Mae Enga - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. The traditional system of Mae magicalreligious beliefs and practices, like those of other Central Enga, are strongly clan-based, and many animist assumptions still orient popular ideology and social behavior, despite the apparent impact of Christian mission proselytizing since 1948. Mae believe the sun and the moon, "the father and mother of us all," have procreated many generations of immortal sky people who resemble Enga in being organized in an agnatic segmentary society of warlike cultivators. Each celestial phratry sent a representative to earth to colonize the hitherto empty land. The now mortal founder of each terrestrial phratry married, had children, and allocated lands and property to his sons as they wed daughters of other phratry founders. Thus were originated the named fraternal clans, each of which today rightfully occupies the defined territory inherited patrilineally from the founder. Each clan still possesses some of the fertility stones carried to earth by the phratry founder. Buried in the clan's sacred grove, they are the locus of the spirits of all the clan ancestors, including ghosts of deceased grandfathers. A man therefore has the right to exploit a tract of land because, through his father, he is a legitimate member of that clan, shares in the totality of clan patrilineal spirit, and is intimately linked with the localized clan ancestors. In addition to the continuing, often injurious interventions into human affairs of recent ghosts and of ancestral spirits, Mae also assert the existence of aggressive anthropophagous demons and of huge pythons, both of which defend their mountain and forest domains from human intrusions.

Ceremonies. Although lethal sorcery is uncommon, many men privately use magic to enhance their personal well-being, to acquire valuables and pigs, and to ensure military success. Clan bachelors regularly seclude themselves in groups to remove by magic and by washing the dangerous effects of even inadvertent contacts with women, after which the whole clan feasts its neighbors to celebrate the young men's return to secular life. Women employ magic to cleanse themselves after menstruation and parturition and occasionally to protect their garden crops. Following a Family illness or death, a female medium conducts a seance or a male diviner bespells and cooks pork to identify the aggrieved ghost. The family head then kills pigs and ritually offers cooked pork to placate that ghost. Occurrences of clanwide disasters such as military defeats, crop failures, epidemic illnesses, or deaths of people or pigs stimulate clan leaders to arrange large-scale offerings of pork and game while hired ritual experts decorate the fertility stones to mollify the punitive clan ancestors.

Arts. The main expression of visual art is at clan festivals and rituals when dancing and singing men lavishly adorn themselves, and often their daughters, with plumes, shells, paints, and unguents. Musical forms and instruments are simple, but poetic and oratorical expression is elaborate. Formerly, painting and sculpture were uncommon, but since the 1970s a small school of Enga painters has flourished in Wabag.

Medicine. Local experts traditionally resorted to simples for minor complaints, bespelled foods for "magically induced" illnesses, and performed crude and often fatal surgery for serious arrow wounds. Nowadays, people usually visit Government and mission clinics for treatment.

Death and Afterlife. Death, whether violent or from illness, is usually attributed to ghostly malevolence, less often to human sorcery or to demons' attacks. It is always a significant political event, entailing simple burial ceremonies, lengthy domestic mourning, and elaborate funerary feasting and exchanges of pigs and valuables. The angry ghost of the deceased is expected to kill a family member in retaliation Before joining the corpus of clan ancestral spirits in the clan stones.

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Mae believe the sun and the moon, "the father and mother of us all," have procreated many

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