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Old 11th November 2012, 11:48 PM   #1
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Default A sword design theory (Phil., Indonesia, & Malaysia)

I mentioned earlier that I'll post something about this, especially after the travels in the last couple of years. I still owe 'A very old kris' some replies, but please allow me to get this long overdue thread out of the way first!

So here's the key point -- religion and religious beliefs play a very significant role in the development of the design and concept of all arts and crafts of any group of people. For instance in Christianity the cross would be the predominant design motif, for reasons most of us are familiar with (and as illustrated below).

The slide below by the way (which I'm recycling from an earlier presentation) says, Beliefs + Religion = Design [of arts & crafts, etc.].
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Old 11th November 2012, 11:56 PM   #2
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Now there are many religions that came to insular (archipelagic) Southeast Asia (i.e., Philippines, Malaysia, & Indonesia). But the longest and most pervasive of them all is the Austronesian religion. And we will come to that very shortly.

Please disregard by the way the 1588 and 1913 dates in the slide. Those have relevance to Phil. history only. The main thing is that since 6,000 years ago or even earlier, the Austronesian religion had taken roots already in our region (insular SEA). And it is still very much alive today, beneath the veneer that is Hinduism, or Islam, or Christianity.
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Old 12th November 2012, 12:15 AM   #3
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So here's the essence of the Austronesian religion (below). It's a belief that the cosmos is tripartite: the Upperworld, the earth, and the Underworld.

The Upperworld is often symbolized by the sun or the bird or sometimes by fire. The bird is an obvious choice for the ancient Austronesians because of all creatures, they are the only ones that can go back and forth between the heavens and the earth.

The Underworld's typical icon on the other hand is the snake/serpent/naga. But sometimes, the turtle, croc, fish, etc. are also used.

Here's a related article (when clicked, the article will download). The article is Beast, Bird, and Fish: An Essay in South-East Asian Symbolism, by Lorenz G. Löffler. But as far as illustration goes, Bernard Sellato's The Hornbill and the Dragon is perhaps the best.
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Old 12th November 2012, 10:58 AM   #4
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In one of our local museums (Ayala Museum), there is an illustration of a Kalimantan woodcut (pic is below). I've reproduced also below the caption on the same.

Please note that the Austronesian concept of the tripartite cosmos (and their attendant symbols or gods), of course predates the region's contact with Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.

And the establishment of the above via linguistics as noted is very important. Because whereas finding archeological proofs is a hit-or-miss thing sometimes, linguistic evidence tends to be more robust and more traceable over time.

The other thing worth noting is that the Austronesian tripartite view of the cosmos finds itself in the design of many things. In the example below, we can see that our traditional house-on-stilts is actually a mirror of how our forefathers viewed the universe.

For instance, in the traditional Igorot houses the carved wooden deities (bulul) would be found on the attic of the houses, given that the attic represents the Upperworld. I think the exhumed bones of departed ancestors are also kept there.

Finally, I'd just like to point out that the veneration of the serpent, sun, bird, etc. are not exclusive to Austronesians, as we also all know.

Additional illustrations to follow ...
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Old 13th November 2012, 02:11 PM   #5
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Quote:
So here's the essence of the Austronesian religion (below). It's a belief that the cosmos is tripartite: the Upperworld, the earth, and the Underworld. The Upperworld is often symbolized by the sun or the bird or sometimes by fire.
The bird is an obvious choice for the ancient Austronesians because of all creatures, they are the only ones that can go back and forth between the heavens and the earth. The Underworld's typical icon on the other hand is the snake/serpent/naga. But sometimes, the turtle, croc, fish, etc. are also used.


interesting topic, lorenz!

if you don't mind, here's a little (if not, neat) theory:
let's look at a typical Moro Kris. i rhink my diagram can explain it better:
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Old 13th November 2012, 03:25 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spunjer
interesting topic, lorenz! if you don't mind, here's a little (if not, neat) theory: let's look at a typical Moro Kris. i rhink my diagram can explain it better:
ron, your laser-guided munition surely hit the target right on the money! thanks for that excellent example.

and i do hope that our malaysian and indonesian brethren in this forum will also comment and contribute any info they may want to share. well, anybody and everybody are most welcome to contribute or comment or question anything in this thread for sure!

