By, Erwin Basrin
Geographically the Rejang tribe live along the slopes of the hill lines and physically in the eastern part of Bengkulu province, villages where the so-called ‘sadei’ line up along the Aliran Sungai Hulu Ketahun. In the history of Rejang this area once changed its name, previously being known as Lebong which in the local language means a gathering place. Prior to being named Lebong this area was also called Renah Sekalawi, Pinang Belapis and Kutai Belek Tebo.
As an indigenous community they believe in a force outside that of human beings, manifested as a belief in both the power of visible nature and a power in nature that is mysterious and unseen. This belief is tightly entwined with Rejang culture which until now continues to apply it in the form of wisdom called adat rian ca’o. Although admittedly there has been some loss of culture and outside cultures have coloured the development of some of the wisdom. This has been especially so with the entry of Islam.
An example of this local wisdom where the belief in the mysterious is inherent in Rejang culture is a ritual that takes place after the birth of a baby, known as mbin cupik moi muneau. In this ritual the newborn baby is taken to the public bathing place. Important values that can be taken from this ritual are the early introduction of the baby to nature along with the introduction of the baby to creatures believed to be guardians of water (semat medek ilia, dung/ular, ke’it, gulung kasua, kebeu biyoa, sebei beleket) These are kinds of guardians of water that are believed to cause harm to people who in their life will very much depend on the source of the spring. And the process of this ritual is in the form of a petition that the baby from that day can be safe and more intimate with water.
There are several processes that must be prepared in this ritual. First, usually the family that will do the ritual hold a family conference (basen asuak basuak, basen sesanok) where they will discuss what needs to be prepared and divide the roles before beginning the ritual. After an agreement is reached the larger community will be involved, conducting Berasan Kutai (basen kutai), in this part, the symbolic ritual or celebration that will be performed is no longer a family ritual/celebration but is now a community ritual and consequently all the citizens in the community will be involved in bringing about the success of the ritual.
In a basen kutai there are several things which are usually agreed on, among others;
- Agreement on the day to set up the kemujung (place for having the reception, setting up the kemujung is done with mutual cooperation including when getting the material for the kemujung like bamboo, roots and wood, and the ingredients for food especially spices)
- Agreement on the aqiqah (cooking) day for the needs of the village feast, usually several sheep are slaughtered by the imam or local religious leader.
- 3. Day to bring the baby to the water/ mbin cupik moi muneun
- Day of the village reception
- Agreement on the day to dismantle the kemujung.
On the day that the baby will be brought to the water, some materials needed for this ritual have been prepared, including a roll of betel (iben meson, iben mateak), cigarettes made from palm leaves, substance to sprinkle the baby (guik minyok), incense, black cloth, white bowls filled with a certain leaf (setabea), broom sticks made from sticks tied with green coconut yarn dyed in three-colours accompanied by several kinds of leaves that are thought to be a protector against mysterious creatures and mats made from pandanus leaves. In addition to these things several other materials are also prepared which will be used when bathing the baby, such as hazelnut, saffron, also a disposable dagger blade, coins, embers from wood/putung opoi, nine kinds of flowers, lemon/lemeo langgia, tears, a pestle/kelicung and container for bathing the baby/reseng. Other than this food is prepared, usually local Rejang cakes (bajik, lemang/benik, Apam cakes/sabai, and serawo made from glutinous rice flavoured with coconut mixed with palm sugar).
There are several parties involved in this ritual especially when carrying the baby and some of the materials to the place where the baby will be bathed. Male shamans usually carry the green coconut sticks that have been tied with a black cloth, and also perform the duty of bringing the incense, and a midwife, usually a women, is in charge of bringing the baby. The baby is cradled by a child ( a baby boy is brought by a boy and a baby girl is brought by a girl). Young men and women wearing traditional clothes also help bring the baby, as well as ulubalang carrying spears, sword and dagger. Both parents and several elders of the community/village and children usually crowd around in the ritual of bringing the baby to the bathing place.
Upon arrival at the bathing place the shaman arranges the things that have been brought and burns incense that has been prepared expressing a farewell request to not only the ancestoral spirits of the community but a request to the mysterious guardian that the bathing ritual will be performed for. This process is call kedurai. The shamam then releases words of praise as follows.
