Bunun - Religion and Expressive Culture



Religious Beliefs and Supernaturals. The traditional religious beliefs of the Bunun are based on the concept of "hanido"—the spirit of any animate creature or inanimate natural object. The hanido of any natural object has its own special innate power. The strength of hanido power varies among living beings or objects of the same category. The hanido spirit leaves and is transformed or disappears when a living being dies or an object vanishes. Human beings are like other living beings and objects, except that humans have two hanidos instead of one, a good hanido of the right shoulder and a bad hanido of the left shoulder. A person's hanidos determine what a person wants to do, and the final outcome of any activity depends on the hanidos having the strength to overcome the strength of another living being's or object's hanido. By this kind of belief, Bunun can explain general problems in everyday life. Another important religious concept is dehanin. Dehanin refers to the sky, although its meaning is more ambiguous. It traditionally referred to the power of various celestial phenomena such as wind, rain, thunder, lightning, moon, sun, star, and so on. Because the power of dehanin was inactive in ordinary life, attention was paid to dehanin only during times of disaster. Traditionally, rituals had to be held to express gratitude to the celestial bodies or dehanin for relief from disaster. Today, Christian beliefs have been accepted by being assimilated to the traditional beliefs in dehanin and hanido. "Dehanin" is now used to refer to the Christian God, and "hanido" to evil or Satan.

Religious Practitioners and Ceremonies. Traditionally, any person could perform a ceremony for himself or herself or for others if his or her hanido had enough power. In this sense, a religious practitioner was not a special social category, and potentially any person could serve in any ritual role. Traditional ceremonies can be classified into two categories: life-cycle rituals and calendrical rituals. The former continue to exist with a Christian color, but the latter have been abandoned with the demise of shifting cultivation.

Death and Afterlife. Traditionally, kin buried the body of a dead person in different places depending on the cause of death. Violent and accidental deaths were regarded as bad deaths ( ikula ), and the body was immediately buried on the spot. The hanido of persons who died violently or accidentally were harmful to human beings. Death at home from illness or natural causes was a good death ( idmamino madai ). Kin buried the body of such dead persons in their house. If the dead person had made a major contribution to the society, he or she would be buried near the door of the house so that the hanido of the dead person could protect the surviving members of the domestic unit. The hanido of such persons would go to maiason, where their great ancestors lived forever. With Christianization, the dead are now buried at the entrance to the settlement. The same distinction between good and bad deaths is maintained, however, and "maiason" now refers to paradise. Other traditional taboos and customs related to death are still observed.

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