Big men, magic, and seduction at Munomu

by bzephyr

Part 3 in the continuing short history of the Goiniri Onnele people of Papua New Guinea as reported to me by Goiniri Bible translator Dominic Pusai last week…

The Goiniri Onnele people grew in numbers and needed more space for their clans’ houses and gardens. So they moved down from the mountain to an area with more space that they call Munomu. That is the name of a limbum palm, the kind they use to make basins for preparing boiled sago. This migration occured during the German administration of the northern half of the island in the early 1900s. It was here at this second location that an aid post was established as a central location among the mountain Onnele dialects. People would travel to this aid post at Munomu to receive basic health care. They stayed at Munomu for quite a long time.

During these years, the Goiniri Onnele people were fierce fighters with their spears, and they would make raids as far as Pes in the direction of Aitape. It was also common for them to use traditional magic to fight their enemies. They attest that there were two things that enabled them to continue occupying this land: the strength of their big men as well as the seduction of a woman. This particular area is referred to as “Arop woman held a man,” which recalls the time when their enemies turned back before battle because one of the warriors was seduced (and thus weakened) by a woman on the night before a raid.


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