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Maenge gardens

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Françoise Panoff

Chapter 4. Utilisation of domesticates

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1It has often been stressed that cultivated plants are multi-purposed plants (Anderson, 1952) The Maenge provide an additional proof of this. There are very few cultivated plants that have but one utilisation. The case of Morinda citrifolia, which is used as a source of paint and seemingly for no other purpose, is quite exceptional. At the opposite extreme of Morinda citrifolia, we find a plant like Cordyline sp., which is used both in technology and in ritual life.

2Here I concentrate on four major types of utilisation: cooking, the feminine costume, medicine and magic. I leave aside minor utilisations such as the making of perfumed oil using coconut oil with basil, or techniques that are not specific to the Maenge but that occur throughout the Pacific area and have been well described, such as the use of the Areca nut with lime and betel pepper, or the numerous utilisations of the various parts of the coconut (see Conklin 1958 and Barrau 1962 for details). In the first section I offer some data on the Maenge category of taste. I introduce the contrast between “hot” and “cold” plants, which is fundamental with respect to Maenge medicine and magic. This contrast is taken up again in the last sections, while the study of the feminine costume offers an opportunity to see how Maenge women handle contrasts between various cultivars.

Maenge cooking

3Maenge cooking is not very elaborate and does not involve the manipulation of many foodstuffs. Most often, it only consists in transforming raw material into a cooked one. While garnish represents a small percentage of each meal (10 to 20%), very little attention is paid to seasoning other than salt. There is very little interaction and mixing of ingredients since the garnish and the staple are usually cooked separately. Some myths speak of people who were ignorant of cooking and stress the contrast between cooked and raw food. In one version of the myths of the Kaekename or One-legged people, they are described as ignorant of fire, a paradoxical situation as they are excellent gardeners and grow beautiful taro crops, which, however, they eat raw. It is man who teaches them how to produce fire by rubbing and how to cook their food. It is also said that in the past, the members of the Octopus clan used to dry their meat in the sun. This technique was not considered to be equivalent to cooking, as the members of the Octopus clan were said to eat their meat raw, korekore, a verb contrasting with the usual kania, to eat. The myth is elaborated to transform a metaphorical relation between two terms into a metonymical one: the word for the Octopus is kaekae, derived from kae, sun, as the Octopus, with its numerous arms, looks like the sun with its rays. In the myth, the food to be eaten by members of this clan is directly heated by the sun. To their metaphorical relation to the sun, the similarity between the octopus and the sun, is added a new one which is a relation of contiguity or metonymy since, through the mediation of the meat, there is now a material link between them and the sun. One should note that the myth of the Kaekename is very curious, since the toxic substances of Colocasia esculenta can be eliminated only by cooking. Their throat and digestive system must have been such as to make the assimilation of the oxalate crystals possible. The myth does not give any details on this point but stresses the independence of humans from this mythical population. Their relationship is based on reciprocal gifts until it is broken by human fault, a recurrent theme in Maenge mythology.

4Cooking is not the only method the Maenge know to eliminate the toxic substances in raw food. Water can be used as well, as in the case of Cycas rumphii, the ovules of which are left in running water for several days after being reduced into a paste. Heat is also used to bring certain fruits to maturity: banana, the more recently introduced water melon or papaya are cooked unripe in a soup. Finally, fire can be used to dry and keep some foodstuffs. Canarium almonds are put in a basket and hung above the fire, pig grease is kept inside bamboo tubes and ginger rhizomes and cooked food are kept in baskets for a few days. It must be emphasized that apart from drying above the fire, the Maenge know no other method of preserving food. There are few foodstuffs that they eat raw: the fruits of the various kauluma trees, cucumber and ginger in the past and nowadays water melon and tomatoes are the main exceptions.

  • 21 (Editor’s note). Here the author uses the term “stone oven”. It can be assumed however that she re (...)

5Cooking is done in the oval marital houses where one usually finds two firing places, one at the masculine end of the house and the other at the feminine end. The women do the cooking. While the men could cook banana in the men’s houses on special occasions, usually all the food available in the men’s houses, whether in daily life or on ritual occasions, come from the marital houses. For cooking purposes, the women use the firing place that is in their part of the house. Today, when many houses are erected on piles, it is not uncommon to find cooking houses close by the marital house, but this is a recent practice. When feasts are being prepared, the women also cook in the firing places located in the men’s part of the house, and numerous earth ovens21 are made outside the house. These firing places are used at night to heat the house. The two main cooking techniques are cooking on an open fire, on live embers, and cooking in an earth oven. Boiling was not practised for lack of pottery, though small fish and Palolo viridis worms could sometimes be boiled in half coconut shells. The main contrast here is not roasted/boiled as Lévi-Strauss suggests in his Triangle Culinaire (1965) but roasted/braised, where braised occupies the same position as boiled in the main contrast set, as it is more on the side of culture than roasting. While in daily life the women resort to either technique depending on the quality and nature of the food they have for cooking, the food eaten on festive occasions is always cooked in the earth oven.

6To cook on an open fire is tuve by contrast with savunia, to cook in the earth oven (savuning). The choice between the two techniques depends on the circumstances, the species to be cooked or the characteristics of the cultivars that a woman prepares. Taro cultivars can be classified by the mode of cooking they require. Those with a hard flesh can be cooked on an open fire, as they will not crumble, while those with a soft and crumbling flesh must be cooked in the earth oven, wrapped up in leaves.

7While no special attention is paid to the shape of the heap of branches and the bed of embers when cooking on an open fire, much more care and time is required to cook food in the earth oven. The women must remove the ashes which lay on the firing place and uncover the hole dug into the earth, which is usually full of ashes. They heat the stones on a small fire made by the main firing place. This small fire has the shape of a square. Small branches are arranged neatly, layer after layer, to form a small pyre over which the stones are left. When the stones are red hot, the women remove them with a tong and lay a first lot at the bottom of the pit. While waiting for the stones to be hot, they go on preparing the food. Once peeled and cut, if need be, or grated in the case of Manihot utilissima, it is wrapped up in small packs which are put above the first layer of stones. The women put another layer of stones on the packs, then another layer of packs and so on until all the food has been put into the oven. The mound is then covered with a thick layer of leaves and ashes.

8With respect to Colocasia esculenta, the distinction between the two techniques is of ritual significance. When preparing the taro corms which are cooking in the open fire, the women must only remove the burnt part of the skin from time to time, an operation that they perform with the help of the small Lucinidae shell. This operation is known as naue patuna, to scrape the skin. When preparing the corms to be cooked in the earth oven, the women must peel the skin, sogia patuna, an operation that they perform with the large oyster shell. The Maenge think that the first operation is less painful for the corms, which do not feel the edge of the shell as the women remove only those parts of the skin which are burnt, while in the second case, the corms are directly hurt by the oyster shell.

9The Maenge classify firewood into two categories based on the way trees burn. Trees that burn well are called “vegame orenga mutuga”; they belong to species such as Intsia bijuga, Celtis latifolia, Xylocarpus granatum, Leea sp., Sonneratia alba etc. Trees which do not keep the fire are called “vegame orenga matemate” (from mate, to die), or trees with a black mouth (“orenga kona e kakaso”). They include species such as Macaranga aleuritoides and Homalanthus sp.

10The leaves, which are used for cooking food in the earth oven belong to two different groups: on the one hand, there are those leaves that are used to wrap up the food (rugua) and are in direct contact with it. On the other hand, there are the leaves which are used to cover (gasia) the mound. Leaves belonging to the first group must, of necessity, be quite large and thick. They come from species such as: Artocarpus communis (breadfruit tree), Xanthosoma sagittifolium, Colocasia esculenta, Acalypha grandis, Gmelina moluccana, etc. For packing the food women use leaves such as Alpinia oceanica, banana, Heliconia sp., Lunasia amara, etc. With some of these leaves (banana, wild Cordyline terminalis, etc.) the surface of Colocasia esculenta may become bright (melamelang), a characteristic which the Maenge enjoy. In some cases, the leaves add a flavour to the food, as in the case of the leaves of Barringtonia asiatica used to wrap up the small fish cooked in the earth oven.

