Nature, Ritual, and Society in Japan’s Ryukyu Islands

Despite their small area, the southern islands of Japan can be seen as stepping stones towards a more nuanced view of cultural osmosis between Japan and the outside world. Integral to this viewpoint is a comprehensive understanding of the inhabitants of these islands, including their culture, beliefs, and mores. Nature, Ritual, and Society in Japan’s Ryukyu Islands contains original ethnography which explores the mind of the islanders, their relationship with the natural world, their social relationships, and the rituals which represent and give expression to these relationships. This book is based on extensive original research, and includes participant observation. Village priestesses in the southern Ryukyu Islands verbalize a sense of connectedness with the landscape through their prayers. Rather than interpreting this oratory as an example of symbolic or metaphoric construction, however, the author guides the reader toward a more concrete experience of the effect induced by the ornate words. This approach allows the authentic voices of the Ryukyu Island worlds to speak for themselves, and also sets the work in the wider context of anthropology, Japanese studies, and Pacific island studies. This book strings together issues of mind, society and nature and captures the exact moments when impressionistic views of nature are composed into stylized utterances. This study will be of great interest to the general anthropological readership interested in theoretical advances through fieldwork, as well as to Asian studies scholars. Arne Røkkum is a professor of Social Anthropology in the Department of Ethnography, University Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo. He has conducted fieldwork among the Izu and Ryukyu islanders of Japan and among the Bunun and Yami of Taiwan. He is the author of Goddesses, Priestesses and Sisters: Mind Gender and Power in the Monarchic Tradition of the Ryukyus (Scandinavian University Press, 1998).

Japan Anthropology Workshop Series Series editor: Joy Hendry, Oxford Brookes University Editorial Board: Pamela Asquith, University of Alberta Eyal Ben Ari, Hebrew University of Jerusalem Hirochika Nakamaki, National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka Wendy Smith, Monash University Jan van Bremen, University of Leiden
A Japanese View of Nature The world of living things Kinji Imanishi Translated by Pamela J. Asquith, Heita Kawakatsu, Shusuke Yagi and Hiroyuki Takasaki Edited and introduced by Pamela J. Asquith Japan’s Changing Generations Are young people creating a new society? Edited by Gordon Mathews and Bruce White The Care of the Elderly in Japan Yongmei Wu Community Volunteers in Japan Everyday stories of social change Lynne Y. Nakano Nature, Ritual, and Society in Japan’s Ryukyu Islands Arne Røkkum

Nature, Ritual, and Society in Japan’s Ryukyu Islands
Arne Røkkum

First published 2006 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada by Routledge 270 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10016 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group © 2006 Arne Røkkum This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2006.

“To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge’s collection of thousands of eBooks please go to” All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Røkkum, Arne. Nature, ritual, and society in Japan’s Ryukyu Islands/Arne Røkkum. p. cm. — ( Japan anthropology workshop series) Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. Ethnology—Ryukyu Islands. 2. Ryukyu Islands—Social life and customs. I. Title. II. Series. GN635.R9R65 2005 306′.0952′29—dc22 2005004364 ISBN10: 0–415–35563–X ISBN13: 9–78–0–415–35563–6

. . . the complete regeneration of sentiment is religion, which is poetry, but poetry completed. C.S. Peirce

Frontispiece Visitor Spirit, the Mayunganashi. Mask carved by Mr Arashiro Hiroshi, Ishigaki Island. Photo by Ms Ann Christine Eek, University Museum of Cultural History, Oslo.


List of figures and maps Preface Acknowledgments Linguistic note Introduction 1 Commuted landscapes and species Primordial truths 27 Domesticated reigns 29 Sources of sentiment 32 Lasting images 43 Cultivated identities 46 Cultivated kinship 52 Fertilizing soils 60 A semantic ecology 64 Garlic and crabs 67 Parallel thought 75 Reproductive partnerships 83 2 Person and island Fragments of desire 96 Acts of engagement 105 An animated ambience 106 An adulation of watery flowers 109 3 Cyclical lapses Gendered events 123 An interstice of the year 129

ix x xii xiv 1 18



viii 4

Contents Fateful exchanges Acts of disengagement 148 Uncanny partnerships 152 Recipes for sharing and not sharing 160 Lingering debts 163 An evil spirit of the sea 168 An evil spirit of the soil 177 An encounter with a root force 186 Preparing for a stately journey 194 The final moment: body for body 209 Elegies for a departed priestess 213 Conclusion Glossary Notes Bibliography Index 148

219 228 235 250 261

Figures and maps

Figures 1 Higawa (Ndimura) village, Yonaguni (Dunang) Island 2 South Ryukyuan house plan 1.1 Stone altar 1.2 A view into the courtyard of an Origin House 1.3 Sister Goddess 1.4 Compound plan: the typical version 1.5 Compound plan: the inverted version 1.6 Mortuary altar 1.7 Sounding an end to cold season restraints 1.8 Treating an ancestress with rice beer 1.9 House shrine-alcove 1.10 A formal welcome 1.11 Fishes of life 1.12 Fertilizing action 2.1 A celestial meal 3.1 A protective amulet 3.2 Welcoming an exorcizing agent 3.3 Presentations to a visitor 4.1 Taboo rope shielding a house compound 4.2 Protective spider conch upon a toilet door 4.3 Preparations for a hearty meal 4.4 A dismembered animal sacrifice 4.5 Collecting bones of the dead 4.6 Dealing with a Soil Host 4.7 Soul-catching action 4.8 A lighthearted exit 4.9 A heavenly messenger Maps 1 The Ryukyu Islands 1.1 Spirit trails of Yonaguni (Dunang) Island

3 7 19 19 21 24 24 25 39 51 54 54 86 90 98 131 132 133 150 153 157 165 189 191 199 201 209

3 18


The present volume adds some important new features to the growing collection put together by the Japan Anthropology Workshop as major contributions to cutting edge scholarship in the field. We have already brought a translation of a seminal work in Japanese, collections of some of the best papers presented at JAWS meetings, and close, textured studies by young, rising ethnographers about life in contemporary Japan. This latest book is, by contrast, drawn from participatory fieldwork carried out over a period of 30 years, and thus adds the dimension of a long-term familiarity with the subject matter. It brings a sharp regional focus, set in an island of the Ryukyu archipelago, but distinguishing practices observed there from those on different islands in the same chain. At the same time, it adds a comparative dimension that ranges way beyond Japan, from the close Chinese influences coming through Taiwan, to older resemblances with practices of a broad Austronesian cultural area. Last but not least, the book also engages with theoretical issues that lie at the heart of the study of anthropology. In this important study of ritual life, Arne Røkkum first tackles the western emphasis on text, dialogue, and the conceptual mind/body separation by setting out to demonstrate the importance of other elements of the interactivity among people, and between people and other species in nature, which he terms “the sensuous matter that bears on mentalities.” He insists on the necessity of participation at all levels in ritual activity, which he describes for local people as “implanting their inner lives in ritual, dance, and postured greetings to overcome the power of pent-up grudges that could easily become curses.” His work includes much fine detail about primary images of importance, such as vision, taste, and fragrance, replicated from natural origins for their association on particular occasions, and for specific purposes. Ritual is composed, he suggests, “more like a movement in a symphony than a string of sentences in a novel, to attune to certain keys and moods in the human mind.” Røkkum’s analysis is guided by Piercian notions of indexicality, but the events he describes are so full of rich detail that they could be lifted, wholesale, into any number of comparative frameworks. A second important focus is on exchanges associated with the various rites, and he shows how gifts can work not only to make connections, but also to disconnect, thus offering a double entendre that challenges Maussian theory on the subject. A third potential theoretical contribution



is to that old stalwart field of kin relations, for the importance in these islands of the relationship between siblings, and particularly the brother sister pair, sidelines conjugal relations, and (again, to use his words) offers “stepping stones for a more nuanced view of cultural osmosis between Japan and the outside world.” A feast of fine ethnographic substance, thick theoretical seasoning, and a bouquet of comparative promise awaits the reader in this latest great addition to our series. Joy Hendry


For an ethnography accumulating across a couple of decades I am indebted to more individuals and institutions than can possibly be recorded in these lines. Now, with a lapse of some years, I am realizing that some of the voices that narrate essential matters in this book belong to persons who have now passed away. In memory, I wish to express my indebtedness to certain islanders of Yonaguni (Dunang) Island in South Ryukyu, without whose assistance this study would not have been possible: Ara Kuyama, Maetake Okiyô, Maeawakura Kane, Ômine Ume, Sakieda Eiko, Yonahara Shinkichi, Nagahana Bunari, Takenishi Garu, and Tomari Sora. Having just returned to the Ryukyus after some years of absence I am happy to affirm my thanks to the following persons on the same island: Komine Chôfu, Ikema Nae, Ikema Yushiko, Nagahama Shôichi, Nagahama Yasuko, Ôarakaki Saeko, and Tomari Nabe; and on Ishigaki Island: Hanashiro Yasuo and Tokuno Toshimi. Initial field research was financed by The Japan Foundation (two fellowships), The Chûnichi-Inadomi Foundation, and the Norwegian Research Council. Recent revisits were made possible by grants from the National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka. I gratefully acknowledge these contributions. An invitation from the National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka for a one-year affiliation proved an exceptional opportunity for finalizing the project. Let me express a specific appreciation to Nakamaki Hirochika, professor in the Department of Advanced Studies in Anthropology. I would also like to acknowledge inspiring conversations with Peter Matthews and Tanabe Shigeharu, also professors of the Osaka museum. Thanks go also to staff in several departments for their most generous interest in my activities. Let me also express my gratitude to Arashiro Hiroshi, of Ishigaki Island, for carving replicas of South Ryukyuan festival masks for the Ryukyu Collection in the Oslo Ethnographic Museum. During the one-year stay in Japan, I received important comments on my work in progress while giving talks at the Museum of Ethnology, Osaka, at the Nanzan University, Nagoya, and Hôsei University, Tokyo. I also gratefully acknowledge rewarding communication with my colleagues at the Ethnographic

Acknowledgements xiii Museum in the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo and with Jean-Claude Galey, EHESS, Paris. I would also like to thank the Museum of Cultural History (in which the Ethnographic Museum is included), University of Oslo, for various support of the project. Finally, let me thank Christopher Saunders for valuable editorial advice and Ingrid Andreassen for drawing Map 1.

Linguistic note

Whereas standard Japanese can be romanized according to available transcription systems, the Ryukyuan alternatives offer no such choice. To allow the reproduction of phonemic combinations not feasible within the romanization systems of Japanese, I have chosen to keep to the standard of the International Phonetic Alphabet. I do not provide Japanese character definitions of words which do not belong to that literary linguistic tradition. An idea of a prototypical Japanese as a crux overriding any variation in a linguistic region is not the stance adopted in the present monograph as I see no reason why linguistic matter necessarily ought to correspond with political matter, as e.g. with ideas crucial for the definition of a nationstate. Conversely, with source matter selected only from within local oral traditions themselves, I choose a transcription method sensitive to original pronunciations. Most of the linguistic matter in this book can be covered by the language identification code YOI in Ethnologue (12th edn, 1992). Lowercase characters are used in all italicized words except when the “G” appears inside a single word to indicate a voiced uvular stop. I affix apostrophes for marking stops as the glottal stop in k’a (“priestess”) and the accentuated stop in nisun’ni (“two vessels”). A “j” + vocal, according to this transcription method, is equivalent with a “y” + vocal in English. Thus, for example, juta (shaman) might otherwise be written yuta. I transcribe standard Japanese language matter according to the romanization principles in the Kenkyusha New Japanese–English Dictionary. The macron identifies an extended vowel. Japanese words adopted by English language dictionaries are written as English, not as romanized Japanese. Japanese family names go into writing according to the standard of family name–given name. Human Relations Area Files (eHRAF Collection of Ethnography, www., accessed August 30, 2004) identify the people of this study as Okinawans (AC07). Nevertheless, I settle with the term Ryukyuans – for the following reason. The island chain has historically been known as Ryukyu, and this was also the name of a kingdom. The combination Okinawans/Okinawa Islands often misplaces both the geographical width and the historical depth, excluding from the view subjects other than those on Okinawa (Main) Island and the surrounding islets. For an anthropological study it also carries weight that the word Ryukyu is a linguistic device for much popular discourse, including folk music, pottery, and textile art.




At the present time, a generalization with discipline-wide import seems to be this: whereas western worldviews subsist on a Cartesian premise of a split between mind and body, the non-western worldviews lack this philosophically authored discrepancy. Anthropology’s specific contribution for dissolving an assumption of a mind–body polarity comes pre-eminently with the less cerebral non-western alternative, as in the case of knowing oneself as an instance of embodiment.1 Somewhat paradoxically, then, while accenting the non-western ways of knowing, we – the anthropologists – may encourage people to sort out their experiences with the crispness of a Cartesian worldview, as their articulations. If we only allot roles for our informants in the interview script, they can be taken to the forefront of authorship. The hypostatization of the interview, as it were, makes them our co-narrators or co-authors. An emphasis on dialogical utterance can be traced all the way back to Greece of the 5th and 4th centuries bc. It was not lost with the introduction of writing. In China, to compare a non-western alternative, insights were authored through the icons of ideographic writing. A knowing-as-imaging was not lost with literacy.2 The more we focus on indigenous discourses, and, par excellence, on that part of them that responds to our call for reflectiveness – such as self-biographic narratives – the more we focus on the field interview itself. But we also run the risk of cerebralizing and objectifying knowledge by confining it to prototypical dialogue in the guise of an ethnographic device. Yet confining the main task of ethnography to a dialogue-inside-an-interview might well be an un-situating and disembodying experience. Therefore I am indebted to some islanders in South Ryukyu who said “no, there is no other way of knowing about a festival unless you take part in it.” That was the end of interview. To paraphrase: “You will only know only when the day comes.” Choice of script frames writing. There should be multiple voices. Yet for that type of ethnography to achieve its fullest potential, the script cannot have too many co-authors. The dialogues cannot be too many. If there are too many, the script becomes cluttered. Accordingly, the anthropological monograph, if faithful to a postmodern script, would mimic literary scripts such as novels and theatrical plays, where the participants also speak for themselves, alone and in dialogue, yet meaningfully so only in the metadiscursive sense that we – the readers or



viewers knowing a genre or an authorship – can play our own role as audience, doing a job of interpretation by really enjoying excavating various layers of symbolic purport.3 So there is a methodological stricture quite peculiar to genres of ethnographic writing. The script should evince narrative reflectiveness much as in our own literary tradition and, above all, people should be brought to reflect on their own lives. An emphasis on biography brings to the forefront of attention an individuality so crucial to a western worldview, and so it supports our belief that individual authorships make culture. A particular task in this book has been to bring together not the wholesale cultural symbols as in an ethos of a people, but the sensuous matter that bears upon mentalities. Priestesses on the islands in the southern Ryukyus of Japan reveal such attributes in their prayers. A sense of beauty is supported by imageries of rice grains, silk fabrics, white beaches, translucent water trickling through shiny coral sand, the smooth surface of upright stones, and the spray of ocean waves. Our writings ought to evince the motivated signs of such experienced realities. Csordas (1994b: 12) contrasts a semiotic notion of intertextuality with a phenomenological notion of intersubjectivity. I hope, in this book, to show that a semiotic perspective can be upheld, quite unsupported by a Geertzian idea of “cultures as systems of symbols.” The question remaining for anthropology is to what extent experience lends itself to an easy retrieval and condensation in writing without an initial coexperience of some sort. Another point of concern in this book is that of an intercourse reaching well beyond the field of social participation. The experience of interactivity with species in nature, I think, is what grants a sense of wholeness to the human condition in the Ryukyu Islands. Case studies in this book include human encounters with both vegetal and zoological species, most pointedly, perhaps, in Chapters 1 and 4. Corrington (1994) addresses the issue of nature and self from a semiotic point of view, pointedly, as an “ecstatic naturalism.” His view carries a particular relevance for the present anthropological comment on the excessive emphasis on textuality: “The eclipse of nature and world semiosis is nowhere more evident than in the contemporary obsession with human textual artifacts and their alleged lack of any semiotic contour” (Corrington 1994: 54). He pinpoints a: “commitment to the view that all orders of the world are in some sense directly analogous to human texts” (p. 54). I am in Japan while writing this. Here, in an evocative ambience somewhat apart from western logocenteredness, it strikes me how critical an association through socialization (otsukiai ) is to any serious transaction. The ritual aspect is also a mnemonic aspect. To exemplify, let me take an example from the village providing most of the ethnography for this book. In 2002, after several years of absence, I took a stroll around the village on an island (Map 1) in the southern part of the Ryukyu chain (Okinawa Prefecture of Japan). I asked a couple I met in Higawa (Ndi) village (Figure 1): “Maybe you remember me?” For sure they did and we took a break for a chat, and the conversation went like this:



Map 1 The Ryukyu Islands

Figure 1 Higawa (Ndimura) village, Yonaguni (Dunang) Island



HUSBAND: We were so grateful for your condolence gift. ANTHROPOLOGIST: Condolence gift? When was that?

