Is Beauty Skin Deep?
The Ideology of Trobriand Fatherhood

By Dr. Allan Darrah
Northwestern University
June 1972


        The literature of the Trobriand Islands has dealt extensively with the ideology of the role of father, yet most of the reconsiderations of Malinowski's corpus have focused on structural considerations almost to the exclusion of the ritual roles associated with fatherhood.  Leach has argued that fathers are affines of their children while Robenson has plumped for complimentary filiation by demonstrating that fathers manipulate their daughters' marriages and equip their sons for kula and marriage.

        When fatherhood is examined from the perspective of rituals, a number of lacuna in Malinowski's interpretations of Trobriand politics can be filled through a reinterpretation of Trobriand idealization of cross‑cousin marriage. Malinowski has left us a tremendous corpus of material on Trobriand magic and ritual; however, his analysis of magical spells stressed the primacy of the spoken word and his descriptions of Trobriand world views emphasized their pragmatism to the point that their cosmological metaphors are presented in only truncated form.   In spite of an abundance of evidence to the contrary, Malinowski concluded that ancestor spirits did not play a major role in magical rituals.  In his final work, Malinowski modifies this position by indicating that he is not certain as to what extent ancestors participated in ritual.  Malinowski says that he had set out to challenge Sir James Frazer's ideas about the differences between magic and religion and ended up affirming them through his fieldwork.  (1961 73)  Frazer maintained that magic involved man's direct control of natural forces for a practical end while religion involved an appeal to higher beings for intervention. (1948 19)  Malinowski reports finding Trobriand beliefs that ancestral spirits (baloma) participated  in magical ceremonies but, he concluded, that the force of magic was in the spell which worked its effect independent of the baloma.   His conclusion that the text which he recorded were spells rather than ritualized prayers was bolstered by his observations of the attitude of the performers.   His early works stressed his findings that a Trobriander's interaction with his ancestors was not characterized by either great awe or fear.   The lengths to which he went to test native reactions to the dead suggests that his acceptance of Frazer's position may have, in part, hinged on the results.  After returning from a funeral in a neighboring village, he would send a boy at night to fetch back something he had purposely left to see if he was afraid of the dead man's ghost. (1948 152)  Malinowski failed to consider the possible limitation on generalizations from the results of his experiments.   In a later account, he records an instance where a kinswoman is frightened by a recently dead kinsman.   In Trobriand cosmology, fear depends, in part, on one's relationship to the dead man and also how powerful he was.

Much of Malinowski's theory about magic and religion was based on assumptions about natives' feelings of anxiety.   In more than one instance, he made the mistake of assuming that outward expression was an accurate reflection of an individual's internal state and yet, in another instance, he records that men of kula expeditions, who are eager and fearful, must act with unemotional disdain when receiving a gift, while the giver must act with hostile aggressiveness (thrusts the pole carrying the object into the wall of his hut in a spear-like fashion).

One of a number of meanings of the pattern of interaction between men and ancestors is that magic involves an exchange of goods and services between them.   The pattern of this exchange is homologous to the ideology of kula and marriage prestations which raises the possibility that the proscriptions on demeanor when exchanging with kula partners may also apply to exchange with the ancestors; if this is indeed the case, fear of the baloma would have to be suppressed.

In spite of his interest in the actors' feelings and detailed re­cordings of their actions, Malinowski emphasized the spoken word in his analysis;   he published numerous spells and, in many cases, adds details of the exegesis which he elicited from ritual experts on the meaning of various symbols.   He had concluded that the function of magic was to fill gaps in man's knowledge of pragmatic pursuits.   In most cases, his analytical insights into the meanings of symbols were exhausted once he had demonstrated a metaphorical link between the practical goal of the magic and one or the other of Frazer's principles of magical logic‑‑‑similarity and contagion.  (1969 432)  It was this interest in the linear "pragmatic" goal of magic which prevented Malinowski from viewing magic as part of a cyclical process; he could not see the forest of meanings for the canoe that the tree would become.

Methods of Analysis:

This paper will be an attempt to see as to what extent Victor Turner's methods of symbol analysis can provide a means of extracting new insights into the role of father in Trobriand society from the Malinowskian corpus. Turner does not succinctly state what his methods of symbol analysis are, which leaves it up to the reader to extract from his conceptualizations of symbols a set of procedures for replicating his work.

Turner's work with the Ndembu has lead him to generalize about the nature of ritual symbols; one generalization in particular has great methodological import.   Turner has found that symbols have multiple meanings and that no single means of data collection or analysis could capture them all.

Symbols have three major dimensions of significance from which their structural and mnemonic properties can be elicited or inferred; Turner calls these the exegetic dimension, the operational dimension, and the positional dimension.   The exegetic dimension primarily consists of the collected com­ments of laymen and specialists on rituals and their symbolism.

"In the exegetic dimension, the meaning of a symbol is built up by analogy and association on three semantic foundations which we may call: a) nominal, b) substantial, and c) artifactual semantic bases." (Turner 1969 13)

The nominal basis includes the name assigned to a symbol in its ritual and non‑ritual contexts; in some cases, the etymology, punning potential and other linguistic characteristics, can add meaning to a name.  The substantial basis includes the culturally selected natural and material properties of objects used as symbols.  The artifactual basis is focused on purposive human activity which fashions or forms an object into a symbol or transforms the identity of a symbol.  Exegeses has several major limitations some, but not all, of which can be overcome by the collection of multiple commentaries.   The actors within a ritual field have limitations of both understanding and expression which results from the perspective their roles and/or factional disputes require them to take.  Analysis of cleavages within the groups taking part in the ritual and the eliciting of multiple perspectives can provide a corrective to these deficiencies.  Another limitation results from the fact that rituals frequently stress the importance of a single principal of social organization by blocking the expression of other important and conflicting principals.  Ex­egetic statements are usually highly ideological and stress the harmony of normative aspects of social relations.   The absence of exegetic commentary on  the conflict between the disparate significata of major ritual symbols make it necessary for the anthropologist to extract implicit contradictions in a symbol's meanings through a comparison of its meanings in the context of other rituals.   Having established the full range of exegetic significata attaching to a symbol, the anthropologist is in a position to draw conclusions from the absence of a significata in a particular ritual, as well as from the presence of others.

A symbol derives meaning from its relationship to other symbols in a specific cluster or gestalt of symbols and Turner calls this gestalt the positional dimension.  He indicates that their relationship may take the form of binary opposition, though the arrangement of significata or symbols in binary pairs simplifies both the ritual's structure and the task of interpreting the significance of significata isolated through their absence; it oversimplifies the essential ambiguity of the context.

"Those who stress binary opposition tend to regard ritual symbols as univocal, since it is difficult to make sharp antithesis between complex bundles of designate.  However, it is an established fact that many symbols are arrayed in antithetical pairs during certain phases of certain rites.  Here their relationship may crucially influence the meaning they situationally possess.  Where one has information about the 'exegetical' or 'operational' meanings of a given symbol, one can see very well that even though only a single designation of the symbol is situationally manifest, the 'penumbra' of latent senses (to be manifest in other 'positional' combinations) is nevertheless 'present'." (ibid)

The third dimension of a symbol's meaning, the operational, is equated with how the symbol is used.  Account is taken of who uses the symbol and who is absent when it is used.  The effective quality of the appearance of the users and their audience is also taken into consideration.

Turner delineates a number of properties of ritual symbols which assist the analyst in extracting meanings which exegesis may not capture.  Rituals have telic properties in that they are very much goal directed; exegesis frequently focuses on the ultimate goal of a ritual and frequently ignores instrumental symbols which provide meaning for intermediate states in the process of change.  Many ritual symbols are heavily iconic; their visual properties can provide clues to the identity of significata that were not mentioned in exegesis.  Distortion, or exaggeration, of visual features call attention to customary relationship of the feature to other features in their gestalt.

