The Subanen Heritage

The Subanen Heritage*

Myrna Promon

This narrative is similar to one found in the oral literature of many cultures: God presents the group with a book of customs to follow, but afterward, the book is lost. This Subanen account of the event includes the origin of the dove omen and the custom of offering sacrifices to the spirits.

1 Now then, long ago, when the races of people were just coming into existence, God* summoned (representatives of) all those races. 2 When they arrived there before him, he gave them books. 3 Each one to whom he gave a book was instructed that the contents of that book were the customs destined for him and his group.

            4 Then when they all had all been given their books, they went home.

            5 Now while this Subanen man was on the trail, he happened to notice something caught in this bird snare,* a dove. * 6 So he put his book down on top of some dry twigs.* 7 And he just went to get the catch out of his snare.

            8 Then, when he had gotten it, he went back for what he had left there on top of the dry twigs. 9 When he got there, the twigs were no longer there, nor was his book.*

            10 This his surprise, what he had left it on was not dry twigs at all. 11 To his surprise, it was a deer’s antlers. 12 And the deer had run away with it. 13 So he was unable to get it back again.

            14  Well, then this Subanen went back to God, to ask for another (book).

            15 But God said, ‘There are no more. 16  So you Subanen must have the dove and the deer as your heritage. 17 Because the dove is what you showed preference for.

            18 ‘ Now then, when the dove warbles and you are about to go somewhere, you must cancel your trip. 19 Or if you are about to eat something, don’t eat it. 20 Because if you insist on eating it, it will make you ill.*

            21 ‘Now, in order for the deer not to harm* you, you must offer sacrifices to it: rice, eggs, chickens, and betelnut chew.*

            22 ‘So now, this will be the destiny of you Subanen, that you offer sacrifices. 23 Because your book has been lost.’

            24 Now, it is finished.


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