National Geographic : 2005 Apr
onnecting to the past The ances tors are summone during the annual spirit pole festival. For weeks ahead of time the Moken gather ritual offer ings, including cakes of rice flour, alcohol, betel nuts, and cans of soda -whose bubbles represent life-giving wind. It is a joyous day of song and recitation, led by a master of ritual (below, with red scarf). Here he also acts as the shaman who, in a trance, tastes the head, blood, and flippers of a fresh turtle (left) and asks the ancestors for favors, translating their replies for the community. The Moken have faced pressure to accept other faiths, such as Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam, but many have refused, retaining their animistic beliefs.