Religions are most touching to human souls. They reflect the harmonious attitude of human beings toward nature and the environment. Rites and rituals embody in religious system through the longstanding life experiences, as to form a common culture in the accumulation of worship of supernatural beings.
Life experiences and religious beliefs vary with ethnic groups, of which each has developed its own cultural connotation. Beliefs are expressed via varied rituals. Through these symbolic statements, the social order, social organization, and structural features of a community or an ethnic group are reflected or expressed.
Rituals mark the behavioral representation of an ethnic group's beliefs, which, once put into ritual practice, display such aspects of life as rites of passage, offering ceremonies, and rituals for eliminating disasters and praying for blessings. The significance of these beliefs consists in the psychological needs for divine help, solutions or promises.
Thus, it is hoped that unfortunate events can be turned around and calamity of individuals or families can be removed, in order that life will get back on track and lead to true happiness. Elimination of disasters and prayers for blessings are in essence meant for “removing calamity and bringing good fortune.”
By virtue of varied rituals, human beings can obtain reasonable explanations not only for the sufferings through life and death but also for natural disasters as well, so as to find comfort and ease the mind.
Natural disasters and physical sufferings, in birth, aging, sicknesses and death, are unavoidable in lives. With a desire to eliminate disasters and diseases, each ethnic group takes distinctive approaches adapting to their environment and living. They create diverse rites and rituals to eliminate disasters and to pray for blessings of life.
Wizardry used to play a crucial role in the life of early indigenous people in Taiwan. In an indigenous society, a wizard would take charge of religious affairs and disease treatments. They preside over offering ceremonies and chant incantation to cure illnesses.
In Paiwan Tribe, for instance, in case of sickness, family members would make a request for the tribal witch to come to the house. She will carry with her a tool box and a knife, to conduct an exorcism. When it came to offering ceremonies, the witch was accountable for chanting sutras, in the hope of an abundant yield of millet.
The wizard of the Amis, on the other hand, mainly takes care of the sick people with remedies and prays for their recovery. He also performs a variety of rites such as those conducted prior to tilling lands and driving out plague. In important activity of millet production, other rites were performed in order to address as water shortages and pests. They will hold rites of driving out pest and for rain. The Amis’ faith in wizardry enables them to soothe their minds and souls, as to reinforce their confidence and willpower, which in turn helped them bind the whole tribe more intensively.
Inhabiting mid-high altitude, the Bunun had scarce resources at hand, and thus dread illness, death, and all forms of sufferings. In struggle for a better life, the Bunun practiced pantheism, which made wizardry so popular among them. Wizardry can mitigate their suffering and make them to the path of eternal happiness. Therefore the Bunun practice wizardry prayers in all matters as to pursuit true happiness and security.
Customs and cultures of different ethnic groups often give rise to different rituals and ceremonies. In early indigenous societies in Taiwan, through the belief of wizardry, the wizards prayed for the elimination of diseases, calamity, and for abundant yields of crops. Through various religious beliefs, each ethnic group expresses their needs to respect the supernatural. Through these expressions to obtain the promise of supernatural power, people can reach the eternal comfort and prosperity in their inner souls.