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Ekio Taitaito – an introduction to the moon


IN the Telei language ekio is the word for ‘moon’ and it is bonded with an initiation known as ekio taitaito, which is performed to new babies aged between three and four months.

It is the official introduction of the moon to the baby.

It is the tradition of the Buin people to never carry newborn babies in the moonlight, whether it’s a full moon or not. Babies are kept indoors and they are not allowed to see the moon.

If, due to something important, the mother takes her baby out she must cover herself and the baby with a laplap, making sure no moonlight shines onto her child’s body.

It is believed that babies who don’t undergo this initiation develop a skin disease, which only occurs when the full moon comes.

They tend to be unhealthy, are not active and do not grow up quickly.

When the full moon’s shine comes, their little heads develop sores that heal up as soon the full moon goes away. This continues till the child reaches the age of 12 or 13 and then it stops.

This is a punishment from the spirits for not obeying the ritual.

When a couple plan to initiate their baby, a little feast has to be thrown for the villagers. Two to three pigs are killed and prepared with other food by the baby’s aunties from the father’s side.

Whilst the preparation of food is taking place, the baby’s family are taken down to a river and washed with certain herbs by an elderly woman who possesses the power to do so.

They stand in the river in one straight line facing the direction where the sun comes up. When she’s done washing them with whatever she had prepared, she asks them to step out of the water and she then takes the baby from the mother.

She holds him upside down, making sure her hands won’t lose grip of the baby. She then sways the baby rapidly back and forth chanting in her mother tongue. This is believed to be where she’s asking the spirits to help the child speak well when he/she is ready to speak for the first time in their life.

She stops swaying the baby and chanting only when the baby starts crying.

The next thing is to wait for the full moon to come up and by night fall the villagers are already be gathered at the venue where the initiation is to take place.

According to the laws governing the ritual the baby has to be carried by an aunt from the Dad’s side. It must be the father’s sister.

When the full moon is right overhead the participants gather in a circle and start singing a traditional song and child is brought to the crowd by the aunt with both covered in a laplap. She stands in the middle and the crowds dance around them.

As soon as they quit singing she removes the covering and shows the baby the moon. The night is closed up by the sharing and eating of the prepared foods.

The child is soon to grow healthy and is free of punishments by the spirits.


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Arthur Williams

On Lavongai Island, New Ireland Province, people will shout Ulen [moon] and repeat some traditional verse which I do not recall.

Is it leftover of similar custom, known but not explained to whitey in case we laughed at their spirit belief?

Another prohibition is that babies must never be carried looking over their mother or father etc's shoulder. This could allow the spirits to replace it with a devil baby.

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