11So far, the two main cooking techniques have been examined. Apart from them, there are minor cooking techniques that involve the use of containers and a low or quick fire. Based on the intensity of the fire, these techniques can be identified as closer to roasting or to braising. Shellfish can be wrapped up in leaves of Alpinia oceanica and cooked on live embers; other leaves such as those of Endospermum formicarum, Homalanthus sp., Acalypha grandis or Colocasia esculenta can be used, but not those of the breadfruit tree that do not resist in the fire. To cook shellfish in this way is manana nga poi, to dry in the fire; it is distinct from lale nga poi and paena. The shellfish can be placed in bark and cooked on a quick fire (lale nga poi) and the same can be done with small taro put in bamboo tubes. Paena refers to the way of cooking fish, chestnuts and seeds of Dioscorea bulbifera in bamboo tubes or bark on a low fire. While manana and lale nga poi are closer to tuve, paena is closer to savunia. The word tuve can be used even when containers are present, as in “tuve tutu kana nga poi nga vega patuna va lamasi vagana”, to cook the almonds of Gnetum latifolium in bark or coconut shell. Though closer to nature, tuve is on the side of culture: when cooking logs of the Cyathea sp. that are eaten during famines, the verb patuia, to put a log in the fire, is used rather than tuve.

12The main cooking implements are on the one hand those used to peel, grate or cut: to the two shells, one must add knives made of bamboo and the sharpened tibias of pigs and cassowaries used to perform various tasks (removing coconut meat, piercing holes in palms’ rachis). On the other hand, numerous vessels are used when preparing food, cooking it or offering it. Apart from natural vessels such as half or whole coconut shells (vato and lamasi vanu), the main vessels are those made with a leaf of Alocasia macrorrhiza (rala) and those made with the rachis of various palms, such as Areca or Archontophoenix sp. The material used for sewing comes from the following species: a Lygodium sp., a Tetrastigma sp. and Flagellaria indica.

  • 22 (Editor’s note). The author wrote Saccharum robustum, most probably in error because there is no r (...)

13As is usual in Oceania (see Conklin 1954, Mead 1934), a Maenge meal consists of the main dish: taro, yam, sweet potato (Xanthosoma sagittifolium), cassava, banana or rice bought from a shop, and a garnish, which is usually cooked and includes greens, fish or shellfish and, rarely, meat. All the leaves that are eaten as greens can be called vasi though in its narrow meaning this word refers only to the taro leaves eaten as greens. Coconut oil is often added to these greens. The oil is extracted from ripe or dried coconuts (lamasi a mara or lamasi ore manani). Ginger and Saccharum edule22 can be prepared with coconut oil as well and eaten as garnish (ginger is not cooked). The Maenge do not cook taro with coconut milk as is done in other parts of Oceania but they eat the meat of young nuts together with taro. Pig grease kept in bamboo tubes can also be eaten as garnish. Given the lack of protein and grease, the part played by coconut meat and oil is important in the Maenge diet. The equivalence between coconut meat and pig flesh is made clear in ritual practices. Coconut meat could be used instead of pig flesh in initiation rites that theoretically can only be performed when pigs are present, since the soul of the killed pig is a necessary offering in the transactions which occur at such times between human beings and the other world (on this point, see M. Panoff 1969d). The Maenge myth of the origin of the coconut tree probably expresses this equivalence between pig flesh and coconut meat. As in many Melanesian myths (see Dixon 1916 for a summary), the first coconut grew from the head of an ogre. The myth is usually explained in terms of the similarities between the coconut and the human head, which is certainly the case with the Maenge myth. Apart from this metaphorical relation between a human head and the nut, the myth also insists on their metonymic relationship: the nut comes from the head so that the meat is thought of as coming from human flesh. In the case of the Maenge myth, one should underline that the ogre fed on human flesh, so that his flesh is made of living flesh just as the meat of the nut comes from living flesh.

14While the garnish includes many possibilities, seasoning is almost entirely restricted to salt. On the coast, greens are cooked in sea water and seaweed can be eaten raw as a source of salt. Mountain-dwelling people used to come to the coast in small parties and obtain salt by boiling sea water in the bark of Albizia falcataria. The salt was partly kept for their own needs and those of their fellow-villagers and partly traded (for more details on this trade, see M. Panoff 1968).

15The main contrast set when discussing Maenge taste categories is masimasi/marusu. Masimasi usually means tasty by contrast with marusu, untasty. Salt and honey can be described as masimasi. An informant made the meaning of this word perfectly clear when trying to convey the taste of honey by saying: “it was as masimasi as honey” (miso ke masimasi ma pue). Marusu, on the other hand, can be attributed to such untasty foodstuff as the flesh of the native cucumber. The common meaning of marusu is not untasty but “cold” as in cold weather. Taro which have been left over from a previous meal are described as marusu. This is not the only meaning of marusu. It can also mean “cold” by contrast with “hot” and pungent foodstuffs or remedies. If we consider masimasi after describing the various meanings of marusu, one finds that there is an association between this word and “heat”. For instance, if one is scratched by a thorny vine or a sharp leaf, one may apply the word masimasi to the feeling of heat at the surface of the body, exactly in the way that the term malamala, that means pungent, is used when describing a more severe pain, as shown below. Thus, one can say: mirau ke masimasi ka oalo matana (“my body is slightly irritated and heated by the thorn of the vine”), providing further evidence that tasty items are somehow considered to be “hot”.

16The Maenge word for flavour is mananangana, equivalent to the French term “essence”. It is derived from manangana, authentic, genuine, in such a way that the flavour reveals the genuineness of the species considered. When eating a mouthful of taro, one allows it to melt with the saliva to feel its flavour. A foodstuff without flavour is described as marusu, cold, but if it possesses some flavour it can be described as masimasi or isopa. The latter is strictly the opposite of marusu, referring to heat in contexts such as hot weather or hot, pungent foods. The other words referring to taste are mamaoga and malamala. Mamaoga refers to both acid and bitter while malamala is best glossed as pungent. Mamaoga applies to lemon and malamala to chili pepper. Both words can refer to substances which are astringent. Strictly speaking it could be said that the Maenge do not isolate perceptions of taste, that are limited to sweet, salt, acid and bitter, but they pay attention instead to other concomitant phenomena such as a feeling of heat, of irritation or astringency. From this point of view, it is of interest that mamaoga is restricted to feelings occurring at the level of the mouth or the throat, but that malamala can be applied to external feelings of irritation and heat, for instance due to skin abrasion. Another word, masikili, is generally used to describe the pain caused by the bites of red ants or the itching of Urticaceae like Laportea gigas. This word can be used occasionally when the pain is localized in the mouth or the throat but only when the irritation is considerable, as when eating taro that has not been properly cooked.

17Cultivars can be distinguished as masimasi or marusu. Some sugarcane and banana cultivars are described as masimasi and others as marusu. In the case of the former, the word masimasi could almost be glossed as “sweet”. The analysis of food taboos imposed on young mothers will allow us to see how these distinctions operate in Maenge thought. In the first weeks after the birth, a mother should not eat “hot” (isopa) foodstuffs. Because it has been in contact with blood when coming into the world, the body of a young infant is thought to be unduly “hot”. In this condition, it may attract the bloodthirsty spirits of the dead. The mother should be careful not to increase this heat and, on the contrary, try to “cool” the child. The list of forbidden items includes mostly foodstuffs that are “hot” because of their taste, colour, size or habitat. Among the forbidden items, one finds honey and salt. The taboo on salt also extends to some degree to the creatures living in the sea. As a rule, shellfish and fish living in fresh water are considered “cold” while those living in the sea are “hot”. The women are permitted to eat fish and shellfish from rivers and ponds but only some of those living in the sea. They can eat shellfish that dwells on the beach and in the mangroves as they are less “hot” than those living far away in the sea, and the fish which are found in the reef but not those that are fished out of the deep sea. A question of size may also come into play apart from taste and the greater influence of the salted element. All the large “fish” (which includes sea mammals and turtles) are forbidden, as well as the very tall sugar canes, which are also among the sweetest. The quality of the meat of the sea mammals and turtles is like that of the pig, which is forbidden during that period. Among other “hot” items one finds ripe banana (only unripe and cooked ones are allowed), ripe and dry coconut as well as coconuts with red or yellow nuts. If one now turns to the foodstuffs which are recommended, one finds the cucumber, the water of young coconuts, sugar cane, the fruit of Barringtonia niedenzuana, that is foodstuffs which are characterized either by a “cold” flesh (such as the cucumber) or an abundance of juice. Barringtonia niedenzuana is classified as relatively cold by contrast with the Canarium, chestnut, breadfruit, mango, Parartocarpus venenosus and Pangium edule, which are classified as “hot” and forbidden during that period.

