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Cults and Christianity among the Enga and Ipili.


A key volume on Pacific Christianity (Barker 1990a) has noted that much of the anthropology on this topic has tended to focus on the dichotomy between the continuity of traditional religious practices and the adoption or intrusion of Christianity. John Barker writes, 'For some time now Pacific scholars have called for approaches that see Pacific islanders as active participants in their own history. The ethnographic approach to Pacific Christianity takes up this challenge in a particularly radical way by viewing islanders as the ultimate makers of their own religions' (Barker 1990b:22). In this paper, I seek to bridge the dichotomy presented above while also addressing Barker's call for understanding innovation and agency in the fashioning of indigenous Christianity in the Pacific. I am particularly interested in exploring the relationships between precolonial myths and practices and contemporary Christianity and local senses of history in Papua New Guinea (see Robbins 1998, 2001; Jorgensen 2001).

When the western Enga and eastern Ipili of highlands Papua New Guinea (see Figure 1) talk about their religious experiences today, they make numerous references to their participation in a number of cults that were active in the late 1930s and early 1940s. They see these activities, however, not as cultic, but rather as precursors to their full engagement in Christian practices. By 'cultic,' I am referring to the vast literature on so-called cargo cults in Melanesia (Worsley 1957; Burridge 1960; Lawrence 1964; Williams 1976; Lattas 1998, to list a few). I have dropped the term 'cargo' from my own analysis as the cults as practiced by the Enga and Ipili (1) were concerned with much more than material wealth (see also Biersack 1996). The cults occurred simultaneously with the intrusion of white colonialists into the area, and for many of the younger people today, the cult practices actually 'opened the road for the coming of the white man.' Moreover, Ipili and Enga equate many of the cults' activities and lead ers with Christian and biblical practices and personages. In sum, Enga and Ipili are actively engaging in fashioning their own sense of understanding their conversion to Christianity. On an even broader scale, the ethnography presented in this article shows how Ipilis and Engas locate themselves within the scope of world history.

Two of the three cults discussed in this article have been analyzed previously by several scholars (Meggitt 1973; Gibbs 1977; Goldman 1983; Frankel 1986; Feil 1983; Sharp 1990; Biersack 1995, 1998a; Wiessner and Tumu 2001). In particular, Mervyn Meggitt (1973) and Philip Gibbs (1977) provide useful points of comparison with my own analysis as our respective research was located in the same area, yet spans 40 years, beginning in 1957 (Meggitt), again in 1974 (Gibbs), and also in 1999-2000 (myself). The statements that Enga and Ipili participants have made about their involvement with the cults and Christianity have varied over this time period based on larger ecological, political, social, and economic concerns. Building upon the aforementioned scholars work, I also present new information on a previously unknown cult, called Kaiyamba's cult, that is linked to the other cults.


The western Enga, also called the Taro Enga (Meggitt 1973) or the Tayato Enga (Wiessner and Tumu 1998), are one subset of the approximately 200,000 Enga people living in Papua New Guinea (see Figure 1). For this article, I am calling the Enga who live to the west and north of the town of Laiagam the western Enga, although they have a number of self-referential names which depend upon one's relative positioning in the social and physical landscape. The approximately 10,000 Ipili are located in two valley systems west of the Enga, the western Ipili (or Paiela) live along the Pakupali River, while the eastern Ipili (or Porgera) live along the Porgera River and its tributaries. This article is concerned primarily with the eastern Ipili. Living to the south of the Ipili, are approximately 80,000 Huli speakers. To the north are scattered groups of several hundred semi-nomadic Hewa people.

The western Enga and Ipili live in an environment quite different from that usually depicted for highlands peoples. Instead of the broad valleys of gardens interspersed with grasslands and forested ridgelines, there are found heavily rainforested, V-shaped valleys divided by rugged limestone ranges, some of which reach nearly 4000 meters in elevation. The bulk of the population lives between 1600 meters (above the malarial zone) and 2600 meters (below the upper limit of sweet potato cultivation) above sea level. The staple for the Ipili is sweet potato, while for the western Enga it is both sweet potato and taro. The raising of pigs for exchange and sale is important to both groups, although it is of greater significance for the Enga (see Meggitt 1974).

In the border regions where Ipili and Enga meet there is much intermarriage and social interaction. While the languages are closely related, they are mutually unintelligible. One of the key cultural differences between the Ipili and Enga is that the former are considered to be a cognatic society (Biersack 1995), while the latter are agnatic (Meggitt 1965; but see Jacka 2002 for a more detailed analysis). Patrilineality and patrilocality are more important among the western Enga, whereas multilocality (i.e., living alternately with husband's father's and mother's kin and wife's father's kin) is the norm for the Ipili. Both groups live in hamlets, which prior to 20 years ago were divided into communal men's houses and individual women's houses. Today, many married couples live in the same house, albeit sleep in separate quarters as female pollution taboos are still prominent in both societies (see Meggitt 1964 for the Enga; Biersack 1982, 1987 for the Ipili).

The Enga, numerically the largest culture group in Enga Province (and all of Papua New Guinea, for that matter), dominated colonial and postcolonial (after 1975) political and economic agendas. Today, however, the Ipili are hosts to the Porgera gold mine, one of the richest gold mines in the world. As a consequence, ethnic politics are at an all-time high as Ipilis and Engas creatively negotiate for inclusion in the lucrative benefits packages and development plans engendered by the Porgera mine (see Jacka 2001a, 2001b for fuller treatment). With this brief ethnographic sketch, I turn back to the discussion started in the introduction.


Depicting an indigenous historical consciousness of Ipili and Enga must stress that a prominent feature of contemporary life in this area is the constant referencing of the past to understand the changes in the present. By 'historical consciousness,' I refer to the meanings that Enga and Ipili have of their own sense of participation in global historical events and processes. In particular, they are concerned with linking regional events and happenings with the history that is contained in the Christian Bible. Thus in the Bible when it states that after Jesus' crucifixion the sky darkened and the ground shook, many Ipili and Enga mention eclipses and earthquakes that occurred in their parents' lifetimes as proof that these happenings affected Papua New Guinea as well. Later in the article, I address this in greater detail.

