Where do families usually settle?
The Loko are basically patra-local so a man and wife will usually settle in the village area of his father. Extended families tend to
separate into hamlets but remain in same overall area.
What is/are the basis for land ownership?
A number of reasons have been given as a basis for land ownership. Here are some examples:
Possession of a mokmok stone found on some land. This apparently gives him possession of that property. And proof of
ownership is the stone itself with it's history.
Having had an ancestor in your family line mark an area in the past and settle it.
Buying an area from the previous owner with some sort of capital seems to be a valid transaction.
Land is passed from first born (or the one who took their place) to first born.
There is much disagreement among the people concerning land ownership. Eventually, the people will have to establish and
register all land claims with the government.
Are there any restrictions or "taboos" on who can live in a village or household?
None that have been discovered. Personal preference is a major factor.
Culturally, the Loko's are patra-local so newlyweds would set up house in the village of the husbands parents. If they did
otherwise his family would be angry at them.
What importance do personal names have in the Loko culture?
Names are very important to social recognition. Names are given by:
Parents or relatives at infancy
Additional names are given for various reasons
such as personal characteristics
They acquire additional names at various
ceremonies as they mature
They name infants after other individuals esp.when an event involving that individual occurs at the approximate time of the childs
birth (ie. death, arriving in that area at that time, witnessing the birth).
Certain names are indicative of that persons involvement with a particular custom. Those who are ceremonially washed or are
initiated into the Warku custom are given special names that reveal both their lineal position as well as the fact of their initiation
into the custom.
Some individuals are reluctant to say their own names. It seems they are basically ashamed to do so.
How is social prestige attained?
Being first born is a fundamental for attaining "big man" status within the Loko culture.
Those who receive the ceremonial washing or are initiated into the Warku custom receive special names that tend to raise their
Government representatives also have recognized status.
Someone with much wealth (by their standards) has recognized status.
Their leaders will be ceremonially washed by the leadership and thus marked before the people as an authority in a given area.
High ethical values (according to their culture) are also a mark of a "big man".
A good leader will follow the traditions of their fathers.
He will often be a provider of food for others and thus gain prestige.
What does a "big man" do?
His responsibilities would involve hearing "court" cases (not government court) and helping to decide the verdict and penalty.
He will tend to feel responsible to make peace between quarreling parties.
He is involved in the planning of and providing for most of the major customs performed among the people. In this way he will
gain greater prestige among the people.
He will be knowledgeable of the customs of the ancestors and thus be able to help impart that knowledge to the succeeding
In times of war, he would be involved in providing leadership for the fighting force.
How does one lose prestige among the Loko?
Not having first born or not being ceremonially washed is a decided negative.
Displaying anti-social behavior, ie.; lack of respect for ones inlaws, stealing, uncleanness, constant fighting, etc., showing lack of
respect for authority.
Possessing little material wealth due to ones laziness.
In a contest of wealth to come short. (See Econ. Org., Systems of Prod., Capital)
How do the people signify the physical maturation of an individual?
They will use different descriptive names to signify the physical development of an individual.
Different customs are performed to mark the departure from one stage of physical development to another as in circumcision and
puberty rites, i.e., rites of passage.
(See Social Org., Social Life of Indiv., Infancy/Childhood, for more information)
What are some distinctions the Loko make between the sexes?
Dress is different, work roles are often different, women are generally not permitted to exercise authority, women are excluded
from taking part in certain customs, men are excluded from taking part in certain events pertaining to women (ie. childbearing,
circumstances surrounding menstruation), housing restrictions for women (ie. generally can't go into a house boy, can't be above
men in a house on stilts).
What is their treatment and interaction with those outside their tribe?
In the past, intertribal warfare was a way of life. Traveling to other areas was very restricted. Other tribes were viewed as the
Marrying into another tribe changes this view. This seems to create a bond of loyalty with the other ethnic group. So much so
that a man would side with his inlaws tribe instead of his own in a fight. He would try to dissuade his own line from fighting
because of his intermarriage.
Nowadays they tend to show special hospitality to a group visiting from another area or tribe.
There is much more interchange between tribes today. Trading goes on as well as the exchange of both tribal customs and
culture. They do borrow from each others cultures in many ways.
What distinctions are made as regards social stratification among the people?
Position within the society largely depends on ones position within his family by virtue of birth. It also depends on ones parents
ability to purchase certain ceremonies, (ie. special baptism ceremony or Warku custom) through which the initiate moves into
higher social standing.
The first born male has special responsibilities and privileges not shared with the other siblings. The first born are the cultural
leaders within the tribe.
