Mafulu - Religion and Expressive Culture



Religious Beliefs. According to Mafulu legend, Tsidibe, the hero of Mafulu mythology, crossed the mountains from the north and introduced the prototype or omate of humans, crops, animals, and social activities to the region. Tsidibe's passage is marked by stones and odd-shaped rocks. The Current amidi is the embodiment of the omate, without which women, animals, and the crops of the clan could not reproduce. The Mafulu fear spirits of the dead, particularly those of the amidi, which are often held responsible for illness and accident. After 1905 the Sacred Heart Mission Christianized most of the Mafulu, established a training center for local catechists at Popolé, and produced vernacular-language Religious materials.

Religious Practitioners. Magicians or sorcerers had powers to cause and cure illness and death. They were also able to divine the progress of an illness. The power to cause illness was only to be exercised as retribution against people from other villages. Following the introduction of Christianity and the establishment of a religious training school, the region has produced Roman Catholic catechists.

Ceremonies. The principle ceremony is the gabé, a large intertribal feast, which draws many guests from numerous distant communities. Gabé are spaced about ten to twelve years apart to enable the hosts to develop large gardens and litters of pigs needed for the feast. In addition to the social dimension, this feast involves the washing and final disposal of the bones of a dead amidi. During the feast, the bones that had been hung in the emone are brought out, splashed with blood from the pigs killed for the feast, and then redistributed to the amidi's close relatives. Rites of passage for boys and girls can be performed concurrently with the gabé, though separate pigs are required for each ceremony. Traditionally, there were particular ceremonies for the birth of the chief's first child. Other ceremonies performed for all children included admitting both boys and girls to the emone (though only boys could sleep there). The assumption of a perineal band, which was preceded by a lengthy seclusion, was performed prior to adolescence. Ceremonies were also held when boys' and girls' noses and ears were pierced, when boys were given drums and songs, and when people were married. Death and mourning ceremonies for chiefs differed from those of others.

Arts. Plastic arts consist primarily of painting tapa dancing aprons, burning or cutting abstract designs on smoking pipes, and constructing feather headdresses for dances. Musical instruments consist of kundu-style drums that are used to accompany dancing at feasts, Jew's harps, and flutes.

Medicine. Some traditional herbal medicines (unidentified) were ingested for stomach ailments and applied topically to wounds.

Death and Afterlife. People are believed to have a ghostly spirit that inhabits the body during life and leaves at death. Ghostly spirits become malevolent and are held responsible for illness and misfortune. After death and mourning rituals are complete, ghosts retreat to live in the mountains where they may take the forms of various plants and animals.

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