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For most of the Lauje' of Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, birth spirits are of primary importance. The spirits inhabit a mother's birth fluids and placenta, nurturing fetuses in the womb and children after birth---or bringing sickness and death if rituals are neglected.
Jennifer Nourse describes how Lauje' from both modernized coastal and isolated highland villages attribute to birth spirits competing meanings that hinge on an individual's gender, social class, and religion. At the beginning of her fieldwork, Nourse collaborated with two Lauje' men whose concepts of birth spirits as divided into good and bad, male and female, or local and foreign categories seemed to prevail in their respective villages. But after both men died, Nourse came to understand that some individuals, most often commoners or female spirit mediums, disagreed with these dualistic views of birth spirits, preferring to focus on the mystery and potency of the spirit world as a whole.
Smithsonian Institution Press
Indonesia birth customs, Lauje rites and ceremonies, Indonesian religion
School of Arts and Sciences
Sociology and Anthropology
Anthropology | Other Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Women's Studies
Nourse, Jennifer W. Conceiving Spirits: Birth Rituals and Contested Identities among Lauje of Indonesia. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1999.