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The death of a strong, great, bad man: an ethnography of soul incorporation.


My discussion will unfold in reference to the inner horizons of the Yagwoia life-world. Their territory is the manifest 'physical' spread of an umwelt (environment) which, as an ecological envelopement (container), is intrinsically bound to its constitutive content (contained). The latter is the realm of intersubjectivity, a collectivity of human beings for whom this, strictly local, fraction of enveloping world is irreducibly and inescapably their life-world in relation to which all other world-horizons can become accessible. In this abode humans are born, live, and die primarily as themselves, ie., as the embodiments of the irreducibly local realities of humanness and the human condition. Situated between the local perimeters of the sky and earth, this collectivity of some 10.000 individuals, is divided into five territorial groups or tribes, in the sense that they are the most inclusive traditional political-territorial social ensembles comprised of constitutive individual human beings who are organized into several dozen latice (lit., penis root-knot). I will gloss them as patrilineal descent groups. (1) Here my focus will be primarily on two of these groups: Iwolaqa-Malyce and the Iqwaye, separated by a mountain range the height of which averages approximately 1800-1900 m. On both sides of the divide, the settlements and gardens occupy the altitude range between 1800 and 1200 m.

Right here in-between and within these ranges the independent nation State of PNG has a somewhat fluid and slippery incarnation. So much so that in the last elections (mid-2002) a part of this region found itself in a so-called 'boundary gap' because of which the local candidates were not allowed to register their nominations on the pretext that their home territory didn't belong to either of the two administrative divisions (Merewaka/Eastern Highlands Province or Menyamya/Morobe Province). But I will not deal with the governmental-bureaucratic modality of this most recent societal figuration in the Yagwoia life-world, the nation state of PNG and its vicissitudes locally and nationally. The following will suffice.

As concrete living egoities the Yagwoia, whose abode is, by the PNG socio-economic standards, in the marginal region of PNG, are not citizen

subjects. But neither are exactly those who inhabit the offices (rooms) and 'offices' (bueraucratic positions) of the state institutions, including the Prime Ministership. Undoubtedly, many outsiders, including the phalanxes of foreign economic, administrative, health and education advisors, governmental and NGOs, green-peace lawyers, business people, (2) and indeed, the former expatriots who became the citizens of PNG, are married to PNG individuals, have children, property, they all contribute to the coagulation of numerous PNG tribal life-worlds into a semblance of an independent nation state. This, to be sure, is the creation of Western capitalist civilisation, its instituting cultural-ontological imaginary (3) (Castoriadis 1984, 1987, 1997). The semblance of the nation state in the bosom of a Melanesian country, which has difficulties in making itself a viable incarnation of that (wholly alien) capitalist imaginary signification called 'democracy', is irreducibly the creation of, and for the sake of, the Western civilisation's self-satisfying and successful planetary self-totalisation, ie., the historical realisation of its ontological-imaginary auto-significations of which the following two still carry the day:'unlimited expansion of rational mastery' of the world (Castoriadis, 1997), and limitless 'scarcity' of vital resources. These two infinities determine the mode of Occidental self-projection into the world as a singular universal and, as such, they came to define the current trajectory of the Occidental civilisational project presently bespoken as 'globalisation'. (4)

The Yagwoia, among whom I have lived and worked since 1977, have fought bloody wars until the middle of the 'last' century. Their history is replete with deeds of total destruction of enemy groups involving the routing of complete villages and the killing of their inhabitants, often by trapping them in their houses which were set afire. Anybody who attempted to break out was killed by the warriors waiting outside. The self-consciousness of these people in respect of their own violence makes no recourse to a gospel of peaceful coexistence. Significantly, for the Yagwoia the practice of violence was and still is not something external to human sociality but is an intrinsic part of it. And as a coordinated action of one group against another, violence was a major vehicle for the accomplishment of male egoic selfhood. (5) By becoming a father, the procreative man who begets the human life, and a consummate warrior, the destroyer of human life, a man thus fully consummates his own immanent humanness (Mimica 1991).

The violent excesses and annihilation of human life in this social universe are grounded in a different sense of humanness, i.e. what can be indexed as the 'human condition', not abstract but, as it were, the totality of culturally and historically determined human social relations.

Their first 'pacification' and subjection to a totally alien societal figuration of state control and administration began in December of 1950. Nevertheless, the Yagwoia are the people who, still rooted in their own primordial life-world, used to do and, despite all the restrictions and resulting inhibitions which were introduced and enforced by the colonial state, still do their own work of violence, including killing. Over the last two decades this regional violence has varied in intensity and escalation in conjunction with all other activities which sustain the local existence, electioneering notwithstanding. Individually, though, there were always those who defined themselves primarily as excellent warrior-killers rather than cultivators but who, nevertheless, of necessity had to practise both.

Among the Iqwaye-Yagwoia, the group I spent the longest time with, the greatest excess in their recent history (1956) in the domain of intra-village violence was perpetrated by a man who killed during a single night ten of his closest agnatic relatives. The immediate response of some of my friends and colleagues whom I told about it was: 'Didn't they regard him a moral monstrosity?' No, they did not. What matters to my problematisation of the Western civic-academic attitudes to violence (see Mimica 2001) as intrinsic to human sociality, is the fact that this action for the Yagwoia is not characterisable as an inhumanity. It is an entirely human action which, although bad, is devoid of any attributes of 'inhuman monstrosity'. This is so because the Yagwoia view of humanness is not constellated in terms of those partial and idealized qualities that inform the Western civic image of humanity focussed on 'goodness', 'dignity', 'freedom', 'negotiation', whereas other human potentials are, as it were, manifestations of humanly inadmissible properties disavowed as inhuman.

In the period 1996 to 2003 (covered by seven stints of fieldwork) the Yagwoia people went through a very calamitous time. In late December 1996, during the rainy season, a land-slide obliterated a settlement and 50 of its inhabitants were killed. This was in the area of my fieldwork and I was there at the time. The rainy season was followed by a catastrophic drought that affected the entire New Guinea region. The drought, an effect of El Nino, lasted 12 months and effectively ended in April-May of 1998. Coinciding with the termination of the drought was an indeterminate epidemic which killed approximately 30 men, women, and children in the hamlets where my field-base is located. On the other side of the range, among the Iqwaye-Yagwoia, with whom I have worked since 1977, the drought was more acute due to the predominance of anthropogenic grassland in their environment. To make it worse, in March 1997 they became entangled in a conflict with their Menya-speaking neighbours since a teacher from this tribal group (Pataye) was murdered and robbed by two Yagwoia men. Although a compensation was paid to the enraged tribe the hostilities have not diminished since the incident aggravated the long-standing land disputes and the offending Yagwoia groups are living under the threat of new conflicts with their Menya-speaking neighbours. Such, in short, are the most salient characteristics of the present Yagwoia situation relative to its current history.


Whether living or dying the Yagwoia are inescapably caught in the incessant flow of cosmic existence, at once in every individual and in the environment. Within and without, the container and the contained are homoeomorphic. They are the parts of a single self-enveloping closure of the local world which is turned in on itself and incessantly generates its own substantiality, coterminous with all its parts. This ontological formulation is an ethnographic-interpretive explication of the Yagwoia mythopoeic cosmology, especially its innermost secret core which accounts for the autopoietic creation of the first, bisexual man whose body is simultaneously the cosmos. Hence the notion of the world-body as an apt characterisation of the Yagwoia (Mimica 1981,1988, 1991). This mythopoeic image is the innermost truth and the source of the Yagwoia life-world. Immanent in all experiential physicalities of the Yagwoia life-world (= world-body) is this macrocosmic Selfhood. His penis is simultaneously his umbilical cord which has held, and still holds, in self-conjunction the sky and earth. Following the cosmogonic self-parturition, the sky and earth went asunder as did all other elements, including the sun and moon, which derive from the creator's two eyes. They are his masculine and feminine energic components which, concomitantly with the interchange of the night and day generate the cosmic metabolism (the life-and-death-flow) within the world-body. Its irreducible determination is that of a self-procreating oral phallus (Mimica 1991, in preparation a), at once inside and outside itself, the self-eating and self-impregnating phallic womb which incessantly eats and generates itself as a totality of all its self-differentiated parts, each of which replicates the whole. This is a hologramic totality, auto-copulative and auto-cannibalistic.

The Yagwoia universe is a masterly creation of the human pre-oedipal psychic being for which I use the archetypal image of the ouroboros (self-eating serpent, Neumann 1954). In its structural dynamism this autogenic monadic embodiment is best described as a Kleinian bottle whose topology is at once macrocosmic and microcosmic. Every living human corpuscule, male and female, is a topological homoeomorph of the macrocosmic body. The male and female bodies together reproduce its most complete structure and reproductive circuity. This dynamic topology can be grasped more cogently in relation to the following sequence of images--a self-eating serpent and Moebius strip--both of which amplify a different range of implications of the archetypal, form-generating gestalt which I term ouroboric. Its more apparent living concretisations are the primordial facticity of human intrauterine condition and the mother-child milieu, focussed on breast-feeding (Mimica 1981, 1991).

Furthermore, in the Yagwoia life-world, the image of ouroboric embodiment is in reciprocal self-identity with the image of the cosmic tree whose branches and roots intertwine. This image is given full objectivity in the shape and iconograpby of a ritual house (inekiye) which, if it didn't already exist in the village, would be erected at the onset of the first initiation ceremony. (6) This arboreal form is a transform of the same archetypal autogenerative dynamis, hence its archetypal image-manifestation as the ouroboric (monadic) tree-of-life = world-house. The Yagwoia micro-and-macro bodiliness, then, is objectified in the set of interfused archetypal images of the autogenerative (ie., ouroboric) body = tree = house = world.

This is the nuclear set of transpositions which informs Yagwoia embodiment in all its articulations. Each image/term in the set articulates and amplifies a specific aspect of the bodily totality, which must be understood in its at once microcosmic and macrocosmic extension. As an expression of the ouroboric archetypal Self in its primary narcissistic (self-copulative) determination, this totality is thus absolutely self-generating, self-identifying, and self-referring. (7) Accordingly, this matrix-body is not and cannot be approached as an impersonal body but as the body of the self-same 'I-ness' which generates its Self as the world-body. As the un/conscious matrix of Yagwoia life-world this monadic Self has to be grasped as the primary 'ego-pole' of the constitutive noesis and imagination of the Yagwoia Self-World synthesis. Every concrete Yagwoia egoity is inhabited by and feeds off this archetypal dimension of his/her self and embodiment. (8)

The macrocosmic gestalt is reproduced in every living human body whose internal skeletal structure, its marrow passages and blood-ropes (veins and arteries) are envisaged as the microcosmic arboreal gestalt. The bodily fleshy envelope is the maternal house=flesh-body which contains the paternal 'bone' (skeleton). The circulation of the blood and marrow, the latter is semenal-lacteal substance, generates and sustains the primary modality of the human soul, literally 'person-heat' (aama-umpne). This basal soul originates in conception from the heat of the man's (paternal) semen which becomes mobilised and heated in intercourse and eventual ejaculation. This semenal heat is the primary source of foetal animation. Following parturition, the human soul continues to grow and differentiate on a par with bodily growth. What must be emphasised is a subtle bi-unity of the basal soul-heat due to the differences in the intra-bodily fluids. The semenal-lacteal marrow is intra-skeletal and as such has the quality of phallic osseous hardness and solar heat; blood is in the outer flesh, permeates the fleshy envelope and as such is a soft, cool and lunar liquid. (9) Both liquo-thermal qualities are implicit in the basal soul-heat.

