Alorese - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. The majority of contemporary Alorese has converted to Christianity (precise statistics are not available), although some Alorese adhere to their traditional beliefs. Residents of coastal communities on Alor, in contrast, are predominantly Muslim. The Atimelangers studied by DuBois believed that each individual had two souls. One soul journeyed to the "village below" if the death was natural, and the other soul went to the "village above" if the death was violent. The second soul was thought to linger and potentially cause trouble; funerals were designed to placate it and send it on its way. DuBois notes that there is no consistent theory as to where this second soul ends up. In addition to one's two souls, each individual inherited a number of supernaturals bilaterally from his or her parents. There were also lineage or village guardian spirits ( ulenai ). These spirits were connected to the village's wealth and crops and were represented by large crocodile-like carvings. In addition, there were "Good Beings," supernaturals who take human form and have the power to revive the dead and to travel through water and air. Malignant spirits ( kari, loku ), in the form of female and male witches, were also thought to exist. These evil spirits gained control over people by seducing them; while one slept, the evil spirit was said to step over and urinate on the victim and then proceed to eat his or her liver. DuBois comments that relationships to supernaturals tended to be casual and expedient. People generally ignored these relationships unless some misfortune occurred or a favor (such as harvest success) was desired. At the time of her work, for instance, the Atimelang village guardian spirit had not received a sacrifice or carving in sixteen years. She also states that, aside from funerals, Atimelangers did not appear to devote a lot of energy to the dead. She saw no permanent shrines; those that were made were temporary and of haphazard construction.

Religious Practitioners. The Atimelangers studied by DuBois and Nicolspeyer did not appear to have a large array of religious practitioners. "Water-Lords" ( je-adua ) oversaw harvest rituals, and seers ( timang, ), assisted by spirits, performed curing rites.

Ceremonies. Death feasts, rites assuring crops, and sacrifices for the village guardian spirit were the primary rituals in Atimelang. Other spirits were periodically "fed" as well.

Arts. In the Atimelang area, the village guardian spirit is represented by a crocodile-like wood carving. There are also spirit-familiar carvings and "spirit boat" carvings. DuBois notes that the carvings she saw were "crude," made only for sacrificial purposes. Moreover, she states that other Atimelang arts were also relatively unelaborated; basketry design was of the simplest sort, and the mythology was "confused and unstructured" (DuBois 1944:134-135).

Medicine. In addition to Western-style doctors, seers are consulted for various ailments. DuBois speaks of long-delayed death feasts held by parents who fear their children's illnesses were brought on by annoyed spirits. Atimelangers also had "medicines" designed for a number of female concerns (reducing menstrual flow, inducing barrenness, and delaying conception).

Death and Afterlife. According to DuBois, when someone of standing dies, the Atimelangers devote a great deal of energy to the funeral feasts, which entail elaborate financial obligations. Family members incur considerable debts at this time, in the form of mokos, gongs, and pigs. It is believed that one of the souls of the deceased lingers until the conclusion of the final memorial death feast, which might not be held for several years. Until this final feast, the soul may proceed to some unclear destination. As mentioned earlier, DuBois notes that the Atimelangers do not have a well-defined concept of the afterlife.

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