ok, in the austronesian cosmos, the underworld is also equated with the waters (rivers, lakes, & seas). that's why aside from land snakes -- crocs, fishes, turtles, crabs, & other sea creatures are also regarded as reps of the underworld.

and closer to home, the mythical visayan sea-serpent, the bakunawa was surely an underworld deity as far as our forefathers are concerned.

to recap, it should come as no surprise then that austronesian boats would often have serpents or dragons or reptiles in their design motif:

- for the korakora/karakoa for instance, the carving of a serpent's head would usually be on the boat's prow

- a similar philippine fighting ship of old, the joangan [pronounced who-WAH-ngan], would also use the serpent for bow design, as can be seen in the illustration below from alcina's monumental 1668 treatise on the visayans

- as can be expected, the tagalogs of luzon in northern philippines did the same thing: in the excerpt below from san buenaventura's excellent 1613 spanish-tagalog dictionary, we can see that the typical balangai (a big boat of old used throughout the philippines) also used the naga for the prow's design -- cabeza [spanish for head] is naga in tagalog, and was defined as the serpent in the bow of a ship (spanish: 'de sierpe en la proa del navio'); and the example of usage, 'nagaan mo ang balangay' [tagalog] also below means, 'put the naga [in the bow or prow] of the balangay [boat]'.

long story short: underworld = serpent = naga => boat motif -- perhaps given the belief that the naga would make the perfect patron saint of sorts for seagoing vessels.

finally going back to ron's example above, in a kris (or keris), the thing in the scabbard where the blade (i.e., the naga) enters is sometimes shaped like a boat ... a mere coincidence? i don't think so!

p.s. - here's where linguistics can come to the rescue. i think in indonesian that part of the scabbard i referred to above is called warangka. now in the austronesian world, the other local terms for boat are wangka/ bangka/ wa'a/ va'a. thus perhaps warangka is a cognate of wangka/bangka after all ... hope somebody can check this out.
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Old 13th November 2012, 08:25 PM   #7
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In Modern Javanese "warangka" can be written as "wrangka", rangka" and phonetically by omitting the first "A" and replacing the other two "A" 's with "O" 's .

The word has a sense of protection or containment, one of its derivatives being wrangkaning ratu = patih (probably more realistically the mahapatih) = prime minister or chief adviser. The association is easy to see, the mahapatih protects the king with his advice.

In Old Javanese, which is probably a more relevant source to look at, "warangka" is again a word that has a sense of protection or containment. Zoetmulder lists the root as a keris scabbard and as a stable (stable being able to be understood as an animal stall or an animal pen), and also as a nest.

I cannot comment on the keris form that is found in the Philippines, as I have not involved myself in study of this in even the smallest degree, however I am prepared to comment on the keris in Jawa.

The association of the keris scabbard form, especially the formal scabbard, with the form of some boats has been made many times in the past. Yes, there is a faint resemblance in form, but in respect of the Javanese keris I have been unable to find even the slightest evidence to support this theorised association.

Similarly, a long standing theory in respect of the blade of the keris has been that in the straight form it represents the naga at rest, in the waved form it represents the naga in motion. Interesting.

The other symbolism mentioned as being associated with the Philippine keris form is also interesting, but I would prefer to reserve comment.
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Old 14th November 2012, 10:04 AM   #8
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Alan, many thanks for the comments! It appears thus that the resemblance I was referring to (warangka vs. a boat) might just be coincidental after all.

Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
In Old Javanese, which is probably a more relevant source to look at, "warangka" is again a word that has a sense of protection or containment. Zoetmulder lists the root as a keris scabbard and as a stable (stable being able to be understood as an animal stall or an animal pen), and also as a nest.
On the other hand, the concept of protection and containment can also be ascribed to a boat I think (i.e., the boat vs. the vagaries of the high seas it's in). But perhaps I'm stretching things already ...

On a related matter, it's also good to know that in Old Javanese, the scabbard's root word refers to a stable or a nest. Thus perhaps once again, we can see here the allusion to the keris or any other sword being a mythical representation of a beast or a bird that needs a 'pen' or a 'nest' ...
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Old 14th November 2012, 10:22 AM   #9
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More on the concept of the Austronesian tripartite cosmos as the primary design motif on many things, and for now let's focus on the traditional Austronesian house on stilts ...

