Ethnographic Arms & Armour

Go Back   Ethnographic Arms & Armour > Discussion Forums > Ethnographic Weapons
User Name
FAQ Members List Calendar Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read

Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Old 19th February 2006, 09:16 PM   #1
nechesh's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Cincinnati, OH
Posts: 940
Default Mandau

Well, this is a new one for me and a little out of my usual keris/kris research, so i hope somebody out there can add to my knowledge base.I have always been attracted to Dyak weapons, but this is my first. It has been indicated to me that this one is probably from the Kenyah tribe and my thinking is that it is pre-WWII 20thC. I am most curious about the hilt forms and what particular symbolism they might have. Certainly there is some animal representation here, but i can't quite make out which ones.I am very impressed with the level of artistic sophistication that can be found in these hilts, a combination of the complexity of celtic knot work with the surreal imagry of a Bosch painting. Any addition info on these weapons would be much appreciated. I think this is your area Michael, are you out there?
Attached Images
nechesh is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 19th February 2006, 10:25 PM   #2
RobT's Avatar
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 221
Default Stone pgs 370 & 371

Stone calls this type of hilt kohong kalunan and says only that it is "a pattern of several grotesque faces that is frequently used on the hilts of Dyak mandaus". He neglects to give a literal translation however. Nor does he mention what the faces represent so I'm just as curious as you are.
RobT is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 20th February 2006, 07:30 AM   #3
VVV's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Sweden
Posts: 1,635


Actually I am more into non-Mandau Borneo swords.
Dajak is the Mandau and overall Borneo connoisseur on this list.
I have several articles on Mandau hilts but IMHO the best analysis of symbolism on Mandau hilts is written by Karsten Sejr Jensen, also known for his works on the Keris. His article is in Danish and I will use it to explain the major symbols on your hilt. What's interesting with Karsten's works is his professional background as a Jungian analyst combined with his profound knowledge of the cultures of the Malay archipelago.
Here is a small sample of some of the explanations of the common motives on the Mandau hilt (the article is 21 pages):

- The crab-resembling spirales symbolises the scorpion. Scorpions are favoured by the Dayak because they use the same kind of strategy as them when head-hunting; hiding and sneak attack their victims. If interlocking it could also symbolise the dynamic opposition of the universe (like yin/yang).
- The open jaws symbolises Djarta, the ruler of the underworld, and her animals the crocodile and the dragon.
- An arm or a teeth represents the dragon or tiger gods. The tiger god symbolise the wildness of the head-hunting. The Dayak call this Aso (= dog). But that's not really a dog but a transcription for the tiger god that is to dangerous to mention with his own name etc.
- If the teeth is looked at upside down it's the boar. A favourite hunting catch of the Dayak. Also a substitute sacrifice for the human prey as well as representing the Earth Godess.

What's also interesting, according to Karsten's article, is the Toto perspective - a part of an animal or god is representing the complete beeing (teeth = tiger).

The symbols on the back of your blade represents the male and female reproduction organs and are there to scare away demons and other evil beings (as well as symbolise the virility and creative forces).


Last edited by VVV : 20th February 2006 at 10:26 AM.
VVV is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 20th February 2006, 12:54 PM   #4
nechesh's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Cincinnati, OH
Posts: 940

Thanks Michael, that was the kind of solid info i was hoping for. Perhaps Dajak is out there and can add more.
nechesh is offline   Reply With Quote

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

vB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump

All times are GMT. The time now is 03:00 PM.

Powered by: vBulletin Version 3.0.3
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Posts are regarded as being copyrighted by their authors and the act of posting material is deemed to be a granting of an irrevocable nonexclusive license for display here.