The Huli Religious Worldview

by Ron Meshanko

The Huli religious belief system consists of a collection of myths which describe the origins of dama, humans and gamu. The dama are both deities and ancestral ghosts which affect human affairs by giving or taking life. They are placated and honored through a variety of different types of rites called gamu. The rites are sets of ritual behavioral forms given to humans by the dama, in order to better or threaten human society and establish positive relations between the supernatural and natural world. Huli life encompasses both of these realms. Life for the Huli continues after death in the same way it existed during life on earth. The ghosts of the dead are just as much a concern for the Huli as are human relations in the here and now. The Huli are a people with a deep religious consciousness who experience life on one plane: the present world of men, ghosts and deities.

The Huli still experience reality with an eye to the sacred, even though modern technology and European ways have greatly impacted their lifestyle and culture. Perhaps one of the greatest influences on Huli culture is the introduction of a new religious belief system, namely Christianity. Christianity conflicts with the knowledge handed down to the Huli over the centuries, a knowledge expressed in their myths and gamu rites as well also in their deep religious stance before the world. Since the arrival of Christianity, all the ritual houses have collapsed. The sacred stones gather dust in Church parlors. The sorcerers and gebeali have lost their influence and roles to the priests, ministers and catechists. The manyi take their knowledge of the sources of Huli life to the grave. Yet, the people live and breathe in a world charged with ghosts, deities and gamu power, and a new element, the god of the Christians.