As can be seen below, traditional archipelagic Southeast Asian houses would often feature the bird deity on the roofs. Indonesian houses (and even houses of Thailand and neighboring countries) are also found with the same.

In the sarimanok of the Moros (thanks to 'dimasalang' for the pic below), a fish [an Underworld icon] can also be found on the bird's beak and/or claw. This would be reminiscent of the traditional Thai roof design where the a sculpture of the bird is found on the apex, and the serpents' image on each side of the roof eaves are supposed to represent nagas being held by each claw of the said bird ...

In any case, it's still all about the bird-deity and the naga-deity, and the bird would always be above the serpent/s, based on their 'vertical' positioning in the tripartite cosmos ...
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Old 14th November 2012, 10:25 AM   #10
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here's a quick example of the traditional thai roof -- bird on the apex, and two serpents on each side, which are supposed to be being held by said bird ...
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Old 14th November 2012, 12:44 PM   #11
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This is still about the Austronesian house design, as a mirror of the tripartite cosmos he believed in ...

In one rendition of the tripartite cosmos (e.g., by the Higaonons and Manobos of Mindanao), a huge snake was supposed to have been placed by the gods on the central post or column that supports the earth, as the earth's protector. And the movement of this snake is supposed to be the cause of earthquakes.

For the Higaonons still, the earth is supposed to be carried by a giant bird called a galura. The letters 'l' and 'r', and 'r' and 'd' are sometimes interchangeable in our languages; hence the galura is probably the same as the garuda. The flapping of the galura's wings is supposed to be the cause of strong winds.

Back to the snake coiled on the supporting column of the middle-world or earth -- in Maranaw houses, the extension of floor beams (i.e., the panolong) would often have naga carvings, as illustrated below. One can easily imagine thus, the extension of the naga's body as being invisibly coiled around the houses' columns or stilts. And this imagery once again mirrors the guardian naga's coiling around the huge post that supports the middle-world or earth.
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Old 14th November 2012, 01:14 PM   #12
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Now the sincere belief of our animistic forefathers on said tripartite cosmos (and the appurtenant deities) found itself in all things he did. In the illustration below:

a - in ancient potteries, bird and sunburst designs are pretty common themes

b1 - as already mentioned, in Igorot houses, the loft or attic being a representation of the the Upperworld is the place were carved wooden deities and bones of ancestors are kept

b2 & b3 - as was also seen already, bird images are often placed on roofs, while naga designs are placed on the ground level of the house

c - ancient Filipino tattoos also feature a lot of sunbursts and zigzag/diamond design: zigzag and diamond patterns are of course abstractions of the image of the naga or serpent (and valiant warriors were supposed to have been born with a twin snake)

d & e - personal adornments also feature a lot of bird and serpent designs

f & g - ships and shields also use a lot of sunburst/bird and serpent motifs

h - in a Tingguian (northern Luzon) wedding, the male throws rice up into the air as offering to the gods [of the Upperworld], while the female forces rice into the gaps of the bamboo flooring as her offering to the other gods [of the Underworld] -- the symbolism is especially significant, as the sun-bird deity is often regarded as male, while the naga-serpent deity is regarded as female.

In Panay Bukidnon dances, one can also notice a lot of looking up into the heavens on the part of the male dancers, while the women do a lot of stomping on the house's floor or on the ground. The looking upward is according to them a recognition of the gods up there, while the stomping of the floor or ground is an acknowledgement of the gods below.

Certain Lumad dances also involves a lot of stomping on the ground, supposedly to wake up the gods below [of the Underworld], to give them good yield on their crops.

My all-time favorite tourist, Pigafetta (Magallanes' chronicler), also recorded this in Cebu in 1521:
"And when they [the babaylan or women-priestesses] are on that cloth, they make a reverence to the Sun ... and one of them [head babaylan] puts on her forehead a kerchief with two horns which she makes of it ... she calls on the Sun ... the other dances with her, both saying many things to the Sun ... She of the horns continues to speak secretly to the Sun, and the other answers her."
The conclusion of the matter is that the religion and cosmology of a group of people will influence almost everything they do and make.

