Fluid Ontologies






Hand, Voice and Myth in Papua New Guinea

J. F. Weiner



A Duna Ritual Track

A. Strathern



Sacrifice and Regeneration among Ipili-s

A. Biersack



Huli Moral Topography and Myths of a Time of Darkness

C. Ballard



A Trickster for All Seasons [Huli]

L. R. Goldman



Myths of Containment, Myths of Extension [Kewa]

L. Josephides



Changing Geographies of Power and Spiritual Influence among the Gebusi

B. M. Knauft



pp. 15-30 – 1. J. F. Weiner [author of The Empty Place] : “Hand, Voice and Myth in Papua New Guinea”.

Foi myths about women engendred from fingers




The old woman tried to disguise herself as a young woman, by inserting her breasts in an anthill, and allowing the ants to bite her skin so that her skin would swell up and appear tight”.


That old woman’s adult unmarried daughter changed her 2 fingers (which had been bitten off by a pig) into a girl.


An old woman’s adult unmarried daughter changed her 2 fingers (which had been bitten off by a pig) into 2 girls. They obtained “two tiny red female pigs.”


The two girls’ names were Marayu and Urebiyu; the two red pigs’ names were Sikarira and Narira; their husband’s name was Gugayabubi.”


A man’s 2 fingers (which he had himself amputated) were transformed via “flashes of sheet lightning” into “two baby girls. ... It was not long until they were fully grown young women. ... He had named the two women Egalinyu and Malanyu ... [from egali (“one) and mala (“four”) plus –nyu (ending for female names)]. ... He took them as his wives”.


The two girls flew away as the mumakarubi quail. As for the husband, he ... flew away as the walawe lorikeet.”


pp. 31-42 – 2. A. Strathern : “A Duna Ritual Track”.

narrative about Ambua




The man [Ambua] traveled deep down inside the ground making the earth resonate as he went, and on the ground’s surface the son heard the noise and followed his father.”


The two beat drums and sent out the message to the people ... to come ... . They counted the days until the number reached 14 ... . [“The number 14, malura, at the malu, represents ... completion of a cycle. {cf. kalpa of 14 manu-antara-s} ... the stomach (takane) ... was ... placed in a pool / swamp belonging to a female spirit, the Payeme Ima.” (p. 40, n. 6)] ...


[An amputated human forearm] is something which will make pigs, taro, bananas, everything, grow well.”


pp. 43-66 – 3. A. Biersack [editrix of Clio in Oceania] : “Sacrifice and Regeneration among Ipilis”.

Ipili cosmography




world epochs. Each “ground” comes into existence, and then expires”.


Popaya-Akali-Lemeane traveled away from his sister Lakeame. “... toward Mt. Asenda she saw the flying fox stopper (deke). She removed the stopper, and there was a flood. Silia River and Wataya River came outside. ... She saw a beetle and she told it to go to tell Popaya-Akali-Lemeane ... .


And when the beetle arrived at Yeimi, ... Popaya-Akali-Lemeane ... When he saw the strip of grass skirt that Lakeame had tied to the beetle’s wing, he knew what had happened at home. ... “I am going home.” ... And when he arrived ..., .... with the edge of the goldlip shell, ... he created ditches ... so that the pig could eat worms and straighten the ditch while it did so ... . ... And he climbed out on the branch of a pai tree, and it broke and dropped.”


Itini, Itiane, Itsini, Itsiani or ... Isini ... is stationed somewhere in the far west where waterways converge at a hole that drains off the water. Isini is usually described as having a long arm, and with this arm he removes any refuse that would block the water’s drainage. ... Kilu, Isini’s brother, ... worked ... on the shores of the ocean ... . .... Elape and Kelape (Elapi and Kelapi ...), Isimi’s brothers ..., ... [are] responsible for the source of fire, a universal firebrand (Sia or ita tepone), which they themselves create.”

