Melanesian Rituals And Beliefs Essay

977 words - 4 pages

One of the fundamental aspects of the Melanesian religion is the fact that their society, culture and religion are interdependent. If one aspect stood alone the society would collapse. So when considering if belief and ritual are the foundations of the pacific societies you must also consider the way in which their society and culture influences them in what they believe and also the rituals they perform.The main pacific society we have been studying in class is the Mae Enga people who live in the Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Over the centuries the Enga people have adapted certain cultural characteristics to cope with varying environmental and social changes. Some aspects of the ...view middle of the document...

Only a human can become an active ghost. However, some creatures also posses an individual spirit. These include pigs, dogs, cassowaries and possums - all of which are socially, ritually or economically significant in the culture. Ghosts have the ability to perceive human thoughts, and influence both positively and negatively a person's activities. They regard ghosts as mostly malevolent (never kind). However, they can be benevolent, for example, assist a clan in a fight or help to acquire pigs in an exchange. Most injuries, illnesses, and deaths are attributed to ghosts. They employ a variety of ritual techniques to drive them away.Mae Enga along with other Melanesian societies believe in a term known as Mana. It is a power, influence or excellence. It is not physical, and in a way supernatural, it shows it self in a physical force. Mana may act through the medium of water, or a stone, or a bone. Codrington emphasizes Mana as 'an invisible medium or power or a substance which Melanesians attempt to obtain in order to experience an abundant life'. Roger Keesing has a different view of Mana, that is, he sees Mana 'more as a verb or a quality: things and human enterprises and effectors are Mana, or ancestors and spirits manaize people and their effectors'. Finally Wayne Dye says that 'Mana is a kind of force'.For Enga the natural world is alive and endowed with incredible power. The sprits, the ghosts, the sky dwellers - all confirm the belief in a relationship or a link between the empirical and non-empirical worlds.In the minds of Melanesians there is a connection between rituals and Life (meaning both biological existence and cosmic renewal). Rituals bring Life, they make Life possible, and they...

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