Dulong's traditional religion

 

The Dulong still maintain their traditional spiritual traditions, an animism that considers all things to be embodied with spirit, including the phenomena of nature and their ancestors.

Officially considered to be animist, we need to stress the ethnocentric bias of this word. Even the world religion is not apt to define the complex spiritual world of the Dulong people. We can say that they are still capable of see the spirits of nature phenomena, animals and plants; a capacity that the modern man lost generations away, and that they have survive in isolated environments thanks to their ability.

Inner forces of nature are presents in everyday life of the Dulong, some of them are even capable of see the energy of these forces, and to change the way they can affect a sick person. A complex set of practices and exercises, formerly extended round the world, known to the western minds as shamanism.

Integrate the overpowering nature in human beings daily life requires a set of behavior rules that keep the equilibrium, what to the an outsider are seen as rituals and taboos.

Dulong religion is tightly bound to their daily lives, in such a way that most of their regular activities are carried out according to norms sanctified by their tradition. Illness and other misfortunes are attributed to demons and ghosts. To help the common person survive in this world inhabited by ghosts, shamans direct the rites to obtain the favor of the spirits, generally including offerings of wine and the sacrifice of chickens, pigs and cows.

There are two kinds of shamans, those referred to as Namusa, who can cure illness, and those referred to as Duomusa, who specialize in incantations and curses. They are not free from regular economic activities; when they are not performing their religious activities, they work as do the rest of the people.

Their main gods are:

Jubolang, god of the mountains;
Shenghua, god of the trees;
Waqiang Bulang, god of the waters;
and the Goddess of the Forests.

They believe that each wicked spirit can cause a certain illness. Pomolang is thought to be responsible for pain in the gut, Mulang for pain in the eyes and head and Jibulang for other illnesses in general.

The cult of the ancestors is framed by this animism. In their funeral ceremonies the Dulong try to lead the dead to the land of the ancestors, thus preventing their ghosts from bothering the living. A person is generally buried with all their belongings, since they believe that these things also contain spirit power. They then hold a great party during which time nobody works.

Sometimes, instead of burying the dead, cremation of the body or a "water funeral" is carried out.

In the religious world of the Dulong it is important to consult the spirits on numerous occasions. For this they have developed a series of systems of divination, such as:

Divination with the rooster: This works by catching a rooster by the neck, and suffocating it. Then the shaman takes it by the claws with his hand, and gives it several turns before releasing it. If, at the end, the claws meet, it is auspicious; if not, disastrous.

Divination by eggs: This works by the pressing of an egg by the fortune-teller when the person asks a question. If he breaks it, this implies a favorable response.

Divination with water: it consists on interpreting the waves that arise in a bowl of water placed in a plane surface. If they go in the direction towards the fortune-teller it is good, if not, disastrous.

Divination by millet grains: They use this method to determine whether or not it is auspicious to go out hunting or to erect a house.

Other methods of divination are carried out with bamboo sticks, with bamboo tips or with a knife.

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