Buried, twice

by Arpan Rachman

Black and white thinking (Issue II/2022)

The most important festival of the Dayak, the indigenous population of Borneo, is the Tiwah, the second burial. If it does not take place, the Dayak believe that the dead will haunt the family through crop failure or disease. During the first burial, the body is preserved with a secret elixir. At the earliest after one month, but sometimes after thirty years, the bones are then lifted out of the earth again at the Tiwah, accompanied by music, trance dances and the slaughter of sacrificial animals. Today, modern orchestras are often hired as well.

The body is burned and the bones are placed in a sandong, a wooden coffin in the shape of a boat or house. The festival lasts for seven days, or sometimes even forty days for wealthy families. In  this way, the dead reach the land of souls.

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