Other researchers have divided Enga and Ipili concepts of the past into the categories 'myth' and 'history' (for the Enga, Wiessner and Tumu 1998:26; for the Ipili, Ingemann see also Levi-Strauss 1966). These are problematic glosses, however, for the native concepts have little to do with myth as something made up and untrue and history as something true and opposed to myth. Rather, their terms, tindi (2) for 'myth,' and temane (Ipili) and atome (Enga) for 'history,' are grounded in 'spoken of' versus 'witnessed.' In other words, tindi are those stories for which no one in recorded memory actually witnessed the events, and while supranormal activities occur in them (bodily transformation, flying people, etc.) they are often substantiated by features of the landscape associated with them. For example, after telling me a tindi the story teller would usually take me on a walk to show me the landscape features that were created or altered in the story to prove its veracity. Temane and atome, on the other hand, we re seen by someone of whom the story teller has knowledge. The events could have occurred six generations before they lived, but the story teller always ties a lived observer to a temane or atome.

Prophecy (tenga ua pulane in Ipili, tenda opa pita in Enga, 'something will happen later') also plays an important role in Ipili and Enga historical understanding. Late at night in the communal men's houses, older men would sit up and talk about the prophetic messages that had passed down over time. These messages were usually cryptic statements like, 'when the man with red on his neck dies near the Ole bridge in Kairik, then the world will be close to ending.' According to the person who told me this particular prophecy, the 'red on his neck' phrase could have a number of different interpretations. It could indicate that the man was from the neighboring Huli area, as Huli men sprinkle red ochre over the backs of their necks and shoulders when dressing up for traditional dances. Or he noted it could refer to someone wearing a tie or handkerchief around their neck; as these things were not known to his ancestors, they obviously would not have had words for them. Whatever the interpretation, Enga and Ipili hav e a great respect for prophetic messages that were left behind by the ancestors to prepare their descendants for future events.

Tindi are especially important in regards to this referencing of the past to understand the present as there are numerous elements within tindi that are thought to have relevance in contemporary times. One of these is the magic leaf bundle that the protagonist of these stories often carries. When the bundle is opened, the protagonist magically flies to whatever destination he or she desires. From today's perspective, the ancestors told these tindi to prepare their descendants for using money with which they could buy airplane tickets and fly around. Another common element in tindi is the spatial location of the protagonists in a middle ground between the alleged demonic and cannibalistic Hewn culture group who live 'down below' (i.e., lower in elevation) and the benevolent light-skinned sky people who live above in a sky world. Today, in a Christian era, people say that their ancestors were describing a coming age characterized by Satan (Hewa) and angels (sky people). As such, tindi and the events they depic t are conceptualized by Enga and Ipili as prophetic messages from the past about the present. In this same vein, all of the past, temane and atome as well as tindi, is open to this same scrutiny as a means to interpret the contemporary transformations that Ipili and Enga are experiencing.

Ritual, whites, and wealth are inextricably interdigitated in the historical consciousness of Ipili and Enga. Prior to contact with whites, elaborate rituals (called takia) for obtaining wealth items, such as shells and pigs, were a key feature of social life. Bill Gammage in his book The Sky Travellers (1998) brilliantly explores the ways that local highlanders cast the members of the 1938-39 Hagen-Sepik patrol in terms that were understandable in their own cultural context (e.g., Sahlins 1981). In his account, Jim Taylor and John Black were understood in numerous highlands societies as sky people. Beliefs in sky people who have some form of control over wealth, the fertility of young people, weather, and other human events are widespread throughout highlands groups from Mt. Hagen to Porgera. From what Enga and Ipili people have told me, their own theories about Taylor and Black were in this same vein. Taylor and Black were associated with the aircraft that had recently been spotted overhead. Their skins we re light like the sky people, and their substantial wealth of steel tools and shells further linked them to the wealth bestowing properties that sky women are famous for in Enga and Ipili myths (Wiessner and Tumu 1998, Chapter 8 for the Enga; Biersack 1982, 1998b for the Ipili). It is in this context, then, that first contact was understood by local people. Their participation in ritual cults was an attempt to integrate themselves into the white world of power, exemplified by the guns and the numerous killings of the patrols, and wealth, expressed in the patrols' seemingly inexhaustible and often miraculous number of material items and trade goods.


The first cult, which I call Kaiyamba's cult, started in Wailya in 1938 (see Figure 2). The second cult, called here the cult of Ain or Ain's cult, began some four years after the first cult and Ain's cult is the one that has received so much attention in the highlands literature (see Meggitt 1973; Gibbs 1977; Feil 1983; Frankel 1986; Sharp 1990; Biersack 1996, 1998; Wiessner and Tumu 1998, 2001). As I detail in this section, Kaiyamba's cult had a direct impact on the direction that Ain's cult took after it left Lyeimi. In turn, a man named Wambe (see below) became involved with this cult as it moved from Lyeimi to Wailya, and his influence on the cult proscriptions was profound. The third cult, Ipayema and Timbapu's cult, was an outflow of the second cult. Both Meggitt (1973) and Gibbs (1977) briefly discuss this cult and I will provide additional information on it and illustrate how it relates to the two prior cults.

Kaiyamba's Cult

In 1938, Kaiyamba, a man from Pandame clan, returned from Mulitaka and warned everyone that a white man with a patrol was coming from the east. After warning everyone, Kaiyamba started building a big house just across the Yolo River. 'Kaiyamba told everyone to fill gourds up with sangai water (ritually powerful water from swampy areas near where the bachelor purification ritual [sangai] would be performed) and come to the house he had built,' recalls Piyapa Inguni. All the Pandame went into Kaiyamba's house, sang all night, and prepared for the coming of the white man. Kaiyamba told everyone to kill all of their pigs and throw them away. Ulali Malo gave me a detailed description of the events,

Kaiyamba said that no man was his father, the sun had given birth to him. Kaiyamba built a huge house, all the people went inside and he taught them takia [wealth magic]. Once we learned the takia [here Peter, my research assistant, translates takia as lotu (church in Tok Pisin)], he blocked the door and got pangali and kupini sticks and hit all the people. He told us to get ready to go to tai toko [up the sky bridge]. He told us that Maku ikini (3) was coming, he called the white man 'the son [ikini] of Maku.' He said that if Maku ikini tries to cross the Yolo River, then he would kill him. Kaiyamba made a stick to kill Maku ikini, he painted it like a kolo [a pig killing ritual designed to heal illness (see Jacka 2001a)] stick. He put the stick in a pai [chestnut] tree and said he was going to kill the man when he came. We put on all of our finest clothes and wealth items [bilas in Tok Pisin] to sing in the house. Kaiyamba told us to take off all our bilas and put it in the road. He told the Kundiki [a near by clan] not to cross the Yolo River. They saw all the bilas on the road and ran back. He told them that if they had seen or knew the face of Maku, they couldn't cross the river. The Maiango [another neighboring clan] and Kundiki didn't come join us. We didn't sleep, we sang all night. We sang, 'I won't come and sleep in the house, I'll fight Maku's child.' Maku came to Tumandan and Kaiyamba told all the men to paint their faces with charcoal in preparation to fight the white man. The child of Maku came to Wailya. Kaiyamba told us that only he would go to tai toko. He would leave his skin and all of his bilas behind. Then he said that only two of us would go to tai toko. He told Inama [Ulali's brother], 'You won't see my face, you'll only see my white teeth.' Kaiyamba and Yukuli [Kaiyamba's brother] were going to kill the white man. They hid near the graveyard to shoot the white man with arrows. They shot two or three of the men with the white man. The white man shot Kaiyamba right in the forehead killing him . He fell in the mud. We heard the gun and we were sitting in the big house. We thought Kaiyamba had killed the white man. Then the white man came to the big house and shot Lone, he got his leg shot off, and he died. Kaiyamba had told us that two of them would go to tai toko and two of them did [in this context she means the Christian concept of heaven as the dead did not go up the sky bridge]. We didn't bury them, we didn't go up the tai toko. We ran off to Yelum [across the Lagaip River] and hid. At night the men came back and buried the two. We were all afraid of the white man. Later, we only returned when the grass had grown on their graves.

