by Damien Arabagali

This is the legend about the origin of the haroli (bachelorhood) tradition in the Hela land.

“Once upon a time there lived two young boys. They were brothers. Their parents had died a long time before. The elder brother was a ipa tiri or a person without wisdom. The elder brother always beat the younger brother mercilessly. Every time the smaller brother made a mistake, he was beaten very badly. His body was covered in sores. He could hardly stretch his body because of the many sores. He was a sad, small boy who was called lpa Mulu Luguya.

One very fine day the younger brother followed his feelings and went for a walk into the jungle. He took his stone axe which he had inherited from his father. Deep in he forest, he saw a good piece of bush full of tapaya trees, which meant that area was good land for a garden. He wished he had the strength to make the garden. He made a gesture of a wish to make a garden there by cutting some of the trees. It was nearly dark by the time he did that so he returned home. He was beaten again for coming in late. The elder brother always found a reason to whip his smaller brother. lpa Mulu Luguya went back early the next morning to see if he could make the garden. When he came to the site, he got a big surprise. He found out that the whole area had been cleared. He was very happy indeed. He still did not know who had done it. He rolled some logs to make a fence. He rolled a few logs that day and went home in the evening. The next day he saw that whole garden area had been fenced in. He made some sweet potato mounds on the third day and went home. The next morning he found out that the whole garden was planted, except for a few mounds of sweet potato which had yet to be planted. He found out that all the work was done at night. “Who are they? They deserve a reward,” thought the younger brother. He went home and killed one of his pigs. He cooked it and brought the whole of it in a string bag and hung it on one of the fence posts. He hung the bag where he could see and he hid himself in the bush nearby. The moon was shining very brightly.

It was not long after dark when he heard singing and laughter coming towards the garden. The voices he heard were girl’s voices. He could see them coming towards the garden. Their grass skirts were shining and they carried very beautiful string bags. Their string bags and grass skirts shone very brightly, just as if they had oil running down on them. The young women were the prettiest, the most beautiful girls he had ever seen.

The youngest girl discovered the bag of pig meat. She praised the boy in front of her sisters and said, “See, this is what a boy with a lot of sores can do. He is a nice boy”. The young girl’s name was Pepeko Wane Padime. (The Pepeko Wane was added later. The girls knew all about the boy they were helping). Pepeko Wane Padime distributed the pig meat equally among her sisters. She found a special cut of meat called payane la pukuni in the very bottom of the bag.

She took that for herself. Each one got their piece and left the way they had come. They finished everything that was not done in the garden. The younger girl was the only one left. She went to hang the string bag on the fence before she too left to join her sisters. The place where she hung the bag was the place where the boy was hiding. He got up and took a firm grip of the girl’s hand. When he did that, she changed into a snake. As soon as that happened, the boy said, “Snake is something I eat, and I can put the skin over my head band”. Next the girl changed into a lizard. “The boy said. “Lizard is something I use to catch and hold”. She then changed into a tree. The boy said, “I can use the tree for firewood. This is what I to do and will never let you go”. At last she became the girl again. He kept on holding onto her hand.
She said to him, “ipapu heme yape, hogapu he oreme helapu heme ore yape: tapu heme, tarapu heme yu wa hole yulini”, which means “you must not be a weak willed person to hold onto me, you have to be a man of strong will and strong nerve”. She went on further and said, “Will you climb a big palm tree without a rope ring to hold your legs? Will you go across a bamboo bridge? Will you go across a ginger stem bridge? lpa Mulu Luguya replied “Yes” to all of these questions. “Okay” said the young girl, “Go home now but remember, one day from now, you must meet me here”. He let her go and she left. He killed a fat pig and prepared his traditional bilas dress during the first day. He was supposed to meet the lady the next morning. As he was packing his gear, he found that an important feather was missing. He searched all over the room for it. The feather was called honakaka. He cleaned the whole house in search of it, but he could not find it anywhere. Time moved quickly and before he knew it, it was already dark. He searched throughout the night into the next morning.

