Rituals

The Huli communicate with Iba Tiri, Ni, Hana and all other deities and ghosts except Datagaliwabe and Dama Tayanda through various forms and types of ritual expression called Gamu.  Gamu is a supernatural power or force that is controlled, manipulated and even possessed by men and women through a series of words and actions designed to effect dama (a collective term that refers to ghosts, ancestral founders and deities) in such a way as to produce an affect on the environment, material objects, one's self and/or another person or persons.  The efficaciousness of gamu depends upon the observance of the exact form of the proscribed behavior as well as the use of specified ritual matter.  Often the gamu practitioner must observe defined ascetical practices such as fasting from water, food and sexual relations to ensure the desired effects.

A list of thirty-four of some of the many different types of gamu is given in this Huli Gamu Rites PDF. The chart indicates the types, forms, and purposes of the different kinds of rites as well as the ritual objects, actors and supernatural beings associated with them.

The first inhabitant of the land was Honabe, the goddess who gave birth to all the inhabitants of the world including birds, possums and deities.  She is the grandmother goddess of the Huli people and the surrounding cultures, the Duna, Duguba, Obene and Hewa peoples, all of whom derive their names from their founding fathers.  As founding fathers they are considered deities and are called dama.

Dama live in the sacred forests (Ni), caves (Kepei) and waters (Iba Tiri.)  Evil spirits inhabit deep dark waters (Iba angibu, i.e., puss from a sore) as well as dark secluded forests (dama tayanda) and remote mountain peaks. The dama control the forces of nature and often attack or sometimes help human beings in their endeavors.  The deities attack humans directly (causing sickness, accidents, or death) or indirectly through witches, corpses, stones, sticks or other ritual objects that are imbued with their presence.

Humans appease these deities and seek their assistance through oblations of pigs, red paint, pig fat, cowrie and kina shells, crops, and special plant leaves. Some deities (Ni, Korimgo, and Kepei) consume the blood and aroma of prepared pigs while the other deities (Hone and Lindu) delight in pig fat offerings which are rubbed onto sacred stones imbued with their presence.  Major deities are pleased with certain species of cordyline vines planted in their honor.  Ingratiated in this way, they protect the planters from the attacks of minor deities.  Some deities are merely appeased through simple prayers or spells.  Iba Tiri and other gods are honored and propitiated by special dances.  Datagaliwabe and Dama Tayanda (nature demons) cannot be propitiated by any ritual means, although the former is placated by proper moral conduct.

The Huli not only placate and win favor of dama, they also trick them to protect themselves.  Men who traverse through deep forests or climb mountain peaks speak a derivative of the Huli language called Tayanda Bi in order to confuse the deities about their identity activities.  They also trick the dama by constructing symbolic gates to block their paths as the men walk through forests.  Victims of Korimgo are buried in a reversed position in order to confuse the deity and thwart his attacks on people living in the community.


Ni and Hana

The Ni and Hana, which is a sequel of the Huli creation myth, is given in the resource section as a pdf file. The creation myth relates the origins of Ni and Hana while the Ni and Hana myth tells the story of their incestuous union and their fleeing the earth in shame to ascend to the heavens to become the sun and the moon.

N, the son of Honable, is a very powerful Huli god .  The Huli refer to themselves as Ni Honowini, the children of the sun, Ni.  This title is based on the variant of the creation myth (Ibid, pp. 33-34) wherein Ni seduces the wife of his brother Helahuli which results in the birth of the Huli people.  One missionary reports that the Huli people were created from the union of Ni and Hana (Papuan Letters, Volume 6, p. 22).  This missionary and others (C. Simpson, Plumes, pp. 392-393) refer to Ni as the creator due to his siring of the Huli people.  This confusion over the identity and function of Ni can be clarified by analyzing the many contexts which refer to him.

The sacrifice of a pig to Ni during marriage instructions and upon the conception of a child alludes to the "children of Ni" theme.  The sacrifices compel Ni to bless the marriage so that the union will be fruitful and produce children of Ni. The sacrifice of pigs to Ni during the Tege and Haroli initiation rites strengthen the young children of Ni by increasing their fertility and establishing them as functional males in the community. The initiates are recreated as new men when the sun (Ni) rises only after entering into the darkness of the womb and death an hour or two before dawn through fire-walking rites (Tege) and baptismal immersions (Haroli).  "This makes man, in a sense, the son of the Supreme Being; more precisely, he becomes a  new man as a result of his ritual death from which he rises identified with the sun" as a child of Ni (M. Eliade, Patterns in Comparative Religion, (New York: New American Library, 1958, p. 135.)

