Huli Mbingi Myth

Compiled by Ron Meshanko

Huli Mbingi Myth by Baraeagua of Hambuali as recorded by Stephen Frankel 1

First they heard thunder, and the rumbling of mountains. When they heard this they said ‘mbingi will come, we must build houses. We must build these mbingi houses on high ground.’ Each parish built one huge house. They roofed them not with thatch, but with slabs of the hardest timber.

When the houses were completed they said, ‘We must prepare food’, and they stored food and water in the houses. They stacked firewood in the houses, and put male and female pigs inside. Sisters returned to their brothers.

The lore of mbingi told that men must be apart from their wives. They had waited three months, and in the fourth month it became dark. The people stayed inside their mbingi houses. When darkness fell, snakes, lizards, frogs, rats, possums, cassowaries and other birds followed the people into the houses. The lore had said that something to frighten you will come inside, but you must not kill it, and that game will come inside, but you must let it live. It became dark, and they said ‘We must wait now to see what falls from the sky.’

And black earth fell. As this rained down, all their old houses were buried and destroyed. Trees were destroyed, sugar cane and bananas were buried. On the first day after this, an only son was permitted to go out. Those with one sibling could go out on the second day, and so on. When they looked out they could not recognize where their gardens or houses had been. The land was covered with black earth. It had fallen with rain, and was like mud.

But no one was killed. They all stayed in their mbingi houses, and none of these collapsed. When it became light again, the animals went out. When the people went outside, they found that the stuff that had fallen (dapindu) had covered trees, filled creeks and made their land unrecognizable. But soon the crops grew again, and grew more quickly and more plentifully than before. Where sugar cane had been before, sugar grew again. Where sweet potatoes had been, sweet potato grew again. Where bananas had been, they grew again, more prolifically than before. The ground is poor now, so you don’t see the stuff that fell (dapindu) in garden soil any more. Though sometimes when you are digging in swamps you see some of the black earth from that time. One woman went into the mbingi house pregnant, and carried her son there. He was called Mbi (darkness). We are the eleventh generation since his time.

Huli Mbingi Myth as given by Walubu-Mabira Hege of Walete Parish 2

(Narrator: Walubu-Mabira Hege, Walete Parish, 5.1.91, Tape 90-91/2A: 36-75)

Mbinginaga ai mbingi peneyagoni larogoni, obeneni i hale haru dadagua o larogoni About mbingi: I will talk of how mbingi comes.
I will talk of the middle part of which I heard.

ogoni anduane, Ngoari-Hebaria, Ngoari-Hebaria ibugo, Ngoari-Hebaria igini, o Ngoari­ Gira, Ngoari-Gira igini, Ngoari-Perela, Ngoari-Perela igini, Ngoari-Tege
The owner of this [mana] was Ngoari-Hebaria. Ngoari-Hebaria’s son was Ngoari-Gira, whose son was Ngoari-Perela, whose son was Ngoari-Tege [i.e., transmission of the mana passed through this line of first-born sons].

anigo, ogoni ibugua mana manda binigo, o [agali dongone] mbingi pora angi
This was his mana: when mbingi came

ina aba handa hari ligo kilikulu lole birago anda timbuni ina bilimu lene
our fathers said the sky would thunder so large houses should be built
dindi hanuni ede Yalimali wiaru uyu Taibaanda hamaga wiaru dagua bialu ke go la We should build them at places such as Yalimali and Taibaanda [both raised ground locations].

o hari tugu lalu kane, o, ege maria agima polebira
The sky would thunder until the fourth month.

ege ogoni piai kagola, anda bu maro birago hondowa
When this [fourth] month finished, they would complete the houses.

o hari ligu podolebira, ai iba nigu Ii ibulebira
The sky would break and fall down and down there the rivers would rise.

au bule birago i nogonaga, waneigininaga
It would do thus, so houses had to be made for the pigs, the children,

o anda hobane hanguhangu helowa, wali agalila libu, wali i hangu, agali i hangu
and the houses divided for men and women to be separate, women on one side, men on the other.

ogoni mebia haribiyagua [hondo], libu kebigo homai holebira, mebia hari aria hameigini haruago aria homai
If this law was broken, all would die. Whoever broke the law, all their clan would die;

Tanime mebia heneyagua [hondo] Tani, Dobanime mebia heneyagua [hondo] Dobani if Tani [clan] broke this law, all Tani would die, if Dobani broke the law, all Dobani would die.

nde ibu ka dagua hanguhangu haruago homanwgoni
Whuever stayed outside would die.

ni nabi hayagua [hondo], mbingi hina mulene kirali hangu Ii tagira holebiragoni
Two only would stay outside to give mbingi sweet potato [to the others].

wali agalila, walinaga mulene mende, agalinaga mulene mende
To men and to women, one to give to women, one to give to men.

ti unu nogo hayaru bo baanda howa o balu nalu bedagoni
All would stay inside, kill their pigs, put them inside and eat them.

ani bidagola howa hari uyugu podalu dindi ogoria ibira hole biragoni
Having done thus, the sky would break and fall.

iba payule biragoni, iba Tagali nigu ibalu ogoria payule biragoni
The rivers would overflow. The Tagali River would flood this area.

hari ligu podalu ogoria ibira hole biragoni
Up there the sky/mountains would break and fall down.

ani bialu kagola ogoni ne nalu karia
When they were inside, people didn’t eat just small amounts [of food],

tomo ogoni ha emene ndo, baanda hayago hangu nalu bedagoni
they threw a large amount of food inside and ate it.

ogoni nalu bedaria o dindi harila bago pilo wiaabo hole biragoni
While they sat and ate, the sky and ground would become dark.

halini angi, wa lolebira halini angi wa laruagola, o mbi lowa honowinigo
After eight days, the light would come and at this time there was born,

o Tani Hebaria ogoni aria ibu mbalinime honowinigo, o Baru-Mbiyago
among Tani Hebaria’s kin, his sister bore Baru-Mbiyago.

mbilo wuwa unu tamuni biruwa taba henenego
When it was dark inside and all were sitting there, he was born.

amu hariga tagira puwa egabi layagola honowinigo, Ngoari-Gaea
Those who went outside and were born when the light came included Ngoari-Gaea of Dindiago clan.

ai, Ngoari-Gaea igini, Yula, ai ogoni ibu ani hama pedagoni
Ngoari-Gaea’s son, Yula, he is now here.

ani bigi binigo mbingi biago ani bulebira lalu ina hendene ndo, bi ani layaria, hale hene
No-one has seen mbingi do thus, only talk of it has been heard.

bi hale hene dagoni ina hame mana ogoni, o ya/i hene ogoni
This talk that we heard was the mana of our ancestors. This is how it was.

(Reprinted with permission of Dr. Chris Ballard.)

  1. Stephen Frankel. The Huli response to illness. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1986., p. 18 []
  2. (Narrator: Walubu-Mabira Hege, Walete Parish, 5.1.91, Tape 90-91/2A: 36-75) []