There are several things about Ulali's account of the cult that are significant. The first is that she says that Kaiyamba taught everyone takia, or wealth magic. Both Ipili and Enga men performed takia magic in small huts (takianda) prior to marriage, warfare, and death compensations to increase their chances of receiving wealth items during the exchange (some older men still do). Traditionally, women did not perform takia (although on one occasion when I was collecting takia magic, the man's wife jumped in and started chanting it before he had a chance to do so which made all the onlookers erupt in laughter), so Kaiyamba's inclusion of women in his cult house (which Ulali depicts as essentially a large takia house) is interesting. People dressing in their finest wealth items (4) and then giving them up supports the idea that the cult was concerned with the acquisition of wealth, especially new kinds of wealth. This is a common theme in the three cults in this area, that new forms of wealth are coming so peop le should destroy and abandon the old to make way for the new.

A fascinating aspect of this cult concerns Kaiyamba's concern with journeying up the tai toko [sky bridge] to the sky world where the sky people live. Ulali noted too that he said he would leave his skin behind and the only thing people would see would be his white teeth. Kaiyamba's cult, as such, was not merely a means to reproduce the social order, although that was a certain aspect of it initially when he wanted to drive the white man away. Kaiyamba also sought to transform the social order by leaving the earth behind and dwelling in the sky world. He obviously figured that once there he would be given a new skin (one more white like the sky people's?) and new wealth items to replace the ones he was leaving behind. It is critical to note that while the efficacy of his cult may seem nullified by his demise from our perspective, according to Ulali he did achieve his goal of making it to heaven (although I am sure she was being slightly tongue-in-cheek about this).

Kaiyamba's cult as a response to the coming of the whites seems extreme without better contextualization of the events. One of the principals of this article, Wambe Yawin, places these events in a clearer light by explaining what happened at Mulitaka when Jim Taylor's patrol arrived.

Wambe Yawin

Around the first of September 1938, as the patrol led by Jim Taylor approached Mulitaka [John Black was on a more southerly route to Telefolmin], the local people began to say that italye was coming. Wambe Yawin went with his uncle to go look at this italye,

They had bushknives, saucepans, and axes. They shone because of this stuff. When they came we could smell them while they were still a long ways away. Italye were what we called the white men. When they came I was sitting on a stone. The white men fired their rifles and I ran off in fear. They killed my uncle, Ete, with their guns. They also killed Ikitale, a Mulapini man, the father of Keken. They shot Kaipi, then Kengele, he was also a Mulapini. Kapu was shot, he was a Yupis man. We called the white man Mata. (5) They came with lots of coastal men, they shot lots of pigs and men. They raped our women. They were bad men. I ran off to the forest in the mountains. Later I heard that they had killed all these men I just named. I came back to see my uncle. They had shot him in the stomach and his intestines were hanging out his backside. All the policemen came and got me and took me away. I was scared. They had a kanda (rattan cane) with a hook and they hooked me around the neck and pulled me along. We slept at Yoko. The next morning I saw the white man. He was named Jim Taylor. He made me go with them. We went to Wailya and they killed some men and pigs there. Then they came up to Pakoandaka and slept at Lese. After that we went to Paiela and then went all the way to the Hewa [Min/Sepik area].

After the patrol, Wambe stayed with Taylor and traveled throughout the highlands and coastal areas. His involvement with Taylor helped him to achieve an enormous amount of status in the highlands. He was appointed the first luluai (colonial village leader) of Mulitaka in 1955 (Laiagam Patrol Report #3, 1954/55). He has ten wives and 37 children, an impressive amount even among the polygynous Enga and Ipili, and laughingly says that all of his children do not even know each other. Today, he remains a village court magistrate and a leader of the Christian Apostolic Fellowship church in Tipinini. I mention Wambe's present-day civic and private accomplishments to underscore his relevance in the local communities of which he is a part. However, I want to return to the early 1940s to discuss the second of the three cults, Ain's cult, and Wambe's role in this cult as a prophet.

The Cult of Ain

Around 1943 in Lyeimi (see Figure 2), Am appeared to his four sons in a dream as a tree kangaroo which had just emerged from a pool of water. Ain detailed a series of procedures that his sons should follow (and instruct others) in order to stop a series of ecological disasters (frosts in 1939 and 1941) and human and porcine epidemics that were sweeping through the area destroying crops and killing people and pigs (Meggitt 1973). Most of the sicknesses had been brought by the Taylor-Black patrol (Gammage 1998), and the frosts were coincidental to the departure of the whites, who left in 1939 and would not return again until 1948. There were eight ritual procedures that Ain's sons exhorted the people of Lyeimi to follow (from Meggitt 1973:21-23):

i) They should give up healing rituals that attempted to placate the ancestors.

ii) The people should turn to the sun and moon, the original ancestors, in this time of crisis.

iii) Everyone's pigs should be killed on special platforms and offered to the sun, the efficacy of this would be signaled by the pig killer shaking as he stared at the sun along the shaft of his spear. The pigs would then be cooked for a communal feast and half would go to the owner and half to Ain's sons.

iv) After the feast, the men and women should wash together every morning for one moon while chanting special songs taught to them by Ain's sons.

v) The men were to give up warfare.

vi) The men should put aside their worries of female pollution and copulate frequently with their wives to beget many children.

vii) They should take good care of their hunting dogs as game would become an important source of meat until the pig herds were large again.

viii) The people should not eat tree pythons, sugarcane, and certain other vegetables (panya [Setaria palmifolia] and auwe) for six moons.

