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

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 and fast?

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