Mandak - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Christian missions were established in the Mandak area in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Today, most of the Mandak are nominally Members of a Christian sect, Methodists and Roman Catholics predominating. In addition, many people adhere in varying degrees to views of a world inhabited by a variety of nonhuman spirits, most of which are dangerous to humans who come into contact with them. Each clan has one or more powerful spirits or power embodied in an animal form, in sea life, or in a landscape feature on clan land. Spirits of the dead, particularly those of individuals who died a violent death, can be a source of danger to humans who encounter them. Unseen power or energy is thought to be a source of varied forms of control by humans who know how to direct it through magic spells. The use of magic, for both positive and negative purposes, is a common subject of concern in Mandak lives.

Religious Practitioners. Most adult men and women are thought to possess some magic spells, although only some men are capable of performing stronger forms of sorcery, Ritual empowerment, and such specialized forms of magic as used in shark catching, sea becalming, and weather control. Village church leaders are usually from among the local male population.

Ceremonies. Ceremonial life focuses on mortuary feasts, of which there are various forms, including: the burial of a deceased individual; later mortuary feasts relevant to a single deceased individual; and large-scale clan-sponsored mortuary ceremonies involving dances and distribution of pigs, taro, and sweet potatoes. Malagan ceremonies occur in this area, although unevenly since the 1950s. Malagan refers to both a material object—carved wood or woven; mask, figure, or frieze—and its attendant rituals, usually as part of a largescale mortuary ceremony.

Arts. The major artistic focus here involves malagan Productions. Men's or women's songs and accompanying dances are important features of final mortuary ceremonies.

Death and Afterlife. The Mandak subscribe to a variety of beliefs concerning death and afterlife, from Christian doctrines to pre-Christian beliefs. In regard to the latter, an Individual's spirit becomes either a restless, roaming spirit if the individual died a violent death (as from sorcery, accident, murder) or a more peaceful spirit, believed formerly to go to small nearby islands. Either type of spirit can serve as an aid to the living in various forms of magic and ritual or as a source of new ritual or song-dance.

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