Trying to sort memories about a funeral 25 years before,
ANTHROPOLOGIST: Can you remember that? WIFE: Oh yes. We take notice of these things.

The ritually affixed record indexicalizes a relationship. It may even inform about its position by parameters of distance and proximity. These could be culturally conventionalized parameters, synchronizing monetary gift with status complementarity. In the wider Japanese society, the code is amply publicized as measured closeness or distance, e.g. in women’s weeklies. It can be tabulated in quantities of “thousands of yen for what kind of relationship” (see also Røkkum, forthcoming). The record may not symbolize the relationship, however, by any means of re-presenting in the nature of the gift the nature of the donor’s mindset. Yet, even if – unlike the Trobriand gift in Mauss (1954) – it does not impress by the gift something unique to the donor, it nonetheless conserves the original participation and, maybe, some of its weight. Hence, non-vocal communication could in fact turn out as a quite pointed communication.4 We fully realize such sympathetic co-substantiality through a token by engaging in ceremony or ritualized association. A knowing through indexicalizing participation, not simply through a symbolizing representation (Røkkum 2001), comes forth also in conventionalized “speech acts” (Searle 1979), as their motivation. In a critique of the Saussurian arbitrariness of the sign, Roman Jacobson (1971: 348) illustrates a connection between signifier and signified with the following example: a German-Swiss lady’s surprise in learning that the French used the word “fromage” for cheese. Her objection: “Käse ist doch viel natürlicher!” To her, the link between word and object is utterly indivisible. A percept in the German vernacular brings out a sympathetic co-substantiality. Sound, image, and taste amalgamate into a single percept. Representamen and object participate fully in each other. I will be trying to capture such heavily motivated knowing by retrieving some episodic memories from my fieldworks. In my previous book, Goddesses, Priestesses, and Sisters (1998), I paid some attention to the iconicity of such images, on the “immediate object,” as in the semiotic perspective of the American philosopher C.S. Peirce (Peirce 1958–60). (I shall follow the convention of localizing quotes within the Collective Papers, henceforth abbreviated as CP.) In the present book, I widen the focus to include a fuller view of the sign, including what in Merrel’s terms is a “dynamical object” (Merrell 1997: 151). According to Peirce (CP 5.283), “everything which is present to us is a phenomenal manifestation of ourselves.” Chapter 4 illustrates the case with its lead example, An encounter with a root force: a root of a hardwood tree conveys to a person the image of a root force. Could its assembled energies possibly sap the energies of a human body? By collating such images of manifestly dissimilar



categories, such as trees and bodies, a knowing comes to the fore, one which, after an initial recognition (the Peircean firstness) through icons, goes on to subsist on indices (secondness). A symbol artifice (thirdness) may be born out of what Merrel sees as an “interactive interrelation” within the Peircean triad (Merrel 1997: 217), such as a moral artifice. But it can be grasped as an illustrious resilience and hardness only as a quality of an ebony tree is known. It is worth keeping in mind that Mauss addressed the issue of an experiential basis of ritual. In the essay “Questions posées a la psychologie”, he aspired to discern a totality, in fact, of mental matter: “rythmes et symboles mettent en jeu, non pas simplement les facultés esthétiques ou imaginatives de l’homme, mais tout son corps et toute son âme à la fois” (Mauss 1950b: 305). Or even more succinctly (1950b: 305): “toutes les fibres de son être.” The plasticity of the human body as against manners of expression is treated in “Les Techniques du Corps” (Mauss 1950d). His colleague, Hertz (1960, 1973), made dualism of handedness a somewhat sharper category for comparative investigation. But the important point to note is that for Hertz there is only a slight anatomical difference between left- and right-hand dexterity. So the indexical usefulness of left–right would be quite inadequate for practical purposes had it not been for the weight of the symbolically charged rules – in several societies – that the one is auspicious and the other inauspicious. The association relating to the body is motivated in other signs, and these are signs in society (Røkkum, forthcoming). Against this backdrop of the l’Année Sociologique, I envisage a continuous need to investigate the association of mentality/corporeality with constant fixtures of life in society. In Goddesses, Priestesses, and Sisters, I took particular notice of indigenous notions relevant to the issue. I translated a Ryukyuan gloss (umui ) as “sentiment.” I made the term an heuristic device for rendering what is equally valid in a Ryukyuan vernacular as in an original Latin. A “sentiment” is not simply something of the moment or of the interior life of an individual. It is a commonsensical insight to us that sentiments are roused by such symbols as national anthems, flags, and parades. They can be shared and they can stay on with us. They do not just spring out of our minds, bosoms, or guts, but are evoked by way of a communicative agency – a sign – such as an event, an emblem, a particular tune, rhythm, or fragrance. Such relata of the senses play a distinctively deictic role, they manifest themselves physiologically, and thus indexically, in the shedding of tears. Sentiments may affix themselves to tones of color “as signs of visceral qualities of feeling” (CP 1.313). A “feeling,” then, in line with Peirce (CP 1.307), “is a state, which is in its entirety in every moment of time as long as it endures.”5 Sentiments, according to Savan’s interpretation of Peirce (Savan 1981) are “enduring and ordered systems of emotions.” Emblems, tunes, rhythms, and smells may well make themselves intelligible in the symbolic mode so familiar to a western common sense, as in our bent on interpreting artistic expression. Yet despite the entry in this study of symbolic objects and expressions, the force of an ethnography attended to over some period of time leads me on to an even more thorough investigation of the fuller



gamut of the triad implied by Peirce’s category of the sign. I turn to the additional iconic and indexical readings. The distinctive illocutionary force (Austin 1975; Burke 1966) present in a panoply of expression in Ryukyuan rituals boosts the indexical diacritic of the sign (cf. also Røkkum 2002a for a comment on illocutionary signs). What I find quite imaginative here is the Ryukyuan expression of sign duplicity as in (a) using a fake, a counterpart to the authentic offering, for rehearsing what is the nature of negativity, and what can perform a final exorcism of bad sentiment; and (b) letting one and the same object or species work in both these fashions, incurring a wished-for growth, quelling a not-wished-for growth. In any of these readings, the sign is distinctively performative. I will be trying to find a way to recreate a view people in South Ryukyu have of the necessity of implanting their inner lives in kinesthetic matter such as ritual, dance, and postured greetings. As I said in Goddesses, Priestesses, and Sisters, they make it a necessity because pent up grudges easily mature into curses (ta’tai ), without the aid of any spell at all. Sentiment alone may breed powerful indices. Evil remains with what is inexpressible, hence the richness of its opposite, an expressive culture of the Ryukyus. So in this book, I shall try to access the events where bits of knowledge are made, as found in my fieldnotes jotted down on islands at the southern tip of the Ryukyus. I rely on the interview deployed to the forefront as a means for recording people’s recollections where the events, such as an initiation ritual, are past events. Yet I would not have been able to do that, e.g. describing a defunct initiation ritual for women, had I not been accessing sources for initiation knowledge, not simply the ideas, but in a quite literal sense the sources of running water within the landscapes of an island. Only by serial fieldwork covering some years could I, myself, take a role in events, whether they were memorized as matters of the past or as incidents in still evolving matters. And only then did I become able to utter some prayers myself when asked to. For on any occasion of a revisit on the island, there was without fail some story in the making, usually one involving some despair, calling for people’s reflection and action in ritual. So it was not the active tense of authorship which engendered ethnography, but rather the more passive one – of me and people on the island being subject to a semiosis of evolving stories. This appears as a paradox of sorts. The more protracted the field experience itself, the less it lends itself to objectification. I once formulated a purpose of fieldwork for a revisit to the island, namely, that of measuring a house so as to produce data for the architectural drawing in Figure 2 (and an additional isometric projection in three-dimensional perspective). But the project was spoilt by wild bees building nests upon house posts in the house that I was measuring as well as in a house nearby. My use of the measuring device might even have contributed to the intrusion. This experience triggered an interpretive quest by the woman whose guest I was, a probe into the possibility of previous incidents provoking the one she registered now in the present. As she herself was a shaman with considerable insight both into my own biography and into the biographies of



Figure 2 South Ryukyuan house plan

people in the neighborhood, she was eminently equipped for the task, which required delving into affinities between incidents. So my own more or less hitand-miss action to spoil such attacks became sui generis the very indexical signs of still more disarray. A story enfolded as a semiosis rich in indices. My actions became actions in a story not yet told but already weighing upon the individual.6 Whereas the shaman deftly put together a chain of happenings, thus exploiting the syntagmatic resources at her disposal, she kept a side view on paradigmatic association. What other incidents of the same kind had taken place recently? She recalled being asked by a neighbor to check why a crow was crossing the top of his roof practically daily at a particular hour. Now she added one incident to the other, and was struck with horror at having to face such an uncanny co-incidence in her vicinity. These – the incidents – accumulated into eventful experiences. The design of past sign activity gathers incidents just as its deployment can announce the arrival of fresh ones. Without this load of signs at the outset, the quite normal sight of a beehive on a house post would never make its way to a miniature event. Actually, the shaman was reminded by her helper, a young woman not native to the island, that there were beehives in houses all over the village, yet she insisted on the versatility of the image as one of radical differentiation. She said: “Yes, but it depends on the place.” Her job was that of fashioning



the sacred out of what is commonplace, which is just another way of saying that she was busy fashioning signs with indexical purport in people’s lives. In an interpretant action (on the level of thirdness), keeping to Peirce, signs take on the conditions of their own validity. So in the present ethnography, a consideration of species in nature raises a question about evil, not its essence perhaps, but what might possibly portend it. With attention sufficiently raised, signs burgeon.7 One incident, such as the passage of a crow across a roof, instantiates a sign of regularity: the same croaking, the same hour. But without the parallel view of another episode of wild bees upon a house post, the sign would have had far less force. It is this mirroring effect – significata as indices of each other (as in the example above of the Swiss woman and the cheese) – which touches on a critical nature of semiosis, particularly in its social context. One incident locks into another. A host of living things people usually have no special feelings about become evil intrusions all in an instant. Such malice is not endemic; it is induced, simply by an instance of coincidence (cf. Goldman 1993). As I shall illustrate this, under the heading An evil spirit of the soil, with an example of a little boy falling off a compound stonewall – for the South Ryukyuans fate in life is heavily motivated by a co-incidental nature of things. Any description of cultural matter in the Ryukyu Islands would, in my view, need to take account of such active knowing. Culture is not delivered to a people from the past, it is acquired. Whatever the regular events predictable by the calendar as annual events, they are not entirely the templates of knowing. I suppose, rather, that a sustainability of any cultural identity would be a matter not of replication relative to skills, statuses, and cycles, but of interpretation, ad hoc and in response to a life circumstance. Rites and rules can be memorized, singly or as part of a scheme, as the need arises. What the South Ryukyuans may be sharing with many other peoples preserving their indigenous knowing is an experience of even very basic matters of society such as its moralities through sign simulacra of nature origins.8 I was able to converse with Ryukyuan islanders about many features of nature, but not about nature as such. As speakers also of the Japanese vernacular, they know of course the word conventionally translated into English as “nature,” (shizen), but whenever I used it, I felt as if I were invoking a literary culture foreign to the island.9 After a while I gave up trying to extract their concept of nature. In Japanese semantic culture, concepts are easily reified by invoking the authority of the ideographic characters themselves. In my opinion, it would be an epistemological fallacy, however, to search for “evidence” in philology. Ellen and Fukui (1996: 11), among others, make a case of the non-dichotomous thinking of the Japanese. Still, when members of a linguistic community choose to tag some concepts as special interest concepts – such as “nature,” “purity,” or “belief ” – I would venture the idea that they can do so, making them emblematic, precisely because they also know what constitutes “non-nature,” “non-purity,” or “nonbelief.” Negation comes with ease at such inclusive ontic levels (cf. also Needham 1972 on the aspect of “belief ”).



It strikes me that popular Japanese-language commentary on a community of Japanese including the Ryukyuans often makes mention of shizen, as in the motif of a worship of trees. When this happens, they also tend to interpolate a contrast, as with the “forests of stone” characteristic of European sanctuaries. The inbetween slips away when difference is assumed. (Stone edifices can be found outside Western Europe if not in Japan; sacred woods can be found outside Japan if not in Western Europe.) Christy (1993: 634) comments on the discourse on the Japanese (Nihonjiron) genre which “maintains ‘the West’ as the universal standard against which Japanese difference is supposed to stand out.” In my view, one might even take the possibility of an experience of global hierarchies and the issue of Japan’s position in them, as playing a role in such wholesale classification (cf. also Christy’s argument about a discursive homogenization of an Okinawan linguistic community to make it commensurable with a Japanese linguistic community). With an underpinning in diachrony, as with an assumed origin and migration of the Japanese Volk, classification, even in its scientific formulations, conveys a proposition about the world. In studies of Japan proper, there may be some scope for portraying a Japanese Mind (nihonjin-no-kokoro: an idea allegedly prevalent in Japan for more than a thousand years) or a Yamato Spirit ( yamatodamashî ). I can portray no such inclusive Ryukyuan entity as a concomitant or in contrast to the seemingly never-ending discourses on a Japanese – shared – character. Even the gentleness and softmannered ways often ascribed to the Ryukyuans, or their much-quoted outgoing southerners’ styles, or even their flair for martial arts, to add another item to the potpourri, in my fieldwork experiences are rather haphazard diagnostic terms of a default character or ethos. No doubt, the court of the Ryukyu Kingdom diffused ceremoniousness.10 And this might have differed significantly from the gender-distinctive codes of the Japanese feudal age, as it also differed from the Chinese post-feudal restraint not only about dance, but also martial arts (cf. Eberhard 1972: 8). Yet, as I shall indicate more fully below, it took some efforts on the part of the Court, such as appointing priestesses, to subdue rivalries in very dense geographical settings around the archipelago. But with much prestige allotted to women’s functions, including such ritual accouterments as rare dyed beads accompanying their niches in local hierarchies, there is no evident cause for supposing that – what in a comparatively rare case of women’s affirmed prominence in prestigious affairs of society – is a case of triumphing pacifist values. In Women of the Sacred Groves, Sered (1999) makes a typecast of gentleness as a cultural ethos throughout, yet she reveals no indigenous gloss (without fail she relies on the Japanese term, yasashii ) for such a persistent norm. What I find striking in this, however, is a possible gender implication. In mainland Japan, gentleness is a matter of manners, and specifically, girls’ manners. In mainland Japanese imagery, Ryukyuans are gentle. By implication, not only are Ryukyuan girls gentle, boys are gentle, too. However, I never encountered any examples of specific practices in South Ryukyu, such as Japanese mainland tea ceremonies or flower arrangements, that possibly might frame

