The gender of God’s gifts—dividual personhood, spirits and the statue of Mother Mary in a Sepik society, Papua New Guinea

Falck, Christiane (2021) The gender of God’s gifts—dividual personhood, spirits and the statue of Mother Mary in a Sepik society, Papua New Guinea. Religions, 12 (4). 270.

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Abstract

A Sepik myth tells of a time in which women were in charge of powerful spirits before jealous men reversed the gender roles by force. Today, the men of Timbunmeli (Nyaura, West Iatmul) have lost control over spirits who have started to act through female bodies. Christian charismatic rituals hint at mythical times, and remind villagers that women are the original custodians of spirits now understood as being spirits of God. While previously, male bodies represented spirits in shamanic rituals and through male ritual regalia, now women are the predominant recipients of God’s gifts. This paper analyzes the current religious practices as onto-praxis in relation to the local concept of personhood and the relational ontology informing the Nyaura’s lifeworld. Building on Strathern, Bird-David, and Gell’s theories about the personhood of humans and things from an anthropology of ontology perspective and adding a gender perspective to the discussion, this paper argues that dividuality put into practice has not only informed the way the Nyaura have made charismatic Christianity their own, but is also central for understanding current events impacting gender relations in which material objects representing spirits play a crucial role.

Item ID: 70713
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2077-1444
Keywords: Catholic charismatic Christianity, Charismatic space, Dividuality, Gender, Onto-praxis, Papua New Guinea, Personhood, Relational ontology
Copyright Information: © 2021 by the author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https:// creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Date Deposited: 09 May 2022 03:48
Downloads: Total: 125
Last 12 Months: 43
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