Barí - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. The universe is composed of various levels, of which this is the middle. A culture hero (Sabaseba, "Old Wind") is responsible for much of the form of this world and for the practices of the Barí. These traditional beliefs are now mixing with criollo folk Catholicism. In addition to various culture heroes, there are beings who live under the ground, in the rivers, and in trees.

Religious Practitioners. The Barí had no religious specialists, although some elderly people were especially wise.

Ceremonies. The only important traditional ceremony was held when some or all the members of one local group visited another local group. Guests sang in turn with hosts of the same sex, while swinging back and forth in hammocks; the men's hammocks were slung as high as possible in the longhouse, the women's just clearing the floor. After singing, the pairs exchanged theoretically equal gifts—arrows between men, skirts between women. The songs sung by each pair were chosen according to their sex and whether they were sagdojira or okjibara to each other. In some cases the singing and gift exchange preceded a marriage or change of local-group affiliation; in others it appears to have been of little consequence. The ceremony is still practiced in Colombia but has been absent in Venezuela since the 1970s.

Arts. The Barí had virtually no plastic arts. Some ceremonial songs were in archaic Barí-aa, but many were hardly more than lists of place-names or daily activities.

Medicine. Death could seize people by the hand or copulate with them in their sleep. Spitting of tobacco juice on an ill or endangered person (such as a girl having her first period) helped to prevent aggravation of the condition.

Death and Afterlife. After death, one goes beyond the horizon to live a life much like the present one.

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