Order and Difference
An Ethnographic Study of Orang Lom of Bangka, West Indonesia

Olaf H. Smedal

Originally published in the series Oslo Occasional Papers in Social Anthropology, as Occasional Paper No.19
Department of Social Anthropology, University of Oslo, 1989 [ISSN 0333-2675]


To download, print, or bookmark, click: http://www.anthrobase.com/Txt/S/Smedal_O_02.htm.
To cite, quote this address and the download date. Not for commercial use.
© 1989 Olaf H. Smedal. Distributed with permission, by www.AnthroBase.com.
Do not remove this notice from digital or paper copies of this text. 



Please note! In this preliminary publication images are not included; please return later for a complete version.
Preface to the web edition
Preface and acknowledgements

Chapter one — Introduction
      1. Initial interest
2. Earlier literature
3. Closing in on the field
4. Air Abik — a brief glimpse
5. Pejam — a brief glimpse
6. The Lom theme
7. Implicit problems
Chapter two — Ethnic relations
      1. The contexts of ethnicity
  1.1. The Lom as Malays
1.2. The Lom as suku
      2. On the origin of the Lom
3. Adat Mapur
4. Negotiating ethnicity
            4.1. Lom ethnicity in the local context
4.2. Lom ethnicity and the authorities
      5. Conversion
6. Concluding comment
Chapter three — Cosmology and mythical history
      1. An early account
2. Cosmic creation
3. Gajah Mada's children
4. Ethnicity as cosmology
5. Supernatural beings
6. The Lom appear
7. Creation by metamorphosis: violence and words
8. Concluding comment
Chapter four — Rules informing behaviour
      1. Socialising and covert communication
2. Agriculture
3. Dreams
4. Relations between humans and animals
            4.1. Mockery of animals
4.2. Food prohibitions
      5. Former institutionalised 'offices'
6. Kidnapping power
7. Spells
            7.1 Learning spells
      8. Miscellaneous
9. Concluding comment
Chapter five — Life crises I: Birth, incision
      1. Pregnancy and birth
            1.1. Context
1.2. Delivery
1.3. Variation in birth practices
1.4. Post partum food prohibitions
1.5. Significance
      2. Incision
            2.1. Context
2.2. Description
2.3. Significance
Chapter six — Economy
      1. Agriculture
            1.1. Introductory remarks and basic parameters
1.2. Organisation of productive labour
                Within the household; Between households
            1.3. Cultigens and domestic animals
                Tubers; Pepper, pineapples, rubber; Coconuts and animal husbandry; Rice; Yearly productive cycle; Production of rice
      2. Hunting
3. Fishing
            3.1. Organisation of sea fishing
                Cooperative sea fishing operations
      4. Exchange
            4.1. Dry rice and money
4.2. The non-monetised sphere
4.3. Animals, dreams and ethnicity
4.4. Land as property
4.5. Middlemen
      5. Concluding comment
Chapter seven — Life crises II: Mortuary rites
      1. Burial
            1.1. Graves and burials
1.2. Description
1.3. Discussion
      2. Funeral
            2.1. Making the graves
            2.1. Funeral ceremony proper
2.3. Funeral speech
                Initial part; Main part; Translation
2.4. Discussion
3. Concluding comment
Chapter eight — Affinity, consanguinity, and incest
      1. Marriage and divorce
1.1. Marriage
1.2. Divorce
2. Eligibility and prohibition
2.1. The principle of the 'remaining seed'
2.2. Relationship nomenclature
2.3. Buyong
2.4. Authority and deference
2.5. Angkuk
3. Concluding comment
Chapter nine — Concluding remarks

I. The calendar used by the Lom
II. Contributions to the knowledge about the Orang Sekka (Sakai) or Orang Laut and the Orang Lom or Mapor, two non-Mohammedan ethnic groups on the island Bangka
III. An interview with Arub, Sunaini, and Rusman
IV. A brief review of earlier literature
Map 1: Southeast Asia
Map 2: Bangka
Map 3: Northeast Bangka
Table 4.1 Former institutionalised 'offices'
Table 5.1 Food permitted or prohibited for post partum women
Table 6.1 Soil test results
Table 6.2a, 6.2b Households and rice production
Table 6.3 Rice-producing households
Table 6.4 Mammalian and amphibian game
Table 6.5 Traps and their use
Table 8.1 Basic Lom relationship terms
Table 8.2 Further Lom relationship terms
Figure 2.1 Ethnic categories
Figure 4.1 Brooks in swiddens
Figure 7.1 Grave and fires in relation to cardinal points
Figure 7.2 Relations between participants and deceased
Figure 7.3 A grave and a tiang pakis
Figure 7.4 Structure of junctions in funeral speech
Figure 8.1 The uncomplicated version of Alim's second marriage
Figure 8.2 The complicated version of Alim's second marriage
Figure 8.3 An incestuous relationship: sibling's spouse's sibling's child
Figure 8.4 'Half' relationships count as full ones in terms of incest
Figure 8.5 Two incest rules at work simultaneously
Figure 8.6 The angkuk relationship

Preface to the web edition

This work — which began its life as a thesis in 1988 and has enjoyed a long life on a shelf in a bookstore at the University of Oslo since its publication in 1989 — has now become available to the world of internet users. I have debated with myself if I should rewrite, reanalyse or amend the 1988/89 text. The debate was soon over; had I begun to revise at all I would soon have had to revise in a big way. Despite the occasional blush at reading my former ego's sometimes overeager prose I had to conclude that I have neither the time nor, really, the inclination to do so. Not seeing when more time and a different inclination would present themselves I decided to republish — on the whole — "as is".

Thus the changes that have been made are largely cosmetic. Sentence structure has in certain cases been improved, a few plain mistakes have been corrected and the entire text has been proofread. Numerous incidents of "which" have been changed to "that" (my grammar checker was rather insistent here) and I have tried to ensure that Latin names for a variety of species are now italicised.

The only major difference — and indeed a major attraction about giving Order and difference a second life — between the paper version and this one, is that a number of colour plates now accompany the text. The opportunity to include visual material in the low cost 1989 edition simply was not there, and I hope that by making images available now the reader will be aided in imagining more vividly what life was all about among the Lom in the early 1980s.

The diagrams showing relationships between people have all been reworked; the original line drawings — although computer generated — did not survive the conversion from one word processor to another. The few original ink drawings have simply been electronically scanned.

Obviously, in many cases the word "recent" about a book or an argument refers to books published or arguments advanced some 20 or even 30 years ago. To begin adjusting the text in such cases, or to introduce additional endnotes to update the information would be to step out on that slippery slope called "rewrite" that I have just explained that I step back from. But I want to announce just one such update right here. In note 15 I write, "Bangka Malay is hitherto practically uninvestigated." This is no longer true. The linguist, Professor Bernd Nothofer (University of Frankfurt) has published a book that will be of interest to anyone fascinated by the several Malay vernaculars spoken in Bangka: Dialek Melayu Bangka, Penerbit Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, 1997. With Nothofer's book the discussion over whether the Lom language is separate from or a variety of Malay should finally be laid to rest.

On a personal note: In the 1989 Preface and acknowledgements (below) I thank an old friend, Finn Sivert Nielsen "whose knowledge of computers was extremely useful to me". Little did we know then that by unselfishly investing enormous amounts of time (perhaps cash, too) to get anthrobase.com up and running I would be indebted to him once more, for roughly the same reason. Thank you, Finn and Kari Helene!

Preface and acknowledgements

This is a slightly revised version of my dissertation for the Magister Artium degree in social anthropology at the University of Oslo entitled Orang Lom: Preliminary Findings on a Non-Muslim Malay group in Indonesia. The reader may wonder if the fruits of my 1983-84 fieldwork judged "preliminary" in 1988 have become less so in 1989. They have not. Order and Difference is my response to an editor's request that I find a title less self-consciously modest.

I first became interested in the Lom in 1982 at the suggestion of Dr. Øyvind Sandbukt, then Research Scholar at the Ethnographic Museum in Oslo, who generously shared his knowledge on Southeast Asian cultures with me — and later his lodgings in Copenhagen when I was on my way to Indonesia. Lecturer at the University of Oslo, Finngeir Hiorth, tried to teach me Indonesian before I left Norway. During the preparatory stage I also had the benefit of discussing my plans for research with my initial supervisors Professor Fredrik Barth and University Lecturer Knut Odner, both of whom warned me that what appears neatly ordered from one's desk is not likely to be similarly uncluttered in the field. I reported my fieldwork despair in letters to Sandbukt, Barth, and Odner who all promptly replied with kindness and insight.

The fieldwork on which this study is based was carried out between July 1983 and December 1984. Financial support was provided by grants from the Norwegian Council for Science and the Humanities (NAVF) and Scandinavian Institute of Asian Studies (SIAS). The research was sponsored in Indonesia by LIPI (Lembaga Ilmu dan Pengetahuan Indonesia) and Universitas Sriwijaya, Palembang, Sumatra. For the support given by these institutions I am very grateful.

As anyone who has been to Indonesia will know Indonesians are an extremely friendly and hospitable people. As soon as I arrived in Belinyu I was fortunate to meet Mr Sulaiman Yusuf, Superintendent of Education and Culture in Kecamatan Belinyu. He arranged for me to move into the vacant teachers' lodgings both in Air Abik (where I spent the first three months of my fieldwork) and in Pejam. Sulaiman also gave me his typewriter and motorcycle to use for the entire period of my stay. For his extraordinary generosity, for his interest in my work, for his patient corrections of my faulty Indonesian, and for his friendship, I am extremely grateful. During the latter part of my stay on Bangka I discussed many aspects of Chinese/Malay relations with Budi, and he and his wife and children turned my visits to Belinyu into festive occasions.

But the Lom were the ones who had to put up with me. They fed me and taught me and took care of me and they did so with hospitality, warmth, and curiosity. In particular I want to thank Bujang, Wahab, Alit, Asin, Ayap, Gendud, Camék and Tedong. They — and many others — were far more patient with my endless questioning than I would have been in their place. They are all in this book, but under other names.

I began writing up in 1985. By the time I had committed enough to paper for my supervisors to comment on Professor Barth had resigned from his position at the Ethnographic Museum and University Lecturer Odner was abroad (although Odner saw my transcribed texts and some other linguistic material not incorporated in the present work and also took time to comment on an earlier version of chapter eight) and both were unable to continue as my supervisors. Soon afterwards, however, Dr. Signe Howell became Lecturer at the Department of Social Anthropology and agreed to take me on — mid-flight, as it were — as 'her' student. To the degree that this work has any coherence it is a result of her observing connective threads where I saw a bewildering mass of bits of information.

I also thank Alan Barnard and Arve Sørum, who both read and commented on a previous version of chapter eight as did Øyvind Sandbukt; Øyvind Jaer, who read a number of early drafts and offered interesting ideas; and Finn Sivert Nielsen, who likewise had ideas to share and whose knowledge of computers was extremely useful to me.

Berit Berge, Gunnvor Berge, Elisabeth Forseth, Randi Kaarhus, Lars Løvold and Espen Wæhle have provided a healthy blend of anthropological stimulation and social distraction.

Finally, I thank Eline Thornquist for her emotional support at the times when it was most needed.



'Native words', which have been italicised throughout, have not been spelled according to a fixed standard. During the first months of my fieldwork I spoke my own rudimentary version of Bahasa Indonesia and asked the Lom to do so too. I grew more familiar with the Lom vernacular later, although in conversations with me elder Lom would at times revert to the form of Malay more generally used on Bangka. My notes reflect this learning process, and it would have been a daunting and probably unnecessary task to attempt to translate all 'native words' to the Lom vernacular. I have noted some discrepancies between Standard Malay/Indonesian and the Lom vernacular directly in the text, but must refer linguistically interested readers to my "Wordlists" (Smedal 1987) for accurate information.

Chapter one — Introduction

1. Initial interest

What I knew about the Lom/Mapur when I set out to do fieldwork on the island of Bangka in Indonesia in May/June 1983 was based primarily on field notes taken by Øyvind Sandbukt when he paid the group a visit in 1975 and can briefly be summarised in the following five points:

They are

  1. a (in all probability) Malay people, totalling a few hundred individuals;
  2. unaffiliated to religion;
  3. concentrated in two separate settlements, corresponding to partly disparate ecological constraints;
  4. presently the subject of housing programs sponsored by the government and thus
  5. likely to experience rapid socio-cultural change.

The above, and the fact that the Lom/Mapur for all practical purposes were yet to be ethnographically documented, attracted my interest. A brief amplification of some of the points a) to e) will prepare the reader for some focal points of this book.

The Lom/Mapur (Orang Lom/Orang Mapur in Indonesian) are referred to — and refer to themselves — by both these designations. 'Orang' means 'human' or 'people'. 'Orang Mapur' is undoubtedly a toponym; the Mapur river is located a few kilometres southeast of the present-day Lom area. The meaning of the word 'Mapur' (sometimes spelled 'Mapor') itself is uncertain. Lom (or Lum) is a common Bangkanese form of the Malay/Indonesian word 'belum' meaning 'not yet'. Rather than meaning 'Those Who Have Not Yet Become People', 'Orang Lom' means 'Those Who Have Not Yet Embraced Religion'; in Indonesian: 'Orang Belum Beragama'. Thus 'Orang Lom' is a designation indicating point (b) above, viz. that they are unaffiliated to religion. I was puzzled by this information, as indeed I believe most anthropologists would be. An irreligious, possibly atheist Indonesian people?

My initial interest was augmented by the information that the Lom, until recently known as forest-dwelling swidden agriculturalists, some time ago split into two groups. One of these groups remains in the forest, the other has settled on the beach on the northeastern extremity of the island. Whereas the latter still practise swidden agriculture they have also taken up coconut growing, animal husbandry, and the exploitation of maritime resources. These factors made me speculate that the Lom/Mapur — lacking the cohesive qualities of a common religion — were possibly in the process of becoming two groups. Alternatively, and less severely, that they would exhibit certain inter-communal communication problems.

Before I left for the field I also learned that the Indonesian authorities had embarked on a village development scheme designed to reach the forest-dwelling Lom. By now it is common knowledge among those who have worked with, or studied, development projects, that however laudable the intent behind such projects, they often fail to reach their aims — or they reach their aims, but at social costs no-one had the imagination to anticipate. Bearing in mind the particular characteristics of the Lom briefly outlined above, it is perhaps not surprising that I was anxious to examine the impact the village project had had on them. As it turned out, not only had a project been implemented for the forest-dwellers; the beach-dwellers, too, had received such assistance from the authorities.

2. Earlier literature

Published accounts on the Lom are scant and, as far as I know, have all been written by non-anthropologists. In the main they describe the material life of this 'heathen' population in the briefest of terms, stressing that the Lom eat indiscriminately, emphasising their laziness and low degree of metaphysical speculation and give some details of customs of marriage and divorce.(1) Insofar as earlier authors' descriptions of Lom 'metaphysics' shed some light on issues I shall discuss later these are summarised in appendix IV (cf. chapter three).

3. Closing in on the field

Bangka is situated east of South Sumatra at 1 30' — 37' southern latitude and 105 45' — 107 eastern longitude. The island is bordered to the north and northeast by the South China Sea, to the east by the Gaspar Strait (separating it from the island Belitung), to the west by the Bangka strait (separating it from Sumatra), and to the south and southeast by the Java Sea.

The population of the island totals nearly half a million of which approximately 200.000 are ethnic Chinese and 300.000 Malay, including the Lom population of some 800 individuals (1984). Total land mass is 11.614,125 square kilometres(2) including a few populated and a greater number of unpopulated islands, particularly off the southeastern coast.


Map 1: Southeast Asia

Present and past tin-mines together with extensive marshlands comprise more than 20 % of the area and are deemed unfit for agricultural purposes unless massive capital investments are made. Another 6,4 % is covered by forest and the rest, almost two thirds of the island, consists of fields, gardens, houses, roads and recreational areas.

The Lom live within Belinyu district (kecamatan) which is situated on the north-eastern-most part of the island, covering 891,250 km2. The population of the district is 46.873 (January 1983). It is further subdivided into eight units: three kelurahan and five desa (the meaning of both designations is probably best approximated by 'villageship').

The Lom are fairly evenly distributed between two desa: Gunung Muda and Gunung Pelawan, with populations of 11.138 and 2.934, respectively. The Lom, who as I mentioned above number some 752 individuals (in 176 households), thus compose less than 6 % of the population in these two desa. I have calculated the size of their area to be approximately 225 km2.


Map 2: Bangka

To what degree this area really can be considered 'theirs' is a question to which answers should be qualified. There is, to be sure, a defined tract of land, bordered by certain rivers etc., which the Lom refer to as Tanah Mapur or Mapur Land. The question is what follows from it. First of all, Tanah Mapur is by no means recognised as a jural unit by the authorities. Secondly, the Lom have no communal property. Thirdly, having no fixed groups (other than conjugal families) such as clans and lineages they lack the notion of land having a genealogical complexion. They recognise private property, but as is common among swidden agriculturalists this is absolute only as regards the fruits of one's labour and merely temporal as regards land (for a further qualification on this issue cf. the section on coconut production in chapter six). All manners of productive activity can be, and are, freely taken up by outsiders (i.e. Malays and ethnic Chinese); be it agriculture, hunting, fishing, or gathering. Because I lack data on the use of resources by inhabitants of non-Lom settlements it is difficult to offer an accurate assessment of the population/land ratio. My impression is, however, that the non-Lom in the area (Muslim Malays employed in the tin mines and Chinese whose economy is based more on cash crops than subsistence agriculture) are not much engaged in swidden agriculture. For the purposes of land carrying capacity in terms of swiddens, therefore, the population density of 3.34 per km2 is probably a significant fact. What the Lom imply when they refer to Tanah Mapur is that within its borders, Adat Mapur ('Lom tradition') rules. What this means exactly is one of the core issues of the present work and one I shall return to repeatedly.

Administratively speaking, the Lom reside in either of two kampung (villages): Air Abik and Pejam. Residential practice, however, is far more complex than that. The spatial dispersion associated with the swidden agriculture they practice, combined with an exceptionally poor soil quality, account for a scattering of hamlets and single dwellings in which many households spend most of their time.

The geographical and administrative distribution of the Lom also corresponds to differing ecological adaptations. That is to say, the Lom in Gunung Muda — chiefly centred around the forest village Air Abik — grow dry rice, cassava, and other tubers as staples; banana, pepper and pineapple as typical cash crops. The Lom village in Gunung Pelawan; Pejam, is a rather recent seashore settlement (only 7 households were established in the early 1950s). Though the majority still grow dry rice in swiddens and every household grows tubers and fruits, the backbone of the shore economy is coconut production (plantations covering an estimated 150 hectares) and concomitant pig husbandry. Maritime resources are a vital concern to these villagers.

The language spoken by the Lom is a very distinct dialect of Malay (by some linguists held to constitute a separate language, cf. Holle's linguistic map (1893) and Salzner's work on Indo-Pacific languages (1960)) the principal features of which are a vocabulary largely consisting of local terms and an unusually rapid and syncopated speech-pattern (Smedal 1987). Malays from near-by Belinyu (less than ten kilometres from the Lom village Air Abik) assured me that they understand very little when overhearing Lom speakers in conversation with each other.

Importantly, over the last ten years each of the two Lom settlements have been subject to considerable attention and socio-economic assistance from the Indonesian government. Thus, in Air Abik a village housing scheme (Proyék PKMT)(3) was completed in 1976-77 and in Pejam a similar project was realised in 1982.

My chief desktop hypothesis when embarking on fieldwork was that since the two Lom settlements exploit differing ecological niches, chances would be that variant cognised models would develop and consequently either obviate intra- and inter-community discourse or gradually lead towards two culturally distinct communities.

4. Air Abik — a brief glimpse

Kampung Air Abik is situated about nine kilometres southeast of Belinyu on the northeastern promontory of Bangka. This village, the aforementioned housing scheme (in local parlance: the proyék) was built in 1977. The identically designed houses (identically designed all over Indonesia) lie exactly 24 metres apart and 19 metres from the road on either side of it. There are some 80 houses (including a school, teacher's lodgings and a house for local representatives of the Department for Social Affairs) for a nominal population of about 350 individuals. House design represents a break with tradition in several respects. They are placed squarely on the ground, built from wood, the roofs are tiled and, not least, they are small (approximately 30 m2). Traditionally built houses are stilted and raised from the ground by a metre or so, the walls are made from bark, the roof from palm leaves and they can easily be enlarged as needs arise. The single most important consequence of the novel design is probably that maintenance and repair (of the roof in particular) now costs money. The poor state of many of the houses may be the result of this, or of poor construction, or of both.


Map 3: Northeast Bangka

To my eyes the village, built seven years prior to my arrival, appears unkempt and far from prosperous. Some of the houses have been permanently abandoned, others temporarily so. Many households keep semi permanent houses near their swiddens and stay there (especially during labour-intensive sequences of the agricultural cycle). Thus the exact number of people actually residing in the village at any one time varies greatly. The road through the village (from Gunung Muda to Silip) constitutes an alternative route between Belinyu and the larger towns to the south (Sungailiat and Pangkal Pinang) much favoured by drivers when the main macadamised road becomes excessively potholed, particularly during and after the monsoon. Seasonally, therefore, there is an appreciable increase in the load of heavy traffic on what is basically a simple, unpaved forest-road.

5. Pejam — a brief glimpse

The other Lom village, Pejam, consists primarily of Lom who settled on the beach stretching between Cape Samak and Cape Tengkalat some 20 kilometres north of Air Abik. This move came about rather gradually as people from the Air Abik area found it too time-consuming to plough through the jungle in order to tend their coconut plantations established some 80 years ago.

Pejam consists of two rather different settlements. The first of these comprises some 40 houses spread out the entire length of the 8 kilometres long beach stretching from Cape Samak to Cape Tengkalat. The other is the aforementioned proyék, situated 2 kilometres northwest of this beach, initiated by the authorities and provisionally completed in 1982. Houses here are of the same size and design as those in Air Abik except that here the roofs are made from corrugated iron. Like Air Abik it comprises some 80 houses: including a school, teachers' living quarters and a communal house (balai). Unlike Air Abik it appears (two years after its completion) inhabited and if not prosperous, less squalid.

Prior to the proyék construction period a new road was built to Pejam. Formerly the village was hard to reach by vehicles other than motorcycles and four-wheel-drive 'jeeps'. But there is still little traffic on the road, firstly because it ends at the village, secondly because none of the inhabitants have cars and only a few have motorcycles, and thirdly because there is no public transportation service. Thus, the fact that there now exists a well made road connecting Pejam to neighbouring villages appears — at least for the time being — to be of slight importance to the villagers themselves.

The proyék is intended to house all villagers and plans exist to expand the new village to a total of at least 90 houses. However, only one of the pondok (traditional house) spaced out in the coconut orchards on the beach has so far (1984) been permanently evacuated and many beach-dwellers spend only a couple of nights per month in their government-built houses.

6. The Lom theme

The interweaving of adat (custom, 'belief' and an inventory of taboos), myth and history constitutes the backdrop against which the present-day situation of the Lom must be seen. I think it is opportune, therefore, now to sketch the background to the relative isolation in which the Lom of the past chose to live — indeed, to a considerable extent still choose — in spite of government commitments to educate and lead them towards becoming participating Indonesians. In important respects this fusion of history and ideas provides the context within which investigations of Lom attitudes should be situated.

The isolation of the Lom dates back at least to the late eighteenth century when Bangka was still ruled by the Sultan of Palembang.(4) For about eighty years, starting in 1785, the island was repeatedly and ruthlessly raided by pirates pursuing two commodities: tin and people.(5) Fields and dwellings were set on fire, and the part of the population that the pirates deemed unfit for sale at the slave-markets in the Riau-Lingga archipelago and elsewhere were killed. In the earliest part of the nineteenth century the already drastically decimated population suffered heavily from a series of smallpox epidemics. It is estimated that over a period of thirty years approximately ninety percent of the population were either abducted or dead (Horsfield, 1848: 336). The mid-nineteenth century saw a number of local rebellions against the Dutch colonial power after which a relatively calm period followed until the Japanese invasion in 1942. The subsequent couple of years are still vividly recalled by today's grand-parental generation as a period of terrible hunger; for over a year, rice — Southeast Asia's staple par excellence — was unavailable. The years following the Japanese capitulation were characterised by the renewed attempt by the Dutch to seize control over the Indonesian archipelago and were not altogether peaceful. Most recently, the aborted (alleged) coup and its aftermath of 1965 shook the island.

On this backdrop of violence — whether it be perpetrated by those in power or by those in opposition; by pirates, army commanders, rebels or indeed by non-discriminating epidemics — it is not surprising that the word most frequently employed by the Lom when they discuss encounters with strangers is 'fear' (takut). Neither can it be surprising that they behave in a guarded manner when an anthropologist attempts to elicit their ideational models; their adat.

7. Implicit problems

While not wishing to exaggerate the nature of the obstacles to understanding the Adat Mapur it is germane to stress that an intrinsic aspect of Lom traditional custom is the general unwillingness — or perhaps more correctly, the inability — on the part of the villagers to discuss matters they consider sensitive. Outsiders (primarily Bangka Muslim Malays and to some degree ethnic Chinese) frequently refer to the Lom in derogatory terms such as 'primitive', 'lazy', 'ignorant', 'godless', 'dirty pork eaters' who, as if this were not sufficiently stigmatising, 'possess black magic'. As I just mentioned it is only to be expected, therefore, that the Lom are on their guard when confronted with an anthropologist attempting to investigate their way of thinking.

The particulars of the Lom cosmology, especially, presented problems — both in the field and afterwards. While I shall present this cosmology (in the detail I am finally able to) in a separate chapter I take the opportunity here to summarise parts of an argument spelled out more fully, and far more provocatively, elsewhere (Smedal n.d.). In important respects the view I shall suggest informs both data acquisition and interpretation and is to do with what I have called the problem of 'differential cultural competence'. The core of my concern is the general absence of anthropologists' concern regarding, to be blunt, the validity of informants' statements — whether they pertain to aspects of native culture that constitute High Knowledge, or to the 'imponderabilia of everyday life' which Malinowski alerted the profession to. Which informants' statements? Perhaps an anthropologist's account of any one cultural logic is potentially recognisable by just a few members of the society investigated, viz. the key informants. 'Folk models', for example, may, for all the readers know, be the models of a few specialists with knowledge somehow absent among the general public, the 'folk'. But if most members of a culture are content to leave the Big Questions to those who show a particular interest in them, if High Knowledge is not generally coveted, what then? What status do we, as social scientists, give to the restricted (profound, complex, ornate, complete) and the general (simple, incomplete) native models respectively?

My suspicion is that we, for obvious reasons (are we not, as Keesing (1987: 168) says, "dealers in exotica"?) are attracted to articulate and reflecting informants more than we are to the reticent and indifferent. After all, inchoate exotica are hardly the stuff monographs are made of. This is why, perhaps, that after reading anthropological monographs one may be left with the impression that somehow it is simpler to understand a simple society than it is a complex one. The 'natives' rarely come across to us as having problems understanding their own culture. What I am attempting to argue, therefore, is that specialist (reflected, elaborate) and 'common-folk' (indifferent, rudimentary) versions both be presented in the anthropologist's account. Or, alternatively, that it is made clear — if indeed it is the case, and it is the case in much of the present work — that the account is based on certain elite information (or interpretations) not generally circulating among the public.

I should also like to mention, on a more familiar note, that one's research may indicate that 'differential cultural competence' is co-variant with stratified control over information, interpretations and symbols; in a word: power. Keesing, for example, in the paper quoted above (which is a critical examination of the 'symbolic' or 'interpretive' anthropology usually associated with the writings of Clifford Geertz) has pointed out that

"... views of cultures as collective phenomena, of symbols and meanings as public and shared, need to be qualified by a view of knowledge as distributed and controlled. Even in classless societies, who knows what becomes a serious issue. ... An anthropology that takes cultures to be collective creations, that reifies them into texts and objectifies their meanings, disguises and even mystifies the dynamics of knowledge and its uses." (Keesing 1987: 161, original emphasis)

It is not my purpose here to discuss this important perspective at great length, I shall merely point out that whether or not power is relevant for a discussion on knowledge and competence is an empirical question. It is true that a disregard for the relationship between power and knowledge is tantamount to professional negligence. But no matter how precise one's conceptual apparatus for eliciting power relations or modes of domination may be there can be no a priori guarantee that reality will, as it were, succumb to finely tuned intellectual subtleties. What I am contending here is just that one cannot postulate that the competent, the ones 'in the know', wield more power than the incompetent. Whether they do or not depends on the adequacy of their competence as regards the manipulation of actual material or symbolic structures that are socially valued. In other words: We must accept that certain types of cultural competence — no matter how highly valued they may be in themselves — may be totally irrelevant as far as power or domination is concerned.(6) Contrary to what I have just claimed it seems that writers who have turned to the issue of differential distribution of knowledge (of whom Keesing is but one) take it for granted that when we speak of knowledge we imply ideology and therefore power. But as Bloch (1985) has argued this is an outcome of confusing cognition with ideology.

The above remarks are prompted by my problems to communicate with the Lom about those aspects of their life that I considered absolutely vital to their history and continued existence as a distinguishable group. Whenever I approached matters I hoped would cast some light on the way the Lom view the world, themselves, and their relation to other groups I seemed to get nowhere.

Initially (for a much longer period than I like to recollect, actually) I was puzzled by this. To reiterate, the Lom comprise a mere total of some 800 individuals, including infants. Before and during fieldwork I thought (probably naïvely, as I would think today) that such a small and possibly pressured society would be collectively — and verbally, when questioned — conscious of its place in cosmos, its historical (or mythical) origins, its relations to nature, animals, and human neighbours. Geertz, after all, has assured us that culture is a 'collective creation'. More than anything I was certain that the Lom, again collectively, would give a fair amount of consideration to the fact that they are the only non-Islamic Malay-speaking group remaining on Bangka, perhaps within the vast area including Belitung, the Lingga archipelago and the islands off the Sumatran east coast.(7) That they have withstood attempts by colonial and post-colonial governments at assimilation and somehow remained 'pure' (tulén) proved it, I thought.

My initial puzzled disappointment when I first began broaching the subject was soon to turn into dismay. Almost all prospective informants (i.e. people who had already willingly parted with essential information concerning their daily activities) became evasive or looked another way. The invariable answer I got to my probes was "nta:" ("I don't know"), or, when I asked about a cultural specific I had got wind of, "la: ilang" ("it doesn't exist anymore").

For a long time I blamed myself for this and thought that there had to be inroads I had overlooked, that I had inadvertently offended someone and word had got around warning people not to talk to me about 'important matters', that I had blatantly disqualified myself by having proved my incorrigible stupidity, etc. But I finally concluded that the Lom rarely talk about these issues and that they actually spent more time talking to me about them (in their guarded ways) than they did between themselves. I still have not totally convinced myself that my hunch for an explanation for their taciturnity is correct. In spite of this I submit, however tentatively, that most Lom have a somewhat vague knowledge of their own culture and that they fear, also somewhat vaguely, repercussions if they give inaccurate accounts of it. But I still harbour remnants of a nagging feeling that they may communicate about (what I take to be) 'important matters' in passing (and metaphorical) allusions undetected my me for, among others, linguistic reasons.

The above is simply a plea for anthropology as a humble and continuing quest for the substantive variation of human cultures rather than an academic laboratory exercise in the pursuit of order, cerebral or otherwise.(8) I hope that the present work will bear witness to this plea being more than mere lip service.

I am aware of recent academic trends postulating that ethnographies are false creations by virtue of their existence and that the only way to approach ... (I am not certain of what, perhaps some kind of Truth) is for the ethnographer to turn poetic and evoke in the reader's mind the culture s/he has worked in (e.g. Tyler 1987 for a bafflingly verbose version of this view). While these aspirations may be laudable in the most general sense possible there are, as I see it, at least two considerations that can be made as to why we ought to proceed with caution along these lines. First, I have not yet understood how we are to determine whose and what kind of mind (perhaps that of a Norwegian anthropologist in his thirties?) we are to evoke, and how. I should rather rely on conventional language (for which there are syntactical and other rules we can resort to, if need arises) as a means to get meaning across than on evocative metaphors (the rules for which must be fuzzy, to say the least) constructed by someone I don't know and who doesn't know me. Secondly, I fail to see how the 'writing culture' mode of presentation (at least in the form advocated by Tyler) can contribute to the body of knowledge of cultures accumulated in anthropology; to me, social anthropology is a documentary and comparative discipline. Comparison across cultural boundaries is inherently difficult and problematical in its own right, but it would become impossible were we to take the advice of the post-modernists.

What follows, then, is fairly traditionally 'boxed' and straightforward, although it is all (as they say) interconnected. Chapter two situates the Lom as an ethnic minority. Chapter three is the attempt I referred to above to explain as much as possible about the cosmological ideas of the Lom. Chapter four is an exploration of the rules that inform behaviour. Chapter five is an account of the rites performed at birth and (male) genital mutilation. In chapter six I describe the economically salient activities of the Lom, most thoroughly the agricultural ones, discuss whether or not the Lom have a multicentric economy (and if such an economy can be said to exist at all). Chapter seven is an account of Lom mortuary rites. Chapter eight is on relationships: affinal and consanguineal ones, and if the reader up to this point has received the impression that Lom society is amorphous and somewhat deficient as far as formal organisation goes this impression is likely to give way as the Lom rules on incest unfold.

Chapter two — Ethnic relations

In the previous chapter I briefly situated the Lom spatially and historically. The aim of the present chapter is to arrive at a clearer view of how the Lom are to be conceptualised in a social context. More specifically, to investigate to what degree they can be said to constitute an ethnic group. Largely, this is a question that can only be answered after a review of the actual empirical setting on Bangka, constantly bearing in mind the categorisations of the Lom themselves and their neighbours. As regards the Bangka natives' schemata for ethnic classification I should emphasise that while the class of Chinese contains only Chinese, the class of Malays contains both Malay Muslims and non-Muslims.

1. The contexts of ethnicity

Are the Lom an ethnic group? While they acknowledge that they are Malay, and speak the Malay language, they simultaneously maintain that they are not Malay, but Lom, and do not speak real Malay, but pelicu (a dialect, or bahasa daerah, in Standard Malay/Indonesian). This apparent paradox, apart from neatly summing up the situation, begs for an investigation into what characterises the situations in which they refer to themselves (and are referred to by others) as Malay and Lom respectively.

1.1. The Lom as Malays

The ethnic setting in which the Lom are situated is one that comprises, on one level, two classes: Chinese(9) and Malays. The Chinese constitute roughly 40 % of Bangka's total population of half a million; the remaining 60 % are Malays.(10) In this context the Lom are Malays; i.e. they are first and foremost not Chinese.

Thus, the ubiquitous middlemen, the economically successful entrepreneurs, the daring fishermen and accomplished cash-croppers whom the Lom encounter are, almost all of them, orang Cén (Chinese) who impress the Lom by their proficiency at coconut production and pig husbandry. In this (economic) context the Lom are acutely aware that they are if not 'inferior', at least less skilled, and have much to learn. But, importantly, so are the other non-Chinese (i.e. Malay) Bangkanese. The popularly proverbial diligence, stamina and business acumen of the Chinese is always, by Malays (including the Lom) and Chinese alike, contrasted to the (equally proverbial) incompetent laziness of the Malays. Neither Chinese actually living in the Lom villages nor those I happened to meet in surrounding areas distinguish between Lom and Malays in this respect. But while the Malays (excluding the Lom) more often than not are both contemptuous and envious of the Chinese and their relative wealth(11) the Lom are far less ambivalent in their assessment of the Chinese. The reason for this is partly to be found in the role played by Chinese as the professed 'saviours' of the Lom during WW II: Chinese from Belinyu and elsewhere brought rice and other edibles to Pejam to sell when far from sufficient amounts of rice were imported. Were it not for the Chinese in the surrounding communities, the Lom assured me, they would have starved to death because they were too poor (and timid) to go anywhere to buy consumer commodities. A further contributing factor is the place occupied by the Chinese in the Lom cosmology, a point I shall expand on in the next chapter.


Figure 2.1 Ethnic categories

The Malays (excluding the Lom) as well as Indonesians (i.e. the so-called pribumi or 'of the soil'(12) — i.e. the indigenous Indonesians) on the whole, as is my impression — generally hold that were it not for the Chinese the Malays would be better off. They maintain that the wealth of the Chinese (a frequent subject of discussion among Malays) would have been amassed by the Malays, had they only had the opportunity to do so. Contrary to this the Lom are of the opinion that they — and other Bangkanese Malays — would have been worse off were it not for the Chinese. In the terse words of one Lom: "If the Chinese leave Bangka the Malays will die." This is an opinion reflecting not primarily the conspicuous economic expertise I referred to above, however important in its various forms it may be to the Lom. Neither does it reflect the more recently established saviour role. More profoundly this attitude is rooted in Lom cosmology. But above all it mirrors the crucial role the Chinese have played in the extraction of the only important natural resource found on Bangka: tin.(13) The attitude of the Lom towards the Chinese is thus at great variance from that of the Bangka Muslim Malays.

But on another level the Lom are clearly distinguished from the Malays — though far more so by the Muslim Malays themselves than by the Chinese. While the Lom are not generally perceived to be much different from other Malays in the economic sense, they are so in other important ways: As far as the Malays are concerned the Lom are pagans; they rear pigs and eat indiscriminately (that they have their own sets of food-prohibitions is a fact the Muslims are either ignorant of or ignore), and they are (popularly held to be) accomplished sorcerers.

1.2. The Lom as suku

Furthermore, there are a large number of suku, or 'tribes'(14) scattered all over Bangka. Some of these are categorised by the authorities as suku terasing (literally 'isolated', or 'remote', with a tinge of 'estranged') as are the Lom, and plans to include them in settlement schemes (proyék) similar to the ones as have befallen the Lom over the past decade have been forwarded. What all these suku typically have in common is that their hamlets are situated far from the main roads and are accessible only by foot, bicycle, or motorcycle. Another trait they share is that they are acknowledged to speak dialects — some of which are mutually unintelligible.(15) That the specific linguistic and other cultural traits of these suku are generally little known not only to anthropologists but also to the island's inhabitants in general and its authorities in particular became evident during an interview I had with the former Bupati (the highest civilian authority) of Bangka, Arub S.H., and two other high-ranking civil servants (cf. appendix III).

In the following I shall concentrate on the distinguishing traits of Lom ethnicity in the capacity of the Lom as a suku, i.e. not in the sense that they are Malays.

When I asked the Air Abik headman: "What is the difference between Orang Lom and other Malays in Silip (a near-by Muslim Malay village) or in Belinyu (the town center)?" he answered that one difference is that the Lom bury their dead taking care to place the head of the deceased towards the east, another is that the Lom are alone in postponing the funeral ceremony proper for a number of years (see chapter seven). "Are there other differences?" He thought for a while and said, "No. We don't look different, our clothes aren't different, and we speak the same language."

The latter statement could be taken to mean that the Lom isolect is regarded merely as a topolect rather than an ethnolect (though not, of course, by such or similar terms). But when he refers to 'the same language' this must be understood as a language in the broader sense, i.e. they speak 'Malay'. As I have already noted all Lom are aware — indeed, they stress — that they speak a dialect (bahasa daerah, or pelicu in the Lom vernacular) which, when spoken between villagers at normal speed, is practically incomprehensible to people from near-by villages or from Belinyu, 9 kilometres away.(16)

Did the headman think that other differences would include that the Lom know a great number of pantun (traditional Malay rhymed verses) that other Malays may not know, that they are familiar with the local flora and fauna, are proficient at making a variety of traps, and so on? He immediately agreed to these suggestions, and pointed out that pantun are still being composed. Furthermore, although people in other villages, as well as the Chinese, know how to make and use lapun (the simplest of wire-traps: designed for mouse-deer) it is extremely unlikely, he said, that they know how to build a pejato (an elaborately constructed tortoise-trap).

Shame (being malu) is an important concept when the Lom discuss ethnic differences — and it is difficult to distinguish it from a wish to achieve superficial conformity; not to be recognised as 'other', as paling dalam (lit. 'deepest', but here meaning backward or 'hick-like').(17) Linguistically, the Lom attempt to conform to the different phonological peculiarities found in Belinyu, Pugul, Sungailiat etc. whenever they talk to inhabitants of these places. The Lom say that if they speak their own dialect when dealing with other Bangkanese these will point at them and say: "orang Air Abik". As regards dress and appearance, if one goes bare-footed to town carrying kerontong (a large plaited basket strapped to one's back with bark string), wearing seluar kulor (home-sewn fly-less trousers which are tied around one's waist and end just below one's knees), one is immediately recognisable as 'orang Air Abik'. This is the reason people nowadays wear sandals and trousers (of currently fashionable length) and leave their kerontong at home. According to many Lom there are only these two ethnic markers: language and artefacts/clothes.

One man opined that nowadays young people do not know the local dialect too well because they were malu (ashamed) to use it. Consequently the dialect was in the process of disappearing. The example he used was that if someone in Belinyu asks a Lom "ke mana?" ("where are you going?" — probably the most frequent greeting in the Malay-speaking parts of Indonesia) s/he could not answer "kemék" (local dialect for 'ke sini', or 'hereto'); for one thing they townsfolk might not understand it and, equally important, it would certainly make the Lom sound uneducated and backward.

I asked someone else about this later. He said that it was bohong (lies, nonsense) that young people do not know their own dialect. The man I had spoken to is not asli sini (originally from here) having been born and raised in a neighbouring village and he could not be trusted on all matters pertaining to local customs.

2. On the origin of the Lom

The Air Abik headman said that he did not think there was a 'common origin', as it were, of Orang Sekak, as they are called on Bangka, or Orang Laut (in English usually referred to as 'Sea Nomads'; cf. Sopher 1977) and Orang Lom.(18) The reasons he gave for this are that the language of the Sekak differs considerably from that of the Lom and that the funeral practices are dissimilar.(19) The Sekak attach no importance to the direction of the grave, nor do they postpone the ceremony proper. Bearing in mind the recurring reference, both in the scant literature on the Lom and in ordinary conversations among Malay Bangkanese to the funeral practices of the Lom as perhaps the most significant — or ethnically most distinctive — trait, this may well be a most important observation.

As far as commercially oriented culture and arts are concerned, the Lom have little affinity to the hypnotic qualities of gamelan, the music for which Java and Bali are world-famous. They neither understand nor appreciate that "Javanese music", they say. Having radios and tape recorders they far rather listen to 'mainstream' Indonesian pop music and the Malay music broadcasted from Singapore and Malaysia, lagu Melayu. Nor are they attracted to the various forms of wayang (epic Hindu plays) that are frequently televised.

3. Adat Mapur

A central issue to Lom ethnicity is the status of Adat Mapur. While adat (after ter Haar: 1948) has often been translated as 'customary law' it would be misleading to conceive of adat simply as a set of jural rules applicable to a (culturally) defined area or (ethnically self-contained) group of individuals. One reason why adat has been defined relatively to, or as local appendices to religious, statute, and European laws is of course that the vast majority of Malays are Muslims to whom adat has been just that: important in certain respects but adjunct. Contrary to this concept of adat Jensen, in his book on the religion of the Sarawak Iban, states that to the non-Muslim Iban, adat

"...involves the basic values of life, their system of agriculture, as well as the code according to which their society is ordered. It also concerns the 'correct' manner of behaviour.... [It is] designed to ensure a mutually satisfactory relation between men and the other inhabitants of the universe.... Adat exists to ensure harmony in this universe and to promote the well-being of all its inhabitants, among them the Iban." (Jensen 1974: 5, 112)

Jensen also quotes Schärer who writes (on the Ngaju in South Kalimantan):

"It is not only humanity that possesses hadat, but also every other creature or thing (animal, plant, river, etc.), every phenomenon (e.g. celestial phenomena), every period and every action for the entire cosmos is ordered by the total godhead, and has to live and act according to this ordained place." (Schärer 1963: 74-5)

Adat thus understood covers the concept well as it is used by the Lom, even when it includes the sacral element introduced by Schärer. I shall elaborate on this point in the next chapter. For the time being I note with interest that these extended definitions of adat are almost undistinguishable from prevailing anthropological definitions of 'culture'(20).

One Lom put the matter very succinctly when he said, "Selam cuma igamanya; adét lebih kuat." ("Islam is only (a) religion; adat is stronger".)

4. Negotiating ethnicity

The Lom rarely need to pay much concern to their ethnic identity when they are in their own settlements. This is not so because Lom villages are populated exclusively by Lom. Both chief Lom settlements contain Muslim and Chinese households. But, apart from the trivial fact that in small villages people are familiar with each other and thus know who will eat what, for example, it appears that the strategy of non-involvement in external affairs (a strategy the Lom have developed almost to perfection) has been adopted by Muslim and Chinese minorities on Tanah Mapur to the effect that controversial or embarrassing matters are not raised. Because Adat Mapur emphasises that every other adat-possessing group must abide by their own adat ethnicity rarely, if at all, needs to be negotiated. Conflicts along ethno-religious lines are, to the best of my knowledge, virtually non-existent. I noted no ethnicity-related snide remarks between or about villagers.

4.1. Lom ethnicity in the local context

However, from time to time the Lom naturally encounter persons they do not know — when they leave their homestead and when strangers arrive at their own village. These are times when ethnicity becomes an issue. Given the weight Islam places on dietary restrictions, the apparently total lack of food taboos among the Chinese and the personal and partly descent-related food prohibitions among the Lom it is only to be expected that when ethnicity becomes an issue it becomes one over food.(21) While I do not wish to question the religious sincerity of Bangka Muslims in general I witnessed Muslims — too often for it to be mere coincidence — eating pork. On the other hand, for a Lom to transgress a food-prohibition is almost unthinkable; the consequences are dire. When the Lom say, "Kami seperti Orang Cén: Makan terus!" ("We are like the Chinese: Eat on/regardless!"), the point is not that they eat anything anytime but that to them, as to the Chinese, no food is inherently 'bad'. One Lom said simply, "Malays who eat pork, that's us."

One example of ethnicity negotiation occurred when a man from Belinyu appeared in order to ask advice before he ventured into the forest to search for the much-coveted garu or agila wood. As it happened he arrived just before a sumptuous meal at the house of one of my neighbours, who had had a successful hunt the previous night. The food, stewed anteater, was placed on the table. Strictly speaking, anteater is not for Muslims to eat since it eats non-vegetable matter, apart from the fact that Muslims are not supposed to partake of meat that is not halal, i.e. slaughtered the prescribed way. When placing the bowl of cooked meat on the table the host asked, openly, if the guest ate this. The latter answered jokingly that if he came across (ketemu) it, he would eat it, if he didn't he wouldn't. His Lom host smilingly agreed. The same exchange took place when the arak (rice alcohol) was poured: if he encountered it he would drink it, otherwise not.

Having met the stranger briefly earlier the same day I had introduced the two men to each other. It turned out that the stranger's wife was a not too distant relative of the host's wife. This did not take long to establish; the guest, the host, and his wife all asking each other questions in order to try to verify the exact relationship (the particulars of the genealogies never became entirely clear to them). It took much food, many drinks of arak and far longer, however, for the two men to find out who was the older, i.e. who was to address whom kakak (elder brother) and adik (younger brother) respectively.(22)

4.2. Lom ethnicity and the authorities

Incidental to the village settlement schemes initiated by the authorities have been the introduction and partly governmental financing of cash crops (the aim of which is a greater incorporation of the Lom into the money economy and thus an improvement of their standard of living) and, above all, the frequent admonitions to discontinue swidden agriculture which in Indonesia is now prohibited by law. While these government interventions present the Lom with problems, partly arising from their adat, which they are ill equipped to solve, these initiatives and regulations are at least official and openly put forward. Those who have made their swiddens within the boundaries of the tin-mining company have to be extremely quiet about it and such swiddens can never be 'inherited'.(23) The Benak hamlet (about midway between Pejam and Air Abik) will soon have to be abandoned because large parts of the primary forest in that area has been cut down and the authorities now hope to save what is left of Indonesia's primary forests for commercial exploitation.

But a more difficult problem is presented by the fact that in Pejam people grow coconuts and raise pigs. Having moved into the proyék some Lom have brought their pigs with them — much to the dismay of the infrequently visiting local dignitaries. Thus Wakim, the village headman in Pejam, told me that he was obliged to build a new house because the Camat (Head of Subdistrict) had repeatedly told him that it just doesn't do to rear pigs right next to the road. Wakim laughed and shook his head at this and I sensed some exasperation: "Susah!" ("Difficult!") And another villager explained that he has moved his pigs from the enclosure behind his proyék house to one he has erected a hundred metres or so off the road in a small hollow — hardly visible from the road — because "Who knows, one day Orang Selam will come here and think it's dirty." This was said with a smile and a light shrug, as is almost always the case when the Lom discuss Islamic notions of purity and uncleanliness.

The predicament of the headman is an acute one. He is the only non-Muslim (or, at least, the only non-agama, i.e. 'Great Religion') member of the group of kepala desa when meeting, for example, the Camat. When it comes to lifestyle and public performance he is compelled to serve more than one master, as it were. Being headman entails not only that he is the appointed (not elected) spokesperson of the villagers vis-à-vis authorities on various levels, he is also supposed to act as the mouthpiece of the same authorities (who, somewhat regretfully, have admitted to me that though lazy as he is he is the best they've got). While all his superiors are (I am certain) Muslim, he is not. This fact is of no small consequence as it presents him with a profound role-dilemma to which, from his perspective, there can be no solutions without hazards — to give but one example: If his superiors pay him a visit he literally has to kick his pigs out of his house before he can invite his guests in. The most radical solution would be for him to opt out of his position as headman, but for various reasons it seems unlikely that this is going to happen within the next few years.

Firstly, although his role is a dilemmatic one it provides him with a uniquely prominent status among his fellow villagers. While the Lom in no way venerate their kepala kampung he is, after all, the only Lom with direct and regular access to local authorities and he is, after all, supposed to be somehow in charge of whatever goes on in the village. That he is sometimes also blamed for events he is not responsible for is another matter. Secondly, in spite of the official remunerations for his services being relatively negligible, his role as (constituted) Kepala Desa (Local Area Headman) puts him in almost daily touch with the considerable local population of Chinese.(24) Due to the inter-ethnically recognised social advantage of the Malays, this places him effectively in an opportunity situation from which it is all but impossible not to achieve economic gain. This is especially true as he is arguably the most fluent speaker of Chinese of all Lom. The fact that most Lom favour good relations with Chinese because they perceive such relations to be potentially gainful, means that they approve of their headman's trans-ethnic dealings, admire his effortless linguistic transitions (as I did myself) and perhaps hope that his somewhat prominent position might in turn help them some time in the future.

That there are exceptions to the shrug-and-smile attitude towards Malay Muslims described earlier (that curious blend of indulgence and submissiveness) is strikingly illustrated by some statements by Sulin, a Lom more quick-tempered than most. He explained how he had once slaughtered a pig, brought the carcass to the Belinyu pork-market (which, incidentally, is situated near the regular market but behind and to the side of it in order not to offend the Muslims) where he had sold it. On his way home he had stopped at a roadside shop where he treated a couple of locals to beer and snacks. Their conversation touched upon acquaintances and places they knew and Sulin asked them what the Lom were like. "Dirty, pig-eating forest-dwellers", they replied. Sulin then asked them what the smell of money belonging to such people was like. They were unable to answer this and he pointed to the beer and snacks and said: "That is what the money of the Lom is like. Terribly dirty, isn't it?" To me he said: "Malek benér, urang Selam itek!" ("Ashamed indeed, those Muslims!") He went on to tell me what his usual answer to people asking him about his food-habits was: "'Hati macan.' Takot, orang!" ("'Tiger's heart/liver.' That scares people!")

5. Conversion

Ethnic identity, according to Barth in his Introduction to Ethnic Groups and Boundaries, is ascribed: Ethnic groups "are categories of ascription and identification by the actors themselves, and thus have the characteristic of organising interaction between people" (1969: 10). Ethnic categories classify the individual "in terms of his basic, most general identity, presumptively determined by his origin and background" (op. cit: 13). Even so, although the emergence and persistence of poly-ethnic systems

"...would seem to depend on a relatively high stability in the cultural features associated with ethnic groups — i.e. a high degree or (sic) rigidity in the interactional boundaries — they do not imply a similar rigidity in the patterns of recruitment or ascription to ethnic groups: on the contrary, the ethnic inter-relations that we observe frequently entail a variety of processes which effect changes in individual and group identity and modify the other demographic factors that obtain in the situation." (Op. cit: 21, original emphasis)

It would appear that Barth's general observation is confirmed, with one proviso, by my own findings: The Lom may in fact change their ethnic identity, but this is accepted without ensuing problems only under specific circumstances, viz. marriage.

One man said that he had almost been convinced to convert to Islam. At the time he and his then wife had just divorced. He had been staying with Muslim Malay friends from Gunung Muda who had told him it would be lebih senang (more congenial) if he converted. At first he had thought "why not", but later the thought had struck him that if he did convert, pork would become at least setengah haram (half-prohibited) and that eating it would have to be done maling-maling (in secret). The day he was supposed to 'sit down on top of a coconut'(25) (duduk diatas buah kelapa) he left Gunung Muda in a hurry and pulang Mapur with relief.

Another man had in fact converted to Islam at one point but he pulang Mapur some eight months later. His then wife was a Muslim and he had had no choice but to convert were he to marry her. But little by little she acquired the taste for pork — something to which he had no objection! (Said with a laugh.)

It seems that the fact that the Lom share a certain 'Malayness' with other Malay tribes on Bangka facilitates an ethnic 'conversion' — or, if 'facilitates' is too strong a word, at least does not completely rule it out as a possibility. The Lom term for such 'conversion' is pulang (lit. 'come home') — and while Muslims can and do pulang Mapur and Lom can and do pulang Selam neither Muslims nor Lom can pulang Cén, nor can a Chinese pulang Mapur or pulang Selam.(26)) Partly this must have to do with the fact that for a Lom to become Muslim not much else is required than a recitation of the chief article of the Muslim faith (la illaha il-allah),(27) although in the final analysis it seems that the conversions which are not related to marriage are extremely unstable. To change one's ethnic identity is only culturally legitimised by marriage. Perhaps because the Lom and other Malay Bangkanese are not visibly different from one another it is possible for them to change their ethnic identity.

What is in fact impossible is to change one's ethnic identity when this implies changing one's physical type as well: Then, as I intend to demonstrate in chapter three, a confusion of the divine order would ensue. (In order to forestall future disclaimers on this score it is perhaps necessary to say that I am concerned with the Lom conceptualisation. I am not discussing a jural impossibility imposed by Indonesian law. In fact, many Indonesian ethnic Chinese convert to Islam for reasons I shall not go into here.) The fact that an elder Lom emphasised that I could not "take a wife from here" must, I think, be interpreted as an expression of the same anathema.

Alternatively, of course, one could suggest that the 'conversion' in fact is just that — a change of religion and nothing else. Why introduce the problem of ethnicity here at all? Does not the whole issue have to do with faith — and not with ethnicity? This is a question that cannot remain unexamined and it is very pertinent as regards the Protestant following which, although minuscule, exists. Before going into the possible answers to this puzzle I should emphasise that the conversion of some Lom to Christianity was reported to me to have been a source of conflict — particularly among those Lom whose present or former household members were among the converted. The issue of religious/ethnic conversion is therefore one that is inherently contested among the Lom. Thus, while I cannot claim to have a solution to this problem, at least two answers are possible: Firstly, by becoming a Christian one does not simultaneously become a member of an ethnic category to whom the Lom are conceptually opposed. Christianity (though dimly perceived to be originally Belandé (Dutch) is not primarily an ethnic category: The Batak, the Moluccans, and many Chinese (and Westerners) are all Christian — what they have in common is faith, and not ethnicity. Secondly, by becoming Christian one does not commit oneself to alimentary proscriptions. Buddhist and Christian Chinese, as the Lom well know, do not have differing eating habits. Thus, a Lom converting to Christianity may eat tortoise, pork and anteater just as before. Possibly some Lom do not think of converting to Christianity as a change of adat.

A third factor that must enter the account is that the priest in the small church outside Air Abik is reported to offer 'baits' (in the expression of many Lom) to those who convert. Thus, around Christmas when rice is given away as presents the congregation of Christian Lom temporarily swells. A fourth point to note, which is pertinent both to Islam and Christianity, is that both prescribe (or, at least, strongly encourage) praying and followers of both religions congregate in houses designed for that purpose. The concept of prayer is totally foreign to orthodox Lom. One cannot talk to Orang Kuasé (God), they say, and they have a positive prohibition on erecting such buildings on Tanah Mapur.

6. Concluding comment

Orthodox Lom deride present-day Muslims who do not take their food-and-drink proscriptions seriously: "If a Muslim eats pork and drinks arak, what is left of his Muslimness?" One Lom remarked on what he perceives as a growing number of pork-eating Muslims by saying, "Habis Selam (Islam is finished). Maybe Islam is no more at the turn of the century." Cultural assimilation (which is not conceived of as different from integration) is precisely what adat Mapur prohibits and according to the Lom the adat of other ethnic groups implicitly contain similar prohibitions.

Un-prescribed religious conversion and, as I shall attempt to demonstrate in later chapters, cross-generation marriage and irrigated agriculture are Lom equivalents to Islamic prohibitions against alcohol and unclean meat. Blending or, probably more aptly, confusing, the various adat is therefore considered by orthodox Lom to be a threat to order and stability — including the order arising from the exercise of recognised authority in accordance with pre-ordinance. That both Muslims and younger Lom have become slack in observing the dicta of their adat is therefore a source of concern to orthodox Lom.

Chapter three — Cosmology and mythical history

In the first chapter I outlined my misgivings against establishing the Lom worldview. I based my reluctance to do so on — what I take to be — a healthy scepticism towards anthropological syntheses of statements by native experts. I hope, therefore, that the reader has been sufficiently warned: Much of what follows should not be taken as a cultural 'common denominator'. It is rather, as coherently as I have been able to collate it, a patchwork summary based on the views of very few individuals. How representative of 'the Lom worldview' (assuming for a moment that such an entity exists) this summary may be taken to be is a question I cannot address at this point; I simply do not know. It is of course possible that the views of these persons are in fact typical and it is also quite possible that the reason I did not find consensus is simply that most Lom somehow feel intimidated against garrulity, as I suggested in the first chapter.

A brief review of earlier writings on 'Lom cosmology' is pertinent — firstly because their authors concerned themselves precisely with matters central to the present work, viz. the unique status the Lom have occupied on Bangka in their capacity as non-Muslim Malays, and secondly, because at least one writer has recently complained that anthropologists too often disregard their predecessors in the field.(28) This review is found as appendix IV and in it my own comments appear in notes.

1. An early account

To provide a minimum of context for the remainder of the chapter I begin by referring briefly to the largest single body of information on the Lom hitherto published: the approximately 2000 words in Hagen's article (1908) of which a translation of the part devoted to the Lom can be found as appendix II. Hagen (or Kroon, rather, who wrote the manuscript that Hagen translated into German) was

"...only able to ascertain that they honour four gods whose names, excepting the last one, they would not tell me; only holding up the four fingers of the left hand."

About these gods we are told:

"The first of these gods, indicated by the forefinger, is unmarried and has no children. He has, however, the power to take a wife and without further intercourse have children by her, in other words, to have wife and children by faith, if he so pleases.

"The second and third gods are married and have children.

"The last, indicated by the little finger, is Baginda Alie (Mohammad's son-in-law, though they do not know, or do not want to know, this)... Baginda Alie is married, but the name of his wife is not mentioned. He is their God, not only an intermediary between the God-level and humanity, neither is he the son-in-law of the prophet of the Mohammedans and it is difficult to find the reason why this one in particular has been given such an exalted place by the pagans."

Rather than commenting on the above I shall proceed immediately to my own material and attempt to present, as coherently as I am able to, the cosmology and pantheon of the Lom as it is today. I should like to point out that the text contains inconsistencies. Some of them are undoubtedly the responsibility of the anthropologist, some of them probably that of the main narrator who is seldom, if ever, asked to give comprehensive lectures on cosmology. In this regard it is tempting to quote Hagen's (Kroon's) misgivings about the results of his investigations: they are mirrored by my own 'reflections on fieldwork' ninety years hence:

"I should like to make the reader aware that what several old Maporese related to me in this connection should be cautiously accepted. I thought I perceived that they were slightly frightened when answering my questions, asked as carefully as possible, about their religious practices. They were also somewhat helpless in expressing their obscure notions. In the following I shall attempt to convey what I learned... They were very reticent concerning their beliefs in certain gods and goddesses... (Hagen 1908, cf. appendix II)

I stress, once again, that most of the information was given by one person and that few others were willing or able to confirm his statements. Furthermore, the information was obtained over a long time and it proved difficult to pursue single themes systematically, partly because the individual(s) frequently broke off sessions and partly because certain themes are considered dangerous to even talk about. Consider, for example, the following statement:

"Keliling, lihat; kalok ikak tanya ko padé (roam about, look around; if you ask I will tell you). I can't speak carelessly about these things because nobody has seen them yet — and therefore people could become angry with me for spreading rumours. I can talk about the little things, but not the big ones. I don't dare to. I am afraid people will know and talk about this and that. And later they — and you — can return to me and say, "didn't you tell us so-and-so?"

The difficulties inherent to investigations of the Lom cosmology are thus perhaps not altogether dissimilar from those encountered by anthropologists pursuing kinship studies among peoples with name taboos. It is because the person whom I just quoted fortunately broke his self-imposed silence on a few occasions and told me at least some of what I like to think are the 'big things' that I am able to present a first approximation to the Lom worldview.

2. Cosmic creation

Gajah Mada (Orang/Roh Kuasé: 'The Mighty One/Soul') created the earth and the wind. There was earth, there were people. People existed in the sky (bang langit) before the earth was created, they 'held' (pegang) the earth and, bringing it with them, descended by rope to Singapore: the first 'land' to be created.(29)

Java was made by Aki Jio Singo(30) He is "older than Borobudur, how many tens of millions of years old? — not just a little while ago!"(31)

When Java and Sumatra had been created Bangka was created; Sumatra and Bangka were both created out of Java. Bangka was still flat, but both earth and water existed. A storm tore the island of Belitung loose from Bangka. No humans existed at this point but numerous fields and gardens of all kinds did, mysteriously made. The Bangkanese are from Java, just as Bangka itself is made from Java. This is expressed as 'one and the same people, one and the same soil/land' (suti orang, suti tanah). I was also told, "We may not quarrel/fight with the Javanese. That is one and the same blood" (Kita tidak boleh bekelai't dengan orang Jawa. Itek suti darah). Bangka is female, Java male (although within Bangka women are Javanese and men Buginese), and Bangka is cold (tanah Bangka tanah dingin). The fact that it is cold was 'explained' to me via the question "did you ever hit a woman?" "No", I answered. "There you are!" (Itulah!)