There is possible upward mobility for the other siblings. For example, if the first born male dies leaving no son to take his position
or disqualifies himself for any reason, the next brother in line will receive his position with it's privileges and responsibilities. If the
first born has a son old enough to take his position over, then the mans brother remains a "nothing" as they say. But if the first
born dies and has a son to take his position but is not of age yet, then the first born brother next in line will take his position until
the son is of age. The next in line (in this case) would not receive full privileges but would only take over the land responsibilities
(ie. control the fruit bearing trees, etc.) temporarily until the boy is old enough to take over. On the other hand if the boy died and
he had no other brothers to take his place, then the first born mans brother would take his position over with full privileges and
First born women retain the name "firstborn" but do not enjoy the positions privileges or responsibilities in the same way as their
male counterpart. If she has a younger brother, then he will take over the leadership position. But she still retains first place in
land inheritance. If there is no other male to take her position of leadership, she will retain it. This may be said ideally so, but our
observations seem to indicate that few function in their position.
Another custom is performed in which the initiates will be ceremonially washed by certain leaders during which they will receive
the special name. The name will reflect both their lineal position and sex. Both first born and non-first born individuals are
permitted to receive this "baptism" provided they have enough wealth to pay for it. The first born is referred to by this special
title whether they've been ceremonially washed or not. But by this ceremony the non-first born can move up into higher social
recognition. These then can function as big men within the social system but are restricted in the performing of major customs on
their own. This privilege is reserved for the first born.
Culturally and practically speaking, Loko society would basically be divided into two "moieties" or groups. Namely, the "big"
people and the non-"big" people. The "big" people could then be divided into two groups as well. The first born and the
non-first born. To be more specific, Loko society viewed by level of importance would look something like this:
1. "Big" Man (a. First born b. Non-first born)
2. "Big" Woman (a. First born b. Non-first born)
3. "Follower" Man
4. "Follower" Woman
5. "Big" Male Child * (a. First born b. Non-first born)
6. "Big" Female Child * (a. First born b. Non-first born)
7. "Follower" Male Child
8. "Follower" Female Child
* The "big" child has the position potentially but not practically until he is of age.
Aside from birthright or "baptism" how does one rise in status within the Loko culture?
Accumulation of wealth
Having an abundance of food
Have good ethics within the context of the culture, ie., generous, food provider, good talker.
A fighter is a respected quality
Being a powerful sorcerer makes one infamous
Holding government office or working for them
Being considered very religious
How are friendships formed and developed?
Friendships are formed with the idea of sharing needs. Some will commit themselves to a sort of friendship pack, in which they
will not say their friends name.
Friendships are often closely related to family ties.
What is the hospitality "code of conduct" like?
Visitors arrive and generally expect to be taken care of by the people of the village. The hospitality would usually include food
and lodging if necessary.
Family ties would of course influence the degree of hospitality given but perfect strangers are made welcome. Length of stay at
someone's house would depend on the circumstances and relationship involved.
Visiting guests always seem to be shown the greatest care. If the food is short, the children can go hungry so the visitor can eat.
This principle also influences who eats at a feast. Visitors will be sure to be fed by those in charge while those of the area can go
Again, shame appears to be the primary motivation for this kind of behavior. Visitors are cared for well so they won't be ashamed
and go tell others about the villages bad hospitality. Then the village would be ashamed and so it goes.
What is the etiquette "code of conduct" like?
There is an expected behavior among the Loko people. Due respect is shown to visitors and newcomers. The elders are also
shown proper respect by being listened to, etc.
When traveling in the bush alone, noise is made by the traveler to let others know of his presence. When arriving at a residence,
he will usually make some sort of noise to announce his arrival. Respect is often shown to visitors and important people by
letting them walk first.
The younger people are getting patterns of etiquette from the white people and the educational system. Covering ones mouth
when coughing, etc. is practiced for health reasons. Although this is less practiced by the older generation.
What are some typical internal problems that tend to arise among the people?
Conflicts frequently arise as a result of someone's pig eating out of another's garden. This can result in arguing and fighting but
is usually settled by killing the pig and giving some meat and/or shells/money to the farmer to buy his loss.
Other circumstances can cause clan squabbles such as; adultery, fornication, buying wife badly, theft, gossip, etc.
What kind of kinship system do the Loko's have?
The Loko kinship system could be considered "Iroquois" though with some variation from a "true" Iroquois system. An Iroquois
systems distinction being children of siblings of the same sex are called "parallel cousins" while children of siblings of the
opposite sex are called "cross-cousins". This is the case with the Loko kinship system in that a cross-cousin is referred to
differently then a parallel-cousin. FaSi and MoBr children are referred to as cross-cousins to ego. While FaBr and MoSi children a
The Loko system varies from the Iroquois system in that the term of address is usually the same for both cross-cousins and
parallel-cousins. FaBr and MoBr (and FaSi and MoSi) are also referred to differently but are usually addressed the same.
