Boazi - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Most Boazi speakers believe in a combination of Christianity and traditional beliefs in ghosts, spirits, sorcery, and the power of magical objects. Elements of Christian mythology are often mixed with Boazi mythology. Boazi speakers believe in a variety of supernatural beings including ghosts, spirits associated with particular locations, and forest and marsh spirits. Many forest and marsh spirits play only minor roles in day-to-day life, but ghosts and the spirits associated with particular locations are believed to be the source of both benevolent and malevolent magical power. Beliefs in traditional supernatural beings are often mixed with beliefs in Christian supernatural beings.

Religious Practitioners. Although some Boazi speakers are recognized as having greater knowledge of sorcery and greater magical powers than others, sorcery and magic can, according to Boazi tradition, be learned by any man and by some women.

Ceremonies. Many traditional ceremonies, including male initiation, were closely tied to head-hunting and therefore are no longer performed. Tame-pig feasts, which include appeals to spirits and which traditionally preceded a head-hunting raid, are still occasionally held.

Arts. Boazi speakers produce little representational or abstract art. Traditionally, they made elaborate trophies from the heads of their head-hunting victims, but these are no longer produced. Musical instruments include large hourglass drums and bullroarers. Dances to the accompaniment of drums are held to celebrate marriages, national and Christian religious holidays, and the end of the traditional period of mourning.

Medicine. Illness is attributed to spirits, sorcery, the breaking of postpartum taboos, excessive amounts of impure blood in the body, and (for men) contact with menstrual blood. A variety of traditional medical techniques are used; prominent among these are bleeding to remove the impure blood and burning to relieve pain.

Death and Afterlife. Death is the most important lifecycle event. Mourning consists of one or two days of wailing and dirges before the body is buried. After the burial, a formal period of mourning is observed which usually lasts about forty days. During this time, people are supposed to speak in low voices and are not permitted to beat their drums. At the end of the mourning period, a large feast is held for the community, but the spirit of the dead person is believed to frequent the village or camp until his or her death has been avenged.

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