8. Puliaijat for the prevention; pabete for the cure


Puliaijat for the prevention; pabete for the cure.

In this, the final article, we will look closely at how the concepts discussed in article 7 form the focus of the two types of ritual practiced in the Rereiket, Mentawai, the puliaijat and the pabete (healing event), in particular the puliaijat. The general reader who may have not made his or herself conversant with any of the preceding articles will find in this one an accessible, albeit very detailed, description of the puliaijat, and to a lesser extent, the pabete.

In terms of the more detailed argument that is embedded within the descriptive passages dealing with the various elements and phases of the puliaijat, I will be concentrating on analysing how the puliaijat creates the hospitable space of the pulaggajat out of an inhospitable space, exemplified by the leleu (refer to article 3 ). This is done by means of the uma and the ancestral heirlooms (alei katsaila) that are kept within. From this perspective, the puliaijat can be viewed as a temporary intervention, carried out by means of the uma and its ancestral heirlooms, in the cosmos to ensure the triumph of “life” over the entities of death. This is the general end towards which each puliaijat is directed. Where the powers deployed in a puliaijat have ceased to be effective or have simply failed (exemplified by a calamity or prolonged illness befalling a member of a particular uma faction) then it is the object of the ritual healing event, the pabete, to excise the bajou (the cause of illness) from an individual or a household (lalep), to push back encroaching entropy restoring he, she, or they fully to “life”(1).

For most days of the year the uma is usually only occupied by the rimata, his wife and children when he is in the village, despite the fact that the uma is, socially and cosmologically speaking, the hub of the uma faction of the suku of which it forms a part. However it is only in a puliaijat that the uma’s social importance becomes obvious. For the duration of the event the uma comes alive. Apart from those brief intervals when the particular events making the puliaijat what it is take place, when the rimata retires into the inner sanctum to perform his art in concert with his heirlooms, the place is in virtual uproar, a cacophony of barking dogs, animated conversations, surreptitious gossiping, including laughing, screaming, crying and fighting children—it is very much a social event. Nevertheless it is still the rimata’s art, as the main occupant of the uma and the caretaker of the heirlooms, that defines its import. But before I can proceed to look at it in detail, I need to look a little more closely at the properties imputed to the bakkat katsaila—as the pre-eminent heirloom—in its capacity as an entity of “life”, since it is this, as “ritual attractor” (Fox 1993:1), which is the centre of proceedings in the puliaijat.

The bakkat katsaila is also referred to as the bakkat uma (“foundation of the uma”) or riokuma. Riok means to “stand” and has connotations of being “firm”, “enduring”, “upright” which we met in relation to the uggala siririok uma (article 4). As with all the ancestral heirlooms the bakkat katsaila must be “looked after” and “respected”. As its “guardian” only the rimata may freely tamper with it without fear of reprisal, but only then if there is good reason, such as in a puliaijat. In the words of one rimata: “If the bakkat katsaila was a human being (sirimanua), then it could be said to be my foundation (bakkat), just as a parent is the bakkat of his children.” In actuality then the rimata looks after the bakkat katsaila in order that the bakkat katsaila looks after him and through him every member of the suku or uma faction.

Each bakkat katsaila is represented as having its own specific, “powerful” constituents. Not many rimata that I interviewed about this were sure what exactly was inside their respective katsaila although they would say what “usually” went inside. All items are associated with “life”; since the bakkat katsaila is purely a repository of “life” there are, therefore, no gaud sikataik objects included amongst these. In each case the ingredients were represented as several drawn from a set of items common to all bakkat katsaila, located at the bottom (bakkat) of the katsaila’s bolobok (bamboo cylinder). On the two occasions where I was able to witness the recreation or renewal of an old bakkat katsaila, it turned out that the ingredients used were indeed drawn from those represented. The fruit of aileleppet, momunen, taimalauklauk, and duruk are often included. Ubiquitous is a small quantity of bulau (lead). Its power as gaud, similar to aileleppet, comes from its imputed “coolness”. In the same way a river pebble or two might be included for the “coolness” they exude having come from the “cool” depths. There is often a tairosi (small bell), powerful in its capacity as an adjunct to “life” in that a live being “moves” (mageret) and “makes a sound” (ulamo), a tinkling sound if wearing a tairosi. This property is felt to inhere in these bells. Some claimed that rattan (bebeget) leaves were also included, the power from these stemming from their characteristic fluttering in the breeze, movement indicative, once again, of “life”. In one instance I observed the rimata cut a sliver of lead from a sinker he kept stored near the heirlooms. He placed this on top of a “base” (pereman) of aileleppet and momunen all of which were placed on top of an initial base of duruk. Fruit of each type was included after this, along with some taimalauklauk and bukak. An old pebble from the former bakkat katsaila was also placed in with these. In line with its identity as an ancestral object informants claimed, in respect of other cases where such renewals had occurred, that only the bolobok (case) had been changed. The objects inside were represented to be from the ancestors and therefore had to be retained.

To understand the puliaijat one needs to, firstly, understand the bakkat katsaila in its role as the premier ancestral heirloom, and secondly, the rimata’s relationship to it. The puliaijat can, in fact, be described purely in terms of the relationship between the rimata and his bakkat katsaila, mediated by a special series of events, the puiringan, involving the other heirlooms. Through a close examination of these events, which are at the heart of the puliaijat, the relationship of the bakkat katsaila to the uma, the suku, and the rimata, as well as the relationship of each in to the other, that is in respect of the role they play in producing a viable space within a hostile cosmos, become clear.

The Puliaijat in Mentawai

There are a great many types of puliaijat, each being held in order to achieve a specific purpose for the members of the suku or uma faction involved. For example there are a series of puliaijat carried out in order to bring a new wife into the suku through “introducing” (isegeakek: lit. “to inform”) her to the bakkat katsaila (the bakkat katsaila is “informed” that she is now one of “us”, and no longer one of “them”), effectively making her into a new member of the suku. Two separate puliaijat are held, sometimes many months apart, in this case. There are also puliaijat conducted by her original suku in order to relinquish her, to define her as no longer a part of the suku. There are two “preliminary” puliaijat followed by a further two complete puliaijat carried out at intervals over a period of several months, a year, or longer after a member of the suku has died, in order to free the suku, and particularly the immediate family (lalep), from the deleterious consequences that this person’s sanitu can have upon them as well as the whole suku.

A puliaijat, strictly speaking, only lasts for one day. However, puliaijat often occur together in a series held on successive days. For example the final puliaijat for a deceased uma faction member, an eeruk simaeruk, actually consists of three individual puliaijat which take place over three days. They are collectively referred to as a puliaijat eeruk simaeruk. On each day participants define themselves as being in a state of mulia, the intransitive verb form of the noun pu-lia(i)-jat. Each day consists of a fixed sequence of events, the puiringan, which take place in every puliaijat. Dispersed within this fixed structure are other events defining the particular type of puliaijat it is and the ends towards which it is directed. The nature and ends towards which these secondary events are directed determine the specific purpose for which the particular puliaijat is held. The standard events are the sogi katsaila, aggaret, lia goukgouk, irik, pusikebbukat and the kokoman sikebbukat, each performed in succession. The aggaret, irik, pusikebbukat, and kokoman sikebbukat constitute the all important puiringan events. These define the general purpose to which the puliaijat is directed: the enhancement of “life” through distancing the entities of death, within which is subsumed the puliaijat’s specific purpose, a marriage, a death and so on.

All events typically take place in the daylight hours although they may run into the night if, for some reason, proceedings get held up. Or, conversely, they may only take up a morning. The concurrence of these events as a unit in the one day defines the puliaijat. There are no instances where events are held over until the next day. All the puiringan events take place on the floor section within the batnuma (inner sanctum) in front of the bakkat katsaila and the other ancestral heirlooms. Each event lasts a few minutes, although the pace at which these are executed depends partly upon ‘not rushing things’ as well as what other events are happening in between these main events that are standard in every puliaijat. Indeed each event can be viewed as a differential means of channelling the life-giving, life-preserving ‘power’ of the bakkat katsaila from the katsaila itself through the mediation of the other ancestral heirlooms, specifically the irik, pusikebbukat, kokoman sikebbukat lulag plates, and the lakuk, to the suku or uma faction members.

The human agent mediating this is the rimata of the uma faction/suku. It is an important position. People continually stressed to me the gravity of the events executed by the rimata in which he addresses the bakkat katsaila. He is the one member of the suku or uma faction who is able to approach, converse with, and touch the bakkat katsaila and the other heirlooms in this context. For anyone else to do so may bring untoward consequences—accidents, or sickness brought on by the bakkat katsaila’s bajou as the manifestation of its disapproval—not only to the rimata himself but the other uma faction members. The wrong attitude in the execution of events, or simply errors in execution, could have disastrous consequences for everyone.

The first three events occur directly after each other early in the day. The sogi katsaila involves the rimata presenting several varieties of gaud to the bakkat katsaila. Then the rimata distributes some to all the other puliaijat participants. Straight after this the aggaret takes place. This is the first of the puiringan events involving the ancestral lulag (platters). Here the rimata opens a coconut, part of which he presents to the bakkat katsaila, and, depending on the suku, also to the gong or gongs, the uma, and then the ancestors (saukkui). The coconut pieces are laid out upon the premier lulag, the irik, which gives the puiringan events their names. The other events, the pusikebbukat and the kokoman sikebbukat each have their own lulag by means of which they are conducted. The left-over pieces are given to the rimata’s grandchildren, or if they are not in attendance, any other children who are present. Once the aggaret is completed the lia goukgouk takes place. A chicken is presented firstly to the bakkat katsaila, then to each of the puliaijat participants, then it is killed, bringing to an end the first group of events. Following this one or more pigs are killed. Along with the chicken they are cut up, most of the meat going towards a communal meal. However specific parts of the anatomy of the chicken and the pig(s) are prepared separately since these are used in the upcoming irik, pusikebbukat, and kokoman sikebbukat events. Just prior to the meal itself, the rimata enacts the irik, once again utilizing the irik lulag. This marks a hiatus in proceedings for, straight after the irik event, everybody disperses to their huts (sapou) to eat. After the meal the pusikebbukat is carried out: a meal of chicken eaten in front of the bakkat katsaila by the rimata’s eldest grandson. Then the kokoman sikebbukat event, a meal eaten by the rimata and his wife in front of the bakkat katsaila, takes place. These are the core events around which every puliaijat is constructed. In this context the extent of the bakkat katsaila’s significance as the “foundation” of the suku or uma faction, its defining principle as reflected in the name, bakkat (“base; source; foundation”) katsaila, cannot be underestimated

Out of all the ancestral heirlooms we encountered in chapter four, apart from the bakkat katsaila, three categories are of primary importance in the puliaijat context: the gong, or gongs; the lakuk (bowl) and its sisip (ladle); the three lulag, the irik, pusikebbukat, and kokoman sikebbukat. Where an uma possesses only the irik and the pusikebbukat, the Dutch plate is used in place of the kokoman sikebbukat. In some cases an ordinary dish, stored up with the Dutch plate, is used in lieu of the plate itself. The tudukat drums are only used on the fourth day of a three-day puliaijat following the taking of a monkey in the hunt (uroro). The gajeuma hand-held drums are used briefly as accompaniment to three of the six events forming the core of the puliaijat.

During the course of the puliaijat all participants face certain restrictions (keikei). They may not eat except at appointed times when they are all together. Nor may they engage in sexual intercourse. In fact on this point, during a puliaijat lasting more than one day, men sleep in the uma, or in nearby huts (sapou), on the laibok/tenganuma. The women and children sleep in the batnuma (inner sanctum). Neither the rimata nor his wife may eat at all during the day until the final event, the kokoman sikebbukat.

The Mentawai Puiringan

The puiringan events constitute the core of the puliaijat. Each event, the sogi katsaila, the aggaret and so forth, takes place in the inner sanctum, where it reproduces its particular piece of time-space, a reproduction which takes place within the general context provided by the simaeruk (positively valenced) half of the uma—the reproduction of these specific spaces reproduces the simaeruk aspect of the space of the uma which produces a habitable sociospatial cosmos(2). The door is closed having the effect of restricting access to an area, the batnuma, through which people move freely in carrying out their duties and activities at other times in the puliaijat. The space (re)created outside, on the laibok, is, ideally, a space of silence and muted voices, in contrast to the normal situation of uproar and mayhem in between events, at which time the only evidence that a puliaijat is taking place is in the amount of people gathered at the uma. One’s suspicions would only be confirmed if one waited long enough to observe whether or not any events took place inside the inner sanctum, signalled by the attendant gong beats and drum rhythms. The ultimate object of each event is the enhancement of the ability of the bodies (tubu) of the suku or uma faction members to create a space for themselves safe from the threat posed by the dead of the Other, the sanitu, once the puliaijat is over. The enhancement of these abilities achieves the overall goal of producing a generally habitable cosmos through this detailed production of person-specific spaces, where each person is in a better position to repel the advances of the sanitu than they were prior to the puliaijat.