Around mid-afternoon the next day, the iba diri, his elder brother, who had been sitting all the time he was searching, asked him, “My brother, what are you looking for?” He replied, “I am looking for my egari honakaka”. Maybe this is the one you are looking for”, said the ipa tiri, and he pulled the feather out from under himself. He had been sitting over it all the time the search was being made. lpa Mulu Luguya accepted it patiently. He said that it was the one he had been looking for all that time.

He put the feather on and took off immediately for the agreed meeting place. It was already getting dark as he hurried to the meeting spot. When he got there, no one was there. On the spot they had decided to meet, he found a recently cut fifth finger of the girl and a specially cut piece of pig meat called payane la pukuni. He also found some tear drops in a taro leaf. He picked up the cut finger and the pieces of meat and followed the girl’s footprints.

He slept along the way when it got dark. He picked up the track again as soon as day dawned. At another place he came upon another finger with the same pig meat. This was the spot where the lady had sat and wept, because the boy had not kept his word. The cut finger was the fourth finger of the girl. He wept and ran as fast as his legs could carry him. As he went further, he found the other two fingers cut and left in various spots along the road.

Finally, he came to a dead stop in front of a very large kiapu tree. At the foot of the tree was the first finger and the same amount of meat. He sat there and wept. Even the birds in the forest seem to join him in his mourning. The place where the kiapu tree was is in Puyamu, which is near Koroba. That legendary tree is still standing there today. Every Hela man who goes past that tree usually touches it with his leg, as a gesture of his wish to go to the daluya anda, or heaven. Also the clan that lives there has a tradition of cutting the fifth finger of every first-born son of the family. The tribe is called Mapuli Harne lgini.

As the young man was sitting there, not knowing what to do, a possum called porere came and started climbing the very big tree. (The porere possum is never killed by the Hela people because this possum shows the way to heaven).

The young man recalled what the young girl had said when he held onto her. She had said, “Would you climb a big palm tree without a rope?” The tree was a very tall one. He could not see its top. It seemed to disappear into the clouds. When he took a closer look at the trunk of the tree, he found red mud from someone who had climbed the tree. Those signs were enough to tell him what to do, and he started climbing the tree as quickly as possible. He told himself, “This is what I deserve for not keeping the date”. He climbed the tree for a very long time. Finally, he got to the very top. From the top, way above the clouds, he saw a bamboo bridge going over to a mountain top on the other side. The bridge seemed impossible to cross. When he looked down, the distance beneath him was a very frightening sight. If he slipped and fell, he would definitely disappear into the clouds and be smashed up before he reached the bottom.
He closed his eyes and began to cross it. To his surprise, he found himself on the other side. From the tip of the rocky formation, he saw another bridge made of kulumbu (ginger roots) going over to another rocky formation. When he looked down from there, he saw only some birds and white clouds. The clouds were sailing around. He found himself shaking in fear. Again he remembered what the girl had told him when he held her. “Will you go across a bridge made of bamboo, or a bridge made of kulumbu stem?” He had answered yes. Again he closed his eyes and put a foot on it, then another and another till he got onto the other side.

To his relief he did not see any more such bridges on the other side. In the distance he could see people’s houses. As he looked around, he saw smoke rising from various places. He saw good land and swampy areas as well. He found that the people seemed to live in a good climate. They seemed to live in summer all the time.
As he was walking towards the houses, he saw two young ladies coming towards him from the east. They were saying some words and weeping. Their eyes were full of tears. These two ladies were the sisters of Pepeko Wane Padume: Gulame and Agulame. They came quite close and he heard what they were saying. He heard them chant those words:

ai tereme tere naga
kidu naga, kiyalu naga, ki neta kipa neta kape neta wakape neta

Oh the sore is giving me much pain
Oh my finger nails ache, Oh my hand is aching Oh my hand, why so much pain

This was the mourning song of people who had cut their fingers. As they came towards him, he stood and listened with mixed emotions. When they came up to where he was standing, he greeted them and asked what it was that made them so sad. They replied, “Young man, someone is up there saying the following word: ‘aidereme dere naga kidu naga, kiyalu naga, ki neta, kipa neta’.”
This means, “Oh my fingers, my dear fingers, you have so many sores. Oh my fingers, you are giving me so much pain”.