10 Introduction character in such a way. So if not prescribed through discernible artifice proper for one or the other sex, should the cultural trait rather be considered innate, and, consequently, as equally characteristic of Ryukyuan men as of Ryukyuan women? My own idea is that Sered has encountered – and then appropriated – a term belonging not simply to the cultural setting of Henza Island, but a fortiori, to an inter-ethnic discourse, where the One is appropriating the masculine, and active, preeminence of the Samurai, perhaps, while the Other is being ascribed the yielding role of the Woman. I guess that a facet of power and gender might be involved in this. Yet if the referent for an assumed ethos positions itself with another ethnic group, it is the analytic technique itself, of juxtaposition, that generates a character trait. It turns out as emblematic by an analytic “not-so”: by our choice rather than theirs. Lack of militarist spirit is often quoted as a character trait of the Ryukyuans. So I would argue wouldn’t that rather be a commonplace thing even for other groups around the world?11 What would be normal about having a militarist spirit in the first place? Wouldn’t the generalization simply reify difference? A specific trait may pinpoint a Japanese ethos (today or in the past). But does the absence of the same trait in a neighboring group necessarily make a positive term for identification? And would the character trait stand out with equal crispness if we positioned the term for identification elsewhere in ethnic geography? So when Ryukyu in this imagination of cultural borderlines is what Japan proper is not (notwithstanding the ad hoc insistence on sameness in other imaginations), one difference to be celebrated is that of a difference in manners. In the casual comments I received from mainland Japanese visitors I sometimes met in the Ryukyus, the matter of etiquette looms large. I found myself retorting that to my knowledge, the Ryukyuans are very much sensitive to formality relative to age, rank, and gender – just as the mainland Japanese are – but not necessarily in the same way. The conduct fitting during the pûru rites of the First Fruits in the southern islands of the Yaeyamas reveals distinctions valid since the age of the Ryukyu Kingdom. On these occasions, a welter of visual and kinesthetic devices make differences between the sexes, between age-grades, between initiates and non-initiates, between Origin (mutu [kinai ] ) Houses and Cadet (bagi [kinai ] ) Houses. Between classes in society stereotypic differences prevail. Yet precisely on that account – the extraordinariness – these are not necessarily distinctions carrying much relevance in everyday life. Another question one might ask is this: could the stereotype of the Ryukyuans as gentle be traced back in fact to the creation of a familistic ideology with the Emperor at the hub, necessary for the militarization of Japan? Christy (1993: 621) formulates this as an “emasculation of Okinawa.” He localizes such discourses on power, gender, and ethnicity to a “House of Peoples” exhibited in Osaka in 1903. This, in my view, would attest to a broad compass for the attitude within the constitutive ideology of the Japanese nation-state. Inter-ethnic contact before that time – with European mariners (Røkkum 1998) – was played out by Ryukyuan Court etiquette aiming at establishing goodwill without renouncing



autonomy. Early 19th-century Europeans, on their part, were impressed by this self-assurance, treating as a consequence the Ryukyuans much like their equals. Gentleness as an ingredient of ethnic character might be a more recent invention. Alternatively, however, I could infer essence from a reign of contrasting opposites, such as the finesse of the Chrysanthemum and fierceness of the Sword. Ortner (1973) even elevates this opposition of perceived Japanness to a level of “key symbol.” Ruth Benedict (1946), I think, must be credited for the dichotomy with the title of her book on the Japanese. With it, she evoked an even stronger parallel with the Nietzschean Birth of Tragedy than among the North American Indians. Now, a divide could be shown to exist, not simply between peoples as to an element of character, as with the Japanese, but to determine typical character (the typical person or Benedict’s “man in the street”) itself. Bachnik (1989), in contrast to such essentialist paradigms, manages to uncover pragmatic meanings by – successfully in my view – deploying the Peircean category of indexical signs.12 A distinction made by Boyer (1990) between episodic and semantic memory is relevant for what I take as a forethought needed when typecasting cultural identities: “Traditional discourse is . . . based on representations which are essentially different from common stereotypes. As a result, trying to interpret it as the expression of such stereotypes is not only wrong, it is like trying to put round pegs in square holes” (Boyer 1990: 43). The imageries, encounters, natural species and artifacts I shall assemble in this ethnography of South Ryukyu are all exemplars of such episodic memorization, which, as I already suggested, may become eventful memorization. We might have to acknowledge, in fact, that for all the poetic characteristics of indigenous thinking (cf. Vico 1970), we have no good cause for supposing, a priori, that it reproduces in a text-like way. So I agree with Boyer’s emphasis, and contra the Geertzian view, that it would be wise to avoid building stereotypes when people themselves see none, even when using such common-sense notions as “identity.” We may be sensitive to a sociality governed by “identities,” especially as they are contested. A Ryukyuan common sense, on the contrary, searches not for an essence of being, but for its particulars, as a historicity gained from real or imagined precedents (Røkkum 1998), and from such situational behavior requiring some gentleness by either or both sexes in some contexts and some roughness by either or both sexes in other contexts. I venture that a ritualization of social behavior in the Ryukyus indeed allows people to play upon contrariety without sensing any conflict of values. For what may be lacking is a hierarchy of values, such as that of “gentleness,” eclipsing other personal orientations. A problem in symbolist approaches in anthropology is the use of contextual data as “simply” an empirical, descriptive frame, leaving the question of whose symbols for whom in what situation somewhat open-ended. In my reading, as in Ortner (1973), for example, the American Eagle could well be defended as having “key” status, but so, in my mind, would also the American apple pie or a host of other exemplars of either our choice or theirs. Speaking of a “conditional

12 Introduction status,” rather, I advocate the trilateral perspective on signification, which we can ascribe to Peirce. All communication is in signs. People are themselves signs. A symbol might be said to stand for something else to someone in some respect. In the Peircean view, as expounded by Deely (1994: 21), “the sign has no existence in itself, but only in what other things become.” This “becoming,” then, is the birth of another sign, or perhaps a quality of a sign in its expansion. In Deely’s quotation from Peirce (Deely 1994: 23), explaining the nature of the interpretant, “it ‘creates in the mind of that person’ to whom the sign stands for something else ‘an equivalent sign, or perhaps a more developed sign’ ”. Signs, in the further reflection, connect with other signs by including the mindset of the subject. In his perspective, there can be no communicative fixtures external to and independent of the interpretive effort itself: a representamen connects with an object, but so it also does pace Peirce with an interpretant. The latter, which carries the key for a relation to exist, may itself originate with other signs. The Peircean semiosis renders a conceptual template for such a dynamism of nested readings. Merrel (1997: 196) invokes Bateson’s (1972) key phrase of “situated ‘differences that make a difference’.” I tend my interest in this theme with the tag “dialogue.” Conventionally with that term we think of the interpretive fieldwork quest, with anthropologist and informant joining in the task of interpretation. Alternatively, we think of the dialogical nature of knowing and our rendition of it in our writings. I shall be attentive to these two directions of dialogical activity in this book, yet I would like to add a third one. A western notion of dialogue leans heavily on the Greek precedent of participatory roles and social opposites in framing oratorical stances. Plato’s Dialogues perform the most succinct example of the beginnings of this very important element of western society. Peirce writes: “. . . thinking always proceeds in the form of a dialogue – a dialogue between different phases of the ego – so that, being dialogical, it is essentially composed of signs” (CP 4.6). What is often, even in anthropology, presented as an eastern worldview, is the non-oppositional and non-contradictory character of the yin and yang, the Chinese ideational heritage of categories, not linear and oppositional, but participating in each other. They attract yet they repel. This non-western stance is sometimes invoked in contemporary writings, as non-oppositional, interlacing mind and body (see e.g. Rosaldo 1980; Scheper-Hughes and Lock 1987). I do not recognize this alternative in grosso modo in the cultural tradition of a chain of islands in the Western Pacific. Yet if this non-western alternative brings us a lesson for scientific paradigms, I suggest that we might, as a first step, try to isolate some sensible attributes. What we might find, for example, in local traditions around the region are not the mindsets made possible by any Taoist principle as that of yin and yang. In this book I will attend to incidents taking place against a background of landscapes and seascapes: how people calibrate an outlook on their own lives through an apperception of effects, or indexical signs, in a Peircean semiotic perspective.



If I were to portray this knowing imagewise, it would show an inverted Chinese box design. Rather than unlocking the big box to find the smaller one, one unlocks the small one to find the bigger one. There is no need, in fact, to invoke a concept, principle, or structure of yin and yang to grasp this dynamic role of indexicality in knowing (cf. Sebeok 1990): (a) a dynamism allocating a role for the mutually inclusive and exclusive; (b) a dynamism allocating a role, through inclusion and exclusion (humans and species in nature/perimeters in space), for measured effects (such as illnesses and accidents). What I will be dealing with in this book is not an ideology consisting of concepts for unifying opposites, but of a cast of sensible attributes in the primary image, such as a vision, a taste, a fragrance, being replicated all the way toward cultural utterances with some consequence.13 A substantial motivation of the image is retained all the way. In our own outlook, we might as well do as the Ryukyuans, enjoy ambiguities for the sake of the poetics they offer. The building process might dispense with primary images, or it might expand them all the way into metaphors and into sentiments that can be shared by many others. The textual bent in anthropology may have blunted our attention toward non-linguistic signs, or simply allotted to them some residual category such as “non-verbal communication.” The critique formulated by Rappaport (1999) and Robbins (2001) constitutes an important step in rectifying this. Appropriately, in my mind, they address the issue of the capacities for doubt with an abundance of linguistic matter and symbolic signs and the capacities for certitude with an abundance of participatory matter and indexical signs. Ritual, in their analysis, provides us with the example of certitude-through-participation. While my first book based on South Ryukyuan ethnography to a large extent described imageries characterized by iconicity, the present book goes on to describe participation, via species in nature, characterized by indexicality. The early stages of the book highlight some vehicles for knowing. Dishes in ritual and live species in nature are chief exemplars. I observe that heavily valued preferences settle with sensuous attributes: tactile, visual, and gustatory. Somewhat unexpectedly, it turns out that these do not parallel what we in more familiar discursive contexts recognize as moral rules. The ritual life I am observing on a southern Ryukyuan island is very much characterized of dramatic change of contexts of participation. Such shifts bring into play also a change in readings. If one context requires a votive drink to invoke high spirits, another context requires a dummy counterpart, which is a fake. This is a very dense and physical way of addressing ethical matter. Metaphorically rich expressions are integral to such settings, but only as a complement to an inexorable course of events defined by the interactive cast. I wish to find out in this book how people’s lives intertwine with rigors of physical and natural origins. People living in the extreme southwest of the Ryukyus refer to their island and to themselves as dunaN. The official name, however, is Yonaguni. I transcribe the vernacular throughout this book as Dunang. The geographical locus of the island

14 Introduction is just above the Tropic of Cancer (N24°27′; E122°59′). The distance to the east coast of Taiwan is just 110 kilometers. The population of slightly less than 2000 is distributed among three residential clusters. The north coast village of Sonai, or tumai in the islander’s articulation, comprises two sectional subdivisions, west and east. The village of Shimanaka (nmanaga) is also a north-coast settlement, but upholds agricultural and festival links to an earlier settlement area on a tableland interior of the island. The village has transferred en bloc to a site within the north coast settlement. The west coast village of Kubura (kubura) is located in an ancient site of the ndi village. The latter settlement transferred from kubura in a successive movement toward the east (originally, in retreat from pirate attacks). The kubura population today is to a high extent constituted by descendants of immigrants from the Itoman township on Okinawa Island. The drive-in net fishing techniques of a fishing population (umincjû – “sea people”) are spreading throughout the archipelago. But in Dunang as in other islands I visited, the Itoman immigrants, even with the lapse of some generations, do not mix easily with the indigenous farming populations. In Dunang waters outside the coral reef barrier, it is not drive-in net fishing, however, which is their characteristic ecological adaptation, but line-and-hook swordfish fishing (previously, harpooning was practiced). Fresh fish, however, was not even easily available where I lived. So I did a little fishing myself in the shallow waters along the coral reef, either with a rod or tackle favored by the islanders when practicing fishing themselves in the slack seasons of agriculture or diving with an irontipped bamboo harpoon equipped with a Hawaiian sling.14 I arrived in the north-coast village of tumai in May 1976. The head of the island’s public, but unofficial, festival-cum-cultivators’ organization at the time suggested that the south coast Higawa, or ndi in the local gloss, would be the finest place for me to settle. Let me summarize the initial information I received from people on the north-coast village with the administrative center of the island about life in a south coast village just four or five kilometers away: The fields are located very near the village, and there are wild vegetables all around. Fresh water is abundant, so women from the place marrying elsewhere in the island have to adjust to a tougher life. The surrounding hills yield an abundance of bamboo shoots. Until recently, people there could just go to a nearby paddy to pick up the snails for the evening meal. They may not find it necessary to go to work every day. When I arrived in May 1976, I spent a few days at the island leader’s inn on the north coast. Then he took me to the south coast village by car (but had to stop once en route to allow a sizable snake cross the road), initially, for a round of introductions. I chose a farmhouse for quarters and cultivation of vegetables. With this, I adjusted myself, somehow, to the agricultural regime of the locality. Even within the narrow island expanse of some 29 square kilometers, I discovered a distinctive sense of localized belonging.



I installed myself in the vacant farmhouse, which was a branch house of an Origin House of the village. My entry, however, necessitated the ritually rehearsed vacation of the plot by the former resident, a widow of the Origin House’s younger brother. So simply by my arrival, settling down in a farmhouse – tending the house and its garden and observing some important ritual strictures of such an emplacement – fieldwork was indeed underway. One of the villagers this community leader introduced me to was regarded as a woman with extraordinary abilities to gaze into hidden matters in people’s lives. She was married in the village, but her lineage extraction was from the fishing population of Itoman. Her brother, a fisherman of kubura in the west of the island, sometimes came to the village to visit her. She revealed to me on my first visit that she was far from fluent in the ndi dialect, but perhaps she and I could share some experiences to the benefit of each other. In Goddesses, Priestesses, and Sisters, I included a picture of her and me in a scene of sacrifice on the beach. As this is being written in 2002, she has achieved fluency, and as I am chatting with people in the village where I did fieldwork, questions arise as to whether it is indeed true that this Knower (munuci ) had successfully reached into matters of my own life circumstances in Norway. The ability to delve into things from a distance is essential in her shamanic practice. Her tight schedule now, receiving visitors from afar, attests to her success. I much appreciate the benefits of a parallel learning and exchange of interpretations. Agriculture at the time of my fieldwork was a mixed regime of wet rice and sugar cane. Terraced fields above the ndi village, however, were already abandoned at the time of my arrival. Sugar cane was gaining popularity as a cash crop. The produce was processed locally, in a sugar mill on the north coast. Still, however, there were rice cultivation areas in flatlands in the island interior where water is abundantly available from underground sources. Even if sugar cane is preferred for being less labor intensive, most informants spoke of rice cultivation as quite trouble-free due to the availability of subterranean water. Cattle husbandry, too, was gaining in popularity as a means of cash income in the period of my arrival, both for milk and slaughter. It was about to replace the raising of pigs for local meat consumption. During the period of Japanese colonial administration on Taiwan, a geographical nearness to a market with a high demand for pork even made this a commercial niche. A dairy business had been established in the north coast area. Water buffaloes were widely used as animals of traction, first and foremost during sugar cane harvest. Otherwise, in the wet fields, the trampling of the muddy bottoms by buffalo feet was still regarded as the most efficient way of preparing for transplantation. The ndi villagers exploit almost no marine resources. They do not even own boats, though I was told that some fishing had been practiced as a side activity previously. The beaches are quite deserted. The protein staple is pork. Goats’ meat is also a traditional repast, but available to a far lesser extent. Water buffalo meat is consumed mostly at festival times. Before the introduction of chemical fertilizers, the inundated rice fields yielded an important supplement to animal protein: a roach fish species and a snail species.