After a time, the epidemics would cease and conditions would return to normal as before the sickness and climatic disturbances. From these humble origins in Lyeimi, the four brothers spread the message of their cult throughout current-day Enga and Southern Highlands Provinces. Over the next two years, thousands of Enga, Ipili, and Huh people in these areas were involved with the cult (see Meggitt 1973; Gibbs 1977; Feil 1983; Frankel 1986; Sharp 1990; Biersack 1996, 1998; Wiessner and Tumu 1998, 2001).

Each group that adopted the cult modified it slightly to suit their own particular needs and cultural configurations, but what has never been adequately explained is why the cult proscriptions were so radically altered from the first performances in Lyeimi to the 'second' set of performances in Tumandan (see Meggitt 1973:26). The Tumandan performances were actually the third set, Meggitt was probably unaware that the Wailya performances had occurred. According to Meggitt, at Lyeimi the cult's main concern was a return to the status quo, but by the time the cult reached Tumandan the acquisition of wealth items, both traditional and western material goods, were a main component of the cult's activities. Lyeimi was far from the paths that the patrols had followed, so how had Ain's four sons heard of the western material goods which their cult sought? Additionally, why did their cult procedures seem to have syncretic Christian elements admixed with them? For Meggitt and the other researchers in this area this has remained a perplexing puzzle. Wambe and the fact of an earlier cult (Kaiyamba's cult) provide the missing pieces to this dilemma, but I will first discuss the four sons of Ain.

The four brothers are Wambilipa, Langate, Lunguni, and Powai (Meggitt [1973:20] transcribes their names as Wambilipi, Langgara, Lunggunu, and Pauwaiya). Langate and Lunguni appear to have been the principals involved in the cult, but in time Wambilipa, the youngest, took on the mantle of leadership. As Sharp (1990:115) points out, within a few years of the start of the cult, all of the brothers except Wambilipa had died, and even though the cult died out, Wambilipa's power as a prophet remains in the area even today. The four brothers taught many others to lead the cult in their own respective areas, but today people rarely mention those assistants and their contributions remain largely opaque. Discussions with Wambe, however, highlighted his part in the cult and the impact he had on its development.

Wambe says that he was working in his garden in Mulitaka (around 1943) when he had a powerful vision that he was standing atop Mt. Mungalo (in many myths, a sacred mountain where humans lost their immortality) and looking northeast toward Lyeimi. He came out of the vision and found himself standing in his garden. He immediately set out for Lyeimi without telling anyone where he was going. He arrived at Wambilipa's house; the two had never met before this time, according to Wambe. Upon seeing Wambilipa, Wambe pulled out his bow and arrows and shot a pandanus nut hanging in a nearby tree. Wambilipa threw his spear into a nearby palisade. At that moment, Wambe says that he knew the same vision he had received had affected Wambilipa, too. Wambe, with the four sons of Ain, took the pig killing cult on the road to spread to many people. Follow up discussions with my original informants verified that Wambe was with the four brothers when they first brought the cult to Wailya and Tipinini.

Lengango Neyapa was living at Wailya when the cult of Ain arrived from Lyeimi:

When Wambilipa and Langate and all the others came they had two beautiful women with them whose names were Titi and Mole. (6) These two women were dressed in their finest bilas, they looked like sky women. We killed all of our pigs and then Langate and Lunguni went to Tipinini and Wambilipa and I went to Tumandan and killed pigs there. After we left Tumandan we walked toward Mt. Tongapipi and at the base of the mountain is a lake with a kaima house near it. This is Lake Tindipa and the Kundiki clan used to kill pigs here and feed them to the spirits in the lake. Wambilipa would go out into the forest and talk to the sun and receive visions and then come back to us. He told us that we needed to cover ourselves with tree leaves and go to where the Bipe clan [Wage Enga] lived south of Mt. Tongapipi. We went down there all covered in tree leaves and the people were so afraid of us. We told them that we were sky people from Mt. Tongapipi and they had to give us all of their pigs. They ran away and we spent the nig ht in their men's house. The next day they came and stood some distance away. Wambilipa went outside and held up five spears to the sun and started talking to the sun. Right then five airplanes flew overhead and Wambilipa pointed his spears at them and talked to them. The people started shooting arrows at us, but Wambilipa told us not to shoot back. He got shot in the ankle and I told him he deserved it for not fighting back. The arrow broke off inside and his ankle got infected and we had to carry him all the way back to Tipinini. While Wambilipa rested, we killed pigs all over Tipinini and Porgera. The people at Porgera really loved us and killed all of their pigs, there was so much meat it rotted before we could eat it.

While the Wage Enga were reluctant to join the cult the first time they were visited by Wambilipa and Lengango, Lunguni and Langate later brought it to them again at which time they killed their pigs and passed the cult on to the Huli.

Meggitt (1973:24-25) notes that by the time the cult arrived at Tumandan, new spells had been added to the performances as well as the handling of hot embers. The acquisition of wealth was another element that had assumed centrality in the cult's aims. For Meggitt, this was evidence of the 'garbled stories' about the whites heard in Tumandan, as there were then stories about pigs the size of cows that would soon be coming. This was all fairly fantastic, as Meggitt describes it, as he argued that there was no way the western Enga could have heard about or let alone seen these things. Of course, Meggitt was unaware of Wambe and how his experiences with Jim Taylor had obviously influenced the detailed knowledge of white culture that Ain's cult attempted to bring about.

Supporting evidence for people's awareness of the outside world and the colonial patrol officer's (kiap in Tok Pisin; kiapen in the songs below) station at Wabag during World War Two is shown by two of the songs Wambilipa taught the cult practitioners. The first was sung by Yam Tiyape,
 Kiapen wapali oo patalo piyo,
 ipa tanta aiyoko piyo. (7)

 I want to go to the kiap's Wabag,
 I try my best to wash everyday.

Kuku Des provided the second song,

 Kiapen embopo lata ongome lipu kaluo niyala,
 ipata piatilo piate kaiyank.

 Like a strong wind, the kiap will come break this fence,
 Unable to resist, I will stand here.

Other people mentioned that many of the songs they sang during this time detailed some of the new items that would be coming to them such as axes, bushknives, cattle, and other material items from the white man. In fact, Wambilipa's brother, Langate, named his son Uaapela, because new axes would soon be coming (uaa is axe in Enga).