‘hai sepanjang hidung, hai sepajang hidung, hai sepanjang hidung, dio uku madep kumu, kumu do tekadeak temungau biyoa, kemuaso biyoa, temungau tang aai, kumu kulo do jemago lot ngen ai tang aai, uku medeu kumu bae ngami, asep kemenyenku melayang, belas kemunik uku mamua, awei o kulu adat bahasoku ngenkumu, dio ade iben ngen rokok, awei o kulu pembuk pangen kumu berupo sabai, baso uku menok kedeu kumu yo, uku lok madea keturuak, baso bilai yo bilai baik bulen betuweak, keme mi’ing anok keme di betegen ….(nama bayi) moi muneun, penan dik kenuaso kumu, ujud maksud keme mbin si moi muneun yo, dio keme melei namen made keturuak magea kumu dik tekadeak penguaso biyoa, kemuaso lubuk, dik temungau lubuk, temungau tebing, waei o kuo magea kumu do temungau kiyeu, keme teko magea kumu yo, lok minget supeak semanyo janjai setio kumu mena’o, amen keme melei pemuk pangen kumu mako kumu coa buliak, keniayo magea umat manusio, neak bilai yo keme magiak pemuk pangen kumu kiro ne kumu dapet temimo ngen kumu temimo pembuk pangen yo mako kumu, coa buliak kemniayo magea anok keme do betegen…… (nama bayi), amen kiro ne si telonok waktaumendai tulung kumu mbiding ne, amensi tendem tulung kumu cemungas ne, amen si ade saleak pemiling, saleak pengenea, mneakkumu tema’ok senapo si, mbeak kulo kumu temawe. Dio ba kecek do perlu uku semapei, dio uku magiak pembuk kumu.
At the end of this speech the shaman then throws the Apam cakes/sabai in the direction of the water where the cakes then floats and the green coconut stick is caught at the edge of the water. The container for bathing the baby by sidukun is filled with water mixed with nine types of flowers and coals that have been extinguished. The coins are put at the bottom of the container and then the female midwife bathes the baby here. Prayers and incantations are expressed by the midwife, in particular a spell so that the baby will not be struck by certain illnesses like skin disease and some common diseases that generally affect babies. After being bathed the baby is sprinkled with setepung setawar which has been prepared in advance. They then go home leaving all the materials which were brought at the bathing place.
Once at home while going up the stairs the baby’s mother must step over coco that has been burnt. Once inside the baby’s mother is obliged to wash the hands of the midwife with water that has been prepared in a white bowl shaped container and given soap, money, cloth, (keracok matea) as a way to say thank you to the midwife and also to the male shaman who helped in the birth process of bringing the baby out of the house/mbin moi muneun. The final ritual by the shamen is to carry the baby while saying, ‘bismillah hirahman nirrahim, aluhumma sali allla muhamad wa alai muhammat (as much as three times) dio cupik keme, coa si gering keno panes, coa telep kenu ujen, cupik keme teko ne kundei awing-awang, cupik keme teko ne kundei tebo lekat sapei bulen penuak hu…..cupik keme’
After all the processes of washing the baby have been done, the village holds a banquet. One of the activities of the banquet is cutting the baby’s hair which is accompanied by lapas shalawatan, religious figures. This process is call persanji or marhaban, and is a blend of custom and religion. The baby is carried by children and the scissors that will be used for cutting the baby’s hair are dipped in young green coconut which has ben decorated previously and perfumed. The baby is brought around the line of people who release persanji/marhaban. When cutting the hair several elders of the village/community usually say an incantation or prayer for the safety of the baby. After all the people present have cut the baby’s hair then a feast is held served by helpers. The last of all the rituals is to take down the kemujung that has been put together with mutual cooperation. It is also taken apart with mutual cooperation. There is an interesting thing that happens in this process when the baby’s armpits are bathed. No matter how cold the water that is used for bathing the baby, it won’t cry and it is believed also that after the baby goes through the process of mbin muneun then it is very rare for it to be struck by illness until adulthood or aqil baliq. There is not yet any explanation for this. This paper was written based on the writer’s experience when performing mbin cupik moi muneun for the writer’s first child who in the ritual of this old custom was given the name Bdikar Anumtiko Ling Kricas and findings in the field with the people of the Jurukalang clan.