Damien Arabagali Portrait
Damien Arabagali

by Damien Arabagali

The Origin of Death

“Homope aija”, or “death mother”. Allan Ango and many of my uncles told me this story.

A woman gave birth to a child in the forest. She was the first woman. A man called her from the jungle when she was with the baby and said, “habe aija o” (habe =”life”; aija =”mother”). The man called them about three times, and she did not answer. He was trying to give the baby’s name: Habe, which means “life”, the name that will make man live forever. When the man called her “homabe aija “, “the Mother of Death” (homabe= “die”; aija =”mother”), she replied “yes” immediately. The man had brought sacred water for the baby to drink. He threw this away since the woman had said “yes” to the name “Homape” (death). The snake drank the water that was thrown away by the man. For this reason, the snake does not die; it just casts its old skin off. Death came because the first child did not drink the water but drank the mother’s breast milk, which was called ‘pipini’ is the juice coming out of the dead body). Because of this we will always die.

The old Huli religion and culture was a great help to understand the new religion. The new teachings were not foreign to the Huli people. This was one of the reasons why many were converted. The Huli secret knowledge had some similarities to the new one.

The Home in the Sky

The Huli saw a home in the sky. The Christian heaven was not new to them, and the concept of a home in the sky was not new to them.. Their ancestors were trying to go there already. Allan Ango was able to give the following traditional stories he found similar to the stories from the missionaries:

Ira Hari and the Tower of Babel

Ira Hari can be located in a place called Tubire, which is about two kilometres from Pureni. Ira means “tree” and hari means “mountain” so ira hari means “mountain of trees”. This was the place where people tried to build a bridge to heaven. The story our ancestors told us was that they stopped building because their language was changed.

They all spoke one language before. When those on the top asked those further down to give them rope, they were given timber; when they asked for timber, they were given rope. They became so confused that they left. The place where they left for various directions is called Didi Walepe (didi “soil” or “land”; walepe “we gave up and left”). Another name is Wala Togo which means “gave up and left”. We think this story of Didi Walepe is similar to the story of the tower of Babel in the Bible. We were confused when we heard Fr. Sellai tell us the Bible story about it.

In the gebe anda area, there is a special building called oko anda. It means “house of oko”. The meaning of oko is not known. Very sacred objects are kept in this house. Augustine Agilo, an ex-gebe ali, a priest of the gebe anda worship, said that they had European hair, rosary beads without a cross and piece of metal in there. The house is eight stories high. The oko anda is connected with a legend that some people bridged the sky with it and went to the dahuluya anda, the “home in the sky”. The worship was intended for the one in the sky. The building reminded them of the home in the sky. There were people living in the home in the sky. Life in the home in the sky was one of joy and peace. They were very helpful to the poor and oppressed people. The heavenly or sky beings would come down and help human beings when they were facing difficulties. (The legend of the sky being is given in Appendix 3).

You may read more myths at Huli Mythology.

(Extract from Datagaliwabe Was Working Among The Huli. Damien Arabagali. Treid Pacific (PNG) Ltd. 1999. pp. 73-76.)