Sorcery Amongst the Elema of PNG
and its Social Effects Amongst the Elema
of Papua New Guinea
Alastair I. Mclntosh, Edinburgh, Scotland
Published in Oceania: A Journal Devoted to the Study of the Indigenous Peoples of Australia, Melanesia, Micronesia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, Vol. 53, No. 3, University of Sydney Department of Anthropology, March 1983, pp. 224-232. Square brackets in this text indicate comments added in September 2000.
For map and photos relevant to this paper, including Hearo and his implements, click here. Specific photos are also hyperlinked in text.
INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND
Throughout 1978 and 1979 I worked as a volunteer teacher and
deputy-headmaster of an experimental vocational secondary school in the relatively
undeveloped Gulf Province of Papua New Guinea. In this time it became abundantly
clear, as a result of day-to-day happenings and discussions with the people,
that fear of sorcery still constitutes a barrier to development at the village
level. This may be even more formidable than such impediments as disease and the
lack of skilled manpower.
As with many cultural groups in Papua New Guinea, the ‘Elema’ or
‘Keremas’ as the coastal people of the Gulf Province are known have, for the
past century or so, led a way of life marked by a gradual encroachment of
European cultural characteristics on the traditional way of life. It is
therefore difficult to describe present social, economic and religious
structures in brief since traditional and modern aspects are frequently
intertwined. As an example, in th.e same village one man might adhere to a
traditional belief that his first ancestors were formed by a cone shell (male)
and a cowrie shell (female) developing anthropomorphic characteristics by
magic. Another might claim that we are all descendants of Adam and Eve, while a
third, influenced by education, might pursue a Darwinian viewpoint.
Villages normally consist of a number of patriclans, but while clan
loyalty is often strong the clan will not necessarily live together. Often it
will be scattered between a number of villages which will usually lie within
about half a day’s walking distance of one another. As Williams (1940) has
pointed out, ‘the Elema have traditionally been a remarkably democratic people
in that most important decisions are taken communally by both men and women.
Although certain older men in the villages may be referred to as big men or
leaders, this is normally more because of their acknowledged skills in hunting,
sorcery, procreation and so on than in the New Guinea highlands context of
building up wealth and being in a position to exercise power over others.
The typical village economy is based on subsistence agriculture, sago
making, fishing and some hunting. Different types of work may be divided between
men and women as with sago making where the palm is cut down by the men but
pulped by the women. Imported foods such as rice and tinned mackerel are
immensely popular to the extent that villagers often sell their home produce at
market only to spend the proceeds on packaged foods at the trade store. While
this is mainly due to ‘the ease of storing such produce in a hot climate,
taste and the status associated with European food also play a role.
to land ownership are based usually on the grounds of traditional usage, but
legend may ‘be invoked to press a claim in cases of dispute.
The government assumes ownership over unclaimed land and through the Lands
Tribunal it intermediates in all land transactions. Disputes
frequently arise, particularly with regard to compensation claims for
The traditional religion, if that is the right word for it, has been based
on showing respect towards the departed spirits of the clan’s ancestors as
well as to totems such as crocodiles, fish and birds. As one man put it to me,
‘If you want to go hunting you call the names of your ancestors who were great
hunters to ask for the power which will bring success’. The same also applies
to other aspects of life. I found it difficult to make closer inquiries than
this because most of those with whom I was in contact considered themselves to
be Christians. In practice, however, many operated a dual system of belief which
in some respects was encouraged by the churches on the basis that the best
aspects of traditional religion lead in the direction of Christianity.
magic is known, is closely associated with traditional religious beliefs.
Sometimes it may be used for benign purposes such as making rain or healing but,
for the most part, it comprises sorcery which is practiced mainly for the
purpose of harming adversaries. Writing about the West Elema (with whom we are
primarily concerned in this paper), Williams (1940: 107-8) has commented:
Belief in, and fear of, sorcery seems to vary somewhat in intensity among
different Papuan societies. But it might be difficult to find a place where they
were more deeply ingrained than in the villages of Orokolo Bay. . .
It may be safely said that every death is attributed to sorcery by
someone or other, and this being the case the relatives of the deceased are
deeply concerned to discover who was responsible so that they may pay him back
in his own coin.
Although men allege that women may use certain types of magic particularly
in trying to attract the affection of men (perhaps a masculine interpretation of
love being magic?), the role of sorcerer amongst the Elema is a male one.