16 Introduction A lasting sacredness (kandaga – “spirit high”) affects much of the territory of the island. Development project schemes are sometimes at odds with this notion. A scheme involving storage tanks for oil in transit along the tanker route to Japan was scrapped in the early part of fieldwork due largely to concerns of possible sacrilege. Once again, now in 2002, economic rationalities collide with religious rationalities. A scheme for extending the airport runway has met with resistance, as it would cross a bush sanctuary. As I learned from similar cases before, shrines can only be relocated if the original site can be accessed for burning incense and reciting prayers. It is hard to envisage, however, how that can be accomplished on a landing strip for aircraft.15 I localize cultural knowledge against such particular settings. Studies of other miniscule entities in Japan such as bars, banks, or schools may warrant including in the study’s title “the Japanese” or “the Japanese concept of . . .” What strikes me in the Ryukyus is that considerably more caution is needed in saying that any amount of cultural expression is characteristic of a broader entity such as the Ryukyuans – let alone the Japanese. A plurality relative to islands induces an affinity to the Austronesian world perhaps even more than to the Sino-Japanese world. Hardly any page in this book parades a portrayal of the Japanese. Whereas it would be defendable, of course, to write of a specific habit, as for example in a funeral – even when recorded in a remote village – as the Japanese practice of equipping the corpse with a walking stick for the journey to the beyond – it would very likely fuel objections if I started out describing any kind of detail in a South Ryukyuan funeral, e.g. the positioning of a slab of raw pig meat behind the head of the corpse, as a Japanese practice. There might be differences of opinion as to the issue of the ethnic status of the Ryukyuans within Japan. What would be the most apt criteria of identification? A nationality (granted the history of a Kingdom), an ethnic group (granted the differences between Yamato [the Japanese] and Uchina [the Okinawans]), or simply the prefectural population of Okinawa? Whatever our justification for one or the other criterion, if we find that our own discourse constantly needs a qualification or exception within a broader characterization of the Japanese, I find considerably more common sense in writing of the Ryukyuans or Okinawans as such. Commonalities that can be invoked are mostly reconstructionist, invoking, as a matter of method, a distant past to suggest cultural convergence (cf. Røkkum 2002a for a comment on the genre). It follows, however, that a description of Japanese society can – with equal methodic justification – be one of pinpointing cultural heterogeneity. In the latter sense, it goes without saying, a study of the Ryukyus would be indispensable. This particular ethnographic discourse is influenced by another field experience in Japan: I did my first fieldwork in the outer Izu Islands, Hachijôjima and Aogashima. South Ryukyuan ethnographies carry distinct affinities with the Austronesian world, most particularly in the salience of the brother–sister relationship, sacralization of ancestral houses, and materialization of ancestral



sacredness through raised stone slabs. And in the historical record, Ryukyu Kingdom royalty emulated ceremonial styles of imperial China. Indeed, we still need to take into account influences from a geopolitical domain in the East Asia region, in architecture, funerary activities, and temporal organization. The book does not, however, simply reify the argument of a cultural plurality within Japan, but etches out, instead, an ethnography with affinities across the broader western Pacific region. Notwithstanding the demographic minuteness of the southern islands of Japan, they can be approached as stepping stones for a more nuanced view of cultural osmosis between Japan and the outside world. Let me add a note on person identification. If I were to name informants in the present study, there would be too many to keep track of. Even to use aliases would in many cases be somewhat contrived, as I seldom, myself, asked those I conversed with to introduce themselves. Often I was just talking to those who happened to be around me, as when attending a ritual. But even more important as a consideration for not giving names is this: as the reader will probably realize after a while, some of the descriptions of people’s lives in this book are most appropriately made with some concern for confidentiality. In some cases, even if it were possible to make cross-references to identify a single person, I have not done so as this might probably identify her or him to other islanders. I might, perhaps, have been more at ease applying the notion of privacy as pertinent mostly to studies in western societies (where we even anonymize quite large communities). Our professional habitus may even guide us into thinking that non-westerners may in fact be less concerned in this respect. My own experience in South Ryukyu is otherwise. Much of what has been acquired for the ethnographic record requires that anonymity be assured. It happened that I made it a promise.

18 Commuted landscapes and species


Commuted landscapes and species

In my last book, Goddesses, Priestesses, and Sisters (1998), I made an assumption about signs traveling in time and in space: perceptible vestiges of an Asian kingdom populate island landscapes like the standing stones (Figure 1.1) of former Origin Houses (Figure 1.2) and as the trails (Map 1.1) connecting such sites. The more the surrounding bush contains of such residues, the more it is referred to as a “mountain” (dama) place one had better avoid visiting.1 I also described constancy in the roles women play in society, as: • • • sisters, with defined rights in a brother’s house; priestesses, for an Origin House congregation/for an island; goddesses, set apart from brothers, cult members, and islanders in general in specific sequences of an annual festival.

The two latter functions call for participation larger than the membership of a single house. The Kingdom of the Ryukyus was forcefully abolished by the Japanese state in 1879. Indeed, this was the first, and only, successful colonization achieved by a reformed imperial Japan. A king of the Ryukyuan nation was a Sun Lord.

Map 1.1 Spirit trails of Yonaguni (Dunang) Island

Commuted landscapes and species 19

Figure 1.1 Stone altar

Figure 1.2 A view into the courtyard of an Origin House

20 Commuted landscapes and species His locale was hemmed in by a mountain grove. Female incumbents to positions of authority hemmed in his governance. A sister (ideally) acted as a Chief Priestess of the Nation, and as a head of a female domain of governance.2 On Dunang in the far south, or Yonaguni if one prefers the official Japanese reading, this ideal balance of the sexes continues to prevail in a domain of shrine locales (11 bush shrines plus one capital shrine) in pairs of younger sister to elder brother. Tutelage of each of these sites is itself a paired arrangement. The titleholder to the locale of the shrine and the surrounding district is a priestess. The ideal entitlement is by mother to elder daughter succession, in a line dating back to the age of the Kingdom. A male partner, a tidibi, is a classificatory brother, serving at the shrine as a caretaker of an initiation group based on male links. The ideal entitlement is by father to elder son succession. Women with sacerdotal authority realized through uterine succession are, in Dunang vernacular, spoken of as the k’a. These are island priestesses with privileges inherited from the age of the Ryukyu Kingdom. Aided by the classificatory brother, they preside over locality shrines. Their appearances in the island sanctuaries are dictated by the festival (kidari ) calendar. Donning yellow hemp robes and piercing their top-coil coiffure with a turtle-shell hairpin are distinctive acts of their incumbencies. They access sacred sites in dense groves from a walk along the connecting trails, kan-nu-miti: “spirit trails.” They speak of a head drapery of creepers from the surrounding bush as “gems.” Words of prayer are similarly ornate. The priestesses anchor their gloss with features of the territory. Some are expressed binomially, and with rhythmic cadence in the prayer. Here are some of the features: mountains, rocks, beaches, waterways, rice fields, house sites, and places of some kind of definable activity. They give a grasp on matters impinging upon the lives of people in the island, either as emanations from the past or as constant concerns in any present, such as hierarchy, sexuality, and body sustenance.3 I experienced positive interest in conversing about the past when visiting the Origin Houses around the island, though I found some versions of it strongly contested. A recollection tout court runs as follows: along with the rest of the southern group of islands in the Ryukyu archipelago, Dunang became part of the Kingdom in 1500. But the island was not entirely pacified even with unification under the throne of the Shô dynasty. Before that time, power in the island shifted between two chieftains, one at uranu in the northeast, and another at the tibaru in the southwest (cf. ura and tibaru on Map 1.1). Further strongholds were set up on the island, now with a distinctive ritual assignment for preserving treasures such as dyed beads for women’s ornament. Such objects are still today considered sacred keepsakes emanating from the contact with China. The accounts are replete with allusions to traffic with the west coast of the former empire and with encounters with pirates. The most vivid memory of a chieftain identifies a woman with the name saNai isuba. Then, during the 17th century, the Court pacified the island by dispatching a group of female functionaries to act as priestesses. The founder of an island priestess order is remembered by the title mutuk’a (Origin Priestess). Women

Commuted landscapes and species 21

Figure 1.3 Sister Goddess

native to the island were inducted into the order. They were titled k’a but with the qualifying word “[of the] locality,” suba. Present-day priestesses are descendants of the suba. All the same, further accounts abound with allusions to contested origins and even contested access routes between villages. Entire settlements are vacated and rebuilt as a consequence of such exogenous pressures as infestations of insects in surrounding vegetation and corsairs in nearby seas, but obviously, also, from endemic contests for influence. In one view, a break away from the original site of a whole village, the nmanaga behind the tindabana plateau overlooking the north coast, was partly due to the collective realization that, with an administrative center being set up in the north coast settlement, the territorial situation had become marginal. Nonetheless, even with this strategic exodus, some of the very old people in the ndi village in the south told me that they used to feel uneasy crossing what they considered old enemy territory. To the approval of their allies in the eastern section of the north coast village, they circumambulated the area, descending from the interior along a waterway somewhat in the east. I find little here of the quiet sometimes proclaimed to be essential to a Ryukyuan character. Origin Houses in the island worship women’s ornamental accessories and arms for defense, such as real or mock swords and spears. Objects of either kind are House heirlooms operable for deflecting malicious onslaught (Figure 1.3). Both an ornament and a piece of weaponry can be spoken of as a tama, a “gem.” Only a woman with an affirmed link to a House is entitled to manipulate it.

22 Commuted landscapes and species Man-as-brother holds one attribute of inherited leadership in a House and its cult association. Woman-as-sister holds another attribute. Howell’s expression (1996: 258) of a “brother-sister pair and its accompanying notion of androgyny” as a characteristic of gender arrangements in Lio society of Flores is equally appropriate for this Dunang ethnography. A centric idea here in the Ryukyuan ambit did not enfold the view from a fixed position in the open. The verdant environment, rather, cloaks the ideal center. Power is relativized by a gendered condition and by an emplacement in a natural rather than a built environment. A participation in superior roles by women was itself an attribute of governance.4 This had considerable ramifications for the organization of life at Court and for the organization of shrine districts in the archipelago. First and foremost, a celebration, not of the geopolitical order itself, but, rather, of its governing sentiment, was dispersed around the islands by the poetics and pageantry of officiation. An emphasis on styles was an emphasis on a connective sentiment, the umui, in a locution familiar to people in all parts of the archipelago. In Goddesses, Priestesses, and Sisters I illustrated how such modulation of sentiment was brought into a broader geopolitical arena in the 19th century. British naval officials expressed their explicit appreciation, and felt very much at home during their sojourns in the islands. In Dunang a “spiritually high” (kandaga) quality blends with amorphous place and activity attributes. When superiority is stated, however, the association goes not with the landscapes, but with the human body itself. The tagasa’udi is a supreme deity. It is highlighted in the invocations made by shamans, the munuci, but not by the k’a priestesses. Also known as the naissance goddess, ku’udin – the Polaris – this is an entity connecting body and cosmos.5 Women with recognized privileges as cult leaders in Origin Houses (dâmutu) of the island are spoken of as the bunai tidigaN, “sister goddesses” (Figure 1.3). An initial belonging – culturally authorized more as a prevailing sentiment than as a prevailing rule – sustains their status as sisters even after marrying. They speak of a head drapery of dyed glass beads as “gems.” While the k’a are women of the “mountains,” serving a group of Mountain Subjects (damanindu) at shrines in the bush, the Origin House priestesses serve a group of Gem Subjects (tamanindu) in house compounds that in a sense can be thought of as shrines. The k’a and the bunai are priestesses. Functions they perform are fixed within a relational matrix, first of all with regard to a “brother,” next with regard to a group of followers (nindu, “numbers,” or, alternatively, sinka, “group” ). They are ritualists who year by year walk the same routes between fixed points in the island, rehearsing, with much care for exactitude, the same offerings and incantations. The statuses of either kind prevail from one generation to the other even in cases where no woman is either willing or able to fill the incumbency. (It requires a presence within the island sometimes hard to accommodate with today’s ease of travel.) Functions of worship may seem routinized, yet accomplishment is not once and for all assured by status inheritance. The South Ryukyuans see no contradiction between (a) inheriting a status and routinizing its realization and (b) claiming

Commuted landscapes and species 23 that it is entirely contingent on inspiration. In Elegies for a departed priestess, toward the end of this book, I adduce an example: a woman is fully eligible to succeed her mother as a k’a titleholder to the shrine district of uranu. Yet lacking the inspiration to incant prayers effortlessly, she has not yet the disposition to accept a title as officiant in the shrine district. All the way from a High Priestess of the Nation during the age of the Ryukyu monarchy down to the single island shrine district, a shamanic source of inspiration precedes function. And when doubt about who is eligible to the function arises, island shamans are the ones to decide. Sifting through the oral records given me by the six women serving as shrine priestesses on Dunang, I encountered several instances of succession crises, where shamans gave final verdicts. Yet this yields a paradox of some sort. While the priestesses themselves place an emphasis on personal eligibility, the shamans, who themselves claim a faculty for intuiting answers, tend to take purist positions of female primogeniture where priestess statuses are concerned. They intuit the affirmation of rules, so they play an important part in finding a rationale for misfortune in mismanagement of the ancestor cult. (I have previously, in Røkkum 1998, cited some succession dilemmas that tend to recur on the island.) Shamans in the Ryukyu Islands occupy recognizable statuses, and they rehearse offerings and incantations with much the same kind of exactitude as the priestesses. But their involvement is haphazard, and the auguries they make are conditioned on shifting interactive settings. The priestesses attend to rhythmic regularities determined by calendar and season; the shamans attend to any conceivable uncertainty. The generic term is juta; in a more specific epithet identifying their powers, shamans are spoken of as Knowers, munuci. Their particular resource is a stock of sacred vocabulary. The fluency in its recitation is a fluency also in their lives: they do not achieve it before having unburdened themselves. To repeat, One female shaman said to me early in my fieldwork, in 1976, that she would not be good at praying before having quit her worries about her business. In 2002 she has reached total mastery, and, apparently, unburdened herself of many trivial matters. Shamans enact fluency with their own bodies, in the Ryukyus and in other fieldwork islands, including the Izus. In the latter islands, they achieve it not by prayer but by dance. Burke’s description of dancing (Burke 1989: 80) as a state of mind fully applies to these ethnographies. Let me quote: “. . . as regards the correlation between mind and body . . . the poet will naturally tend to write about that which most deeply engrosses him – and nothing more engrosses a man than his burdens, including those of a physical nature, such as a disease” (p. 84). The shamans witness with their fluency in words or movement of the body that they have combated disease and hence are able to combat disease in others. They perform what in Mauss’s wording (1950a: 63) could be a “mimetic sympathy” (“sympathie mimétique”), iconized with their guises and indexicalized with the healing effects. At times, this yields a very lively imagery.6 In any worship arrangement at bush shrines, a standing stone with a ceramic incense bowl in front (see Figures 1.2, 1.3, 1.6) is pivotal.7 Participants align their

Rat Commuted landscapes and species 24


1 3


8 9 4 5 10 11 13 15 12

7 6 14 Monkey Horse 16

Figure 1.4 Compound plan: the typical version Key: 1 Toilet; 2 Shed; 3 Kitchen garden; 4 Detached kitchen; 5 Hearth with fire spirit; 6 Stone containers; 7 Well; 8 Ground level kitchen; 9 Hearth with fire spirit; 10 Area for daily activities; 11 Mortuary altar; 12 House altar; 13 Area for ceremonial activity; 14 Detached inner fence; 15 Stone altar; 16 Resting platform.
Rat Tiger



Figure 1.5 Compound plan: the inverted version

Commuted landscapes and species 25 bodies toward this gravitating hub in a U-shaped line. The preference for the left (ndai ) as the privileged direction accentuates a seating arrangement that is additionally graded by proximity to the lithic center. The consequent seating arrangements follow a U-shaped curve in descending order: (a) locality priestess; (b) linked priestess, in terms of a siblingship term positioning a counterpart shrine as an ally; (c) Chief Priestess of the island; (d) other priestesses. A male assistant to the priestesses serves as a shrine steward, a tidibi, and occupies a spot on the opposite, right (nidi ) side. Yet what at first glance appears as a pre-eminence of the left turns out to be quite relativized and subdued if we take cognizance of a priestess informant’s additional comment: when facing the bidiri, the left side is the “higher” side. But if seen from the bidiri, and the privileged perspective of the spirit itself, the priestesses are on the right side. If we assess this ethnography against the “lateral symbolism” in Hertz (1960, 1973) and Needham (1973), it strikes me that the Dunang version supports a manipulability of perspectives (Figures 1.4, 1.5). So also in the architecture of houses: in ordinary village houses a host welcomes guests with men removed to the more prestigious side of east and adjacency to the ancestor altar (Figure 1.6). In Origin Houses, with a reversed architectural layout along the east–west axis, a host welcomes guests with women removed to the more prestigious side of west and adjacency to the ancestor altar (Røkkum 2003). Immobility only applies to the gateposts of a house (any house) and to symmetric features in the frontal area of the omega-shaped tombs of the island. In the less prominent, fixed perspective, a deity (ndai-nu-u’di ) of the left post aligns with west; a deity (nidi-nu-u’di ) of the right post aligns with east.

