The Unseen World and the Opposition Scenario

  • Edward L. Schieffelin


The significance of alo bana hanan —the splitting of the house— runs deeper than simply the members of a house group splitting to support opposite sides in some dispute. It also refers to the fundamental relationship among all things in the world. The Kaluli believe that all things had their origin at a time in the distant past known as hena madaliaki (roughly “when the land came into form”). At that time, according to the prevailing story, there were no trees or animals or streams or sago or food. The earth was covered entirely by people. These people soon began to get hungry and cold as they had nothing to eat or to build houses with. One man got up and said, “Everyone gather around here.” When everyone had assembled, he said, “You be trees,” and one group of people became trees. “You be sago,” and another group became sago. “You be fish…. You be bananas,” and so on, until all the animals and plants and every other being and natural feature (rivers, hills) in the world were divided each to his own kind. The few people who were left became the human beings of the day. The Kaluli term for this myth is “the time when everything alɔ bana ane” (ane = past participle of hanan), and it is from this original “splitting of the house” that all things have attained their present form of existence.


Past Participle Gift Exchange Smoke Meat Huge Tree Hunting Expedition 
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© Edward L. Schieffelin 2005

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  • Edward L. Schieffelin

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