KUCHING: Although it is not a ritual completely unique to the Ibans, the ‘miring’ ceremony is nonetheless the epitome of Iban tradition.
Nothing else besides Gawai can compel hundreds of Ibans to gather together in one place to observe a ritual that is in the ‘blood and bones’ of the people.
Yesterday’s ‘muja menua’ ceremony at Muara Sungai Melatai in Kapit was the last one after the ‘Pelasi Menua’ at Pendam Temuai Minggu Sabun (PTMS) cemetery performed last month at Pending.
According to a former deputy federal minister (1976-1981), Dato Sri Edmund Langgu, who is a premier researcher on Iban culture and traditions, the number of miring ceremonies can be in the hundreds and have their own uniqueness associated with each region.
Miring ceremonies are generally performed to honour the ‘petara’ (gods), spirits and ancestors. In other cases, they can be performed to make a wish or to seek success in future ventures whether in business or travel.
In the case of the ‘muja menua’ ceremony at Sungai Baleh, it was for appeasing the spirits and the gods of the natural world.
“In the olden days, when all other real-life measures failed to solve a problem, people were compelled to perform the miring ceremony.”
He warned that miring ceremonies had to be performed with the utmost care.
“If it is done wrongly, it could incur bad luck and in some other cases it would bring bad dreams to those who were involved in it or bring about visions in the day time and night time.”
When asked about whether the miring ceremony conflicted with Christian teachings, he said that it depended on the individual’s ethics.
“If they are of a strictly Christian faith, then yes, it can compromise their religious sensibilities. Otherwise, it is a matter of religious tolerance.”
“We also have to remember that there are still people who stick to the old faith, and this ritual is being performed as much for the environment as for them,” he said.
The miring ceremony comes as a response to the logjam caused by landslides at Ulu Sungai Melatai on Oct 7 which was said to have been a result of large-scale land clearing and heavy rainfall.
So far, the Kapit District Office has estimated a loss of RM1.8 million worth of properties, not including the bridges in Melatai logging area.
The wood debris stretched for 200 kilometres, causing a disruption in the movements of cargo vessels and express passenger boats along the Baleh River.
Authorities have yet to pinpoint the exact causes of the ecological disaster that has threatened the livelihood of those who depend on the river for transport and fishing along Sungai Baleh.