A Hornbill Head Hunters' Head Dress


First Half of the 20th Century

A Head Hunters Head Dress of Hornbill, Brass, Mother-of-Pearl, Red Wool and White Pony Tail Hair
Ilongot People, Luzon, Philippines

Width 50 cm (19.75 in)

According to Robert McKinley, 1976 "Human and Proud of It! A Structural Treatment of Headhunting Rites and the Social Definition of Enemies" (Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, Northern Illinois University), the taking of heads is not solely about violence but "is part of a sophisticated mythology, ritual and cosmological worldview". The head taken would have belonged to a member of another group or village who, although they looked similar, was believed to be only semi-human so that the taking of the head would provide a link to the Gods and ancestors and the victim's spirit, through ritual purification, would become both an ally in the afterlife and also confer mystical benefits affecting fertility and agriculture. The prestige of taking a head conferred respect and also enabled a young man to marry and this head dress could only be worn after the taking of two heads.

Form and Splendor  Roberto Maramba 1998
Human and Proud of It Robert McKinley 1976

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