The Shamans of Sabah and Bobohizan
Known as the ‘Land below the Wind’, Sabah rests on the eastern side of Borneo and is home to over 30 different ethnic races with over 80 local dialects. The Kadazan, Dusun and Murut tribes in this region believe everything has life, from the rocks to trees, and rivers – all are living entities. These entities have souls and spirits that must be appeased from time to time through specific rituals. From this belief derive many legends, one of the famous one is the legend of the Bobohizan.
A Bobohizan plays the role of mediator between spirits and the people; their most common duty to heal and cure illnesses with herbal remedies and rites. They were essentially doctors to the sick, advisors to the troubled, midwife to the pregnant, mediator in conflicts, keepers of the culture, but above all, the spiritual leader. To become a Bobohizan, years of “Bobohizan School” followed by even more years of apprenticeship to permanently etch the many inait or ritual prayers in one’s memory, along with cultural knowledge, beliefs and practices passed on orally and through observation.