In the puiringan events, the role of the ritual phrases addressed to the simagere, gaud, simatei ketsat, sanitu, and saukkui respectively is crucial. They form an integral part of each event coupled with the particular activity defining it. The metaphors drawn upon in these must be viewed as actively instrumental in bringing about the effects that are expressed as their content. Indeed to gloss the images produced within these phrases as ‘metaphors’ or even simply as ‘images’ downplays their active role in producing outcomes. Similar to the phrases accompanying the application of the various types of gaud we encountered in chapter 7, the effect described is presented as a fait accompli—a desired state of affairs presented as an objective description of the present state of affairs.

These phrases—variously constructed by each suku or uma faction rimata out of a range of stock phrases—invariably differ from suku to suku, and often between uma factions within a suku, although these differences were not consciously identified by my informants as elements of what I have called the ‘ideology of identity’( see article 6) in which each suku defines itself in opposition to every other. The activities carried out within the puiringan events, however, are constructed as different and, indeed, turn out to be different in many cases, regardless of the type of puliaijat being carried out, although upon investigation these differences are not, empirically, so great as represented within the ideology which constructs them as suku specific. The contradiction here is that nobody really knows whether or not the various puiringan events as executed by other suku are different or not since they have rarely, if ever, had occasion to witness them. They could only do so if the rimata or the pamuri—his partner in the puiringan events—of their suku died suddenly without passing on this knowledge to anyone else in the suku(3). In this case they could “purchase” (saki—ie. give paroman [“help”] for) the knowledge from another suku. Yet this is not an issue for them at all. The differences are assumed to exist and thus form a crucial aspect of the creation and expression of suku identity.

The ritual phrases articulated during these events, along with the general activities involved in their production, are structurally similar in all the puliaijat for which I have data. Nevertheless specific details within this general structure vary amongst the suku. It is these that are the focus of the ideology of identity. The way in which suku construct the boundary between them and other suku, or, more generally, create a habitable space in a cosmos brimming with the forces of the Other (the sanitu or the deceased members of other suku) forever looking for a chance to inflict damage through invading this space, is at the heart of the puiringan events. I was under strict instructions wherever I witnessed these events not to reveal anything about what I observed in the batnuma (inner sanctum) to other suku in the interests of not jeopardizing purimanuaijat mai (“our life”). To reveal these to the Other (in this case, members of other suku) was conceived to negate the efficacy of the puiringan events. Yet I was always under pressure from each suku or uma faction within a particular suku to reveal details of how other suku conducted their puiringan events! My data on puliaijat, based on attending 16 different puliaijat as performed by five suku, indicate that different activities coincide with the different suku and not different puliaijat. The puiringan in a panegetpuliaijat and an eeruk simaerukpuliaijat carried out by Samwonwot are the same. However the puiringan in a Samwonwot paneget are not the same as the puiringan in a Salolosit paneget for example. In order to illustrate the mechanisms where suku identity is actively produced through these activities aimed at crafting a habitable world, I propose to compare and contrast the ways in which several suku practice their puiringan events.

Buka nia in the Mentawai Puliaijat

Shortly after sunrise the day the puliaijat is to be held, the rimata sounds the gong, or gongs if there are more than one, several times. This segment has no set name, and I induced much reflection on the part of my informants when I asked for it. After much deliberation the term “buka nia” (“its opening”) was suggested. This encapsulates the activity’s function which is to firstly officially “open” the event whilst simultaneously broadcasting to all other suku in the dusun that a puliaijat is about to take place in that particular suku or uma faction. People need merely to hear the gong and note its tone and direction in order to pinpoint whose suku is holding a puliaijat. The second function this serves is to inform the suku members’ simagere a puliaijat is about to get under way that they ought to attend. It involves a series of ritual phrases spoken either before, during, or after sounding the gong(s).

For example the rimata of the uma faction of one particular suku stands in front of the gongs at around 6 am(4):

Our fine meat, by the side of the sapou, fine bodies of life.
Iba mai simaeruk, ka bebet sapou simaeruk, simageret tubu simaeruk.

Come, enter, come hither again our simagere of life, simagere of my children.

Kona, kona, kona, kona, guruk, guruk peilek kainek simageret purimanuaijat mai tatogaku.

Don’t go to the foul mouthed ones. Don’t go to the dead ones. Don’t go to the angry ones. Don’t go near broken things. Don’t go near sharp things. Don’t go near alalatek. Don’t go near thorns. Don’t go near the ketsat that cling. Don’t go near the illness from other laggai. Come hither simagere of my children.

Ba ei ka simakataik nganga. Ba ei ka simamatei. Ba ei ka simagoluk baga. Ba ei ka sipakataik. Ba ei ka sikalauruad. Ba ei ka alalatek. Ba ei ka rui. Ba ei ka simaekket ketsat. Ba ei ka bolo laggai. Kona, kona, kona, kona, kona, guruk, guruk, simagere mai tatogaku.

Following this he strikes the one gong 14 times.
This passage is more complex than others I recorded for this segment. I include it here since it provides an initial good example of the way metaphors are used to (re)produce the gulf that must exist between the entities of life and those of death in order that the former not be overwhelmed by the latter. It also demonstrates the redundancy that is at the heart of this ‘technology’. As with other segments it draws its power through the same devices—the redundancy of image functioning to achieve the same effect through different means.

“Fine meat by the side of the sapou” refers to pigs gathered near to the small huts (sapou) erected on people’s particular area of their suku’s land (pulagajat) as a focal point for feeding the pigs, where people often spend several days or sometimes weeks. These are, furthermore, described as “fine bodies of life”, that is as healthy, living beings. This association with “life” (simageret—”they who move”) leads in the next phrase to the summoning of the simagere of the suku, who the rimata constructs as his “children”, and who are invited to “enter” the uma for the puliaijat. Thus just as healthy pigs gather around the safe haven of the field-hut (sapou) on the suku land (pulagajat), safe from sanitu (ghosts) or humans harbouring evil intent towards them, so too will the simagere be safe gathering within the uma.

This is the focus of the next several lines where the simagere are exhorted to both keep away from the entities of death, the sanitu, variously represented as the “foul-mouthed ones”, the “angry ones”, the “ketsat that cling”, and the “dead ones”, as well as avoid the consequences of their ill intent towards the living, the “broken things”, “alalatek”—a stinging nettle—and “thorns”. “Broken things” might include a branch breaking under someone scaling a durian tree. “Sharp things” refers to sharp objects lying inconspicuously on the path where a member of the suku may inadvertently tread on it cutting his or her foot. The simagere are requested to keep away from all these since a simagere’s contact with any could bring illness or death to the suku member whose simagere it is. The “illness from other laggai” (bolo laggai) has two connotations. It firstly refers to illness afflicting the pulaggajat, that is, the whole suku and possibly its livestock as well. Or, second, sickness which has its origins in another laggai/pulagajat, the Other, sirimanua. At base the illness comes from sanitu, which are by definition the dead of another suku; every suku’s own dead are the saukkui, the ancestors. This expression usually appears in the puiringan events where sanitu and their influences are actively repelled with gaudsikataik. In the current context it serves to emphasize the separation of the entities of life, the simagere, constructed as the rimata’s “children’, from those of death through highlighting the existential gulf between them.

In contrast to the suku from which these phrases were taken is yet another suku’s version:

Come hither auspicious lauru, auspicious salo, come and enter.
Kona peilek kainek lauru simaeruk, salo simaeruk, kona, kona, konai, guruk, guruk.

Come simagere of the forest meat, it is you who I summon.

Konan simagere simatei ketsat, anai ekeu ku nanaknak.

Come hither our simagere, simagere of my children. Don’t go to the dead ones. Don’t go to thunder, or lightning. Don’t go to things that bite.

Konan peilek kainek simagere mai tatogaku. Ba ei ka simamatei. Ba ei ka lelegu, ba ei ka bilak. Ba ei ka pasosot.

There we are in mulia, we bring you in.

Edda kai mulia ita, ku gurukakek kai ekeu simagere mai.

Similar to the previous suku’s version, the simagere are summoned which is simultaneously an exhortation to keep clear of the sanitu (“dead ones”), along with events that will result in their interference with the living, the loud noise of thunder (lelegu) and potentially fatal lightning bolts (bilak). Loud noise can “startle” (ipakisei) a suku member’s simagere, causing it to flee from his or her body. The fact that it has left the body of the human to whom it gives life will eventually cause sickness to that human. This can only be treated by returning the simagere to its body. It is, furthermore, also likely to meet with a sanitu with whom it may be persuaded to team up, making it even more unlikely that it would return. Lightning is simply fatal to humans or their simagere.

The piece begins with an appeal to the salo of the lauru, the spots (salo) appearing on the transparent membrane lining different areas of a chicken’s intestine (lauru), inspected after the lia goukgouk segment in a puliaijat. The configuration of these spots is examined in order to be able to gain an indication on the efficacy of the activities carried out in the puiringan. This is also linked to the taking of forest meat (iba leleu; simatei ketsat) in the activity the day after a puliaijat series has come to an end, the uroro. Generally these phrases uttered in the buka nia segment draw from the stock of ritual phrases used in the main puiringan events. They function here to set the stage for these more specific activities. Having completed this first activity the rimata goes to the forest nearest the uma to collect the gaud which will be utilized in the puiringan events.

Sogi Katsaila in the Mentawai Puliaijat

Two or three hours after the initial call to the simagere the main events begin with the first manipulation of gaud. Although the gaud collected earlier is used in other events throughout the course of the day, nearly all is used in the sogikatsaila. The specific types, drawn from a limited range, vary from uma to uma. The sogi katsaila, as with all events, is performed in a casual, matter-of-fact sort of way, with the rimata taking himself off to the batnuma (inner sanctum) when he feels the time is right. In fact most of his time during the puliaijat is spent talking with other puliaijat participants since it is also a festive occasion(5). As with all the others, the event is conducted by the rimata who enters the batnuma, closes the door to the tenganuma/laibok tengah, or, if it is a type 5 uma, he closes the door to the room housing the bakkat katsaila and other heirlooms. He squats down in front of the bakkat katsaila facing the left of the batnuma, remembering that directions are calculated from an observer’s viewpoint looking into the uma from the front (laibok). The bakkat katsaila is thus on the rimata’s left.

With the gaud lying by his feet the rimata begins. The first type he deals with is polak. I omitted to include this variety under the discussion of gaud in the last chapter since it is specific to this segment of the puliaijat, and is not applied anywhere else. It takes the form of a fibrous shoot of a new leaf sprouting from the top of a young doro/roro tree. Its power comes from its “hardness” (makelak kulit) and, thus, the resilience of this type of tree. A one-metre length is cut off at its base from the plant in the forest to be used in the sogi katsaila. In the event the rimata grasps it at its base, holding the tapered end away from him in either his left or right hand—it varies with the individual. In repeated movements he runs the other varieties of gaud he intends to utilize along the polak towards the tapered end, uttering the ritual phrases which vary from suku to suku, and from rimata to rimata—similar to the phrases uttered during the buka nia segment—both in length, detail and content. However certain elements are universal. Each type of gaud mentioned is directly followed by its purported consequences. The rubbing action is described as poporot which marks the commencement of the speech:

The caressing of our katsaila, the katsaila of my children, engeu. Sickness has
been driven away.

Poporot katsaila mai tatogaku engeu, amaengeubad oringen.

Sikulu, the winds from the sky have been driven away.

Sikulu, sikuluad rusad manua.

Soga, we summon a favourable lauru, we summon life.

Soga, soga lauru simaeruk, soga purimanua.

Daba, we are sated (joyful), my children are sated in life. We are sated until we are old, until we are stooped over, until our hair is white.

Daba, kailek maraba tatogaku purimanua. Kailek maraba ka babajak, ka kukuiluk, ka leleubad.

