by Damien Arabagali

Young Huli men were always told to be good and honourable people. They were taught very early in life about the unseen powers in the world. To join the traditional bachelorhood, known as the haroli institution, was one of the honourable things that a young man could do. The word haroli has four meanings:

  1. Literally, it is the name of the fruit of the acorn tree (hara means “tree” and Ii means “fruit’).
  2. It also refers to the men who had gone through the bachelorhood training.
  3. Its third meaning is the special sacred plant that was planted to represent each new bachelor who came from training.
  4. Finally, it refers to the bamboo that was filled with the blood of the sky woman that was killed by lpa Mulu Luguya by mistake. Some training camps had this while others had the sacred plant.

The haroli institution is unique. It is a heavenly-inspired institution that was brought to earth by a culture hero. The young man called Iba Mulu Lunguya, who went to heaven. The Huli have great respect for it. I see it as a religious order. Many of the practices and teachings are similar to the religious orders and congregations within the Catholic Church.

The Story of Origin {lbagiya Bite)

lpakiya is another word for a bachelor or haroli. The legend which relates the origin of the bachelor cult is called lbagiya Bite. (See full text).

The legend begins with two brothers who are orphans. Their parents died when they were very young. The elder brother turns out to be a very foolish person. He always beat his small brother for any little excuse he could find. Iba Mulu Luguya, the younger brother, was full of sores and cuts from his daily beatings. The heavenly beings (sky women) saw his suffering and came and helped liim finished a new garden he had started. They came at night and finished the work the boy had begun during the day. Every morning he saw to his surprise that the work he had started was completed, whether it was digging or uprooting tree trunks or planting sweet potato leaves.

One night he hid and caught the youngest sky woman as she left, since daylight was approaching. Her name was Pepeko Wane Padime which means “the daughter of Padume of (the place) Pepeko”. She changed into all kinds of things- a snake, a stone and even a tree. But he did not let go of her. Eventually, the girl gave up, and they set a date when they could meet again. But the younger brother failed to turn up due to a trick his elder brother played on him. When he came to the place, a day later, he found one of the girl’s fingers and her teardrops on a taro leaf. He followed her footprints all the way to Mt Kiapu, which is near Koroba. Her footprints disappeared at the foot of a very tall kiapu tree. A closer look at the tree told him that the sky woman had climbed the tree. He climbed the tree and came to a place above the clouds. There he met people who were enjoying life, who had good weather and perfect joy. In a long house there, he met a very old couple who were the parents of Pepeko Wane Padime.

The couple gave him a parcel which, unknown to Iba Mulunguya, contained the sky woman he was after. The two old people had many adult children who lived in the long house.

One day lpa Mulu Lunguya followed the eldest son to his private enclosure (tigi), where he was told to close his eyes. When he opened them, he found himself at Pepeko (now Pureni).

He fenced in the area in the form of the enclosure, he saw in the home in the sky, and he called it a tigi. In his string bag, he carried the special parcel that he was given by the old man in the sky home. He had been instructed never, under any circumstances, to undo the string bag, except when a banana tree he planted bore fruit. One day as he was working in his tigi, he heard the cry of possums in the nearby jungle. He undid the string bag which contained the parcel and ran outside to climb the tree where the possums were.

When he came back he saw a pretty lady working in his garden. The young man asked her some questions, which she did not answer. He shot her with his bow and arrows, but later, when he saw that most of her fingers were missing, he realized that this was the girl he was after. He wept when he realized what he had done. The young woman told him to stop weeping and cut some bamboo, called liwa. The woman died after her blood stopped flowing, and the young man planted the bamboo in mud, as instructed. He then changed into a puyu bird overcome by sorrow (this bird always whistles), Many strange looking plants grew where the body of the sky woman was buried. They grew out of the various parts of her body. Some Huli tigi enclosures have these plants as their secret plant, while others keep the blood. These plants bleed when cut. The pieces of bamboo with the blood of the sky woman are changed when they become rotten, but the blood in the bamboo remains fresh.

Huli Haroli Tigi Site
Haroli Tigi

The first tigi was built at Pepeko. This is where the Catholic mission is today. Many of the old Pepeko men today believe that God brought the missionaries to his own place that the Huli had taken care of. All tigi are modelled on the original one at Pepeko.

The haroli institution was seen by the people as divinely inspired. The daily program and one seen above, was similar to the religious life in the Catholic Church. The haroli (tigi) was modelled on heaven, and in the haroli camp the young men experienced joy and peace. All the Huli men I interviewed regret the loss of it. At present, there is only one such tigi left among the Huli – the one called Turugu Iba at Pi Nakia, Tari.