However, it is not confined to any particular group of men within the village.
As far as I could ascertain anyone wishing to learn, and perhaps pay for the
privilege, could do so from an adept sorcerer provided he knew one willing to
teach him. From frequently listening to my students and others talk about
sorcery I came to assume that a sorcerer would not normally attack somebody from
within his own clan or even the village if it is a fairly compact one, but
whether or not this is always true is a matter I failed to examine fully.
Another area I failed to investigate properly was the precise nature of the
‘magic words’ used in casting magic. I was told that these involved calling
on the names of the clan’s ancestors and sometimes the spirits of dead sorcery
victims to give of their magical power, but I cannot say whether or not such
incantations took the form of a set pattern of words as with a spell.
THE FEAR OF SORCERY IN CONTEMPORARY ELEMA
Many young people have complained to me that they are afraid to better
their way of life while remaining within the Gulf Province. To do so might cause
jealousies to be stirred, and sorcery to be used against them or their kin.
Primary school teachers have told me of villages in the. Purari delta area (West
of Orokolo) which are virtually devoid of their youthful population. This is
because sorcery fears are a prime factor precipitating a drift of people towards
the cities. Although I am qualified to speak only of the Gulf Province, a
similar problem evidently exists elsewhere in the country, as is demonstrated by
Ramat Mumus of Wewak who states, ‘… you ask any East Sepik labourer or any Sepik UPNG or Unitech [i.e. university]
graduate living in other provinces and they will agree that sorcery is one prime
factor which makes it impossible for them to introduce these reforms in their
villages’ (‘Fear of sorcery hampers
reform’, letter in The Post-Courier newspaper,
circa March 1979).
Around Kerema Bay, perhaps the best known anecdote which discourages
young people from making a material success of their lives, is that about Papua
New Guinea’s international boxing champion, James Hila. Amongst others who
have told me about James is his brother, Koivi, who was one of my grade eight
students. The story is simply that James made too great a success of his career
for the liking of an old sorcerer in his home village of Harona. When he came
home for a holiday, together with his manager, Australian girlfriend, and ample
money, magic was made and within a week he wasted away and died. A memorial now
stands to him in Meii Village.
Schools are by no means exempt from the fear which belief in sorcery
induces. Early in 1979 one of our students died from what the hospital took to
be pneumonia with complications. As most death is attributed to sorcery, so was
Mainoi’s, and we permanently lost around twenty students because of the
hysteria which resulted [on a school sorcery scare incident similar to this, see
my account: Maea au Huhaharula: a case study of trance and the fear of sorcery
among the West Elema of Papua New Guinea, Christian Parapsychologist, Churches’
Fellowship for Psychic and Spiritual Studies, 5:1, 1983, pp. 9-15].
In the next and main section of this paper, I describe some of the practices in which sorcerers claim to engage to show why sorcery is regarded with such awe. To the best of my knowledge F. E Williams, anthropologist to the then Australian Administration, is the only person to have carried out a significant amount of work on the Western Elema. Although he was especially interested in beliefs about magic, he seldom goes into such specific detail as I present below.
sorcerers are secretive about their profession, partly because it is illegal to
practice it in Papua New Guinea, but primarily because they fear attacks from
rival sorcerers. As a result, it was not until I had lived with the Elema for
eighteen months ‘that one of my brightest students, Kopi Heroe, told me that
his grandfather was a sorcerer and might be persuaded to tell me about his
As it happened I had known the man, Hearo, for quite a long time, but
previously only in his capacity as a big man of Akapiru Village in the Kearu
region (the stretch of coast West of Kerema bay to the Vailala river). As a
young man, he had served for some years in the Papua New Guinea Constabulary.
Now, he follows a normal rural life as a subsistence fanner, hunter, and fisherman. He is an enterprising man, having recently opened a village trade
store from which to retail basic products such as rice, kerosene, and alcohol,
should he be granted a licence
for the latter.
first, Hearo was very reluctant to tell me anything about sorcery. He thought I
probably wanted to kill somebody, in which case I should first pay a fee of K50, or perhaps K150 (£30/£100; $A78/$A195) in return for his
knowledge. As his knowledge came from the ancestors who preceded him, the money
would be offered to them by hanging it overnight on a line strung between the
coconut palms outside his house. Only after this gesture had been made would he
take it for himself the next morning.
