A giant wooden totem housing the ancestral spirits of an indigenous community has been formally re-housed at the National Taiwan University through a traditional Paiwan wedding on Sept. 12.
The ancestral totem, a giant four-sided wood pillar in the shape of a human, was one of the four pillars of a house belonging to tribal chieftain Zingrur. According to oral tradition, this particular totem houses a female tribal ancestor named "Muakaikai,” and she is represented as a four-faced figure with six fingers on each hand.
The relic received designation as a national treasure earlier this year in March, and members of its tribal community agreed to entrust care of the totem to NTU's Museum of Anthropology. They also requested the museum to hold a wedding ceremony that would welcome ancestral spirit Muakaikai as a "bride.”
More than 80 members of the Paiwan tribe attended the Sept. 12 ceremony, which included wedding songs, traditional dances, dowry offerings, and a feasting on roast pig, millet cakes, and millet wine.
The totem first appeared on record in 1932, when it entered the collection of the Taihoku Imperial University (the predecessor of NTU during Japanese occupation), and members of its tribe did not regain access to the totem until this year.
With the original totem now housed safely in the Taipei museum, the Paiwan elders hopes to construct an identical pillar for their village in Pingtung in the hope of drawing Muakaikai back to their community.