KUCHING: Not many young Ibans of today would know what ‘lemambang’ is – let alone explain his key roles in the traditional celebration of Gawai Dayak.
According to Steven Beti Anom – author of the book ‘Iban Culture and Tradition: The Pillars of the Community’s Strength’ – Gawai in the past was more than just a festival to mark the end of the harvesting season; it was also a time to seek forgiveness and protection from the ‘Petara’ (God in Iban).
“In view of the celebration’s close link to godliness back in the old days, the rituals associated with it would centre on the ‘lemambang’ – or the priest,” he told The Borneo Post recently.
Beti – whose grandfather Chambai Kadadap was a ‘lemambang’ – said according to ancient Iban belief, the ‘Patara’ would send signs through the stars or constellations to remind the people when to begin and end the farming season, especially for padi.
To them, the constellations of Pleiades, Orion and and Sirius were known as ‘Bintang Banyak’, ‘Bintang Tiga’ and ‘Bintang Buyu’.
The ancient Ibans saw their God as the ‘Ruler of the Skies’ and His angels – the ‘Orang Pangau Libau’ – were members of the Divine Council that controlled those signs and the timing of their appearance in the sky.
“The most powerful angels revered by the Ibans are Keling and his wife Kumang – the ‘King and Queen of the Sky People’. However, not everybody could read those signals.
“To understand these messages, God would appoint only a special few among the folk. These were the ‘Lemambang’ and they would receive their calling through dreams. These chosen people were more than bards; they’re priests. Decades ago, the service of the Lemambang would be in extremely high demand beginning from May till end of June. They had to perform the rituals from one longhouse to the next throughout that period,” he explained.
However, the service of a Lemambang was not limited to Gawai, said Beti.
“They’re also required in certain circumstances. If the newly planted padi was ‘sick’, the farm owner would invite the Lemambang to perform a ritual called ‘Pengap Ngubat Umai’ – meant to treat ‘sick farms’ as well as to appease the spirits and prevent them from harming the farms.”
In the olden days, the Iban were extremely superstitious – Gawai must be strictly done according to proper rites and that each offering must be blessed by the Lemambang.
Such rite must be performed through a process called ‘miring’ and an offering was called ‘piring’. On Gawai’s eve, the Lemambang would perform the ritual called ‘mengap’ where they chanted the prayers – known as ‘pengap’ – for two consecutive nights.
Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Gawai Dayak - Remembering the ‘Lemambang’.