They told him this person had walked past them that way. It was a sad experience for them, and they were crying about it. The boy replied with tear-filled eyes, “That’s all because of me. I am the cause of her sufferings”. And he broke down and wept bitterly.

When the two girls saw this, they told him to follow them. The two girls took him to their house. The house was very long house; it was like fifteen houses joined together. The floor was made of bird feathers and possum hair. The whole building was well decorated. The girls showed him into the house and left. The house had a long fire place running down the centre of the house. To his surprise, he saw a very old man with a long white beard sitting at the front of the house on one side and an old woman of the same age, sitting on the opposite side facing the man. The old man saw the stranger and invited him to come inside. He welcomed him. The boy gave them the pig meat he had brought.

After they had eaten, the old man asked if he would accept two of his pigs as a going­ away gift. The boy refused. He remembered what Pepeko Wane Padume had also said. She had told him that when he saw her father he had to refuse everything he offered and accept only a parcel made of bark cloth. The old man offered him everything he had, even the hand of two of his daughters. He refused them all. “Alright,” said the old man, “Soon all my children will be coming in. We have to hide you”. So the old man dug a hole under where he was sitting and told the boy to sit down in it. The hole was dug at an angle, and the boy could see what was happening in the room. The old man put some planks over it and sat on top of it. It was getting dark by then.
The boy heard a lot of loud shouts from young men – there seemed to be about a hundred of them – coming towards the house. There was a lot of joy in their voices. He also heard about a hundred voices of young women laughing joyfully as they too came to the house.

All the young men went to the side of the old man, and the young women all went to the side of the old women. They all had firewood and food cooked in an earth oven. The young women had bird and frog meat from the earth oven, and the boys had possum meat. Each one dropped his or her load in front of the old man and the old woman. The whole house was packed with people The two old people cut the meat in equal parts and started passing it down the line. The young man sitting closest to the old man was the oldest male and the young woman sitting closest to the old woman was the oldest female. These two helped their parents distribute the meat. They were very surprised when they saw that an extra portion was left in front of their parents. They asked why this was so. The old man reacted quickly and asked that it be given to him. He pretended to eat it and threw it into the hole where the boy was sitting.

After all had eaten, they prepared to go to sleep. Each one started making their beds. lpa Mulu Luguya looked out from where he was sitting and searched for the youngest girl, the girl he loved. She was nowhere to be seen. In sorrow he played a very sad tune on the kaawa, an instrument shaped like a bow. It has two strings. It was quiet at that time, and everyone heard the sad music. They were all curious and began to search everywhere. They searched under the beds, under the stones and in the ashes with no success. Their old parents sat still. They still could not figure out where the noise was coming from. The older brother told the rest to go outside. He pretended to go outside as well, but hid near the doorway. Sure enough, the noise came from underneath his father. He told everyone to come in and asked his father to stand up. When he did, the man lpa Mulu Luguya jumped out. Everyone rejoiced to see the stranger. The boys said, “My brother, my brother, inaga hamene”, and the young ladies said, “My brother, my brother, inaga balini, inaga balini”. Everyone was trying to have a claim over him.

After exchanging stories, they decided to go to sleep. Each one started making his or her bed, but lpa Mulu Luguya just sat still. They asked him to sleep, but he refused to sleep. He told them to go to sleep. He had no intention of sleeping. He kept sitting for a long time. The old man was still sitting. They both sat in silence for a long time.

