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Kabunian and the Deities in Igorot Culture: Exploring Igorot Gods

Explore the enchanting world of Igorot deities, where Kabunian, the supreme deity, reigns supreme.

 |  20 min read

Discover Kabunian, the supreme deity in Igorot culture, and his central role in their beliefs and practices. Explore his diverse representations and attributes, and learn about the other deities revered by various Igorot ethnic groups.

In the mountainous regions of the Philippines, the Igorot culture holds a significant place. The Igorot people in the Cordillera Administrative Region deeply cherish this culture, and at its core is Kabunian, the supreme deity shaping their cultural identity.

The Igorot culture is truly fascinating for its capacity to adapt and evolve. As we delve deeper, we'll uncover the various gods, goddesses, and ancestral spirits in different Igorot ethnic groups. Each of these elements adds to the unique beliefs and practices that make up the Igorot culture. So, let's explore this captivating world of Igorot culture together.

Kabunian: The Supreme Deity

Kabunian, the supreme deity in Igorot culture, holds a unique place among the various Igorot ethnic groups. Each group perceives and reveres Kabunian with distinct attributes and names. Understanding these variations sheds light on the depth and diversity of Igorot beliefs.

While Kabunian remains the central divine figure, ethnic groups may emphasize different aspects of this deity. Some may see Kabunian as a provider of agricultural abundance, ensuring bountiful harvests. Others might revere Kabunian as the protector of their community, safeguarding them from harm.

The physical representation of Kabunian varies among the different Igorot ethnic groups. He may not have a specific or standardized appearance. Instead, Kabunian is often described through the attributes and characteristics assigned to him. These attributes can include being a benevolent and all-powerful deity associated with natural elements and life's essential aspects. The focus is on the spiritual and symbolic aspects of Kabunian rather than a physical depiction. The diversity in how Kabunian is perceived is a testament to the adaptability and richness of Igorot beliefs.

Anito: Ancestral Spirits

Belief in Anitos

Anito, the ancestral spirits, play a profound role in the spiritual beliefs of various Igorot ethnic groups. Their significance is deeply ingrained in the culture, and understanding their role provides valuable insights into Igorot spirituality.

Benevolent Guardians

The Igorot people, who adhere to Anitism, hold ancestral spirits in high regard. These spirits are believed to be the departed ancestors of the Igorot people. They are regarded as benevolent guardians and protectors, watching over their living descendants. Anitos are often venerated through rituals and offerings, as their blessings are sought for the well-being and prosperity of the community.

Ubiquitous Presence

According to Igorot beliefs, Anitos are believed to be everywhere. They are guardians of the rice fields, residing near spring wells, and are even thought to take on forms of animals like snakes, butterflies, and more, visiting their descendants' homes. This profound connection between the ancestral spirits and the natural world underscores the holistic nature of Anitism.

The Duality of Anitos

However, it's essential to note that Anitos can exhibit a duality of nature. They are not only benevolent but can also turn malevolent if their homes, such as rivers, are disrupted or desecrated. In such cases, they may curse the perpetrators and bring incurable sickness until appeased with animal sacrifices. This aspect adds a layer of complexity to the relationship between the living and the ancestral spirits.

Rituals and Facilitators

These rituals, facilitated by shamans, locally called "mumbaki" or "mambunong" depending on each ethnic group, serve as a vital link between the living and the ancestral spirits. Knowledgeable elders may also play a significant role in conducting these ceremonies, ensuring the continuation of this age-old tradition.

Cultural Variations

The exact practices and rituals associated with Anito may vary among the different Igorot ethnic groups, reflecting the diverse and adaptable nature of Igorot beliefs. While specific traditions might differ, the common thread is the reverence and respect for these ancestral spirits. In the intricate tapestry of Igorot culture, Anito remains a central figure, embodying the connection between the living and the departed.

Various Igorot Ethnic Groups Gods, Goddesses, and Deities

In this section, we will explore the diverse gods, goddesses, and deities that hold significance within various Igorot ethnic groups. The Igorot culture is a tapestry of different tribes, each with its own unique set of beliefs and divine figures. Let's delve into the spiritual landscape of these distinct groups.