One male and one female survived the storm.(32)

Every seven hundred years or every seventh generation half of the population was killed (penduduk dibelah habis) by storms and floods. These disasters recurred many times. Gajah Mada feared that people might perish altogether, and thus returned (reincarnated?) to save them from destruction by giving them adat.

That Gajah Mada brought adat to people is understood by the Lom to be a crucial schism because it is precisely with reference to different adat that the division of the Bangkanese into Orang Selam (Muslims) and Orang Lom is conceptualised. The differentiations of adat are also understood as pre-requisites for social order. Before Gajah Mada there was no custom: "Gajah Mada brought order" (Gajah Mada membawa atur)." He also brought magic (aik lemu, or ilmu).

Everyone ate the same foods before the arrival of Gajah Mada and thus there were no distinctions between human groups. And not only did he bring different foods (pemaken) to the peoples of the world, he also instituted the incest taboos, pantang buyung. The very essence of ordered tradition (atur adat) is represented by precisely the incest rules (cf. chapter eight).

3. Gajah Mada's children

Gajah Mada was, according to my chief source, married twice; the first time to a Dutch female, the other time to a Malay. Their names are unknown. The following are his offspring, listed in order of birth (the eldest first). The information on each of them remains scanty. Indeed, on some of them I was unable to get any information at all. These seven males were Orang Sidik (?); none of them had navels.

Perhaps one of the most interesting points to note in the following list of Gajah Mada's children is that a number of the gods/prophets/spirits featured in most accounts of Peninsular Malay folk belief are missing. These include prominent figures such as the Prophet Elias, the Prophet David, the Batara Guru and Batara Guru di Laut, the God of Midcurrents, 'Grandsire Long-Claws', Ibnu Jan, Jimbalang Bumi, the Prophet Khizr (Khailir), Sang Gala Raja and the Prophet 'Tap; as well as more minor notabilities such as a number of hantu (h. bangkit, h. belian, h. bungkus, h. golek and h. kochong) and mati di bunoh, pelesit, and polong.(33)

1. Isa: She is considered Dutch and the only daughter fathered by Gajah Mada. Her Dutch mother's name is unknown. She is the eldest of a group of siblings (kakgat) and it is therefore appropriate (and obligatory?) to address Western males (referred to as Dutch, or orang Belandé) as tuan ('sir').

2. Nabi Rasul: He is Malay, as is his mother, and the prophet of the Lom. Like Isa he is considered kakgat, i.e. he is the eldest of his mother's children. He is the protector of gardens (kebun) and horticulture. He had two children, the names and sex of whom are unknown. One of his two grandchildren is a Chinese (!) male (name unknown), the other is Mak Per, also male. The latter, sometimes referred to as 'Nabi Mak Per', or 'Prophet Mak Per', had seven children by Nuk Dak, the first Lom/Mapur. These children 'constitute' (or, were the ancestors of) seven (unspecified) bangsa (ethnic groups). Mak Per is the protector of swiddens, planting and growing. According to one version of the events it is he who ordered the yearly village harvest feast (sedeka kampung).

3. Baginda Ali: A Malay whose two children became evil spirits (hantu). The first-born was his child by a Dutch female (name unknown), the child was therefore Dutch. The second-born was by a Malay female and consequently the child was Malay. After having fathered Baginda Ali, Gajah Mada rose to heaven. Later he returned.(34)

Baginda Ali "owns" or "holds" Singapore. Singapore is the centre of the earth. It is the centre and the primeval point and in it, significantly, is the navel of the world.(35) This navel is a lake that under no circumstances must close up (tekerapat) — if it does it is a sign that the world is coming to an end "by everything becoming water".

4. Berail is the commander of spectres (panglima hantu). His 'place' is Tanah Abasi (Abyssinia). It lies to the west. It is a spirit island (pulau hantu) inhabited by Malays whose function is to be the guardians of the world (tukang tunggun dunia). People come (originate?) from Tanah Abasi(36) and there are possibly people there till this day. Berail is one-eyed, his skin is black, and he has neither ears nor nose. His children, one of whom is Sabil, became evil spirits. His name must never be mentioned more than seven times during any one day or else he will devour us (makan kité). He must under no circumstances meet people from Tanah Berapi (cf. below: 6. Serapil), even if he wants to; if he does the world will be destroyed.

5. Adam. No one could tell me anything about Adam himself. But one of his children — who defecated near the upak jantung (unidentified) — is 'the maker' (tukang muét) and all things 'bad' or 'evil' (jiét) are made by him.

6. Serapil is the Raja Hantu (King of Spectres). He is blind and deaf. His 'place' is Tanah Berapi, a spirit island as is Tanah Abasi, where fire has its origin. This fire is invisible. Tanah Berapi lies to the east. There is no sand there. The population is Malay. Their function is to be informers/advisors (tukang padé).(37) The greatest office in the world lies in Tanah Berapi. It is not very likely that there are people in Tanah Berapi but if there are only they may behold it. If we err (kalau kita salah) both Berail and Serapil will leave their abodes and come to ours. If we mention their names seven times they will come, too. The only way we can protect ourselves in that case is to ask for the help of a shaman (dukun) who knows how to give an offering to evil spirits (meri:k ancak), otherwise the spirits will devour us.

7. Wahabi. "An evil/malevolent one!" (Jiét, itu!). He is considered half human and half hantu. No one knows where his abode is.

8. Mohammad, a Malay and Gajah Mada's lastborn. He is the prophet of the Malays. He had two children (names and sex unknown). One of his seven grandchildren is Sang Senaké who has a chapel (surau) in Mecca. He is in charge of, or 'holds', the stellar constellation known in English as the Southern Cross (bintang parak pari). He is also the protector of navigation and voyage.

Fatimah (called Pertima by the Lom) is a title rather than a name. Her real name is unknown.

Each of Gajah Mada's children was given an island (the names of which have been noted above when known) and — importantly — no boats. Thus they were precluded from coming in contact with each other. This presages a central concern of Adat Mapur: the separateness between peoples and their cultural sovereignty over tracts of land. (Large — and to the Lom unknown — tracts of land are usually referred to as 'islands'.)

I have mentioned that several of the aforementioned seven/ eight children had two children — in fact, according to one version, each of them had two children (by wives — and in Isa's case, a husband — unaccounted for) who in turn had seven children each.

Gajah Mada admonished all his children never to 'hold' or 'own' (pegang) anything. While the others abided by this order Berail did not, and every one of the eight siblings were 'afflicted with' (kena) the prohibitions, or taboos (pantang-pantangan) that consists of 44 kinds of evil spirits and diseases. There are 44 kinds of hantu and 44 kinds of iblis.(38) One significant point to note here is that although only Berail broke the rule his siblings — because they became jealous — were all punished. This is not unlike God's punishment of the original sin committed by Adam and Eve according to Biblical tradition and the transgression itself is not very dissimilar either. But the Lom version is somewhat more specific in its announcement of the consequences; first of all in enumerating the diseases and evil spirits, and secondly (although of this I am uncertain) in specifying that each of the siblings were to be afflicted with certain ones.

Order and traditions were thus disseminated by Gajah Mada in some infinitely distant past. Gajah Mada — say the Lom — brought order to the general chaos of human societies. Various peoples and ethnic groups already existed, but because order (atur) was wanting those were times of earthquakes, storms and floods. What Gajah Mada brought to the world was, in a word, adat. Adat is culture and represents order. Thus, to this day Dutch are Dutch, Malays are Malays, Chinese are Chinese — not primarily in a physico-racial sense, but in a socio-cultural one. Likewise, perhaps needless to say, Lom are Lom. To each of them their adat. What must be avoided is a blending of various ethno-social orders. Adat lost or confused spells catastrophe. What must be avoided are Dutch Muslims, Muslim pork-eaters, Chinese circumcisions and Lom who are no longer Lom. Difference is preserved through respect of order.

4. Ethnicity as cosmology

Singapore, as has already been mentioned, is the oldest/primeval land on earth. This is attested to by the fact that in the middle of the island there is a lake, the afore-mentioned 'navel of the world.(39) Singapore, as readers will know, is a cosmopolitan island state and it is precisely its cosmopolitan nature, I surmise, which has generated the idea among the Lom that it is the oldest tanah in the world. Down to this island, they say, the first people descended. Singapore is 'chocker-block full' (pekak benar) of ethnic groups (bangsa) — twenty-four of them, to be exact: all the bangsa of the world are found there and it is from Singapore that they have spread to populate the rest of the world.

Of the seven brothers the eldest, Nabi Rasul, is the ultimate nameable ancestor of the Lom in his capacity as 'grandfather' of Mak Per (who married Nuk Dak). Between Nabi Rasul and his youngest brother there are five brothers who are either spectres, fathers of spectres, or (in the case of Adam and Wahabi) beings the Lom fear but about whom they profess little knowledge. The youngest brother, Mohammad, is the ultimate ancestor of the Muslim Malays. He is also the 'grandfather' of Sang Senaké with whom Mak Per quarrelled over 'war things', an incident which led to the removal of these objects to the heavens in the form of seven stellar constellations to be the heirlooms of the Lom ('owned' by Mak Per), while Sang Senaké (the Malay cultural hero, as the Lom have it) 'owns' or 'controls' or 'guards' but one constellation: the Southern Cross.(40) Importantly, the brothers between Nabi Rasul and Muhammad are mostly considered evil beings — stressing, perhaps, the ideational separation between the Lom and the Malays. But the fact that they are separated clearly does not mean that they are not related. While the relationship between 'Dutch' (Westerners) and Malays is stated in terms of 'half siblingship' (of different mothers) the much closer uterine relationship between Malays, Lom and Chinese is unequivocally stated in terms of skin-colour: "all have black skin" (samé-samé kulit hitam) and cannot be doubted. Physical relatedness therefore unites, on one plane, what is later separated on the ideational.

Orang Kuasé (Gajah Mada) asked, "Who dares to hold it?" about tin, money, things or objects/valuables/resources in general.(41) Nobody had the courage to except the Chinese. (According to another version the Malays and the Dutch both tried to fetch tin for seven days, but without success.) Thus they became 'the holders' (tukang pegang) and since then they have been in charge of and controlled the economy. The Dutch, when asked, said, "We can make things out of this." Thus, by this 'divine agreement' the Chinese sell raw materials (i.e. they control natural resources) to the Dutch who process and distribute them. The Dutch are 'the makers', (tukang bikin) they share all around (bagi keliling); in that capacity they are also 'the traders'. The Malays extend their open hands and receive from the Dutch. It seems that the problem of how to account for the differential distribution power, control, labour, and riches is 'solved' through this reported agreement: With a big smile a Lom said, after having explained this to me, "then people are happy" (baru senang kité orang). It also informs Lom statements to the effect that it is not very strange (dék berapé ané) that the price of tin has fallen dramatically. The nationalisation of the tin industry, as the Lom see it, is simply against divine order: Malays are not supposed to control natural resources. This 'divine agreement' has status as an 'oath' (pesumpah), and the impetus to keep the oath lies, first, in the statement "whoever is crooked dies, whoever is straight lives" (mana bingkok mati, mana luros hidup) a statement which can be interpreted as a moral imperative. Secondly, while transgressions of prohibitions (e.g. pantang) can be catastrophical in that they may trigger floods etc. they are still surpassed by transgressions of 'oaths': "Taboos are temporal only; pesumpah are life-long" (Pantang suat, cuma; pesumpah sumor hidup): If pesumpah are transgressed, the object(s) referred to in the oath can disappear irretrievably from the face of the earth. To the Lom, in the case of the government-run tin industry; this entails that the very existence of tin is endangered. And without tin, a poor Bangka.

The Dutch are on one side, the Malays on the other, and the Chinese occupy the middle position. This is reflected in the fact that the Dutch write from left to right, the Malays (traditionally, while still using the Arabic script) from right to left, and the Chinese downwards — because they are in the middle they are 'squeezed' into writing vertically.(42))

In addition to tin and other resources the Chinese hold (pegang) the moon and — being in the middle  —  have to be patient/moderate (sabar). The Malays hold the sun while the Dutch, holding nothing, function as peacemakers in case there is conflict between the other two.

The ancestor of the Chinese was one of the Gajah Mada's Seven/Eight Children (above we saw that The First Chinese is one of Nabi Rasul's grand-children). The Japanese are later offspring of a Malay and a Chinese and their cleverness and productivity is explained as a marriage of the best qualities of each parent.

5. Supernatural beings

In general the Lom appear uncomfortable when discussing, even mentioning, supernatural beings. In particular this is true for most of the ones that have been listed above, including Gajah Mada. Partly this is due to the fact that many Lom, young and old, say that they have never 'learnt' (belum berguru)(43) much on the subject and that they are afraid they might misrepresent these matters. But more significantly it should be understood as being integral to their attitude that 'things mentioned come into existence', an issue to which I shall return shortly.

The Lom recognise three major kinds of supernatural beings: pedaré, iblis and hantu. The least consequential of these is the pedaré. Pedaré means simply 'haunting spirit', or 'ghost', and is by definition the non-physical aspect of a particular deceased person. They are likened to shadows (bayang-bayang) and can therefore, at least potentially, be visually perceived. Although the English word 'ghost' is often translated as hantu in English — Malay/Indonesian dictionaries, it is probably more adequately translated as pedaré in the Lom dialect for two reasons. Firstly, pedaré carries the connotation of a homeless 'haunting spirit' ceaselessly roaming the land in want of a resting-place, much like the ghosts in European tradition. Importantly, deceased persons who have had no funeral proper (i.e. for whom no funeral speech has been held and who consequently have not been informed about which directions to take in order to arrive at the Lom equivalent of 'heaven') turn into pedaré. The pedaré may interfere in the well-being of individual Lom but, insofar as they do so, do it unwittingly. Moreover, no inherently evil intent is ascribed to them; they are ignorant. It is the living, their surviving kin in particular, who are responsible for their ignorance, precisely for the reason just mentioned: it is the responsibility of surviving kin that a funeral speech is held.(44) Secondly, hantu, in the Lom sense of the word, are more 'illustrious' (or 'elevated') beings. Many of them, as we have seen, occupy significant positions in Lom cosmology, or pantheon, and their influence, often related to the natural elements, is vast and uncontrollable.

Iblis: The iblis are permanent malevolent supernatural beings. They can eat people (bisa makan orang). According to one Pejam villager — Almut (an ethnic Chinese) — Bukit Remanton, a small hill near the proyék, is well known for its various iblis. There are several other hills, especially in the vicinity of the beach, that have numerous iblis associated with them. The ones at Bukit Remanton give you a headache. Iblis from white men gives you malaria (sakét mengkok; SM/I: sakit kura, lit. 'spleen illness').

A native Lom, Alim, later confirmed part of this: it is true that there are numerous places where iblis abide. But they rarely trouble people, he said. This may indicate that the two of them simply disagreed on the matter (or had had varying experiences), but might as well reflect a difference in attitude between the two individuals towards to what degree these kinds of things are to be talked about in public. Important here is that Almut is an 'immigrant' and a Chinese — however much he is accepted as a villager he is not orang kita, 'one of us'. At any rate, Alim, too, said that a headache is one symptom indicating that people are consumed by devils (demakan iblis), another is fever. But according to him, penyakit mengkok comes from within; it is not a sickness brought on by outside agents — not in any form.(45)

There is no way, the Lom say, one can protect oneself in advance from attacks by the iblis, and they dismiss the very idea: "They know more, don't they?"(46) The Lom distinguish clearly between 'ordinary' diseases (that doctors and nurses know how to treat) and 'extraordinary' ones, and they claim that health personnel themselves recognise similar categories when they advise patients with 'forest disease' (penyakit hutan) to seek help from village people. In Pejam there are at least four villagers (two of them Lom, the other two Muslim) who may be of help if one has been attacked by iblis.

Hantu: Little in my material illuminates the Lom conceptions of hantu. Unlike the iblis they are not all malevolent; the only two of them (except the ones already encountered in the pantheon) that were named are both benevolent. Large birds are thought possibly to be hantu or iblis or at least a bringer of them. The class of hantu contains three main groups (minor, medium, and great hantu) and may afflict humans with (unidentified) diseases.(47) Although hantu are described in visual terms they cannot be seen, only heard.

Puting Anak is a minor hantu; a forest spectre (hantu hutan), the sound of which resembles a laughing woman. It attacs by eating one's testicles, and this itches so bad that one is forced to continuously scratch oneself.(48)

Hantu Mapur has two individuations: one female and one male. It is a protective and helpful spirit. The female is three fathoms tall, the male seven.

Another non-dangerous spectre is Hantu Ranges who is equipped with an axe and the ability to fly. It is green. On purely linguistic grounds one may speculate if this is a parallel to the 'familiar spirit' Putah Rangas (cf. Endicott 1970: 57). But the very idea that spirits are created by and belong to an individual owner with whom they share a body (as the 'familiar spirits' by definition are and do) is foreign to the Lom. Thus, the only characteristic they no doubt share is homophony. I understood the last two hantu to be of medium stature. So, too, is the Iman Manti of whom nothing else was said.

One of the great hantu, almost on a par with the primeval ones (i.e. certain of Gajah Mada's children), is Ajal Majoja. He is headman of war (kepala perang) and his abode is called Palang Halip, a place thought to lie near Arabia.(49)

So far we may conclude that the pedaré are close, related to humans, and temporal. They sometimes trouble humans but many Lom know magical spells against their workings. Iblis are more remote, unrelated to humans, and (although no Lom ever said so) eternal, or atemporal. There are no known ways to appease an iblis to cease being a nuisance and a jeopardy. But their influence is not insurmountable; cures are known by some individuals. The hantu, finally, are on the one hand the consanguineal relatives of the divine ancestors of humans, they are spatially located in named but largely unknown 'lands' and represent vast but vaguely known dangers and retributions. On the other hand hantu is a class of spirits, some great and important, others more minor, which are difficult to differentiate analytically from the iblis in at least one respect: Hantu and iblis both 'eat us'.

6. The Lom appear

The following is a verbatim extract of a taped Lom account of how they came to be. The narrator comments on and to some extent clarifies several of the issues I have already touched upon. The 'Sumedang incident' mentioned in the beginning refers to the sudden (mystical) appearance of Nuk Dak,(50) considered by some to be the ancestress of the Lom, out of the Sumedang hill. This is a low hill rising immediately south of the present-day Air Abik settlement. To my knowledge, and in accordance with what I have said earlier, this hill is not in any way considered 'holy' (kramat) — at any rate, when I suggested a trip to its summit I met with no objections and was accompanied without further ado.

"I don't know if the Sumedang incident represents the very beginning or is the second thing to happen. But I think it's the first, that the incident involving Nuk Dak is the first one. Before this there were people who became hantu in the next generation, the succeeding generation became humans and so on. After seven generations half the population died (sebelah habis). The story about Nuk Dak is the first and most fundamental (diatas sekali). That's the beginning. The story of Nuk Dak, people say, is the story of Orang Lom. They roamed the land. There was the sun, there was a story, there were the Lom, there was Nuk Dak. From Nabi Rasul. Now listen: Take a tree. It grows. It grows upwards while the roots grow deeper and deeper. You can cut it down one day and make it disappear: tomorrow it grows upwards again. No matter how you try to crush it, it grows upwards. Like this it is with Nuk Dak and Mak Per. The prince I told you about, Sang Senaké, he's number two after Nabi Rasul. That's correct. But number two, mind you! People were finished off then. They were finished off, but they returned. It's like the story of the Lanon. I don't know the full story. It's like the story of Aki Antek which is true, but incomplete. What people say is true enough, but it is not the full story.

"Take the story about Cochin-Chinese on Bangka. It's true. In the beginning there were no Chinese on Bangka. The sailors' boat shipwrecked, that's true. Before that there were no Chinese on Bangka. That's correct. That boat broke down here.

"But the Lom aren't Chinese!(51) The Lom originate from Nuk Dak. The shipwreck happened after Nuk Dak. How many generations later I have no idea. But the Lom are older than that. The fact that the boat broke down only explains that there are Chinese on Bangka now; to begin with there weren't any. When Mak Per lived there were no Chinese here. The Chinese came here the way the story has it and have remained until now. The Lom don't descend from the Chinese but from Nuk Dak and the Chinese are below (dibawa) Nuk Dak. How many tens of generations passed before the Chinese got here I don't know.

"But I don't know the full story about Aki Antek. Only when he disappeared Gajah Mada [re-?]entered the scene. This I know. Mak Per was the first one. When Nabi Rasul disappeared his child begot Mak Per. Nabi Rasul had seven children. Mak Per had seven children. These seven children mean seven ethnic groups.(52) The world was divided between them. A man over there, a woman over here and so on. In what way it was done or what these groups are I don't know. But seven lines of descent (keturun) were created. And they were not to be mixed. Just like it is with us here! If you come here and take a woman your offspring will be half from here, half from there. That shouldn't be. Can our younger sibling become our older sibling? Half this and half that means that descent can't be reckoned and that's the point. Don't you misunderstand! It's not like now we are younger than our elder sibling and now we aren't. Pantang (prohibited, taboo), that is. It's like if you (i.e. the anthropologist) stay here a long time and take a wife from here your child would be half your own seed and half the seed from here.(53) Two different ones. Two kinds of name. That's the point. But the splitting up itself I don't know: how many parts to the firstborn, how many parts to the next in line and so on, that's difficult.

"And Mak Per is the son (anak) of Nabi Rasul!(54) But don't you ever talk carelessly about that! I know this is correct. This descent I do know. I wanted to hear you say it the way it is. It's correct. Mak Per married a Lom and got (dapat) the Lom part.(55) Sang Senaké is of Nabi Mohammad's line. Sang Senaké is Mohammad's grandson. Mak Per's grandfather is Nabi Rasul."

As far as the Lom are concerned Baginda Ali married Pertima and by her had the daughter Fatimah — both of which mean 'woman' anyplace in the world — and he is Muhammed's brother rather than his son-in-law which, as Hagen (cf. above) noted, is the established Islamic tradition:

"'Alî bin Abî Tâlib ... was a cousin of Muhammad's and also a son-in-law, for he married Fâtimah by whom he had two sons, Hasan and Husain through whom are descended the blood kin Sharifs and Sayyids of Islâm." (Calverley 1974: 38).

According to this exegesis, then, we are all, literally, God's children in that all of humanity descends from Gajah Mada (Roh Kuasé). In the above passage we are again introduced to Aki Antek. On another occasion I was told that Gajah Mada did not on his own initiative give adat to people but that he complied with a request by Aki Antek, 'a great personage', who requested it from Gajah Mada. Thus it was that Gajah Mada 'reincarnated', or returned to earth to introduce adat among the various bangsa.

I have deliberately introduced the concept of 'God' in the above paragraph. Arriving in the field aware that the Lom were labelled the 'non-religious' (or the 'not-yet-religious') people I was anxious to investigate what, if any, ideas they would have on an upholding and Creator 'God'. As the preceding pages demonstrate they have a clear concept of a personal creative force and although most Indonesians would be surprised to learn that a prime minister during the Majapahit era has been elevated to the status of God among the Lom there is little in the above account to suggest paganism.

But does the idea of an upholding and sustaining 'God' (Tuhan or Allah) exist among them? The answer to this question must be an unequivocal 'yes'. The Lom know that many people say about them that they do not believe in Tuhan (God). But how could anything live, they ask, how could anything exist if it were not for God? We were given body and breath by God.(56) The things in the world were created by God and "we all live by Tuhan" (kité semué hidup dikepada Tuhan); all living things do, even chickens and ants (and because even ants are given life by God we are not to kill them unless they bite us.) The Lom affirm the existence of God as the source of life and to kill needlessly  —  even an ant — is to spite this creative force. They recognise a moral dilemma between on the one hand killing and on the other hunting, but resolve it by saying "but what [would we] eat?" (tapi makan apé?). And just as all life depends on God — and the same God although he has different names among different peoples — all bangsa have their own nabi (prophet): the children of Gajah Mada. The prophets are, as it were, the ethnic differentiations of God. Creation, as the Lom see it, is therefore a divine diversification upheld by divinely distributed adat. Negating this diversification would be antithetical to Creation itself. The Lom see the loss of particular adat as precisely this sort of negation implying a return to the chaotic state of affairs existing prior to the distribution of adat.

7. Creation by metamorphosis: violence and words

The Lom do not hold that creation was complete in mythical pre-history. On the contrary, the diversity of things and beings continued being created, and not by divine intervention. Rather, mythical personages and humans all played a part and humans are thought still to be able to do so in certain contexts. But whereas mythical creation was/is volitional, human creation was/is accidental; we make mistakes and suffer from them.

The last point relates directly to creation by metamorphosis. Endicott takes issue with Skeat on the latter's elevation "to the level of a theory in the minds of the Malays" that they harbour

"...the notion of a human origin for non-human things... (This) is really just a special case of a general belief that things may originate in the metamorphosis of something else. Many examples of this found in the folklore do not involve human beings at all. For instance, one species of squirrel is thought to have developed from a type of caterpillar. Also there is a type of mollusc that is said to have originally been a mouse and a fish that sprang from a cat... (Skeat's) formulation makes quite meaningless any attempt to discover the common conditions of metamorphosis-origins or to get at the meaning of the 'anthropomorphic' examples by reference to non-human ones." (Endicott 1970: 31-32, references omitted)

I have no reason to question Endicott's comprehensive analysis of Malay magical thinking. Yet it should be pointed out that among the Lom the link between humans and metamorphosis is closer than Skeat reports it to be among the Peninsular Malays, even in apparently non-anthropomorphic cases of the type Endicott cites: non-human things becoming other non-human things. The Lom, possibly on this score at variance from Peninsular Malays, place great stress on the accidental creative power of human utterances.

The gecko, for example, was created because someone spoke falsely/wrongly (salah omong)(57). Every time someone said, "that's impossible" someone else made it happen until all kinds of animal and vegetation were created. The creative power of the word was summed up to me in a telling statement: "if it is mentioned it lives; it doesn't die. That's what's difficult." (Asal sebut hidup; dak mati. Itu payah). "Don't mention things carelessly" (jangan sebasing sebut), the Lom told me. But only 'bad things' — not 'good' ones — come into being this way(58) (at least in present times; the Lom do not view the gecko as a 'bad' animal). Therefore, they pointed out to me, I cannot expect to get money if I say the word out loud.

Not all creation subsequent to the initial cosmic one is thought of as humanly dependent in the above sense, however, as the following account attests.

A terrible war held to have raged very early in the history of the world, at the time of the Prophets (the Seven/Eight Children) or shortly thereafter, is referred to as perang tetet, or perang pedang: 'the war of swords/sabres'. The story of this war is simultaneously a story of great magic (aik limo besak).

During this war a woman was killed and from her many of the foods, including some of the present Malay staples were created: The woman, called orang belit (the twisted/coiled/ bent/curved one), who had two pairs of eyes and arms (a corrupted version of Shiva?), had not been killed easily. But she was finally chopped up into little bits that were spread "all over". She had thought she was going to win the war, but lost it instead and was turned into a number of tubers and other plants(59) such as mengalo (cassava), laos (a variety of ginger; Alpinia Galanga), tuba (Derris elliptica), and kemarong (a tuber: either Dioscorea esculenta or Coleus tuberosus), etc. From her hair and ears, respectively, two kinds of mushroom were created: kulat ramut and kulat biasa (both unidentified). Gadung (another tuber, Dioscorea hispida), in appearance likened to ubi lilét, was created from her head and makes whoever eats it mabuk (sick with nausea). Also, a category of fish called ikan buntal: puffer fish or blowfish (e.g. Crayracion).

Interesting in this account is, first, that some of the most basic staples of Southeast Asia, notably cassava, were created through the death of orang belit, death metamorphosing into life, as it were. Secondly, her death generated several important poisons: tuba is a fish-stupefying agent; gadung is highly toxic, and finally, ikan buntal, an extremely poisonous fish which, if consumed, is fatal unless prepared with the utmost care.(60) This was partly explained as a corollary to her having a body that was paling masin (lit. 'very salty: a metaphorical expression for 'magic-possessing').

Bananas, sugarcane, ubi lilét, temarong, bijur, kemili, kelubi, keladi, belengo (all of them varieties of yam and other tubers), and pineapple are among the plants which are neither accounted for in creation myths nor require careful attention in order to be rendered edible. Rice, however, was created from people although the Lom profess not to know the full story. What I was told was only that it was made from a seven-year old child. Neither the name nor the sex of the child is known. This child, while playing, entered further and further into the forest (where rice was found?)

The honey-producing bee (madu), too, was made from people. Between honey and rice there is a crucial relationship. Dogs were created from a king.

Meningat (k.o. wasp; SM/I: menyengat) was made from kitab (the Holy Book; Koran). The book was once left behind by the well. "Where is the Koran?" "Oh, it's by the well, I forgot it there, when I took a bath." "Well, go and fetch it!" There was a log there, with a nest in it, and the meningat in the nest stung the culprit terribly. (Meningat also means 'to remember'). The point of the story is that prayer and bathing both have their times and they should not be confused with each other.

8. Concluding comment

I have noted how the Lom seem to conceptualise creation as first and foremost as a divine act. But it is followed by the continued differentiation of things and beings by the acts of superhumans (or pre-humans) and humans — frequently by mistake. Thus another element is added to the very real historically rooted politico-physical fear I outlined in chapter one: the fear of transgressing proscriptions — even of speaking falsely. Further, I have demonstrated that ethnicity — as primarily a question of culture (order and traditions) — is not of human origin. Peoples' differing adat were given by God to his children who are the ultimate ancestors of human ethnic groups. To muddle ethnicity is therefore to muddle not simply mundane order but divine order.

Chapter four — Rules informing behaviour

The cosmology of the Lom, however inchoately it may be cognised or expressed by single individuals, provides points of reference for behavioural rules and norms (I shall make no analytic distinction between the two) and collective belief patterns which guide their lives and set the Lom off from their neighbours. In this chapter I shall outline those rules and beliefs that appear to be the most basic ones.

These in turn provide the backdrop for yet other rules to which I shall return at the appropriate junctions in later chapters. First, however, I shall dwell briefly on certain rules relating to one of the most ubiquitous aspects of social life, viz. socialising.

1. Socialising and covert communication

The Lom consider visiting others a social good in itself and in this respect they do not differ from other Malays and Indonesians in general. The hospitality of Malays is proverbial and prescriptive and in this respect the Lom do not differ from them. The Lom do not depend on invitations for socialising and they are neither required nor expected to have 'business' to discuss when visiting one another. On the whole, someone calling at your house expects to be, and usually is, welcome. To refrain from receiving — smilingly — uninvited visitors and offer them coffee (or, at meal-times, food) is impolite (kasar) as is too, in some instances, declining the offer. But, to roam through the settlements being fed, as some very few individuals do, is even more kasar.(61)

The Lom differentiate linguistically between general socialising, visiting elders/other households and visits made by young men to young women (or vice versa).

The general word for visiting is mampér, though the terms main-main and berayau may also be used. The Lom rarely pay each other social calls in the morning. The doors of the houses are closed; villagers are in their fields, orchards or gardens working; exploiting the relatively cool first hours of the day. Most people return to their homes for lunch in the early afternoon, however, and from that time on it is accepted to go visiting although most inter-household socialising begins after sunset. Young men and women walk slowly about in the dark in small, separate groups and call out at houses asking if the inhabitants are sleeping; if they are not the visitors enter and stay for a few minutes or a few hours, as the case may be. Adult men are more likely to socialise singly, whereas adult women with young children rarely leave their homes after dark. Typically, guests and hosts sit or lie on the front-room ambén (multi-purpose bench) and place tobacco and betel nuts in front of them, offering each other cigarettes. The hosts may offer coffee or tea or sometimes arak (rice-alcohol), depending on the situation.

For young, usually unmarried people to visit another household (typically that of elder relatives) in other locations and spend the night is to beram(b)ak. During such visits information is exchanged, and, importantly, members of the younger generation have the opportunity to ask their elder kinfolk the meaning of things overheard and learn various aspects of Adat Mapur. I should stress that among the Lom there is no teacher of adat. As to ritual events like births, funerals etc. people simply "learn by looking", and as to the rules for daily behaviour they are learnt from elder relatives as just mentioned.

Formerly, as regards this form of visiting, the custom was to bring coffee and sugar, or rice, as gifts to the household to which one came as a guest. This custom has deteriorated and young people nowadays rarely bring their uncles and aunts, or grandparents, food when they beram(b)ak. This is perceived not as the fault of the young generation, but that of their parents, who no longer instruct their children in the time-honoured traditions. Today's elders remember well that they were told to bring something whenever they set out to visit relatives.

For a bachelor (or unmarried young woman) to visit someone's house with the intent to meet individuals of the opposite sex, is again a different category. This is called ngelagak. A difference between the two modes of visiting that was pointed out to me is that when you answer someone's routine greeting "where are you going?" you might very well say that you are on your way to beram(b)ak, but not that you are planning to ngelagak. Such visits are made in order to look someone over ("what does she look like, does she make nice things, can she cook?")(62) and tend to be brief, anyway; the purpose of these encounters is not to engage in lengthy conversations with whoever one has come to meet, but to look and, if one is pleased and encouraged (kalau kita setuju hati, 'if our livers/hearts agree'), more or less covertly make an appointment to meet again a subsequent day.

There are at least two ways in which such a rendez-vous can be suggested and arranged. One method, apparently formerly widely employed but virtually unknown by young people today is to use the so-called sirih masak, a material repertoire of culturally coded messages (which might have been glossed 'object language' had the term not already been appropriated by computer science). The sirih masak (lit. 'ripe betel', but here it should be understood as an extension of its other meaning: 'prepared betel-quid', i.e. natural objects transformed through human involvement) is again to be distinguished from omong sinir, or 'riddle-speak', an apt translation of which is probably 'metaphorical speech'.

Sirih masak involves the conveyance and partial manipulation of small material objects such as betel nuts, lime, gambir, tobacco, husked and unhusked rice, thread, string, strands of hair, etc. To learn the codes well requires lengthy instructions (at least a year, it was suggested to me). The general idea of sirih masak is that one person can send another — often through a trusted intermediary — a message. This message is contained in a tiny parcel small enough to be slipped into the receiver's hand, undetected by others. I was given the following example of how this is actually done:(63) A young man sends (i.e. trusts a friend to bring) a girl a small parcel containing a piece of string with a knot in it. The knot signifies that the young man harbours amorous feelings for the young woman. If she wishes to meet him she ties another knot in the string and lets the go-between carry the string back to the sender.

It was not until the very last days of my fieldwork that I was assured that sirih masak was a code known not only by the Lom, but by Malays all over Bangka. I have come across no references to this pre-literal information system in the existing literature on Malay peoples and it is therefore unfortunate that I had no opportunity to verify this information.

That sirih masak, too, was a feature of bygone days was stressed when it was stated that it coexisted with mahap, tabik, cuali't, and (ng)omong sinir. The latter is the 'metaphorical speech' mentioned above (the verbal form is nyinir). One example: to avoid unwanted visitors who, when calling out if anyone is at home, one gives the answer — at high noon — that the door has been closed for the night and one has gone to sleep. More directly metaphorical, however, is the characterisation of some distant and apparently mal-apropos object (either positively or negatively), aiming the characterisation towards one of the persons present but avoiding overt and humiliating (menghina) reference to him or her. For example, one could say about a dog walking by that it is ugly or bad and it would be up to anyone present (especially a recently arrived guest) to interpret the statement as pertaining to him or her. Or, a young man visiting a house in which a young girl is present might point to a banana-plant outside saying that surely those bananas are sweet; this would be interpreted as a declaration of amorous interest. With everyone knowing this, however, it becomes difficult to say anything about anything without running the risk of being interpreted as having said something intended to be interpreted; it is difficult to speak without others inferring meanings or opinions not implied. Therefore, if one does not wish to characterise any one person by one's statements one must somehow signal that one's remarks about, say, the dog pertain to the dog only. The Lom effect this by saying either mahap (sorry), tabik (but (?)), or cuali't (except) (or the three of them all at once) before making the utterance. (An alternative rendition of the words used was tabik, cuali't, ampun; the last word means forgiveness or pardon). This way others are not unwarrantedly or unintentionally insulted (or flattered, as the case may be). Thus, in order to make a fairly simple assessment, the Lom, sensitive to the context, must explicate that they are not implicit.(64)

2. Agriculture

I shift my attention now to rules and norms more directly related to the metaphysical aspects of Adat Mapur as outlined in the previous chapter.

I had noticed that there were no ladang (swidden) south of Air Abik. I thought that one reason might be that since the prevailing wind is a southerly or south-easterly one and that when burning the swidden — which must be done when the morning dew has evaporated  —  the village itself might be endangered if the fire proved difficult to check. However, the explanation I was given was on another level: A family had cultivated a swidden in that area in the past, but the entire family fell ill and died after consuming the rice grown there. Villagers now recognise the soil in that entire area as sialan (ominous) as far as edible agricultural produce is concerned. Neither rice, cassava, pepper, nor pineapple may be produced there. (The inauspicious land does not, however, affect non-edibles such as rubber trees.)

Death is not a necessary corollary to eating food inflicted by these unfortunate forces, though. If the persons who are kena (struck, afflicted) become aware of the reason for their sickness they may call a dukun to investigate the piece of land. After diagnosing the problem he will proceed to attempt treatment of the patients. It appears unlikely that he be able to treat the soil as well. For a number of years considerable stretches of the jungle in the same area were exempt from exploitation. When the proyék was commenced the building materials for the houses were sought there.

A swidden, say the Lom, must be of an uninterrupted four-sided form (either a square or a rectangle). A brook bordering a field is of no consequence, but if it crosses the field diagonally malevolent forces will manifest themselves in the crops. These forces were not named or associated with specific supernatural beings. The area in question — sloping towards a low ridge of hills — is latticed by streams fanning out, rendering it virtually impossible to locate an unadulterated four-sided plot.

The principle that must be adhered to regarding brooks in a swidden is 'satu saja dan jangan mutos lijok', preferably 'sama nengah'. I.e.: one brook only is allowed to cross the field; the field may not be bisected diagonally (the issue of diagonals does not, to my knowledge occur elsewhere in their symbolic system); and it is best if these two parts have roughly the same size. The presence of a brook is in itself actually considered an advantage in that it keeps the soil cool during hot spells and provides essential moisture during excessive or prolonged dry seasons.

When clearing begins, care is taken to ensure that trees will fall towards the brook. If this rule is overlooked it may cause ill health in much the same way as when a brook bisects the field diagonally. One should also, if the field lies on a slope, always work from the bottom up, in order to avoid possible misfortune.


Figure 4.1 Brooks in swiddens

3. Dreams

Contrary to what is the case among a number of so-called Orang Asli of Peninsular Malaysia (notably the Temiar; cf. the writings of e.g. Kilton Stewart, Geoffrey Benjamin and Iskandar Carey) the Lom do not often talk about their dreams. Theirs is far from being a 'dream culture'. This is not to say that dreams play no role whatsoever. But typically dreams — insofar as they are held to convey 'truths' — reveal numbers; i.e. the digits of the winning ticket of the forthcoming draw in local semi-illegal lotteries. Indeed, many Lom never buy a ticket unless they have had a 'number dream' (mimpi nomor) in advance.(65) Dreams should also be heeded when one is planning to collect agila-wood (garu or tebek), a resinous, fragrant material collected all over Asia. The Lom collect it primarily in order to obtain cash. Although the Lom have 'always' used garu in certain rituals (viz. when learning spells and during the funeral proper), the search for garu has only recently become economically important.(66) One cannot just walk into the forest and gather this substance as if it were regular firewood. In a sense the trees containing the substance are protected and one must interpret one's dreams the night before one plans to go gathering. If the dreams are in any way ominous the message is that collecting is hazardous. An incidence involving a young girl who visited Air Abik was interpreted as proof of this: She had been scorched by lightning five days earlier when she accompanied her older brother searching for garu. The brother had died on the spot, almost cut in two. Elderly Lom saw this incident as a warning that this old custom must not be neglected.

More significant in the present context, however, are the reportedly rarely occurring dreams interpreted to carry unequivocal messages about crucial matters, viz. agriculture, disease, and location of a dwelling.

While planning and preparing one's field one must therefore heed one's dreams since they may contain information vital to the success of imminent productive efforts. If 'something' enters one's dream (kalau ada barang didalam mimpi) one asks 'it' permission to proceed — there are, according to the Lom, various signs that dreams employ. There is a code (kode) here, I was assured. One may, for example, dream that one's teeth are loose or being pulled out; this is a negative sign imperatively signalling not to go ahead; to cease whatever activity one is engaged in or to plan it differently. Another negative indicator is a large uninhabited house. Both of these may mean 'swidden agriculture is not allowed, go somewhere else' (tidak boleh berhuma — mau ke lain pola). In order to be certain that one may trust the signs displayed in one's dreams at all, however, it is important that one refrains from sleeping during the day; not permanently, but during the critical stages, i.e. the stages the dreams are considered to be about.

It is during the day, however, that questions to one's dream are to be posed. The Lom insist that no particular procedure is required in order to ensure that they are asked correctly and indeed neither culturally acknowledged instructors nor 'correct' ways to ask one's dreams appear to exist. Only the answers — the 'signs' (tanda) in the dreams — are interpreted according to culturally disseminated codes or interpretive rules. During the ensuing or the following night one hopes to receive an answer to one's question; this could be about something trivial (as e.g. a lottery number) or about more important matters such as moving from or even relocating one's house because of extranormal disturbances such as visitations by hantu, iblis, or pedaré (supernatural beings discussed in the previous chapter).

The negatively charged dream symbols such as empty houses and loose teeth may also appear unprompted, i.e. without a consciously posed question, in which case they are interpreted simply as ominous tidings concerning the health of members of the household. No Lom was able to offer examples of positively charged dream symbols that could be interpreted as saying silakan ('go right ahead') and according to one individual such symbols do not exist.

Activities regulated by dream information are, say the Lom, limited to the planning and preparation of dwellings, gardens and swiddens. Thus the only productive sphere dreams relate to is agriculture.(67) By their own account, hunting and fishing (either in fresh water or at sea) remain unaffected.

An important question arising from the Lom conceptions of dreams and their applicability is whether they provide insights relevant to one of my concerns during fieldwork, viz. why the Lom became (or, alternatively, have remained) Lom. I shall leave this issue unexplored here, however, and return to it in chapter six because it relates directly, I think, to certain implications of Lom conceptions of productive pursuits.

4. Relations between humans and animals

4.1. Mockery of animals

This is a theme familiar from studies on aboriginal peoples of the Malay peninsula. Howell, for example, writes that the Chewong consider it wrong to laugh at animals and that doing so may cause a huge supernatural snake to devour the transgressor, or, less drastically, that a thunderstorm will ensue — this rule is called talaiden (1984: 178-83)(68). Among the Lom I know of no similarly named rule. The Lom do, however, consider it improper to mock animals, but they refer to it as gawi yang bukan-bukan, which is best translated simply as 'untoward/improper acts'. Examples of such behaviour include laughing at, or even just staring at a trapped or netted animal, and gaping at fish that are still alive in the baskets after having been transported to the shore. One 'just doesn't do' those sorts of things, I was told: "bierlah" (leave it). The repercussions to be suffered by the offenders seems to be less clearly defined among the Lom than they are among the Peninsular Malay groups — indeed the point was made that it is far from obvious to just anyone what the punishment is. One example concerns two children whose hands were deformed at birth (two of their fingers were grown together). This was referred to as ciri (which means 'identifying mark') but I was simultaneously explained that it is a coded sign which is understood only by those 'who understand'. In this case the thing to understand is that the children's fathers habitually engage in such gawi yang bukan-bukan as just mentioned and that they now suffer the consequences through their children; that getting deformed children is their own fault.

4.2. Food prohibitions

The Lom distinguish between three named abstentions: pesumpah, pantang, and do'a — all of which are valid either for single individuals or all descendants within a certain number of generational levels.(69) I shall return to these three categories shortly. First I shall mention a more generally applicable 'discouragement' (by using this word I imply that what is involved here is a weaker sort of prohibition than a positive taboo, a common translation of the Malay word pantang) from jaman kulot (ancient times) against consuming cat, dog and monkey. While this is not viewed as a prohibition as severe as the prohibitions proper, it is yet conceived of as more than a recommendation. The perceived social discouragement from consuming the meat from monkey, dog, and mouse is different from the pantang: No direct ill effects are held to result from ignoring this discouragement. Linguistically it is expressed as jén demakan (don't eat it). As regards the two former animals the explanation was quite direct and straightforward, namely that the dog will guard (jaga) the rice-field by chasing kerak and lutong (species of monkey), the cat would do likewise by catching mice. Monkey, however, is included here because monkeys are fond of rice (as are humans) and they would be afraid of the rice-field were they to be hunted there by the farmers. In turn the rice itself would fear the cultivator. Thus, breaking the affinity between rice and monkey would lead to a severing of the equally strong affinity between rice and man: By hunting or eating monkey one would endanger the harvest, possibly the continued survival, of one's basic staple.

Alim confessed that he had broken his father's pronouncement concerning the above — while he was in fact still a youngster — and he had practiced swidden cultivation without problems for several years while he resided in Benak. Thus one could suggest that when transgressions are not putatively punished by supernatural elements and injunctions are couched in the most general of terms there is more scope for individual experimentation as to what the consequences of breaking rules actually amount to or, indeed, if there are any consequences to be suffered at all.(70)

Pesumpah is the severest of the three prohibitions and is most typically the swearing of an oath like the following: "I swear that I and my descendants for three (or seven) generations will not kill, harm or eat [species X] as long as we live." Thus, to many Lom the food they may not eat is often the result of a predecessor's, and not their own, actions; they inherit their parents' food prohibitions. But if an individual (or an entire household) moves permanently outside the area in which adat Mapur is recognised the prohibitions may be ignored; they are no longer valid.

Pantang merely means that the consumption of one or several species is forbidden for a person for a certain period of time — typically while s/he undergoes a cure (whether or not spells (tangkel) are employed) or if s/he is chronically ill.

Do'a comes into play the following way: While a person is ill or distressed s/he is out walking and has a chance encounter with a certain species of animal (including fish and bird). S/he might then say to the animal: "If I recover from this disease (or: if my situation improves) I promise that I will never hurt or consume you."

A typical example of how pesumpah comes about is the following: An 'ancestor' had a large sore on his leg which did not heal — not for a long time. Then one day while he was in the forest, a kijang (k.o. deer) came along and licked the sore. Soon afterwards he was well. To this day his descendents refrains from kijang — although the children of the informant who related this particular example are allowed to eat it; seven generations have now passed. Pesumpah invoked by humans may last only for a specified duration — expressed in terms of generations  —  and seven generations is the longest period of time that humans may invoke.

There is also a conspicuous relationship between a person and the species in question expressed as akin to that to a sibling (beradek). Birds pesumpah do not fly away, fish and animals do not get frightened. However, as soon as someone else who has not pesumpah that species is approaching, it quickly disappears. A person can also tell, when seeing a particular member of the species in question, whether or not it will die soon. If s/he says that it will die in two days it certainly does. If one is sick and meets, for example, a peregam (wild pigeon) in the forest, one may promise not to bother/eat the species for a certain time to come. Then one goes home, cooks glutinous rice (nasi ketan) with saffron (kunyit) and grills a hen over the fire. One may not eat this oneself; this is niat ('vowed') food that must be eaten by others. If no visitor happens to come by to partake of the food it should be wrapped in banana leaves and brought to the forest. Should one submit to the temptation to eat the niat food one would fall fatally ill and neither traditional nor hospital-based medicine would be of any help.(71)

The term for eating prohibited foods (any kind of prohibition) before the prohibition period is over is termakan radak ('to have eaten something stabbing or piercing'). The prohibition on 'hot' (panas) foods(72) would be an example of this: kijang (k.o. deer; the hottest of all), penyok (sea-turtle), tenggiling (anteater), kerak (monkey), tugang, and siau (the latter two are species of birds). All other kinds of game are 'cold' (lemengk) as are all species of fish. The prohibition on 'hot' foods affects people suffering various diseases, particularly respiratory disorders such as asthma and emphysema,(73) it likewise holds for women during the 44/45 days long post parturition period (a point I shall return to in chapter five). What must be remembered, too, the Lom say, is that even if one has been cured of one's respiratory ailment one must avoid the 'hot' foods for another year or two. 'Hot' foods are, on the other hand, preferred by most Lom in cold weather (i.e. in the rainier season). Also, there is no type of sickness for which the treatment includes eating 'cold' foods.

In chapter two I cited examples of how the Lom — practicing pig husbandry — experience mixed feelings when confronted with Islamic standards of cleanliness and propriety. Another incident, also involving the headman of Pejam who this time had to act according to one or another rationality, illustrates a similarly grounded ambivalence: He and I were on my motorcycle just outside the village when I spotted a small turtle crawling by the ditch. I asked Wakim to pick it up, but he said there was no point in doing that — declining to explain why when I asked him. I finally pressed him to pick up the turtle which, glumly, he held away from his body as we drove on. When, back at the village, I told one of my neighbours about the incident and how very surprised I had been at the headman's near-refusal to get the turtle for me, my neighbour was not surprised at all. The headman has pesumpah turtles.

Unwittingly I had placed him in a dilemma between on the one hand the dictum of adat and its corollary: a real fear that some misfortune might befall him, on the other his wish to cooperate with me. But I am fairly certain too, that he had felt slightly ill at ease at demonstrating, though without really admitting, his adherence to 'primitive' or 'backward' notions somewhat discordant with his position as headman and Lurah (Local Area Headman). This was, and remains, conjecture, but when I asked him about it later he admitted that his relationship to the turtle is indeed one of pesumpah, but he refused to discuss it further, saying tidak apa-apa (never mind) in a way I have experienced other Indonesians doing when embarrassed.

I have noted that, according to the Lom, pesumpah animals know full well that they are not going to be bothered and they behave accordingly. Even the easily scared kejawak (monitor lizard) only cowers. Once, over ten years ago, Alim and Gundim were on their way somewhere when they caught sight of a monitor lizard on the side of the road. The reptile was climbing up the trunk of a tree when Gundim, for no particular reason, slung a piece of wood at it and hit it at the lower part of its back. Alim was furious with him because the animal was supposed to be safe when he was around; he has pesumpah the monitor lizard.

About a month later a sore developed at the small of his back (Alim buttoned down his trousers to show me a scar the size of a large coin) that took some three months to heal. To him the interpretation was obvious: he had been punished: like for like. Much later I was told that Alim had been cured by Sudi (who died in 1980). He was the last to hold two, now defunct, Lom institutionalised positions: dukun buaya (crocodile shaman)(74) and penaber. The function of the latter (in conjunction with the penitit) was to ensure that the Lom abided by adat Mapur in general, and observed the marriage rules in particular so as to avoid the various forms of buyong (incestuous) relationships (cf. chapter eight). It is to a discussion of these former institutionalised offices I now turn.

5. Former institutionalised 'offices'

In former times — but within living memory of today's grandparental generation — the state of the world in general and certain aspects of peoples' behaviour in particular were monitored by persons whose positions were, as I understood it, inherited. Each of these positions were associated with specific worldly domains: 1) mankind/world/ground, 2) disease, 3) water, 4) sky, 5) mountain, 6) wind (cf. Table 4.1). It is important to realise that these holders are/were not extraphysical entities, but human beings. The titled holders are more important and basic than are the ones merely associated with a location.

Aspect Title Location
Spiritual ("religious") tradition
umat, dunia, bumi (mankind, world, the ground) penitit
("the balancer")
Air Abik/ Gunung Pelawan Mapur
penyakit (disease) penaber
("the healer/ neutraliser)
Pugul/ Gunung Maras/ Gunung Penaber Islam
air (water) penimék aik
("the water drawer")
Air Abik/ Gunung Pelawan Mapur
langit (sky) ? Gunung Muda Islam
gunung (mountain) Tekabek Gunung Maras/ Kampung Bukit Islam
angin (wind) ?   Christian

Table 4.1 Former institutionalised 'offices'

NOTE: No-one was able to tell me where Gunung Penaber is located. It is possibly one of the peaks in the Gunung Maras range. A hill called Gunung Penaber is, however, to be found not far from Jebus (in the north-western part of the island.)

Formerly there was also a 'holder of honey', but after WW II nobody has performed this function and the Lom claim that the reason is that people lack courage ("sapé berani?" — "who dares") — this is the reason, too, why there no longer exists either penitit or penaber to supervise behaviour.

Penitit: From Air Abik. Associated with Gunung Pelawan, centrally located on Tanah Mapur (the Lom Land), midway between the two main Lom settlements Air Abik and Pejam. While Gunung Maras is held to contain seven sources of water, Gunung Pelawan is held to contain three. The penitit occupies the highest position of these institutionalised holders; above or primary (kakak, or elder sibling) to that of penaber (adik or younger sibling) who is from Pugul, associated with Gunung Maras and/or Gunung Penaber (the latter is 'held' by Pugul) and the (subcategories?) penaber umat ('healer of mankind') and penaber dusé buyong ('neutraliser of incestuous sins'). Both of them, it is stressed, are Bangkanese and "watch over the world". The penaber had punitive rights; specifically the right to punish transgressors of the wide-ranging incest rules (discussed in chapter eight). Importantly, the offspring of the penitit and the penaber were not allowed to marry each other (buyong ilmu/buyong aik lemu, incest of magic). This prohibition was only valid for the descendants of the office-holders — it was not a general one for the inhabitants of the two villages. But the magical knowledge (ilmu) itself was lost three generations ago. The ilmu could not be passed on by any other means than utos (inheritance, succession).

The penaber at Gunung Penaber was a Muslim and none of his female descendants were allowed to pulang Mapur (i.e. marry a Lom and settle virilocally).

The penimék aik is always a woman. The task she is entrusted with is to guard Gunung Pelawan so that it does not melitus (burst, explode) and lead to floods the way it did numerous times before Gajah Mada brought adat to the world.(75)

The holder of mountains is termed tekabek. He resides in Kampung Bukit, a village south of the Lom homeland — near Gunung Maras — where the adat is recognised to be different.

About the holders of the sky (a Muslim) and wind (a Christian) — nothing is known. While the first is located in Gunung Muda no location is associated with the latter.

It will be noted that none of these aspects are 'held' by the Chinese. All aspects except the wind are held/controlled by a Malay, in the inclusive sense of the word (cf. chapter two). This should not come as a surprise, of course, bearing in mind that the Chinese are not indigenous inhabitants of the island. But it is interesting, nevertheless. First, because the first written record of the Lom as an 'ethnic' group is fairly recent, in other words, the Chinese were well established on Bangka by the time the Lom received their first mention (for how long the Lom have had their 'separate' cosmology we will probably never know). Secondly, because the Chinese are important to the Lom today (mainly in an economic sense, but still). Thirdly, because according to the Lom cosmology the Chinese are not recent arrivals to the world.

While the titles of the holders of the sky, mountains, and the wind remained unnamed, a place (mountain) is associated with the first two, and a belief-tradition ('religion') for all three of them. Gunung Maras, situated (in a straight line) some 25 km south of the Lom village Air Abik is the highest mountain on Bangka (some 700 metres above sea level). More accurately the mountain consists of a series of peaks along a ridge visible from a great number of villages and hamlets over much of the northern part of Bangka where the local populations associate these peaks with legends of the creation and populating of the island. Not so among the Lom. But they bury their dead with their heads toward the east (the opposite direction of what is Islamic practice) in order that their dead — when looking over their shoulder can look southwards in the direction Gunung Maras.

So, while Gunung Maras can be said to be the mountain of the island — a mountain significant to most of the population  —  it has been appropriated on the one hand by the Malay Muslims through myth and legend and on the other by the Lom through their burial ritual.

Gunung Muda is more specifically linked to Islam. Gunung Maras, as I just noted, belongs, as it were, to all Bangkanese — from a time prior to religious division. But Gunung Muda has a special significance to the Lom.(76) The village of that name, according to Muslim Malays and Lom alike, was Islamised in the early part of the nineteenth century(77). A version of how the Lom came to be Lom (less grand than the one outlined in chapter three) holds that it was Orang Panji (the people of Gunung Muda and environs) who divided/split up (bagi) into Malay Muslims and Lom. Those Gunung Muda villagers (four persons) who did not convert removed themselves to the jungle; notably to Air Abik (but after some time to other locations as well) where they have lived to this day as Orang Lom, the 'not yet religionised' people. Thus Orang Lom and Orang Gunung Muda, in spite of their differences regarding religion, are close kindred.

6. Kidnapping power

The reason why one is not allowed into the premises of power stations lies, according to the Lom, in the very way electricity is made: by tapping the energy of a pair of newborn babies placed in acid. The proof of this, they say, is the very fact that no one is ever allowed into the inner workings of Minting, the Belinyu power station.(78)

Such energy is held to last for several decades. The babies in question are assumed to be kidnapped on commission by convicts serving life sentences. They are entrusted with money to leave behind as recompense in the houses from which the babies are stolen, and by doing the authorities this favour they are thought to be pardoned. There are no specific times when these kidnappings take place; "the important thing is the need" (pokok ada perlu).

Naturally, these babies will be (though very young) usually at least a week or more old. It is even better for the authorities to ally themselves with persons working in maternity wards. They have the opportunity to give a newborn baby a lethal injection and then tell the mother that her baby just died and that it had been impossible to save.

Better still is to kidnap a heavily pregnant woman, chop her head off, open her abdomen and take the foetus out. The younger the baby, the more power it is thought to harness.

But infants are not only held to be essential for producing electricity. The skulls and hearts of babies and small children are believed to be used for strengthening large engineering projects (notably bridges); much as armoured concrete is sturdier than regular concrete. Several Lom offered the former bridge at Baturusa (near Sungailiat, the island's capital) as an example. It had regularly had to be replaced every two or three years. The one in use today, however, has stood for decades because the Japanese engineer designing it blended the skulls and hearts of babies into the cement.

Children may also be kidnapped by 'babysitters' who sweet-talk their way into people's houses and trick unsuspecting mothers not to worry, coaching them to just go ahead and take that bath in the stream they want. By the time the mother is back both baby and 'sitter' are gone. Another technique is to drive around in residential areas or between villages after school in cars without license plates and snatch a lone child on its way home.

According to the Lom this practice was initiated by the Dutch who proclaimed no responsibility for stray cats, dogs, and chickens between 4 pm and 6 am — for three months of the year. "Of course they didn't mention children, but everyone knew that they were meant as well."(79) Rather than having been discontinued after the liberation from colonialism this practice, to the dismay of the villagers, has escalated: the danger which used to last only for three months a year is now perennial and there is no warning given.

Interestingly, the Lom have no idea how a pair of dead babies can supply electricity. "Paling pintar, propesor itek!" ("Extremely clever, that professor!"). But they say that babies born elsewhere are more potent than those born on Bangka — i.e. when used on the island — and children from Bangka are likewise preferred 'abroad' (i.e. on other islands).

My informants contended that the blame rests primarily neither on the kidnappers, nor on the government, but on those responsible for the children; their parents or whoever else in custody. The morale of this tale is therefore that children should at no time be left with babysitters unknown to the parents or walk about alone. What impact such tales have psychologically is difficult to speculate on, but common sense may allow us to infer that it is unrelated neither to the Lom's self-proclaimed general fear (ketakutan) of strangers nor to their widespread unresponsiveness to governmental modernisation efforts.

7. Spells

Magical spells, whether protective or curative, are in many societies exclusively known and controlled by one or very few persons often referred to by the English glosses shaman or medicine man. Not only do lay members of these societies depend on the specialists for whatever treatment they need, they are also frequently barred from learning the techniques and, moreover, have no influence on decisions as to whom the magical knowledge is to be shared with or passed on to. Furthermore, while shamans often occupy positions entailing political influence or power this is, I think, empirically contingent; depending largely (as I noted in chapter one) on the relative status ascribed to the knowledge in question. There are three Malay terms for 'shaman': bomoh (or bomor), pawang, and dukun (the two former widely used in Peninsular Malaysia, the latter mostly in the Malay-speaking parts of the Indonesian Archipelago and therefore employed here). The Malay dukun is also, more often than not, skilled in concocting medicines, giving massages, etc. A few Lom were, when I asked, acknowledged to be dukun (or rather dukon, which is the Lom pronunciation of the term). But these persons appear not to accept that term for themselves. Furthermore, there seems to be no consensus as to who are 'real' dukon and who merely know a few spells and, importantly, no one is dukon to the exclusion of being producer — in the straightforward economic sense.(80)

Among the Lom many individuals know the same few spells, not considered very potent, a small number of persons know a large number of spells, several of which are held to be very powerful (some even fatal) and still others know a few spells which are known by perhaps only one or two other members of society. Importantly, knowledge of spells does not confer 'political' authority on individuals.

Spells are used to cure someone (notably from respiratory ailments and unspecified fevers, headaches, or other common ailments attributed either to the disturbing influences of minor spirits or to 'the wind' (angin)); to lure someone (amorously); and to protect oneself (or others) and one's gardens/fields from natural and supernatural dangers (sometimes rather combatively). The Lom word for 'spell' is tangkel (the verbal form of which is nangkel), although the term jampi is well known, too.

The Lom say that if someone who has acquired 'effective magic' (ilmu masin) goes 'abroad' his powers are strengthened. For a Lom this would mean to leave Bangka and stay for some time in e.g. Sumatra or Java, possibly it suffices to leave Tanah Mapur. The reason they give is that Bangka mentinak punya ('is female'); women are polluted, men (i.e. 'other lands') are clean.

7.1 Learning spells

There is an important difference between those spells that descend directly either through one's matri- or patriline (ikut keturun) and those that are learnt from more distant relatives, or even friends. The first kind may be applied universally, the second only within one's own household — but bearing in mind the inclusive character of affinal relationships (cf. chapter eight) spells learnt may conceivably be used for, say, one's parents-in-law too. Moreover, keturun spells may be an exchange item in that individuals belonging to other households generally offer something in return for a spell being said for their benefit. While this by definition has an economic side to it I can assert that its impact is rather negligible. The Lom, whether they be spell-knowers or not, agree that remunerations for services rendered should be kept to a reasonable minimum. One man, for example, who is the only Lom in his settlement to know a spell against back-ache(81) never receives, in return for his services, more than half a kg or a kg of rice. Therefore, while the statement above — that 'patients' generally offer something in return for being helped — holds true, this may very well take the form of (and thus be indistinguishable from) common hospitality as the spells themselves are often given — in an already established social context — in return for regular hospitality already enjoyed.

