Gender and Religion

If Abelam women are the primary custodians of children, men control ritual and religion. Women have secrets related to birth, but men have ritual secrets. Each gender is excluded from the specialized knowledge of the other. A supernatural life force called ngwaal (soul substance) is thought to animate nature. This force is personified in ancestral spirits called ngwaalndu (literally, "spirit-person" or "grandfather-person"), normally male. Initiates are introduced to the ngwaalndu in the tambaran cult, the series of male initiation stages described above, from which women are barred. Each clan has an important ngwaalndu associated with it. Other lesser supernatural beings, such as waale (water spirits), are equally known to both genders. Sorcerers (kwisndu), male magicians who learn to control ngwaal, and kutakwa, female witches who harm others, often involuntarily, are also thought to exist. It is thought that, when the world began people lived in a hole in the ground near the Sepik River. They were starving, having nothing to eat but dirt, even though there was a garden of plenty growing above on the earth. A dog found its way to the surface. Later its (male) owner followed the dog, discovered the way out, and led the people to the surface of the earth.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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