 "The communication of sacral and other forms of eso­teric instruction really involves three processes, though these  should not be regarded as in series, but as in parallel.   The  first, is the reduction of culture into recognized components  or factors;  the second, is their reconstruction in fantastic  or monstrous patterns and shapes; and the third, is their recombination in ways that make sense with regard to the new  state and status that the neophyte will enter." (1967 106)

Speculation about the basic assumptions of a society is encouraged during the liminality of ritual states, however, this speculation may have narrow limits set out in the mysterious presentations of the sacra.

"Moreover, in initiation, there are usually held to be certain  principles of construction, and certain basic building blocks that make up the cosmos and into whose nature no neophyte may  inquire." (ibid)

Color is a visual feature which is frequently singled out for contemplation by exaggeration of its importance.  Both Trobrianders and the Ndembu use color as a representation of social status and social roles; intensification of contemplation on color may also result in intensified reflection on status and role.

Turner suggests, as does Levi‑Strauss, Douglas, and others, that ritual symbols treat social relationships as being homologous to metaphors of biological process.  Many of the instrumental states created during a ritual's enactment visually dramatize these homologies.  The identity between two identities can result from the homologies of their metamorphosis as well as from a comparison of similarity of their present status.

From the preceding concepts and statements on method, we can extract a number of procedures which would be appropriate for an analysis of Trobriand cosmetic symbols:


Step One:   Collect all references to each symbol, their  significata, and their positional  dimension.

Step Two:   Examine the ritual sequence for a logic of progression:
                 a.  What is the telic structure of the ritual?
                 b.  What, if any, biological homolo­gies are involved?
                 c.   What binary opposition are in­volved?

Step Three: Pinpoint the various meanings of the symbols:

                 a. Look for significata emphasized by distortion or omission.

                 b. Examine what is done with the symbol from both the operational and exegetic perspective.

Step Four: Try to determine how social cleavages affected the collection of informa­tion:
                a. How representative is the information?

                b. Identify the cleavages and the ways in which they might alter statements about significata.



In spite of the larger number of attempts to deal with the structural aspects of the father/son dyad, new insights can be added by examining points where structural ideology come into the conflict.

Rank is an important principal in the Trobriand political system, for it determines which lineages hold office; intra‑lineage political competition is between sets of siblings and partially regulated by an aldephic norm for inheritance.   However, this does not preclude situations of competition between siblings.   In the intra‑lineage competition, a sibling set's chances of success would be, in great part, determined by their father's rank and his ritual status or knowledge of magic; at the same time, a father can mediate conflict between siblings through his dispensation of magical lore and kula objects.  A father who possesses sorcery also stands in a position to mediate the hostility between his sons and their mother's brothers by manipulating the speed by which he turns over his ritual powers to his sons.

Our interest in the multivocality of Trobriand cosmetic symbols stems from their intimate association with the role of fatherhood in a number of ritual contexts.   In Trobriand matrilineal ideology, fathers do not contri­bute to the physical substance of a child at conception; however, he does give the child its outward appearance.  Fathers give their sons beauty magic which ensures their similarity of features to continue even after death; beauty magic and the closely related love magic are basic resources in individual competition.  The gift of beauty magic establishes a special father/son bond which survives both death and divorce and this can be taken as support for Robinson's argument that the relationship is one of complimentary filiation rather than affinity.

Life Is A Cycle:

The Trobrianders see man as inhabiting two worlds with the earth's surface representing the dividing line between them; tomwata (men) live above ground and baloma (spirits) live below the ground.  The sea represents the liminal state of transit between these two worlds; the spirits of children yet to be reborn and the spirits of the dead are both made to cross the sea. They gain entry to the next world only with the help of their kinsmen and/or family.  The rituals which surround the transfer of individuals into and out of these two worlds provide a number of insights into the relationship of men and baloma.

The Trobrianders believe in reincarnation; the spirit is believed to lose all of its identity prior to rebirth except for kinship‑‑‑a spirit will be reborn into the lineage (dala) of its previous reincarnation‑ (1929a 272)

Dead spirits who live underground on the Island of Tuma‑‑‑located several miles northwest of Boyowa, the main Trobriand island ‑‑‑ undergo reincarnation as a result of sorcery or, in some cases, of their own free will. (ibid) Baloma are subject to an aging process just as tomwata are but men have lost the secret of rejuvenation while the baloma have not.   In a manner similar to a snake's, a baloma will shed his old skin and become young again (1929a 434); Malinowski quotes an informant as saying:

"The spirits go to a spring called 'Washing Water';
it lies on the beach. There they wash their skin
with brackish water. They become young men once
more." (1929b 402)

Sometimes this process transforms the individual into a child spirit rather than into a youth; these infant spirits enter the sea and take hold of some flotsam in the hope that they will be carried across the sea to the main island.

Spiritual Aspects Of Conception:

Conception is achieved when a waywaya (spirit child) is united with the body of a woman who has been prepared to receive it.   In most cases, this union is brought about by the baloma of one of the woman's kinsmen, kinswomen, or the baloma of the woman's father.  The baloma places the waywaya in the woman's hair from whence it is carried to her stomach by the menstrual blood which has collected.  The waywaya, which is placed in the woman's hair, is a spirit without substance. (Austin 1934 108)  Often the woman has a dream in which the responsible baloma informs the woman that she is pregnant.   Given the crucial importance of a dead kinsmen's cooperation in magical rites such dreams could very well be interpreted later as evidence of a kind of charis­matic link between the child and an influential ancestor.

There is some evidence that the baloma who presents the waywaya may be selective in his/her choice of waywaya and that the spirit child's potential may be believed to be, in some ways, predetermined.  One informant indicates that the baloma will select a waywaya that is good looking.  (SLS 173)  In some cases, the baloma may reveal to the woman the waywaya's previous identity:

"I have brought you a child, the spirit of so‑and‑so, your maternal uncle.  By and by, you will bring forth, he will come to life again." (1929b 402)

Mothers can play an important part in building expectations of their children's political future and at the same time their dreams, if believed, could be used to alter the balance of power in a dala‑‑‑if a kinsman's magical power is seen to  rest on the good will of a particular baloma then the reincarnation of this baloma could be seen as resulting in the individual's loss of power.  In any case, dead kinsmen who are vitally interested in the lineages future, which represents their future, can be counted upon to select more favorably than a random process as long as they were kept happy.

A woman may also conceive without the assistance of a dead kinsman, in which case the waywaya simply enters the woman's vagina while she is swim­ming or bathing.   If a woman is infertile, a close kinsman may gather a bowl of water which is placed by her bed so that a spirit may enter her body while she is asleep.   In this case, she still has a dream in which a baloma tells her she is with child.  (1929a 175‑76)  These actions of male tomwata on the behalf of their kinswomen's spiritual fecundity can be contrasted with their avoidance of all matters which involve the physical nature of their kinswomen.

Conception:  Physiological Aspects

Trobriand notions of conception have provided a continuing battle­ground for polemics; Austin indicates that intercourse is believed to aid con­ception by creating two states which are vital preconditions to conception. (193‑0)   The woman's vagina must be opened by regular intercourse; Malinowski was of the opinion that this was necessary so that the spirit child (waywaya) can enter the mother and he thought this contradicted the notion that the way­waya was placed on the mother's head by the baloma of one of her dead relatives.  One possible explanation of this confusion is that Malinowski's informant believed that the vagina had to be dilated so that the waywaya could exit rather than enter the body and that the baloma would not conceive a woman whose vagina had not been prepared for birth.   This line of reasoning would dispel the paradox set out in the following quote from Sexual Life of Savages:

"This statement was volunteered by Niyoya, a sound informant in Oburaku:   'A virgin does not conceive, because there is no way for the children to go, for that woman to conceive.  When the orifice is wide open, the spirits are aware, they give the child.' This is quite clear; but, during the same sitting, the same informant had previously given me a detailed description of how the spirit lays the child on the woman's head." (180‑81)

The second function of intercourse is to stop the flow of menstrual blood; the pounding of the male penis is likened to the pounding of the betel nut in a mortar.  Betel nut is crushed with white lime and a small piece of the moiia fruit to produce a blood red color which is used to decorate the lips .* (Austin 34 103)   Frequent intercourse causes the menstrual blood to collect and after several months the woman is ready to conceive.

