Lak - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. The traditional religious beliefs of the Lak focused on a set of creators: two brothers, Swilik and Kampatarai, and their grandmother. Swilik created the Lak landscape and gave them moieties to regulate marriage. He has been assimilated into the Christian god, as the Lak have been progressively missionized. Other religious beliefs center on lineage ancestors and marsalai, spirits associated with particular features of the landscape.

Religious Practitioners. Lak shamans ( iniet ) serve as healers and sorcerers, but few of them remain. More common is the tenabuai, an expert in magic associated with betel nuts.

Ceremonies. Dances, accompanied by music and drums, mark the major mortuary feast. These are twenty-four hour events and may bring hundreds of people together. Big-men host "teams" of young men, who try to outdo one another as dancers. Men also practice secret ceremonies associated with tubuan and duk-duk masks, as well as other ceremonies revolving around bullroarers ( talun).

Arts. Ritual objects are the focus of artistic effort, but designs are relatively spare when compared to those of other Melanesian peoples. Most Lak villages have large, unadorned slit gongs used in ritual, but these instruments are no longer being made. Houses are not decorated, and canoes show little elaboration.

Medicine. Traditional healing is performed by the iniet, or shaman, who is schooled in an extensive indigenous pharmacopoeia. Treatments are costly and typically take the form of long-term sessions, in which the iniet casts spells on plant materials and blows them onto the afflicted person. Currently, Lak make use of both traditional remedies and Western medicine.

Death and Afterlife. Lak fear the recently deceased, who are said to roam the village and lure others to the netherworld. The prominent dead man is apparently incorporated into ritual paraphernalia, as in current betel-nut magic. In the past, this practice was more common, as dead lineage leaders slowly took on the status of lineage ancestors. Lineage dead are seen to be somewhat capricious, visiting sickness or misfortune on the living with no apparent motive.

Also read article about Lak from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: