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Iban also known as “Sea Dayaks” Pitek, Emily


The Iban are a group of people who inhabit the island of Borneo, but the largest numbers of Iban are found in the Malaysian state of Sarawak. The Iban live in family longhouses known as bileks; each bilek is autonomous, and is the primary social and economic unit. Religious beliefs and practices permeate all aspects of Iban life, including social organization, agricultural practices, and customary law (Jensen, 1974:5). For this reason, this entry considers the Iban religious group to be coterminous with the society at large. The Iban believe in a variety of supernatural beings including deities, demon-like spirits, spirits of dead and living humans, and many nature spirits. Rice is an anthropomorphized supernatural being, and plays a significant role in agricultural ceremonies. In addition to agricultural ceremonies, other types of rituals include healing rituals, ceremonies for the courageous, and rituals for the deceased (Sutlive and Beierle, 1995). Religious specialists include the tuai burong (augur), tuai rumah (village headman), lemambang (bard), and manang (shaman). This entry focuses on the Malaysian state of Sarawak around the time of 1950.

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