Kankana-ey

Kankana-ey, one of the Igorot ethnic groups, has a rich pantheon of gods, goddesses, and deities. Here are some of the notable divine figures within their belief system:

Immortals:

  1. Lumawig: The supreme deity, creator of the universe, and preserver of life.
  2. Bugan: Married to Lumawig.
  3. Bangan: The goddess of romance, a daughter of Bugan and Lumawig.
  4. Obban: The goddess of reproduction, also a daughter of Bugan and Lumawig.
  5. Kabigat: One of the deities who contact mankind through spirits called anito and their ancestral spirits.
  6. Balitok: Another deity who contacts mankind through anito and ancestral spirits.
  7. Wigan: Another deity responsible for communication between humans and anito.
  8. Timugan: Two brothers who took their sankah (handspades) and kayabang (baskets) and dug a hole into the lower world, Aduongan. Their mission was interrupted by the deity Masaken. One of the two agreed to marry one of Masaken's daughters, but they both returned to earth when they found that the people of Aduongan were cannibals.
  9. Masaken: Ruler of the underworld who interrupted the Timugan brothers' mission.

These divine figures are central to the Kankana-ey belief system, shaping their spirituality and cultural identity.

Kalinga

Kalinga, another distinct Igorot ethnic group, holds a diverse array of gods, goddesses, and deities in their belief system. These divine figures are integral to their spiritual and cultural heritage:

Immortals:

  1. Kabunyan: The supreme deity, also known as Kadaklan (the Greatest). Kabunyan drives away bad spirits, making the soil suitable for good crops.
  2. KiDul: The god of thunder.
  3. KiLat: The god of lightning.
  4. DumaNig: A demon that possesses the moon (Bolan) and causes her to devour her husband, the sun (Ageo).
  5. NamBisayunan: The howl or shriek that is heard during a storm.
  6. Libo-o d Ngatu: The clouds of the skyworld, which are believed to cause sickness.
  7. Maman: Beings derived from a second death of souls in the afterworld. They are perceptible in red light, as on a rainy day near sunset, and may cause sickness.
  8. Bungun: The god of the rainbow.
  9. Mamlindao: Hunting spirits.
  10. Bulaiyao: These beings live in big rocks, hot springs, and volcanoes. They have a fiery appearance that they can control. They are believed to capture or devour souls.
  11. Gulilingob ud Tangob: Considered the strongest among the bulaiyao.
  12. Dumabag: The god of the volcano at Balatok.
  13. Lumawig: The local god of the Mangali-Lubo-Tinglaiyan district.
  14. Angako d Ngato: Demons that afflict with sickness.
  15. Angtan: Goddesses or demons that depress men, bring worry, and bad luck.
  16. ALan: Cannibal or ghoul spirits that figure largely in myths and folktales. They are believed to carry away or devour souls and produce many kinds of transformations in men and in themselves.
  17. Anitu: The souls of the dead.
  18. Pinading: Extraordinary souls of the dead that have attained a superior power and existence.
  19. Gittam: A giant who established himself in the realm called Daya after killing many humans. He lives on an island in a big lake.
  20. Python of Gittam: Protects the habitat of Gittam. It once swallowed a boy, who was rescued by a hero by killing the giant python.
  21. Iyu: Water creatures that swim in the lakes of Lagud. They are depicted as a whale, an eel, a dragon, or, in some cases, a python, also known as Malaga.

These divine entities are an essential part of Kalinga's cultural identity, and their beliefs reflect the intricate tapestry of the Kalinga people's spirituality.