Since every human body is forged in the mother's womb his/her soul-heat is, like the maternal flesh, always primarily feminine and soft. It is precisely because of this aspect of human embodied seity (10) that the first initiation ceremony, featuring the critical nose-piercing act, is also characterised as the action which raptures the novices' souls. This allows the primordial phallic-semenal power of the nose-piercing bone (literally its heat-energy, himace-umpne) to infuse their bodies and instigate their growth and masculinisation. In bodily-qualitative terms this is envisaged as a progressive ossification of the male body. It is also the process through which each boy begins to incorporate his father's bone. But here the 'bone' is meant literally as the soul-substance which is mediated by the singular source of the Yagwoia men's corporeity, the nose-piercing bones owned by several latice responsible for the nose-piercing operation. Hence they are also categorised as the 'bone' groups. What makes every man equivalent to every other, and each son to his father, is this fact that they all, through the initiations, were made men by men exclusively; and when they finally begin to sire children, male and female, they do so as the men made identical to the cosmic self-creator (Mimica 1991).

Since they never get nose-pierced, women do not come to directly incorporate this pure all-male-exclusive and thereby maximally endogenous solar stream of generative spermatic heat-energy. It gets into their wombs only through intercourse with men, and of course, since each human gets his/her bones from the paternal semen, men and women invariably generate in their radically paternal endo-skeletal interiority their inalienably solar paternal self-circuity of the vital soul-heat enveloped and interfused with the maternal-lunar self-circuity of blood and flesh. (11)

To summarise: the soul is energic substance at once simplex (12) and complex or multiplex. As the basal bodily animatedness it is ceaselessly generated by intrabodily circulation of vital fluids and is subject to differentiation. This vital heat ceases only at death, itself, however, a vital process of bodily deintegration and absorption into the world-body (see below). (13)

With this is outlined a meaningful perspective on the specifically Yagwoia shapes of humanness and worldhood. The what and how of a living embodiment, as of a living world, are entirely indeterminate horizons of facticity which can only be made determinate through concrete ethnographic research. But for there to emerge any appropriate determination the ethnographer has to situate him/herself in the true milieu of self-world origination, namely in the un/conscious of the people he or she is living with. It is through the examination of dreaming experience that the ethnographer can comprehend the somatic imagination of Yagwoia embodiment whereby its 'material' composition (that which we readily know and identify as flesh, tissue, organs, skin, bone, blood, semen, or more recently, as cells, genes, etc) acquires its primary objectification. The very idea of 'matter' as so many kinds of substance, both 'bodily' and of the 'physical' world, requires that all must be treated as unknown entities (determinations) which have to be accounted for from within the life-world specific experience, categories and modes of self-intelligibility. In fact there is no possibility of understanding one without the other (Husserl 1989; Luckmann 1970), and such an understanding has to be achieved in terms of antology specific to a culture.

But, such a notion as 'ontology' does not exist there as a set of ready-made, reflective, and conceptually pre-packaged representations. Such concepts themselves are the products of the ethnographer's interpretation of a given cultural existence. The ethnographer develops a set of concepts which s/he argues have a culturally-specific saliency and validity which can be characterized as ontological, and uses them as such in his/her analyses. So, for instance, when I say that for the Yagwoia the cosmos is a living, organism sustained by a flow of 'semenal' energy of the macrocosmic, self-created ouroboric man, I say so not because a Yagwoia has exactly told me so verbatim and en-bloc, but because I came to comprehend this view on the basis of the interpretation of various evidence, itself also dependent on my understanding of it, and in that sense interpreted, as adequate evidence. I accordingly also claim that this ouroboric cosmos is a centrepiece of their ontology, which, however, as a critical conception of their existence, is my critical-explicative construct, the product of my critical interpretations, and not of some theory of being qua being (which is what ontology means) that Yagwoia themselves would invariably self-consciously entertain. In this sense the Yagwoia do not have any theories of themselves. As themselves they do have their experience of themselves and their world, their imagination, knowledge, ideas, opinions, convictions, reflections, attitudes, moods, obsessions, complexes, etc. But no amount of these, if one thinks historically and critically about the formation of the categories of Western critical knowledge (doxa, theoria, episteme, dianoia, noesis, ontology, (14) etc), will make up a cognitive construct such as the classical Greek theoria (Kerenyi 1962) and its Occidental epistemic derivations generally known as 'theory' (Mimica 1981,1988). I say this not to make the Yagwoia somehow cognitively less sophisticated, but to make clear that to understand adequately another mode of being-in-the-world requires, minimally, a willingness to suspend one's own habituated style of self-representation and its cultural anchorage.


Back into the Yagwoia world-body. The region is markedly under duress and the social body is metabolising a lot of death, especially in the immediate area of my fieldwork. Here the situation is aggravated by the fact that they have no vehicular road connecting them either to the local airstrip (Acaqopi), where there is an aid-post and a primary school, or to the regional centre (Menyamya via Kwaplalimne) where trade-stores, medical and governmental facilities are more readily available. Even by the local (ie., regional) standards the Iwolaqa-Malycaane (15) area, where I have been conducting my research during the last decade, is bypassed by all developmental programmes. And these, by comparison to so many other regions of PNG, are rather small. The groups which have a vehicular road in their abodes have secured a steady source of reasonable cash from buyers of the principal cash-crop--coffee. The Iwolaqa-Malyce, whose land is ample and fertile, grow little coffee since it is arduous for them to carry coffee bags some four to five hours over the ranges in order to sell it to the vehicular coffee buyers who pay good prices. The alternative, flying the coffee from Acaqopi, means a very low purchase price even in the best of seasons. All in all, the Yagwoia as a whole, and the Iwolaqa Malyce in particular, are extremely frustrated, angry, and vulnerable. Victims of socio-political, economic, and especially ecological (climatic) fluctuations, from the perspective of my twenty-five years of connection with them, they have become more radically marginalized and subject to endemic suffering.

The following scene illustrates this most poignantly. On the tenth of January, 1999 I went to Acaqopi, a hike of at most five hours, usually four or less. Half-way there I came across a woman lying in the middle of the footpath with her husband standing next to her. Incapacitated by malaria she was on her way to Andakombe to get chloroquine at the aidpost. It was already two o'clock in the afternoon; in her condition she was probably going to make it to the aid-post by the next morning spending the night in one of the hamlets in the area. This is a very common occurrence, as common as the mud on the local footpaths. The encounter was a vintage exhibition of the local flow of life-and-death. This woman was dominated by sickness, but no less a living part of the total flow of existence in which she is inextricably locked as is the ground which is absorbing her torpid body. The torpidity of this sick animated humaness is a figuration of the total energic flow of this world-body in which life-and-death are its metabolic (anabolic and katabolic) currents.

The following account deals with the death of a particular Yagwoia man whose individuality and social renown acutely realise the specificities of this dynamism. I supply a diagram of his kinship matrix of sociality. Amilyce(1) (16) was a childless man. However, through the bodies of his sisters he was a male mother (maternal uncle = MB) (17) with numerous sisters' children. They were the principal mourners. The only classificatory son, who carried the deceased's paternal aspirations, was Kanalyce(2), the son of his 'breast-milk'--classificatory matrilateral brother. Thus, this is a paternity generated through the deceased's matrifiliation and maternal siblingship.

Yakane, Iwolaqa-Maycaane

21/1/96 I visited him briefly this afternoon, at about 5.00PM. He and one of his two wives have been sick for well over a week. Both were an arresting sight. He was a living pain. With his eyes tightly squeezed, ceaselessly panting and whistle-blowing, moaning, occasionally groaning, he was seated for a short time, while his ZS, Tamcaqulyi(4), was supporting his back. Only a few layers of his grass apron were covering his groin so that his big penis and testicles were fully visible. They were throbbing in unison with his panting and moaning. His wife Hiqulaqa readjusted his apron several times, to cover his genitals, but his relentless panting would quickly undo it. She was very feeble and sick, but during my visit she squatted without anyone supporting her. Inside the hut were also Kamculaqwa and his son Kamqulyi, Amilyce's ZH and ZS. There were several women outside the hut. Very little conversation. My suggestion that the sick be taken to an aid-post, either in Acakopi (about 3-5 hours walk) or over the range, in Kwaplalimne (about 5-7 hours walk), was passed over without comment. Only Kamculaqwa flatly said: 'No, no way'. The sick man's body was hot but, according to Tamcaqulyi(4), the dutiful ZS, pain was concentrated in his stomach. Amilyce was still defecating blood, although less so than a few days ago.

Tonight, Omilyce told me that Amilyce's sickness was definitely an affliction due to his late WM's spirit (wopailyrnane), whose cowrie shells (ungye) he appropriated and are (i.e., bought pork) some years ago. This kind of sickness, with such an all-consuming pain concentrated in the stomach, including blood-shitting, is clearly due to nothing else but ilymane-infested shells. My interlocutor talked about this diagnosis as a piece of common knowledge. Here (among the Yagwoia), it is customary for the spirit of a deceased relative to retaliate for any grudge he/she might hold against the living, especially in such a case as misappropriated shells. 'It's not just any small thing; it's the shells which killed (18) him'. When I asked him whether some healer declared this, or was it just a hear-say, my interlocutor said that several healers have already said that this was the case. 'Everybody already knew that it is Palycipu (the sick man's WM) who made him this sick, because of her shells'. Indeed, this diagnosis was already hinted at by one healer, Yayonya, who I talked to a day or two ago.

Two of Amilyce's classificatory male mothers (related as his MBSSons) told me a few days ago that they will not visit him because, when his sister A:neyi died, he gave them an outrageously small death-payement (aa'mekne).

22/1/96 Amilyce and his wife were treated by Kamuiye, the only healer in Iwolaqa Malycaane who acquired his soul-familiars and healing techniques from the Simbari in Ya'uwiye and Cineyi.

23/1/96 They were treated again by Yayonya and Angguye. The latter is not a curer but a man who possesses spells and particular ritual procedures for expelling spirits. The curer Yayonya claimed that he exorcised 22 spirits. (19) This was indicated by the strands of green leaves used as funnels, i.e., receptacles, for the exorcised spirits. The strands were tucked between the rafters of the roof inside the hut. When I asked Yayonya whether he managed to identify some of those spirits he didn't name any of them. They simply were a malignant collectivity. While Amilyce continued to be sick, his wife Hiqulaqa visibly got better.

24/1/96 Angguye went to see Amilyce earlier this morning and said that he was going to die. The sick man was asleep and he defecated inside the house. His wife was recovering fine.

25/1/96 In the morning, Angguye went again to see Amilyce. His rectum has ruptured and he was now shitting and pissing more severely than before. Tonight I also went with Angguye to visit this old, dying warrior. At the hut I learned that yesterday his ZD, Tilyqalye, who is also a curer, had extracted a stick (kwolyce) from his stomach, just below the chest. Angguye asked whether it was true that Yayonya extracted two kwolyce sticks. He emphasized that Yayonya told him that he extracted two kwole'ekne bones (sickness objects) from Amilyce's body. Tamcaqulyi said that Yayonya didn't extract any sickness object. (20) Later in the same conversation Angguye declared that Yayonya was bullshiting.