18Before ending those paragraphs devoted to the preparation of food, it is relevant to mention the words that the Maenge use to refer to the various ways of eating and to the various movements made with the mouth for eating or other related operations. We have already seen that the verb to eat, kania, is contrasted with kore, to eat raw food. Kania can also contrast with the verb pitalo, to eat the garnish (by contrast with eating the main dish), and with inue, to drink. Specific verbs are applied to eating specific types of food: goesia, to suck (sugar cane); isia, to tear (the fibers of Caryota rumphiana); ngnonge, to swallow the juice (of the small balls of red earth which are left to melt in the mouth, and of the juice of a sugar cane variety remarkable for its sweetness that mothers give to infants.) To put in the mouth is tamale; to swallow: sonia; to masticate: camupele; to clench one’s teeth: tamupite; to bite: gnelikia. Conversely, to drop from one’s mouth is ripia, contrasting with utua (to spit) and muta (to vomit). To inspire is sume and to expire is isue (related to isong, the flute); both words can be used when smoking tobacco. To inhale, as is done with the crushed leaves of Clematis papuasica, is sangala, while rile means to chew betel. The richness of the vocabulary connected with food may be extended if one also considers verbs referring to special actions: pitopale, to open taro by placing it between one’s legs and pulling it apart with the hands; telekole, to cut lengthwise by contrast with kovua, to cut crosswise; papukupia, to offer mashed taro (mutang) to infants or piglets on the petiole of a taro.

The feminine costume

19Some authors (Hogbin 1945, and Strathern and Strathern 1971) have paid attention to the elaborate character of costume in Melanesia, but more needs to be said about the number of species involved and the aesthetic qualities displayed. In the following pages, I wish to stress the part played by cultigens in Maenge costume and to show how cultivars are used in a discriminative way.

20The costume of a Maenge woman is formed of three different parts: a girdle, a band passed between the legs that is made of the sheaths of Alpinia oceanica and the plants with which the substructure of the costume is adorned. On the coast, the women wear a girdle made of a black epiphyte (ragi) which has given its name to that part of the costume. Since ragi does not grow near the coast, the female inhabitants of distant villages traditionally make girdles and sell them to coast dwellers. They collect the short epiphyte in large quantities on the morning when they want to set to work. Back at the village, they wet the plants with fresh water, clean them of their knots, rub them on their thighs and plait them into a four-strand braid after attaching the end to their feet. As each stem is only a few inches long, they must take new ones often to continue their work.

21The Longueinga make several kinds of these girdles, which they trade to coastal women. Their base material is a rope made of the fibers of a Maoutia sp. They plait or decorate this rope with the black ragi, the yellow stem of a Diplocaulobium sp., the brown stem of a fern (baruvu), the fibers of Thespesia peekelii and Commersonia bartramia. In addition, they adorn these girdles with beads which replace the white shells formerly obtained from the north coast. On Saturdays – in contrast with every five or six days in the past – each woman brings back to her house a bundle of Alpinia oceanica (guri), which she has collected on the outskirts of the village where it grows in large thickets. There, in the bush, she has already cut the top part of their stems and stripped them of their inferior leaves. The stem measures about 60 inches and only about four of the alternate leaves remain on each side. She then removes the sheaths from the stems of this herbaceous plant to make them part of her garment. She does so by rubbing each leaf on her thigh, tearing away the midrib with her teeth and beating the stem at the node with a small hammer. She starts with the upper leaf. After several strokes, she strips the sheath off the stem and cleans it from the fibres that still stick to it, then proceeds to the next node. When she has removed all the sheaths to which the blades are still attached, she throws them on the roof of her house where they dry for a few hours. Once they are dry, she performs the last operations: first she removes the ligules from the sheaths, then she tears away the blades. She gathers the sheaths, which she will later pass between her legs and fastens them to both sides of her girdle. This garment is called guri.

22Following the Maenge tradition, women should wear cordyline leaves on the back and leaves of Coleus blumei on the front. In the west part of the Maenge country, cordyline leaves form a thick and long back-covering, while in the eastern part of the country, the women only tuck a few leaves in their girdle. Before tucking them in their girdle, they bend the petioles with their teeth so that the leaves will not escape. They tuck the larger leaves independently but fasten seven or eight leaves of the smaller varieties in a bunch. The leaves last for a few days and are replaced after bathing. In everyday life, women wear the commonest varieties, those belonging to group II.1. They keep the best ones for dances and for Sundays.

  • 23 (Editor’s note). The author uses the terms “variety” and “cultivar” indiscriminately but she is cl (...)

23Before puberty, young girls cannot wear red cordylines. Some cultivars such as taive and giasoali used to belong to matrons only but nowadays young girls wear them as well. In mourning periods, women wear banana leaves and leaves of the wild cordyline (kerakera), which is green. For dances and in everyday life women may mix leaves of an unidentified cultigen called uinsi (Musaceae) or the leaves of the wild Crinum macranthum with the cordylines. Although a woman may wear the leaves of one variety only, it is more usual for women to adorn themselves with the leaves of three to six varieties. When composing their costume, the women play with the contrasts of the various cultivars, stressing or toning down their main characteristics. Individual taste prevails. For instance, some women may wear the leaves of the largest cultivars, while others will choose the leaves of the smallest ones. Others will combine both, so that the bunches of small leaves form a kind of bustle above the stream of the large ones. To give an idea of this part of the costume, I shall present a detailed analysis of the kind of half-skirt that an informant, Kelatape, wore on a Sunday morning in the village of Malakuru; (See Kelatape’s genealogy in Figure 17, Chapter 3). If one considers only half the dress, starting with the outside to the backbone, she has slipped into her girdle the following varieties23: lelenge, kova, lote, ganei, guruguru. Their characteristics are indicated in Table XV.

Table XV. Characterisation of the cordyline cultivars worn by Kelatape

Name of cultivar

Colour (5)

Size

Length

Surface Aspect

Marginal-vein

“red”/“yellow”/“white”/“black”

small/large

short/elongated

curved/flat/twisted

present/absent

lelenge

“yellow” (4)*

small (4)

short (2)

flat (1)

absent (1)

kova

“yellow” (4)

small (4)

short (2)

curved (1)

present (1)

lote

“red” (21)

large (6)

short (1)

flat (1)

absent (1)

ganei

“yellow” (4)

small (4)

elongated (2)

curved (2)

present (1)

guruguru

“red” (21)

large (6)

elongated (5)

curved (1)

absent (1)

* The figures refer to the number of possibilities in each case.

24The different rhythms are superimposed in the following way:

Colour

a a b a b b a b a a

Size

a a b a b b a b a a

Length

a a a b b b b a a a

Surface Aspect

a b a b b b b a b a

Leaf margin

a b a b a a b a b a

25Two sets of related issues arise here. First, we must consider the number of cordylines that Kelatape could choose once she had decided to make her skirt. Second, we must consider the order in which she arranged the cordyline leaves.

Range of choice

26As a wife of a “Father of the Village” and therefore a “Mother of the Village”, Kelatape has travelled through the Maenge area much more than her fellow-villagers. She has had the opportunity to trade some cordyline cultivars and to bring new ones into her village. She sticks conscientiously to tradition and plants as many cultivars as possible. Among the cordylines grown in her village, Malakuru, 14 are “white”, 4 “yellow”, 26 “red”, 7 “black” and 8 “striped”. Ketalape grows most of them, so that to have an idea of the possibilities offered to her, we can consider the figures quoted above. First, it must be noted that “yellow” cordylines only exist in a limited number. Though it is not infrequent to see women wearing “yellow” leaves, they usually wear the leaves of only one variety at a time and thus the decision to make a skirt with three different varieties of “yellow” cordylines is quite unexpected. The choice here was furthermore limited by the fact that all the “yellow” varieties are small. In the case of the elongated and curved “yellow” varieties (there are two of them), the decisive factor was the absence or presence of a marginal vein, since this contrast played an important part in the making of the skirt, as will be shown later. Concerning “red” cordylines, I have reliable data for only 21 cultivars out of the 26 cultivated in the village. Six out of the 21 “red” cordylines are large, 15 are small. Among the large ones, five are elongated, 10 are short. Four of the large and elongated varieties have flat leaves, while only one has a curved leaf. Three of the small and elongated varieties have curved leaves, while the other two have flat leaves. Among the small and short varieties, two have flat leaves, seven have curved leaves and one has a twisted leaf. Though they are far more numerous than the “yellow” varieties, Kelatape chose only two of them to make her skirt. Lote is the only cordyline which is at the same time large, short and flat so that if Kelatape wanted to play with these features, she could only pick up this variety. There is only one cordyline, guruguru, that is at the same time large, elongated and curved.