Next up will be many pics from a Dutch museum I visited, wherein they grouped their archipelagic Southeast Asian artifacts, precisely along the lines being discussed here ...
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Old 15th November 2012, 12:32 PM   #13
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Ok, before I post those pics from that Dutch museum (it's the Tropenmuseum, in Amsterdam, and then later I'll also post pics from other European museums), let me just quickly summarize the cosmology and religion then in archipelagic Southeast Asia.

In essence, the key beliefs or religions were two -- [1] animism, including the belief in a tripartite cosmos that's ruled by certain key deities, and [2] ancestral worship.

As discussed above, spirits and deities were believed to inhabit and rule the Upperworld and the Underworld. And inanimate natural & man-made objects were also believed to be 'alive' -- rock formations, rivers, boats, swords, etc. All these were part of the animistic religion.

Now aside from the above spirits, departed ancestors were also believed to inhabit the tripartite cosmos. And so these ancestors were also venerated and called upon in times of need. This would be then the other half of the core beliefs -- ancestral worship.

In the illustration below thus, I've added an Igorot bulul as symbol for the ancestral worship component of the olden beliefs.
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Old 15th November 2012, 12:39 PM   #14
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Without further ado, here's the first set of pics. As you enter the Southeast Asian section of the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam, what will greet you is this neat grouping of artifacts into four categories: Bird, Dragon/Serpent, Flower, and Squatting Figure.

The first three represents of course the Upperworld, Underworld, and Middleworld (Earth). And the squatting figure would represent ancestral worship.

It's very refreshing to see this categorization of objects in a museum. Because it hits the nail right in the head, ethnographically speaking.

I'll post next pics of each object, per category, for a deeper appreciation of the subject.
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Old 15th November 2012, 12:46 PM   #15
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Here's the first set of the Bird section ...
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Old 15th November 2012, 12:48 PM   #16
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Some more bird pics ...
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Old 15th November 2012, 12:51 PM   #17
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Some more ... and the whole set can be seen from my Facebook Page on Phil. weapons, here, which I can think can be accessed by anyone even if he doesn't have a Facebook account.
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Old 16th November 2012, 09:49 AM   #18
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Here's the first batch of pics for the Serpent/Dragon segment, still from Amsterdam's Tropenmuseum ...
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Old 16th November 2012, 09:50 AM   #19
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more pics ...
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Old 16th November 2012, 09:52 AM   #20
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some more ... and there's a lot more pics here ...
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Old 16th November 2012, 10:28 PM   #21
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regarding that priest's staff above (batak/sumatra) where a serpent appears to be moving towards the ancestor, the igorots of northern luzon have the exact same staff by the way.

and this is just one example of the very many similarities among the original designs and motifs and themes in malaysia-indonesia-phils.

and if one casts a wider net so that taiwan and oceania are included (i.e., the austronesian migration), one will discover that aside from genetics and linguistics, the ethnography of austronesian world is very much coherent and consistent.

next up are the icons of the middle earth, the land of the living ...
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Old 16th November 2012, 10:32 PM   #22
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So here now is the third segment, the symbols of the 3rd section (i.e., earth) of the tripartite cosmos of the Austronesians.

The use of the flower as motif is not as widely discussed as the use of the Bird-Sun and Serpent-Snake themes.

So I'll post more pics for this topic ...
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Old 16th November 2012, 10:35 PM   #23
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it's not just actually the flower ... the tree as well, with its spreading branches that reach to the skies (and deep roots that go downward to the Underworld), is considered a symbol for the middle world ... and later when islam came to southeast asia with its prohibition of representation of images man and animals, then all the more that the flower and trees theme became prominent ...
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Old 16th November 2012, 10:39 PM   #24
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more pics ...
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Old 16th November 2012, 10:42 PM   #25
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with the tripartite cosmos in mind, the presence of birds amongst these vegetation takes thus a deeper spiritual meaning, for our ancestors ...
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Old 16th November 2012, 11:08 PM   #26
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more pics ...
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Old 16th November 2012, 11:11 PM   #27
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there's more where it came from ...
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Old 16th November 2012, 11:16 PM   #28
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*chirp*
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Old 16th November 2012, 11:18 PM   #29
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last set ...
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Old 16th November 2012, 11:21 PM   #30
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but wait, there's more

well, just two more pics ... one showing from afar the display cabinets of the 'flower' section.
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