Montague has recently made the following contribution of the extensive debate over the father's contribution to conception:

"Powell (1956 277) reports a variation of Austin's account.  While he states that the 'formal dogma of kinship denies the father any status as genitor', informants told him that 'the semen acts as a coagulant of the menstrual blood, producing a 'clot' which a spirit child enters by way of the head or otherwise, and which proceeds to grow after its 'quickening' by the entry of the baloma.'  The father is thus actually involved biologically.   Powell's (1956 278) informants said that Malinowski's versions of procreation was man's talk, valid in matters of land ownership‑‑‑while Powell's version was women's and children's‑‑‑whether or not all these versions were present in Trobriand culture prior to European intervention is debatable." (359)

A consideration of the symbols of beauty magic will provide new insights into this long standing controversy.

The Father's Contribution To The Child:

In matrilineal ideology, an individual's blood and flesh are given to him by his mother but it is the father who determines his appearance. (1929a 207)  Austin reports that there is belief that the warmth of the father's body has an effect on the formation and well being of the child. (1934 112)  Malinowski also reports that the father's constant companionship with the mother affects the child's morphology:

"It coagulates the face of the child; for always he lies with her, they sit together."(l929a 207)

Another informant suggested that the food the father gives to the child affected its appearance:

"Always we give food from our hand to the child to eat, we give fruit and dainties, we give betel nut. This makes the child as it is." (1929a 208)

Malinowski suggests that the father's contribution to the shape and appear­ance of an individual is as absolute as the mother's contribution to his substance.  A man should look like his father and not his kinsmen; Malinowski learned this principle the hard way by telling two brothers that they looked alike.  He was told that it was correct to say that they both looked like their father, but people denied that this meant that they resembled each other. (1929a 204‑08)

Malinowski does not mention whether it is believed that a child looks like its mother but the possibility can be inferred from the following passage in his 1916 article on the baloma:

"It was said by one man that if the child resembles the mother, it has been brought by some of her veiola; if it resembles the father, it has been brought by his mother.  But this opinion may be my informant's private speculation." (1948 270)

At another point Malinowski wrote:

"There was no way of shaking their conviction or diminishing their dislike of the idea that anyone can resemble his mother or her people, an idea condemned by tradition and the good manners of the tribe." (1929a 208)

The latter quote carries more force than the first one; the norm appears to be that men are not supposed to look like their mothers but sometimes do.

The term for this kind of comparison of kinsmen is "to‑defile‑by-comparing‑to‑a‑kinsman‑his‑face" and its extreme form, the comparison of brother and sister, is as serious an insult as an accusation of incest, which can lead to suicide. (1929a 205)  The seriousness of the taunt suggests that important sociological principles are involved while the unwillingness of Malinowski's informants to concede any similarities suggests that they did not trust his discretion on this issue.

The causes given for physical similarities between a father and his children, propinquity and gifts, give us a clue as to why brother‑sister comparison would be insulting‑‑‑it suggests a familiarity incompatible with incest regulations‑‑‑but does not, on the surface, suggest why brothers, uncles and nephews should not be compared.  One of the outgrowths of propinquity between two individuals is numerous opportunities to practice magic on each other; magic is also one of the most important means of modifying appearance.

Beauty magic plays a crucial part in four different ritual occasions; kula, pregnancy, dance, and gardens, but its effect is seen to enhance the welfare of individuals as well as the community.  The leaders of kula expeditions perform beauty magic for their followers but each individual also performs beauty magic for himself and it is this private beauty magic which is thought to determine individual success.  Beauty magic is first acquired from one's father.  If one looks like his father, it is because he shares the same system of beauty magic; however, brothers who are so similar in substance must compete for their father's favor which frequently is the deciding factor in determining who succeeds to leadership of the dala.  Brothers are flattered to be compared with their father, but not each other, because it suggests they are favored equally.

After birth, the father provides a number of services for the child which are said to be repayment for the sexual services he receives from the wife.   He feeds and fondles the child and performs the odious task of looking after the child's cleanliness; it is thought that this last service is the re­ciprocal for the son's mortuary service of dismembering the father's body and cleaning the bones which are saved for use in ritual.  All of these services could not be done by a kinsman and if a woman does not have a husband, the infant is given to her sister so that the sister's husband can perform these tasks.

During pregnancy, it is the husband who is responsible for insuring that the woman does not have intercourse‑‑‑she must "turn her mind away from men". (1929a 201) He protects her from the love magic of other men.  Malinowski was convinced that all of the services performed by the father could not be performed by kinsmen because of the incest taboo:

"By the brother's inability to control or approach, even as a distant spectator, the principal theme in a woman's life‑‑‑her sex‑‑‑a wide breach is left in the system of matriliny.  Through this breach, the husband enters into the closed circle of family and household, and once there makes himself thoroughly at home. To his children he becomes bound by the strongest ties of personal attachment, over his wife he assumes exclusive sexual rights, and shares with her the greater part of domestic and economic concerns." (1929a 203)

By hinging affinal relations on the incest taboo, Malinowski not only put forward a sexist view of a woman's lot, he missed the underlying logic of the taboo itself and a basic premise of Trobriand social structure.   Sexual intercourse is preceded by the use of beauty/love magic but in the case of veyola this magic works too well.  Sympathetic magic which works on simile works too well on veyola because their physical make‑up is too similar.  The emphasis on the polluting qualities of physical aspects of kinsmen results from evidence that baloma are not bound by the incest taboo.  Male baloma give waywaya to their kinswomen.   There is some evidence that incest is permissible in Tuma.  On entrance to Tuma, all men and women must have intercourse with either the chief or one of his daughters; the chief is of the Molasi clan, therefore, some of the women who pass through his arms will be clanswomen, if not veyola‑‑‑a breach of clan exogamy. (1929a 429)  Malinowski also reports that the baloma are given to holding orgies during which people copulate "indiscriminately"; which suggests that kinswomen are not taboo. (1929a 431‑2)

The infant will be given a taro mush soon after birth but yams and fish will not be given to it until it is almost a year old.   The feeding of mashed foods (kopo'i) to the infant is considered to be the duty of the father (tama).   The father is polluted by the infant's urine and excrement and this is said to be the reason why sons ought to handle their father's corpse and suck the bones which they remove from it. (1929a 21)  In mortuary ceremonies, sons and their fathers reverse roles while the spouse takes the role of expect­ant mother.  The mother provides the child with blood and milk while the father provides the child with food, cleansing services, and morphology.  In dismembering the father's corpse, the sons reverse the service their father provided for them‑‑‑they destroy the image they were created in.