It is not uncommon for someone to ask a friend or acquaintance for a spell. But such knowledge is not imparted with in a light manner: "jén sebasing-basing" (not casually/haphazardly). The personality of the one who asks will be subject to some scrutiny by whoever holds the spell; a quick-tempered person is more likely to be disqualified than a patient one. And spells that are already rather commonly known are more easily obtained than those that are known by a few.

I turn now to the procedures for learning (megang, lit. 'hold') a spell that a Lom has had the fortune to be introduced to. While spells differ in their applicability, as I noted above, depending on whether they are descended or have been transmitted, there appears to be no corresponding difference in the rites that must be performed for appropriating them. This is not to say that all spells are appropriated through identical ritual actions. A number of spells have unique learning (and maintenance) practices associated with them.

In the very early morning (4 a.m.) of the three days around the full moon (i.e. the 14., 15., and 16. days of the Chinese lunar calendar) one goes to a brook or river and before anything else recites the spell. Then one takes a bath containing the juice of a charmed lime (jeruk tipis). This means that one may not take a bath by submerging oneself (rendam); one must pour water over one's body with a scoop of some sort (siram) and lime is squeezed over the water. Significantly, the Lom never bathe this way under normal circumstances: all baths are taken by stepping into small rivers and (natural) pools and thus the very bath is a culturalised and non-ordinary way of doing something otherwise perfectly ordinary. The lime should be thrown away into the flowing water (air beranyut) after use. Then, until the sun has set, one must speak to no-one and keep walking.

My chief source on this matter prefers to walk about in the forest because this way one is less likely to encounter other people and thus be tempted to talk. It is further prohibited to smoke, eat or drink anything, and neither is one allowed to swallow one's saliva. Except the prohibition against speaking these abstentions are parallel to the ones pertaining to the Muslims during their month of fasting(82) (Ramadan) and serve, it seems, to effectively seal one's body from being invaded by outside forces. At sunset one takes an evening bath and afterwards a meal is allowed: Three handfuls (kapel) of rice (the 'handfuls' pertain to husked, uncooked rice) must be eaten prior to smoking one cigarette. Then one is allowed to eat one's belly full — but only on rice. No side-dish (lauk) is permitted.

This regime is observed for three days. One (lunar) month later the same three-day rituals are repeated, as they are during the next. Someone aspiring to learn ilmu (magic), therefore, must persevere for a total of nine days, to ensure the efficacy of the spell.

Now, if for any reason the rules outlined above are violated (and one still wants to learn the spell) one must go through the same procedures again. But this time three days for three months is not sufficient. One must perform the monthly three-day ritual for nine months, or a total of twenty-seven days. Again, therefore, whoever makes a mistake has to pay for it.

Spells fall into two groups. Some are 'light', others are 'heavy', and there are two differences between learning one and the other. The first is that when one is learning the former a morning meal is allowed. The second is that one may also stay at home sleeping if one wants to. Both are prohibited to the person attempting to make the 'heavy' magic stick.

Certain spells are considered very powerful and should be practised only in cases of extreme danger. About one of these spells I was told that if forced to use it more than seven times during a day, one must 'reinforce' it by using a charmed lime.(83) This lime should be held over a colonial 2 Rp coin, the coin should be imbued with the smoke from garu (agila wood), the juice of the lime immediately smeared three times over one's hair, and the fruit thrown away into running water. The regular procedures to make it masin (efficacious) are insufficient in the case of this particular spell; afterwards one must write the spell on a sheet of paper, burn it, and rub the ashes on one's lips. It is tulak (potentially dangerous or 'mad') in that if it is dealt with carelessly it may turn back on the practitioner. It should be imparted with to others with the utmost care. Whoever learns this spell must learn it as the only one at the time.

A linguistic point I should note is that some of the spells are expressed in a language which might best be described as 'informal Indonesian' (or Malay), some are in 'Bangkanese', others are in the Lom vernacular, and yet others are in a 'mixed' language. That the practitioner understands each word of a spell is not a prerequisite for its efficacy. This is secured by 1) saying it right (i.e. no changes must be made in it) and 2) learning it right. Spells are never said out loudly and clearly. They are typically said over rice or water that become vessels temporarily carrying the forces envisaged to be constantly contained in the person who activates them by reciting the words. The rice is then eaten and the water is either drunk or applied to one's skin. Alternatively the spell is mumbled over the patient's body. Imitation spitting usually accompanies recitals of spells.

The three spells I include here are not, I think, of an exclusive nature. While probably not all Lom know them I am fairly certain that many do: If someone knows a spell at all it is likely to be one against the influence of pedaré (cf. chapter three). I reproduce them in the original and provide my own translation and a brief commentary immediately afterwards.

Nik Centak, Nik Centing
Nik Arak, Nik Ari
Ngenaik kuyang sibang sibu
Maté nangk terong asem
Gigi nangk beliong kapak
Ko nangkel pedaré (si anu)
Grandma Centak, Grandma Centing
Grandma Arak, Grandma Ari
Climb hurriedly the great trunk-leaves
Eyes will be like the sour eggplant
Teeth will be like the great hoe
I put a spell on the spectre of (whoever)

COMMENTARY: To be used only within one's household or for near kin. The identity of the pedaré (body-less soul) must be divined first, since it is required to mention his or her name at the end of the spell (I shall describe the method of divination below). The names of the 'grandmothers' appear only in this spell, as far as I know.

Kaki sirong, tangan sirang
Badén sebélé langit
Ko nangkel pedaré rangkep
Feet oblique, hands askew
Body next to the sky
I put a spell on all kinds of spectres

COMMENTARY: Used for small children crying for reasons unknown — also if they have stomach aches or fevers. It is a general spell designed to make whatever unknown cause for crying go away.

One puts powdered shells (kapok) from kerang, lukan, kima, or siput (four varieties of mussel or clam) on a leaf, charms the powder three times with this spell, then applies a small amount of it down along the spine of the child, then from left to right across the small of its back. The actual application of the charmed powder does not depend on the presence of the practitioner; it may be left for the child's parents to do.

Endicott notes that in addition to the iron nail in the bath water of the newborn baby (to be discussed in the next chapter) the Peninsular Malays use cockle-shells (1970: 134). He interprets this as a boundary-strengthener. It seems that the Lom use cockle-shells in a very similar fashion when they apply it to the skin of crying children. But not only as a strengthener; it would appear that the words "feet oblique, hands askew/body next to the sky" — which are charged onto the powdered shells — invoke an all-seeing protective being stretching all across the sky.

The last text to be included here is not classified as a spell (tangkel) proper; it is a divination used in order to ascertain the identity of a troubling spirit and has no curative or protective qualities in its own right.

Kerak ingkak, kerak ingki
Niti batang purak purun
Mané sidi turun
Mané dék sidi jén turun
Belé pinang penoh ati't
Julok sirih temun urat
Saot jén bulé
Saot benér-benér
Saot dari kerong bulén
Dari kerong bintang
Saot dari ujong jari't
Saot dari ujong rambut
Saot jén bulé
Saot benér-benér
Sak dué tigé empat limé enam
Monkey ingkak, monkey ingki
Balance (on the) purak purun(84) log
Whoever is responsible/guilty: descend
Whoever is not responsible/guilty: do not descend
Split the full areca nut
Fetch down a sirih-leaf (and) encounter sinews
Answer to the call, do not lie
Answer to the call, truthfully
Answer to the call from the environs of the moon
From the environs of the stars
Answer to the call from the fingertips
Answer to the call from the hairtips
Answer to the call, do not lie
Answer to the call, truthfully
One, two, three, four, five, six

COMMENTARY: The title of this text is explained simply as "mencari hantu" translated by informants variously as 'finding the ghost (both hantu and iblis)' and 'seeing the ghost'.(85)) It is used in order to determine which specific supernatural personage it is who may be responsible for a particular affliction or misfortune and appears to be akin to the Azande oracle as described by Evans-Pritchard (1976). Thus it is perhaps not unreasonable to view it as a parallel to a (medical) diagnostic procedure.(86) This is corroborated by the fact that the Lom say that as long as one does not know the nature of the source of the affliction (i.e. the name of the ghost or spirit), any kind of curative spell may be employed (and a number of them in succession or intermittently). Contrariwise, if the 'culprit' has already been identified through the use of selampet one must never attempt to use a series of cures: When the source of one's illness has been determined, the cure (to the absolute exclusion of others) has simultaneously been decided upon by implication.

An ordinary winnow (menampi't) is prepared by drawing a simple 'diagrammatic' human figure in the bottom of it, using charcoal. A handful of rice is placed in the winnow and a pinch of rice-grains are placed on top of each of two mentulang-leaves (their shiny side down).(87) These leaves have been carefully selected and may be cut with scissors in order to make them round. The rice-grains are rubbed softly while one thinks of one particular hantu (here one must use one's experience, I was told) — the text is recited, one counts to six (never to seven!) and drops the leaves onto the winnow. If they fall with different sides up, then the hantu one was thinking of is the culprit. This must happen three times in a row, however, before the verdict is deemed safe and true.

One may then start all over again, thinking of another hantu. If the result this time, too, is positive, one should try yet again. If the third spirit is guilty, too, one must stop. The reason for this is that the practitioner by this time has 'absorbed' three hantu — the maximum of what one human body can hold or know without fatally endangering itself.

Afterwards one may begin anew, this time placing the leaves, shiny side up, on the back of one's hand on which a black cross has been drawn (again using charcoal). One holds one's hand a few centimetres above the winnow and flicks one's hand. If the leaves fall down, odd sides up, the tukang (practitioner) must continue his search for the culprit. According to my source it very rarely happens that more than three hantu bother a person at any one time.

I shall not attempt to analyse the texts in detail but a general concluding comment is called for. Endicott notes that "a substantial proportion of most spells consists of pleas, commands, and threats designed to persuade or coerce the essence to do the magician's bidding" (1970: 131). This observation pertains also to the Lom spells. However, he also states that they are often backed by material offerings, something that is not the case in any of the spells I came across. He further states that the spirits are often ranked, observes that "this ranking almost amounts to a class system" (op. cit.: 119), that the social and political distinctions among jin parallel those among men, and contends that the superior-inferior relationship thus implicated derives from the fundamental class divisions in traditional Malay society (op. cit.: 120). While this may be accurate as far as Peninsular Malaysia is concerned it can equally plausibly be argued that the ranked relations are modelled on a possibly even more pervasive feature of Malay culture, viz. the relative ranking of kindred — siblings in particular. This issue is one of my central concerns in chapter eight, but some evidence supporting my interpretation has already been presented: the account of Gajah Mada's 'ethnic' offspring. As will be recalled, the Dutch (the colonial power) descend from the first-born. The Lom prophet was the second-born, the Malay prophet his younger brother. Thus — despite the fact that Muslim Malays have doubtless ruled Bangka both before and after the colonial period (first through the Palembang Sultan and later through the post-liberation national government) — they are not considered superior to the Lom.

A final point which may be taken to support my contention is that among the Lom themselves there has been and is little or no differentiation of individuals in what one could call 'class' or political terms. The very fact that their magicians and other specialists are also without exception 'generalists' (i.e. they live by the labour of their own household members) underscores this.

8. Miscellaneous

Formerly the prohibitions were numerous — or, more accurately: formerly the numerous prohibitions were more uniformly adhered to. The 'Good Life' of earlier times consisted essentially in that it was one of strict discipline (ketertiban) which led to firm conviction and certainty (keyakinan).

Some of these prohibitions are: never urinate in the direction or vicinity of a place where a sing se (SM/I: sing sang, Chinese healer) habitually prays. Almut, Sulin and Alim agreed that transgressing this taboo might have fatal consequences; they knew of such cases.

Never whistle inside the house because it may cause the rice to cease growing. Whistling is also prohibited at sea where it is feared that it might make the wind stronger.

Unhusked rice (padi't) and cooked rice (bu:k) are likened to life and death. One must never place a container of bu:k on top of a sack of padi't. That might 'kill' the padi't which, potentially, is the seed for next year's crop. To place tobacco on top of a sack of rice is also pantang.

When building a house one must take care to use not only novel materials: the roof, in particular, must be constructed with some atap in addition to tiles or corrugated iron.

A house struck by lightning must be 'cleaned' my making a small bonfire inside it. This is called buang hantu petér ('getting rid of the lightning-ghost'). Furthermore, no wood from a tree struck by lightning may be used for house building because (as has already been proven) it will attract lightning.(88))

What it means not to recognise prohibitions is exemplified by the proverbial lack of stamina displayed by Chinese-owned hunting dogs. Among the Lom, meat procured through the assistance of dogs may not be cooked with coconut oil, vinegar, or soy sauce. Disregard of the prohibition will have an adverse effect on the hunting ability of the dog — it will be 'burnt out' after a year or so.

Land was 'originally' divided into what may grow and what may not grow in an area. After this became known (in time immemorial) one should not attempt to cultivate crops not originally meant to survive in a given area. Thus it was/is pesumpah to plant coffee and clove — both of them important Indonesian export crops — in Bangkanese soil. Nor should one attempt to cultivate fields of wet rice (sawah) on the island.(89) If plants not allotted to the land manages to live and thrive it means that the primeval order is no longer valid and the end of the world is obviously imminent.

But the taboos are not only related to what may be planted. The exchange of products is also strictly regulated. Selling rice, for example, is likened to selling children.(90) Selling timber is likened to selling bones: what remains then is just isi't (flesh) and it becomes impossible to move about. Selling akar (lianas; roots) is likened to selling urat (sinews); the simplest movements become impossible. Nowadays, after "the Indonesians took over" all kinds of things are sold. Gajah Mada (Orang Kuasé; God) generally prohibited the sale of sumber hidup ('sources of life' or 'life essentials' such as rice and timber (it should be remembered that a prerequisite for swidden farming is the presence of burnable timber). Tin and pepper (Bangka's primary commodities for centuries) are exempted from the taboo. The island was not designed to supply others with 'life essentials'. Bangka, as will be remembered from chapter three, is female, while Java is male (although within Bangka women are Javanese and men Buginese), and it is the duty of the male to be the breadwinner — also in the cosmic order of things. When the President of the Republic of Indonesia proclaims that the country must berasal diri (i.e. not be dependent on others) this is interpreted as an impetus to accelerate commercial exploitation of the vital sources of life (sumber hidup). The result of this is that today's parental generation will be happy, but only, the Lom hold, at the cost of the well-being of future generations. Our children, and their children again, will 'sink' (kelebu) and die — even more drastically, the island itself will sink.

When there is war there is no trade and when there is no trade there is no food. Trade means peace and a steady supply of food. These are not abstract Lom exhortations on 'political science' but statements reflecting the experiences of those adults who lived through the Japanese occupation. Thus, because the presidential decree is interpreted by one Lom as a proclamation of 'un-dependence', this is viewed with suspicion — and a fear, even a warning, of imminent war.

A bachelor, Jumin, told me a story he had heard from his mother's mother. Gunung (Mount) Cundung, which he said means 'the precipitous' or 'jagged' mountain, is a name which on the face of it is paradoxical since it is a well-defined, rounded mountain.(91) But there is a hole, or a scar in it; hidden, and in the depths of this hole is the mas kijang (gold deer), one male and one female — shining like light.(92) But in reality this is a mysterious, or esoteric thing (barang gaib) so those who look for the treasure — and there have been many — by digging for it will inevitably fail. The closer one thinks one is getting to it, it will recede yet again. Jumin likened it to groping for something in a mirror: what you see in front of you is in reality behind you; it will always elude you.(93)

Jumin thought this a very good story (I like it too!) and said, "the stories of old people of ancient times are indeed true" (cerité orang tua kuno memang benar). The elders never lied. They got their learning through the stories they were told, they led a physically arduous life but a life with reasonable (layak) rewards, and the truths of the stories which descended from earlier generations were demonstrated and verified through people's interactions with nature. Similarly, the appropriateness of the prohibitions (which used to be legion) was evidenced through relations with one's physical and social environment.

As examples Jumin cited the prohibition against whistling after dark and another taboo I have not so far mentioned: that against pen and paper (daun selait ng rang sebatang). He said that the reason for these prohibitions was that parents wanted to control their children, in particular their daughters who were never allowed to stray from the house and its immediate environs. A bachelor wishing to meet a maiden would therefore perforce have to do it publicly: in the presence of the girl's parents and siblings — thus minimising the possibility of illicit affairs. To circumvent this restriction one would have to give the object of one's desire some kind of message — preferably in coded form (cf. section one in this chapter) — about one's intentions, notably time and place for a rendez-vous. Obviously a most practical solution would be to write a note (using pen and paper), another to whistle a signal. In other words, the purpose of the prohibition against pen and paper was the regulation of sexual relationships (or rather, perhaps, the suppression of premarital sex). To respect the prohibition meant that one adhered to custom and simultaneously, probably more importantly, that one acquiesced to parental authority.

To disregard the prohibition, according to Jumin, would effect difficulties in the pemikirkan (a word-construct not in my dictionaries, but probably meaning something like 'ideational orientation'; cf. SM/I pemikiran) of one's parents — more likely it would mean protest entailing conflict. Secondly, he said, to break one dictum would facilitate breaking others — all the way down to political involvement — "bahaya!" (dangerous!)

While Jumin's thoughts on the consequences of taboo transgressions are pertinent and informative I should like to draw attention to yet a third consequence — which possibly has even more far-reaching impact than the ones he was concerned with: To proscribe the use of pen and paper is in effect to prescribe illiteracy. And it is on account of this proscription that it is taboo to build schools on Tanah Mapur. This taboo is still very much in effect: When the authorities built the proyék in Air Abik in the mid 1970s they could not call the school building a school (sekolah); they had to call it an education building (gardu pendidikan) in the — vain, as it turned out — hope that villagers would send their children to receive instruction (cf. appendix III). And when Wakim had decided he would work as a teacher (extraordinary in itself) he first asked if he could raise the school building halfway between Pejam and Mendulang (for practical reasons because the houses lie spaced along the beach in both directions from this point). He had been told that he could try. Three days later lightning struck and the barely begun building was burnt to cinders. It was impressed on me several times by orthodox Lom that reading and writing were for the Dutch, Malays, Javanese, and Chinese — but not for the Bangkanese in general and Lom in particular. The fact (as just noted) that even the present headman, who is not a Muslim, attempted to set up a school on Tanah Mapur indicates to orthodox Lom that times are irrevocably changing — to the worse.(94)

Umbrellas are pantang; it implies "pulling the sky down". Shoes — including the kind of inexpensive plastic sandals millions of Indonesians use daily — are also prohibited. Endicott suggests that the "prohibition on wearing shoes or sarongs and on carrying umbrellas in mines and at fishing stakes may exist because these too strongly recall civilisation to be ignored by the spirits" (1970: 116). While this may be true in the peninsular context (and I have no reason to believe that it is not) I think a similar interpretation in the Lom case would miss the point. In the Lom case the prohibitions are less in order to propitiate the semangat (in whatever state of condensation) than in order to preserve cultural difference. It appears that the severest Lom prohibitions — including those on literacy, houses of worship and irrigation farming — are on objects and practices associated with, if not symbolising, other ethnic groups. Insofar as the prohibited categories recall civilisation to the Lom it is a civilisation of the Other. An analysis of the import and meaning of Lom prohibitions must therefore take account of the Lom insistence that balance between the major social groups of the world (one of which is the Lom) hinges on cultural consolidation (seen from an internal perspective) and non-permeation (from an external one).

I noted above (in the section on food prohibitions) that various dicta of Adat Mapur are no longer valid for a Lom moving permanently outside Tanah Mapur. When this is viewed together with the fact that magical powers are assumed to be strengthened by travelling in 'other lands' we get a picture that at first sight appears contrary to the one Berger sketches when he discusses the situations arising

"...when different religious systems are in pluralistic competition with each other... For the individual, existing in a particular religious world implies existing in the particular social context within which that world can retain its plausibility. Where the nomos [meaningful order, OHS] of individual life is more or less co-extensive with that religious world, separation from the latter implies the threat of anomy. Thus travel in areas where there were no Jewish communities was not only ritually impossible but inherently anomic (that is, threatening an anomic disintegration of the only conceivable 'correct' way of living) for the traditional Jew, as travel outside India was for the traditional Hindu. Such journeys into darkness were to be shunned not only because the company of pork-eaters or cow-defilers caused ritual impurity but, more importantly, because their company threatened the purity of the Jewish or Hindu world — that is, its subjective reality or plausibility. (Berger 1969: 49-50)

There can be no doubt that Berger's observations are generally correct and the question to be answered, therefore, is why they do not obtain among the Lom. It can, of course, be argued that Adat Mapur is not in a true sense a religion. It lacks a coherently expressed and unified body of knowledge (a theology), the existence of ritual specialists is dubious, there is no concept of the sacred, etc. But dispensing with the question this way is unsatisfactory because, as I have tried to show, it is clear that the Lom conceptualise Adat Mapur as a world-view counterpoised to world religion(s) and precisely in that sense on a par with them. The key to the answer is provided, I should argue, by the fact that the Lom do not compete. To them nothing is gained if Muslims convert to Adat Mapur, their aim is to preserve their adat on their own land and by implication other groups' adat on theirs. Thus Berger's observations are in no way refuted by the Lom case; on the contrary, his discussion is premised precisely on "religions in pluralistic competition with each other".

However, the Lom no longer live in a world where this wishful mutual 'non-involvement' obtains. While there exists at present no serious threat to their adat and way of life from any particular religious community as such, the impact of the government's housing projects is likely to become deeper and extend also into ideational realms. Thus, what has until recently been possible for the Lom ever since they became differentiated from the rest of the Bangka Malays, viz. to keep to themselves and if at all threatened retreat further into the forest, is no longer feasible. They are on the very brink of becoming encompassed by the modern nation-state. Whether this imminent incorporation will take the form of integration or assimilation is presently difficult to predict. What is clear, however, is that a situation analogous to the one Berger discusses is likely to emerge: Some kind of confrontation between the government's interests as proclaimed in its Panca Sila ideology (all Indonesian nationals belong to one of the four world religions) and the Adat Mapur requirements seems unavoidable. The government is not very likely to tolerate the continued existence of an ethnic group prescribing, among other things, illiteracy for its members. How the Lom will act in this re-contextualised setting, precluding as it does their established strategy of fleeing, I am not prepared to state with certainty. If evidence from the Pejam settlement (where children at the termination of my fieldwork were eagerly attending school) is anything to judge by we may speculate that the Lom will gradually transform into the kind of Indonesians the government wishes for and in the process discard the admonitions of the elders. If, on the other hand, this proves incompatible with the practicalities of life as perceived by the Lom (e.g. labour requirements in swiddens and animal husbandry) a situation as is found in the Air Abik settlement might develop: a further refinement of the strategy of non-involvement.

9. Concluding comment

While it may be difficult to extract a common feature pertaining to all the rules informing or modifying behaviour discussed above it would appear that an essential aspect of many of them are their essentially ethnic complexion. By following the rules one maintains one's Lom identity — and by transgressing them one becomes a threat to social — and ultimately cosmic — order. This pertains most obviously, perhaps, to the prohibitions involving animals. These rules simultaneously differentiate the Lom from the Muslim Malays (with whom the Chinese might have confused them on account of their language and physical appearance) and from the Chinese (with whom the Malays might have grouped them on account of their partiality towards foods haram to the Muslims). The prohibition against pen and paper similarly sets the Lom off from their neighbours: The Muslim Malays and the Chinese (and, of course, the Dutch) are supposed to be literate — not the Lom. Both are fairly straightforward and almost classic examples of how groups tend to identify themselves in opposition to others. What the Lom say is, "rules are different here".

Finally, a further example of how the Lom link danger to strangers is provided by their account of how electricity is made. It is, I think, symptomatic that they blame parents, and not the strangers, for the alleged kidnappings. Erring individuals suffer, as I have demonstrated earlier, potentially far-reaching consequences, as do their consociates. And by extending this interpretation to encompass not only strangers as individuals but also as representatives of the violent Other — embodying possible cultural infringement reminiscent of the turbulent past — the preoccupations of the Lom seem to merge into the theme outlined in chapter one.

Chapter five — Life crises I: Birth, incision

This chapter deals with two life cycle events, one of which is inherent to all Lom, and one experienced by males only. The first is birth, the second is the male puberty rite. The first is central to the Lom, and the other — if not peripheral — at least perceived by them, as I shall argue, as being far less crucial. I proceed in a 'natural' order, beginning in section 1. with pregnancy and birth and go on to describe and analyse the puberty rite in section 2.

1. Pregnancy and birth

While I frequently discussed a variety of sexually related topics with casual and less casual Malay/Indonesian and ethnic Chinese acquaintances, Lom men appeared to find such issues embarrassing and consequently I never even attempted to discuss them with women. When (male) ethnic Chinese villagers, for example, sometimes alluded — visibly abhorred and amazed — to my self-imposed protracted celibacy and confessed that they themselves would not have survived sanely a week without sex, the Lom present would remain silent.

Now, after several summers of my early student years spent working in a variety of 'male' jobs where females in glossy magazines were routinely admired; after a previous year-long stay in a North African country where I had received the impression that Muslim men find women in various positions to be a superior subject of conversation; and after a brief visit to a Malaysian village en route to fieldwork where I had been positively interrogated on Scandinavian bed-manners I had come to the provisional conclusion that men — wherever their origins — had something in common. I was therefore somewhat surprised that my male Lom friends displayed little or no interest in man-to-man talk. For a long time I feared, as is perhaps always the case when anthropologists fail to obtain information on a certain subject, that my rapport with the Lom was sub-standard. By the time I left them, however, I felt certain that whatever the attitudes of Lom men to sexuality may be they are rarely, if ever, the subject of discussion, and that their attitudes to women in general is that they be respected (dihormati) as full, necessary, and complementary members of society.

With these introductory remarks I shall presently discuss pregnancy and birth.

1.1. Context

When a Lom wife becomes pregnant neither she nor her husband announces the fact to friends and fellow villagers and when her state becomes visible there is obviously little need to make a great fuss about it. There appears, in general, to be little interest between the households in the matter. I was never able to find out for certain the cause of the Lom's measured attitudes in this respect. But rather than interpreting them as expressing blatant indifference towards fellow villagers' affairs I believe it should be understood in the context of their more general attitude that sexually related matters are private matters, as I indicated above.

There are no restrictions on sexual intercourse after the wife has become pregnant; it continues to take place as long as the couple wants to. On the other hand it is anathema for a husband to have sexual intercourse with his wife while she is menstruating (nundek kotor); then he may not even sleep on the same ambén (multi-purpose bench) as she does. I do not believe that this explains why all proyék (government housing scheme) houses have at least two ambén. The Lom socialising pattern is arguably equally determining here: I have already noted (chapter four, section one) that the Lom, particularly the men, regularly visit each other in the evenings to talk, smoke tobacco, and drink tea, coffee, or alcohol. Often these visits last well into the night. Young children retire early to an adjoining room and their mother usually goes to sleep at the time her children do or soon thereafter. The ambén does not exist in Lom traditional houses. Rather, the entire floor is elevated about one metre above the ground. But the fact that two ambén (or, in the traditional houses, a minimum of two 'bedrooms') exist at least means that there is no need for husband or wife to sleep in separate houses while she menstruates.

Pregnancy is accompanied by neither food prohibitions nor — with one exception — prohibitions on behaviour. The single item of behaviour proscribed while pregnant is to sit in a doorway. Doing so is held to cause a difficult/prolonged childbirth (susah beranak). Further, there are, I was assured, only two acts the expecting mother ought to perform in order to ensure an easy childbirth: (1) remove the stitches of something one has sewn while pregnant and (2) extract some/any nails which have been hammered into a wall or beam of one's house by either husband or wife during the pregnancy. Although these nails are obviously made from iron — and iron plays a significant symbolic role during a late stage of the delivery, as we shall soon see — it seems that the significance — and this goes for the removal of the stitches as well — is one of sympathetic signature: Extraction facilitates expulsion.

The (very slight) modifying impact the above rules have on the behaviour of pregnant women aside, women in any stage of their pregnancy may, and do, participate in all the economic and household activities they normally engage in: planting, weeding, wood-collecting, cooking, etc. Their role in production is thus in no way curtailed; they even carry very heavy burdens until delivery without fear they might miscarry.(95)

As soon as a pregnancy successfully terminates, however, and also if a miscarriage occurs, a period of taboo, or prohibition (pantang) sets in. This period, called repas (which also means 'brittle', 'fragile') lasts for 44/45 days; after the birth of a girl/ boy respectively.(96) It is characterised by seclusion of the new mother in her home (which does not preclude others visiting her), daily herbal baths with heated water prepared for her by her husband, sexual abstention, and prohibition against eating certain foods as well as against productive/economic efforts.

If a miscarriage occurs too early in the pregnancy for the sex of the foetus to be determined the repas will last 45 days so as to ensure that one does not make the terrible mistake of cutting the period short. What might happen in that case became clear when I asked village midwives how they deal with breech deliveries (they answered that they find them extremely difficult to handle):

When the time came for Jamal's wife to give birth to a pair of twins the first baby was delivered without problems. The second, however, lay in a jack-knifed position with spread legs and could not be reached. The delivery lasted three days. Both babies lost their lives and their mother was totally spent. She made a remarkably speedy recovery, though. After having rested for some three weeks she felt able to resume horticultural work. Shortly thereafter she fell ill and died. She had not heeded the adat, I was told, prescribing rest and (comparative) seclusion and she had suffered the consequences.

Births, without exception, take place in people's homes and are attended to by what for the time being I shall refer to simply as village midwives. While the hospital in Belinyu, run by the government controlled tin mining company UPTB (less than an hour away by motorised vehicle) does accept patients who are not employed by the company, there are three reasons why the Lom are disinclined to seek assistance there. Firstly, it is comparatively expensive: a fee of at least Rp 2000 per day plus the cost of possible medication: a lot more than the remuneration the village midwives expect for their services which typically equals some Rp 2000 but which are usually paid in kind, rather than in cash. Secondly, tin has undergone a slump on the world market, the company's revenue has therefore become drastically reduced, and the hospital is currently rumoured (by Lom, Muslim Malays, and Chinese alike) to use sub-standard medication because the better medicines are too expensive. These two considerations would probably have sufficed for the Lom to avoid the hospital, but a third reason is even more important: The hospital is believed to steal babies. I have already examined this issue in some detail in chapter four, here I merely note that the assumption that babies are abducted — and worse, killed, before their bodies/energies are exploited for various economic purposes — strongly motivates Lom women against giving birth in hospital.

Returning now to the village midwives these, it should be noted, may be of either sex. Few, if any, refer to themselves as 'midwives' (dukun beranak) but for the sake of convenience I shall do so here.(97) Importantly, a man may, if he so wishes, assist in the birth of his own children. But he may not cut the umbilical cord. The reason for this, the Lom say, is that the person receiving the chicken typically given to the person who does this cannot be a member of the household giving it. As far as male 'midwives' (and men who know spells) are concerned they may not eat food cooked by menstruating women. This, the Lom say, is because the ilmu ('supernatural' knowledge; primarily spells) would become campa (SM/I: tawar) or kurang masin (lit. 'unsalted'), meaning 'flat', 'insipid'. Wak Mia and Cakam (the former a female, the latter a male midwife) both emphasised that they consider it inappropriate that the term dukun beranak be used about themselves. They are only 'helpers', they said; "we want to help out" (kita mau tolong-menolong). They explained that assuming the title 'dukun' (even accepting to be called one) might result in jealousy (iri) — leading, presumably, to icy neighbourly relations.

Wak Mia said that a certain Lom, presently residing in the predominantly Chinese neighbouring settlement Pesaren, is a dukun in the proper sense of the word. She charges Rp 8000 per birth she attends to. A similar arrangement, according to her, obtains both in Tuing (a small, ethnically mixed settlement) and Kampung Mapur (again chiefly Chinese) — indicating, probably, an increased monetisation in areas that are heavily influenced by ethnic Chinese. She was visibly indignant at this state of affairs. For her own part, she said, all she asked for was a chicken and a lump of dian (bees-wax), the fumes of which are considered to help clear up 'foggy' eye-sight. If people were to offer her one or two thousand Rupiah instead she would accept it — she would not mind: "People are poor here."

She made the distinction between 'here' (the Lom settlements) and 'there' (the Chinese/mixed settlements) saying that here anyone who knew how to assist would do so when called for — whereupon she named some five women and an equal number of men, none of whom is termed dukun. When I commented that I thought this sounded like a good arrangement she shrugged and said "nta:" ("I don't know") as if she did not wish to come across as someone passing judgement on the practices of others. However, a short while earlier she had been talking about the nearly impossible situation which would exist were people to rely on a dukun beranak: On this side of Gunung Cundung there are only two persons (both of whom are women) she referred to by this term; one of them resides in Tengkalat, the other spends most of her time in Air Duku (on the far side of Gunung Cundung) and the rest of it in Benak. To reach any of them would take a minimum of one and a half hours to which must be added the return trip which would take longer considering that both women are grandmothers several times over. And a final point is that the latter of these women does not want to practise any more.

The midwives/helpers said that they would often get a prickly sensation in the centre of the palm of their hands and/or the sole of their feet — or perhaps a twitching eye — this way they would be warned of an impending delivery. In the absence of such physically perceptible premonitions they might instead feel an irresistible urge to return from their fields or wherever else they might be at the time. After such unmistakable warnings there would be a matter of hours or one night — at the outside — before the call to assist would arrive.

As an attempt to present the customs surrounding birth among the Lom in a way offering the reader an idea of some of the variations with which they are actually practiced I shall proceed immediately to give a detailed account of one delivery.(98) This will be followed by comparative material from two other births I attended.

1.2. Delivery


Alim, Almut, Gundim, and I were talking in my house when Alim's son from his first marriage came to say that Akum, Alim's present wife, was sakit perut (had 'stomach pains', i.e. was in labour).

When we arrive at Alim's house the midwife/'helper', Siani, is already present. We all have some betel and cigarettes, we talk, and Alim makes coffee. Because the sun set a couple of hours ago we have brought my torch and two hurricane lamps and an extra bottle of kerosene in order that the midwife see better. We make ourselves comfortable on the ambén and prepare for a long wait. But we have hardly had our coffees when Gundim is called into the adjoining room by Siani, squatting in front of Akum who is reclining with raised knees on straw mats spread out on top of the ambén. Gundim positions himself against the wall (on Akum's left side) and starts to massage her abdomen with downwards movements. Two or three minutes later the baby is born. From Akum there is not a sound except heavy breathing.

The baby is left to itself on the straw mat, screaming, while Siani busies herself twisting the umbilical cord, gently tugging it. Gundim continues the abdominal massage in order to expel the placenta. Meanwhile Alim has been fetching a couple of buckets of water and heated some of it, which he brings into the room — barely glancing at his wife and the newborn.(99) Some five minutes later the placenta is released, to Siani's obvious satisfaction. Until now she has hardly looked at the baby except to determine its sex, and when the baby screams she mimics the sound, screaming good-naturedly back at it.

Alim brings seven pieces of bark string (tali terap), each about 25 cm. long. Siani examines each of them carefully and selects three that she proceeds to tie around the umbilical cord. The four remaining pieces are to be thrown away. She tries to cut the loose ends of string with a pair of rusty scissors Alim has brought her, but they are too dull and she uses a machete instead: She then places the metal handle of the machete over the baby's thighs (the baby yelling out at what must be a pretty cold touch) and uses it as a cutting-board, severing the umbilical cord with a sharpened piece of split bamboo. The stump of umbilical cord is then smeared with asam Jawa (fermented tamarind, a much used condiment). I hold a flashlight for her to see what she is doing.

When this has been taken care of she picks up the baby, telling me it is kotor (dirty). Akum says she has a 100 Rupiah coin on the shelf above the door. Gundim fetches it and tosses it into the washbasin Alim has brought. Siani washes the newborn all over — an attempt is also made to remove the grease on the scalp — while Gundim rummages in a cardboard box I gave to Alim a few days ago. Finally he finds two minute pieces of cloth that the midwife proceeds to wrap around the baby. After thus having been bathed and swathed the baby is put next to the mother. A length of bark rope is tied around Akum's waist. The 100 Rupiah coin stays in the basin until the mother's post partum period is over (44/45 days; girl/boy respectively).

The barang kotor, 'dirty things' (placenta with umbilical cord attached, blood-stained sarung and straw mat) remain in a corner of the ambén until morning. At dawn Alim carries the bundle, at arm's length, to the door and kicks it forcibly into the front yard.

Alim does not sleep at all this night. As the most pressing requirements of both baby and mother now have been attended to, he fetches more water and heats some of it for his wife's first of many post partum herbal baths. A heavy scent of lemongrass pervades the house and he pours a couple of liters of the boiling liquid into a bucket, adds cold water until it is pleasantly warm and carries it to the bedroom where his wife splashes herself while sitting on the ambén. He also boils some rice for her first (very light) post partum meal.

Akum's mother has slept in the kitchen with the other two children. In the morning she makes coffee for Alim, Gundim and myself. For Akum's warm baths, three times a day, for the following 44 days Alim is obliged to fetch three kinds of plants: serai bugur (lemongrass), kecapé (Sandoricum indicum, Cav.?), and mengguas (Alpina Galanga). This is supposed to make the bau melahir (smell of birth) disappear.

1.3. Variation in birth practices

While the two other births I attended did not deviate substantially from the one just described — at all three, for example, both male and female 'helpers' were present — there were some added elements and minor differences which may be of some significance. On a general note, I was told that the bamboo knife with which the umbilical cord is to be cut must always, before it is used, be campa bisé ('ridden of danger/ power'; 'blunted'; 'cleansed').(100)

For example, after one successful delivery the midwife, Wak Mia, brought the severed umbilical cord briefly to the lips of the newborn and brushed them lightly. Later she gave the six years old brother of the newborn a metre or so of bark string in which she had just made seven knots and told him something I did not catch. The boy darted off and was back soon afterwards whereupon the midwife proceeded to say a spell over it. At first I thought that she had just sent the boy away to get it 'charged' (in lack of a better English word) and could not understand — or at least I had never thought it possible — that one and the same vessel could be 'charged' by two different persons. The husband later told me that the baby's maternal grandfather, living less than a hundred metres away, had indeed been asked to say a spell over it but "he is unable to 'charge' the aforementioned string" (dia tidak sanggup jampi tali tadi). This string, called tali bangkeng, is tied around the mother's waist in order that the abdomen and uterus contract. The newborn gets a black thread tied around her waist — this is to prevent the baby's abdomen from bloating — for the baby neither knots (bukak) nor spells are necessary.

When Wak Mia was about to wash the newborn she waited until a rusty, four-inch nail was dropped into the water. Whether this nail substituted for a coin, or whether in the previous case it was the other way round, or if the use of different materials can be attributed to idiosyncrasies of the midwives must regrettably remain an unanswered question in empirical terms.(101) But significantly coins — especially old silver coins minted by the Dutch colonial government — are employed at other auspicious moments too: at the time of death and while learning magical spells. This might suggest that the nail was indeed used in place of a coin. On the other hand, the protective effect attributed by Malays to iron against hantu is well documented (cf. e.g. Skeat, 1900: 274, 340), especially pertaining to newborn infants. Endicott, interpreting the use of iron to be what he calls a 'boundary strengthener' ensuring the integrity of the body writes:

"Gold and silver seem to have the same power in ritual as iron, though they are used considerably less frequently, undoubtedly because of their greater scarcity and economic value. ...as ritual materials (gold, silver, and iron) seem to form a set." (1970: 133-4)

My hunch is to agree with Endicott, although I have no evidence of the use of metals, precious or not, at times other than those already mentioned (Endicott cites some examples which have no counterpart among the Lom). At least there appears to be no reason to believe that silver and gold cannot be used among the Lom, at the appropriate times, the same way these are used among Peninsular Malays.

At the third birth toba-leaves (toba, or derris root, is used also as a fish stupefying agent) were briefly heated over a fire and wiped across the abdomen of the delivering mother who simultaneously was given thin slices of charmed betel and lime. In this case explicit measures against hantu and iblis were taken (possibly because the woman was, in her own words, tiang kebu; pregnant in the tenth month — possibly, too, because she had experienced violent birth pangs during the previous two days): a neighbour was busy mumbling spells near her head, over her body, out of the door, then out of the house.

Immediately after one birth the husband fetched a bottle of 'childbed wine' or Anggur Beranak — which had cost him Rp 750 — out of which his wife will have a thimbleful with every meal. A bottle like this will last her about a week, so 4 — 6 bottles will be consumed during the (post partum) period. So-called arak manis (a weak liqueur made from rice liquor, palm sugar, and glutinous rice) may serve the same purpose: to speed up the recovery of the mother by stimulating her circulatory system. This is not an indigenous practice but one the Lom have recently adopted from the Chinese, and should be regarded as entirely optional. The same husband showed me how he had arranged a so-called tali sekuak above the multi-purpose bench for his wife to hoist herself up by.

Optional, too, but conceivably of greater curative effect than the wine, is a particular form of post partum massage called detimpo. It is distinguishable from the massage designed to facilitate delivery (which is but a manipulation of the abdominal area) by being explicitly directed towards bones, joints and ligaments and it is offered by only one (male) midwife/helper, Cakam. According to him others are afraid that the woman might suffer a relapse (called kambu; an infection, he said). While massage techniques for a number of reasons can neither be comprehended nor evaluated by description (which therefore remains a highly unsatisfactory form of presentation) I include my observations on the detimpo here because it possibly prevents puerperal hypermobility either of the sacroiliac joint or in symphysis pubis, a rather more commonly suffered post partum affliction (among Western women, at least) than has been assumed until recently.

Cakam started off by peeling the skin off a couple of small onions (garlic may be used, too) which he put in a saucer together with a few spoonfuls of coconut oil and promptly proceeded to apply the oil to Ki's (the new mother) abdomen, massaging it firmly from the upper to the lower abdomen. Then he did her left calf and foot, then her right, then her right arm, then the left. Next he gave her a gentle leg massage from her feet to her hip. He stood up on the ambén, lifted his left foot with his right hand and said a spell over it, spat a couple of times at the sole of his foot and gave Ki three not-so-gentle kicks on her left buttock. This he followed up with a 'diagonal arm pull' (Ki all the time stretched out on her right side): her right arm was jerked backwards. All the while he and Ki were chatting, telling each other stories about other births — both of them obviously enjoying themselves.

This massage (which seemed to me to be performed almost too forcefully for comfort) is given three times: Immediately following parturition (I twice observed it performed before the newborn was cleaned); after seven days; and at the termination of the repas (the taboo period), i.e. 44/45 days hence.

As the birth described in full above happened at night the inherently social aspects of a birth were not immediately observable. But the other two births I attended took place in the full light of day and the number of congratulating visitors pouring in as soon as word got around that everything had gone well was striking. Curious children, too, both those of the new parents and those of neighbours, were freely allowed to enter the delivery room. This caused no comments from the adults.(102)

After one of the births I expressed some surprise at the fact that during the first hour or so after having been born the baby hardly gave a sound. This appeared to be perceived as an insensitive remark: the midwife muttered something under her breath and exchanged glances with others present. Later, when she and I were alone, I asked her if my comment about how quiet the newborn was had been out of place, but her reply to this was only a non-committal shrugging mumble and I never learnt if in my ignorance I had been tactless or possibly something worse.

I return now to the account of the first birth which I left at a point where certain significant rites are performed:

Around 7 a.m. Alim, Siani, and I leave the village, walking towards Labu. The other two carry the barang kotor (placenta, bloodstained clothes and soiled plaited mat). Siani recites while walking: "Bang barat, bang barat, bang air, bang air." ("Westward, westward, towards water, towards water.") At a brook some five minutes' walk past the end of the village they stop. Alim steps into the water and begins to wash the bloodstained clothes. Siani takes the placenta in her hands and rinses it out, thoroughly. When every trace of blood has disappeared she places it on the straw mat. Then she, too, washes clothes. Paku and bong lai (an iron nail and wild ginger)(103) are placed inside the cleaned placenta and then Siani bows down, water reaching her thighs, searches with her hands on the bottom for a good place to put it. Afterwards she uses her feet to press it down firmly — at a point where the brook runs northwards. Finished, she says, "sudah buang" (already thrown away). The clothes are washed again, this time with a detergent, and rinsed.

This account contains the central elements of the obligatory observances immediately following a birth but certain of these practices vary depending on the habits of the midwife/helper. But what does not depend on the more or less personal dispositions of midwives is that the placenta (called kakak, or elder sibling) should be rinsed out in the running water (it must be running) of a brook. The practice of cleaning the placenta — an act that is always performed regardless of its subsequent treatment — prevents, the Lom say, the baby's abdomen from bloating (gendut). Great care is taken to remove all fleshy parts of the placenta and rinse the umbilical cord to the point where all that is left is membranous tissue.

After the placenta (which is the chief barang kotor, or 'dirty stuff', when it has been discharged from the mother's body) has been cleaned, however, there are three ways in which it may be disposed of: (1) buried under a rock in the same brook it has been cleaned in (as Siani did), (2) buried in the ground, and (3) suspended in a tree. The midwife decides which of these methods is to be used — neither the woman giving birth nor any member of her family has any say in that matter.

In the event that the placenta is buried in the ground or in a brook it is done so together with a piece of wild ginger with an iron nail stuck into it.(104) The reason for these two substances being buried together with the rinsed-out placenta is that the Lom (as Malays in general) conceive of it as the kakak (elder sibling) of the newborn. The elder sibling (placenta), the Lom say, offers its life to the younger sibling (child). Bonglai (or buli't, as the Lom call it) separates life from death; by disposing of the placenta together with wild ginger one therefore ensures that the life of the adik (the newborn 'younger sibling') is neither reclaimed nor disturbed by the kakak (the placenta or 'elder sibling'). If substances other than iron and wild ginger are used potentially harmful effects may ensue. Thus, if lime (kapok) is used in connection with the placenta it is thought to turn into a hantu (conceivably the pontianak(105) but I was given no name). The iron nail is held to frighten all 44 kinds of hantu and 44 kinds of iblis that the Lom say exist.

When the placenta has been buried there is nothing more to it — and all that is required is to find a spot near a brook. Pokoknya (the point is that) it leads to the sea — which they all eventually do, as one Lom remarked with a smile — i.e. the direction of the brook is not generally assumed to be of consequence.

The bloodstained clothes are, as I mentioned, washed thoroughly with a detergent, and both cutlass and straw mats should be rinsed until all traces of blood have disappeared. When the midwife returns to the village s/he takes care that the cutlass is not placed inside the rolled-up straw mat. This, the Lom say, would cause the baby to cry. That the cutlass must be visible at the time of return is, I would suggest, directly related to the fact that it is made from iron. Iron, as mentioned, generally frightens hantu and iblis and it also — as noted by Endicott (cf. above) — demarcates body boundaries (it "separates life from death", as the Lom state it) and thus it might be a visual 'message' to malevolent spirits to the effect that they not bother the inhabitants of the house to which the midwife returns.

The third method is undoubtedly the one which involves the most care and labour, not on the part of the midwife, but on that of the husband. He is the one who must check — daily — that the placenta, which has been put in a container (presently plastic bags may be used) tied to a branch, is not invaded by ants. If it is, the newborn is believed to be certain to fall fatally ill. According to yet another midwife this practice is risky (gawat) for another reason: if worms get into the placenta the baby's eyes will close up; the baby will go blind.

1.4. Post partum food prohibitions

I have mentioned earlier that among the Lom the new mother is subject to a number of food prohibitions.(106) My observations on this subject are far from conclusive (i.e. I neglected to trace the complications envisaged to arise from the consumption of the species in question) and not readily suited for comparison with other, more comprehensive treatments. Still, an article by Laderman on Peninsular Malay food prohibitions may serve as a frame of reference for my own brief remarks. Laderman notes that there are frequent discrepancies and occasional contradictions in what different people in a given community lists as proscribed foods in connection with illness and birth (1981: 470). Particularly this refers to the classifications of 'hot', 'neutral' and 'cold' foods. But rather than viewing this as a problem intrinsic to the data, she holds that it is

"...created by the investigators' expectation of finding a taxonomy with clear-cut boundaries, a classificatory system in which categories are forever frozen like flies in amber." (Ibid.)

Laderman links her analysis of the Malay hot/neutral/cold division to another Malay concept, that of bisa. Bisa foods are not toxic or poisonous but rather, according to her, intensifiers of disharmonies already present within the body (op. cit.: 484) and at the end of her article she writes:

"On its most abstract level (bisa) is a synonym for pure power, with no moral implications. On a more concrete level it refers to an intensifier which exacerbates whatever disharmonies are already present." (Op. cit.: 487)

It is clear that among the Lom both the hot/neutral/cold system and the concept of bisa exist, and they are both employed when the post partum foods are listed.

Thus, a number of the meats prohibited during the repas, notably larger deer (not the mousedeer), monkey, turtle, anteater (or pangolin) and at least two species of birds are 'hot', while prohibited fishes — which are all classified as inherently cold by the Lom — are bisa. These are first of all the so-called ikan duri (fish with spines, both venomous and non-venomous), but also the talang, feared to cause skin disease.

Corresponding to what Laderman's own observations (and those of other authors she cites) tell us, the Lom prohibitions are far from universal. Great inter-personal (or perhaps inter-familial) variation is allowed: Food prohibited to one new mother may well be permitted to another. Thus at least one woman did not have to heed the prohibition against ikan duri, probably one of the most pervasively prohibited foods to post partum women in the Malay world. The following list of prohibited foods (Table 5.1) can therefore only be taken as an approximation to what obtains in each particular instance. A great number of items regrettably remain unidentified. I also asked what foods were permitted to the new mother, and it is possible that this list is more universally applicable than the list of prohibitions.


uyap (freshwater shrimp)

pirang (a flat-fish)

berujong/untos (unidentified fish)

*belanang (unidentified)

rinyu (unidentified fish)

jumbong (unidentified)

kepitek (unidentified fish)

babi (pork)

ayam (chicken)

pelanduk (mousedeer)

mengalo (cassava)

keladi (yam)

pisang (banana)

timun (cucumber)

Kecap (soy sauce)

kopi (coffee)

teh (tea)

indomie ('spaghetti' brand name) except the accompanying spices

tugang (unidentified bird)

seminyang (unidentified fish)

asam jawa (fermented tamarind; katis (papaya); only w/cooked foods)

nasi (rice)

kitam/kepiting (crab)

tenggiri (Spanish mackerel)

tongkol (tuna)

kamping/kambing(?) (Pomacanthus annularis)

kirong-kirong (kekirong?) (unidentified fish)

ikan pari (skate)

gagok (unidentified fish)

kakap (Latas calcarifer)

ketiber (unidentified fish)

ruan (unidentified fish)

sem(b)ilang (Plotosus/Paraplotosus)

seriding (unidentified fish)

sotong (squid)

kijang (deer)

manyang (barking deer)

kerak (monkey)

tenggiling (anteater)

ular (snake)

sian (unidentified bird)

labu (gourd)

mangga (mango)

nangka (breadfruit)

rambutan (rambutan)

cabé (chilli)

bilis (Stolephorus spp.: anchovies)

talang (Chorinemus)

kamong (unidentified fish)

ikan duri (fish with spiked fins: all species)

kelubit and all other sour fruits

all scaly fruits

udang (shrimp)

tenggiling (anteater)

kekuré, penyok, kedabang (turtles)

rinyok (fish)

Table 5.1 Food permitted or prohibited for post partum women

*NOTE: Belanang may not be eaten until the stump of the umbilical cord has disappeared/ healed.

When the repas is over the mother, as mentioned above, may receive her third and last detimpo massage. On this day a rite is held for the child, too.(107) The rite is the same for boys and girls. The head of the child is shaved (a small lock should remain) and the midwife who delivered the child carries it from the house to a small brook. The mother follows. The child is then washed in the running water and afterwards dipped, while in a horizontal position, into the running water three times. Afterwards there is a communal meal, usually a simple one, but preferably a chicken is slaughtered for the occasion.

1.5. Significance

I hope to have demonstrated that Adat Mapur, compared with customs pertaining to Peninsular Malays — as these have been described by Skeat (1900) and analysed by Endicott (1970), confers practically no restrictions on the activities of a pregnant woman. This obtains for her in her role as wife, as mother, and as (re)producer. As soon as a pregnancy terminates, however, a period of prohibitions or taboos (pantang) — lasting for some month and a half — sets in which curtail a number of her normal activities and limits them to be conducted within — or at least in the near vicinity of — the house.

Interestingly, my observations are rather in contrast to those King made among the Malo. He writes:

"Pregnancy is marked by a number of prohibitions which serve to mark the transitional status of a pregnant woman and her close family by separating them from everyday life". (1976: 196)

But because the labour of a pregnant woman is just as needed as that of an unmarried one she is "not physically excluded from the village or from performing certain tasks" (op. cit.: 197). The prohibitions marking the "transitional status" are of a largely symbolic nature, much as the few Lom prohibitions are (but far more numerous). Furthermore, there are "ways of avoiding the inconvenience of some of the restrictions" of which King cites a few examples (op. cit.: 198, cf. Jensen 1966: 170 for similar circumventions among the Iban). King goes on to say of childbirth itself that

"...it ends the period of pregnancy and the majority of the taboos which go with it, although those to prevent the death of either mother or child are still maintained. Childbirth therefore marks a decrease in supernatural danger. Nevertheless, the restriction of sexual intercourse between husband and wife is continued for forty days in the puerperal period and indicates that both are in a transitional state. In the interests of the mother's health various food taboos are also introduced." (Op. cit.: 200, emphasis mine.)

Here is where I disagree with King. Not with the facts as he presents them, but with his interpretation. He contends that pregnancy, characterised by a great number of pregnancy taboos (which may be avoided by culturally acknowledged 'tricks') is a highly dangerous period of transition. The post partum period, on the other hand, characterised by the maintenance of some of the taboos, the introduction of food taboos, and further rituals such as 'roasting the mother'(108) designed to safeguard the new mother's health is seen by King as a period of decreased danger. It is more reasonable, I think, to argue the opposite, and this would bring the circumstances reported among the Maloh and those among the Lom on a par with each other. I should think that precisely the fact that the Maloh (and the Iban) 'permit' taboo transgressions indicate that these are not so indicative of danger as King contends. In this regard it is interesting to note that he omits mention of any similarly 'permitted' circumventions of the food prohibitions. I take it that it is precisely because transgressions of post partum food prohibitions are considered an extreme risk that they are not committed and hence not reported — in turn this may be viewed as circumstantial evidence corroborating my suggestion.

2. Incision

2.1. Context

The Lom do not practice any form of ritual mutilation of female genitals. Nor is regular male circumcision practised, but incision, called sepét (which I am shortly to describe), is performed on boys/young men. Islamic circumcision (sunat, in Indonesian) is referred to as jumpong in the Lom vernacular, and is thus, both linguistically and in point of fact, distinguished from Lom incision. It should be noted, however, that since after incision (as it is practiced by the Lom) the prepuce is no longer visible, Lom males who are about to marry Muslim women obviously cannot undergo the mandatory circumcision accompanying the required religious conversion preceding such a marriage except in a symbolic sense: It suffices to draw one drop of blood.

There is no particular season or auspicious time set aside for the incision rite, nor is there a set age at which the rite should be performed — there is, I should mention, little importance attached to chronologically reckoned age in general and adults often guess both at their own age and that of their children. The Lom insist, however, that a man cannot marry until he has been incised. They also insist that Lom are incised, Malays circumcised, hence an intrinsic ethnic aspect is attributed to incision.

Prior to having the chance to observe the rite itself I was told by various Lom that what happens when the boy is 10 or perhaps 12 years old is that the tukang sepét (incisor) will pierce the boy's prepuce with a thin, sharpened piece of rotan. Then, with a swift motion, the prepuce is split open lengthwise above glans. Some herbal poultice is applied. The boy will then walk with all his friends through the village. The wound will heal in about a week, during which the boy will wear a sarung in order to avoid rubbing his penis. This is, I was assured, all there is to it. There is no kind of communal celebration or feast; although there will in all likelihood be a good family meal, usually chicken.

Before I arrived in the field the reading of anthropological literature had led me to assume that great (psycho-)cultural importance is invariably attached to circumcision/incision — both as a socially and a personally salient event: Performed on small children it signifies their status as genderised humans, performed on adolescents it marks their transition from the innocence of childhood to the responsibility of adulthood. Furthermore, among Peninsular Malays much labour and many assets are spent on circumcisions: "Days of preparation, and the expenditure of hundreds of dollars, are the rule on these occasions" (Rosemary Firth 1966: 148). While the Lom certainly (as I indicated above) regard an unincised male as a youngster, they attach little importance to the event of sepét itself — arguably even less than I had been told before I had observed it. Moreover, neither preparation nor expenditure is integral to its performance, as the following two cases illustrate. The first is a 'non-event', the second an account of the rite as I observed it.

2.2. Description

Alim, a Lom with whom I was in almost daily contact, is a tukang gunting (lit. 'cutter'; or barber) who doubles as a tukang sepét (incisor). Alim is not the only tukang sepét in Pejam, the other two being Alun (Alim's eldest brother whose vision is now reduced to the point that he never performs anymore) and Alan, a 40-year old bachelor in Tengkalat. Alim at Pejam, Alun at Benak, Alan at Tengkalat; possibly a significant spatial distribution. I thought that the resembling personal names of these incisors might point towards some interesting speculation, I but was assured that it had no significance. A point of interest, however, is that Alan is an ethnic Chinese who was adopted by a Lom couple while an infant. To be a Lom by birth is thus no prerequisite for becoming a tukang sepét, though having had the incision performed on oneself, as Alan in fact had, is.

When Alim became a tukang sepét it was without ceremony. His father, himself an incisor, just informed him one day that in the future Alim would have to do it. Alim had roared: "I don't know how to." His father's reply to that was "ngerapik!" (rubbish!). A year or so later (in 1972) Alim performed the sepét, nervously, for the first time; all went well.

I had mentioned to him on more than one occasion that I would very much like to witness an incision but he had told me that he knew of no-one planning to have the rite performed.

I was relieved, therefore, when a young man, approximately 15 years old, whom I had met on several occasions, informed me that he wanted to be desepét (incised) "soon", that he had no objections to me photographing the event, and was going to let me know in advance so that I could be present. During the following couple of months after we had reached our agreement he told me that no, it would not take place next week, but perhaps the week after next. Then one day he announced that he had decided not to get incised that year after all. He had been offered a job as a hand on the bagan — the nocturnally operated fishing scaffolds — for which he would be paid Rp 750 per night. Not only did he not want to relinquish this opportunity to make money, it would in fact be difficult to work the long nights at the bagan with a fresh and painful cut in his penis. My heart sank.

But a couple of months later I was wakened one very early morning by the tukang sepét himself who, after having excused himself for waking me before dawn, told me that if I wanted to witness the incision rite I had to come immediately.

On our way I asked Alim why he had not told me the day before that Usu was to be incised this morning. It turned out that Usu had paid him a visit at a late hour the previous evening and informed him that he wished to have the rite performed the following day. Usu confirmed this, saying he had not thought about it much; he just "wanted to do it now". He was still a member of his parents' household, and when I asked his father if Usu had decided to get incised just like that he answered, yes, he himself had not known about it until after the fact.

On our way to the appointed spot we stopped at the roadside for Alim to pick a handful of flowers from a kemunting bush, then we continued to the Pejam river in which Usu, a young man of about 16, was sitting as Alim and I approached shortly before 6 a.m. Usu had been immersed in the river for about an hour and was shivering with cold. This is not a test of endurance but the only practical way to lower sensitivity/heighten the threshold of pain; Alim knows no anaesthetics. Usu approached us without the customary left-handed covering of his genitals which is otherwise common between males — whether they are incised or not — from early adolescence onwards.

Alim gave the flowers he had picked to Usu before the 'operation' took place. Usu already had something else in his hand which he dropped as soon as Alim gave him the flowers; kemunting(109) are more effective: if kept in one's hand during incision they are considered to prevent scar tissue from forming. No spells are said over them. When the rite is over they are discarded.

Alim ordered his 5-year old son, who had come rushing towards us as we arrived, to return home; this had no effect and Alim did not pursue the matter further.

Usu sat down on a log. A lit cigarette in his mouth, Alim brought out a few lengths of sharpened ijér (palm-leaf rib; SM/I: lidi)(110) that he keeps ready-cut at home since they are stiffer and therefore easier to use when dried. After choosing one he carefully measured the length of glans (with the prepuce covering it) and cut off a piece about an inch long. He squatted in front of Usu' parted legs and eased the sharpened end of the ijér under the prepuce while pulling it gently outwards with his left hand. He pushed the ijér slowly upwards until it pierced the prepuce and a few droplets of blood appeared. With a final push about 3-4 mm of the ijér was visible on either side, with about 20 mm of the prepuce covering glans now between the two end-points of the ijér. Alim's son, who had watched the séance from very close quarters, did not look much perturbed and Usu didn't even grimace.

Alim now produced a foot or so of cotton sewing thread. Looping it around the topmost point of the ijér he spun it around the lower, then back again and so forth in "8"-fashion (as one would fasten the rope to a flagpole) between the projecting points until there was no more thread. Hardly a word was said. Alim's son, as I mentioned, was as interested an onlooker as the anthropologist, and although Ajul and his grandson were also there their presence was coincidental; Ajul had been looking for Alim in order to get a haircut.

After Usu had put on a sarung we all went over to the house of Alim's parents-in-law where Akum, Alim's wife, made coffee. Neither Alim nor Usu had any, but Amak (stopping for a rest on his way to pick coconuts at Mendulang), Ajul and I had a cup each. I bought 10 cakes for us from Angsi passing on her way to the proyék to peddle cakes as a way to finance her children's approaching first year at school.

During the rest of the day of incision and for at least a week to follow, possibly ten days, the adolescent (optionally wearing a sarung in order not to irritate the wound) is obliged to cari getah (lit. 'search for sap'), i.e. roam the forest looking for fresh buds (pucok) from which he will extract juices to smear on the affected part, particularly the cotton thread. This will be his chief occupation for the days to follow and, significantly, he is exempt from whatever productive and otherwise economic household duties normally enjoined him.

Neither of the bud-saps employed are used for curative purposes;(111) a fact which may be taken to indicate that the Lom do not regard incision as a 'medical' matter at all. Medication (whether hospital-based or traditional) is always referred to as ubat whereas the sap is simply called getah (sap). The native categories of the plants from which bud-sap may be collected are listed in the following note together with some information on the plants used for 'post-operative' treatment of incision in another part of Bangka (regrettably most plants remain unidentified)(112). Buds from any or all of these plants may be used alone, together or intermittently; in the case of rawé its bark may be used as well. As the sap dries up more of it must be applied, and as soon as the buds gathered lose their juice the young man has to collect more. Importantly, no food-prohibitions pertain as usually is the case as regards disease; the prepuce "mau deburok" ("is supposed to rot"), Alim explained with a laugh — it is not supposed to heal. This, according to him, is in contrast to the Islamic circumcision where proper medication is involved, but I have no data on this. It is true, however, that the Islamic circumcision is performed by cutting the prepuce off. That this is perceived as a form of surgery that needs subsequent care in order to heal properly is hardly surprising, moreover it is now often performed in hospitals. It remains to be said that no celebration of Usu's ordeal took place (unless the cakes I bought are to count as one). His parents never slaughtered a chicken and they invited neither kinsmen nor neighbours over to congratulate their son.

