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The tradition of the pig killing ceremony


The pig killDURING THE TIME OF OUR ANCESTORS, pig killing ceremonies were well known throughout Papua New Guinea, especially in the Highlands. 

The pig killing ceremony is usually held during bride price ceremonies, election periods and on special occasions related to traditional beliefs, but the pigs killed on these occasions are not as many as the true pig killing ceremonies of before.

In the Highlands there were two signs of a forthcoming pig killing ceremony.  The first is the cutting of trees and the assembling of firewood on hilltops. The other is the blowing of bamboo flutes. 

Cutting trees and assembling firewood was a signal to inform the leaders of every tribe to prepare for the ceremony.  The bamboo flutes were a signal for the women to dress in traditional bilas and come with bilums of food, and with pigs.  Men normally carried bundles of sugarcane and bananas into the central part of the village.

On their way, the men blew their bamboo flutes in different styles and the women sang and danced. 

The melodies from the bamboo flutes and the songs which were sung in the tribal dialect brought the different tribes together to exchange their food.

After two days or so, all the men from each tribe went to the nearby forest to cut trees and pitpit.  Women went to the grasslands and collected kunai.

With this material they built three houses: a hausman for all the tribal leaders and their followers, a hausmeri for the women and children; and finally a house used for all the pigs brought by the different tribes.

When the houses were complete, the pigs were killed. Some were given to the masalai or spirits so there would be no disturbance from them. 

When the people wanted to begin the main pig killing ceremony, they waited for fine weather.  Then they started to slaughter the pigs. 

When the pigs had been slaughtered the internal body parts - like the stomach, liver and heart - were taken by the women to a nearby creek to be washed and prepared for the mumu

The main pig carcasses were prepared by men from different tribes.  Then the raw pork was gathered with vegetables and greens, like ferns, and put into the mumu pit for cooking.

When the pork was cooked and ready, the big men of each tribe gathered and started the occasion with speeches.

They praised some of their neighbouring tribes and shamed or discouraged other tribes for not meeting expectations.  In the end they called for their friends and families to come together and share the meal. 

The pork was shared among individuals or groups according to status or by how special each person was to the owner of the meat.

Most times the chest (borospik) and the whole backbone was given to the chief, councillor or in-laws of the daughters who were married into another tribe.  

All the chests were given to the tribal leaders of each tribe and the other parts were shared among the women and children and other ordinary people.

The tribal leaders and the ordinary men took their share of the meat and went into the hausman, made a big circle and started eating. All the women went into the hausmeri and did the same thing. 

After they had finished eating, the young women were called to the hausman and sat beside the young men for courtship.  In the morning the young men took those girls who had agreed to marry them to their village. 

From there everyone departed for their respective villages.  Those newly married couples as well as other couples normally began looking after pigs ready for the next ceremony.

In the pig killing ceremony the aim of people is to know how many tribes are participating, to know the population of each tribe and to know which tribes have contributed during the ceremony, which is for biknem, or prestige.

The main reason for this was to find out the qualities that potential leaders have so that they could appoint new leaders or chiefs when necessary or when a chief or leader died.

Also, in the pig killing ceremony, the young people can get together for courtship.  As well, it created friendships between people of different tribes so there could be good relationships between them. 

The kiaps and missionaries thought it was a big indescribable party with those pigs assembled in bulk for slaughter.

And because of the pig killing ceremonies where people gathered, it made it easier for the colonisers to carry out censuses and other activities.

The traditional bilas and songs are very beautiful and pig killing ceremonies are some of the important PNG traditions which promote our cultural heritage.

Chris Peter (16) was born in Kundiawa and comes from Sina Sina in Simbu Province.  He is attending Kundiawa Lutheran Day High School and likes reading short stories and writing about Papua New Guinean traditions and culture


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Koni Poiye

The pig killing ceremony is one of the most outstanding traditional practices of the highland people of PNG especially in Simbu.

The most significant features I personally highlight show love, respect, maintaining and establishing relationships and keeping peace in the traditional era.

This story help me in writing one of my major projects for my RS332 Melanesian Wisdom at DWU. Thank you so much for the astonishing piece on our now rare ceremonial practices.

Lynne Shirley

Peter - Thank you for reminding us about this beautiful custom that was practiced by our ancestors.

I thank your parents for telling you about the "pig killing ceremony" and I hope that you will keep this up and hope that one day you will write a book about the dying customs of the Simbu people.

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