Shortly after birth, as soon as the severed umbilical cord has dropped off, the infant’s confinement is temporarily interrupted and it undergoes a secondary birth, this done outside the bilik, in a brief rite called ‘Ngetup Garam’ literally ‘to taste salt’. – Awaka Masin Baka Garam, Rajin Gawa Enda Kelalah.
During this rite, the infant is carried from the bilik to the open-air veranda. Here it is presented to the sky (Langit) and to the daylight (Hari), the latter epitomizing the visible, ‘seen’ dimensions of bodily reality. It is made to look up into the sky and so ‘take cognizance of the day’ (Nengkadah hari).
At the same time, a small bit of salt is placed in the infant’s mouth to give its body ‘taste’ (Tabar). The elder holding the child then pronounces an invocation presenting the infant to the Gods (Petara) and asking them to take the child into their care.
Reflecting Iban notions of the dichotomous nature of experience — the contrast between waking reality and the dream world of the soul — the principal Gods invoked are:
1. ‘Selampandai’ (Creator God) who, as a blacksmith, forges and shapes the child’s visible body (tuboh) (and later repairs it should it receive physical injury).
2. ‘Ini Inda’ who, as the shaman goddess, is the principal protective deity associated with the soul (Semengat) and with the invisible plant counterpart (Ayu) that represents human life in its mortal aspect.