Orokolo - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Traditional Orokolo have no belief in a high god or gods, and, in some sense, the exact nature of their beliefs is rather vague. There is a fundamental animistic notion of a sort of mana or impersonal force present in certain objects. However, the most important aspects of their religion involve two categories of spirits: spirits of the dead, or ghosts; and spirits of the natural environment. While both groups are considered to be capable of affecting human affairs, the latter spirits—who once lived, whose exploits are told of in myth, and who now haunt parts of the natural environment—are the focus of most religious magic. Individuals seek to control events through partial reenactments of mythological episodes.

Religious Practitioners. While all people practice magic, there are part-time specialists who are acknowledged as particularly proficient in garden magic, in diagnosing and in treating sicknesses, and in sorcery.

Ceremonies. Traditional Orokolo ceremonial life is extremely rich and varied. Like all of the Elema people, Orokolo have a bullroarer cult and a series of elaborate ceremonies characterized by distinctive and ornate masks. For the Orokolo, the most important masked ceremonies are the kovave and hevehe. The latter ceremony involves a series of stages linked in a ritual cycle taking as long as twenty years to complete.

Arts. All sorts of mundane and ritual objects are Elaborately decorated by the Orokolo. Wooden objects, including musical instruments (especially bullroarers and drums), are often carved with stylistic designs. By far the most spectacular of the Orokolo decorative arts involves the large (9- or 10-foot) elaborately constructed and decorated hevehe masks.

Medicine. Traditional notions of medicine are related to the belief in sorcery. Medical practitioners are of two broad types: diagnosticians (locally known as "men who see sickness with their eyes") and actual practitioners (referred to as "men who treat sickness"). Treatments frequently involve "blood sucking" (removing surplus blood from areas where it is thought to cause pain and sickness), "phlegm sucking" (doctors spitting out mouthfuls of phlegm as if it had been drawn from the patient's body), and extraction of miscellaneous objects (like crocodile teeth or glass fragments) thought to have been introduced by a sorcerer.

Death and Afterlife. A death in the village generally results in the suspension of all but the most essential activities. Bodies are shallowly interred, traditionally within the village compound but now outside it, with feet facing the sea. Deaths are accompanied by considerable public mourning and a series of mortuary feasts. Spirits of the dead are thought to hover about their homes for a time, able to influence human affairs, before departing for a vague "land of the dead."

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: