If you think of ‘Dayaks’, you might just picture a headhunter – and you’re not entirely wrong.
Before the heavy boots of traders and imperialists set foot on the immense tropical island of Borneo, the Dayak – or ‘Dyak’ or ‘Dayuh’ – tribesmen were the land’s original heirs.
Traditionally slash-and-burn farmers or nomadic hunter-gatherers living next to rivers or on steamy mountainsides, the Dayak people deservedly acquired a fierce reputation for their head-hunting practices – or Ngayau.
What binds the Dayak tribes together is a collective belief in Semangat, a supernatural power that dictates the lives of humans, animals and plants. This invisible force is present everywhere: from cut toe-nails to strands of hair, to footprints left in the mud, in names, shadows and even in the water that a human or animal has bathed in.
It is also present in the souls of those who have passed away – and why ancestor-worship is so pivotal to Dayak culture.
Deeply animist before the waves of 19th-century Christianity and 20th-century Islam washed up on Borneo’s shores, the Dayaks also believed that their enemies’ heads held special supernatural powers that were needed to complete complex rituals – from guaranteeing a successful rice-harvest to planting the foundations of a new family longhouse.
Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: RnC Dream: The Dayaks – Headhunters of Borneo.