by showing him some previous publications bearing my name I was able to impress
him that my interest was wholly academic. Although unable to read or to speak
very much English, he was excited by the prospect of getting his name into print
and being talked about by ‘Scottish university people’, as he put it. He
therefore kindly agreed to waive any fee, though I did make a point of taking
him a can of meat each time I visited him thereafter.
a series of three interviews which followed with Kopi translating as was
necessary most of the time, Hearo confirmed in detail much of what I had learned
previously about sorcery from second-hand sources. However, in addition to
learning about what sorcerers did, he felt it would also be a good idea for me
to know some of the history of it and his people. In this context, there were a
great many different legends he could tell me, but as time was short he would
limit himself to the most important one which tells how his people came to live
as they do now and why it is that they learned to use sorcery.
term, ‘my people’, seemed to refer to the Western Elema as a whole rather
than to individual clans within it. His tale of their origin would seem to owe
much to the biblical Tower of Babylon story and it is not a legend I have heard
from anybody else. It goes that at one time all the people in Papua New Guinea
lived at a place called Pawpaw, close to Muru in the Vailala area. Even the
mountain Kamea (Kukukuku) lived there. Everybody was happy and lived in
perfect peace. Mutual understanding was assured since they all shared a common
language. Nobody ever died in these days and, since heaven was much lower then
than it is now, people could change their brains and see into it by ‘going
looking into heaven — the place where Jesus came from when he descended to
make Adam and Eve — people could see spirit beings who had white skins and
wings. They were like angels. This is the reason why, in 1908 when Captain
Moresby and Captain Cook sailed to Papua New Guinea in a small canoe, the people
thought they were spiritual beings from heaven.
the time when the first Europeans came the old order started to break up. The
people at Pawpaw had embarked upon a project intended to bring them even closer
to God in heaven. This was to be achieved by building a great, tall house to
reach the sky. Now, that got God worried. He did not want all the people to join
him and he realized that with heaven being so low their task would soon be
completed unless he stopped them.
solution was to give people working on different levels of the house separate
languages. When the ones below heard those higher up speaking in a foreign
tongue they thought ‘bad words’ (swearing, etc.) were being spoken about
them. Arguments therefore started, and the end result was that the peoples of
Papua New Guinea divided up into many warring groups, each with their own
olden days, when everybody lived in harmony, there had never been any need for
sorcery, but now that things had changed, so sorcery emerged [i.e. sorcery came in with this localised version of Nimrod’s
Tower of Babel (Genesis 10-11)]. It happened in 1902 at the village of Vailala
East. There a man called Ipavu, who had a reputation for causing trouble,
decided to try and acquire the wife of Iko, a good man. Ipavu achieved his aim
by making magic to kill Iko. This was the first time sorcery had ever been used
and because of this, whenever it is practiced today the names of these two
ancestors, Ipavu and Iko, should be remembered above all others whose power
might be called upon.
Hearo claimed that by using sorcery he could either cure people, or sicken
them to the point of death. Curing is effected by calling the names of powerful
ancestors, while spitting the chewed-up spicy-tasting bark of a particular tree
over the patient’s body.
Killing is a fair more complex procedure, as it involves the aid of a
familiar spirit of a deceased person
to which Hearo referred as his ‘friend’. A sorcerer may possess several such
‘friends’. One way of capturing the power of a person’s spirit is to give
a funeral feast for somebody who has recently been killed by sorcery. This
method can also be used if a sorcerer wishes to transfer a ‘friend’ to
another person: whoever provides for the feast gains the power that the spirit
has at its disposal.
gruesome, a spirit can also be captured by means of a cannibalistic ritual.
Usally two or three sorcerers work together and dig up a recently buried corpse
from the village graveyard. One serves as the ‘doctor sorcerer’ and carves
flesh from various parts of the body. This is mixed with pork, cooked and eaten.
It should be chewed very slowly and cautiously, since the power of the spirit
whose body is being consumed would work against the sorcerer and make him
seriously ill if he bit his own tongue or cheek during the ritual.
After the ceremony this same power will alternate day about with each of
the sorcerers who participated; that is to say, the spirit which formerly
resided in the corpse concerned is now a captive of the sorcerers and must
henceforth serve as a spirit ‘friend’ whose power the sorcerers can call on
when making magic.