Figure 1.6 Mortuary altar

26 Commuted landscapes and species In fact, even the upright stone slab in the bush sanctuary is not an absolute index; it acts as a tanka, an “intercalation,” for alignments within a broader expanse within the island. As such, it is an enduring sign of present or past occupation of a niche of power, as an Origin House with its secluded sanctuary for its venerated or its cultivated fields where the administration of water held as of crucial value for life in the village. The physical remains of that past include sacred heirlooms such as jewelry, musical instruments, utensils, and weaponry. These are all significata, however, of a single lexemic kind, the tamanku-itanku: objects which are both jewel-like (tama) and blank (ita). They encompass both the house articles and features of the landscape such as irrigated rice fields (see Map 1.1, south coast village). Characteristic of all these features is the subjugation of a complex sign to a socially positioned index of memorization of past events including the acquisitioning of a precious cargo from the west coast of China and the defense against attack by pirates. In their various versions, the stories reflect upon the standing in society, if not the wealth, of Origin Houses.8 In the opinion of one Dunang priestess, who talked with me on the subject, whatever the actual deviation in the terrain, each shrine on the island gravitates toward a spot at araga (Map 1.1), an uninhabited area in the southeast of the island. The signifying quality here is that of a water source of a stream running downwards toward the marshy flatlands of the north. A nominal capital shrine of the island – tûdama – located at the outskirts of the north coast major settlement (Map 1.1) links up with that out-of-the-way place via an imaginary spirit track passing right through the intermediate shrine of tumai. A shrine (uGaN) dedicated to the araga water source is located in the central area of the island, somewhat to the west of the notional straight line of a spirit track interfacing a hub shrine in the north and a water source conjunction in the south. The Chief Priestess of the island officiates at this specific site even as her affiliation is also with the capital shrine of tûdama. Her male tidibi partner is recruited from the most prestigious Festival House on the island, the umata. The water source further to the south is the source of sacredness here, and the name itself, araga, identifies a former settlement within the nmanaga perimeter. Regions within the island of Dunang relay pivotal mountain orientations.9 An exception, however, is the area of araga. Different from the other districts, the wilderness zone of araga, with a view toward a cliff overhang on the south coast, preserves an association with the purest of all island features: a tiny water source. I shall describe below its function as a source serving women initiated into a sisterhood. Female gender is accented positively with this heavily indexicalizing territory referent. However, as I experienced during a prayer for good health on the calendrical occasion of the ninth of the ninth moon, when the occasion itself, as in the Chinese ceremonial tradition, prescribes a worship of mountains, I found that the shrine at araga had a dual orientation. In Dunang, alignments in the territory are visualized by standing stone slabs and ceramic receptacles for burning incense. Vases holding evergreen twigs flank the latter. At the araga shrine, one receptacle

Commuted landscapes and species 27 is dedicated to the site itself and its bearings to the south and source water, another to the tallest mountain of the island, the urabu. A collection of offerings was placed behind each ceramic object: festival foods and water for spirit and human satiation, but also whole packages of salt for exorcism. The essential libation on the occasion was a high-grade rice brandy, which, with some added chrysanthemum leaves, bodes well for good health. I joined a small party including a daughter apprentice of the island priestess senior by age and some male festival functionaries. The latter (the ugaNbusa), just as the priestesses themselves, fill positions of a politico-religious order which has proved to outlast the geopolitical reality of the Kingdom of the Ryukyus. The priestess tended the ceramic vessel dedicated to the tall mountain claimed by her mother to carry an orientation also for the ura[nu] shrine. The other vessel should have been tended by the Chief Priestess of the island (ubuk’a), but that office was vacant at the time. One of the men uttered a formal welcoming address to the priestess. What then followed on this site encroached upon by lush vegetation was a series of mutual toasts with strong rice brandy, accompanied by best wishes for health. The age of 7 is preferred for initiation to membership into a cult group of Mountain Subjects (damanindu). It was said to me that a child is not fully human before that act on the occasion of the ninth of the ninth. Siblings can gain membership qualifications from either parent, but the basic rule is this: a first daughter or son joins the father; a second daughter or son joins the mother. Wife and husband habitually part, joining their respective cult groups. Bodies and mountains become linked in such indexicalized attachment to “numbers” through optional links. When I began fieldwork in the ndi village in 1976, the tidibi acted as the proxy for a priestess who had quit some years before. Despite the absence of the priestess partner, he continued praying inside the dense grove of the ndi shrine in the vicinity of the village. At the naGun’ni shrine in the central part of the island, a woman was acting, similarly, as a substitute. Her husband, who had died during the war, had inherited a tidibi function, and she dutifully observed its realization, at the shrine, and at various other places along the route of yearcycle visits by island priestesses. A priestess, either of shrine district or House association, and male partner in conjunction, embody a protective sentiment. In the moment of officiation, the female partner holds the cue. Yet by the same logic, of a certain disposition encapsulated in relationships, there is a hazard to think about. The sister’s rage takes the effect of a curse (cf. Kawahashi 1998).

Primordial truths
People in Dunang pray for plenty: of children to parents, of calves to cows, of rice to farmers. They achieve this in a single line of semantic association strung together in one utterance, as the jû, “an amplitude of the world/increase.” This, however, means more than just a transport of mind, more than just a wish come true. I was often reminded that a toll (dai[mai] ) needs to be paid.

28 Commuted landscapes and species Codes for secular rule, such as paying taxes, were successfully transformed into cultural habits during the age of the Ryukyuan dynasty.10 Sentiments of sacrifice were made deliverable to nature spirits, as tributes. Today in Dunang ritual activity, a sentiment of craving, is made graspable as a craving for a tribute to an entity in nature. A Chinese idea of a celestial treasury has been richly amplified to make the religious notion of indebtedness expressible. In the Ryukyus, this mediating activity is almost without exception carried out by women. A female–male association unburdened by the stress on affinity which is otherwise quite common in East Asian and Southeast Asian societies prevails within the festival arrangements I shall introduce. Society morals are upheld by a relationship – not one of conjugality but of siblingship. The powers of kingship during the age of the Ryukyu dynasty were dimorphic. A priestess of the nation, a sister goddess for the king, had a defined role of authority just as a sister in an ordinary house had a defined role of authority. Nuptiality is celebrated as part of a cultural value placed on a procreative sentiment. Siblingship is celebrated as part of a cultural value placed on a caring sentiment. During the almost 500 years of a dynastic Ryukyuan society women were assured functions in society which were not simple extensions of their biological functions. Even with an epithet such as Great Mother, the associated role enactment was authorized by a royal appointment. Authority was made articulable with words taken from the domain of kinship, but it did in no sense mimic a patriarchal familistic spirit. As I argued in Goddesses, Priestesses, and Sisters (1998), the latitude guaranteed to women to play a role in Ryukyuan society is still today assured by the retention of a crucial referent to public function. Gailey (1987: 16) argues that “women’s authority is circumscribed as state structures emerge.” In pre-contact Tonga, according to Gailey, women’s labor contributed both to the reproduction of kinship and hierarchy. In Tonga as also in the Trobriands (Weiner 1976), women transcend their biological state by positioning themselves in the exchanges of valuables. While a difference between kinship society and state society as to gender and production/reproduction undoubtedly covers many instances in the comparative view, at least one – the present Ryukyuan instance – constitutes an exception. For even in archaic Ryukyuan society, women-as-sisters probably held offices that involved representing Houses, the pinnacle of local hierarchies, in mimetic roles where defenses were bolstered against outside onslaughts by sea pirates. So also later on, within the perimeters of the castle town of Shuri on Okinawa Island, there were female sentries positioned to check the credentials of envoys from the outside. An emerging state society domesticated simply what was already a public function in kinship society. What I find still today on an island in the south – an outpost during the age of the Kingdom – is the retention of a dual referent. Sexual reproduction is metaphorized and ritualized – it is prized – but it does not place a diacritic on the gendered role of woman-as-wife. As I shall illustrate in the section entitled Reproductive partnerships below, the partnership in question is a sexual partnership, not one regulated by affinity or other kinship semantics.

Commuted landscapes and species 29 Social reproduction is metaphorized and ritualized. With, as will be shown, an Origin House appropriating a fertility function, in a society and for a society, even such body-centered associations as sexuality – even illicit sexuality – are assured a highly legitimized function in the public domain.

Domesticated reigns
I initiated fieldwork 97 years after the demise of the Kingdom in 1879. Elderly people in Dunang sometimes made allusions to a royal personage, but invariably with some sense of vacillation and hesitation, as in the response: “You mean . . . that person . . . at Shuri?” This vacillation and hesitation was also evident whenever I broached the subject of the pan-Okinawan female deity nira (nirai kanai ) ruling a nether world of subterranean and subaqueous interiors (cf. the view on a possible diffusion on the motif in Hokama 2002). The king’s powers incarnated solar force.11 He was a Sun Lord, tîda’nganaci. The priestess of the nation carried powers by her words of prayer. People on Dunang in the present continue to reflect on the gender roles of celestial bodies. Here is an opinion held by a woman in my neighborhood in the ndi village: “Moon is actually a woman, but distraught by shame, she once addressed Sun with the words: See, I cannot even cross over the island without exposing my nakedness. My glare is not even sufficient to conceal my features. What if we swap sex?” I gradually realized that some islanders stick to the opinion that the sun is male and the moon female, while others are equally dedicated to the opposite view. The line of contention is also maintained in a sidelong view, when people on this island of Dunang speak of the banners kept by male secret societies dedicated to the germination of rice on islands in the core area of the Yaeyama archipelago. Some claim that a red sun and a black or blue moon are quite naturally associated with the impersonation of a male red masked and a female black masked spirit respectively. Others contemplating the nature of the secrets draw the inference that, granted the nature of a First Fruits Festival ( pûru) – the crux of the joint worship – there could equally well be a twist of logic, with the result that such linkages go the other way, with the sun being the female and the moon the male. But the Polaris, in what appears as a fixed position, is uniquely female; it is an All Mother in the sky. It was counted on for navigation during the age of the Kingdom. Referred to as the “compass star,” it aided the traffic from the capital to the dispersed islands bounded by wide expanses of coral reef. A star cult points to a community domain where women are in charge, yet with some male villagers counting on particular stars as their personal guardians. Notwithstanding an association with human birth and growth, the Polaris sets the limina of a life-course, for its influence reaches down to the bodies of humans. And by way of the zodiacal markers of the house compound, it expands this relationship to a discrete personhood into a still larger domain. What extends from the north marks an axis in the internal arrangement of the house plot, as it also does in the entire territory of the island. In the architectural grid rigidly adhered to in the

30 Commuted landscapes and species Dunang settlements, toilet and pigsty adjoin (much as in Chinese farmstead architecture) with the adjacent courtyard set off for a vegetable patch. As I could confirm myself, cultivating a kitchen garden during my first one and half years of fieldwork, it is a common-sense realization that the putrefaction of wastes leaves a humus beneficial for various kind of growth. A crossing of the divide between matters of life and matters of death is the hallmark of Polaris worship. But house compounds are not laid out in a fashion which privileges the north for its human occupants. Obeisance to the north is played out inversely, as a mode of comportment for respects to be delivered to the south and southeast. The north is the shade side, also in the lives of people inhabiting the compound. As I experienced in the rituals staged in this area, the concerns that bring people to a site near the toilet are about such fundamental things as the further prospects for their lives. When going to sleep, people align themselves with the south. The house itself faces south, it was explained to me, so they orient their heads toward that direction, and toward the entrance of the house. It is permissible to sleep with the head pointing eastward, but few people choose to do so. Wife and husband align left–right on their respective floor mattresses. No family is neglectful of this blueprint for domestic space management, and very few dare to deviate from it. The architecture itself is a moral sub-universe, or in Rapoport’s words, a “symbolic technology” (1982: 27). Talking about this issue, I was reminded by people in all villages on Dunang of the hazards of deviation, such as making an opening along the north side compound wall.12 These are critical matters, for such fixtures within the house plot align with fixtures within personhood. First and foremost, the toilet in a northern zone of the stone-walled enclosure of domestic life is – through an application of Taoist geomancy as to its precise placement – an entity interfacing Rat and Ox. These are two adjoining animal integers on the dial of the geomancer’s compass, an artifact of Chinese origin. Such knowledge of cardinal values applied to a collective scheme of architecture is indispensable to the craft of carpentry. I learnt this, as I settled in a farmhouse compound myself, with two men in the immediate neighborhood practicing carpentry in the slack seasons of sugar cane cultivation. The locution “house” – dâ ( jâ ) – in the vernacular adopted for this book assembles three distinctive aspects: (a) a sociological, relational aspect, defined in a village society as Origin (mutu) or Cadet (bagi ); (b) a semiotic aspect, represented in village history through a core relation (bigi-bunai ) of a brother-cum-titleholder and sister-cum-ritualist; and (c) through a material aspect of house and house compound replicating ideal layouts in village space. As I said in Goddesses, Priestesses, and Sisters (1998), most Dunang houses are mutually related as Origin (mutu) to Cadet (bagi ). The latter, branched-off houses are indexicalized as either east/west (aGai/iri ) or front/back (mai/tzui ). A positional alignment in the landscape as south–north does not enter the house name nomenclature. Front–back is preferred. The geomantic compass is applied upon architectural details inside the coral-stone enclosure (for a depiction, see Røkkum 2003). In fact, referring to a dâ, the rectangular stone fence (ka’ti ) is both a

Commuted landscapes and species 31 necessary and sufficient index. Vacated house sites are still recognized as houses if there is just a remaining stone wall. The reality resides in the indexicalizing capacity of a name and some physical remains. A stone wall in Dunang is a gusiku, a “citadel” (Røkkum 2003). The north and the south are cardinal indices in the lives of humans. A toilet located in a shade area beneath the foliage of trees lining the compound stone wall becomes an integer of space and life. It presents a sign with cardinal value. For with this resort to a geomantic sign, the toilet of the house compound connects the bodies of house members with the Polaris star of ultimate cosmic value. From a void in the ground covered by a shed, a semantic link extends to a void of nature. Human bodies interlock with nature in this site, so this is a threshold in the van Gennepian sense of transitoriness which includes physical categories (van Gennep 1960). Body souls sometimes veer off into the environment during toilet visits. And in many comments I received on this issue, a divine body of a goddess is associated with the toilet itself.13 In the architectural arrangement of the house compound, the toilet has a pivotal situation by being associated with the north and with matters of birth and death. Life-saving ritual reaches out to the edge of existence with this orientation to the north, and by being executed in absolute darkness. Invariably, the terminus of these affairs, which are concluded by fastening knotted fiber amulets to neck, wrists, and ankles of the affected individuals, is the toilet. Only the very few who are directly affected by the life-saving activity participate. Worshipers of this dark ambience shun public exposure; they go on with their genuflections and offerings in the glow of incense sticks. Others abhor such nighttime ambience. Salt is an agency for a final dis-attachment from the matters of the dark. If not available, purification, as an act to counter attacks from the dead, can be obtained from the toilet simply by a light touch on the knob of the door. I watched the care taken on the eve of an interstitial festival (the siti – associated with the shift from the warm to the cold season – a topic of Chapter 3) while winding exorcizing creepers around toilet doorknobs to deflect such attacks on the vital souls of house compound dwellers. Cardinality in people’s lives is mediated by what is true darkness inside the house compound. One elderly female shaman in the south coast ndi village adds the following features of a spirited cosmological intercalation: the toilet goddess is the most unyielding of the agencies of the otherworld. She intercepts souls even when lost far away in a journey, allowing them to be reinstated in the body while squatting beside the toilet. In her view, seven souls operate in concert to sustain human life. If neglected, however, the goddess grants no exception to ultimate destruction; death is sure. The Dunang obviously locate their life and death concerns within a Chinese grid of indexicalized values. But the values obtainable by the Dunang cannot simply be divined out of the geomantic compass underlying the scheme. As I shall expand on this in more detail in the section An evil spirit of the soil, the house compound with its intersections is indeed a plane onto which sentiments can be deposited: fears about the lives of house members are voiced and then softened

32 Commuted landscapes and species as one positions oneself in alignment with the north of the toilet. As Durkheim and Mauss ( [1903] 1963) made us realize in an example of tribal people’s classifications, and as cogently rephrased by Allen (2000: 55, cf. also Allen 1985): “. . . the northern region of space is not merely an abstract direction, a compass point, but has qualities of its own, values or associations that will have a bearing on how it fits into the classification.” To repeat, Durkheim and Mauss write about tribal societies. Allen defends (p. 54) their inclusion of the Chinese type of classification for its role in bridging the gap between “the Zuñi and Greek scientific types.” The Chinese type is a divinatory modus operandi in Dunang, and in Goddesses, Priestesses, and Sisters I illustrated how the influx of Chinese Taoist notions goes on still in the present.