Usu himself displayed little, if any, pride in the fact that he had 'come of age'. He was busy for a few days roaming the forest for the requisite buds, appeared entirely unhampered in his movements; in fact he donned a pair of shorts the day after the rite had been performed and told me that the cut didn't hurt at all.

2.3. Significance

Following van Gennep (1960 transl.) it is possible to view Lom incision (and similar instances of genital mutilation performed in other societies at or around the time of puberty) as a rite signifying the individual's transformation from the category of childhood to that of adulthood. From this perspective the 'roaming' period the Lom prescribe could be interpreted as what van Gennep calls a 'liminal' phase between the statuses of boy and man. Basing her argument on van Gennep's work Mary Douglas contends that such transformations — crossing categorical boundaries — are intrinsically dangerous: "Danger lies in transitional states, simply because transition is neither one state nor the next, it is indefinable" (Douglas 1966: 96). She calls attention to the fact that "the novices are temporarily outcast" — which, if one stretches the interpretation of the above account the Lom novice could perhaps be said to be — and holds that the point of ritual is to control the danger. For if a person has "no place in the social system and is therefore a marginal being, all precaution against danger must come from others" (op. cit: 97). While Douglas cites rites in which boys symbolically 'die' it is clear that her argument is not limited to them; she refers again to van Gennep who (says Douglas) "saw society as a house with rooms and corridors in which passage from one to another is dangerous" (op. cit.: 96). Needham notes that there are certain difficulties with this view, one being that

"the idea of danger cannot be directly deduced from what other peoples do or abstain from doing, or from the dire consequences that they say would follow if they did not conduct themselves as they do. If they perform certain acts, e.g. sacrifice, in the set and rather careful way we usually call 'ritual' this is because it is the proper way to do it." (Needham 1979: 44, emphasis mine.)

And he continues:

"No doubt an individual suddenly confronted with something that he cannot identify is liable to be put off balance: a figure distorted by mist, or a grotesque being from outer space, probably would make him become scared and see some menace in what he could not classify. But in the case of the ritual of boundaries the factors are very different. To initiate boys into men, or young men into warriors, or maidens into marriage, is the sort of thing that happens all the time. (op. cit: 45-46, emphasis mine)

As regards Lom incision it has hopefully already been demonstrated that the initiates (the very word has certain overtones implying a measure of transcendence I should hold is entirely absent from the Lom conception of the rite) do not view the rite itself as dangerous. One might, of course, argue that the very thought of genital manipulation would be frightening to the Lom neophyte, but Douglas' contention is not related to circumcision/incision as an assault on the body. At any rate this line of reasoning would take us well into the realm of castration complexes and the like, something Douglas, as one of Durkheim's intellectual heirs, would be the first to warn against. In the same work she states that "psychological explanations cannot of their nature account for what is culturally distinctive" (121).

There can be no doubt about what is Douglas' chief point: the transition from one category to the next is what is inherently dangerous, and it is in order to demonstrate, as it were, to the individual that s/he is not alone that society, by way of ritual, intervenes and resolves the unbearable situation which has arisen for the individual who is between states, passing from one status to another. The individual experiences society as benevolent (after all) and society — having collectively enacted a benevolent and necessary ritual — thus reasserts itself as well.

Alternatively, one might argue that if not incision itself, then roaming about in the forest in search of fresh buds — the liminal phase — is fraught with danger: "Not only is transition itself dangerous, but also the rituals of segregation are the most dangerous phase of the rites" (op. cit.: 96). Bearing in mind that the Lom, unlike the jungle-dwelling hunters and gatherers of Southeast Asia, do not 'breathe a sigh of relief' as soon as they have left civilisation behind them there could have been some merit to this argument were the neophytes obliged to roam the depths of primary forest — barred from regular communication with other members of society. But such is not the case. They find ample amounts of the requisite buds in the secondary forest surrounding the swiddens and settlements and their contact with friends and kindred is in no way restricted. The only truly compulsory aspect of the liminal phase is that adolescents must procure their getah (sap) themselves. This brings us back to Douglas' suggestion that "all precaution against danger must come from others. He [the marginal being] cannot help his abnormal situation" (op. cit: 97).

The Lom here present us with a diametrically opposite situation: 'Others' do nothing for the novices, society at large plays no part in what is going on. Insofar as society at large is involved at all it is in that 'it' inflicts wounds; in order to recuperate and re-enter society as full productive members, on the other hand, the novices must rely exclusively on their own resources. If anything is stressed here about the relationship between individual and society — or even just between individuals - it is that individuals are alone and that cooperation and support are not intrinsic aspects of society that emerge in times of need. And if anything is implied it is that growing up means fending for oneself.

While I think this interpretation is plausible it could be argued that it is too strongly put. On the basis of the material there may be, as I have suggested earlier, reason to believe that the Lom do not read quite so much into the rite. It could be argued that, had they done so, other rites would have stressed and implied similar notions, which they do not: We have already seen that the birth rites express and emphasise cooperation within households, imply associations of individuals of different households, and are almost public affairs; and in chapter seven we shall discover that the mortuary rites, far from stressing a Lom equivalent of the idea that 'every man is an island' imply the inherently social nature of individual human beings. Indeed — anticipating a conclusion in chapter seven — the funeral speech may be interpreted to convey the essentially dialectical idea of humans as individual carvers of social structure.

The solution, I think, is to view the rite itself separately from the message it conveys. My suggestion is thus that the incision rite is, somewhat paradoxically stated, both important and unimportant. By this I mean that the rite itself, as an event, is unimportant to the Lom. However, it is necessary, it 'has to be done': Incision is a prerequisite for marriage, the institution for procreation and social reproduction. The rite itself — as an event — is, as Needham suggests, the proper way to do the sort of thing that happens all the time. But the message implicitly conveyed by the 'roaming period' — that individuals cannot depend on society at large for solace — is precisely a message befitting traditional Lom productive enterprises which are largely carried out individually (cf. the next chapter). If the birth rites stress the inherently social and cooperative aspects of human relationships, as I noted in the previous paragraph, then this suits the chronology, so to speak, very well: a new-born child needs constant care. A bachelor, however, embodies the opposite values: He may soon set up his own household and in that respect cannot depend on others. Although incision is a prerequisite neither for economic activities — nor even for the establishment of an individual household — it is so for marriage; the conventional institution for social reproduction. But before I turn to that topic (in chapter eight) I shall discuss a number of other issues; first among them Lom productive activities.

Chapter six — Economy

The present chapter deals primarily, and rather extensively, with the productive efforts of the Lom. To put it the simplest possible way: how they go about securing food and money. If this sounds crude it is not meant to be; it merely reflects how the Lom themselves are concerned about it. How to obtain food — and if not by wresting it from nature, how to get money to buy it — is a perennial theme. In section 1. I outline the basic physical parameters and note the chief opportunities for wage labour. I go on to discuss the organisation of productive labour within and between households, and explore the relationship between this organisation and Lom society in general. This is followed by a rather lengthy exposition of cultivation and animal husbandry. In sections 2. and 3. I discuss the pertinent points on hunting and fishing, i.e. not only their organisation and economic impact but also certain implications of the categorisation of the foodstuffs involved. In section 4., drawing on material introduced in the previous sections, I analyse Lom conceptions of exchange and discuss whether the Lom economy can be said to be a multicentric one (I think it can). I then return to the question of the significance of dreams (introduced in chapter four) before I address the rather novel concept, among the Lom, of land as a commodity. The subject of the last part of this section is the role played by middlemen.

1. Agriculture

1.1. Introductory remarks and basic parameters

Agricultural activities constitute the very basis of the Lom economy. The tropical climate with temperatures in the diurnal range of 21-33 degrees Celsius, rainfall at +-2.300 millimetres,(113) and high (although not measured) humidity provides three basic parameters for the cultivators, soil-conditions constitute the fourth. Most of the Lom homeland has a sandy, very acid soil (pH 4-5) registering low to very low values of basic plant nutrients (NPK). Whitten et al. quote Hardon (1937), who found pH to vary between 2.7 and 6.1 in the white-sand soil typically found on Bangka, and go on to describe white-sand soils as "probably among the most nutrient-poor soils in the world" (Whitten et al. 1984: 341). The results of my own simple soil tests are shown in Table 6.1. It would appear that soil quality is the major permanent physical limiting factor of Lom agriculture, and while agricultural output, obviously, is determined as well by the amounts of sunshine and precipitation, these factors vary considerably from one year to the next.

Household number

pH Phosphorus Nitrogen Potash Comments
1 4,5/5,0 high very low very low Forest plot one: Swidden used 2. time; now planted with orange trees.
2 5,0/5,5 low very low low Forest plot two: A swidden recently prepared from secondary forest.
3 7,5 low very low very low Labu beach: Recently planted coconut grove, no animals, first row of plants, about seven metres from the high tide mark.
4 7,5 low very low very low Labu beach: Same grove as above; 20 metres from the high tide mark.
5 7,5 low very low very low Labu beach: Same grove as above; 35 metres from the high tide mark.
6 5,5 low very low very low Labu beach: Circa 100 metres from the high tide mark, no coconuts planted, no animals.
7 5,0 medium / high very low very low Mendulang beach: Circa 20 metres from high tide mark, established coconut grove with a present total of 32 pigs.
8 5,0 medium / high very low very low Mendulang beach: Circa 35 metres from high tide mark, established coconut grove with a present total of 32 pigs.

Table 6.1 Soil test results

NOTE: These tests were taken with J. Arthur Bower's Soil Test Kit, an amateur's garden kit. It was kindly sent me by Philip Bacon who at the time was working on an Imperata sylindrica project based in Palembang, South Sumatra. The Test Kit does not allow for precise quantification of soil nutrients.

A range of hills reaching some 200 metres above sea level separates the two major Lom settlements, Air Abik and Pejam (it takes some four or five hours to walk from one to the other). These hills are covered with primary and secondary forest providing breeding and feeding ground for a variety of game. As the hills taper off northwards and southwards they sustain rice-fields and gardens of fruit and vegetable. An extensive sandy plain(114) separates the northern shore-settlement (Pejam) from the undulating terrain partly under cultivation, whereas Air Abik is situated in an area of low hills rolling southwards from the central range.

The Lom practise swidden agriculture and horticulture, supplementing their vegetal produce to a varying degree by hunting and fishing. Money, when made, comes from the sale of horticultural products such as pepper and pineapple — some households rely heavily on cash cropping — or of game such as mousedeer and monkey. With the locally reported depletion of game resources, however, hunting appears to have become increasingly onerous and hence to have lost some of its attraction. Another source of income is the sale of wood; either as timber (there are four wood-mills in the area) or as fuel. Although the income from the sale of wood is comparatively small it is vital to many households — notably those of senior villagers who find it too strenuous to clear swiddens.

Few individuals have steady, paid employment. Some work at the wood-mills as loggers or operators of the mechanical equipment, some as tin-miners in the government-run UPTB or in one of the small, privately owned mines run by ethnic Chinese, and some as contractual labourers as far away as Koba, a full day's journey to the south. All are male except a woman in her mid-seventies who works part-time tidying the church premises. Most of the employed men from Air Abik are young bachelors, while those from Pejam are married men of varying age.

The cash flow of individual households varies greatly. Some claim to make do with Rp 1000 per month, others make Rp 50.000 per month and I suspect that some households may have an even larger income. The word most frequently repeated by the Lom when I talked to them about economic matters was susah (difficult).

1.2. Organisation of productive labour

The basic residential unit is the nuclear family. While multi-generational co-residency is uncommon it does occur: when a young married couple have yet to build their own house and they remain with his or her parents for a year or two; when the parent(s) of a woman or her husband are old and sickly and are taken into the conjugal family of one of their children; when an unmarried man prefers the company of his brother and his wife and children to living alone; when a woman returns to her parents after her divorce, bringing her children with her. Although the examples are real they are not, except from the temporary character of the first arrangement, typical, but nobody thinks them unnatural. One case deserves special mention: It involved a couple and their children co-cohabiting with the wife's parents over a number of years. The reason for this prolonged arrangement was that the wife was (probably) epileptic. Her daily, multiple fits necessitated almost constant surveillance; it had happened several times that she had fallen unconscious while bathing her small children. The practical solution to the problem was that the wife and her mother were almost constantly together, while their respective husbands were freed to tend their gardens. I recorded no instances of nuclear family co-habitation (when this is understood as different sets of parents and children under the same roof).

The nuclear family is also the basic productive and household unit. As a rule the entire household takes part in the yearly clearing of swiddens during the relatively dry weather in June and July. Households very rarely cooperate when felling and slashing — this holds true even for households of next of kin. But rice planting is often informally organised as a cooperative reciprocal effort comprising two or three households. The basic harvesting unit is again the household, but any number of people — including townsfolk — may partake and thus be rewarded one third of the amount each one has collected.(115)

Within the household

As I stated above, the basic productive unit is the household. Husband, wife, and children above eight or ten years of age all participate in agricultural work — except during the periods while the household contains unweaned children and/or heavily pregnant women when the husband does most of the agricultural work alone. This is especially true if the fields/gardens are located some distance from the dwelling, as they frequently are after the establishment of the proyék. The most crucial impact of these government built villages can be stated very briefly: The majority of the households now have at least two permanent dwellings between which they must divide their attention. Children of either sex, as a matter of course, accompany their parents to the swiddens and partake not only in comparatively easy and light tasks (such as collecting cleared brush or sowing rice), but are often given the responsibility of planting the subsidiary crops: cassava, yam, and other tubers; banana, and pineapple, to name but a few. These plants do not reach maturity until after the rice has been harvested. The rice-stalks are left to rot so that over the next couple of months they add nutrients to the poor soil.

Women take care of all household chores and most jobs in the vicinity of the house; tend animals, collect coconuts and grate them, gather fallen palm-leaves (to be burned under the house to keep mosquitoes away), care for small children, clean and wash, sweep and weed the yard, collect fuel-wood and pandanus leaves (used for straw mats), and cook. Men (the men say) do the heavy jobs (kerja berberat). They build and maintain houses, clear acres of forest for swiddens, carry rice home after the harvest, carry pigs and coconut oil to the middlemen arriving on their basket-equipped motorcycles.

There are no gender taboos governing agricultural labour. If a household does not include able men then women do 'men's work'. Indeed I observed women at least six months pregnant carrying home huge cassava-filled baskets from their fields (a trip of several kilometres), each weighing 25 — 30 kg. To my knowledge no women were, as were a number of men, singly responsible for a swidden, and of course a gender-based cultural (read: male) repugnance against women in such control may account for this. I do not think so, however. Firstly, daintiness is in no way part of the male Lom ideal of a woman. Rather she should be strong and able. If she is not, then much of the labour she is expected to do will inevitably fall on him. That men are supposed to do the 'heavy work' is partly a male relativisation; it would be a mistake to interpret women's work as light and I do not think that Lom males do so. Women's work is lighter, perhaps, than men's, but one must keep in mind that this is a society based on subsistence swidden agriculture. Secondly, bachelors and widowers living alone cook, mend clothes, and generally keep house; fathers take care of small children — with no scorn from other men. If women in any way were tabooed from doing men's work one would expect something approaching a reverse attitude to men doing women's. Thirdly, few women live alone — and when they do it is after a divorce or their husband's death and usually for a fairly brief period until they remarry. In the meantime, however, a divorcee or widow is more likely than is a man in a similar situation to take up residence with parents.

Towards the end of the developmental cycle of the household its productivity dwindles: A senior couple (or a widow(er), as the case may be) whose children have married and established their own household cannot expect to benefit from the labour of their children. This is a crucial point because one of the consequences of the reduced capacity for heavy labour coinciding with old age is that the plot one chooses for a swidden must not contain too many large trees, it can neither be a primary forest plot, nor one in an old secondary forest. Put more technically: the biomass contained in a plot to be cultivated by a senior couple is likely to be a lot less than that of a plot chosen by a young one. This, for the kind of swidden agriculture the Lom practise, means that the amount of nutrients made available to the crops after the brush has been burned is inversely proportional to the age of the cultivator. Stated more plainly: the more senior the cultivator, the less fertile his field, and consequently, the more diminishing his returns. The plot of the swidden of a typical senior Lom (a widower in his sixties), for instance, was an eight years old belukar (or 'young secondary forest') that he cleared together with his unmarried daughter. The swidden of his married son, as a contrast, was a plot which had lain fallow for 20 years; delés (or 'old secondary forest').(116)

Having said this I should add that I am not implying that the Lom care little for their ageing or ill parents. They do, but in ways which are, as it were, less transparent: If the parents are unable to clear and plant their own fields they cannot expect their children to do it for them and they are then forced to seek their means of livelihood as sellers of forest produce such as fuel-wood or rattans (considered somewhat disgracing for a man because it is a predominantly feminine activity during most of the household's developmental cycle);(117) or as wage labourers, if this is at all possible, i.e. if they have the strength for it and there are job-opportunities. They may further live off their coconut grove, if they possess one, or, finally, if too feeble, disabled, or acutely ill to care for themselves they may be fed by their children — in which case they usually reside, more or less temporarily, as house-guests in their children's homes. That this may give rise to inter-household competition, and even enmity, was demonstrated when Almut's mother-in-law, Ilun, spent a few days at his house because she was ill. When she subsequently moved to the house of Yapa (her son), he went around saying that his mother hadn't been given enough to eat while she had been staying with Almut and that he, Yapa, would give his mother anything she desired — even if that happened to be kerbau (water buffalo; very costly) meat he would rush to the market in Belinyu to get it for her. Almut was feeling hurt (sakit hati) about this but he also ridiculed Yapa by saying that if curing was only a matter of getting enough kerbau the hospitals of the island would soon be empty. He himself would rather spend money on medication, he said — all the more so since whatever Ilun tried to ingest while she was in his house she would expel, even plain water.

Between households

The forms of cooperative labour described below relate mainly to agricultural, or land-based production. Thus they do not comprise cooperative fishing, which I shall discuss separately.

The Lom stated almost unanimously that besao (mutual help) was more common in former times. Up to ten people used to gather for besao and thus made it possible for senior cultivators to have fields yielding greater produce. This change is clearly due mainly to the increasing impact of the money economy. The Lom say that recently people are less inclined to initiate cooperation because they will feel obliged to pay for such services in cash. (According to one individual, however, gotong royong was habitually paid for already thirty years ago.) People are likely to consider their time more valuable than they were just a few years ago (even rather young Lom agreed on this) and might — even after having consented to 'help' fellow villagers — charge them for the time spent helping them. This was linked directly to the arrival of the proyék; formerly there were indeed fewer items to buy, people had less money (cash-cropping was less common), and at any rate they had to go all the way to Paret 4 or to Belinyu to purchase commodities. Today there are stores both in Air Abik and Pejam. Now, I was told, money is what everybody thinks about because one's neighbours buy things. Other explanations for the decline of the besao arrangement were that people are either at sea, or they sleep half the day. At any rate, without outside assistance senior villagers, as I explained above, are forced to clear their swiddens in the young secondary forest that is less fertile.(118)

Another form of cooperative labour is beganjél (possibly cognate with the SM/I word ganjal meaning among other things: 'prop', 'support'), or begerujuk (possibly cognate with the SM/I word rujuk meaning among other things: 'return').(119) These are two terms for essentially the same arrangement, viz. that household heads decide to pool their own labour (or that of their entire household) and work together, from morning until noon, in the field belonging to one of them (or on another individual/ household project, as the case may be). This is not reciprocally organised, however; the man in whose field they work supplies his fellow workers with food and drink — and that is it. When they leave in the afternoon he owes them nothing. While this arrangement in theory is open to exploitation in a fashion similar to that of the entrepreneurial Darfur 'tomato-man'(120) I think there are at least two reasons why it will never be so. Firstly, the cooperative labour arrangement termed beganjél is losing, not gaining ground. Not only were the Lom practically unanimous on this point, but during more than one year of fieldwork I observed only one incident that can be labelled beganjél and this was to do with a villager who, for supernatural reasons, felt obliged to have his house moved. Secondly, the facts a) that villagers increasingly clearly value their own time in cash terms, and b) that many of them have experience as wage labourers bear witness to a degree of monetisation rendering it unlikely that one person's smartness will pass undetected by others. I am not suggesting, however, that no entrepreneurial activity takes place among the Lom. It does, but not through work parties.

One reason why cooperative labour was more common formerly, I was told, is that people used to be generally more takut (timid, fearful). Venturing into the forest alone was considered a risk — though with respect to what exactly people were vague. My own speculation is that the pervading fear of the Lom is a combination of on the one hand a fear of natural and supernatural beings and on the other a timidity towards strangers; a timidity at times, and within living memory of a number of villagers, transformed into real fear as during the Japanese invasion during the latter part of World War II. Thus, at the time when the Lom lived more or less scattered in small forest hamlets a man would ask a friend to come along if he had reason to enter the jungle (to go hunting, wood-cutting etc.). This was a kind of favour that could easily be reciprocated at a later time. But nowadays the clearing of a swidden is usually undertaken by the individual cultivator without any outside assistance as hunting (belapun) for small game is also commonly a solitary endeavour. Planting and sowing, however, is often carried out jointly by several households and hunting for larger game like babi (wild pig), kecakal (bearded pig) and berok (macaque), as well as the construction of larger traps like pejato (turtle-traps) and kilong (monkey-traps with live bait, usually a young monkey) still — sometimes, at least — involves the cooperation of several persons.

I stated above that the terms denoting cooperative labour were related in the main to agricultural activities. An exception to note has to do with the concept 'gotong royong' which apparently may denote efforts such as building turtle-traps and major, more truly public, enterprises such as the construction of bridges. More importantly, gotong royong denotes communal labour. It is not an indigenous word, however (in the words of one Lom it is an istilah baru, or 'new term').(121) Villagers' conception of gotong royong is that it is 'gawi terpaksa', or 'forced labour' (as they mutter under their breath), rather than 'mutual aid in the spirit of solidarity' which is the standard definition of the term as it was invoked in the Soekarno days. It is easy to understand why this has come to be so when it is realised that every other or so Saturday morning villagers are summoned by the headman to 'clean up' the public areas of the village. Mainly this consists in the repeat slashing down of the ever-encroaching Imperata and futile attempts at turning every public area with greenery on it into off-white sandy plains.

Let me conclude this exposition of the organisation of agricultural labour by making clear how the Lom do not do it. There being neither clans nor lineages to belong to and oblige nor ancestors to please and be grateful to there is of course no such thing as collectively owned land. Hence there are no kin-based corporations. In fact there are no corporations at all. Cultivation of subsistence and cash crops is an individually organised enterprise. Informally formed task groups, as far as they exist, are established on the basis of friendship and congeniality; they dissolve when the task is completed. No group is permanent. There is, in short, no group to be a member of over time, except the nuclear family one is born into and that which one creates by marrying.

1.3. Cultigens and domestic animals


The generic term for 'tuber' in the Lom vernacular is isi't, which also, incidentally, means 'flesh'. Great quantities of tubers are usually planted in a swidden where rice is either maturing or has already been harvested. One cultivator estimated that the number of cassava sticks he and his family were going to plant in 1984 was in the vicinity of 30.000. After the plants are mature they can be harvested when need arises over a long period of time.

Tubers are eaten boiled, fried, and are used in sweetmeats — the latter often referred to, tongue-in-cheek, as kué utan (forest cakes). They are a staple food but, importantly, are so only when rice is unavailable — as we shall soon see dry rice is the paramount crop.

When going to the Belinyu market prices fall as soon as the vendors are presented with a sack-full of produce. It is much smarter, one Lom producer had found out, to store the sack for an hour or two in a friend's house, bring a sample to the market and ask for an advance price. Then one might be able to obtain some Rp 400 per kg instead of perhaps only Rp 250.

The Lom grow at least 9 species of tubers, comprising 43 different varieties (prices quoted for 1984):

11 named varieties of cassava, or mengalo (Manihot utilissima, Indonesian: ubi kayu), of which three varieties are preferred: tiga bulan, selangor, and batin. The leaves of all varieties are eaten as well as the tubers, except the variety karét that does not produce (edible) tubers. The three preferred varieties need some 3-4 months to mature, the remaining ones about a year. I was told that under excellent conditions (reference was made to World War II when swiddens were cleared in primary forest in order to avoid raids) the tubers from one stem of mengalo mentega (a yellow-fleshed variety) grew to 50 kg, each tuber as much as 10 kg, and the stem (or trunk, perhaps, in this case) of the plant were sometimes as thick as a man's calf. But regularly, under more normal conditions, the tubers from one cassava plant in an old belukar/delés (fallow field) may weigh as much as 10 kg, while from a plant in a field which has lain fallow only for seven or eight years, the output may be a mere kg or kg and a half per stem. Cassava, when marketed, fetches some Rp 50 per kg.

10 named varieties of sweet potato, or bijur (Ipomea batatas), of which two varieties are preferred: siong and kelintang iret. The leaves of all varieties are eaten as well as the tubers. All varieties mature in some four to six months; the tubers of each stem have then grown to some 300-400 grams. Sweet potato, when marketed, fetches some Rp 250 per kg.

11 named varieties of taro, or keladi (Colocasia antiquorum), of which two varieties are preferred: rakét and susang. The leaves of keladi are not considered edible, but the stem of the susang variety is eaten. All varieties need about a year to mature, after which the tubers of each stem have grown to weigh anywhere between 1 and 5 kg, depending on soil quality and precipitation. Keladi, at the market, fetches some Rp 150 per kg.

5 named varieties of yam, or ubi't (Dioscorea), of which one variety is preferred: kentang. The leaves are not considered edible. All varieties need about a year to mature (except the lilét/angét variety requiring some six to eight months) after which, in fertile soil, the tubers have grown to about 5 kg (the kentang variety to some 10 kg) per stem. In more meagre soil the tubers rarely weigh more than 2 kg. None of the varieties of ubi't are marketed.

2 named varieties of kemili't, of which the preferred one, putih, has a diameter of some 2 cm, the other, cacong, a diameter of some 5 cm. The leaves are not considered edible. Both varieties need about a year to mature. When marketed, these tubers fetch some Rp 350 per kg.

Kemarong, (either Dioscorea esculenta or Coleus tuberosus), the flesh of which is yellowish, should be cleaned carefully and soaked in water for at least twelve hours before consumption in order to get rid of the toxins (it was eaten in quantity during the Japanese occupation, but much more rarely after World War II). The leaves are not considered edible. The tubers of each plant, after a year's growth, weigh about 1 kg. It is never marketed.

Belengo, (unidentified). The leaves are not considered edible. After about a year's growth the tubers of each plant weigh 1-2 kg. It is never marketed.

Saguk raguk, or arrowroot (Maranta arundinacea). The leaves are not considered edible. After about a year's growth the tubers of each plant weigh some 2 kg. It is never marketed.

Ganyol, (Canna edulis, Ker.) The leaves are not considered edible. After a year's growth the tubers of each plant have grown to 1-2 kg. It is never marketed.

Pepper, pineapples, rubber

Neither pineapple and pepper cultivation nor rubber tapping are novel occupations among the Lom. Pineapples — just like tubers, pepper, and other cash crops are planted in disused swiddens. They may be harvested twice a year and, together with the sale of fuel-wood and pepper, is the most important source of cash income for many cultivators. Pepper needs only about a year to mature. Harvesting is light work and is usually done by all members of the household above the age of six or seven; the smallest children picking only the lowest growing fruits. A full sack is stitched together and placed in a pond to soak for some ten days, after which the pepper is rinsed and spread out on plaited straw mats to dry in the sun. This takes at least two days. Income from pepper is steady, if irregular. White pepper sells for Rp 1000-1100 per kg and a week's produce may amount to 5-20 kg depending on the weather. Black pepper fetches only Rp 100 per kg, and one producer used to let his children get all the income from this. The price in Belinyu is determined by (Chinese) middlemen who adjust their offers to the world market prices that are radio broadcasted from Singapore daily.

If dried in the sun once or twice annually pepper may be stored without any perceptible loss of quality for ten, perhaps twenty years. While this fact has slight direct interest to the Lom (being producers)  —  because they exchange it for money within a short time of having harvested it — it is important to buyers and indirectly to the producers: A buyer may clinch a deal when prices are low (Rp 600 per kg after a good crop) and just wait until a bad year forces the price to rise (to some Rp 2000 per kg, it was suggested to me). One must be patient, but within, say, five years this is bound to happen, according to a Belinyu Chinese who is reasonably well informed. By then one's initial outlay has brought an interest of more than 66 % p.a.:

((2000 : 600) x 100) : 5 = 66,66

Rubber trees need some ten years before their latex may be tapped. The price of rubber is determined the same way as that of pepper, i.e. Chinese buyers monitor the world market prices broadcasted from Singapore. Presently there are only about five households in Air Abik (and none in Pejam) with any income from rubber production. But several Air Abik households have planted trees — expecting yield in the years to come. The price of rubber fluctuates almost as much as that of pepper: At one time during my fieldwork latex sheets fetched Rp 500 per kg while a couple of months earlier the price had been down to Rp 200. The buyers visit the villages in the area once a week with a truck to buy latex sheets. They must show some caution; fraud, by mixing tapioca into the rubber once caused one ton to 'disappear' from a five ton load on its way from the producer to the island's chief harbour.

Several decades ago there were five hundred rubber trees in Tengkalat, planted by the father of an elderly man. The trees were never replaced because leaves and young plants were regularly ravaged by lutung (macaques). This particular Lom saw man's productive efforts as self-destructive in the long term: "You cut a part of the jungle down, you burn it, you plant, and the lutung emerge from the jungle to eat whatever you have planted."

Coconuts and animal husbandry

Coconut growing(122) and animal husbandry go together. The following statement by a coconut grower summarises the role of coconuts in the economy of the Pejam (strand) population and probably requires no further comment:

"Coconuts are 'number one'. You plant them when you are young, they give produce the rest of your life and you pass them on to your grandchildren's children. After you go to bed at night you hear them falling: Thump! The first one. Thump! Another. That's money falling down! It's your old-age pension, too, when you are orang petani (a farmer). Even when you are an old man and your days in the swidden are over you can say to orang Cén(123) who has come to buy coconuts, 'yes, I have some' — and wallop! that's money in your pocket. Rubber trees? They die after twenty years — or at least they produce but little latex by then. Pepper? Three or four years only, then they wither from the top downwards. You need a lot of pepper plants to have a secure life, perhaps a thousand or more."

The next statement describes accurately and succinctly the interdependence of pig husbandry and coconut production:

"Babi cangkul, babi pupuk. Dan bisa dijual juga." "Pigs hoe, pigs fertilise. And can be sold, too."

The salient point here is that while the pigs do not exactly hoe they weed and work the soil over — and thus relieve the cultivators from an onerous task. That the droppings are left on the ground to fertilise the poor soil means that the cultivators do not have to spend hard-earned cash on chemical fertilisers.

Coconut cultivation in Pejam and environs (i.e. Mendulang and Tengkalat)(124) developed slowly during the first half of the twentieth century and only began to reach its present prominence after World War II when permanent settlement enabled pig husbandry to become a common component.

Coconuts are either sold unprocessed or they are grated and pressed for their oil, which is boiled and sold to middlemen or, in a few instances, brought to Belinyu by the producers themselves. The gratings, subsequent to the extraction of oil, are fed to pigs and poultry whose diet (particularly that of the pigs) is heavily supplemented with boiled cassava and other vegetal matter the pigs will readily eat; chopped and steamed banana stems, for example, which is not used for anything else.

Although a household may keep up to some 30 pigs, the optimal amount is generally considered to be some 10 beasts. The reason given is that it takes too much labour to grate sufficient amounts of coconuts and boil enough cassava, and indeed one finds that a larger-than-optimum pig-herd is co-variant with combustion engine grating equipment.

Lom households raising pigs usually have somewhere between 5 and 15 beasts. It is common to sell piglets by the time they are weaned. 2-3 are kept and raised. They must be fed twice or three times a day. After six or seven months they will have grown to perhaps sixty or seventy kg fetching about Rp 1000 per kg.

If pigs feed only on coconuts one should figure five nuts per pig per day. If one figures five nuts per palm per month one gets:

1 pig x (5 nuts x 30 days) = 150 nuts per pig per month
In order to feed ten pigs 150 nuts each per month one needs:
10 : 1500 : 5 (daily produce) = 300 palms (a rough estimate).

But no pigs, to my knowledge, subsist entirely on coconut gratings and it is my impression, as I stated above, from several pig-raising villagers that the upward limit on pig husbandry is set by the increasing labour associated with cooking cassava for the beasts. I was assured that the large amount of pigs raised in the ethnic Chinese settlement of Pesaren (from where, incidentally, the impetus to raise pigs originated) is based on kuli or 'paid labour'. One Pesaren household may have up to 200 pigs, something that requires ten paid hands.

Both pigs and poultry have but peripheral impact as regular supply of faunal protein. They are reared almost exclusively for the market and the Lom find it generally too extravagant to slaughter a pig or hen unless it is for a wedding or some other socially salient event.

Young and middle-aged male coconut palm owners will, as a rule, pick their own nuts. While I never heard it said that coconut climbing is unfit for females, I never saw anyone but males in the tops of the palms. Old men, widows, and the very few absentee owners (who reside no farther away than in the other chief Lom settlement, Air Abik, anyway) depend on others to do the picking for them. As far as I was able to ascertain there is only one Lom thus occupied. He works coconut palms from, in the west, Pesaren to, in the southeast, Tengkalat (the most remote Lom beach settlement at the mouth of the river by the same name).

He said himself that he is paid either in cash or in kind: maximum cash wage is Rp 200 for each palm climbed. He can manage up to 30, perhaps 35 palms per day — a daily wage of Rp 7000, or Rp 140.000 for 20 days' work. At the time of fieldwork this was more than four times a teacher's monthly wage (about Rp 30.000) — a great amount of money to most Indonesians and a phenomenal amount to most Lom. When he is paid in kind he receives 3 nuts for every 10 he brings down.(125) The cash payment is sometimes delayed, however, until the owner of the grove has sold the nuts or the oil pressed from their gratings.

The main reason for a certain reluctance on the part of Pejam villagers to move to the proyék is closely tied to the economic structure of the beach community, which is centred on coconuts and pigs.

Oil is extracted from the nuts (primarily the work of women) and the pressed nutmeat, as I said, is fed to pigs and chickens. The oil, pigs and chickens are subsequently sold to middlemen who arrive regularly by motorcycle (the only motorised vehicle by which the beach settlement may be reached since the 'home-made' bridge across Sungai Pejam cannot accommodate cars). The longevity and disease-resistance of the coconut palm and the stable demand for both vegetal and animal produce provide a linked and sound economic basis for the household. This is somewhat contrasted by the situation in Air Abik where the cash crops (primarily pepper and pineapple) involve more risk; they are simultaneously more susceptible to disease and more vulnerable to drought — and they are more labour intensive.

A problem facing the beach-dwellers, however, is that the land recognised as suitable for kebun kelapa (coconut groves) is of finite size. Even more so since the adat rules of inheritance are, in contrast to those of the Malay Muslims, egalitarian — in the double sense that offspring of either sex inherit equal shares. As a result of population growth and because of the inheritance rules many of the old groves have been divided and subdivided into a number of small plots. Thus, since the Pejam groves are 60-80 years old and each grove, when planted, consisted of some 300-400 palms, a number of the lots currently inherited contain only 25-30 palms. The returns from these are insufficient to constitute what the Lom consider to be a secure economic foundation. (That, villagers estimate, would take at least 300 palms).(126) The problem of diminishing groves is solved by selling plots until a buyer's grove is of a reasonable size (an implicit corollary of which is that lots may be located at great distance from each other). This in turn creates the problem of finding a new location — and means of livelihood — for the household having exchanged its land for money. Over the last 10-15 years this has led to the establishment of a few new groves further inland where soil conditions are viewed as less favourable.

The advent of the proyék can be of some impact here, too, (this time in a positive sense) because the in part virgin beach area north of the proyék (Labu) is easily accessible from the settlement site: even the farthest part of this beach is nearer to the proyék than is most of the Pejam beach. It is therefore reasonable to expect that villagers — at least those with some cash to pay for it — are going to invest in land there.

It is interesting to note that the attitude of the Lom towards further coconut planting is the opposite of what Fraser states for the Rusembilan villagers:

"There is very little interest in starting new plantations, although many villagers have land which is suitable for coconuts but not for rice. The reason given for this is that, whereas a tree will bear fruit in three years, a saleable yield cannot be obtained for many years. A few far-sighted villagers, however, have since 1945 started extensive plantations for the benefit of their children." (Fraser 1960: 65)

There are several factors that could contribute to this difference in attitude. Firstly, there may, in Rusembilan, simply be a (relative) shortage of land suitable for coconut cultivation and an abundance of land suitable for rubber production. Because Fraser fails to include considerations of soil quality this must, however, remain an idle speculation.

Secondly, the Rusembilan villagers are traditionally wet rice agriculturalists. They had been "entirely self-sufficient in terms of its rice production and in some years had had a marketable surplus" (op. cit.: 59) in the period ending about six years prior to Fraser's fieldwork, and, for extraneous reasons, ceased to be so.(127) By this time they were already deeply enmeshed in commercial fishing, they were actively participating in the town (Pattani) market and in order to procure the cash necessary to secure 'adequate' amounts of rice one would surmise that they looked for the optimal way to do so. According to Fraser "... more and more (villagers) are investing what capital they can in tracts of jungle land suitable for growing rubber" (op. cit.: 67). But since rubber, in Fraser's own words, "require seven years to mature before it is ready for tapping" this means that cash begins to flow to the producers after an even longer interval than if they were to plant coconuts. Thus, while it cannot be contested that it is the villagers' conception of reality that determines the direction of their productive efforts, Fraser neither demonstrates nor questions the validity of the logic of the producers. Moreover, one should keep in mind that rubber tapping is both more labour intensive and more time-binding than is coconut production: Rubber trees require frequent and regular tapping and it is symptomatic that rubber production is generally talked about in terms of daily output, whereas coconut production is usually talked about in terms of output per month. What I wish to call attention to here is that from the point of view of the producer there is more day-to-day autonomy to be gained from investing in coconut palms than in rubber trees; an autonomy that one would imagine would be appreciated by the cultivators.

Thirdly, shifting our gaze now to the Lom coconut producers it is clear that to them coconuts are both an end and a means: Oil and fodder. Oil for sale, and fodder (primarily) for pigs which, as I have stated, are also sold. I am not sure if there exists a proper comparative analysis of coconut production with pig husbandry and such production without it, but it is unquestionable that to the Lom strand population coconut cultivation is superior to rubber tapping in almost all regards, particularly in terms of economic output in relation to labour input. While not even coconut can be produced without the cultivators having to do some work the Lom insisted again and again that by far the easiest way to make money is to grow coconuts. Thus, I submit that the question of why the Rusembilan and the Lom differ in their assessment of coconut grove expansion must be answered in terms of the fact that Rusembilan villagers are Muslims to whom, needless to say, pig husbandry is unthinkable.(128)


The primary staple food of the Lom is rice. Cassava and other tubers, a wide variety of fruit, fish, game etc. are all considered fully fit for human consumption and necessary for a varied diet, but not to eat rice twice a day is both regrettable and pitiable: However full your belly may be, the Lom say, if you haven't filled it with rice you haven't eaten. As we shall see there is much cause for regret and pity in the Lom world.

Some people reportedly died from hunger during World War II and several individuals sufficiently senior to remember the Japanese occupation recalled that those who stayed alive did so with bloated bellies. Villagers attribute the cause for these deplorable conditions to the suspension of rice imports. This meant not only that the Lom were unable to buy rice but it propelled townsfolk to the forest where they raided the swiddens. At one point there had been no rice for sale in Belinyu for three months, the fish market was closed, and all the pork and beef was consumed by the Japanese. Hooks, lines and nets for fishing were also unavailable, even salt. Many townsfolk actually took to the forest in desperation and tore up tubers planted a couple of months earlier; far too early for them to have fully developed. And not only townsfolk; the cash-croppers, too, had nothing to eat ("you can't eat pepper and you can't eat cloves", as one cultivator put it). When rice and other items of food were again for sale the prices were extortionate and the Lom sold first pigs, then bowls and plates in order to pay for something to eat.

In the distant past, naturally, the Lom rarely partook of other rice than that which they grew themselves. The gradually increasing penetration of money has changed this. Today there is always white rice (often imported from Thailand) for sale in the simple shops in Air Abik and Pejam, and most households, when there is cash to pay for it, cook white rice regularly.

Yearly productive cycle

Lom cultivators are restrained not only by the basic parameters (outlined at the outset of this chapter) of soil, climate, labour availability etc. A further regulation on agricultural production is represented by specified dates on which certain processes must have begun and ended. As far as I was able to ascertain this precise temporal structuring has validity only for the growing of rice. The following is an account of the yearly productive cycle (commencing with the rice harvest) as it was given to me by the Lom. Dates and months are according to the Chinese calendar which they adhere to, a practice they share with the majority of the cultivators on Bangka. (See appendix I for a brief exposition of how the Chinese calendrical system works.) I have not tailored the account to specific stages in the household's developmental cycle, nor have I added daily chores.

Season and months encompassed by season Month Day Activity
Musim wataré:
12, 1, 2
(northerly winds)
12 7 The first day when rice may be harvested The first day when rice may be harvested (one is free to begin at a later date, however). People from elsewhere often arrive to take part in the harvesting; they are allotted one third of the amount they pick. Whoever comes is allowed to join in. It has happened that as many as fifty people have arrived and thus been able to finish the job in two or three days.
  2   Plant cassava. Actually cassava may be planted year round, but after the rice has been harvested is as good a time as any. Moreover, since the soil nutrients of the swiddens are sufficient only for one crop of rice but support one, perhaps two crops of tubers, all cassava, yams, taro etc. are grown in what has already been a rice-field. This work is usually finished in about three weeks, but this depends largely on the availability of children as labour.
Musim selatan:
3, 4, 5
(southerly winds)
3   This is the month for the yearly rice-harvest feast (sedeka kampung) taking place the 13th and 17th in the two Lom villages respectively. If the site one has decided to clear for a swidden (see next paragraph) contains very large trees one may begin slashing before sedeka, otherwise it is customary to wait until the fourth month.
  4 & 5   Clear swidden for subsequent crop of rice.
Musim timur:
6, 7, 8
(easterly winds, hot)
6 15 This is the date when the swiddens ought to have been cleared. From this date and for at least a month to come the slashed brush has to dry before attempts to burn it can be made.
  7 15 The first day the swiddens may be burned. Frequent precipitation during the previous month necessitates postponement. If the cut brush contains large trees needing a longer period to dry out one may wait another month, but not longer.
  8 15 The last day one may burn one's swidden (however moist the brush might still be), because this day the first seeds of rice are to be sown. So really one must burn a couple of days previous to this date because the embers need at least one day to cool off (up to three days if there are huge smouldering logs) before one can even step into the field. If one commences sowing the rice after this date, one Lom said, something curious happens: The stalks may reach two metres up into the air, be thick and healthy-looking — but without grains. He did not understand this and thought it strange (ane:). But he saw it for himself in 1963 when, on his father's orders, he tried to sow rice after the appointed date.

The period between sowing the rice and harvesting is called nunggudn padi't ('waiting for the rice'). But this does not imply idleness. Firstly, there are always several regular productive activities such as feeding poultry and pigs; collecting, grating, and pressing coconuts (though many households do not own coconut palms); fetching fuel-wood; foraging for various grasses and rattans for household products such as baskets and straw mats (some of which are exchanged for money, too); digging up and carrying home huge basketfuls of cassava and other tubers; hunting; fishing; foraging for vegetal and animal foods (lacustrine, fluvial, and marine); and weeding. Secondly, this is the period when accumulated maintenance, repair, and construction is carried out both on the individual and collective level. Pillars under the house may need replacement, the atap roof may have to be changed, animal enclosures do not last forever, and the two bridges across Sungai Pejam and Sungai Tengkalat (connecting the three indigenous Pejam settlements) need to be reconstructed every two or three years.

Further, the Lom have observed that for six months of the year (from the beginning of the second to and including the seventh), the tide is high at night and low during the day; the other half of the year it is the other way round. The first of these periods, therefore, is a favoured time to search for a variety of molluscs and snails, e.g. lukan, kerang, and siput; the so-called wak-wak (or sa cin) and small crustaceans.(129) Before I discuss what impact the temporal structuring of agricultural activities may have, a mention must be made of the chief crop, rice.

Production of rice

There are probably more than a thousand varieties and mutants of the rice plant and it has been suggested that "there are 300-400 distinct races in Malaya" (Burkill 1966: 1621). In spite of the documented abundance of varieties the Lom grow only five, two of which are recognised to have two races each. These are all, of course, dry (or hill, or upland; writers' terminology differs) varieties:

padi't rum A comparatively light-coloured hill-rice, strongly aromatic (wangi), preferred when one feels healthy, not grown in great quantity. Mature after about five months.
padi't mayeng Reddish hill rice, only slightly aromatic, preferred when one feels healthy, preferred by most growers. Mature after some five months.
padi't pulot or padi't ketan of which there are two varieties: hitam (black) and putih (white). This is a glutinous hill-rice used for making cakes and porridge, held to cause abdominal pains if eaten in quantity. Mature after some five months.
padi't balok ('balok' means 'little ship') of which there are two varieties: hitam and putih. The former is also referred to as balok lutong (probably named after the black monkey (Semnopithecus), the latter is also known as balok lukan (probably named after the lightly coloured bivalve mollusc (Cyrena zeylanica, Lam.). Both varieties are mature after some four months.
padi't utan Mature after some five months. Neither padi't balok nor padi't utan are grown in quantity and no mention was made of their qualities.

Dry rice, the Lom say, should never be washed before cooking; there are no impurities in it since it is hand-picked and the distinctive colour will fade when the grains are rinsed.

A salient difference between wet and dry rice is that dry rice is very sensitive to climatic conditions. Precisely because dry-rice cultivation hinges not on irrigation facilities but on atmospheric ambience, changes in humidity and precipitation drastically effects the crop:

"Though it is customary to speak of dry-land rices, it must be remembered that they require a humid atmosphere and endure no desiccation. As a result of their demand for moisture, the area of the whole world in which dry-rice cultivation is practised is limited. They demand an assured rainfall over 3 to 4 months,(130) and this greatly limits their cultivation." (Burkill 1966: 1622-23, emphasis mine.)

To over-simplify: the physical facts about Lom rice cultivation are the following: Forest (the denser, the better) must be a) slashed and b) dried before it is c) burned in order to supply nutrients to the crop which needs d) a maturation period of 4 to 5 months until it is e) harvested and f) dried. Inasmuch as stages a)—f) have climatic requirements these have to do with humidity vs. aridity (because temperature is fairly stable we may safely exclude it as a variable here), and since the relative humidity of the air is quite constant this can, for practical purposes, be translated as rain vs. dry weather.

Now, a) can be performed almost regardless of climatic conditions. b) needs a dry spell of at least a month, sometimes two. c) requires a few days of dry weather prior to its performance (in case there has been a heavy rainfall after the brush has successfully dried) and also while it is performed. d) needs the right combination of sunshine, humidity, and — above all — rain. e) requires dry weather and f) requires sunshine. How do these requirements tally with the seasons?

The Lom recognise four seasons (numerals again refer to the months according to the Chinese calendar):

Musim selatan: 3, 4, 5 wet  (southerly winds)
Musim timur: 6, 7, 8 hot  (easterly winds)
Musim barat: 9, 10, 11 wet  (westerly winds)
Musim watarι: 12, 1, 2 hot  (northerly winds)

As we saw under the heading 'Yearly productive cycle' stages a) — f) are to take place at certain times. a) (slashing), which entails no specific climatic prerequisite, must be completed during the three months of the wet musim selatan — or, at the very latest, within the first fortnight of the ensuing dry musim timur. b) (drying) and c) (burning, which follows) must be completed within the date of sowing which is the two weeks before the second wet season (the 'monsoon', or musim barat) sets in. Thus, in theory (because sowing is light labour and quickly done), when the seeds have been in the soil for a week or two the rains arrive in earnest and hopefully stay for the three first months of d) (the maturation period). Thereafter the dry musim wataré is expected, during the first stages of which e) and f) are permitted, but rarely performed this early (cf. the length of the maturation period).

But this temporal ordering of the stages of Lom swidden agriculture is a cultural arrangement which only partly concords with the climatic realities it ideally is to mirror: The seasons cannot be plotted with complete reliability. Although I lack comparative data for Bangka I think the following statement (on the climate on the east coast of Malaysia) holds generally true:

"... the most marked seasonal rhythm is that of the north-east monsoon, [musim barat, OHS] which usually breaks towards the end of November, and with frequent high winds and torrential rain, lasts approximately till the end of January, or even later. This is succeeded by a period of light, variable winds, often from the south or south-east, and this in turn gradually merges into a long period of steady alternate sea and land breezes. These changes in the period from February to November, however, are not at all regular, and even the monsoon itself is apt to vary from year to year in its onset, its duration, and its intensity." (Raymond Firth 1966: 84, emphasis mine.)

I did not monitor precipitation during my fieldwork, nor was I able to obtain data on the climate prior to my arrival. I do not, therefore, know if agriculturalists' laments over the weather reflect actual conditions or if they are exaggerated one way or the other: According to the Lom the rains failed to arrive when they should in 1982 and the rice crop of -82/-83 was a total disaster. Cultivators reported that from a one-hectare field only some 10-25 kg of padi't were harvested.

What this means is obvious: Not only does the household have little to eat save tubers, there is also no seed-rice for next year's planting and cultivators have to go around borrowing and buying seeds from friends and neighbours who have some to spare. If conditions are normal some 250 kg (ten times the actual amount harvested) may be expected. The most upsetting factor in later years has been the rain. It arrives when it is not supposed to (something which made it impossible for several villagers to burn their swiddens in 1984) and fails to come when it is expected to. The first point to note in Table 6.2 (a and b) is that almost half of the households in the sample grow no rice at all. Further, it is clear that the number of households that did not grow rice was greater in 1983 than in 1984. The reason for both facts most certainly lies in the emergence of the proyék. Many households were busy moving into their new homes — particularly in 1983 — and, importantly, each household which accepted government housing were given 380 kg rice.

  Number of household 1982/83 beras (husked rice)
1983/84 beras (husked rice)
Number of household members Average produce per household member 1982/83 Average produce per household member 1983/84
  1 40 720 4 10 180
  2 - 280 1 - 280
  3 - - 7 - -
  4 - 60 3 - 20
  5 - - 6 - -
  6 - 40 2 - 20
  7 - - 4 - -
  8 50 - 7 7,1 -
  9 - 640 2 - 320
  10 - - 3 - -
  11 50 400 4 12,5 100
  12 - - 5 - -
  13 100 1000 9 11,1 111,1
  14 - - 5 - -
  15 - 50 5 - 10
Sum   240 3190 67 3,6 47,6
Year % of household sample with harvest Average harvest (kg) per household with produce
1982/83 26,7 60
1983/84 53,3 398,75
Table 6.2a, 6.2b Households and rice production

NOTE: Household nos. 4 and 8 (not related through kinship) cooperated in 1982/83. Because household 8 contains small children, household 4 gave its share away.

Households no. 11 and 12 are exceptions in that they have no house in the proyék. No. 11 managed to harvest the greatest amount of rice per household member in 1983, and the household head of no. 12 works full time as a miner. Precisely because many villagers were moving to the proyék there is some reason to believe that the percentage of households cultivating swiddens will grow in the future, although a tendency towards cash cropping may thwart the increase. The other point to note is the extreme difference in swidden output these two years. This is, as I have already mentioned, due to the draught of the 1982 growing-season. Cultivators said that the 1983 growing-season was 'normal'. Thus, the above table is a stark illustration of cultivators' dependency on rain. The Lom are unanimous when assessing the crucial nature of the climate on the output from their swiddens. Everything depends, they say, on the rain.

If the rain is slight during the maturation period one may harvest about 2 sacks of husked rice (beras) per hectare, each sack weighing approximately 80 kg. Under favourable conditions (the right amount of rain at the right time) one may harvest as much as 15 sacks. Average households in the middle of their domestic cycle (husband, wife and 4-6 children) reportedly consume about 80 kg of beras per month, which equals (80 : 30) = 2,67 kg per day, or (80 x 12) = 960 kg per year (roughly equivalent of a harvest of 1920 kg unhusked rice, or padi't). So, if conditions are right one swidden should be more than sufficient for households this size. Some households have two, even up to three swiddens.

In 1983 one cultivator, a married man with wife and 7 children harvested (from an average-sized swidden, 100 x 100 metres (1 ha.) one sack of beras. But since he and his household needs about 2.5 kg beras per day — which equals 11.4 sacks a year (2.5 x 365 : 80) — he has little choice but to sell his labour whenever there is a chance to do so which, he said, there might be two weeks per month, on average. The work consists mostly in lumbering or other similarly physically exhausting labour. His daily wage is Rp 1000 — rarely as much as Rp 1500 — per day, or some Rp 15.000 (generously estimated) per month. The price of (white, husked) rice is Rp 200-300 per kg, depending on quality. Thus, in order to supply his family with the (low quality) rice they need he spends it all on rice (2.5 x 200 x 30) = 15.000.

Number of household Rice (kg) 1982 Rice (kg) 1983 Number of household members 1983 Number of household members 1984 Average produce (kg) per household member 1983 Average produce (kg) per household member 1984
1 40 720 4 4 10 180
2 - 280 - 1 - 280
4 - 60 - 3 - 20
6 - 40 - 2 - 20
8 50 - 7 - 71 -
9 - 640 - 2 - 320
11 50 400 4 4 12,5 100
13 100 1000 9 9 11,1 111,1
15 - 50 - 5 - 10
Sum 240 3190 24 30
Average per household member per household with harvest: 10,2 130,1
Average per household member if equal distribution: 10.0 106,3
Table 6.3 Rice-producing households

Note: Households with no production of rice have been omitted.

Another cultivator (whose household also included wife and seven children) told me that the rice from his two swiddens (total size approximately 2 hectares) regularly suffices only for 3-4 months' consumption for his household. The rest of the year they buy rice at the local shop.

A third cultivator, however, has stored swidden-produced rice sufficient to last him for three years: even if there is a crop failure and a total embargo he will not go hungry. During the 1982 drought he had sown his rice in a moist spot (lumut) so his crop was as bountiful as usual. Other villagers thought him almost prescient for this, and while they did not interpret this as magic it was clear that his aptitude for planting at the right place at the right time was not something which could easily be apprehended by others.

Because Lom cultivators are well aware of the scarcity of plant nutrients in the soil some of them have experimented with chemical fertilisers — predominantly in cash crop gardens but also in their rice fields. Experience has taught them that using fertilisers in a 'young' field is foolish because here weeds (notably alang-alang, Imperata cylindrica)(131) are already more than abundant and are likely to benefit the most from the extra nutrients. In an 'old' field, however (fallow for some 15-20 years), fertiliser may be used with success. (The diameter of the largest trees in such an 'old' belukar is 20 cm. or more.) There will be a certain amount of weeding to be done, but it will not be an excessive job. If one plants rice in a delés (field which has lain fallow for decades) one is all but guaranteed to have a rice field free of weeds.(132) This type of field, however, is likely to contain more nutrients than an average belukar anyway, so the benefit from adding chemical fertilisers is considered negligible.

From this follows one important consequence: the senior cultivators, in addition to having to make do with gradually reduced agricultural output as a result of declining labour input (as I noted above), they are barred from increasing their output by adding chemical fertilisers since this would — in the short fallow-time belukar they have, increase only (or mainly) the growth of weeds. Not only would this be to the further detriment of their crops, it would also add increased weeding to their burden.

I have mentioned the tendency of elderly couples/widow(er)s to find plots for their swiddens that gradually lead to diminishing returns. Finally, of course, they cease growing rice altogether. But over the last few years some younger people, too, have begun looking for easier ways to make a living. One villager, for example (a man in his mid-thirties), discontinued growing rice eight years ago. "Too much work", he commented. He grows cash crops instead and runs one of the shops in Pejam. But he sometimes trades white for red rice; he thinks (like almost everyone else) that the latter is tastier and has an unparalleled aroma (wangi).

I shall return to the topic of the Lom modes of exchange in section four of the present chapter, but only after other productive pursuits have been examined.

2. Hunting

The singularly most important fact about the procurement of faunal protein among the Lom can be put very briefly: The populations of coveted game have gradually been decimated. This is probably a result of a steady per capita rate of resource utilisation by a growing population of both Lom and Chinese. I have no 'hard data' corroborating this somewhat stark introductory statement but the near-futility of hunting trips was observed by me and stated so unanimously and so matter-of-factly by hunters that I see little reason to question its validity. Having said this I should add immediately that hunting is still pursued by a number of men (women never hunt) — but intermittently (notably at times with few other pressing tasks) and with rather dismal results. Hunters typically return with little or no catch. The following is a rather summary treatment of hunting — not because it is unimportant but because to most Lom it is now little more than a pastime.

'Adequate' (i.e. what the hunters themselves consider adequate) amounts of game, then, are no longer obtained using traditional gear, which comprise a variety of traps and snares (cf. Table 6.5) in combination with spears — and dogs. Most hunting is pursued with the aid of dogs, indeed, one term for hunting is berasek (verbal prefix + 'dog') and most game is caught alive in nets, snares or traps (the other term for hunting is belapun; verbal prefix + 'net'). Large game is killed with spears where it has been trapped. The Lom have no recollection of ever having used bows and arrows (although they knew of this weapon when I asked them) and blowguns are unknown to them as weapons (although they have heard of people elsewhere using them). The only projectile weapon the Lom traditionally possess, the slingshot, is never used for 'serious' hunting. Importantly, the Lom hunting grounds in the hill-range between the settlements are also exploited by ethnic Chinese in neighbouring villages, and given the dietary similarities of the Lom and the Chinese — as well as the strictly limited extent of the hunting-grounds — the scarcity of game as reported by villagers is not unexpected. While the use of firearms by private individuals is generally prohibited on Bangka except in a very few cases (and no Lom possesses one), light air rifles (0,4 mm bore) have recently come into fashion. For at least some time to come game is therefore likely to be part of the diet of persevering hunters sufficiently affluent to buy such rifles.

Certain avoidances and taboos regulating hunting and consumption of faunal food can be expected to play some part in its conservation. These cultural constraints appear to have real significance for very few species, however, and it seems unlikely that the present availability of game can be maintained in the future — even if the human population stabilises. At any rate the conservation of tabooed animals has of course little if any direct impact on the Lom in terms of diet or nutrition; the more tabooed an animal is the less it is hunted and vice versa.

The species in Table 6.4 are all considered edible (although some are pesumpah or pantang to many individuals who are barred from hunting them also for commercial purposes), and all may be exchanged for money.

Theoretically, the reticulated python (ular sabek) is also considered a game animal but in practice it is rarely hunted — and even more rarely caught (never during my fieldwork). Villagers fear it (one man related how he had nearly been killed by one) and the disappearance of domesticated piglets is frequently attributed to the python. In the Lom hunting grounds it has been observed to reach a length of nine metres. Many Lom never eat the meat of any snake (not because it is in any way prohibited; they simply say they don't want to eat it: dak dé kepingin) but both meat and skin may be marketed.

SM/I term Latin/ English term Maximum weight in kg/size
pelanduk (kancil)
*manjang (rusa)
babi hutan (b. rimék)
kera biasa (monyet)
*kera buku
*lang keluet
*kelamit kelapa
Tragulus javanicus
Tragulus napu
Muntiacus muntjak
Cervus unicolor
Sus scrofa
Sus barbatus
Manis javanica
Palm civet
An otter (?)
An otter (?)
Cercopithecus cynomulgus
Macaca speciosa
Squirrels (sp.)
? (a rarely occurring animal)
Varanus spp
tortoise (spp.)
sea turtle (spp.)
frog (spp.)
the large fruit bat
a bat
100 — 125
100 — 125
100 — 125
25 (?)
2 — 5
1 m. long

Table 6.4 Mammalian and amphibian game

NOTE: Names of the animals have been given in Indonesian except when it was unknown to my informants or myself. '*' signifies that I never observed this particular species being caught; '?' signifies that I do not have the data in question and '-' in the weight column signifies great inter-species variation.

Further, some seventy named species of birds (more than sixty of them land birds and at least six of them sea birds) are considered edible, though the meat of a few of them are either too tough, too anyér (rancid), or too hamis (stinking?) to be well liked. Most birds are either shot by hunters with air rifles or caught in getah (sticky plant sap not unlike rubber) placed near the birds' feeding places from which the birds cannot get loose when they first have landed there.

There are two animal categories, however, which stand out as food to the Lom: deer and pig. The first because it is much liked and still available in reasonable quantity, and the second because it is preferred over all other meat.

Before World War II the Lom used to go hunting for manjang ('barking deer') in parties of up to 20 men with dogs. The technique used was that of setting up a jaring manjang (a number of bag nets or string snares fastened to a wire suspended between two trees) in the area where the deer or its tracks had been spotted and then drive the game towards the snares. Presently this method is no longer used; there are almost no barking deer left.

But there are still adequate amounts of mousedeer or chevorotains (Tragulus javanicus and T. napu). These are caught in wire-nets (lapun) into which they are driven by the combined noise of barking dogs and a screaming hunter clapping his hands. Hunting for mousedeer is typically a solitary pursuit. The lapun, traditionally made from lianas and bark rope, are presently made from nylon nets held by a steel wire. They are placed between sticks of wood pegged into the ground at the edges of clearings or disused loggers' roads. Setting these stationary trap-frames (or holders) is done in advance in various parts of the hunting grounds as is the felling of young trees which are laid down as fencing immediately to the sides of the lapun in order to encourage the mousedeer to use only those openings in the brush where the nets have been set up. Unless traps are already installed any hunter may use the frames; they are not considered private property.

The lapun are constructed and fastened in such a way that they close when the mousedeer dart into them. It takes less than a minute to set one lapun, so in about 30 minutes one can set some 20-odd nets. The hunter then enters the forest and starts clapping and howling. After some fifteen minutes of this the nets are checked for game. The lapun are usually left for a day or two and — especially if they have been set near one's dwelling or swidden — rechecked a couple of times per day.