Order of cordylines

27Colour. Kelatape’s skirt plays on the contrast between “yellow” on the outside and “red” in the centre, so that “yellow” and “red” leaves follow one another in a progression a a b a b b a b a a. On the outer skirts, the “yellow” leaves are predominant (a a) while in the centre, the “red” ones are predominant (b b). The intermediation from the “yellow” leaves to the “red” ones is made through the introduction of a “red” leaf (b) followed by a single “yellow” one (a). To remain on such a broad level, however, would be partly to miss the point. The labels “red” and “yellow” point to major differences in the leaves but neglect the similarities, which in this case are obvious. It is now necessary to further consider the characteristics of these leaves to understand the chromatic composition of the skirt and see how it depends on special features of the cultivars. If the leaves of lelenge and guruguru are taken to represent respectively the colours “yellow” and “red”, this opposition is mediated in the following manner through the intermediary leaves:

  • Kova. This variety has a particularly large and conspicuous marginal vein, dark red (“black”) in colour, from which the cultivar derives its name.
  • Lote. This leaf turns “red” when mature, yet it usually retains a large “yellow” patch in the centre of the blade. While kova is a “yellow” leaf with a strong dark red accent, lote is a “red” leaf with a “yellow” accent. The accent is placed on the outside of the leaf in the first instance and on the centre of the leaf in the second.
  • Ganei. It is like kova in that it has a “yellow” leaf with a “red” marginal vein. Kelatape clearly chose this variety rather than magaluele, which is also “yellow”, small, elongated and curved but lacks a red marginal vein. Magualale could have been a good intermediary as part of its leaf is also “red”, but it would not have been in a symmetric position with respect to kova.

28Size and length. The skirt is often longer in the middle of the back; it is there where we find, in this case, the elongated varieties. guruguru is the longest of all Maenge cordylines. We also find here the rhythm a a b a b b a b a a with respect to size. The mediation is made through lote (large but short) and ganei (small but elongated).

29Surface aspects. The skirt culminates in curved leaves and the rhythm here is opposite to what it was in the cases of colour and size.

30Marginal vein. Lastly, if one considers the presence or absence of marginal vein, one finds the simple rhythm a b a b a etc. All these different rhythms combine in an elaborate manner as shown on Table XV.

31In front, women should wear the leaves of Coleus blumei. They put these directly in their under-belt rather than in the girdle. Although women respect this fashion in the eastern part of the Maenge area, it is frequent to see women in the western villages wearing cordyline leaves in front as well. If they do so, they tuck the leaves into their girdles. Women grow several varieties of Coleus blumei, up to 20 different cultivars in Malakuru. These differ in shape and colour. Their usual name is mugang (“in front”). Women can also replace Coleus with other plants, mainly ginger, lemon grass, a wild Zingiber sp. and the wild Coleus atropurpureus. When women in the western villages wear cordyline leaves in the front, they call into play their different characteristics and contrast or harmonize them with the leaves they wear in the back. On a Sunday morning, Lonakurmia, a young girl from Parole, wore the following varieties: in the back, maguenga, namvu, guruguru; in the front, learamana, venarogei and lote (Table XVIa).

Table XVIa. Characterisation of the cordyline cultivars worn by Lonakurmia

A. Back (starting from the outside to the backbone)

Name of cultivar

Colour

Size

Length

Surface Aspect

Marginal-vein

maguenga

“red”

large

elongated

flat

absent

namvu

“red”

large

elongated

flat

present

guruguru

“red”

large

elongated

curved

absent

B. Front (starting from the outside to the navel)

Name of cultivar

Colour

Size

Length

Surface Aspect

Marginal-vein

learamana

“white”

large

short

flat

present

venarogei

“striped”

large

short

flat

present

lote

“red”

large

short

flat

absent

Figure 18. Feminine costume, back view

Figure 18. Feminine costume, back view

Figure 19. Feminine costume profile

Figure 19. Feminine costume profile

Photograph 13. Sonimalua, the Mother of Matong preparing the band of Alpinia oceanica which forms a part of her costume. She is beating the stem of the plant with a stone

Photograph 14. Lonatanirea on a Sunday morning. The small leaves of her costume form a kind of bustle above the longer ones

Figure 20. Feminine costume details

Figure 20. Feminine costume details

32Here again guruguru is placed in the back, at the centre. The back part of the costume is composed in a harmony of red with elongated leaves. Short cordylines in the front contrast with elongated cordylines in the back. The colour progression in the back is from “white” to “red”. Venarogei is a good intermediary, as part of the leaf remains “white” even when mature, while the other part becomes “red”. The “white” in the front of the garment finds an echo in the back, where the girl followed a new fashion, as we shall see below, by wearing the leaves of a Maoutia sp. which have a “white” effect before the cordyline leaves on the outside of her skirt. Such an interplay between the back and front part of this garment is common. A more complex example is offered by a girl from the same village, Pamatakote, wearing on that same Sunday the following cordyline cultivars: giasoali, learamana, taive in the front and magua ivo, tatangalitu, namvu and kavauvaunga in the back. To these she had added the leaves of a Maoutia sp. and of Alphitonia incana (Table XVIb).

Table XVIb. Characterisation of the cordyline cultivars worn by Pamatakote

A. Front (from the outside to the navel)

Name of cultivar

Colour

Size

Length

Surface Aspect

Marginal-vein

giasoali

“black”

large

short

flat

absent

learamana

“white”

large

short

flat

present

taive

“black”

large

elongated

flat

absent

B. Back (from the outside to the backbone)

Name of cultivar and Wild Species

Colour

Size

Length

Surface Aspect

Marginal-vein

magua ivo

“yellow”

small

elongated

curved

absent

maoutia sp

“white”

-

-

-

-

alphitonia incana

“white”

-

-

-

-

tatangalitu

“black”

small

elongated

curved

absent

namvu, avauvaunga

“white”

large

elongated

flat

absent

33The main contrast in the front is between “black” and “white” leaves. In the back, and considering for now only the cordyline leaves, the colour progression is from “yellow” to “black” and “white”. The opposition between “white” and “yellow” is mediated by tatangalitu, as this cultivar retains “yellow” stripes even when mature and the centre of the leaf remains “white”. The “white” accent is also given by the leaves of Maoutia sp. and Alphitonia incana so that the main contrast is between “white” and “black” leaves, an echo of the colour contrast found in the front of the garment. But whereas in the front “white” leaves are surrounded by “black” ones, it is the opposite for the back part of the costume.

34On festive occasion and on Sundays, women wear aromatic plants including the two species of Basilicum sp. These are interspersed with cordyline leaves and worn in the back.

35During menstruation and in the first months after childbirth, women are not allowed to wear cordyline leaves. It is thought that the leaves would wither and moreover that infants might break their necks, following the women’s breaking of the petioles. Instead, women use the aromatic species mentioned above, the leaves of Coleus blumei and some wild species. These are chosen either because of their scent or because of their “white” or “green” appearance. Often, they are placed in such a way as to show the lower surface of the blades. During the weeks following childbirth or during menstruation, women and infants are impregnated, as can be recalled, with the smell of blood that attract malevolent spirits of the dead or other ill-wishing beings. The perfume of plants drives them away and helps the infants grow. One should notice that, though the number of wild species, which can be used as substitutes is high, as shown in Table XVIIa, they are only used when cultigens such as cordylines might be damaged by bad influences. It appears from Tables XVI(a and b) and XVIIb that although the number of cultivates women use to make their costume is not high, cultivars derived from the plant species used total a hundred in the village of Malakuru.

Table XVIIa. Plants used by Maenge women as substitutes for cordyline leaves

Scientific Name

Maenge Name

Elmerrillia papuana (Dandy)

pemgala

Maoutia spp.

galigali

Alphitonia incana (Roxb.) Teijsm

tava

Premna sp.

kipa

Euodia elleryana F. v. M.

tolova

Vernonia Spp.

meme

Mallotus paniculatus (Lam) Müll Arg.

puepue

Piper spp.

sagope

Callicarpa caudata Maxim.

togavele

Calycacanthus magnusianus K. Schum.

kelampere-ka-Nutu

Homalanthus sp.

pare

Messershmidtia argentea (L.F.) Johnst.

vosovoso (the duplicate form of voso, tobacco)

Table XVIIb. Plants used by Maenge women for their costume in Malakuru village

Scientific Name

Number of cultivars

Maenge Name

Cordyline terminalis L. Kunth.

57

ela

Coleus blumei (L.) Benth

20

mugang or vulong

Ocimum basilicum L.

1

vong

Ocimum sanctum L.

8

vagitu

Cymbopogon sp.

2

tuge

Zingiber zerumbet (L.) Roscoe ex Sm.

3

gua

Musaceae

9

uinsi

Maenge medicine

36Here I call medicine the utilisation of objects such as plants to restore a sick body to good health. It is obvious that no firm line can be drawn between medicine, magic and sorcery, as the same theory often forms their common framework of reference. Before examining how domesticates are used as remedies, I will give an outline of Maenge conception of disease and discuss the categories of “hot” and “cold” plants as they play a fundamental part not only in Maenge medicine but also in garden magic.