The Loko system somewhat resembles the "Hawaiian" kinship system in that all close relatives of the same sex and generation are
addressed by the same kin term. For example, Mo, MoSi, and FaSi are all addressed as "mother". Fa, FaBr, and MoBr are all
addressed to as "father". Cross cousins, parallel cousins, and siblings are all addressed as "brother" and "sister".
The Loko kinship system is a bilateral system in that both sides of the family are addressed in the same manner.
When someone marries, his wife's family will have the same term of address as his own but he will refer to them using other terms
and generally refer to them as his inlaws.
How does kinship impact their everyday relationships?
It touches just about every area of their lives. From the socialization of the young, to the security for the old. It is the basis of law
and order in their community and is geared to provide for the visitor, the orphan, the widow and the dying.
(See Social Organization, Political Organization and Social Control, and World View for more information on kinship's impact on
Are there any kin relationships that are unique from the rest?
When an individual marries into another family, his relationship changes toward those individuals.
He cannot say the name of his mates father, mother, brother, sister and their children. If he does there will be supernatural
retribution against his own children and one of them could die. Or he would have to pay a fine to the inlaw offended.
He cannot go above the heads of any of the above mentioned or again he would have to pay a fine. So they are very careful not
to climb a tree or go up into a house on stilts if any of these inlaws are down below.
A mans relationship with his wife's sister is especially touchy. Talking and walking together are bad and should he marry her, her
family will be greatly offended and demand retribution in money. Her family is offended because they are afraid that they won't
get a good bride price for the girl. He bought his first wife from this family and so the second won't be paid for as well. They
would have her marry into another family to get full price.
All the other members of his wife's family are of course not as familiar as his own family even though he would use the same term
of address, generationally speaking, as he does for his own family. He would also refer to them as his "inlaws". His wife's brother
and sister term of reference is unique from the rest of her family.
Is "Totemism" practiced among the Loko people?
The Loko people do, in a limited way, practice totemism. Each clan can trace the start of their particular line back to it's origin.
Although there doesn't appear to be any spiritual unity between the ancestor and the descendants, each clan does practice
certain customs that are peculiar to the clan. A clan is not permitted to practice another clans customs.
Each clan has its own story of how it started. In each case something supernatural has taken place to start the new clan. Here are
some examples: a hairless pig turns into a woman who marries and starts the clan; a supernatural creature has children of which
one daughter marries and starts the clan; an old maid finds a tree with a baby living in it's fruit which eventually marries and starts
the clan, a half evil spirit and half human marries and starts the clan, and so on.
Land inheritance, ownership, "asples" for the clan is traced back to what area their particular first ancestor arose from.
Is there any other customs the Loko practice that tend to divide them into smaller groups?
There is another custom in which two individuals will compare the lines on the palm of their hands and thus ascertain whether
they are of the same group. Among others they might be either a fish, dog, snake, pig, evil spirit, stone, three different types of
If they are of the same group they consider themselves brothers and will agree to help each other economically.
This custom is not original with the Loko's but was learned from the Kombe people. Indeed, the Loko people don't seem to
practice it among themselves but some do practice it occasionally with the Kombe's.
Clans also have their own peculiar custom that stems from their totem. Other clans are not permitted to practice another clans
custom. For example, one clan builds their "house boy" differently then the other clans.
Are artificial kin relationships encouraged and developed?
Artificial kin relationships are developed for the purpose of meeting needs. For example, a man would be referred to as "father"
(even though he is no relation) because of having met the material needs of the other.
In the case of an orphan, he would be taken care of by his father's or mother's brother or sister. The extended family ties would
generally parent the child.
What is their attitude and behavior toward non-relatives?
(See Social Org., Social Structure for information)
Are there any stories of large scale disasters occurring among the Loko in the past?
Large scale sickness has apparently decimated the population in our immediate area in the distant past. Many seem to have died
during the epidemic.
There was also a drought years ago that took many lives. Vegetation dried up and there were many fires. Food was very scarce
and there was much fighting over what food was left. Some died from the fighting while others died of starvation. The fires that
consumed large areas also took lives. The government gave food relief to those who sought help.
Is there any problem with drug or alcohol addiction among the people?
Drugs are not a problem. Buay is used to stimulate and "give energy". It does appear to be addictive and usually develops into a
life time habit.
Most men will drink alcohol when given the opportunity. Most drink very sporadically due to the fact of it's unavailability in the
area and it's high cost.