Comments were also made about Kamuiye's curing seance and his 'foreign' (ulyce) techniques. Angguye asked if he extracted any sickness objects. The fact that he doesn't is the problematic aspect of his craft. What's the use of all those numerous cordyline leaves through which he blows into the body, then throws them away!? I stated that his technique had prepared a road into the sick man's body, while another curer allegedly extracted an arrow-tip sickness-object, and that Kamuiye himself might have extracted a piece of glass. In response to Anguguye's questioning Tamcaqulyi produced yet another sickness, a round object, and showed it to him; he carefully inspected it. In agreement with everybody present, he decided that it was gumi (rubber). It looked like a tiny brain, full of intricate crevices. It was extracted from the sick man's neck.

Conversational flow was lively; the old Apacipu, the dying warrior's second wife, was very animated. Somebody said that among all those looking after the dying man his ZS Tamcaqulyi was the most eager. He hardly sleeps--nay, he doesn't sleep at all--and keeps a close watch on Amilyce, in case his legs slip into fire. Also, if he would try to get up Tamcaqulyi is ready to assist him. One of Amilyce's affines (ZH), who married his youngest sister, suggested very energetically that they should have a roster. Two persons look after the sick man while two others sleep, then they change places.

As the conversation was progressing from topic to topic, Amilyce was lying under a bark cover. For the most he was groaning, but at one stage he also cried and coughed; then he was whining and blow-whistling in pain. The conversation continued virtually uninterrupted. A few glances were directed at him, but without any involvement. During one such spell of intensified pain and groaning, Angguye, who was sitting next to the dying man, started recounting joyfully in Tok Pisin about Amilyce's great prowess when he was in his prime. He was a great warrior-killer. When he killed a man, he would first strike him down onto the ground, then he would step on the victim's stomach and forcefully press it till the shit poured out. Then he would kill him/her by breaking the skull with a club or axe. This was Amilyce's distinctive style of killing. While saying this, Angguye pointed at Amilyce just as he was groaning, and pronounced with a blend of admiration and matter-of-factness: 'He is a bad man, this one here!'

Indeed, Amilyce was a bad man. A consummate warrior-killer, he always went alone preying upon victims. Looking at his body, Angguye remarked: 'When he was young his body was huge and strong; same as his father's. And now--old, sick and dying, his body has shrunk. It's all gone'. In his life-time, however, Amilyce did not achieve the renown just for his warriorhood. He also used to take care of visitors from other territorial groups. At his homestead, they were protected. Therefore, when he dies a large number of people is anticipated to pour into Yakana. Already several messengers have been sent to Yalqwaalye to inform his relations about his imminent death. Indeed, the news is spreading that he has already died. Thus, Kanalyce(2) arrived this morning with his son, convinced that Amilyce, his classificatory father (exactly, FMZS) died. When I saw him, Kanalyce was all tuned up for grieving, although in vain--Amilyce was still alive. (21) Tonight, at the dying man's hut, Angguye scolded all those looking after Amilyce for thoughtlessly sending news that he was dead. This will attract people from every place, Iqwayaane and Hyaqwangli. And if they come, who will feed them!? 'Have you got the food ready for all those people!?' They should wait for the man to truly die, then they can send a message to that effect, not now while he is still sick.

Earlier this morning, Angguye told me that Amilyce instructed his sisters' children who are looking after him that no death payment must be given to his maternal relatives because these mothers did not look after him properly. They gave him neither food nor clothes. The death payment should be given only to those mothers (mostly classificatory) who properly cared for him by giving him food, or pants and such. Angguye emphasised that the dying man named him as one such caring mother. As for the true matrfilial mothers (MBSCh and MBSSCh)--no death payment! As mentioned earlier, two of his MBSSons have distanced themselves from him after he gave them a scandalously small death payment (each 2.00K only) when his first-born sister died. The outraged mothers expected at least 50.00K each. Angguye thought that 2.00K was a right amount because such matrifilially related mothers are already too distant. They are more like friends than mothers, and the kinship term for them, ndewana, clearly indicates this dilution of maternal connection. (22) Formerly, when shells were still in circulation, (23) a MBCh would receive 5 cowries, a MBSCh only one.

26/1/96 Amilyce died last night. He had three sisters, two wives, and he never sired a child. Therefore, he was a kwolycikiye (dry, fruitless) and planted no offshoot to continue his bone and name. He was primarily a male mother, ie., mother's breast to his sisters' children. Angguye told me that Amilyce must have died at about 1.00 AM, because he dreamed that Tamauwye cliff broke up and crushed. This land-mark in Yakane figures as one of Amilyce's endearment names (ilaye yeuwye) and, as such, refers to his maternal bodily flesh and identity (see Mimica 1991). (24) The dreamer woke up then checked the time on his watch. He decided that he saw in his dream Amilyce's death. Sure enough, early in the morning, one of the deceased's ZD came from the hamlet to tell that her MB was dead. Angguye was pleased about his dream. His dreams never fail him. They always show him accurately when someone dies or has tried to sorcerize him. In the evening I went to the aa'ma ka:ce (mourning seance). There were already over twenty people at the hut, some of them from Iqwayaana. Among them was one of the deceased's peeved MBSSons. (Other disgruntled mothers came the following night). Sitting next to the corpse, completely coated with grey mud, was his classificatory agnatic brother, a man in his early thirties.

Amilyce's corpse was placed into a ready made box, his legs bent and tied to the sides of the box. Pink linen was placed over the body but the face and hands were uncovered so that arriving mourners could see him and shake his hand. Usually, most corpses are kept in a net bag. When corpse smoking was practised a body could also be tied onto a rectangular frame placed next to the fireplace (Mimica 1991).

Before going to the aa'ma ka:ce, a visitor from Iqwayaane asked me if I was also going to weep. I replied that I would not although I felt sorry for the old warrior. Angguye said that he, too, never cries at mourning seances. However, as soon as we got to the mourning hut, he broke into a tearful walling, kneeling in front of the corpse as he did so. His wailing was short. Then he sat next to the corpse and joined in the dirge-singing. The mood in the hut was cheerful; people were talking and singing, all at once. At moments singing prevailed, then subsided and talking took over only to be drowned in singing. In another kitchen shelter, about 10 metres away, a few people were also singing dirges, but lagging behind the singing in the hut where the corpse was. Here, at about 9.00 PM, the leading singer (aapiyice), Tamce(3), fell on his back unconscious. I didn't notice when he went down and thought that he had taken a nap, but Angguye pointed out to me that he was seized by his deceased MB's soul (umpne). He was the first to be affected by the deceased. He remained unconscious for about 20 minutes. Nobody was concerned with him. Only a woman, sitting behind him, adjusted his head. Angguye told me that Tamce, who is also a curer, will be lying there for a long time so I could take a photograph of him calm and easy. As the leading singer silenced so did the singing but talking continued. After a while, Tamce regained his consciousness and began to sing again, followed by everyone else. Subsequently his two younger brothers, Tamcalyi and Tamconya, and possibly their sister Tilyqalye(5; they are all healers), were seized by the deceased's soul. In this way they incorporated their MB's soul power.

Kanalyce(2), the deceased's classificatory son (MZSS), wailed for a while, then participated in the singing until the dawn. The next day he told me that he also felt Amilyce's soul which tried to seize him, but he did not succumb to it. Being an ordinary person rather than a curer, he did not take it in. He only felt heat in his body, and his stomach became very tight. This seizure held him for a while, then it eased off. He told me: 'I think that the man (deceased) holds some grudge against me so he seized me'. He then added: "He is a bad man'. Our discussion of his somatic experience of the soul-seizure clarified why it happened.

Kanalyce's mourning was determined by a worry concerning his relation with the deceased. Amilyce held a grudge against him because of the pigs which his father (Kanilyce) gave Amilyce to rear for Kanalyce, i.e., their 'mutual' son. This was a way for Amilyce to exercise his paternal relationship to Kanalyce. Amilyce was supposed to give the money gained from the sale of the pigs to Kanalyce, while keeping one or two piglets as his remuneration. Instead, he alone kept and 'ate' the money. He justified it by begrudging Kanalyce for not coming to Yakane to help him with garden work, as a concerned son should. As soon as Kanalyce arrived at Amilyce's homstead, thinking that he was dead, his two old wives rattled off abuses at him for turning up for this occasion, whereas before he never did. What did he want, the money for those pigs? He assured them that he wasn't thinking about the money at all; long ago he gave up on those pigs and money. The old father are it, and so be it. He just came to mourn and bury him. However, he decided to atone their anger by giving them some money. He figured that if he gave the two widows 20K they'd be satisfied and, as a bonus, they wouldn't ask him for a contribution to the deceased's death payment. They knew that, having eaten the money received from the sale of those pigs, they and their husband had already eaten Kanalyce's death-payment contribution. Clearly, this is why they were defensive and abusive when Kanalyce first arrived. Such was Kanalyce's balance of relatedness with his dead classificatory father and his widows. Accordingly, Kanalyce wasn't entirely taken by surprise when the deceased's soul seized him. When he felt the heat and tension in his stomach he immediately announced to everybody present that the deceased was getting at him. This kind of intensity of, so to speak, the deceased's last stand, was anticipated because Amilyce was a strong warrior-killer, the last of his kind. But, most importantly, he had many resentments and attachments binding him to his living relatives and consociates. This was why his soul was effecting powerful seizures in selected mourners. In respect of his sisters' children, all of them healers, the incorporation of his soul was to make them stronger, although by no means immune to his vindictiveness. He could still make them sick. Kanalyce, being a classificatory son (mediated by his patrifiliation and his father's classificatory matrilateral siblingship with Amilyce) had only a grudge of the deceased as a left-over from their living sociality. It was not any better now that he was dead. Therefore, in the mourning situation, Kanalyce resisted the deceased's seizures. Although now mediated by his classificatory son's self-experience and projections, it is clear that, while still alive, the resentful self-righteousness of the deceased, motivated by his greed, was a defence against his own wrong-doing but now realised in the egoic self-experience of his mourning son. Nevertheless, in death, this inter-subjective bad conscience has unlimited possibilities for its resentful self-vindication. And there was more to come.

27/1/96 Today more people arrived, some from the Iqwaye area. To accommodate them, a plastic sheet was pitched on an elevation next to the mourning hut. Angguye and Hilyaqalyconya, one of the deceased's disgruntled maternal relatives, persuaded a number of young men and older adolescents to perform two soul-capture rites, mekikice (literally, 'rattling noise', held at night) and aa'ma piye hiuwye (literally, 'dead person custom, behaviour', performed in daylight). After initial indecisiveness they eventually agreed to do them under the leadership of two married men. Most adolescent lads were uninitiated. (25) These performances are gender specific. Young women perform a female version of the daytime rite when the deceased is a woman who was a strong gardener and/or renowned for pig-rearing. Only as such is the deceased's soul worth capturing. Women do not perform the night rite.

At about 8.30 PM the performers gathered at a house where the initiated married men instructed them how and what to do. One leader stressed that they should kick any dog which came their way and to be careful not to step on a woman or child inside and around the mourning hut. Two other leaders expatiated on the importance of these customary rites and the fact that the deceased was the last of his kind--the great warrior-killer. Whatever their didactic rhetoric they continued to hold sway over the preparations, which didn't square well with the uninitiated lads who, having not been disciplined in the initiations, quarrelled with everybody. Finally, at about 11.00PM they 'attacked' the hut where the corpse was.

