Forgot your password?  

Resources for students & teachers

James Chalmers
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 137 pages of information about Adventures in New Guinea.

The inhabitants of the inland villages are probably the aborigines, who have been driven back to the hills by the robuster race now occupying their plantations on the coast.  Their habits and customs are curious and interesting.  They cook the heads of their slain enemies, to secure clean skulls to put on sacred places.

They have one great spirit—­Palaku Bara, who dwells in the mountains.  They worship him unitedly in one place.  Each family has a sacred place, where they carry offerings to the spirits of deceased ancestors, whom they terribly fear.  Sickness in the family, death, famine, scarcity of fish, etc.—­these terrible spirits are at work and must be propitiated.

Pigs are never killed but in the one place, and then they are offered to the spirit.  The blood is poured out there, and the carcase is then carried back to the village, to be divided, cooked, and eaten.

Pigs’ skulls are kept and hung up in the house.  Food for a feast, such as at house-building, is placed near the post where the skulls hang, and a prayer is said.  When the centre-post is put up, the spirits have wallaby, fish, and bananas presented to them, and they are besought to keep that house always full of food, and that it may not fall when the wind is strong.  The great spirit causes food to grow, and to him presentations of food are made.

Spirits, when they leave the body, take a canoe, cross the lagoon, and depart to the mountains, where they remain in perfect bliss; no work, and nothing to trouble them, with plenty of betel-nuts.  They dance all night long, and rest all day.  When the natives begin planting, they first take a bunch of bananas and sugar-cane, and go to the centre of the plantation, and call over the names of the dead belonging to their family, adding, “There is your food, your bananas and sugar-cane; let our food grow well, and let it be plentiful.  If it does not grow well and plentiful, you all will be full of shame, and so shall we.”

When they go on trading expeditions, they present their food to the spirits at the centre post of the house, and ask the spirits to go before them and prepare the people, so that the trading may be prosperous.

No great work and no expedition is undertaken without offerings and prayer.

When sickness is in the family, a pig is brought to the sacred place of the great spirit, and killed.  The carcase is then taken to the sacred place of the family, and the spirits are asked to accept it.  Sins are confessed, such as bananas that are taken, or cocoanuts, and none have been presented, and leave not given to eat them.  “There is a pig; accept, and remove the sickness.”  Death follows, and the day of burial arrives.  The friends all stand round the open grave, and the chief’s sister or cousin calls out in a loud voice, “You have been angry with us for the bananas we have taken (or cocoanuts, as the case may be), and you have, in your anger, taken this child.  Now let it suffice, and bury your anger.”  The body is then placed in the grave, and covered over with earth.

Follow Us on Facebook