Sources of sentiment
Cavities encapsulate vital matters of the life process. They are iconic symbols, predicated on people’s grasp of the idea of encapsulation. They can be spoken of as the gama within the island landscapes and seascapes – caves or ravines – or as the gama within the notional places of birth and death. A cavity in the northern sky is a repository of souls of those yet to be born. Cavities in the wet grottos of landscapes and seascapes are repositories of the souls of those who have already passed away. The spirit entities hosting these hollow interiors are named ku’udiN and nira respectively. In other island locales of South Ryukyu, the gama are spoken of metaphorically as “pots.” A metaphor identifies a site in the bush as nabindû – the “hollowness of the pot.” “Hollowness” in this gloss is what characterizes both the pot and the female reproductive organ. Even in the metaphoric typecast, this is a too literal statement to be delivered to outsiders. The word, so to speak, realigns the person with the image. The icon enables an unveiled recognition. To look into the forbidden grove, I was told by a member of the male secret society guarding one such place, is as forbidden as to watch one’s mother or one’s wife giving birth. In Dunang, a big iron pot is mounted to serve as a fireplace during childbirth. As I shall discuss in greater detail below, the exuded heat exerts a positive effect, as does also a stain of soot on the forehead of the newly born baby. A common girl’s name is nabi, meaning “pot.” In Goddesses, Priestesses, and Sisters (1998), I wrote an account of an itinerant male shaman contemplating the repositories of organic wastes inside the caves he visited on his pilgrimages around the island. He found the floors of stalactite caves infused with organic deposits of the ancients. He probed for traces of their burial places in these environs, which were also their places of habitation. In his interpretation, lacking the knowledge of how to stage a funeral, people of the past simply abandoned their dead inside caves. With the ancients allowing corpses of the dead to be discarded at random, dead matter seeped into the surroundings. Today, the refuse from the island settlements is left to rot in similar environments. “Things are no better these days,” he added. This visionary was disenchanted to see gama used as garbage dumps, and he feared the potency of the pungent gases.

Commuted landscapes and species 33 While in a search for the deserted detritus of the ancients, he communicated the following to his followers on what appears a topographic physiognomy: “Children may be born from the toilets.” In his cyclical outlook, clearly inspired by Taoist tenets, germination of new life might well be an outcome of putrefaction. His administration of Taoist signs was illocutionary and inventive, grounded in an idea of cyclic regeneration. Putrefaction, to this male Knower, was a telltale index of embryonic life.14 Gama with freshwater pools are origin places of jû, that is, “increase.” But they are also the sites where abominable early humans consumed the flesh of the dead, without even taking into consideration the possibility of a proper burial. With compassion and care yet to evolve among people, person-to-person relationships were chaotic. The sound of someone weeping would instill no urge to comfort. The response would more likely be this: “Please weep!”15 With this glimpse into the deep past, a reason arises for reserve when accessing out-of-the-way places. Growth, in this uncultivated expanse of the island is infested with, yet nourished by, death matter. Putrefying corpses could have been abandoned in any cave, crevice, or beneath any large rock, there to coalesce with the matter of unrestrained growth. Nevertheless, it is this dense ambience of the bush environment – the dama – which evokes an actuality of deified spirits. On specific calendrical occasions, priestesses of the island, the k’a, access such places, and, hence, a nature beyond the pale. Visiting the sites in their company entails an exposure of some kind. It is not always easy to cast off this physical participation with vegetal matter in out-of-the-way island landscapes. It lingers – with the worshiper – until a revisit can be made to the site in the subsequent year on the identical calendrical occasion. A k’a invokes the genius locus, a “host” of a raised stone (bidiri ), with a gloss of praise and with gifts of incense, rice brandy, and spirit money (see Figure 1.2). She eventually begs the entity to grant a Hand Release (tinudi ). This ought to sever the association with the place. A governing image of a cavity of birth and another cavity of death affects the life-course. For either interface there is a ritual domain to pay attention to: • • The rites of a that-world of death, the nunka. A big chunk of raw pork makes an ideal gift to the otherworld. The rites of a this-world of life, the sunka. A white, viscous, ferment of hulled rice (miti ) (see Figure 1.8) makes an ideal gift to the otherworld.

People on Dunang try to avoid sunka and nunka overlaps so that the island priestesses and shrine stewards, both life-promoters, do not accidentally become life-destroyers. First and foremost, they avoid meat and greasy foods in periods of sunka ritual. In the Ryukyus, in contrast with the Japanese main islands, pork as an ingredient in soup dishes is a typical repast. As a rule, the soup is a broth, but in a vegetarian alternative – banning pork – a bean paste soup is preferred. In the broth alternative, noodles can be included. In the vegetarian alternative, the bean paste soup dish must contain lumps of the pith of the fan palm (Livistona chinensis).

34 Commuted landscapes and species Ingestion of pork is in itself a neutral, pragmatic, culinary act. But if it takes place in a context conceived of as sunka, it is tantamount to sorcery. A space-time contiguity index determines this mental association. If priestesses were praying at a standing stone in the vicinity, I would be on the safer side if I excluded meat from my meal. Even in this case, there is nothing clean or unclean about meat itself. Even the priestesses can be meat eaters, if only they are observant of spatial and temporal indices for restraint. Meat is pollutant only if its ingestion coincides with clean activities. Only then is the act of consuming it made into a parallelism of some deplorable act of the past. It is this sort of indexicality, in fact, which allows a reading for society morals. It may even seem that the involved morality for the Dunang is as follows: a disregard of culinary propriety is a disregard of the present. The violator runs the risk of being overwhelmed by the nunka agencies of yesterday. Body souls lapse back into the world that was. This is how myth inverts the subject by churning out a semiotic break-up. In the very olden times, the flesh of a dead relative provided the ingredients of a soup meal. The bones were simply thrown away – discarded at random, I was told. No one ever contemplated giving them a burial. Because it is essential to render people’s actual sentiments on this topic I include two verbatim statements on the character of the ancients: “They did not know the difference between a feast and a funeral” And, “There was no funeral, only a meal.” The early Dunang sustained their own lives with the matter of death itself. Yet people in the present can do nothing but deplore the necrophagy of former times. Remnants of these endocannibalistic meals on the flesh of the dead were abandoned in the gama, stalactite grottos, and at the base of sizeable rocks. This was one of the reasons I was invited by the itinerant, male shaman mentioned above to go on a tour of investigation inside the caves of the island. Watching my dexterity with notebooks, he allotted to me the role of recorder of the muchanticipated findings. In the early age of life on Dunang, inhabitants were ignorant of ways to achieve distance between the living and the dead. In the absence of a method for sacrifice, of making available the carcass of a pig or buffalo, the ancients turned their violent sentiment directly upon their closest kin: eventually consuming the latter in a one-to-one mode of barter. People who had not yet expired were already treated as corpses. Only with the availability of a sacrificial animal could this primordial sentiment be superseded and humans made capable of experiencing loss at the death of close kin. The sacrifice sparks off human-to-human sentiment. A revival of this condition of the past goes on in the funerals of the present age. My initial response was to speak about the necrophagic practice metaphorically, as if its justification derived from a purported act of communion. On this detail, however, I received several corrective responses. They join in a meal – where the flesh of a slaughtered pig is just the same as the flesh of the corpse – for the sake of commemorating not just another story, but an actual instance of the following kind: sons devouring the corpses of their fathers. People in that age did not realize yet that emotions

Commuted landscapes and species 35 can be made tangible: a communal feast of boiled pork with the bones attached assures some sort of intimacy with the corpse destined for interment. While still in autochthony, they took part in death by consuming the corpse. Now they take part in death – and each other – by gathering together to partake of a meal. This connectivity through sentiment makes an indexical sign in Peirce’s sense. The Dunang were successful in liberating themselves from the immediacy of an act of consuming the corpse by inventing a funerary meal of a sacrificial animal. The piece of pork is a substitute for the corpse, so it is a symbol of some sort, yet none which in itself evokes any particular emotion in people. It is the parallelism of the act, of ingesting a piece of pork as one could ingest the corpse itself, which triggers emotions of sadness in people. Such evocations are indexical signs, easily accessible by people on some islands in the East China Sea, somewhat less so, maybe, to western imageries. I realized that the Dunang in this way, when immersing themselves in mythic imageries, laid out the conditions for sentiment to replicate, and govern crucial relations in society. Here is another example: in true autochthony, humans, spirits, and animals mingled with little sense of limits. In the earliest stage, in fact, both humans and spirits roamed beneath the vault of the sky. To quote a tidibi, shrine steward of the priestess shrine of kubura, a head of the tumujâ Origin House of ndi: “In an age of the spirits, there was no restraint on mixing. Humans and animals could converse with each other, and so could also humans and spirits.” Even in this state of being physically set apart, humans can uphold a dialogue with their creator spirits, and with the animals on the island. But this liberty of association impedes person-to-person dialogue. No call for sympathy can be comprehended, not even by parents vis-à-vis their own children.16 Such involution of sentiment gradually threatens the inhabitants on the island with extinction, even with selfimmolation. With people suffering from the loss of irrevocable separation from their creator spirits, though not from each other (not even in cases of separation between parents and children), the following episode enfolds. The scene is set for an act of lasting consequence in the anda (“greasy”) area of the ndi village on the south coast. This, indeed, is precisely the location where women belonging to a sisterhood today pray to the spirits of freshwater springs.17 Thus, the cool water that has been filtered by the white coral sand of the anda beach may well, as suggested by the name of the site, have been polluted in an earlier age, indeed, by an original sacrificial transaction that in fact acclaimed a woman’s status as a younger sister. The story, as it was recounted to me in the Origin House – dâmutu – of kucima in the village of ndi featured seven founder siblings: “Our ancestor slit open his belly in the anda area. He managed to assemble his own entrails before expiring, chopping them well, and making them the ingredients of a soup for his sister. His remains are buried under a rock in the vicinity of the rice paddies of the ndi village.” Six brothers (bigi ) and one sister (bunai ) are counted as founder ancestors on the island. On the opposite side of the island, however, I recorded a different story of their destiny, yet in a shared narrative string. They were navigators who traveled to the great land of tû – (T’ang) China – and finally returned to Dunang with grain, tubers, and

36 Commuted landscapes and species implements for cultivation and worship. The seven siblings are the progenitors, ubudi-habudi (ujabudi-habudi ) of founder houses where the sacred cargo is celebrated in annual events (kanbunaga).18 The self-mutilating ancestor, making a bloody sacrifice of himself within the zone of women’s water worship, releases an image easy for us to grasp: of a consumption of the self. In contradistinction to such evisceration, women who assemble at the same location in our day cooperate in domesticating fresh water for the sake of maintaining bodily health on the island. The myth manages to accommodate this paradox, however. For just as the suicide transpires, with entrails soiling the ground, siblingship materializes as a crucial emotion of mutual fondness. With the demise of a culture hero as he prepares a soup for his sister from parts of his own innards, a bid materializes as the physical act of sacrifice. It elicits mutuality and warmth. With the host of the meal expiring, commensality cannot be enjoyed at the moment, but human-to-human sympathy is sufficiently evoked. The plain self-sacrifice of a brother before his sister amasses the perceptible attributes of a self-sacrifice sufficient to enable it to make its entry, mimetically, in moralities. The myth reveals a chained semiosis: human sentiment can be traced to a source that is also the source of the moralities prescribing gender relations. In South Ryukyu, the sister in a house accesses a deep and mystical ancestry through her grasp of sacred formulas (the usutui ). The brother has access to a shallower ancestry in the capacity of a caretaker of ancestral tablets, which were introduced in the island as recently as in the 17th or 18th century. The preeminence of woman-as-sister above other gendered capacities in a house is revealed in various ways of preferential access and treatment in festival events. It is this constancy of a sisterly privilege, for a house or for a community, which imposes restrictions on male participation. A massive stone wall seals off the inner, ibi, sanctum of a South Ryukyuan site of prayer from male entry.19 The sister preserves her own sentiment of care with her words of prayer. An expression “[I] pray” – usutui – finalizes any invocation on Dunang. The words pass on her protective sentiment. Likewise, as I could observe during any kind of festive occasion, people address each other, one by one and face to face, to deliver the best wishes. And in funerals, they address the corpse, speaking of the relationship having now reached its limits. What is made deliverable by this attention is the umui, what the Dunang speak of as one’s expressible sentiment. As reported in 1477, in an account by Koreans who had stranded on the island (Ryûkyû Shiryô Soshô 1982a, 1982b), exposure burial was practiced. Areas beneath cliffs were littered with human remains. However, encased in wooden coffins pushed over the cliffs, it would probably have been considered at the time as an orderly disposal of a corpse. But Dunang islanders today are keen to indexicalize – through skeletal remains in the landscape – the savagery of ancient times: one of people littering it with the detritus of the dead. They harbored few sentiments of loss. Those with whom I talked about this were not aware of the use of coffins by their ancestors even as far back as the 15th century. Yet history is not just the

Commuted landscapes and species 37 record, it is an inventory for signs to thrive in the present. So with a comment via myth on deficient emotion, an epoch can be effectively closed: an age of the very early savages ends with the illustrious achievements of culture heroes. Humans learn how to observe the crucial threshold between a thatness of the nunka (“of yesterday”) and a thisness of the sunka (“of today”). But they are not yet capable of truly sympathetic interaction. Now, if we turn to Taoism, we move on from what is culturally expressible – as when the Dunang probe with natural motifs – to what is more definitely some cultural expression. Cultural simulacra are profusely guided by lexis. So for the ancient Chinese, a generic non-differentiation, an original chaos, accrued to the human condition. They made it a semantic category through the juxtaposition of characters which both refer to something chaotic, that is, hun-tun (Girardot 1974; Teiser 1988). For the Dunang, however, the notion of chaos is mediated by sensuous indices. It can be felt, for example, as the havoc caused by eating bony boiled meat when the lunar date in the calendar is a deictic “no.” For the Dunang parallelisms involving motifs in nature, are – if somewhat reluctantly – communicable in speech. But that, I hold, does not solidify them as expressions. If, on the other hand, it had been possible for me to get a grip on concepts, such as the hun-tun just mentioned or even that of the innen “fatethrough-connectedness” of the Japanese of the Izu Islands – so familiar in a previous fieldwork – things might have been slightly easier. Looking at some of this ethnography in light of Bateson’s vocabulary (Bateson 1951), myth mediates a transition between “primary process” enactments and “secondary process” reflection. Eco (2000: 383) formulates a distinction between two planes of sign recognition: (a) the “sign function” of “alpha mode” – a “basic semiosis” where the sign manifests itself prior to expressions; and (b) the “sign function” of “beta mode” – the initial recognition of an expression that makes the sign a part of that expression.20 I imagine that originary percepts and more fully developed metaphors rely on recognition of some sort. Each is a relata of firstness (the iconic sign in the Peircean semiotic triad). Recognition is visual, tactile, olfactory or otherwise. Likeness matters, as when some Dunang corporealize the image of a tomb: its surface curvature brings into play one category of a female body; its hollow interior brings into play another category of a female body. A Coke bottle placed in the tomb precinct replaces perfectly well a ceramic vase as a container for an evergreen owing to its – felicitous – waisted shape. Semiosic parallelisms may spin along on their own, gathering meaning via additionally aroused icons and indices even if they do not mature into any metaphorically recognizable ethnopoetry. Taking the view of Lakoff (1987), one might, perhaps, assume that articulable states of emotion are metaphorical in involving both an experience situated in the physicality of the body and in the physicality of objects, such as containers. Yet I agree with Quinn (1991), who sees a methodic problem in basing the analysis on “a corpus of . . . idealized, decontextualized metaphors.” She calls for a study of the cultural context going beyond metaphor. I would like to bring attention to a more tacit knowing which

