Bunong Story Telling: Leng Orng Leng Khin Waterfalls

IMG_6921My name is Yot Beul, I am a 70-year-old woman -and I am Bunong. Recently, I moved to live in Pou Ham village, in Senmonorom commune, O Raing district, Mondulkiri province. I had been living in a village called Pou Orng which is located near O Hoch and along the Vietnam boarder. Before Pol Pot’s regime, I lived in another place with other villagers.

I was told about a story of Leng Orng Leng Khin waterfalls by my parents and grandparents when I was young. These waterfalls have existed for a long time. My understanding is that the names of these waterfalls are in Bunong language and they were named by Bunong people as well. Leng Orng waterfall is located at O Orng and Leng Khin is at O Te which is where a man lived a long time ago.

In the past time, swearing ceremonies were conducted there to prove whether the three men were sorceries or not. There are some taboo places and spirits at these waterfalls, I think. If a pregnant woman is sick or faced with any problems she will go to visit those waterfalls, especially woman who are pregnant without organizing a traditional Bunong wedding ceremony. In the last 20-30 years ago, there were some men in the village accused of being a sorcerer by the family’s brother in law. At that time, a son of one family had been very sick and had died so his parents asked a Bunong traditional shaman to find why he was sick and what was wrong with their son. The traditional healer examined the boy and knew that that boy had died from a malignant invisible force and this force was created by a person in their village. Thus the village elders brought those three sorcerers to Leng Orng waterfall and had them perform a swearing ceremony which resulted in a powerful confirmation that those three men were sorcerers.

At first, I didn’t really believe in this swearing ceremony because I had only heard about it. However, after my brother was taken there to swear, I strongly believe that the Leng Orng waterfall really is a powerful waterfall. This swearing ceremony was organized very carefully and it took a whole day to prepare. In the swearing ceremony, materials such as blood and liver of a pig, a jar of wine of Raloong jar, cooked rice (no one has eaten this rice yet), and three Yos. Three Yos were used because there were three people that were accused and asked to swear.

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Leng Orng Waterfall

At the beginning of the ceremony, they mix the blood and liver of a pig with jar wine and rice in a bowl and then they used this solution to celebrate the ceremony for those Yos at Leng Orng waterfall. Then the elders start celebrating the swearing ceremony by asking those three men to soak their heads in the water. I didn’t see clearly what the sign to prove that they were sorcerers was; I only saw that the men had difficulty breathing after they got up from the water. From this, the plaintiff knew, and declared, that those three men were sorcerers.

The plaintiff was not required to soak their head in the water but they had to carry the Yos and observed the ceremony from shore of that waterfall pond. Only the plaintiff and village elders/leaders can carry the Yos. I and the other villagers were not allowed to soak our heads into water; we were only allowed to watch the event.

The three men were tied up by the villagers and kept for 2-3 days before they were brought to be killed at the Tou Toang forest. The villagers did not deprive the three men of food before they were killed. They were always brought rice and food every day. The villagers never released or untied the three men because they worry that the men were angry with the villagers and would take any opportunity to kill them. The three men were killed on the same day but they were buried in three different places. It was the responsibility of the people who killed the three men to also bury the corpses as well. The other villagers were not allowed to help burry the corpses. After burying the three corpses, they returned to their home.

For the men who killed the sorcerers, there was neither taboo nor any ceremony to chase out any bad luck because they killed the three sorcerers on their own. If those three men who did the executing were to suddenly die by accident (Tai Hoang), the village would organize a ceremony for them to cleanse them of that bad luck. This event happened a long time ago, it might have been 3-4 years after Pol Pot’s regime.

The people who organized the swearing ceremony were the village elders/leaders but they were not the commune chief or villager chief. The family whose son had died by these men’s sorcery also participated in the ceremony. This couple lived by themselves after their son had died. Now, this couple has also passed away. This was the end of this family line because they didn’t have another child.

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Leng Khin Waterfall

I was not sure how powerful the traditional fortune teller was, as during that time I was only invited by villager elders/leaders to watch that ceremony. Every time they organized this kind of ceremony, villagers (especially village elders) were invited. Generally, young people were not allowed to go because it was not a good thing for them to watch.

The elders who killed the three sorcerers died a long time ago.

The families of the three sorcerers were not angry with the people who killed their husbands/ fathers because they had participated in the ceremony which explained/advised them about the decision and they were also given obvious reasons by the villagers. The villagers used pig, jars of wine, meal and some refreshment to celebrate ceremony for these three families who had sorcerer husbands/ fathers. Although they were not angry with the killers, they were still very upset and regretted losing their husbands; they always felt that it was an unforgettable tragedy in their lives. The three widowed women had no other children like other families in village because they were too old to get remarried. They took no new husband until they died.

Up until now, neither the villagers nor killers had weird dreams, if they had, this would be unfortunate. It would be a message to the villagers. Villagers still go to visit that waterfall even though it was used as place for bringing people to swear.

Click here to see our Eng-Khmer story telling poster

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