Sibukak, open our eyes to life.

Sibukak, bukak mata mai purimanua.

The caressing of our katsaila, doro, we are firm in life, we are firm until we are old, until we are bowed over.

Poporot katsaila mai tatogaku, doro, kailek maroro purimanua, kailek maroro ka babajak, ka kukuiluk.

We pass by, my children pass by, the countenance of sickness is struck, grasp the faces of those harbouring ill will towards us, struck are those who would curse us.

Kai panabau tatogaku, ailippat matat oringen, alak matatda sipaga kai, ailippat simakataik nganga ka tubu mai.

Following this the rimata ceases “massaging” the polak (doro) with the leaves and commences slapping it on the floor in order to split it in half. Having separated the halves he continues to pound one, then shreds it into its constituent fibres. In due course these are taken out to the laibok/tenganuma to be distributed amongst the puliaijat participants who each wear one, as their personal katsaila. The half that has not been split up is placed in the bakkat katsaila.

The event so far can be understood as treating the bakkat katsaila through association with the polak, firstly with gaud sikataik: engeu and sikulu. This clears the way for the application of gaud simaeruk which outnumbers the varieties of gaud sikataik: soga (“summon”), daba/kararaiba (“sated”), and sibukak (“open”). “Doro” refers to the polak length itself. At work here is the characteristic redundancy of images reinforcing the replacement of things sikataik, the sanitu that is, appearing as “those who curse us”, “those harbouring ill will”—which refers not just to sanitu but also to living members of other suku who would seek to entice suku members’ simagere away from them thus causing illness—and “sickness”, with “life”, otherwise equated with obtaining a favourable reading of the intestinal membrane (lauru) belonging to the chicken that will be killed in the lia goukgouk to take place after the aggaret segment.

The rimata then turns his attention to the length of polak to be placed up in the bakkat katsaila. He separates the fibres at the very tip of the tapered end, addressing it (as ‘doro’) as he does so. The sikataik beings are exclusively focused upon here:

Our katsaila, the katsaila of my children, doro. We are whole in life, we are firm in
life. Sickness is shredded (separating the fibres), foul language is stripped away, the shadowy ones are stripped from our bodies.

Katsaila mai tatogaku, doro. Kailek mamuinek purimanua, kailek maroro purimanua. Aibakbakan oringan, aibakbakan simakataik nganga, aibakbakan sipuailiggo ka tubu mai.

We are in (pu)lia(ijat), my children, (kat)saila (drive away) the words of illness,(kat)saila the words of the shadowy ones, the winds from the sky is stripped away from us.

Aulia kai sailangangan oringan, sailangangan sipuailiggo, aibakbakan rusad manua ka tubu mai,

Having completed working on the bakkat katsaila polak and crafting the individual katsaila for each participant, the rimata gathers all the gaud together with the prepared doro stalk. He stands up in front of the bakkat katsaila, then proceeds to place each type in sequence into the bakkat katsaila’s bolobok, the bamboo cylinder containing similar assemblages of gaud dating back to the time the bakkat katsaila was created or reconstructed. He mentions each by name within a similar series of ritual phrases as those uttered prior to this calling for their active intervention once again:
Our bakkat katsaila, katsaila of my children, daba, we are sated in life, we are
sated until we are old, we are sated with a favourable reading of the lauru, we are sated in life.

Bakkat katsaila mai tatogaku, daba, kailek maraba purimanua, kailek maraba ka babajak, kailek maraba ka lauru mai simaeruk.

Our bakkat katsaila tatogaku, sibukak. Open our eyes to life, open our eyes in order for us to take forest meat.

Bakkat katsaila mai tatogaku, sibukak. Bukak mata mai purimanua, bukak mata mai pangalak simatei ketsat.

Our bakkat katsaila, bakkat katsaila of my children, soga. We summon again a favourable lauru, we summon again a favourable salo.

Bakkat katsaila mai tatogaku, soga. Soga peilek lauru simaeruk, soga peilek salo simaeruk.

Our bakkat katsaila, bakkat katsaila of my children, simuinek (whole, complete). We are taking in a new child(6), we are whole in life, until we are old, until we are bowed over.

Bakkat katsaila mai tatogaku, simuinek. Ku alak kai toga sibau, kailek mamuinek purimanua, kailek mamuinek ka babajak, ka kukuiluk.

Our bakkat katsaila, bakkat katsaila of my children, taibeleki. We are complete, all my children are present. I gather together my new children, we are not lacking (in number). We are firm in life, we are firm until we are old, until we are stooped over, until we are white haired.

Bakkat katsaila mai tatogaku, taibeleki. Kailek taibeleki tatogaku. Ku rurukakek tatoga mai sibau, kailek taibeleki. Kailek maroro purimanua, kailek maroro ka babajak, kailek maroro ka kukuiluk, ka leleubad.

Having addressed the sikataik beings in preparing the katsaila for the bakkat katsaila, and then the individual katsaila for the puliaijat participants, the rimata squats down again in order to craft his own personal katsaila. This particular activity simply involves splitting the tip in a manner analogous to the doro stalk placed in the bakkat katsaila whilst uttering ritual phrases at the same time. The structure consists of the usual movement from the bakkat katsaila to the sikataik beings, then to the intermediate “forest meat” simagere (simaeruk), and then, in completion, to the simagere of the puliaijat participants. Note the rhetorical conversation with the bakkat katsaila in the second stanza where it purportedly asks the reason for the puliaijat. This is immediately answered by the rimata:
Katsaila, saila the foul mouthed ones, saila sickness.
Saila ku saila, saila simakataik nganga, saila oringen.

Why is this all done in such a rush? I am subjecting to lia a new child. Here she lives, saila the words of sickness, saila the sickness from other laggai.

Ponia ausoiload tokoili? Aku lia toga sibau. Uleleg ka jene, saila ngangan oringen, saila bolo laggai.

We are separated from sickness, we are separated from the sickness from other (pu)laggai(jat), we are separated from the winds from the sky.

Aiubek kai oringen, aiubek kai bolo laggai, aiubek kai rusad manua.

Once again there is our katsaila business and forest meat. Once again there is our katsaila business and a favourable reading of the lauru. We are firm in life, we are whole in life.

Abara peilek katsailakenen mai simatei ketsat. Abara peilek katsailakenen mai lauru simaeruk. Kailek maroro purimanua, kailek mamuinek purimanua.

Stroking his freshly crafted katsaila, he continues:
The massaging of our katsaila, we massage the back of the dead ones, we massage a favourable lauru, we caress life.
Poporot katsaila mai, ku porot kai teitei simamatei, ku porot kai lauru simaeruk, ku porot kai purimanua.

When we pass by the legs of the foul mouthed ones are folded beneath them.

Kai panabau aileukleuk bog simamatei.

Come hither our simagere, our simagere of the favourable lauru, our simagere of the favourable salo. Once again there is our katsaila business and forest meat.

Konan simagere mai lauru simaeruk, salo mai simaeruk. Abara peilek katsailakenen mai simatei ketsat.

The rimata places his katsaila in his coloured headband (luad), picks up the stack of katsaila, then takes them out of the batnuma, depositing them on the tengannuma/laibok where all the other puliaijat participants are gathered. Each participant fashions his or her own katsaila from these to be worn in the same way as the rimata.

The nuances of the usage “poporot” become clearer here. Just as the bakkat katsaila is “caressed”, coaxed, or even courted by the rimata, so the bakkat katsaila will “caress” the backs of the sanitu, coax them away from the living. It will “fold up” their legs so they are unable to approach the living even if they still had the desire to after all the previous supplication. This is linked to the chicken’s intestinal reading (lauru), constructed as demonstrating a successful outcome to the hunt (uroro) as the conclusion to the puliaijat. Any monkey or deer taken here is presented, in accordance with the paroman (“help”) ethic, to the bakkat katsaila. It is also interpreted as a sign that the puliaijat is successful.

Since these phrases are all spoken extremely rapidly, the speech and its attendant activities thus takes just a few minutes. In this particular puliaijat, I witnessed the most elaborate production of the sogi katsaila event from the many I was able to observe. Most of the others were nowhere near as involved as this one. However the structure is the same. The difference is in the distinctive style that each rimata brings to the event’s production. Varieties of gaud sikataik and gaud simaeruk are presented in different order, or some are used in place of others. Variations in phrases are also common:

Duruk (“all”), we assemble life; Sari (“bright”), our bodies are radiant; Nakka (“light”i.e. opp. “heavy”), we are light in life.
Duruk, kailek maruruk purimanua; Sari, kailek masari tubu; Nakka, kailek manakka purimanua.

In one variation on this event, the rimata of one particular uma faction whose techniques I was able to study, characteristically makes use of the major gaud simaeruk in a very brief cursory sogi katsaila articulated in this way:
The caressing of our katsaila, aileleppet, momunen, duruk, we gather life, we
gather life until we are old, until we are stooped over, until we are white haired. When we pass, sickness is battered, sickness from other laggai is smashed, the foul mouthed ones are beaten from our bodies.

Poporot katsaila mai, aileleppet, momunen, duruk, kailek maruruk purimanua, kailek maruruk ka babajak, ka kukuiluk, ka leleubad. Panabau kai lippat oringen, ailippat bolo laggai, ailippat simakataik nganga ka tubu mai.

Or yet another rimata:
The caressing of our katsaila, the katsaila of our children, we gather purimanua.
Palugerejat, we are joyful, until we are old, until we are stooped over, until we are white haired.

Poporot katsaila mai tatogaku, kailek maruruk purimanua. Palugerejat, kailek igerei bagana ka babajak, ka kukuiluk, ka leleubad.

In these cursory sogi katsaila, the bakkat katsaila-sanitu-simagere structure breaks down somewhat and in some, such as this Samalaiming example, gaudsikataik is not mentioned at all, although it is still utilized. Just gaudsimaeruk is addressed. Some rimata strike the gong before, some after the event.

In thinking about an appropriate interpretation for this event I initially favoured an explanation which envisaged gaud as a life-giving or life-preserving property to be transferred from the bakkat katsaila, mediated by the polak and the agency of the rimata, to the puliaijat participants (“my children”) in the form of the individual katsaila stalks. However, my informants were not taken with this when I put it to them. In reflecting upon their practice they corrected me saying that what was given was “life” (purimanua), not gaud. Gaud (“power’) then is important as a means(7) for obtaining “life” understood as a property. A general point might be made here: it is important not to read too much into practice through analytical, discursive overkill. As a practice, the nature of gaud, or purimanua, in terms of a discursively articulated definition, is not only inconsequential, but simply irrelevant. Purimanua is the goal, gaud the medium(8).

Aggaret toitet

I now turn to an examination of the aggaret segment as performed by two suku in order to highlight the differences between them, differences drawn upon in the ideology of identity. I also refer to several other suku in the interests of comparison where differences in execution are significant. Once the katsaila stalks have been delivered to the puliaijat participants, the rimata returns to his place in front of the bakkat katsaila to initiate the aggaret, the first of the puiringan events. He is often accompanied by his son or the senior male member of the suku/uma faction for this event, referred to in this context as the pamuri. All doors are closed apart from the right side door, left open to let in light. The rimata begins by fetching the irik lulag down from where it hangs close to the bakkat katsaila. He places it in front of the bakkat katsaila with the end by which it is suspended when in storage, pointing towards the bakkat katsaila. The other end points towards the rear of the uma. The rimata squats down on the lulag’s right side facing the uma’s left wall, the position he assumes for each event. The pamuri squats down at the end pointing to the uma’s rear thus facing the bakkat katsaila. His title derives from his position relative to the irik along with the rimata’s and the bakkat katsaila’s position relative to it. “Muri” simply means “rear; behind”. “Mata” means “face; front” hence the appellation rimata, or in its complete form, sirimata, the “one to the front”. “Mata” here also implies that is the rimata who “faces” the bakkat katsaila throughout the whole puliaijat: he is the only one who may address and touch the bakkat katsaila on behalf of the other participants.

This first aggaret segment is that carried out by the rimata of one of the uma factions within the suku Samwonwot. The pamuri in this case is his eldest son. Two relatives locate themselves just behind the rimata and his son, each holding a hand-held ancestral drum (gajeuma) which they will play during the first phase of this ritual. Holding a coconut, the rimata occupies his usual position on the irik lulag’s right side in front of the bakkat katsaila. The pamuri brings up the rear. The rimata takes up a machete. Just before he proceeds to work on removing the coconut’s husk he utters the first ritual phrase:

When we pass by, when my children pass by sickness is put behind us, anger is
put behind us, the winds from the sky are put behind us.

