Barama River Carib - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. The Barama River Carib are acquainted with major Christian beliefs, but retain their own now minor spirits. They also have their own narratives about their origin and how their low status in the plural society of Guyana came about. The Barama River Carib reinterpret Christian stories. For example, they portray Noah as an average Carib woman who along with her husband was saved from the flood because she offered food to a stranger who turned out to be the Western paternal deity in disguise.

Religious Practitioners. A few elderly men among the Barama River Carib are known as shamans with expertise in magic and divination. These men have not participated in the new activities at the mines and the air strip. The shamans are both feared and ignored by different segments of the population at different times.

Ceremonies. The paramount Barama River Carib ceremony is the cassiri spree. In preparation, women make cassiri, a mildly alcoholic drink, by chewing cassava bread so that mouth enzymes change the cassava's carbohydrates to sugar. With this fermentation agent, the cassiri is ready in a few days. Singing and dancing continue as long as the cassiri lasts. A spree may be held at any time, and all national holidays are observed with a cassiri spree.

Arts. The development of arts is not marked among the Barama River Carib. When pregnant and yearning to have a healthy child, women occasionally fashion out of beeswax dolls that fit in the palm of their hands. These dolls are eventually discarded. The Barama River Carib also make small clay animals, which are children's toys as long as they last.

Medicine. The government provides malaria eradication, clinics, a medical ranger, and emergency air transportation to the hospital in the capital, Georgetown. The Barama River Carib intermittently use local medicaments prepared from flora and fauna for ailments and injuries.

Death and Afterlife. The Barama River Carib believe that after death a person's good half returns to the source of all life, whereas the remaining half lingers around and may cause harm to the living. Traditionally, the Barama River Carib would bury the dead in their household and leave the settlement before dark. In the more permanent, larger settlements around the airstrip, they retain their apprehension about those who have died but have found the remote graveyard is a modern solution.

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