The importance of Ni is also seen in the round black stones mentioned in the myth.  These sacred stones are called Ni Habane, the seed of Ni.  They are imbued with supernatural power and are used in fertility rites, i.e., planting them in gardens to make them fertile with the help of the fecundating power of Ni.

The role of Ni as father of the Huli and fecundator of the earth reveals the solarization of the supreme being, Datagaliwabe, a process which we will discuss later.  Datagaliwabe's creator attributes were transformed to the sun god, Ni, resulting in an amalgamation of the supreme being with the sun god (Ibid., p. 128).  A similar process occurred with the demi-urge Honabe and her offspring, notably Hana, which eventually ended in the gradual replacement of Datagaliwabe.  Each of these creator deities (Honabe, Ni and Hana) claim some function related to man's creation for the natural spheres they symbolize are primordial sources from which humans get being and life. (Ibid., p. 134)  Thus, Ni is a creator deity who rejuvenates the fertility of the earth and increases the abundance of life for his children, Ni honowini.

Hana is also a powerful deity amongst the Huli who invoke her name and power in their fertility rites, notably the Kelote dindi gamu rites wherein pigs are sacrificed to her in the gelage anda ritual house.  Of interest is the meaning of Hana, to place in a carrying bag. Hana refers to the birth of a child who is placed into the mother's carrying bag.  Hence, Hana's name itself alludes to her fertility powers, her power to give birth.

Hana's connection with gamu-impregnated menstrual blood, a powerful supernatural force in Huli life, further illustrates her fertility powers. Menstrual blood has life-giving properties in the Haroli bachelor cult and is a predominant symbol and power in Huli society.  The Ni and Hana myth reveals the creation of her vulva, the shedding of her blood, and the implied beginning of her menstrual cycle.  Her becoming the moon also suggests menstrual blood imagery since the moon is symbolic of the monthly menstrual cycle. The fact that pelagua dances and dindi gamu rites, which are performed to ensure top the fertility of the earth and its people, are held in the moonlight further demonstrates the connection between the moon, menstrual blood and fertility.

The significance of the name of Hana and her association with life-giving menstrual blood, the fertility stones from the union of Ni and Hana, and the association of the two siblings with fertility rites all indicated that they are powerful and prominent Huli deities who function to enhance the fertility of the earth and its people.
Iba Tiri 
(See L. Goldman, Speech Categories, p. 22; Voices in the Forest, Australian National Film-makers, and Kelote, an important Huli Ritual Ground, p. 16; and the film Voices in the Forest.)


Iba Tiri is another major Huli deity who has dualistic trickster-like qualities.  He inhabits the water banks of all major rivers and is responsible for cleansing all rivers that pass through the Huli area.  He dwells in a special way near a large tree called Ira Hari at the Kelote ritual grounds near Burani.  All the rivers of the Huli area are believed to converge at this tree and pass up to the sky where they return as rain. Iba Tiri, the source of all waters, is also considered the cause of dysentery. His waters bring life to gardens and men but also death through floods, drownings and illness.  He is particularly important to the Huli as water is their sole beverage.

Iba Tiri's name, which means fool of the water, is the only name of Huli god used in general conversation.  Men who talk nonsense are asked Iba Tiri bi larame which means are you making the talk of Iba Tiri?  He is also the subject of bi te stories told during the night in boy's houses.  The story below describes the trickster-like qualities of this important deity:
Iba Tiri is along the banks of the Benabe river,
Along the banks of the Baralu,
Along the banks of the Tuya,
Along the banks of the Ayele.
The ends of his string apron are uneven.
The points of his three-prong arrow are uneven.
His ribbon tail feathers are uneven (on one side).
He makes a noise like a grass skirt and we used to think it was a pig.
He makes a noise like a fish and we used to think it was a pig.
He makes a noise like a duguba rattle and we used to think it was a pig.
He makes a noise like a cricket and we used to think it was a pig.
Two dancers dress like Iba Tiri and imitate the trickster-like qualities described above in a ritual dance called Tiri yagua.  The dancers wear lopsided string aprons and two feathers of the ribbontail bird of paradise on one of their heads as described above, as well as yellow painted gourd masks with red and white highlights and a covering of forest moss. (The yellow painted gourd mask is the only known mask used by the Huli in ritual performance.) They dance in a peculiar jumping fashion around a man dressed as a woman whom they threaten with dummy bows and arrows.  The two dancers and two lopsided feathers symbolize the double-dealing characteristics of Iba Tiri who gives life and takes it away through water.  The uneven dress, dummy arrows and trickster-like qualities of Iba Tiri are applied to jokes about poor dress and meaningless speech. Mentally challenged men and women are called Iba Tiri.

