Daribi - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Whether or not they believe in them, and incidental to any profession of a religious faith, Daribi fear the displeasure, attack, or possession of ghosts ( izibidi ) and, perhaps less frequently, of "place spirits"—local beings dwelling beneath the ground, in ravines, or in trees. Ghosts, most likely those of friends or relatives, are thought to take action against those who betray them, and place spirits against those who violate their habitations.

Religious Practitioners. Traditional Daribi religious Practitioners include spirit mediums, defined as "ill" because they have an insecure relation to possessing ghosts, and shamans ( sogoyezibidi ), who have "died" and attained a complete rapport with their spirits. Since most forms of mental and physical illness traditionally were considered to be effects of spirit possession, shamans functioned as effective curers and charged for their services even in precontact times. The large majority of both kinds of practitioners are women.

Ceremonies. The major traditional rite is the habu, performed to "bring back to the house" the ghost of someone who has died unmourned in the bush. In the habu, young men are "possessed" by the alienated ghost and spend weeks in the forest hunting animals and smoking the meat. When they return to the house they bring the ghost "on their skins," and it must be dislodged by wrestling with the "house People," after which the meat is blamed for the ghost's hostility and consumed as a mortuary feast. Other rites include those of marriage, initiation, and the pig feast, introduced from the highlands.

Arts. Depictive incision on arrow shafts and other implements is practiced. Daribi express themselves musically with the flute, the Jew's harp, and mourning laments. Storytelling ( namu pusabo ) is the best-developed artistic medium, along with lyric poetry.

Medicine. In addition to shamanic curers, traditional medicine included herbal remedies and a surgical practitioner ( bidi egabo bidi ) who removed arrows through a skilled knowledge of body movements.

Death and Afterlife. Traditional Daribi admitted human mortality but denied death through natural causes. The dead are believed to survive as ghosts who communicate with the living through spirit mediums and shamans and who travel, usually at night, along watercourses. They live together at an ill-defined place to the west, possibly in a lake.

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