Why would decapitating another human being be so closely intertwined into a society? Headhunting is no longer allowed to take place for the Ilongots or any other tribal society who used to practice headhunting but it still a key part in their societies. In the following paper I will discuss my research into headhunting and the Ilongot society, and explain just why taking a head was so important to them.
The reason I chose this topic is merely that headhunting intrigues me. The ritual act of taking a human head, for one reason or another, is very different to the modern world and most of the societies in it. It is seen as savage, wild and even frightening to some. There is a cloud of mystery around the practice and this fills me with questions, questions I hope to answer in this paper.
I started out my research by looking at the book Ilongot Headhunting 1883-1974: A study in society and history by Renato Rosaldo. This book contained a great deal of information on the Ilongot people and their history. Most of the book focused on the histories of these people and the various events along the line. It tells stories of feuds, intermarriages, genealogy, and headhunting raids. In addition to that it contained the reasons for headhunting, the life cycle of the people, and the practices of marriage.
From here I decided it would be wise to look deeper into headhunting and find out about other tribes and different practices. The next book I found was Headhunting and the Social Imagination in Southeast Asia edited by Janet Hoskins. The contributors to this book were the editor herself Janet Hoskins, Kenneth M. George, Jules De Raedt, Allen R. Maxwell, Andrew McWilliam, Peter Metcalf, and Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing. In this book were different essays from each of the contributors discussing different aspects of headhunting in Southeast Asia. This book was a little disappointing to me in that it wasnt exactly what I was looking for. It contained little information about the exact rituals of different headhunting tribes and what there was, is spread pretty thin. Much of it was about the politics of headhunting in Southeast Asia. It did contribute in that it pointed out the major difference of the Ilongot people from other headhunting cultures.
I was met with more disappointment when I went searching for more information on the practices of headhunting; there was nothing to be found. There were no relevant books relating directly or even indirectly to my topic that I could use. So I took my two sources and picked out as much information possible to use for my paper. I am hoping that they will be enough to answer my questions on headhunting.
A look into Illongot Life
Why did Illongot's Hunt Heads
Story of a Headhunting Raid
Images of Headhunting
The purpose of headhunting for the Ilongots was to remove some burden carried by the headhunter. The act of taking a head is for the person who is burden to take the head and throw it away. It is of no consequence if the man did not kill or even cut the victims head off. The act of throwing the head relieves that person of his burden. Each man is to only take one head and in the proper predetermined order as to be affective in headhuntings purpose. Such burdens include the grudge a man holds against an insult, the morning of a death, or simply the burden of not yet taking a head. Throwing the head away symbolically throws the burden away (Rosaldo 1980, p 140).
Ilongot headhunting is different in that it is looking to remove or cleanse the hunter. It is a ritual that has been practiced many years and is closely tied into Ilongot society and the life cycle of a man. Although no longer practice because of government interference it is still a part of the Ilongot culture and life.