Thursday, March 13, 2008

Toraja, the two-souled people

The Toraja people consider that the soul is the most important notion and their religion is connected to one of the most spectacular burial rituals in the world, aimed to save the soul of the deceased, easing its way to the other world, that of the gods and spirits of the ancestors.

Toraja myths say that Rante-Kombola is the place the first people descended from on a stone ladder. Soon, the gods broke it, and the rocks of Bamba Puang are just remains of the sky ladder.

Today, only few Toraja people follow the ancestral animist beliefs. For them, the world has three levels. The sky is the upper level, ruled by the supreme god Puang Matua, the creator of the people, animals and plants. The land is the intermediary level. The underground is the domain of the spirits, darkness and death.

Two other spheres influence the domain of the people. One is located in the southwest, being populated by the spirits of the ancestors, and the other in the northeast, belonging to the already deified ancestors.

The Toraja tradition says the people have 2 souls. The first is dewata, the divine soul, which leaves us when we die and ascends to Puang Matua, entering in its service, being put to watch at the compliance of the traditional religion canons, the way of the ancestors called "aluk to dolo".

The second soul is "bombo", the wandering soul of the dead, the terrestrial and human side. It splits in two, one remaining in the tomb with the dead, and the other hanging around. To reach Puya, the kingdom of the dead, where they will keep on existing, the souls must bypass many obstacles, fact that turns possible only owing to the support of the close relatives, which will accomplish rigorously a whole array of rites, grouped in several stages.

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