The old man finally broke the long silence and said, “Young man, what’s the matter with you? Can’t you sleep?” The young man replied, “No,” and the old man again said, “Go and sleep with the young men”. lpa Mulu Luguya again said no. “If that is the case, go and sleep with the young ladies,” the old man said. But the young man said, “No,” a third time. “What’s wrong with you?” asked the old man. “Here, take those pigs and go back home”. lpa Mulu Luguya refused again. The old man offered him pearl shells, feathers, bows and arrows, shell money and even one of his daughters as a wife, but the young man kept on refusing.

Finally, after a long pause, the old man gave him a parcel wrapped in bark Tapa cloth. The young man accepted it immediately. The old man told him to open the parcel after he had completed a tigi and when a banana he planted bore fruit. He was instructed that he must not undo his string bag in which he carried the parcel. The old man told him to follow his elder son the next morning unnoticed and that he would show him a tigi. The old man told him to tie a string to his wrist strings and his own hand. This was to help him to wake up early because the young heavenly people wake up very early in the morning.

He did not have to sleep long. The pull of the string got him up immediately. He followed the elder brother at a distance, unnoticed. All the others also left for their own areas of work. He kept on following the elder brother for a longer time. As he kept following, light began to break up the morning mist. He could see that the long house they had slept in was on the top of a hill, while the whole surrounding area was flat.

The elder brother felt that someone was following him, so he hid beside the track. He caught lpa Mulu Luguya as he came along the track. He told him not to follow him, but after a long debate lpa Mulu Luguya followed the older brother. They kept on walking until they came to a huge gate. They had to open and close the doors of many such huge gates before they came into an open area.

Before his very eyes was the most beautiful house and the most colourful garden he had ever seen. He was amazed at what he saw. It was unbelievable. The house was a big one. The garden had many good looking gates and was full of all kinds of food. There were a lot of colourful tanget plants growing all over the garden. After a short rest, lpa Mulu Luguya told his story about the heavenly ladies and the one he loved. The elder brother told him that he was to bear the blame. lpa Mulu Luguya accepted his comment in silence.

“You have to go now,” said the elder brother. “Your tigi on earth will look like this one. You have to return to earth now. Do as I tell you. Now close your eyes”. So lpa Mulu Luguya closed his eyes and a few second later he was told to open them. When he opened his eyes, he found himself at home, back on earth.

A sacred Haroli Tigi site
Haroli Tigi

He built a big tigi and planted a banana tree as instructed. A tigi is an area where the haroli do all their training. Women and children are not allowed there. A big area is fenced to keep out pigs. The tigi is also forbidden to married men.

Months of hard work made the tigi look very similar to the one in heaven. All this time he had not untied his string bag. It was always on his body. He finished building the tigi.
He was just waiting for the banana he planted to bear fruit so that he could open the parcel.

One sunny day as he was working in the garden, he heard a wild possum groaning in the nearby jungle outside the tigi. The possum was groaning because of a toothache. He ran towards the cry. In his hurry, he loosened his string bag instinctively and left it in the garden. The groaning came from a tree, not far from the fence. He climbed the tree and killed the possum and threw it down. Then he climbed down. He picked up the possum and climbed back into the garden. He walked towards the place where he had left his string bag. He was very surprised to see a young lady making some sweet potato mounds near the place where he had left his string bag. The lady was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

He was not concerned about her beauty. He was concerned about the law that was broken by her presence. Women were never allowed in a tigi. He did not check for details or even think about this strange lady. He was very angry at her. He came close to her and said in a very angry voice, “Are you a devil or a woman?”(“I dama be, be, wali be?”). But she did not reply. She just smiled and looked the other way. “Do you have ears? Can’t you hear what I am asking? I am telling you that you are standing in my garden,” said lpa Mulu Luguya. He repeated this question three times, but did not get any reply. The woman stood very quietly.

He got mad at such a response, so he hit her with a stick. The young lady also got a stick and started beating lpa Mulu Luguya as well. He got very mad indeed and ran into his house for his bows and arrows. He ran out with them and shot her with four kopi arrows. She fell down when the fourth arrow sunk into her body.

