Makassar - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Islam is the dominant religion, and in the urban context various Muslim brotherhoods are very influential. On the other hand, especially in the backcountry, religious beliefs and rituals are still based largely on traditional concepts. In the traditional religion a number of deities, who are believed to dwell on the peak of the sacred mountain, occupy prominent positions. Soil, plants, and animals are considered the property of supernatural beings, which must be presented with regular offerings. In addition, the souls of the ancestors are believed to exert direct influence on the everyday life of their descendants. Owing to the increasing influence of Islam, syncretistic beliefs now prevail even in remote locations.

Religious Practitioners. In most villages, traditional priests ( sanro or pinati ) still perform various rituals, while Islamic functionaries ( imang ) play significant roles in official religious life. In rural locations, the position of imang is for the most part an honorary office. The imang is called upon to perform marriages, circumcisions, and death rituals, all of which imply elements from both traditional religion and Islam. Divorces in accordance with Islamic law are granted by imangs holding official positions in the local administration.

Ceremonies. Agricultural rituals are still performed in accordance with tradition, while all rites of passage nowadays include Islamic elements. Most significant are rituals centering on sacred heirlooms, which in many cases involve the making or redemption of personal vows. In addition, all periodic Islamic feasts are celebrated.

Arts. Arts play a minor role among the Makassar, and material culture is characterized by extreme plainness. There are a few dances, which now have acquired the status of mere folklore. Most musical instruments that are today considered traditional are of Indian or Arabic origin (boat-lutes, flutes, clarinets, rebab, and gambus ). Elements of old Makassar music are now incorporated into Western-style popular music. Poetry and the recitation of ancient heroic legends are valued highly, although many stylistic peculiarities of the high variety of the Makassar language are liable to vanish soon.

Medicine. In case of illness, seers are commonly consulted. Illness is often attributed to a former vow that has not been redeemed yet, to sorcery and witchcraft, or to malevolent ancestor souls. Since the majority of the population cannot afford consulting a trained physician, traditional healers are still very important even in the urban context.

Death and Afterlife. In the course of the funerary rituals, the soul of the deceased is incorporated into the realm of the supernatural. Whether a soul will be benevolent or malevolent depends mainly on its former owner's behavior during life. Formerly, the community of ancestor souls was considered an integral part of the social group of the living; more recently, notions of hell and paradise (as found in Islam) have gained increasing significance.

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