The Huli also make oblations of pig meat to Iba Tiri as the two men dance to ensure abundance and cleanliness of water. Men recite the spell: Iba Tiri take this meat and cleanse the waters as they throw a piece of pig meat into the river.  A man who goes possum hunting with his dog also calls upon Iba Tiri by blowing spell onto the water before he rubs it onto the dog's nose:  Iba Tiri cleanse the water to open the dog's nose to catch possum, to smell possum. 

Datagaliwabe is a unique deity, who, unlike Iba Tiri, Ni and Hana, is not referred to as dama but only by name.  He is a giant hight-god, one of only two known high-gods in Melanesia, who with legs astride, looks down upon all humans and punishes lying, stealing, adultery, incest, murder of related kin, failures to avenge the murders of kink breaches of exogamy and of ritual taboos. (J. Parratt, Papuan Belief and Ritual, p.6)

Datagaliwabe looks favorably upon those who obey kinship rules and helps them in their daily affairs.  Proper moral behavior is the only way to please him.  He does not accept prayers, sacrifices, dances, or other rituals that are performed to propitiate or placate his all-seeing power. Early Methodist missionaries regarded Datagaliwabe as the guardian of the Huli code of ethics and therefore adopted his name for Yahweh.  Even though all Christian churches have now adopted the word Ngode for God, Datagaliwabe is still equated with Yahweh or God by many Huli Christians. (J. Barr, Spirit Movements in the Highlands' United Church, Point No. 3, p. 146)


Gamu Power and Rites
(See R. Glasse, The Huli, pp. 37-46; Australian National Filmakers, Voices in the Forest; and J. Parratt,, Papuan Belief, pp. 26,44.)

The Huli communicate with Iba Tiri, Ni, Hana and all the deities and ghosts except Datagaliwabe and dama tayanda through various forms and types of ritual expression called gamu. Gamu is a supernatural power or force that is controlled, manipulated and even possessed by men and women through sets of words and actions designed to affect the environment, material objects, one's self  and/or another person or persons. The efficaciousness of gamu depends upon the observance of the exact form of the prescribed behavior as well as the use of set ritual matter.  Often the gamu practitioner must observe defined ascetical practices such as fasting from water, food and sexual relations to ensure the desire effect.

A list of  thirty-four of the many different kinds of gamu is located here. The list indicates the types, forms, and purposes of the different kinds of rites as well as the ritual objects, actors, and supernatural beings associated with them.

Ritual Behavior
Gamu power is controlled and manipulated through three basic forms of ritual behavior: verbal expression, gestures, and oblations.  Any one or a combination of these forms are used in the various individual gamu rites.  The major category of ritual behavioral forms is verbal expressions which are usually an element of other sets of ritual forms.  Ritual verbal expressions are sets of words that communicate information to deities, ghosts and/or ritual specialists.  The Huli have four main types of ritual verbal expression namely, dance chants, confessions, myths and spells.

Confessions are words spoken to a deity, ghost or ritual specialist that indicate a person's or the community's guilt in moral or ritual transgressions.  Confessions are a necessary element for most healing rites (such as agali gamu) in that the healer must know the cause for the deity's or ghost's anger before diagnosing the sickness and prescribing a cure. Confessions that announce the moral transgressions of the community are also spoken at fertility rituals like the Kelote dindi gamu rites before the pigs are sacrificed to appease the wrath of the deities.

Dance chants, which are only sung during the pelagua dance,  implore the dama to avert their anger over the dealings of man. Myths are an important type of verbal expression associated with many initiation and fertility rites. They are addressed in a separate section on myths since they describe the origins of the deities. Gamu rites are very important in understanding Huli society outside the category of ritual verbal expression.

Spells (dawe habe) are the most common type of verbal expression used in gamu rites. They are learned verbal formula replete with symbolic words that often have a predictable word order, structure, content and alternate vocabulary sets which are mostly sung, but sometimes spoken, only during ritual performances. The words of the spell are often blown onto the person or ritual matter that is the ritual subject.  The word order or content of the spell cannot be altered lest it loose its power to produce the desired effect.