Kai panabau tatogaku, aipakurug kai oringen, aipakurug kai simagoluk baga, aipakurug kai rusad manua.

That is, wherever the puliaijat participants go they will “leave behind” any sanitu that would seek to do them harm. The sanitu here appear as “sickness”, “anger”, and “wind” emphasising their characteristic invisible wind-like nature. Then the rimata strikes into the coconut shell uttering the phrase:
The favourable lauru does not err, life does not err.
Tak sesele lauru simaeruk, purimanua.

In other words just as the machete blade does not “err” as it strikes into the coconut, a “favourable (reading of the) lauru” (chicken’s intestine), a synonym for “life”, is not diverted—does not “err” from the correct path, towards sanitu. Therefore neither will the suku members “err” in their pursuit of “life”.

Once the shell has been chipped away the flesh is cut and the coconut water allowed to run out into the bowl (lakuk), located over on the left side of the irik opposite to the rimata. Its ladle (sisip) is placed inside it. The rimata reaches up to the bakkat katsaila, takes a duruk leaf from amongst the gaud varieties that he placed there in the earlier sogikatsaila, then places it on the irik with each tapered end aligned to the uma’s front and back. He then cuts a small 4cm x 2cm strip from the flesh which he divides into three equal pieces. Each is placed on the duruk leaf. One piece is placed directly behind the first along this same axis. The first piece nearest to the bakkat katsaila is for the rimata’s household (lalep) and, by extension, all the members of the suku affiliated to this uma faction. The second is for the rimata’s second and youngest son’s lalep. The third is for the pamuri. Next the rimata takes three fine slices in succession from the first piece. Each slice is placed one after the other in front of this leading piece. The rimata then picks up the first slice in his left hand and begins the major ritual speech. Simultaneously the two gajeuma players strike up a slow beat accompanied by one other person striking the largest of the three gongs:

Receive this. For you bakkat katsaila your aggaret, coconut that is one with us in
life, until we are old, until we are stooped over, until we are white haired.

Siloooooo. Ka ekeu kina bakkat katsaila, toitet pakerek baga italek pakerek baga purimanua, pakerek baga ka babajak, ka kukuiluk, ka leleubad.

Ancestors who are no longer with us, here is your aggaret, we have been removed from the path of sickness, we have been removed from the path of sharp things, we have been removed from the path of sickness from other laggai.

Teteu mai simalose, anai ka kam aggaret mui, aipabebead kai oringen, aipabebead kai sikalauruad, aipabebead kai bolo laggai.

Come hither again simagere of the favourable lauru. It is you who I summon, come hither, enter.

Kona peilek kainek simagere lauru simaeruk. Anai ekeu kunanaknak. Kona kona kona kona kona guruk guruk jene.

Come hither again simagere of the joja* , simagere of the bilo*, simagere of the deer. Come hither, enter.

Kona peilek kainek simagere sipukakkala, simagere sipumaggok, simagere sipurere. Kona kona kona kona kona guruk guruk.

Come hither again our simagere, simagere of my children. Don’t go near sickness. Don’t go near the dead ones. Don’t go near the wind from the sky. Come hither again, enter.

Kona peilek kainek simagere mai tatogaku. Ba ei ka oringen. Ba ei ka simamatei. Ba ei ka rusad manua. Kona peilek kainek guruk guruk.

Our simagere, the simagere of my children have arrived. As my hand is separated (from the slice), so we are separated from sickness, we are separated from sharp things, we are separated from sickness from other laggai.

Lettu simagere mai tatogaku. Ubek kabeiku, aiubead kai oringen, aiubead kai sikalauruad, aiubead kai bolo laggai.

Where we pass by, where my children pass by, we are put out of the way of sickness, we are put out of the way of sickness from other laggai (he moves his right hand over the lulag towards the back of the uma), we are put out of the way of anger.

Kai panabau tatogaku, aipabebead kai oringen, aipabebead kai bolo laggai, aipabebead kai simagoluk baga.

The irik has banished sickness (the rimata moves both hands towards the bakkat katsaila parallel with the lulag’s left and right rims). The ghosts cannot see us. Open our eyes to old age, until we are stooped over, until our hair is white. We follow along behind life until we are old, until we are stooped over, until our hair is white.

Diriringi, airiringiad kai oringen. Keikerei matat sipuailiggo. Bukak mata mai ka babajak, ka kukuiluk, ka leleubad. Kailek mapaipai purimanua ka babajak, ka kukuiluk, ka leleubad.

Come hither again our simagere, simagere of my children. I welcome us again to life until we are old, until we are bowed over, until our hair is white.

Kona peilek kainek simagere mai tatogaku. Aku pasilok peilek purimanua, aku pasilok peilek ka babajak, ka kukuiluk, ka leleubad.

At this point the hand-drums and gong cease being struck. The players take the former outside closing the door after them, leaving the rimata and the pamuri in the inner sanctum (batnuma) The rimata picks up the irik in his right hand reversing it as he does so—the ends now point in the opposite directions. He takes up the piece of coconut that was at the back (but which is now at the front). He offers the irik to the pamuri who takes the piece nearest him (which was at the front before the reversal). The rimata reverses the irik again. He takes up the remaining piece in his right hand with the duruk leaf which he holds up high near his head. He takes up the three slices placed on the irik one by one during the first segment in order to commence the second phase:
Felicitations. In this way I lift up our aggaret, the aggaret of my children. As we do
not get as far as the high hills, we do not get as far as the ill-wind from other laggai. To the tip of the eilaggat tree so tall, we are tall in life, until we are old, until we are stooped over, until our hair is white.

Surak simatulu, isine ku sasaakek aggaret mai tatogaku. Ka leleu sabeu tak aliet, tak aliet kai rusad laggai. Ka ottoina eilaggat situlolok, kailek tulolok purimanua ka babajak mai, ka kukuiluk mai, ka leleubad mai.

The joyful movement of the bebeget leaves, we are joyful in life, until we are old, until we are stooped over, until our hair is white. When my words cease, the wind from other laggai will cease to afflict our bodies, the sickness from other laggai will cease. Come hither again our simagere.

Teteket bebeget sigorak bagana, kailek magorak bagana purimanua ka babajak, ka kukuiluk, ka leleubad. Ari ngangaku, auariad rusad laggai ka tubu mai. auariad bolo laggai. Kona peilek kainek simagere mai.

With this the second phase ends. The rimata hangs up the irik, takes up the lakuk with the coconut water in it. On his way out of the batnuma he places the three slices of coconut in a two centimetre diameter bamboo cylinder (umat simagere) attached to the bakkat katsaila. He and the pamuri take their coconut pieces out to the laibok where all the other participants in the puliaijat are waiting. The pamuri gives his to his wife who shares the piece with any children interested in having some, although this is biased towards their grandchildren. The rimata gives his pieces and the lakuk containing the coconut water to his wife, who shares them out to nearby children. She also takes the duruk leaf which she places in her hair. At the end of the day she will return this to the bakkat katsaila.
In both phases of this segment, ritual phrases are linked to activities performed upon the coconut slices and upon the lulag itself. In the first this involves manipulating the three slices taken from the pamuri’s coconut piece. The first slice is for the bakkat katsaila, presented to it whilst it was simultaneously being made aware that there was an offering for it in the opening sentence of the ritual speech. The second slice, picked up and held during the second sentence (Teteu mai…), is for the ancestors who are conceived to be attending the event below the uma. The third slice, held momentarily during the third sentence, is not for the lauru (chicken intestine) per se but its simagere. This turns the context from death—the ancestors (saukkui)—to life, setting the scene for a call to the simagere of the “forest meat”, leading in turn to a summons to the living suku members’ simagere. Once the slices have been dealt with, the lulag itself becomes the focus of, firstly, manipulations in the form of hand gestures accompanying the ritual phrases, and secondly, as a medium of exchange between the rimata and the pamuri.

The structure echoes that of the sogikatsaila segment. First the bakkat katsaila is addressed in its role as, not only the “foundation katsaila” but as the “foundation” (bakkat) of the suku or uma faction. Next the sikataik beings are addressed, the sanitu ancestors (saukkui). They are, however, not being driven away as were the “ordinary sanitu” (tubud sanitu) in the sogi katsaila. Rather their assistance is obtained. As with gaud this assistance is not requested so much as considered, and thus constructed, as a fait accompli in keeping with the way ritual phrases present such “requests” as givens. The rest of the passage reaffirms the separation of the sikataik (unfavourable/death) from the simaeruk (favourable/life) affirming “life” and rejecting death in the form of (tubud) sanitu which appear variously as “anger”, “shadows”, and “sickness”, beginning with the setting down of the third slice on the irik—the separation of the rimata’s hand from it has efficacious “power” in bringing about the separation of death from life. Important here are the consequences resulting should there be no separation, described as bolo laggai, the “sickness from other laggai” or simply the Other (sirimanua). Sanitu are the dead members of other suku and must be distanced, unlike the saukkui whose active assistance and protection is solicited.

The whole ritual is essentially aimed at the Other through the suku-specific reproduction of a technology deployed against them; the specifics of these events are at the core of uma/suku self identity. The coconut draws its “power” through its life-giving properties contained and protected within the very difficult to penetrate shell and outer husk. Indeed, it provides a ‘power’-ful metaphor for the function of this segment as a whole. The number of coconut pieces varies with the importance—whether it is makeppu (“thick”) or not—of the puliaijat. The “thicker” the puliaijat, the more pieces of coconut. A puliaijat for a suku/uma faction’s new uma, for example, might include every household (lalep) in its aggaret event, which would mean ten coconut pieces on this uma faction’s irik.

The variable and suku specific elements, as constructed within the ideology of identity, focus on (1) the arrangement of the pieces, (2) the manipulation of the slices and the irik itself. Nevertheless from what I could gather, the arrangement of pieces was largely the same in all the suku/uma for which I have data. What did differ was the placement of the slices, their manipulation, and the manipulation of the irik. The particular uma faction’s activities which are described here are constructed by the rimata and the pamuri as specific to their suku. Anyone wishing to know about these, and provided they had a good reason for wanting to know about them—for example, in order that they be able to conduct puiringan events in conjunction with their own bakkat katsaila should they not know (the rimata might have died prematurely without formally instructing anyone how to execute the event)—must give paroman (“help”) to the rimata. Even the rimata’s son had to do this in order to be able not only to witness the event but, more importantly, to be able to actively apply this knowledge himself as rimata in the future. Other (male) members of the uma faction have some idea of what goes on if they have been gong or hand-drum (gajeuma) players during the first phase at some time. However, they would never be in a position to legitimately apply their knowledge without having presented the rimata paroman.

The next aggaret event we will consider was conducted by an uma faction in the suku Sakukuret-Sagorojo, which followed on from the first sogi katsaila event we examined above. The rimata takes the same position vis-a-vis the bakkat katsaila and the irik lulag. Notable in this event is the differential treatment of the slices and the irik relative to the previous example. The gaud base (pereman) for the coconut piece is duruk as it is in most of these events, although taibeleki or soga are also used, either by themselves or in combination in other aggaret events for which I have data. Squatting down the rimata takes up a coconut in one hand and a machete in the other. Just before striking into the coconut he begins the ritual phrases:

Jilai belek, sickness has fallen away, sickness has fallen away from our bodies,
the shadowy ones have been stopped, the winds from the sky have been stopped, the foul-mouthed ones have been stopped.

Jilai belek, abelead oringen, abelead oringen ka tubu mai, auariad sipuailiggo, auariad rusad manua, auariad simakataik nganga.

We summon a favourable lauru. (The rimata cuts into the coconut). We see once again a favourable lauru.

Ku soga kai lauru simaeruk. Auicca peilek kai lauru simaeruk.