The rite was powerful, exciting, and funny. The performers had bare torsos and wore only pants. They sneaked to the hut where everybody was singing; the leading man slammed the roof with a long stick and, immediately, the rest followed in frenzy, running several times around the house, bashing the walls and roof with their arrow bundles, a few also with sticks. Each performer held a bundle of arrows which he rattled, thereby producing a rapid succession of clacking sounds. This is intended to frighten, disorient and repel while simultaneously allowing the capture of the deceased's soul, manifesting as possession. They also yelled fast: 'mala, mala, mala..' (fight, fight, fight). One of them jumped onto the roof where he was seized by the deceased's soul. He remained entranced there, shaking. Another young man also ran over the roof, then jumped on the ground, bringing down several pandanus leaves. Inside, Angguye got upset. Out he came, shouting that this was a phoney performance because they were not supposed to jump on the roof or charge inside the house, although that, indeed, is the main characteristic of the rite--to bring down the house and not to hesitate to damage it. Nobody took him seriously. Someone shouted at him that right now, they inaugurated a new custom--jumping onto and destroying the house roof. A friend standing next to me laughed and said that Angguye got a fright and that is the reason he is protesting. These furious charges were repeated three times. Each time, one or two performers were possessed by the dead man's soul and stayed rooted in place, trembling until the others came running back. Then they snapped out of the soul's grip and ran off with the rest.

At the shelter, on the elevation adjacent to the house with the corpse, everybody was cheering and shouting. An older woman, also a seer, was dancing and chanting: 'mala, mala, mala,..' (fight, fight, fight) and 'tate, tate, tate..' (older brother, older brother,). She was one with the performers. The mekikice rite over, the dirge singing resumed. Sometime later Tamcaqulyi(4) had violent seizures, incorporating more of his MB's soul. Coated with grey mud all over his face and body, numb and manic, he charged from the hut dragging along several men and a woman who eventually subdued and brought him back into the hut.

Earlier in the evening, several new mourners arrived, among them two more mothers from the deceased's disgruntled maternal lineage. They came to legitimize their death payment expectation, and they did this without any dramatic emotional self-display. On the other hand, a particularly intense wailing display came from Hiwoye(6), a man who in this situation was primarily articulating his matrifilial relatedness to the sister's children of the deceased, not to the deceased as such. He was coated with mud from hair to heels, and was at the peak of wailing when I arrived. It took me some time to recognize him. A lad who came with me thought that this must be yet another of the deceased's offended, distant mothers, Hilyaqapana. This kind of wailing can be expected from them since that would be the way to reaffirm their claims on the body of and, thus, relatedness to, the deceased. But he was already there, singing with the rest. Hiwoye, however, was kneeling on the ground with his head and torso thrust into the lap of one of the women sitting around the corpse. He carried on for about 10 minutes, then fell silent.

Next, he produced from his net-bag half-a-dozen biscuit packets and gave them to his MB and his children. His sorrow is focussed on his mothers who are the principal mourners, being respectively the kamba (ZH) and the noye (26) (ZChildren) of the deceased. To the extent that their grief was channeled and drained into their one and only MB, who had no offshoot of his own, their ZS in turn showed them profusely that be was all theirs and for them. They are their (male) mother's meat, but Hiwoye reaffirms that be indeed is their flesh and blood. They accepted these, immediately edible, gifts from their concerned (female, i.e., sister's) son amidst the devouting gazes of the entire gathering (some 20 people crammed in this small hut) who tried hard to avert their faces and to ignore it. The mothers put the gifts into their net bags. Hiwoye's glazing eyes, enhanced by the thick mud coating that bad defaced him, are looking at his mothers. The flow of life-and-death is at its optimal pitch: forever caught in the ungratifying-and-ungratified tension of concrete sociality, yet driven by the desire for the ultimate self-consummation in its originary source, bodily substance (27) has just been processed in the right direction. From the devoured to the devouring, from the seized to the one who seizes. There is a surplus of motherhood in this death, for the deceased is primarily a mother. No bones of any kind for the classificatory son Kanalyce, only the dead man's resentment. And even this was due to his greed, for he alone ate the pigs.

28/1/96 The main event today was the 'dead man' rite whereby some more of the deceased's soul was captured. At 11.00AM we could see a long file of new mourners coming from Waungwa and Me'enaqa. First to ascend the steep range where the deceased's homestead is located, were several men and women. A younger man carried a bark-cape full of taro offshoots. (28) They stopped below the homestead plateau and duly coated themselves with greasy lumps of grey mud which they brought for this purpose. It was impressive to watch them rubbing lavish quantities into hair, head and the whole body. Everybody at the homstead became cheerful. The thoroughly exhausted mourners were sitting and chewing betel-nuts, very much self-satisfied that they would now simply watch the newcomers' show, they being all fresh and full of energy. The preliminaries, i.e., the mud application, left nobody in doubt. This over, their hitherto most cheerful exchanges with the onlookers gave way to the loudest wailing they could muster, and, in unison, they advanced towards the deceased's hut. Some threw themselves onto the ground while the deceased's female noye (ZChildren) joined in with a renewed bout of weeping. One of them, a woman, attended to the man with taro shoots and wiped his body with a piece of cloth.

But an older man, Wuiplaqwa, delivered an altogether unique spectacle. He burst into a medley of high-pitch, scream-weeping incantation, simultaneously capering and running around the hut, then swiftly in and out, then to the elevation where the resting mourners were chewing betel nuts. Amused, they watched gloating approvingly. Angguye said to me: 'Did you see his dance?! All his own!' That is, everybody appreciated Wuiplaqwa's act as entirely his own characteristic self-expression. He is renowned for his generally quirky style of behaviour--practical jokes, impish frisking and voicing. This particular situation was but an expression of his general style of being himself. He gambolled to the place where the deceased's ZH was, shook hands with him while continuously skipping; then he turned around and shot off into the hut, screaming: 'tate, tate, tate..' (older brother, older brother). There he joined the new mourners in their dirge.

Several women arrived from Me'enaqa. As soon as they got to the homestead plateau they broke into wailing. One of them, a young woman in her early twenties, copiously coated with mud, threw herself on the ground and proceeded to crawl towards the hut. A number of young women who already had their share of wailing and were now enjoying their repose, appreciatively laughed at her, even more so when they saw me aiming my camera at her since this made her an even greater focus of attention. She rolled, then she got up only to collapse again. As she reached the door of the mourning hut she began breaking and pulling the pandanus leaves from which the walls were made. Promptly, a woman, Talyipu, came out and started berating her: 'Is this your house so you want to tear it down!?' But to no avail. The young woman pulled down another wall-leaf while the angry mourner grabbed her hand and restrained her. Soon after she crawled into the hut and joined this fresh collectivity of hearty mourners.

The atmosphere became high as these spirited mourners injected new vigour into the hitherto flat mood. Everybody was visibly getting tuned up for the 'dead person' rite which was still to come. But it took a good two hours before it eventuated. The mourners from Waungwa and Me'enaqa went a bit flat and already some were resting under the plastic cover on the elevation adjacent to the hut with the corpse. People were eating individually and in small groups. Some of us, especially young lads, were impatiently anticipating the charge of the ritual performers. Several times a few youngsters went looking for them but they couldn't find them. Indeed, one of the rite's aspects is to come undetected as close as possible to the place of mourning and then charge into the open.

Early in the morning, all the young men and boys performing in the rite, had gone hunting marsupials. They caught one; another apparently escaped. The marsupial and frogs (substitute for pork) were wrapped up into one or two bundles which the performers carried while running, i.e., 'attacking' the mourning hut. The meat represents certain salient characteristics of the deceased. He used to hunt and eat many marsupials, just as he was renowned for his insatiable appetite for pork. On this occasion, the performers were painted from hair to heels with red pigment, their heads decorated with red leaves and small red grapes (called tapilye). The initiated ones wore rolled red leaves and tapilye grapes in their nasal septi. Some also had red leaves in their mouth, resembling a dog's tongue. They crawled with bows and arrows through grass and poised behind a bush, inside the homstead plateau. For his part, Wuiplaqwa began to frisk-dance around the place in order to attract everyone's attention so that the surprise entry could be maximally effective. Then they charged into the homestead clearing, running around the hut, and voicing in a strong, hissy sound. Everyone got excited and started cheering, shouting, and issuing directives. Around the hut, in and out, they ran--three rounds in all (see plate 1).


In each round, one or several of them lapsed into trance and remained arrested in one spot; with eyes closed they were shaking and rapidly hissing. Some got entranced in front of the corpse. They remained like that until the others charged into the hut area again, at which point the entranced snapped out and rejoined the frenzy. One performer slipped and fell; the spectators' shouting increased in volume, dogs were running helter-skelter; Hicipu, the seer, was again skipping alongside the elevation shouting 'mala, mala' and 'tate, tate' at the performers (see plate 2).


Yayonya, munching a sweet potato, shouted at them to do yet another round. They did. Everyone was elated after this performance; an uninitiated lad, whose face was beaming, exclaimed: 'This is something really powerful'. I couldn't agree more.

Angguye's arms were painted with red pigment. He met the performers while they were getting ready for the action, and pronounced a spell on all of them, thereby imprinting on them their assumed ritual appearance. He thought that the rite wasn't very successful because most of the lads were not initiated, therefore ignorant of ritual behaviour. If this were done by the men like himself, then I would see 'fire burning!'. This meant that the performers' own souls (the fundamental heat-energy that animates the body) would become intensified as they assumed the ritual semblance.

With this performance the deceased's umpne (soul) was completely repossessed and incorporated by the living men. He could be buried. Two lads told me that it was likely that another round of the same rites would be held again and they will be even better than the ones hitherto performed. I returned to my hut. In the evening, Angguye came and told me that the corpse had swelled up so much so that 'the house wants to burst!' This is a symptomatic moment in every mourning and, as I had seen it many times before, this corpse, too, began its stupendous metamorphosis with a momentous suddenness. Angguye made an important remark: 'They did the dead person rite and they completely took his soul'. He meant that since it had been completely divested of its soul, the corpse began to respond to the new condition.


Firstly a few ethnographic details on the appearance of the performers. In the night rite among the Iqwaye, but apparently not among the Iwolaqa Malyce, if they wore loin clothes and grass aprons they would have had their arses bared. Anus exposure is intended to scare the deceased's soul who, apart from the bodily dissolution, is in the process of becoming a spirit of the dead.

In the day-rite described above some of the performers, the initiated ones, had in their pierced nasal septi the rolled red leaves and tapilye grapes, and in their mouths they held red leaves which looked like canine tongues. Among the Iqwaye, dark pigment stripes are also painted all over the body, and their arses are bared. In the women's version of the rite the performers are painted from head to heels with yellow ochre and wear no other items apart from digging sticks or their equivalents. I will not interpret the meanings of these decorations and their semiotisation of the oral and anal aspects of Yagwoia spirit denizens but I will briefly comment on their salient anal physiognomy.

