Subanun - Religion

Religious Beliefs. At the core of a culture that enables the Subanun to maintain a meaningful identity distinct from both Catholic Filipino lowlanders and coastal Muslims is a shared system of belief and ritual that is uniquely Subanun. (A number of Subanun speakers have become Catholics and have merged into the lowland population. Others in the Western Subanun area have become Muslim and thereby have been given a new identity by outsiders as "Kalibugan" or "half-breed." American Protestant missionaries have been active in some areas. Their converts have yet another identity.) Sharing the Subanun universe with human mortals are named gods, spirits, demons, and ghosts. These supernatural beings can all help or harm humans—just as humans can, through agricultural activities, for example, cause the beings damage. The agricultural cycle is punctuated with requisite offerings to the supernaturals. Speaking through mediums during séance rituals, the gods and ancestors may demand offerings for the cure of illness. Human enemies can be attacked by luring their mortal souls to a nocturnal offering and then ambushing them at the doorway. This type of indirect assault on the invisible spirit of a distant antagonist is one kind of violence the Subanun do practice. The constituents of offerings vary with the demands of particular supernaturals, but they always include rice, meat, wine, and a betel chew—the essential ingredients of a festive meal. Unlike the agricultural cycle, the stages of the human life cycle, other than birth and death, are not strongly demarcated by rituals. There is no social observance of puberty for either sex.

Religious Practitioners. Ritual specialists and mediums learn their craft either through apprenticeship or directly through divine revelation. Their status is one of the few specifically named and relatively clearly defined nonrelational social positions in Subanun society. Most specialists are older men, but women are not excluded from the role.

Medicine. The Subanun distinguish religious practice centered on offerings from the use of substances and spells for the treatment and prevention of disease and other misfortune. Hundreds of wild and cultivated medicinal plants are distinguished and routinely used. Medicinal treatment of this type is generally tried before one resorts to the more expensive route of religious offerings.

Death and Afterlife. The dead are buried, but grave sites are not conspicuously nor permanently marked. A death initiates a major ceremonial occasion, during which there are rituals, exhortations, and offerings to ensure that the ghost of the diseased departs this world of mortals and demons, journeying to the other world to become a spirit among the gods. Ancestral spirits play an important role in séances by acting as intermediaries between the supernaturals and their mortal descendants. There is, however, no attempt to remember long lines of ancestors from the distant past.

User Contributions:

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