He chips the shell off, then takes the iriklulag and the lakuk (bowl) down placing these in exactly the same place as the Samwonwot rimata. He cuts a piece of coconut from the flesh, then places it on a duruk leaf: “Your base, aggaret. Duruk, we gather together, my children gather together/Lakoknu kina aggaret. Duruk, kailek maruruk tatogaku.” This particular puliaijat was held for a new member of the suku, the new wife of the rimata’s youngest son. Since this is defined as a fairly low key puliaijat, it did not warrant any more than the one coconut piece. The pamuri, the rimata’s eldest son, was not present inside the uma’s inner sanctum (batnuma) for any of the puiringan events in this puliaijat since it was not a “thick” (makeppu) puliaijat. Nor were there any gajeuma or gong players. In other puliaijat I witnessed carried out by this uma faction which did involve the pamuri, regardless of how many coconut pieces there are on the lulag, the rear piece is reserved for him. This is because the irik is not reversed the way it is in the analogous segment for Samwonwot where the first piece is for the pamuri, the rear one belonging to the rimata.
The rimata takes three “pinches” (ektik) from the first piece. He places these in front of it on the duruk leaf protruding from beneath. He takes up one in his left hand then touches it to the bakkat katsaila:

Receive this. Here is your aggaret, katsaila. Coconut pasababaga(9), pasababaga in
life, we are pasababaga, until we are stooped over, until our hair is white. Bring us to old age, to where we stoop with age, katsaila.

Silooooo. Anai ka ekeu aggaretnu kina katsaila. Toitet pasababaga, pasababaga ka purimanua, kailek pasababaga ka babajak, ka kukuiluk, ka leleubad. Bajakakelek ita, kukuilukakelek ita kina katsaila.

Why this fuss all of a sudden? (the rhetorical question) I am subjecting to lia a new child. We are the same in life, until we are old, until we are stooped over, until our hair is white.

Poni nia ausoiload tokoili, aku liaakek tatoga sibau. Pakerek bata purimanua, pakerek bata ka babajak, ka kukuiluk, ka leleubad.

Now the rimata rubs the pinch of coconut on the uma post (uggala) upon which this bakkat katsaila is mounted.
Your aggaret, uma. We are the same in life until we are old, until we are stooped
over, until our hair is white.

Aggaretnu kina uma, pakerek bata purimanua, pakerek bata ka babajak, ka kukuiluk, ka leleubad.

Then he presses it to the floorboards for the saukkui:
Ancestors who are no longer with us, here is your aggaret. Out of the way, we are
put out of the way of sickness. For your children, we are placed out of the way of the winds of the sky, we are put out of the way of thunder, we are put out of the way of the angry ones.

Teteu mai simalose anai ka kam aggaret mui, ka bebet nia, aipabebead kai oringen, ka teteunu, aipabebead kai rusad manua, aipabebead kai lelegu, aipabebead simagoluk baga.

Taking the second pinch up, he continues:
Come hither again simagere of the forest meat, simagere of the joja, simagere of
the bilo. Come hither, enter here. Come hither again simagere of the favourable lauru, it is you who I summon, it is you who I call.

Kona peilek kainek simagere simatei ketsat, simagere sipumaggok, simagere sipuaggak. Kona kona kona kona kona kona kona, guruk guruk. Kona peilek kainek simagere lauru simaeruk, anai ekeu ku nanaknak, anai ekeu ku sosoga.

Come hither again our simagere of life, simagere of my children. Don’t go near the shadowy ones, Don’t go near the dead ones, Don’t go, fearful are we. There is our aggaret it forbids us. Don’t go near lightning, Don’t go near the winds from the sky, Don’t go near the foul-mouthed ones, Don’t go near badly cut wood, Don’t go near things that bite. There is our aggaret, it forbids us. Coconut pasababaga, we are pasababaga in life, until we are old, until we are stooped over, until out hair turns white.

Kona peilek kainek simagere mai purimanua tatogaku. Ba ei ka sipuailiggo, ba ei ka simamatei, ba ei, magila ita. Edda kai aggaret ita sikera ita, ba ei ka bilak, ba ei ka lelegu, ba ei ka rusad manua, ba ei ka simakataik nganga, ba ei ka teteket sikataik, ba ei ka pasosot. Edda kai aggaret ita sikera ita. Toitet pasababaga, kailek pasababaga purimanua ka babajak, ka kukuiluk, ka leleubad.

With the next set of phrases he places the third pinch down on the lulag:
Our simagere, the simagere of my children have arrived. The dead ones have
returned (to where they came from). Ash from the rear (of the uma where the fireplaces are), sickness is behind us, the foul-mouthed ones are behind us. Our simagere have arrived, the simagere of my children, we are gathered together.

Lettu simagere mai tatogaku. Aitoiliad simamatei, aitoiliad sipuailiggo. Abu teitei, aipateiteiad kai oringen, aipateiteiad kai simakataik nganga. Lettu simagere mai tatogaku, kai maruruk.

My hands number ten, ten times we are forbidden (from approaching or being approached by sanitu). Where we pass by where my children pass by, the irik has banished sickness (he moves his hands along the sides of the lulag towards the front) from other laggai. When we pass by, when my children pass by, we are gathered together, sickness from other laggai is behind us, sharp things are behind us (his right hand sweeps out towards the back of the uma). The foul-mouthed ones have been prevented from coming to our bodies.

Pulu kabeiku, pulu sikera kai. Panabau kai tatogaku, airiringiad kai bolo laggai. Kai panabau tatogaku, kailek maruruk. Aipateiteiad kai bolo laggai, aipateiteiad kai sikalauruad. Auariad simakataik nganga ka tubu mai.

Come hither, welcome, I welcome again life. Ten are my hands (he holds the sides of the irik lulag with both hands), ten times we are forbidden. Where we pass by, where my children pass by, sickness reaches its boundary, lightning reaches its boundary, the foul-mouthed ones reach their bounds.

Konan ngemet. Aku pangemet peilek purimanua. Pulu kabeiku, pulu sikera kai. Kai panabau tatogaku, keikereiad kai oringen, keikereiad kai matat bilak, keikereiad matat simakataik nganga.

Far away is my hand (he moves his right hand out towards the back of the uma), sickness is far away from our bodies, the shadowy ones are far away from our bodies. We emerge to the life that is ours (he moves his left hands towards the bakkat katsaila), we emerge to a favourable lauru.

Areu kabeiku, areu oringen ka tubu mai, areu sipuailiggo ka tubu mai. Bela mata mai purimanua, bela mata mai ka lauru simaeruk.

Come hither, welcome, I welcome again life. Where we pass by, sickness has retreated (he moves the lulag slightly towards the back of the uma), the things that bite have retreated, the foul-mouthed ones have retreated.

Konan ngemet, aku pangemet peilek purimanua. Panabau kai, aipuputnan oringen, aipuputnan pasosot, aipuputnan simakataik nganga.

The phrases are all spoken very quickly, taking a few minutes all up. The first pinch goes to the bakkat katsaila, to the uma, and then to the ancestors (saukkui) below the uma. Often the gong is included in this following the bakkat katsaila. Hence: “For you, gong, your aggaret/Ka ekeu aggaretnu kina sereming”(10).

The ancestral items, including their storage place, the uma itself, are requested to assist in the uma member’s pursuit of life, to actively intervene and ensure that each member live out the full measure of their years, until they are “old” and “white-haired” and so forth, although, again, this is presented as already accomplished. The bakkat katsaila is constructed as asking what all the fuss is about, to which the rimata replies, giving the purpose of the puliaijat, which in this example was about inducting a new wife into the suku. Not all rimata mentioned the specific purpose of the puliaijat in similar speeches I recorded in other aggaret events, nor in the other puiringan events for that matter. Following this the rimata equates the bakkat katsaila, as an embodiment of “life”, with the uma members—the bakkat katsaila delivers “life” to them. The ancestors are the final beings to be co-opted to this purpose. Then the simagere of “forest meat” are summoned in order that they can be successfully hunted at the conclusion to the puliaijat, meat which supports “life” since it comes to be shared with the ancestors (saukkui) and the bakkat katsaila. In return for this paroman (“help”) the ancestors and the bakkat katsaila assist in the uma members’ pursuit of “life’. The profusion of metaphors for these as for the sanitu is characteristic, where each (sipuaggak, sipumaggok) monkey species is identified by the particular noise it makes. The deer (sipurere) is identified by the tracks its feet (rere) leave in the earth. This leads to the characteristic summons to the suku/uma faction simagere in order that they be unambiguously separated from sanitu, including the latter’s harmful activities, such as leaving sharpened sticks (teteket sikataik) where people might step on them, weakening branches of fruit trees which may break should someone be harvesting fruit up there, or causing snakes or wild pigs (“things that bite”) to create havoc. The active agency of the irik lulag as it connects with the agency of the rimata, the bakkat katsaila, the aggaret, and the other heirlooms, is emphasized through the various movements performed upon the lulag itself. Things sikataik are waved out the back of the uma. The power of the rimata’s hands in conjunction with the irik in holding both ends, forms a boundary (sikera-“forbid”) against sanitu. With the separation of the rimata’s hand from the irik, sickness/sanitu are carried away from the uma members. Even the fireplace, as the space where the new wife will spend a lot of her time, is incorporated into the multi-faceted complex of interacting agencies invoked to affirm and preserve life in the face of death.

The second phase proceeds in a way similar to the analogous segment in the earlier example of aggaret. However here the rimata lifts the irik up onto his knees, a standard practice with nearly all such segments. He takes the coconut piece in his right hand:

Felicitations, in this way I situate our aggaret, the aggaret of my children. The foul-mouthed ones have been beaten off, the shadowy ones have been beaten off, the dead ones have been beaten off.
Surak mai simatulu isinelek kuleleki aggaretmai tatogaku, autokkoad simakataik nganga, autokkoad sipuailiggo, autokkoad simamatei.

Cieeeeeee, come hither, come hither, our hands dance to the orat (the log gangway at the front of the uma), we do not err, life does not err. In this way I lift up our aggaret, aggaret of my children. We have not reached the high hill, we have not reached sickness, sickness is suspended, the dead ones are suspended.

Cieeeeeee, koia, koia, pasagilak kabeina ka bukunu orat siruanga baliu tak ka selead, tak ka selead purimanua. Isinelek ku sasaakek aggaretmai, ka leleu sabeu tak ialiet, tak ialiet kai oringen, audoload oringen, audoload simamatei.

To the top of the eilaggat tree so tall, we are tall in life, we are tall in taking forest meat, until we are old, until we are stooped over, until our hair is white.

Ka ottoi eilaggat situlolok, kailek tulolok purimanua, kailek tulolok pangalak simatei ketsat, ka babajak, ka kukuiluk, ka leleubad.

The joyful bebeget leaves, we are joyful in life, we are joyful, until we are old, until we are stooped over, until our hair is white.

Teteket bebeget sigorak bagana, kailek magorak bagana purimanua, kailek magorak bagana purimanua ka babajak, ka kukuiluk, ka leleubad.

Behind the polagbangi tree (its wood is made into a flaming torch for use when out and about after dark) who listens, we listen to life, we listen when we take forest meat. My words cease, sickness ceases to afflict our bodies, the things that bite cease to approach us. Come hither our simagere, simagere of my children, do not stray, do not wander. Come hither, enter.

Ka teiteina polagbangi situarep, kailek tuarep purimanua, kailek tuarep pangalak simatei ketsat. Ari ngangaku, auariad oringen ka tubu mai, auariad pasosot ka tubu mai. Konan simagere mai tatogaku, ba purusa, ba pubebe. Kona kona kona kona, guruk guruk.

The rimata picks up the pinches, stands, then places them in the top of the bakkat katsaila, rather than the umat simagere as with the Samwonwot faction:
Come hither our simagere, simagere of my children, it is you who I call, it is you
who I summon. Come hither, enter. We are raucous in life, my children are raucous in life.

Konan simagere mai tatogaku, anai ekeu ku nanaknak, anai ekeu ku sosoga. Kona kona kona kona kona kona kona, guruk guruk. Kailek ukoikoi tatogaku.

He hangs up the lulag, then takes the leaf base with the coconut piece out to his wife who is with the other puliaijat participants on the laibok (type 2. uma). She receives these, puts the leaf in her hair, then gives the piece of coconut and the coconut water in the lakuk to one of the children.