Although spirits are generally distinguished by their smell, especially the spirits of the dead because they become so by rotting as corpses, this does not explain their anal determination. The word for spirit, ilyma:ne, is folk-etymologised as a derivation from ilyce manne 'shit passage' (anus) which has to do with the following anal treatment of spirits. In the context of mortuary rites the impersonators of the wild spirits bare their arses and it is also possible that an older woman can jump over the grave with her anus exposed to the spirit of the dead. I saw this done among the Iqwaye at the burial of an old woman. The idea is that the spirits of the dead are no longer living humans. Therefore, one does not face them with his/her face (i.e., the receptive ocular surface) but with the arse, a 'face'-gestalt which has no eyes, doesn't look at and therefore doesn't introject its object. Unlike the mouth, the anus in the Yagwoi life-world is exclusively a rejecting orifice and so the arse does not have the chance to introjectively self-identify with such ocular equivalents as penis and hand. (29) The human face, being oral and ocular, does so willy-nilly. That's why one may be compelled to close, cover or avert the eyes when facing a repelling sight. Arse-face does not for it has no eyes. The anus is highly constrictive, when in fright or shock it is more likely to let go of itself. Many a Yagwoia man is remembered for shitting and pissing when he, as a boy, was put through the first run of beatings in the first initiation ceremony. In facing the arse-anus-face gestalt the human face receives it into itself and thus itself turns into it. That is why spirits are the negative mirrors of the living human face: they are literally the arse-hole image of the human face, rejected as such from the abode of human sociality by the living humans in the arse-mirror fashion. (30)

To return to the two soul-capturing rites, the semblance of the performers represents a unified complex of layered identities of primordial imagos and their powers. Overtly, each participant is an image of a fierce wild forest spirit (hyaqaye ilymane). Simultaneously, he is also echoing an image of the primordial cosmogonic child (son) identity of the primal cosmic man, the universal procreator (see Mimica 1981, 1988, 1991). This ritual imago-complex primarily belongs to the secret sphere of the initiation ceremonies, but in the mortuary context this aspect of its significance is presumed to be inaccessible to those who have never been initiated. (31) Here, it is the immediately apparent identity of fierce warrior-spirits that is presumed to be the known fact; other aspects and meanings of the imago are concealed in its very overt display. Those who know them (initiated men) can see them as such, those who do not know (women and uninitiated boys) see, yet do not know the meanings which are concealed in the appearence of the performers of the 'dead person' rite. (32)

Men also come to assume virtually identical semblance in two other rites the object of which is to depotentiate the wild spirits who affect the weather and inflict sicknesses and death on living human beings. Through ritual action men will engage with the spirits, overcome them, and gain their power for themselves. Here the living humans assume the semblance of their foes and with the guidance of curers, who direct these ritual attacks, humans can approximate the wild spirits' mode of being and beat them into yielding something of their powers. Only the like can subdue the like, that is, by identifying with it and transforming it into and through itself. This relentless combat is exactly what characterizes all the weather-controlling procedures, on a par with sickness treatments. Whether the wind and rain are acting by themselves, or are due to the spirits or humans, to control them they have to be violently beaten up and expelled. These elemental forces of the world, as well as all other denizens of the world-body--including the wild spirits--generate their own specific violence, and accordingly can only be dealt with as such.

Now it is crucial to understand that among the Yagwoia all ritual semblances and actions--from the most unassuming spell-performances, via curing and weather controlling ritual practices, to the massive rituals of man-making (initiation rites)--articulate, on a par with social life as a whole, the cosmo-ontological dimension of their existence. They constitute a single set of systematic transfigurations of the Yagwoia transpersonal, archetypal imagos of their Self and its energies. The ritual semblances are the products of a single imaginal (33) un/conscious matrix of cultural self-symbolisation.

All of them are hologramic reproductions of the primordial monadic totality of the autogenic World-Body-Self most cogently articulated in the Yagwoia archetypal self-symbolisation as the ouroboric World-Tree. The internal skeleton of the largest Yagwoia architectural structure, the inek/i/ye ritual house, built at the onset of the first initiation ceremony, is the World-Tree. To be sure, this constitutive cosmo-ontological--the (archetypal) imaginal--dimension, is the immanent field of energies and symbolisation which inhere in every concrete modality and aspect of Yagwoia experience and action. This, I submit, is the psychic objectivity constitutive of every intersubjective human cultural life-world. This is why my hermeneutic trajectory glides from the intra-cultural Yagwoia un/consciousness and their own self-intelligibility, to the psychoanalytic amplification of the same.

The wild forest spirits are the ultimate controlling mediators of the life-and-death flow. By taking possession of a dying person's soul and by taking it into the innards of the world-body, the wild spirits finally make him/her die and effect the terminal transformation of his/her soul into a spirit of the dead. This process is to a large extent coterminous with bodily decomposition, which is the obverse of gestation. In this process of decomposition and liquefaction, the human soul substance and its differentiated components transform from a mortal-corporeal to the immortal modality of existence as the spirit of the dead (wopa ilymane). This is why in the dead person rite the living humans--or more pointedly, the living mortals--take on the semblance of the wild spirits. As I explained above, only the like can subdue the like, by identifying with it and transforming it into and through itself. The performers thus become the attractors for the deceased's soul, including specifically its solar osseous core, for this animated energic substance, regardless of its ambivalence, is driven to its superior primordial source, the trans-human animatedness of the immortal wild spirits. But what, then, are they?

Wild spirits are indestructible, not subject to birth and death; they are the masters of that threshold of the life-and-death flow where human life is converted into death. Their dominant mood and affective tonality are not greatly different from the spirits of the dead. Fundamentally irate they cannot be trusted; they vacillate between unpredictable malevolence and benevolence. Sexual commerce with them, always produced through their deception, is by and large deadly for the human victims. Should a person be actually incited into sex with a wild forest spirit, as occasionally happens, without a shaman's intervention s/he would die. (34) They just as often make humans sick and kill them as they empower some of them (principally the curers) to alleviate these inescapable malignancies of existence. By studying the mentality of the spirits, being the projections of Yagwoia egoic selfhood, the ethnographer comes to feel their profound sense of envy of life, which is why they selfishly involve themselves with the souls of the dying humans. For ultimately this substance belongs to them and to them it inevitably goes.

Hyaqaye, the wild spirits, can assume either sex, any shape and corporeal semblance, and they are cannibalistic. (35) They live in the innards of the world-body and do not abide by any spatio-temporal and material limitations and conditionality of existence that the world-body imposes on the living human beings. Their mode of being in the reality of the world-body is total. They move unobstructed through earth, rocks, and sky; inside, through, and outside the streams; up, down, under. For them the world-body is a non-differentiated, isotropic totality. Among living mortals only the curers can become the same as the wild spirits. (36)

Curers, as living mortals, enter into the wild spirits' dimension of immortality of the world-body while still alive and there they make themselves at home. All other living humans do so only when they die and thus become the spirits of the dead. This is what makes them an ontologically distinct category of spirits, since before they became so they were mortal human beings, they suffered from sicknesses and they had to die, rotting in the process to the bones. Not so with the wild forest spirits. They came into being with the world-body, but they never lived a mortal existence. Although immanently metamorphic--they can assume the semblance of any being--yet in their substantiality they do not undergo the self-metamorphosis of the generated world-body. In that sense they are the living powers not subject to the incessant transformative process of life-and-death. The ontological distinctiveness of the immortality of the wild forest spirits derives from this immunity to death, sickness, and reproduction. The curers are not immune to sickness and death, hut by receiving their powers from the wild spirits, they do come to partake of this ultimate energic generative substantiality of the Yagwoia life-world. As a mode of immortality the wild spirits are the embodiments of the primordial, pre-and un-metabolised sap of the ouroboric Tree-of-Life, that immanent phallic net of branches and roots that contains the ceaseless circuity of self-becoming of the world-body, and generates its ceaseless life through the life-and-death of its own denizens--ad infinitum (see Mimica, 1981, 1988, 1991, in preparation b).

Everything about the wild spirits indicates that they are an imaginal presencing of a primary dimension of human psychic being, specifically its unharnessed non-somatized animatedness: impulsive, incessantly volatile, ambivalent, omnipotent, envious. Hyaqaye ilymane are the personifications of the unpunctured narcissistic libido, i.e., the primordial psychic energy prior to bifurcation and differentiation into life and death streamings. This is the psychoid (37) sphere which precedes and feeds the matrix of the dynamic somatic intentionality articulated by instinctual drives. These, then, are energised by the non-differentiated autopoietic energy, the primal libido in which life and destruction are interfused. This is why the hyaqaye are whimsically destructive-creative (power-bestowing). As the semblance of the wild spirits, the living humans enact and present to themselves the innermost narcissistic core of their ouroboric Self: indestructable, metamorphic, ambisexual, (38) cannibalistic. Their ambivalent ireful mood is a manifestation of the ouroboric primal affect, self-envy. It is the envy of life itself, engendered by the necessity of having to be born, having to come out of the womb, out of itself, and thus to become oneself in the plenitude of differentiated and individuated existence. Birth is the primordial narcissistic injury of the ouroboric Self incurred on itself by its own necessity to create (give birth to) itself.

This is why the hyaqaye remain on the hither side of the generation and incarnation of life-and-death. To the extent that they can assume the semblance of numerous life-forms these are solely deceptive manifestations most likely to destroy those living human beings who succumb to them. Their orientation towards the living is primarily to transform it into its own kind. This is why they are greedy morticians of all human souls, as they alone transform this living human heat (animatedness) of degenerative, mortal flesh and bones (which become divested of their innermost spermatic generativity) into immortal spirits of the dead. In the wild spirits one faces the undead and unborn,--the stuff of unabating and non-metabolised energic generativity that both chums out and consummates its own self-differentiation into the luno-solar life-and-death flow.


29/1/96 The corpse was bloated, but it was during the burial that I could properly see its magnitude. Heavy stench, reminiscent of the sickly sweetness produced by a large pile of rotting fruits saturated the interior of the hut and its immediate outside perimeters. A few mourners inside, mostly his sisters' daughters and a few recent arrivals. Subdued weeping and flat dirge singing. No soul-capture rite was held. The performers did not get organized and, apparently, they were put off by the stench.

Angguye explained that the spectacular bulging of Amilyce's corpse was due to his gluttonous consumption of numerous pigs when he was alive. All the excess 'water' (aalye,i.e., fluids) which he accumulated in his body during a lifetime of unrestrained pork eating, began to manifest itself. In the Yagwoia intersubjecitvity of death, this corpse 'hydraulics' is a closely observed process which bears witness to the most intimate and vital characteristics of a deceased person's living embodiment, its sexual-appetitive praxis. In this case, Amilyce's gluttony is on display unadulterated, and everybody can clearly see what kind of man he was.

When a female corpse displays the same condition everyone can see that she had numerous sexual relations through which she accumulated a surplus of liquids. It is not that men have less sex and women have no insatiable desire for pork. Rather, in this 'hydraulics' are amplified basic homoeomorphic asymmetries between the sexes. Man's body (except in fellatio) is primarily sexually drained and alimentary filled; woman's body is filled in both modalities. Each mode is a transposition and transformation of the other within a single intra-bodily system of self-generation which simultaneously participates in the global, social flow of life-and-death.