There is “a brown pig ... huge, as big as the distance one can walk in about an hour and a half, ... as big as a mountain ... a female pig, ... the “mother” of all pigs. It is tied to a tree or post, and this tree or post supports the earth. When Isini’s brown pig rubs against the tree or post, there is an earthquake (yudukumi)”.


Yeimi, Auwalo Anda in Tipinini and Tuandaka in the Kandep-Wake region ... were connected by an underground cane (kelewa) ... and ... by various tunnels”.


the Tari basin, Lake Kopiako, the Paiela and Porgera valleys” : “Through all these points ran a ... cane (kelewa), which originated between two lakes at Yeimi named Wani and Wakane and which branched off from that point toward the other sites in the system”.

Yeimi here is the initial (... “head”) point. The configuration has a western branch (kembone), of left arm (kini) point, which is Pimaka, near Suyan, and an eastern branch, which is at Tuandaka in Kandep.”

p. 56 Enga eschatology

they “would go upward to a platform in the sky [taetoko] ..., an Enga term that is presumably cognate to the Ipili tawe toko, or “sky bridge,” and ... “enormous ... pythons would hang suspended from the sky, and all the people and their pigs would make their way into the sky-world along the ‘paths’ formed by the bodies of the snakes””.

p. 58 Ipili city under lake

a lake called Tindipa on Mt. Tongapipi’ is said to contain “a town or city”.


pp. 67-86 – 4. C. Ballard : “Huli Moral Topography and Myths of a Time of Darkness”.

p. 69 /mbingi/ = /mbi/ ‘darkness, night’ + /angi/ ‘when, time of’

prophecy concerning mbingi




Mbingi is presaged by a mighty thunder and lightning ... . Under the instruction of local manayi, people build houses ...


and wooden divisions are placed within the houses to separate men and boys from women and girls; a strict proscription on all sexual intercourse is observed. The skulls of the ancestors are retrieved from the ossuaries and brought into the houses. ...

When mbingi comes, ... day sky darkens until it is black as night, and then the sky breaks and falls ... in the form of ash and sand, ... which covers the ground but slides off the sloping roofs of the houses. The rivers rise, and as the streams block up with ash, they overflow. ...

On the first day of darkness, the only people permitted to leave the houses are singletons, those with no other siblings [“singletons are unable to engage in illicit sex with siblings” (p. 82, n. 4)]; ... harvesting sweet potato ... which they take back and feed to the others. On the second day of darkness, those with only one sibling are also permitted to leave the house. On each successive day

of darkness, sibling sets of increasingly larger sizes leave the houses for the first time. ...

In the aftermath of mbingi, a time of plenty ensues, as crops ... grow exceptionally well”.

land of the dead




to the south ..., in the direction of the land of the dead, ... for the south is ... the ultimate terminus for the rivers that carry the spirits of the dead to Humbirini Andaga, the land of the dead”.

82, n. 6

a southerly land of the dead toward which rivers carry the souls of the deceased in common to a number of communities along the southern fall of the Central Highlands such as the Foi ... and the Daribi”.

p. 75 Duna fertility ritual

menstrual blood contained in bamboo tubes and ritually capped with bird-of-paradise feathers bound by the umbilical cords of children ... were buried in ponds and mud-soaks” : “From this menstrual blood and the child’s umbilical cord, many children would be born”.

subterranean python-cane or subterranean python-palmtree




[Huli] “dindi pongone (“earth” – “knot ...”), ... consisting of a python (puya) bound around with cane (gewa) and capped by a layer of stone (tole) ..., within which caves are identified as mouths of the python.” “the direction identified for the flow ... reverses the ... surface drainage toward the south ... . Instead, ... flows ... toward the Enga and the Ipili in the north and east. In some places, ... it enters river channels and flows upstream within the visible river.” “ritual replenishment ... took the form of “earth-spell” (dindi gama) rituals, during which gourds of mineral oil and tree oil were poured within caves at the gebeanda ritual sites”.


[Koroba] “There is a blackpalm tree [at the Iba Gunu site] and at its base lies the python. The tree grows up from the belly of the python”.

the sun




[Huli] “the sun (Ni) ..., crossing over the sky-bridge, Da Togo” : “He [the sun] crosses the cane and the python as a bridge. At night he goes across this bridge ... and goes along burning beneath the ground”.

83, n. 17

[Paiela] “At dawn he [the Sun] ‘comes outside,’ ... but at dusk he ‘goes inside,’ journeying to the underworld and bringing daylight to the dead.” {cf. Kemetian sun-god going inside to earth in order to bring daylight to the dead}

p. 79 “Knowledge, Huli people say, resides within like the ira pubu grub enclosed within the trunk of the sago palm.”

p. 79 Iqwaye creator-god

a creator, Omalyce, who is himself the cosmos in its original, complete form ... :

the figure of a man with his penis in his own mouth, a perfect cycle of fluid”.

{God I,MN "fertilising himself through auto-fellatio" ("ThT").} {"Egyptian creation myth which states that the universe was the result of the ejaculation of the god" I,TM : "the semen was produced by autofellatio in many versions of the myth." ("RRF")} {"The scene of auto fellatio is a variant on the usual scene of the cosmos" ("BDH"). Illustrated in "BDH,2Image"}

"ThT" = "Theban Triad". http://tribes.tribe.net/b9b544af-89e5-4aa7-8dec-c917f83c3bd7/photos/63201e34-a787-48ad-a2ed-f8ac37d93e50

"RRF" = "R Rated Facts" http://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/1jlwye/historians_of_reddit_what_are_some_r_rated_facts/

"BDH" (British Museum # EA10018,2) = http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=114314&partId=1

"BDH,2 Image" (British Museum # EA10018,2) = http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details/collection_image_gallery.aspx?assetId=1162559&objectId=114314&partId=1


pp. 87-124 – 5. L. R. Goldman [author of The Culture of Coincidence] : “A Trickster for All Seasons”. [Huli]

p. 92, Table 5.1 – terms for “Trickster”



its derivation



/ipa/ ‘water’ + /keali/ ‘madman’



/iyb/ ‘water’ + /tit/ ‘fool’



/ipa/ ‘water’ + /siri/ ‘fool’



/iba/ ‘water’ + /tiri/ ‘fool’



/ipa/ ‘water’ + /titi/ ‘fool’



/ue/ ‘water’ + /ali/ ‘man’

p. 98 the sky, according to the Huli

The “sky-place” (Daluyanda) in inhabited by ... “the sky people” (Daluyeli). Perforated cloud formations (... cloud decorations) are ... the garden mounds of these sky beings, just as rain is ... their urine, wind noises their activities, and thunder the sound of marching “sky-beings.””

p. 100, Table 5.2 – ogres / goblins






large tusks, lures children from their homes

Mae Enga


large fangs, large penis, tall, hairy, one eye



sheathed long fangs, long hair



hunts humans, suspends victims from trees until ripe



giants, cuts mothers’ breasts


baya horo

sheathed tusks, giant size, ripens victims, eats parents

pp. 108-109 [Huli] myth




They used to eat possum and taro and the woman sat on it and cooked from the heat of her genitals. ...


Iba Tiri had copulated with his wife. She bore the mountains Hari Alua, Hari Ambua and Hari Halibo. She bore Ni and Hana ... . She bore Guruwali ... . Iba Tiri cut the fingers from a hand that was flat”.

The penis of Iba Tiri “may ... assume the form of a “bridge”.

pp. 112-113 [Huli] ogres




pairs of Dali

Mugu-ali & Dabu-ali

Ni-be & Dindi-be


Iba Tiri “used to count the pig’s hairs and the trees”.

pp. 117-121 [Huli] Iba Tiri trickster texts [some names abbreviated from those on p. 101]





[Pu]Lube; Baya Horo

An orphan boy ... respectively entering and exiting black and red lakes. ... The girl is ... attacked by BH Ewago Kewago. ... after ten days of fighting they defeat all the BH Giwai Angawai and Tonani Tagoni.”

Baya Horo

Iba Tiri goes to the aid of cross-cousins threatened by BH giants. Fighting lasts for ten days”.

Iba Tiri

Iba Tiri helps a man to kill his brother’s slayer.”


Hiri Wauwa

A brother kills the slayer of his sister Ganga Balu Gunduba. ... The brother is aided by Hiri Wauwa”.

Gambe Pogorabu

The Wanelabo ... bring a big pandanus log ... . IT, who had been hiding in the log, ... and every time they try to relight it by blowing they effectively masturbate his penis {“blow job”} ... . [“the two girls ... kept on blowing on the embers ... the penis tip of GP” (p. 115).] Later, when they want to cross the river, IT sends his penis as a bridge and while traversing the bridge the withdraws his penis and they fall into the river. [“two girls were going to cross the bridge ... while in the middle of the bridge GP ... withdrew his penis ... the two (girls) fell into the river” (p. 116).] To trick him they dress their breasts as Keromi fruit so that when he come to pick the fruit he touches their [“four ... breasts that he was trying to hold onto” (p. 117)]. ... It is ... by the lure of cooked pig” that the 2 sister kill GP.

Hariba Haiba

the husband chases his wife across the country. She jumps into a lake. The husband is ... permitted to follow the woman. Both enter a land of plenty. In this land he meets the wife’s father”.

Baya Horo; Iba Mulu Lunguya

Five BH brothers are fighting over some nuts, and ... relatives of BH perform divination, and two BH find IML. Each holds onto one side of his hair to pull him apart. ... The two IT revive IML with water, pigs’ liver and intestines, ginger and nigi (Laportea sp.) leaves.”


Iba Mulu Lunguya; Iba Gurubuniya

IML resides with his old mother Bauwa Dundame. While he is gone, BH arrives, abducts and kills her. ... While there he meets Iba Gurubaniya ... and they perform divination (toro) to discover the responsible BH. ... BH shoot IG but IML ... obtains pig’s liver, water and some nigi (Laportea sp.) leaves and revives IG.”

Begobo Wane Pandime

Darawa Ginu, a small boy full of sores, is abused by his brother, Auwebe Kiluwa ..., every day. The older brother ... locks Darama Ginu in the house. The boy manages to extricate himself and ... BWP cares for him ... . Darama Ginu claims he is unable to work on account of his sores so BWP prepares men’s decorations”.


Iba Mulu Lunguya; Begobo Wane Pandime

[]. 199] “IML meets poor BWP ... . He takes her back to his mother’s place ... . The mother dies and is buried by BWP ... . [p. 120] BH arrives and ... kills and eats her. IML discovers what has happened ... before changing into a bird.”


Bulu Tiri

The sky-people (Daluyeli) used to feed Tibi Tibiya by dropping possums from the sky. Baru Tiri ... was doing napai [when a person sleeps with a woman after having received possum, cassoway, egg or snake from a man who got the food from a dog].”

Baya Horo; Ega Mbe Hiwi

There was a man with ten daughters who offered the tenth to the IT if he killed the two BH. He did this and then the man told him to catch a bird in a cave. After doing this he was then told to catch all the flies and then tether a wild pig. ... EMH said there was a big celebration going on, and in order to attend the IT transformed into a man by respectively entering and exiting red and black lakes.”

Iba Tiri

One man Piru was very sick. his friend Pore had a dream in which he saw many Iba Tiri having a mali (celebratory) dance. he told Piru about the dream ... . Piru recovered after this.”


Begobo Wane Pandime

[p. 120] “There were two BWP girls. While there an IT came ... and then carried the house and the two girls off to Wabia. ... [p. 121] Iba Tiri used to be in the drains making bad noises. They had pacels (hubuane) under their armpits and then flew off.”


Iba Tiri

The father tied one end of a rope onto his daughter, and she went off with IT. They went through trees, ground and stone and she was locked away while IT ate the pig. The daughter escaped by following the rope back to her father’s place.”


pp. 125-142. – 6. L. Josephides [authoress of The Production of Inequality] : “Myths of Containment, Myths of Extension”. [Kewa]

Kewa myths




Ipagiali ... had covered his open jaws with pitpit cane and was beating the pig with his [Ipagiali’s] tail. When the man stepped into the camouflaged jaw Ipagiali snapped it shut and slid back into the “water eye.” The earth quaked ... . The man however ... inside the monster’s belly ... began carefully to slice off Ipagiali’s heart, then one by one removed the ribs.”


Once there lived many women who ... had no husbands ... . ...They came to a huge tree. The ... woman saw on its branches the legs of marsupials, all drinking. ... her sisters ... surrounded the tree and for two or three years they chopped at it until it broke and water gushed out ... . This became Lake Kutubu.”


[p. 133] “Two brothers were on their way to Mt. Ialibu when in a flash of lightning they saw ... . One brother continued on his journey ... to an old woman, who gave him parcels containing a snake and a bird, the brother ... came to ... an old man with fangs. ... The old man, fascinated by the bird and the snake, ... led the young man ... to a place of flowers among which a flash of lightning lit up the face of one girl. The young man took this girl ... . [p. 134] She made a well ..., and every time there was lightning the well lit up.”


What came out of the river was real women. When his sister had killed twenty ... he cooked his women. ... When she met her brothers she ... apologized for bringing back only one woman. The brothers ... when it came to the woman they could not agree, as both wanted to marry her. So they killed her and she turned into a little possum. The two brothers turned into birds of paradise with long red tails.”


pp. 143-161 – 7. B. M. Knauft [author of Good Company and Violence] : “Changing Geographies of Power and Spiritual Influence among the Gebusi”.

p. 147, Table 7.1 signification of dance-costume parts


spirit form

age & gendre of spirit form

spirit abode

beige hornbill tail-feathers


young man


red bird-of-paradise headdress

Red Bird-of-paradise

young woman


cassowary attachment for swaying hornbill feathers above it


old woman

ground, underground

cuscus fur headband


young person


halo” of white egret feathers

White Egret

young woman


hound’s teeth eyeband




pearlshell (under chin)

Crescent Moon



treebark shoulder-cape


young woman


stuffed red birds-of-paradise

Red Bird-of-paradise

young woman


lizard-skin drumhead


young man




older man




older man


wali-palm “tail”


stream, river

crayfish-claw rear rattle

Big fish”

older man


pp. 152-153 origin-myths

p. 152

[Gebusi] “attempt by men ... to marry tree-women who come down but get scared and run back to the sky. The women return later, accompanied by their armed male kin.

{Helene (styled Dendritis, 'of the Tree' -- GM 88.10, 105.4, 114.6), when she eloped with another man (Paris), was forcibly brought back, against her will, by armed men.}

... the sky rumbles with war-cries and rains huge boulders, which crush to death all those who live below. Only a brother and his sister survive, until another storm rains down smaller stones, the size of eggs.

One of these smaller stone eggs splits.

{cf. Peruvian origin-myth of people hatched from stone eggs}

The halves hatch into a boy and a girl,

{From a single egg (laid by Lede) were hatched one girl and two boys (GM 62.c).}

who are cared for by the original brother and sister until the youngsters grow up and marry each other.”

p. 153

[Bedamini] “lower-world woman named Dunumuni” : “A very small woman emerges from the lower world. Seeing the woman, the body becomes aroused and gets an erection. But when the woman grabs his penis ..., an older man watching from the bushes becomes angry at the woman ... . The woman screams and disappears. She ... appears later further to the west. ... The men tied her hands and legs to a stick and carried her all around ... . As they carried her from place to place she urinated. The urine formed small brooks, the brooks grew into rivers ... . ... the men cut open her stomach {womb : Caesarean section?} and the animals emerge from it.”

GM = Robert Graves : The Greek Myths. 1955.


L. R. Goldman & C. Ballard (eds.) : Fluid Ontologies : Myth, ritual and philosophy in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. Bergin & Garvey, Westport (CT), 1998.