38 Commuted landscapes and species is more socially than linguistically anchored, as when people repeat an observation of specific calendrical dates, year-by-year, generation-by-generation, making cultural knowledge an association with a moment and a place. The more I shared in such indexicality, the easier it was to do fieldwork. Here is an example from a visit to Dunang in 2002 after several years of absence. I could have asked one of my previous neighbors if there were animals in the village requiring special attention or treatment. Even though I remembered her as a quite articulate person, of course the answer would be negative. I looked at the cats she was feeding in her house yard, telling her about my experience many years ago of another neighbor who buried a dead cat found under my floor with a provision of cooked rice and bean paste. “Ah,” she commented. “And with some salt also!” What counts in such knowing is an actuality relative to places and moments. Cats are all over the house yards. They are not sacred beings, of course. Yet it is precisely this indexical attribute – a nearness to humans – which makes cats special – in a sense. Diverted sentiment: the search of a surrogate Some human dispositions can even survive death. Inexplicable passions continue to be felt even when little is known about the precise identities of the departed. At issue, rather, is an association of bodies and emotions as in an association of indexical signs. Dunang shamans are adept at exposing such extraneous machinations. What is most ardently grasped is a visitation manifested as a desire, which, in the shaman’s interpretations, could not be fulfilled before death – the sense of dissatisfaction is a subject in its own right. Emotions manifest themselves independently of their possessors, as powerful indices. To extricate themselves from such wanton cravings, even from those that can originate among the living, the Dunang invented a substitute for themselves. This is named a bodily surrogate (duda’iri or irimi ).21 With self-immolation the outcome of a prevailing necrophagic practice, the need to re-present the relation between a corpse and near kin becomes acute. Now the stage is set for another deed. As a way of expressing their interminable feelings of abandonment at being parted from their divine parents still hovering under the vault of the sky, the ancients slaughter a cow inside their uGaN enclosure of the bush environment. This unfolds on the occasion of the kanbunaga cold season ritual. The pieces of cow’s flesh were offered as the votive victuals necessary for humans to experience a proximity to their spirits. Yet, as it turns out, the cow – altering its physiognomic appearance and shedding tears – reveals its true identity as the very spirit to be worshiped on the occasion. But only with a breach of a nascent morality would this primordial wrongdoing be fully comprehended. This is a prototype sacrifice; it seals a debt.22 Humans feasted on boiled meat. Each house in turn honored a pledge to procure meat provisions for a festival. But the spirits put humans to a test. A cow fell off a cliff (at haimutu on the southeastern coast). It took two days to retrieve

Commuted landscapes and species 39 the carcass. People thought that since it had not started to putrefy, it could be taken to the festival place. But by the very action of joining in a meal, the spirits began to recede into the distance. With this realization emerged a stipulation: from the first day of the eighth moon and until the end of the kanbunaga rites during the cold season there would be no more meat eating by the islanders. Today, the ban affects the final part, a period of 25 days during which the slaughter of animals is banned on the island. (I shall refer to this sequence throughout this book. Space allows me, however, to take a closer look only at a single component festival.) Even the community slaughterhouse is affected by the ban. But shop owners admitted, however, that they sometimes procured meat from the island of Ishigaki during the festival season. If adversity strikes some of the protagonists during this period, island shamans – the munuci, Knowers – will intervene to check if dietary restraint has been correctly observed. As for my part, I elected to abide by the rule: no meat, not even noodles cooked in meat broth. Only with the sounding of a gong at a location known as cirakunda (Map 1.1) on the morning of the 25th on the final festival day is it again permissible to slaughter pigs, goats, cattle, and water buffalos (Figure 1.7). The beat on the gong lifts the taboo. Priestesses of the island shed their headdresses of trailing creepers and bid farewell to the sacred groves. So to return to the myth: humans will only be able to invoke their parent spirits by eating natural foods. Yet the upshot of the deed of eating the carcass

Figure 1.7 Sounding an end to cold season restraints

40 Commuted landscapes and species of a cow is that of a cessation of communication between humans, spirits, and animals. Spirits from then on only reveal themselves in passing, as shadows running across the landscape. For most humans, even such faint proximity to their parents means that they are out of reach. What the ancients, in effect, achieved was to deliver a decomposing carcass to their creator spirits, immersing themselves, thus, in the act with the very influences from which they were striving to escape, if we note that the cow had been picked up from exactly the same kind of surroundings usually selected for the disposal of human corpses. So it seemed that people at that time were in fact no better than the savages of an even deeper past. This is the failure of a sign to materialize. Seen as a syntagmatic realization of cultural meaning, the before–after of the stories is phrased as equivalence (in contrast to semblance). A figure of consuming a carcass could well serve a definite purpose in a communicative exchange with a spirit had it not been for its, in the linguistic sense, heavy motivation, imbued as it is by narrative history. The cow is just the transformed image of the deity. The outcome of the ignorance of a deity-cum-beast is predictable: all similarity. No exchange is achieved. The sacrificial medium becomes indistinguishable from the addressee of the act. With this neglect in carrying out the replacement of their own bodies as an act of sacrifice – killing the cow with their own hands – the islanders were forever cut off from talking to spirits and animals. Now, at the same juncture of the past, it also became urgent to find a way to cook meat thoroughly, so I return to the narrative: This was an age when humans did not know how to boil meat. Once, however, when people were listening to some talk between cattle, it became evident to them how cooking could in fact be accomplished. One cow said to the other that simply adding into the pot the finely chopped wood of the asanGuru tree would boil their flesh. After that, humans obtained similar secrets from other kinds of animals, too, such as goats, pigs, and horses. However much the ancients tried to achieve the boiling of meat over the fire, they found that the finished dish retained a raw taste. As it turned out, a complete transition from the raw to the cooked state had to be facilitated by adding an external agent. With wood as fuel outside the cooking utensil demonstrably insufficient to heat a meat dish to the point of boiling, the ancients instead added chips of wood inside the pot. The elderly informant cannot recall which wood was used in each instance. He adds, however, that the asanGuru wood was used as recently as in his own childhood. The myth is a source of wonder to the Dunang of the present. Just as the Dunang had discovered that a quadruped sacrifice would serve them well in diverting attention from their own bodies, now they came to realize that only by adding chips of wood to the boiling pot could cooking be accomplished. (Cf. Lévi-Strauss 1966b on mythic motifs of the raw and the cooked and my own comment, Røkkum 1991). Now in the present, some Dunang even report disgust

Commuted landscapes and species 41 about participating in funerary meals due to the “raw smell” of the dishes, despite, as I repeatedly was able to experience myself, the fact that the lumps of bony meat that are served in a broth are unfailingly thoroughly cooked. Part of the story thus rephrased may be born out of actual circumstance. Chronicles left by a Korean junk crew stranded on the island in the year 1477 (Ryûkyû Shiryô Goshô vols 1–2, 1982) reveal that the Dunang reacted with disgust at the very suggestion of ingesting the meat of cattle. In fact, they showed their displeasure by spitting. Another point worth noting is the fragility of their earthenware vessels at the time. The Koreans observed that they tended to break apart after just a week’s use upon the hearth, so the myth is well supported. The Dunang did indeed struggle to keep heat at a low level, yet of sufficiently long duration for the ingredients to be well cooked. If wood turned out to be a too powerful agent to produce a cooked dish when used as fuel, the idea would not be too far-fetched at the time to think that the material for the cooking process might have a more efficacious effect if applied not outside, but inside the pot. Diverted sentiment: the search for a cover A deep past leaves no form and no feeling. The retrospect is dotted with paradoxes. Each stage in this narrated course toward the present engenders, as it were, a Gordian knot to be cut and a bundle of monstrosities carried over by a still more ancient and uncanny existence. Alternatives are grim. In one story, the island of Dunang appears on the brink of depopulation. Future habitation can be ensured only when a man from a neighboring island slays a beast, a dog, which is cohabiting with a woman (Røkkum 1998: 190). She was the only human left on the island. The timely killing saved the island for an authentically human condition. Various comments touch upon the menace of depopulation as a reason for motifs of fecundity in a sequence of the cold season kanbunaga festivals. But only with the permanent victory of normal sexuality over bestiality can a motif of what is beyond doubt a human reproduction be realized (a topic to be more fully introduced in a section below, Reproductive partnerships). And with normal sexuality comes normal treatment of the dead. The sacrifice of meat serves only part of this purpose. An organic entity takes the place of substitute of a body of a live subject. And a material entity takes the place of an intercalation vis-à-vis status in society of a live subject. A wooden tablet ( gansu) with a brush inscription is a mortuary tablet. It captures a spirit of the dead so that it can subject itself to a rigidly rehearsed worship (cf. Røkkum 1998).23 The Dunang consider this strip of wood with its Chinese characters a mark of a civilized association with the dead. For the ideographic characters, just as the implements introduced by culture heroes, are themselves agents for leaving behind a blissful sentiment. Artifacts just as words of prayer are the vehicles for creating a permanent effect of satiation, among the dead as well as among the living. A cult of the dead lays an emphasis on the exclusive ownership and transference of this artifact.

42 Commuted landscapes and species What is spelled out as a genuinely human condition focuses upon life in the island, with discrete modifications brought about by the voyages of the culture heroes to the Asian mainland. Still, despite the integration within a wider Ryukyuan national community since the 16th century – accepting myths and rites of the Kingdom – the Dunang continue to reify their civilized ways. A human condition sui generis is laid down by and for themselves. I describe such moral self-sufficiency further in Chapter 4 in the section Preparing for a stately journey: during a celebration of the successful construction of a new village catafalque, a male ritual leader tells in a speech that the achievement is evidence of a civilized treatment of the death, as contrasted with treatment in another island in South Ryukyu. The closure of upheavals comes with the introduction of rice cultivation from the Asian mainland. Rice (the long-grained Indica variety) – in the processed state as hulled rice – attains a unique cultural value. It is a received staple; it is a gift from ancestors who ventured to cross the waters to reach the continent.24 I find a widespread tendency in the southern archipelago of the Ryukyus to cherish the rice ( Japonica, in the present) from the wet fields surrounding the villages. Rice farming – although now superseded by dry land cash crop farming – is an ideal activity. Signification of value can proceed on its own despite the loss of contextual referents, even when taking fully into account the pervasiveness of the Japanese market economy and nationwide public bureaucracies.25 The Dunang are conscious of a value embedded in the habits of eating and cohabitation, for myth informs them, in fact, what the counter values might be – namely, uninhibited consumption of meat, naked cohabitation and shelter only in caves. The ancients lived in caves and buried their dead in the same caves. One myth tells how this sorry state of affairs came to a close. People abandon their gama – cave – environments only when a dwelling of long house shape, with apartments for several families, materializes out of the sky. People rush out of their subterranean abodes, but however much they beckon, the house refuses to come down. They worship it, but still it lingers, hovering somewhere above the ground. Waiting for something to happen, those assembled at a cave entrance realize that their number is deficient. One man is lacking; as it turns out, he is still holding out in the cave. Could that be the reason why the house balks? The man agrees to come out into the open only if provided with a piece of cloth to conceal his nakedness. People defer to his wish, and as he steps out of the cave opening, the house settles on the ground. People are now ready for communal living. They cover their bodies with garments, and they set up wooden houses with spaces for compartmentalized family life. The man who first covered himself becomes a founder of life in houses. The tumai house of ubujâ – Big House – celebrates this origin. The naked forerunners lived in caves. The clothed ancients lived in houses. Yet I find no expression of analogy. The Dunang apparently do not see bodies and houses as being similar in the sense of being covered by a piece of cloth/by a roof (see Røkkum 2003). The key to understanding this myth, I think, remains not on the level of the figurative capacity of metaphor, as in Peirce’s notion of iconicity (firstness) but rather on that of an associational interactivity, as in Peirce’s

Commuted landscapes and species 43 notion of indexicality (secondness) in the triangular format of the sign.26 The myth subsides on indices: it breaks a connectivity with the past. And despite the textuality of the narrative, the motif retains the mimetic capacity of images: the one – swathing a body – breeds another – encasing multiple bodies for true communal living. A cultural proviso, or simply a habit involving the appropriateness of privacy both in habitation and clothing makes such interactivity one way of symbolizing (thirdness). An epoch comes to an end with such narrated interactivity of body and house. The intercalations the Dunang construct are simply examples of sudden realizations, not as bolts out of the blue, but as the coming-together of parallel courses of reflection to create an episode in consciousness. Cultural realizations can be born out of such semiotic matter.

Lasting images
In Goddesses, Priestesses, and Sisters (Røkkum 1998) I took the view that a shamanically inspired knowing among people in South Ryukyu is an eidetic knowing. It draws its inspiration from percepts of likeness. Unlike the Judeo-Christian example, no definable stock of teachings has been handed down to function as a textual heritage with norms for good conduct. The South Ryukyuans celebrate, as it were, what in the Peircean perspective on knowing is achieved through the method of abduction.27 Peirce also writes (CP 2.96) of an “originary Argument.” It follows that an abductive argument has an icon as its premise (CP 2.96). Such originary knowing is based on some recognition of likeness. Not only is likeness involved; I would maintain that any recognition or value in cultural matters is pari passu a recognition of difference. That difference can be established most straightforwardly in a perspective on Otherness, either synchronically, as what identifies another group of people, or diachronically, as what pinpoints identities in the past. Here I shall settle on the latter aspect. The South Ryukyuans tag an association of origin to rice as a field crop. The cultivar itself, and the inalienable wealth of illustrious cultivators of Origin Houses as well, preserves the generative effects of early civilizing acts. Utterances of rice as a most valued crop and as staple food are governed, however, by a “not so” condition. An affirmative value can only be felt with some knowledge of its contingency, as in the following reflection: “Our early ancestors were not rice farmers, but foraged in the bush and upon the coral reef, and they lived in caves. Then with some memorable voyages, rice entered from the outside, from the Asian mainland.” In keeping with stories I gathered on the island of Kobama, Iriomote, Aragusuku (Panari) and Ishigaki, the ancestors were able to assure germination in the fields only with the acquisition of large wooden masks for mimicking the procreative Visitors from beyond the sea, from a rice-cultivating area in Annam (now northern Vietnam). Some even insist that the masks were stolen, and that they must never be returned to their owners. On the four islands, the masks preserve the faces of Visitor deities who were bequeathers of increase.