When the cult arrived in Tipinini among the Ipili, the links to white culture were even more apparent. Tipininians relate that the cult's leaders dug out small pools of water where people would come and gaze into the water and see the wealth items that were due to come (see also Gibbs 1977), such as metal houses, sheep, goats, cars, airplanes, etc. In Tipinini, too, the washing ceremony took on a different cast. One of the cult leaders would sit in the stream above the people washing and scrape at a mother-of-pearl shell (at the time the most valuable shell item in the area) and let the scrapings wash over the skins of the participants. The purpose of this was to make their skins shiny and healthy and thereby attract wealth to them. The most significant transformation in the cult that occurred among the Ipili, though, was that now there was an explicit motivation in the cult practices to ascend the sky bridge and leave earthly existence behind.

As seen in Figure 2, the cult came to Tipinini from Wailya. Wambe was with this contingent as were other people from Wailya (Wambilipa was on his way to Tumundan and Mt. Tongapipi). I believe that the developments that the cult took in Tipinini are from the influence of Wambe and Kaiyamba's cult with its explicit references to ascending the sky bridge. Both Meggitt (1973:30) and Gibbs (1977:1) argue that the new cult practices as developed by the Ipili were due to the 'greater complexity inherent in Ipili religious belief and ritual [than among the Enga]' (Meggitt 1973:30). This may be a satisfactory comparison to make between the central Enga (whom Meggitt primarily worked among) and the Ipili, but one that is unsubstantiated by my own comparative research among the western Enga (who started the cult) and the Ipili who shared all of the same religious beliefs and practices.

A third aspect of the cult that developed among the Ipili at Tipinini was the notion that just before ascending the sky bridge (said by Meggitt to be pythons hanging from the sky [1973:28]) there would be a great time of darkness and everyone should build a large circular house and stay inside until the darkness dissipated. This is linked to traditional stories about a time when ungi fell from the sky. Ungi was ash fallout from a volcanic eruption in the mid-l7th century (see Blong 1982), and while it initially destroyed gardens, subsequent crops were more abundant and the health and fertility of pigs and people increased. Among the Huli just to the south of the Ipili, this is called mbingi (Frankel 1986; Ballard 1995, 2000; Glasse 1995) and its next occurrence was welcomed as it would replenish the earth. For the Ipili in Tipinini though, the next occurrence of ungi was thought to mark the beginning of the end of the world and even today people fear its arrival (cf. Ballard 2000).

Ain's cult spread from this area to the Huh to the south (see Frankel 1986) and to Enga groups to the northeast (see Feil 1983), east (see Meggitt 1973), and the southeast (see Meggitt 1956, 1973). As Meggitt (1973) notes, when the cult approached the Wabag area, people had been in close contact for some time with the whites stationed there during the Taylor-Black patrol and World War Two and their interest in the cult was far from enthusiastic. Further west, however, among the western Enga and Ipili the cult was maintained for some time. Older men told me that every so often Wambilipa would come from Lyeimi and revive the cult and people would kill off their pigs again. In time, though, these people, too, tired of the cult and eventually gave it up.

In summary, Am's cult took two divergent paths after the cult leaders split up after Wailya (but then rejoined in Tipinini after Wambilipa's failed attempt to take the cult to the Wage Enga). The Tumandan performances made no references to ascending the sky bridge and leaving the earth, and while they stressed gaining traditional wealth items, they did not make overt statements about gaining white wealth items. In Tipinini, however, these elements were present which was largely due to the fact that Wambe was with this contingent of the cult's leaders. Gibbs (1977) and Biersack (1996, 1998a) point out that the Ipili concern with the sky bridge was attributable to an earlier tindi where a culture hero, Lemeyane, comes from Lyeimi and digs the present waterways draining the waters from a great flood that had engulfed Tipinini. After saving the land, he ascends the sky bridge at Mt. Tongapipi and joins the sky people. As Biersack and Gibbs note, the path that the cult followed paralleled the same route that Leme yane took and for many Ipili people the symbolism was only all too apparent. This is certainly true and the third cult that developed in Tipinini, Ipayema and Timbapu's cult, made explicit references to this earlier tindi.

Ipayema and Timbapu's Cult

Meggitt (1973) and Gibbs (1977) each give some details of this cult. When Wambilipa's cult came to Tipinini, one of the people that they appointed to lead the cult after they left was a young woman named Ipayema (Meggitt and Gibbs transcribe her name as Ipiama). After the main cult leaders left, Ipayema continued to lead the people in singing and dancing. Around this time many people state that she became crazy and began to gain control over people's minds. Gibbs (ibid.: 19) says that she had a piece of black wood that gave her this power. Other people told me she had a magic fingertip that she had removed from a dead body. I was also told that she had gone near a major earth fertility ritual site (Lemeyane's house; see Biersack 1998a) and cut down a tree for Wambilipa's cult to use, and this caused her to go crazy (cf. Gibbs 1977:20). Ipayema appointed a man to assist her whose name was Timbapu.

Ipayema and Timbapu built a house near the area where people were gathering every day to sing and dance. Ipayema began to talk about going up the sky bridge so that they could go live in the sky world and receive all of the goods that Wambilipa and his brothers had said would come. One day she climbed on the roof of the house while people were gathered inside and started urinating on them. She told them that she was giving them sky water' (tawe ipa) which would allow them to travel up the sky bridge if they drank it. One elderly man noted with chagrin that he had believed her and actually drank her urine, although he left the cult the following day. The next day she told everyone to get all of their wealth items and pigs and prepare to go up the sky bridge at Mt. Tongapipi. Many people came; however, the leaders of the area were suspicious of her intentions and tried to stop her from going anywhere, they waited along the main track to Mt. Tongapipi, but the cult adherents went on a little-used forest track to the base of Mt. Tongapipi.

The cult adherents arrived at Mt. Tongapipi at Lake Tindipa. The cult followers cooked pigs inside the kaima house near the lakeshore and continued to sing and dance and prepare to go up the sky bridge. The next morning, Ipayema told everyone to stand alongside the lake and gaze into it in preparation to go up the sky bridge. As everyone looked into the lake, Ipayema touched the magic fingertip she had with her to the surface, and houses, cars, airplanes, cattle, all the things of the white man appeared in the lake. The people either jumped in the lake to claim their wealth in the sky world or Timbapu and Ipayema shoved them into the lake; stories differ. However, the next day, only Timbapu and Ipayema showed up back at Tipinini. Meggitt (1973) felt that this story was apocryphal, whereas Gibbs (1977) found it fantastic, yet believable. I agree with Gibbs as well, too many different people told me this story for me to believe it was fanciful. One elder, Muyu Yakati, even listed off the names and clans of the people who perished. He recited fifteen names and then said there were several more whose names he could not recollect. When young people tell the story today, they claim that around 1000 people died. Based on Muyu's recounting of the story and other elders alive at the time, the number of people who died is around twenty.