37The Maenge think that heat in general produces mild diseases. During the dry season, however, everyone is likely to be affected by minor ailments such as headaches and coughs. These are especially frequent during the month called tolova, after Euodia elleryana, a tree which flowers in January, that is one of the driest months of the year. There is a Maenge saying: tolova ka mamna ke kalaure a valovalong (“the burning heat of tolova helps sickness”). The word mamamna, burning heat, is used when speaking of both the fire and the sun. The species tolova itself is classified as a “hot” (isopa) plant since it flowers in the middle of the dry season and its blossoms are fragrant, as we shall see below. The Maenge believe that the flowers of trees such as Canarium commune, Eugenia malaccensis, Castanopsis acuminatissima and Mangifera indica cause coughs, headaches and even back pain. Though not all informants agreed on the list of these species, they included trees bearing edible fruits, whether wild or domesticated, and trees with fragrant or red flowers. The latter have a special name, rolana, while all other flowers are called lukuna. One informant cited Pterocarpus indicus because of its scent, which he described as pungent (malamala), while another cited Erythrina indica because of its red flowers. The Maenge describe the flowers of these species as “hot”, and they say about their scent ke vali ita (“it attacks us”). They also depict the smell of cooked pig as “hot”; as such, it makes people sick. Therefore, no sick person lies near an earth oven where pork is cooked.

38Minor sicknesses of a similar kind are attributed to earthquakes. These are provoked by Malila, the chthonian deity. Because he is displeased with humankind, Malila shakes the earth and sickness follows the wave of heat released by the earthquake. When an earthquake occurs the Maenge say: “oru iongana ke vae tuntungana” (“the one who strikes – a common expression to refer to Malila – sends heat”). The Longueinga use the word tuntunu instead of isopa for hot.

39In all the previous examples, “hot” things provoke sickness: the dry season and the tolova month, the “heat” of some flowering trees and the “heat” that Malila sends with earthquakes. There are other associations of heat with disease as follows. The Longueinga believe that most severe diseases are due to the burning fire of Pango (Pango mamana) a volcano located near Hoskins. At night, Pango wanders through villages and spreads disease by means of his heat. A Longueinga myth depicts him and Malila offering each other large quantities of human flesh. Sorcerers bewitch their victims with the help of refuse and plants classified as “hot” (see below). Plants used to place taboos on trees are also said to inflict disease through their burning heat. Women induce disease because their sex is “hot”, having been made so by a Maenge deity who utilised some of the “hot” substances mentioned below. Men are attacked during sexual intercourse, children when being born or being fed. The supernatural sickness which strikes a youth who has had contact with the plants used in making ancestors’ masks is attributed to the plants’ heat. Although the informants never explicitly described the masalai (a class of malevolent spirits) as “hot” beings, the effect they produce on the blood of their victim is like that of “hot” things, as will be made apparent shortly.

40Thus, many if not most diseases can be traced in Maenge opinion to the influence of a “hot” agent, be it a natural phenomenon, a plant or a supernatural being. In the case of the coastal Maenge, the principal exception to this hypothesis is a disease that human beings experience through sympathy with Malila. Respiratory diseases, however, are not caused by sorcerers who use “hot” plants, but one of the Zingiberaceae, the leaves of which wither quickly when they are plucked.

41When asked for the symptoms characteristic of sicknesses like those described above, informants’ answers are uniform. When a person is in good condition, his blood is liquid (veta) though stagnant; it is clean (lele); it is “red” (tente); its temperature is not too high and it is equally distributed throughout the body. When a person is sick, his blood becomes dry (manani) and heats the body: vala ke manani va ke tuve mirana (“the blood becomes dry and cooks the body”). It is dirty (ka mukuna) and looks “black” (kakaso). By contrast, the blood of a corpse is “white”. Moreover, this blood gathers in one spot (ke giu) that becomes sore. Such is the effect not only of the various “hot” substances discussed above but also of masalai spirits. The latter, which often appear as snakes, may enter the body of a human being. If these entities remain in the blood, it becomes dry. If they concentrate in a leg, elephantiasis develops. Concentration of blood in the abdomen causes abdominal pains. Informants describe the mass it forms there as compact and hairy (totona ke manani na ke ginging a kuna launa, “the blood is dry and strong as hair”). While not all ailments can be explained in terms of what happens to the blood, the type of cure that the Maenge most often resort to suggests that concern with blood is predominant in their medicine.

42Whatever the intensity of the pain, its location and origin, the first reaction of the Maenge when a person is sick, before any diagnosis has been made, is to use ginger. This is done regardless of whether the patient suffers from constipation, toothache or has been wounded. They chew the rhizome and spit the juice and some particles on the sore part to warm or “cook” the blood. To restore the blood to its former condition, one must produce the same effect as the pathological agent. Maenge medicine is largely homoeopathic. Ginger is classified as a “hot” plant. When “cooked” with it, the blood is restored to its normal condition. It leaves the sore spot, becomes fluid again and spreads evenly throughout the body. The Maenge compare it to the sap of a tree into which one has driven an axe: it moves (ke to) and goes back to its former position.

43That ginger should be classified as a “hot” plant is quite expected and derives from the properties of the plant. When speaking of the true ginger, Burkill describes its properties as follows: “ginger taken into the stomach is a warm, stimulating carminative and when applied to the skin it is an efficient rubefacient and counter-irritant” (1966: 230). Burkill gives a long list of utilisations for the Malay apple, which parallel the utilizations the Maenge make of Zingiber zerumbet. The Maenge give ginger for intestinal troubles, congestion of the liver, headaches and violent pains over the body, for coughs, fever and rheumatism, when an infant is wasting away etc. The association of ginger with heat has been described in other parts of Melanesia such as Dobu and Manam island (Fortune, 1932: 295-297; Wedgwood 1934: 287). Other “hot” plants are listed below.

44If ginger does not relieve the pain, one may practice massage or employ bloodletting to drive away the “bad” blood (see Rivers 1924 for a description of massage in Melanesia and Stanhope 1968 for a description of bloodletting). For a slight pain, the Maenge make tiny incisions on the sore spots with fragments of obsidian. To treat severe cases, they make larger incisions on both ankles and then massage the body either with ginger or with one of equivalent “hot” plants such as Cinnamomum sp. (The utilisation of both ginger and cinnamon was recorded at an early date by Miklouho-Maclay 1886: 335). The association of ginger with heat and its utilisation with massage are frequent in Melanesia. The custom may be compared with the massage done with nettles in the Middle Wahgi area (Luzbetak 1957-58: 49).

45Among the “hot” plants most frequently used apart from ginger and cinnamon are Derris elliptica and Endospermum formicarum. The Maenge cook the leaves of these two trees and press them upon the body. Sometimes they cook the barks, wrapped up in their own leaves, and rub them over the body. They also apply the barks of Erythrina indica or Laportea gigas on wounds as counter-irritant, to “cook” the blood. On such occasions, informants classified these trees as “hot”. In the case of abdominal pains, the patient can also ingest “hot” plants, some of which are considered to have a purgative effect. In addition, the patient can take emetics. Two instances of such sicknesses are sile, a baby ailment and mapo, both of which are characterized by belly troubles. For sile, when the newborn baby is thought to have swallowed meconium, the Maenge prepare a drink of sea water – a “hot” substance, with which they mix the grated inner bark of Endospermum formicarum. The baby drinks this and the mother washes her breast with the same mixture. In the case of mapo, an adult ailment that affects men who have not performed post-coital purification, their blood concentrates in their bellies and become “hairy”. The patient eats a mixture consisting of grated coconut meat, ginger rhizome and the lead shoots of two Alstonia spp.: Alstonia scholaris and A. spectabilis. Alternatively, the Maenge may mix a new leaf of the wild cordyline with water or cut the bark of Alstonia scholaris into small pieces and mix it with water. The species are classified as “hot” based on their astringency but their effect is not solely to heat the blood. Informants reported that when a patient has drunk these mixtures, he should vomit and defecate blood, getting rid of the hairy mass inside him. While there is no record in the literature that Alstonia scholaris and ginger can have an emetic effect, both are used to treat intestinal troubles and congestion of the liver (Burkill 1935: 113, 320; Webb 1960: 106). The Lakalai cure stomach pains caused by worms with the latex of Alstonia scholaris (see Lloyd 1954). For curing mapo, the Maenge sometimes use Crinum macranthum, which is an emetic. One informant said that he could cure mapo with a mixture of the rhizome of an Alpinia sp., the ground bones of a dead warrior and grated coconut meat, which are all “hot” substances.

