Metaphysical personhood and traditional South Fore mortuary rites
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© Tous droits réserv's. Ethnographic studies on Melanesian concepts of the human body and religion have expanded our understandings of the concept of personhood. Melanesian ethnographers have used a number of descriptive words to describe the metaphysical components of the person, including: soul, spirit, life force, ghost, and vital and spiritual essence. By investigating the traditional mortuary rites of the South Fore people in Papua New Guinea, which included the practice of endocannibalism, investigators were able to distinguish the 5 souls of the composite metaphysical person and their relationship to the humors of the body. An understanding of the South Fore cosmology and its relationship to its human inhabitants was required to understand these deeply embedded concepts. The South Fore person was found to be composed of 5 souls and bodily humors which together formed a composite individual, yet partible through division. We elucidated the concepts of the 5 souls of the Fore person, which revealed a strong correlation between the landscape with its overlying cosmology and the cultural bodily humors, and demonstrated their relationship to the power of the land.
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