Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Magic Battlefield

The spiritual clan wars were fought on two planes -- the earthly and the shamanic. Where ever the clan confederacies went they almost certainly marked their territory.

Boundary markers were both emblematic and talismanic. The marks were as permanent as possible -- petroglyphs on stones, cave walls or their own or others megaliths. The shaman's sacrifice was used to expel "evil" spirits and propitiate the beneficent ones.

For the Nusantao, more important than "owning" land was gaining the alliance of the local forces of nature.

In the syncretic Devaraja or "Divine King" practice of Southeast Asia, the king's authority was strongly linked with the construction of a ziggurat or at least a simple mound of earth. It was through this pyramid or mound that the royal power came as the monarch had no rights except through the sacred mountain.

Gaining ground in both the trade and spiritual wars required the shaman's work to bring the natural and spirit world into a type of spiritual treaty.

I wrote about this naturalistic view among the Dong Yi, and a Confucian commentary on the I Ching has a relevant sentiment regarding the coalition of the ruler with the forces of nature.

The great man accords in his character with heaven and earth; in his light, with the sun and moon; in his consistency, with the four seasons; in the good and evil fortune that he creates, with gods and spirits. When he acts in advance of heaven, heaven does not contradict him. When he follows heaven, he adapts himself to the time of heaven. If heaven itself does not resist him, how much less less do men, gods, and spirits!

(Translated by Richard Wilhelm and Cary F. Baynes)

By aligning themselves with nature, the clans sought to further their cause.

If the title of Lord of the Mountain was important of equal or more importance was that of Lord of the River. In Kapampangan, this title is Apung Iru, which is also the name of the River God. The river is important for two reasons -- the link with the old river-based dual kinship system and the "control" of the waters of life in the underground World River.

In modern times, Christians have used the term Apung Iru to refer to St. Peter as the founder and leader of the Church and was also a fisherman. Sometimes a very respected person known for their mystical powers is also referred to by this title. In ancient times, it was also the title of the King of the Mountain, the priest-king of the dragon and bird clans.

Paul Kekai Manansala

Helpful reading suggestions

Jumsai, Sumet, Naga: cultural origins in Siam and the West Pacific, 1988, Singapore.

Chatterji, S.K., “India & Polynesia: Austric Bases of Indian Civilisation and Thought,” Bharata-Kaumudi, 193-208, 1945, Allahabad.

Wilhelm, Richard and Cary F. Baynes, The I Ching, 1990 Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Shun-Shang, Ling, A Study of the Raft, Outrigger, Double and Deck
Canoes of ancient China, the Pacific and the Indian Ocean
Taipei:Nankang, 1970.