site”. Now death occurs as a normal event but not in bunches as when the seven heads were now to an ‘apartment like structure near the old and new graveyard.
The guardian Angels of war must be treated with respect or else they can also bring harm to area. NYOBANG is the time where due respect and feasting with them is done.
Happy Gawea season. Gawea by the way is a Bidayuh word as opposed to Gawai which is Bahasa Malaysia.