Tairora - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. The Tairora cosmos is filled with supernatural beings of a wide variety, including ghosts, monstrous anthropomorphs, localized nature spirits, and zoomorphic forest spirits. Men's house rites draw on a generalized force available through ancestors, and diverse types of magic are employed by individuals. Since 1940 in the north and the 1960s in the south, a variety of Christian missions have operated, with a decreasing north-south gradient in numbers of converts.

Religious Practitioners. Most adult Tairora have knowledge of spells and magic to meet their individual needs. Knowledgeable elders of both sexes conduct rituals and ceremonies at the hamlet or settlement level, and some Individuals are noted diviners and shamans. Nowadays, too, many setdements have resident mission catechists.

Ceremonies. Life-cycle ceremonies include feasts for babies after they emerge from seclusion houses; septum- and ear-piercing (for both sexes, traditionally); first-menstruation and nubility rites; a two-stage sequence of male initiation; weddings; and funerals. Seasonal yam and winged-bean festivals and peacemaking ceremonies draw communities Together, as did periodic renewal ceremonies in the north. Recently in the north, public community dance festivals have become a source of income, with outsiders being charged admission.

Arts. As with other New Guinea highlanders, plastic arts play a limited role in Tairora artistic life; apart from Individual costuming and ornamentation on ceremonial occasions, decoration is largely restricted to string bags, arrows, and shields, though in the north men wore wooden frames with painted bark panels on occasions of public dancing. Jew's harps are played occasionally as private entertainment; Otherwise only hour-glass drums supplement the human voice. Several genres of oral literature provide evening household entertainment and instruction during ceremonies.

Medicine. Their natural environment supplies the Tairora with an extensive range of medicines, which most individuals obtain and administer themselves. Some individuals of both sexes are renowned diagnosticians and curers. Nowadays, most settlements have or are near a mission- or government-run medical aid post.

Death and Afterlife. Wakes are held for several days, at the conclusion of which the ghost possesses a local resident who transports it out of the settlement to begin its journey to the land of the dead, located to the northeast in the Markham Valley. There it will live a life that replicates the ordinary world, complete with gardens and pigs. The corpse left behind is traditionally buried in a grave with its individual fence on clan land.

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