Gururumba - Religion and Expressive Culture



Religious Beliefe. Traditional Gururumba religious belief is focused on an inner cosmos of bodily fluids, energies, and spirit entities. All people are believed to have a vital substance that actualizes them both physically and emotionally. Illness and death are primarily the result of some diminution of the power of this substance through not taking proper precautions to protect it or through making some attack on it by sorcery or witchcraft. In addition, women have a particularly potent power in the form of their natural fecundity, which can be harmful to men if the men do not properly protect themselves. This is the rationale for residential segregation of the sexes along with other taboos that restrict male-female contact. There are also some persons ( gwumu, or witches) who are thought to have a substance in them that causes them to do harmful and malevolent things to others.

Religious Practitioners. There are a few individuals who function as shamanic curers, but they are only called in for difficult cases, particularly those involving sorcery.

Ceremonies and Arts. The pig festival was the prime arena for expressive culture. The groups who were guests at such events came splendidly arrayed in elaborate body decorations of feathers, fur, shells, pigment, and colorful fiber ornaments. As many as 2,000-5,000 people might be assembled on a dance ground with many groups simultaneously performing dances and mobile dramas ranging from the farcical to the mythical. Dancers at such an event would also Typically be wearing ingerebe on their heads. These decorations are small carved and painted boards fixed into the hair and surrounded with elaborate feather ornaments. They were also magical objects, believed to store up the energy of such events and later release it into gardens from trees where they were hung. Singing, drumming, and flute music were accompaniments to these events. Another such context was the initial installment of older boys into the men's house. The magical rituals transforming them from boys into men were kept secret from the women, but women made many of the special decorative items signaling adult male status first worn by these "new men" on their emergence from the men's house.

Medicine. Men's illnesses were generally attributed to semen loss or contamination by menstrual blood or to the causes to which all were vulnerable: sorcery, witchcraft, or attacks by ghosts. All adults knew some bush medicines and spells, but some older men were considered to know more and to be more adept. They would be brought in to divine the cause and prescribe a cure, especially in cases of suspected sorcery or witchcraft. Illness attributed to ghosts could be alleviated by propitiating or driving away the ghosts responsible.

Death and Afterlife. Death, especially for important men, was marked by a villagewide funeral ceremony, followed by burial, usually on land of the resident clan of the deceased. Each person was believed to have a spiritual essence, which was released at death; this essence might remain among the living for some time as a ghost. Ghosts occasionally helped the living by appearing in dreams and foretelling the future or revealing new magic, but more often they caused trouble Including illness, accidents, rainstorms, trouble with pigs, madness, and even death. They staged these attacks in response to perceived affronts to their esteem or physical remains.

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