If, as an example, three sorcerers had partaken of the flesh, Hearo would
know that this particular spirit would be at his disposal on every third day:
for the other two days it would be with each of the other sorcerers
that a rostering system such as this may apply to certain spirits, it becomes
clear why a powerful sorcerer such as Hearo feels the need to have several
‘friends’ at his command. Furthermore, I have little doubt that without the
aid of a calendar most sorcerers would quickly lose track of which friend was
with whom on what day, so by having several the law of averages should ensure that there is always at least one friend
what happens to a friend’s spirit when not actually being called on by one
sorcerer or another was unclear. At one time Hearo said that during the cannibal ritual, magic is made to banish it permanently to
‘the place where Satan lives’. On another occasion he said it would go to
the place where Adam and Eve’s spirits now abide. When I asked him to be more
specific, he replied that since we cannot see the place where spirits live we
cannot say what it is like.
to the power of sorcerers West of Kerema Bay is a divinatory tool called the marupai.
It is a small, stunted coconut shell, polished black, but with grooves
carved out and whitened with lime to resemble a pig’s head. Hearo showed me
his two marupai and explained that when charged with ‘power’ they become
living entities which fly around during the night. Information concerning events
in other villages, people’s personal secrets, impending deaths and the
activities of rival sorcerers is thus conveyed to him by the marupai through dreams or omens. For example, the marupai
may cause a firefly to behave in a particular manner which Hearo would know
how to interpret in a meaningful way. As it moves through the bush, invisible to
its owner, it may even ‘speak’ directly to him, either with a low, whistling
tone, or with a clicking sound similar to that made by a gecko. The marupai
is bestowed with ‘power’ by placing flesh in its ‘mouth’: the
opening from which the original coconut would have sprouted. Some sorcerers, he
said, use animal or bird flesh for this, but human flesh taken during the ritual
described above may also be used, especially parts taken from the clitoris or
penis. Sometimes too, selected varieties of bark and leaves are mixed with the
Before setting off to kill somebody, the sorcerer must make himself
invisible. This is done by taking sand from a grave, sewing it up in a cloth
while reciting ‘magic words’, then holding it in front of himself as he
walks along the beach to find the victim. He takes his two marupai with him to warn of any danger. The most important piece of
equipment, however, is what Hearo calls his ‘bone arrow’. This is a bone
taken from the upper arm or thigh of a deceased sorcerer. Hearo’s ‘bone
arrow’ is about fifteen centimetres long. As with his marupai,
he keeps it dusted with lime to bring out the zig-zag patterns carved into
As soon as the victim is sighted, the sorcerer makes him longlong
(mad) by uttering more magic. Then, with a casting motion, he points at him
with the bone arrow. The bone itself emits no power: rather, the purpose of this
action is so that the sorcerer’s spirit friend may clearly see who it is
intended to kill. The friend then sets to work using its power to sicken the
victim. The effect of this on the victim, as Kopi translated it, is that, ‘The
next morning you will hear that person crying in his house. By the end of the
day he will be dead’.
since my initial interview with him, Hearo had promised that at some suitable
time he would dress up to show me what he looked like when going out to kill. Several times Kopi and I walked the two miles up
the beach from our school to his village, but to our disappointment each
time he had some reason for not doing it. On one occasion he felt unwell
and feared that the power associated with his sorcery tools might make him worse
if he took them out. Another time he had visitors staying whom ‘he did not
wish to frighten. However, one day shortly before I was due to finish my time
working at ‘the school, he agreed that conditions were right. My wife had been
conducting her regular Saturday morning clinic in the village, Once it was
finished, Hearo went into his house to change into his ‘sorcery outfit’. We
expected him to emerge dressed as he might be for a traditional dance. Instead,
to our surprise, ‘he came out just as he had gone in, except that he had
donned a wrist watch (a status symbol), changed his shorts for a better pair,
and attired himself with the sorcery equipment which he had previously shown me.
Tied to each elbow was a marupai. He held the ‘bone arrow’ in his hand, while round his
neck was his bag of poisons, the use of which is described below.
claims to have killed some ten people in his lifetime. Generally he uses the
‘bone arrow’ procedure, but he mentioned several other methods which
sorcerers have at their disposal — all of which, unlike the bone arrow
technique, I have heard described by my school students. Some
sorcerers, he said, are adept at operating on people and closing them up again
without their knowledge, and without leaving scars. In this way they can kill by
removing internal organs, implanting deadly leaves, or inserting a sharp slither
of bamboo amongst the intestines so that it gradually causes them damage (cf.
Fortune 1932, apropos vada surgery).
