Miring Antu Pala steeped in spiritual beliefs, tradition

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KUCHING, Oct 30: The ‘Miring Antu Pala’ ritual is a must before the century-old skulls in the old Sarawak Museum Building can be moved because to the Iban community, the spirits of the skulls are real and alive.

Performing the ritual this morning at the old Sarawak Museum Building was Lemambang Lanting Ikar, and his two assistants Thomas Tegong Laka and Wilson Inden Belayong.

The ‘miring’ started with the preparation of the food offering on a winnower, with the food centreing around the number of nine such as nine hard boiled eggs and nine rice cakes.

Tegong, a retired Radio Television Malaysia staff, said there were five stages in the ‘miring’, and for the day, the most appropriate is Stage Three where all food offerings are presented in the number of nine.

After the preparation of the food offering, Lanting held a cockerel and started chanting in Iban, calling upon all spirits, gods and their ancestors to come witness the ceremony.

Later, the cockerel was slaughtered and Lanting used the food sprinkled with the cockerel’s blood to feed the skulls. The ceremony culminated with another life offering, the slaughtering of a pig in the building’s compound.

Lanting feeds the skulls the food offering during the ‘Miring Antu Pala’ ritual held at the Old Sarawak Museum Building.

The food offering placed on winnowers will be left there for three days. Only after three days may the skulls be moved to its destined storage location before the renovation of the building can take place.

During the ceremony, Tegong explained that the ritual had to be done and done properly according to their tradition or disaster may befall those handling the skulls or those performing the ritual.

He said ‘Miring Antu Pala’ must be held to inform and to appease the spirits of the skulls because they were very much alive and real.

The retired newsman said not only him but many living in longhouses with skulls had witnessed skulls smoking the traditional cigarettes made from local tobacco leaf.

From right: Lanting, Tegong and Inden perform the ‘Miring Antu Pala’ at the Old Sarawak Museum Building to allow the skulls in the museum to be moved to a storage location to allow the building to be renovated.

He recalled there were also incidences that the skulls fell onto the floor and though from a height, the skulls remained intact.

When that happened, he said a ‘miring’ would be needed to put back the fallen skulls.

He also related stories about skulls turning into handsome young men to lure girls who were in the midst being courted by longhouse males on “matching nights”. — DayakDaily