Melanesia

Melanesia – A subdivision of Oceania or the Pacific Islands (along with Polynesia and Micronesia), spreading from New Guinea in the west to Norfolk Island in the east. It does not always refer to clear cultural or geographical distinctions. Various Melanesian peoples have been identified as having animistic cultures and employing shamans. Ira Bashkow, for example, writes about the Papua New Guinean Orokaiva’s version of the widespread taro cult in which prophecy, spirit possession, and shamanism confronted colonialism and reasserted indigenous vitality and sovereignty. This local form of “cargo cult” began in 1912 and enabled people to consider and engage with their integration into globalized consumerist modernism. Garry Trompf’s discussion of Melanesian religion notes the induction of trance among the dancers in a taro cult who chewed wild strawberry leaves and blew out scented breath or smoke. Robert Wallis has contributed a critical discussion of shamanism, ethnography, and rock art in Malakula, Vanuatu.

SOURCE:

Historical Dictionary of Shamanism by Graham Harvey and Robert J. Wallis 2007

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