But this incorporative/excorporative 'hydraulics' is an aspect of the energetics of the Yagwoia cosmic bodily totality, closed in upon itself, and, as such, autopoietic. In the mortuary context, all procedures articulate the immanent disintegration of the body, which is also its simultaneous and differential reincorporation into the cosmic and the social body (see Mimica 1981, 1991). All Yagwoia singing is a movement through their territory. The main meaning of mortuary dirges is that they, as the songs which move through the entire Yagwoia territory, articulate this totalizing and meticulously graduated in-corporation and absorption of the deceased's body into the world-body. Both melody and text have specific territorial references which, as such, co-refer to human bodily identity and its social framework, latice (patrilineal descent groups). Dirges (aa'ma ka:ce apiye) and curing songs (napalye aapiye) have the same melodic and textual structure. Their difference lies with the condition of their subject matter, human bodily dynamics. In dirges, this is in the process of irreversible decomposition and incorporation into its macrocosmic container, the body of the universe.

Through singing, mourners articulate this process of the dissolution of the deceased in reference to the territory and numerous life-forms in it, all of which are dead or death inflicting, eg., broken bird eggs, a broken bird wing, broken and felled trees, etc. In dirges this decomposing modality of human identity is articulated in spatial terms, as a meticulously graduated and particularizing movement from locality to locality, the overall significance being the de-totalisation of an individual, particular identity, and its re-totalisation and de-individuation, by being absorbed, qua the territory, into the all-incorporating totality of the cosmos. In curing songs the process is reversed. Their object is a maximal reinvigoration and self-consolidation of the sick body. Accordingly, all life-forms invoked are alive, (trees standing upright, intact bird eggs, etc.). The task of singing is to maximize the concentration of the macrocosmic (anabolic) life-flow into the microcosmic embodiment affected by a sickness. In this sense, the sick person's body is heightened in its individual yet totalized particularity on the primal grounds of the cosmic body, the absolute container. Sickness and death articulate specific (katabolic-anabolic) movements in the ceaseless dialectics of the macrocosmic-microcosmic self-circuity of the flow of life-and-death.


The deceased, however, had a major surprise in store for his living consociates. They discovered that his latice's (patrilineal descent group) power objects (himace), used for the control of garden fertility, were missing. All his noye (sisters' children) declared that their MB hadn't entrusted them with the care of his himace. The deceased's closest agnate, Amalyce, also claimed that he didn't know where they were. The conclusion was that Amilyce must have buried them somewhere, before he fell sick and died so that no one else could use them. This was a matter for serious concern. Omilyce made a pronouncement that grave consequences will follow from this--the entire Iwolaqa-Malycaane will turn into bush (i.e., become wild). (39)

A hot-stone oven was uncovered and food distributed before the burial took place. A heightened cheerful mood enveloped the whole place. Inside the hut, Tilyqalye, Kacipu, and several other female noye were keeping the flies off by shaking cordyline leaves over the corpse. At about 2.00 PM it was brought out for the burial, some 10 metres from his hut, just below a footpath. The main undertakers were, again, the sisters' children, in particular the first-born ZS, Tamce. One of the deceased's ZHusbands was also at hand. While being handled in the course of insertion into the pit, which had to be expanded and adjusted many times, the corpse became uncovered. It was massively bloated and disfigured; the volume of his arms had almost doubled. All his clothes and the cover were impregnated with his copious fluids (ingaalye). Tayaquye told his sister, just as she was about to place a new but soaked bark-cape into the pit, to save it because it was new. She rattled back at him that the cape was no longer usable because a dog would surely chew it due to the ingaalye stain. But Tayaquye insisted--after it has been washed the cape will be as good as new. She gave in and threw it on the side. The chief undertaker, the eldest ZS, supported by the deceased's ZH, prevailed on them to put the cape into the pit together with all the other new capes and clothes used for the deceased's bedding. It should be made as good as possible for the deceased's spirit may get angry that relatives hadn't wanted to make him a comfortable enough bed. Talycipu promptly threw the cape into the pit. All other clothes, mostly rags, were buried in an adjacent shallow pit. All around the burial place groups of spectators were standing, many of whom, especially those closer to the pit, were issuing countless instructions and technical opinions, some of which were heeded.

The corpse was finally interred. Both pits were sealed. Since they were dug within a depression, this was filled with earth which secured the corpse from a possible exhumation by pigs or dogs. But this also indicated that there was no intention by the deceased's widows and sisters' children to monitor his further decomposition, in which case the receptacle pit would not have been completely covered with earth. Several bamboo tubes with water, native begonia and some other plants, as well as a circle of cordylines were planted around the pit. If the plants in the bamboos don't dry quickly but keep fresh, and if the cordylines grow, then this will indicate that the spirit of the deceased is well disposed towards his sisters' children, holds no grudges, and will not inflict any sickness upon them.

Below the footpath and adjacent to the burial spot, Tilyqalye and her sisters swiftly planted the taro shoots brought by various mourners related to the deceased as his mothers. This taro will be eventually harvested and eaten by those who planted it, the deceased's sisters' children. The life-and-death flow is self-regenerative ad infinitum. A sumptuously bloated body was just planted, rotting away in its own liquefying embodiment which fertilizes its primordial elemental source, the soil of the cosmic body which generates through itself the totality of its own diversity and multiplicity. As taro, the corpse will be eaten and further recycled, incorporated by the living relations, already charged by his being through seizures and prolonged inhalation of his stench. And it remains to be seen whether they'll be free from his afflictions. But in every mode of existence, in health no less than in sickness and suffering, the living and the dead participate in a single self-embracing ouroboric union of themselves and their all-containing, living cosmic embodiment: the autopietic totality which incessantly procreates itself through itself.

This ouroboric circuity encompasses both the micro-and macro-cosmos as follows: Sexprocreation [right arrow] planting [right arrow] eating [right arrow] living [right arrow] dying [right arrow] World-Body (ie., Cosmic-Bodily-Self-generation-ad-infinitum). Sex-procreation indicates the phallic-copulative mode of this self-circuity within which the indigenous metaphors Planting and Eating express concrete bodily praxis: sexual-alimentary activities as well as human action in general (from gardening to manufacturing and destroying). Planting and Eating are modalities of a single copulative-ingestive-incorporative intentionality (ouroboric) which also articulates the originary self-investiment (cathexis) into the world. Planting and Eating articulate the circuity of the life-and-death flow within the sphere of kinship. Planting is patrifiliation and Eating matrifiliation (see Mimica 1991). It would be erroneous to use the doublet being becoming even as merely a way of indexing the flow in terms of the familiar Occidental ontological categories. The Yagwoia matrix of existence is not assimilable into a view of intertwined Parmenidian and Heraclitean positions. The Yagwoia matrix is a wholly energic, self-progenitive qua self-annihilating cosmic bodiliness; as such it produces and contains within itself its own nihilating moment of self-transformation into its own hole-ness (nothingness) only to bring itself forth anew, as its own infinite plenitude of incessant self-generation.

This primordial, ouroboric unity of libido and mortido constitutes the ontological core of many New Guinea life-worlds. This generic structure indicates a critical difference in the mythopoeic imagination which constitutes them. (40) One of the most significant implications is an absence of soteriological strivings. The cultures historically dominated by a salvational orientation towards existence, especially of the Judeo-Christian genealogy, tend to internally exclude, or, better, repress this ouroboric dimension of being, because such exclusion is the critical condition for the formation of the egoic self constituted by the new mode of its intentionality, the soteriological project itself. At work here are most diverse internal modifications of the core-narcissistic dimension of the self, relative to the problematization of the experience of existence. It is these dynamics of the human self which animate the constitution of human cultures as particular modes of being-in-the-world, i.e., as ontological projects.


Late in the afternoon came the crucial social moment, the death payments (aa'mekne). There were well over twenty recipients, among them the disgruntled mothers who accepted their small amounts, ranging from 2.00K to 20.00K. Advance death payments were also given to several mothers of the two old widows. These payments were merely a preliminary prestation occasioned by the death of their husband. More substantial payments to a greater number of recipients will follow when they actually die.

This was a very taciturn aa 'mekne. Nobody protested over his or her amount. One recipient confided that he could have been given 10K more since he received nothing when Amilyce's first-born sister died. But even so he was content. I talked with Angguye about the severity of mortuary prestations in the past when enraged mothers would burn down the deceased's house, destroy fences and gardens, and steal pigs, if an adequate payment was refused them. During my research I witnessed fiery protests with copious verbal abuse but which never developed into a serious physical dispute; at the very most, a brawl, a few broken fences and/or a felled sugar cane post or banana tree, and a resentment which lasts for life and continues after a person's death. In the mid-sixties there was in Iwolaqa-Malycaane a succession of four mortuary prestations in which each time a house was burned down, followed by a fight. Over the years the Yagwoia have become more restrained because such excesses inevitably are taken to court, fines and compensations have to be paid, and the worst deterrent among all the state imposed sanctions, the wrongdoers can be imprisoned. (41)


30/1/96 Today, the deceased's ZD, Tilqalye had one of her pigs killed and purchased by her noye (ZCh). She did this because this was a pig reared by her deceased MB and his widows. He had instructed her that as soon as he died this pig should be killed so that she would not think that he ate it. Given his reputation, this was a real possibility. Tilyqalye's husband handled the transaction while she was sitting next to him observing it. The principal buyers, specifically invited for this occasion, were her FFFBDS (=ZS) and FZS (=ZS). The latter ardently wailed at the mourning seance and gave her and her siblings (his mothers) packets of biscuits. The former, having paid for the pork, cut a sizable portion which he then distributed among all of his mothers, the source of his flesh.

5/2/96 Tilyqalye and her brother Tamcaqulyi have been sick several days. Both have fever while, yesterday, she urinated blood. Angguye worked a yakale (spell) treatment on her the purpose of which is to stop bleeding. A curer, Yayonya, just reported that an ilymane (spirit) lacerated her qalye (the internal vital organs one of which is liver). Her brother, also a curer, has sewn it this morning. She also has a sore inside her throat which hinders eating. This particular affliction comes by itself. However, she had a recurrent dream in the last few days which quite clearly indicated the cause of her sickness.

6/2/96 Together with Angguye I recorded and discussed her dream with her. Briefly, she saw in the dream many people gathered on the slope where her deceased's MB's homestead is located (where she was actually sleeping at the time). They were cooking food in a stone-oven. She woke up anxious, feeling very hungry, and her body was feeling different--sick. She told her husband to light a piece of bark-cape and put it outside the hut, to keep ilymane (spirits) off. She didn't sleep any more and at dawn she went to her own homestead. There she fell asleep and, again, she had the same dream--a huge crowd of people cooking in a stone-oven. There were also performed two soul-capturing rites, the same as those performed a few days before. In the dream, she watched them performing the rites and the stone-oven cooking which continued without a stop. She woke up even more distressed and, now fully aware through this oneiric experience that her bodily condition was due to a big sickness.

Angguye, who has a great cultural knowledge of dream motifs and acute insight into their expression in specific dreams, gave a very accurate interpretation. The stone-oven cooking is a picture of her oven hot, feverish body, showing thus that the sickness' heat had seized her body. As for the soul-capturing rites in her dream, this means that she must have lost her own soul (component) at the time when those rites were actually performed. Tilyqalye fully agreed with his clarification. She herself is a curer who possesses five soul-familiars. It was significant that in the dream she ate no food from the stone-oven. This would be symptomatic of a more severe incorporation of the sickness. Both she and Angguye didn't hesitate to affirm that the spirit responsible for her and her brother's affliction is that of their deceased MB. The very dream-scene location and activities in the dream indentify him without mistake.