Back in Tipinini, people asked Ipayema and Timbapu if the others had gone up the sky bridge. Ipayema told them they had and she was now coming to get more people to go. Many of the leaders felt she was lying and went up to Lake Tindipa to see what had happened. There were dead bodies strewn in the water and the corpses were still wearing their finest wealth items. The men came back down to Tipinini where Ipayema and Timbapu were singing and trying to gather more cult adherents. The men shot Ipayema with several arrows, Timbapu ran off into the forest, and eventually made his way to Kandep to live with his mother's people. Ipayema died and was buried in Tipinini. Korokan, Timbapu's son, was one of the many Tipininians who told me this story and noted that in a strange turn of events, his father was killed in a tribal fight in 1983 at the same place where Ipayema had died so many decades before.

Ipayema and Timbapu's cult is intriguing in its ability to blend so many elements in the area from the past and the present. As handpicked lieutenants of the cult of Am, Ipayema and Timbapu's cult was an obvious outgrowth out of the earlier cult, but the novelty introduced into it was linking it to an earlier tindi where a culture hero comes from Lyeimi, saves Tipinini, and ascends the sky bridge at Mt. Tongapipi -- foreshadowing the path that Am's cult would take as it left Lyeimi. As people today in this area seek guidance and answers from their past, so, too, did they do so during this cult. From examining the cults and their particular trajectories of development and denouement, I turn now to the impact of the cults in the process of conversion to Christianity in this region.


There are several elements expressed in these cults that link them to traditional rituals that attempted to conquer malevolent demons (yama). The Ipili and western Enga had an extensive body of rituals designed to promote the health and fertility of clan and land (see Gibbs 1975, 1978; Biersack 1998a; Wiessner and Tumu 1998). Shared themes in all of the rituals were the use of a ritual house, special songs and ritual language, deco rated sticks for killing the ritual pigs, and the wearing of finery and wealth items. Aspects of certain initiation rituals (sangai, omatisia, the mote initiation of the kepele) invoked sky people, but in no ritual was there ever the notion that the participants would journey up the sky bridge. This is definitely a novel element introduced by Kaiyamba into his short-lived cult and exemplifies the concern that local people had that they were encountering beings associated with the sky world. When John Black was in the Paiela valley among the western Ipili, the 'Ipili were chanting i n the tents and the police edgily claimed that they were trying to put the camp asleep so they could attack it. The Ipili gave no hint of attack and Yaka [a central Engan who joined the patrol in 1938] assured John that they were chanting to placate the sky people,' (Gammage 1998:188).

In all of the cults, the killing of pigs was a major part of the cult activities. The killing off of pigs is also a theme related to traditional ideas that the ground (or world) would end at some specified point. (8) Muyu Yakati and Wapope Ambiambi are two of the oldest men in the Tipinini area; they recall that in their fathers' time (well before the coming of the whites) there was a general fear that the world was ending and everyone killed off all of their spotted black and white pigs (9) to avert the disaster.

It is interesting to examine the historical data on local explanations regarding the efficacy of the cults. In the mid-1950s when Meggitt was researching in this area, people remarked that they had been duped by the leaders of the various cults and were angry with them (1973:115-20). They had killed off all of their pigs and had nothing to show for their efforts. By the mid-1970s, local opinions had changed. Gibbs gives three reasons for these altered attitudes: 1) there was now access to new forms of material wealth, 2) human and porcine health had improved, and 3) millenarian Christianity, which preached the coming end of the world (as did the cults), was practiced by most of the people (1977:22). In 1999, this was still the case. However, the important distinction is that in local beliefs there is no disjuncture between the cults and Christianity. Everyone stresses that the cults were merely precursors to Christianity, in fact, most people state that the cults were started by God (or Jesus) to prepare the local people for a truer Christianity that would come with white missionaries.

This is best exemplified by the story of Kai, a young boy killed by the leaders of the cult of Ain. (10) While the protagonists involved differ depending upon the story teller, Wambilipa, at least one of his brothers, and Wambe, were sitting with Kai in Wambilipa's house at Lyeimi. Yam Tiyape, a Kundiki woman from Tipinini, cared for Kai when he was younger; she relates Kai's death,

Wambilipa and Lunguni took a stick of wood from a pasimo tree and removed the bark from it. They painted black, brown, white, and yellow stripes around it. They beat Kai to death with this stick and then shoved an axe handle far up his rectum. They cut him open and removed his belly fat and then speared this on little sticks and roasted it over the fire. When each piece finished roasting, they held up the stick and called out the names of all of the clans in the area. It was like they were distributing meat at a pig feast.

The roasting of belly fat was the same thing that the cult leaders did in each of the places where pigs were killed on the platforms during the cult of Ain. The leaders would take the belly fat of the pigs and mix it with sangai (used in bachelor fertility rites) and liyoko (used in post-menstrual rites) leaves and then cook it and distribute it to the participants. Afterwards the leaders would take the people to the edge of a stream and sing various songs about the changes that were coming. While some of the participants would continue singing, the cult leaders would have others wash in the water.

Some of the people say that Langate killed Kai, and it is rumored that in addition to cooking his belly fat, parts of his liver were also cooked and eaten. As neither Enga nor Ipili practiced cannibalism, most people told this story with looks of disgust upon their faces. No other researcher, other than Peter Sharp (1990:114-15), has reported on Kai's death. For Sharp, the significance of the death was that it affirmed his thesis that Am's sons were suffering from shared psychotic delusions. While this validates an outsider's viewpoint of Kai's death, it is not the interpretation that Ipili and Enga give to his death today.

When Ipili and Enga people talk about the cult leaders, they use the Tok Pisin term prafet (prophet) to describe them. Wapope Ambiambi traveled to Kolombi (Paiela) with Wambilipa and the others during the cult's dissemination, he interprets the cult thus:

God saw that all the yama (demons) were killing people in Papua New Guinea. He saw this and decided to send his son down to stop this. There was a man in Lyeimi to whom he gave a power, he showed him a picture [here he uses the Tok Pisin word piksa, even though he is speaking in Ipili] in his head with which to change things. God told the men from Lyeimi to go and baptize all the people in Enga and save them. We stopped doing the kaima, kolo, and kepele [various health and fertility rituals]," we became the children of God and didn't have worries anymore. Lunguni and Langate killed Kai, the child of Tapulaku, and cut his body up and called out all the places around here. This was when the white men killed Jesus.

Me: Why did Langate and Lunguni kill Kai?

