Responding to Climate Change through Rituals and Spirituality.

17 Noviembre 2009

Several recent submissions to the Forum have underlined the ritual and spiritual dimensions of climate change adaptation.

Rituals

In 2008, unusually heavy rain fell during the period needed to dry the land before burning, says Patau Rubis, a Bidayuh from Sarawak, Malaysia (Asia).
New weeds grew quickly over the farms, making it impossible to burn and threatened to ruin the year’s harvest. In response, a Bidayuh-Krokong village held Gawae Pinganga, an almost-forgotten ritual to ask the 'Pinyanga', the village’s spirit guardians, for a dry season. The last time such assistance had been asked of 'Pinyanga' was during World War II and the elders were uncertain as to the exact composition of the offering.
Slightly after seven, the Head Shaman called for the spirits to come and show us if and how they wanted us to conduct the ceremony to 'bring them home'. Sure enough they came and showed us. Of course I could not see because I am not the 'sighted one', but Aturn saw everything in a flash and told us exactly what the altar and offerings should look like. The ceremony was then held. After the Chief Priest finished, we sat and waited for the response. Within a minute, there was a sound from the east like an old man crying. It was a bird circling the small altar and then above the main altar three times. It is supposed to be a night bird but now it was in broad daylight. It was simply amazing!!! The omen is interpreted as saying 'We thought that you have forgotten us ... but now you come ... we are happy. How nice for you to come.'

The rains stopped for seven days within the week after the ceremony. In recent times, North Nandi Forest area has experienced seasonal variation due to climate change, writes Scolasticah Ndegwa from Kenya (Africa). This has affected the livelihoods of the Nandi community, the majority of whom practice agriculture that depends on the seasons. The new situation makes it hard for farmers to predict the right time to farm. As a result, the locals have been forced to violate their traditions and taboos. While previously the Nandi community had a tradition of not eating fish, today they are obliged to adopt new strategies like aquaculture and apiculture.

In the past the Nyando River basin experienced long rains from March to June with very short rain spells in November, reports Dan Ong'or of the Uhai Lake Forum in Kenya (Africa). This trend has been rather irregular in recent years with floods occurring in August instead of April. Dry periods have increased in length and farm harvests are dwindling. The Wakesi community traditionally offers sacrifices to the gods for rain. These offerings are made under trees as they are associated with rain. The Baobab is one tree under which offerings are often made. During the development of a recent participatory action plan carried out by the Uhai Lake Forum in collaboration with the African Center for Technology Studies, the community revealed that they are increasingly offering sacrifices to the gods for rain. It appears climate change is catalyzing these practices.

Are rituals and spirituality also a part of your community’s response to climate change? Please share with us your insights and concerns.

Please also share your views about the upcoming UNFCCC COP15 meeting in December (http://unfccc.int/2860.php).

What are the key concerns and viewpoints of local and indigenous communities?

Photo courtesy of BIIH, Sarawak