Our Ancient Land

Tais
The tais.
Image: David Loram
Source: Museum Victoria

Earth is her flesh
Water is her blood
Wind is her breath
Fire is her warmth

–Elizabete Lim Gomes

From our ancient spirituality, the Lulik faith, stems the belief that our ancestry began with the creation of the world and everything in it. Land and people are connected body and soul; the mountains and certain animals as well as the people who are our ancestors.

In Timor Leste, All Souls Day, Loron Matebian in Tetun, is a halfday holiday. Towns and villages are quiet as Catholic prayers and processions intermingle with the ancient indigenous ritual of Se Matebian, the worship of ancestors. Everywhere there are processions to cemeteries, and to Mt Matebian, a resting place for souls since earliest times. Other burial places are hidden in other mountains, where guerrilla fighters lost their lives in battles during the Indonesian occupation.

Our connection with the land has been carried with us to Australia. When East Timorese who are passionate about their homeland are buried here, a traditionally woven cloth, tais, is placed at the bottom of the grave to represent the land of Timor. A second tais is placed on top of the grave to envelop the person with the homeland’s soil.