The Haroli Training

The bachelorhood was reserved for adult males. No one was forced into it either directly or indirectly, but all Huli hays dreamed of becoming a haroli. A mambo was someone like a novice master. He was to be the young man’s guardian and his personal instructor. The instructor had to be someone who was an ex-haroli and was still a celibate. To enter the training, a young man (igiri mora or “single boy”} had to take the initiative and ask to be accepted as a novice. It was an honour to be a mambo, so the young novice was eagerly received and lived with his instructor. The length of time he had to live with his mambo depended on how long his hair was. The igiri mora had to make a big garden before he committed himself to the training program. He had to inform his parents also, so that they could get some payment ready for the mambo.

The igiri mora went into the tigi (enclosure} when his hair had grown as long as his arm. Those who came to the mambo with the required length of hair went straight into the tigi. If they did not have the required length, they spent some months with the mambo, going through a hair growing ritual. The hair growing training involved many sacrifices.

To make the hair grow, the novices had to have their hair wet at all times. They had to avoid sitting near the fire or in the sunlight, instead, most of the daytime was spent in the deep jungle, with hours spent sitting in a waterfall. They also had to avoid people. They were the last ones to sleep and the first ones to wake up. They spent most of the night hours walking on the main foot tracks and spent only a few hours sleeping. Their food was, always cooked in an earth oven and had to be eaten only when it was very cold. The mambo got the sweet potato they ate from the garden the igiri mora made before he entered the training program. The novices did no physical work. Instead, they remained busy, chanting sacred hymn, for their hair to grow. Some spend four to five months in this program.

Those whose hair had grown to the required length went to live in a house which was built near the inner gates of the tigi. This house was inside the outer tigi fence. There, the expert wig makers came to check the hair. If there was enough to shape it into a haroli wig (manda hare or “red wig} they put a net on the hair to create the desired shape. But if the hair was not long enough, the novice was told to continue the hair growing ritual. The wig makers painted the novices’ hair with red paint after which they had to wait
for one month to make it shine. During this time and without the novices’ knowledge, the mambo invited other celibates to rebuild the houses and the eight big gates leading to the haroli house itself. They also created a lake called lpa Tepape, named after the original one at Pepeko in the Koroba District. The mambo set the date for his novice to enter the tigi with the other celibates.

On the day prior to this, the mambo got a medium-sized pig, shell money, oil, red paint and all the traditional haroli dress from the igira mora’s parents. The shell money was used to pay the wig makers, and the pig was killed inside the tigi for all the unmarried men (taloali} or ex-haro/i bachelors who helped set up the tigi. On the same day, before they saw the haroli, the mambo took each igira mora out at their parent’s request. The boy hid from his family the whole time he was undergoing training, and now, only the immediate family members were permitted to see him. The father gave his blessing to his son to go back and see the haroli (i.e. the sacred plant which represents the haroli man in the tigi}. The mambo did not tell the trainees what would happen that first night in the tigi because he wanted to confuse them and leave them in a trance.
The following are some of the instructions that were given to the young bachelors on the night before the graduation:

  1. Take care of the old people. Give them food and firewood.
  2. Do not smoke in front of men. From now on you can hide and smoke.
  3. Do not court woman too quickly, unless instructed by your parents.
  4. From now on you can eat the food you were forbidden to eat.

This type of instruction continued into the night. Then the older celibates swore at the novices. They used every swear word that can be made in the Huli language. This was done so that the novices would never swear again. The young graduates also learned good values at the whipping session among the taloali (unmarried men).

It is not necessary for our purpose to provide a full description of the tigi enclosure and of all the experiences the future haroli went through during their training period or on the occasion of their graduation. Let it suffice to say that the Catholic mission did not oppose the institution in any way. One ex-haroli who I interviewed stated the following:

Father Belai (Berard Tomassetti, O.F.M. Cap.) encouraged us to be a haroli: He told me he too was a haroli. The missionaries did not tell us to give up the bachelorhood. We ourselves gave it up, because we had broken some of the rules during the government patrols. After breaking one rule, we felt that we were cheating so we gave up.

In more recent times, at the ordination of Br. Matthias Olape, the first deacon from Huli, some of the ancient rites were incorporated into the Catholic rite. The Huli men proclaimed that their son, was becoming a haroli. He was someone “set apart”. He had to train other young men. He had the task of being a servant to the weak and the old. He was someone who would respect the traditional laws and show people the way to be a good Christian. There is scope to look for more points of similarity, so that the young Huli men who decide to be priests and brothers can see that the life they are choosing is not all foreign, instead conforms to the institution of the traditional bachelorhood.

(Extract from Datagaliwabe Was Working Among The Huli. Damien Arabagali. Treid Pacific (PNG) Ltd. 1999. pp. 51-55.)