Muyu - Religion and Expressive Culture

Today, most Muyu are Roman Catholics. In the past, their traditional religion included beliefs in divine and other supernatural beings, myths about the origin of the Muyu and their way of life, religious ceremonies, religious-medical practices, etc. There was no uniformity throughout the entire region, which is not surprising, considering the dispersed settlement patterns, the open structure of the lineage, the many trade contacts, the marriage system, and the individualistic way in which knowledge of the supernatural was transferred. Some traditional religious beliefs and practices are maintained beside the Christian beliefs and practices.

Religious Beliefs. The Roman Catholic version of the Christian religion was brought by West European (Dutch) missionaries with the help of Indonesian (Kaiese) catechists and schoolteachers. This gave a special character to the contents of the Christian message and practice, which did not replace the existing religion but added new ideas and practices to it. For the central Muyu, Komot is the most important Supernatural being. The myths tell how he arranged the life of the Muyu as it was. Komot has also great signifance for the hunt. An important myth for most of the Muyu is that about Kamberap, a primeval man from whom both the sacral pig and the regular domesticated pig originated. This myth explains that all the foreigners and their wealth originated from the Muyu area. In connection with these ideas the Muyu believe that the foreigners keep secret the way in which they get their knowledge and wealth. In several salvation movements (cargo cults) the Muyu tried with supernatural means to discover the secret and obtain the same wealth, knowledge, and position as the foreigners. These ideas are still present even if they do not find expression in salvation movements, though they probably did play a role in the decision to flee to Papua New Guinea in 1984. In addition to the Christian God, Supernatural beings of the traditional religion play a role in daily village life, including Komot and the spirits of deceased ancestors, especially those of rich ones. They help if the Muyu live according to the rules and cause illness and death if the Muyu break the rules.

Religious Practitioners. There were no traditional Religious specialists. The ceremonies, such as the slaughtering of the sacral pig ( yawarawon ) and the initiation of boys with the swinging of the bullroarer ( mulin ) and the playing of the sacral flutes ( konkomok ) can be arranged by any adult. Knowledge about the supernatural is transferred in an Individualistic way from father to son and mother to daughter. Magic stones or formulas can also be bought from other People. Roman Catholic religion is taught by the catechists, schoolteachers, and priests, who also organize and lead the ceremonies. Most of the catechists and some of the schoolteachers are Muyu. Priests are either Dutch settlers or Indonesians from other islands.

Ceremonies. The Roman Catholic church follows the church calendar, though in remote villages not all the Ceremonies are always held, as the priests can only visit the Villages once every several months. Traditional ceremonies are still held, such as those for the pig feasts, the boys' initiations, and certain illnesses.

Arts. The Muyu culture is not artistically rich. Material objects include the short hand drums with some decoration and the big shields from behind which the warriors could shoot their arrows. They also have songs and dances, which are not yet described.

Medicine. Several cures are based on the idea that the spirits of deceased ancestors ( tawat ) have caused the diseases. No cures are known for diseases inflicted by sorcery. These afflictions will cease only if the person who applied the means ( mitim ) retrieves it from the position in which he placed it to cause the disease. Through the missionaries and the government, modern medicines were introduced, especially in the modest hospital at Mindiptana.

Death and Afterlife. As soon as someone dies, his next of kin are informed, even if they live in other settlements. If they don't live too far away, they will come to view the deceased, and the women will take part in the lamentations. To express sorrow one may try also to avoid being suspected of causing death. In former times the body could be buried, dried over a fire, or wrapped and left to dry by itself. In the latter case the body was usually laid on a rack near the dwelling. After some time, when there was an occasion during a pig feast, the bones were rubbed with pig's fat and buried. Today, the bodies are only buried under pressure from the government. The reason behind the more extensive treatment of the body was not just love for the deceased but also fear of his tawat. If the spirit is not satisfied, there will be harmful consequences for pig raising and horticulture. In traditional religious beliefs the spirits of the deceased went to a special dwelling place for tawat, a settlement like those of the living but with a carefree existence. In general the idea of the dwelling place of the dead was not important to the Muyu. Far more significant was, and is, the idea that the spirits continue to play an important part in the daily lives of the living. The Christian ideas of Heaven and Hell are now also playing a role, though it is not yet clear which ideas are predominant. Today, the Roman Catholic burial Ceremonies are used if a catechist, school teacher, or priest is available.

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