Miskito - Religion and Expressive Culture



Religious Beliefs. Little is known of traditional religion beyond beliefs in various harmful spirits and in spirits inhabiting natural phenomena. The Miskito readily adopted Christianity; the Moravian church is by far the dominant mission group. The Catholic church and several fundamentalist Protestant churches also proselytize. Belief in dreams, in strange and inexplicable omens and occurrences, and in the power of the moon persists. Specific native deities are unknown, but an impersonal "Father" spirit may have been recognized. Evil spirits were more important. The Christian trinity is now accepted, although belief in evil spirits, frequently associated with the Christian Satan, continues.

Religious Practitioners. Native shamans acted as curers, diviners, and exorcisers. During the twentieth century, village lay pastors and fully ordained native pastors have worked with foreign missionaries.

Ceremonies. Prior to Christianization the Miskito conducted group ceremonies, particularly funeral rites, characterized by dancing and extensive drinking of locally made intoxicants. They now celebrate the Christian ceremonies of the mission churches.

Arts. Traditional Miskito songs are popular, and simple round dances may be performed on holidays. Theatricals concerning a legendary Miskito "king," now an important ethnic symbol, are performed in some communities. Decorative arts are not developed, although wooden masks were traditionally carved for funeral ceremonies.

Medicine. Traditional herbal cures are combined with Western medical care. Illness was traditionally thought to be caused by evil spirits, and remnants of that belief persist, but God's will and the weather are more commonly blamed today.

Death and Afterlife. Death can be foretold by dreams or other types of omens. Traditional funeral rites were relatively elaborate. Today, Christian rites are followed. The spirit of the deceased is thought to continue to associate with the living for a while.


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