The following spell is part chanted, part blown onto the damaged navel of a man suffering from menstrual contamination or vaginal secretion poisoning.  It calls upon trees, earthworms, and snakes to lend their indestructibility and regenerative powers to the diseased organs of the sick man.
"Mugu (a species of tree)) hununu,
walu (tree) hununu,
mugu (tree) hununu,
ngue hawela (earthworm) hununu,
pugua hugula (menstrarul blood and vaginal secretions) hununu,
hununu, 
hununu,
tombene (stomach) hununu,
endolabane (colon) hununu,
dugutabane (small intestines) hununu,
yabuni (rectum) hununu,
wi (penis) hununu,
dalaga (snake) hununu,
dalapari (snake) hununu,
wapuya (sanke hununu..."    (S. Frankel, I Am a Dying Man, p. 102)
The content of the spell reveals a structure, alternate vocabulary set and symbolic words which are typical of Huli spells.  The first word in each line is part of the alternate vocabulary set which changes with each line, while the last term, hununu, remains the same.  The changing words are listed in a structured order of sets of three: healing properties (one set of trees and one set of earthworms), causes (menstrual blood and vaginal secretions followed by three hununu terms), diseased organs (two sets of three organs), and healing properties (three species of snakes.)

Hununu in each line connotes regeneration; the mugu and walu trees symbolize regeneration in that the trees produce an abundance of scar tissue and glary sap when they are stripped of their bark. The sick man hopes that these trees will transfer their regenerative powers to his organs so they will produce scar tissue and bring him healing.  Slimy earthworms symbolize a healthy intestine as well as the power of regrowth and immortality in that an earthworm, when cut in half, replicates itself.  The three snakes symbolize the property of renewal for when a snake sheds it dry and scaly skin, the snake reveals a new, glossy and firm skin.

Most Huli spells use symbolic flora and fauna imagery to connote their desired properties.  A man recites the following spell that invokes the animal spirits to share their strengths with his newborn child.
O, go with the wild cassowary,
Go like the wild pig,
Go like the wild dog.
If a boy, there will be hunting bows.
If a girl, there will be plenty of wedding pigs.  

The spell also reveals an alternative vocabulary set (wild animals), as well as the father’s future desires for his children: hunting bows for his sons and a large bride wealth for his daughters.

Men recite spells as they decorate themselves for the mali dance.  The following spell is sung over the heads of the dancers before they decorate their wigs with the brilliant plumes of the birds of paradise, cock-a-toos and parrots.

May the men be splendid and beautiful as birds of paradise.  May many people come to the dancing ground just as birds flock to a tree in fruit.

Another spell which demonstrates the transferal of desired qualities from an object to the subject is recited as a mother rubs the body of her child with a mixture of clay, spittle and water.
I call upon the Raggianna birds for their speech.
Give the child the gift of fluent speech.
I call upon the Raggianna birds for flight.
Give the child the strength to run strong.
The loud and eloquent qualities of the Raggianna bird of paradise as well as the fertility of the earth symbolized in the clay are transferred to the child through the chanting of the spell and the clay anointing, which is another form of ritual behavior, ritual gestures.

Ritual gestures are symbolic or sympathetic actions designed to affect a change on the subject directly or through the mediating power of a ghost or deity.  As the preceding example has shown, anointing is such a ritual gesture.  Sacred stones are often anointed with pig fat or red paint to appease the dama whose presence impregnates the stone. The sister of a warrior slain in battle anoints her forehead with his blood.  The man who slew her brother will become deathly sick if he happens to glance at the spot of blood on the victim’s sister’s forehead.

Bathing is another common form of ritual gesture.  Bachelors bathe themselves daily with dew as they chant spells to ensure their physical development.  They also wash their eyes monthly under a waterfall to cleanse their eyes of the stigma of women.  A man who has been poisoned ritually bathes himself near a stream with medicinal herbs and the blood of a pig to cleanse himself form the effects of the poison. The poisoned man had previously sacrificed the pig to the deities and consumed its meat along with the taro shavings and bog iris leaves which were touched to his body.

Ritual dancing or dawepeda is the third common Huli ritual gesture. Dances are rhythmic movements that involve the orchestration of the whole body that are intended to affect a change in a deity or a ghost so as to ensure the well being of humans and their environment.  Dances attempt to imitate the deity (tiri Yagua), rejuvenate ancestral ghosts (ega kiliapa), propitiate deities or ghosts (mali and pelagua) and/or ward off the attacks of malevolent dama (gumia).