Bontoc

The Bontoc people, one of the Igorot ethnic groups, have a unique array of gods, goddesses, and deities that shape their spiritual beliefs and cultural identity:

Immortals:

  1. Intutungcho (Kabunian): The supreme deity, residing above, also referred to as Kabunian. He is considered the father of Lumawig and two other sons.
  2. Lumawig: Also referred to as the supreme deity and the second son of Kabunian. Lumawig is an epic hero who taught the Bontoc their five core values for an egalitarian society.
  3. First Son of Kabunian
  4. Third Son of Kabunian
  5. Chal-chal: The god of the sun, whose son's head was cut off by Kabigat. Chal-chal aided the god Lumawig in finding a spouse.
  6. Kabigat: The goddess of the moon, known for cutting off the head of Chal-chal's son. Her action is considered the origin of headhunting.
  7. Son of Chal-chal: His head was cut off by Kabigat but was later revived by Chal-chal, who bore no ill will against Kabigat.
  8. Ob-Obanan: A deity whose white hair is inhabited by insects, ants, centipedes, and all the vermin that bother mankind. Ob-Obanan punished a man for his rudeness by giving him a basket filled with all the insects and reptiles in the world.
  9. Chacha': The god of warriors.
  10. Ked-Yem: The god of blacksmiths who cut off the heads of the two sons of Chacha' because they were destroying his work. This eventually led to a pact with Chacha' to stop the fighting.
  11. Two Sons of Chacha': Beheaded by Ked-Yem because they were destroying his work.

Mortals:

  1. Fucan: The younger of the two girls met by Lumawig in Lanao. She married Lumawig and later adopted the name Cayapon. Her death after dancing in a taboo way led to death becoming the norm among mortals.
  2. Two Sons of Cayapon: The two children of Lumawig and Fucan who helped the people of Caneo but were later killed by the two brothers.
  3. Batanga: The father of the two girls met by Lumawig in Lanao.

These divine and mortal figures are integral to Bontoc culture, and their beliefs reflect the unique spiritual heritage of the Bontoc people.

Ifugao

In the heart of the Cordillera Administrative Region, the Ifugao people hold a rich tapestry of gods, goddesses, and deities dear to their culture:

Immortals:

