The Huli Pantheon

by Ron Meshanko

The Huli pantheon consists of more than thirty gods and goddesses. Their names and brief descriptions of their functions and characteristics are listed below. 1

DatagaliwabeGuardian of Moral CodeM:1, 3, 5, 6
DindiayiaGarden FertilityF:1, 4
DinditaneGarden FertilityF
DugubaClan FounderM:2
DunaClan FounderM:2
DunawaliAttacks men through witchesF
HanaMoon Deity, garden fertilityF:1
HeyalobeVery powerful god regarded as “Satan”M:1,6
HelahuliClan FounderM:2
HerabeCauses insanityM:6
HonabeCreator DeityM:1
HuliClan FounderM:2
HugendaAttacks pregnant women through witches.M:1
Iba TiriTrickster God of the WatersM:1
KapianeAttacks men through witches.F
KorimogoHis power emanates from corpsesM:1
LinduF:1, 4
MatawaliCauses insanityF:6
NiSun Diety, causes leprosyM:1, 4
TimbuFather of Honabe’s offspringM:1
ToroMagic sorceryM:4
WaliporlimiaAttacks men through witchesF
WandetelepuGarden FertilityF
M = Male; F = Female;
1 = Major Deity; 2 = dama agali duo; 3 = not considered dama; 4 = deity associated with sacred stones; 5 = no rituals performed in the name of this deity; 6 = directly attacks humans
Ron Meshanko seated outside a sacred cave.
Ron Meshanko seated outside a sacred cave.

The first inhabitant of the land was the female Goddess Honabe who gave birth to all the inhabitants of the world including deities, birds and possums She is the Grandmother Goddess of the Huli people and the surrounding cultural groups: Duna, Duguba, Obene, Hewa and Huli, all of which derive their names from their founding fathers, the children of Honabe. All of Honabe’s offspring are called dama. 2

Dama live in the sacred forests (Ni), caves (Kepei), and waters (Iba Tiri). Evil spirits inhabit deep dark waters (Iba angibu: pus from a sore) as well as dark secluded forests (dama tayanda) and remote mountain peaks. Dama control the forces of nature and often attack or sometimes help human beings in their endeavors. The deities attack humans directly, causing sickness, accidents or death; or indirectly through witches, corpses, stones, sticks or ritual objects which are imbued with their presence. Humans appease these deities and seek their assistance through oblations of pigs, red paint, pig fat, cowrie and kina shells, crops, and special plant leaves. Some deities (Ni, Korimogo and Kepei) consume the blood and aroma of prepared pigs while other deities (Hone and Lindu) delight in pig fat offerings which are rubbed onto sacred stones imbued with their presence. Major deities are pleased with certain species of cordyline vines planted in their honor. Ingratiated in this way, they protect the planters from the attacks of minor deities. Some deities are merely appeased through simple prayers or spells. Iba Tiri and other gods are honored and propitiated by special dances. Datagaliwabe and Dama Tayanda (nature demons) cannot be propitiated by any ritual means, although the former is appeased by proper moral conduct.

The Huli not only placate and win the favor of dama, but also trick them. Men who traverse through deep forests or climb mountain peaks speak a derivative of the Huli language called Tayanda Bi in order to confuse the deities about their identity and activities. They also trick the Dama by constructing symbolic gates to block their paths as they walk through the forest. Victims of Korimogo are buried in a reversed position in order to confuse the deity and thwart his attacks on people living in the community. Datagaliwabe, Iba Tiri and Ni and Hana are four major deities that deserve further elaboration.

(See the Genealogical Tree of the Huli Deities in Chart 4.)

  1. See: R. Glasse, “The Huli”, pp. 35-49. []
  2. For a good presentation on Dama, see: Stephen Frankel. The Huli response to illness. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1986., p. 149. []