Lamaholot - Religion and Expressive Cullture

Religious Beliefs. The census of 1980 shows that 81.9 percent were Roman Catholic, 17.3 were Muslim, and .2 percent were Protestant. There were insignificant numbers of Hindus and Buddhists, and .6 percent did not declare religious preference. Given these figures, it might be thought that there is no longer any point in speaking about the traditional religion, even though a good deal of information has been recorded about it. These figures, however, should probably not be taken at face value.

The Lamaholot name for God is "Lera Wulan" (SunMoon). His female complement is called "Tana Ekan" (the Earth). Lera Wulan is now associated with the God of Christianity and Islam. Alternative names for God are Lahatala, Letala, Latala, or Lahatala Dunia (all of Arabic derivation). Lesser spirits, nitu, inhabit the tops of trees, large stones, springs, and holes in the ground. Also to be mentioned are Ile Woka, the god of the mountains, and Hari Botan, the god of the sea.

Religious Practitioners. The lord of the land formerly directed communal ceremonies, usually as part of the system of four ritual leaders mentioned above. Traditional priests and healers are called molang. Witches ( menaka ) cause all sorts of human misfortune.

Ceremonies. Prominent ceremonies and festivals include those associated with erecting a house or building and launching a boat, and those that take place in the clan ritual house. There are also important rituals in the fields (in connection with planting and harvesting) and on the beach (in connection with the beginning of the annual fishing cycle). Some communities maintain annual rituals purifying the village.

Arts. The arts are largely limited to basketry, music, and the weaving of fine cloth. Decorative carving has largely disappeared. Tattooing is declining.

Medicine. Hospitals and clinics provide some access to modern medical treatment, but not enough by any means. Traditional healers still set bones, repair sprains, and attempt to cope with more serious illness.

Death and Afterlife. People have two souls, the tuber and the manger. While the former may leave the body, the latter may not. Upon death the tuber goes to Lera Wulan or is eaten by nitu or menaka. The manger goes to the land of the dead. The world is divided into several levels. When a person dies, he or she is reborn on the next level below. After several lives and deaths, he or she completes the cycle and begins again.

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