The Religion of the Deng people

 

In spite of their small population the Deng people have their own spiritual practices that clearly differentiate them from their neighboring peoples.

For them, all things that exist in the world have their own spirit, even the dead. These spirits are everywhere; they can affect the people in diverse ways, particularly by provoking illness.

Their most important deity is a goddess who lives high in the mountains. Other minorities linguistically related to them pay homage also to creator goddesses, a sure vestige of their original matriarchal society. Although she doesn't have authority over other gods, the Deng people respect her above all else, because they believe that she can bring them misfortune.

When a person dies, its soul abandons the dead body. The Deng believe that, if the soul stays among the living people, it can cause them damage. So, they carry out different ceremonies aimed at sending the soul away to the world of the spirits as soon as possible. These souls have their own necessities, and to satisfy them, they don't care if harm comes to the people.

The Deng people ask the soul to depart as soon as possible after the death of a person, and they try to forget him/her as soon as possible. Before, dead people were usually buried inside a coffin. Later on this practice was replaced by cremation. After cremation, the ashes are buried or are spread by the wind.

The Deng believe that there are spirits of different sizes. Big ones and small ones. They believe that these spirits eat meat, and they perform offering ceremonies to them according to their size. Chickens for the small ones, pigs for the big ones, and a cow for the biggest. All these offering ceremonies should be directed by a priest.

The ceremony called Deya is the most important among the Deng known by the name Darang. It takes a long time; sometimes they spend several years preparing it. During this ceremony several cows are sacrificed, in addition to pigs, chickens, wild animals, and dry rats. A favorable date is looked for and the relatives are notified by means of knotted strings. Every day a knot is loosened and when there are no knots remaining it is the day of the celebration. The friends and relatives should arrive one day before the sacrifice of the cows. The host invites them to eat meat and to take home portions. During these ceremonies a large part of the meager wealth of the Darang is expended.

When a man dies his relatives don't work for 11 days, if a woman dies, they stop work for only one day.

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