Cosmetic Symbols:

Space does not allow a complete examination of all aspects of beauty magic, therefore, discussion will be limited to an examination of cosmetic substances and the spells associated with them.  Beauty magic involves the decoration of the body with red, white, and black substances which are major symbols of Trobriand ritual.  Black and white can be analyzed as binary opposites; black cosmetics are used, on some occasions, in small amounts to make people beautiful but use in large amounts on other occasions make people un­attractive.  Koulu is black ash worn on all the exposed parts of the body when one is mourning the death of an affine or relative who is not a kinsman.  In this context, black is associated with confinement, dirt, excrement, and other forms of pollution.  Black substances are used in sorcery and also magic which is performed to counteract the effects of someone else's positive magic.   The dreaded magic of drought is associated with dirtiness, black skin, and black clouds.  Women who commit adultery during pregnancy turn black.  The sun is thought to make the skin black; white, or rather lightly pigmented skin is said to be ideal although albinos are thought ugly.  Women who cause another woman's pregnancy to fail use black millipedes in their magic as do rain magicians; legs are also a symbol associated with sorcery.  Before their removal from the ground, the skins of yams are ritually changed to black which represents a state of liminality and this state lasts until they are cooked and their whiteness is restored.  Throughout these usages, black is associated with the liminality of death; in many instances it is directly contrasted with white in informant's exegesis.  In most cases, black represents an instrumental stage which precedes a return to life in a new condition.

White symbolizes life and has its greatest emphasis in pregnancy ritual. The whiteness of the mother's skin is directly related with her health and that of her child.  She is washed, painted white, made to wear a cloak as protection from the sun's rays, and she is ritually cooked over a smokey fire, which burns white flowers, so that she will look white like the moon.   The moon is often offered as the ideal for both color and shape of the face.  The moon, through its cycles, governs both the all important participation of ancestors in human affairs‑‑‑set to the rhythm of a lunar calendar‑‑‑and public safety. When the moon wanes, sorcerers are able to practice black magic under the cover of darkness.  White cosmetics include clay and lime.  If white and black are symbols with significata which are binary opposites, then red mediates be­tween the two in that it contains elements of both:


Black                                                            White

Death                                                            Life

Onset of liminality                                    End of liminality

Draught                                                Wetness (abundance of lactation)

Pollution                                                 Purity

Red cosmetics are clay, ochre and the juice of the betel nut.   The latter is the most significant for our purposes for the procedures by which it is produced are used to symbolize the father's contribution to conception. The juice is a mixture of crushed betel nut, which is the brown nut of the acrea palm, the leaves of betel pepper plant, and white lime.  Here we have white (lime) joining with black substances (betel nut and the leaves are brown in our color system) to produce red.   In betel chewing the lime is stored in a wooden container and is introduced to the mouth by a wooden spatula; the archetype of these wooden instruments are ones made from bones and skulls which sons have removed from the father's corpse.   During the period of reigned use of these bones, the dead man is in a state of liminality wait­ing for his restoration to life in the underworld.  The white substance, in this instance, is strongly associated with affinity and/or patrafiliation.

In beauty magic, the betel nut is crushed with wooden mortar and pestle; this process is linked by Trobrianders to the coagulation of blood in the vagina caused by the pounding of the penis.   The imposition of the betel nut metaphor on conception metaphor suggests that the introduction of a white substance representing patrafiliation is part of the process of conception. Powell's report of a belief that male semen contributed to conception is collaborated by this homology of ritual metaphors and since the betel nut metaphor and beauty magic both pre-date mission influence, it is likely that this belief is not of recent innovation.  A father's gift of beauty is not skin deep only; this gift precedes birth and continues after death, a fact which is dramatized when a dead man's kinsmen go to a man's sons to see the father's face again.

Betel nuts play an important part in love magic as well as beauty magic for they are given by young men to their lovers as vehicles of love magic and also as rewards for sexual services.

Love magic consists of a series of rites, the first of which is very similar to one of the rites of beauty magic.  The individual washes himself in the sea and then rubs himself dry with leaves over which he has said a spell that will make himself beautiful.   The spell cleanses him by bringing out his whiteness.  He throws the leaves on the waves to make the girl dream of him.   The second rite, requires the boy to perform a spell over a betel nut and then present it to the girl; when she has eaten it, the magic will affect her mind (located in the belly).  Gifts of betel nut are considered to be the most appropriate rewards for sexual services.  Malinowski suggests that the name for this class of gift may come from the word for betel nut. The remaining two rites involve the boiling of different herbs‑‑‑the stronger of the two involves mint leaves‑‑‑in coconut oil, the recitation of a spell, and the application of the preparation to some part of the girl's body so that she can smell the substance.  The preferred parts of the body are the breasts or the vulva.  A man's love magic affects both his personal appearance and his lover's bond to him.   To be effective, magic must come into close proximity with its target; however, if someone who is not the target of the magic comes into contact with it, they may also be affected.   The application of love magic to the woman's breasts and vulva brings a child into contact with his father's love magic very early in its development; this metaphor could also serve as the basis of a bond of affinity between the two.

The use and effect of betel nuts are closely related with interaction with the baloma.  Betel nuts are called ba'u and Malinowski suggests that the etymology of the prefix ba, which means tabooed object, may come from this word.  Betel nuts are given apprentice wood carvers (engravers) as part of their initiation to induce a prophetic dream from an ancestor.  Malinowski also indicates that they have narcotic properties. (1961 217)

When a baloma sees a man under the influence of betel nut, people say that the baloma have struck the man on his mouth; this saying refers to the fact that the baloma then speaks through the man's mouth but the iconic import of a blow to the mouth is, of course, a bloody mouth which the betel juice symbolizes.   The effect of magic is often likened to a blow from either an arm or, more frequently, a leg; the ancestor bone, which delivers the lime to the mouth is either a tibia or fibula and these bones are seen to have dangerous mystical powers. *

When a man's spirit leaves his body during a trance it is guided by baloma and given strength by their gifts of betel nut.  Malinowski has given an important account of spirit possession in an obscure article titled "Spirit­Hunting in the South Seas", which was published in long defunct journal.   In this account, a number of people come to a man in a trance and bring him betel nut to give to their recently dead spouses, parents, and children; kinsmen are not mentioned and it may be that the prohibition against public display of mourning for kinsmen extends to this situation.   In any case, a return present of betel nut is made through the medium and, on occasion, the gift would be accompanied by instructions for the division of the man's property.

Before European intrusion into the Trobriands, ownership of acrea palms was monopolized by chiefs; however, a chief was beholden to share nuts with anyone who saw them in his possession.  Sorcerers used betel nuts as a means of introducing poison and magic into their victims system.  Chiefs are the most important sorcerers and when they die some of their palm trees are cut down.  The original gift of sorcery was given to man by a red crab, whose descendants have been black since man fell heir to the black art.   The following line appears in a song; "as the red crab are my betel reddened lips". (Baldwin 1950 283)  The symbol red when applied to the mouth has underlying connotations of sorcery and death but, at the same time, the color red is thought to represent life and happiness; the homology to betel cosmetics and conception, love gifts and the pleasure associated with chewing, are associated with this interpretation.  Red is a synthesis of black and white elements; the physical process of its creation dramatizes this and its significata are drawn from those of both black and white.  Turner found in Ndembu symbols a similar amalgam of black and white meanings in red symbols.

References to betel nut appear in spells used in kula beauty magic and some of the references to parents have a riddle like quality.  The following passage is from the Kaykakaya spell which is said when men are washing in preparation to apply cosmetics:

"No more it is my mother, my mother art thou, O' woman of Dobu!  No more it is my father, my father art thou, O' man of Dobu!  No more it is the high platform, the high platform are his arms; no more it is the sitting platform, the sitting platform are his legs; no more it is my lime spoon, my lime spoon is his tongue; no more it is my lime pot, my lime pot is his gullet." (1961 337)

Malinowski cautions against finding any "logical order or sequence" in this spell beyond Frazer's notion of contagion. (ibid 338) What strikes us is that the kula partner and his wife are turned into obliging parents. The high platforms refer to special constructions erected for ancestors as rewards for a good harvest; men of rank sit on special platforms to raise their head above others.  Thus the Dobu man, who is now one's father, takes over the functions of platforms which signify one's status in the social hierarchy.  Although rank is strictly a function of kinship, patrafilial factors are here given muted recognition as components of social status.  Malinowski saw the transformation of the lime spoon and pot into organs of the partner's body as an expression of intimacy between the magician and his partner.   But if recalled that the lime spoon and lime pot stand for all the magical powers of the father, then the spell could be a bequest for the father to possess the partner's tongue.   If this is not a call for the father's spirit to literally possess the Dobu man then it is at least a call for the generosity characteristic of fatherhood to possess him.