46In some cases, however, a sensation of coolness on the sore part is required. The Maenge formerly drank the water contained in a vine (sigoli, non-identified) in cases of sore throat, specifically to cool the throat, and they also applied fresh water from particularly cool rivers on wounds as well as the juice of “cold” plants such as Trema orientalis and Gynostemma pentaphyllum. In my presence, a village chief treated a young boy affected by malaria first with a “hot” plant and then with a plant that he first characterized as “hot” and then as “cold”. This was Ficus septica, which other informants also found difficult to classify. The idea of an alternate treatment may have been borrowed from gardening magic, in which it is practised.

47“Cold” remedies however tend to be few while “hot” ones are numerous. Moreover, while Maenge medicine tends to be rather simple, like their cooking, inasmuch as there is little mixture of ingredients, it is mostly with “hot” remedies that complex recipes like those that follow are found. When a woman has difficulty in childbirth, the Maenge believe that a masalai may be the father of the child and prevents it from being born. To expel the masalai from the mother’s body, they gather bark from the following species: Elmerillia papuana, Inocarpus fagiferus, Cananga odorata, Amoora cucullata, Euodia elleryana, Prunus sp. They wrap these barks with some grated coconut in the bark of Prunus sp. and cook them over an open fire. At dusk, when the masalai is thought to arrive, they put hot stones in the bark and place the whole preparation under the patient’s bed. Water is thrown on the stones and the vapour together with the perfumes surround the mother, penetrate her and drive the masalai away. It should be noted that the Longueinga fetch the bark of Inocarpus fagiferus, Cananga odorata and Amoora cucullata from the coast and keep the material until it is needed. Alternatively, the Longueinga use the bark of Cinnamomum sp., Alstonia spectabilis and Galbulimima belgraveana while the coastal Maenge apply to the patient’s body the leaves of Euodia elleryana and Spondias dulcis. All these species are classified as “hot”.

48The great concern of the Maenge with blood is largely because it is thought to be the normal dwelling place of the inner self. Any change in the blood may affect the soul and lead it to abandon the body. Conversely, to restore the blood to its former condition is to enable the soul to return. The slightest emotion, fear or surprise, the slightest pain, the smallest cut provides an opportunity for the inner self to escape. Such insignificant events may lead to dramatic consequences since the escaped soul may become the prey of a masalai or of the spirit of a dead person. In mild cases, the soul is likely to return by itself to its abode but after any serious disease the patient must be purified by rituals like those performed during the rites of passage. He/she must get rid of the dirt covering his/her outer soul to enable the inner soul to return to its normal abode.

49Up to this point, reference has been made to “hot” and “cold” plants and substances without considering what the Maenge mean by these categories. It is now time to give some explanations about them and to show the part they play in Maenge culture. The category of “hot” plants includes the following main divisions:

  1. Plants which are pungent (malamala), astringent or bitter (mamaoga), such as ginger, the recently introduced chili pepper, betel pepper and an Alpinia sp. widely used in magic and medicine.
  2. Plants which have an irritant effect on the skin (masikili) or which are poisonous. Examples include Semecarpus sp. (called pune, “to poison”); Amoora cucullata, Laportea gigas, Derris elliptica, Homalanthus sp. and Pangium edule. The Maenge say of pune: ke tuve mirana ka mamana, “it cooks the body with its burning heat”. If the sap of Homalanthus sp. happens to fall in the eye of an unfortunate child, one says similarly ke mame matangkana, “it burns the eyes”.
  3. Plants which have an unusually strong smell, such as Cinnamomum sp., Spondias dulcis, Cananga odorata and Prunus sp. This last species is called gievasangina, pig’s urine, which the plant’s scent recalls. We have also seen that any plant with a definite perfume or taste, like those quoted in the first section of this chapter, may be described as “hot”.
  4. Plants which are associated with heat for any reason. Euodia elleryana is classified as “hot” not only because it has fragrant flowers but because it happens to flower during the dry month of January. Endospermum formicarum is also considered to be a “hot” species, whose “heat” is thought to “cook” the ground around it and thus to prevent other plants from growing there. This idea, also widespread among the Kol, may derive from the fact that this species can grow on soils too poor for other species or perhaps from the presence of ants in its hollow trunk and twigs.

50The Maenge thus classify as “hot” very diverse plants by considering entirely different features such as scent, taste, contact effect on the skin and poisonous properties. Among them we find plants that truly produce a warming effect in the stomach when taken internally and which have stimulating, rubefacient and counter-irritant properties, like ginger, cinnamon, chili pepper and Laportea gigas. “Cold” plants are those species which have an abundant latex, such as the fig tree (Ficus pungens and Ficus subcongesta), or which have a rich foliage and a nutritive effect on the soil so that taro or other cultigens grow well in their vicinity. These species are said “to refresh the soil” (pamarusu magalo). Growing habits also play a part in this classification: fast-growing trees such as Albizia falcataria and Trema orientalis are considered as “cold”.

51While informants agree on “hot” plants, there is no such consensus about “cold” ones. For some informants, all trees that are not “hot” were classified as “cold” on this mere basis while for others, the “cold” category was as well-defined and delimited as the “hot” one. As often happens with primitive classifications, a species can be classified in two opposite categories depending on context or on the selection of different features. This phenomenon, which will be discussed with more detail in the next chapter, is apparent in the case of Laportea gigas. Because of its abundant sap, the Maenge classify it as a “cold” plant so that it can be used in garden magic together with other “cold” plants, but because of its irritating properties, it is also a member of the “hot” category.

52One should note that for the Maenge, the two categories of “cold” and “wet” seem to be associated just as “hot” and “dry” are. This association between cold and wet on the one hand and hot and dry on the other may be due to climatic conditions since, contrary to other parts of Melanesia, the hot season is also the dry one and the wet season is colder. This point will be discussed more fully below.

53“Hot” substances also include scorpions, centipedes, stinging black ants, lime, the bones of a dead warrior, pork fat and seawater. The Maenge often use these in conjunction with “hot” plants. To promote fierceness in warfare – nowadays in football games – a man is advised to rub his legs with a mixture of lime, cooked scorpions, centipedes, black ants, and leaves of Endospermum formicarum and Euodia elleryana. Before hunting wild pigs, hunters give their dogs some grated coconut meat or the leaves of Laportea gigas. When a sorcerer wants to bewitch a victim, he uses remains which have been chewed by the victim together with leaves of Endospermum formicarum and Homalanthus sp. The association of heat with sorcery and sickness is common in Melanesia. Fortune says that “the sorcerer engaged in sorcery must keep his body hot and parched, hence the drinking of salt water, the chewing of hot ginger” (1932: 295). Wedgwood reports that the victim of sorcery feels “as though he were boiling like a pot placed on fire” (1934-35: 72). Writing about mainland New Guinea, Rivers reports that the sorcerer “must not bathe nor let rain touch his skin. He may only drink water of puddles which have been heated by the sun for the cool water of a stream would allay the burning fever of his victim” (1924: 23). If the “hot” category is central in the Maenge system of medicine (and magic), this does not mean that this category and its opposite are the only ones relevant here. Remedies may be utilised for many other reasons. Some remedies are mucilaginous and are used to cure sore throats or constipation, or are given to women in childbirth. Others are emetics or purgatives. Still others are blood coagulants.

54The Maenge use many of their medicinal plants with little if any special preparation. If they cook plants they generally wrap them up in leaves and put them in the earth oven (see note 21 p. 116) or on an open fire. Bark may be grated with the Lucinidae shell, and leaves and stems are sometimes beaten with a hammer in a coconut shell or on a flat stone. Leaves and herbaceous stems are most often crushed between the hands, and chewed, or bent to extract their juice. In severe cases, it is a specialist, often the “Father of the village”, who prepares the drugs and administers them to the patient, but for minor complaints, any relative or friend can help.

55Out of 74 plant species, which the Maenge use as remedies, only 13 are domesticates. The others are either semi-domesticates or wild plants. One should note that although the domesticates represent a small percentage (17%) of the total, in a few cases more than one part of the plant is utilized: in the case of Hibiscus manihot, the roots and leaves; of coconut, the roots and the meat of the nut. Moreover, some of these domesticates, and this is especially true of ginger, have more than one use so that the 13 domesticates total about 30 recipes; a list of Maenge remedies is given in Table XVIII below.