  1. Kabunian: The supreme deity, chief among the high-ranking deities above the skyworld. In specific communities, Kabunian's name, also known as Mah-nongan, is used interchangeably as the name of the chief god. Kabunian is regarded as the creator of all things.
  2. Afunijon: A general term referring to the deities of heaven, often understood as a group of deities.
  3. Mah-nongan: Another general term for deities who receive animal sacrifices.
  4. Ampual: The god of the fourth skyworld who bestowed animals and plants on the people, particularly controlling the transplanting of rice.
  5. Bumingi: Responsible for dealing with worms and considered one of the eleven beings importuned to stamp out rice pests.
  6. Liddum: The only deity who inhabits the realm called Kabunian. Liddum communicates directly with humans on earth and serves as the chief mediator between the people and other gods.
  7. Lumadab: Holds the power to dry up the rice leaves and is one of the eleven beings importuned to deal with rice pests.
  8. Mamiyo: The stretcher of skeins, one of the twenty-three deities presiding over the art of weaving.
  9. Monlolot: The winder of thread on the spindle, also one of the twenty-three deities related to the art of weaving.
  10. Puwok: The controller of typhoons.
  11. Yogyog: A causer of earthquakes, dwelling in the underworld.
  12. Alyog: Another causer of earthquakes residing in the underworld.
  13. Kolyog: The god of earthquakes.
  14. Makalun: Spirits serving as messengers of the gods.
  15. Namtogan: The paraplegic god of good fortune, known for making rice harvests and community livestock bountiful. He's associated with teaching people how to create bululs and perform the rituals for these statues.
  16. Bulol: Household divinities representing the souls of departed ancestors. Usually depicted as carved wooden statues stored in rice granaries. They guard crops, ensure plentiful rice harvests, and protect the rice from pests, thieves, and rapid consumption.
  17. Nabulul: The spouse of Bugan, a god who possesses or lives in Bulul figures, guarding the rice and ensuring a bountiful harvest.
  18. Bugan: The spouse of Nabulul, a goddess living in Bulul figures, serving the same purpose.
  19. Gatui: Divinities associated with practical jokes but have a malevolent side, feasting on souls and causing miscarriages.
  20. Tagbayan: Divinities associated with death, feasting on human souls guarded by two-headed monsters called kikilan.
  21. Imbayan: Also known as Lingayan, divinities guiding souls after death.
  22. Himpugtan: An Imbayan divinity capable of terminating those who displease it.
  23. Munduntug: Divinities from the mountains believed to cause hunters to become lost.
  24. Banig: Spirits of the hillsides and caves, sometimes taking the form of animals that do not harm anyone, despite initial fears.
  25. Mun-apoh: Deified ancestral spirits, acting as guardians and sources of blessings provided by the living, although their blessings can turn into curses.
  26. Mahipnat: Great spirits of sacred places.
  27. Bibao: Spirits of ordinary places.
  28. Halupi: Divinities of remembrance.
  29. Fili: Divinities of property.
  30. Dadungut: Divinities dwelling in graveyards and tombs.
  31. Makiubaya: Divinities guarding the village gates.
  32. Spirits of sickness: Including Libligayu, Hibalot, and Binudbud.
  33. Kolkolibag: Spirits causing difficult labor.
  34. Indu: Spirits that bring omens.
  35. Hidit: Divinities giving punishments to those who break taboos.
  36. Puok: A kind of Hidit using winds to destroy miners' dwellings when taboos are broken.
  37. Hipag: Spirits of war providing soldiers with courage on the battlefield but can be ferocious and cannibalistic.
  38. Llokesin: The god of rats featured in the myth of the first orange tree.
  39. Bumabakal: The rejected corpse divinity residing in the skyworld, his body atop Mount Dukutan causing boils.
  40. Kabigat: The god who sent a deluge that flooded the earth, married to the goddess Bugan.
  41. Bugan: A goddess married to Kabigat, having a son named Wigan and a daughter, also named Bugan.
  42. Bugan: The daughter of Bugan and Kabigat, stranded on earth after a great deluge, becoming one of the two ancestors of mankind.
  43. Wigan: The god of good harvest.
  44. Dumagid: A god who lived among the people of Benguet, married a mortal woman named Dugai, and had a son named Ovug.
  45. Ovug: The son of Dumagid and Dugai, split in half by his father, with one half reanimated in the skyworld and the other on earth. Ovug's voices are the source of lightning and thunder.
  46. Bangan: The god who accompanied Dumagid in claiming Ovug from the earth.
  47. Aninitud chalom: Deity of the underworld, causing a sudden shaking of the earth when angered.
  48. Aninitud angachar: Deity of the skyworld, causing lightning and thunder when unsatisfied with offerings.
  49. Mapatar: The sun deity of the sky in charge of daylight.
  50. Bulan: The moon deity of the night in charge of nighttime.
  51. Mi'lalabi: The star and constellation deities.
  52. Pinacheng: A group of deities typically living in various places, misguiding and hiding people.
  53. Fulor: A wood carved into an image of a dead person seated on a death chair. It houses a spirit that brings sickness, death, and unsuccessful crops when sacrifices are not offered.
  54. Inamah: A wooden plate serving as a home for spirits. Destroying or selling it may put the family in danger.

Mortals:

  1. Dugai: The mortal mother of the split god Ovug and wife of the god Dumagid.
  2. Humidhid: The headman of a village in the upstream region of Daya who carved the first bulul statues from a haunted or supernatural tree named Bongbong.
  3. Unnamed Shaman: Prayed to the deities Nabulul and Bugan to possess or reside in the bulul statues carved by Humidhid.
  4. Wife of Namtogan: A mortal woman whom the god Namtogan married during his stay at the village of Ahin.

These divine and mortal figures are integral to Ifugao culture, and their beliefs reflect the unique spiritual heritage of the Ifugao people.

