The word babaylan is of the Philippine Visayan dialect and means priestess. In pre-colonial history, it specifically refers to a holy woman(shaman) and a woman leader.
Other Philippine island dialects term this figure as baylan(male shaman), catalonan, pandot, mangkukulam, munhoudoung. When the Spanish came as colonizers and began to teach Christianity they called the native holy woman or man bruja or brujo which means witch, and babaylanes as brujeria which means witches. So just as the American Native's shaman was called "witch doctor" so too were the indigenous Filipinos' shaman condemned to notoriety in the colonized mind.
Today, there is still an element of fear and suspicion that the Westernized, modernized mind of the Filipino has for the practices of the Philippine's native healers and herbolarios.
Babaylan were the female shamans of the barangays or village communities in the Visayan islands of the Philippine archipelago. They were women, or men who dressed up like women, or men who were gay or hermaphrodites. That is a historical context of women and men as babaylan.
One of the significances of rediscovering the babaylan figure in Philippine history is that we can come to know that before the Spanish colonizers came, the native woman of the Philippine islands did not hold a subjugated role in society, rather she was a leader and an equal. She was also essential in spiritual practice of the community. We can rediscover that pre-colonial people found in the Philippine islands did not have a patriarchal society. Notions of masculine superiority and patriarchal subjugation of women was brought into the psyche of the people of the islands from the West by Spanish conquistadores.
Today, many native Filipinos think of babaylan only as the hilots. Some refer to the babaylan as bruja, the spanish word for witch. Also, male hilots today are not necessarily gay or hermaphrodites. Hilots are men and women healers and another way of calling them are "faith healers." But, I have been to many hilots as a young women for my sprained ankle and a prolapsed uterus and have also witnessed them take care of other family members. They are not just "faith healers" but also work as bone setters, massage therapists, and herbolarios(one who collects and dispenses natural herbs as medicine).
Also, fortune tellers are refered to as hula or guesser or one who guesses. Many hilots are also intuitive this way...
In the baybayin or ancient Philippine writing system, babaylan is "spelled" as:
The symbols' meanings:
bayan-country, land, bahay; balay-house/home; balanaggay -- boat, water vehicle of traveling; baranggay -- village/home, baybay -- sea(feminine);
Baylan in vertical format:
Knowing the meanings of ba and la, what meanings can you uncover in the vertical symbolism of "baylan"? Look closely and contemplate in silence. You will find the same meaning found mystical symbolism parallel to that of other ancient wisdom traditions.
(NOTE: Babayin is an intuitive form of writing. Those who know how to speak and read baybayin would know to add the "n" sound at the end without it being indicated by another baybayin symbol. When the Spanish came and began to study and record the writing system the added the symbols of the cross to make their reading more exact... for example, they would place a cross at the end of the 3 symbols to add the "n" sound. But the original system does not work like that. The indigenous people already knew what the formation of the symbols meant and how to say it without adding the cross symbol... For more on baybayin knowledge visit "Babayin: Ancient Script of the Philippines" by Paul Morrow and Urduja Jewelry, and also look up "baybayin" and "alibata" in google.com or other search engines. There are some very good web sites out there.)
This holy word has both feminine and masculine principle sounds in it---"ba" and "la", connected in the middle with the "ha" sound symbol.
Again, the intuitive baybayin reader would know how to place the sound of "t" in the middle of the oral pronunciation upon perceiving the meanings of the symbols combined together.
At the same time baybayin symbolism also explains why Filipinos say both Bathala and Bahala when speaking of God or the Great Spirit in indigenous language.
A beautiful thing to meditate on with baybayin is the word Bahala or Bathala---Divinity, Great Spirit. (see Bahala Meditation under Poems, Prayers, Rituals pages).
The root word of tagipusuon is puso which means heart in visayan, tagalog, and other dialects) .
tagipusuon - of the heart, essence of the heart, within the heart
ideals, idea, essence, energy, spirit, soul, thread of thought, archetypal energy.
(note similarity to sanskrit "diva". Entymological source is the proto-australasian word "dyw" which means "light" or "divine". Dyw is the source of the sanskrit diva(goddess), and the european dieu (french), dios (spanish) and many others that mean "God".)
nature or earth spirit, faery, enchantress, muse,
(note similarity to sanskrit divata")
ritual invocation of the spirits
deepest inner self
lakas ng loob
Return to Self, Return to Source
Path/Journey/road --- odyssey
Ilonggo for "earth, air/wind, water, fire"
tagalog is "lupa, hangin, tubig, apoy"
other words that are used: rain=ulan, fire/lightning=kidlat.
May you receive this in openness and your life be enriched by it.
If you have any links and resources to share, please email me.
Ever out of Love.
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