Public ritual life often centres around the management of its souls, both living and dead. In this, there are invariably certain individuals in community who posses specialized knowledge or skills in such matters. Special attention is always devoted to funerary rites, in which the dead are ritually venerated and can be “transformed” into protective clan or village deities.
It is commonly believed, for instance, that the soul of a person may become detached during life, and that this can result in diminished strength or illness. Even under normal conditions, it is thought that the soul wanders during sleep, thus giving rise to dreams. Sorcery can entice unwitting souls away; a sudden fright may jar and disorient them. Certain trees are said to be able to snatch the spirit of careless and preoccupied individuals. Prolonged yearning, craving or discontent are trought to loosen the soul, producing illness and insanity. The shaman, ofte a woman, must then be called upon to retrieve or comfort the lost or distubed soul. It may be garthered up in a beautiful cloth, a samll doll, a basket or a bowl. Or, the shaman may enter a trance and journey to the spirit world to determine the proper diagnosis and cure for the the afflicted person.
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