Table XVIII. List of Maenge remedies

Scientific Name

Maenge Name

Abelmoschus manihot

Medik.

siviga

Acalypha grandis

Benth.

gamu

Alibizzia falcata

Backer

paugala

Allophylus cf. leptococcus

Radlk.

taitagiala

Alpinia

sp.

totong

Alstonia scholaris

R. Br.

siva

Alstonia spectabilis

R. Br.

kumurimuri

Anodendron paniculatum

(Roxb.) DC

kaimo

Areca catechu

L.

koe

Artocarpus communis

Forst.

guali

Bambusa

sp.

kalakolo

Bambusa

sp.

piliva karepapa

Callicarpa caudata

Maxim.

togavele

Calycacanthus magnusianus

K. Schum.

kalangker

Canarium commune

kangali

Castanopsis acuminatissima

(Bl.) Rehd.

more

Cinnamomum

sp.

miau

Cissus aristata

B1

mallata

Clematis papuasica

M. and P.

gume

Cocos nucifera

L.

lamasi

Colocasia esculenta

Schott.

mao

Cordyline terminalis

L.

ela

Crinum macranthum

talipilipi

Cucumis

sp.

gopu

Curculigo erecta

Lauf.

susumva

Cyanthea

sp.

gauneririna

Cycas rumphii

Miq.

pago

Derris elliptica

Benth.

lomong

Endospermum formicarum

Becc.

songe

Erythrina indica

Lam.

piri

Eugenia

sp.

ega

Eugenia malaccensis

L.

gaiva

Euodia

sp.

kovarevare

Euodia elleryana

F. v. M.

tolova

Ficus botryocarpa

Miq.

kaokavilivili

Ficus septica

Burm.

makareng

Flagellaria

sp.

gomilo

Gmelina moluccana

(Bl.) Backer

vavalu

Gnetum latifolium

Bl.

tutu

Gynostemma pentaphylla

(Thunb.) Mak.

piupiuri

Hibiscus tiliaceus

L.

kange

Homalanthus

sp.

pare

Hornstaedtia

sp.

galekorokoro

Ipomoea congesta

R. Br.

leakala

Inocarpus fagiferus

Fosberg

salei

Kleinhovia hospita

L.

vumvu

Laportea

sp.

panaga

Laportea gigas

serega

Lepistemom urceolatum

R. Br. (F. v. M.)

kuoitaena

Leucosyke capitellata

(Poir.) Wedd.

sigili

Micromelum mintum

(Forst f.) Wright and Arn.

puengekavauna

Maoutia

sp.

galigali

Ocimum

sp.

kumuri

Pangium edule

Reinw.

mangini

Parabaena

sp.

saeviso

Parartocarpus venenosus

(Z. and M.) Becc.

ivo

Pipturus argenteus

(Forst f.) Wedd.

masa

Pipturus repandus

(Bl.) Wedd.

kaumenamena

Pometia pinnata

Forst.

taua

Pongamia pinnata

(L.) Pierre

vuvungkala

Pterocarpus indicus

Willd.

kereng

Premna

sp.

kipa

Sacharum officinarum

L.

tou

Scaevola taccada

(Gaertn.) Roxb.

gapogapo

Semecarpus

sp.

pune

Solanum torvum

Sw.

lausakavana

Solanum verbascifolium

L.

to

Spondias dulcis

Forst.

kuli

Trema orientalis

(L.) Bl.

vulona

Vigna lutea

(SW) A. Gray

papelau

Wedelia biflora

DC

vulago

Zingiber zerumbet

(L.) Roscoe ex Sm.

gua

Zingiber

sp.

pangu

Domesticates: Herbaceous plants

Hibiscus manihot

56The people eat the young leaves, cooked, in cases of sore throat and constipation. To cure constipation, they also crush the roots, extract the juice and give it to the patient. In both cases, Hibiscus manihot is chosen because of its mucilaginous property. The plant is also given to women in childbirth because of this characteristic. A tree of the secondary growth, Pipturus argenteus, also has a mucilaginous bark that is used to cure constipation and help women in childbirth.

Colocasia esculenta

57The young leaves are eaten cooked to soften the throat in cases of sore throats (honey can be used for the same purpose). They can also be eaten to cure diarrhoea and the young leaves are applied on burns (see Stopp 1963 for a similar usage).

Cordyline terminalis

58The leaves are used as dressings.

Cucumis sp.

59In cases of ringworm, the Maenge rub the body with the leaves of the native cucumber together with lime. This is done as soon as the skin is attacked and repeated every day until the disease has disappeared.

Ocimum sanctum

60The leaves are used in the same way as those of Cucumis sp.

61Saccharum officinarum

62Some varieties are reputed to be good for stopping diarrhoea. Others, the “cold” ones, are given to refresh the throat in cases of sore throat.

Zingiber zerumbet

63Ginger can be used in many ways. The Maenge chew and spit the juice of the rhizome on sores, apply the rhizome on sore parts and drink it after it has been chewed. The rhizome can also be cooked or placed underneath patients’ beds together with hot stones on which water is spread. Ginger is used externally for general pains, headaches, sores, burns and constipation, in which case it is simply placed on the belly. It is used internally with Alstonia scholaris in cases of dysentery. It can also be drunk to alleviate sore throat together with other pungent or astringent plants. It is drunk with sea water and grated coconut to drive away parasites.

Domesticates: Tree crops

Areca catechu

64To treat swollen gums, the Maenge chew the betel quid in the ordinary manner. They eat a small part of the betel quid, either alone or mixed with the rood of the coconut to stop diarrhoea. The Areca nut is astringent. The Malays use it in a decoction to cure diarrhoea (Burkill 1935: 226).

Artocarpus communis

65In cases of dysentery, the Maenge crush a leader shoot of this species for the patient to swallow. In cases of diarrhoea, they collect the latex, mix it with water and give it to the patient. The latex is used elsewhere in New Guinea to cure dysentery (Webb 1960: 106). To drive away intestinal parasites, patients can also eat the young leaves of Artocarpus communis.

Canarium commune

66The Maenge chew and spit parts of the bark on burns. The bark of Pometia pinnata may be used in the same way.

Cocos nucifera

67The roots are eaten in cases of diarrhoea. The Maenge also use the meat of the nut in cases of constipation. Coconut roots are astringent. They are medicinal and are used in other places to cure dysentery (Burkill 1935: 613).

Eugenia malaccensis

68The Maenge chew and spit the bark on sores. The astringent bark is medicinal (Burkill 1935: 958, 971). In cases of sore throat, they chew the bark, expectorate the fibres and swallow the juice.

Inocarpus fagiferus

69The Maenge use the leaves as dressings.

70Among semi-domesticates, species such as Pangium edule, Parartocarpus venenosus and Pometia pinnata are also used medicinally. To alleviate pains, the Maenge apply the rhizome of ginger, the barks of Cinnamomum sp. and Pangium edule and the rhizome of an Alpinia sp. This recipe is similar to those quoted above to drive away the masalai spirits. The bark of Pangium edule is poisonous and can be used to kill freshwater crayfish. The seeds of Parartocarpus venenosus, which the Maenge consider poisonous, are grated, mixed with lime and applied on sores where they may remain for several weeks. The ovules of Cycas rumphii are used in the same way.

Magic and sorcery

71The same principles, which operate in Maenge medicine, are found with respect to magic and sorcery. I give only a few examples below, as more will be said on garden magic in the next chapter. From these paragraphs as well as from the previous ones, it will be clear that ginger and cordyline are among the most important of Maenge nonedible cultigens.

72In rain magic, one finds an association between the categories of “cold” and “rotten”, a point to be taken up again when discussing garden magic. When the specialist, often the “Father of the village”, wants to attract rain – this can occur only during the dry season when rain can obey human will whereas in the wet season rain cannot be controlled – he fills a “canoe”, that is a tree which has been dug in the manner of a canoe, with magical stones, grated coconut meat, odoriferous plants like lemongrass and basil, together with leaves and stems of Coleus atropurpureus. The plants are covered with water and with large leaves such as the leaves of banana or breadfruit tree and are left to rot for several days. It is believed that their smell goes upwards and then forms a haze that covers hillsides at night before finally falling as rain on the earth later. The Coleus’ dark juice is utilised to evoke the appearance of dark clouds. Other oily substances, such as the nuts of Aleurites moluccana, can be substituted for coconut meat. “Cold” plants with abundant latex, such as the fig trees, can be used in rain magic as well. Since they are full of liquid, it is thought that they should attract rain and that the drops should be as numerous as their fruits. The stones are thought to be the teeth of the Saia masalai spirit, which have fallen together with lightning.

