Huli Ritual Specialists

by Ron Meshanko

Any man can use sacred stones in private gamu rites, although most men prefer to let ritual specialists handle these powerful objects. The Huli have seven types of ritual specialists, men and women who specialize in the control and manipulation of gamu. They practice gamu rites to help people and bring life or to harm others and bring sickness and death. These usually practice some form of asceticism before and during the execution of gamu rituals. Most of them are paid with pigs by clients according to the task at hand. All ritual specialists are feared for they have the power and knowledge to harm others and are imbued with gamu power through their association with animated ritual matter.

Witches are female specialists who are either possessed by a particular goddess or courts goddesses in order to use gamu power for their own ends. 1 Witches who are deliberately or unwillingly possessed by a goddess attack men causing sickness and death. The goddesses Dunawali, Kapiana, Pinuwali, and Waliporlimia use witches to attack males only. Hugenda, a male deity, possesses witches in order to attack a pregnant woman and kill the unborn child. Witches are evil women that may be killed by any man, relative or not, without fear of demands for compensation or retribution by the witches kinsmen.

Sorcerers are paid ritual specialists that learn how to manipulate gamu power to harm others, although they sometimes use their power to help by divining the cause of an accidental death or the whereabouts of a lost pig. Almost all clan units had two or three sorcerers. Their most common ritual was toro gamu. Men do not smoke the pipe of a sorcerer nor do they talk freely with him lest they arouse his anger.

Daroali are paid bachelor cult leaders trained in the handling of the powerful bamboo menstrual tubes, bog iris plants, and in the spells necessary for Haroli gamu. They reside in a special house located in the center of the bachelor cult grounds where they train bachelors in their own language, Tua ili, Huli lore, traditions, and spells and use their gamu to help the bachelors develop into strong adult warriors.

Healers are paid ritual specialists who heal the sick with supernatural power through the use of various forms of gamu behavior. Their forte is the heling of menstrual pollution in men using the three types of agali gamu. A spell that they chant was given in the Ritual Behavior page.

Gebeali are the powerful ritual leaders who oversee the fertility rites at the major ritual sites, gebeanda. They are learned men in gamu rites and are highly respected in the clan they serve. The page on the Kelote ritual site elaborates on their function as ritual specialists. There are many types of Tege ritual specialists, There are two uriali and twelve liduali at each Tege rite. The liduali who have functioned at two or three Tege rites are eligible to become uriali with the consent of the clan.

All of these Tege ritual specialists oversee and facilitate the smooth performance of the various rites described in the page on Traditional Education. They are respected men in the community, the uriali being the most honored. Upon his death, his skull is polished and revered, for it is animated with his gamu power.

The manayi are ritual specialists who specialize in the chanting of sacred myths. Their title, which means “holder of the knowledge”, suggests their import position in Huli society. For these old men have the knowledge of the sacred myths, bi mana (talk of knowledge) and bi tene (talk of sources), as well as the knowledge of the sources of life. The manayi learns this knowledge from his father who was also a manyi.

  1. See: M. Stephens, “Dreams of Change”, p. 11; R. Glasse, “The Huli”, p. 36. []