Thadou - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. The god Pathen is believed by the Thadou to have created everything. He is also believed to be the ruler of the universe. Sacrifice is offered to Pathen for health or assistance in time of trouble. Thunder and lightning are manifestations of Pathen's anger. Beings of a more malevolent nature are also a part of Thadou cosmology. These are the Thailhas. Earthquakes, according to one myth, are believed to be caused by Chongja (elder brother of Chongthu, primordial ancestor of the Thadou), who failed to lead his party from the Underworld along with that of Chongthu in order to establish life on Earth. Chongja shakes the Earth from his Underworld home in order to make certain that the party of Chongthu is still alive.

Religious Practitioners . The thempu (medicine man/priest) is the chief religious practitioner of the Thadou. This individual functions in a variety of capacities and in a number of settings. He prepares charms, manufactures household gods, offers sacrifices, administers oaths, and participates in ceremonies associated with certain life crises (e.g., birth and death).

Ceremonies. A variety of Thadou magicoreligious Ceremonies may be noted. Among the more important individually sponsored ceremonies are the following: Chang Ai (offered only by women and intended to secure a preferential place in Mithikho, the afterworld, after death); Sha Ai (a feast offered by men who have killed all, or at least some, of the various dangerous animals known to the Thadou); and Chon (a very important feast that may be offered only by those who have offered the Sha Ai feast three times; it ensures the sponsor eternal happiness in Mithikho). Additional village ceremonies are performed by the thempu for a variety of reasons (e.g., to secure the village from disease and to protect it from the incursion of evil spirits). Other ceremonies are associated with the agricultural cycle (e.g., the Daiphu ceremony that accompanies the burning of a field and the Changlhakou ceremony that follows the reaping and storing of the rice crop).

Arts. Thadou visual art is not well attested. Tattooing may be cited as one example, but it is practiced to a very limited extent. Thadou oral literature is, however, rich in folklore. As art forms, music (vocal and instrumental) and dance are important elements in the magicoreligious ceremonies of the Thadou.

Medicine. The Thadou believe that illness is caused by Supernatural forces and resort to ceremonial (magicoreligious) methods of treatment almost exclusively. Medicinal plants are used to a very limited extent. The success of European medicine is accounted for, in the Thadou worldview, by the European discovery of odors that repel particular disease-bearing spirits.

Death and Afterlife. The Thadou believe that the spirits of the dead move on to Mithikho, the village of the dead, after their earthly existence has ended.

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