Hearo, however, said that he was not able to perform this kind of magic.
His own preferred method of killing if not using the bone arrow was to take sand
from a footprint, some hair, or some other item associated with the victim and
mix it with poisonous plants such as those he had in the bag around his neck.
While reciting appropriate magic in which he calls on the power of his
ancestors, he places the mixture inside a length of bamboo and puts it on a slow
fire. As it ‘cooks’, so the victim sickens and dies.
more tangible technique was one he described involving the use of nitric acid.
This, he said, could be stolen from either the high school laboratory or the
‘hospital pharmacy. To use it, appropriate ‘magic words’ must be spoken as
always, and the acid poured on the nostrils or mouth of a sleeping victim.
Presumably in this way it would be inhaled. Hearo said that this is a rapid way
of killing, although he now fears using it because the acid’s power is so
great. Once he accidentally spilt some on his hands. Such was the effect of it
burning his skin, that for three days he lay in the house and feared that he
would die as a result.
activity has taken place amongst the Elema for over a hundred years now. It
started in 1879 with James Chalmers’ first canoe excursion to the Gulf, a
journey during which he mentioned Hearo’s Kearu district and wrote that,
‘The inhabitants are said to be bad and treacherous, and we were strongly
advised to have nothing whatever to do with them’ (Lennox 1902, pp. 73-74). As
previously noted, it was interesting to observe how Hearo often confused
Christian ‘and traditional ideas. He said that before killing a person the
sorcerer has a duty to lay on a small feast for him or her. The reason he gave
for this was that: ‘Jesus didn’t die for nothing. He had his feast, the Last
Supper, and only then did they kill him’.
on another occasion, he identified himself with the role Judas played in the
killing of Christ. Should I have wanted somebody killed, it would have been
wrong for him to do it for me. Rather he would have made me a ‘bone arrow’,
transferred a spirit ‘friend’ to me at a small ceremonial feast, and taught
me how to use them in return for the fee which would be strung between the palm
trees. It should be done in this way because Judas himself did not kill Christ
but merely betrayed him for thirty
pieces of silver.
Finally, Hearo emphasized that sorcery has its own moral code in so far as one may not kill without justification. It is for the sorcerer to decide whether or not his client (apprentice) has a sufficiently strong case against an adversary to warrant the use of the Black Art. The types of wrong which may be so revenged range from murder, theft, and adultery to matters as vague ‘as behaving in a way which might displease the clan’s ancestors. An example I have encountered of the latter type involved a young man from a different Province ‘trespassing’ on a waterway which was ‘owned’ by two ancestral spirits. Whether or not a similar charge could be upheld against a clan member is, ‘as I have previously noted, a question which I did not investigate. As if to reassure me, however, Hearo did point out that only a ‘rascal sorcerer’ would try to harm a European.
In a country where it is common for people to die suddenly from
pneumonia, food poisoning and various ‘tropical diseases, it is easy to
understand how belief in sorcery has been built up and sustained. Fear drums it
into the minds of children from an early age, and the grotesque practices in
which sorcerers claim to engage do nothing to alleviate that terror. As German
(1979) has suggested, the cerebral effects of malnutrition and certain
tropical diseases may be a further important contributory f actor towards
predisposing the peoples of tropical countries to believing in a supernatural
world of spirits and magical forces. In my experience, the only people to have
largely overcome their superstitions are those who have something to put in its
place, such as •a strong Christian faith. Some critics might argue that this
is merely a matter of replacing one superstition with another, but that is an
argument which goes beyond the scope of this paper. If it is true, then at least
it might be said that the Christian approach is less conducive to fear than the
Williams has commented, ‘Despite a belief in their own magic it remains
obvious that sorcerers are to a very large extent imposters, trading on the
superstition of their fellows’ (1940, p. 109). In the past such superstition
may have been a stabilizing force, allowing the sorcerer to fulfill the
policeman’s role of handing out rough justice, sustaining the status
quo and ensuring that egalitarian principles were upheld. Now, however, the
need for it is being superseded. As Papua New Guinea is gradually weaned from
the harsher aspects of traditional life the future lies in the hands of educated
young people such as Kopi. He, and most like him, believe that no more should
youths go to their elders to learn sorcery.
But of course, the odd exception might be made for the benefit of eccentric ‘Scottish university people’.
First and foremost, I must thank Hearo and Kopi for all their help. While
I cannot condone what Hearo claims to do, I am grateful to have had the
opportunity to record what he told me.
