Koya - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Koyas believe that numerous supernaturals influence all things and events and can be summoned to aid humans if they are propitiated by sacrificial offerings of animals, grain, and liquor. Many Koya deities are female, the most important being the earth mother, the smallpox goddess, and the goddesses of the lineages and phratries. Male deities, such as the Lord of the Jungle and the Lord of Animals, are consorts of these goddesses. Ancestors are also deities, as are many natural objects.

Religious Practitioners. Sacrifices are carried out by the village priest and the lineage priests. Shamans divine the source of uninvited supernatural interference and prescribe remedial sacrifices for it. Sorcerers are illicit practitioners who compel supernaturals to attack one's enemies.

Ceremonies. At the center of every ceremony is a sacrifice in which the deity consumes the essence and leaves the consecrated substance for humans to feast on.

Arts. Apart from singing and dancing and the drawing of decorative designs on the floor with rice powder, Koyas have little in the way of artistic expression.

Medicine. Koyas think most disease is caused by malevolent deities, and when an illness cannot be cured by home remedies, they consult the shaman. They also have recourse to Hindu Ayurvedic practitioners, and in rare cases they will visit a government-run dispensary.

Death and Afterlife. Koyas do not believe in Heaven or Hell, and they also do not profess to believe in reincarnation, even though some of their practices imply it. When someone dies, his or her spirit lingers about the ancestor pot, patrols the sky over the village, or wanders about the village interfering with daily life, sometimes benevolently.

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