She spoke for the first time and called the young man by name and told him to leave his father’s bow and arrows and come near her. When he came close to her, he was shocked by what he saw. The woman was Pepeko Wane Padume. One of her hands had no fingers. He took a step back and hoped that this was all just a wild dream.

“My dear lpa Mulu Luguya,” said the young virgin, “I was afraid this would happen. I knew you have a mind that is covered by clouds. I knew all along that you are a half­ hearted and forgetful man. I took the risk and gave in to you. Oh yes, I did. It was your show of love for me that blinded me and kept me from looking beyond the clouds. I gave up everything out of love for you. Now you have given me your father’s arrows as payment, as a welcome present. Oh, lpa Mulu Luguya, a young man of short sight”.

lpa Mulu Luguya broke down and wept bitterly. He realized what a terrible thing he had done and cried as shamelessly as a child. His commitment to the law had blinded him. He had destroyed his love, his life and his future. There was nothing worth living for. He had to die, {The haroli men cry when they hear this part of the legend).

“Agali igini harula {Son of man, enough,”) said the young lady. “Stop that crying, I don’t have much time left. Cut some bamboo and bring them here quickly.

Two of the pieces of bamboo must be decorated”. lpa Mulu Luguya did as he was told. When he came back with the bamboo, Pepeko Wane Padume told him to pull the arrows out and fill thebamboo with her blood. After he had finished filling the bamboo, she told him to plant it in mud. She told him to say the following words when planting the bamboo in the mud:

Pura lalu pelaro Pulubura lalu pelaro Popa lalu pelaro Akipo lalu pelaro
lpani malimatiabe lalu pelaro Agape lalu pe lape
Pape lalu pelape

I say pura, and send it
I say lubura, and send it I say popo, and send it
I say akipo, and send it
I say ipani malimatiabe, and send it Say agape, and send it
Say pope, and send it

The beautiful lady was now just bones. Her skin was clinging to her bones after all her blood had drained out. She instructed him to go and plant the bamboo filled with her blood in the jungle mud.

A big thunderstorm stopped him from returning to the lady. He got lost in the jungle. Night came quickly, and he stood beside a tree all night. Early next morning, he picked up his old track and returned to where the woman had been resting. He found her lying there dead. He took her body and buried her in the tigi. lpa Mulu Luguya was so sad and depressed about the whole outcome that he changed into a puyu, a whistling bird. This bird is called the weeping bird. The bird is often heard saying, “hoo wee, toto wee” {“I am sad, I am very sad”).
Later many sacred and strange looking plants grew out of various parts of her body. These were taken to various haroli tigi as their haroli.

The blood collected in the decorated bamboo was taken as the haroli {by some other haroli tigi). The design on the bamboo tried to capture the tear drops of lpa Mulu Luguya and Pepeko Wane Padime. This bamboo was called liwa be. The bamboo was changed when it got old. The blood that was brought from Pepeko was kept in there, and the blood never dried up. The other undersigned pieces of bamboo with blood were shared out among the Hulimen. It was believed that anyone who possessed them could get an increase in wealth and in the number of children and become healthy fathers and mothers. This also stopped them from getting old too quickly.

The haroli tigi are scattered throughout the Huli land. Each haroli tigi has either a sacred plant that bleeds with blood when cut or a liwabe or bamboo containing the blood as their haroli.
The young men went to the haroli to see this before they graduated. Patrick Pagaya, an old haroli instructor, told me that the blood in the bamboo liwa be comes up to the top when a good haroli comes to see it. They feel the presence of someone in the tigi. They believe it to be the heavenly creature Padume.”

This legend was recited in the tigi. Many of the haroli would weep when this story was told. They told me that if the lady had not died, they would now have an easy life.

(Extract from Datagaliwabe Was Working Among The Huli. Damien Arabagali. Treid Pacific (PNG) Ltd. 1999. pp. 78-85.)