Using Traditional Ritual to Prevent COVID-19 Outbreaks

What is a possible disadvantage for the Timorese communities of using cultural mechanism for COVID-19 prevention

Source: Tatoli

The issue of the COVID-19 case has made Timorese feel panicked and scared. If we look at all kinds of various information through printing and electronic media or social media and some information and data from the government report, national and international organizations, they all covered about COVID-19. The information on the pandemic virus of COVID-19 not only highlighted in the international level, but also it is in the national level, in Timor-Leste. The fear and panicking societies indicate the pandemic disease is threatening the Timorese people. Although up to this time, there is no single death case hasreported by the government.

This article  focus on how Timorese societies use prevention mechanism through social customary system with traditional ritual ceremony. This article also examine, using cultural prevention for COVID-19 will generate a negative impact; if the case of COVID-19 increase including death cases, this situation can also exacerbate communities attitude on the cultural ritual tradition.

Tradition Ritual Program for COVID-19 Prevention.

The implementation of the government decree on the state emergency was released on the 28 of April 2020, which is to the response to the outbreak of COVID-19; however the activities of cultural ritual were continuously conducted. For instance, there were some activities of the traditional ritual that have been conducted by the local traditional leaders in Dili, around March 2020. The main goal of the traditional ritual ceremony is to communicate to the ancestors to prevent COVID-19 spread in Timor-Leste. The ritual activity was attended by the minister of state and secretary state of culture and art in Dili. According to the minister of state that the traditional ritual ceremony is to prevent COVID-19 because Timorese people do not deserve to be infected by the Corona Virus, which not belong and never be a kind of disease for Timorese. The minister emphasized the role of communities to continue communicating to the natural power, ancestor through ritual ceremonies in all regions of Timor-Leste.  

The way of COVID-19 prevention through the traditional ceremony was led by a traditional community leader or traditional spiritual healer. The ritual was conducted through sacrificing chicken and pig to pledge “supra-natural forces” for repelling the COVID-19 spread. When the pig and chicken were slaughtered, the liver will be seen and read by the chief of community at the ritual ceremony to predict that whwthwe the COVID-19 will or not spread and affected to Timorese people.

Similarly, in the district and rural areas, the ritual execution was held since February 2020 before, and after the state’s emergency status of COVID-19, the activities of the traditional ritual ceremony still continue in various villages and communities in rural areas. In Timorese social life, using culture approach to get blessing and protection is most common. In this case, the COVID-19 is considered as a severe pandemic disease that needs to be prevented before it spread to the territory of Timor-Leste. According to the information compiled from the national media and social media, that all the results of the ritual indicate on the pig and chicken heart written that there will be no COVID-19 spread to the local or rural community. The belief in this culture practice eventually justified that the COVID-19 was dangerous but also with a positive signal from the pig and chicken heart. It is generating strong confidence and reduced panic, including fear of the danger of COVID-19 spreading and affecting the community in the territory of Timor-Leste.

The government of Timor-Leste recognizes and acknowledges the existence of a cultural mechanism into the national program. Using a cultural way to collaborate and socialize the state program is not new; however, using the cultural mechanisms to preventing the spread of COVID-19 in Timor-Leste is rarely happens in the health approach at the national level.

Regardless of the supra-natural power from the cultural approach, formal regulation, and prevention with security and medical procedure is crucial for the government to control and prevent COVID-19 outbreaks.

The cultural approach obviously generate a positive impact  for the government to use as an instrument to manipulated Timorese societies (as a political rhetoric) to acknowledge the COVID-19 outbreak. It also to send a clear message that the pandemic disease requires collective action, therefore all rural and remote communities that less reachable will come together organize and conduct a ritual ceremony. And in the same time, they will indirectly accept the existence of COVID-19 pademy.

The cultural approach reveals society concerned about the danger of COVID-19, and also it is generating the a positive attitude to adopt the regulation of governmental about the state emergency. However, if there are COVID-19 suspected and positive cases founded including death cases occur in Timor-Leste, this situation will reveal a negative attitude of the community about the traditional ritual. Its implication might weakening the socities beleive on tradition of using supra-natural power to prevent such a pandemic disease or other similar cases. The community will questioned the power of ritual which they believe. As a result, this article argue that this mechanism is in one hand only benefiting the state, but on the other hand the government fail to anticipate the negative consequences of Timorese tradition which can exacerbated the Timorese ritual tradition in the societies.


TVTL (March 25, 2020) Lia Nain Munisipiu Dili Halao Seremonia Ritual Hodi Prevene Covid-  19            0TC0xmjTotd93ZdQANoJPv7kjwdYX0CQyLm0P79-f57B3pfjcbt-KwmaI

 Tempo Timor (March 228, 2020) President Timor-Leste Declares State of Emergency   

Tatoli (Abril 4, 2020) Komunidade Fatumaca Halo Ritual Hodi Kombate COVID-19.   

TATOLI, (31 March) Playing Chicken with Coronavirus:

Published by Celso Da Fonseca

I'm just a dreamer who enjoys my freedom. Freethinker, free writer, and free dream.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: