Sacred Texts  Pacific  Index  Previous  Next 

Chapter V.

Magic plays an enormous part in the tribal life of the Kiriwinians (as it undoubtedly does with the majority of native peoples). All important economic activities are fringed with magic, especially such as imply pronounced

p. 191

elements of chance, venture, or danger. Gardening is completely wrapped up in magic; the little hunting that is done has its array of spells; fishing, especially when it is connected with risk and when the results depend upon luck and are not absolutely certain, is equipped with elaborate magical systems. Canoe building has a long list of spells, to be recited at various stages of the work, at the felling of the tree, at the scooping out of the dugout; and, towards the end, at painting, lashing together, and launching. But this magic is used only in the case of the larger sea-going canoes. The small canoes, used on the calm lagoon or near the shore, where there is no danger, are quite ignored by the magician. Weather--rain, sun and wind--have to obey a great number of spells, and they are especially amenable to the call of some eminent experts, or, rather, families of experts, who practice the art in hereditary succession. In times of war--when fighting still existed, before the white man's rule--the Kiriwinians availed themselves of the art of certain families of professionals, who had inherited war magic from their ancestors. And, of course, the welfare of the body--health--can be destroyed or restored by the magical craft of sorcerers, who are always healers at the same time. If a man's life be endangered by an attempt on the part of the above-mentioned mulukuausi, there are spells to counteract their influence, though the only safe way to escape the danger is to apply to a woman who is a mulukuausi herself--there is always some such woman in a distant village.

Magic is so widespread that, living among the natives, I used to come across magical performances, very often quite unexpectedly, apart from the cases where I arranged to be present at a ceremony. The hut of Bagido'u, the garden magician of Omarakana, was not fifty meters from my tent, and I remember bearing his chant on one of the very first days after my arrival, when I hardly knew of the existence of garden magic. Later on I was allowed to assist at his chanting over magical herbs; in fact, I could enjoy the privilege as often as I liked, and I used it several times. In many

p. 192

garden ceremonies part of the ingredients are chanted over in the village, in the magician's own house, and, again, before being used in the garden. On the morning of such a day the magician goes alone into the bush, sometimes far away, to fetch the necessary herbs. In one charm as many as ten varieties of ingredients, practically all herbs, have to be brought. Some are to be found on the seabeach only, some must be fetched from the raiboag (the stony coral woodland), others are brought from the odila, the low scrub. The magician has to set out before daybreak and obtain all his material before the sun is up. The herbs remain in the house, and somewhere about noon he proceeds to chant over them. A mat is spread on the bedstead, and on this mat another is laid. The herbs are placed on one half of the second mat, the other half being folded over them. Into this opening the magician chants his spell. His mouth is quite close to the edges of the mat, so that none of his voice can go astray; all enters the yawning mat, where the herbs are placed, awaiting to be imbued with the spell. This catching up of the voice, which carries the spell, is done in all magical recitations. When a small object has to be charmed, a leaf is folded so as to form a tub and at the narrow end of this the object is placed, while the magician chants into the broad end. To return to Bagido'u and his garden magic. He would chant his charm for about half an hour, or even longer, repeating the spell over and over again, repeating various phrases in it and various important words in a phrase. The spell is sung in a low voice, there being a peculiar, half-melodic fashion of recital, which slightly varies with the divers forms of magic. The repetition of the words is a kind of rubbing in of the spell into the substance to be medicated.

After the garden magician has finished his spell, he wraps up the leaves in the mat and puts them aside, to be presently used in the field, usually the next morning. All actual ceremonies of garden magic take place in the field, and there are many spells which are chanted in the garden. There is a whole system of garden magic consisting of a series of

p. 193

complex and elaborate rites, each accompanied by a spell. Every gardening activity must be preceded by a proper rite. Thus there is a general inaugurative rite, previous to any work in the gardens whatever, and this rite is performed on each garden plot separately. The cutting down of the scrub is introduced by another rite. The burning of the cut and dried scrub is in itself a magical ceremony, and it brings in its wake minor magical rites performed for each plot, the whole perfomance extending over four days. Then, when the planting begins, a new series of magical acts takes place, which lasts for a few days. Again, the weeding and the preliminary digging are introduced by magical performances. All these rites, as it were, a frame, into which the garden work is fitted. The magician orders rest periods, which have to be observed, and his work regulates the work of the community, forcing all the villagers to perform certain labors simultaneously, and not to lag behind or be too far in advance of the others.

His share is very much appreciated by the community; indeed, it would be difficult to imagine any work done in the gardens without the co-operation of the towosi (garden magician). 43

In the management of gardens the towosi has a great deal to say, and great respect is shown to his advice, a respect which is in reality purely formal, because there are very few controversial, or even doubtful, questions about gardening. Nevertheless, the natives appreciate such formal deference and acknowledgment of authority to a degree which is really astonishing. The garden magician receives also his payment, which consists of substantial gifts of fish offered him by the members of the village community. It must be added that the dignity of village magician is usually vested in the person of the village headman, though this is not invariably the case. But only a man who belongs by birth to a certain village, whose maternal ancestors have always been the lords of that village and of that soil, can "strike the soil" (iwoie buiagu).

In spite of its great importance, Kiriwinian garden magic

p. 194

does not consist in any stately, sacred ceremonies, surrounded with strict taboos, performed with as much display as the natives can afford. On the contrary, any person uninitiated into the character of Kiriwinian magic might walk through the most important ceremony without being aware that anything of importance is going on. Such a person might come across a man scratching the soil with a stick, or making a small heap of dried branches and stalks, or planting a taro tuber, and perhaps muttering some words, Or else the imaginary spectator would walk through a Kiriwinian new garden field, with its soil freshly moved and cleared, with its diminutive forest of stems and sticks put into the ground to serve as supports for the taitu, a field which will presently look like a hop garden, and in such a walk he might meet a group of men, halting here and there and adjusting something in the comer of each garden plot. Only when loud spells are chanted over the fields would the visitor's attention be directly drawn to the magical reality of the performance. In such cases the whole act, otherwise insipid, assumes some dignity and impressiveness. A man may be seen standing alone, with a small group behind him, and addressing in a loud voice some unseen power, or, more correctly, from the Kiriwinian's point of view, casting this unseen power over the fields: a power which lies in the spell condensed there through the wisdom and piety of generations. Or voices may be beard all over the field chanting the same spell, as not seldom the towosi summons the help of his assistants, who consist always of his brothers or other matrilineal successors.

By way of illustration, let us go through one such ceremony--that consisting in the burning of the cut and dried scrub. Some herbs, previously chanted over, have to be wrapped, with a piece of banana leaf, round the tops of dried coconut leaflets. Leaves so prepared will serve as torches to set fire to the field. In the forenoon (the ceremony I witnessed in Omarakana took place about ii a.m.), Bagido'u the towosi of that village, went to the gardens accompanied by To'uluwa, his maternal uncle and headman

p. 195

of the village, and by some other people, among whom was Bokuioba, one of the headman's wives. The day was hot, and there was a slight breeze; the field was dry, so setting fire to it was easy. Everyone present took a torch-even Bokuioba. The torches were lit quite without ceremony (by means of wax matches, produced by the ethnographer, not without a pang), and then everyone went along the field on the windward side, and the whole was soon ablaze. Some children looked on at the burning, and there was no question of any taboo. Nor was there much excitement in the village about the performance, for we left a number of boys and children behind, playing in the village and not at all interested or inclined to come and see the rite. I assisted at some other rites, where Bagido'u and I were alone, though there was no taboo to prevent anyone who wished from being present. Of course, if anyone was present, a certain minimum of decorum would be observed. The question of taboo, moreover, varies with the village, each having its own system of garden magic. I assisted at another garden burning ceremony (on the day following the wholesale burning when a small heap of rubbish, together with some herbs, was burnt on each plot) in a neighboring village, and there the towosi got very angry because some girls looked on at the performance from a fair distance, and I was told that the ceremonies were taboo to women in that village. Again, whereas some ceremonies are performed by the towosi alone, in others several people usually assist, while there are still others in which the whole village community has to take part. Such a ceremony will be described in detail below, as it bears more particularly on the question of the participation of the baloma in magic.

I have spoken here of garden magic only in order to illustrate the general nature of Kiriwinian magic. Garden magic is by far the most conspicuous of all magical activities, and the broad statements exemplified in this particular case bold good with reference to all other kinds of magic as well. All this is just intended to serve as a general picture, which must be kept in mind in order that my remarks about

p. 196

the part played by the baloma in magic may appear in the right perspective. 44

The backbone of Kiriwinian magic is formed by its spells. It is in the spell that the main virtue of all magic resides. The rite is there only to launch the spell, to serve as an appropriate mechanism of transmission. This is the universal view of all Kiriwinians, of the competent as well as of the profane, and a minute study of the magical ritual well confirms this view. It is in the formulae, therefore, that the clue to the ideas concerning magic is to be found. And in the formulae we find frequent mention made of the ancestral names. Many formulae begin with long lists of such names, serving, in a way, as an invocation.

The question whether such lists are real prayers, in which an actual appeal is made to the ancestral baloma, who are supposed to come and act in the magic, or whether the ancestral names figure in the formulae as mere items of tradition-hallowed and full of magical virtue, just because of their traditional nature-does not seem to allow of any definite decision either way. In fact, both elements are undoubtedly present: the direct appeal to the baloma and the traditional value of the mere ancestral names. The data given below should allow of closer determination. As the traditional element is closely bound up with the mode of inheritance of the magical formulae, let us begin with the latter question.

The magical formulae are passed from generation to generation, inherited from father to son in the paternal line, or from Kadala (mat. uncle) to nephew in the maternal line, which, in native opinion, is the real line of kindred (veiola). The two forms of inheritance are not quite equivalent. There is a class of magic which may be termed local, because it is bound up with a given locality. To this class belong all the systems of garden magic, 45 as well as all such magical spells as are connected with certain spots endowed with magical properties. Such was the most powerful rain magic in the island, that of Kasana'i, which had to be performed in a certain waterhole in the weika (grove) of Kasana'i.

p. 197

[paragraph continues] Such was the official war magic of Kiriwina, which had to be performed by men belonging to Kuaibuaga, and which was associated with a kaboma (a sacred grove) near that village. Again, the elaborate systems of magic which were essential to shark and kalala fishing had each to be carried out by a man belonging to the village of Kaibuola or Laba'i respectively. All such formulae were hereditary in the female line. 46

The class of magic which is not bound up with locality, and which may be easily transmitted from father to son, or even from stranger to stranger, at a fair price, is much smaller. Here belong, in the first place, the formulae of native medicine, which always go in couples, a silami, a formula of evil magic, the object of which is to produce illness, being always coupled with vivisa, a formula for annihilating the respective silami, and so curing the disease. The magic which initiates a man into the craft of carving, the tokabitam (carver) magic, belongs to this class, as well as the canoe-making charms. And a series of formulae of minor importance, or at least of less esoteric character, such as love magic, magic against the bite of insects, magic against the mulukuausi (this latter rather important), magic for removing the bad effects of incest, etc. But even these formulae, though they are not necessarily performed by the people of one locality, are usually associated with a locality. There is very often a myth at the bottom of a certain system of magic, and a myth is always local. 47

Thus the more numerous examples, and certainly the more important class of magic (the "matrilineal" magic), is local, both in its character and in its transmission, whereas only par-t of the other class is distinctly local in its character. Now locality is in the mind and tradition of the Kiriwinian most intimately associated with a given family or subclan. 48 In each locality the line of men who have succeeded each other as its rulers, and who in turn performed those acts of magic essential to its welfare (such as garden magic), would naturally loom large in the minds of the natives. This probably is confirmed by the facts, for, as mentioned

p. 198

above, the names of matrilineal ancestors play a great part in magic.

Some examples may be given to confirm this statement, though the full discussion of the question must be deferred to another occasion, because it would be necessary to compare this feature with the other elements recurring in magic, and to this end the full reproduction of all the formulae would be necessary. Let us begin with the garden magic. I have recorded two systems of this magic, that of the village of Omarakana called kailuebila, which is generally considered to be the most powerful; and the momtilakaiva system, associated with the four small villages, Kupuakopula, Tilakaiva, Iourawotu', and Wakailuva.

In the Omarakana system of garden magic there are ten magical spells, each associated with a special act: one said while striking the ground on which a new garden is to be made; another in the ceremony initiating the cutting down of the scrub; another during the ceremonial burning of the cut, dried scrub, and so on. Out of these ten spells there are three in which reference is made to baloma of ancestors. One of those three is by far the most important, and it is said during the performance of several rites, at the cutting down ceremony, at the planting ceremony, etc.

This is the beginning:

"Vatuvi, vatuvi; (repeated many times)
Vitumaga, imaga;
Vatuvi, vatuvi; (many times)
Vitulola, ilola:
Tubugu Polu, tubugu Koleko, tubugu Takikila,
Tubugu Mulabuoita, tubugu Kuaiudila,
Tubugu Katupuala, tubugu Buguabuaga, tubugu Numakala;
Bilumava'u bilumam;
Tabugu Muakenwa, tamagu Iowana. . .

After this follows the rest of the formula, which is very long, and which, in the main, describes the state of things which the formula is meant to produce, i.e., it describes

p. 199

the growth of the garden, the ridding of the plants from all pests, blights, etc.

The correct translation of such magical formulae presents certain difficulties. There are in them archaic expressions which the natives only partially understand, and even then it is extremely difficult to make them translate the meaning correctly into modern Kiriwinian. The typical form of a spell consists of three parts: (1) The introduction (called u'ula = lowest part of a stem, used also to denote something akin to our conception of cause); (2) The body of the spell (called tapuala = the back, the flanks, the rump; (3) The final part (dogina = the tip, the end, the peak; etymologically connected with doga, a tusk, a sharp, long tooth). Usually the tapuala is much more easy to understand and to translate than the other parts. The invocation of ancestors, or, more correctly, perhaps, the list of their names, is always contained in the u'ula.

In the u'ula just quoted, the first word, vatuvi, was not understood by my informant, Bagido'u, the towosi (garden magician), of Omarakana, or at least, he was not able to translate it to me. On etymological grounds it can be translated, I think, by "cause" or "make." 49

The words vitumaga imaga are composed of the prefixes vitu (to cause), and i (third person, singular, verbal prefix); and of the root maga, which is composed again of ma, the root of come, and ga, a suffix often used, which plays merely the role of giving emphasis. The words vitulola, ilola are quite symmetrical with the former, only the root la, "to go" (reduplicated into lola), figures instead of ma, to come.

In the list of ancestors, two points are to be noted: the first names are attached to the word tubugu, whereas the last but one is used with tabugu. Tubugu is a plural, and means "my grandfathers" (gu being the pronominal suffix of the first person); tabugu means "my grandfather" (in the singular). The use of the plural in the first group is connected with the fact that in each subclan there are certain names, which are the property of this subclan; and

p. 200

every member of this subclan must possess one of these ancestral names, though be may be called also by another non-hereditary name, by which be is known more generally. Thus, in the first part of the spell, not one ancestor of the name of Polu is addressed, but the magician invokes "all my ancestors of the name of Polu, all my ancestors of the name of Koleko," etc.

The second characteristic feature, which is also genera in all such lists of ancestors, is that the last names are preceded by the words "bilumava'u bilumam," which broadly mean (without entering into a linguistic analysis) "you new baloma," and then the names of the few last ancestors are enumerated. Thus Bagido'u mentions his grandfather, Muakenuva, and his father, Iowana. 50 This is important, because it is a direct invocation of a baloma, "O thou baloma" (in "bilumam'" the m' being the suffix of the second person). In the light of this fact, the ancestor names appear to be more likely invocations of the ancestral baloma than a simple enumeration, even though the ancestral names have an intrinsic, active, magical power.

In a free translation, the fragment may be rendered thus:--

"Cause! Make it! Be efficient!
Cause to come! Cause to go!
My grandfathers of the name Polu, etc. . . .
And you, recent baloma, grandfather Muakenuva, and father Iowana."

This free translation leaves still a great deal ambiguous, but it must be emphatically stated that this ambiguity does exist in the mind of the man who is best acquainted with the formula. Asked, what had to go and what to come, Bagido'u expressed his opinion in guesses. Once he told me that the reference was to the plants which have to enter the soil; on another occasion he thought that the garden pests are to go. Whether "come" and "go" are meant to be antithetical or not, was not clear either. The correct

p. 201

interpretation must, I think, insist on the very vague meaning of the u'ula, which is merely a kind of invocation. The words are believed to embody some hidden virtue, and that is their main function. The tapuala, which presents no ambiguities, explains the exact purpose of the spell.

It is also noteworthy that u'ula contains rhythmical elements in the symmetry in which the four groups of words are placed. Again, though the number of times the word vatuvi is repeated varies (I have heard the formula actually chanted several times), it is repeated the same number of times in both periods. The alliteration in this formula is undoubtedly also not accidental, as it is to be found in many other spells.

I have dwelt somewhat at length on this formula, treating it as representative of the others, which will be adduced without detailed analysis.

The second formula in which ancestor names are mentioned is spoken at the very first of the series of successive ceremonies at the iowota, when the towosi strikes the ground on which the gardens are going to be made. This formula begins:

"Tudava, Tu-Tudava,
Malita, Ma-Malita," etc.,

mentioning here the names of two ancestral heroes, about whom there exists a mythological cycle. Tudava is claimed to be in a way an ancestor of the tabalu (the most aristocratic subclan, who rule Omarakana), though there is no doubt that he belonged to the Lukuba clan (whereas the tabalu belong to the Malasi clan).

The same two names are invoked in another formula, which is spoken over certain herbs, used in garden-planting magic, and over some structures of wood, made for magical purposes only, called kamkokola. This formula begins:

"Kailola, Iola; Kailola, Iola;
Kaigulugulu; kaigulugulu;
Kailalola Tudava, p. 202
Kaigulugulu Malita,
Bisipela Tudava; bisila'i otokaikaya," etc.

In free translation this means--

Go down [O you roots]; bore [into the ground, O you roots]; [help them] to go down, O Tudava; [help them] to bore [into the ground] O Malita; Tudava climbs up [lit. changes]; [Tudava] settles down on the tokaikaia (i.e., the platform for the baloma).

In the Omarakana system of garden magic there are no special references to any sacred places near the village. 51 The only ritual action performed in connection with the baloma during the ceremony is of a very trifling character. After reciting the appropriate spell over the first taro planted in a baleko (a garden plot, the economic and magical unit in gardening), the magician constructs a miniature hut and fence of dry branches, called si buala baloma ("the baloma, their house"). No spells are said over it, nor could I discover any tradition, or obtain any further explanation in connection with this quaint act.

Another reference to the baloma, and a much more important one, though it does not take place during a ceremony, is the exposition or offering to the spirits of the ula'ula, the fee paid for the magic. The ula'ula is brought to the towosi (garden magician) by the members of the community, and consists usually of fish, but there may be betel nuts or coconuts, or, nowadays, tobacco. This is exposed in the house; the fish only in the form of a small portion of the whole gift, and, as far as I know, in a cooked condition. While the magician chants over the magical leaves and implements in his house previous to taking them out into the garden, the ula'ula, offered to the baloma, ought to be exposed somewhere near the medicated substance. This offering of the ula'ula to the baloma is not a feature particular to the Omarakana garden magic, but it obtains in all the other systems.

The other system (momtilakaiva), to which reference

p. 203

has been made, contains only one formula, in which there is a list of baloma. As this resembles that quoted above, the proper names only being different, I omit it here. In this system of magic, however, the role played by the baloma is much more pronounced, for in one of the main ceremonies, that of the Kamkokola, there is an offering made to the baloma. The kamkokola are large, bulky erections, consisting of vertical poles some 3 to 6 meters high, and of slanting poles of the same length, leaning against the vertical poles. The two side poles of the kamkokola are propped against a lateral bifurcation of the erect pole, formed by the stump of a protruding branch. Seen from above, the constructions present a right angle, or the shape of the letter L, with the vertical pole at the angle. From the side they look somewhat the shape of the Greek letter λ. These structures have no practical importance whatever, their only function being a magical one. They form the magical prototype, so to speak, of the poles put in the ground as supports for the taitu vine. The kamkokola, though they represent a merely magical item, require, nevertheless, a considerable amount of labor to erect. The heavy poles have to be brought very often from a great distance, as few are found near the villages in the low scrub, which is cut down every four or five years. For weeks men are busy searching for, felling, and bringing into their gardens the material for the kamkokola, and disputes about stealing the poles are frequent.

The kamkokola ritual occupies a couple of days in all the systems; four or more days are further taken up by the obligatory rest from all field work, which precedes the magical performance. The first day of the magic proper is devoted, in the momtilakaiva system, to the chanting over the fields. The magician, attended perhaps by one or two men, walks across the whole garden site--it was about three-quarters of a mile across country in the case which I witnessed--and on each garden plot be chants the spell, leaning on one of the slanting poles of the kamkokola. He faces the plot, and chants in a loud voice, which carries well over

p. 204

the whole plot. He has some thirty or forty such recitations to make.

It is the second day which is really of interest in this connection, for then a ceremony is performed in the gardens in which all the villages take part, and in which the baloma also are said to participate. The object of this ceremony is to charm some leaves which will be put into the ground at the foot of the kamkokola and also at the junction of the vertical and the slanting poles. In the morning of this day the whole village is busy with preparations. The large earthenware pots used for boiling food on festive occasions are put on the stones which support them, and they bubble and steam while women move round and watch the cooking. Some women bake their taitu in the ground between two layers of red-hot stones. All the boiled and baked taitu will be brought out into the field, and there it will be ceremonially distributed.

In the meantime some men have gone into the bush, some have gone right down to the seashore, others to the raiboag (the rocky wooded ridge), in order to get the herbs necessary for the magic. Large bunches have to be brought, as after the ceremony the medicated herbs are distributed among all the men, each taking his share and using it on his own plot.

At about ten o'clock in the morning I went into the field, accompanied by Nasibowa'i, the towosi of Tilakaiva. He had a large ceremonial stone axe hanging over his shoulder which, indeed, he uses in several ceremonies, whereas Bagido'u of Omarakana never makes use of this instrument. Soon after we had arrived and seated ourselves on the ground, waiting till all were present, the women began to troop in one after the other. Each was carrying a wooden dish with taitu on her head, often leading a child by the hand and carrying another astride on her flank. The spot where the ceremony had to be performed was at a point where the road from Omarakana entered the garden of Tilakaiva. On this side of the fence there was dense low scrub of a couple of years' growth; on the other the garden

p. 205

lay bare, the ground naked, the wooded ridge of the raiboag and several groves in the distance showing through the fairly dense agglomeration of poles planted as supports for the taitu vine. Two rows of specially fine ones ran along the path, forming a nice espalier in front of me. They terminated on this side with two specially fine kamkokola, at the foot of which the ceremony was to be performed, and which were to be supplied with herbs by the magician himself.

The women seated themselves all along the alley and on both sides in the fields. It took them about half an hour to collect, after which the food they brought was made into heaps, one heap for each man present, and each contribution was divided among the heaps. By this time all the men, boys, girls, and small children had arrived, and, the whole village being present, the proceedings began. The normal sagali (distribution) started the ceremony; a man walked past the heaps of food, and at each heap called out the name of one of those present, after which this portion (which had been placed on a wooden dish) was taken by a woman (a connection of the man called) and carried into the village. The women thus departed to the village, taking with them the babies and children. This part of the ceremony was said to be for the benefit of the baloma. The food thus distributed is called baloma kasi (food of the baloma), and the spirits are said to take some part in the proceedings, to be present there, and to be pleased with the food. Beyond these generalities, however, it was absolutely impossible to obtain a more definite or detailed statement from any of the natives, including Nasibowa'i himself.

After the women had departed, such of the small boys as remained behind were hunted away, as the ceremony proper was to begin. Even I and my "boys" had to step on the other side of the fence. The ceremony consisted simply of the recital of a spell over the leaves. Large bunches of these were put upon the ground on a mat, and Nasibowa'i squatted down in front of them and recited his spell right into the herbs. As soon as be had finished, the men pounced

p. 206

upon the leaves, each taking a handful, and running to his garden plot to put them under and on the kamkokola. This ended the ceremony, which with the waiting had lasted well over one hour.

Again, in the momtilakaiva magic, one of the spells refers to a "sacred grove" (kaboma), called Ovavavile. This place (a large clump of trees obviously not cut for many generations) is situated quite close to the villages of Omarakana and Tilakaiva. It is tabooed, swelling of the sexual organs (elephantiasis?) being the penalty for not observing the prohibition. I never explored its interior, for fear, not so much of the taboo, as of the small red ticks (scrub itch), which are a veritable pest. To perform one of the magical rites, the towosi of Tilakaiva goes into this sacred wood and puts a large tuber of a species of yam called kasi-iena on a stone, this being an offering made to the baloma.

The spell runs:--

U'ula: "Avaita'u ikavakavala Ovavavala?
Iaegula'i Nasibowa'i,
Akavakavala Ovavavala!"
Tapuala: "Bala baise akavakavala Ovavavala Iaegula'i
Nasbowa'i akavakavala Ovavavala, bala
Agubitamuana, olopoulo Ovavavala; bala
Akabinaiguadi olopoulo Ovavavala."

There is no dogina (final piece) in this formula. The translation runs as follows:--

"Who bends down in Ovavavile? 52 I, Nasibowa'i (personal name of the present towosi) am bending down in Ovavavile! I shall go there and bend down in Ovavavile; I, Nasibowa'i, shall bend down in Ovavavile; I shall go there and bear the burden [here the magician identifies himself with the stone on which the kasi-iena is put] within the kaboma of Ovavavile. I shall go there and bulge out [here he speaks in the name of the planted tuber] within the grove of Ovavavile."

p. 207

In this ceremony the association between the baloma and the magic is very slight, but it exists, and the connection with the locality affords another link between ancestral tradition and magic. So much concerning garden magic.

In the two most important systems of fish magic of Kiriwina--i.e., the shark magic of the village of Kaibuola and the kalala (mullet?) magic of the village of Laba'i--the spirits also play some part. Thus in both systems one of the ceremonies consists of an offering to the baloma, which is also subtracted from the ula'ula payment given to the magician by the people of his village. In the shark magic one of the rites takes place in the magician's house. The performer puts small parcels of the cooked fish (which he had received as ula'ula) and some betel nut on one of the three stones (kailagila), which are placed round a fireplace and serve to support the large cooking pots. There he utters the following formula:

U'ula: "Kamkuamsi kami Ula'ula kubukuabuia, Inene'i, Ibuaigana I'iovalu, Vi'iamoulo, Ulopoulo, Bowasa'i, Bomuagueda."
Tapuala and Dogina: "Kukuavilasi poulo, kuminum kuaidasi poulo; okawala Vilaita'u; okawala Obuwabu; Kulousi kuvapuagise wadola kua'u obuarita, kulousi kuluvabouodasi kua'u obuarita kuiaioiuvasi kukapuagegasi kumaise kuluvabodasi matami pualalala okotalela Vinaki."

The U'ula may be translated:--

"Eat your ula'ula (gift, payment for magic), O unmarried women, Inene'i," etc. (all these are personal names of female baloma).

In the tapuala there are certain words I was unable to translate, but the general meaning is clear: "Spoil our fishing! bring bad luck to our fishing" (so far the spell is negative; it suggests in imperative form that which it is desired to prevent); ----- (?); ----- (?); "Go, open the mouth of the shark in the sea; go, make the shark to be

p. 208

met in the sea; remain open (yawning); come; make them meet the shark; your eyes are (?); on the beach of Vinaki."

This fragmentary translation shows, at any rate, that the bili baloma (a plural form of baloma, used when they are treated as a kind of effective agent in magic) of the unmarried females are directly invoked to lend a hand in making the fishing lucky.

My informant was as puzzled as myself by the question why female and not male baloma are supposed to be effective in this magic. But it was a fact known, not only to the magician, but to everybody, that the female baloma are the tolipoula, the "masters of the fishing." The magician and some other men in council tentatively suggested that the male baloma go out to the fishing with the men, and the female baloma remain behind and have to be fed by the magician, lest they should be angry. Another man pointed out that in the myth which explains the existence of the shark fishing in Kaibuola, a woman plays an important part. But it was clear that to all my informants the fact of women being tolipoula was so natural that it had never occurred to them to question it previously.

The kalala fishing in the village of Laba'i is connected with the mythical hero Tudava, who is specially associated with that village, and who is, in a way, reputed to be an ancestor of the present rulers of Laba'i. The magic which accompanies this fishing is essentially bound up with the mythological doings of Tudava. Thus, he lived on the beach where the fishing takes place and where the most important magical formulae are spoken. Again, Tudava used to walk on the road leading from the beach to the village, and there are some traditional spots connected with his doings on that road. The "traditional presence," if such an expression may be coined, of the hero is felt in all the fishing places. The whole neighborhood is also enveloped in taboos, which are especially stringent when the fishing is going on. This is periodical, and lasts for about six days each moon, beginning on the yapila (the day of the full moon), when

p. 209

the fish are coming in shoals into the shallow water between the barrier reef and the beach. The native tradition says that Tudava ordered the kalala fish to live in "big river? on the d'Entrecasteaux Archipelago, and once a month to come up to the beach of Laba'i. But the magic spells, also ordered by Tudava, are essential, for if these were omitted the fish would not come. Tudava's name, coupled with those of other ancestors, figures in a long spell said at the beginning of the fishing period on the beach near a large tabooed stone called Bomlikuliku. 53 The spell begins:--

"Tudava kulu Tudava;
Ibu'a kulu, Wa'ibua;
Kuluvidaga, Kulubaiwoie, Kulubetoto,
Muaga'i, Karibuiuwa
," etc.

Tudava and Wa'ibua are mythical ancestors who both belonged to the village of Laba'i, the first being, as we know already, the great "culture hero" of the island. Noteworthy is the play on the name Wa'ibua, evidently for the purposes of rhythm. Again, the word kulu inserted between the two first names (that of Tudava and of Ibu'a and prefixed to the three following names) could not be translated by my informants, nor do I see any etymological solution of the difficulty. After the personal names enumerated above follow eight names without a kinship term and sixteen with the kinship term tubugu ("my grandfathers") preceding each. Then comes the name of the immediate predecessor of the present magician. My informant was unable to explain why some of the names were furnished with the kinship determination, whilst the others were not. But he was very positive that those two classes were not equivalent or interchangeable.

An offering is made daily to the baloma during the six days the fishing lasts. Small bits of cooked fish (about the size of walnuts) and bits of betel nut (now also tobacco) are put by the magician on the Bomlikuliku stone with the following words:--

p. 210

"Kamkuamsi kami ula'ula, nunumuaia:
Ilikilaluva, Ilibualita;
," 54

which mean--

"Eat your ula'ula (present for performing magic), O old women: Ilikilaluva (personal name), Ilibualita (personal name); open it."

This shark spell or invocation is repeated daily with each offering. Another charm, called guvagava, is chanted daily for the six days over some leaves; it has the power of attracting the kalala fish. The spell begins with a list of ancestors, all of them styled "ancestor" or "grandfather."

There is a spell performed once only, at the beginning of the fishing period, on the road leading from the village of Laba'i to the beach. It is chanted over a plant (libu) uprooted from the soil and put across the path. In this spell there is the following phrase:--

"Iamuana iaegulo, Umnalibu
Tai'ioko, Kubugu, Taigala, Likiba
," 55

which is also an enumeration of names, all of which are said to have belonged to the present magician's ancestors.

Another formula in which names of ancestors occur is that recited while the magician sweeps his house at the beginning of the fishing period. This spell begins:--

"Boki'u, Kalu Boki'u; Tamala, Kuri Tamala;
Tageulo, Kuritageulo

All these are names of ancestors of the magician's subclan. Characteristic is the repetition of the names with a superadded prefix, "Boki'u Kalu Boki'u," etc. Whether the man's real name is represented by the first word and the second one is an embellished replica, or whether the first is only a curtailed second syllable of the real name, was not quite clear to my informants.

In the system of kalala-fishing magic just discussed the

p. 211

number of formulae in which ancestral names figure is five out of a total of seven, which makes a large proportion.

It would take up too much space to discuss in detail all the remaining magical formulae which have been recorded. A synoptic table (see next page) will be sufficient as a basis for a short discussion. 56

As mentioned above, there are the two classes of magic, the "matrilineal" and "patrilineal," the former bound up with a locality, the latter often handed over from one place to another. It is also necessary in Kiriwinian magic to distinguish between magic which forms a system, and that which naturally consists of unconnected formulae. The term "system" may be taken to denote that magic in which a number of formulae form an organic consecutive whole. This whole is usually connected with activities which are also part of a large organic total--activities all of which are directed towards the same end. Thus it is quite clear that garden magic forms a system. Every formula is connected with some activity, and all together form a consecutive series tending towards one end. The same applies to magic performed at different stages of a fishing period or to magical formulae said during the successive phases of a trading expedition. No single formula of such a system would be of any use. They must all be recited successively; they must all belong to the same system, and each must mark off some phase of the given activity. On the other hand, love magic consists of a number of spells (and they are innumerable in Kiriwina), every one of which forms an independent unit.

p. 212

Description of magic.

Total number of formulae recorded.

Number of formulae in which ancestral names are mentioned

Number of formulae in which no ancestral names are mentioned.

1. Weather charms




2. War magic




3. Kaitubutabu (coconut)




4. Thunder




5. Sorcery and medicine




6. Canoe




7. Muasila (trading, exchange of wealth)




8. Love




9. Kaiga'u (mulukuausi magic)




10. Kabitam' (carving charms)




11. Fishing magic




12. Sting ray fishing




13. Wageva (beauty magic)




14. Areca nut




15. Saikeulo (child magic)





War magic (No. 2) again forms a system. All spells have to be recited, one after the other, in connection with consecutive magical activities. This system is connected with a certain locality, and references to this locality (and other places, too) are made, but no ancestor names are mentioned.

Weather magic (No. 1), chiefly rain magic and, less important, fine weather magic, is local and connected with a myth. The twelve spells all belong to one locality, and they are the most powerful rain magic in the island. They are the monopoly of the rulers of the village of Kasana'i (a

p. 213

small village, which forms practically one unit with the village of Omarakana), a monopoly which in times of drought brings an enormous income in gifts to the magician.

Again, in kaitubutabu magic (No. 3) the two formulae are part of a system; they must both be said at two different stages of a period, during which coconuts are tabooed, and the object of the whole series of observances and rites is to foster the growth of coconuts.

Thunder magic (No. 4) is connected with a tradition, in which there figures a mythical ancestor, and this is mentioned in the spell.

Canoe-making magic (No. 6) and muasila magic (No. 7), connected with a remarkable system of trading and exchange of valuables (called kula), form each an extremely important system of magic. No ancestral names are mentioned in the formulae recorded. Unfortunately, I have not recorded any complete system of muasila, and though one system of canoe magic has been recorded, it could not be properly translated. In both forms of magic there are references to localities, but none to ancestors.

The three spells of fishing magic (No. 11) belong to one system.

The other spells (Nos. 12-15) do not form systems. In the love spells there is naturally no mention of ancestral names. The only formulae where such names appear are those designed to bring a disease upon a man or to exorcise it. Some of these charms are associated with myths.

The data here given concerning the role of ancestors in magic must speak for themselves. It has not been possible to obtain much additional information from natives upon this subject. The references to the baloma form an intrinsic and essentially important part of the spells in which they occur. It would be no good asking the natives "What would happen if you omitted to invoke the baloma?" (a type of question which sometimes reveals the ideas of the native as to the sanction or reason for a certain practice), because a magical formula is an inviolable, integral item of tradition. It must be known thoroughly and repeated exactly

p. 214

as it was learnt. A spell or magical practice, if tampered with in any detail, would entirely lose its efficacy. Thus the enumeration of ancestral names cannot conceivably be omitted. Again, the direct question, "Why do you mention those names?" is answered in the time-honored manner, "Tokunabogu bubunemasi [our (excl.) old custom]." And in this matter I did not profit much from discussing matters with even the most intelligent natives.

That the names of the ancestors are more than a mere enumeration is clear from the fact that the ula'ula is offered in all the most important systems, which have been thoroughly examined, and also from--the offerings and sagali described above. But even these presents and the partaking of the sagali, though undoubtedly they imply the presence of the baloma, do not express the idea of the spirits' actual participation in fostering the aim of the magic; of their being the agents through whom the magician works, to whom he appeals or whom he masters in the spell, and who perform subsequently the task imposed on them.

The natives at times express meekly the idea that a benevolent attitude of the spirit is very favorable to the fishing or gardening, and that if the spirits were angry they would do harm. This latter negative view was undoubtedly more pronounced. The baloma participate in some vague manner in such ceremonies as are performed for their benefit, and it is better to keep on the right side of them, but this view by no means implies the idea that they are the main agents, or even the subsidiary agents, of any activity. 57 The magical virtue lies in the spell itself.

The native attitude of mind towards the baloma in magic may become more clear when compared with that obtaining during the milamala. There the baloma are participants and onlookers, whose favor ought to be gained, whose wishes are naturally respected, who, further, are not slow in showing their disapproval, and who can make a nuisance of themselves if not properly treated, though their anger is not nearly so terrible as that of the normal type of supernatural beings, savage or civilized. In the milamala the

p. 215

[paragraph continues] baloma are not real agents in anything that goes on. Their role is purely passive. And out of this passivity they can be roused only by being put into bad humor, when they begin to show their existence in a negative manner, so to speak.

There is another side to the lists of ancestral names in magic, which must be remembered here. In all Kiriwinian magic a great role is played by myths, underlying a certain system of magic, and by tradition in general. How far this tradition is local and how far it thus becomes focussed on the family tradition of a certain subclan has been discussed above. The ancestral names mentioned in the several formulae form therefore one of the traditional elements so conspicuous in general. The mere sanctity of those names, being often a chain linking the performer with a mythical ancestor and originator, is in the eyes of the natives a quite sufficient prima facie reason for their recital. Indeed, I am certain that any native would regard them thus in the first place, and that he would never see in them any appeal to the spirits, any invitation to the baloma to come and act; the spells uttered whilst giving the ula'ula being, perhaps, an exception. But even this exception does not loom first and foremost in his mind and does not color his general attitude towards magic. 58

Next: Chapter VI