How are invalids and dependents taken care of?
Invalids are taken care of within the kinship system. For example, if a dying mans wife and kids are tired of taking care of him so
his brothers son takes their place. Usually, the immediate family will care for the invalid.
Is poverty a problem?
Poverty to a Loko is to not have any capital to purchase with, trade or lend. A man who has nothing to lend or give is considered
by others to be a "poor" man.
A poor man will still have food to eat because of his getting food from his immediate or extended family. He may work hard in
providing food for his family as well but if he has no capital, he is derogatorily referred to as a "poor" man. He has nothing to lend
or give to help others out with. As a result he is looked down upon because of not contributing to the system.
Social Life of the Individual
Living Standards and Routines
What is the Loko "standard of living" like?
By western standards, they have but very few possessions. For most, their possessions would consist of a house, bed, a few
tools, and item or two of clothes, a few utensil and maybe a spear and shield. Most would be working a garden or two and some
would possess a dog for hunting as will as a pig. Some would have capital and some wouldn't.
Here again, the "big men" would tend to be considered the wealthy ones where as the others would be the "have not's".
There interaction with the natural as well as the supernatural world would tend to effect their standard of living. For example, the
teenagers are exhorted to live good lives and not get into trouble so that their families won't have to keep paying fines for their
misconduct. Then there will be money to buy food to stay healthy.
Saying their inlaws name could result in them mysteriously losing their shell money.
What would the daily work routine be for the average Loko man/woman?
Man: He will get up and ready himself for work in the garden. His major responsibilities in the garden are to cut the bush away
and cut down any trees that would hinder gardening. After the ground was prepared for planting, he would plant the taro, etc. He
would also be involved in the fence building and harvesting.
Part of his duties may include watching the kids and cooking while his wife is working at the garden. He could also help in
gathering fire wood. He is also responsible to keep the house construction in good repair.
Woman: Her major responsibilities for the day would be to care for her husband and kids by preparing and cooking the food,
getting the water, getting the firewood to keep the fires burning. She will generally go to the garden to harvest food or to gather
food from the jungle if the garden isn't ready. In gardening, she will work in clearing the ground down to the dirt and help burn off
the brush. She will get the vine for making the fence and prepare food for the workers. She will help plant and do the weeding later
Older kids: The daily routine for kids would be play. All types of play. They are also responsible to help the parents in getting
water or food or firewood. The older girls will often be involved in watching the little kids as well. They may also help in garden
work. Though work is really not a priority in their minds until they finally get married.
A two hour work day is typical. Garden work is also seasonal in that much rain keeps the people indoors. Where as more work is
usually done during the dry season.
Ref. II 1.1, II 1.4, III 6.6, III 6.9
What are their sleeping patterns like?
Most are usually up with the sunrise. They will sleep whenever they feel they need to which is generally in the afternoon. In the
evening they will usually retire before 10:00 pm.
Are there any unique ideas concerning sleep?
Many of the people still believe that their spirit at times travels to a place called "Namolo". This is the place of the dead and there
they see their departed ancestors.
Sleep is also a time when witch doctors can find out what caused a particular illness and what the cure should be. It is also when
they can discover who is guilty of a particular crime.
Is personal hygiene practiced?
The people have their own standards and methods of hygiene. Insecticides are also used to rid themselves of body lice, etc.
The toilet is a secluded spot in the jungle or a river. Covering excrements does not seem to be practiced by the people.
Women care for their children and clean up after them.
What are some of the customs and thinking among the people concerning menstruation?
The women do use menstrual huts. Generally, they are built out in the bush away from their homes though some have built theirs
on the back side of their houses. There are many restrictions placed upon her. Ideally, here are some things she can't do:
She can't go to the garden to get food
Can't get water from a water source
Can't cook food for her family
Others have to supply her food
Can't ask men for anything
Men can't see/visit her
She will be fined if she gets her own water
No one can sit on her bed or they'll get sick
She is forbidden to do these things because of the fear among the people that they will get a cough or serious lung infection from
her blood infecting the food, ground, water, etc. She is, therefore, forced to stay in her menstrual hut until her period is finished.
Are there any special customs concerning the first period?
The people have a feast and then the married women do a dance and celebrate because the girl is entering adulthood. There is an
instruction time for the girl during which someone will instruct the girl concerning all the restrictions and customs related to
menstruation. There usually is a male present who will also learn about it. This is a very public ceremony. They are celebrating her
passing into adulthood and her marriageability.
What is the general conception of conception?
The people understand that sexual union of the male and female is essential to conception. Though there doesn't appear to be
any idea of what actually takes place for conception to occur.
Do the people use contraceptives?
