Trio - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Traditional beliefs centered on the existence of an invisible world, a counterpart to this world. It was in that world that the causes and reasons of the happenings in the mundane world of the ordinary senses were to be found. The counterpart world was inhabited by innumerable spirits, although only a limited number of these were regarded as being influential in human affairs. Spirits were traditionally regarded as being ambivalent—neither good nor bad. The missionaries have taught the Indians that all their traditional spirits are bad.

Religious Practitioners. The shaman, almost invariably a man, was responsible for mediating between this world and the invisible world. The most important qualification for the shaman was his ability to "see." The shaman's duty was to deal with misfortune, sickness, and death. He was aided by spirit helpers, and he traveled to different layers of the cosmos. The shaman's power was suspect, since it was appreciated that the power to cure was also the power to kill. There are no practicing shamans among the Trio today.

Ceremonies. The Trio performed various life-cycle and seasonal ceremonies. The former included the couvade at childbirth; initiation rites, which were more marked for girls than for boys; and funeral rites. The seasonal ceremonies were related to the hunting and agricultural year and often entailed the attendance of visitors from neighboring villages. These events involved the consumption of huge quantities of cassava beer. The ceremonies have mainly fallen into abeyance except that Christmas festivities are still characterized by certain traditional practices.

Arts. Dancing, music, and chanting were important parts of ritual life, but missionaries banned the first two and replaced the last with hymn singing. Body painting, featherwork, the decoration of basketwork, and other ornamentations are all part of the Trio artistic tradition.

Medicine. The Trio had numerous herbal and other remedies with which they treated minor ailments. Serious ailments were thought to be the result of soul loss, occasioned by malevolent spirits or people, and treatment by a shaman was required. The missionaries now provide excellent medical care, but the old ideas have not disappeared.

Death and Afterlife. Death, like sickness—of which it was a more severe case—was not regarded as a natural event but as the result of spirit or human action. A death usually involved retaliation by revenge cursing. The corpse was normally buried in the floor of the house, which was then abandoned. The soul of the deceased traveled to the soul reservoir at the eastern horizon. The missionaries have dissuaded the Indians from interring corpses in the house and have taught them that the souls of the good join God in the sky and those of the wicked burn in hell.

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