There are two kinds of wild pig/boar roaming the Lom hunting grounds. The more common species is the babi hutan/ babi rimék (Sus scrofa), which is taller than the domesticated variety; its belly does not scrape the ground as does the belly of the domestic pig. It is still a rather fleshy animal. The flavour of the meat is more 'gamy' than is that of the domesticated pig, but (to me) it is still recognisably pork. The less common is the kecakal (Sus barbatus, a black, bearded pig), which is much leaner than the babi hutan. Its meat is used almost exclusively in stews (e.g. with ubi kayu). Adult animals of both species are considered potentially dangerous, particularly while they guard newborn piglets. The babi hutan may have up to ten or eleven of them, the kecakal some three or four, and while the former typically gives birth during the rainier season in November/December and keep near their shelters (jeremon) during this period the latter has no recognised breeding season.

Trap English gloss Animal
lapun kawat
perangkep bentas
repas kawat
metal wire trap
cage w/ trap-door and bait
cage w/hole in roof and live bait
steel-wire net
bag net
cage w/two trap-doors in stream
cage which falls down on prey
bamboo trap
cage which falls down on prey
suspended cage trap
bamboo trap
steel wire snare
civet cat, mouse, burung peri
pig, deer, small deer, bird, squirrel
monkey, civet, mentek, keraras
pig, deer, small deer, bird, lesser ungulate game
fresh water tortoise
pig, deer, small deer, mousedeer
pig, deer, small deer, bird, monkey
monkey, pig, deer, squirrel

Table 6.5 Traps and their use

According to hunters pigs manage to evade siding (a snare) even if it has been placed 20 cm underground and it is raining. How they do it is a source of much wonder. They no longer even enter kandang (cage w/trap-door) no matter what kind of bait is put in them. Siding and kandang are both, as can be seen in Table 6.5, traps designed solely for pigs, and were adequate in former times. As one hunter said — impressed and exasperated at the same time, "Manusia pintar, binatang pasti ikut" (humans are clever, animals surely follow). While siding and kandang are set/erected by the hunter who subsequently examines the traps regularly, pigs may also be hunted much in the same fashion as mousedeer by the use of sturdy scaled-up lapun. In the latter case at least two hunters typically decide to join forces (a hunting party of five to seven men is optimal) and the hunt is carried out after nightfall.

In the event that a pig has been caught in a trap of some sort it is killed off with a bayonet (tumbak) or spear (cancong). Traditionally after a successful hunt for a big animal like this a small feast is expected. Friends, neighbours and their families would be present and everybody would eat, drink and smoke together. This practice of sharing now appears to be losing ground. It is not that it is never adhered to, but for obvious reasons its application is better suited to former residence patterns, i.e. before the governmental proyék were built. Living in a hamlet consisting of but a few households sharing even a piglet means a meal for everyone, whereas in a settlement like Air Abik or Pejam — each of which contains some 75 households — even an adult pig is not sufficient. Moreover, as game has become scarcer it has become more coveted and hence the propensity to share has declined. Thus, when one of my neighbours on one occasion came by and said that a mutual friend had caught a babi rimék and four piglets, one of which was in his house at the moment and which I was offered to buy at Rp 500 per kg, my neighbour asked me to tell no-one; if I did there would be banyak kawan (lit. 'many friends'). "Diam-diam" ('quiet'), he said.(133))

Kera (a species of monkey), apart from recently being hunted with air rifles, are traditionally trapped in elaborately constructed kilong (wooden cages about 2 x 2 x 2 m) with a roof with a hole in it. A live young kera (often bought at the Belinyu market at a typical price of Rp 2000) with plenty to eat and the idea is for the live bait to lure kawan (friends) into the cage. Hunters report that formerly this method was certain to trap a large number of individual animals — up to twenty or thirty — but presently the great number of kilong erected by Lom and Chinese alike is envisaged to have effected a radical decline in the catch.

Another elaborately constructed trap is the pejato; a large rivulet contraption designed exclusively for the entrapment of fresh-water turtles (which may grow to the size of some 50 kg) to which the Lom are very partial. The pejato is built with trap doors at either end and large fencing-works leading to the openings; both trapdoors are released when the turtle brushes sensitive triggers inside the cage. Considerable time and skill is required to build and maintain these traps; their position in often waist-deep pools means that the wood rapidly disintegrates and both the turtles for which the traps are erected and other animals may disturb the sensitive arrangements to the effect that the trap-doors do not work as designed.

As noted in the opening paragraph of this section the amount of game currently being caught by the Lom has, as reported by Lom hunters themselves, decreased over the last decades. The fact that the Lom eat pork and other haram (proscribed by Islam) foods and salient as this fact has — in earlier chapters — been demonstrated to be to their identity as non-Muslim Malays, one might infer that the dwindling availability of these foods has a weakening effect on their sense of ethnic separateness. This, however, does not appear to be the case and I see at least three factors which may be involved here.

Firstly, and most speculatively, the decreased number of larger animals does not necessarily mean that the Lom are turning to foods which concord with Islamic dietary ideas. It may just as well impel them to consume smaller animals such as bats, frogs, and turtles in even greater quantity than was formerly the case. While there are no data supporting this speculation there are none refuting it either.

Secondly, rather than consuming game many Lom sell if not all, at least the greater part of it, as the example above (involving the piglet) demonstrates. An important market is of course the large number of ethnic Chinese in Belinyu and near-by villages. While it is impossible to obtain reliable data on game marketed in the reportedly 'better times' of earlier years the Lom have been known to sell a wide variety of forest produce for a long time and it seems reasonable to infer that among these forest products game has been an integral part. Thus, while the Lom have doubtless always consumed part of the haram game they have procured this does not mean that they have consumed all of it — which is to say that in this respect their situation may not actually have changed as much as one might at first have thought.

Finally, many present-day Lom are not only 'swidden agriculturalists supplementing their vegetal produce by fishing and hunting'. They are also — as we saw in the section on cultigens and animals above — producers of meat. The fact that the Lom possibly consume smaller amounts of large game now than they did formerly cannot therefore be taken to mean that they have no access to 'Lom-specific' (or rather 'non-Islamic') food. Many present-day Lom can, if they want to, slaughter a pig for consumption. Most of them, however, do so only very seldom; to them it is simply too extravagant to slaughter a pig. (As far as I know wild pig is not preferred to domesticated; neither in terms of quality nor in 'ritual' terms). This is perhaps why they far rather buy a kg or two of pork on special occasions than kill a whole pig.

3. Fishing

Whereas agricultural activities are carried out by males and females alike, hunting and sea fishing are exclusively male domains. Angling and trapping of fish, crustaceans and turtles in freshwater pools and streams are regularly performed by either sex, but they are carried out relatively infrequently. The dietary significance of these activities may be great — in that the nutrients thus provided would not have been obtained otherwise — but their economic importance is presently dwindling. In what ways circumstances were different in former times must largely remain a matter of conjecture (earlier writers have not much concerned themselves with the specific ecological niches from which the Lom obtained their foods) but it may fairly safely be asserted that freshwater fish formerly constituted a greater part of the Lom diet than is presently the case. A well-balanced meal consists of rice and lauk (which can be almost anything edible except another staple, e.g. cassava); usually some vegetable or fish; if nothing else is available, chillies and salt accompany the rice. While most Lom would prefer meat with rice (although meat, properly speaking, is not categorised as lauk — cf. section four below) the alternative to vegetal matter is, for all practical purposes, fish. Although corroborative evidence as regards past conditions is scant, at least three factors indicate that freshwater fish was consumed in greater quantity prior to, for example, World War Two. Firstly, the Lom are — and to an even greater degree they were — forest-dwelling swidden agriculturalists. Sea fishing is no part of their cultural identity. A (constantly varying) number of Pejam villagers (particularly from the 1950s onwards) are regularly involved in sea fishing in one way or another, as will soon become evident, but they recognise that the Chinese (and even more so the few Butonese from South Sulawesi living near Pesaren) are far more adept at handling boats and the changing conditions at sea than they are themselves. Secondly, in former times the forest-dwelling Lom had little opportunity to exchange their goods and cash for marine fish. With improved infrastructure and means of transportation this has changed — perhaps dramatically. During my stay in the forest settlement Air Abik hardly a day passed without a Chinese peddler/middleman (tauké) stopping in the village to sell fish. (That people found the fish substandard at times — because the tauké frequently made Air Abik one of his last stops — is another matter.) The point here is that whereas marine fish in former times is likely to have been virtually unavailable it is now available almost daily, and that it is valued is suggested by the fact that when Pejam villagers visit forest households they typically bring freshly caught fish as a gift. Thirdly, and arguably most importantly, fish, unlike meat, can be exchanged with dry rice. This point is one of the foci of a detailed discussion below (in sections 4.1. and 4.2. of the present chapter) and can only be dealt with summarily here; the crux of the matter, as the Lom see it, is that rice and fish are kawan ('friends') whereas rice and meat are muso: (enemies). The implications of this categorisation as regards exchange is, as just stated, a separate theme below. What is at issue in the present context is the somewhat puzzling fact that fish is the only faunal food placed in the category of rice 'convertibles'. Had fish been largely unavailable it is unlikely to have been ascribed to the category of kawan since there seems to be little point in making something legitimate 'tender' if it cannot be obtained. Hence — because marine fish was not generally available — I conclude that freshwater fish must have been.

Conjectural considerations now aside, there is no doubt that in Pejam (the strand settlement), marine faunal foods are a continual concern and sought all year round. Women and children comb the wide, sandy beach and exposed coral rocks at low tide for shellfish, crabs and snails; not only for their own consumption but sometimes providing what is considered to be a fair day's wage for a morning's work. (Male) fishing methods include the use of ruse (bubu) and tunnel-net (tekalak), pushnets (sungkur), dragnets (pukat), castnets used solitarily (jala) or with a couple of others (jaring pinggir), standing nets (tebik renam), specific shrimp-nets used from boats (tebik kantong), horizontally hoisted nets (tangkol or waring) from semi-permanent scaffolds called bagan (possibly named pagar in Malaysia), stake-traps (called sirok among the Lom; kelong in Standard Malay/Indonesian), and angling (mancing) by hand-line (benang belok) and rod (baur) and line; angling is done from bagan as well as from dugouts (kolek) and larger boats (prahu) anchored near corals. Save angling and the use of push- and castnets they all require cooperative labour and, relatively speaking, immense capital investment. Leisters, or fishing spears, are still in use; these are usually three-pronged and fastened at the end of long bamboo poles and used from boats where the sea is from one to two and a half metres deep. Fish stupefying agents such as derris root (tuba) are used, but infrequently and with meagre results. One last technique, spearing of fish by homemade harpoons shaped like rifles, is commonly used by young men, though it happens that elder men borrow the gear.

It is thus evident that the Pejam villagers have, to some degree, adapted to their maritime environment. I should stress again that none of them refer to themselves as fishermen. First and last they are — economically and (auto-)conceptually speaking — agriculturalists (orang petani); fishing (especially commercial fishing) is an activity all but extremely few Lom merely attempt: "we can try, can't we?" ("kita pacak coba, kan?")(134)

When the catches, consisting chiefly of fish and squid, have been landed (an hour or two after sunrise) they are immediately sold to a number of (Chinese) middlemen waiting on the beach, buying on behalf of their (Chinese) employers who effectively control the Belinyu fish market. To describe these transactions adequately one would need to have some knowledge of the Hakka Chinese dialect (I don't); as already mentioned a considerable number of Lom know sufficient Hakka to communicate rudimentarily with non-Malay-speaking Chinese. At any rate the catches are soon sold and then brought to the market as quickly as possible by the middlemen on run-down motorcycles; the fish is in huge woven baskets (lam) hanging across and down from the back seat.

At the Belinyu market, officials, working in three shifts, oversee transactions and register the size of catch and prices from 6 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. They have a small booth in one corner of the market.(135) The owner of the fish is the person owning a 'sales-place' that consists, very simply, of a long table. The species most vulnerable to the fluctuations in price resulting from the law of supply and demand sovereign in this market is tuna: Its grey flesh can be used neither for kempelang (a crisp fish-snack for which Bangka is famous) nor for empek-empek (a glutinous warm fish-cake sold by peddlers). In the afternoon, therefore, it is not uncommon to see a 2 kg tuna fish being sold for as little as Rp 100.

There have been Malays who have tried to operate on the fish market, but according to Malays and Chinese alike they 'don't last' (tidak tahan) because the Chinese are 'too compact'. This probably means that the Chinese, collectively, are able to lower their prices until the Malays are squeezed out of the marketplace.

3.1. Organisation of sea fishing

The least consequential of the fishing techniques employed by the Lom is angling in the surf. First, it is a solitary activity and no social bonds result or break from it; second, the gear is cheap; third, both produce and income from it is slight; and fourth, (because of the third) the ecological impact is negligible. Pushnets (sungkur) are employed intermittently by beach-dwellers and the catch used mainly for making the ubiquitous Malay shrimp-paste condiment (belacan or terasi), a small source of income for some. As regards the use of castnets (jala) my impression is that they are more widely used in other parts of the island. Indeed, according to one Lom, to go jala fishing is more a pastime than it is labour.(136) Although Raymond Firth's description of the jala technique vividly captures the sight: "it is flung in a spreading sweep with a beautiful motion to cover a fish or a shoal in shallow water" (1966: 53-54) the Kelantan Malays appear to have more success than do the Lom: "I once counted 505 small fish taken in one cast" (loc. cit.); the Lom catch rarely exceeds a kettleful.

The following section is devoted to an examination of the fishing methods requiring cooperative labour and comparatively massive capital investment. My reasons for doing this are twofold. Firstly, to many beach dwellers fishing is, as already stated, an ongoing concern. While, as I shall try to show, the returns on capital and labour invested in sea fishing are often minimal, sometimes nil, the faint hope of a huge catch — probably an essential aspect of sea fishing in all parts of the world — seems to be sufficient motivation for the Lom to continue trying. Some Lom engaged in sea fishing incur debts to tauké (Chinese middlemen/entrepreneurs) that they can only repay by borrowing more money for running expenses in the hope that the 'huge catch' will eventually be made. Secondly, while agricultural production, as I have demonstrated previously in this chapter, rarely requires cooperation beyond the household level I was also interested to explore how the Lom organised 'group labour'; something they traditionally have little experience in doing.

Cooperative sea fishing operations

Fishing with standing net. A commonly employed fishing technique requiring cooperative labour — but the cooperation of two men only — is the one in which the standing net (tebik renam) is used.(137) This typically consists of 10-15 single nets joined together. Each of these is some thirty fathoms long and seven metres deep and costs (1984) Rp 70.000. It takes about an hour for the two operators to set the tebik renam (its total length is actually more than one kilometre; a Malay fathom equals some 165 cm) and under favourable conditions only a little longer to haul it in although, if the wind is a bit strong, it could take them about three hours. The nets are set from motorised prahu (wooden boats) large enough to hold a catch of at least half a ton. One of the tebik used in 1984 was made up of a total of 22 nets — representing a capital investment of more than Rp one and a half million — and it has happened that a tauké has supplied a tebik made up of 30 individual nets. The tauké also supplies the boat, the outboard engine, and hurricane lamps — this, just like fishing with liftnets from the bagan (fishing scaffolds), is a nocturnal pursuit. The fishermen supply — aside from their labour — engine fuel, paraffin, and their food (rice) and coffee-and-sugar. The fishermen are responsible for the nets they use and if these are damaged will have to repair them or pay someone else to do so.

The amount of petrol used per night depends on a variety of factors like wind and waves, drift, and whether they spot a school of fish they decide to attempt intercepting. It costs, on average, some Rp 4-5000; a sum which is subtracted from the gross earnings each month before the profit is shared according to the "two parts" (bagi dua) principle; i.e. the tauké gets one share, and the two fishermen split the other. As long as the fishermen agree to work, the owner of the boat furnishes them with interest-free loans with which they pay the fuel; these are deducted from the gross earnings before profits are shared. If one month there are no profits to share the debt is deferred to the next month. Conservatively estimated the total fuel costs per work-month (about twenty days) thus averages about Rp 80.000.

The typical catch from tebik renam fishing is Spanish mackerel, kambong (Scomber Kanagurts) and tuna; 400 kg is considered a huge catch (referred to as banjir, or 'flood') — but a night's catch may be as little as 5 kg. A good catch is rarely made by one team/boat only and since most fish — and tuna in particular — is sold for immediate consumption (due chiefly to a lack of storage facilities), a banjir catch means low price; the market, too, is flooded. But angling for torak (squid) and the occasional fish may make up for a small net-catch since the sale of angled catch does not enter the joint account of the fishermen and the tauké.

A problem inherent to this type of fishing — which is usually conducted some six or eight kilometres from the shore — is that wind and waves may combine to make fishing hazardous, or at least highly uncomfortable to 'landlubbers' such as the Lom. Despite the attraction of fishing as potentially extremely rewarding, economically speaking, several men have given it up altogether for this reason. But being indebted, as some of them are, in addition to being committed to a partnership, it is not so simple to just quit. Thus Sulin, during the monsoon late in 1984, was paying another (much younger) man Rp 2000 per night to go fishing in his place; Sulin in effect sublet his opportunity to make money. As a consequence he was almost certain to lose money because as long as he stayed on land he did not have the opportunity to make money on the side (by angling) — that opportunity was now with the other man instead.(138)

Fishing with dragnet. A method involving a far greater number of people than fishing with a standing net is dragnet (pukat) fishing. There seems to be no restriction as to how many people are allowed to join in these early morning trips except that set by the physical limits of the 2-3 ton wooden boats which are employed. A dozen or so men are usually involved. Everyone complains that the catch is diminutive (and diminishing — in relation to yields only a few years ago).(139) There are only two boats in the proyék that can be used for this: One of these (as well as the nets used) belongs to an ethnic Chinese who has lived in Pejam for many years, the other belongs to the village headman. The outboard engine is owned jointly by the headman and the Chinese. The owner of the boat is the one who decides to go out and whoever wants to join him may do so. There are no restrictions except those of sex and age: women are not allowed to participate in sea fishing from boats or semi-permanent scaffolds for nocturnal fishing (see below), and pre-pubescent boys are generally considered too young to be of much help. The composition of the crew varies considerably and, as is the case regarding cooperative agricultural production, recruitment of participants is informally based on friendship, neighbourship, and coincidence — and not on kinship.

This is not to say that kinship plays no role but the way in which it does so is not, as it were, prescribed by rules; the owner of the boat may mention over a glass of arak in the shop one evening that he expects to go out the following morning. Those who have nothing better to do (or have not been totally discouraged by the scant returns from previous fishing efforts) might then talk to a friend, a brother, a nephew, or a neighbour — and two or three men will thus agree to join the owner.

Before dawn the next day, usually between 4 and 5 a.m., but sometimes as early as 3 a.m., a conch is forcefully blown on the beach. The sound is easily heard at the proyék a kilometre or so away and of course across an even longer stretch of beach. By early dawn there will be a small group of men — age-wise ranging from the late teens to the early seventies — huddling in their sarung on the beach in the cool morning. After the owner arrives the fishing gear and outboard motor are carried down from a shed between the palms and if by this time the number of men exceeds the carrying capacity of the boat the late arrivers return home, or else agree to remain on the beach in case there is a catch and their labour will be required for pulling the net ashore. At least half an hour passes from the time the conch is blown until the men enter the boat which gives the men who are not already on the beach a chance to drink a quick cup of coffee — and those who have already arrived a chance to talk and smoke and complain about the cold while a faint light climbs up the black sky from the horizon past Cape Tengkalat.

As the first rays of the sun hit the palmtops the boat is pushed to sea and the outboard engine approached. Frequently the engine fails to fire and the project is off for that day. If all is well, however, the owner, now in the role as foreman (kepala kerja), decides where to go. His authority is absolute in this respect and while crewmembers may suggest directions and specific spots they do not do so until prompted and then usually with abundant 'maybe's'. This is partly due to deference towards the foreman. But a contributing factor is that he, as owner, is the one who puts up the petrol — i.e. if there is no saleable catch he forwards the expenses for petrol the following day — and the crew members are loath to make suggestions which might prove to be not only unprofitable to themselves but outright costly to the owner.(140)

Dragnet fishing is conducted along the eight kilometres long beach and not much farther out than that a man may touch bottom when jumping in — the boat is typically not farther out than 500-700 metres from the shore: the Pejam beach has an extremely long shallow.(141) The boat is manoeuvred to a place thought promising and the engine turned off. The net is kept in the boat until a school of fish is spotted and until this happens talk among the crew is sparse and low-keyed. The men exchange cigarettes and watch the sea intently. If, after a period of fifteen or twenty minutes no prospective catch has been detected, the engine is restarted, the boat moved elsewhere and a new wait ensues. At around 9 or 10 a.m. the owner calls it a day and the men — by this time fairly downcast — return to the shore and appointments are made for the following morning.

When, rarely, a school of fish is sighted the net is dropped on the seaward side of it and the several hundred metres long ropes at either end are brought towards the shore and hauling begins. The owner places the boat so that he can shout directions to the men pulling. The ropes may not be long enough for the men to get a good footing, hence the net may close slowly and the fish disappear. In any event hauling is a protracted and exhausting task; it may take an hour before the fish are landed. More often than not — to the despair of owner and crew alike — no catch is made, or, if one is made, it is barely sufficient for a meal for the crewmembers and their dependents.(142)

A total of 18 men will typically be involved and thus, after the cost of petrol has been covered and a successful sale has been made, the profit will be divided into 20 parts: each member of the crew and the hauling group is entitled to one share; the owner of the boat receives two shares (one for his ownership of the boat, the other for his share in the outboard engine); and the co-owner of the engine is entitled to his share.

Over a random period of nineteen consecutive days crewmembers of one particular boat made only Rp 700 each and the owner decided to halt operations for a while. When he resumed operations crew members made Rp 7000 each in two days, but the good fortune did not last: after four and a half months of intermittent fishing the cash obtained by each crew member amounted to just under Rp 10.000. At any rate, in order to be entitled to a share a participant must have been aboard when the catch was made; to have been a steady crew member for weeks of no catch is of no consequence.

One may indeed ask why people engage in dragnet fishing at all when the returns are so modest. I think the answer is fourfold. Firstly, as noted under the heading 'Yearly productive cycle', there are a number of periods throughout the year — some rather protracted — when the need for labour input in agriculture is not very great. These are times when the Lom are occupied with a diversity of pursuits of which only one is fishing. The extremely loosely organised recruitment of dragnet crews facilitates a great fluidity in their composition and ties well in with the multitude of other chores. Someone joining today is not obliged to join tomorrow.

Secondly, by joining a dragnet crew one does not run any risk as when one establishes a partnership with a fellow villager in order to engage in standing net fishing. In the latter strong obligations towards both co-worker and tauké are created; perhaps chiefly moral ones towards one's partner and decidedly economic ones (i.e. debt) towards the tauké.

Thirdly, dragnet fishing is a daytime activity but it is not a full-time one. By 10 or 11 a.m. the boat has been hauled ashore and people are free to do other things or relax, as the case may be. It is perhaps pertinent here to attract renewed attention to the fact that dragnet fishing — as long as the nets are not used — requires extremely little energy expenditure: people are not exhausted after three or five hours of sitting in the boat.

Fourthly, as noted at the outset of this section, fishing is always potentially extremely rewarding. With luck, one may earn great sums in a very short time.

Fishing from scaffolds (bagan). A more secure fishing method is represented by the use of elaborately constructed semi-permanent wooden structures, bagan — resting on the seabed five or more kilometres from the shore — from which a horizontal net is sunk to the bottom. The net (tangkol, waring) measures some eight by two metres. Maximum catch per hoisting is usually three or four kg. This is a nocturnal technique; Petromax lamps are suspended immediately above the surface attracting fish and squid and the net is hoisted hourly (or whenever a shoal of fish is attracted by the light) from sunset till dawn. This technique is very capital intensive: the cost of building one such scaffold exceeded (in 1984) one million Rp and it has to be rebuilt each year when the easterly monsoon is over. The capital requirement may, however, be circumvented by a substantial investment of one's own labour. In fact, as much as 90% of the required capital may be dispensed with this way. There are in reality no other options for Lom aspiring to be bagan owners since none of them have access to such wealth.

When it comes to erecting the structure at sea, however, there is no way around hiring labour. To build the bagan takes a team of at least five men some five or six days of rather heavy labour. A specialist with reputable experience is called for (unless the bagan owner(s) themselves are sufficiently skilled); thus the risk of time-loss (and thereby increased expenses) due to faulty planning and miscalculations while building is minimised.

However much the capital investment might be reduced through the exploitation of one's own labour and thus differ from one bagan to the next, their operational expenses are the same. In addition to the wages to the workers (at least four persons) performing the various tasks these include petrol, paraffin, sugar and coffee — not to mention the rent for the prahu and outboard engine if these have not been purchased. Operating the bagan comes to Rp 5000-6000 nightly. Thus one month of work (i.e. 20 consecutive nights; during the 10 days around the full moon the lamps are too weak to attract the fish) costs the bagan owner(s) at least Rp 100.000. These running expenses are to be paid for through the sale of produce. During the first month of activity in 1984 (April 20. — May 10.) the gross return from the sale of fish and squid caught from one of these bagan was less than half of this and the owners were visibly and understandably nervous.

Now, only two bagan is owned exclusively by Pejam villagers, the other three in the immediate vicinity are owned and operated by Chinese from neighbouring villages.(143) Therefore, the importance (in the sense of economic input/output) of the bagan to the Lom directly is not great. But the effect of these five bagan operated nightly nine months a year is perceived by those fishing closer to the shore. Indeed, even the bagan operators themselves complain that not only the size of the catch but also the size of the individual fish has decreased over the last ten years or so. Their response to this is to use finer and finer nets; today they can better be described as large pieces of cloth which let only the most minute organisms through: The mesh width of present bagan nets is typically two or three millimetres. What the fishermen are unable to sell they eat themselves and the remainder, chiefly a kind of sardines, becomes chicken fodder.

A salient difference between bagan operation and all other types of fishing is that the bagan operators are wage labourers (i.e. those who are not themselves owners are) and this presents problems to employers and employees alike: both have little experience in their respective roles. The owners of the only locally owned bagan which remained in operation throughout the 1984 fishing season had, for quite some time, problems finding employees who stayed on the job for more than a few weeks and work leaders who did not intimidate the workers into resigning. Thus, after only two months' operation two foremen had been dismissed for the reason that they both "overdid things" and bossed the work-hands around too much. The third, on the other hand, proved to be calm and clever at delegating tasks to the others; everyone knew what to do. An example may illustrate the nature of conflicts that may arise. One of the owners once gave orders to pull home at 6 a.m. but the foreman had waited until 8 and almost found himself in a fight with the son of the other owner. The foreman's motive was that since the catch had been diminutive it might be profitable to lower the net a few more times. However, chances of a catch grow slimmer as the daylight sets in and, more importantly, to wait for so long jeopardises the possibility of selling the fish because the middlemen might have bought what they need and departed for Belinyu.(144)

Comparing now the three chief methods of cooperative fishing (from the point of view of the villager with no capital) this can fruitfully be done with respect to two aspects: (1) economic and (2) social.

(1) To the Lom with no capital the potentially most lucrative method, but also the most risky and exhausting, is standing net fishing. The fishermen incur debts almost as a matter of course. Dragnet fishing, on the other hand, involves no risk at all but in the event of a catch the profits are shared between a great number of people after expenses have been covered. Working on the bagan involves no risk either; here one is guaranteed to be paid an agreed-upon wage at agreed-upon intervals. If at the end of the season the venture turns out to have been profitable this profit is appropriated by the owners/ investors/employers only; the workers have no stake in them. A consideration of some importance (but difficult to assess) is that during standing net and bagan operations one may engage in angling. While it happens that nothing at all is caught this is an extremely rare occurrence and thus whoever is involved here almost always has fish at least for household consumption. But angling from the boat used for dragnet fishing is precluded because it may scare the fish.

(2) The social bonds involved in these fishing methods are of a rather varied nature. The tight partnership and 'joint venture' nature characteristics of standing net fishing create a bond of mutual solidarity, or, if that is too strongly put one may at least say that the partners have a strong sense of commitment to one another (partly, perhaps, a result of sharing hazardous conditions) and feel a responsibility (ultimately an economic one) towards sustaining operations. Joining a bagan team is also in a sense to commit oneself, but the nature of the commitment here is far less morally imbued and, as we have seen, not only the team members, but also the foremen, are regularly replaced. In principle there is little difference between joining a bagan team and signing up for wage labour in a mine or a sawmill. Showing up at the beach for dragnet fishing is again different. Neither moral obligation nor contract are integral elements of the relationships and no social ties other than those already existing between the crew (of friendship or kinship) are likely to be created.

In sum, the least committing and least profitable method of cooperative fishing (i.e. from the point of view of the fishermen) is the one involving the largest number of people: dragnet fishing. Significantly, this is also the method allowing the participants the greatest amount of flexibility with respect to other tasks.

Having devoted over fifty pages to the production side of Lom economy we may provisionally conclude that while swidden agriculture has severe limits as the steady basis for the continued existence of the Lom, the negligible capital requirement still makes it the first choice of most producers. To the population at Pejam it is coconut cultivation that is first choice. Fishing and hunting are not likely to play a great part in the immediate future. The chief parameter of both pursuits, the resource base, is dwindling; hence fishing becomes increasingly capital intensive, and hunting decreasingly rewarding.

I end here my exposition of Lom production. The next section is devoted chiefly to a discussion of exchange.

4. Exchange

Sahlins' well-known distinction between three types of reciprocity, viz. generalised ("putatively altruistic"), balanced ("direct exchange"), and negative ("the attempt to get something for nothing with impunity") (1974: 193 ff.), may serve as a point of departure for a brief analysis of the modes of exchange among the Lom. In the course of this section I shall also return to the economic and ethnic significance of dreams.

4.1. Dry rice and money

Sahlins observes that kinship distance is "especially relevant to the form of reciprocity" and that close kinship inclines reciprocity "toward the generalized pole" (1974: 196) — prototyped by the suckling child. This is certainly true among the Lom,(145) although, as I have attempted to make clear, generalised reciprocity does not include labour. Food, especially, is the one item that is always offered a visitor — although in some contexts the perfunctory nature of the offer is extremely obvious — regardless of kinship ties and however remote the visitor's connection to the household may be.(146) A casual stroll from house to house around sunset effects as many supper invitations as there are houses and the only polite way to say "thanks, but no thanks" is by telling the beckoning household members that one has in fact just finished eating. Similarly, on one's way to the fields and groves in the morning or afternoon invitations to stop by and have a drink of tea or coffee abound and, significantly, a specific term (kepon) designates the kind of supernatural danger (not a very serious one) run by declining the offer.

The economy of the Lom is presently almost completely monetised although it may broadly be categorised as a 'subsistence economy'.(147) There is one product, however, which so far has withstood monetisation and thus in this respect, too, stands in sharp contrast to all others: dry rice, their paramount crop and staple food. As Sahlins remarks:

"Staple foodstuffs cannot always be handled just like anything else. Socially they are not like anything else." (1974: 215).

The Lom economy, then, is in some sense bifurcated: On the one side are rice and its 'congenial' exchange items (which I am shortly about to discuss); on the other is everything else. No Lom 'knew' why this is so. All other crops, all forest-products, and all fish and game may, in principle, be sold — via middlemen to the urban market as well as to fellow villagers but it is, they say, pesumpah (prohibited) to sell dry rice for money. As noted in chapter four, selling rice is likened to selling children. In order to secure it, however, one need not grow it oneself: It may be obtained both by borrowing and bartering. The former — which is not uncommon as regards seed-rice, especially after a bad harvest — implies a (delayed) balanced reciprocity until one's own harvest is over, when twice the amount is returned. If one borrows for the purposes of cooking and immediate consumption, something that is also 'allowed', the equal amount is returned — although in this case, too, both parties expect a delayed return. One may also barter (toker-menoker) hill rice for white rice at the ratio 1:2. Hence barter, in that the exchange value is set, is distinguished from pure haggling.

Dry rice may further be exchanged (again the term is toker-menoker) for salt, fish, plates, eating-bowls, cutlasses, and axes. The Lom did not cite the value equivalents per unit of rice of these foodstuffs and utensils and I suspect that — with the probable exception of the fish/rice transaction — these conversions are rare. But, as I have said, dry rice may neither be sold for money, nor exchanged for anything else, particularly meat. The latter is excluded because meat and rice are muso: (adversaries): live meat (i.e. flesh, i.e. animals) may in principle consume rice. Therefore, surprising to me at first, the Lom do not refer to meat as lauk (side-dish) as do other Malays.(148)

It is interesting to note what Sahlins writes, while discussing various kinds of balanced exchange with general reference to marital alliance and particular reference to "Southeast Asian hinterland communities":

"They are hinterlands engaged by petty market trade ... to more sophisticated cultural centers. From the perspective of the advanced centers, they are the backwaters serving as secondary sources of rice and other goods.... From the hinterlands view, the critical aspect of the intercultural relation is that the subsistence staple, rice, is exported for cash, iron tools, and prestige goods, many of the last quite expensive. It is suggested — with all the deference that must be supplied by one who has no research experience in the area — that the peculiar social-economic character of Southeast Asian hinterland tribes is congruent with this unusual deployment of household subsistence surpluses. The implication of an external trade in rice is not merely an internal ban on sharing it, or a corresponding requirement of quid-pro-quo in intracommunity dealings, but departure from ordinary characteristics of primitive distribution in virtually all respects. (1974: 224, emphasis mine.)

Aside from the obvious fact that the Lom represent a 'hinterland' almost opposite to those Sahlins envisages — partly accounted for by the fact that in the latter wet rice is produced(149) — it seems that his argument holds, also conversely: Implied by the absence of external trade in rice is an approval on sharing it. In the words of one cultivator: "If you want to buy hill rice for money people will not give it to you. They would rather give it to you for nothing than to sell it."

A puzzling fact is that the Lom permit household accumulation of rice — just like the rice exporting communities Sahlins refers to and which he suggests is a "key minimal demand" imposed by the engagement with the market:

"This stipulation must prevail in the face of limited and uncertain modes of rice production. The fortunate households cannot be responsible for the unfortunate; if internal levelling is encouraged then the external trade relations are simply not sustained." (Loc. cit.)

Here the converse argument — that an absence of trade relations will encourage internal levelling — does not hold, at least not among the Lom: They permit hoarding even though there is no external market to cater for, and an internal one only in the weakest possible sense: the borrowing and bartering I have just described and which I would have misgivings about calling a trade. From one's own surplus one may store any amount of rice for the future consumption by one's own household.(150)

4.2. The non-monetised sphere

A question to be examined now is to which degree there exists a distinguishable relationship, symbolic or otherwise, between the items which may at all be converted within the non-monetised sphere. My conclusion on this point, which is that the items constitute a separate category in that they are all significantly 'related to' rice, raises another question, viz. whether the Lom can be said to have a 'dual' or 'multicentric' economy. But since discussions of such questions seem to have staled along with the termination of the debate between the formalists and the substantivists I shall be rather brief (my answer is that the Lom have a 'bi-centric' economy).

I have noted how dry rice may be exchanged for rice, salt, fish, plates, eating-bowls, cutlasses, and axes.(151) These are all, in the Lom parlance, kawan: (friends): Salt is sprinkled over cooked rice; rice is served on plates and in bowls (as is fish); cutlasses and axes are the tools with which the swiddens  —  where rice is grown — are prepared; and fish and rice are both directly sustained by water (and regularly consumed at the same time). Of crucial importance here is that rice and fish are actually conceived of as siblings (dué beradik): neither rice nor fish can live without water. Also, as it was pointed out to me: salt + water (i.e. seawater) sustains marine fish. Thus, rice may be exchanged for items that are directly linked to it in an almost cognate fashion in that they are associated with its production and consumption. If the possible pecuniary aspects are bracketed for a moment it appears, therefore, that what the Lom attempt to achieve is a transaction which is not 'like-for-like' but 'related-for-related'. In other words, that the culturally established qualitative relationship is a prerequisite for the transaction and constitutes the frame, so to speak, within which any quantification must be situated. The category of 'convertibles' is demarcated therefore, I suggest, not by virtue of each item sharing a characteristic. Nor is it in the strict sense a 'family resemblances' category as Wittgenstein conceives of it (Wittgenstein 1978: §67); if it were so then some of the members (of the category/family) would have some features in common (though not all) much like games which share certain similarities but not the same ones. The six 'convertibles' have only one 'thing' in common and that is their relationship to rice, the referential item. This is, of course, very nearly a tautological proposition, but the Lom term, kawan (friends), in fact presages this conclusion. A group of friends is not distinguished by traits setting them off from other groups of friends and neither is there some underlying structure in each element (friend) which can illuminate our understanding of how these people came to be just this group of friends and not another.

Now, what seems not to be realised (or, if it is realised, its implications are not) by the Lom is this: All the items employed in conversions may in fact be purchased, only to be exchanged for rice (theoretically) an instant later. Thus, what appears to be a closed 'sphere of exchange' where only dry rice and its kawan(152) circulate may potentially be punctured, as it were, so as to open up for the possibility of incorporating it within (or subsuming it under) the monetised sphere. Whether a Lom dry rice producer would react against someone exploiting this possibility (e.g. by stockpiling salt or plates and trading these off for dry rice on a grand scale) I do not know, but my guess is that he would. Firstly, because the quantities of dry rice harvested by a household only rarely suffices for a year's consumption and secondly, because the use value of a sack of rice is, to a population regularly experiencing food shortage, infinitely higher than is a sack of salt or a tall stack of plates.

The second question is directly linked to this. When Herskovits (1948) used the term 'dual economy' (by other authors such as Bascom (1948) and Bohannan (1955) extended to 'multicentric economy') it was to refer to a cleavage within a traditional economy between the 'prestige economy' and the 'subsistence economy' where goods in one category cannot be exchanged for those in another.

"The question which has to be raised is a simple one. What is the significance of this distinction for economic analysis, as opposed to any descriptive value it might have? Moreover, does emphasis on the 'separateness' of the various 'centers' possibly hide some fundamental unity in the system being considered?" (LeClair and Schneider 1968: 463)

LeClair and Schneider answer the first part of their question by referring to their definition of 'economy' as 'the allocation of scarce resources among alternative ends', and by asserting that according to this definition the various 'centres' do not constitute autonomous 'economies' since Bohannan, in his account of the Tiv, makes it clear that goods do in fact move across the boundaries of the 'centres', in spite of "ideological resistance in the case of the individual who is 'trading down'" (loc. cit.).

What the Lom are concerned with, however, is not whether or not it is honourable to trade something exalted for something base, or vice versa. The Lom have no prestige economy. I propose that their underlying concern is to insulate staple food from becoming a part of the 'hard core' outside monetised market while simultaneously allowing for a conversion to something — in order that households hard pressed for dry rice be able to obtain it at all. But by limiting the possible conversions of dry rice to items which are (a) perishable (fish), (b) all but useless in great quantity (salt, plates, bowls),(153) or (c) absolutely vital to agricultural production (cutlasses, axes), the conversions logically cannot take off in an unintended direction. To deal extensively with dry rice would be tantamount to suicide to both parties of the transaction; to the producer in the cases of (a), (b), and (c) because he has no use for all these goods in place of food, and ultimately to the consumer in the case of (c) — who obviously cannot even attempt to grow his own rice by clearing the forest with his bare hands.

Thus it seems clear that the 'centres' are in fact sufficiently separated from one another to be called 'separate economies': success within one sphere is no ticket of entry (except in the very limited sense I hope to have demonstrated) to the other.

The general significance of this, for economic analysis (to answer the first question posed by LeClair and Schneider), lies in the extremely simple fact that unless it is taken into account when plans for change (i.e. economic development) are drawn up, these are almost certainly bound to misfire. It may be pertinent to quote the Lom's response to my query if a dry rice production/export facility (pabrik padi't, lit. 'rice factory') would be likely to succeed. It would not stand a chance, they said; no producer would sell his produce.

LeClair and Schneider answer the second part of their question (if (substantivist) emphasis on the 'separateness' of the various 'centres' hides some fundamental unity in the system) by adopting an almost Marx-inspired perspective:

"Since there is one resource which is necessarily common to all 'ends' in a given society (labor, or human effort, or man hours) it is impossible for two or more completely autonomous 'economies' to exist in a single society, in the strict sense. (1968: 464)

Here LeClair and Schneider argue that on purely logical grounds a multicentric economy cannot exist. My response to their statement is, "yes, of course it is impossible". But to my knowledge no anthropologist has insisted that the 'economies' are to be interpreted or defined as autonomous in the sense that in one of them labour, or man-hours, is a resource and in another it is not. That would be tantamount to arguing that in one economy there is activity and in another not and it is hard to imagine a more futile intellectual exercise. If the argument against the idea of a 'multicentric economy' boils down to the theory that human activity in one sphere precludes any such activity in another, then the other sphere not only cannot be a separate economic sphere — it also cannot be part of the greater Economy — indeed, it cannot reasonably be said to 'be' anything at all. But surely the point is not whether or not people do something in the various 'centres'. It is obvious to me, at least, that an observation that they do something (anything, really) is a prerequisite for trying to say something about what they do — what their activities encompass and lead to — in the first place. Rather the point is that we need to examine the ways in which what they do here is or is not relevant to what they do there. If our investigations demonstrate that economic success (or culturally acknowledged 'success') in one 'center' entails prosperity (or 'prosperity') in another then the economy is neither 'dual' nor 'multicentric' whereas if it does not we may conclude that the 'centres' are securely and sufficiently insulated from one another and the term 'multicentric economy' obtains. The Lom economy is 'bicentric' because no matter how many tons of rice a cultivator may harvest he cannot convert its value to 'riches'.

Before turning to my next topic — the significance of dreams — I wish to conclude this section by introducing what may seem a slightly confusing piece of empirical information.

The fact is — contrary to what I have stated — that the Lom permit the exchange of dry rice for money. It is only an apparent contradiction, however, in that when allowing for the introduction of dry rice into the monetised sphere they do so by categorically (i.e. linguistically) separating two modes of exchange; viz. sale (jual) and barter (toker), of which the differentiating characteristic is not whether or not money is part of the transaction but of how the actors approach one another, i.e. how money is contextualised. The difference between the two modes of money employment lies in the presence or absence of a standard; i.e. a set price for a set weight. Thus, in the exchange (toker) mode I approach, money in hand, someone with a stock of rice. I show him my money, he presents some rice, and we may or may not agree to exchange. This is not selling. Selling, as the Lom conceptualise it, implies that the offer is constant, as it were; that buyers with the requisite amount of cash will be able to buy — whoever they are and whatever is the nature and content of their relationship. Toker, on the other hand, implies that the parties in the transaction are free to define the trading situation as they wish; if I don't like you I am not obliged to toker with you. Toker, therefore, depends on "the meeting of two wishes" (kepingin sama kepingin). It is tempting to compare this to the difference between on the one hand sex between two people desiring each other and on the other sex as a commercialised service. In the latter case the vendor (the prostitute) cannot reasonably refuse his or her client (all the latter is expected to do is to fulfil his/her part of the contract: to pay); in the former the mutual attraction obviates or negates the category of a client.

Nevertheless, to trade — in any mode — rice for anything else with partners from elsewhere (i.e. outside Bangka) is pesumpah (strongly prohibited) — and according to the Lom this has been so since Gajah Mada furnished the world with adat.

4.3. Animals, dreams and ethnicity

In chapter four I discussed dreaming among the Lom and postponed a discussion of how it may have a bearing on the important question why the Lom, as a group, have remained uncommitted to Islam when all other local pockets of Malay swidden agriculturalists have become Muslim. What we saw earlier was that dreams relate to agriculture. They do not relate to fishing and not to hunting. This puzzled me: Can the Lom, omnivorous 'pagans' to the Muslims, be less unconsciously concerned with hunting and fishing than with the cultivation of rice? This is the issue to which I now turn.

I have already shown that the only food-producing sphere dreams relate to is agriculture and that, by people's own account, hunting and fishing (either in fresh water or at sea) remain unaffected by dreaming. This rather unobtrusive information, I shall argue, is extremely telling: it signifies that hunting and fishing are both peripheral activities; the Lom are in fact less concerned about them unconsciously, and thus never have dreams pertaining to them. This, I must admit, is a speculative interpretation (but perhaps admissible; dreams are not, after all, a conscious activity). And an interpretation in this direction has direct implications regarding the question at hand.

It seems that if my contention is corroborated to some degree by the fact that the Lom — as forest-dwellers — have only lately been involved with the pursuit of marine protein it is abrogated by the fact that the Lom have 'always' hunted and engaged in fresh-water fishing. (While the importance of hunting has declined over the last decades many Lom still hunt regularly.) But whereas the Lom are 'different' from their Muslim neighbours in that they hunt and consume meat that is haram to the Muslims, fishing connotes nothing in terms of ethnicity. In order to examine my contention, therefore, I shall concentrate on the possibly ethnic aspects of hunting.

It may seem tempting to relate the cultural separateness of the Lom precisely to the fact that they — as 'pagans' — may eat things their Muslim neighbours may not: That it has, in a word, been opportune. To those thus tempted any attempt at answering the question by reference to Lom 'ideas', i.e. Adat Mapur (which in effect would be to base the answer on Lom 'auto-accounts'; cf. chapter three) would be unsatisfactory. To those anthropologists — who, while paying lip service to the idea that we must take culture seriously, nevertheless are not content until every answer to every question 'makes sense' on the tangible level of calories and proteins — such answers are insufficient. An explanation seeking to link their self-ascribed uniqueness to their ecological praxis would have far more appeal. I refer now to what I have already discussed: by remaining outside the religion which almost all other Malay groups have adopted (Islam) they remain free to pursue a way of life unfettered by the sort of alimentary limitations which — to swidden agriculturalists supplementing vegetal produce with hunting — would appear at least constraining and possibly detrimental. Thus the Lom, if this thought is followed through, are what they are because it gives them a wider scope for the appropriation of faunal protein. They simply have a larger inventory of possible foods than do the Muslims.

But if we accept this explanation we have merely shifted the burden of the argument from the Lom to every other local group (suku) of Malay swidden agriculturalists on Bangka (and possibly elsewhere). Now we must explain how they could have adopted Islam, economically counter-productive as the explanation founded on ecological adaptation suggested it to be.

There may be more merit in arguing (e.g. with ethnographical reference to Africa) that as hunting is progressively marginalised and its returns hence diminish, its relative importance increases inversely. African hunters/gatherers often attach far more prestige to certain types of faunal protein than to vegetal — even if, or even because, hunting output is minimal.(154) This argument might have been applied to the case at hand but it would presuppose a demonstration that the personal/cultural identity of the Lom is fused to hunting not merely as a pivotal economic pursuit but also as a culturally salient one — a demonstration I should not recommend be attempted. All observational evidence supports the opposite proposal, i.e. that the Lom are first and foremost tillers of the soil. My point is not that hunting is unimportant to the Lom but that its importance must be seen as adjunctive to their primary pursuit: swidden agriculture.

The contention that the Lom have remained Lom for what are basically economical/ecological reasons is still not totally refuted. Conceivably hunting or, more precisely, its product, occupies a unique place in Lom economy. One may speculate that game constitutes an 'economic sphere' of its own and that particular or unique rules apply as to how game is to be distributed or exchanged. But on this score, too, evidence points in another direction. I have just attempted to show that the Lom do in fact have a bicentric economy. The two centres, however, do not pertain to hunting vs. everything else. Instead, in keeping with what I have already indicated is the central concern of the Lom (swidden agriculture) they refer to dry rice vs. everything else. It is dry rice that is singled out as the one product to which particular rules of exchange are ascribed. Game (and domesticated faunal protein), on the other and, are relegated to the category of 'everything else'.

My own answer to the question is perhaps no answer at all, but one thing I wish to argue: The Lom are not non-Muslim because they may eat food prohibited to the Muslims. I suggest that dreams are circumstantial evidence corroborating my contention, substantiated in the above, that the Lom  —  certain explicit statements notwithstanding — are not non-Muslim because they profit from it in terms of faunal protein.(155) Food haram to Muslims are simply not crucial enough to the Lom to warrant such a conclusion. Finally, what must be kept in mind, too, is that several animal species are temporally prohibited and/or avoided (and some permanently) by many Lom. If animal protein intake on the whole were as crucial to Lom well-being as proponents of adaptive explanations might argue, then it is puzzling indeed that these animals are non-foods.

In what ways the Lom deal with land, arguably the single most crucial resource to agriculturalists, as an exchange item, is the topic of the next section.

4.4. Land as property

The question of private ownership of land has not traditionally been much of an issue among in the Lom settlements — for the very simple reason that, for all practical purposes, there has been no such thing as privately owned land. Over the last few years, this has gradually changed. The reason for this is partly to be found in the increasing dependence on certain cash crops in general (pineapple, pepper, rubber) but primarily it is an outcome of the emergence of coconut production and linked to the soil requirements of land suitable for coconut groves that in practice limit their establishment to the sandy beaches.(156) These two factors combined have generated an important sequence: from the experience, and hence the categorisation, of suitable land (i.e. for swiddens) as ever-present and abundant; via the realisation that differential productivity is a corollary of differential soil quality; to the conclusion that because the optimal soil is of finite extension it cannot be treated with the same nonchalance as a former swidden.

But while the economic rationality, as such, of the Lom as regards exchanging produce for money is far from inadequate in relation to the market in which they are actors, it seems that the recent reality (and conceptualisation) of land as a commodity — presumably because of its very novelty — has yet to engender correspondingly rational actors. I offer two cases to illustrate this statement and briefly discuss them together.

The first came to light during a discussion over the prospect that a pensioned (male) nurse was planning to settle in Pejam. Apparently he asked the mining company (UPTB), where he was employed, for his pension as a lump sum (of Rp 9 mill.). The nurse told villagers that he was going to move to Pejam early 1986.(157) He had arranged to purchase a comparatively large coconut grove (500 palms) from Bing Kam, an old Lom who lived elsewhere. The agreed price was Rp 1.3 mill. This must be considered an extremely good deal, from the buyer's point of view, when the returns from the grove are calculated: One nut sells for Rp 100 and each tree produces a rough average of 10 nuts per month. Thus the gross yearly income from this grove would be

10 x 100 x 500 x 12 = Rp 6 mill.

or more than four and a half times the takeover price. My sources said that anyone who had the money and didn't buy at this price would be a fool — and that Bing Kam must be "a little soft in the head" (otaknya kurang penuh) to sell at such a low price.

As it turned out Bing Kam's sale fell through — reportedly because of protests from his children who must have been alarmed at the prospect of a severely reduced inheritance. But the fact that the this particular transaction did not materialise is not the point — the point is that Bing Kam was willing to sell a guaranteed yearly income of Rp 6 mill. for a lump sum representing marginally more than 20 % of that amount.

The other case involved Sedit, an elderly Lom, and Alim, his son-in-law. In 1983 Sedit sold his pepper-orchard in Benak (planted only a few years previously) for Rp 165.000, abandoned his dwelling and set up a new house on the beach among the palms of his small coconut grove not far from the proyék. He had planted the pepper a year or so earlier in spite, or unaware, of the fact that his wife, as I was told, did not want to work anymore. Sedit, getting on, had decided to hand it over to his son-in-law who declined. Finally he had sold it to someone else.

None of my informants knew the exact number of pepper plants involved in the transaction, but their estimates ranged between 500 and 700.(158) We worked at the figures involved. A fair harvest of one kg per plant totals half a ton (we based our calculation on 500 plants), which, at the current price of Rp 2000, brings the owner a gross income of Rp 1 million per year for at least three or four years, possibly more. Undoubtedly, the buyer's profit the first year is somewhere in the vicinity of Rp 800.000. I asked how someone could sell an orchard of that size, age and fertility at such a price. They said they had no idea but maybe he was confused or just stupid. But when I asked them why he would not rather try to sell it for, say, half a million instead, they answered that nobody had that amount of cash. I suggested to them the possibility of term payment, e.g. the sum actually paid (Rp 165.000) paid after harvest for three years, this would amount to Rp 495.000. At first it was as if they did not understand me at all and when they did they said gravely that nobody had ever done it that way. I asked why, their answer was that the seller always insisted on getting immediate remuneration. But my point was that the seller would get just that (namely the Rp 165.000 he asked) and in addition a similar sum for two consecutive years. This puzzled them a bit, but after a little while they decided that the buyer was unlikely to accept such a deal.

Some days later I had the opportunity to ask Alim (the son-in-law who, according to the men I had talked to earlier, had declined to buy the orchard) about the transaction. He was adamant that he had never been offered to buy and that the sale had taken place without his knowledge. In fact he had been logging elsewhere on Bangka at the time and had not been told of the transaction until returning home. He appeared more than a little exasperated and disappointed over the fact that his father-in-law had passed him over.

4.5. Middlemen

One of the more obvious differences between the economy of Air Abik and Pejam respectively is that in the latter the villagers depend more on exchanging their produce for money. Thus a salient economic aspect is the relationship between producers and middlemen. These middlemen are invariably of Chinese origin. Quite a few villagers — including some of the women — have a working knowledge of the Hakka dialect used by some 90 % of the Chinese on Bangka. I have indicated above that a good part of the distribution of marketable products is in the hands of Chinese middle- and salesmen.(159) This is decidedly so as regards marine produce and is explained by the fishermen as a necessity simply because they themselves would be too tired to go by motorcycle to the nearest fish-market (in Belinyu, 30 kilometres away).(160) The fact that fish, by its very nature, needs to be transported quickly before it spoils, is a contributing factor here — the nearest producer of the ice which is employed to protect it from spoiling in the tropical heat(161) is in Belinyu where the fish is marketed and whence the middlemen arrive. For all practical purposes it is, presently, at least, not feasible to drive to Belinyu, fetch the ice, return to the beach in time for the sorting of the catch, return once again to Belinyu with loaded baskets and return, yet again, home to Pejam.

But as regards garden produce there are exceptions to the near-monopoly of the Chinese: Some of the horticulturalists — albeit so far only a few — use their own (or a relative's) motorcycle to take fruits and vegetables to Belinyu. Some, still, use their bicycle. In Pejam only three producers and in Air Abik only two take their produce to Belinyu themselves. Everyone else sells to Chinese middlemen. Whoever else has motorcycles uses them to go to work (in the mines) and their grown-up children "are too lazy" (in the words of villagers) to bother to go to Belinyu with produce. People in Benak, however, take produce to Belinyu whether they have a motorcycle or not. They return with rice and other essentials which means that they a) get a better price for their produce since no middleman makes a cut and b) pay less for what they buy — prices in Pejam are at least 10% higher than in Belinyu.

With the growing number of Pejam villagers who invest in cash crops there also seems to be a growing interest among outsiders to get their share of the increased trade. I have already mentioned the retired nurse who plans to settle permanently in Pejam and buy a pick-up — there can be little doubt that he also envisages bringing other producer's crops to the market, against a small fee. Wakim's brother-in-law told me that he, too, would probably begin trading in produce from Pejam as soon as gardens yield sufficient amounts. He said he will sell the produce in Sungailiat (the island capital some 90 kilometres to the south) or in Pangkalpinang (another 50 kilometres). The market for watermelon in Belinyu is not so good. Prices are low. But, he said, precisely because Pejam villagers have become used to the prices offered them by middlemen operating out of Belinyu, it is extraordinarily cheap to buy in Pejam where much lower prices can be obtained than in Tuing, for example, where villagers grow watermelon too.

5. Concluding comment

The focus of Lom production is on agriculture. While cash cropping may become increasingly important as the government prohibition on swidden farming takes greater effect, it is precisely swidden farming which is their pre-eminent mode of cultivation. Its chief organisational features are its stress on individual household production and the conversely near-absence of collective efforts. The same features obtain for coconut growing and pig husbandry. However, swidden farming is perceived by many, particularly younger Lom, to be excessively onerous. Coconut production/animal husbandry, on the other hand, is viewed as the lightest and potentially most rewarding of productive enterprises. The problem is that land suitable for coconut palms is scarce — and new land will soon be unavailable. Hunting, also an essentially individual pursuit (although formerly probably more collectively organised) has already for some time been of reduced importance. Fishing, in its original fresh-water mode, is also carried out individually. Sea fishing, however, typically requires relatively large capital investments and cooperative labour. The Lom lack the capital and technical skill (and the inclination) to go in for sea fishing — and at any rate the resource base is probably too weak for sea fishing to be profitable in the future — it is questionable whether it will continue to be profitable even to the Chinese who suffer no shortage of capital.

That the Lom rarely take corporate action is seen as an outcome of the spatial and temporal organisation of dry rice cultivation. This, as I argued at the end of chapter five, is foreshadowed by the incision rite stressing individual — even solitary — capability.

The pre-eminence of dry rice production is evidenced by the Lom modes of exchange and I have demonstrated that the Lom have in fact a bi-centric economy. In this economy the non-monetised sphere (centred on dry rice) includes fish, but not meat. This, and my analysis of what dreams are about (and what they are not about), is the basis on which I suggest that the Lom are not non-Muslim because they thereby gain access to marginally important animal protein. The reasons (if reasons can indeed be found) for their separateness must rather be sought in their more central concerns, that is to say in their adat, or culture. I have already described and analysed some of its constituent parts, but two crucial areas remain to be investigated: mortuary rites and relationships expressing and regulating 'kinship' and 'marriage'. It is to these issues that the following two chapters are devoted.

Chapter seven — Life crises II: Mortuary rites

This chapter begins with a discussion of burial and funeral (performed as two temporally separate events) and ends with a transcript, translation and brief discussion of the funeral speech. Compared to the 'life crisis' rites of the Lom discussed in chapter five the death rites are far more elaborate and costly. And while the rites of birth and puberty contain elements that are ethnically salient (i.e. Muslim Malays perform rites differently) such elements are far more prominent in the case of the death rites. This is also reflected in the way the Lom discuss ethnicity: aside from their dialect, as I have noted earlier, no cultural trait singles them out as 'a group with a difference' as much as their mortuary rites do. Arguably, it might be said that however important it is to be born a Lom (and for certain individuals to remain one, cf. the bibit ideology discussed in chapter eight) it is even more crucial to die as one. On Lom graves, which, by virtue of their design are visually different from Muslim ones, the words ADAT MAPUR (Mapur, or Lom tradition/custom/culture) are often embedded in the concrete, or wood, stressing for posterity that the deceased was indeed a Lom: neither a Christian nor a Muslim.

1. Burial

A chief distinction of the Lom death rites compared to those of neighbouring Muslims is that they are divided into two, temporally disparate, events. First, the burial, a ceremony set off by the death of an individual ending no more than 24 hours later when the deceased is laid to rest in the ground. Second, the funeral, a major ritual event usually planned for years — not least for economic reasons — during which a 'proper' grave is built for the deceased who receives instructions on how to reach the here-after.

While a burial is performed regardless of the person's age at the time of death (although I am uncertain in the case of still-born babies), the funeral ceremony is never carried out for infants and rarely for small children, though people disagreed as to what age the deceased should have attained for a funeral to be mandatory. One suggested that it is uncustomary to stage a funeral for persons who have died before the age of three; others thought it unnecessary to do so unless the deceased had at least reached the age of five or seven. In both cases reference was made to the inherent innocence of children; they are not yet kotor (dirty).

1.1. Graves and burials

A deceased person must be left in peace one full night before burial. This means that if death occurs before 12 p.m. burial will take place the next day, if death occurs later in the night burial must be postponed until the day following the next day.

To the corpse night is day and the palm of its hand has become the back of its hand. Such inversion or reversal marking boundaries between people, categories of people, or life and death is found in many cultures: Among the Batak of Sumatra the behaviour of the spirits is similar, but reversed, to that of living persons, and "the Toraja of Sulawesi believe that everything the dead do is the reverse of the practice of the living: not only do they use words in the opposite meanings, but they even pronounce them backwards" (Needham 1979: 41). Needham concludes his brief (in this work) exposition on reversal by stating, "symbolic inversion or reversal is resorted to constantly in order to ascribe to an event, a boundary in time or space, a status, a quality, etc., some special, abnormal or perturbing significance" (loc. cit.). As we shall see the Lom do not ascribe, generally, reversal (or inversion) to the dead. Many of the symbolic practices seem to underline the opposite; that the dead require many of the same things for their comfort or well-being as do the living.

Below I give a detailed account of the Lom burial ceremony. I include it here in full, partly because of the crucial status it has to the Lom and partly because, to the best of my knowledge, no outside observer has ever been present to record what actually takes place. During the course of my fieldwork I attended two other burials (and one funeral proper, to which I shall return later) and while there were certain differences in how the burials were carried out (by different people) these differences were to do with very few and minor details only, as e.g. what personal objects were left on top of the grave. When I asked later about actions I took to be discrepancies the Lom answered that they are optional.

Preparations for the burial are commenced before the mourners arrive. One man is entrusted with the task of finding the site.(162) When he has done so, very early in the morning, he brings the others and digging begins. The site of the grave must be free from rocks and trees, though trees are required in the immediate vicinity since they keep the ground cool.

1.2. Description

A companion and I left for the burial of Luni at around seven in the morning. He had passed away at 8 a.m. the previous day. On our way to the site we passed a number of villagers who were also going to attend. Before we reached the place some twenty men had already left for the cemetery (not really a cemetery, as it turned out; only his wife had been buried there before him) some three kilometres away. I was informed later that it had taken the men some two hours to prepare everything for the burial.

Luni's body, a length of white cloth covering it, lay in state on the floor of the smallest of the three stilted houses making up his homestead. A couple of his close kindred sat wake.

My companion and I waited outside in the shade while more people kept arriving. After about half an hour something stirred inside the little house and I made my way to the doorway. One man and two women, children of the deceased, sat upright next to each other, backs against the wall and legs outstretched. Across their legs lay the body of their father with a loincloth around his waist. Luni's eyes were closed and his chin must have been tied up.(163) Two large buckets of water were next to them and an empty coconut shell (batok) was employed to pour water over the body that was being conscientiously cleaned with soap. A young man was entrusted the task of pouring the water from the batok while the others washed and then rinsed well, they clearly knew what they were doing and kept instructing the young man. (I was told later that the washing is not complete until three coconut shellfuls of turmeric water (air kunyit) are poured over the body. On this particular occasion, however, I am almost positive that no turmeric water was used. Cf. Hagen's report appearing as appendix II where it is stated that the last three shellfuls are with coconut milk). The water ran through the wood-board floor onto the ground beneath the house. The washing of the body completed, three lengths of bark rope (tali terap) were laid out on the floor on the opposite side of the small room, a couple of feet or so apart. On top of them two rectangular pieces of bark (about one by two metres each) were placed, on top of each other. These were then covered by a straw mat on top of which a sheet of fresh white cloth was stretched out. Luni's body was then lifted and laid down on top of the sheet that was large enough to be folded over at both foot- and head-end. The sheet, now wrapped around the body, was tied together with three strips of white cloth, the straw mat rolled firmly around the cloth, and then the pieces of bark were forcibly brought together and the lengths of bark rope tied tightly around them — now forming the third layer around the body. On top of the bark, but underneath the bark rope, a three metres long pole had been inserted. Thus the bark 'coffin' can be easily carried, hanging under the pole, by two pallbearers. The bark 'coffin' may be covered by a kain (printed cotton cloth). The 'coffin' is lifted outside while care is taken to do so with the feet of the deceased exiting first.

