Alchemy in the Rain Forest: Politics, Ecology, and Resilience in a New Guinea Mining Area
This chapter deals with the spirit world, especially in terms of two main classes of spirits, nature spirits and human spirits, for their role in mediating people’s relationships with the land and one another. Porgeran cosmology is underpinned by the flow of a vital life force throughout the land, plants and animals, and human bodies. This life force, ipane (grease), is central to ancestral spirit rituals. Conversion to Christianity has ended many of the rituals formerly used to placate ancestral spirits, which has led most Porgerans to worry about “the end of the land,” a landscape without the vital life force of grease. With the increase in tribal fighting, the spirits of deceased warriors roam in ever greater numbers, preventing people from settling and farming on lands where enemies have died, thereby further truncating social flexibility in Porgera.