The Famous Blue Corner
Being A Palauan
Many people mistake cultural beliefs for the Modekngei religion because it has been around for a long time. Some even suggested that the religion involved sorcery and Satanism. Modekngei is a traditional religion which is defined as "coming together as one." Some people believe that this religion originated from a combination of Christianity--Catholic and Protestant--and old Palauan beliefs that were entwined together, thus creating the Modekngei religion.
Written documents have been made about this topic, but the authors of such documents rely mostly on interviews with people whom are not involved in this religion because members of this religion were very secretive about it.
In the olden days, Palauans believed in a set of hierarchically placed gods (or chelid in Palauan), each with a title. They consisted of the high gods of all Palau, the gods of the villages, and the gods of the clans. The people of Palau worshipped all kinds of gods, but there were two very distinct groups of gods which were worshipped and/or feared. Their will is made known through the chiefs, the elders, the seers, and the magicians, as well as through dreams and omens. They were once men, and like men, they rivaled amongst themselves for their own betterment.
The first group of gods are the bladek. These are the gods that the people worshipped. They could also be considered as "guardian angels" because they looked out for members of the clans and protected them if they needed to. They are known to communicate with the living through a medium. A medium is chosen by the elders of a clan or was "visited" by the spirits. A medium is needed mostly at funerals. There, they are told to ask the bladek the cause of death. This ritual is known as the sis. When the medium is communicating with the gods, he goes into a trance-like state. He sometimes speak in the "voice of the god". A medium has the ability to exercise black magic. The gods grant him the power to do so. For instance, when something precious is stolen from someone, the only way for that person to find out who committed the crime was by going to a medium. The medium would then ask the gods to put a curse on the thief. These doings are known as temall. Being the only person who was able to communicate with the gods, the medium could foresee the best times to go to war. The medium also acted as a shaman for the clan or village. They were asked to cure the ill. The services weren’t always free. The people had to pay for the services. The medium was a well-off person with political power as well as "supernatural" powers.
The second group of gods are the deleb. These were what people thought of as ghosts. They were feared...because they were the ancestral dead of other clans, sometimes of distant and unknown clans; and since they were strange, they were likely to be harmful. People were warned to avoid these gods mainly because of these reasons. Palauans thought that these spirits were out to avenge their untimely and unlikely death. These apparitions preyed on certain people or just anyone. When captured, the spirit would posses a person and drive him to the brink of insanity and when that was not fun at all, they would just kill the person by causing him to commit suicide. The deleb are also known to haunt people if these people were the cause of their death. For example, if certain people had asked a medium to put a curse on someone so they would die in an unnatural way, the spirit would linger on and haunt that person until they died. These spirits had also been called the "devil’s helpers" and mostly children were cautioned. The spirits were thought to posses certain animals and therefore, these animals were not to be eaten or hurt. They believed the spirits dwelled in the body of animals such as the cat, the dog, sea snake, pigeons, rat and so on.
Like the Native Americans, Palauans had been worshipping gods who they thought were linked with the heavens and earth and everything surrounding them, until that day when one man changed everything. Temedad from a village of Ngerard called Chol made a startling revelation. He declared that the night before, he was visited and chosen by the supreme lord of all the gods to lead the Palauan people and teach them the ways of the Modekngei religion. The people were hesitant at first, but they learned to accept it. They slowly started to practice this new-found religion. Most of the people stopped believing in the gods they had always believed in and started to believe in one supreme god whom they called Ngirchomkuuk. Ngirchomkuuk was considered to be like Our Lord Jesus Christ. More people began to practice the Modekngei religion until the Germans dominated the islands. They forced a whole new concept of religion unto the Palauans. They forbade people from practicing the Modekngei religion or any other religion. If anyone was caught practicing other religion rather than the one they were teaching them, the person would be punished and imprisoned or just executed. Palauans did continue practicing this religion, but in secrecy. The Modekngei religion was continually practiced until foreigners introduced their religions to Palauans, diverting most of the society from its traditional religion. This is why there aren’t that many people who practice this religion today.
The Modekngei religion is unlike any other religion. They do not have a written bible, yet the religion is taught through a series of keskes which are chants. The members go beyond the laws of the Ten Commandments. They don’t smoke or drink any form of alcohol and drugs. They believe in the purity of the soul and the body. They believe things happen naturally. Their teachings emphasizes the importance of family and retaining the Palauan culture and custom.
The following is a statment from an anonymous Modekngei follower. "People think that we’re not a religion. They think that we’re just a social group. They also think that we talk to trees and animals. We do believe in the bladek because they are our ancestors and we believe that they will protect us." Palauans also think that the members of the Modekngei religion exercise black magic only because it’s an old Palauan religion. "They think that we worship the gods of the past. "They keep making up some conclusion that the members of the Modekngei religion are evil." In truth, Modekngei is just another religion among the many in the world.
Most people make unfair judgements on things they don’t know or things that they are afraid of. It doesn’t really matter how many gods you might believe in as long as you know there is a being greater than you that you can rely on for assistance. The Modekngei religion clearly is a combination of all the religion that were introduced to Palauans in the early 1900's, not just Catholic and Protestant. It has helped the Palauans, in a way, to finally unite as one. There is only one true God that puts high impact on the lives of many. No matter how you want to call your god, or the religion you practice, what you believe in truly counts. There exists discrimination in the islands towards religion; we have to keep an open mind to avoid the weakening of our own religious beliefs.