etymology of BELIAN

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at
Sat Jul 21 19:33:38 UTC 2001

The term "belian" is also used by the Benuaq Dayaks of eastern Kalimantan
to refer to shamans.  According to the following website they are usually
women or men dressed as women:


On Sat, 21 Jul 2001, Paul Kroeger wrote:

> The Dusunic languages of Sabah (northeast Borneo) have "boboliyan"
> (or cognate forms) for a spirit medium or shaman, mostly female, who
> perform rituals for healing, fertility, etc.  I don't know the
> etymology, but I wonder if Jack Prentice ever wrote about that??
> (Note: the /o/ in Dusunic is the reflex of PAN schwa.)
> -- Paul Kroeger
> ==================
> At 11:32 PM -0400 7/20/01, Paz B. Naylor wrote:
> >Does anyone know the word BELIAN 'spirit medium' - and its
> >etymology/original literal meaning?
> >
> >According to Dr. Penelope Flores (San Francisco State University),
> >this is what the Tagalog word BABAYLAN 'priestess' came from.
> >
> >In 1984, I was informed that the Fijian WAQA 'boat' when
> >reduplicated, WAGAWAGA means 'spirit medium'.  This makes me wonder
> >if BELIAN (> *BAILAN) also had a literal meaning that, upon partial
> >reduplication,  served as a metaphor for 'medium of transport for
> >the spirit'.
> >
> >Another question:  was the role of spirit medium restricted to women?
> >
> >Thank you in advance for any information on these matters.  Paz

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