September 28, 2010

Hari Ragat: Gods & Religion

The Vijadesan people practice a henotheistic religion so ancient and pervasive it has no name.  The entities venerated in this religion fall into three broad classes: the gods or Batarahs, the Diwatas who are guardians of nature, and the ancestral Anito spirits.  In addition, the Vijadesans hold certain animals to be of divine nature and look to them for omens.

Batarahs

The Vijadesans recognize fifteen Batarahs:

  1. Aman Bathala, the Creator, god of fate and the law

  2. Inang Silangan, goddess of the sun and the dawn, wife of Aman Bathala, mother of many  gods

  3. Apu Laut, god of the seas and marine life, eldest son of Aman Bathala

  4. Tala, goddess of the stars, wife of Apu Laut

  5. Maragayon, god of iron-working and warriors, god of men’s dances, son of Aman Bathala

  6. Lakapati, goddess of farming, wife of Maragayon, god of women’s dances, daughter of Aman Bathala

  7. Mayari, goddess of the moon, the tides, and passions, and thus of poetry and music as well, daughter of Apu Laut

  8. Lalahon, temperamental goddess of volcanoes and earthquakes, daughter of Aman Bathala

  9. Amihan, god of the dry eastern monsoon, friend of sailors, son of Apu Laut

  10. Habagat, god of the wet and stormy western monsoon, feared by sailors  but invoked by farmers to bring rain, son of Apu Laut

  11. Amansinaya, god of boatbuilding and navigation, son of Apu Laut

  12. Tulus, god of wild beasts and hunting, son of Aman Bathala

  13. Irawan, god of crafts and trade, god of cockfighting, son of Aman Bathala

  14. Anumati, goddess of weaving and the household arts, wife of Irawan, daughter of Aman Bathala

  15. Galura, a divine bird that is part rooster, part eagle, who serves as messenger to all other gods and is also the god of thunder and lightning; created by Aman Bathala

The Batarahs are honored with periodic offerings of fruit, grain, flowers, and on special occasions, the sacrifice of a large animal such as a pig or buffalo.  Other religious observances include animal fights – fights between bulls, horses, and roosters being especially popular – and the singing of epic verses.

Aside from their own holy days, various gods may be offered to when setting out on a long journey, building and dedicating a house, and during rites of passage such as birth, coming of age, marriage and funerals. For example, a smith will always offer to Maragayon before starting to forge a new sword, and perhaps to Irawan as well to help him make the sword a work of fitting beauty.

Diwatas

The Diwatas are a broad class of nature spirits, some of them powerful enough to be considered minor gods.  Each Diwata is believed to claim some natural feature or locale as their territory; there are Diwatas for each mountain, river, and lake, and many lesser Diwatas who hold only a single tree or pool as their domain.

All are highly mercurial, quick to punish with terrible curses when slighted, but equally ready to lavish extravagant rewards when pleased.  It is customary to offer to the Diwatas of a place when entering its territory, or when it is believed a Diwata has been offended; the offering may be as simple as a flower found by the wayside, while placatory offerings may consist of chickens, goats, hogs or cattle, even on occasion the life of the offender.

Anitos

Virtuous people are said to become Anito spirits when they die, and every family venerates its own line of ancestral Anitos.  Anitos have a limited power to protect their living descendants, usually by blessing them with a little extra luck, and at times giving warning of disaster through animal omens and messengers. 

Reverence for the Anitos is shown by proper respect for family elders, and periodic offerings of food and drink during festivals.  Whenever a Vijadesan household throws a feast, a table of food and wine is set aside for the family’s anitos, and it is widely believed that should the table be upset or any of the offerings spilled, misfortune will follow.

Sacred Animals

  1. Gamecocks: gamecocks are the children of Galura, and the symbol of manly courage; killing a gamecock for food is bad luck, and slighting or injuring another man’s gamecock is considered a mortal insult.

  2. White Animal: any specimen of animal born white, where the species is not naturally white, is considered blessed by the spirits or may even be a spirit or Diwata in disguise.  This is specially true of white deer and boar.  It is considered bad luck to harm a white wild animal, and good luck to keep a white domestic animal, e.g. a white buffalo, a white rooster, etc. etc.  On the other hand, the  gods favor white animals as sacrifices.

  3. Hornbills: considered a symbol of matrimonial fidelity, the presence of a hornbill couple near a house is thought to signify a blessed union, while the killing of a hornbill will likely result in a spouse’s infidelity or a seduction attempt on her/him by a stranger.  Hornbills are also considered protectors of the community, so it is very bad luck to kill one.

  4. Limokon doves: these blue doves are considered messengers from Aman Bathala, giving omens by their calls and flight.  If on setting forth to a voyage or war you hear the limokon call on your right, or see one fly from your right to your left, fate will be in your favor; but should the reverse happen, your luck will be bad.

  5. Eagles: all eagles, but most specially the great sea eagles and giant forest eagles are sacred to Aman Bathala, as they are his watchers over the earth.  Killing an eagle or bringing harm to an eagle’s nest will bring serious misfortune.

  6. Black moths: Anitos, especially those of the newly dead,  sometimes take the form of a black moth that flutters around as if lost.  Harming it offends the ancestor spirits, who see the act as a sign of disrespect.  If a black moth lands on a person, that person is believed to be doomed to die within the year.

  7. Crocodile: the Vijadesans have a love-hate relationship with the savage saltwater crocodile.  It is said that crocodiles are reincarnations of the vengeful dead, so any adult victim of a crocodile is held to have been justly killed. 


    On the other hand, Vijadesans are infuriated when a child is taken by a crocodile because the spirit in the crocodile has descended to making war on innocent children. Because killing a crocodile is sure to anger the spirits of the dead, crocodile hunts are bookended by ceremonies and sacrifices to appease the spirits.


    Some families and tribes simply hold crocodiles sacred and venerate them, even making them offerings.  Strangely enough, these locales rarely ever suffer crocodile attacks.

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