One of the areas of great controversy in Trobriandia has been the nature of a father's contribution to his son.  A father does not contribute to his son's physical substance but he does determine the young man's morphology.  Physical appearance mirrors the father's because he provides the son with beauty magic and love magic which transforms the individual's surface features. This magic is the foundation for achievement in kula, gardening, and dancing; it also provides a focus for competition within a sibling set and has an important effect on the competition between sibling sets within the same lineage.

            APPENDIX I

The Politics Of Fatherhood:

Fathers prepare their sons for competition for leadership within the mother's lineage; at times fathers play favorites.  One would expect that within a large family that some of the sons would seek support from factions in opposition to the father.  This is apparently what happened in Malinowski's most famous case study of conflict within the lineage.  A father's importance to his son does not cease after death for the good will of the ancestors is crucial for success in ritual.   The man who is fortunate enough to be the issue of a cross‑cousin marriage is equipped with not only a set of magical spells with unquestioned authenticity but also with a set of ancestors who should be uncommonly congenial to his ritual endeavors.

Cross‑Cousin Marriage:

Malinowski reported that Trobrianders hold cross‑cousin marriage as an ideal; men of high rank can arrange for their young sons to marry a sister's daughter.   This is the single instance where a man is permitted to publicly manipulate a kinswoman's marriage.  Uberoi points out that a cross-­cousin marriage represents a form of reciprocity in that the kula items which a father gives to his son will eventually return to his own lineage when the son gives kula to the grandson.  (101)

More importantly for the individual chief, cross‑cousin marriage can be viewed as a controlling succession of magic and office.  A chief's son, who has a cross‑cousin marriage arranged by his father, will remain in his father's village as his father's most important supporter and will perform many of his father's magical offices.  The magic given by the father to the son is not suspect of short‑changing as is the magic purchased by kinsmen.

The son, in his turn, will pass on his magic to a member of the father's dala‑‑‑his own son‑‑‑thus theoretically none of the magic of the dala will be lost.   In addition, a chief is free to play cat and mouse with his heir as to whether the latter will be fully equipped with the dala's magical heritage.

At this point, an interesting anomaly in the magical knowledge of the chief of Omarakana should be considered.  We are told that Touluwa has trouble remembering spells and Malinowski states that he is not well versed in magical lore. (1965 84)  His son, Namwana Guya'u, exercised garden magic for him as did his heir, Bagido'u.  Malinowski characterizes Bagido'u as intelligent and a "repository of native tradition". (ibid 85)  We are also told that Bagido'u's father, Yowana, was the son of Purayasi, a former chief of Omar­akana.  (ibid.)  We can see here that the full magical potential of the chief may not have been entrusted to his heir but may have been passed to his son. Because of the cross‑cousin marriage this magic was not lost to the dala but jumped a generation, which may have left Touluwa with a weakened position and set up a situation where Bagido'u becomes a likely candidate to succeed Touluwa. (See Figure 1)  Purayasi thus was able to protect himself while fulfilling his obligation to insure the welfare of his community by passing on all his magic.

Even though the systems of magic Bagido'u received from his father may be equal to, or even surpass Touluwa's, he undoubtedly had to pokala Touluwa‑‑‑a rite of transfer of magical offices‑‑‑as a prerequisite of becom­ing a chief.

Namwana Guya'u and Yowana both belong to the Kwoynama dala which has a long history of intermarriage with the Tabalu.  This dala represents not only the highest ranking affines of the Tabalu but through its intermarriage with the chiefs of Omarakana has become a catchment for magic almost equal to that of the Tabalu.  Both dala benefit from this intermarriage; the Tabalu prevent the spread of their magic to other sub‑clans and insure its return through cross‑cousin marriage, and the Kwoynama become the most important poli­tical affines of the Tabalu.  However, Powell suggests that there are some limits on a chief's use of the institution of cross‑cousin marriage:

"A branch of the sub‑clan (Kwaynama) has long been domiciled in Omarakana as ritual retainers and repre­sentatives of the senior affines of the Tabalu guyay, who could give one of his sister's daughters as wife to a 'son' who was a member of the Omarakana branch of the sub‑clan, with political advantage.   But he could not give a wife to a 'son' who might become leader of the Osapola Bwaydaga (e.g. Namwana Guyau or his successor Yobukwau) without weakening the position of his successor as affinal 'overlord' of the Osapola Bwaydaga." (1969a 201)

This quote makes two important points:  1)  There appear to be two branches of the Kwaynama sub‑clan, one of which is domiciled in Omarakana, and 2)  A chief of Omarakana who gives a cross‑cousin marriage to a son from the Osapala branch of the Kwaynama will weaken the position of his successor as over­lord of the Osapala Kwaynama.

Powell correctly suggests that the cross‑cousin marriage arranged by a chief for his Kwaynama son could weaken his successor's position as over­lord or Osapala.  However, as a result of the cross‑cousin marriage, individ­uals live and participate in the political field of their father's lineage rather than their own; during the life of their father, their focus is on supporting him and after the father's death, the son's focus switches to pre­paring his own son for office; thus the most powerful member of the most im­portant sub‑clan has a vested interest in preserving the powers of the office of Chief of Omarakana at the expense of his own sub‑clan leader whereas, if he is allowed to return to his village, he will be at opposition to the powers of the chief.  The interests of the office are served by the institu­tion of cross‑cousin marriage but this is to some extent at the expense of a chief's kinsmen‑‑‑particularly his heirs.

Powell has apparently found that there are two groups of the Kwaynama sub‑clan; one domiciled in Omarakana and another domiciled in Osapala.  At another point he refers to the Kwaynama as a "...sub‑clan of Liluta (cluster in which Osapala is located) which is now settled as an owning sub‑clan in Omarakana...". (1960 184)  In 1918, Malinowski gathered a detailed listing of the garden plots for the village of Omarakana and their owners.  Although two other dala besides the Tabalu have traditional claims on the garden lands of Omarakana, the Kwaynama is not one of these. (1965 430‑34)  If the Kwaynama were truly an "owning sub‑clan of Omarakana" in 1950, it would have had to been a recent development‑‑‑perhaps a result of the dispute that is reported in the next section.

Malinowski tells us that Touluwa had been unable to arrange a cross-­cousin marriage for Namwana Guya'u, his eldest Kwoynama son, because there wasn't a girl of the right age available in his lineage.  By the time of the birth of his fourth son, Kalogusa, a girl was available.  Bagidou's sister, Ibo'una, had a daughter, Dabugera, who Touluwa betrothed to Kalogusa; however, this marriage never took place.  While Kalogusa was absent, Dabugera's father, Yogaru, soon died from sorcery and Malinowski reports rumors that Touluwa was behind his death though the informants indicate that the reason for the sorcery was because Yogaru had accumulated too much food‑‑‑he collected urigubu from the Tabalu and he had fine gardens of his own. (1965 175)

Malinowski did not see, as others since have, that urigubu is a payment to a husband for services such as insuring daughters make the right kind of marriage alliances‑‑‑a service which is necessary because of the strong bro­ther‑sister avoidance growing out of the incest taboo.   Touluwa, disappointed over the failure of the arrangements of his son's cross‑cousin marriage, ob­viously might feel that Yogaru had not earned his urigubu or alternately had earned it too well, as most of it came from Bagido'u, the person with the most to gain if his sister's daughter failed to marry Touluwa's son.

