chapter  5
32 Pages

From Wombs to Tombs

Sa procreation beliefs are rather diffuse and unelaborated compared to the constructs reported from elsewhere in Melanesia. Conception is known to occur when the menstrual flow stops — the blood ( danan) is thought to dam up inside the m other’s body. Thus one method of inducing late periods, ( or of aborting ) is to drink a distillation of powdered red hibiscus petals ( waringisos) which by sympathetic effect will cause the blood to flow. The father’s contribution is less clear. Semen ( ten utsin, lit: the penis excreta) is thought to block or fix the blood. ( This is not unlike the north Ambrymese notion that the semen washes the foetus, in a way that developing

fluid washes and thus fixes, or exposes the form of a photograph (Patterson, 1976:260). No one however suggested that blood and semen generated different parts of subtances of the body, like flesh and bone, nor that semen was food for the foetus. It is thought rather that several acts o f intercourse are necessary for the foetus to gell, but after the menstrual flow ceases, intercourse should be avoided. The foetus is thought to lie in the womb ( sogok or nipsupsus), like food in a basket. The womb is also called, metaphorically, tewung na walala. ( lit: the basket o f the infant; walala is also the name of a small bird — probably Yellow W hite Eye, Zosterops Flavifrons ).