Cuiva - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Cuiva cosmology provides a series of precepts on the order and general causes of things, which forms a system of explanation for human action and which in turn can be taken as a moral guide for conduct. In its simplest form, the logical ordering of the world resembles the yin/yang principle known from parts of Asia: a world made of differences and opposites with each element of a contrast existing in total dependence on and unison with its counterpart. The world is in a state of equilibrium between equal parts, an equilibrium that should never be broken. And as such, the world is eternal: consumed, animals and plants do return, and people are reincarnated. Society as a whole appeared at the beginning of time and has remained unchanged. These are the more fundamental notions of the cosmology, which, in practice, become sets of personal beliefs with considerable individual variations. There is no institutionalized religious authority in society, and no one is specifically responsible for preserving the doctrine.

Ceremonies. There are two communal rituals: one celebrating female puberty and the other organized whenever food is especially abundant and there are enough willing participants in camp. Both rituals are special occasions that can be deeply religious experiences but that also provide opportunities for communal feasting and rejoicing.

Arts. Cuiva expressive arts leave no material trace, as they take the form of body painting, communal dancing, and various types of singing ranging from set and highly repetitive patterns of dance songs to improvised and personal ballads usually performed in the calm of the evening. The Cuiva would add to this list the ability to converse, talk, discuss, and joke with others, which, to them, is very much an art.

Medicine. Without external interferences, the human body would neither age, suffer from disease, or die. These threatening interferences can come naturally from the malevolent forces of the world or may be sent by an enemy. The ability to control these malevolent forces, whether to harm or to cure, stems from knowledge of the world and is thus available to all but increases with age: anyone can cure—this is not the role of any specialist—but the Cuiva say only someone older than the patient can really be effective (this explains why illness in older people is so often fatal).

Death and Afterlife. A corpse is incinerated and a part of the "soul" follows the smoke into the sky, where it can be seen at night in the Milky Way and where it awaits its return to society in the form of a new embryo.

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