Wapope: God was sorry for us and sent Jesus down and he was killed in the place of the white men. This is when the two killed Kai. The blood of Kai washed all the sin from this area like the blood of Jesus washed the sin from the world. We didn't know of the events that were going on with Jesus, so God had Lunguni and Langate kill Kai to give us an example of what was happening in the place of the white men.

All of the older people I talked with about these events stressed that Kai and Jesus were killed at the same time. A small majority of the younger people place Jesus's crucifixion long before Wambilipa's cult, yet still note that Wambilipa was a prophet of Christianity and the coming of the white men. I must point out that only the older people are aware that some white men came before Wambilipa. Nearly all of the younger people today remark that Wambilipa's cult was prior to the coming of the white man. They say that he 'opened the road for Christianity and the white men.' For them, though, the agency is still the same, the cult leaders were prophets of Christianity, as God was instructing their actions.

Wailya Pili is a woman in her mid-30s involved in the Apostolic church in Wailyn, she was not alive during the cult of Am, but makes the following statements,

Before my fathers didn't live very good. They worked kaima and kolo rituals and did all sorts of traditional practices (tumbuna pasin in Tok Pisin). Then all of the Israel people killed Jesus. When they killed Jesus, Wambilipa became crazy, he told us not to work kaima and kolo anymore so we gave that up. My father was from Wambilipa's clan, Kamaini, at Lyeimi. They killed Kai and ate him there... [She describes the pig killing rituals and her father's trip to Wage Enga territory with Wambilipa]. Before this place wasn't good. Then my father went all over killing pigs and now this place is good. I wanted to tell you this story. All of you whitemen get to travel around in cars and planes and eat cows, goats, and sheep. You live in metal houses. My father saw all of these things with his own eyes when they were killing pigs and he told us all of these things would come. The land of the whitemen used to be no good, too, but then they killed Jesus and the land became good. At the same time, Kai was killed here an d all of the things that the whitemen had came here, too. Now we live good.

Wambilipa's powers of prophecy are thought to extend into more secular matters, as well. John Black found gold in the Porgera area in 1939. In 1948, Jim Taylor and a few others returned to Porgera and began small-scale alluvial mining ventures. By 1987, a large mine was being planned. In 1988 and 1989, at nearby Mt. Kare there was an indigenous gold rush in which thousands of highlanders participated (Ryan 1991; Vail 1995). The Porgera mine opened in 1990, and thousands of people migrated into the Porgera valley exacerbating social problems and tensions (see Filer 1999). Young people in Wailya told me that Wambilipa predicted all of this through one of his songs,
Akali yame sai yala toko latulum,
enda yu pela wasana kekatalum.

All the men leave to go find sai,
all the women sit at home and go crazy with hard work.

This is still a popular song, young people throughout Wailya and Tipinini were able to sing it to me. The importance of this song is in the word sat. Sat is a yellow orchid, but everyone notes today that its yellowness is like that of gold. Wambilipa was thus issuing a warning about the evil effects of money and the coming social and familial tensions that the gold mine would bring (cf. Knauft 1993; Kirsch 2001).

As many people re-think their involvement in the cults, they continually stress the similarities that the cults had to Christianity. For example, when they were killing pigs to the sun, people now say that they were actually killing them to God (see Biersack 1991b). When the cult leaders had people wash in the water, many people I talked to mention that this was the first time they received baptism. When they were baptized by Christian church leaders in the 1960s and 1970s, most of them felt as if this was their second baptismal. The cults' concern with a sky world is another means by which people felt they were practicing Christianity. In fact, during the early period of Christian conversion, missionaries used the terms tawe toko and tai toko (sky bridge in Ipili and Enga, respectively) to mean heaven. Today, there are new terms for heaven - ati kenga in Ipili and katikis in Engan, both of which mean 'above the mountains.'

Wambilipa, himself, felt that he was an agent of God. Peter Sharp worked as a doctor in Enga Province in the mid-1970s and met Wambilipa. He writes:

People of the area were afraid of him. I was told that W. [Sharp does not give Wambilipa's name in his article] refused baptism with other Kamaini [Kamaini clan] in the late 1960s. He declared that he was a prophet of the same stature as John the Baptist and anyway had introduced the ritual himself. There were none equal to him who could baptise him. When the others were baptised by the Lutheran pastor W. baptised himself... He did not loin the church but said it was they who were joining him...

Also, in 1979, W. burned down the aid post at Yeim [Lyeimi] because he said he was not being treated properly by his relatives. He was reported as saying he was responsible for bringing the church and health services to the people. Because he was not being given his due he would take them away again. Clansmen accepted this argument and rebuilt the aid post and presented pigs to W. to placate him. (1990:116)

Sharp thought Wambilipa delusional (his clinical diagnosis was paranoid schizophrenia) as did earlier colonial authorities. G. Hardy, a patrol officer who met him in 1957 writes, 'While he appears to suffer from some form of mental unbalance, he is by no means an idiot' (Laiagam Patrol Report #3, 1956/57). R. I. Skinner, District Commissioner, writes after reading Hardy's report, 'Wambirip shows all the indications of "ill-digested Christianity" ... but just how [he] could have gathered any religious teachings, however vague, at the time he first sponsored his movement is not clear... Wambirip will certainly bear watching' (ibid.).


Participation in the cults ended around 1946, about seven years after first contact with whites. The next 15 years were marked by a period in which Enga and Ipili people were chagrined at their participation in the cults as they felt the leaders of the cults had duped them (Meggitt 1973). However, in 1961, when the Australian colonial government allowed missionaries into this area, people rapidly converted to Christianity, especially when presented with the material trappings exhibited by the missionaries, such as airplanes and well-stocked trade stores. Many people's initial participation in Christianity was cargoic (see Biersack 1996) as they told me that the missionaries explicitly told them that if they became Christians, they could dress in nice clothes, drive a car, and live in nice houses. However, participation in Christianity today is more than cargoic as the Seventh Day Adventists and Apostolics I lived with are deeply interested in the notion of a Christian end time when Jesus will return and all t he faithful will ascend to heaven.

Early colonialist mentality labeled cargo cults and their participants as 'mad' and 'hysterical' (Williams 1976). As Kaplan reminds us, cults and revitalization movements were feared in colonial quarters for their power to challenge the colonial order (1995:xiv). From native madness, Worsley (1957) moved the discussion of cargo cults into issues of political economy by noting they are rooted in a desire for material goods among a colonized people. Biersack points out that Worsley failed to 'ground cargo cults in traditional culture and its values and initiatives' (1996:87) and thus, she, like Burridge (1960). argues for a complex approach to the study of cargo cults, one that 'explor[es] the social-political context but also acknowledg[es] traditional precursors and the doctrinal and cosmological nature of "cargoic" ideologies' (1996:88).