Thanks are also due to my friends, Rod and Pru Anderson [Rod was the physician in charge of Kerema Hospital]. This is both for the many stimulating discussions we had about sorcery, and for having introduced me at their home to Dr George Nurse of the Institute of Medical Research at Goroka, Papua New Guinea. He [George] gave helpful advice and encouragement while I was collecting the data for this paper. For this I am most grateful.
FORTUNE, R. F. (1932, revised 1963). Sorcerers of Dobu. Routledge and Kegan Paul, U.K.
G. Allen (1979). The Psychiatric Aspects
of Tropical Disorders. Geneva, Bulletin of the W.H.O., 57(3): 359-371.
KIKI, Sir A. M. (1968). Kiki: 10,000 Years in a Lifetime. A New Guinea Biography.
Melrose-Cheshire: London, U.K.
LENNOX, C. (1902). James Chalmers of New Guinea. 3rd Edition. Melrose-Cheshire:
A. I. (1980). Beliefs About Out-of-the-Body Experiences Among the Elema, Gulf
Kamea and Rigo Peoples of Papua New Guinea. U.K., Journ. Society for
Psychical Research, Vol. 50, No. 785.
F. E. (1940). Drama of Orokolo: the Social and Ceremonial Life of the Elema.
U.K., Oxford University Press.
F. E. (1976). The Vailala Madness and
Other Essays. Australia and U.K., University of Queensland Press.
example, Hearo of Akapiru (see below) told me that a disputed piece of land
near Kerema known as ‘The Bluff’ is the property of his clan because an
ancestor had won it for them long ago. At one time the Bluff had been the
abode of an evil, cannibal woman who had a wicked, ugly daughter and a good,
beautiful daughter. The ancestor in question bravely killed the old woman
and the ugly daughter then married the beautiful daughter. She gave the
Bluff to the clan as a sign of her gratitude and happiness. [Gender
deconstruct that one!]
example of this may be seen in the form of a mural in the Catholic cathedral
of Kerema. Here a traditional portrayal of the first male and female
ancestors draws out the similarity between the Judaeo-Christian and one
particular indigenous creation myth. Alongside it Christ on the cross is
depicted as a Melanesian. In a similar spirit the (Protestant) United Church
organizes traditional (totemic) dancing at their annual gathering in the
am grateful to the Editor for having advised me of the importance of these
and other matters, but I regret that not being trained in anthropology I
have to offer this report in the knowledge that it has some deficiencies
from a professional perspective. [I would also add (September 2000) that my
attitude towards “development” would now be more refined and critical
than it was when this paper was written. In the intervening years one of the
forms of “development” that Hearo was, I understand, partly responsible
for initiating was the commercial logging of the rainforests in what were
the beautifully forested foothills north of the Kearu area.]
 The names, Ipavu and Iko, are common amongst the West Elema today. However, nobody else has told me of any link between them and sorcery.
Certain elements of this story may have their origin in the Vailala
Madness (see Williams 1976), particularly the mention of Vailala East, the
dates given, and the description of how people used to ‘see into heaven’
mental’. Williams believed that the Madness was probably an attempt to
adapt to the European culture being introduced by missionaries, traders and
oil prospectors. This too could be Linked with Hearo’s notion of the old
social order being destroyed [cf. Nimrod’s creation of the militarised
As he is about fifty, Hearo is not old enough to have remembered the
Vailala Madness, but he may have heard much about it. [Around about 1990 I
received a newsletter from the Salesian of Don Bosco fathers at St Peter’s
school where I had previously taught. Hearo had passed away, and the father
in charge had written an obituary saying what a loss this great Christian
member of the School Board would be to the community! During the 1990’s
the school (which in 1979 shifted west from Kerema to Araimiri in the Kearu
area) was partly washed away by the sea and abandoned by the Salesians.]
one might suggest that the ‘power’ takes the form of pathogenic
organisms finding an easy means of entry into the bloodstream.
should be emphasized that the vast majority of Papua New Guineans, including
the Elema, would be sickened and repulsed at the thought of such practices.
 Beliefs concerning out-of-the-body experiences are notably less pronounced amongst the Western Elema, who use the marupai, than in districts towards the South-East of the country. I would su~”est that this might be because the marupai performs functions similar to those for which out-of-the-body experiences are said to be needed elsewhere (McIntosh 1980).
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9 September 2000