Drinking and eating are dominant ritual gestures which are usually associated with pig sacrifices.  The slaughtered pig is cooked and eaten by the ritual participants after the spells have been chanted and other ritual actions have been performed.  The previous section on compensation has already shown the medicinal and healing nature of pig exchanges.  The ritual eating of sacrificial pork also brings about the symbolic healing of conflicts between the participants and the dama or ghosts to whom the pig was sacrificed.  The Kelote fertility sacrifices are a pure example of the sacrificial offerings of pigs to deities who have been offended by men and the resultant reconciliation between the dama and the men as symbolized in the ritual pork meal.  Healing is also experienced by men who suffer from menstrual pollution through the ritual gesture of eating enchanted, sacrificial pork or ginger and through the drinking of enchanted water.

Other common ritual gestures include the breaking and holding of sticks (hambu and dindi gamu) digging gardens so as to re-enact the digging of the primordial garden by deities (ndintingi and dindi gamu), placing oblations at sacred places (tiri Yagua), burying stones in gardens and ritual forests (kimbu gamu) and many more.

Oblations are another form of ritual behavior which are usually used in connection with spells and ritual gestures.  Oblations are material objects which are given to deities or ancestral ghosts as a sign of thanksgiving and respect and/or as a means to invoke the power of the dama in human activity.  They are either offerings or sacrifices.  Offerings usually consist of specific plant leaves, pig fat, tree oil, red paint and kina or cowrie shells.

These are given to the dama by presenting them on sticks (dindi gamu), throwing them into water (leaves), pouring (red paint, pig fat, tree oil) over sacred stones or simply placing them in a cave or ritual house (shells, leaves, containers of tree oil or red paint.)

Sacrifices are slaughtered animals, usually pigs, or burnt crops.  The burnt crops are turned into the ground or a garden to ensure its productivity (mabu gamu).  Pigs are slaughtered and consumed for many different reasons and at various occasions.  This chart lists these and reasons and indicated the deities or ghosts to whom the oblation is given (when known.)

Pigs are sacrificed to propitiate dama and to seek their power in healing the sick; increasing the fertility of women, pigs and gardens; divining the causes of recent and future events; and protecting men from evil forces be they other men or dama. The ghosts and deities are attracted by the aroma of the cooked pork and draw close to men whenever pigs are slaughtered and cooked.  They consume the blood and aroma of the pork, while participants in the rites eat the prepared pork.

Types of Rituals

Any one or combination of the forms of gamu behavior, verbal expressions, ritual gestures and oblations are performed during the various types of Huli rituals.  The Huli classify their gamu rites into five types: sorcery (gamu bia), healing (agali gamu), divination (tadu bia), fertility (dindi gamu) and initiation (gurumaigiti and haroligamu).  The other two types of ritual, protection and production gamu, are also practiced by the Huli, although they do not classify them as specific types of rituals.

Sorcery is the willful manipulation of supernatural forces or powers to harm a person, persons, and/or their possessions.  The Huli do not have generic classifications for the many kinds of sorcery.  However, a simple classification of sorcery based on “means to ends relationships” clarifies the manner in which sorcery is believed to be efficacious.  The first class of sorcery consists of those kinds of sorcery that have a direct or mechanical effect on the victim (linki, hambu, and ngubi gamu).  In hambu gamu, a man breaks a stick pointed in the direction of his enemies to directly break the bones of the victim.  The second kind of sorcery consists of those kinds of sorcery  that have an indirect effect on the victim which is mediated by a ghost or deity (tera and mbi bia ha gamu). Men directly or indirectly caused the death or sickness of an adversary by calling down the wrath of nine major deities upon him by tera gamu or ritual cursing.  The men sacrifice a pig and present it to the deities in a ritual house as they chant curses.  The deities, grateful for the oblation, then attack the victim causing sickness and/or death.

Healing gamu consists of those forms of behavior performed by a healing specialist who chants spells and uses specified ritual matter to bring about the healing of a sick person.  Agali gamu, which was described above in the section on spells, is an example of healing gamu.  The cure for poison, which consists of the sacrifice of a pig, ritual bathing with the pig’s blood and medicinal leaves, and the eating of the pork with taro and bog iris leaves as a spell is chanted is another example of healing gamu.

Divination gamu (tadu bia) is all those forms of ritual behavior performed by diviners to determine the causes of a recent event and predict future events through the use of specified ritual matter and spells.  Female diviners divine positive or negative answers to questions posed by a client with a string bag that contains an article formerly associated with a dead person.  The article (hair, bone, clothing, necklace, etc.) attracts the ghost to the string bag and imbues it with gamu power.  The animated string bag sways to the left for negative answers and to the right for positive answers in response to the client’s questions.

