Soulship (II)

The soul ship is painted on a wooden board in red, black and white colors. The pigments are black from burned unripe coconut fruit bowl, white from the juice of the Ficus religiosa, and red from dragon’s blood, which are rubbed with coconut oil.

The soul of the deceased remains in a wooden board like this one, which is hung above the door until burial. Note the roof in the middle with the funeral urn and the gongs suspended above it.

“The Ndadju Dayak live on the island of Kalimantan (Borneo). They escort their dead with a ship into the realm of the dead (see Soul Ship I). The dying begins however already before death. Some time before his actual death every human being gets a sign of his soon end. A complete transformation of his character sets in. As soon as the relatives notice such a change, they sacrifice to the mighty Sangiang, the demigod Tempon Telon, to avert their fate. Silently, however, the arrangements for death are made. When someone dies, the body is placed on a beautiful mat by the closest relative in the middle of the house. The eyes are covered with gold coins, so that the dead person cannot look at his relatives and cause damage. His personal belongings are placed around him. Rice is sprinkled on the corpse so that the rice soul of Gana follows the soul of the deceased and serves as food for it in the hereafter. Likewise, the dead person is provided with clothing that is as precious as possible. The influence of death arches over houses and village like a bell. They cover the village in mist. Especially the relatives of the dead person are exposed to these influences. It is the task of the priestesses through the ceremony of Tantolak matei on the third or seventh day after the funeral to free the village from the mischief of death. For this purpose they call on Sangiang for help. It is even more important to send the rice souls to the upper world, so that they can turn into rain and wash the house and the whole village clean from the effects of death.

But it is not the ceremony of Tantolak matei that makes the dead arrive in the realm of the dead but the Tiwah festival. Until then the soul remains in a wooden board on which ships of the dead are painted and which is hung up at the house of the deceased.”

(from “Journey to the Hereafter” Maria Susanna Cipoletti)

Object Soulship II
Culture Borneo, Dayak
Time 20th century
Dimensions Height 26 cm, width 60 cm

Softwood, pigments

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