Pig sacrifice for Kweni
I was out walking around in the jungle one day with two young men, one named Yanis and another Wanapis. We arrived at a garden down the hill but on the same ridge that our mission base is on. I knew that this garden belonged to a one-eyed man named Pol. We sat there under a small shelter and I tried to practice my language skills and learn more.
As we were sitting there, we heard yelling off in the jungle from the direction we had come. I asked who was yelling and what it was about, but because of the language barrier, I really didn’t understand what was about to take place. Besides that, these two boys were doing the typical Hewa thing and trying to down-play what was about to happen. Often times, the Hewans will try to keep us from learning the parts of their culture that they are embarrassed about or that they think we will disapprove of. I did find out that it had something to do with one of the young men in our village named Kweni being very sick.
After a little while some men started to emerge from the jungle. They also would not tell me clearly what was about to take place. Eventually two boys came along bringing a pig. We got up and followed to see what was going to happen. I noticed that another old man (whom I later learned was named Faiyufi) who was carrying the smoldering coals of a fire.
After hiking another mile down to the end of our ridge we came to a place where it becomes very narrow. It is only about 10 feet wide at that point with an almost sheer cliff down both sides. We came to a place where the group left the ridge and made their way down the right hand side. It was very steep and slippery.
About half way down that steep descent, the two boys tied the pig to a small tree trunk with a homemade rope close to where there were some very tall pine trees growing. Then they cut branches and stabbed them into the ground to create sort of a blind, or a wall of branches.
The old man that was carrying the fire then broke off some chunks of coals and smeared the black ash on his temples. He gave some of the ash to the two boys who also decorated their faces. The old man then began yelling out in a language I could not understand. He began a high-pitched half-chant half-yell. Someone beside me told me that he was calling out to the spirit nearby called Yamanye who had supposedly stolen Kweni’s spirit that had made him sick. I found out later that they fully expected Kweni to die and this was the standard way to heal someone who they suspected had lost his spirit to an evil spirit.
As the man was chanting or yelling, he motioned for the boys to bite off bits of bark off of a certain chunk of wood he had brought with him and they all began spitting the little bits of bark in every direction around themselves.
After a little more time of yelling the man gave the word for the two boys to kill the pig. They shot arrows from their bows through the wall of branches that they had made. The old man continued with his yelling as the pig fell down and began to die in his own blood.
After the pig had apparently died, the old man got some leaves and whipped the blood off of the bamboo arrow heads. Some guys lashed the legs of the pig to a pole and they carried him up the bank while the old man began to build a fire on the spot that the pig’s blood had soaked into the ground. He also burned the leaves that he had used to wipe the blood off the arrowheads in that same fire. We all left the scene.
The Hewans were very reluctant to explain to me what we had just witnessed, but because I had seen it with them, I was able to get bits and pieces of the story from different people. We found out later that pig sacrifices to the spirits just like this one are a very common for healing sick people.
It is believed that no sickness just happens, and for that matter, no death just happens. People get bad sicknesses when they come in contact with an evil spirit. The spirit will often appear to them in the form of some animal or even person and will eat their human spirit before they know what’s going on.
The person with his spirit eaten will return to the village not knowing what happened but will gradually begin to die, first by becoming sick. Since it is believed that his spirit is gone, there is no chance of him surviving unless the evil spirit in the jungle will give it back. Even if us missionaries give the sick person medicine, he will not recover until the problem of the missing spirit is dealt with.
In order for the people to help the sick person get his spirit back, they believe that they have to kill a pig in the area where the spirits live and offer the blood of the pig to the spirit as a sacrifice. If the sick person recovers, then the people will know that the evil spirit gave the person’s spirit back. But if the sick person dies, then they figure that someone else worked witchcraft that caused his death. In the case of witchcraft or sorcery, there has to be a repayment of a different kind. The sorcerer has to die, but that is a different story.
The Hewans believe this. They believe it because it was taught to them by their ancestors. They had not heard another point of view till different religious groups started showing up in their areas. There are still a lot of different tribes all over PNG that still believe these kinds of things. They are in fear of spirits and are enslaved to harmful habits that have kept them in bondage for years.