Fertility gamu are any form of gamu behavior performed to increase the fertility of any part of the environment.  Gardens (mabu gamu), women (ndintingi gamu), children (waneingi gamu), men (haroligamu), pigs (kimbu gamu), and water (tiri gamu) are made fertile through the performance of ritual actions.  Fertility rituals, which are the preeminent type of Huli gamu behavior, are performed through the ritual digging of gardens, bathing with dew, anointing of sacred stones and people, burying sacred stones, chanting spells, and the presentation of sacrifices and oblations in the various rites.

Initiation gamu is a form of fertility gamu that aims to increase the strength and accelerate the physical development of young males through the manipulation and control of supernatural forces, especially the power of the bog iris plants and ritual menstrual bamboo tubes.  Initiation rites also instruct the young men in Huli myths, lore, and traditions and prepare them for battle.  There are two distinct types of Huli initiation gamu: gurumaigiti and haroli gamu.  The former is performed in the tege house during the tege rites while the latter is performed by bachelors in the bachelor cult sacred forest during a two year novitiate.

Protection gamu are sets of ritual behavioral forms that are performed to protect a man from his enemy, be it another man, deity, ghost or from any of the other forms of gamu undertaken to cause him harm.  The gumia dance is performed to scare away harmful dama.  Manago hale gamu is practiced by a man to repel the powerful and harmful emanations of toro stones which may be aimed in his direction by his foe.  In this rite, a man coats sticks purchased from the Duna people with pig’s blood and places them at the four corners of his house and in his garden to ward off the toro force.

Production gamu are those sets of ritual forms that are carried out to ensure the proper production of material objects.  Men burn the plumes of the blue bird of paradise in the fire that is kindled and used to hollow out wood when they make their drums.  The burnt plumes transfer the loud and penetrating voice of the bird to the drum which is used in ritual dances.


Social Nature of Rites
All of these types of gamu are either performed by individuals or by groups of persons.  Corporate rituals acts are performed by a nuclear family, clan units, clans, or clan associations.  The Huli also execute fertility rites with clans of different cultures as in the Kelote dindi gamu rites.  The individual or corporate nature of the rites is indicated on the gamu chart.  Corporate rituals are usually concerned with the general well being of the community, while individual rites have a much more limited goal.  However, any individually performed ritual affects the entire community for it entails the support of a deity as well as the well-being of a particular member of the community.  This is especially evident in timu gamu or arrow sorcery which guides an enchanted arrow to its mark, the enemy of the community, and in tera gamu or ritual cursing which invokes the deities to strike an opponent or propitiate the deities.

Ritual Sites
Many gamu rites, both individual and corporate, are only performed at sacred ritual grounds or in ritual houses.  The presence of Ni, Kepei, Hana and other major deities dwell in various ritual houses and sacred grounds throughout the Huli lands, while minor deities only dwell in one locality.  The deities are invoked in the ritual houses through spells, and their presence is manifested by the bursting of red-painted bamboo tubes which were placed in the fire by a ritual specialist.  After the rites have been performed, the presence of the deity leaves the house. Strands of cane are then fastened across the door to indicate that the deity has departed and should not come back until he is summoned again. The presence of Helahuli is indicated by a gentle breeze at the mouth of his cave house.  The ritual specialist attracts the deity by the aroma of pork which he carries on a decorated stick.  Helahuli returns to his abode deep under the earth after the ritual specialist has communicated with him and the rites have been performed.

The major deities sojourned through the Huli territory when they lived on the earth.  The roads they traveled and the places where they rested are considered sacred spaces and protected grounds. Men may not cut trees or cultivate earth in these forested places and women are forbidden to enter them.  One example of these sacred spaces is Ni Hariga (sun god + road), a belt of virgin forest near Tari which is believed to be part of the road where Ni journey across the land.  These roads are collectively called habuabu hariga and keba hariga.  The meaning of habuabu hariga, road one does not share, indicates the protected status of the grounds.

Keba hariga has many meanings and contexts all of which help elaborate the Huli concept of sacred.  Nama keba refers to a digging stick which is used in preparing gardens and constructing ditches around gardens, graves and ritual sites. The ditches prevent humans and pigs from entering private property.  Keba may thus refer to a particular place that has been set aside for a specific purpose and which only the authorized may enter.  Keba also means angry.  A dama keba is an angry female ghost or deity who has been offended by a ritual or social transgression.  Keba could possibly refer to the anger of deities directed towards women and pigs who enter a sacred space. Keba hagama (private open space) refers to a special place separated from other spaces where only the authorized may enter without fear of invoking the anger of the gods.  Keba hagama usually refers to an open space compound where rituals and sacrifices are performed.  Keba anda is the generic term for a ritual house.  Keba anda and keba hagama are sacred spaces set aside for ritual purposes and open only to ritual specialists and/or men.

