Jingpo religion: a world full of spirits

 

For the Jingpo each person is divided in body and soul. When a person dreams is because the soul has abandoned the body. If the soul doesn't find anything interesting during its trip, the person will not remember the dream, but if there is an interesting experience, it will be remembered on awaking. That is why the dreams are very important amongst the Jingpo, who study its ominous or auspicious character. It has made them develop some keys in interpreting dreams. For instance, if a person dreams with a knife or a rifle, it is a sign that the person will have a son; if a person dreams with a lot of cucumbers or pumpkins; it is a sign of suffering and a bad prophecy. In that case, a wizard is called for praying to the spirits. If not, one runs the risk of some possible death.

After the death of a person, his soul leaves his body, and goes to the Kingdom of the Shadows, where he will meet with his ancestors. According to their tradition, the Jingpo come from the North and therefore, after death, the spirit should travel Northwards. As it is a very negative circumstance for a dead soul to stay among the living, many different rituals are carried out to show the soul the way to the ancestors' land.

At every Jingpo's home there is a house of the spirits to which strangers are not allowed in. They believe that the human being is just another of the beings belonging to Mother Nature and that each thing has its own spirit. Consequently, there are over 100 deities in their pantheons divided into deities of nature and of the society.

In general, there are three types of deities.

Celestial Gods, as the God of Heaven, the God of Wind, the God of the Sun, the God of the Moon and the God of the Thunder.

Earthly Gods, as the God of the Water, the God of the Fire and the God of the Grain.
Among all them the most important is the God of the Sun. In order to be able to obtain the beneficial influence of so many deities, they kept strictly a number of taboos.

They have also some goddess as: the Mother Creator, partner in creating the world; the Goddess of the Kitchen, the Goddess of Intelligence, of Music, of Memory and of Maternity.

Among the Jingpo there are some different kind of people specialized in dealing with the world of the spirits.

The most important of them are the Zhaiwa. They are familiar with the history, myths, rituals and culture of the Jingpo, and they were, in the old days, a real centre of power second only to the village chefs.

The Dongsha also deal with the spiritual realm. In every village there was also a Dongsha. Among them there are three categories: the Big Dongshas, the Dongshas and the Little Dongshas. The first one are specialized in heaven rituals, the other two perform ceremonies of less importance. In fact, the little Dongshas, cannot slaughter cows or pigs, they can offer only chickens, dry fish and rats.

The Dongshas also have some sort of helpers called Qiangzhong, who are in charge of preparing the objects used for the offering. On a lower scale, the Mitui, only carry out minor rituals.

At each village, there is a sort of temple called Nengdang, which is usually made of straw, without any walls and situated on the outskirts of the village. From them, cow and pig skulls are hanged.

Their religious activities of the Jingpo were very developed. Before the implementation of the Communist reforms, some ceremonies were reported where as many as 27 cows were sacrificed.

After them their beliefs have been affected by the communist regime. Their religion was considered to be superstitious and their rituals, a waste of resources.

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