Tropical-Forest Foragers - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Origin stories often make reference to a god who created the world, the forest, and the first humans, after which she or he withdrew to the sky and paid no more attention to the affairs of the world. A certain powerful forest spirit influences the "living dead" (i.e., the souls of dead forest foragers).

Religious Practitioners. All the forager groups have traditional healers, and several of them (e.g., the Aka, Baka, and Mbuti) recognize the supernatural abilities of great hunters, who can communicate with the supernatural world, make themselves invisible, and take the forms of various animals.

Ceremonies. Each of the forager groups has several hunting rituals; their nature, occurrence, frequency, and intensity depend on hunting success, failure, and uncertainty. Among the Aka and Baka, the most important hunting rituals are linked to elephant hunting. Honey is symbolic of life substance, and gathering of the first honey is preceded by collective ceremonies, music, and dance.

The most important ceremonies follow death. The forest spirit participates in these, either through the sound of a trumpet (among the Efe and Mbuti) or dancing under a raffia mask (among the Aka and Baka).

Music. Forest-forager music is distinct from that of farmers of Central Africa. It exhibits complex vocal polyphony; yodeling is incorporated, but there is a relative lack of musical instruments. Varying by region, the latter include whistles, two-stringed bows, and drums. Unison singing is seldom realized. Collective songs have superimposed parts. The lyrics are usually not important; they may consist of meaningless vowels and syllables.

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: