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Headhunting In Southeast Asia Essay

1199 words - 5 pages

The practice of taking and preserving a head of a slain enemy, known as head hunting, has occurred throughout the world from ancient times into the 20th century. Headhunting tribes believed that the head was the most important part of the body, and taking it weakened the power of the enemy. Because the head was seen as so powerful, head hunting developed into human sacrifice. In many societies, some men were not allowed to marry until they have taken their first head. In Indonesia, Wona Kaka, a famous leader that led rebellions against the Dutch, an important headhunter, was recognized as a hero by the national government. There were even many rituals to bring back his soul from the dead. In Southeast Asia, the practices of headhunting have a relationship to the society’s perception of itself as a powerful agency. It was an important part of the society because they believed the human head held the soul, and was of great significance.
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica article on headhunting, headhunting has been associated with cannibalism, the head being the soul, and even cults. It has said to start in the Paleolithic times, when the heads were buried separately from the body, indicating the head had special meaning. Even though head hunting was popular amongst many different societies, there is no single head hunting “model”. Some Southeast Asian tribes engaged in hunting raids aimed at obtaining a few heads. There were no specific gender or race targeted (Schefold). Rituals, omens and oracles influenced the practice. When the task was completed, it tended grand, religious celebrations. Headhunters were welcomed back into the villages like they were gods. On the other hand, some believe that the head will serve as a good luck charm for the headhunter. The souls of the victims are said to become guardians of the hunter and his community.
One of the reasons for headhunting in Southeast Asia is colonialism. Some saw the Southeast Asian tribes as blood thirsty and violent. They invaded neighboring tribes with surprise attacks. Headhunting victims were often women and children since vengeance goals of the Southeast Asian tribes did not distinguish one victim as more important then another. To some anthropologists, headhunting was done for religious purposes. By taking the head of an enemy and displaying it, the enemy would then become an ally. The ceremonies surrounding the victim’s head are what enabled the spirit to become a guardian and ally. The spirit would then support ancestral spirits in the after life to aid in growing crops, feasting and more.
Other anthologists saw headhunting as a much more violent act. In a 1968 study done by Michelle Rosaldo, they found that many of the people who took heads never brought them back to there home settlements. They took heads as a result of pressure from the elders in their society. It increased their respect from not only the elders, but also the youths and it allowed them to attract a wife....

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