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eating flesh: but like the Bataks (as will be presently seen), except not being cannibals, will not scruple to partake of it in a most revolting state. Their mode of writing is by scratching with a knife, or something sharp, on a piece of split bamboo. Deadly party feuds exist among them for two or three generations, which are rarely appeased, till much bloodshed has taken place.
In other places in this extensive mountainous tract, the inhabitants are described as inhospitable, addicted to theiving, implacable in their tempers, and harbouring revenge in their bosoms for years, until an opportunity is afforded them of running-a-muck, to destroy the party who has excited their enmity. In doing this they will kill or wound all who attempt to oppose their design until they are themselves destroyed. They are much afflicted with immense goitres; but entertain a high opinion of their own personal comeliness : at all events European features and complexions appear to be held in very low estimation among them, as one of them, who was adorned with an excrescence of enormous size, said to his companions in the presence of some English gentlemen, “ These are the white men we have so often heard of: here they are like devils.” The object of these gentlemen was to ascend to the crater of Gunung Dempo, in which, after undergoing extraordinary difficulties, they unfortunately failed.
One of the objects reverenced by the tribe in question is, according to the relation of the parties just alluded to, an ancient spear, which is said to possess most miraculous powers, as it speaks, is consulted as an oracle, and is deemed to be so invincible in war that hosts fly before it. When it is brought from its usual depository the people fall down and worship it.
But among the most extraordinary of the various people inhabiting the mountain tracts of the interior of Sumatra, are the tribes of Bataks, or Battas, occupying the border of the Great Lake and the adjacent country.
“ It is known by the name of the Batak's country, and may be described generally as comprising the whole of that part of Sumatra which is situated between the equator and 2° North latitude, with the exception of a few Malay settlements at the mouths of the rivers on either coast.
“ The lake of Toba, the middle of which bears about north-east from the settlement at Tappanooly, is situated near the centre of the Batak country, and the most populous districts are those upon its borders.
“ In answer to various questions on the origin of the Bataks, the principal chief of Silindung informed us, that they considered themselves the first people who had settled in Sumatra ; but that the traditions respecting the mother country were lost, except that it was situated far to the east, beyond the sea.
“ In their personal appearance, the Bataks of Silindung struck us as bearing a considerable resemblance to the Hindus. They are generally of a middle stature, well made, and robust, and their features (particularly the nose) are rather prominent. They possess smooth skins, of a lighter colour than the people of the coast. They wear the hair long, and tied at the top of the head in the manner of the Hindus, and the women part their hair in front precisely like the women in India. Amongst the crowds by which we were constantly surrounded, we do not recollect a single instance of natural deformity. The countenances of the children are mostly agreeable, uniting in their expression mildness with great vivacity; but on attaining the age of ten or twelve years, their front teeth are filed down nearly to the gum, and the stump blackened, which exceedingly injures their appearance. Females, arrived at years of maturity, have generally lost all traces of beauty, which cannot excite surprise, when it is considered that most of the labours of the field, as well as the drudgery of the house and the manufacture of cloth, devolve upon them.
“ The women have no head-dress; and, after marriage, only one cloth fastened round the loins, the parts above being perfectly exposed. Previously to marriage they have an additional garment covering the breasts : but in the vicinity of the lake this practice was said to be reversed, the married women covering the bosom, and those unmarried leaving it exposed. The daughters of the chiefs have sometimes thick brass wire twisted about their wrists, and if unmarried, a few strings of beads round their necks. The children go naked to the age of six or eight years, or even longer. The people of Silindung use neither opium nor intoxicating liquors, except toddy (palm wine); but both sexes and all ages are ex
ceedingly addicted to smoking a stimulating herb of a slight narcotic quality, which, however, they eagerly abandon for tobacco, when that is procurable. The people of Silindung are far from being cleanly either in their persons or their houses. We believe they never wash their clothes, and but seldom bathe their persons; on asking their reason for which, they replied, that the water was too cold.
“ In their choice of animals, or even reptiles, for food, they are by no means delicate : horses, buffaloes, cows, pigs, fowls, and goats, are esteemed the best; but they do not scruple to eat dogs, cats, snakes, monkeys, bats, &c., nor does it make any particular difference in their estimation whether the animal has died a natural death, or been killed in good health ; whether recently dead, or bordering on putridity. When an animal is killed for food they save the blood, and use it as sauce, pouring it over the meat when cooked and chopped into pieces of about an ounce weight each.