Rain Magic:

Malinowski maintains that fear of the Chief of Omarakana rests in great part on his mastery of a system of rain magic that enables him to bring drought upon his enemies.  (1965 163)  Times of food shortage are periodic in the Trobriands; even the famous gardens of Kiriwina are subject to crop fail­ures due to the hazards of weather.   Powell cites government reports which indicate that food shortages occurred at intervals of from four to six years during the early part of this century. (60:157) Before 1900, famines were known to occur but since the imposition of a colonial administration, famines have been averted by the importation of rice and other crops from abroad and through the adoption of new cultigens.

During Malinowski's stay in the Trobriands, the rain magic of Omara­kana was apparently practiced by M'tabalu, the Tabalu Chief of Kasana'i.  Kasana'i apparently has a special relationship with Omarakana in addition to close physical proximity, for Malinowski refers to them as twin villages.  We are never told the exact relationship of the Kasana'i branch of the Tabalu to the Omarakana Tabalu but spread throughout the corpus we find the following bits of information about them:

There is a class of magic which may be termed local because it is bound up with a given locality...such was the most powerful rain magic in the island, that of Kasana'i, which had to be performed in a certain water hole in the weika (grove) of Kasana'i. (1948 196)

2. Leo Austin states that this rain magic is associated with a megalithic structure located in a sacred grove in Kasana'i. (1936)

3.            Thus, rain was brought forth (from the underworld) by a woman of Kasana'i, and the magic came with it, and has been handed on ever since in this woman's sub‑clan. (1961 398)

4.            The important rain and sun magic which have been Aborn" in Kasana'i, can only be performed by the chiefs of that spot, who have usurped this important privilege from the original local headman. The succession, of course, is always matrilineal. (1961 411)

5.            They (the twelve spells of rain magic) are the monopoly of the rulers of the Village of Kasana'i (a small village, which forms practically one unit with the Village of Omarakana), a monopoly which,   in times of drought, brings an enormous income in gifts to the magician. (1948 212‑13)

The Chief of Kasana'i, at the time of Malinowski's first visit, was a very old man named M'tabalu who, nevertheless, remembered "every word of each formula".  (CGM 244)  M'tabalu died during Malinowski's absence after his first expedition.  On returning to the Trobriands, Malinowski learned from the old Chief of Kabwaku ‑‑‑traditional military rival of the Tabalu of Omarakana‑‑-that there was no Chief of Kasana'i for all of the old chief's wives had run away.  This is highly unusual considering the wives' mortuary obligations.

Moving forward in time, we find that at the death of Touluwa (1930) the Chief of Kasana'i is Kwaywaya, a sister's son of M'tabalu.   During the middle‑thirties, Austin found Kwaywaya wielding the rain magic and his power so great that he held a "...kind of joint paramount chieftainship with the Chief of Omarakana..." (1936 32)   It is possible that the two Tabalu lineages, one in Kasana'i and one in Omarakana, represent a traditional division of the political and ritual powers of their sub‑clan.  The former has responsibility for the rain magic and the latter has the political authority of the cluster. The fact that Kwaywaya was not considered as a candidate to succeed Touluwa suggests that the division may be of long standing.


If there is a traditional separation of powers, as I have suggested, it may not completely remove the possibility of conflict between the twin Tabalu chiefs.  Malinowski has given us this account of an important father/­son relationship in Kasana'i:

" one or two communities, the son of the chief, although raised to a very high position, was able to retain the consent and personal good will of his father's kinsmen.  A notable case of this was Kayla'i, son of M'tabalu, the aged Chief of Kasana'i.  During my second expedition (1915‑1916) (his first to the Trobriands) M'tabalu was alive and ruled over Kasana'i. But his son, Kayla'i, wielded the magic of the gardens and was even temporary officiating wizard in the great magic of rain and sunshine.  That is, he had in his hands the powers which by rights belong to the para­mount chief.  During my last visit (1917‑1918), I found that M'tabalu was dead, but Kayla'i's position in Kasana'i had remained unimpaired." (1965 362)

Malinowski does not mention M'tabalu's having arranged a cross‑cousin marriage so that we must assume that none has taken place.   It is, therefore, all the more remarkable that the Tabalu should not object to Kayla'i's temporarily wielding the magic of drought; remarkable that is until we consider the power struggle which was going on in Omarakana during this time.

Magic, Baloma, and Politics:

The magician is a mediator between his community and the baloma; when magic fails he can interpret this as the baloma's anger with the community or an unwary outsider.   The fact that they attribute some misfortunes to ancestors gives us some insight into their political idioms for commentary on the legitimacy of their leader's behavior.  The nature of the relationship between baloma and magician appears to be a cooperative one; if this cooperation breaks down, two explanations can be given: 1.   The baloma are unhappy with the community. 2.   The baloma are unhappy with the magician. Ex‑post facto commentary on the legitimacy of leader's actions will hinge upon the attributation of the source of the baloma's discontent.  The chiefs are put in a position of assuming credit for misfortune or appearing to be on the outs with the baloma which is tantamount to admitting impotency.  At the same time, too frequent credit for misfortune may lead to beliefs that a leader is serving his own interests which are in opposition to the communities.

An example of the use of the baloma as a fulcrum for the attribution of legitimacy occurred in 1916 during power struggle between Touluwa and his heir, Bagido'u.  Malinowski had noted that the baloma were given to speaking to people about the amount and quality of food distributed on ceremonial occa­sions.  Malinowski concludes that these comments are directed toward the leader of these occasions.

He reports an episode when a certain Gumguya'u was heard conversing with baloma about the inadequacy of the sagali (food) distribution made by Touluwa on the occasion of the launching of a new boat. (1948 165)  Elsewhere we learn that Gumguya'u is part of the group assisting Bagido'u in per‑. forming the Omarakana garden magic. (1965 113)  This group, consisting of, among others, the younger brothers of Bagido'u and Yobukwa'o, the younger brother of Namwana Guya'u, represents individuals who are in the process of acquiring garden magic from Bagido'u.  Given the nature of the pokala rela­tionship it would be fair to assume that Gumguya'u had taken Bagido'u's half against Touluwa and that his remarks were a challenge to the chief's legitimacy‑‑‑support of the baloma.

Malinowski may well have been seen as a partisan to Bagido'u's faction; he frequently mentions his friendship with Bagido'u and had no warm regard for Touluwa.  (1929a 146, 1965 85, 1929a 162)  During the milamala season, shortly after his arrival in Omarakana, Malinowski became the scapegoat for the baloma's anger.  The milamala period was spoiled by frequent rains which not only put a damper on the festive occasion but also caused havoc in the gardens; the milamala is held in the dry season after cutting the brush for the next year's gardens and rain during this period means that the cut brush does not effectively burn off.  Austin reports that the char from this burn‑off returns essential nutrients to the soil and the Trobrianders also believe that it is vital to a successful season. (Austin 1938)

Touluwa maintained that the cause of the rain was the baloma's dis­pleasure with Malinowski, who had brought some dancing shields from another village and encouraged some of the village youths to put on a dance in violation of a custom. (1948 185)  He reports that he was reminded of his blame several times and when a kula expedition was forced to turn back because of rain, he was again blamed by Touluwa. (1961 479)  Gumguya'u's conversation with the baloma represents an attempt to shift the blame from an unwitting outsider to Touluwa.

The u'ula can, indeed, thwart a chief's magic and the cause of their anger is seen here as a failure in his leadership.  A man's relationship with his u'ula could become an important theoretical question; if he were fortun­ate enough to have had a father who had had a cross‑cousin marriage, his immediate link with the ancestors would be his father.  A less fortunate man may have to deal with his predecessor in office who is likely to suspect him of having a hand in his becoming a baloma in the first place.  Here we can see another advantage of the cross‑cousin marriage; it secures for the community a potential heir with an excellent connection with the dead.