Otin, batok (the same one used to pour water over the deceased) and a stick in his hands, heads the procession that forms as he strikes the batok and starts walking into the forest. We are more than fifty persons trailing behind him. The hollow sound of the coconut being stricken is heard for every ten steps or so he takes. After some twenty-five minutes of walking past newly planted swiddens and green fields of cassava we (some fifty participants by now) reached the cemetery where, as I said, Luni's wife had been buried some eight months ago. We enter the site, as prescribed, from the south.

Otin, still striking the batok every now and then, and the two carriers, 'coffin' still on their shoulders, circle the open grave counter-clockwise, three times; the number of times called out loud by several bystanders. The grave, three and a half feet wide, should be dug to a depth of about a metre (the length depends on the length of the body to be buried). The direction of the grave is from east to west, a fact of the utmost importance. The deceased may be placed on his back or slightly on his left side: but the important thing is to bend his head so that he looks over his left shoulder in the direction of Gunung Maras. All the soil dug up is placed on the northern side of the grave. The hewn poles that are later to be used inside the grave are placed on top of the heap.

On top of the pile of earth and sand on the northern side of the east — west oriented grave a number of poles of varying length are neatly laid out forming, after a fashion, a kind of bed onto which the 'coffin' is placed. The bark rope is loosened, the long carrying pole removed, and the body, still wrapped inside the straw mat, is lifted down from the 'dais' into the one metre deep grave by three men who are now standing in it. The deceased is placed on top of three poles placed lengthwise in the grave.


Figure 7.1 Grave and fires in relation to cardinal points

Four logs, not yet pegged down, delineate the grave itself. The body is placed carefully, as closely to the northern wall as possible, head towards the east.

One of Luni's daughters then placed a number of items into the grave: his tobacco-pouch made from plaited leaves (called sepin; most middle aged and elderly men own one while younger men judge it somewhat quaint), his machete (parang), she emptied a small basket containing some of his work-clothes, a cup, a plate, and, on the chest of the deceased, whose head is now turned towards the south (as if looking over his shoulder), an old (colonial) silver coin.(164)

Seven of the poles on top of the heap of soil from which the body has just been removed are well over a metre long. Each of them is now placed in the grave so that one end rests at where the southern grave-wall joins the floor, the other on the edge of the grave directly above the straw mat covered body. These seven poles, then, form the framework of a diagonal 'roof' above the deceased. A number of poles, their length corresponding to that of the grave, are subsequently laid down on top of the framework just mentioned so that the one can hardly see the deceased through the 'roof' any longer. By this time there is no more room for the men to stand in the grave; the lengthwise poles are laid down by the men sitting on the edge of it.

The bark, which had been used as 'coffin', is now chopped into smaller pieces and spread out on top of the lengthwise poles and the soil is spread out, everyone present now taking part, on top of the bark. Thus the soil never touches the body. The Lom say, "We throw earth directly on top of dead dogs, only."

While the grave is filled in three small fires are lit up. As several fresh branches are put on top of the fires they quickly exude much smoke; each of the four logs which delineate the grave are now brought over to be briefly imbued by this smoke. Immediately afterwards they are carried back to the grave and pegged firmly into position (nails are not used).

In a fourth and brighter fire further to the side Luni's pungki (k.o. winnow) and the wooden handle of his hoe are burnt to destruction.

When the grave has been completely filled in with the sandy soil and smoothed over, two fresh twigs of the kendung tree (Helicia javanica, Blum) are stuck into the soil and close to them two sticks onto which are tied a toklok (sheath for machete), a keruntong (plaited all-purpose carrying basket) and a kiding (small rice harvest basket). But before the kiding was fastened to the stick its contents, unhusked dry rice was poured over the grave. Directly on top of the grave are placed the following: The coconut shell that had been used as a drum in front of the procession, an earthenware container, and a glass. These three items are filled with water. The three strips of white cloth (called tali simé) which were used to tie the burial cloth together had been removed before the body was buried, and these are now tied loosely to the two kendung twigs so that these look as if they are 'united' by the strips of cloth.

This concludes the ceremony. No formal statements whatsoever were uttered by anyone and as far as I was able to ascertain most comments between participants related to doing everything according to custom, i.e. to do everything that is necessary and doing them in the correct order.

Afterwards, while we stood about in small groups, Luni's son and daughter moved between us offering us tabar, a bright yellow rice-paste mixed with turmeric (kunyit) which we wrapped into leaves we picked ourselves. We left the gravesite, stepped into the nearest pond for a perfunctory bath (most of us just splashed ourselves), and afterwards applied the paste to our forehead. This is to "stop bad thoughts" and to "stop the fear for hantu" (spectres) — after a burial we might think about unpleasant things and the turmeric paste wards off these thoughts and helps us to stay calm, I was explained.

The following objects are burned at the grave:
1. Tali pikulan (bark rope used to carry the 'coffin')
2. Kayu pikulan (poles used to carry the 'coffin')
3. Kayu lebih (surplus wood)

The three strips of white cloth used to tie the straw mat around the deceased (tali simé) must not be broken, nor is it allowed to burn; they are left on top of the grave connecting the two fresh branches to each other. These are put there untuk perdumen orang mati (confirm that the person is dead).(165) The kind of tree used is ideally kendong but in practice the branch of any tree may be put there; it is still called kendong.

The following is washed/cleaned:
1. Pacol (hoe)
2. Tempat tanah (a largish scoop)
3. People must bathe and their clothes must be cleaned.

It is important that the wooden hoe-handle, if it is a rather new one brought from the house, is washed before it is returned. If it has been cut on the spot for the event it too is burned.

1.3. Discussion

I mentioned at the outset of this section that while there are certain reversals or inversions attributed to the dead the similarities between the needs of the dead and those of the living are more numerous.

Firstly, the deceased is washed from feet to head. This is to mirror the way people wash while alive: we enter a pool by walking into it. Ordinary water is used until the deceased is clean. After this three coconut shellfuls of air kunyit (turmeric water) are supposed to be used.

Each of the three fires symbolises a 'time for cooking'; there is one fire for the morning, afternoon, and evening meal respectively, as if the deceased were alive and cooking rice (mu: bu:k) (although, as a matter of fact, in many Lom households only two meals are cooked per day) and are placed a few metres away from the grave itself in approximate accordance with the position of the sun during these meals. For the three days subsequent to the burial one fire is lit in succession.

One or several of the following objects are frequently buried together with the deceased:
1. kain (i.e. sarong, shirt, or trousers)
2. selimut (blanket)
3. tempat tembakau (tobacco pouch)
4. parang (machete, or cutlass)
5. kincing (kettle)
6. piring, gelas, manggok (plate, glass, bowl)
7. tempat nasi (serving-dish for rice)
8. sudek, garpu (spoon, fork)

The following objects are placed on top of the grave:
1. kain, baju, celana (sarung, shirt, trousers)
2. budong (coconut shell)
3. piring, gelas, manggok (plate, glass, bowl)
4. kasut (sandals)
5. keruntong and kiding (baskets for carrying and rice harvesting)

The Lom say: "When we sleep we need a pillow and a blanket; when we wake up we need a plate, a fork, a spoon, and a glass". The things that are entered into the grave are objects related to cari hidup (economic activities, literally 'pursuit of life'), not things untuk main (for play).

Another observation is that a silver coin is put into the mouth of the dying person as s/he is taking his last breath. It remains there as the body, covered by a length of cloth, is given a room to itself. As soon as the (male) deceased has been buried, however, the coin is removed and swiftly placed on his chest between his nipples.(166)

Thus, in the last instances of life a person is brought in contact with a coin; also in the first. I discussed the use of iron and coins in chapter five (under the heading 'Varieties of birth practices') — at the time of birth nails and coins can apparently be used interchangeably and no loss in protective effect is envisaged. When learning spells, however, and at the time of death, colonial silver coins must be used — and nothing else.

At a village meeting it was suggested (by a young man whose father is a Muslim) that the villagers collectively establish a burial fund with regular payments from each household so that when a death occurs there would be money immediately available for the white burial cloth. (This piece of cloth is the main expense of the burial. But note that the funeral, which is to follow years later, is vastly more expensive).

The young man was judged by Lom elders to be totally out of line. The Lom may not save money for the burial cloth — this was decreed by Nabi Rasul, the prophet of the Lom, as part of Adat Mapur. If the burial cloth is bought in advance then niat mati ('death is vowed'), it must be bought the morning after death has occurred. If money is saved — collectively — for this purpose it amounts to the same thing as actually purchasing it. The consequence would be tantamount to pledging death to the entire village.

The Malays, on the other hand, are allowed to do so and the one who gave permission for it was Nabi Wahabi, one of Gajah Mada's children (and Nabi Rasul's younger brother). If the Lom follow the Malay custom they will be haunted (berhantu).

Both in this and other rituals great stress appears to be placed on numbers. I often asked why certain objects or items of behaviour were to be produced or acted out in three's and seven's but no-one were able to give me any other answer than that it was supposed to be like that.(167) The number 'three' appeared eight times in the above description; the number 'seven' once. In two cases this was mere coincidence: that there were three men in the grave and that three objects were left on top of the grave. At another burial when the deceased was a small boy one man stood alone in the grave to lay the body to rest. And at other burials there were more than three items left on top of the grave. But the other occurrences are prescribed: There must be three coconut shellfuls of turmeric water, three lengths of bark rope, three strips of white cloth, three rounds around the grave, three sticks at the bottom of the grave, and three small fires around the grave. The only occurrence of the number 'seven' is represented by the fact that there must be seven short poles placed diagonally in the grave to form the 'roof' onto which the soil is heaped.

Endicott notes that the quantity of magical equipment is very often specified and he suggests that the number 'three' is associated with time, 'four' (and sometimes five) with space, and 'seven' — by "symbolic arithmetic" — with a combination of the two (1970: 145-46). It is probably only by stretching one's imagination that one would see strips of bark rope and white cloth as temporal elements — although to walk three times around the grave is temporal indeed. One could, however, interpret the above enumerations to be temporal elements in the sense that a burial is the last (or, in the Lom world, the last but one) — and therefore inherently temporal — event ever to take place: whatever follows is outside time. But then again this is stretching the matter somewhat: the burial is also a spatial event: The deceased Lom is laid to rest in Tanah Mapur — the Lom Land. My conclusion as regards the symbolic content of the numerical specifications, therefore, is that until further evidence is brought forward one cannot reliably say much more about it than that, as Needham notes, this is the way it is supposed to be done.

The funeral speech (petunjuk jalan), consisting of prescriptive advice to the deceased as to what roads to take and what pitfalls to avoid on his/her way to heaven, cannot be given until the proper grave has been made, preferably from concrete. There is no need to hurry; three to five and sometimes ten or twelve years are allowed to pass before it 'has to be done'. But it should be done; if it is not the deceased is likely to plague the villagers as a pedaré (ghost). In the pages that follow I describe the construction of the proper graves; thereafter the full funeral ceremony — including the speech — will be rendered and an attempt at analysis will be made.

2. Funeral

The most auspicious date for a funeral proper is the first day of the sixth (Chinese) month. The funeral proper is called nam(b)ak/detam(b)ak. According one Lom there are at least 170 words in the petunjuk jalan (funeral speech), it takes perhaps half an hour to recite — being repeated three times without mistakes. What if there are mistakes? "'Batal' orang Selam bilang. Tidak jadi." He illustrated by holding up his hand and naming the fingers from thumb to little finger, saying that if he then tried to repeat the sequence but failed to do so by naming two fingers in reverse order the speech would be batal (cancelled, null, void).

Formerly the nunyok jalan (he who officiates) was always a resident of Air Abik, the Lom forest settlement. Now this is reversed and not long ago Pak Langkal (a resident of Tengkalat) was called to Air Abik to give the speech there.

2.1. Making the graves

Anum bin Kimok died June 18. 1983. His two predeceased sons (for whom the ceremony is to be performed, too) are Min Daram and Ampang.


Figure 7.2 Relations between participants and deceased

NOTE: In addition to the men in the above diagram two brothers, Sari and Amin — both of them Anum's third cousins  —  were present.


Day one

We began making the graves Thursday, June 21. 1984; dua likur (22 hari bulan), bulan enam, hari kamis (Thursday, the twenty-second day of the sixth month).

Soon after dawn six bags of cement, each of them weighing 40 kg. were carried by the younger participants, including myself, on a rudimentary footpath through stinking, muddy bog-water to the cemetery called Bong Li Jan (A Hakka Chinese name translated as Kebun Nanas; pineapple garden).

By 8:15 a.m. nothing has happened except that the wooden boards, a couple of buckets and hoes plus the bags of cement have been brought to the place. Elkim, a bachelor in his early forties (who is tukang; in charge of operations) has so far failed to appear, so has Cakam — and Wakim (whose deceased father and siblings the ensuing labour is for) returned to the proyék for reasons unknown.

But by 8:30 a.m. work is well under way. Logs are being cut and placed around the graves, some of which are loosely defined because their inhabitants were buried years ago. The position of the graves (relative to the cardinal points) was checked by Wakim using a small, black compass. As it happened they were all slightly S.S.E. (i.e. the heads), but only by 5.

Provisions for the day have been brought by members of the work party: a washbowl filled to the brim with cooked rice, plates, a pot, coffee and sugar. At around 10 a.m. we had a coffee break; three freshly cut sticks pegged into the ground made up the stand for the pot and plenty of dry branches everywhere made it easy to get a fire going. After the coffee we had some of the cooked rice with boiled squid. Then Elkim cooked some red rice and the rice-water, mixed with sugar, was drunk as a kind of dessert. Wakim disappeared for a while and returned an hour later bringing a bottle of arak (rice alcohol) and a 5-litre jerry can filled with water to the apparent satisfaction of everyone. While the first grave (that of Anum) was being made ready, Pak Akot spat on a fist-sized stone that he subsequently threw into the pile of sand in the middle of the grave.

While Anum's name ('Anoem', rather) was being inscribed into the wet cement there was a discussion about how to spell his father's name in Arabic characters. Particularly there was confusion about how the Malay "o"-sound in Kimok ("å" in Scandinavian languages) was to be written — I was unable to help because in classical Arabic the phoneme does not exist.(168)

There was doubt about the location of the third grave — the resting-place of Wakim's younger brother who had died, sometime in the 1950s, at the age of nine. At first a rock was found which was thought to indicate the correct location, a little later a set of three small stones were discovered. Everyone then agreed that this was the real sign (tanda) of the grave — the three stones signify its centre.

Formerly proper graves were built from wood, of the best and most expensive kind. Nowadays they are preferably built from concrete (if the organisers can muster the necessary cash for the cement), but the shape of the grave is maintained, i.e. when wood was used the four logs were notched and consequently displayed eight protrusions; two at either corner of the grave.(169) Because this shape is to be preserved the masonry gets much more involved than had a simple square form sufficed. It takes several hours to build a single grave. It proved troublesome to set the formwork correctly and the anthropologist was called upon to assist in getting it right: It was actually only a matter of pushing it from a somewhat rhomboid form to a right-angle (rectangular) one.

A chicken must be bled while the grave is being built; its blood sprinkled over the sand in the middle of the grave before the cement is mixed in. Elkim, who was in charge of the grave-building, had forgotten this until the grave was almost finished — and no one else had remembered either, Pak Akot (a Muslim) mentioned that in Pugul they don't do that, anyway. Elkim said, "it's best to follow adat, isn't it; who knows, if we don't it might be dangerous." He said that the grave could break and the cement disintegrate if custom is not followed. Isharat (SM/I: isyarat; 'sign', 'gesture', 'hint') is the term for it. This was explained to me this way: "When you go to town you wear sandals, trousers and shirt. If one of these things is lacking it just doesn't do."

Wakim had again left at this point so Kompis, his younger brother, was sent home to get the chicken. He returned around 4 p.m. during a sudden shower and gave the chicken to Asun who cut it, just slightly, and then sprinkled drops of blood onto the wet cement. He moved to the other two graves in progress and let the chicken bleed some more. That concluded the first day of building graves. Most of the tools and utensils were left on the site until the next day. The chicken was brought back to Wakim's house in a plastic bag, squeaking.

Day two

Pak Akot and his deaf brother, Milu, were absent. So was Wakim who was in Air Abik to try to arrange for Atil to officiate. Gundim's father, Ajul, arrived — this is because at least one person from the elder generation must be present. This probably means someone from the deceased's own generation — not a grandparent — since Pak Akot's only child is still a bachelor and Milu's only child is a girl of eleven.

At the bottom of each of the second-level east-west bars, midway between the end-points, two small holes were made in the wet cement. These were kept open with a stick until the cement had dried; later wit pendes or wit peledes (SM/I: rotan kacing) was tied there and it is supposed to be broken at the end of petunjuk jalan (the funeral speech) symbolising the deceased's liberation from his grave.

As the graves were completed they were conscientiously decorated — differently — along each of the four bars. This decoration is called bidang ketam. Cakam spent much time giving the finish to the graves with pure cement.


2.2. Funeral ceremony proper

At 2:30 p.m., when the third and last grave was being given the finishing touch (which takes at least an hour for 3-4 people) Elkim poked a hole in the ground with a 5-6 cm. pole at the NW corner of the grave. He brought a 4 m. tall tree and placed it — with branches and leaves — in the hole. I wondered if this was some symbol of completion (cf. the placing of fresh twigs in the rice field after sowing and ditto on top of graves after burial). I asked Elkim about it who smilingly replied that the tree was put there solely to give the men some shade while they were working.(170)

The funeral ceremony proper took place Saturday June 30., six days after the graves were completed. During the last couple of days of this period the carved wooden grave poles; tiang pakis (translated as 'tiang rumah' or 'house poles) were prepared. I was told that the equivalent Islamic term is nisan (upright tombstone). Importantly, Islamic graves (on Bangka, at least) are made with two nisan, if any at all,(171) whereas Lom graves are made with four tiang pakis. Further, while the nisan are smooth, cylindrically shaped poles placed at either end of the grave the tiang pakis are usually square-shaped (similar to two-by-twos, although cylindrical ones made from concrete can also be seen) and placed at either of the four corners of the grave, just as one would place the four main pillars of a house.

Asun (one of Anum's sons) made the tiang pakis in the shade of a young coconut palm in Wakim's front yard, using a saw and a chisel. This task took him the better part of two days; a total of twelve tiang were to be prepared for the three graves. All poles except three had been carried to the graveyard that was being made ready for the ceremony the next day; the debris was cleared up. When I asked Asun if the tiang had been magically charged (dijampi) he said no, that would be done the following day.

That the funeral speech was to be held for as many as three persons presented Wakim with a problem, because ideally one man can only officiate at one grave at a time. The original plan had been to have three men to do the petunjuk jalan (a scheme which had to be abandoned for the simple reason that there are no three Lom men who know the funeral speech), but then Damu said that two were sufficient because the same man could give the speech for two graves if another man spoke in between. For this reason Wakim had gone to Air Abik to fetch Atil. He, unfortunately, was ill, which meant that it was impossible to finish the ceremony in one day. But it was still feasible to "do" two graves, namely by the use of a wakil (deputy/ substitute).

We left around 7 a.m. the following morning, stopping briefly at Angsi's house where we were offered cakes, coffee and tobacco. Then we trudged on to Bong Li Jan. Just where the path got muddy someone mentioned that wearing sandals at Bong Li Jan is pantang (prohibited), so from that point onwards everyone walked barefoot. (A previous time Pak Akot had carried my sandals to the graveyard for me and I had used them there afterwards — it is thus possible that it is the day, and not the place, which is considered auspicious.) Those present were Pak Akot, Cakam, Ajul, Kamap (the only woman present), Jasak, Elkim, Asun, Kompis, Damu and myself. At the very end of the ceremony Siani and her husband joined us.

Soon after arrival we gathered around Anum's grave. Damu cut the throat of a chicken (this time killing it), spilling a little of its blood on each of the four sides of the grave and the heap of sand in the middle where he dropped it. The rest of the blood spilled into the sand. Immediately afterwards he proceeded to do the same (killing the other chicken) at the other grave.

Meanwhile Asun was placing the tiang pakis upright, taking care to choose four poles of equal length (as a matter of fact three of them were already there, so it was just a matter of finding one matching the three). Each of them has to be of different design — each of the twelve poles in this case.

The others collected firewood and built a small fire about two metres from the head-end of Anum's grave. In the case of the other it was placed some three metres away to the NE.

Kamap removed the chicken from the grave and plucked it after having put a tin of rice to the boil on the fire. After having cleaned it she cut it open lengthwise and pinned it between a half-split twig, tying the split end with a length of creeper and finally put it on the fire to be grilled. Cakam did likewise with the other chicken on the fire of the other grave.

A several metres long piece of wit peledes was tied to a stick stuck into the ground on the northern side of the grave — stretching under the sand and across the deceased's body, as it were, through the two holes (called narik wit, lit. 'pull the rattan) in the batang and away into the forest, southwards, in the direction of Gunung Maras.

The food was then laid out on large, fresh leaves spread out on top of Anum's grave. Closest to the deceased's head was the chicken, then followed the steaming rice (the seven packets of lepet mentioned in the funeral speech). A small bottle of liquid honey (likewise mentioned) was placed at the foot-end of the grave.

Damu sat down close to the northern side of the grave, half-facing the head of the deceased. A piece of half-burnt wood, still glowing, and a small piece of fuming agila wood were in front of him. The others sat around in random fashion. Ajul was missing, though. Damu began his recitation, reading aloud from a notebook. Cakam tried to take notes, but at the speed with which Damu was speaking this must have been impossible. Damu appeared a little nervous and later told me that he had had to read the speech because he had not had time to learn it by heart and he feared he might make many mistakes. Although he did not say so himself, I had, as noted above, been told earlier that a single mistake would render the entire speech invalid (batal).

Immediately after having finished reciting he cut the rattan (under which a wooden board had been placed so that the edge of the parang would not get damaged) with a yell. All the others shouted as well and Asun and Jasak threw rocks into the thicket where the length of rattan disappeared — we actually saw it only for a second as Ajul, who had been hiding all the while, ran away with his end. Whoever runs like this must not be seen by anyone before he has taken a bath — and he must under no circumstance return to the graveyard that day.

Everyone (except, of course, the 'runner') took part in the ensuing meal. The lepet (packets of glutinous rice) were split open and their contents dipped in the honey that had been poured into an improvised leaf-cone; not unlike (but larger than) the three small cones placed next to the buried body.

The procedure at the other grave was exactly the same as regards the meal. The recital, however, was performed differently for the reason mentioned above (that one person cannot recite over two graves). Elkim volunteered for the role as wakil — but according to Damu anyone could have filled it, including the anthropologist. Elkim sat down as Damu had done at the first grave; Damu behind him to the right, close. As far as I could see Elkim didn't really follow the words as Damu said them out just as slurredly as before. When he had finished he had to inform Elkim that he was in fact through; Elkim promptly cut the rattan. This time it was Cakam who had been hiding behind the bushes and he galloped away with the long piece of rattan trailing behind him. We threw a couple of rocks after him and immediately had the second meal.

During the wakil session Siani (the midwife who had helped Akan having her third child) and her husband arrived. They did not pay much notice to what was going on; they exchanged a few words with the bystanders and cleared away some weeds around one of the graves. When we left (soon after we had eaten) they stayed behind.

In the afternoon I looked up Damu in order to ask him to explain what I had not understood of the funeral speech. Ordinarily he is a reserved man and — at least with me — has not been very talkative. He appeared friendly enough, however, so after a while I asked him if he could help me. The situation was far from optimal; the wife and children of Teron (his brother) and a young man I did not know well were also present. He immediately answered that it wasn't necessary/ useful (tidak berguna). I replied that although I had heard all of it I hadn't understood everything. He asked what on earth did I want to understand it for, I replied that the reason for my coming here was to record, as comprehensively as possible, the ways and customs of the Lom. He said that since I had already witnessed the funeral process from the washing of the corpse, the burial, the making of graves to and including the funeral speech I already had the whole thing lengkap (complete). We parried over this for about half an hour until he said that since I knew how to read it would be better if I just copied the written text from his notebook. I was very relieved. The entire text below is thus taken down from the same book the funeral speech was read aloud from. By making it publicly available here I do not therefore, as it were, commit to writing something that essentially is only to be passed on orally from one officiator to another. I mention this because there is, in my opinion, some validity in the criticism levelled against anthropologists and other outsiders 'freezing' oral rituals into texts turning what has previously — in principle — been in such exclusive control that changes, have they occurred, would not be noted by the general public. Thus, although the Lom state that the words "must not be said wrongly", the overhearing public has had no means to check if the words have in fact been said correctly. In the case at hand, however, the words now have been written down and it is therefore reasonable to assume that the funeral speech as it exists today is the way it is likely to remain for the foreseeable future — and the following account is not made more 'authorised' by the anthropologist.

2.3. Funeral speech

Initial part:

I lu, I su,
returns (to its)
keramat tana:
holy soil
wake up
the deceased
jaman ini
this era
wake up
the deceased
jaman dulu
earlier eras
wake up
the deceased
sejaman jaman
any/all (?) eras
Kini ko 
Now I
wake up
the deceased
........... (name of deceased)

Main part:

nyabut dιk
exit from
lawang lantek
door bolted(172)
bejalen ke 
walk to
baret dayé
ambin lapat
fetch packs of
tuju: butér
glutinous rice seven pieces
carry under
chicken one
uncooked rice
3.125 kg
aik madek
one bottle
  " ,

Nunggak Nangkér(173)
"         "        "     

Nek Igé

in front

Akik Nunggak Nangkér

jeleguk jelegang
balance log
batagng jangkang
k.o. tree growing in muddy soil
bow down
dén kiaré
under twig
species of Ficus leafless
k.o. tree
k.o. grass (Rhodomyrtus tomentosa)
simpang empat
crossing four
to the left
biting ants
sebidang umé:
field dry rice
ke kanen
to the right
ke denié
to the world
not many
banya(ng)k agi't
nempo: blukar
reach secondary 
forest one year old
abis blukar
after secondary forest
one year old
nempo: blukar
reach secondary forest
dua tahun
two years old
abis blukar
after secondary forest
dua tahun
two years old
nempo: blukar
reach secondary forest
tiga tahun
three years old
abis blukar
after secondary forest
tiga tahun
three years old
nempo: blukar
reach secondary forest
empat tahun
four years old
abis blukar
after secondary forest
empat tahun
four years old
nempo: blukar
reach secondary forest
lima tahun
five years old
abis blukar
after secondary forest
lima tahun
five years old
nempo: blukar
reach secondary forest
enam tahun
six years old
abis blukar
after secondary forest
enam tahun
six years old
nempo: blukar
reach secondary forest
tuju: tahun
seven years old
abis blukar
after secondary forest
tuju: tahun
seven years old
nempo: delés 
reach field of
speargrass and trees
nempo: utan
reach forest
(in the process of)
being cleared
nempo: utan
reach forest
(in the process of growing)
fresh shoots out of old tree-stumps

Mak Ukup
"    "

Mak Asar
Macassar (name of town)(174)
that (is)
(a) place (of)
(of a) large crowd
place (with)
main rirap
play k.o. gambling
place (of)
martial art
de kanen
to the right
house large
place (with)
de kiri't
to the left
de kanen
to the right
lying on the ground without top or roots
de bawé:
under (it)
di pon
at (the) base
(of the) log
at (the) end
(of the) log
old garden
old garden
house (of)
Aki Ali
Grandpa Ali
Aki Ali
Grandpa Ali
is not
at home
Nik Ali
Grandma Ali
is not
at home
at (the) far end (of the)
at the outer edge of the
palm-leaf roof
tebek betong
sugar-cane (large variety)
to the left (of the)
tebek gelengang
sugar cane (variety)
to the right (of the)
in the middle (of the road ?)
pangak jelaik
de ulek
on the upper side
past (the)
simpang empat
crossing four
to the left
spiked fish-fin
k.o. freshwater fish
to the right
jalen kuma:
road to (the)
house (of)
Mak Adis
Mak Adis
Mak Adis
Mak Adis
Mak Ani
Mak Ani
Mak Ani
Mak Ani
house (of)
Nik Tepong Lais
Nik Tepong Lais (a ghost)
(you are) paid
(by) people
dengan tebek
with sugar-cane
tuju: ruas
seven segments
nté berenti't
you stop
lutot nté
knee your
depaku orang
nailed (by) people
dengan jarum bilong
with needle solid
walk on
sebelang ular
k.o. snake(176)
to the left
mirak mas
red gold (unidentified)
to the right
just emerged (lit. needle-shaped)
in front of you
adé uma:
there is house
burong mirak mas
bird red gold (unidentified)
de pucok
on top (of the)
ridge purlin
bukor kemujé:
small plaited container (or 'flower of Cambodia')(177)
in the yard
kacé melor
round mirror (or k.o. jasmine)(178)
di tutek
at the top (of the)
kain selebi:
nté pasokla:
you enter into
(the) house
de adep
in front (of you)
sit thinking
to the left
sit thinking
to the right
the mosque (of)
tuju: belapis
seven layers
oblong pillows
tuju: besuson
seven piled up
that is
the place (of)
Nik Aki
belang tanjong
      "     "     (ominous bird)
jén jadi't
don't become
pith of
wood the width of a foot
jén jadi't
don't become
ant's nest
thin bamboo
ke Melalé
towards Melala (south-west)(179)
wishes (to become)


Initial part (invocation):

The water-buffalo returns to its origin (which is?) a holy resting-bench on Mecca's soil.

Let the deceased of this era awaken. Let the deceased of earlier eras awaken. Let the deceased of all eras awaken. Now I awaken the deceased (name of the deceased).

Main part:

Come out from the bolted door and walk towards the southwest. Fetch seven wrapped packs of glutinous rice and carry under your arm: one chicken, 3.125 kg uncooked rice, and one bottle of honey-water. Grandma Igι and Grandpa Nunggak Nangkιr accompany you; Grandma Igι walks in front of you and Grandpa Nunggak Nangkιr behind you.

Step carefully onto the jangkang-log and keep your balance as you walk the length of it. Bow down as you pass under the leafless twig of a Ficus-tree. Pass the withered telimpok-tree and two grassy fields. When you have passed the speargrass-field you will come to a junction. Don't you take the road to the left because it leads to a field full of biting ants. Don't take the road to the right, either: the deer-tracks will lead you back into the world.

There are not many left of our kin.

After that you will get to a field that has lain fallow for one year, then to a field which has lain fallow for two years, then to a field which has lain fallow for three years, then to a field which has lain fallow for four years, then to a field which has lain fallow for five years, then to a field which has lain fallow for six years, and then to a field which has lain fallow for seven years.

After the field which has lain fallow for seven years you will come to a field of speargrass and trees, then to a forest which is being cleared, then to a forest where fresh shoots are growing out of old tree-stumps. Further on you will come to a young primary forest, an old primary forest, and an open, field-like forest.

Then you come to the heaths of Mak Ukup and Mak Asar. The latter is a place with the clamour of a large, fun-loving crowd engaged in various kinds of gambling, fighting, and martial arts. To the right there is a large communal hall where people play gongs and drums, sing and dance.

After that you will have a sweet-duku tree on your left and a durian-tree on your right. Then you come to a stripped log across a seething boiler/crater. At the base of the log people forgive the sins of the world. At the end of it people forgive the sins of the world and give mercy.

Afterwards you come to a large, disused garden, and then to the house of Grandpa Ali. He is not at home, but Grandma Ali is.

At the far end of the beach there is a battered sieve, at the edge of the roof there is a slender banana-plant. Two kinds of sugar cane grow on either side of the road and in the middle of it there is a water-vessel. On the upper side there is a bathing-place and past the water there is a junction. Don't you take the road to the left; it is full of spiked fish-fins from the baong. Don't take the road to the right either; it leads to the house of the Muslims.

After that you come to the heaths of Mak Adis and Mak Ani and then to the house of Nik Tepong Lais. People will offer to pay you with seven segments of sugar cane. But don't you stop; if you stop people will pierce your knees with solid needles. So just walk straight on. Follow the road of the striped snake; the road to the east across the white sand. On your left there is red-gold grass and on your right there is fresh grass growing.

After that you will see a large house in front of you. On top of the ridge purlin there is a red-gold bird, there is a bukor kemujé (cf. note to the transcribed text) in the yard, and a kacé melor (cf. note to the transcribed text) at the top of the stairs. The door is closed with the finest cloth. Open the door and walk into the house in front of you. Sit down in Allah's chair and ponder. On your left there is Fatima's magical mattress. Sit down on the jewelled resting-bench and ponder. Draw aside the seven layers of mosquito nets. There are seven oblong pillows in a pile.

That, then, is the place of our ancestors.

Don't you turn into an ominous bird! Don't you turn into wood! Don't you turn into an ants' nest!(180) The smoke of a bamboo fire drifts towards Melala.

Whoever dies becomes 'the deceased' ('the late'). Whoever lives wants to become rich.

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven.

2.4. Discussion

I inquired several Lom otherwise knowledgeable about how they viewed and interpreted the funeral speech. First of all — in order to establish points of reference for further inquiries — I was interested to find out if anything was known about or attributed to the personages mentioned in it. All these inquiries were answered in the negative. The Lom 'think' that the personages are either hantu (ghosts/spirits/spectres; e.g. Tepong Lais) or people who existed in jaman kulot (ancient times) but they know no more about them. In fact, if I mentioned a name they typically said that this was a name that was mentioned in the funeral speech, as if this precluded further discussion. I should also say here that when I asked how the afterlife/heaven was conceived of the Lom said that they did not know.

Most of the place names mentioned seem to fall into the same general pattern. Some (e.g. Macassar) are obviously either the name of the 'real' town or (as I suspect) the name of the town has been transformed into Mak Asar (mak meaning 'father', or man, and Asar being a name). Others are named heaths otherwise unknown.

But in the initial part there are two things mentioned departing from this pattern. The first is the "holy resting bench on Mecca's soil" and the other is the water buffalo. As regards the resting-bench we note that word holy (keramat) is used about it. Significantly, as I have noted previously, the Lom themselves have no holy places/objects. That the word is used at all here may be thus be interpreted as an attempt to delineate Islam from Adat Mapur; Islam has keramat objects, Adat Mapur does not. In fact the entire speech may be interpreted this way, as we shall see. Likewise, the water buffalo is a foreign element to the Lom. There is, as a matter of fact, very little livestock on Bangka although it is common in the Malay world in general. (I observed only a few water buffaloes and they were all in the western part of the island.)

If shifting our attention to the grave itself it is laboriously (and expensively) constructed in a clearly pre-defined manner. It must, for example, be notched lest it resemble a hearth, and the designs on the sides of the bars are meticulously finished off. The Lom say that the grave should be 'like a house' — including the four tiang pakis that represent the corner poles of the house. But the grave, unlike the house, has no roof. It is open in the middle (i.e. there is no concrete in the inner square: it is filled up with sifted sand). If there were a roof the deceased would be unable to depart. I think that the length of rattan running through and across the grave constitutes a symbolic 'last string' holding the soul of the deceased in place while the speech is recited. And it is important that the soul stays put: if it does not — if it detects the 'open' house it is in — and leaves, it will turn into a pedaré which is precisely what the stated purpose of the entire rite is to prevent.

Concentrating now on the structure of the speech the first thing to note is that the landscapes and most of the objects occurring in the funeral speech are described in such a way that they make sense to the Lom (and, one would think, to most Malays anywhere). These are elements such as withered trees; beaches; heaths/fields, gardens, swiddens and forests in various stages of growth; plants (such as sugar cane and banana); bathing places; road/path crossings; water-vessels and houses. This is to say that both Nature and Culture are depicted as essentially familiar. Few, if any, of the characteristics are unfamiliar; none of the objects are incomprehensible. This, of course, in no way contradicts what was mentioned above, viz. that the Lom have no concepts of the afterlife. What the funeral speech is concerned with is the road leading to heaven, as the term for the funeral speech itself makes abundantly clear: 'road pointing' (petunjuk jalan). The speech is a series of directions on how to reach one's destination and it conveys hardly any information about the conditions pertaining once one has got there.

A second, and potentially more analytically rewarding aspect is to do with the road — and in particular the road crossings. Twice the deceased encounters "simpang empat" ('four-crossing'):

In both instances the deceased is told to go straight ahead. Not to the left, not to the right. In both instances left is associated with a 'Natural' pain (biting ants, spiked fish-fins) and right with Culture (the world at large, Muslims). One might interpret this as an injunction to dissociate from both Nature and Culture; i.e. the known world. But more than anything, perhaps, the message contained here is "do not stray". And this, at least, seems to concord with the more general theme expressed in Adat Mapur: "Do not muddle 'customs'".

A different line of reasoning related to the roads — and because it is highly speculative I merely suggest it here  —  is one more directly concerned with the structure of the junctions themselves.(181) Anyone who has traversed jungle paths knows them to be very dissimilar from the straight roads built in modern society. They bend and curve — but most important in the present context is that when two roads meet (or part) they do not do so in the way the Figure 7.4 suggests. Instead, the path forks. A 'crossing', rather than having the form of a cross, is Y-shaped. Thus, a simpang empat symbolises something different (though not altogether alien) from what is normal. And, pursuing this idea a little further, we note two things. Firstly, the 'straight-lines' structure of junctions encountered in real life is one that is ready made. Secondly, it is ready made in a way not conforming to peoples' movements. My speculative suggestion here is related to (1) certain traits of the social organisation accounted for in chapter six (under the heading "Organisation of productive labour") where I argue that the Lom are individually rather than collectively oriented and (2) the absence of a beneficially intervening society, as suggested in my analysis of the incision ritual in chapter five.

The way I think they might be related is as follows. 'Normally' (i.e. when alive) a person leads a life that — although in many respects informed by rules implicitly and explicitly contained in adat — is only slightly ordered by extraneous agents. And more: is only slightly hampered by others. (E.g. quarrels were solved by one of the parties moving.) Peoples' actions, therefore, may be viewed as conforming more to the 'path structure' (aggregate outcome of individuals' actions) than to the 'crossing structure' (planned collective actions). Further, to the individual the 'cross' junction implies non-creative movement within a pre-ordained structure whereas the 'Y-fork' implies movement engraving structure creatively. What this conceivably means, then, is that the deceased is supposed to follow not his or her own individual whims (create a structure) but adhere strictly to what is being said by others/society at large (conform to a structure already set). A contrast therefore emerges between everyday 'open' behaviour and the restraint of actions required by the circumstances. Note also, that there are several grammatical imperatives in the speech: "Don't follow... Don't become..." etc.; sometimes under the threat of pain.

3. Concluding comment

In this and in previous chapters I have stressed that the way the Lom do things are informed by rules contained in their adat. And I have stated earlier that one could almost say that important as it may be to be born a Lom it is even more important to die as one. Almost all practices constituting the mortuary rites would seem to support this rather blunt statement. Burials and funerals are conducted according to regulations sharply contrasting the actors — and the dead — from their Muslim and Chinese neighbours. These cultural regulations permeate every aspect of the rites; from the washing of the dead, throughout the burial ceremony, the construction of the graves, the funeral ceremony proper, to and including the funeral speech. But Adat Mapur — despite the statement above — is far from a death cult. However important it is to be buried according to Adat Mapur, the Lom live a life in which relationships — consanguineal and affinal ones — have ramifying impact. Adat Mapur, as we are about to see, strongly (and perhaps in an unusual way) regulates these relationships.

Chapter eight — Affinity, consanguinity, and incest

1. Marriage and divorce

The Lom are monogamous — they permit divorce, they reckon kinship cognatically and have bilateral relationship terms, some of which are used classificatorily. Neither the concept of clans nor that of lineages exists, nor does any notion of marriage regulated by ideas on exchange (Levi-Strauss) or alliance (Needham). But, in a limited sense they use a concept of descent (keturun), firstly in that the Lom and, say, the Chinese are thought to have originally descended from different ancestors (cf. chapters two and three), secondly in that the applicability of certain spells is determined by the 'descent' of the spell along one's matri- or patriline — not that it matters through which of the lines the spell has arrived; what is important is the mere fact that it has been used by one's forebear (cf. chapter four, section 7).

The genealogical memory of most Lom reaches, in extensive cases, about four, sometimes five generations back. But, as I aim to demonstrate, horizontal affinal links are as crucial as vertical consanguineal ones for the regulation of marriage.

1.1. Marriage

Before discussing the formal limitations to sexual/marital eligibility among the Lom I shall sketch the events leading up to conjugality.

Marriage is usually arranged by the four parents coming together reaching an agreement. It is the parents of the bride who have the weightiest say in whether or not a proposed marriage is to materialise; they either accept a suitor or they don't. If the parents agree the proposal is put to the prospective couple. If they concur with their parents the matter is settled. The father of the bride subsequently informs the village headman and the marriage officiator (penghulu) and a date will be set for the wedding. If both or one of the prospective spouses disagree the matter is closed.(182)

The future husband has to pay bridewealth (mas kawin, lit. 'marriage gold') of some Rp 100 000-200 000 to the bride's family and a sum of some Rp 5000-10000 (upa kawin, lit. 'marriage wage') to the officiator. If the husband is unable to pay, his family will usually try to help him.(183)

The couple may also have decided on their own to get married. The customary thing for them to do in this case is to put the matter to their parents. If the parents agree the matter is settled. If they object the couple might elope (but this has become more difficult as bureaucratisation has increased: village officiators are now reputedly skeptical to marrying couples domiciled elsewhere). Later on, when things have quieted down, the husband will pay the bride-price, but a considerably smaller one than if the parents had initially agreed.

The last few days before the wedding the couple may spend the night together and the man may then leave his laundry behind to be washed by his prospective wife. But sleeping together is not sanctioned until all the marital arrangements have been agreed upon (bridewealth, post-marital residence, etc).

After the wedding the young couple may choose either viri- or uxorilocal household membership (either of which is termed sekepok).(184) This arrangement can last for as long as a year or two — or indeed much less if those involved fail to get on. Joint household uxorilocality has been the more common choice of the two, but more frequently (in about fifty percent of the cases in a small sample) the married couple have established their own household. However, if the term 'uxorilocality' is understood more broadly as the couple's residence in the hamlet, village or culturally defined area (i.e. an area with its own adat) of the wife's parents — without being members of their household — uxorilocality is predominant.

Prior to the present-day government-sponsored settlements (i.e. until 1975) people lived di kebun (lit. 'in the garden', but in this context 'in the swidden/(rice)field', i.e. in small clusters of settlements in forest clearings) — sometimes kilometres apart. At that time there was no rule, I was told, as to where the young people would settle; in principle one could choose residence wherever one pleased (dimana mau). In fact, according to several Lom, people disliked living close together; whenever they did quarrels and fights would erupt, even women engaged in fistfights. At that time people were "fearful and angry (takut dan marah), now they have begun to learn to live together".

1.2. Divorce

In the words of one Lom the most frequent cause for divorce is that the spouses talk nonsense (bertele-tele), something which leads to quarrelling (bertengkaran) and that when people do not want to give in (orang tidak mau kalah) the end of it will be divorce (akhir akan berceraian). According to the Lom extramarital affairs are rare occurrences and hardly ever (jarang-jarang) prompt divorce.

Divorce is easily obtained and requires little more than (for husband or wife) to state that the marriage is now over. Children under the age of ten or twelve typically stay with the mother (who usually remains with her parent(s) if the couple has shared an uxorilocal household, or moves back to them if the couple has lived elsewhere), while older children are allowed to choose whether to stay with their father or their mother.

If a divorcee wishes to take a lover she may do so and the couple may meet at night — nobody will interfere or say anything. But since an obvious possible outcome of sexual encounters is pregnancy, this implies a kind of a pledge to marry and is viewed as a sort of engagement. If, however, the woman does not become pregnant, the liaison may be dissolved without ado.

2. Eligibility and prohibition

A Lom contemplating marriage is constrained by three basic rules with varying impacts that will be dealt with separately below. These rules may summarily be stated as follows:

1. avoid ethno-cultural (adat) exogamy

2. avoid buyong (incestuous) relationships

3. avoid relationships entailing conflict with adat (traditional) rules of inheritance

2.1. The principle of the 'remaining seed'

As a point of departure for the remainder of this chapter — and in apparent contradiction of the first of the rules just stated — one should realise that the Lom do not constitute a discrete marriage group. Basically outsiders are accepted marriage partners. However, to this rule there is one exception, and because it is both simple and unique I shall discuss it immediately. It is crucial because without it the Lom (theoretically, at least) would be endangered as an ethnic group.

This exception is simply that one of the children of a Lom couple must remain outside Islam.(185) This might be a male or a female — and who it should be (i.e. whether it be the firstborn or one of the firstborn's siblings) is uncertain/undecided (tidak tentu). Parents will reportedly ask their children if any of them have (religious and/or marital) preferences and only as a last resort will they order one of their children to remain true to adat. One man had been told by his mother's mother that he, being Mapur seed (bibit Mapur) must never 'leave his fold'. He was about 17 years old at the time — already past puberty; marriageable/sexually aware (lah igé). "And then I married a Mapur, wah, bagus! (excellent!)" His two brothers have both entered Islam (masuk Selam) through marriage.

I was interested to note that the Sekak, or sea nomads, have exactly the same conservation rule. A Sekak woman (now married to a Lom and living in Pejam) told me that it was her younger brother who did not convert (beragama). But he died a young bachelor and consequently there are no non-Islamised offspring from that particular family.(186)

2.2. Relationship nomenclature

Before proceeding to discuss incest (buyong) as it is conceived of by the Lom, I shall provide a list (Table 8.1) of the Lom relationship terminology. It is of what has become known as a simple Hawaiian type that, in the words of Bloch, uses

"...distinctions by sex and relative age for the grandparental generation, by sex and relative age for the parental generation, by sex and relative age for Ego's generation, and usually only one term for descending generations. These terms can be used very freely according to principles which have very little to do with genealogy" (Bloch 1984 (1975): 209; cf. Bloch 1971: 79-87).

One of those principles, to anticipate part of the discussion which follows, is that spouses address each other's kindred by the same terms; if I call my younger sister adek, my wife calls her so too — even if my wife is younger than her. Thus, our children will hear only one term for (in this case) their paternal aunt, and address her accordingly (typically wak cit, if she has a younger sibling, or wak su, if she has not).

In addition to the suffixes gat, nga, and su, which connote 'eldest', 'middle' and 'youngest' of a group of siblings respectively, at least two other suffixes are commonly used.(187) These are gilo and cit and are used for individuals addressed as wak, mang, nik, and aki. Gilo signifies that the sibling is neither the first nor the last child born to his or her parents. Cit means that the sibling is younger than ego's (grand)parent. While gat, nga, and su are frequently used for individuals both of ego's own and superior generations, gilo and cit are only used in connections with kindred of plus one or more generations.(188)

Term English gloss Explanatory note

1 aki usang

'classificatory great-great-grandfather' any male who is (the spouse of) a fourth ascending generation kinsperson of ego

2 usang (+ suff.?)

'classificatory great-grandfather' any male who is (the spouse of) a third ascending generation kinsperson of ego

3 aki (+ suff.)

'classificatory grandfather' any male who is (the spouse of) a second ascending generation kinsperson of ego

4 ni k/nuk (+ suff.)

'classificatory grandmother' any female who is (the spouse of) a second ascending generation kinsperson of ego

5 mak; wak; pak

'father' any male who is (the spouse of) a first ascending generation consanguine of ego [terms chronologically ordered; the latter the most recent]

6 mak; nuk

'mother' any female who is (the spouse of) a first ascending generation consanguine of ego [terms chronologically ordered; the latter the most recent]

7 mang (+ suff.)

'classificatory uncle' any male who is (the spouse of) a first ascending collateral consanguine of ego

8 wak (+ suff.)

'classificatory aunt the first born same generation consanguine who is the offspring of a parent of a later born ego

9 kakgat (suff. incl.)

'eldest sibling' the first born same generation consanguine who is the offspring of a parent of a later born ego

10 kakak

'classificatory elder sibling' any earlier born consanguine collateral of a later born ego or anyone who is (the spouse of) a kinsman of ego's generation whose mother or father is called kakak by ego's parent(s)

11 ayak; ayuh; ayuk

'classificatory elder sister' any female later born consanguine collateral of an earlier born ego or anyone who is (the spouse of) a kinsman of Ego's generation whose mother or father is called adek by ego's parent(s)

12 adek

'classificatory younger sibling' any later born consanguine collateral of an earlier born ego or anyone who is (the spouse of) a kinsman of Ego's generation whose mother or father is called adek by ego's parent(s)

13 sanak pupek

'classificatory cousin' [term of reference; sanak corresponds to the Standard Malay/Indonesian saudara; pupek corresponds to pupu]

14 anengk

'classificatory child' any first descending generation consanguine of (a spouse of) ego

15 anengk tué

'classificatory eldest child' eldest first descending generation consanguine of (a spouse of) ego

16 bongsu

'classificatory youngest child' youngest first descending generation consanguine of (a spouse of) ego

17 abeng

'classificatory nephew' any male first descending generation collateral consanguine of (a spouse of) ego

18 kemanangk

'classificatory nephew, niece' any first descending generation collateral consanguine of (a spouse of) ego

19 kemanangk dué pupek

'classificatory child of first cousin' any first descending generation collateral consanguine of (a spouse of) a collateral of ego [lit. 'nephew/niece of the second degree/order']

20 cucek/ cucung

'classificatory grandchild' any second descending generation consanguine of (a spouse of) ego

21 cicit

'classificatory great-grandchild' any third descending generation consanguine of (a spouse of) ego

22 cucek pupek/ cucung pupek

'classificatory cousin's grandchild' any second descending generation consanguine of (a spouse of) ego [used for distant kin]

23 lakei't

husband male spouse of a female ego

24 bining

wife female spouse of a male ego

25 mensén; bisén

'co-parent-in-law' any parent of the spouse of a child of ego (reciprocal) [the former term is one of address, the latter one of reference]

26 mak mentué

'mother-in-law' any male who is (the spouse of) a first ascending generation consanguine of the spouse of ego

27 pak mentué

'father-in-law' any female who is (the spouse of) a first ascending generation consanguine of the spouse of ego

28 urang tué

'parents-in-law' any parent of a spouse of ego [term of reference]

29 ipar

'classificatory sibling-in-law' any spouse of a same generation consanguine of ego [term of reference]

30 (pe)birés

'co-brother-in-law' [reciprocal term of reference for men who have married genealogical sisters — they address each other kakak/adik or by name, as the case may be]

31 menantek

'classificatory child-in-law' any spouse of a first descending generation consanguine of ego
Table 8.1: Basic Lom relationship terms
Term English gloss Explanatory note

32 nuk/pak tiri't

'step-mother/ father' spouse of genealogical parent of ego [term of reference]

33 seperadek; beradek

'siblings/sisters/ brothers' any consanguine collateral of ego [used in sentences translated as "we/they are brothers and sisters"]

34 pak/aki angkuk

'godfather' [an inaccurate gloss of the Lom term; cf. section 2.5 below]

35 pedurin

'spouse of ex-spouse' present spouse of former spouse of ego [reciprocal term of reference; durin: 'durian'; a fruit with a spiked outer layer which, though much loved by Malays, can kill a person when it falls from great heights]
Table 8.2: Further Lom relationship terms

2.3. Buyong

While buyung is a concept widely known on Bangka and apparently always connotes 'incest' in one form or another it is not a Standard Malay/Indonesian (SM/I) term.(189) Neither, I hasten to add, does one find one definition of the word shared by the various Malay groups on Bangka.

The Lom define the general term 'buyong' as either 'wrongful marriage' (salah kawin) or 'marrying the same blood' (kawin satu darah).

I translate 'buyong' as 'incest' and not as 'exogamy' for two reasons. Firstly, sexual relations between any two persons belonging to categories of people not supposed to engage in them are encompassed by the Lom definition. Whether or not such relations result in offspring or have been officially, but wrongfully, permitted through neglect (i.e. insufficient inquiry into how the partners are related) is unimportant: When spelling out the calamities supposed to be caused by buyong relationships, the Lom typically related stories in which offenders were 'caught in the act' and thus it is sexual intercourse in its immediate sense which is at issue. Secondly, the Lom use this term for sexual relations between siblings and parents/children, as well as between more distant kin. Buyong, in this section, is therefore taken to mean sexual relations prohibited on account of kinship.(190)

The buyong prohibition is strongest, the Lom say, between parents and children, but even between uncle/niece and aunt/nephew sexual intercourse is considered to be sufficiently appalling that were it carried out death would result since their bodies would actually grow into each other — their flesh would literally become one.

The Lom recognise seven kinds of buyong:

1. between siblings

2. between parents and children (buyong jaman)

3. between grandparents and grandchildren

4. between aunts/uncles and nephews/nieces

5. between two persons of which one is the offspring and the other the angkuk child of the same man (buyong sikok mak sabong)

6. between persons who have nursed at the same breast (buyong air tetek)

7. buyong seperadik aker: see below

If for some reason the proverbial 'sudden death' referred to above does not occur, it was pointed out to me that persons engaging in any of the four first kinds of buyong (in its consanguineal, non-classificatory sense) listed above would, in principle, suffer capital punishment. The fact that no Lom cited cases in which it had been executed suggests that such punishment is only threatened; that it is an expression belonging to nominal and not to practised adat — but it still signals the abhorrence with which the Lom view buyong.

It should perhaps be stressed again that since the Lom use relationship terms classificatorily the number of people who are not potential marriage partners is considerably greater than it would otherwise have been. I shall return to this issue in greater detail below.

In what has been described as "The leading introductory kinship textbook" (Barnard and Good: 1984: 1) Robin Fox warns against mistaking incest for exogamy which, he says,

"is really only the difference between sex and marriage, and while every teenager knows these are different, many anthropologists get them confused." (Fox, 1967: 54)

While I am hardly averse to the idea that anthropologists ought to be as knowledgeable about matters sexual and marital as the average teenager I hold — on principle — that it is of minor consequence what anthropologists are aware of if the peoples they study are not. The following statement from a recent study on "Malay kinship" holds true for the Lom, too:

"Since marriage is both easy for Malays to arrange and not an unbreachable contract, linguistic usage equates marriage with the sexual act." (Banks, 1983: 65, emphasis mine.)

And, as I noted above, buyong is explained as 'wrongful marriage' or 'marrying the same blood'. The question to be answered, then, is who may a Lom marry, or conversely, with whom may a Lom not have a sexual relationship? A Lom may of course marry another Lom but it is important to realise that the Lom do not constitute a discrete marriage group. They may freely marry non-Lom and frequently do. (I was initially surprised by the number of exogamous marriages I came across). One basic rule (from which I have noted one crucial exception; cf. the section on 'the remaining seed' at the outset of this chapter) is therefore that outsiders, both male and female, are always eligible. Outsiders must here be understood to be confined to either Malays (in a wide sense, i.e. including for example Muslim Sundanese from Java, Christian Batak from Sumatra, etc.) or Chinese. This was never explicitly stated, but can reasonably be inferred, I think, from the account of how the Chinese became Chinese.(191) At any rate, members of the only other 'pure' category of people known to the Lom,(192) Belandé (literally 'Dutch' but in fact encompassing all Westerners or people with 'white skin') have, to my knowledge, never attempted to marry a Lom.

Who may a Lom not marry? In addition to the prohibition against marrying one's parent or grandparent (and conversely, one's child or grandchild) the basic prohibition is, briefly stated, that one may not marry any of one's parents' children, siblings or cousins. Crucially (as a consequence of the use of classificatory relationship terminology) the prohibited group also includes parents' second, third and fourth cousins. Obviously, this prohibition is reciprocal, too, which means that one may not marry the children of one's siblings or their cousins. These relationships are all collectively known as buyong.

The general picture emerging is thus that a Lom may marry any stranger — and any consanguine except genealogical siblings as long as the consanguineal relationship does not transcend generational levels. Only when a consanguineal relationship transcending generational levels is more than four degrees removed is it untarnished, so to speak.

One may ask why marriage to a first cousin is permitted while it is forbidden to marry, say, mother's third cousin. The answer to this question is — partly, at least — to be found in the Lom's classificatory use of relationship terms (cf. Table 8.1). Given the prohibition to marry mang and wak (parents' siblings) it makes sense when one keeps in mind that these are the terms used for parents' cousins (and second, third, and fourth cousins) as well. Parents, while knowing full well who their second and third cousins are, tell a small child only that these are to be addressed as 'mang' and 'wak'. Conversely, parents make it clear to a child who its own (genealogical and classificatory) 'nephews' and 'nieces' are. The Lom do not expect children to have comprehensive knowledge of terms of address among kin until they are at least 10 years old. Through the first years of the socialisation process, therefore, no attempt is made to distinguish parents' siblings from parents' cousins vis-à-vis the children.

Marriage bonds, as already mentioned, are broken relatively easily and multiple marriages are, if not frequent, far from exceptional. Sibling groups may thus grow to some size and the age difference between the first- and lastborn may be significant. Many Lom are consequently of the same age as their 'uncles' and 'aunts' or 'nephews' and 'nieces'. While this may not be too complicated to keep track of in a population sufficiently large for people rarely to be related in more than one way, it is obviously difficult in a society like the Lom, where the marriageable population today numbers some 200 individuals. I am not arguing that the greater the population the simpler it is to trace genealogies, my point is just that within a very small population most members will know them (to whatever degree required) and that within a very large one eligible members will be sufficiently numerous for genealogies to disperse rather than overlap. The Lom, in this respect, seem to constitute a society somewhere in between.

Further, the Lom do not only employ relationship terms classificatorily along consanguineal lines, they use the same terms for affines and, importantly, even across affinal links. This fact introduces crucial complications: Parents' siblings' spouses — and even their siblings again — are conceptualised as within the kindred group. And, being included in the kindred group, these brothers and sisters of one's affinal kindred are counted in, as it were, as regards incest. In order to illustrate the complications arising from this extended use of relationship terms I shall discuss one particular case, that of Alim's second marriage.

Figure 8.1 demonstrates why Alim, when he married for the second time, thought he had chosen a 'good' partner. We see that Akum 'in a way' is Alim's first cousin or, rather, she is Alim's eldest brother's MBD (Alim's eldest brother, Alun, is Dakang's son from a previous marriage): A close relative, but not too close.

But this union is in fact a buyong relationship because Alim and Akum are related in another way, too, though so far removed that neither Alim nor Akum were aware of it at the time they married. Alim himself is still uncertain whether the relationship goes back four or five generations. He knows only that he is the fourth or fifth cousin of Akum's mother — which requires Akum to address him as mang ('uncle').

Because buyong relationships embrace all relations extending to and including parents' fourth cousins — with the important qualification that the gravity of the transgression diminishes with increasing relationship distance — another diagram must be drawn where Alim and Akum are seen to be related through the parent(s) of Sudi and Acal (I was unable to trace their parents' marital history). Although the relationship between the marriage partners is, as I said, one of 'negligible consequence' i.e. it entails no sanctions proper, it is still categorised as buyong and causes Alim some embarrassment. (Figure 8.2 also demonstrates the bilaterally affinal recognition of kinship: Alim and Duran are clearly not consanguines.)

The person who told Alim about this, post factum, was Bakil (leftmost in the diagram). He explained the buyong relationship by the fact that Alim addresses him as mang ('uncle'; MZHB) whereas Akum calls him aki ('grandfather'; MFMBS). Precisely because Bakil is addressed by kinship terms implicating different generational positions ('plus one' and 'plus two') by each of the spouses respectively, Alim's relationship to Akum is defined as that of an uncle's to his niece.(193)

Thus, 'kinship' here is not understood as mere consanguinity; lateral affines, as long as they are the spouses of anyone within four consanguineal degrees, are included as if they were consanguines and they serve as valid kindred for the determination of eligibility.

In former times the various customs and prohibitions were monitored by the incumbents of the two institutionalised and inherited 'offices' of penitit and penaber whose descendants, importantly, were forbidden to intermarry; their relationship was referred to as buyong aik lemu or buyong ilmu, i.e. 'incest of magic'. The duty of these 'office holders' was to keep possible transgressors of custom on the right side of adat. They would punish (terhak) someone marrying prohibited relatives of another generation. The ultimate retribution would be a great flood from Gunung Pelawan; in the words of one Lom, "Its source will vomit" (sumbernya akan muntah)(194)

According to an elderly Lom (whom I once witnessed having a severe emotional outbreak over the matter) not one, but many couples nowadays apparently indulge in buyong relationships, thereby causing havoc to world order and social — as well as geographical — stability. Others, too, confided that presently incest rules are frequently being broken. Formerly it was almost impossible to do that, they said, precisely for the reason that the penitit and the penaber were always called upon to scrutinise a proposed marriage.(195) When inquiring into the reasons for the disappearance of these institutions the answer was invariably "who dares?" (siapa berani?). Further discussion revealed that what was implied is that nowadays it is considered too great a personal risk for any one individual to sanction marriage. If a marriage is officially endorsed it is publicly 'guaranteed', so to speak, not to violate buyong prohibitions and the penitit and penaber would be held responsible for any future possible demonstration of the couple's prohibited relationship.(196)

Perhaps equally important is the rumoured tendency to convert to Islam without the traditionally proper reason, which is ethno-cultural outmarriage. There is no prohibition against conversion as such, if the reason is that one is marrying a Muslim woman.(197) The practice (though not requirement) of post-marital uxorilocal residence in the extended sense of the term is a major contributing factor here, and vice versa; if a male Muslim marries a Lom woman, he is expected to 'act like a Lom'; pulang Mapur. But nowadays some unmarried youngsters, whose parents are both Lom, are reported to have converted to Islam (masuk Selam) — if this is true (I was unable to have the rumour confirmed) it clearly poses a novel and serious threat to the viability of the Lom as a group with a difference.

I stressed above that by being included in the kindred group, the brothers and sisters of affinal kindred are reckoned with in terms of incest. Therefore, cases of buyong are not only reported among distant classificatory cross-generational relatives.

Figure 8.3 illustrates a case of buyong: here it is a marriage with sibling's spouse's sibling's child that is thus classified.

Now, to Western readers, the question of incest does not arise between Anglun and Mungri; it is an uncompromised relationship.(198) I asked if not a much more severe case would be a relationship between, say, Ngim and Mungri's sister. My informant answered that "there isn't all that much difference between a headache and a toothache, pokoknya begini (the point is this):", after which he made a universally recognised sexually charged gesture.

