Looks like there will be a future for the NRL in PNG
Only we can tell our stories, says Crocodile Prize chairman

Datagaliwabe, the great God-progenitor of the Hela nation

Betty Gabriel WakiaBETTY WAKIA

MUCH is talked about Datagaliwabe throughout Hela, nearby provinces and even the entirety of Papua New Guinea.

Let me take you to Datagaliwabe. The Huli have a mixture of myths and legends that explain the origins of the gods, clan founders, the creation of all living things and other vital components of Huli life.

The Huli believe that in the beginning, there was land and the deities. The deities, such as sun and moon, the Ni and Hana, live in the sky.

The Huli High God, Datagaliwabe, was the original Supreme Spirit to come from the sky who created the land and other deities. Datagaliwabe was replaced by Honabi wali, the demiurge from whom all life flowed. Her children, Ni and Hana, are the focus of many Huli fertility rites.

The first goddess to inhabit the land was Honabe wali. She was seduced by Timbu, the male deity, and gave birth to five gods, Korimogo, Heyolabe, Piandela, Ni and Hela, and one goddess, Hana.

Many Huli regard all these deities as very powerful beings, but deity Heyolabe as the most dangerously evil of them all.

After a time, she gave birth to eight other deities, the first bird, possum and pig, hills, trees, bows and arrows, and fire and water.

She is the grandmother goddess of the Huli people and surrounding cultures, the Obene, Duna, Duguba and Hewa peoples.

Otherwise, they all speak different languages, have their own spirits and their own styles of worship.

The deity Hela married an unknown woman who bore him four sons, Obene, Huli, Duna and Duguba. They had a fight which resulted in Obene fleeing to live in the Magarima area, Duna to Lake Kopiago and Duguba to Mount Bosavi, while Huli remained in the Tagari river basin.

They were the first human beings and each founded the cultural group that is known to the Huli by those same names.

The Huli calm these deities and seek their assistance through oblation of pigs, red paints, pig fat, cowrie and kina shells, crops and special plant leaves.

Some deities like Ni and Korimogo consume the blood and aroma of prepared pigs while the other deities delight in pig fat offerings which are rubbed on sacred stones. Datagaliwabe and Heyalobe cannot be propitiated by any ritual means, although the former is placated by proper moral conduct.

The deity Heyalobe was regarded as dama, the Satan. He control the forces of nature and would deceive the Huli people to do evil things.

If Huli people did not follow Heyalobe’s instructions, he would attack them directly causing sickness, accident or death or indirectly through witches, corpses, stones, sticks or other ritual objects that are imbued with their presence.

If they pleased Heyalobe, he would help them in their endeavors. To avoid attack, the Huli people would placate and win the favour of Heyalobe by tricking him to protect themselves.

Long ago, in order to confuse the deities, Huli men would traverse deep forests and climb mountain peaks speaking a derivative of the Huli language called Tayanda Bi. They also tricked the Heyalobe by constructing symbolic gates to block paths as they walked through the forest.

The Datagaliwabe is a unique supreme being, who, unlike Ni and Hana, is not referred to as dama but only by name. He is someone who the Huli people never play around with. They feel his presence more powerfully than other deities.

He is a giant High God, who looks down from the sky to punish lying, stealing, adultery, incest, murder of related kin and disregard of ritual taboos. Huli say if you do something evil Datagaliwabe will be watching you.

Datagaliwabe was known to the Huli as a bringer of punishment upon those who infringed kinship laws. The only way to please him is proper moral behavior. He would never be placated by pigs as sacrifices and doesn’t accept prayers, dances or other rituals.

The Datagaliwabe looks favorably upon those who obey kinship rules and helps them in their daily affairs. He speaks directly to whoever pleases him in the form of dreams, visions, prophecies and special insights.

He also speaks to Huli needs in term of the good life: salvation and power for living. Only the righteous and holy people are taken to dahulianda, the heaven.

The Pari clan in South Koroba (a home to the descendant of the sun god, the Ni), regard the place as dahulianda dogo, the bridge to heaven. The Datagaliwabe uses that place for his holy people to cross to heaven.

In the legend of Ira Hari, there is a sacred tree through which all of the earth’s waters pass into the heavens only to fall again as rain.

