Sailing in the South Seas was a very dangerous affair for the Trobriand sailors, they had to face insurmountable dangers just to go and get fish for their families.
The Mulukwausi are frightful beings which met people on sailing expeditions also known as Yoyova, the flying witches. The name Yoyova meant a woman who had these spiritual powers but in the form of flying disembodied being they were called Mulukwausi, and this is what sailors had to be on the lookout for (Malinowski, 238). They were dreaded and were known to be most unpleasant. It was believed that in case there was a shipwreck or a mistake at sea, it was these dreaded women who would send evil to befall the crew. They were so fierce that nobody dared say their name and they were spoken of using the euphemism Vivila.
A new Canoe painted and decorated is beautiful and a source of pride for its owners. The sailors know their way around the sea and rarely encounter any dangers except encounters with the Mulukwausi who are believed to hear when a canoe is shipwrecked and is sinking (Malinowski, 240). The main way of avoiding these dangers lies in the power of mist otherwise known as Kayga’u which along with Kula magic is the indispensable magical equipment of a sailor. The Kayga’u is considered to have the power to protect a man who knows it well. Mulukwausi is extremely dangerous around corpses, but a sailor who knows his Kayga’u can carry a corpse of a dead sailor and bring it back to the village without fear of an attack from the Mulukwausi (Malinowski, 242). These spells must be recited during the day because when recited at night, the Mulukwausi could see and hear the man and make his magic inefficient. The main belief was that the Kayga’u produces some sort of mist which blinds the Mulukwausi and the sharks who follow the canoe.
The sea in which the Trobriand sailors pass through is dangerous with reefs, sandbanks and coral rocks. When the weather is bad, canoes can really be helpless. Despite this fact, the native sailors still sail although in clearly defined routes. The sailors use straight lines across the sea; they also have to navigate between fixed points on the land, they never leave sight of the land so that if there is mist or rain, they can be able to take sufficient bearings which would enable them to make the nearest island (Malinowski, 256). Constant winds blowing in the same direction also ensure that the canoes do not deviate from their course. Additionally, if a canoe goes ashore, it has to drift into a friendly neighbor territory otherwise they may face the same fate as if they met the Mulukwausi (Malinowski, 258). Moreover the trobriand sailors know precisely how to make the masts and sails so that the canoes cannot deviate from the route they must follow. Just like a ship follows radar so that it can follow the correct course so do the Trobriand sailors who make sure they identify a straight line in which their canoes will follow.
The Trobriand sailors believe in so much magic that from the onset of building a canoe to when they start sailing. All these processes involve magic and powerful spells which are meant to keep them safe through their journey and also on their way back. These spells also make sure that their expedition is successful. The Canoes, as well as the sailors, are protected by powerful magic.
It is believed that when an owl makes cries in a particular village, an inhabitant of that particular village will die, so villagers quickly chase the owl away and cover its droppings in the soil to avoid any deaths. This shows that people would go to any height to prevent calamities from happening.
Malinowski, Bronislaw. “”Argonauts of the Western Pacific: An Account of Native Enterprise and Adventure in the Archipelagoes of Melanesian New Guinea, Enhanced Edition.”” (2013).
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