Animism Among Kadazan People Still Persists

Gongs or Tagung

You can somehow say that animism among Kadazans persists to this day. But the Kadazan people are not the only one.

The online Wikipedia explains animism as "the religious worldview that natural physical entities—including animals, plants, and often even inanimate objects or phenomena—possess a spiritual essence."

Animism among Kadazan people

Some described animistic belief as "childish" (Sir Edward Tylor). Some connect it to totemism (John Ferguson McLellan, Tim Ingold).

Now, the term is sometimes used to classify "other world religions".

The Kadazan people are not alone in this respect. You may find that there are numerous races in the world whose system of belief are within the aforementioned definition.

There are people who condemn such belief as being superstitious. Tolerance would be better approach. People need to respect each other's belief.

Difficulties posed by animistic belief

Although no one is entitled to belittle other people's belief, it is reasonable to understand what problems such a belief can cause. Once these are understood, the next question to ask is whether it is better to discard such belief.

A system of belief that includes superstitious practices can cause people's development to stagnate. If there are some progress it would have required a lot of work.

People may have to do the same thing over and over again as the result of natural events seen as ominous. 

For example, if on the day of an engagement, something happens such as seeing a big monitor lizard, the engagement is called off. The engagement is postponed to another day.

If on that other day, the group hears the call of a bird, particularly the woodpecker, the engagement is again called off. If the engagement managed to go through the next time, the girl's side will then wait, this time for a dream. If the girl or either of the girl's parents had a bad dream, the marriage will not take place.

The problem is that the girl's side may fake the dream if they do not fancy the boy as a fitting husband for the girl.

But this practice may save the day for either the boy or the girl. They may not like or love each other. You may say that "the bad dream" reason is a polite way of saying no.

Presence of spirits in plants, rocks, mountains, streams?

Many among this native people believe that spirits inhabit every natural physical entities. Mt. Kinabalu (picture, left), for example, is protected by spirits including the spirits of their ancestors.

This can cause phobias among people. This state of things inhibits their everyday life. They cannot move freely and carry out everyday chores without fear of reprisals from "angry spirits."

They have a way of minimising the possibility of any so-called untoward incident ever happening. They do this by asking the help of a priestess. But imagine the inconvenience if they have no priestess around at that particular day. Imagine if you have to go to another village to get the service of a priestess there. What if something happened on the way?

The list of questions can go on and on.

There's No Need for Finger Pointing

Animism among Kadazans need a proper study to determine how it hinders their progress in a society that is changing fast, in a world where events never stops evolving. Changes do not mean that Kadazans cease to preserve their very identity as a distinct people.

No one can blame any of those who still believe and follow these practices. This is what their grandparents, and possibly their parents, too, may have always believed.

It may happen sometime in the future that they no longer believe in these things. They have the freedom to choose what to believe. They are given the freewill. Let no one force them to choose.

Education will help to reduce the incidence of animism among Kadazans. This may help them face the great challenges posed by a globalized world including in cyber space.

They need to get ready for a new kind of war, the fight against the risks posed by relentless technological progress and development. If not, they may find themselves left far behind.


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