Isneg (Apayao)

The Isneg people, residing in Apayao, hold their beliefs in a host of gods, goddesses, and deities, integral to their daily lives and traditions. Here's a glimpse into their spiritual pantheon:

Immortals:

  1. Chief Spirits: These spirits may take the form of human beings, former mortals who mix with the living, often residing in bathing places.
  2. Anlabban: A protector of hunters and a guardian for the general welfare of the Isneg people.
  3. Bago: The spirit of the forest, a significant presence in the lives of the Isneg.
  4. Sirinan: The spirit of the river, vital to the Isneg's relationship with their environment.
  5. Landusan: A spirit responsible for some cases of extreme poverty. Like other evil spirits, Landusan can be countered by the rare tagarut herb-amulet.

Helpful Harvest Spirits:

  • Abad, Aglalannawan, Anat, Binusilan, Dawiliyan, Dekat, Dumingiw, Imbanon, Gimbanonan, Ginalinan, Sibo: Spirits who assist in ensuring successful harvests.

Spirits Who Harm the Harvest:

  • Alupundan: Causes the reapers' toes to become sore and swell.
  • Arurin: Ensures a bad harvest if farmers fail to offer her a share of the harvest.
  • Dagdagamiyan: A female spirit responsible for sickness in children who play in areas where the harvest is taking place.
  • Darupaypay: Devours the palay (rice) stored in huts before it's transferred to the granary.
  • Ginuudan: Measures the containers of palay and causes them to dwindle.
  • Sildado: Resembles a horse and kills children who play noisily outside the house.
  • Inargay: Known for causing harm during harvest time. The inapugan ritual is offered to appease this deity.
  • Alipugpug: A spirit represented by the little whirlwind from burned fields, often seen as an omen of a good harvest.
  • Pilay: The spirit of the rice, residing on the paga (shelf above the hearth). The pisi ritual is offered to ensure that children won't go hungry.

Other Immortal Figures:

  • Ilnanit: A group of sky dwellers.
  • Unnamed Man: The one who held the world in his hands, producing lightning with a flint and steel, with Addug being the roaring water in the sky, representing thunder.

Mortals:

  1. Man Who Caused Birds to Attack: A man who was aided by birds by giving him seeds to plant and share with other birds. He reneged on his promise, leading to unending attacks by birds on the seeds planted by mankind.
  2. Man Who Hates Flies: A man whose cow was killed by a fly, resulting in a law allowing the killing of flies.

These deities and figures are deeply woven into the cultural fabric of the Isneg people and play a central role in their daily lives and traditions.

Ibaloi

The Ibaloi people, steeped in their rich traditions, hold their belief in various gods, goddesses, and deities that are integral to their culture and way of life. Here are some insights into their spiritual pantheon:

Immortals:

  • Kabunian: The supreme deity, also known as the origin of rice. Kabunian is a general term for deities in the Ibaloi belief system.
  • Moon Deity: The deity who playfully teased Kabunian for not yet having a spouse.
  • Child of Kabunian: Offspring of Kabunian with a mortal woman, split into lightning and thunder, each with distinct characteristics.
  • Matono: A brave woman who ventured into the underworld, discovering the causes of poor crops and earthquakes. Her findings are shared with the people during the kosdëy, a time of prayer to influence the growth of crops.
  • Kabigat (of where the water rises): Embarked on a journey into the underworld to retrieve trees, which became the forests in the middle world.
  • Kabigat (of where the water empties): Instructed Kabigat (of where the water empties) on safely obtaining trees from the underworld.
  • Masekën: The ruler of the underworld, known for distinctive features like green eyebrows, red eyes, and a tail.
  • Kabigat (of the east): A significant figure residing in the east, adopting Bangan, a character central to Ibaloi folklore.
  • Bangan: Son of Otot and adopted by Kabigat. A kind young man who shared gold with the world through Kabigat.
  • Otot: A large man in the west who perished in an accident while traveling with his son, Bangan. A tree of gold sprouted from his burial site, scattering gold across the earth.
  • Sun God: The deity who played a crucial role in the creation of the earth. He pushed up the skyworld and pushed down the underworld, establishing the world after being hit by a man's arrow during a war between the peoples of the skyworld and the underworld.