However, this pattern of affliction is but an expression of the very dynamics of Yagwoia sociality at whose core are symbiotic dependences, envy and greed, especially in the matrifilial nexus of relatedness. But in general, one anticipates, as a matter of course, virulent afflictions from deceased relatives. This is why Angguye told the principal mourners not to keep the deceased for too long. '"This will make you sick--his germ (42)--this will make you two (Tilyqalye and her brother) sick". I told them this exactly like a dream-seer: "Later, you two will get a big sickness. I saw into you two (i.e., foresaw that this will happen to them). But you didn't heed my talk (warning), you didn't believe me". Now sickness holds them'. He acutely summarized their attachment to the deceased: 'They are sorry for him (their MB). She (Tilyqalye) doesn't have another living mother-breast (i.e., true rather than classificatory). He was the only man among many women (i.e., sisters). (43) So they worry: "Later (after he is buried), whom shall we be looking at (i.e., whose face), my namnoqwa (my-mother-breast-he)". She thought like that, they worried too much and so they held him (in prolonged mourning). (44) (But) I said (to them): "He died. You two cannot bring him back (i.e., his body), it's not possible to bring him (back) alive. With you too, it is the same; you die and they are not able to bring you back. As for him (the deceased), he can die (i.e., stink and decompose completely). (45) You mustn't worry too much about him so you two mustn't keep him". I advised them, them-two, like that'.

10/2/96 Tilyqalye has reportedly recovered. Angguye extolled the power of his curing spells which, in his view, stopped her urinating blood. She reportedly ate pork, which indicates a new phase in the process of recovery. By eating pork she replenished some of her life fluids and restored her body. And thus, in this cosmic, devouring-planting ouroboric symbiosis between the living and the dead, the fluids of life-and-death keep on flowing.


An earlier version of this paper, originally incorporated in a much longer work, was presented at a conference on the Angan peoples, held September, 1996 in Marseilles. I am grateful to the participants of this unique gathering, especially the fellow Angan ethnographers and linguists: Sandra Bamford, Pascale Bonnemere, Maurice Godelier, Gilbert Herdt, Pierre Lemonnier, Joyce and Richard Lloyd. Another version, more similar to the one published here, was presented in a seminar on ritual held at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I am grateful to the participants for their comments, especially to Ithamar Gruenwald, Don Handleman, Bruce Kapferer, and David Shulman. I am especially grateful to Eric Hirsch of Brunel University (London), who read and commented on what was to be the almost final version. I am also thankful to Borut Telban of Ljubljana, Slovenia and my wife Ute Eickelkamp. For editorial work and suggestions I am grateful to Neil Maclean and the Oceania staff at Sydney. I also gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Australian Research Council (ARC) which enabled me to carry out research in Papua New Guinea for several years. I am especially grateful the The Ann and Erlo Van Waveren Foundation (New York) whose grant allowed me to continue my field research on Yagwoia shamanism after my ARC grant ended. Finally, I am grateful to the Yagwoia people, especially Iqwaye and Iwolaqa-Malyce, for letting me explore their life-world, which is to say, themselves as they are inside and outside the circuity of their macrocosmic Self (Imacoqwa). Among them, my heart-felt gratitude goes to Hiwoye, Wopaye, and Qwace u/ngwatanye.


(1.) This is a convenient label; nothing more specifically informative is suggested. Another common vernacular gloss is lakice (penis) which, by itself doesn't suggest a great deal since what would have to be elucidated is the very facticity of this organ in the Yagwoia gestalt of the body image (see Mimica 1991; in preparation a). The Yagwoia belong to a congeries of Angan speaking tribes; in anthropological literature some of them are known through the works of Fischer (1968), Godelier (1986), Herdt (1981, 19887), Bonnemere (1996), Bamfor (1997), Lemmonier, 1990.

(2.) Australian, European (mostly English and German), American, Chinese, Philippino (mostly workers in mines), Sri Lankan, Indian, and of late a few hundred Middle Eastern refugees.

(3.) This notion of the imaginary is not to be confused with the popular use of 'imaginary' that gained currency through the diffusion of Lacan in 'post-modernist' academic discourses. In Castoriadis' (1987:3) formulation, the imaginary 'is not an image of. It is the unceasing and essentially undetermined (socio-historical and psychical) creation of figures/forms/images, on the basis of which alone there can ever be a question of "something". What we call "reality" and "rationality" are its works'. Correlatively, in its core, the human subject and psyche have to be recognised 'as radical imagination, as indeterminable and perpetual self-alteration which cannot be mastered' (1984:59). For Castoriadis' view of Lacanian reformulations of psychoanalysis, see his (1984:46-115).

(4.) This is why, just to make a random choice in the spatio-temporal field of Western self-totalisation, the fact that an event which took place in North Italy in 49BC, when a man called Julius Gaius Caesar crossed a minor river called Rubicon, is entirely consequential for PNG becoming a semblance of the democratic nation state (itself a colonial clone of the Western universal state) in the last quarter of 'the long' 20th century AD. On the other hand, on this side of Pacific, the fact that countless Melanesians have been crossing countless local rivers, far bigger and more perilious than the Rubicon, for the last, say 5,000 years (and they still are doing it in exactly the same way), had absolutely no consequence for the emergence and formation in PNG of a comparatively equivalent cultural-societal form known as state. I am saying this in order to underscore the radical differences in the ontological-imaginary matrices of the two vortexes, and, of course, to underscore the radical reality and density of the historicity of human imagination, egoic passions, and actions which create, perpetuate, and realise all cultural forms of sociality, life-worlds, and civilizational fields, here the focal reference being to the Western universal state and its planetary self-reproduction.

(5.) I utilize the Jungian distinction between the ego and the self (1967, 1968). As a first approximation, the ego can be thought of as the focal figure developed and delimited in the course of socialization within the context of the total psychic being as the ground. The self, being the individuating-structuring dynamis of this totality, begins to co-articulate with the ego from its inception in the pre-oedipal mother-child matrix.

(6.) A beautiful cinematographic documentation of this ritual cosmogonic performance can be seen in Ian Dunlop's monumental Towards Baruya Manhood. Godelier (1986) provides some ethnographic information on the Baruya initiations. Historically, several Baruya lineages derive from the Yagwoia 'house' (territory) as do the Sambia studied by Herdt (1981, 1987). For an interpretation of the Yagwoia ritual house-tree edifice and the transformational relations to the Baruya, see Mimica (1981).

(7.) Precisely because of its ouroboric (primary-narcissistic) self-totalising determination, the cosmos is the self-same, holotrophic, infinitely autopoietic Self and not an Other or otherness. Rather, all otherness is generated by and from within this autopoietic cosmic totality. Likewise with all differentia. In the Yagwoia life-world there is no difference/differentiae which would be radically external to and independently autogenic of itself in relation to their cosmic Self, the world-body. All differentiae are generated from within and by the self-sameness of the cosmic Self. As with the Kleinian bottle, the outside proceeds from and feeds into the inside without a break.

(8.) Over the years my focus has been on the Yagwoia sense of their procreative embodiment as it is articulated in the totality of their experience, from wakeful to dreaming and visionary (hallucinating and delirious). For in this dimension the egoic self's noetic activity articulates itself without the wilful interference of the wakeful self-conscious and critical self-regard. To the extent that Yagwoia dreams were reported to me (as they are among themselves) post-facto, they still were the products of their sleeping egos and their internal objects. As such they are the work of what I delineate as their un/conscious. I put it so precisely because the relation between consciousness and the un/conscious is subject to diverse articulations in different life-worlds. Experientially their mutual articulation does not conform to a universal dimensional topography, principally in terms of a distinction between psychic interiority and exteriority. In terms of the Yagwoia life-world-specific ontological underpinnings of their experiences and existence the basic dimensionality of their 'I-ness', such as interiority/exteriority and all its derivatives, is a radically different inner/outer field. Spirits no less than the soul are not for the Yagwoia 'internal objects' or 'projections' but entities either entirely autonomous (eg., spirits) and external to a given 'I' (ego) or in a semi-detachable incorporative/excorporative relation with the body and 'I-ness', as for instance one's dream-soul component. Accordingly, my psychoanalytic explications are phenomenologically grounded in the Yagwoia life-world. Their psychic being is accounted for with a maximal fidelity to its life-world constitution. So, although my use of notions such as un/conscious, egoic self, and internal objects is within the framework of psychoanalytic (object relations) and Jungian meta-psychological conceptualisation, this is done as an interpretive exercise which both maintains and amplifies the ontological originality and existential integrity of the Yagwoia selfhood and life-world.

(9.) I became aware of the luno-solar qualities of Yagwoia embodiment during field-work in 1983 and 1984 following a succession of two solar eclipses. These cosmic events provoked a great deal of anxiety and were also thematised in reference to bodily substance which is the same as the sun and moon, on a par with the notion that all Yagwoia are the children of the two celestial luminaries (Mimica, in preparation (a)).

(10.) This beautiful Medieval Scholastic concept means that which constitutes the self. The related concepts are quiddity and haecceity.

(11.) This entire complex of the notions about the luno-solar quiddity of Yagwoia bodily animatedness is but a refraction and doxic differentiation of a single mythopoeic self-projection, namely that humans and all life are the progeny of sun and moon and their irradiative luminous thermo-liqueous affections This is detailed in Mimica, in preparation (a). From the regional-comparative perspective, a related version of this micromacro-cosmic generative dynamis is the Baruya procreation belief that every embryo is created through both the man's semenal and the sun's fertilization, the latter occurring by his ray penetrating the woman's womb. The sun specifically creates the embryo's eyes, nose, mouth, fingers, and toes (see Godelier 1986:51).

(12.) I say simplex because in the Yagwoia mind the sun and moon, being irreducibly the two eyes of the cosmic Self, are two moralities of its indissoluble unity auto-ocular generative dynamics.

(13.) During one's life-time a person's soul may acquire a number of potencies (powers) all of which are regarded as separate and individual souls. I refer to them as components. The Yagwoia always speak of them in the singular on the presupposition that their multiplicity is understood. A person can also lose such individuated powers (souls) which, however, does not necessarily result in sickness or death. The fundamental detachable soul-component is the one which goes off wandering when the person falls asleep. But the soul in its basal determination is volatile and dispersive so that in any context it can become detached. For instance, a sudden fright will cause the soul's disembodiment and the person, given the circumstances, will pause to allow the soul to settle back into the body. Otherwise, such soul-hiss may be experienced as sickness and a curer called on to retrieve it. A person may be soul-less in this mode for years but it does not follow that s/he has lost the basal bodily animation. It is this dynamics of what can be characterised as projective volatility in relation to the permanent bodily generativity of the soul-heat that accounts for the simultaneous determination of the Yagwoia soul as simplex and multiplex. I deal with the phenomenology of the Yagwoia soul in two separate studies of the Yagwoia cosmology and shamanism.

(14.) Itself a label which originated in the middle of the seventeenth century: 'In the prolegomena to his Elementa philosphiae sive Ontosophiae (1647), J. Clauberg remarks: "Since the science, which is about God calls itself Theosophy or Theology, it would seem fitting to call Ontosophy or Ontology that science which does not deal with this and that being, as distinct from the others owing to its special name or properties, but with being in general". (...) Leibniz will later praise Clanberg for such an undertaking, but he will regret that it had not been a more successful one. The very word "ontology" occurs at least once in an undated fragment of Leibniz, and one can expect accidentally to meet it later in various places, but it is not until 1729 that it finally comes into its own with the Ontologia of Christian Wolff' (Gilson, 1952:112-113).