The movements accompanying the ritual phrases uttered during the aggaret event, the leaf base, along with the variable number of coconut pieces, indicating the relative importance (makeppu) of the particular puliaijat, are standard elements in all puliaijat in all suku, although some rimata do not gesture over the lulag very much at all. However, the particular way in which the aggaret coconut slices are handled and the manipulation of the irik in relation to the pamuri do differ. Where the pamuri is involved (in the more important puliaijat), in some cases, there is no reversal of the irik. The pamuri and any other males from the other household (lalep) units present simply pick their pieces up off the lulag as it lays on the floor at the end of the first phase. Yet in some, the rimata has no elaborate series of pre-arranged pinches taken from the aggaret pieces. He simply takes them as he needs them. The first goes to the bakkat katsaila. Then he presses it against, whilst simultaneously addressing, each of the three gongs, then the uma, and then a monkey skull hanging next to them (simatei ketsat). The second goes down to the ancestors (saukkui). He lifts up the third briefly when summoning the simagere of the uma members. This is placed down on the lulag with “guruk, guruk” just prior to the second phase. Then, in this phase, he takes up the first piece of coconut with the duruk base in his left hand, placing the lulag on his knees. Having finished his speech, the rimata then passes the piece with the duruk leaf in his right hand across to the pamuri’s left hand, although on some occasions he hands the lulag to the pamuri who places it at right angles to its original position on his knees:

Come hither again simagere of life, simagere until we are old, until we are stooped
over, until our hair is white.

Kona peilek kainek simagere purimanua, simagere ka babajak, ka kukuiluk, ka leleubad.

He reaches across handing the piece in his left hand, or the irik itself, to the pamuri:
Brother, receive our simagere.
Alei, doroi simagereta.

The pamuri answers:
I receive them. Again I receive life, until we are old, until we are stooped over, until our hair is white. Bajak (addressing the rimata) we are pure/sincere as our aggaret is pure/sincere. We are old, we are stooped over.
Ngemet. Aku pangemet peilek purimanua, ka babajak, ka kukuiluk, ka leleubad. Bajak taborota ka aggaretta. Italek mabajak, italek makuiluk

The rimata answers him, ending the exchange:
Exalted are you in receiving, once again, life, until we are old, until we are stooped
over, until our hair is white.

Masurak ekeu apasilok peilek purimanua, ka babajak, ka kukuiluk, ka leleubad.

The rimata puts the pinches of coconut in the bakkat katsaila, hangs up the lulag, then along with the pamuri goes out to the veranda (laibok). Each gives his pieces to his wife who in turn gives them to some children. In contrast to this in other cases the rimata takes the pinches from one of the three coconut pieces. Just prior to the second phase he reverses the lulag, then takes up the first piece himself. The pamuri then takes his piece. The rimata reverses the lulag back again, places it back on the floor, then continues. When he finishes he passes the piece in his hand to the pamuri who thus gets two out of the three.

Lia Goukgouk/ Liad Tubu/ Lia Bakkat Katsaila

Straight after the aggaret, the rimata takes a chicken into the bakkat katsaila. The gajeuma drum and gong players once again assemble in the same positions they were in during the first phase of the aggaret segment. The stage is thus set for the next event, the lia goukgouk, alias the lia tubu (“body [of the chicken] lia”), or the lia for the bakkat katsaila. This is not a part of the puiringan events as it does not involve any of the lulag platters. However it is intimately linked to the structure of the puliaijat as a whole, aiming to achieve an analogous effect through different means. This event is focused on the chicken’s ketsat, which is exhorted to preserve “life”, directly and indirectly. It is conceived to directly benefit “life” by actively distancing sanitu and their consequences for the living in the same way as gaud sikataik. It does this indirectly through contacting the simagere of ‘forest meat’, convincing them not to flee the hunters, making them easier to capture in the hunt (uroro) as the conclusion to a puliaijat.

In the first phase of this segment, with the gajeuma players playing a fast rhythm, the rimata, facing the bakkat katsaila, touches the chicken’s tail feathers or back feathers to it:

Receive this. For you your lia, katsaila, a munificent chicken, we are munificent in
life, we are munificent until we are old, until we are bowed over, until we are white haired. The back of a chicken, we are put behind sickness, we are put behind the winds from the sky, we are put behind the foul-mouthed ones. Delivered salo, delivered lauru.

Siloooo. Anai ka ekeu lianu kina katsaila, goukgouk situkakkara, italek tukakkara purimanua, italek tukakkara ka babajak, ka kukuiluk, ka leleubad. Tetei goukgouk, aipateiteiad kai oringen, aipateiteiad kai rusad manua, aipateiteiad kai simakataik nganga, silepa salo, silepa lauru.

We are in lia, katsaila, bring us to old age, bring in the forest meat, bring in life. Our lia, lia of my children, delivered salo, delivered lauru.

Mulia kai, katsaila, bajakakeklek ita, kukuilukakeklek ita, paguruk simatei ketsat, paguruk purimanua. Liad mai tatogaku, silepa salo, silepa lauru.

In accordance with appropriate exchange the chicken is presented to the katsaila, and then, often, to the gong, in order to obtain the benefits of their intervention. Following this the chicken’s ketsat is called upon to actively intervene, in line with the sikataik-simaeruk structure: sanitu in their various forms are distanced, then “life” in the form of “forest meat” (iba leleu) is summoned. At the completion of this segment the chicken’s intestinal membrane (lauru) is examined for the configuration of spots (salo) visible on it. Their arrangement is conceived to give an indication of the hunters’ chances of success in the hunt (uroro) once the puliaijat has formally ended. To take ‘forest meat’ is akin to taking “life” (paguruk purimanua) because some is shared with the bakkat katsaila which reciprocates by granting the givers protection. Whilst it is not incorrect to gloss this as “divination”, the consultation of the lauru must be seen in its relation to the segment as a whole, where the chicken is exhorted to carry out a task in the world. An unfavourable reading of the lauru may be interpreted that it will not carry out its instructions. In this case another chicken may be brought before the bakkat katsaila and even a third if this lauru is still unfavourable. In this sense the lauru is not simply a passive slate on which the outcome of future events is recorded but, in keeping with the active nature of the various agents employed in the puliaijat, and indeed the puliaijat itself, is an active force, an interventionist strategy in-the-world.
The rimata continues in this vein whilst taking the chicken around to all puliaijat participants, briefly touching its tail feathers to their bodies:

Distance sickness, distance the shadowy ones, delivered salo, delivered lauru (a feit accompli).
Areu oringen, areu sipuailiggo, silepa salo, silepa lauru.

At the very front of the uma the rimata exposes the chicken briefly to the sun:
We open (out) our faces to the sun, we open out to life.
Kailek bela mata ka matat sulu, kailek bela mata ka purimanuaijat.

Then he brings it back into the bakkat katsaila. He touches its beak to the katsaila’s bolobok with “pat’.
Boro, boroi, pat. Leave your salo.
Boro, boroi, pat. Galag salonu.

With this the gajeuma players cease, then leave the batnuma.
Squatting down in the same position he occupies for the sogi katsaila and the aggaret, with the tail of the chicken facing towards the bakkat katsaila, the rimata proceeds, once again, to exhort it to distance sanitu and then bring “life” in the form of ‘forest meat’. Again, the length of the exhortation, along with the specific images incorporated into it, varies amongst rimata. Nevertheless, as is the case with the ritual exhortations in sogikatsaila and aggaret, there is the familiar basic structure, a movement from the sikataik (death) to the simaeruk (purimanua—”life”). This is revealed in the following excerpt:

You, fowl, deliver your salo. Distance sickness from us, distance the foul-mouthed
ones. Once you have done this then fetch our meat, our forest meat. When you have done this, so be it. Deliver your salo.

Ekeu puradmanuk, kut salonu. Areu oringen, areu simakataik nganga. Lepa nuareuakek, alak matat iba mai, situkakkala, sipuaggak, sipumaggok. Lepa nu alak matat iba nia, iabai. Boro, boroi, pat. Galag salo.

The rimata then hands the chicken to another male member of the suku who breaks its neck. This transforms its simagere into a ketsat, liberating it from its body in order that it be able to complete the tasks appointed it by the rimata. It is inappropriate (tak mateuk) for the rimata to do the killing himself since his task is not to cause death but, on the contrary, to call “life”. He is a dealer in “life” not death. In other more important (makeppu) puliaijat, chickens are dealt with in a similar way, one by each husband of every household (lalep). These chickens are treated the same way as the rimata’s except that they are not presented to the bakkat katsaila. They are also killed by offsiders. The intestines are quickly obtained and examined for the position of the salo on the lauru. The rimata’s chicken is examined first, followed by the others.

Then attention turns to the killing of one or more pigs (teinungakek) each of which is assigned similar tasks to the chickens by the rimata and the pamuri. This does not involve any of the ancestral heirlooms, although gaud is applied to facilitate the task. Each variety, beginning with the sikataik, is applied in succession before an offsider kills the pig by cutting its throat. The rimata begins, laying a katsaila stalk against the pigs body:

Your death, pig. Distance sickness. We eat, we make you into our meal. You have
lived there, now we make you into our meal, we who will eat you, my children, my relatives. Prepare your teinung. Your teinung is prepared, the face of our deer meat. Bring us our meat, simakobuk. Your teinung is delivered.

Pasimatteinu kina sainak. Areuakek oringen. Muujai kai, ku ujai kai ekeu, aurimanua ekeu ka edda, ubujai kai sipukob, ubujai kai satatogaku, sasarainaku. Ukut teinungnu, silepa teinung ekeu, matat iba mai sileleukleuk. Alak matat iba mai simakobuk, silepa teinung ekeu.

The pig is made aware that even though its death is immanent, it should not be concerned. It has lived “there” below the sapou with its relatives (the other pigs), but now it is to become food for the uma members. It is enjoined to distance sickness (sanitu) and bring “life” in the form of meat, deer and siamang monkey, which will be taken in the hunt. The success of these exhortations are to be read in the animal’s heart (teinung) which serves an analogous function to the chicken’s lauru.
Then the pamuri takes over with a dauk sainak: an assemblage of gaud doused in water, hence dauk, from rauk meaning to “bathe”.

Your death, pig. Taipotsala, turn away sickness, turn away the shadowy ones.
Your death, pig. Aileleppet the cool one, our bodies are cool, the bodies of your relatives are cool. Your death, pig. Cool is our pig, simakainauk the bountiful one. Your death, pig. Momunen, aileleppet, taimalauklauk, my pigs do not decline. Cool are the bodies of your relatives, pig, you who ask for the pot (ie. ask to be eaten), you who asked to be downtrodden (treated in such a manner). Loud is the sound of my pigs feet. My pigs are replaced.

Pasimatteinu kina sainak. Taipotsala, salaakek oringen, salaakek sipuailiggo. Pasimatteinu kina sainak. Aileleppet simanene, kailek manene tubu, nene tubud aleinu. Dauknu kina sainak, simakainauk siparegeina. Pasimatteinu kina sainak. Momunen, aileleppet, taimalauklauk, tak ilauklauk sainakku. Amaleppet tubud aleinu kina sainak, siobak kalik, siobak tudduk. Sainakkulek ujining dere, sainakkulek ipasili.

Firstly gaud sikataik in the form of taipotsala is applied, followed by gaud simaeruk, aileleppet, which ensures that the pigs with whom this particular pig was raised, its “relatives”, will be resilient in the face of the influence (bajou) of sanitu that would cause them to “become fewer” (ilauklauk). This is its task, consolidated through an application of simakainauk (useful for its property of “abundance”), once its ketsat has been liberated from its body by killing it. The dauk is splashed with a little blood from the freshly killed pig then placed up with the pigs’ skulls belonging to pigs killed in previous puliaijat, strung up under the eaves in a row at the front of the laibok. This is in order to bring “coolness” and “abundance” to both the pigs’ relatives, and also to the humans that pass underneath in and out of the uma for the rest of the day and into the future.

The heart (teinung) gives an indication of what success the pig’s ketsat will have in fulfilling its task. The heart is divided into a right (simaeruk) half and a left (sikataik) half along a large blood vein running from top to bottom (bakkat) on one side. Should there be any fat, visible as white against the magenta of the heart towards the base (bakkat), then the planned excursion to the leleu in search of meat in the hunt must be postponed, although this also depends on the interpretations of the other teinung from any other pigs that were killed at the same time. This is an indication that death in the form of a sanitu inspired accident may be waiting for one of them there. The closer to the base of the heart the fat is perceived to be, the more dire the peril for the suku. On the other hand the further away towards the top, the less the risk to the suku. Furthermore, the likelihood of whether or not forest meat will be taken is indicated in the configuration of the small veins converging on the central vein on the right side. Should these converge, then meat for the puliaijat participants and the bakkat katsaila, and thus “life”, is in the offing.