Mortals:

  • Labangan: A man who received the first grain of rice used by mankind from Kabunian.
  • Wife of Kabunian: The spouse of Kabunian, who bore their child, split into lightning and thunder.
  • Two Blind Women: Two kind, blind beggars who were driven away by their neighbors due to hunger. They were later fed and aided by a mysterious woman and an old woman, leading to a story of rice and water that benefited the people.

These figures are not just mythological but are deeply embedded in the Ibaloi way of life, shaping their beliefs, practices, and culture.

Tingguian

The Tingguian people, steeped in their rich cultural traditions, hold a belief in various gods, goddesses, and deities that shape their spiritual and everyday lives. Here is a glimpse into their spiritual pantheon:

Immortals:

  • Bagatulayan: The supreme deity who oversees the activities of the world, including the celestial realms. Often referred to as the Great Anito.
  • Gomayen: Mother of Mabaca, Binongan, and Adasin.
  • Mabaca: One of the three founders of the Tinguian's three ancient clans. She is the daughter of Gomayen and the supreme deity.
  • Binongan: Another of the three founders of the Tinguian's three ancient clans, also the daughter of Gomayen and the supreme deity.
  • Adasin: The third founder of the Tinguian's three ancient clans, also the daughter of Gomayen and the supreme deity.
  • Emlang: A servant of the supreme deity.
  • Kadaklan: A deity who holds the second rank, responsible for teaching people how to pray, harvest their crops, ward off evil spirits, overcome bad omens, and cure sickness.
  • Apadel (Kalagang): A guardian deity and the inhabitant of spirit-stones called pinaing.
  • Init-init: The god of the sun, married to the mortal Aponibolinayen. He leaves his house during the day to illuminate the world.
  • Gaygayoma: The star goddess who descended from the heavens in a basket to fetch the mortal Aponitolau, whom she eventually married.
  • Bagbagak: The father of Gaygayoma.
  • Sinang: The mother of Gaygayoma.
  • Takyayen: The child of Gaygayoma and Aponitolau, who popped out between Gaygayoma's last two fingers after a unique request.
  • Makaboteng: The god and guardian of deer and wild hogs.

Mortals:

  • Aponibolinayen: The mortal spouse of the sun god, Init-init.
  • Aponitolau: A mortal who was fetched by the star goddess Gaygayoma, despite his preexisting marriage.

These deities and figures are central to the Tingguian belief system, influencing their rituals, traditions, and way of life. They form a vital part of Tingguian spirituality and cultural identity.

Kalanguya

In the spiritual beliefs of the Kalanguya people, their reverence is directed towards a single almighty creator:

Immortals:

  • Kabunyan: The almighty creator, also known as Agmattebew, the spirit who remains unseen. The Kalanguya people hold the mabaki ritual in honor of this deity during various significant life events, including planting, harvesting, births, and deaths, among other activities tied to their livelihood.

The focus of Kalanguya spirituality is on Kabunyan, the supreme deity and creator, who plays a central role in their rituals and traditions.

Conclusion

In conclusion, our exploration of Igorot culture has revealed the central role of Kabunian, the supreme deity, in shaping the cultural identity of the Igorot people. We've also delved into the significance of Anito, the ancestral spirits, and their dual nature in Igorot spirituality.

One striking aspect is the diversity of gods and deities across various Igorot ethnic groups, each contributing to the unique tapestry of beliefs and practices within the culture. From Lumawig to Kabigat, from Bagatulayan to Matono, the Igorot pantheon is rich and diverse.

What truly stands out is the adaptability of Igorot beliefs, allowing them to evolve and thrive in the ever-changing world. The Igorot people have managed to preserve their spiritual heritage while embracing change.

This exploration is just the tip of the iceberg. We encourage readers to dive deeper into the unique spiritual heritage of each Igorot ethnic group, discovering more about the mythological figures and deities that continue to shape their vibrant culture. There's a wealth of knowledge waiting to be uncovered, offering a deeper understanding of the spiritual tapestry that is Igorot culture.

Born Igorot, Die Igorot


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