Religious Beliefs. The majority of the Manam are nominally Catholic, but various indigenous beliefs and practices based on supernatural spirits and powers are still meaningful, Masalai (Tok Pisin), which are culture heros and ancestors, are important supernatural beings. Masalai easily change from human to animal or inanimate form. Masalai snakes are particularly important as they are associated with the origin of the Manam people. The most important Culture hero is Zaria, a female believed to inhabit the volcano and to be the source of its fire. Since the end of World War II interest in various millenarian movements has periodically surfaced. At present, in addition to Catholicism, Seventh-Day Adventists and several evangelical sects also have a small number of followers.
Religious Practitioners. There are no formal religious positions, but some individuals inherit supernatural power ( marou ) from their ancestors that enables them to perform canoe magic, influence the winds, ensure an abundance of tobacco, etc. A tanepoa labalaba in particular is thought to have the power to ensure the fertility of crops and the well-being of his villagers. Through trances, aeno aine or "sleep women" are believed to be able to mediate between the living and the dead to determine the cause of illness.
Ceremonies. Individual life-cycle events such as birth, puberty, marriage, and death are marked with special rituals. Each village holds an annual New Year's celebration known as "Barasi" in May or June. The most frequent intervillage ceremony is a type of dance and pig exchange called a buleka. Christian holidays such as Christmas and Easter are also observed.
Arts. Music and singing are the dominant arts. In addition to their aesthetic role, they have important political and Economic functions. Dance, with men as the primary performers, is also a major art and new dance complexes are important trade items. Carving, an artform with a traditional iconography, is of minor importance.
Medicine. The Manam follow both indigenous and Western medical practices. Belief that pollution from blood, semen, and certain foods can be the cause of illness is Gradually disappearing, but illness and death are still not believed to occur naturally. To the Manam they indicate a moral imbalance in the social world of the individual. Indigenous medical practices include the performance of curing ceremonies to reveal the social conflict causing an individual's illness. Most Manam also use the services of the government-sponsored clinic run by the Catholic sisters.
Death and Afterlife. Immediately upon death individuals gather to wail, sing mourning songs, and "give face" at the home of the deceased. People sleep outside the deceased's home until after the funeral feast has been held, approximately five days later. A second funeral rite should occur Several years later when the deceased's relatives hold a special feast to commemorate the dead. The dead are believed to continue to exist as spirits who communicate through dreams and influence events in the world of the living.