Gender and Religion

Btsisi' place great emphasis on the couple as the most important relationship in Btsisi' society. This notion is followed through in the belief system with God being both female or male. "How could it be anything other than this?," Btsisi' say. Ancestors (Moyang), who can be male or female, also have spouses. Two of the most prominent Moyang, Moyang Mlur and Moyang Lunyot, are husband and wife. This couple is responsible for providing Btsisi' with the rules of humanity (adat), which prescribed who people can and cannot marry. The emphasis on couples persists in the ideology of the shaman's spirit familiar. Most often, the spirit familiar is of the opposite sex of the shaman and has a metaphorical marital relationship with the shaman.

Btsisi' trimbow ("sacred origin stories") relate the creation of the world and humanity. The trimbow begins by describing the creation of humanity when God and God's assistant, a jin (genie) were alone in the world. The jin molded "heavenly earth" into a figure which God gifted with "life's breath." The jin then made a second figure to be a "companion" to the first. Both figures were molded from the same substance even though they were created separately. The story is unclear as to whether the male or female figure was made first. These figures were the parents of Pagar Buyok and her younger brother Busuh, the "original siblings" whose descendants populated the world.

Following a great deluge, the original sibling pair circled a mountain, the last remaining dry land, in search of mates. They discovered that they were the only remaining people in the world, so God allowed them to marry. Btsisi' celebrate the sibling couple by singing and dancing the main jo'oh. People dance around a busut ("mound") symbolizing the center of the world, the mountain the siblings circled around. Women dance in an inner circle around the mound with men in a circle outside the women's. Women in the inner circle are closer to the busut, suggesting that they are closer to the cosmic center than men. Women and men dance around the mountain in the same direction to avoid the possibility of brother and sister symbolically meeting.

Shamans are essential to rituals such as weddings and curing ceremonies. Women do not desire to become a shaman. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this is because women have another more direct route to the spirit world through their menstrual blood. Menstruating women do not bathe in rivers. Their blood opens a path directly to the spirit world. Thus women have an innate ability to communicate with the ancestors. Women do become midwives although, as is the case for shamans, fewer and fewer desire to learn the body of knowledge.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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