Hanitu (spirit) is the foundation of the Bunun traditional beliefs. The term refers to the spirit of all creatures in nature, such as animals, plants, and souls, and the spirit of each creature has its own internal power. Human beings have two hantius, each on each shoulder. The one on the left shoulder is an evil spirit, bringing evil things such as violence, greed, and anger. The one on the right shoulder is a good spirit, bringing generosity and fraternity. Dihanin is another Bunun traditional belief. It means the heaven, also called heavenly. Dihanin is the origin of everything and the heavenly god of the human spirit. In addition, the Bunun people believe that dreams are divinations that can predict a person’s future luck. They are a kind of magic, assistance, and communication.
The annual rituals of the Bunun people are closely related to growing millet. The ritual dates vary significantly among branches or subgroups in different places. During Japanese colonization, the colonial government forced the Bunun people to grown rice. Alongside the change in cash crops and the stigmatization and prohibition of foreign religions, annual rituals were deeply impacted and almost sanctioned. Currently, the Ear Shooting Festival (Malahtangian) held together with the government for promoting tourism is the most famous Bunun annual ritual. Although Christianity has become the religion of most Bunun people today, some rituals are still practiced in the traditional way to pass on the Bunun culture. Malahtangian: Malahtangian is held in April or May or when the moon is waxing or waning. It is an event of heritage, education, competition, unification, and law.
As the most important ritual in the year, Malahtangian mainly prays for rich catch in hunting and good harvest from agriculture. A few days before the ritual, males will hunt in the mountains, while females brew wine at home to prepare for the ritual. The ritual begins at 3:00 to 4:00 in the morning. The priest will call all males and children to the ritual, while females are prohibited. The ritual begins with a gunshot. After the family ritual (males only), males will go to the fire ritual site (patusan) for the fire ritual (mapatus).
Parts of the Ritual:
1. Lighting up the fire (with a pure heart).
2. Gun offering (pray for health, spirituality, hunting skills, and hunting site ability).
3. Animal meat offering (pray for animal catch). As this ritual can tell the family fortune in the year, the Bunun people are exceptionally cautious about it, for fear that something bad could happen to the family. Before the end of ritual, the Bunun people will sing a ritual song. Lastly, there is the animal bone (including the enemy’s head) offering to call the animal souls for an endless catch and to soothe the enemy’s soul.
“Declaration of Honors” (Malastapang): Men will declare their heroic acts to demonstrate their power. At a banquet, the Bunun people will make friends or exchange with others with the “Declaration of Honors” (Malastapang). It is also a symbol of personal social status. In some cases, Malastapang can be translated as an “Ode of Honors”, an occasion for Bunun males to demonstrate their power. It is also a show time for this convergent ethnic group. In the past, only people participating in wars or hunting heads were qualified for the Malastapang. Today, Malastapang has been replaced by hunting and social status.
Malastapang is led by those with prestige for males to declare their hunting results and achievements in head hunting. After a person declares one of his achievements, others will repeat the same phrase to confirm that. This continues until everyone in the ritual finishes his declaration. If someone fakes or lies, he will be beaten, disgraced, and kicked away from the ritual. In addition, this disgrace will follow him for the rest of this life.