The Huli used to have many different kinds of ritual houses.  Ogo anda, baragendole anda, and hanawali anda were conical, forty feet high sacred houses with an inside fireplace.  They served as the sites for ritual sacrifices to Ni, Helahuli, Hana and other gods. Gelage anda or kelelakianda were peculiar looking roofless houses with only one central post on which pig sacrifices were placed in honor of Hana and Helahuli.  Depe anda and halibu anda were houses found only at the Kelote ritual grounds near Burani (aka Pureni).  They were built on the lines of rest houses and contained thirteen and fourteen rooms respectively.  Men placed various species of trees , plants, possums, tree grubs, cassowary birds and other items in these rooms during dindi gamu rites.  Kuruanda and liruanda were ritual houses found at Kelote and at other ritual sites throughout the Huli lands.  The liruanda was constructed in a similar fashion as the tege initiation house.  Sacred stones were venerated in these houses. The exact nature and functions of the kuruanda and liruanda are not known.

Gebeanda are forest ritual sites found at Kelote, Lebani, Dalu Bepente,and Bepali Buni where most of the ritual houses mentioned above were built.  The central feature of the gebeanda is a cave or hole in the ground in which the great deity Helahuli lives.  The gebeanda will be further discussed in a separate post on the Kelote Dindi Gamu:  A Ritual Format.

Ritual Matter
The Huli use many elements of the natural environment in the execution of gamu rites at these sacred sites.  The section on the Natural World of the Huli described the intimate association of the people with nature and showed how the Huli use the natural environment in their daily life and rituals.  As the previous sections have revealed, the Huli ritually use sticks, clay, tree oil, crops, animals and stones.  The most frequently used natural objects, besides pigs and pig products (fat and blood), are stones and rock formations.

Auwi is the generic term for the five different types of ritual stones.  Hone are large, round, black stones often associated with the sun god, Ni. These auwi are often referred to as ni habane or the sun god’s seeds.  Nitangi, sacred stones which resemble a mortar and pestle, were most likely used by a previous agricultural society now extinct.  Dindi aiya (earth mother) are small, elongated stones buried in gardens to increase their fertility.  Toro stones, small pebble painted with red clay, are imbued with the power and presence of Toro and emit dangerous quantum-like participles that cause death.  Liru is the generic term for Toro stones and other stones associated with sorcery.  Erepale stones are shaped like a fish with mouth and eyes and were most likely used at the Kelote gebeanda.

Certain rock formations are also considered sacred.  A large boulder located deep in the ritual forest near Natali is believed to be the petrified remains of the clan founder. The people revere this sacred boulder and used to place offerings before it.  The Kelote cave is also revered as the dwelling of Helahuli and is covered with offerings of red paint and tree oil.

Sacred stones and rock formations are believed to be imbued with the presence of a particular dama, but are not considered to be the dama itself.  They are revered with ritual anointing of pig fat, red paint, and tree oil but are not worshipped per se. The association of these stones with gardens or people transfers the power or gamu of the dama to the subject causing dreams, fertility, sickness or death.

Sacred stones are usually kept in a ritual house or buried in ritual forests. The forested areas around sacred rock formations are considered keba (sacred) and function as ritual grounds.  All sacred stones are still revered as powerful objects.  These powerful stones are often brought to the churches for safe keeping by the people who hold them askance in tin cans at arms length so fearful are they of their power.

Ritual Specialists
Any man can use sacred stone in private gamu rites, although most men prefer to let ritual specialists handle these powerful objects.  The Huli have seven types of ritual specialists:  men and women who specialize in the control and manipulation of gamu.  They practice gamu to help people and bring life or to harm others and bring sickness and death.  They usually practice some form of asceticism before and during the execution of gamu rites. Most of them are paid with pigs by clients according to the task at hand.  All ritual specialists are feared, for they have the power and knowledge to harm others and are imbued with gamu power through their association with animated ritual matter.

Witches are women specialists who are either possessed by a particular goddess or court goddesses in order to use gamu power for their own ends.  Witches who are deliberately or unwillingly possessed by a goddess attack men, causing sickness and death.  The goddesses  Dunawali, Kapiano, Pinuwali, and Waliporlimia use witches to attack males only.  Hugenda, a male deity, possesses a witch in order to attack a pregnant woman and kill the unborn child. Witches are considered evil women and may be killed by any man, relative or not, without fear of demands for compensation or retribution by the witches kinsmen.