The women use a number of contraceptives native to the area. They wonder about the effectiveness of them.
Drinking juice from a certain vine, certain incantations.
What are the events surrounding childbirth to include post-natal care?
The husband will go and prepare a temporary house out in the jungle. After this, no men, children, young girls or pregnant
women are allowed to come in or near the house. The same taboos relating to the menstrual house also apply here. It is believed
that if a pregnant woman is present, she will supernaturally cause the death of the mother and child.
When she is about to give birth several of the women will come to help her. They will hold her, talk to her, perform an incantation
on ginger root after which they will spit it on her stomach to help her carry the child, build a fire using special leaves (the smoke
of which helps her to carry the baby faster).
After the baby is born the women will cut the cord and wash it. Then the mother washes and begins to nurse the baby.
The mother will then tear down the temporary house and move into another temporary house where another person will remain
with her to help. The old house is infected with the mothers blood so it is destroyed.
Then after about 4 or 5 days the mother will return with the baby to live with the rest of the family again.
Do the people practice abortion and infanticide?
The women have used some abortion methods native to the area. For example, tying a "charmed" vine around the belly and thus
killing the child; falling to the ground hard; carrying lots of wood to cause a miscarriage.
Infanticide is also practiced for a number of reasons. It is practiced against illegitimate infants, deformed or pre-mature infants,
twins. They will throw the child in a hole in the jungle to let it die.
Infancy and Childhood
What would the child's social placement be within the community?
Children are of course important to the community. They will provide help to their parents and other family members in the areas
of food and capital when they reach adulthood. And in the case of girls, they will generally bring in a good bride price.
(See Social Organization, Social Structure for more information)
What customs are done to infants and children?
There is a number of customs performed to mark the physical maturation of a child. These are called "rites of passage". There are
also a number of rituals that will initiate the child into the mysteries of the Loko religious system as well as help solidify his
oneness with the group. These are called "rites of intensification".
Rites of passage and intensification:
Males: Small feast at birth, circumcision around 3-7 years old, blackening of teeth later teens, marriage.
First born males: Same as above only they will be initiated into the mysteries of certain other customs for only first borns and "big
men" to fully understand, ie., Ceremonial washing, Warku, Yakau, Kamuitmuit, Akore.
Females: Small feast at birth, Celebration at first period, Marriage.
First born females also can receive ceremonial washing and learn about the customs for only firstborns..
(See World View, Types of Rituals for more information)
How are infants and children cared for?
Generally speaking, infants are cared for well. They will be breast fed by their mothers until they are weaned. They will usually
breast feed their young until they start to walk.
If the mother goes away for awhile or if she dies, then someone else (usually in the immediate family) will take the infant and feed
it until weaned. A woman may ask an older or younger sister to help in this area. And if she should die, then her sisters would
tend to feel obligated (culturally speaking) to care for the infant.
Children are cared for and fed. The kinship system helps the children and parents out in this area in that the children can eat with
and be cared for by their extended family as well.
What are the children's activities?
They basically play most of the time. At times, if they are old enough, they will be asked to watch out for their younger siblings
as well. They would also be involved at times with gardening. Some (esp. the girls) would help with preparing and cooking food.
Some types of play: Hide and seek; walking around shooting small spears at trees; kick ball; tag; different types of hand and song
games, playing evil spirit, etc. (See Play and Art; Types of Play for more information)
What are some of the techniques used in teaching and training of children?
Most areas of living (i.e. washing, eating, cooking, cleanliness, various types of work, hunting, crafts, play, singsings, etc.) are
learned by observation and in some cases with instruction. For example, children are cleaned by there guardians until they are old
enough to care for themselves. Then they will observe their peers and generally do likewise. A boy will go to work with his father
and learn by observation as well as instruction. A girl goes with her mother as she gathers firewood, builds a fire and cooks. She
thus has a pattern to follow. Certain types a play will teach a boy to throw a spear and thus train him for hunting or warfare.
These are learned from direct teaching by the elders. A particular custom is being celebrated to instruct the uninitiated into the
particular relevance of it. In the midst of the "party" the children or young adults to be instructed will be gathered together to
here the talk. Often a visual aid (mystical symbol) will be used such as a carved and painted post or a particular plant will be stuck
in the ground to aid in the instruction. At times these proceedings are in secret (depending on the custom performed) with only a
select few attending. Certain customs are laced with threats to the initiates that they'll be poisoned or speared if they expose
secrets to "outsiders". This also brings solemnity to the event.
Miscellaneous Beliefs, Practices, etc.:
Loko history, much of their religious beliefs and sciences, (cosmology, mythology, anthropology, theology, etc.) are passed
down in story form from the ancestors to the next generation.