(15.) Iwolaqa-Malyce + aane; the last word means 'house' which in this usage designates the entire territory of the human collectivity living there. In this instance the collectivity (territorial group or 'tribe') inhabiting such a 'house' is the Iwolaqa-Malyce.

(16.) All names are abbreviations and syllabic concoctions based on actual names so that the identities of the persons are protected. The number next to the name identifies the person in the diagram.

(17.) Typologically, the Yagwoia kin-classification is of the Omaha type. The term for MB is na:mne (motherbreast); M, MZ, MBS, MBD, MBSS/D are all one's na, 'mother'. The two forms are given in the 1S pronominal inflection. The 3S form is kayemu and ka-ne-yi. Many Yagwoia adhere to a view that all members of one's own maternal latice, from the mother's generation and downward indefinitely, are all 'mothers' vis-a-vis one who is their (sister's) child. This also applies to all individuals whom these 'mothers' regard as siblings. Due to the operation of the classificatory matrilateral siblingship which cuts across the latice boundaries, the number of mothers is large. But one's 'base' or 'true' (qaule; nua) male mother is the MB of the same birth-order as one's mother. There are Yagwoia who are adamant that one's mothers don't go past the MBSCh or at the very most MBSSCh; this is why such distant mothers cannot expect or claim a large mortuary payment unless they were looking after the person with food and clothes when alive, thereby exercising and substantialising their maternal orientation to him/her (see Mimica 1991).

(18.) In both vernacular and the Tok Pisin usage, 'kill' (pakl-) does not presuppose as its effect death, just severe bodily incapacity and immobility. Having been killed (napaqlatanye) a person may die or is as good as dead (piye)

(19.) Such a multiplicity of afflicting spirits occurs when they join one or two spirits of the dead directly responsible for the condition of the diseased person.

(20.) Virtually all sicknesses are caused by various objects lodged into the body by a spirit of a deceased relative, wild spirit, a curer's soul-familiar. Napalye is any such sickness object and it also means sickness in general. Its activity is katabolic, specifically it is a negative mode of digestion and gestation.

(21.) For this aspect of the dynamics of dying among the Yagwoia, see Mimica (1996).

(22.) This term is used by those who insist that MBSCh and MBSSCh are no longer one's mothers; those who insist that they am will use the term na, mother.

(23.) Among the Yagwoia, cowrie shells (ungye) effectively went out of circulation in 1983-1984 three years after an all weather vehicular road permanently connected Menyamya with a network of external roads in the province.

(24.) This beautiful image cogently expresses death as the radical rapture of the body, the maternal envelopment, and the disincarnation of the soul-energy contained in it. Thereafter the body begins to de-integrate.

(25.) The last completed cycle of initiations in the Yagwoia (including Iwolaqa-Malycaane) area was in 1983-1984. Afterwards there were endless talks of having another cycle and finally, in late 2002, the UngWace territorial group inaugurated it with the first (nose-piercing) ceremony but no other Yagwoia group followed suit. Only one Iwolaqa-Malyce village took it up together with a Chimbari-speaking neighbouring village. In January 2003 they also jointly performed a very truncated second grade initiation ceremony whose closing sequence I managed to observe having arrived in the area a day after it had commenced. For an account of the Yagwoia initiations and their historical vicissitudes (the abandonment of inseminatory practice and the continuation of the ritual system of men making), see Mimica (1981, 1991 especially:Pt.2:95-110).

(26.) Noye is any person, male or female, related to an ego as his or her true or classificatory ZCh.

(27.) All gifts are substitutes for the giver's body, specifically his/her flesh..

(28.) This meant that he was related to the deceased as a mother, that he was from the Hilyce patrilineal descent group which alone owns the life-and-death control over this cultivar, and that he would have uprooted them from his garden as a destructive act of raging sorrow, provoked by the death of an important noye (ZCh). This malignant act has a universal effect because, by doing it, all taro gardens invariably become endangered. Accordingly, the man who does it, uses a preventive spell, and, likewise, when he plants the new taro in his garden. Only in this way will he prevent the destruction of his and other people's taro. The act hinges on a precarious tension and control of the self's power over life and death, libido and mortido. In my loss of my sister's child I rage over the loss of, a leakage in my own self. Therefore, I desire loss for everybody else (see Mimica 1991, 1996).

(29.) The use of hand for toilet purpose is not exclusive. Sometimes kids, more so than adults, mb their anuses on latrine wails and corners.

(30.) Regarding the valuation of the anus, Yagwoia are in sharp contrast with such phallo-anal cultures as the Marind-Anim (van Baal 1966), Asmat (Eyde 1967; Schneebaum 1988), Mimikans (Pouwer 1966), the Kimams (Serpenti 1977), all from southwestern lowlands of Irian Jaya, (or the Kaluli of the Great Papuan Plateau), where traditionally men practised anal intercourse. There, the self-world is overwhelmingly determined through a totalising anal self-projection and identification. An excellent example of this dasein is a magnificent Asmat poem, The Red-Parrot Woman (Voerhoove, 1977:31). In Drabbe (1959:154-56) there is a more complete version of this song (26 verses) with a list of interchangable words for rivers, celestial objects, the parrot-woman, her faeces, urine, and dress. An entire faecal-anal cosmology is articulated in these verses, including the sky-earth and the body sexual conjunction, impregnation and birth. In the Yagwoia life-world this self-world totalisation is through the phallic-oral incorporation. It is also informative to mention that in Kaluli seances a spirit possesses the medium by entering him through the anus (Schieffelin, 1976).

(31.) In the context of the initiations, specifically the nose-piercing, the piercer assumes the semblance of the creator as a double male phallic determination of the marsupial hunter: he is the harpy-eagle, the celestial phallic solar-marsupial hunter whose claws and beak are his phallic-bone which pierces the novices' nasal septi; simultaneously he is the terrestrial dog who chases and dispatches the marsupial shot by the hunter with an arrow. Marsupial is the human neonate (Mimica 1991). The dog's fangs are identical with the eagle's claws, beak, the hunter's arrow and together they are identical with the nose-piereing bone. But the hunter and the hunted are, through their lethal-devouring conjunction, a single auto-generative unit, the creator who is at once his own son, father and mother. The novices" nasal septi have the determination of the oral phalloumbilical bodily self-closure which binds them to the maternal womb. This primal, ontogenetic self-conjunction sustains the soul's intra-bodily generation established in gestation when the foetus was formed, and continued post-partum through breast-feeding. When nose-pierced, this primal envelope of the body, which bears the imprint of the uterine amniotic-sac, is broken into and the pure-masculine solar spermal heat-energy of the bone is injected, followed by, through the practice of insemination, the equally pure all-male semen of the unmarried young men of the senior initiation grades (see Mimica 1991).

(32.) This dialectics of non-recognition and ignorance, despite showing, goes much deeper. Since the wild forest spirits give curing powers through visionary and dream experiences they choose both men and women, usually when they are still children. In this process the chosen person, male or female, will readily see semblances which are actually enacted in the secret male initiation rites. My informant commented that although a woman recipient of such powers will see their manifest semblances and will become empowered by them, she'll still remain ignorant of their true meanings precisely because she would never be initiated as a man and, therefore, their 'base' (truth) will remain outside her grasp (Mimica, in preparation b).

(33.) I use this concept after Corbin, 1972 (also 1969) in order to index the life-worldly objective reality of the Yagwoia transpersonal archetypal imagination which is not just actualised in their ritual and cosmo-mythopoeic modes of objectifications but in the depths of subjective experiences of individual Yagwoia, their dreams, visions, i.e., the entire spectrum of self-word experience. Imaginal (by contrast to an unqualified 'imaginary') is intended to prevent the prejudicial attitude towards imagination and imaginary as meaning 'non-real', 'fictional', and in that sense 'non-being'. For a major theoretical formulation of archetypal imagination in the tradition of Vico, Jung, Corbin, and Bachelard, see Durand's [(1964) 1999] belatedly translated work and also 1971.

(34.) Nevertheless, I know of one Yagwoia woman who claimed to be the product of a union between a particular kind of wild spirit who have as their irreducible shape the body of a python. They are restricted to particular localities in the Yagwoia territory. This serpent spirit appeared to the unsuspecting woman as her actual illicit human lover but after the coitus 'he' revealed his true identity to her. A shaman managed to remove 'his' semen (said to have a mixed colour of black-dark blue--'like ink', and yellow) from her womb but she nevertheless got pregnant and gave birth to a female baby who grew up and marred. If a man has intercourse with this spirit he cannot be helped since his semen remains in the spirit/serpent's body which is inaccessible to shamans.

(35.) Hyaqaye and the spirits of the dead (wopa-ilymane) are primarily cannibalistic. Sickness is always a malignant katabolic activity. This is most powerfully expressed by the notion that, in sickness, one's bone-marrow is eaten by the spirit inside the bones (ilymane yekna yekmani-i'nena ngalyatana)

(36.) And so only in the period of their onset phase when they begin to acquire healing powers from the wild spirits.

(37.) Jung 1969:176-177, 1963:551-52; von Franz 1985:91-92

(38.) And so only hat is, these spirits can assume human semblance of either sex and any age, but on balance I cannot say that in themselves they are sexed as ambisexual, or determined as old, young, or as the case may be. Through the years of my living with the Yagwoia, experiencing these spirit denizens as a vital expressions of their psychic being and life-world, I have come to think of their quiddity as radical negativity.

(39.) About a year later the power-objects were found and this matter was put to rest.

(40.) A beautiful example of this, is a remark made by a Kaduwagan (Trobriand archipelago) to Susan Montague and published on the cover of the volume edited Damon and Wagner (1989), Death Rituals and Life in the Societies of the Kula Ring,: 'We eat for the living, and we eat for the dead, whereas you just bury your dead and eat for yourselves alone'.

(41.) For an account of mortuary rituals and soul-incorporation among the North-western Ankave-Angans (Yagwoia's southern neighbours in the Gulf Province), see Bonnemere (1996:154-164,213-14).

(42.) Germ is a notion originally introduced by the colonial administration through various health educational programmes. Germ is equated with the notion of aa'mnye/qw/olde kilyce, human dirt, which every body contains and accumulates through sexual contact.

(43.) Such a man is aapalwlana (from aapala = woman); a woman who is the only sister among several brothers is qawouwlana (from qwole = man).

(44.) The intense attachment to a deceased relative was also the main reason why the Yagwoia used to smoke corpses. This practice purported to preserve the bodily identity of the deceased whose bodily disintegration is imminent (see Mimica, 1991). In the Yagwoia life-world the essential characteristics of death as a living process are decomposition, stench and the loss of the bodily presence of the deceased.

(45.) Piye can be glossed as 'dead' and 'death' but its primary significance is the sensory aspect of a dead body, namely stench. All pungent smells, eg., farth, heavy bodily odour, am piy-agne (death-smell).A populous or crowded place is characterised as 'aamnye piyagne', 'human person stench', ie., it is so crowded that it stinks with people.


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Jadran Mimica

University of Sydney
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Date:Jun 1, 2003
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