Mircea Eliade "From Primitives to Zen":
HAINUWELE AND THE 'CREATIVE MURDER' (CERAM, NEW GUINEA)


The Marind-anim apply the term dema to the divine creators and primordial beings who existed in mythical times. The dema are described sometimes in human form, sometimes in the form of animals and plants. The central myth narrates the slaying of the dema-divinity by the dema-men of the primordial time. Especially famous is the myth of the girl Hainuwele, recorded by A.E Jensen in Ceram, one of the islands of the New Guinea Archipelago. In substance it runs:

In mythical Times, a man named Ameta, out hunting, came on a wild boar. Trying to escape, the boar was drowned in a lake. On its tusk Ameta found a coconut. That night he dreamed of the coconut and was commanded to plant it, which he did the next morning. In three days a coconut palm sprang up, and three days later it flowered. Ameta climbed it to cut some flowers and make a drink from them. But he cut his finger and the blood dropped on a flower. Nine days later he found a girl-child on the flower. Ameta took her and wrapped her in coconut fronds. In three days the child became a marriageable girl, and he named her Hainuwele ('coconut branch'). During the great Maro festival Hainuwele stood in the middle of the dancing place and for nine nights distributed gifts to the dancers. But on the ninth day the men dug a grave in the middle of the dancing place and threw Hainuwele into it during the dance. The grave was filled in and men danced on it.
The next morning, seeing that Hainuwele did not come home, Ameta divined that she had been murdered. He found the body, disinterred it, and cut it into pieces, which he buried in various places, except the arms. The buried pieces gave birth to plants previously unknown, especially to tubers, which since then are the chief food of human beings. Ameta took Hainuwele's arms to another dema-divinity, Satene. Satene drew a spiral with nine turns on a dancing ground and placed herself at the centre of it. From Hainuwele's arms she made a door, and summoned the dancers. 'Since you have killed,' she said, 'I will no longer live here. I shall leave this very day. Now you will have to come to me through this door.' Those who were able to pass through it remained human beings. The others were changed into animals (pigs, birds, fish) or spirits. Satene announced that after her going men would meet her only after their death, and she vanished from the surface of the Earth.

A.E. Jensen has shown the importance of this myth for the understanding of religion and world image of the paleocultivators. The murder of the dema divinity by the dema, the ancestors of present humanity, ends an epoch (which cannot be considered 'paradisal') and opens that in which we live today. The dema became men, that is, sexed and mortal beings. As for the murdered dema-divinity, she survives both in her 'creations' (food, plants, animals,etc.) And in the house of the dead into which she was changed, or in the 'mode of being death,' which she established by her own demise.


M.Eliade, Myth and Reality (New York, 1963), pp 104-5; translated and abridged from A.E. Jensen, Das religiose Weltbild einer fruhen Kultur (Stuttgart, 1948) pp.35-8

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