Gender and Religion

Men commanded most of the formal ritual and ceremonial of a community, much of which was staged in the name of the men's Tamberan cult. Women had their own tamberans—childbirth, girl's puberty rites, and the ritual dyeing of skirts, but men still played prominent roles in the first two of these.

The Arapesh had no conception of an original human, male or female. The principle spiritual agencies were ancestral spirits, walinab spirits, and the wareh (or Tamberan) spirit. Ancestral spirits were male or female according to their gender in life. Walinab spirits, which featured as characters in myth and as spirits of the stream and bush, were associated in a vague unspecified way with ancestral spirits and were also either male or female. Embodied in a noise-making device such as a flute or bullroarer, however, the Tamberan spirit, the patron of the men's cult, was genderless—or, more accurately, both male and female. There appears to have been no formal ranking of these agencies, but the Tamberan was considered especially important as the agent responsible for people's growth and welfare. Although women were said to have their own tamberans, the reference was not to spirits per se but rather to important ritual acts.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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