The Bunun people, an indigenous Austronesian group in Taiwan, have a rich cultural heritage that includes a complex belief system, a vast array of mythological stories, and a diverse set of rituals.

Beliefs and Deities

The traditional religion of the Bunun people is animistic, involving a belief in a multitude of spirits and deities. These divine entities are thought to inhabit the natural world, including the forests, rivers, and mountains that surround the Bunun communities. The most important deities in Bunun mythology are the Ina and Ino, representing the supreme goddess and god, respectively.

Ina, the mother goddess, is revered as the creator of the universe, while Ino is the god of hunting and war. Together, they form a divine pair that governs the balance of nature and human life. In addition to Ina and Ino, there are numerous other deities with specific domains, such as the god of agriculture, the goddess of weaving, and the deity of fertility.

Mythology and Heroes

Bunun mythology is filled with heroes and mythological creatures, reflecting the people's close relationship with nature and their environment. One of the most well-known heroes in Bunun mythology is Sediq Taranu, who is said to have taught the Bunun people their hunting skills and the art of war. Sediq Taranu is often depicted as a brave and wise warrior, embodying the ideal qualities of a Bunun man.

Another significant figure in Bunun mythology is the trickster figure, Ratul. Ratul is a shape-shifting creature who can take on various forms, including animals, plants, and even human beings. He is often portrayed as a cunning and mischievous figure, responsible for causing chaos and tricking humans and deities alike. Ratul's stories serve as cautionary tales, warning people against dishonesty and deceit.

Unique Beliefs

One of the most unique aspects of Bunun beliefs revolves around their concept of ancestral spirits. The Bunun people believe that their ancestors are always watching over them, offering guidance and protection. To maintain a harmonious relationship with these ancestral spirits, the Bunun people practice various rituals and ceremonies.

One such ritual is the annual Millet Harvest Festival, which serves to honor the ancestors and express gratitude for the bountiful harvest. This event involves a series of rituals and ceremonies, including the offering of millet, the staple food of the Bunun people, to the ancestral spirits. The festival also features traditional songs, dances, and feasting, as a way of celebrating the connection between the living and the dead.

Rituals and Ceremonies

The Bunun people practice a wide range of rituals and ceremonies that reflect their deep connection to the natural world, their deities, and their ancestors. One of the most notable rituals is the Pasibutbut, or the eight-part polyphonic singing, which is a UNESCO-recognized Intangible Cultural Heritage. This complex vocal performance is performed by male singers during important ceremonies, such as the Millet Harvest Festival, as a way of invoking the gods and seeking their blessings.

Another significant ritual is the Maya, which is a traditional form of divination. Through this practice, Bunun shamans, known as "mivtunux," communicate with the spirits to seek guidance and interpret signs from the natural world. The Maya ritual is typically performed to gain insight into matters such as hunting, agriculture, and community wellbeing. The mivtunux may employ various methods during the divination process, such as interpreting the patterns formed by bones or observing the behavior of animals. The results of the Maya ritual are then used to guide the community's decisions and actions.

Apart from these rituals, the Bunun people also hold ceremonies to mark significant life events, such as births, marriages, and deaths. For example, the birth of a child is celebrated with a ceremony called "Rahid," during which the baby is named and introduced to the community. The ceremony is intended to invoke the protection of the ancestral spirits and deities, ensuring the child's well-being and prosperity.

Similarly, Bunun weddings involve a series of rituals and ceremonies that are meant to unite the couple not only in the physical world but also in the spiritual realm. The wedding rituals include the exchange of gifts, feasting, and traditional dances, all aimed at invoking the blessings of the gods and ancestral spirits for a successful marriage.

Lastly, funerary practices are an essential aspect of Bunun culture, as they believe that the spirit of the deceased must be guided to the afterlife. The funeral ceremonies involve offerings, prayers, and rituals to ensure that the deceased's spirit finds its way to the realm of the ancestors. By performing these rites, the Bunun people believe they can maintain a harmonious relationship with the spirits of the deceased, who continue to watch over and guide the living.