Traditionally, the Amis believe that all things have their own spirits. Based on the concept of spirit (kawas), there are the deity, ghost, animal, and plant classes. Due to the class differences, there are spirits in the heaven and spirits on earth. Spirits in heaven include the god of the heaven, the god of the sun, and the god of the moon. Spirits on earth include the river god, the sea god, the land god, the animal god, and so on. Therefore, the Amis are an ethnic group of polytheism believing that everything has a spirit. In Amis culture, the priest (cikawasay or sikawasay) communicates with spirits through divination to ease mishaps and cure diseases for kinspeople. Apart from helping individual kinspersons to pray for auspices and expel bad luck, the priest practices benediction and thanksgiving in agricultural ceremonies and various rituals before and after hunting. When Christianity was disseminated to the Amis in the postwar ROC period, most Amis became members of the Presbyterian Church, Catholic Church, Taiwan Holiness Church, and True Jesus Church, and pastors of the Christian church and fathers of Catholic church have replaced the tribal priest in benediction practices and services and become the most popular and important clergypersons in Amis culture today. In addition to the traditional religion and Western religions, there are Amis tribes that believe in Han folk religions in Taitung and Hangquan, bringing about a polytheistic phenomenon.
1. The Harvest Festival (ilisin/malaikid/malikoda/kiluma’an/zukimisai/siukakusai)
This is a thanksgiving ceremony held after the millet harvest. Different tribes have different terms for the “harvest festival”, including the malalikid, malikoda, and kiluma’an. Later, new terms, including the moon-night festival (zukimisai) and the harvest gathering (siukakukai), arose under the influence of the Japanese language. Today, the Harvest Festival of Thanksgiving is the most common. The Amis used to hold the festival after the millet harvest. As the growing area of rice increased massively, they have changed the time to after the rice harvest. Starting in July every year, each tribe arranges the festival for one to seven days from southern to northern Taiwan according the time or rice harvest.
Although the Harvest Festival is titled a “harvest”, it is also an occasion for thanksgiving, friendship making (communion), socialization, age class promotion, and military training examination. Therefore, it is an event integrating economic, religious, social, political, and cultural functions. As a multifunctional event, the Harvest Festival of Thanksgiving is characterized by its multiculturalism. Alongside the huge number of participants, the festival is a mass event. Even many Amis that have migrated to the cities join the festival to pass on the traditional culture and concepts, making the festival an important event for new-generation Amis to identify with the Amis culture.
2. Catch Festival
Cooking Fish with the Traditional Betel Petiole Bento The Amis’ Catch includes the sea ritual and the river ritual held between May and June every year to thank the sea and river deities. With this festival, the Amis pray for peace on the sea/river and a high catch. Rituals under the festival have different names. Rituals held by the seaside are called “mia’adis” by the Ámisay a Pangcah, misacepó by the Pasawalian Pangcah, and mikesí by the Farangaw Amis. The ritual held by the river for catching freshwater fish is called komoris by the Siwkolań Amis.
The Turik tribe interrupted the festival in 1981 and restored it in 2011, renaming it pafafuy. The chief leads kinspeople to worship ancestors. The Catch is also an event show respect for the elderly and the sage. The ceremony begins with the worship of the river deity or sea deity with fish, crabs, and millet wine presented by youth. Then, kinspeople of different age classes fish in the river. When it is near noon, young people gather and cook the catch and distribute it to participants according to their seniority to show respect for the elderly. In return, the elderly will share the catch with young people with outstanding performance to express the ethical concepts of sharing and respect for the elderly.