As with the lauru (chicken intestine), the relative significance of such a sign is widely discussed, resulting in often quite contrary readings. Should there be a consensus of sorts that misfortune of this type is indicated, then the option remains to kill another pig and ‘remake’ the teinung—similar to the lauru, the teinung is not simply a passive register of ‘fate’ but is, rather, an active player in the producer of a favourable future. However normally a lauru or a teinung is simply declared “acceptable, okay” (maeruk). It may not indicate success but if it also does not indicate misfortune then there is no cause for concern.

The lia goukgouk and teinungakek events are a standard part of every puliaijat, enacted similarly with minor variation amongst suku. They are essentially preparatory events for the most important puiringan events the irik, the pusikebbukat, and to a lesser extent the kokoman sikebbukat.

Once the pigs and chickens have been dismembered, specialized meat preparation for the upcoming puiringan events can go ahead. The pamuri takes up position on the right side of the laibok—or the forward section adjacent to the laibok of the tenganuma if the uma has one, in short one space removed from the batnuma where the ancestral heirlooms are stored—on the right side of a large wooden tray. The pamuri’s task under the supervision of the rimata—reversing the positions they respectively occupy in the aggaret in the batnuma—is to prepare the chicken liver and then the thigh meat from the right half of, firstly, the chicken the rimata presented to the bakkat katsaila in the lia goukgouk, then the meat from the pig’s back right leg (iba simaeruk). The significance of the liver is in its location. When the chicken is cut in half in order to obtain its intestines, the liver is found to be lodged in the positively valenced right half. Along with this, similar to the coconut, it is contained within the chicken and is therefore protected from damaging influences from the outside. These two characteristics define the liver as containing gaud.

The pamuri places a few slices of liver together with a little of the chicken’s tail-fat into one bamboo container (ogbuk), uttering a ritual phrase as he does so. This makes use of the ‘power’ of the tail-fat which is referred to as kurug: “When we pass by, when my children pass by, distance sickness, sickness is behind us, the shadowy ones are behind us/Panabau kai tatogaku, areuakek oringen, aipakurug kai oringen, aipakurug kai sipuailiggo.” Then the pamuri places meat from the chicken’s right thigh, or as is often the case, the whole right leg into another ogbuk by itself, for the pusikebbukat event. Any meat left over is added to the meat taken from the right legs of the other chickens and placed in one ogbuk. Then meat from the pig leg is put into yet another ogbuk. Together the contents of these two ogbuk are consumed by the rimata and his wife in the kokoman sikebbukat event. The remaining meat, along with the left halves of the chickens, is chopped up by other men of the suku. This is cooked on the central fireplace or, if the uma does not have one, on a fire prepared on the ground in front of the uma. The rimata’s wife cooks the puiringanogbuk over a low fire on the right fireplace at the rear of the batnuma. When these are ready the irik event is executed.

Irik goukgouk

When the bamboo cooking vessels (ogbuk) containing the puiringan meat have been over the fire for some time, the rimata enters the batnuma, closes the door, then fetches down the irik lulag, the lulag used in the aggaret segment earlier. He sets himself up in exactly the same position, in front of the bakkat katsaila on the right side of the lulag. In there with him is the pamuri occupying the same position as in the aggaret, together with the gajeuma and gong players. In the smaller one-day puliaijat the rimata conducts the aggaret, lia goukgouk, and irik by himself—neither the pamuri nor the others are involved in the pusikebbukat or the kokoman sikebbukat. The ritual phrases uttered in the irik are virtually identical to those articulated in the aggaret event. The important difference is to be found in the execution of the event itself as constructed in the ideology of identity. However, once again, the differences are not as radical as their representation in the ideology leads us to expect. In the following analysis I highlight the ways in which the irik event differs from the aggaret as a whole, and then the particularities of specific irik events as executed in several suku.

Having sounded the gong three or four times the rimata places one or more dumplings (subbet) made from mashed taro rolled in grated coconut on the irik, one after the other if there is more than one. He splits open the irik ogbuk (bamboo vessel) containing the pieces of cooked liver and tail-fat, uttering phrases similar to those accompanying the opening of the coconut at the beginning of the aggaret segment. The way in which the dumplings are arranged differ amongst suku consistent with participants’ constructions of their events as contrasted with the irik segments of other suku. The differential arrangement is focused on the placement of the tail-fat. Manipulation of the irik and the organization of the “pinches” (ektik)—of, in this case, subbet—as per the aggaret remain the same.

There are some minor variations in technique amongst uma factions. In one that I observed the rimata firstly opens the irik ogbuk. He then pours the juice from the cooked morsels inside into the lakuk (bowl) which is located across from him on the left of the lulag. Whether there are many dumplings or just the one, he places the tail-fat in front of the dumpling nearest the front. He presses the piece, or pieces, of liver into the top of the dumplings, one for each. The rimata takes up a “pinch” of liver and then of coconut, then commences the ritual phrases. The first pinch goes to the bakkat katsaila:

Receive this. Here is your irik, katsaila, munificent chicken liver, we are munificent
in life, we are munificent until we are old, until we are bowed over, until our hair is white.

Siloooo. Anai ka ekeu iriknu kina katsaila, atei goukgouk situkakkara, italek tukakkara purimanua, italek tukakkara ka babajak, ka kukuiluk, ka leleubad.

Then to the ancestors (saukkui): “For you ancestors, your irik/Teteu mai simalose, anai ka kam irik mui.” The rest of the speech proceeds as in the aggaret. The next two pinches are for the ketsat of the ‘forest meat’ (simatei ketsat) and then the simagere of the uma members. With the commencement of the second phase the gajeuma players leave, if they have been in attendance. The rimata reverses the lulag, takes up the tail-fat in one hand whilst holding a dumpling in the other. If the pamuri is present then he takes up the dumpling immediately behind the tail-fat. At the conclusion of the event he receives this tail-fat from the rimata as in the aggaret. The only difference in the ritual phrases in this second phase is instead of “raising up” (sasaakek) the aggaret, the irik is raised up: “ikine ku sasaakek irik mai …” The rimata and the pamuri give their dumpling and tail-fat, via their wives, to children. The rimata places the pinches in the small container (umat simagere) attached to the side of the bakkat katsaila.

The rimata of another faction, whose aggaret we examined earlier, strikes four beats on the one gong in order to commence his irik. However, the tail-fat is pressed into the top of the first dumpling just behind the liver, which he pressed into the front of the dumpling. Should there be several dumplings, the tail-fat is pressed into the top rear of the last dumpling, the pamuri’s dumpling, just behind the piece of liver also pressed into the top. Furthermore the rimata here takes each pinch as he requires it. None are prefabricated. The first one goes to the bakkat katsaila, to the gong, the uma, and then to the ancestors. A second one is for the simagere of the forest meat, with a third for the simagere of the uma members. With the commencement of the second phase he places the irik lulag on his knees holding the dumpling in his hand. The rimata of one other uma faction placed his tail-fat on the front dumpling regardless of how many dumplings there are, although all other aspects are similar.

The aggaret and the irik events can be viewed as two halves of a whole since they are both based on the utilization of the irik lulag. Indeed the former is often referred to as the irik aggaret. The latter, the irikgoukgouk, complements this through introducing meat into the equation. There is firstly “raw” coconut, then cooked “meat”. The irik goukgouk must be seen in relation, furthermore, to the lia goukgouk event through making use of the liver enclosed within the chicken, similar to the way the coconut lining is enclosed within the shell. Building upon this it makes further use of the chicken, specifically its tail (soroi), referred to in the phrases as kurug (nia). Just as a chicken passes by on its daily meanderings, taking what is and what is not useful to it, in the same way, through harnessing this ‘powerful’ characteristic, humans are able to ‘leave behind’ the things that are injurious to them, the sanitu. It is no problem if sanitu approach humans from behind because it is where they are able to revile us with bad language to our faces that sanitu are potentially dangerous. This is complemented by its simaeruk aspect, the “multiplicity” characteristic of chicken reproduction as invoked through the term situkakkara. At a fundamental level this is the multiple replication of “life”. It is this which is harnessed and transferred to the uma members. Very significantly the bakkat katsaila gets to “eat” not simply before anyone else but eats meat in the form of the liver. Thus, once the irik is complete, the cooked meat (iba siberikabaga—”general meat”) is divided up into piles according to households (lalep). All uma factions within the suku, whether or not their members are attending the puliaijator not, are included provided they are sufficiently close. For example each of the Sakukuret uma factions sets aside meat for every other. This is delivered to them, or conversely they may come and get it themselves during the event themselves. However, the two Samwonwot factions no longer exchange meat in this way since they regard themselves as separate and no longer have anything to do with each other. Following the meat division, everyone partakes in the general meal, apart from the rimata and his wife who may not eat until the kokoman sikebbukat segment, the final puiringan event in the puliaijat.


The pusikebbukat and kokoman sikebbukat events following the irik and the general meal see a shifting of focus from the relationship between the bakkat katsaila and all the puliaijat participants as mediated by the rimata, to the relationship between the bakkat katsaila, the younger members of the uma faction, and the rimata. Within the event following the meal, the pusikebbukat, they effectively constitute his “substitute”, pusikebbukat being the abbreviated form of punu sikebbukat. Punu means “representative/substitute”; sikebbukat is derived from the root kebbuk meaning “elder sibling”. On its own it is a synonym for the rimata. Thus pusikebbukat can be conceived as the “substitute for the rimata” event.

This event is the most private and perhaps, therefore, the most important in relation to the existential perpetuation of the suku or uma faction and its reproduction as distinct from all other suku. As in the aggaret and irik events there is a basic structure which is subject, however, to a wide variation both in the elements included within this structure and their particular arrangement. Whilst the bakkat katsaila is actively engaged in both the aggaret and irik events, neither it, the gong, nor the uma are generally prevailed upon to actively intervene in this event—they have already done this indirectly with regard to the younger members of the uma, who consume the coconut and the dumplings in the aggaret and irik events respectively. Even in the one instance in my data where these items are prevailed upon, they nonetheless occupy a peripheral position compared with the entities directly addressed in the pusikebbukat, the ancestors and then, depending on the rimata, the simagere of the ‘forest meat’ (simatei ketsat), followed by the simagere of the uma members. Whether or not the ‘forest meat’ simagere are summoned here, there is, at base, the usual sikataik-simaeruk structure.

The rimata of one particular faction begins with three beats on his gong. He does not possess an actual pusikebbukatlulag, so he uses the irik as a substitute. He places one elongated dumpling on it on top of a taibeleki leaf in distinction to the rounded dumpling used in the irik event, its ends aligned with the ends of the lulag which is, in turn, aligned with the front and back of the uma as in the aggaret and irik. Just to the right of this, relative to the uma, the rimata places a 5cm length of lead (bulau) simultaneously uttering the ritual phrases: “Our gaud, gaud of my children, taibeleki, we are not diminished, my children are not diminished in life. Cool bulau, our bodies, the bodies of my children are cool/Gaud mai tatogaku, taibeleki, kailek taibeleki tatogaku purimanua. Bulau simanene, kailek manene tubu tatogaku”. He takes up the pusikebbukat ogbuk, cooked earlier with the other puiringan ogbuk. As he opens it: Jilai (to brush against, touch) sele, sickness is diverted, the angry ones are diverted/Jilai sele, sele oringen, sele simagoluk baga ka tubu mai. He pours juice from it into the lakuk (bowl) located in its usual position across on the left side, then extracts the piece of chicken meat which he places immediately to the right of the lead. The ritual phrases are, once again, exactly the same as those in the aggaret and irik events apart from certain words substituted as appropriate for this event.

Having prepared his “pinches” of meat (silimen) and dumpling, the rimata begins with the first which he touches to the bakkat katsaila: “For you your silimen, katsaila. Bring us to old age. The silimen has sent sickness away from us, it has sent away thunder, lightning/Anai ka ekeu silimennu kina katsaila. Bajakakeklek ita, kukuilukakeklek ita. Aisilimen kai oringen, aisilimen kai lelegu, aisilimen kai matat bilak.” He then repeats this for the benefit of the gong which appears as “sereming” in place of “katsaila”. He leaves this smeared on the boards just to his left. Then the uma members’ simagere are summoned. Whilst in the second phase the lulag is not lifted up, the usual hand movements are still carried out over on the lulag itself. Having completed the ritual phrases, the rimata goes to the door to the batnuma to summon his wife and his son’s eldest son, the one who would be rimata after his son. He hangs back some distance from the lulag over to the left, observing events. His wife takes his place on the right side of the lulag; the boy takes the pamuri position. She enunciates a short ritual speech whilst performing basic operations upon the lulag in a simple sikataik-simaeruk structure: “Sickness has retreated (pulls lulag slightly towards the back), the shadowy ones have retreated. We open out to life (gestures over the lulag towards the bakkat katsaila), until we are old, until we are bowed over, until our hair is white/Aitupuputnan oringen, aitupuputnan sipuailiggo. Bela mata mai purimanua mai, purimanua ka babajak, ka kukuiluk, ka leleubad.” The rimata’s wife hands the boy the meat then the dumpling for him to eat. He takes a drink from the juice poured into the lakuk earlier. Having finished the rimata hangs up the lulag then sounds the gong. They all exit.