A rather severe case of buyong, and one with a particular twist to it, is represented by a man who is reportedly married to his classificatory grandmother (no-one was able to tell me how many degrees removed). This is a more clear-cut case — generally known, evidently — and I pointed out that as much as this was a fault on the husband's and his wife's part, it was the mistake of the penghulu (the marriage officiator) as well. But according to the villagers the penghulu had had little choice because the woman was already visibly pregnant. And, even more importantly, I was told that the whole affair was of the husband's design, because marrying this way he would obtain a certain kind of potentially lethal magic, or secret power, called ilmu nipu.(199)

The complications arising from all buyong relationships are of course that kin-terms become muddled, or, more precisely, that the behaviours associated with discrepant kinship positions are incompatible: Were a man to marry his classificatory niece he would be expected to call his 'cousin' (the girl's father) 'pak mentué' ('father-in-law'). This would be embarrassing because what is basically a relationship between peers would abruptly be turned into an asymmetrical one where one party (the father) may demand deference from the other (the husband).

2.4. Authority and deference

This sort of explanation for incest 'taboos' does not appeal to Robin Fox (my apologies for the lengthy quotation):

"Another disadvantage of incest is said to be the confusion of relationships that would follow if incestuous unions were allowed. As with the man in the song 'I'm my own grandpa', people in incestuous families would be confused as to who they were. This argument is as old as Philo the Alexandrine and as recent as Kingsley Davis. Thus, it says, if a man had a child by his own daughter, then the child would be a brother to its own mother and wouldn't that be confusing. You can run through the catastrophic combinations for yourself if you wish to waste that much time. The theory is really too silly to dwell on, but as some people take it seriously we may as well spell out the objections. Again it confuses incest with exogamy, but more importantly it confuses role with biology. It doesn't take into account that a person can only be one person at a time. If, in the case of a simple incestuous act, the said daughter has a son, he would be her offspring, and it would make no difference if the genitor were her own father or the milkman or an anonymous donor. Even if the mating of father and daughter were formalised and she became his wife, what would follow? She simply exchanges the role of daughter for that of wife.

"Her children are still her children and are socially the children of their father. That the latter is genetically their mother's begetter is neither here nor there. After all, in Tibet and other parts of the world, a man may marry a mother and her daughter, which is not far from what we are contemplating. In many cases of consummated incest the daughter 'steps into the shoes of', that is — takes over the role of — her mother." (Fox, 1967: 57-58, emphasis his)

The point is of course not that people are confused about who they are, if who they are is supposed to mean who their begetters are. The point is simply that in every society role and behaviour are inextricably linked, that in every society some roles are incompatible with others, and that for an individual to take on incompatible roles is confusing — not least to others. In short, the point is not logical, but cultural. If in a given society being the offspring and spouse of the same person generates no conflict, there is no problem. But if it does, there is. Among the Lom it does.

In order to understand why it entails conflict among the Lom I shall briefly explain how authority and deference in relationship-defined roles are expressed.

Parents' authority over children among the Lom is (as it is among Malays in general) not only unquestioned but also near absolute. This suddenly became clear to me when Alim proudly told me that his 11-year old son is so fearful (takut) of his father that he does not even address him. Others confirmed that Alim's pride was far from exceptional. Furthermore, firstborn are rarely punished for their behaviour and hence are 'daring' (berani) vis-à-vis their younger siblings. If elder siblings beat younger ones they are not regularly reprimanded by their parents. Thus elder children assert authority over their younger siblings, even long after they have set up independent households. Another incident, also involving Alim, demonstrated this: In an effort to make a living he had set up a small business selling sweetened ice-shavings (es kacang). There being no electricity and hence no refrigeration facility in the village he had to go to Belinyu by motorcycle every two or three days in order to replenish his supply of ice. A few times he borrowed the motorcycle I had at my disposal, but when I had to leave for a few days he was at a loss as to how he was to get his blocks of ice to Pejam. I suggested he borrow his elder brother's motorcycle. He shook his head and said, "impossible". I asked him if it was impossible because Kalu constantly needed it (which I knew was not the case, anyway). He answered that no, the reason was that Kalu is his elder brother: Alim, as adik, cannot ask his kakak to do him a favour. The outcome of Alim's predicament was that he closed his stall until he could borrow my motorcycle again, by which time someone else (who owned a motorcycle) had grabbed the business idea and carried it through more consistently than Alim had been able to do.

Banks writes:

"While responsibility and authority inhere with special force in the parental roles, elements of them are found in all kinship relationships. No Malay kinship relationships are conceived as symmetrical. Differences of generation, relative age, and sex all mark one end of a kinship dyad as responsible and the other as dependent. Relative age suggests somewhat lesser dependence than generational difference, but the elements of deference and respect present in the relations between parents and children are present in relationships between abang (kakak) and adik." (Op. cit.: 133-4)

Siblings address each other by terms implying relative age and first, second etc. cousins use the very same terms. But while siblings stress the aspect of authority and deference implied in these terms, cousins attach far less importance to this and point out instead that they belong to the same generation-level (samé sepantér). That they are genealogically more distant only partly explains this. The fact that the sibling terms they use reflect not their own, but their parents' relative age, is arguably equally important. Someone addressing a cousin kakak (glossed here as 'elder brother') could well be older than him; it is one's parent's age relative to his that is determining here. While I agree with Banks that "no kinship relationships are conceived as symmetrical", the relationship between cousins comes fairly close and constitutes the only near egalitarian "kinship relationship". Indeed, cousins — as potential marriage partners — are peers.(200)

Therefore, one who marries a cousin's child forfeits an egalitarian relationship for one of deference; the peer (cousin) becomes a parent-in-law (to be respected). Similarly, for a woman to "simply exchange the role of daughter for that of wife", as Fox suggests, would, among the Lom, be tantamount to exchanging a role implying deference for one of equality.

I therefore agree fully with Needham when he writes:

"The scope of application [of incest prohibitions, OHS] is in each case an integral feature of the social system, and in some sense a function of it; i.e., the complex of prohibitions in a society cannot be comprehended except by a systematic purview of the institutions with which they are implicated. By this account of the matter there are as many different kinds of incest prohibitions as there are discriminable social systems". (Needham 1974: 63)

As I have explained when discussing buyong, one important incest prohibition is that between consanguines of different generations. This holds true also for 'half' relationships and means, referring to Figure 8.4, that if one of Suman's sons were to marry Tudi the two of them would suffer capital punishment; they would (nominally) be "thrown into the sea until dead" (dibuang ke laut sampai mati).


Figure 8.4 'Half' relationships count as full ones in terms of incest

NOTE: Boldfaced words signify terms of address used by EGO. The suffix or extension 'gat' means 'eldest'; 'nga' 'middle'; and 'su' 'youngest'. Note also that Duran, although the firstborn, cannot of course be addressed manggat ('eldest uncle') by EGO since EGO is his son. Jiku, the second born, is the one to be thus addressed, though Tudi will address Duran as manggat because her (mother and) father addressed him kakgat.)

A further prohibition, which might be glossed as 'root sibling incest' (buyong seperadik aker), is somewhat complicated to put in words. In Figure 8.5, marriage between Tolang's sister and Ajul is prohibited.

Basically, two principles appear to be at work simultaneously here: Firstly, a principle akin to that explained by the refusal to distinguish between a headache and a toothache. In this case: Akik has had children by Abar, who has had children by Anun, who has had children by Bumun; thus there is a 'thread of parenting', if I may say so, right from Ulima through to Ajul. Therefore, for purposes of eligibility, Ulima and Ajul count as siblings (although in terms of actual blood-relationship, the only thing they have in common is Milapi: she is the half sister of both). Secondly, a prohibition to marry one's siblings' spouse's sibling: Ajul now having been established as Ulima's brother, Tolang's sister cannot marry him. (However, stating it thus means that the marriage between Anglun and Mungri discussed above (cf. Figure 8.3) appears in a different light: a marriage between Anglun and any brother of Ajar would also then be prohibited. I neglected to explore this eventuality.)

In the case of adoption proper the adopted child may not marry any of its foster brothers or sisters if it has been nursed at the same breast. This is considered an incestuous relationship and is referred to as buyong air tetek. However, if the child is already weaned at the time of adoption foster siblings may marry each other freely. According to a Malay Muslim this is a Muslim custom as well and it might, in the case of the Lom, be a result of Muslim influence.(201)

2.5. Angkuk

In addition to the buyong relationships comprising consanguines and affinal kindred that have been discussed above, one last variation of buyong remains to be examined. It concerns the sexual/marital relationship between the offspring of a man and a person who is this man's anak angkuk. The angkuk institution is somewhat similar to the institution of godfather/godchild in our own culture, or perhaps that of compadrazgo familiar from Latin American ones (although the significance of the relationship between the 'co-parents' is less marked among the Lom). Before I account for the problems associated with marriage involving angkuk kindred I shall describe the institution itself.

The Lom say that "everyone" has an angkuk (i.e. every Lom has one), who is invariably a male in the plus one or more generation. He is addressed and referred to as Pak Angkuk (Aki Angkuk in the plus two generation) while his wife is correspondingly addressed as Nuk Angkuk (Nik Angkuk). The relationship between the adult and the child is explained as similar to that between them within the angkat-institution (adoption proper), though the latter is a more comprehensive one. 'Angkat' means 'adoption' and by definition permanently incorporates the adopted child into a new household. 'Angkuk' may entail similar residential re-arrangements, but rarely does so, and at any rate the jural status of the child remains unaffected. The reasons for such a move could be conflicts between parents and child or simply that the child and its angkuk-parents want it. One Lom went to live in the household of his Aki Angkuk while in his teens but had moved back to his parental household after a few days. According to him his Aki Angkuk had been very severe with him: he had told him to never enter the house without first having fetched water and if he ever wanted food or drink he would have to get it himself.

The way a man becomes Pak Angkuk is the following: He waits at his house, by appointment with the child's parents. He knows why he is visited but feigns ignorance by initiating smalltalk. After a while the baby is put in his lap and he bestows a name on it. He then tells the child (in such a manner that its parents may eavesdrop, which they are supposed to) what object(s) he expects the child to return to him when marrying. These objects may be of various kinds: money, rice, cakes, dinner plates, a dozen drinking-glasses, gold, a dozen lengths of cloth, a sack of rice, a dozen plaited straw mats — even live crabs — and, finally, Pak Angkuk may tell the child to live with and work for him for as much as up to a year.

I expressed surprise at what to me seemed like an enormous difference between the various forms of 'sacrificial payment' (which is a rough translation of the native term: meir niat, lit. 'paying [for the] vow'). What is a dozen glasses compared to a year's labour? But I was assured that nobody has ever fulfilled the payment by labour.

If Pak Angkuk dies before the time comes for the child to marry, then the right to receive meir niat is inherited by his wife and/or children; if he has no children it is passed to his (genuine — not classificatory) nephews and nieces.

There are two kinds of 'godchildren': The first (and considered the 'closest') is known either as anak cucung ('grandchild) or anak angkat ('adopted child'). These are the terms used when the 'godfather' follows the prospective mother's pregnancy and/or birth closely and for this reason is considered to have a particular relationship to the newborn from the very first moments of its life. The second is known as anak angkuk. It is used for a relationship somewhat more distant than the former and is more specifically related to concrete assistance in difficult situations, notably illness.(202)

Now to the angkuk-related relationship classified as incestuous: A sexual relationship between two persons of which one is the offspring and the other is the angkuk child of the same man is called buyong sikok mak sabong ('one-rooster-incest'). Contrary to buyong proper this alliance is socially accepted, if it is insisted upon. It must, however, be symbolically paid for with a rooster. The term for this payment is meir niat, the same term used for the gift given to one's angkuk parent in a regular marriage: A rooster must be bought, the cost of which is shared between the couple to be married. It is placed between them, lifted level to their ears, then put on the ground and let free: 'vow freed' (lepas niat). I never witnessed this, but was assured that there was nothing more to it. When the rooster has escaped marriage is permitted.

Let us assume that b, in Figure 8.6, is the Pak Angkuk of aD and cD. Marriage between bS and aD (or between bS and cD) is considered buyong. So is marriage between bS and aDD, a rule that is an extension of the trans-generational incest. In fact, none of b's children may marry aD or her children and, by the extension pertaining to biological relatedness — but never confused with it — neither may b's offspring for four generations. However, aD's siblings may marry any of b's children; they are not considered to be related in any way. Between aD and cS (called seperadik angkuk, or 'godsiblings', for lack of a better term), on the other hand, marriage is fully permitted among the Lom. If they were to marry, they cannot, of course, do so unless meir niat is paid. In their case, though, the recipient is the same, b, and only the most valuable meir niat needs to be paid.


Figure 8.6 The angkuk relationship

NOTE: Any exchange of gender designations in this diagram may be performed without corrupting the argument.

The relationship between 'godchild' and 'godfather' is, although not a deeply committing one, of a spiritual and social, rather than economic, nature. Excepting the meir niat no material transaction between the two parts of the dyad is supposed to take place. 'Godchildren' never inherit their 'godfathers'. Even when the relationship is of the 'close' kind referred to as angkat ('adoption') it never involves inheritance except in one instance: If a Pak Angkuk dies before his adopted children marry, then his near kin inherit his claim — part economic, part symbolic — in them, viz. the meir niat.

Meir niat can thus take place under two different circumstances and although the term is the same the concept is different in each one. The first of these is when a 'godchild' is getting married. In this situation meir niat symbolises the severing of the pseudo-parental bond between the 'godfather' and the adult 'godchild' and here the payment (e.g. objects, money, labour, or whatever) has been individually determined by Pak Angkuk himself who is also the recipient. The second is when a 'godchild' marries one of the 'godfather's' direct descendants. In this case the 'payment' is socially determined, fixed, symbolic, and there is no recipient (the rooster is let free).

3. Concluding comment

My central concern has been to explain how the Lom or Adat Mapur conceptualise and regulate affinal, consanguineal and incestuous relations. I hope to have conclusively shown the crucial — in terms of social organisation — rules concerning incest.

Why rules on incest occupy the Lom so much has been explained — as I think it should — largely in terms of what the Lom themselves perceive to be the problem if they were broken. I have argued that this problem is that the authority and deference implicated in most kin-imbued dyads may become confused; behaviour incompatible with role (and vice versa) is called for — an impossible anomaly, according to the Lom, although Robin Fox, as I have noted, would disagree with them.

I have also demonstrated the near-conflation of 'affinity' and 'consanguinity'. While these concepts have been used throughout this chapter I want to suggest that the material presented might warrant a far more radical analytical treatment. I do not imply that the axiom 'blood is thicker than water' does not hold among the Lom. They could conceivably have said something to that effect. But had they done so the meaning of the axiom would have to be appreciably different from the one most anthropologists take for granted, or at least took for granted until David M. Schneider's Critique (1984) and — along a somewhat different tangent — Rodney Needham's various Remarks (1971, 1974). I refer on the one hand to the encompassing inclusive categorisations graphically represented in Figures 8.2, 8.3 and 8.5 above and in particular to the explanation for the incestuous relationship between Anglun and Mungri as depicted in Figure 8.3. The fact that they have no blood in common is, as we have seen, of little interest to the Lom. What is crucial is that they are conceptualised as occupying positions vis-à-vis each other, which requires the use of cross-generational relationship terms. On the other hand, I refer to the Lom practice of placing parents' elder siblings' children in the category kakak ('elder same generation consanguine') and parents' younger siblings' children in the category adik ('younger same generation consanguine') regardless of ego's age relative to alter's. The implications of such conflation in the first case and extension in the second could be far-reaching in that it raises anew the question of what relationship terms 'really' mean. Very possibly efforts to pinpoint the core meaning of such terms (e.g. as 'referential meaning') are bound to fail or misfire because even 'referential meaning' itself might be constituted of any number of 'non-referential' meanings in order for it to have any meaning at all — and hence concepts like 'conflation' and 'extension' may ultimately be utterly inappropriate.

Finally, a more general note. The rules on marriage and incest — including the 'principle of the remaining seed'  —  are integral parts of the wider body of cultural rules: adat. As such they are of crucial import to the identity of the Lom as a group with a difference: other Bangka suku have other adat buyung. In chapters two and three I have detailed how, according to the Lom, the Almighty disseminated order and traditions in some indefinitely distant mythic past. Various peoples already existed then, but because order was wanting those were times of earthquakes, storms, and floods. What the Almighty brought to the world in response to the chaotic situation which arose when these regular calamities decimated the world's populations was, in a word, adat. Adat is culture and represents order, and according to the Lom the very essence of adat is contained in the rules on incest. Not to adhere to these rules is therefore in a deep sense to jeopardise the very cultural identity that distinguishes the Lom from other Indonesian ethnic groups.

Chapter nine — Concluding remarks

I have maintained in the present study that an essential aspect of many of the rules the Lom live by are their essentially ethnic complexion. By following the rules one maintains one's Lom identity — and by transgressing them one becomes a threat to social — and ultimately cosmic — order. Some of these rules, or more generally: norms, are those conveyed by the life crises rituals. Although I may be charged with over-simplification I hope to have demonstrated that these fall into two groups: Birth and mortuary rites (which stress sociability) and the male incision rite (which stresses individuality).

I have noted throughout that the Lom are takut (afraid, timid). This fear, or anxiety, operates on more than one level. Firstly, and most tangibly, it is the frequently voiced fear for their life and physical well-being if events beyond their control (war, political unrest, etc.) show signs of exerting their influence within their (loosely defined) territory. It also expresses itself as a lack of confidence in representatives of the authorities — notably the police, the military and other agencies engaged in maintaining law and order(203) — or, more precisely, their fear that individuals thus employed might lose their self control and indulge in unwarranted violence.

One example of how the Lom link danger to strangers was provided by their account of how electricity is made. Erring individuals suffer, as I have repeatedly demonstrated, potentially far-reaching dire consequences. When this interpretation is extended to encompass not only strangers as individuals but also as representatives of the violent Other — embodying possible cultural infringement reminiscent of the turbulent past — the preoccupations of the Lom seem to merge into the theme outlined in chapter one.

I concluded in chapter three that the Lom seem to conceptualise creation first and foremost as a divine act which was followed by the continued differentiation of things and beings by — frequently mistaken — acts of superhumans (or pre-humans) and humans. Thus another element is added to the very real historically rooted politico-physical fear I outlined in chapter one: the fear of transgressing proscriptions — even of speaking falsely.

Had these been the only levels on which the anxiety is displayed one would assume that — given that the years to come turn out to be of political and international stability — it would slowly give way to a state of affairs in which communal interaction and co-operation with the local and central authorities presently engaged in developing the area would be the norm rather than the exception.

However, such is not the case. Perhaps more deeply rooted than their fear of being beaten (dipukul) and arrested (detangkap) is their view of the consequences of social integration and/or assimilation. Their conviction is that if Adat Mapur ceases to exist, so does the world. They insist that when the Almighty created the world millions of years ago he also created the various bangsa (ethnic groups). The continued existence of Creation depends, primarily, on the continued existence of different social groups. Each race, ethnic group, and tribe has its place and plays its part in the pre-ordained balance. The social order of the world — implicit in Creation — hinges on the maintenance of ethnic diversity. For one group to disappear, or to be assimilated into another, is viewed as the beginning of (what we might call) the Apocalypse. The collapse of the adat of a small group is as critical as that of a majority's. To the Lom, as I have noted repeatedly already, cessation of Adat Mapur is as potentially chaotic as if the Muslims were to eat pork or the Chinese were to queue up for circumcision. And crucially, ethnicity — as first and foremost a question of adat (order, belief, and traditions) — is not of human origin. The different customs of the ethnic groups of the world were given by God. To muddle ethnicity is therefore to muddle divine order.

One important difference between the situation in which the Muslims, the Chinese and the Lom find themselves must be stressed. The latter are acutely aware of their marginal position, numbering only some 800 individuals. Being, by custom and bent, unable to proselytise among other segments of the population — not only because the idea that Muslims or Buddhists would 'convert' to Adat Mapur is extremely unlikely(204) but also because turning others into people like themselves would be as upsetting to the divine order as for the Lom to relinquish their own adat — their only viable strategy has been to retreat to the denser part of the jungle and adopt a policy of non-involvement in external affairs.

This, of course, posed problems, but problems they were somehow able to handle. Recently, however, outside interest in the Lom has presented them with a novel set of challenges. The first and by far the simplest to deal with was the establishment of a Protestant church in Air Abik in 1969. If the cultural barriers against conversion to Islam have been strong, the thought of embracing a religion expounded by — in the words of one Lom — "a black-robed man preaching in front of a corpse" is even less appealing; to this day the church has a single-digit following. The second and third are represented by the settlement schemes in Air Abik in 1977 and in Pejam in 1982 — complete with elementary school and balai (communal house).

This has presented the Lom with a smarting dilemma. One of their central taboos is that against using pen and paper. In other words: Learning to read and write. The dilemma arises because whatever they now choose to do they are bound to transgress an important norm; if they do not send their children to school they believe, rightly or not, that they are likely to bring down upon themselves sanctions from the authorities in one form or another — something which, for the historical reasons outlined in chapter one, they are reluctant and afraid to do. On the other hand, sending them to school means breaking an adat dictum that — even if it does not provoke the earthquakes and floods prophesied by the mythical ancestors — at least might jeopardise internal social control. Firstly, the transgression of one such paramount norm entails, so to speak, the metamessage that 'archaic' norms may be disregarded, then altogether neglected, in general. This metamessage is likely to be fortified in the event that calamities prophesied as consequences of transgression fail to appear and thus further decrease the esteem in which other elements of the norm set are held. If a general disintegration of norms should turn out to be the end product of this process one should perhaps not be surprised. Secondly, and closely related to the above, overstepping norms translates almost directly as disrespect towards the norm setters — in this case the society's elders. Keeping in mind that the Lom no longer have sanctioning and punitive institutions this means that the only response the elder can give is anger, frustration or fear — or, indeed, a combination of the three — fostering a feeling of guilt in the mind of the transgressor and a sense of inadequacy in them both. Thirdly, and arguably most crucially, if the Lom learn how to read and write this 'means' that they more closely resemble the ethnic groups they see themselves in distinction to. If anything, to be a Lom is to be different from Muslim Malays and Chinese.

Real dilemmas are rarely solved. They are circumvented. The Lom have adopted three 'avoidance strategies' in keeping, as it were, with their traditional solution: non-involvement. One is to send one's children to school once a week and explain — very plausibly — that they are needed in the fields the rest of the time. Another is to withdraw them after a year or two explaining — again very plausibly — that it is too expensive. A third alternative is to refrain from maintaining one's house in the proyék, thus rendering it uninhabitable. With one's honour only slightly dented and still persona grata (though having endangered one's relationship with the authorities who are believed to expect gratitude), one remains in the forest swiddens.

It should be emphasised, however, that there is an appreciable difference between the two Lom settlements in the attitude towards education (and, perhaps concomitantly, national integration). Not surprisingly it is in the somewhat more orthodox village of Air Abik that the dilemma is most acutely experienced. At Pejam, where the school opened for the first time in July 1984, more than fifty children turn up daily. Whether this will continue remains to be seen.

Now, as far as the Lom are concerned, they are fairly conversant with the adat of Muslims and Chinese but the latter two, importantly, are not familiar with Lom traditions. Therefore the Lom are likely to be victimised when well-meaning outsiders bring goods or services which the outsiders themselves regard as necessary or beneficent but which the Lom regard not only with scepticism but with fear. Among the prohibitions issued by Gajah Mada to the Lom was that there must not be schools built on the Lom homeland, neither must chapels or prayer-houses — of whatever religion — be erected. Since the calamities prophesied if taboos are transgressed mainly take the form of natural disasters, it is little wonder that many Lom now interpret missing rainy seasons, rainy dry seasons, frequent thunderstorms and flowers fruiting at the wrong time of the year as omens that Gajah Mada's dicta are not adhered to.

The Lom have experienced two development projects over the past ten years. The aims have been to assist them in becoming active and participating Indonesians. Roads have been built, schools have been erected, there is a church in Air Abik and plans to build a surau (Muslim prayer house) in Pejam are rumoured. Little by little agricultural production seems to grow — in spite of the very real constraint posed by the soil. But precisely for the reasons outlined above there have been social costs that are difficult to evaluate and there can be little doubt that the first of these projects (the one in Air Abik) has failed to reach its goals (cf. appendix III). The reason for this is perhaps that the pride of the Lom and the strength of their belief were too little known. What is promising is that the most recent project now appears to be well under way. The majority of eligible children attend school daily and the adult literacy course has been a modest success. But the elder Lom, the keepers of adat and the tellers of stories, are apprehensive.

The desktop hypothesis with which I entered the field appears neither to have been refuted nor supported. Signs and tendencies, however, suggest that the population in Pejam is becoming less orthodox at a more rapid rate than that in Air Abik, probably for the very simple reason that they are in frequent contact with outsiders. I have not found any support, however, for my original supposition that differing ecological adaptations have had an immediate impact on ideational models. In my original research proposal I stated that the strand population probably settled at the turn of the twentieth century. It turned out that the majority arrived in the 1950s and 60s. This is too short a time-span, I think, for changes of such nature to develop.


Appendix I

The calendar used by the Lom

For some time I thought that the difficulties the Lom experience in regard to dovetailing seasonal climatic change with agricultural production were to do not only with the very fluctuations in the seasons themselves, but also with the fact that the stages of Lom agriculture are phrased in the idiom of the Chinese calendar.(205) The discrepancies that arise from this fact are, however, slight. Still, a note on the Chinese calendrical system may be of interest.

The Chinese calendar is lunisolar. This means that their months are lunar and their year solar. The average length of 12 lunar months is 354 days; some 11 3/4 days less than the equinoxal, or solar, year. Now, in order to keep calendrical time synchronised with the compelling facts of nature (i.e. seasons) the Chinese install a leap month (jun yüeh) every second or third year in the form of an extra second, or eighth, or another month chosen according to a system which loosely ties the occurrence of the first lunar month to the occurrence of the winter equinox, or the first of 24 periods lasting 15 degrees of the earth's orbit around the sun.(206)) The year in which this happens thus gets thirteen months — and until the 'thirteenth' month appears there is a slight discrepancy between the number (or name)(207) of the month and the climatic conditions it is culturally presupposed to agree with. This first 15 degree period is called Li-ch'un, or Beginning of Spring and regularly occurs between February 5. and 20. To be more specific and concrete: The first day of the Chinese new year may fall on any date between January 22. and February 19. (a four-week period). If, in a given year, it falls on a day in the beginning of this period (between January 22. and 31., to be precise), then next year it will fall on a day too early (between January 11. and 20.) to match the onset of Li-ch'un and it may, therefore, not be the first day of the new year.(208) The insertion of a leap-month remedies this. It follows — and this is the point I am trying to make — that activities taking place, say, the eighth (lunar) month by precept, do so only ostensibly because the eighth month arrives, seasonally speaking, two weeks too early.(209)

What happens if the sowing — prescribed to commence on the 15. day of the eighth month — is carried out a fortnight too early? In theory (cf. the section on agriculture in chapter six) the rains are expected within a fortnight after sowing (the ninth month marks the beginning of the second wet season). If, however, the rains in fact arrive some four weeks after sowing (i.e. the rice was sown two weeks earlier than the climatically optimal time) — or even later, as is entirely possible — the crop is endangered.

Appendix II

to the knowledge about the Orang Sekka (Sakai) or Orang Laut and the Orang Lom or Mapor, two non-Mohammedan ethnic groups on the island Bangka

From the Kontrolleur Kroon's Dutch manuscript translated into German by Dr. B. Hagen.(210)

II The 'Orang Lom' of Belinyu.
(Written in the year 1894.)

The so-called 'Orang Lom' (belom Islam, i.e. people who have not yet become Mohammedan), also called 'Orang Mapor' or 'Orang Kepor' (Kafir?) after the village Mapur in the department of Sungei Liat can still be found in this district only in the hamlets Air Abik, Penegar and Bekem roughly numbering, respectively, 32, 11 and 46 men, 30, 9 and 41 women, and 44, 6 and 48 children.

One may generally assume that the women are much stronger in their faith than are the men. The former will never convert to Islam, while the men for the most part have nothing at all against it, but they usually — influenced by their wives, refrain from it. Not rarely the man will become Mohammedan if he marries a Mohammedan women, but they also do not hesitate to return to their forefathers' religion if this is to their advantage.

1. These pagans do not differ from the other inhabitants of the region in dress or way of life. Like the Malays they wear the head cloth or a knitted cap, but the elder among them still remember the time when they wore trousers, jacket and headdress from soft, beaten bark when they carried out their work in the forest. This clothing was completely replaced a long time ago by cotton materials, sarongs etc. which are imported in quantity. Those who have converted to Islam are those who have led the way in dressing Malayan, although it is known, even among them, of a transitional period in which they wore cloth they had made themselves.

Concerning the way of life, the diet of the pagans is different from that of the Mohammedans insofar as it is not forbidden for the former to consume the meat of unclean or carnivorous animals and intoxicating drink. Because of an inborn aversion they do not eat monkey- and snake-meat, but it is not very clear whether this is forbidden by their religion as well.

2. The Orang Mapor are devoted to polytheism, one could say a sort of spirit belief, i.e. the honouring of invisible spirits. If we divide the peoples on the lowest cultural level into 1) those who still hold that nature is holy and 2) those to whom the honoured powers have clearly separated themselves from objects and appearances in nature and have become independent beings, then the pagans of Bangka must be counted among the latter in that they certainly recognise the existence of several spirits, both good and evil ones. Some of these are admitted to have a higher rank and greater power; they have been made into gods.

I should like to make the reader aware that what several old Maporese related to me in this connection should be cautiously accepted. I thought I perceived that they were slightly frightened when answering my questions, asked as carefully as possible, about their religious practices. They were also somewhat helpless in expressing their obscure notions. In the following I shall attempt to convey what I learned.

a) Belief. They were very reticent concerning their beliefs in certain gods and goddesses and I was only able to ascertain that they honour four gods whose names, excepting the last one, they would not tell me; only holding up the four fingers of the left hand. This might signify some sort of fetishism, i.e. an honouring of physical objects as beings having a soul — so that in this case even a finger would serve the purpose — but I doubt it. I should like to refer to what I said earlier; that their religious concepts let them assume faith in invisible spirits and that it is therefore unnecessary for them to employ any concrete objects, i.e. trees, rocks, animals, artistic representations etc. in order to aid their conceptualisations. I think I may presume that they wanted to indicate the number of their gods in a child-like fashion; with their fingers, not thereby implying that the finger itself is god-like or a representation thereof.

The first of these gods, indicated by the forefinger, is unmarried and has no children. He has, however, the power to take a wife and without further intercourse have children by her, in other words, to have wife and children by faith, if he so pleases.

The second and third gods are married and have children.

The last, indicated by the little finger, is Baginda Alie (Mohammad's son-in-law, though they do not know, or do not want to know, this). Thus it is clear that Islam has already stamped its more or less strong impression on the indigenous, not yet Islamic population: Alie figures predominantly in the several religious practices and ceremonies which will be described shortly, yes, he intervenes in their life even more than the other gods.

Baginda Alie is married, but the name of his wife is not mentioned. He is their God, not only an intermediary between the God-level and humanity, neither is he the son-in-law of the prophet of the Mohammedans and it is difficult to find the reason why this one in particular has been given such an exalted place by the pagans.

b) Marriage and divorce. The marriage is made valid by Baginda Alie. The young man, having made his choice and finding no unwillingness in the resistance of his beloved, abducts the maiden from her father's house and takes her to his own. The parents keep still and wait, although they presumably know quite well what it is that has moved their daughter to leave the house and whom she has gone with. Three days later the young man comes to his parents-in-law in order to tell them that he has taken their daughter to his house. He then gives them four Dutch guilders as a ceremonial gift; this concludes the marriage ceremony. The only further formality is that notice is given to the village authorities. This last procedure, however, has been introduced by the European government.

If both spouses want to dissolve the marriage, then the most important consideration is whether or not the couple has children.

If there are none, then the husband gets his four guilders back and with that the divorce is final. If children are present, however, then it is the man's duty to support them. Through the village headman he gives the woman a clay cup wherein there is a kwartje (a 25-cent piece, one fourth of a guilder). The cup rests with the headman as a proof of the dissolution of the marriage and that the man is going to fulfil his obligations: the woman gets the kwartje.

This does not mean, however, that the newly divorced may not marry one another once again: on the contrary, they can always get together again, going through the same formalities as they did the first time. They may also repeat the separation and marry once more, as often as their fancies dictate or their wallets permit.

c) Death, funerals. The religious practices at the times of death are also not quite uninfluenced by Mohammedanism and once again Baginda Alie is in the foreground.

The washing of the corpse is done with four coconut shells filled with ordinary water and three shells with coconut milk, that is to say, seven shellfuls of liquid. This number may be neither increased nor decreased. Thereupon the deceased is encased in seven pieces of white cloth, the less affluent employing three straw mats and one white cloth, and for the quite poor, whose relatives are without means, a piece of bark suffices.

Before swathing one puts, each as they can afford it, a coin in the mouth of the deceased.

The corpse is now carried towards the grave wrapped in a piece of bark, however, only those sharing the faith may take part; Mohammedans are excluded because they are partly forbidden to eat the foods of the Maporese and Christians and Chinese because they may place their graves in any direction, not being restricted to a specific one.

The grave itself has an approximate depth of 1-1/2 metres. At the bottom there is a wooden frame covered with a mat or piece of bark on which the corpse is laid, head pointing towards the east (I shall return to this when discussing the oath).

The following is placed in the grave with the deceased: All his clothes, cash, and so on, furthermore a betel box with accessories, a knife at his side — near his right hand — and a piece of new cloth, the size and quality of which is determined by the means of the deceased.

If relatives are left behind these are permitted to exchange the piece of cloth with one of lesser quality.

Sometimes a cup of tuak is still placed in the grave, made from tampoi and tobacco. It appears, however, that this is an old custom that is no longer adhered to by the majority of the present Maporese.

The grave is then closed and raised, afterwards it is protected by wooden boards and on top is finally placed a priuk (clay cooking pot).

Thereafter the burial prayer is said:

The oldest member of the religious community stands in front of the grave, strikes upon it three times and pronounces the prayer. I tried my best to write this prayer down: the man from whom I received it told me that he was the only person in his district who knew it, therefore he must be present at every funeral. But as he spoke very indistinctly much of it is still unclear to me.

The prayer generally appears to be more a set of directions for the deceased about the roads to choose that he may arrive at the final destination and not make his way to those of different faiths, than it is a prayer to soothe the soul of the deceased.

(At this point in the manuscript the prayer is set down in the Malayan language, but with so much of it seemingly in pure Bankanese (sic), unknown to the author, that he is unable to render a smooth translation. I (ref.) therefore refrain from reproducing the Malayan text at this point, of the text only this much is clear: it is but road-directions to the home of the souls, the Maporese evidently conceiving of this place in no favourable way. Ref.)

d) Oath. The Mohammedan swearing has no value to the Maporese. The strongest fashion in which he would attempt to convince someone else of the truth of his statement, perhaps not agreeing to the legal implications of giving one's sworn word, is the following:

He sits down on the ground and lets the smoke of garu wood cover his entire body. Then he beats three times on the floor and three times in the air, making sure that heaven and earth are witnesses that should he be guilty, or lying, then the gods may punish him and his family for seven generations.

I spoke earlier of the funeral practices and mentioned that the corpse is put in the ground with its head towards the east. I believe this can be connected to the rising of the sun. The Mapurese do not especially honour the sun, but it is possible that a respectful attitude towards this celestial body is a remainder of a former worship of nature. Calling on heaven and earth as witnesses when giving their word might likewise point in that direction. And if is correct that fetishism is a derivative of animism, everything containing a soul, then the former might not be so alien to the present-day Maporese.

Appendix III

An interview with Arub, Sunaini, and Rusman

Several of my acquaintances in Belinyu had advised me to try to speak to Arub S. H. (the capital letters stand for 'Sarjana Hukum', a degree in law). Arub is a civilian who held the office of Bupati, or Regent (the highest-ranking non-military office on Bangka) while the Air Abik settlement scheme was planned. He had been recommended to me as a native Bangkanese having a genuine interest in the development and prosperity of the island. I had also been told, by several well-informed local people, that he was open-minded and outspoken.

My appointment with him was set one evening his official residence in Pangkalpinang, an impressive colonial-style floodlit building with large reception rooms and difficult acoustics. I was introduced to two other men; Rusman who had been Camat (Head of Subdistrict) in Belinyu while Arub was Bupati; and Sunaini, a Javanese whose affiliations with the government were not explained to me. After initial smalltalk we were served supper in the dining room with Arub's wife also present. She excused herself after the meal and we were left to ourselves. What follows are excerpts from our conversation. Arub did most of the talking.

He explained that the initial incentive to prepare for a settlement project among the Lom came from Jakarta in 1973. One of the main objectives of this national scheme was to teach people

"...agriculture, education, health. Because those who were to be settled [dikumpulkan, lit. 'gathered'] were members of 'isolated groups' [suku terasing], that is the term we use. On Bangka, the first who were to be settled were the Lom. They comprise an isolated group. The objective of the government was simply this, to settle them so that they would become as one. This would facilitate their education and religious instruction, too. Because we know that the Lom say that it is taboo to go to school. Formerly it was prohibited. And also, it can be said that they are not religious. These are the reasons why the government took the initiative to gather them."

"There are also initiatives taken towards other groups, aren't there? Towards the sea nomads? Are there groups on Bangka other than the Lom and the sea nomads which are labelled 'isolated groups'?"

"I believe that the Jering is one, in the western part of the island. They, according to [N.N.], are just about similar to the Lom. They live scattered here and there. But they are apparently more difficult to relate to. And they are very suspicious if we go there. Say, for example, we just ask for water — if they don't know us they close up their houses. They don't want to receive visitors. And their language is extremely difficult. With the Lom there is a lot that, little by little, sounds like common Bangkanese. But the Jering language is quite unique."

"Perhaps the Jering are the indigenous population on Bangka?"

"Precisely. Extremely difficult! I think this is very interesting, too. They acknowledge Islam. They fast but don't know how to pray. I learnt this yesterday! Their religion is Islam, when we ask them. But praying they don't know. Yesterday I was there with my wife and her brother-in-law showed up. He is teaching them how to pray now. They fast but can't pray — they don't know that at all. You know that if you are a Muslim, you must pray. The five pillars [rukun] of Islam you must know. Really, yesterday I thought: this is very interesting. But their language I don't know. They use interpreters.

"As far as school goes the situation is about the same as with the Lom. They say that the school problem is similar. They are still escorted [dikawal] by the police." [Laughter]. "Did they come from somewhere, or are they indigenous? Their language — is it a dialect or a separate language?"

"Well, in 1976 the Air Abik proyék was completed. Were there any written material or plans relating to similar projects which could be of assistance to you?"


"No records? From the Department of Social Affairs?"

"Well, actually the Camat [Head of Subdistrict] or the Lurah [Rural Area Headman] had more information: the Lom populace is like this, the location is like that, their spirit [jiwa] so and so, etc. You know, if we want the population to develop we have to 'open the road' first, then afterwards build the village."

"That is to say there were no written guidelines?"


"Who was involved in the planning?"

"Directly from Department of Social Affairs on government and province level, then the Rural Area Headman, subdistrict head, and the regent."

"What were the stages in the planning?"

"The first was an initiative from UNSUR and Pemda Depdikbud. Then the department of religion and the department of agriculture. The former term for projects like these was Proyék Pemasyarakatan Suku Terasing ['socialisation of isolated groups']. Now the word Pemasyarakatan has been changed to Kesejahteraan ['prosperity, safety']."

"Approximately how much money was made available for the project?"

"Razak knows the full sum. You know, the project phase was set to five years. The expenses were spread out over these years. After five years it is supposed to be finished. From then on the responsibility is transferred to the local authorities."

"In what way were local officials informed? I mean the Rural Area Headman [Lurah] and village headman [kepala kampung] — at what stage in the planning did they become involved?"

"From the beginning. From the very first the Rural Area Headman was involved. In Air Abik Mat Belang was the village headman then."

"Were there any meetings with the villagers?"

"Yes. The villagers were summoned by the Rural Area Headman. We asked him to gather the people. They were informed. They came to the meeting. When we let it be known, through the Rural Area Headman, that we were coming, people arrived from afar."

"How did they react?"

"They wanted it! They wanted houses, they did!" [Laughter] "They were happy! But later, when they had tried them out, they did not feel at home. They are only happy to receive. Whatever they are given they accept."


"So there was a meeting at that time. But afterwards, when the actual location of the proyék had been determined, were there any other meetings?"

"Well, I was no longer in office then.... The implementation was the responsibility of the Camat. Razak still remembers. One may say, from the government's point of view, that the aid given to the people to this day has been a failure. This has to do with religion. If native beliefs are strong, religion can't get a foothold."

Rusman interjected: "Kalau masih kosong, bisa masuk!" [if their minds are still empty, religion can enter].

"Were any of the steps in the planning changed or modified as a result of the meeting with the villagers?"

"No. What was changed had to do with the funding. It was somewhat reduced. But concerning the study or the research nothing was changed. And these plans — the development of isolated groups is not something done only on Bangka, you know, it is done all over Indonesia — they are generally similar."

The conversation drifted. The three men compared the problems of settling the Lom to the more widely known problem of settling the Kubu, a nomadic hunter-gatherer people in the eastern part of Sumatra:

"They, too, are no longer together. Now they are not settled. Empty, run down — like the Lom: Their empty houses are already dilapidated. They have returned to the forest again. The system works like this: They are only happy, they are only content if they are given food all the time. The disease is this: If they are handed every facility — houses, food, etc. — they want to continue receiving food. When they have eaten everything they disappear. They are happy growing their swiddens now here, now there. They want to move all the time. When they are given houses by the government they still make their gardens far away — they love to move there. They are used to it! And of course they bring their children with them — five kilometres or more from the village.

"To return to the problem of settlement: If the government had had enough money to feed them continuously perhaps the project would be successful in fifty years. We had governmental agricultural instructors to show them how to be settled farmers. But they stick to their traditional ways and move all the time."

"Were there — as far as you know — any differences or conflicts of interest either between the villagers themselves or between the villagers and the local officials?"

"No. There is only the problem of religion. The Lom, on principle, don't protest. The problem is their traditions. They don't want to go to school. One has to proceed slowly. Precisely because of their conceptions schools and mosques are taboo. And there is the economic problem: they want to cultivate their fields far away. They think: When we are settled here surely a school will be built. That frightens them! That does not agree with their... convictions. There are plans to build a mosque now. This is a good thing, but they don't go along with it. They don't want that at all."

"But they keep quiet about it?"

"Yes, they keep it to themselves. On the face of it they comply with the government, but perhaps in their hearts they are resentful."

"One man told me owned more than a thousand newly planted rubber trees at the place chosen for the settlement project. To me he complained that he did not receive one cent in compensation."

They all appeared puzzled at this. Then it occurred to them that if the property had been expropriated when the road was built — i.e. prior to the construction of the proyék — the plantation owner could not claim compensation.

"You know the construction of the road was initiated on 'Presidential Decree' [INPRES]. The government has no liability then. Road building is considered a national task, in contrast to local development schemes designed for local populations. At any rate, no reports of dissatisfaction reached us. But the Lom probably feel powerless [dongkol]."

"What, in your opinion, are the most important considerations with regard to planning settlement projects such as the PKMT project for the Lom?"

"The most important thing is the potential of the area, to ascertain that the site matches the nature and circumstances of the people. Only when we are satisfied that the location befits the project do we go trough with it. Equally important are the requirements of the population regarding agriculture, health, education. To find out, for example, whether they are shifting cultivators or sedentary ones. Such things have to be investigated first. Then we must find a suitable place."

"What is the government's attitude towards swidden agriculture?"

"According to the government it is prohibited. Cultivators must now become sedentary. There are great environmental losses with swidden farming. The forests disappear, the produce is slight. Another important outcome of impermanent dwelling is that the children get no education and thus they do not really become members of society — they remain mere villagers. This is a great problem. But this problem is not specific to the Lom, we have it all over. In Toboali, in Mentok, in Kelapa, in Belinyu. Here on Bangka almost everybody still keep moving around. You will find it in every village. In fact my own parents-in-law still practice swidden agriculture. They, too, move around."

"Is the Lom settlement project different from other PKMT projects on the island?"

"Because the Sekak [sea-nomads] live on the beach their project is different. They are fishermen. I think this project is easier to administer and keep in order. The Sekak fish at sea and return to their beach houses and use them. They may be at sea for several days but they live in their houses. Their houses may not be filled up, but at least they have not been abandoned."

Appendix IV

A brief review of earlier literature

1) Two myths on the origin of the Lom are recorded by an anonymous author (Anon. 1862): About six centuries ago, when there were very few inhabitants on Bangka, a junk was wrecked near Tanjung (cape) Tuing. The crew, consisting of Cochin Chinese, lost their lives with the exception of three persons: two men and a woman. At about that time the king of Mataram (a Javanese kingdom) had sent his son, Gadja Minpoer, and the latter's wife, Ratoe Madjapahit, to Bangka in order that they rule the island. Prince Gadja Minpoer supplied the survivors with rice, machetes, and axes so that they could till the land and make themselves shelter under Gunung (mountain) Pelawan. These three people, living completely secluded from others, are, according to this legend, the ancestors of the Lom.

According to the other legend the ancestors of the Lom were a man and a woman who mysteriously emerged from the Semidang hill after a great flood had left the top of the hill dry.(211)

The religious practice of the Lom is a support of the heavens, without which the latter will collapse, and it consists of the worship of spirits of which the most prominent is called Mambang.(212) This spirit is the overlord, master of the living and the dead, to whom the souls of humans rise after death. Another spirit, Ake Antak, is a kind of giant, from whom the Lom say they descend.(213) They worship mountains, rocks and trees as the creation of this powerful being. The numerous places in which they claim that this spirit has resided, or is still present, is considered by the Lom to be sacred places that they approach with respect.(214)

They further believe in a number of other evil spirits and ghosts, such as the Hantu Mapur, a spirit of the mountains and forests; the Hantu Buyut, a water-spirit; etc.(215) They harbour much fear for these spirits and think that they are bothered by them when they are ill. In case someone is afflicted by disease, they believe that the person in question has been possessed by one of these spirits. If the remedy prepared in order to drive the spirit away fails to work, an exorcist, doubling as physician, is called. The exorcist sings and dances until he enters a trance-state, in which he comes to know the nature of the possessing spirit, offers a curing remedy and utters words which are unintelligible to most people.(216) Finally he offers the spirit a sacrifice, consisting of ketupat (small packets of cooked, glutinous rice), eggs and other edibles. These are placed in a tree unless the perpetrator is a water-spirit, in which case a small prahu (boat) is made. The sacrificial gift is placed in it and the prahu is then made to sink.(217)

In case someone has fallen ill through the wrongdoing of someone else the Lom put pinang- or other flowers in a container as a charm, or they make a representation of the person said to be responsible for the disease and pierce the representation with a needle, or nail, so that the illness is removed.(218)

When someone is approaching death, a priest or elder is summoned who whisper words into the ears of the dying person which few understand, but which mean to inform him/ her that the way to the heavens splits in two; one goes to the left, the other to the right, and at the junction there is the house of Ake Antak. The deceased calls at this place on his/her way to heaven and is questioned. The reason for the priest or elder to whisper into the dying person's ear is that the latter be forewarned so that, in case the deceased is pointed towards the road to hell, s/he will avoid it.

If Ake Antak finds that the deceased has committed few sins and been good towards others, he will point out the right way to heaven. Contrariwise the deceased will be shown the way to hell.

After death has occurred the deceased is brought to a sitting posture and all the relatives come visiting. Afterwards the corpse is buried, propped up so that it is still in a sitting position, and accompanying the deceased in the grave are pillows, straw mats, cooking pot, rice, and other objects. Sometimes these are wrapped in a fine cloth before they are placed in the grave.(219)

2) A second author (Zelle 1891) also mentions the legend of the shipwrecked Cochin-Chinese junk, and goes on to say that it is difficult to know how much truth there is in the legend since he was unable to find out if there are still traces of Cochin-Chinese in the vocabulary of the Lom — whose language, according to him, is not different from the language of other Bangkanese; i.e. "un bien mauvais Malais".

Regarding the belief of the Lom, Zelle is only certain that they are not Muslim. If they have any kind of cult, "il doit être des plus primitifs, car on ne s'en aperçoit pas du tout" and, contrary to the anonymous author above, he does not believe that they make sacrifices or offerings. He comments, interestingly, that since the Lom comprise only a few hundred individuals they have no use for either totem or "signe de reconnaissance". The fact that the Lom are kafir (pagans, infidels) causes them to be generally despised among the Muslim population as consumers of impure animals. This, according to Zelle, is important when Lom males experience a shortage of eligible maidens. Muslim parents are unlikely to be willing to marry their daughters to Lom, who in turn are "bien force" to abduct women from other villages. This rarely has tragical consequences, says Zelle, since the Bangkanese are too cowardly both to revenge their honour and to defend or reclaim their daughters.


Anon. 1862. 'De Orang Lom of Belom op het eiland Bangka'. Tijdschrift van het Bataviaasch Genootschap 11 (388-94).

Bakar, A.A. 1973. Orang Mapur Di Bangka. Sungailiat (Bangka): (Unpublished ms.)

Banks, David J. 1983. Malay Kinship. Philadelphia: Institute for the Study of Human Issues.

Barnard, Alan, 1987. Personal communication.

Barnard, A. and Good, A. 1984. Research Practices in the Study of Kinship. London: Academic Press.

Barth, Fredrik, 1967. 'Economic Spheres in Darfur'. In: Raymond Firth (ed.) Themes in Economic Anthropology (ASA Monograph 6). (149-174). London: Tavistock Publications.

Barth, Fredrik, 1969. 'Introduction'. In: Fredrik Barth (ed.) Ethnic Groups and Boundaries. Bergen — Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.

Bascom, William R. 1948. 'Ponapean Prestige Economy'. Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 4 (211-221).

Benedictow, Ole Jørgen, 1987. 'Fra rike til provins: 1448-1536'. In: Knut Mykland (ed.) Norges historie. Bind 5. Oslo: J. W. Cappelens Forlag.

Berge, Gunnvor, 1987. Hierarchy, Equality and Social Change: Exchange Processes on a Seychelles Plantation. Occasional Paper No. 12. Oslo: Department of Social Anthropology.

Berger, Peter, 1969 (1967). The Sacred Canopy. Garden City, New York: Anchor Books, Doubleday & Company, Inc.

Berger, Peter and Thomas Luckmann 1971 (1966). The Social Construction of Reality. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Bloch, Maurice, 1971. 'The Moral and Tactical Meaning of Kinship Terms'. Man 6 (79-87).

Bloch, Maurice, 1984 (1975). 'Property and the End of Affinity'. In: Maurice Bloch (ed.) Marxist Analyses and Social Anthropology. (203-228). London: Tavistock Publications, ASA Studies 2.

Bloch, Maurice, 1985. 'From Cognition to Ideology'. In: Fardon, Richard (ed.) Power and Knowledge: Anthropological and Sociological Approaches. (21-48). Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press.

Bohannan, Paul, 1955. 'Some Principles of Exchange and Investment among the Tiv'. American Anthropologist. 57 (60-70). (Also in: LeClair and Schneider (eds.), 1968: 300-10).

Burkill, Isaac Henry, 1966. A Dictionary of the Economic Products of the Malay Peninsula. 2nd ed. 2 vols. Kuala Lumpur: Ministry of Agriculture and Co — operatives.

Calverley, Edwin E. 1974 (1958). Islâm: An Introduction. Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press.

Carey, Iskandar, 1976. Orang Asli: The Aboriginal Tribes of Peninsular Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press.

Cator, W.J. 1936. The Economic Position of the Chinese in the Netherlands Indies. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Clifford, James, 1986. 'On Ethnographic Allegory'. In: James Clifford (ed.) The Practice and Politics of Ethnography. (98 — 121) Berkley: University of California Press.

Cohen, Abner, 1969. Custom and Politics in Urban Africa. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Crawfurd, John, 1856. A Descriptive Dictionary of the Indian Islands and Adjacent Countries. London.

Dahl, Otto Chr. 1987 Personal communication.

Davis, Wade, 1987 (1986). The Serpent and the Rainbow. Glasgow: Fontana/ Collins.

de Clercq, F.S.A. 1895. 'Bijdrage tot de geschiedenis van het eiland Bangka (naar een Maleisch Handschrift)'. Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land-, en Volkenkunde van Nederlandsch-Indië, 6e Volgr., dl. I (113-163, 381-383).

de Klerck, E.S. 1975 (1938). History of the Netherlands Indies. 2 vols. Amsterdam: B. M. Israël.

de Nooij, H.A. 1895. 'Aanteekeningen omtrent de bewoners van het binnenland van het eiland Banka en omtrent de taal der daratbewoners, special van het District Muntok'. Tijdschrift van het Bataviaasch Genootschap XXXVII (606-621).

Douglas, Mary, 1966. Purity and Danger. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Echols, John M. and Hassan Shadily, 1975. Kamus Inggris-Indonesia. Ithaca, London & Jakarta: Cornell & P.T. Gramedia.

Elsass, Peter, 1980. Indianerliv. Oslo: Pax Forlag.

Endicott, Kirk Michael, 1970. An Analysis of Malay Magic. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Endicott, Kirk Michael, 1979 Batek Negrito Religion. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Evans-Pritchard, E.E. 1976. Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande. Abridged with an introduction by Eva Gillies. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Firth, Raymond, 1966. Malay Fishermen. Second Edition. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Firth, Rosemary, 1966. Housekeeping among Malay Peasants. Second Edition. London: The Athlone Press.

Forseth, Elisabeth, 1987. Personal communication.

Fox, Robin, 1967. Kinship and Marriage. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Fraser, Thomas M. 1960. Rusembilan: A Malay Fishing Village in Southern Thailand. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press.

Geertz, Clifford, 1960. The religion of Java. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Geertz, Clifford, 1973 (1964). 'Ideology as a Cultural System'. In: The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays by Clifford Geertz. (193-233) New York: Basic Books, Inc.

Geertz, Clifford, 1973 (1966). 'Religion as a Cultural System'. In: The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays by Clifford Geertz. (87-125) New York: Basic Books, Inc.

Geertz, Clifford, 1973. 'Thick Description'. In: The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays by Clifford Geertz. (3-30) New York: Basic Books, Inc.

Geertz, Clifford, 1983. Local Knowledge: Further Essays in Interpretive Anthropology. New York: Basic Books, Inc.

Gimlette, J.D. 1939. A Dictionary of Malayan Medicine. London: Oxford University Press.

Hagen, B. 1908. 'Beitrag zur Kenntnis der Orang Sekka (Sakat) oder Orang Laut, sowie der Orang Lom oder Mapor, zweier nicht — muhamedanischer Volksstämme auf der Insel Bangka'. Abhandlungen zur Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte, Festschrift (37- 46). Frankfurt.

Helbig, K. 1940. 'Die Insel Bangka'. Deutsche Geographische Blätter XLIII iii-iv. Bremen.

Herskovits, Melville J. 1948. Man and His Works. New York: Knopf.

Ho Peng Yoke, 1974. 'Kalender und Datierung'. In: Wolfgang Francke and Brunhild Staiger (ed.) China Handbuch. (602-6). Düsseldorf: Bertelsmann Universitätsverlag.

Holle, K.F. 1889. 'Schets-Taalkaart van de Residentie Bangka: Schaal 1:750.000'. Kolonial Verslag. Batavia.

Holttum, R.E. 1969 (1954). Plant Life in Malaya. Kuala Lumpur: Longman.

Horsfield, Thomas, 1848. 'Report on the Island of Banka'. Journal of the Indian Archipelago and Eastern Asia Vol. II & VI (291-336). Singapore.

Howell, Signe, 1984. Society and Cosmos: Chewong of Peninsular Malaysia. Singapore: Oxford University Press.

Jensen, Erik, 1966. 'Iban Birth'. Folk, Vol. 8/9 (165-178).

Jensen, Erik, 1974. The Iban and their Religion. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Kaarhus, Randi, 1988. Personal communication.

Kähler, Hans, 1946-9. 'Ethnographische und Linguistische Studien von den Orang laut auf der Insel Rangsang an der Ostküste von Sumatra'. Anthropos 41-44 (1-31, 757-85).

Kähler, Hans, 1960. 'Ethnographische und Linguistische Studien über die Orang darat, Orang akit, Orang laut und Orang utan im Riau Archipel und auf den Inseln an der Ostküste von Sumatra'. Veröffentlichungen des Seminars für Indonesische und Südseesprachen der Universität Hamburg. Berlin: Dietrich Reimer.

Keesing, Roger M. 1981. Cultural Anthropology: A Contemporary Perspective. (Second edition). New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Keesing, Roger M. 1987. 'Anthropology as Interpretive Quest'. Current Anthropology Vol. 28, 2 (161-169).

King, Victor T. 1976. 'Transition and Maloh Birth'. Folk Vol. 18 (189-204).

Laderman, Carol, 1981. 'Symbolic and Empirical Reality: A new approach to the analysis of food avoidances'. American Ethnologist (468-493).

Lange, H.M. 1850. Het eiland Banka en zijne aangelegenheden. 's Hertogenbosch: Gebr. Muller.

Leach, Edmund R. 1970 (1954). Political Systems of Highland Burma: A Study of Kachin Social Structure. London: The Athlone Press.

LeBar, F.M. (ed.) 1972. Ethnic Groups in Insular Southeast Asia. New Haven: HRAF Press.

LeClair, Edward E. Jr. and Harold K. Schneider, 1968. 'Some Further Theoretical Issues'. In: Edward E. LeClair, Jr. and Harold K. Schneider (ed.) Economic Anthropology: Readings in Theory and Analysis. New York: Holt, Rhinehart and Winston.

Mackie, J.A.C. 1976. 'Anti-Chinese Outbreaks in Indonesia 1959-68'. In: Mackie, J.A.C. (ed.) The Chinese in Indonesia. (77-138). Melbourne: Nelson.

Mackie, J.A.C. and C.A. Coppel, 1976. 'A Preliminary Survey'. In: Mackie, J.A.C. (ed.) The Chinese in Indonesia. (1-18): Melbourne: Nelson.

Marx, Karl, 1954. Capital: A Critical Analysis of Capitalist Production. Vol. I. Moscow: Progress Publishers.

Nakayama, Shigeru, 1969. A History of Japanese Astronomy. Harvard University Press.

Nash, Manning, 1966. Primitive and Peasant Economic Systems. Scranton, Pennsylvania: Chandler Publishing Company.

Needham, Rodney, 1971. 'Remarks on the analysis of kinship and marriage'. In: Rethinking Kinship and Marriage (ASA Monographs 11). London: Tavistock Publications.

Needham, Rodney, 1974. Remarks and Inventions: Skeptical Essays about Kinship. London: Tavistock Publications.

Needham, Rodney, 1979. Symbolic Classification. Santa Monica, California: Goodyear Publishing Company, Inc.

Needham, Rodney, 1981. Circumstantial Deliveries. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Odner, Knut, 1987 Personal communication.

Rappaport, Roy A. 1968. Pigs for the Ancestors. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Ruthenberg, Hans, 1983. Farming Systems in the Tropics. 3rd ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Sahlins, Marshall, 1974. Stone Age Economics. London: Tavistock Publications.

Salzner, Richard, 1960. Sprachenatlas des Indopazifischen Raumes. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz.

Schärer, Hans, 1963. Ngaju Religion: The Conception of a God Among a South Borneo People. Trans. Rodney Needham (quoted in Jensen 1974). The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.

Schneider, David M. 1984. A Critique of the Study of Kinship. Ann Arbor: The Universty of Michigan Press.

Skeat, Walter William, 1965 (1900). Malay Magic. London: Frank Cass & Co.

Smedal, Olaf H. n.d. 'The Native is a Genius'. (Unpublished Ms.).

Smedal, Olaf H. 1987. 'Lom-Indonesian-English & English-Lom Wordlists Accompanied by Four Lom Texts'. Jakarta: NUSA Vol. 28/29.

Sopher, David E. 1977. The Sea Nomads. Singapore: National Museum.

Teysmann, J.E. 1873. 'Aanteekeningen uit het dagboek mijner reis over Bangka van Juni 1869 tot en met Januari 1870'. Natuurkundig tijdschrift vor Nederlandsch-Indië 32 (31-100).

Turnbull, Colin, 1974. The Mountain People. London: Pan Books Ltd.

Tyler, Stephen, 1987. 'On "Writing-up/off" as "Speaking-for"' (A Response to Dennis Tedlock), Journal of Anthropological Research, No. 4 vol. 43 (338-342).

van Gennep, Arnold, 1960 (1909). The rites of passage. Translated by M. B. Vizedom and G. L. Caffee. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Voorhoeve, P. 1955. Critical Survey of Studies on the Languages of Sumatra. Bibliographical series 1. 's Gravenhage: Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land-, en Volkenkunde.

Wessing, Robert, 1977. 'The Position of the Baduj in the Larger West Javanese Society'. Man N.S. Vol. 12 (293-303).

Whitten, Anthony J., Sengli J. Damanik et al. 1984. The Ecology of Sumatra. Yogyakarta: Gadjah Mada University Press.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig, 1978. Philosophical Investigations. (Third Edition). Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Wojowasito, S. and W.J.S. Poerwadarminta, 1980. Kamus Lengkap. Bandung: Penerbit Hasta.

Zelle, L.-J. 1891. 'Les Maporais'. Bulletins de la société d'anthropologie. Tome 2 Série 4 (214-291). Paris: Libraire de l'académie de médecine.

Zondervan, H. 1894-5. 'Bangka en zijne Bewoners'. De Indische Gids 16:2; 17:1- 2, 1942-66; 584-600; 700-704; 995-1004.


1. Neither Horsfield's report (1848), Lange's work on Bangka (1850), Crawfurd's great Dictionary (1856), de Clercq's handwritten Malay manuscript (1895), nor the excerpts from Teysmann's diaries (1873) contains anything on the Lom, although Bangka's mountain dwellers are described as "rude inhabitants" (Crawfurd) who are "but a small remove from the state of savages" (Horsfield). An anonymous article (1862), a paper by Zelle (1891) and Hagen's translation of a Dutch manuscript (1908) — a total of seventeen and a half pages — contains the total of the information on the Lom ever printed, some of which is reproduced in Dutch colonial dictionaries. Finally, Zondervan (1894) mentions the Lom twice and in de Nooij's contribution (1895) they occur in the first footnote. In 1940 Helbig states that research on the Lom is urgently needed. In the chief modern reference work on ethnic groups of Southeast Asia (LeBar 1972) the Lom remain unlisted.

