Religion and Beliefs
Immigrants inhabit new lands by settling their old gods there. What happens to these deities themselves when they migrate? Village deities are wrought of a particular landscape and a specific people. Refusing to remain rooted to icons, shrines or sites, they ceaselessly wander the territories they protect. But this roaming is restricted to their own jurisdictions. Examining the resonance of Pecchi-Amman – the rural mother goddess – in urban Singapore, I document the effects of dislocation from their homelands on these intensely local deities. In traversing the ocean, Pecchi-Amman has acquired more regular veneration and a spectacular ritual complex. But in the process, what has she lost? While the goddess remains potent, her nature has subtly shifted as she was transplanted unto foreign soil. She who had crossed the seas no longer even crosses her temple threshold – unless ferried by her priests. Migration, I argue, has immobilized a once vital agentive force. From being immanent in her native landscape, manifesting herself directly and insistent upon her own will, she has now become marooned in her icons, confined to her temple and entirely dependent on her devotees to represent her. Despite a century-old presence, Singapore is not her home over which she feels free to roam. Minimizing divine agency, migration has reinforced human mediation. It has rendered not just a subject but a sovereign – freely roaming over her territory and reigning over her subjects – into more of an object; stationary, reactive and almost entirely dependent on human representation.