In contrast to this is the organization and execution of the pusikebbukat event by one other uma faction’s rimata. Following three gong beats he places the whole right chicken leg from the ogbuk to the right of an elongated dumpling on a base of duruk. There is no lead utilized here however. The rimata, furthermore, takes his pinches of meat and dumpling as he goes. He begins with the ancestors (saukkui) quickly moving on to the suku members’ simagere. When the boy has finished the meal, he places the chicken bone inside the bakkat katsaila.

Yet another uma faction rimata conducts his pusikebbukat event similarly to the above although he uses the gaud variety, taibeleki, for the dumpling (subbet) and meat (silimen) base. His ritual speech is also the most unelaborated of all versions I recorded. He begins with a pinch for the saukkui: “Ancestors, here again is your provenance …/Teteu mai simalose anai peilek ka kam subu mui …’ One pinch goes to the uma: “For you again, your provenance, uma …/Ka ekeu peilek subunu kina uma …’ The final pinch is for the uma members’ simagere. There is no second phase in this particular set of ritual phrases. Yet another faction also demonstrated their own arrangement of elements. In order from right to left on the lulag there is the subbet, a tairosi bell, a piece of lead, then a chicken leg. The bell is an object of “life” since movement causes it to sound—only live beings move and are thereby capable of making noise.

Kokoman Sikebbukat

Following very close behind the pusikebbukat is the final puiringan event, the kokoman sikebbukat, a meal of meat, dumplings and sago taken by the rimata and his wife inside the batnuma in front of the bakkat katsaila, a little further back however than was the case with the other puiringan events. Like the others, this event is an engagement with the bakkat katsaila and the other heirlooms—but it is also a distancing. The only ancestral item used in this event is the lulag kokoman sikebbukat, the largest of the three ancestral lulag. However even where an uma has a complete set, it is usually the Dutch ceramic plate that is used. At the conclusion to this event the puliaijat has come to a close, or in other words the participants no longer define themselves as in the state of mu-lia, “engaged in lia”. The event is very similar in all the specific instances for which I have data, apart from some minor variation.

The rimata places three to four elongated dumpling on each end of the plate with their ends aligned with the ends of the plate and, therefore, the uma. The rimata and his wife sit on the right side of the lulag, the rimata directly adjacent to it, whereas his wife is level with the position the pamuri would take if he was involved with this event. Uttering ritual phrases analogous to ogbuk (bamboo vessel) opening in other puiringan events, he opens the two ogbuk containers in which the kokoman sikebbukat meat was cooked earlier. He places the meat in the centre of the lulag. A bowl of broth from the “general meat” (iba siberikabaga) cooked in the large vat earlier is placed on the left side of the lulag along with an ordinary sisip—the ancestral lakuk (bowl) and sisip (ladle) are not utilized here, in keeping with the general nature of the event as a distancing from the ancestral heirlooms. The rimata of only one of the faction’s whose techniques I observed alone presents a pinch of dumpling to the bakkat katsaila before presenting one to the ancestors (Teteu mai …). All the other rimata present one to the ancestors and then one to the simagere. Then he presents one to the simagere of the uma members. The usual hand movements and manipulation of the dish that apply in the other events are also a part of this event. The ritual speech finishes with the rimata inviting his wife to “receive” (doroi) their simagere. She responds “I receive them” (ngemet). With “ngemet” they both touch the edge of the plate with their right hands. The rimata takes up a little meat, eats some, then passes a little to his wife. This is repeated with the dumpling and then the broth in the pot. After this they eat freely from the plate. The rimata takes his dumplings from the end nearest to the bakkat katsaila whereas his wife takes her from the pamuri end. She also takes her meat from the left side of the plate whereas he takes his from the right side. The meal over, the rimata places the plate back up in its holder amongst the other heirlooms. Then, each with a small portion of meat retained from the meal they exit the batnuma giving the meat to any children present.


Later that evening, the rimata, the pamuri, along with all the other men who are to go out on the hunt the next day, conduct an ukob tenganuma (“tenganuma meal”) designed to reinforce the lia goukgouk and teinungakek events carried out during the puliaijat, where the chickens’ and pigs’ ketsat were enjoined to seek out the ketsat of the animals they wish to capture, making their capture easier. The event is carried out at the centre of the tenganuma in front of the batnuma door, or if the uma lacks a tenganuma it is held on the laibok in front of the batnuma door, in short, in front of the beam (abag manang) mounted across the breadth of the uma above the batnuma entrance along which are arranged the skulls of all the monkeys and deer taken in previous hunts. The ketsat of these animals, conceived to dwell there, are requested to go out to the leleu. The hunters leave in the early hours of the morning, returning successfully or otherwise in the late morning. Any “meat” (iba) taken in the hunt is prepared, cooked, then a little presented to the bakkat katsaila and the other beings, similar to the irik or aggaret. If the hunt has not been successful then “substitute meat” (punu iba) is presented to the bakkat katsaila and other beings in an irik format by the rimata alone. The important thing is for the bakkat katsaila to have “eaten” meat. This brings the puliaijat to an end.


The other side of the coin, where the puliaijat’s protection could be said to fail in respect of certain individuals—although it is not perceived to be a “failure” as such since the argument is that, had the puliaijat not been carried out, the consequences would have been catastrophic—is the pabete. Any person whose illness remains for longer than two or three days, or worsens to the point where they are in great distress, is taken to the uma of the uma faction to which they are affiliated in order to rid them of the bajou defined as the cause of the illness. The spaces created here reproduce the uma in a different way to the puliaijat, although the goal of separating death, in the form of the sanitu, from “life” (purimanua) in the form of living humans, remains the same. The patient is located on the left (negatively valued, sikataik) side of the rear of the uma’s laibok or the tenganuma, the mirror image to the position of the bakkat katsaila located inside the batnuma on the right side. This is where shaman, both those from the uma faction if it has any and those invited from other suku on the basis of sinuruk/siripok relations, treat the patient and the other members of his/her household (lalep). A pabete lasts for several hours in the daylight hours on the one day. Or it may go for two or more days should the patient not respond to treatment. The structure of the event replicates the sikataik-simaeruk distinction again, where bajou from the offending sanitu is returned to it once it has been identified through the agency of gaud sikataik and a wide variety of techniques, including of course the uma itself, since the patient is located on the ‘sikataik’ side, the reproduction of which in this event contributes to the expelling of the sikataik (bajou) from the victim. Then the patient is “consolidated” through an application of gaud simaeruk and other substances all grouped together as laggeg (medicine) in this context, in order to make him/her inviolable from further attacks from sikataik beings.

A pabete follows a quasi-puliaijat format, yet it does not involve the bakkat katsaila. Instead, a length of doro (polak) together with some duruk and perhaps aileleppet, is attached to an uggala (uma pile) on the left side of the fireplace adjacent to where treatment is taking place. This is the “sickness katsaila” (katsaila oringen). There is a sogi katsaila prior to the creation of this for the shaman, the patient and the members of his household (lalep) carried out by the shaman. Interspersed with the implementation of healing techniques occurring in sikataik-simaeruk dyads, there is a lia goukgouk, a teinungakek, then a meal. In the evening one more sikataik-simaeruk event takes place. If the patient has improved by the next morning then the shaman are presented with their paroman (“help”) gifts, consisting of a chicken or two, perhaps a little cash, and some meat left-over from the previous day’s teinungakek. If not, then the pabete continues with similar events taking place the next day, and perhaps the day after. In short, the pabete is a sikataik event and must be viewed in light of its relationship to the puliaijat, a simaeruk event. Each consists of a series of sikataik-simaeruk activities although the former is specifically, first and foremost aimed at getting rid of bajou (the essence of the sikataik beings), whereas the latter is aimed at the simaeruk and, therefore, emphasizes the enhancement and consolidation of “life”. The sikataik must always be dealt with in conjunction with the simaeruk and vice-versa.

In summary, then, the puliaijat is a complex event consisting of a number of activities achieving a variety of effects on a variety of levels. Firstly, on one level each participant is endowed with the ability to create a space, safe from the threat posed by the dead of “other” suku, the sanitu, wherever they go, particularly during sojourns through the leleu (forest). The first event, the sogi katsaila, where the rimata crafts individual katsaila for all participants, grants this ability to every participant equally. Similarly, the lia goukgouk is aimed at the “general group” of participants (siberikabaga). The aggaret and irik events are specifically aimed at the youngest members of the uma faction or suku as a whole. The pusikebbukat event narrows the focus even further, concentrating on those children closest to the rimata, usually his son’s son(s), who receive the edible items from him. Yet, despite this, on another level, there is a sense in which each event is simultaneously aimed at all participants evident in the generalizing nature of the ritual phrases. These contain numerous personal pronoun references to the general participants (“us”; “our”) whilst singling out individuals for specific attention.

Secondly, the puliaijat achieves these particular objectives, and therefore the overall goal of producing a habitable cosmos, through the detailed production of specific, “good”, “healthy” (simaeruk) spaces in the context of the puiringan events within the uma. Through the “activation” of the uma in the context of the various events that together make up a puliaijat, the cosmos is made habitable. In each puiringan event the ancestral heirlooms are utilized in concert—through the agency of the rimata (whose very self in this context is produced in relation to these items) and the particular machinations performed with them, the cosmic weave is woven. In the darkened, secretive confines of the uma’s inner sanctum (batnuma), in view of a privileged few and in league with the ancestors, crouched over the heirlooms they once cared for, the rimata builds a world. Countless times he has articulated the ritual phrases and gesticulated over his lulag, as he will on many more occasions, in the perpetual effort to (re)create a habitable space for all uma faction/suku members.


(1) Endicott’s depiction of the logic underlying Malay medicines reveals a similar principle at work : “Malay ‘medicine’ is almost entirely magical; even when procedures of real medical value are used, the reasons given are magical. The term ubat [cf. gaud] applies equally to remedies that work by magic and those working by chemistry… [T]he causes of disease are supernatural forces, and their cures are the magical methods by which those forces can be controlled” (Endicott:1991:26). See also my comments at the end of the previous article, article 7.

(2) I refer the reader to the diagrams of the various uma in chapter 4 which should be consulted in concert with the following.

(3) This could also come about if they were involved in some way in the puliaijat of another suku, perhaps in the context of sinuruk or siripok relations (see chapter five)

(4) In common with many Austronesian societies, these phrases exhibit classic parallelism in many instances (Fox 1988). However I have elected not to emphasize this aspect of the ritual phrases since my focus is on the primary images and themes embedded within them. Rather than present these as sets of parallels I therefore group thematically related sets of phrases together in paragraphs in order to draw attention to these themes.

(5) Indeed the Indonesian translation for “puliaijat” is “pesta” (party), an inappropriate term because it emphasizes the festive, ‘party’-like aspects of the event, obscuring the puliaijat’s underlying, more vital objective—repairs to rents in the cosmic weave. This is functional from an administrative viewpoint, whose ultimate aim is the obliteration of ‘Sabulungan’, the ‘Mentawaian religion’. The usage pesta is a step in this direction. It trivializes and obscures the cosmological import of the event.

(6) This particular puliaijat (tuptup) was held in order to make a girl, who was to be married to the rimata’s youngest son, a member of the uma.

(7) cf. Schefold’s “mediators”.

(8) There is nothing more to it except what an observer/analyst steeped in a long tradition of looking for essences might care to find.

(9) This refers to the coconut’s inner lining which is the same thickness over the whole circumference. If the lining is thick then it is thick all over. If it is thin then it is thin all over.

(10) The ritual name for the gong.

* Species of monkey, alluded to through the noise they are imputed to make.

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