Traditional Huli Society: 1
(Copyright ©1998 G. C. J. Lomas)

(Photos copyright © 1998 Malachy McBride, ofmcap.; Drawings copyright ©1998 Alphonsus Mariot)


The complicated account of Huli beliefs given in Glasse 1965 is based on data he gathered at Hojabia, near Lumulumu.  His view was limited by his being unable at the time of his fieldwork to move freely in and out of what was then restricted territory, and since his day others have queried his findings (e.g.. Goldman 1983; Frankel 1986), especially in regard to his main claim, that the Huli descent system is cognatic.  Consequently, what is and what is not Huli is not easy to define.  However, some aspects of Huli culture identified by Glasse seem to hold, or to be known, in quite widely different Huli communities.
dama    These make up a loose hierarchy of supra-human beings that inhabit the sky, rivers, water holes, caves and dense bushlands - especially the higher reaches of the mountains.  They control the climate and the land, and affect fertility in both soil and livestock.  They can cause a variety of of sicknesses and misfortunes in humans, including death, and are constantly and capriciously active in human affairs.  The originating dama of the Huli and their neighbours are generally less malevolent than others, while all dama can to some extent be placated and persuaded to desist from causing harm.  Sometimes they can be tricked or warded off, and it is even possible to manipulate some of them and harness the powers that they possess (cf Glasse 1965: 33-37).

Alph's dancing dama
Huli dama dancing, as depicted by artist Alphonsus Mariot
dinini    Less powerful than dama, but still more powerful than humans, are the dinini or ghosts of the dead.  These, too, are active in human affairs, male ghosts being benevolent and protective towards their descendants, while female ghosts are invariably spiteful and malevolent towards all except their own offspring.  Some dinini have wandered in from other places and taken up their abode in Huliland, and these these may almost have the status of damadinini cannot be appeased, only tricked or thwarted by the use of strategies more powerful than their own (cf Glasse 1965: 29-32).
tomia    is a generic term for power that is not necessarily attached to dama or dinini, but can reside in material objects such as stones, or be generated by certain religious formulae called gamu.  It can cause sickness or death, either accidentally or through human manipulation (cf Glasse 1968: 105-106).

wali    is Huli for woman or women, who are regarded as being unwittingly endowed with tomia, especially potent in their menstrual blood.  They are seen as being a baleful influence on and a potential source of danger to men.  On occasions they may consciously use their powers to cause harm (cf Glasse 1968: 106), and men have to learn ritual strategies to guard against them.