Public schools are offering classroom instruction as well. Very few attend. None in our immediate area at present are attending.
Who is involved in the instruction and education of a child?
His immediate family will usually be the environment in which he will learn most all of the basic skills of living. Many times he will
be living with extended family members (uncles, aunts, cousins) and will learn much from them as well. A man may say he has
learned to hunt from his father or his fathers. Being he has multiple fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, they all tend to contribute
to this learning process.
These customs are initiated be the "big men". The big men are the cultural leaders in the tribe and will be the ones that are usually
knowledgeable enough to instruct the initiates into the meaning of the custom.
Miscellaneous Beliefs, Practices, etc.:
These are passed on by whomever happens to be telling the story or imparting the information. For example, a man may learn how
to do the magic incantations to make taro grow while working with his father. Or he may pay money to have a man tell him an
incantation to help catch eel. While working with his father in law in the garden, he learns about Arumong, the creator, and how
he helps to make the taro grow big if they do the right incantations.
How are children trained for independence?
The kinship system helps to create independence early on in a child's life. A child's interaction with his extended family members
tends to create independence from his real parents by the time he approaches his late pre-teen years.
To what extent have the people in the area availed themselves of a public school education?
Some of the older children to teenagers in our area have been to school one time or another but few have stayed for long. None of
the adults in our area have had formal schooling. The literacy rate is very low.
Are there any puberty or initiation rites for those passing into adulthood?
For men, the custom of blackening the teeth marks the time when he passes from adolescence to adulthood. This is the time when
he will be instructed in the ways of marriage and adulthood and will be exhorted (usually) by his father to follow the Loko ways
and be a good provider for his family.
For women, her first period will be the time when the women will celebrate her passing into a new phase of growth. She is now
considered eligible for marriage.
(See Social Org., Infancy/Childhood and World View, Rituals for more information)
What is the usual pattern of activity for teenagers?
Teenagers are generally free to do as they please. Playing and travelling is pretty typical. Work does come in every now and then
but for the vast majority, regular working patterns don't appear until marriage.
Within Loko culture, sex is acceptable in what context?
The area of sex is very private and not readily discussed. They are afraid of having black magic performed on them for discussing
the subject. The people have a strong sense of proper and improper sexual behavior.
Sex is acceptable within the context of marriage. It is unacceptable in any other context.
Extra-marital relations are punished. In the past, the offender would be shot or poisoned, they say. Now a fine is prescribed.
Pre-marital sex relations are punished the same way. Young unmarried adults have different forms of play and communication that
can lead to sex relations. These activities can lead to marriage and are acceptable but sex and pregnancies out of wedlock are not.
Prostitution is practiced within Loko society but is forbidden.
What type of family system do the Loko's practice?
The people practice both monogamy and polygamy.
In the past polygyny was (and is still) the practice of the "big men". They were the only ones allowed to marry two or more wives.
But it seems that this rule is not strictly enforced anymore in that some have taken second wives and yet are not "big men".
Culturally, second marriages are frowned upon because of the confusion and discord they seem to generate within that family.
There is a custom that the family of the second wife performs in which they will come and fight with the man and try to spear the
girl (though just slightly) to express their disapproval and outrage.
What is the basis for marriage?
This is broad based of course but economic gain as well as prestige are a factor esp. in the case of polygyny.
Who are a man's eligible partners?
The people practice what would be called simple exogamy. That is they are restricted from marrying genetically related kinsmen as
defined by the culture.
If a man desires to marry a woman who is descended from the same nuclear family three generations back, this would be
considered incest and therefore taboo. In other words, if their great grandfathers were blood brothers, this marriage is forbidden.
But if they are blood related in the forth generation back, then the marriage is culturally admissible.
Cross cousins are eligible partners while parallel cousins are not.
If he has married, taking a second wife from the same immediate family is forbidden.
How is a marriage arranged?
Marriages are arranged by the parents. If a young man wants to get married but has no one in mind, then the elders will talk and
try to arrange a marriage for him.
If a boy and girl are attracted to each other, then they can go to their parents and elders and have the marriage arranged.
Is there a period of courtship involved before marriage?
There usually is a time of courtship in which both will spend time together in culturally sanctioned activities (ie. eating, playing
various games, walking, talking, working) through which they can confirm the decision to marry or break it off.
Is there any type of marriage ceremony that takes place?
The people will gather together, prepare lots of food and celebrate the new marriage. At the same time the elders and families
involved will be preparing the bride price to be given to the girls family. The two will be in separate houses until the bride price is
exchanged. After the payment, the two are properly married and can start their lives together.
How is a marriage validated?