“ Nothing can be more erroneous than the opinion commonly entertained by the Malays in their neighbourhood, as well as by Europeans, with regard to the general character and dispositions of the Bataks. The wellestablished fact of their cannibalism has, perhaps, naturally led to the conclusion that they were a remarkably ferocious and daring people.
“So far from this, whatever may be the fact with respect to other districts, the people of Silindung, in quietness and timidity, are apparently not surpassed even by the Hindus. We mean not to say, however, that the Bataks are a kind and humane people; instances of their extreme unfeelingness and cruelty towards the afflicted, and to enemies in their power, are lamentably numerous.
“ The Bataks believe in the existence of one Supreme Being, the creator of the world, whom they name Debata Hasi Asi. Since completing the work of creation, they suppose him to have remained perfectly quiescent, having wholly committed the government to his three sons, Batara Guru, Sori Pada, and Mangana Bulan, who do not, however, govern in person, but by vakeels or proxies, whom they are supposed to station over different divisions of the earth. To these vakeels they give the distinctive titles of Debata digingang, Debata detora, and Debata dostonga, or the gods above, the gods below, and the gods of the middle, expressive of the departments over which their principals respectively preside. Batara Guru they represent as the god of justice; Sori Pada, as the god of mercy; and Mangana Bulan as the original source of evil, and the constant instigator to its commission. The last is supposed to have the principal share in the management of human affairs, and to be able at any time to thwart the good intentions of his brethren; consequently, in whatever circumstance the Bataks may be placed, they are most anxious to secure his favour, considering good in general to consist in the absence of evil; it matters little to them how they may be regarded by Batara Guru or Sori Pada, so long as they secure the good will of Mangana Bulan.* Batara Guru (as his name denotes) is the chief instructor of men ; and when he is supposed by Sori Pada to be dealing too harshly with them, the latter expostulates with him on their behalf.
“Besides these they number amongst their deities the fabled serpent Naga Padhoa, which they represent with horns like a cow supporting the earth. They imagine, also, that every village has its Boru na mora, Boru Saniyang Naga, and Martua Sambaon, or guardian deities, superintending its interests and overruling its affairs; and they attempt to secure the favour of those deities by propitiatory sacrifices. Besides this particular interference in the public affairs of the community, they suppose that every individual is constantly attended and watched over by a number of genii, both good and evil, called Bogus and Saitans. These are chiefly the souls of their departed ancestors, whom they look upon as possessing extensive power over the living, either to protect or to afflict them.
“ There is generally one priest in every village: he receives, we believe, no consecration to his office, but is selected from amongst those who are best acquainted with their books and superstitions; and as the ability to read is mostly confined to the families of the chiefs, it frequently happens that the offices of rájá and priest are united in the same person. He expounds all their religious books, and according to his interpretation a day is
* The Hindus also pay greater adoration to the vindictive deities.
chosen as propitious to their object; and they will not engage in any undertaking, however trifling, nor make the smallest alteration in their domestic economy, without first consulting him. To other instruments of his art we may add a book called ati siporhas, and a cord named rombu siporhas by the former of which he determines the best time to attack an enemy, and by the latter measures the comparative strength of the two parties. Nor is it sufficient that he should be well versed in the interpretation of these : in an egg, a dog, or a pig, he must see much that is important; he must be acquainted with one hundred and seventy-seven different omens exhibited by the inside of fowls, with seventy exhibited in portions of calcined lime, and with seventy-three in lemons cut transversely; and he must repeat readily from memory the various forms of prayer and invocation that are most esteemed in his district.
“ The Bataks present no offerings of gratitude to their gods. In the full enjoyment of health, prosperity, and peace, having nothing to ask from them, they are wholly neglected. It is only when entering on some hazardous enterprise, or on being threatened with war ; when followed by a long train of misfortunes, or when suffering from severe and protracted afflictions, that they invoke the shades of their ancestors, and offer sacrifices to the gods. But in any of the circumstances here supposed, and particularly the latter, the timid Batak applies to the Datu to learn the cause and the remedy of his sorrows. He takes with him a fowl and a little rice as a present. Having opened the fowl, the Datu is not at a loss to select, from the great variety of distinct intimations which it gives to his enlightened mind, a prescription precisely adapted to the circumstances of his timid and dejected applicant. His affliction, he is commonly told, is a visitation from one of the genii for the misconduct of some of his ancestors, and he must make a feast in honour of his father or grandfather, and intreat his intercession. This may be regarded as an act of religious worship, addressed to the deities through the intercession of their ancestors. This, however, is not the only way in which the gods may be approached. Supplications may be preferred, and offerings made, immediately, to any of them separately, or to them all collectively, without the assistance of the priest, care