Saturday, June 11, 2011



Pre-War Koreas

A koreas is a leather belt, worn in olden times by women for religious purposes.

From 1769 until 1899, the Catholic missionaries in the Marianas were from a specific Order, following a specific saint with their own devotions and particular customs.  This Order was the Augustinian Recollect Order.  They followed Saint Augustine and had a devotion to Our Lady of Consolation.

You can see in the painting above, a depiction of the traditional story that the Blessed Mother appeared to Saint Monica to console her as she prayed with tears for her son Augustine's conversion.  Mary appeared to her wearing a leather belt.  She gave this belt to Saint Monica.  When Augustine converted to the Catholic Faith, Saint Monica gave it to her son.  Saint Augustine then added it to the habit (religious uniform or robes) of his followers, the Augustinians.  The Spaniards called this leather belt the correas; in Chamorro koreas.

You can see these Spanish Augustinian Recollect Friars wearing the leather belt or koreas.

When the Augustinian Recollects (Rekoletos) came to the Marianas in 1769, they formed a religious society for married women, the Cofradía de Nuestra Señora de la Consolación - the Society of Our Lady of Consolation.  Old-timers simply called it the Cofradía.  It was the precursor of today's Christian Mothers.

The women of the Cofradía got to wear the koreas, too.  The koreas was blessed by a priest and was considered a holy object.  In fact, many people would bend down and kiss the Augustinian priest's koreas as a sign of respect.

Now since the Cofradía women owned one, it also became a household item.  It was usually hung on the wall and used as an object of devotion.  When a Cofradía member died, she was buried with it.  During the war, the owner of this koreas wore it around her waist as a sign of protection from the Blessed Mother from the Japanese.

But the koreas also had a very practical use, as an instrument of corporal punishment.  The idea was, since it was blessed, the wayward child could be straightened out by the Blessed Mother if whipped with the koreasNina'tunas as Santa Maria, nai.

One lady told me this story.  During the war, when the family lived on the ranch, one of her brothers was near the woods and saw something unusual.  He was frozen and could not speak.  The father knew that the boy must have seen something spooky in the jungle.  He asked his wife for her koreas and whipped the boy with it.  The boy shouted "Ai puti!" (Ow, it hurts!)  The koreas got back his voice, his senses, and his sense of pain!  A blessed object was what was needed, because of what he saw in the jungle.

The Augustinian priests were expelled by the Americans in 1899 and the Capuchin Franciscans replaced them in 1901.  The Capuchins follow Franciscan traditions, not Augustinian ones, but the pious women on Guam were so attached to the Cofradía and the koreas that the Spanish Capuchins did not change the custom.  It was only after the war and with the arrival of American Capuchins that the custom of the koreas died out.  The Cofradía was replaced by the Christian Mothers.

Very few people in the Marianas still have a genuine koreas from before the war in the family treasure box.  I am so fortunate to have found one.

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