2. The numerical data in this and the following paragraphs are collated from several mimeographed local government publications.

3. Proyék PKMT is an abbreviation for Proyék Pembinaan Kesejahteraan Masyarakat Terasing.

4. For accounts of the history of Bangka see de Clercq (1895) and the more reliable report by Horsfield (1848), an American physician and naturalist who in one period was successfully in charge of tin mining on the island (de Klerck 1975 vol. II: 49).

5. This is based on combining information supplied by Horsfield (1848: 314 ff.) and Zelle (1891: 215). Though reading Horsfield one may get the impression that the Lanon pirates raided Bangka for some twenty years only, this is explained by the fact that his report was written more than thirty years prior to its publication.

6. Howell, for example, notes that the Chewong shaman "does not fulfil any political role within society ... although he does exercise authority on the cosmological plane." On the less specialist cultural competence coming naturally with old age she writes: "Old people, due to their wider experience and knowledge are, however, accorded a fair amount of respect, but this does not mean that they can assert any form of authority over the rest." (Howell, 1984: 42). Endicott writes that of the two most important shamans among the Aring Batek one "has no special influence over the group aside from that derived directly from his role as fruit shaman" while the other "is a very influential man as the Batek go, though his influence is due as much to his general wisdom and leadership ability as to his shamanistic powers" (Endicott 1979: 131).

7. Kähler's work (1960) on some of these islands was done among non-Islamic 'Malay-speaking' groups, but they included so few individuals that one may now question the very existence of these groups.

8. "...what kind of laboratory is it where none of the parameters are manipulable? (Geertz 1973: 22, original emphasis).

9. Unless otherwise stated, 'Chinese' is taken to mean 'ethnic Chinese' throughout this work. While the question of 'repatriation' (to the People's Republic of China) has been a sensitive political issue in Indonesia for decades, the Lom have had little reason to be — and indeed are not — much concerned about it.

10. There are a few families, notably in Mentok (Western Bangka), who refer to themselves as Arabs (descendants of expatriate Arab merchants who originally settled in Gujarat, India and thereafter began trading in Southeast Asia); there is also a small contingency of Western (predominantly Australian) contract engineers and other technical staff at the joint UNDP and government run tin mine in Koba (KOBATIN), but both groups are statistically insignificant. Neither do they in any way influence or matter to the Lom.

11. To those familiar with the Indonesian economy the phrase 'relative wealth' may appear an understatement. But while it is true that many Chinese in Indonesia are extremely wealthy also in the absolute sense this pertains more to those in urban centres (Jakarta, Medan, Surabaya) than it does to those in rural locations. Furthermore, the fact I have noted above (that the Chinese on Bangka constitute a large proportion of the island's population) implies that while many Chinese are 'relatively wealthy' most are not. Indeed, it was once pointed out to me that there are few, if any, areas in Indonesia where so many poor Chinese can be observed as on Bangka.

12. A word corresponding to the term bumiputra in Malaysia.

13. I shall return to this point in the chapter on economy. Surprisingly little has been written on the subject of the role of the Chinese in the Indonesian economy, but two works of interest are Cator (1936) and Mackie & Coppel, Eds. (1976).

14. In the loosest sense of the word: these are first and foremost geographically located and defined. Nothing is implied here about the existence of particular cultural traits among them. Indeed, these suku are generally little known and have never, to my knowledge, been professionally investigated. — In other parts of Indonesia (e.g. Flores and other Lesser Sunda islands) suku connotes (patri-)clans, often exogamous ones. No such meaning is attached to the word on Bangka.

15. It is not a straightforward task to determine whether a local dialect is just that or if it better were classified as a language. Commenting on a draft of my manuscript (Smedal 1987), which also contains comparative lexicostatistical material from five Bangka isolects, a linguist states: "Lom is one of the languages on Bangka, and it has a certain similarity to official Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia). Nevertheless the differences are so great that it cannot be characterised as a dialect of Indonesian. In Richard Salzner: Sprachenatlas des indopazifischen Raumes it has the status of a separate language." (Otto Chr. Dahl, pers. comm.; cf. Salzner 1960: 11 and Holle 1893.) Bangka Malay is hitherto practically uninvestigated.

16. One informant, a Javanese having lived in the Lom settlement Air Abik for 30 years, claimed that he still has problems understanding native Lom speakers when they communicate with each other.

17. The word dalam has a variety of meanings, including 'in', 'inside' and 'room'. But it does not have the connotation it has in Sundanese, where "it is most often used in connexion with the residence of highly placed persons" (Wessing 1977: 294); the meaning in Bangka Malay appears to be exactly the opposite.

18. At least one author has suggested the possibility of a common link between the two (although he fails to specify the information on which his suggestion is based): "Ob die 'Orang Lom', die vielfach als 'ursprungliche Bevölkerung' Bangkas bezeichnet werden, mit Orang Sekak identisch sind bzw sich aus ihnen entwickelten, ist nicht klar" (Helbig 1940: 140).

19. He is probably correct on both points. After about a year in the field I met a number of Orang Sekak whom I asked to speak to me in their own dialect and it was practically incomprehensible to me. These Sekak have regularly visited the Lom for many years and have now been sedentary for some time; they are conversant both with 'Bangka Malay' and the Lom vernacular. From the literature on the Sekak (e.g. Hagen 1908, Sopher 1977) Helbig's suggestion (cf. the previous note) seems ill founded.

20. Cf. Keesing 1981: 68 for a list of attempted definitions of culture by anthropologists such as Tylor, Linton, Kluckhon and Kelly, Kroeber, and Herskovits. His own includes "systems of shared ideas, systems of concepts and rules and meanings that underlie and are expressed in the way humans live". The final part of Keesing's definition obviously renders the adat definitions referred above more inclusive; adat is not something only human beings have but something they have in common with the rest of creation.

21. Lom food prohibitions are more thoroughly discussed in chapter four (section 4.2.) and towards the end of chapter five.

22. Establishing relative seniority is intricate since it is not sufficient for ego and alter to know their own relative age. See chapter eight for the consequences this has for regulating marriage.

23. Swiddens are not in fact inherited, but it is tacitly recognised that one does not clear a swidden in someone else's former swidden (i.e. belukar, temarun, or delés) unless one has received permission from the former cultivator.

24. The Chinese I refer to here live in mono-ethnic villages both at the coast (Pesaren) and further inland (Tai Kon Poi).

25. This refers to the Bangka-Islamic adat that requires the male neophyte to sit on a coconut while a circumcision is performed — afterwards the nut is planted (cf. chapter five, section 2).

26. Note that the corresponding Peninsular Malaysian term is masuk Melayu implying that to become a Muslim one must simultaneously adopt 'Malay-ness'. To the Lom who are already Malay (in the extended sense) this, of course, is conceptually out of the question; you cannot become what you already are.

27. But cf. note 25 above.

28. "...there has been a consistent tendency among fieldworkers to hide, discredit, or marginalise prior written accounts (by missionaries, travelers, administrators, local authorities, even other ethnographers)" (Clifford 1986: 117).

29. Gajah Mada is one of the most prominent figures in Indonesian history. He was a menteri or vizir (prime minister) of the Javanese Majapahit Kingdom, his political power lasted till 1364 and he played a role in Indonesian history not unlike that played by King Harald Fairhair in Norwegian history: "(his) sole aim was to create a mighty land" (de Klerck, 1975 vol. I: 141). To the Lom, as will be seen, he is far more than a historical figure.

30. 'Aki' literally means 'grandfather' but is frequently, and here, probably, used as an honorific. The name (Jio Singo) does not occur in any other connection and no one knew anything about him.

31. Borobudur is a huge Buddhist pyramid shrine on Central Java built, it is generally assumed, some time between 750 and 850 AD.

32. That no humans were supposed to exist prior to the storm is one example of the inconsistencies I announced at the outset of this section.

33. Skeat (1900: 98 ff.) lists the following four angels (mala'ikat) as the most important ones: Azrael (Azra'il, Ijrail): the angel of death; Michael (Mika'il): giver of daily bread; Israfel (Israfil, Ijrafil, Serafil): lord of the different airs (possibly corresponding to Abdiel); Gabriel (Jibrail, Jabra'il, Raja Brahil): messenger or 'bringer of news'. Sometimes, too, a White Angel (Mala'ikat Puteh) is mentioned as 'being in charge of all things in the jungle'. Four more angels are mentioned in a particular invocation to the Sea-spirit: Chitar Ali: lord of the whirlpool; Sabur Ali: lord of the winds; Sir Ali: lord of the waters of the sea; Putar Ali: lord of the rainbow.

34. Whether this return is conceived of as reincarnation I am not sure. While they have, as far as I was able to ascertain, no idea of humans reincarnating, Gajah Mada's return is not thought of merely as the return of a human being.

35. According to one of the cosmic creation myths quoted by Skeat who found it in "a Malay charm-book belonging to a magician", "God created the pillar of the Ka'bah, which is the Navel of the Earth..." (1900: 3).

36. Another inconsistency. According to the cosmic creation myth people descended by a rope from heaven to Singapore.

37. According to Skeat it is Gabriel (Jibrail, Jabra'il, Raja Brahil — see Berail above) who, among the Peninsular Malays, is the messenger or 'bringer of news'. Serapil is probably a corruption of Israfel, lord of the different airs, for whom Skeat lists the following alternatives: Israfil, Ijrafil, Serafil: possibly corresponding to Abdiel "who generally occupies the fourth place in our own angelic hierarchy" (1900: 98).

38. As regards the numbering of classes of spirits, diseases, calamities, etc. the Lom gave me a several figures and it may be suggested that these figures are more a culturally recognised symbolic way of saying 'many' than a statement of entities actually known in precise quantity. At any rate, my attempts at obtaining actual inventories met with little success. I note with interest, however, the account in Skeat (1900: 20) according to which Eve gave birth to 22 pairs of twins. If this is a common notion among Malays it may be the origin, though unknown to the Lom, of the constantly recurring number '44' and, by extension or exaggeration, '144'.

39. Why this lake occupies such a central place in the Lom cosmology cannot be answered conclusively here. But one should bear in mind that on Bangka itself there are no lakes in the proper sense of the word. Former travellers to and from Bangka were more likely to have seen the lake in Singapore (which, though small, exists in the real world: it is the precious water reservoir of the island) than the ones in Java and Sumatra — thus the only lake the Lom may have heard about is precisely the one in Singapore.

40. I should mention that I did not become aware of the 'celestial ownership' referred to here until my very last days of fieldwork and unfortunately I had no opportunity to pursue this potentially significant subject further.

41. Tin (more frequently than gold) is used to symbolise 'riches'. The most likely reason for this is that it is the only natural resource of which Bangka is plentiful — indeed, besides pepper it is what the island is known for. According to one informant tin ranks first, gold second, and intan (diamond and/or pearl; the Lom confuse the two) third.

42. See below for an account of the creation/existence of the Chinese.

43. While belum literally means 'not yet' nothing is necessarily implied as to the possibility of an eventual coming into existence. Among native SM/I speakers in general the term for 'not' in verbal constructions (tidak) is considered rude (kasar) and to be avoided: Unmarried octogenarians have belum children, and whether this is best conceived as equivalent of 'not' or 'not yet' is left to the discretion of the hearer/translator. And the present chapter, if anything, makes it clear that the Lom (Orang Belum Beragama, The People Who Have Not (Yet) Embraced Religion) have no intentions of becoming a people with Religion.

44. I did not attempt to obtain statistically significant data on the number of people who know spells protecting them from the influence of pedaré (nor indeed from any other influence). My impression is, however, that if a Lom knows only one protective spell, chances are good it will be one against pedaré.

45. For penyakit mengkok (malaria) the Lom have a cure, incidentally; a bitter root from the tree medang mencinak (Daphniphyllum laurinum). I have no data corroborating the efficacy of the medicine, but it may be worth noting that Burkill mentions the medicinal use of this plant in Bangka: "K. Heyne states that that in Banka a decoction of the roots is used as a medicine for diarrhoea and thrush (Nutt. Plant. Ned. Ind. 3, ed of 1917 p. 80). Greshoff found in it a poisonous alkaloid, daphniphylline. It is in the bark and seeds, if not elsewhere" (Burkill 1966: 778). Gimlette (1929) makes no mention of it.

46. The Lom idea of supernatural beings appears to be at variance with the Malay one on the issue of their intelligence, cf.: "Spirits have a very low intelligence... spirits are easily tricked and therefore controlled (and) generally regarded as inferior to man" (Endicott 1970: 54-55).

47. The minor ones (hantu kecil) may give you pepas; the medium (hantu tengah): gulong bidei't, and the great (hantu besar): penyambak. The latter disease is rarely contracted. Formerly people knew how to say spells (tangkel) over these diseases, but this knowledge has now been lost.

48. The Pontianak or puting anak spirit is known all over the Malay world. The Maloh (a Dayak group in West Kalimantan) refer to this spirit as antu anak. Interestingly, they too think that it "delights in devouring men's genitals..." (King: 1976: 195).

49. In SM/I the word ajal means 'death' and maju(d)j 'magog'. According to Bangka-Islamic traditions an evil giant, Dajal Majuja, will attempt to destroy the world and kill its inhabitants as Doomsday approaches. Before he does that, however, the Saviour (i.e. one of the 12 imams) will kill him.

50. The meaning of the name can probably be glossed as 'the mother of children' (Nuk = induk: 'mother'; Dak = budak: '(small) child(ren)'.

51. This statement relates to a legend of shipwrecked Cochin-Chinese (cf. appendix IV). One Lom, at least, held the story to be true, and quoted the widespread use of chopsticks among the Lom as one proof of its verity. The narrator, while not questioning the incident itself, believes it indicates how the Chinese arrived at Bangka.

Cochin China refers to an area of about 70.000 km2 in the southern part of Vietnam comprising the Mekong delta and surrounding land. Today the population numbers some 8 million of which 85% are Annamites, 12% Chinese, and the remainder Kampucheans.

52. The term used here is probably bangsa (ethnic group) but it could be bahasa (language) — it is difficult to hear the difference on the taped recording. At any rate the two terms have a major significance in common (which is that of a social group's uniqueness) so the impact in the connection of the text is roughly similar whichever term was actually employed.

53. This statement indicates that the Lom conceptualise the creation of (human) life as being neither monogenetic nor a predominantly male feat.

54. Here my informant states that Mak Per is the child of Nabi Rasul, whereas he has stated above, and does so again at the end of this paragraph, that he is Nabi Rasul's grandchild. I assume that the latter is the standard opinion and that when he uses the word anak this only means that he is of Nabi Rasul's descent line.

55. The fact that a male 'got' the part belonging to a woman anticipates the present Lom matrifocal notion that 'outsider' males marrying Lom women are expected to pulang Mapur; i.e. assume Adat Mapur (cf. chapter eight).

56. The Lom word for 'breath' is nyawé (to breathe: (me)nyawé). It is of course conceivable that this word was used in the Peninsular Malay sense of 'soul' (cf. Endicott 1970). This possibility is unlikely, however, firstly because in place of the Indonesian word bernapas (to breathe) they use menyawé, and secondly because the word they use for 'soul' is jiwa (although the word roh is used for the God-soul: Roh Kuasé).

57. It is unforgivable that I cannot recall with certainty the precise alleged statement here, but as far as I remember the situation was one in which one person said something like, "twigs can't move", another replied, "they can't, huh?" and thereby the gecko was created; from a twig.

58. At the beginning of this paragraph I quoted the Lom to ascribe 'accidental creation to "salah omong". Needham notes: "Usually a word such as Malay salah or Penan sala' will be employed to castigate what is religiously forbidden, for example, incest or murder or the transgression of a ritual injunction" (1981: 82).

59. Interestingly, Endicott writes: "(The Malays) say that Adam and Hawa [Eve, OHS] had two sons and two daughters. Needing food, they chopped one son and one daughter into small pieces and scattered them on the plain. A golden harvest developed and 'all the grain became semangat or instinct with life, and then rising in the air like a dense swarm of bees, poured onwards with a loud buzzing noise until it entered the habitation of the first man and woman from whom it had its birth'" (1970: 153, reference omitted).

60. Cf. Gimlette (1929: 121 ff.). I was told that the Chinese consider ikan buntal a great delicacy and that in certain Chinese restaurants specialist cooks are entrusted to cook the fish in order that customers can be guaranteed to eat it safely. Davis writes that the nerve toxins used to create zombies in Haitian voodoo, tetrodotoxin, are found in these fish: Diodon hystrix and Sphoeroides testudineus and that this "deadly neurotoxin is one of the most poisonous nonprotein substances known.... As a poison it is, at a conservative estimate, five hundred times stronger than cyanide." Davis also notes that although the Chinese have known the toxicity of the fish for almost 5000 years they have also long appreciated it for its hallucinogenic properties: "... by 1596 the fish had become something of a culinary delicacy. Several recipes describe in great detail methods of preparing and cooking the fish that are said to eliminate some of the toxin and render the flesh edible" (1987: 135-6).

61. In every language there are words so imbued with ethos that simple translation leads to the opposite of comprehension. Kasar, and its polar counterpart, halus, are two such. Geertz (1973: 134-5) uses almost a page explaining the Indonesian word rasa, then goes on to spend another couple of pages (136-7) trying to get across the Javanese etiquette that, largely, can be said to hinge on the two words kasar and halus. Almost any thought, attitude, act, physical object, or landscape is either one or the other. For a person to be halus is to be refined, harmonious, sensitive, calm, uncontroversial, balanced, formal, discerning, correct, dispassionate, acknowledging, modest, self-controlled, smiling, soft-spoken, decent, slow-moving, discreet, subtle, considerate, and — above all — polite. Kasar and halus are antonyms. Geertz omits mention of them here, though he discusses them elsewhere: "In the inner realm (to be halus) is to be achieved through religious discipline, much but not all of it mystical. In the outer realm, it is to be achieved through etiquette, the rules of which here are not only extraordinarily elaborate but have something of the force of law. Through meditation the civilised man thins out his emotional life to a kind of constant hum; through etiquette, he both shields that life from external disruptions and regularises his outer behavior in such a way that it appears to others as a predictable, undisturbing, elegant, and rather vacant set of choreographed motions and settled forms of speech" (1983: 61).

62. It is obvious here that my informant on this issue is male, but corresponding deliberations are made by young women, too, I was assured, when they visit households with bachelor members (e.g. "does he have a good job?").

63. This is the only example I can present. Most informants insisted that they did not know sirih masak and the only one who admitted familiarity with it refused outright to speak to me about it. She said it was "useless" (tidak ada guna), that the method has no place in modern society, that young people nowadays go to school, etc.

64. Again, this cultural trait is not, according to the Lom, exclusive to them. All Malays, whether Muslim or Lom, practice omong sinir.

65. These lotteries are run by Chinese preferring to remain anonymous to the majority of the players: While the lotteries are declared illegal and although the authorities sometimes attempt to suppress them they appear to be as endemic to Bangka as betting is to the Chinese.

66. During my field work the price obtained by the collectors oscillated between an all-time high of Rp 800.000 to Rp 300.000 per kg for the best quality. A (rumoured) Arab buyer in Pangkalpinang is presumed to send the garu to Jakarta, from where it goes to Singapore and, it is speculated, to China and perhaps even Saudi Arabia. Whether it is used as incense on ritual occasions as it is among the Lom, or is processed in some way, no-one knows. Precisely because prices have risen sharply buyers must beware of fake garu; there are various ways of doctoring the wood. One way is to dye ordinary wood. This method is fairly easily detected; there is no scent from the wood, and by scraping one's nail along the surface the lightly coloured wood underneath becomes visible. Another method is to fill in the holes and cavities that are left when carving away the "unseasoned" wood; a kind of sap (getah) is used for this. Afterwards it is rubbed with dirt or soot. A mixture of honey and water may also be used for this purpose. Not only does the wood thereby darken (the darker the wood the higher the price), it is more important that the garu piece appears to be larger than it really is: price is determined not only by colour (quality) and weight, but by the size and shape of individual pieces as well.

67. In view of my remarks above concerning agila wood this may seem a sweeping statement. But I noted that agila wood — economically speaking — has only recently become important. As soon as prices fall the fairly onerous and time-consuming task of extracting garu is likely to become less inviting.

68. She cites several authors who have recorded a rule with a similar name among other Orang Asli groups; Schebesta, Endicott, Benjamin, Evans, and Dentan (1984: 179).

69. More precisely, pesumpah, pantang, and do'a are names for 'taboos' or proscriptions encompassing a variety of actions i.e. they do not relate only to food. In the present section, however, I confine the discussion to food-related behaviour.

70. Laderman has made this point regarding Peninsular Malays but she includes (or, more accurately, restricts herself to) pantang as one (or the) category of prohibitions/ proscriptions Malays take an experimental attitude to: "Food restrictions of all kinds are called pantang in Malay..." (1981: 484). I am not prepared to underwrite this position as regards the Lom. Firstly, because the Lom differentiate sharply between the jén demakan I discuss in the present paragraph on the one hand, and the pesumpah, pantang, and do'a on the other. They therefore operate with two classes of proscriptions, one of which has three distinct members. Secondly, because although there is a relaxed attitude even to pantang (as the Lom conceive of it) it is more pronounced among younger ('modern', 'acculturated') members of society and cause concern among the elders. To the extent the Lom consider it risky to ignore the jén demakan it must be in a general manner; a symptom, as it were, that norms are no longer adhered to the way they used to. Finally, as far as I was able to ascertain, pesumpah are rigorously respected.

71. Whether this placing of niat food is the same as or a parallel to the meri:k ancak I referred to in chapter three I cannot say with certainty, but I should suggest that it is not; firstly, because the terms employed are different, and secondly, because the niat food is cooked with the primary expectation that it will be eaten by a fellow human.

72. 'Hot' foods are also thought to be sexually stimulating — particularly for males.

73. This is contrary to what Laderman (1981) states is the case among Peninsular Malays who classify asthma as a 'cold' disease and prescribe 'hot' water buffalo meat as a treatment.

74. There is still supposed to be a "huge white crocodile" in Sungai Mendulang called, as 'phantom crocodiles' everywhere on the island are, Seluman. This particular Seluman reportedly followed the group of some fifty persons participating in Sudi's funeral ceremony. According to Skeat the Peninsular Malays use the name Sambu, another name for Shiva, for the crocodile spirit (1900: 89, 286).

75. When I was told who this woman was it was simultaneously impressed upon me that this information was confidential and that under no circumstances was I to approach her and let her know that I knew. Respecting my informant's admonition on this score I have no further information on what she actually does in order to fulfil her obligations. But the recurring reference to floods as the inevitable consequence of adat transgressions may permit the suggestion that the penimék aik is not exclusively concerned with water; that among her tasks are ones more directly related to social control.

76. There is one problem inherent to discussions of Gunung Muda — it is the name both of a mountain and a village.

77. The year 1827 was mentioned, but I have been unable to verify this.

78. Similar ideas are known all over Southeast Asia (Signe Howell, personal communication). Peter Elsass reports from Ecuador that highland Indians know a mythic being called 'El Nakaq'; a white, bearded person equipped with a small machine containing a magical powder putting people to sleep. Then he kills and secures the fat from the dead body. To the Indians this myth succinctly expresses that the fat of the Indians makes the wheels in the western social machine go round (Elsass 1980: 173-4).

79. Unlikely as it may seem my informants are supported by Karl Marx on this issue: "Nothing is more characteristic than (the Dutch colonial administration's) system of stealing men, to get slaves for Java. The men stealers were trained for this purpose. The thief, the interpreter, and the seller, were the chief agents in this trade, native princes the chief sellers. The young people stolen, were thrown into the secret dungeons of Celebes, until they were ready for sending to the slave-ships. An official report says: 'This one town of Macassar, e.g., is full of secret prisons, one more horrible than the other, crammed with unfortunates, victims of greed and tyranny fettered in chains, forcibly torn from their families.' (...) Banjuwangi, a province of Java, in 1750 numbered over 80,000 inhabitants, in 1811 only 18,000. Sweet commerce!" (Marx, 1954 (1867): 704).

80. For a more detailed treatment of the use of the term dukun among the Lom, cf. chapter five, section 1.1.

81. This man impressed upon me the exclusive ownership he had over this spell and urged me not to publish it.

82. The Lom refer to this fasting as muti (SM/I: berpuasa).

83. Yapa was asked by Bakil's father (a reputable dukon and dukon bayé, or crocodile shaman) to exchange this spell with one of his. Yapa declined. Only three people in Pejam know it: Bakil, Min Dom and Yapa. Bearing in mind the exclusive nature of this particular spell I refrained from asking Bakil how he came to know it. According to Yapa all kinds of jin will succumb when confronted with this spell. Not only Bangkanese ones, but also Chinese, Arab, and even Dutch ones. This and other spells that I think are known by very few Lom have not been included in the present text.

84. Purak purun are words that have no meaning, or, at least, are not understood by my source.

85. But note that selimpat in Standard Malay/Indonesian means 'a wickerwork', while menyelimpat means 'to dodge, to evade; to go away'.

86. I merely suggest a likeness. I am not simultaneously taking side in the prolific debate over the scientificity of oracles in general and the Azande ones in particular.

87. Possibly Prismatomeris malayana (cf. Burkill 1966: 1840).

88. The Lom hold that certain species of trees have the quality to attract lightening. This was not taken into account by the government-employed loggers when wood for the proyék houses was selected and many villagers consequently felt compelled to change a number of the poles in their homes.

89. To my knowledge all but one attempt at irrigated rice cultivation on Bangka has failed. The area in which it has been successful is near Toboali, at the extreme south of the island.

90. The rules relating to the exchange of rice are elaborate and only by rather fastidious (native) definitions of sale and exchange do the Lom not sell rice. Cf. chapter six for an elaboration of this important issue.

91. According to another account Gunung Cundung appears miring or serining (flat) whereas in reality it is cucor (slanting).

92. Cf. Skeat (1900: 271-2) for a brief account of the Gold spirit ('a golden roe-deer').

93. According to another Lom the mas kijang has already been dug out (sudah detebok), possibly by a Dutchman called Tuan Kringa. But before this took place a little boy of seven, playing his reed-flute (tingok) had seen it. Seven days later he disappeared forever. In some wax that had been poured into the hole it was written that if someone (a Bangkanese?) gets hold of that gold Bangka would sink or dissolve (kelebu).

94. The old land-border (batas tanah) between Tanah Mapur and Tanah Gunung Muda follows the Pejam River as it winds northwards from Gunung Pelawan. The area to the north and west of the river belongs to Gunung Muda (Muslim territory), while the area along the eastern shoreline and the hills around Gunung Pelawan is Lom/Mapur land. Consequently, since there is already a surau (Muslim chapel) in the village of Gunung Muda there is no prohibition against either school or surau on the north-west side of the Pejam River, where the recently built proyék has been placed. (Before the Islamisation of Gunung Muda there was in fact such a taboo in that village, however, and there is a dramatic story about the initial attempt at building a chapel there.)

95. In this respect the Lom practices diverge widely from those among a number of Southeast Asian peoples, e.g. the Maloh. As soon as a Maloh woman has become pregnant she has entered a transitional state "marked by a number of prohibitions designed to perform various functions and which have to be observed by the expectant mother and husband, in particular, and to a lesser extent by all members of the household" (King 1976: 196; cf. King's references for some corresponding Iban, Filipino and Thai practices). Furthermore, "(a)s soon as a woman knows she is pregnant all sexual intercourse ceases between her and her husband until some forty days after delivery" (197).

96. According to one midwife the period of post partum sexual abstention formerly lasted one hundred days, the sex of the child regardless.

97. The Standard Malay/Indonesian term for 'midwife', bidan, is not used among the Lom. On the question of dukun ('shaman'/traditional medical specialist) assignation in general it is my distinct impression that among the Lom this term is never used by the person in question for him- or herself. This concords with evidence from certain other groups in Southeast Asia as well such as the Chewong and the Lio (Signe Howell, personal communication). Others, however, are not equally restrained in their labelling of magical/medical specialists, at least not when the person in question is absent.

98. As can be seen in the section on angkuk in chapter eight the fact that I was present had certain implications for my status relative to the conjugal family in question; in particular my relationship to the newborn girl whom I was asked to name.

99. Later he told me that he was takut (scared; nervous). He wanted to urinate, to defecate — and admired me who thought nothing of entering the room where the delivery was taking place. He could never have done that, he said. One should not generalise from this, however. As noted above a husband may perform as a midwife to his own children and more than one Lom male I talked to had in fact, they claimed, done so without fear.

100. I assume, but am not certain, that this means that a spell is said over it, and that this spell is known by midwives, male and female alike.

101. The absence of well-defined 'how-to'-rules seems to be a general trait among several dukun — not only among the Lom but among other Bangkanese populations as well.

102. A comment that was made, though, on one occasion, was that the two midwives/helpers laughingly agreed that it was reassuring to have both a teacher and an anthropologist resident in the village: "Apé gawat? Adé tuan, adé guru!" ("What is risky? There's tuan, there's the teacher!")

103. "Those who use this plant (Zingiber cassumunar, Roxb.) do so because, having observed that it has few enemies, they ascribe a generally protective role to it" (Burkill 1966: 2337).

104. According to one Lom midwife/'helper' the Chinese bury the placenta under coconut palms. Malay Muslims in Pangkal Beras (in Western Bangka) wrap a length of cloth around the placenta, place the bundle in a cipik kelapa (empty coconut shell) and bury everything under a metanggor tree.

105. Skeat (1900) and Endicott (1970) refer frequently to this spirit as one that is especially dangerous to a new mother and her child. According to the Lom, however, the damage done by the Pontianak is that it "eats your testicles" (cf. chapter three, section 5).

106. One of these mothers, an ethnic Chinese married to a Lom, said that "everything" is forbidden except rice, soybean sauce and salt. This is obviously a great exaggeration and she probably knew that it was. But, according to Lom and Chinese alike the Chinese have comparatively few prohibitions (pantang and pesumpah) on behaviour in general and her statement may just be a somewhat exasperated reflection on the complications of complying with Lom custom.

107. I never observed this rite myself and must rely on Lom eyewitnesses for the information in this paragraph.

108. King 1976: 200; cf. Skeat 1900: 342-3.

109. Rhodomyrtus, DC. Burkill (1966: 1937) lists both medicinal and magic properties of the fruits and leaves of this plant, but omits any mention of its flowers.

110. In place of the palm-leaf rib (ijér) (which is the preferred instrument of incision) one may use two varieties of rattan (wit) as a "needle": wit geté (Lat.: Daemonorhops didymophyllus) and wit seruak (unidentified).

111. Uris, however, an orange-coloured non-domesticated fruit shaped somewhat like a grape, is eaten when found.

112. 1. remacang (Unidentified)

2. pelam (mango) (Mangifera indica)

3. rawé (Mangifera microphylla (?))

4. uris (Unidentified)

5. binyet (Mangifera kemanga (?))

6. lanyut (Unidentified)

7. katakong penen (Nepenthes (?))

8. madang puser (Unidentified)

9. jamek gulok (Anacardium occidentale (?))

According to a senior man in Pangkal Beras, West Bangka, the following plants are used in order to speed up the disintegration of the prepuce: daun bujur (or perhaps bijur (sweet potato)), binyay (probably Mangifera caesia, Jack; Ridley — "The sap of the fully grown parts is very irritant" (Burkill 1966: 1425), daun asam (the native category of which comprises so many botanical varieties that safe identification cannot be attempted), and daun mesepét (Macaranga, Thouars; or Mallotus paniculatus, Muell.-Arg.); the former is called mesepat "apparently in allusion to the astringency" (op. cit: 1404); whereas "a decoction of (the latter) is used for cleansing wounds" (op. cit: 1419). Note, however, the homophony of the Lom term for 'incision' and the West Bangkanese name for the latter plant; it is just possible that the plant has obtained its name from the ceremony in which it is used.

113. Monografie Kecamatan Belinyu, Pemerintah Kecamatan Belinyu, Kabupaten Dati II, Bangka, 1982-3.

114. Janzen dedicated his paper about the ecology of white-sand soils (of which this plain is a typical example) to 'those unfortunate tropical farmers (who) attempt to survive on white sand soils ... because they appear unexploited.'" (Whitten et al. 1984: 352, quoting Janzen whose paper I have been unable to identify because Whitten's reference is missing).

115. At first glance it may appear all but suicidal for subsistence farmers to lay their fields open to such massive invasion. But when put differently it becomes clear that it is not: no matter how many hands may be involved in picking the rice more than two thirds of the total harvest will always remain with the cultivators themselves ('more than' because all of what is picked by the household members of course remains with them).

116. The swiddens which were cleared during World War II in primary forest were small (about 50 x 50 m.), but extremely productive. The trees in the plots chosen were sometimes of such a size, I was told, that men could comfortably lay down for a rest on top of the stump (the diameter of which must have been 150-160 cm).

117. This apparently contradicts what I wrote above about the weak gendering of (agricultural) labour. However, I think that it is not so much the bachelors or widowers who feel embarrassed by the 'feminine' character of fuel-wood collecting but the elder married men who no longer can provide for their wives the way they used to — indeed what they must do now is what she used to do.

118. It is not only senior villagers who cannot expect outside help, however. One man, in his mid-thirties, cut his foot badly while clearing his swidden. The last fourth of his field had yet to be cleared and he received no assistance — the field remained incomplete.

119. Beganjél and begerujuk appear to be similar to the sambatan practised on central Java.

120. I am referring to a seminal paper on entrepreneurial activity where the protagonist (who, to my generation of Norwegian-trained anthropologists has become proverbial) stages inexpensive work parties, serving the workers beer, from which profits are immense: "Without any significant labour input of his own, he thus produced a large tomato crop.... On an investment of £5 worth of millet, he obtained a return of more than £100 for his tomatoes" (Barth 1967: 171).

121. Precisely for this reason it is difficult to ascertain the exact status of indigenous meanings of the term. As it happens, gotong royong is one of the terms more frequently employed by the central government in order to invoke the spirit in which national development should take place. I was unaware of this during the early stages of my fieldwork and consequently used it — as the only term I knew — to convey the meaning of 'cooperative labour'.

122. The Lom recognise two varieties of coconut: kelapa gading and kelapa belulok of which the latter is the larger and preferred type.

123. The Chinese; i.e. 'the middleman'. The Peninsular Malay word for a middleman as used in Raymond Firth (1966); peraih, is not used among the Lom who, if not simply referring to him as Orang Cén use the term tauké.

124. While there are some coconut palms in the forest-settlement of Air Abik, too, these are so few — and, according to locals, the soil is so infertile  —  that they have little practical and negligible economic impact.

125. This is a practice which, according to Fraser, obtains in Rusembilan (a Malay fishing village in Thailand) as well: "The usual payment for this is one third of the proceeds" — but note that for this wage the Rusembilan picker transports the nuts to the town dealer, too. (Fraser 1960: 65.)

126. But, say 60 or 80 palms are more than plenty to raise chickens on. To raise pigs, however, some 300 palms are considered necessary. An interesting — and truly fantastic — discrepancy between what is considered an optimal amount of coconut palms on Silhouette (an island in the Seychelles) and in Pejam. On Silhouette the workers would have been well off with 6 -six- palms, in Pejam 300. I.e. 5000 % more than on Silhouette! The main reason is that on Silhouette they brew toddy (an alcoholic beverage) from the fruit-stems. Toddy is always in demand and is also one of the items involved in a subtle reciprocity system. (Gunnvor Berge 1987: 156-161 and personal communication.) In Pejam the nuts are grated and pressed for their oil.

127. "Because of the construction of a navigational canal nearby, however, and the channelling of irrigation runoff into it, the river mouth to the west of the village became too large to block of during the monsoon season. Consequently about seventy-five acres of padi field are flooded with salt water when the monsoon tides back up the river, spoiling any seedlings that may be planted in those fields. As a result, by 1956 most families in Rusembilan were forced to purchase retail one-third to one-half of their requirements of rice" (Fraser op. cit.: 59-61). In passing, it is interesting to note that as the Rusembilan villagers clear new land — in order to plant in rubber  —  they make up for their wet rice production deficits by increasingly planting dry rice.

128. "If a child uses bad language (e.g. the words "pig" and "dog"), he will be severely scolded or his cheeks pinched" (op. cit.: 198).

129. An edible that can be described as a kind of marine earthworm exclusively found in the tidal zone, possibly Arenacola marina. Sa cin is, I was told, a Hakka/Kek Chinese term.

130. As I just noted all Lom varieties, except one, need five months to mature.

131. "... the rhyzomes of which remain undamaged by fire and discourage the growth of other plants" (Rappaport 1968: 37). "Another characteristic of lalang [Imperata, OHS] is of great practical importance, namely its subterranean creeping stem, and the erect habit of all its leafy shoots. Owing to the position of the stem, it is not killed when the leaves of the plant are burnt (they can easily be ignited in dry weather). Other plants growing with the lalang, which have not a protected underground stem, are killed by the fire, which thus establishes the possession of the ground by lalang. By repeated burning, which is often difficult to prevent, lalang may be the sole covering of land for many years. However, lalang can easily be killed by frequent cutting to ground level. Such cutting does not kill creeping grasses, which are thus encouraged at the expense of the lalang" (Holttum 1969 (1954): 115.) According to Geertz, one of the perils inherent in swidden agriculture is "(the) pattern of change leading not to forest recuperation but to a replacement of tree cover altogether by the notorious imperata savannah grass which has turned so much of Southeast Asia into a green desert" (Geertz 1963: 25). Imperata is indeed difficult to eradicate, and in the experience of the Lom it is all but useless to attempt crop cultivation of any kind in an area that has been taken over by the grass.

132. "The fallow suppresses the growth of weeds, and after fire clearance the soil is often weed free. Many shifting systems manage, therefore, with little weeding. Only as the period of cultivation increases does the effort spent on hoeing and weeding increase" (Ruthenberg 1983: 51).

133. The adult pig had already been killed and sent off to a neighbouring village. It weighed more than 100 kg and the hunter had sold it at Rp 600 dengan bulu (i.e. whole parts) and Rp 1000 lah dipotong (cut up), which means that the hunter received more than twice the monthly salary of a schoolteacher from his catch. — In the event we slaughtered and cooked the piglet (6 kg), word mysteriously got around, and after a couple of hours it had been eaten.

134. The experiences of one Lom may illustrate the statement: Suman, having worked as a bagan (see below) hand and as a net fisherman, enjoyed neither of the jobs. He made good money, especially as a net fisherman — selling the fish for up to Rp 4-5000 per kg, but this was largely because they were fishing in the rough seas of the monsoon when the demand for fish exceeds the supply. He is impressed with the Chinese who set their nets when the waves are five meters high and the crashing sounds of the prahu against the sea can be heard all the way to the shore from a distance of five or six kilometres. "Berani mati, orang itu, jual jiwa!" ("They defy death, those people, they sell their souls!")

135. Upon arrival the fish is weighed on scales immediately in front of the booth. The following information is noted in consecutively numbered entries: (1) The name of the owner of the fish, (2) species, (3) gross and (4) net weight. At the end of the day the total number of entries is recorded, most days this is between 100 and 120. Fish that was weighed in the day before is not re-entered the next day but stored on ice overnight and marketed at a lower price the following morning. The notebook is brought to a central office (in another part of the market area) and the various weight-totals per table and the average price for each of three classes of fish is entered into another book. These prices are added up, then 30 % is subtracted from the early morning price to give an estimated minimum price (prices naturally have a tendency to fall as more and more fish are brought to the market throughout the first hours of business). The sales-table owners pay a government tax that is set as 4 % of the average price. From this sum 1.5 % is deducted which is used to pay the market controllers.

136. The Lom differentiate linguistically between the two. 'Work' or 'labour' is referred to as gawi (the verbal form of which is begawi) although the SM/I word kerja (bekerja) is well known and used e.g. in compounds such as kepala kerja ('work foreman'). 'Pastime' or 'hobby' is referred to as isang-isang or hobi.

137. This is possibly analogous to the one called, according to Raymond Firth, pukat payang in Kelantan (1966: 50).

138. How this particular arrangement eventually worked out is unknown to me because I left the field before the season was over. A point to note here, I think, is that while most Lom in Pejam who were above thirty-five or forty years of age at the time of my fieldwork were not born there their children are — consequently they have become used to the sea and sea-related activities from an early age. What socio-economic future impact this will have on beach-dwelling Lom is of course a matter of speculation, but if the case just cited indicates anything it is that the younger generation feel more at home at sea than do their fathers.

139. A couple of years ago it was still easy to catch fish near the shore, according to beach dwellers. One could get five kg fast. Now even the small fishes don't enter the net.

140. Actually, when a catch is sold the total of accumulated operational expenses are supposed to be covered before the profits are shared and the owner is therefore, strictly speaking, insulated from a loss. But after a long period of empty nets the crewmembers may press the owner to forward profits to them when a saleable catch is finally made. Thus, at one point the owner — having bought fuel on credit — owed the money for at least twenty liters of oil admixtured petrol at a total cost of (Rp 450 per litre) Rp 9000.

141. As far out as five or six kilometres the depth of the sea is rarely more than some ten to twelve meters.

142. As a matter of fact, over the weeks that I followed dragnet operations no substantial catch was made.

143. One of the locally owned bagan (which was actually owned jointly between a Pejam villager, Bahari, and an ethnic Chinese living elsewhere) collapsed one night in the beginning of August 1984, halfway through the season. Nothing was salvaged. No one had been aboard because Bahari had been ill with fever the previous ten days. The total loss amounted to some Rp 400.000 split between the two owners. It emerged that the bagan had been constructed with too many short poles that had had to be tied together. This means less initial labour (since larger logs must be sought rather far from the shore) but also that the entire structure becomes more wobbly. The bagan had also been erected at a place where both wind and waves are particularly strong.

144. Bagan fishing in figures. Total catch from one bagan during a full season of operations was approximately 10 tons, of which 9 tons were sold for an average price of Rp 250 per kg. The remaining ton was sold for an average price of Rp 75 per kg.

Thus: 9000 x 250 = Rp 2.250.000

+ 1000 x 75 = Rp 75.000

= GROSS INCOME Rp 2.325.000

This should now be compared to the total operational expenses which are, conservatively estimated, about Rp 5000 per night over a net period of circa 165 days. To this must be added the cost of transportation: Typically the tukang bawa (the 'carrier', i.e. the man bringing the fish to the market) receives Rp 50 — 75 per kg.

8.6 months x 20 days = 165 days x Rp 5000 Rp 825.000

+ Cost of constructing the bagan: Rp 1.000.000

+ Transportation (Rp 50 x 10000) Rp 500.000

= TOTAL EXPENSES Rp 2.325.000


Gross income Rp 2.325.000

- TOTAL EXPENSES Rp 2.325.000


145. As it is among most peoples that I know of — with the exception of the Ik — according to Turnbull's controversial work (1973) on them.

146. Complete strangers are treated less hospitably — especially in the small forest hamlets where the Lom sometimes, rather than welcoming a stranger, take to the forest.

147. Nash distinguishes between two meanings of 'subsistence economy': a) "... one that produces just the bare minimum necessary to keep people alive" and b) "... one in which production and consumption is more or less direct, without intervening acts of exchange between producing units" (1966: 22). It is in the second of these senses that the Lom have a subsistence economy: households are virtually self-sufficient as regards food. An increasing reliance on cash crops will inevitably change this. In order to avoid potential misunderstandings I should perhaps make it clear that by money and monetisation I am referring to the Indonesian Rupiah (Rp), an internationally convertible currency, and not to any kind of indigenous unit of value ('primitive money') which the Lom, to the best of my knowledge, have never possessed.

148. Banks notes that "(lauk is) a broad category of food including sauces, fish, meat, relishes, and anything else spooned on top of rice" (1983: 31). Laderman explains: "Lauk, the generic term for side dishes served with rice, is also used, unmodified, to mean fish. In some parts of Malaysia the cry of the fish-sellers is 'Lauk'. My language teacher in Kuala Lumpur translated lauk as 'the fish that is served with rice'. I learned later that the term can cover a multitude of other items, with appropriate modifications." (1981: 476, reference omitted, emphasis mine).

149. This is a moot point, however. There is no necessary connection between wet rice agriculture and stable surplus production and conversely, between dry rice agriculture and production deficits. In the Kachin Hills Area, for example, "dry hill rice can [if optimal procedures are followed, OHS] be made to produce regular yields approaching those obtained from irrigated wet rice" (Leach 1970 (1954): 24).

150. The Lom usually account for differential household productivity by ascribing it to untung or rejeki (luck), sial (misfortune) or nasib (fate).

151. Dry rice may also be obtained by the direct exchange of labour, as I explained above, but this is only possible at harvest time.

152. Note, too, that the kawan category includes one — and only one — agricultural product: rice.

153. This should not be taken as an ethnocentric statement. What constitutes prestige goods in a given society is of course an empirical question, whether it be kula rings, glass beads, electronic equipment, or indeed (as in Nigeria) bowls: "But the particular craze among nearly all the housewives in recent years has been to sink all their profits in acquiring ever increasing numbers of Czechoslovak-made, brightly coloured, enamelled bowls. Within the world of Sabo housewives, these bowls have become the most important status symbol and women are ranked in status in proportion to the number of bowls they possess" (Cohen 1969: 67-68).

154. There are moot points here relating to the physiological requirements of essential amino acids; a topic I am not prepared to discuss. These are, at any rate, less central to 'supplementary' hunting as it is found among the Lom and other swidden agriculturalists than they are to the classically defined 'man the hunter'.

155. One such native statement was quoted in chapter three: "Malays who eat pork, that's us".

156. "(The coconut palm) demands three factors for its persistence, which are obtained in combination on coasts. These factors are: (1) aeration at the root, for which the movement of air through a sandy soil produced by rising and falling tides is preeminently favourable; (2) moisture at the crown such as sea-breezes afford; and (3) water for the dispersal of its very large fruits.... It is well established that, on the whole, coconut palms ... are more fertile near the sea" (Burkill 1966: 604, 606).

157. In addition to the shop he had already set up and the field of watermelon he had planted, he was going to plant several plots with other cash crops and buy a pick-up to bring his produce to the market. This, incidentally, would be the first four-wheeled vehicle to be owned in any Lom settlement and might initiate the demise of Chinese middlemen, or at least sharpen the competition between the middlemen.

158. The orchard actually consisted of some 1000 plants, some of which were young and unyielding at the time of the sale. My own impression when I inspected the orchard was that the plants were in very good condition and promised a great harvest.

159. Sale to end-consumers, however, is exclusively a Chinese occupation. This is so by tradition and remains so by volition: Each sales-place at the market is an individual property and is handed down from father to son. Vacancies are non-existent.

160. Two considerations are pertinent here. First, in order to be able to transport the fish to Belinyu one needs a motorcycle in the first place, i.e. a certain amount of capital is necessary. (It would probably be possible to buy a second-hand motorcycle for Rp 500.000, but not for much less.) Second, while 30 kilometres is not 'far' on a good road, it takes at the very least 45 minutes from Pejam to Belinyu — and with the transportation baskets (lam) full of fish or blocks of ice at least an hour, either direction.

161. Raymond Firth writes: "Before the war ice and brine had been used, but only to a small extent and mainly by Chinese and Japanese fishermen. The result was that the first stages of decomposition had often set in before the fish was sold to the consumer" (1966: 19). On the technological changes affecting the Kelantan fishermen during the period between the late thirties/early forties and the early sixties he summarises: "...a dramatic change had occurred. What was in effect a local technological revolution had taken place: the introduction of motor propulsion for fishing boats had given much greater productive efficiency and the use of ice for the better preservation of the fish had greatly improved the market situation" (1966: 305, emphasis mine).

162. The following are the named cemeteries in the two Lom settlements (but other, unnamed graveyards also exist): In Pejam: Bong Li Jan and Bukit Tengkalat; in Air Abik: Bukit Mikang, Bukit Kunor, and Gunung Sangeng.

163. I noticed this because I know from experience (as a nurse's aid) that most people die with their eyes open or half open and none with their mouth closed. The chin needs to be tied up before rigor mortis sets in. If this is omitted the deceased will be buried mouth open.

164. Most households have a number of such coins in their possession; they are, as far as I know, only used at the time of birth (placed in the water basin in which the newborn is cleaned) and death.

165. Perdumen and uni't are two possibly interchangeable words which mean 'that which occurs/is created if mentioned a certain number of times'. As noted several times already this idea, prevalent among the Lom, made inquiries into the nature and extent of malevolent spirits rather difficult. Speculatively it may be suggested that the former word is related to the Dutch 'verdomd'; transformed into Indonesian: 'perdom': 'devilish'; 'cursed'.

166. Whether or not this is a practice adhered to in regards to women as well I do not know. During my fieldwork no women were buried, and regrettably I did not ask if burial customs for women and men differ from one another.

167. Perhaps I need not despair over this: Needham, writing on ritual (and symbolic action in general) says that "for the sake of generality I shall adopt Arthur Waley's stance. 'The truth' he writes, 'is that there is no "real reason" for ritual acts'; and where such acts are not linked in the mind of the practitioner to any system of thought they will be explained as 'customary' or 'the thing to do'" (Needham 1981: 82-3).

168. The use of Arabic characters here is an obvious Muslim Malay influence. But the Lom themselves, vehemently non-Muslim, conceptualise the use of Arabic as a purely ceremonial trait having no 'religious' significance.

169. This is another trait particular to the Lom graves; Islamic ones are not notched. The Lom say that if the protrusions (pinyong) are not notched the grave would resemble a hearth (tunggék).

170. This illustrates, incidentally, how extremely easy it is to misinterpret — and how terribly dependent the investigator of a foreign culture is on being told what the meaning of "something" is. And that if members of a culture conspire to deceive their task is quite simple (cf. the Mead/Freeman controversy). For example, I also asked if the grave-poles had any significance other than symbolising house-poles, esp. if the carvings were a sign such that one could see from a particular tiang pakis its location relative to the cardinal points or if there was anything one NE tiang would have in common with another. The answer was no.

171. The use of nisan is, to judge by the Islamic cemeteries I visited, optional.

172. The 'lantek' (I was explained) is a stick used to close (and open ?) doors with, probably similar to a bolt.

173. Each of them asks about the situation/state of the deceased, they are possibly the equivalent to "angels of death"; cf. Geertz (1960: 71) on Mungkar and Nakir.

174. Macassar is the former name of Ujung Pandang, South Sulawesi. Interestingly, Skeat notes that the Peninsular Malaysian 'spirit boats' ("lanchang") carrying evil spirits or "devils" are sometimes destined for "the island of Celebes" (1900: 434).

175. Detutor atap may also be the name of a plant (Baeckea frutescens, Linn.; cf. Burkill 1966: 285). Speculations arising from this possibility, however, are less likely to be promising than those in connection with bukor kemujé (see note 177 below).

176. Possibly 'ular belang/welang' meaning 'striped/banded snake'. This should be cautiously accepted, however, because contrary to SM/I practice 'sebelang' in the text precedes the noun it is presumed to qualify.

177. Plumeria acutifolia, Poir. Plumeria, Linn. is a genus of shrubs and trees of the family Apocynaceae, native of tropical America. About P. acutifolia, called bunga kemoja in Java, Burkill writes:

"In Malaysia the shrub has been adopted as a grave-yard plant (pokok kubur), from what date is not certain. It is, therefore, absent from Malay gardens... Raffles (...) and Crawfurd (...) mention this custom a century ago in Java, and Marsden wrote the same about Sumatra... Sometimes a plant stands on each side of the grave, but as a rule the Malays plant it in cemeteries without order. No doubt, one cause leading to its adoption is the ease with which cuttings strike... The tree is sacred in India and Ceylon, where it is planted about temples" (Burkill 1966: 1809, emphasis mine.)

178. Numerous entries in Burkill (1966) show that both 'kaca' and 'melor' are used in Malay for 'jasmine' or 'false jasmine', although no entries put the two words together.

179. Although different informants at different times agreed that 'Melalé' lies in a south-westerly direction (or, alternatively, that it is a metaphorical expression for this compass point) it should be pointed out that the cape of the landmass constituting the western part of Klabat Bay is called Tanjung Melala and that a hill, also named Melala, lies in the immediate vicinity. The distance from Pejam to Tanjung Melala is only some 20-odd kilometres on the map, but for various reasons it is not easily accessible.

180. If the deceased is transformed into one of the three things listed above (bird, wood, or ant's nest), he or she will never reach irat; 'heaven'.

181. I gratefully acknowledge that the idea introduced here — and the fact that some (apparently unpublished) work along this line in Andean anthropology has been done by Niels Fock — was brought to my attention by Randi Kaarhus.

182. A marriage which was settled rather more impromptu than in the orderly fashion described above was that between Amak and Aba: Once, several years ago, Amak had been asked by Tolang if he wanted to marry Aba, the latter's daughter. Being drunk at the time Amak had agreed right away. But the next three days he had been sowing rice with Tolang (famous for his stamina) and had had enough of it. Tolang works from sunrise and has his first meal at 2 p.m., he continues working until nightfall and has supper at 8 p.m. Amak was unable to take this regime for more than three days, then he ran away — apparently before the marriage had been consummated.

183. No Lom knew what the bridewealth consisted of formerly; none of them had any recollection of the pre-monetised era.

184. I did not, unfortunately, inquire into the semantics of this term. It is possible, also, that it is more properly spelled sekapok, in which case a way to interpret the term symbolically becomes possible: kapok means edible lime, a chalky and smeary paste (which is used when chewing betel), and the term could then mean 'that which is stuck together'. This interpretation is speculative, but perhaps not entirely senseless. Less speculatively: Sandbukt has informed me that sekapur sesirih is a common expression for common ritual sharing among Peninsular and Sumatran Malays: 'to share betel and lime'. By simple metaphor the Lom term would thus designate sharing and commensality in a more general sense.

185. In principle this one child should remain outside any religion. For all practical purposes, however, Islam is the religion to be thus shunned.

186. I told one rather orthodox Lom who on certain matters was one of my key informants that the group of Sekak, or sea nomads, now settled in Kedimpel (near Pangkal Pinang) no longer adhere to the bibit-ideology. He shook his head and said, "Not much time left" (dék lamé agi't).

187. I have to say 'at least' here, because while it appears that while several other suffixes are commonly used, the Lom were not clear as to when these are to be understood as relationship terms proper and when they are idiosyncratic terms of endearment.

188. This should not, however, be interpreted as obligatory usage. The conventions I describe here may merely be instances of what Bloch has labelled "the tactical meaning of kinship" (Bloch 1971: 79-87).

189. Note, however, that mak buyung means 'procuress; a pregnant woman'. Note also that I have spelt the word according to Lom phonological practice where I discuss the concept as used by the Lom and according to SM/I pronunciation elsewhere.

190. One corresponding Indonesian term is muhrim (from the Arabic) meaning 'forbidden marriage on account of blood-relationship'. But among the Lom, of course, much more than 'blood-relationship' is involved.

191. The Chinese are described as 'of the same skin' (kulitnya sama) as Malays (cf. chapter three).

192. The Lom are of course familiar with the Japanese. First of all they occupied Indonesia (including Bangka) during World War II. Secondly, they are the successful manufacturers of a host of well-reputed consumer commodities. But rather than having an ethnic status comparable to the Malays, the Chinese or the Dutch they are thought to be the offspring of a Chinese and a Malay.

193. Elisabeth Forseth (personal communication) has pointed out that the fact that Bakil became aware of the buyong relationship between Alim and Akum only begs the question of what his reaction was when Sedit and Aba married: If Akum calls him aki (classificatory grandfather), then surely Aba must call him mang (classificatory uncle). The crucial point is what Sedit calls (or called, before he married Aba) Bakil. Most likely he called him kakak or adek (elder/younger brother, i.e. 'cousin'); these are, after all, the logical options when the diagram is read horizontally. If he did, then Sedit, too, married someone belonging to another generational level. However, the possibility remains that Sedit's personal genealogy (which I regrettably did not record) places him on the same generational level as Aba, and that the question of buyung could only meaningfully be raised when Alim married Aba's daughter.

194. There are a number of other transgressions which are punished in this way. Building a school or a house of worship on Tanah Mapur are just two of them (cf. chapter four).

195. Although statements about the putative 'real' past are difficult to distinguish from mythic traditions I was informed that one informant's mother had been told, as recently as in the 1920s or -30s, that she would not be permitted to marry the man wooing her.

196. One reason why this sort of genealogical scrutiny is held to be more difficult at the present time may be directly related to demographic factors. 90 years prior to my fieldwork Kroon (Hagen: 1908) reported the Lom to have a total population of 267; now they number some 800.

197. As much as this may be a Lom practice it is an unequivocal reflection of Muslim custom, too. I was repeatedly told that no Muslim father worth the name would let his daughter marry a non-Muslim — be he Lom, Christian, or Buddhist. Interestingly, the only case I came across where a Lom male had married a Muslim was one in which the bride's father was deceased: When man married he did so adat-style (i.e. he did not convert) and paid the penghulu Rp 5000. The wedding expenses in this case were equally shared by his parents and his wife's widowed mother. Had he converted the corresponding cost would have been Rp 30 000. His mother-in-law, originally from a non-Lom village, like her deceased husband, and now residing elsewhere (but still outside Tanah Mapur) had wanted her daughter to marry a Muslim, but having almost no money she had given in and permitted her daughter to marry a Lom. According to the latter he and his wife were free to choose their place of residence.

198. In an early presentation of this material I pointed out, erroneously, that insofar as Westerners consider a relationship to be incestuous, it is always a question of sex between consanguines, and that while it is true that recent legislation on incest in some Western societies has incorporated the relationship between step- and adopting parents and their children, these relationships are, by their nature, designed to substitute for blood-relationships. I am grateful to Knut Odner and Alan Barnard for both having spotted this mistake. Odner knew that in Norway in the 1530s a man by the name Knut Lykke was executed because he had made his widow's sister pregnant — although the events which led up to his death were of a highly political nature, too (cf. Benedictow 1987: 424-30). Barnard pointed out that the Church of England long forbade marriage to the brother's widow, and that in some Roman Catholic countries marriage is forbidden between co-godchildren.

199. If the ilmu nipu does not 'descend' (turun) by itself one is reportedly obliged to pursue it all the same. The magic power in question is the ability to permanently turn someone's head 180.

200. Apparently the standard practice between husband and wife in the Malay world is for him to address her as adik while she calls him kakak. The Lom do not do this. Face-to-face they address each other by personal names, nicknames, one version or another of the terms for 'father'/'mother', or just grunt.

201. The following quotation from Banks' study shows that this is a sentiment shared by Peninsular Malays: "Another form of baka [the female contribution nourishing the male benih in the womb, OHS] frequently mentioned is darah susuan (the blood of suckling), which appears to have originated from the Islamic prohibition against marriage of two children nursed at the same breast for a regular period. The same kind of horror of incest does not appear to inhere in violations of this prohibition" (Banks 1983: 67).

202. Because I was actively present at his wife's birth, showed considerable interest in what went on and was happy, when asked, to give the newborn a name (Nura, a name not much different from my own daughter's: Nora), Alim stressed that I am his daughter's 'adopting father' (ayah angkat) and that as such I am entitled to ask her favours, to give her orders, and always be kept informed about major events in her life.

203. Including the coast guard and the paramilitary 'tin-police' patrolling areas rich in ore for thieves and smugglers.

204. This statement needs some qualification: By marrying a Lom and settling on Lom land (Tanah Mapur) Muslims and Buddhists alike may 'convert' (this is called pulang Mapur) — indeed are expected to do so — since the offspring of the couple cannot have parents of disparate faiths (or, in the Lom case, adat).

205. I am grateful to Prof. Christof Harbsmeier for referring me to the article by Ho Peng Yoke (1974) which helped me understand the intricacies of the Chinese calendrical system. For a more profound treatment, see Nakayama (1969).

206. Thus: 24 x 15 = 360 degrees, a full orbit, in other words: a (solar) year.

207. That the months in fact have zodiacal names in China need not concern us here. The Lom always refer to a month by citing its number. Another, perhaps not altogether superfluous, point to note is that the Lom do not calculate 'their' calendar themselves. They buy printed calendars in the Chinese shops in Belinyu or ask an ethnic Chinese, or, as far as the day of the month is concerned, simply watch the moon and the tide.

208. The system is somewhat too complicated to account for in full detail here — but it may be of interest to note that as early as two thousand years ago Chinese astronomers knew that every 19 years (a period called chang) seven such leap-months were required.

209. If this is a common problem among peoples using 'non-seasonal' calendars I am not aware of it.

210. English translation by OHS.

211. Both myths have survived among the Lom.

212. Skeat (1900: 88 fn.) and Endicott (1970: 98 ff.) both discuss the mambang as an important supernatural being among the Malays (and Indonesians). To present-day Lom, however, mambang as a spirit(ual) entity is unknown. According to them this word means 'cobweb' and is not used metaphorically.

213. Ake Antak (or Aki Antek, cf. Smedal 1987 for a critical review of earlier writers' transcription the Lom language) remains in one present-day version the founding father or ancestor of the Lom. A crucial linguistic point which other writers appear to have missed, however, is that the Standard Malay/Indonesian (SM/I) word hantu — when pronounced according to Lom phonological practice — is best transcribed precisely as antek. Thus, the founding father of the Lom would translate as 'the grandfather of ghosts'; as much a descriptive term as a name.

214. This idea of 'holy places' (termed kramat in SM/I, cf. Endicott 1970: 90 ff.) does not, to my knowledge, exist among the present-day Lom. I registered no use of the word kramat. I shall not rule the concept out completely, however, because when I inquired into the matter (with negative findings) I used the term tempat suci (lit. 'holy place').

215. Both Hantu Mapur and Hantu Buyut are recognised by the Lom today. But these are, if not minor spirits, at least less elevated than the Eight/Seven Children (cf. chapter three, section 5).

216. Trance-dancing (well known in Peninsular Malaysia under the name main puteri) is non-existent among present-day Lom. The term biang (Hakka Chinese?) signifies a cognate activity, primarily spirit séances among the Chinese and also among Malays, but these are not conducted as dances. Among the Chinese biang can refer to two things: 1) collective séances conducted on auspicious days in which a great number of people partake; celebrated as public spectacles and 2) privately organised séances in which a Chinese shaman (called sing se in Hakka Chinese) is approached by individuals who pay him to contact certain 'familiar spirits' in order e.g. to reveal winning lottery tickets. While the Malays have no biang in the first sense of the word they do in the second, viz. when a Malay dukun is privately approached for purposes of augury or dispelling bad luck.

217. While I have recorded instances among the Lom of sacrifice these are never placed in boats floated downriver, although this practice is known in Peninsular Malaysia. (Cf. Skeat 1900: 413 who gives lancang as the name for these boats).

218. Neither can inserting needles into representations of believed-to-be culprits be observed today, although this practice, too, is well known among Peninsular Malays.

219. Cf. chapter seven.