Nautilus

Which Comes First, Big Cities or Big Gods?

Warriors among the Kwara’ae, a collection of tribal communities indigenous to the Solomon Islands, sacrificed pigs before battle. The tradition granted the combatants, so the belief went, aid from heroic ancestral spirits—like the mighty A’orama, a fierce fighter in Kwara’ae folklore. For every man who prepared to shed blood, a hog met its end.1

A warrior from the Soloman Islands.Wikicommons

Any non-superstitious observer might regard this ritual as a costly habit. Why give offerings when one can eat them instead? This puzzle is not unique to the Kwara’ae. Why pray? Or erect and attend churches, mosques, temples? Or observe holidays

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from Nautilus

Nautilus6 min read
How to Make Sense of Contradictory Science Papers: Published research is less about conclusions than science at play.
The science you can come across today can often appear to be full of contradictory claims. One study tells you red wine is good for your heart; another tells you it is not. Over the past year, COVID-19 research has offered conflicting reports about t
Nautilus5 min readMedical
The “Lab Leak”: It’s Not Enough to Say Accidents Happen
Disasters evoke a search for who to blame. Mishandled disasters make that search vital for anyone whose actions or inactions may have amplified the catastrophe’s damage. As the official United States COVID death toll reaches 600,000, those two dynami
Nautilus14 min readGender Studies
Are We Cut Out for Universal Morality?: If objective ethical values exist, we’ll have to give up tribalism to realize them.
Footage of a mob storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in an effort to subvert the legal and peaceful transfer of power, filled many of us with horror. Underlying that response was our indignation at the brazen violation of central democratic institu