Bugle - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Today the Bugle accept aspects of Christianity, but the few details of myths and ceremonies that are available hint at a still-existing set of non-Christian beliefs. The Bugle accept the existence of a high god, whom they refer to as Shubé or Chubé in their language, as well as an opposing evil force referred to by the Spanish term for devil, diablo. The ceremony that is held to protect a new house attests to a belief in a deity of lightning. According to one myth, the maize goddess initially brought the Bugle many varieties of the grain, but when the iguana and the river bird angered her one day as she was making chicha (a beer prepared from maize), she returned to the sky, taking with her the large-grained maize and leaving only the small-grained maize for the Bugle. From the sky, she continues to call to the maize, which accounts for why there are sometimes ears with no grains and ears with bare tips.

Religious Practitioners. The traditional religious practitioner among the Bugle until shortly before the 1960s was the sukia (shaman). Sukias apparently effected cures through communication with the spirit world. A child who was predestined to become a sukia, it was believed, refused to accept breast milk and was therefore fed chocolate water made from the first harvest of cacao or from wild cacao. Such a child was isolated and placed in the care of old women. Sukias could use their powers for both good and evil. The literature does not specify whether sukias could be women as well as men.

Ceremonies. A ceremony to insure a bountiful harvest is conducted, generally four days before planting, at which time large quantities of chocolate drink (made of hot water and unsweetened cocoa beans from the first harvest, ground into a paste) are drunk. Chicherías, ceremonies at which chicha and food are consumed in large quantities, are commonly held on a variety of occasions. They are generally interpreted as social gatherings, but they probably have some deeper social and religious significance, as they do among the Ngawbe. One type of chichería traditionally takes place eight days after the birth of a child. Singing, dancing, and the playing of traditional musical instruments occur during chicherías and also during the female puberty ceremonies. Some form of funeral ceremony occurs, but no details are available. The balsería, or stick game, is played among the Bugle, but there is some disagreement as to whether it is a traditional ceremony or a result of recent Ngawbe influence. After the construction of a new house, a ceremony is held to propitiate the god of lightning, in order to protect the house from lightning bolts. During the ceremony, a designated person perforates the ear lobes of the participants with a stingray spine and collects the blood as an offering. Women are not permitted in the house during this ceremony, but they do attend the chichería that immediately follows, at which there is much eating, drinking, and dancing.

Arts. Traditionally, face painting by both men and women was common, but it is now reported to be infrequent except among young men. Simple horizontal lines across the cheeks were the most common forms of decoration, with red and black the preferred colors. Straw hats and net bags are decorated with geometric designs. Some of the designs on the net bags are said to represent birds and animals.

Medicine. Curanderos, traditional specialists who cure with the use of plant medicines (but never through interaction with the spirit world), are still common among the Bugle. Numerous plant substances are used in curing. The curandero shows the family of a sick person how to process and administer the specific plants that are needed for a particular cure. Some plant medicines are taken internally; others are boiled in water and used to bathe the patient. Natural waters, sometimes from thermal springs, are also prescribed.

Death and Afterlife. Details of any belief in an afterlife other than the Christian heaven are unknown. The fact that individuals are buried with some of their personal belongings may be indicative of a belief that utilitarian items will be needed in an afterworld.

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