Of course, the cults were as much about social transformation as they were about gaining material wealth. I think the point has been made quite clearly that participation in the cults and ascendancy to the sky world would precipitate an entirely new social order, one that was predicated on new forms of wealth, new techniques of production, and even new bodies (cf. Lohmann 2001). This is the aspect of the cults that most binds them to Christianity and present-day conceptions of modernity. At the time of my research, issues regarding the world ending (graun bai pinis in Tok Pisin) were paramount in many people's daily conversations (see also Stewart and Strathern 1997; Schmid 1999). Church attendance was at an all-time high. Just prior to my arrival in December 1998 some 200 individuals had been baptized into the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) church from Tipinini alone. Near the end of 1999, several thousand Ipili and Enga were baptized by the SDAs in Wabag. This was all being done to prepare for Jesus' imminent return on 1 January 2000.

When Jesus returned people told me that he would take the faithful up to heaven with him and asking what heaven would be like elicited the following from Epea Des, local leader of the SDA church in Tipinini:

Heaven will be flat, not like here where it is all mountains. And we'll all have one skin, whites and blacks will have only one color of skin. We'll never have to work, there will always be plenty of food, and we'll live in a city made of gold.

Many of the older people that described heaven to me depicted it as nearly the same as what they were expecting when they were going to go up the sky bridge and live in the sky world. There would be access to cars and planes, everyone would live in metal houses, and all would get to eat cattle, sheep, and goats.

To return to some of the points I stressed in the introduction to this paper, the Enga and Ipili understanding of their involvement with the cults as precursors to Christianity bridges the dichotomous view of Pacific religious studies lamented by Barker (1990a). Consequently, their involvement in Christianity today structures their understanding of their past, their present, and their expectations of the future. Moreover, indigenous historical consciousness in this area is based upon syncretic blends of 'myth' (tindi), 'history' (teinane and atome), and rituals. Rather than these existing as disparate elements, a new historical anthropology (see Biersack 1991a; Carrier 1992; Foster 1995; Knauft 1999; Jorgensen 2001) must bring these elements--myth, history, and ritual--together into juxtaposition to show the creative ways that local people interpret their lived modernities.


Funding for research conducted between December 1998 and February 2000 was provided by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research (Gr. 6389) and the Porgera Development Authority. In-country research affiliation was provided by the National Research Institute. I thank these institutions for their support. The greatest appreciation goes to the people mentioned in the text who talked to me about these events. Other people I talked with but did not mention in the text are Gabriel Yambu, Lewin, and Pius Siup of Lesai; Kuraia Yakop, Diwan Kuraia, Eron Injara, Julie Muyaka, Kainu Muyaka, Coun. Isera Pore, and Tapus Manyu of Tipinini; and Kuepa Talin, Piuk Kipak, Kutato Kas, Malewa Palesia, Saima and Masmak Simine, Apel Panat, and Piya Powaya of Wailya. Peter Muyu and Ben Penale were my constant companions, research assistants, and best friends, many of the ideas in this article were discussed with them over cups of tea around the fire. In the US, Aletta Biersack and members of a professional writing se minar held Spring 2000 at the University of Oregon provided advice and comments on some of the ideas contained herein. I also thank Bruce Knauft and Philip Gibbs for their extensive comments on this paper at the 2001 meetings of the Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania.


(1.) Throughout the paper I use the terms Ipili and Enga as a shorthand for the Western Enga and eastern Ipili that live in the communities of Lyeimi, Wailya, and Tipinini.

(2.) When words in the local vernacular are not distinguished as being either Ipili or Enga, that is because both languages use the same word.

(3.) Neither myself nor my research assistants could determine what Ulali meant by 'the son of Maku.'

(4.) Wealth items would have included shells, feathers, tree oil, armbands, wigs, stringbags, and other items that could be publicly displayed on one's body.

(5.) Mata (or mara) is what many of the Enga, Ipili, Huli (see Frankel 1986), and Duna (see Sturzenhofecker 1998) initially called the white men. Meggitt (1973:25) notes that 'marakali' were a feature of Ain's cult, he translates this as 'shaking men.' Frankel (1986:29) notes that the Hull called Ain's cult mara gamu (gamu is 'spell' or 'rite'), and was unable to gloss mara. Biersack (1996) found the same term among Ipili speakers albeit pronounced mata kamo. Following Meggitt, she translates this as 'shaking magic.' Mata (or mara) does not actually mean shaking' in either Ipili or Enga, rather the term today means foreign or strange. I believe that the derivation could be from the Tok Pisin word masta ('white man'), which subsequently was shortened to mata.

(6.) The very names, Titi and Mole, are indicative of their spiritual/sky being status. Titi is derived from ipa titi, a trickster water spirit (see Goldman 1983:222:28 for discussions of Huh iba tin). Mole means cloud.

(7.) These are phonetic transcriptions of Enga. There were no people in the area who were literate in Enga orthography and my attempts to find similar words in the Enga Dictionary (Lang 1973) have been futile.

(8.) A common theme throughout this area of the highlands is that the world would end after 14 generations of people had been born from the clan founder (Biersack 1991b; Sturzenhofecker 1998; Jorgensen, personal communication 1999; for the Huh it was 15 generations [Frankel 1986]). Similar to the Huli (see Frankel 1986), the Ipili are concerned with a notion of entropy and decline inherent in the cosmos. Much has been written about the Huh concept of mbingi, a time of darkness associated with a volcanic eruption (Blong 1982; Frankel 1986; Glasse 1995), and its role in reversing entropic patterns. The Ipili too talk of a time of darkness which they call ungi, but the next event of ungi for the Ipili would spell the beginning of the end of the world, not a period of rebirth such as the Huli mention.

(9.) Spotted black and white pigs are called yia tambuka in Ipili, this is similar to nogo tambugua (in Ipili yia is pig, while in Huli nogo is pig), a mythical pig in Huli lore that sits at the center of the world holding the earth together and whose movements are responsible for earthquakes (see Ballard 1995:51).

(10.) This story has parallels with a Huh story about the killing of a red-skinned Duna boy who was also associated with Jesus in later re-interpretation of the event (see Glasse 1995; Jorgensen 2001).

(11.) Meggitt (1973) and Wiessner and Tumu (1998) write that the Engans they talked to said the cult of Am did not prohibit the kaima, but it did prohibit the kepele, a 'new and alien ritual' (Meggitt 1973:21). In 1999, people I talked with said that they had given up all of the old rituals after Wambilipa's cult.


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Author:Jacka, Jerry
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Date:Mar 1, 2002
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