Religious Beliefs. Nearly all Marshall Islanders now anchor part of their identity in one of several forms of Christian belief, but indigenous interpretations of these beliefs differ substantially from common European and American significances. The traditional polytheistic pantheon included Numerous deities, local and regional, female and male, with specialized domains of control. Many major deities are represented by constellations that figure significantly in the cycle of renewal and regeneration that secures the future of earthly life. Other deities were local in character and were associated with local shrines—coral heads, pools of brackish water in the open sea, pandanus, or coconut trees. Ancestor spirits, now as in the past, continue to interact with living Humans and mediate between the daily actions of living humans and the sets of taboos and moral guidelines set by highranked deities.
Religious Practitioners. Traditional religious specialists have been replaced with indigenous Christian mission pastors, but seers, curers, purveyors of evil magic, and weather magicians are still common.
Ceremonies. Ku rijmoj, the local celebration of "Christmas", with many weeks of singing and dancing competitions, feasting, and accompanying exchanges and games, is the largest ritual event. Each extended family or lineage segment also sponsors large first-birthday celebrations after the birth of a child.
Arts. Traditionally, Marshall Islanders fashioned the body into an ornate object of artistic and social expression with tattoos. Outlawed by mission and government restrictions, forms of artistic expression are now largely musical, though dance (once frowned on by missionaries) is making a resurgence, and Marshallese handicraft items, mats, and finely crafted sailing canoes are respected throughout the Pacific.
Medicine. Indigenous herbal medicines ingested or rubbed on the body, massage, and incanted cures are freely mixed with the suggestions of local health aides.
Death and Afterlife. Death, the appropriation of the breath and life's force from living humans, results from the actions of other beings, either living or dead. People carry many of their personality characteristics with them after death. They continue to interact with the living, though their physical features become desiccated, and their vaporous beings are not easily controlled by the living. Recently dead community members remain nearby, often sanctioning those who misbehave. Certain people are protected by recently dead namesakes or close relatives, but other cantankerous ancestral spirits may frighten people, not to sanction them, but to maintain their ambivalent reputations amongst the living. The most dangerous spirits are believed to come to an atoll from outside, often bringing misfortune, illness, or death.