Men tried to build a bridge to heaven on this tree using rope and timber but were unsuccessful. Their language was confused as they worked on the bridge resulting in the disruption of their plans to reach the house of the deities and this was the creation of various other languages.

The Datagaliwabe showed the Huli people dreams and visions of aircraft, truck and also the return of Tahonane, the Hulis’ long lost white brother.

The first Huli man Tagonimabe has two sons, Tahonane born white and Tamindini born black. Tahonane was nursed by a great god, grew quickly and left the Huli area never to die. Tamindini nursed at his mother’s breast, and became the father of all the Huli people through his son, Tiliali.

The first white men the Huli people encountered were Jack Hides and Peter O’Malley. They looked queerly at the two explorers and whispered excitedly among themselves about their long lost white brother who had returned.

One of the prophecies that has come to pass is Gigira Laitebo legend called Kwai Topo. In this legend, the wise men of Hela spoke many generations ago that their land possessed the Gigira Laitebo or everlasting fire and that one day this would so shine that the faraway lands would be attracted by it and they would come to their doorstep.

Today the people of Hela are seeing the men with the orange legs from faraway lands trying to take the fire from them.

The Datagaliwabe transformed himself into the sun god, the Ni, resulting in a combination of the supreme-being with the sun god to form one supreme-being, the Ni.

Ni is a creator god who makes the fertility of the earth and increases the abundance of life for his children, Ni honowini. One of the Ni honowini who makes the fertility of the earth is the famous huli legend of Baya Baya.

He was regarded as Jesus who stayed among the Huli people. Prophecy states that the descendant from Ni honowini would one day will come and light up the caves and tunnels of Hela Province. The Huli ancestors said that when that day came, it would be the sign of the last days.

Many Huli believe that Bible stories are paralleled in Huli legend, to the extent that some became convinced that their ancestors had somehow received the biblical message before even the missionaries came, which resulted in many questions about Church history.

Datagaliwabe is still equated with God or Yahweh by many Huli Christians today.

Betty Gabriel Wakia, 29, is a scholarship student studying at Tianjin University of Technology and Education in China. She comes from Koroba, Hela Province, and loves travelling, writing and reading non-fiction.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Philip Kai Morre

Very interesting article Betty. The Hela people are spiritual people and as well as moral who uphold their traditional concept of a transcendent being who is creator of all living things.

This creation myth and folklore are universal and every province has its own stories to tell.

The worship of a sun god was also practised in the central highlands of PNG and associated with pig killings and rituals.

The concept of a creator was always known but remote and isolated. When Christianity came to the highlands, people didn't see it as a foreign god but the god who was always with us manifesting his omnipotence, and his presence was felt.

The people believed in life after death and other spiritual beings, including evil spirits.

Seminarian Francis Zaen

Please I need some ideas about how Huli worship their Datagilwabe and paid respect to other heavenly beings.

Chris Nane

Inspirational piece, thank you Betty. There is also a book by Damien Arabagali titled, "Datagaliwabe was with Hela". Very interesting reading all these. I believe Hela people are God's chosen people.

Great article Betty. Cheers.

Henry Pawako

This is one on the best articles I have read so far. Thanks Betty for the historic insights.


Garry Roche

I first heard about Datagaliwabe many years ago while helping Damien Arabagali with typing of a thesis about the Huli. Damien had one report about how after listening to the New Testament story of the death of Jesus some Huli leaders came to Fr. Berard Tomasetti, a catholic missionary, and wanted to give him pigs to compensate because in their legends they were responsible for the death of Bayabaya, who in some way they equated with Jesus.
Regardless of the historical accuracy aspect, it is great that people recall and write down their legends and folk histories.
Thank you Betty

Phil Fitzpatrick

The Huli are a fascinating people - they seem quite different to the other highlanders. As I understand it they didn't have a bigman culture - their leaders being acclaimed for their fighting prowess rather than their wealth. Their warfare was highly ritualised and had heaps of rules. In this they seemed to have more in common with the tribes to the south in Gulf and Western Provinces, where a lot of them have now moved.

Dealing with them during social mapping studies was always fraught, they loved to argue and were really good at feigning outrage and anger.

Really enjoyed your article.

Lapieh Landu

Wow. Beautiful piece.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)