The reason why I picked these three keywords is because during my research about our oral story ‘Temahahoi’ of ‘Tayal people. I realised that many of our people don’t know about it. These three words come very strongly during my journey of the people and incidents that I have encountered.
Keyword 1 : YAPIT
Just this morning, I was gifted a yapit’s tail by a woman from the same alang, alang means community or tribe in my ancestors’ language. I could tell she is a young woman hunter who didn’t seem to fit in the overly developed concrete jungle. I could feel her strength illuminating from her when we first met at a local convenience store. Her energy was so familiar to me, it was a dejavu feeling.
I feel that we knew each other, but we just met in the convenience store. She was in front of me trying to take her pila (money) out of her pocket, as she was rambling through her bag, I saw multiple hairy animal tails popping out. She seemed to sense that I was looking at her, she suddenly paused her body and looked directly to my eyes. I was shocked, but I didn’t look away. She said: ‘I think we met before’, then pulled out an animal’s tail for me as a gift. She said: ‘here is a yapit’s tail for you, we will meet again’. she paid her stuff at the counter then walked away without saying goodbye. She spoke with my ancestor’s accent; and she looked like my ancestor with a sharp look from her eyes. I knew in my heart, she is from Temahahoi. I was thinking in my head, if she was from Temahahoi, then our main prey is not yapit. I was confused, but also quite happy to meet a Temahahoi woman in such circumstance.
Yapit is a flying squirrel. Why a yapit’s tail was given to me?
I see this gesture as a hint that she is an orphan of the alang where I came from, just like my grandmother, my mother and myself. We are the orphan from different generations. We are diasporic from Temahahoi for so many decades. I bought a bottle of rice wine and walked home. I poured a shot of rice wine and used my index finger tapping the wine and gently splashed to the ground. I did this three times to offer utux(spirits) the wine before I started my drinks. City people never offered anything to utux before they drink, I often found it very disrespectful, buy hey what can I do? After offering utux the wine, I started to sip my wine slowly and put the tail at my study table. I kept wondering about that woman hunter and the yapit’s tail. I pondered when will we meet again? As I was thinking through back and forth about this question. I fell asleep at my study table and had a dream about her. In the dream, she told me all the secrets about hunting at night and explained each type of qsinuw (prey), these animals’ traits, sounds, behaviors and many forest knowledges that I missed out growing up in the city. The woman hunter exposed all the knowledges that I have not yet had a chance to experience or got passed on. Now I think of her again, she is not the orphan from the isolated moon, she is on her way of finding the other side of the unlit moon with courage. She is on her way of finding her belonging to where we supposed to come from.
The woman hunter makes me think that the land should not be privatized, our ancestors looked at the land as a shared domain, no one owns it. Hunters wouldn’t hunt excessively. Sharing is a constant gesture my ancestors would do to each other, sharing food, sharing labors to build houses etc. She is like the mirror that allows me to see the other side of the moon, the moon is my floating island in the sky. The moon is a projection of what I can possibly imagine the past, present and future.
I woke up from the dream with panic. Yapit’s tail was still at my study table.
A surge of disappointment filled into my heart. I need to look for my moon, my Temahahoi.
Keyword 2 : TWO MOONS
My favourite moment of the day is the sunset when this giant fiery planet is slowly diving down to the horizon. It was an ambiguous moment that I couldn’t tell if the sky was going dark or bright. I love staring at the sky from the window of my grandmother’s apartment building in Datong District, Taipei. My grandmother often mentioned that she missed a place called Temahaoi where you can see two moons co-existed. It’s a beautiful place where our ancestors came from, and the lighting from the moons was perfect for tracing the paths of the bees to find wild honey. My grandmother Ciwas said she found the window of this apartment has the ideal angle to see two moons appear at a specific time; unlike the two moons would show for an extended period in our ancestral land, the moons here disappeared very quickly. I love this window because I could observe the street vendors, people’s random interactions, the movements of clouds, airplanes in the sky and most importantly, follow the moon(s).
My grandmother said our ancestors could communicate with wild bees with some multiple joint flutes made from clay. All the women from the community back then knew how to make them.
I asked my grandmother: ‘Do you still remember how to make those special flutes? I want to talk to the bees!’
My grandmother said: ‘Sorry my granddaughter, I wish I could show you what these flutes look like; all the ones we had all got destroyed when our trees, flowers and land got invaded and polluted.’
I said: ‘oh no! I really wish to see those flute’.
My grandmother didn’t respond to what I said; she looked out the window, trying to look for something; it could be bees or the two moons she mentioned. She was quiet for a while and suddenly said: ‘did you know our ancestors only needed the clean wind blew through their body to get pregnant?’
I said: ‘no…I have no idea. Can I do that when I became an adult?’
My grandmother looked at me and laughed; she said: ‘haha…no now the wind is so polluted, we all lost that ability, you look at the sky now, it’s so muggy and grey.’ She walked away from the window to the living room to watch the TV without saying anything. I stayed at the window, looking at the sky with wonder.
The sky is my television; the moon is my island of imagination; I enjoy the emptiness of the sky with a tint of unspoken drama, which was quietly rendered there. I prefer the television in the sky than the news about the potential military threats of the missiles coming from the other side of the Taiwan Strait. I saw a UFO one time in the sky hovering. I knew it was not an airplane because it was suspended in the sky without moving in a particular direction. I was hoping this UFO could take me to my ancestral land, where two moons existed. The excitement filled my heart, but I also felt scared because what if it didn’t take me to Temahahoi?
I kept staring at the UFO until the sky was darker; I could see the moon becoming brighter while the sun was dimmer; I waited until the UFO disappeared. The UFO and I witnessed the switch of the two planets I couldn’t believe my eyes; perhaps the combination of the rice wine and the yapit’s tail made my eyes see exciting things. I kept thinking about the sounds of the ceramic flutes that can summon up bees and the two moons that illuminated my ancestors’ vision.
I missed them.
Keyword 3 : Temahahoi
There is a forgotten place called Temahahoi where only women live. This story materialised multiple times through verbal narration from Elders and in books depicting Atayal stories.
Each version of the story of Temahahoi varied, but the unique gender(ed) aspect remained, because only women live in Temahahoi, if a woman wished to become impregnated, she would need to lie on a rock with her legs spread wide in order to allow the breeze to blow into her.
Thus, the wind would bring life. Additionally, the women did not get hungry and could stay alive by inhaling steam and smoke.
The women from Temahahoi were said to have a special ability to communicate with bees, whereby they could control bees’ behaviour and manoeuvre them at their will. Hunters living outside Temahahoi greatly desired to capture the Temahahoi women.
One day, a hunter was walking through the forest alone with his dog. In his attempt to find the dog after it went out of view, the hunter accidentally entered Temahahoi territory. Suddenly, he was surrounded by a swarm of bees. They overwhelmed him, and he couldn’t move forward or escape.
Consequently, the Temahahoi women captured the hunter and cut off his male organ and put it on a stick to lay out to dry. As the male organ dried and hardened, it became a tool of pleasure for the women of Temahahoi.