73When a “Father of the village” or some other person wishes to cause dryness, usually because he is displeased with his fellow-villagers, he can place a piece of dry clay (a “hot” substance) that he has cooked over a fire, on a tree top. In love magic, the same contrast is found between “hot” and “cold” substances. The aim of love magic is to warm the body of the person selected to inflame her sexual desire. To do so, a man wraps a leaf of cordyline with some sea water in a leaf of Endospermum formicarum and hangs this charm above the fire in the men’s house. Before a dance, the man, who for two days has eaten only warm taro and abstained from drinking water, rubs his body with the cordyline leaf. After the dance, the woman will not fail to follow him in the forest. If he tires of her, he takes the cordyline leaf from its place over the fire and deposits it under a large stone in the river: the body of the woman will then cool down. To be more attractive, people use fragrant plants such as ginger, lemon grass and basil, which they rub over their body while chanting spells in which the name of the desired person is pronounced.

74The same odoriferous plants can be used in fishing magic to attract fish. In Matong, the specialist of fish magic would place magic stones, grated coconut meat, lemon grass and basil inside the bark of Trema orientalis. The bark was left for several days in the men’s house and then put in the place where the fishermen wanted to attract fish. For hunting and war magic, however, “hot” species are used. As mentioned above, the leaves of Laportea gigas or some other Urticaceae can be given to a dog to excite him on the morning when the hunt begins. “Hot” species were formerly used to make young warriors fierce, and ginger was used in numerous circumstances for bewitching a victim. It was thought to be enough to drop a bespelled piece of ginger on a dancing ground to provoke the death or serious sickness of an enemy; the heat of ginger would go up in the person’s body and attack him. In this case ginger is so powerful that one does not even need to secure the fallen nails or hairs of the victim. Ginger was also used on the eve of battle to capture enemies’ souls. Ginger is a convenient instrument for playing with the souls of other persons. This is also the case for lime, another “hot” substance. Crops can be damaged by using ginger at times when they need “cold” plants and not “hot” ones. Other “hot” plants like Endospermum formicarum or Homalanthus sp. can be used for the same purpose. While ginger can be used to harm people as well as to cure them, the utilisation of cordyline is less ambiguous. Since it is mostly used in purification rites, some details must be offered about the Maenge attitude towards dirt and the way it can be removed.

75Much of Maenge life was in the past, and still is to some extent, concerned with the avoidance of dirty matter such as sweat, saliva, urine, menstrual blood and sexual secretions. The word for dirt, mukuna, can be uniformly applied to all these substances, all of which are considered as dangerous. Sorcerers are believed to use them, as well as fallen hair and nails, to bewitch their victims (see Fortune 1932: 150 for a similar custom). For the Maenge, these substances, even if they seem to have disappeared from the places where they were dropped or placed, leave invisible traces that dirty the body and particularly the outer soul lying on the body’s surface. It is from this contact with impure matter that the bodies of children and adolescents must be purified during the rites of passage, as they are vulnerable at these times. Similarly, women after childbirth and during each menstruation, men after coitus, adults and children after serious illnesses are ritually cleansed as their bodies have been affected by an unusual amount of dirt. The dirt that covers the outer soul of a dead person must similarly be washed by a supernatural being before it reaches the other world.

76Food can be spoiled and become dangerous through contact with human excretions such as saliva and sweat, and even through the smell of persons in “dangerous conditions” such as pregnant women, menstruating women and their husbands. A pregnant or menstruating woman and her husband could not give a child part of the taro that they had already eaten, as this would contaminate the child. Young men never ate food cooked on an open fire for fear that sweat might have fallen on it. The dirt brought on food by such contacts is compared to the mould that grows on fruits and it is called accordingly kaningvulili (from kaninga, vegetable food, and vulili or rili, mould). Sweat and sexual excretions may fall from beds on the ground beneath them, which is hence a dangerous spot. The soil around the back of houses, where people urinate at night, is dangerous in the same way. All the traces that a human being, unaware, leaves behind him/her are called malena. These traces are most abundant where a person spends the greater part of his/her life, in the garden and in the house. As some soul sticks to these traces (in Maenge opinion, the soul is divisible) and following the principle that what affects a fragment can affect the whole, children were forbidden to play inside the houses, where they could have jostled their parent’s souls and cause an accident on the physical persons of their parents working in the gardens. For the same reason, it is not customary to go into other people’s gardens.

77The cordyline cultivars used in the purification rites belong to group II.2, the large cordylines. Some of these cultivars are directly associated with supernatural beings, whether they bear their names or names which recall part of the myths surrounding them. One cultivar is called Malila, the name of the chthonian deity, another is called Taive, the python that is the usual guise of Malila and yet another one is called Pagani, the name of another supernatural being who is one of the Masters of Taro. Another cultivar much used in the purification rites is simply called patalea; patalea means “to make stand in an open space” and refers to the appearance of the body when the soul has come back into it at the end of rites of passage. Other cultivars such as namvu are said to belong to Malila, as does an unidentified variety of Musaceae. Among the Kol, the three most important cordylines are associated with the three most important characters of the mythology: Manila, Nutu and Ragira, an old woman equivalent to the Maenge’s Samumsa. If women approach the nomvukaia cordyline, which is a symbol of lightning with its red stripes (the namvu e siskaunini of the Maenge), they are at risk of being struck by thunderstones. These three cultivars, as well as their Maenge and Tomoive equivalents, derive their names from a mountain, Nomvu, located on the south coast in the Kol country. As per a Kol myth, this mountain used to be the dwelling place of the dead before they decided to emigrate to mount Imvulu on the north coast. Kol informants report that these cordyline cultivars are abundant on the slopes of this volcano. Near its summit, one may find lemongrass and other scented plants and its top is very bright. Some Kol tales underline this association between cordylines and the other world by saying that some cultivars were born from the ashes of evil spirits of the dead. The ritual importance of cordylines in Oceania is well known (Malinowski, 1935: 235; Fortune, 1932: 114-115; Fox, 1924: 365-366 and Leenhardt, 1937 and 1946 passim) and the part this plant plays in Maenge magic will be shown below. With respect to purification rites, the operations performed and the theory explaining them are as follows. A leaf is rubbed over the patient by a competent person who recites the appropriate formula. The leaf removes the dirty outer self (kanu e soali) which lies at the surface of the body, to allow the inner self (kanu e pe) to come back to its abode from where it has been expelled either because of the pains inflicted during the rites of passage or of the pains suffered during illness.

78If cordylines are used in these circumstances, informants’ statements indicate that this is mainly because of their brightness and cleanliness. The bright appearance of the leaves, when mature, is described by the word kani. This bright appearance should be compared with the bright plumage of the parrot, marea, which is involved precisely when removing the outer self of a child in the rites of passage. Moreover, the fact that the cordyline regularly sheds its leaves and that its new leaves become progressively brighter may have evoked for the Maenge a comparison with the snake, which plays a very important part in the representations regarding the origin of death and the functions of rites de passage. M. Panoff (1969c) has shown that the word used when removing the dirty outer self is precisely the word signifying “to slough” and that the idea of rejuvenation expressed in the rites of passage is an attempt to return to a period when humans were ignorant of death and sickness and changed their skin regularly just as snakes do. The naming of some of the most important cordyline cultivars like taive after Malila, whose guise is a snake, is therefore of special interest. Indeed, the magical formula used when detaching a boy’s outer self with the cultivar taive plays on words so that it refers simultaneously to the cultivar and to Malila. This is how it runs:

taive paruru mirau paruru
taive slough my body slough

79For these purification rites, each clan may use a different cordyline cultivar, which is traditionally inherited within the matriclans together with the formula that must be recited with it, varying slightly from one clan to another.

Notes

21 (Editor’s note). Here the author uses the term “stone oven”. It can be assumed however that she refers to “earth ovens”, pits dug in the ground where heated stones are placed to cook food. A little water or no water may be added but the use of fresh leaves to pack and cover the food implies that the food is steamed. The author’s description and her reference to “earth oven” below confirm the equivalence between “stone oven” and “earth oven” in the text.

22 (Editor’s note). The author wrote Saccharum robustum, most probably in error because there is no reference to anyone eating this species in the region.

23 (Editor’s note). The author uses the terms “variety” and “cultivar” indiscriminately but she is clearly referring to cultivars in this section.

Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 18. Feminine costume, back view
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Fichier image/jpeg, 79k
Titre Figure 19. Feminine costume profile
URL http://books.openedition.org/pacific/docannexe/image/777/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 68k
Légende Photograph 13. Sonimalua, the Mother of Matong preparing the band of Alpinia oceanica which forms a part of her costume. She is beating the stem of the plant with a stone
URL http://books.openedition.org/pacific/docannexe/image/777/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 186k
Légende Photograph 14. Lonatanirea on a Sunday morning. The small leaves of her costume form a kind of bustle above the longer ones
URL http://books.openedition.org/pacific/docannexe/image/777/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 250k
Titre Figure 20. Feminine costume details
URL http://books.openedition.org/pacific/docannexe/image/777/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 82k

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