The Rukai (Drekay) people believe in the existence of all kinds of supernatural powers, including the sun, star, moon, and rainbow in nature, and the hundred-pace viper and clouded leopard. They also communicate with and worship ancestral spirits. As a result of government policies, the development of traditional Rukai religious concepts were interfered with during Japanese colonization, and some of their traditions, culture, and religious ceremonies were banned. Since Christianity spread to the ethnic group in the 1960s, there are Western churches in every village, and Christianity co-exists with traditional Rukai religions.
Most Rukai today believe in Christianity, which has become a power to support and influence the ethnic group. In recent years, new interactions between Rukai tradition and culture and the church have been seen. For example, the Catholic church in Kabalelradhane Village of Wutai Township presents the Virgin Mary statue in traditional Rukai attire to blend tradition and culture with modern beliefs to co-vitalize the new Rukai life. Traditionally, millet is the center of traditional Rukai rituals. The Kalabecengane (Millet Ritual) is held after the millet harvest. The Tapakadrawane (Black Rice Ritual) is specific to the Kungadavane (Dona) of the lower three branches. In addition, tiyuma (swinging) is popular to the Rukai people. It is an activity often held at weddings or the harvest festival for friendship-making between males and females. This exciting activity often brings a ceremony to its climax.
1. Kalabecengane (Millet Ritual)
Foxtail millet is the major crop of the Rukai and the center of annual festivals, with the Kalabecengane (Millet Ritual) as the most important. The festival is held after the millet harvest to thank the deities. At the festival, the Rukai people worship deities and ancestral spirits with millet cakes, millet rice, and millet wine. In addition, Rukai people will symbolically give crops to the chief. The chief then gives some to people in need of food and some for worshipping the ancestral spirit, suggesting taxation and sharing. Traditionally, the harvest ritual lasts longer than a month. As the modern lifestyle has changed, the ritual is held for 1-3 days today from August 15 every year (the government has set the second Friday of July as Rukai Day). To prevent a conflict in the worshipping practices between traditional rituals and modern religions, rituals in the festival have been simplified, and the focus has been changed to the reunion of villages and sharing.
2. Tiyuma (Swinging)
Swinging is one of the highlights in traditional Rukai ritual for friendship-making between males and females. Often held at a wedding, the activity was originally a female privilege of the chief’s family. During the Harvest Festival, the chief will share the swinging privilege to kinsmen partly to appreciate their hard work and partly to provide an opportunity for friendship-making between males and females. In the activity, males will erect the swing and control the swing line. Then, they invite unwed females with a good character to swing. Males will swing females to the highest point, it is exciting and thrilling. Therefore, in either weddings or the Harvest Festivals, swinging can always bring an activity to its climax.
3. Tapakadrawane (Black Rice Ritual)
The Rukai believe that it is the spirit from the deep lake that gives the seeds of black grains, including rice and millet, for women to grow. Traditionally, the Tapakadrawane (Black Rice Ritual) is held in November every year to thank the deities and spirits for bringing the grain seeds. This festival is very important to the Dona (Kungadavane) from Maolin (Teldreka).
4. Molapangolai (Oponoho Ancestral Spirit Ritual)
To the Oponoho, the Molapangolai (Ancestral Spirit Ritual) is the most primitive and the most special ceremony held once every four years in the lapangolai (specific ancestral shrine) in spring. The doloi (holy stone) is the major activity in the ceremony praying for peace and health for people. The taavala competition is held to test if the youth is capacitated to resist invasions and protect their kinsmen’s safety.