BIRTH-CUSTOMS AND BELIEFS part iii
however, the tree dies first, this is a sign that the owneras death will follow. Hence big and strong trees are selected as birth-trees. And when one Semang kills another, except in war, he avoids the otheras birth-tree, for fear it will fall on him.1
The birth-bamboo (as has already been said), is an internode, or hollow shaft of bamboo (minus the knots or ajointsa) which is covered with magical designs intended to serve as charms against sickness and nausea, and is carried by pregnant women, hidden under the girdle, in order to prevent any strange man from seeing it. The magical designs on it are incised by the husband, and an enceinte woman without a birth-bamboo is regarded in much the same way as a woman in Europe would be who lacked a wedding-ring.
The patterns of the birth-bamboo represent the child in the motheras womb. They are described more fully in the chapter on aDecoration.a
Within this receptacle (the birth-bamboo) the expectant mother keeps the bird, her eating which is believed to introduce the soul into her unborn child. The expression used by the Semang of Kelantan to describe a woman who has hope of offspring is amachi kawau,a i.e. ashe has eaten the bird.a3 The flesh of the bird in question, however, is not eaten all at once, but piecemeal, being kept in the birth-bamboo and replaced when eaten by one or two bones, until the child is born, when they are thrown away.
a Til-til-tapa,a the bird which brings male souls, is the smaller Argus-pheasant; that which brings female souls is called a chim-iui,a [which probably stands for a chim yui,a or the a bird that brings a (the soul)]. Twins arise from eating the soul-bird with an egg. In such a case there is only one birth-tree.4
The severance of the cord may be effected either by one of the women or by the childas father. It is performed upon a block of soft ajelotonga (a juletonga) wood called a potong pusat.a5
No implement of iron may be used for the purpose, a bamboo knife called asembilua6 being the instrument generally used, though knives called atapaa (atappara)7 are also manufactured (for this purpose exclusively) from the leaf-stem of the bertam-palm. In former times a white (spiral) shell was employed.
The East Semang (a Pangan a), like the Sakai, sling their children from the bough of a tree, when they are working close by, but not when they are working at any great distance.8
1 Vaughan-Stevens, iii. 116, 117. place Vaughan-Stevens described these
2 Vaughan-Stevens, iii. 115, 116. knives as being made from the stem of Cp. Griinwedel in V. B. G. A. xxiv. the bertam-palm, in another (as here) 466, 467. from the Blatt-haut or leaf - stem
3 Literally, aeat bird.a (midrib of the leaf). The latter is of
4 Vaughan-Stevens, iii. 116. course correct, the bertam being, as 6 This is a Malay expression signify- Bartels rightly remarks, a stemless
ing a cut navel a (i.e. cut navel-string), palm. He adds that the Semang call
which of course is a name describ- this palm achin-beg,a that Vaughan-
ing the action, not the implement. Stevens had sent five specimens of the
6 According to Vaughan - Stevens atappara (v. Fig. 6), and that they are asemilowa (sic) which is merely the narrow slivers sharpened at the point Malay asembilu,a a aslivera or like a pen-knife, and measuring from asplinter,a mis-spelt and slightly 16.2 cm. to 19 cm. They are all of modified in course of borrowing. Semang origin. Z.f.E. xxviii. 190.
7 Bartels here remarks that in one 8 Ibid. p. 201.7 Bartels here remarks that in one 8 Ibid. p. 201.