Although the sinister practice of headhunting has been discontinued decades ago, the material culture of indigenous tribes continues to be valued by people in Indonesia today. Ancient Indonesian artefacts such as swords (pedang), daggers (keris), machetes (golok), and spears (tombak), attest to the cultural significance of traditional weaponry. The same holds true for the mandau; i.e., the ritual headhunter dagger of the Dayak tribes from Kalimantan.
The sheath is carved from the wood of a forest tree. The weapon’s wooden scabbard is adorned with three pairs of wild pig’s teeth, which are tied around the sheath with a thread. Also, a traditional decorative motif has been carved into the scabbard. Next, the hilt of the mandau is made from pig’s bone, which has been decorated with pig’s hair. Indeed, the wild pig – both the boar and sow – is an important animal in Dayak culture.
Wild pigs are very aggressive animals. Therefore, these animals’ amulets are believed to endow the wearer with virtues that make him or her ferocious in battle. Always being on guard, the wild pigs exhibit the extraordinary quality of watchfulness and protectiveness. It is for this reason, then, that the pig’s teeth and tusks also serve as a taliman for protection against perfidious spirits and practitioners of witchcraft.
Furthermore, the ancient lineage of sorcerers and shamans in Kalimantan has remained largely intact and therefore the efficacy of Dayak magic remains undisputed. Hence this sorcerous mandau headhunter’s dagger is deemed an authentic animist charm of the highest degree.