Kilenge - Religion and Expressive Culture



Religious Beliefs and Practitioners. The Roman Catholics established a mission in 1929, and today most Kilenge are at least nominal Catholics. People maintain their beliefs in a variety of precontact phenomena: the power of sacred stones to change into humans or animals; forbidden places ( ngaselnga ) where malevolent spirits dwell; Nausang spirits manifested in masks; and sorcery. Most people know some magical formulas to help in work. Some people claim the power to find lost souls through dreaming; others claim to control weather. The Kilenge say that they know little sorcery, and they ascribe most acts of homicidal sorcery to their Lolo neighbors.

Ceremonies. A rich variety of ceremonial cycles, lasting up to five to seven years, provide the Kilenge with a context in which they initiate children, honor the dead, validate hereditary leadership, compete for group prestige, and exchange quantities of pigs and other traditional valuables.

Arts. The masks, headdresses, and dancing paraphernalia produced for the ceremonial cycles constitute the major items of Kilenge artistic production. Intricate songs and dances associated with the cycles demonstrate ability in the performing arts. Utilitarian items may be decorated, but most, with the exception of canoes, are left plain.

Medicine. The Kilenge rely on mission and government clinics for treatment of some major ailments, but they know spells and plants to relieve minor discomforts and go to curers when modern medicine fails.

Death and Afterlife. Funerals occur the day after a death. When people feel the death was caused by human malevolence, they will discreetly inquire about sorcery or consult Diviners. Mortuary ceremonies for important people may last years, culminating in the destruction of the deceased's house. Attenuated ceremonies accompany the death of children or less important adults. The soul lingers by the grave for days or weeks and can present a threat to humans. Traditionalists say the soul then departs for Mount Andewa to the east, while committed Catholics believe the soul goes to Heaven or Hell.

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