Sorcerers are paid ritual specialists that learn how to manipulate gamu power to harm others, although they sometimes use their power to help by divining the cause of an accidental death or the whereabouts of a lost pig.  Almost all clan units had two or three sorcerers. Their most common ritual was toro gamu.  Sorcerers are highly feared for they are imbued with the power of gamu; so much so that men do not smoke the pipe of a sorcerer nor do they talk freely with them lest they arouse his anger.

Daroali are paid bachelor cult leaders trained in the handling of the powerful bamboo menstrual tubes, bog iris plants and in the spells necessary for haroli gamu.  They reside in in a special house located in the center of the bachelor cult grounds where they train bachelors in their own language, Tua Ili, and in Huli lore, traditions and spells.  They use their gamu power to help the bachelors develop into strong adults.

Healers are paid ritual specialists who heal the sick with supernatural power through the use of various forms of gamu behavior. Their forte is the healing of menstrual pollution in men through the three types of agali gamu. A spell that they chant was presented in the above section on ritual verbal expressions.

Gebeali are the powerful ritual leaders who oversee the fertility rites at the major ritual sites, gebeanda.  They are learned men in gamu rites and are highly respected in the clan they serve.  The post section on Kelote dindi gamu elaborates on their functions as ritual specialists.

There are many types of tege ritual specialists: urali, liduali, habuali, mede and yagali.  The exact role of each of these specialists is not known.  However, the urali are the chief tege ritual leaders who are assisted by twelve liduali at teach tege rite.  There are two uriali at each tege rite.  Liduali who have served at two or three tege rites are eligible to become urali with the consent of the clan unit.

All of these tege ritual specialists oversee and facilitate the smooth performance of the various rites described in the section on Huli Traditional Education (click the education tab).  They are respected men in the community, the urali being the most honored as is indicated in the reverence shown to him in his death; his polished skull is polished and revered for it is animated with gamu power.

The manyi are ritual specialists who specialize in the chanting of sacred myths.  Their title, which means holder of the knowledge, suggests their important position in Huli society. For these old men have the knowledge of myths, bi mana (talk of knowledge) or bi tene (talk of sources), including the knowledge of the sources of life. The manayi learns this knowledge from his father who is also a manayi.

The Huli have an amalgam of myths that explain the origins of the deities, gamu rites, clan founders, and the creation of humans, pigs, possums, birds, and other vital components of Huli life.  The chanting of these myths during rituals or in the men's houses at night around the fire is a very important element of Huli life as they contain the important talk of knowledge and the talk of the sources of life.  This important talk or knowledge is, as the above section indicated, usually chanted by manayi in the presence of men only.  Sacred myths are not for the ears of strangers, women and children.  Huli myths are described and interpreted in the section on Myths (click the myth tab above.)


See and hear the Huli...

Historical Background

The Return of Tahonane

The Huli people first encountered the white-man in 1935 when Jack Hides and Peter O'Malley traversed one hundred and twenty miles of their territory. They looked queerly at the two explorers and whispered excitedly among themselves about these men who, according to the Origins of Man myth, resembled the ancient Tahonane, the white son of the first Huli man Tagonimabe. This son was nursed by a great god, grew quickly, and left the Huli area never to die. Tagonimabe's other son, Tamindini, was born black and nursed at his mother's breast. He became the father of the all the Huli people through his son, Tiliali, whose name means, a man of short stature. Perhaps the Huli people though that Tahonane's tall , white descendants had now returned to their homeland? They therefore presented the two explorers with sweet potatoes from their gardens and escorted them throughout their individual clan territories. However, the people would not let the white-men touch them nor did they accept their gifts of bead and cloth, so fearful were they of Tahonane's lost children.

As the two explorers penetrated further into Huli territory, they were greeted with varying degrees of hospitality or rejection. In the end, two Huli men were killed when the explorers fired upon a group of warriors who had encircled them. This powerful display of force instilled a great fear among the people and quelled any form of resistance against the movement of white-men amongst the people. While the people spread stories about the power of the white-man and wondered if the descendants of Tahonane had indeed returned, the two explorers announced to the world the discovery of a Papuan Wonderland inhabited by a volatile, excitable people, divided into numerous small groups that frequently engaged in warfare.

Collect PNG Stamps

Collect PNG Stamps
The PNG Philatelic Bureau