Thursday, February 12, 2009

Mentawai impressions: hunting

Hunting, especially monkey hunting, takes place at the end of festivals. Before the men go to the monkey hunt, they sacrifice one of their domestic animals as a small offering to the monkey skulls already placed in the uma to retain the monkeys’ spirits. Monkeys are considered to be the domestic animals of the spirits, and the offerings to the dead monkeys are a way of bringing the living monkeys to allow their souls being reunited with their dead ancestors via the kill. The offerings also protect the hunters, who go far and are away for several days.
Animals are killed with bow and arrows, the arrows being anointed with a nerve poison, composed of four ingredients: bark from the raggi tree, leaves, roots, and a small green chili. The bark is taken of the branch with a knife, the leaves are chopped, the root and the chilli are ground. The ingredients are put together with a small brush (piece of wood with nails) and put together in a small, open basket made of rattan. This basket is pressed between two pieces of wood and the “juice” collected, put on the arrows with a feather and dried over the fire. The poison remains lethal for about 5 months. Therefore, a sikerei always ensures that his arrows are with him or in a safe place.

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