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Manggaraian Myths, Rituals, and Christianity: Doing Contextual Theology in Eastern Indonesia


This dissertation deals with the dynamic encounter between Catholicism and the culture of Manggaraian people, which have brought the transformation upon the life of Manggaraian people. They have shifted from the traditional way of life to a semi modern way of life. Such a shift and transformation can be seen in the model and the size of their houses, the way they cultivate their garden or fields, the way they produce and put on the dress, and also the performance of their original-indigenous religious rituals. This dissertation, therefore, tries to answer those following questions: 1). What are the most important myths and rituals in the recorded tradition and are they still influential? 2). Have they been changed through interaction with Catholicism? 3). Has Catholicism in Manggarai been affected by these myths and rituals? 4). How theology deals with this cultural encounter? The research project performed in this dissertation is a qualitative research to the life practices and the oral tradition of Manggaraian people in Perang. In order to perform this research I have used some techniques: the literature research and the field research. Though originally Manggaraian society is a society characterized by a strong oral-tradition, but since the thirties, some missionaries have succeeded in writing down some cultural heritages of the people. Since then Manggaraian people have written their own history/tradition. From the records made by those early missionaries we can detect some significant changes in the traditional life pattern of Manggaraian people. I have found two impacts between Catholicism and the culture of Manggarian people. Firstly, the transformative effect of the Catholicism upon several old (traditional) practices of Manggaraian people, including myths and rituals. Secondly, the transformative effect of the old Manggaraian practices upon the living-faith of the Manggaraian Catholic people, especially in Perang. In the first part, I mention some cases of transformation such as the change in the concept of human-being, space, and time. Related to the idea of human being I talk about the kinship system, the marriage, the birth, and the dead ritual. Related to the idea of space I talk about the house, village, and field for garden, cemetery, and water spring. Related to the idea of time I talk about the experience and the division of time in days, weeks, and months, traditional calendar system compared with the modern calendar system. In the olden time, Manggaraian people have their own traditional Calendar system. But since the coming of modernity brought by missionary and government, those traditional calendar system have been replaced by the modern one. Since then Manggaraian people forget the names and the functions of those traditional calendar system. Here also I talk about the agricultural-spatial rituals in the life of Manggaraian people, for example the Penti ritual. Related to the second part, such a transformative impact can be noticed in the Eucharistic celebration especially during the great feast of the Church. In this celebration people inserted some local-traditional elements. There is also a similar change in the liturgical book song of Manggaraian Catholic Church, Dere Serani, in which there are a lot of local-traditional elements (adat) that have been adopted into it. There are also some conscious efforts done by some Manggaraian theologians (liturgists) who wrote some liturgical book prayers. In that book they adopted some traditional rituals of the old life of Manggaraian people. By taking one of the models that has been put forwarded by Stephen Bevans, the anthropological model, I can say that there has been an attempt to establish a contextual theology. This model is the most appropriate one to be applied in this study. It is an anthropological model that can establish a bridge between the two sides that meet each other in a dialectic encounter. By using this model I try to highlight the new existence of Catholicism that has been lived by Manggaraian people in Perang and the old-traditional Manggaraian life that has been influenced by Catholicism (or Christianity). Finally I put forward some considerations on the theological discourses, used by some scholars (theologians, anthropologists) to name the above religious or cultural phenomenon. Some people put forward the terms like half and half person, two ways person, and reconciled religion. Some people put forward the terms like the "multiple religious belonging," or "dual religious system". Having given some short critical evaluation on those above terms, I put forward my own choice of term to name and describe it. Following the discourse of post-colonial studies, I tend to call it the "hybrid identity."

Key Words: myth, ritual, Manggarai Texts, Dere Serani, Catholicism, time, space, self, identity, Christian institution, missionary, transformation, self-name, marriage, birth, death, hybrid identity.