A man's family will help him buy his wife from her family. When the price is fully paid, then the marriage is truly validated.
Although some are "married" and yet have not fully paid the
"bride price" yet.
What are the resultant relationships of a marriage?
He now has an additional set of "fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters", etc., and the potential that those new relationships provide
both material, socially and spiritually.
A man's wife's family are now his inlaws and certain taboos are now in effect.
He is culturally forbidden to say the true names of his inlaws presently living. Neither is he supposed to be above their heads in
any way. Failing to observe this custom can result in him loosing his shell money or even one of his children in death. His inlaw
would be ashamed at his infraction and would demand he pay a fine to him/her. The same relationship restrictions hold true for
the wife toward his family.
Any members born into the mates family after the marriage do not carry the same restrictions. They can say their names, etc.
How and why is divorce implemented?
Divorce is basically seen as a splitting apart. The husband and wife will cease to be together. Eating, sleeping, talking, working
together will cease and others then recognize that the couple will divorce. The couple will then part.
The people divorce for a number of reasons. Unfaithfulness, not being a good provider, wife beating, mate wants someone else,
tired of mate. Taking another wife or two tends to generate ill feelings between the wives and husband and may end in divorce.
Are there any court proceedings to validate a divorce?
There will be a "court" case after which the individual leaving the partner will have to pay a prescribed fine. The divorce is thus
(See Social Control for more information)
What happens to the children in such a case?
There is no hard fast rule and every case is different. If the mother wants the little ones, they would tend to stay with her.
Extended family members also provide care for the kids.
Do irregular unions occur and what if anything do the people do about them?
Marrying within the family is forbidden. Those who have committed incest (as defined by Loko culture) will be spoken against
and will receive shame as a result.
What is a typical Loko family like?
It would be the typical "nuclear" family. One husband, one wife, with a few children.
The children would be living primarily at their real parents home but they do stay with their various other fathers and mothers in
the extended line. A child could supplicate help from not only his real parents but also his "other" parents. These "other" parents
can also expect help from their "other" children.
This kinship system helps the people in many areas especially when food is short.
Who lives in the house?
The house is built for the nuclear family. Relatives visit but don't generally stay for long extended periods.
A man with two wives would tend to provide a home for his individual wives.
Children from within the family line may often stay in the home and eat there.
How are "adapted" children generally received into the family?
They will be received into the family and treated as one of the children. Close relatives will care best for the child. They will be
expected to work (when old enough) in order to begin to pay back for the care they received.
If an adopted child is supported by his foster family for a long time and then returns to his previous family to live, his foster
family will expect a payment for looking after him/her. They invested in him and so want some sort of return.
How do the Loko's parent their children?
Remedial training seems non-existent. They feel that if they spank or correct their children with firmness, then the children will run
away and leave them. They generally feel that little children up to preteen years are not trainable and so are left in their
disobedience. When they reach the early teens years, then they will have sufficient understanding to take instruction and go the
The children do have recourse to live with others members of their extended family should they leave home so the parents fears
that they would leave home if they punish them are not entirely unfounded.
Young children are generally frightened into obedience by their parents. They will say, "An evil spirit is going to eat you." or,
"The white man will give you a shot of medicine if you don't obey."
What are the ideal parents and children like?
One who will obey the parents and work hard. One that is not goofing off all the time.
Someone who doesn't yell or get angry or fight. One who works hard and provides lots of food. He gives shell money and pigs to
his kids. He will help train his kids in their work responsibilities as well as the customs surrounding work, etc. He is home more
then he is gone.
She works hard in the garden and provides lots of food and water for her children. She feeds the pigs. She doesn't talk bad about
How are senior citizens treated?
They are shown respect and proper care. When sick, the immediate family will usually care for his needs until he dies. If the
immediate family does not provide for them then nearest kin will help out.
What are their beliefs concerning life and death?
When someone dies the spirits of the dead come and try to eat the person that died. They have different customs that keep away
the other spirits so that they won't kill anyone living.
When the dead persons spirit departs it is turned into an evil spirit that lives in the jungle and eats people.
If someone has just died and is being carried to another location, the people (out of fear of evil spirits that will come because of
the recent death) will hit the trees with sticks to keep the spirits away.
If someone dies, they believe the spirit travels abroad and will cause mischief such as cutting ones self with a knife, falling, a
falling tree branch causing injury, etc. And hunters will not find any game because the ghost has caused the animals to be
If someone is carrying a log and it suddenly gets heavy, they think that the spirit of someone recently died has entered it.
If they see a certain bird, they think it's the spirit of a "big man" who has just died.
If they hear the call of a certain bird they believe it portents the death of someone near to them.