Malinowski reports that in cases where the Tabalu have taken over control of lands, the original inhabitants are felt to have a closer bond with the earth because of their origin myths; he offers as evidence of this the fact that the office of towosi is the last position of authority to be usurped.   Our use of ritual metaphor suggests that the bond with the earth is second to that with the ancestors, for it is they who make the return gift while the land must be worked by strangers.  Imperialism takes time because it takes time for outsiders to acquire baloma who will tolerate the transfer; and these baloma are produced by cross‑cousin marriages.  The cross‑cousin marriage is the ideal method of establishing a son's tie with the land for, after his death, a father can use his magic for his son's benefit.  A long series of cross‑cousin marriages will produce a set of baloma linked to the new line of chiefs; it is logical that the influence of the ancestors on the original inhabitants should fade, for as time passes ancestors tire of Tuma and are reduced to spirit children who are reborn, ignorant of their previous life; thus the recently dead are more reliable magical contacts than ancestors long dead; with the possible exceptions of the originators of the magical systems.

Silas has provided a brief account of the death of Vanio, the Tabalu Chief of Olivilevi.  Olivilevi was a village established by the Tabalu of Omarakana in the nineteenth century after having been driven from their homes. Vanio died without leaving an heir and the people of Olivilevi wished to inter his body at Olivilevi.  Malinowski indicates that the crucial test in deciding residence versus domicile is the place where a person is buried. (1965 431) Touluwa sent word that Vanio would have to be buried with the other Tabalu of Omarakana. (Silas 114)  If Touluwa had permitted Vanio to be buried at Olivilevi, it would have meant the beginning of a truly domiciled Tabalu lineage.

Baldwin indicates that it is very common for Trobriander's to suspect that deaths "are due to the black magic of some ambitious man striking at his rival through his supporters." (1950 280)  Malinowski does not report this sort of intrigue even though he treats at length events which are fraught with it.  His favorite case study which involved the expulsion of Touluwa's son by the junior faction of the Tabalu lineage is such an event.



Malinowski frequently refers to the events which culminated in the expulsion of Namwana Guya'u from Omarakana but he never attempts to place them in any sort of historical context.  A second shortcoming of this exposi­tion is that he never collected together in one place the biographical details of his subjects.

Malinowski has characterized Touluwa as a "...rather selfish and shallow character..." (1929a 162)  Malinowski admits that he was not a very cooperative informant and that, in one instance, Touluwa had cause to repri­mand Malinowski for angering the baloma.  To this pattern of using the ethno­grapher as a scapegoat for the anger of the baloma, we must add the fact that Malinowski's best informant and good friend was none other than Bagido'u, Touluwa's heir, and we begin to suspect that we have not been given a well rounded portrait of this remarkable man.

Touluwa's span of thirty years in office (1900‑1930), was no mean feat in a political system as competitive as the Trobriand.  In spite of mission opposition, he was able to keep his position viable through polygyny.  His long rule must have resulted, to a certain extent, from an accommodation with colonial authorities.

Malinowski frequently refers to Bagido'u as "my friend". (1929a 146, 1965 85)  He is characterized as hard working, and knowledgeable in the tradi­tions of his people.  Bagido'u has started life with a head‑start over his peers, for he was the son of a man, Yowana, who had had a cross‑cousin marriage arranged for him.  However, his life was also touched with tragedy; his first wife had died, as well as his son for whom he had arranged a cross‑cousin marriage.   His second wife had run off with a sorcerer, named Manimuwa, from Wakayse, a small village near Omarakana, but under the control of the Chief of Kahaku. (1929a 146)  To add insult to injury, Bagido'u is fighting a losing battle with Tuberculosis which, in Trobriand concepts, would be sorcery.  Manimuwa is an important affine of Touluwa and was recorded as giving a sizable gift of yams to Touluwa after the 1918 harvest. (1965 401), (See Figure  ) Bagido'u should have been a good sorcerer in the eyes of his contemporaries but he is no match for the forces against him and must be losing political support.  He probably also entertains the suspicion that Touluwa must be behind some of his troubles.

In 1916, after a decade and a half of rule, Touluwa is giving signs of outlasting Bagido'u.  Touluwa must have been over fifty at that time.  If he had started having children at age twenty and had one every three years, by Kadamwasila, he would have been approximately 52 if his fifth child, Kalogusa, was twenty.  Bagido'u's younger brother, Mitakata, was actively engaged in seeking recognition as Bagido'u's successor.  Time was on Touluwa's side and against Bagido'u.  If he becomes too old, if Touluwa lives too long, succession may jump over Bagido'u to the younger man.  Malinowski indicates that an aver­age reign would have been less than a generation before colonial rule so that Touluwa is exceeding Bagido'u's expectations of longevity.

Mitakata is another potential source of sorcery which is being directed against Bagido'u but Mitakata has been purchasing his magic from his brother so that Bagido'u has degree of control over him.  Namwana Guya'u, as Touluwa's favorite son, is another potential enemy.  We would expect that Namwana Guya'u's rival would be friendly with Bagido'u.  Malinowski tells us that Bagido'u and Yobukwa'o   (Namwana Guya'u's younger brother) are good friends: 

"Sometimes such a friendship is just a passing whim, but it may survive and mature into a perman­ent relationship of mutual affection and assistance, as did that between Bagido'u and Yobukwa'o and, I was told, between Mitakata and Nanwana Guya'u, be­fore they became implacable enemies." (1929a 471)

Yobukwa'o is learning his garden magic from Bagido'u along with Mitakata and others.  The fact that Yobukwa'o pokala's his garden magic from his father's kinsmen suggests that his ties with his father and his elder brother are not very close.

Although Namwana Guya'u is Touluwa's favorite son, he was not domiciled in Omarakana by a cross‑cousin marriage; his main political arena in the future will be in Osopala.  He will eventually become cluster leader of Liluta.  Powell says that his youthful friendship with Mitakata was severed when Mitakata married Orayayse, thus making Namwana Guya'u a tributary ally.

My informants, including Nanwana Guya'u's younger brothers, Yobukwa'o (the present leader of their sub‑clan) and Kalogusa, discussed the same events (Namwana Guya'u's attack on Mitakata) as incidents in the rivalry between the Tabalu sub‑clan of Omarakana and the Kwainama sub‑clan of Osapola." (1960 170)

Namwana Guya'u may not have wanted Mitakata as a brother‑in‑law but there appears to be more involved here than conflict on strictly sub‑clan lines.

Touluwa had attempted to arrange a cross‑cousin marriage for Kalogusa, which would have allowed Touluwa to have by-passed both Bagido'u and Mitakata by passing his great collection of sorcery on to his grandson through his son. This would have been particularly hard on Mitakata who has to get magic from his brother or from Touluwa.  As the younger man, it is he who would have to possibly contend with Touluwa's grandson when he came of age.  Kalogusa's marriage to Dabugera represents a grave threat to Mitakata's political future. It is he, and to some extent Bagido'u, who have the most to gain from breaking off the match.  It was mentioned earlier that Yogaru, Dabugera's father, probably received most of his urigubu from Mitakata as an up and coming man in his dala.  Yogaru was rumored to have died from Touluwa's sorcery because he had accumulated too many yams.

Malinowski has portrayed marriage in the Trobriand Islands as based primarily on personal attraction and love.  However, Trobriand women of rank are links in alliances with other groups and as such marry for matters of state. Yogaru's Tabalu wife, Ibouna, displayed a keen political wit when she later married the interpreter of the colonial magistrate and then divorced him after he lost his job. (1929a 143)

Marriage is the Trobriand means for political alliance and tributary obligations; it is, therefore, not surprising that adultery‑‑‑(wife stealing) has political overtones.  A man's personal prestige is dependent upon his mar­riages as is much of his income; it is, therefore, not surprising that men of rank, even chiefs, are rumored to be engaged in chasing their rival's wives. Leo Austin indicates that adultery was such a serious crime that it could not be settled with "damages" but required the death of one or both parties. (1945a 51)  In a year when only one case involving sorcery accusations reached court, fourteen cases of adultery were tried. (ibid 55)

"One notorious case was that of Lubisa, a Chief of Mulosaida. He committed adultery with the wife of Vanoikilivina of Olivelevi.  Vanoi, first of all, tried to get the then Paramount Chief, Touluwa, to make black magic and kill Lu­bisa.              At the time, Touluwa of Omarakana was only a young man who was not yet sure of his powers, so he refused. Then Vanoi arranged with Lubisa's brother, Pulitala, to have Lubisa murdered so that Pulitala could step into the Mulosaida chief's position.   To make a long story short, Lubisa went to see Vanoikilivina at Olivelevi, and as soon as he poked his head inside Vanoi's house, Vanoi slew him. The affair was more or less hushed up, for on a charge of murder, even though it happened in governmental times, but prior to any magistrate being stationed in the Trobriands."(ibid, 51)

Vanoi belongs to a branch of the Tabalu which had rounded the Village of Olivelevi three generations previously.  His cluster does provide wives and a nominal amount of urigubu to Touluwa; he, therefore, had the right to expect Touluwa's help in his plight.  Touluwa's reputed refusal may have been a cover story to avoid going to jail again.   The fact that the incident did not lead to a feud suggests that Vanoi was successful in buying of Pulitala and Lubisa's other kinsmen.  Adultery may be here a symbolic idiom for talking about the power struggle ensuing between the two chiefs rather than actual behavior; there is a great deal of personal risk for the adulterer and it is doubtful that a chief would actually make a 12 mile round-trip, in the dead of night, and run the risk of being caught in the act or being taken for a sorcerer and dispatched.

It is not surprising to learn that Malinowski recorded a number of rumors to the effect that all of Touluwa's sons were sleeping with their father's younger wives. (1928a 138‑40)  Perhaps, as in a number of other societies, sons of aging chiefs have tacit approval to keep the younger wives happy.  There was some substance to rumors for one of the sons was caught in the act by his wife and was forced to flee for his life.  However, as elsewhere, Trobrianders have a wide tolerance for misbehavior until the matter becomes public and then the wronged party is forced to act.  In 1918, both Namwana Guya'u and Yobukwa'u contributed to the urigubu of the women they were rumored to be having a liaison with, suggesting that they had some tie with the kinsmen. (1965 401‑2)  One way of interpreting these charges of adultery is through a political idiom which renders them as charges that the Kwaynama are coveting the Tabalu power base.

Whether these relationships existed or not, it is likely that there might have been some political motivations behind the gossip with the ethno­grapher.  He had been known to make embarrassing mistakes before and he could have been seen as a vehicle for bringing the rumors to light in front of the wrong audience.  Powell suggests that Kiriwinians are capable of such a usage:

"But the Trobrianders still‑‑‑at least in Northern Kiriwina‑‑‑take their own political institutions and leaders seriously enough, and manipulate their contacts with Europeans, Government, Missionaries, and Traders‑‑‑and also, no doubt, anthropologists"­as alternatives to indigenous political techniques such as war which are no longer available to them." (Powell 1965 98)

Malinowski arrived in Omarakana after Dabugera's marriage and at a time of political upheaval. (1929a 78‑9, 1965 471)  Yogaru dies several months prior to his arrival and Dabugera leaves her husband. (1929a 143, 1961 175). Shortly after his arrival, Kalogusa takes away Yobukwa'o's fiancee and marries her. (1929a 79)  The crops were poor for that year and on top of that the harvest celebration and a kula expedition are spoiled by rain.  Touluwa is attempt­ing to shore up his alliance with the Kwaynama, which was weakened by Kalo­gusa's rebuff.  In August, of 1915, he took the people of Omarakana to Liluta cluster to sell them a dance. (1948 179, 1929a 250‑51, 1961 186)  In November, he dramatizes the importance of his alliance with the Kwaynama by presenting Kadamwasila with a large kula valuable‑‑‑highly unusual because women never participate in kula‑‑‑this gift was passed on to Namwana Guya'u. (1961 280‑81, 473)  During a kula expedition, one of Touluwa's sons was caught in the act of adultery with one of the wives of M'tabalu, Chief of Kasania. (1961 484)  This is particularly serious for it is believed that adultery at this time will cause the husband's boat to be delayed and increase his exposure to flying witches.

It is within this context that we must introduce Namwana Guya'u's actions in January, 1916. *  He accuses Mitakata of adultery with his wife and takes him to court.  Mitakata is found guilty and is sent to jail.   The immediate cause of Namwana Guya'u's act is not apparent but, in the long run, it is likely that he acted as a leader of the Kwaynama in retaliation for their dala's loss of a cross‑cousin marriage.  Namwana Guya'u is exiled from Omarakana by Bagido'u but Mitakata loses his Kwaynama wife and ground in his race to be recognized as Bagido'u's successor.  The rift between Touluwa and his kinsmen becomes apparent in the fact that they did not accompany him on kula expeditions. (1929a 15)

In February, 1916, a new canoe is launched and afterwards, Gumguyau is heard conversing with the baloma about the size of the sagili. (1948 165, 1961 148)   Touluwa's legitimacy is being questioned by one of the protegee's of Bagido'u. (1965 123)  Malinowski leaves but during his absence Kadamwasila dies, thus breaking the political bond between Touluwa and the Kwaynama.  In spite of this, Namwana Guya'u, Yobukwa'o and Kalogusa, all give yams to their father after the harvest of 1918. (1965 401‑2)  During Malinowski's absence, M'tabalu dies and his wives run away leaving Kasania without a chief. (Diary 143)

In 1917, a kayasa or competition in raising yams is declared between the communities of Liluta and M'tawa on one side and Kwaybaga on the other. (1965 211)  Kwaybaga had attended a cricket match in Liluta and a fight had broken out; insults had been exchanged.  The yams grown for a kayasa are presented to the chief.  Malinowski reports that this kayasa had something to do with restoring unity to Kiriwinia:

"Also in that season (1917‑18) the natives of Kiriwinia wanted to express their loyalty to the chief, very largely, I think, to remove the tension and hostility which had crept into the relations be­tween the villages after the expulsion of the chief's eldest son in 1915 (sic).  At the same time, the villages of Kwaybaga on the one hand and of Liluta and M'tawa on the other, had been carrying on a private feud on their own.  This was also connected, I think, with the quarrels in the chief's family..."  (1965  211)

The clusters of Kwaybaga and Liluta are the mainstays of Touluwa's and Omarakana's traditional power base; from the former came the war magicians, from the latter the Tabalu's most important affines.  In spite of poor weather con­ditions (at a time when the best of conditions were expected), a better than average harvest was secured.


We have here the skeleton of the events which surrounded a major con­frontation between the leaders of the Tabalu dala and their respective followers.  The fact that segmentation did not lead to one factions hiving off, as may have happened in the past with Olivilevi, may be attributed to the political skill of Touluwa, the presence of colonial administration and any number of factors, the most important of which would be the stability of the office supported by the legitimacy of the ancestors.


This metaphor of the crushed betel nut appears frequently in Trobriand ritual.  Magic to induce pregnancy employs leaves of the betel nut tree. (SLS 177, Austin 1934 111)

See Part III, especially pages 47‑54, of my paper "Ancestors in Trobriand Ritual" for a more detailed discussion of the relationship of ancestors to their bones.

The name Kwoynama is used by Malinowski while Powell sometimes uses a spelling variant (Kwainama) and sometimes used Bwaydaga.

In two instances, Malinowski's behaviour was cited as the cause for the baloma's wrath.

Yobukwa'o is " of the finest looking, best mannered, and really most satisfactory fellows of my acquaintance." (SLS 138)

See Malinowski's account of the incident in the appendix.