The place of the dead is called Namolo. It is inhabited by the departed spirits. The condition of those existing there is basically
good. They generally agree that there are houses and lots of food. There is much conjecture as to its location as well as the
condition of those there.
If a pregnant woman dies with the fetus, they believe the child will be born in Namolo and be half evil spirit and half human.
Due to mission influence, they believe suicides won't go to heaven. They also are aware that if your good you go to heaven while
the evil go to hell.
Children born with abnormalities are considered evil in that some spirit has fouled it's normal development. They are therefore left
to die in the jungle.
(See World View, Supernatural for more information)
Are there suicides?
There have been suicides and for various reasons. Hanging and drinking poison are the reported methods.
Social shame and marital discord seem the primary reasons for suicide.
How are the dying cared for, etc?
They are generally cared well for. They are listened to with great respect and will be obeyed. The family now has the opportunity
to pay back the care that this parent or person had shown previously to them. They are washed and made as comfortable as
possible until they pass away. This may be said ideally so as each family is different.
What are some of the different funeral practices?
People are usually buried in the same house that they lived in. The other family members can then have there loved one with them
while the house protects the grave from the elements. The government has encouraged the people to bury the dead in one area
for health reasons. This is not practiced in our area.
If someone dies at night, then the people in the house will try to stay awake through the night because....
They use three different types of graves.
a. Grave about 3-4 feet deep with and stick bed made about one foot off the bottom. Then a stick roof is made over the body with
leaves, etc., on top to keep the dirt from covering the body. This is usually done for adults though not always.
b. A hole dug down 4 feet or so with a second ledge 2 foot up from the floor. This is where the body will be placed in a sitting
position. Primarily for children.
c. A hole dug down with another hole dug sideways into the grave wall where the body will be lain.
A corpse is usually dressed up in good clothes (if available). Someone might be washed if they are suspected of dying soon.
In the past, the people put the earthly possessions of the individual in the grave with him. He was thought to then carry them
with him to Namolo, the place of the dead, where he would continue to need them.
Nowadays the people usually distribute the possessions to family members, etc. When a infant or child dies, different items are
often put into the grave with it such as money, utensils, different clothes items, so that it would have some things when it gets to
During the wake, pig meat or coconuts are burned on the fire as it is thought the good smell will help the soul of the dead on to
If someone is a "warku" or has been initiated into this custom in the past, then Warku will speak to the dead mans spirit during
the funeral and all will hear. This is for the "big men".
For suicides, burial is not done quickly. They might wait as long as 3-4 days during which time the families involved will argue
and try to find out why the suicide occurred
If someone is buried in an uninhabited house, the people will not go in the house for no reason. They will also clean around the
house, cut the grass and sweep, etc. If they didn't there might be supernatural repercussions.
How do the people express their grief?
Crying and wailing are to a greater or lesser degree a part of every funeral. The women especially will wail while the men will often
If the body is buried and other family members arrive late, then there is a custom performed in which the late family members will
demand shell money from the other family members and thus express their grief. There will also be a trading of shell money with
each other. This is done to express their sadness at the loss. Those who did any work for the funeral such as carrying the dead,
digging the grave, etc., will also receive shells in payment.
Five days after the body was buried, there will be another gathering of the families involved during which time they will eat
(usually pig meat) and exchange shell money again and to "buy" those individuals who weren't there to see the body before it
was buried. They wait five days because some believe that the soul of the dead lingers in the area for five days and then leaves.
In the past a custom was performed in which, after a few months time, different family members would go back to the grave, reach
in and pull out certain bones of the deceased which were then taken back and ceremonial washed (by heating pig meat and fat
and letting the grease drip down on the bones) and venerated by a feast and celebration. They would then be kept in the house
as icons. Some say this is still being practiced though the government and missions have forbidden it.
If one is very sorry for the death of somebody, they may take a vow not to eat a certain food, particularly pig meat, for a period of
time. They put a black mark on their foreheads to signify to others that they are under a abstinence vow. They can be under this
vow for several months to a year or longer after which the big men will mark the time when they will kill a pig and give it to those
under the vow. Then the vow is finished.
How do they basically view death and the afterlife?
They generally seem to view it as a necessary experience all must pass through after which they will be with their ancestors.
There is much confusion and conjecture as to the exact nature of the afterlife and this has produced insecurity in some.
A syncretism of ancestor thinking and Christian theology has mostly produced uncertainty and confusion as to the location and
quality of existence after death.
The inevitability of dying seems to be accepted more easily and naturally by the average Loko person then it would be by the
average American. It is not a denied but generally accepted reality. Turning your house into a graveyard helps develop this mind
Prolonged illness and pain often make dying a desired end.