44 Commuted landscapes and species On the island of Iriomote, a trichotomous relationship is involved: of red, white, and black. One village is partitioned by houses differentiated by cult group membership along these lines, the most obvious mark being contrastive headbands worn by the cult initiates. With a descent from their Iriomote sanctuaries somewhere in the surrounding rain forest, the impersonated spirits known by their chromatic fixtures grant humans a single annual visit.28 What the ancestors once took away can again be lost. This is the reason for a rigorous management of cult secrets. Whatever motif upheld by a mata (muta) mask – is revealed to non-initiates, rice harvests on the island will surely suffer. The wooden artifacts are icons of high gods; they are indices of a presence or a non-presence of the symbolized fecundity. Everyone can view, however, somewhat less esoteric masks, the smaller-sized majûnganasi (see frontispiece). Yet masks which, even when deposited with the Museum of the Yaeyamas in Ishigaki City on behalf of the Ibaruma village are (fortunately, in my opinion, cf. the argument in Røkkum 1996) not treated as museum artifacts but as cult artifacts subject to a quite specific custody. As in the Dunang myths, for the initiation society members in the core insular area of the Yaeyamas, a mediated proximity to the supreme spirits is at issue. A vanguard composed of the youngest age-set prepares the advances of the impersonated high spirits, mediating a measured distance toward the non-initiates. Too close an encounter with the latter invites disaster. The same concern for separation from ordinary villagers is also an issue on Dunang: when the k’a shrine priestesses or the bunai tidigaN House priestesses walk in procession, the trails should be protected against crossings by non-members. Women, children and male non-initiates keep themselves in the background, yet, as I could observe, remain very attentive to what is going on. On other Yaeyama islands where a twofold, rather than a tripartite arrangement obtains, a personified red deity approaches the villages through the bush under a banner carrying the mark of a red sun while the black deity follows under a banner bearing the mark of a black or dark-blue moon. The sun/moon emblems appear also on an arched gate leading to the cult sanctuary on the island of Aragusuku ( panari ). Only a rudimentary associational chain is generated: red/sun/cult group, black (dark blue)/moon/cult group. Now in the community with a tripartite cult organization (Iriomote Island), the associations which are openly publicized are these: red/white = commoners, black = aristocrats. The village where these acts unfold was a center of administration in the defunct order. Previous society echelons are thus evoked by present-day cult affiliations. Without an appearance of the masks in the villages there can be no annual renewal in the fields. It is not the divine nature of the Visitors that assures that, but rather the materiality of the mask and the vegetal tangle revealing the fuller outline. Cloaked in vines and palm fronds, the masked visitors connect the cult members with a sensuous matter of amplitude. Also, they try to ensure that the discipline applied to the young boys for the occasion imparts a lasting modesty toward seniors. The encounter itself – the primary process experience – delivers

Commuted landscapes and species 45 this effect from a moment of initiation upon moralities. A sacred encounter and its associated physical pain are experiences meant to last. The arrival of rice as a species for cultivation is celebrated as an act that cuts the bonds to the deeper past. The non-cultivating ancients were foragers. But as I could see for myself in some areas around the archipelago, South Ryukyuans continue still today to skillfully harvest natural produce. They gather wild vegetables for the evening meal, assemble medicinal herbs, make simple tools from bush material, and they sometimes spear fish in shallow lagoons at low tide. The coral reef itself is a field for collecting marine edibles. The ancients grappled with some critical notions of life in society, inviting sometimes the very ill effects they were seeking to avoid. They gained liberating insights only as sudden realizations, e.g. of family life, cooking, and sacrifice. Even more importantly, perhaps, there is no actual narrative closure of the past in the knowledge of South Ryukyuans. Upheavals in the lives of people in the present echo upheavals of the past. The past re-emerges within an ongoing mimesis. The entire island is conceived of as an outline of clustered triangles where the high spirits constantly travel. The routes, the kan-nu-miti, “spirit trails,” are partly realistic, partly imaginary routes. Spirit matter resides in the ground where the principal tracks converge. The waypoints are tanka, interstices. A similar imagery has been recorded on Belau by Parmentier (1987). I make a portrayal of this chiasmic arrangement in Map 1.1. The narration of past incidents along such trails is no matter of casual talk. About any physical misstep in the shrine grounds may cause some calamity, as might any a slip of tongue during a narration or recitation, or simply that of pronouncing the words in the wrong temporal or spatial surroundings. Ordinary islanders do best to avoid the spirit trails. Evocations may indeed be more powerful than the fuller images. Here, then, we witness an instance of what Peirce differentiates from induction and deduction, the abduction: a sometimes uncertain materialization of a sign, the intuitive grasp, and the sensuous experience in the realization of knowledge (Peirce 1958– 60; Spinks 1983).29 Whitehouse (1996), studying “concept-formation, feeling, and remembering” as granted by an “imagist mode of religiosity” suggests that a view of initiations based on traumatic ordeals is consonant with the notion of “flashbulb memory.” (On the aspect of terror in this discussion, see also Cannon 1942; Valentine 1994). The male initiation societies in the Yaeyamas demand from young boys aged about 15 that they prove their eligibility by withstanding ordeals by, for instance, performing a series of arm movements with a red flower (Ixora Chinensis) stuck in their hair. In Dunang, women belonging to sisterhoods professing bonds to water springs give me surprisingly vivid details of their initiations many years back (I shall be adumbrating them below in the section An adulation of watery flowers). In the Izu Islands east of the main Japanese island, Honshû (Hachijôjima and Aogashima), I note a similar case: novices – in particular female novices – to the shamanic ritualist capacities of miko must discipline themselves and learn to

46 Commuted landscapes and species dance – with abandon yet gracefully and in time with the beat of the drums – as an offering to the gods. Perhaps it might qualify as an experiment of some sort that I was able, after an absence of 29 years, to return to the island of and converse with people about very minute details in two initiation rituals as to how the novice conducted herself. The novices in the Izus present offerings to the gods with their own bodies. The physicality and corporeality integral to such shamanic acts of worship might well inflate the experience considerably in time. In two ethnographies – the Ryukyus and the Izus – a senior with a distinctive role as an initiator but not as a teacher, guides novices into liminality. Actually, the project initiated in Goddesses, Priestesses, and Sisters of finding out something about imagist knowing is very much influenced by this claim made by people in two areas of fieldwork that knowing can be individually adopted as in a quest; it can be instantaneous, yet pervasive. I suggest that even without the strictures of an initiation ritual, experiences could be momentary-yet-lasting. The events enumerated from my Dunang fieldwork (see Chapter 4) illustrate this. Initiation rituals could well pin a lasting effect to acquired imageries. Yet quite commonplace shamanic rites, too, I think, may achieve very much of the same. If, as Whitehouse (1996) suggests, there is a “flashbulb” effect to note, it may have a particular mnemonic effect noticeable in shamanic rituals: shamans deal with the precarious in individual lives. Alertness is guaranteed even if the ritual itself is that of a standard rehearsal. The ritualist accesses the past to divine things ahead, tuning the client’s memory to what is momentous in memory. When the shaman affixes her signs, dull episodes become sensational episodes. An encounter with a snake (tugara), for example, becomes an encounter with a Visitor from Somewhere or a Host of Something. It becomes a tell-tale episode. Moreover, the episode with the shaman is itself quite memorable, so the implications for future retrieval are substantial. Mnemonic capacities are stimulated when attention is stimulated. In some cultural environments there may even be specialized roles for shaping the memorable.

Cultivated identities
In the Ryukyus, I have experienced very little reification of identity, otherwise so familiar in conversations in mainland Japan, as in such expressions as “We, the Japanese . . .” or “Wouldn’t you try some Japanese so-and-so soup [or the like]?” A more or less standardized inventory of semantic signs defines the crosscultural situation. Its role is that of allocating values to things of everyday life supposed to connect with one’s cultural self (chopsticks make obvious exemplars: they connect with one’s body). Islanders in the south, rather than appropriating one version of extraction as in the creation myth of the Japanese, give expression to a diversity of origins. One or other kind of attachment can only be validated by affixing mythic and genealogical detail to recognizable sites in the terrain, such as the ruins of former habitations.

Commuted landscapes and species 47 The South Ryukyuans relativize identities, it seems, in accordance with locality domains and life domains. Ideas are sustained by images from tales associated with named localities within a single island. Extraction is more physical than ideological, so it seldom matures into a notion of common extraction. Apart from the status of other powers in the Asian domain as the more active of the tribute traders, nationhood for the Ryukyus may not have granted any communality through collectively-held symbols. The lineage of the king still exists, but enjoys no particular status in society. The royal castle has been reconstructed, but as I experienced from visiting the area, even if the reality of a vermilion wooden structure presents a conduit for memorizing the past and celebrating achievement in the present, sacredness does not emanate from any built environment but in a far more subdued sense, from its locus in a verdant environment. Extant literary allusions to the king posit him as resident, not of a castle, but of a grove, of Shuri (Shui). Women who habitually light their incense sticks in the verdant environment of the Shuri hill turn their attention not toward the built abode of a king, but to the sacred grove of a king. In South Ryukyu I noticed that the more powerful images for collective attention in festivals appear as motifs of growth. Just as in mainland Japan, there are annual rites attuned to the cycles of agriculture, as in rice cultivation. But in my area of fieldwork in the Ryukyus, only exceptionally do the prayers identify specific deities. Rice is presented in rituals either in the raw state, as the hulled grains, or in the fermented state, as the viscous, slightly alcoholic miti brewed drink, and as the distilled awamori liquor. The sign I record, however, is more intricate as the assemblage of sensuous elicitors: lustrousness, whiteness, and sweetness. The rice ingredient gathers these sensations when the drink is the brew. It disperses unwanted sensations when the drink is the liquor. The hulled rice, when extolled by officiating priestesses for what it exudes, remains a unique species for expressing, poetically, the various readings of a profusion of the world ( jû [dû ] ). Either in the raw or cooked state, rice is a prerequisite for any act of conversing within a broader range of ontogeny, including kinship and mortuary activity. It activates an inclusive sign with transformative value: of present and past, of life and death, and (as shall be more fully indicated below) of patrilateral and matrilateral kin.30 Hulled and polished rice amplifies an allusion to positive attributes of lightness, refraction, and smoothness. In the prayers I listened to during seasonal rites, rice grain appeared as an object of praise. Rice is the prototypical gift to the high spirits of the island. It is emptied from sacks brought to the sites of prayer, then spread out upon red lacquer trays laid out on the ground. The Dunang k’a, island priestesses – themselves goddesses for the duration of a rite – are recipients of a portion of these offerings. They fuse rice spirit with their own spirit by scattering some rice grains into the top-coil of their hair at the end of the rite. Sympathetic signification can be situated in such actions. Rice is pure in and of itself. This is epitomized by the miscous rice ferment, the miti, which serves as a libation in annual rites of growth. It is imbibed from black lacquer cups in these festivals of sunka – this-worldly – matters. Even with

48 Commuted landscapes and species rice brandy (awamori ) now amply available in the shops on the island, the alcoholic brew of the past, the miti, remains an obligatory ingredient in rites of rejuvenation. Ahead of festivals of fruition at the height of the warm season (ugaNfututi ), the selected rice is processed from one degree of whiteness and purity to another, by mastication.31 Rice grains germinate into a naturally sweet drink when fertilized with saliva by a virgin girl. Mastication was not practiced any more in the late 1970s, yet I would still like to reproduce the arguments about purity brought forth by people preparing rice beer for the rites of the First Fruits. With the girl’s saliva and with mouthfuls of water, the starchy drink germinates. It develops a very characteristic sweetness and whiteness. The flavor is lost if adding, as some actually do today, some pinches of sugar. Bowlfuls of miti are sometimes be splashed upon the ground and upon sacred stones. The sharing of miti involves a participatory role of women and men: in the basics of crop maturation in the fields, in the basics of maturation of the human body. Yet the practice of initiating fermentation by masticating the rice has been abandoned for hygienic reasons. Miti should not be presented to non-islanders, it was explained to me. Yet whatever the occasion, a cup was always passed on to myself. For outsiders, who by the length of their stay share in what is an experience of the island, partake in the island so they partake in the drink. Achieved maturation is further sustained by an incremental imagic action, as in motifs of the sagging ears of rice. These images are realized by k’a priestesses as suggestive of fruitfulness and life-giving fullness. They are positive images. Yet, in the same vein, a negation of growth can equally well be imagined, and in fact reproduced in action. A pinch of salt can be mixed with saliva. Spitting the substance is tantamount to casting a curse. Violent blowing through the nose is also feared for the same reason. Quarrels among near kin are sometimes attributed to such squirts. Both men and women are capable of cursing through such kinesthetic moves. Mixing rice with saliva sets off an auspicious fermentation. Conversely, mixing salt with saliva sets off an inauspicious fermentation, not of substance but of sentiment. The spit, when spat from the mouth, may shatter a relationship. Whereas the rice ferment carries a blessing, the mixture of saliva and salt carries a curse. Taken together, however, these alternatives express a dimorphic quality of indexical action. The miti is naturally sweet and for use in important annual rituals it requires the complement of an equally naturally bitter dish. So the miti brew is complemented by the sûai herbal repast. This is a bean paste based dish. It contains pieces of pith of the fan palm (Livistona chinensis) and leaves of the odorous and stiff gunna (Peucedanum japonicum). An erect herb growing on sandy ground near the beach (see Walker 1976: 797), this vegetal ingredient gives a sense of astringency, a required quality for exorcisms. Cayenne pepper is sometimes added. The gunna is valued also for medicinal purposes, as a remedy for fevers, coughs, neural and rheumatic disorders (Yoshikawa 1976: 31). It may also produce psychotropic effects. The leaves are prepared by simmering for a moment in a

Commuted landscapes and species 49 pot. The dish is steamed only lightly. For, like miti, it should preserve the germinating force of the soil and oneness with the island. The soybean paste is fermented, but not in a sense which connotes decomposition. Quite to the contrary, the paste serves as a preservative medium. Rice vinegar is added to a paste of soybeans. The herbs are left simmering for a while in a pot, then cut and squeezed. Further substance to the meal is added by including the pith of the fan palm. In Dunang cuisine, this pith is an equivalent to meat; it is highly estimated as an ingredient in sunka-type, life-giving rituals. Yet despite this uncompromisingly positive emphasis on the miti in a pure meal, it has a negative counterpart. The Dunang speak of it as a fake. It can be emptied upon an offering site to curb growth, as the kind that might emanate from a Soil Host (diGaranuci ) or a Tree Host (kinunuci ). The tzûmiti – “white miti ” – is a grayish, non-miscible concoction of rice flour and water. (I shall describe usage more fully in later chapters.) The Dunang couple a positive act with a negative counterpart. They assemble the indices of each; they pay attention to the evocations, and so they achieve knowing. Rinsing seven times in cool water perfects a lustrousness of hulled rice. Such sacrificial rice is glossed araibana, Cleansed Flowers. But even such glistening raw rice allows a reading in the negative when put to use for exorcistic purposes. The grains can disperse the dead who might be craving for the bodies of the living. One simply showers the specters with handfuls of rice. Fertility and exorcism are the composite connotation carried by the motif of hulled rice. Lustrousness is what, by ritual action, can promote wanted growth (dûnauri ). The scouring effects of the washing and of the polished rice itself foil unwanted growth. The latter is identified as ta’tai, curses just mentioned. Strong desires, mostly those of the dead, are the hosts of these emanations. Hence the Dunang act upon selected attributes, attaching indexical values to them. And they speak of spiritual beings not in our sense as “gods,” but as “hosts.” Rice assembles the qualities of growth and it disperses the qualities of anti-growth. It is not simply the positive value – the symbol – which explains the ideational centricity of rice for the South Ryukyuans, but, rather, a more distinctively indexical status of a transformative value: one, gathering matter of bliss in sunka (“today”) rites, second, dispersing any scourge (dà-na-munu) in nunka (“yesterday”) rites. “The scourge has a tendency to spread,” the ndi shrine caretaker revealed to me. Unnamed Origin House ancestors – the collective ubudi-habudi – who are sunka beings, are addressed with gifts of both solid and viscous rice. An indexicalizing lustrousness defines the cultural value just as it also defines the cultural value of the dyed glass beads stored as relics of house ancestresses. I was told that spun silk gathers whiteness in just the same way as hulled rice does. The fibers glimmer in the air. These are parallel images that can be held in consciousness quite unaided by metaphor. I never heard any utterances of rice-as-silk or silkas-rice, however. The parallelisms work quite unaided by metaphor.

50 Commuted landscapes and species Rice grains and silk fibers are dissimilar, yet when conceived of as donations to the otherworld, they achieve a distinctive, similar, quality. Rice and silk share the glazed impression gathered in the lexeme ita. A hillock that boasts such a fine, mellifluous quality is referred to as itamui: Smoothly Surfaced Hillock. A Spirit Trail (kan-nu-miti ) or the course plied by a ship (tabindamiti ) can be alluded to in prayers as silken and glazed. In a binomial mode of expression, an upright feature of the landscape can be identified as ubunku. The prefix ubu associates the feature with “highness.” It is coupled with another feature of the landscape identified as tamanku-itanku. The prefixes ita and tama associate the feature with what is glazed and what is gem-like. The full expression is ubunku tamanku-itanku. I pinpoint one example on the map of spirit trails across the island (Map 1.1). In the northeastern area of the island a rice field belonging to an Origin House is identified by the tamanku-itanku designation. I must add that the words are guarded, as a sacred lexis. What appeared difficult to pronounce, however, was not the semantic parallelism in itself, but rather the social parallelism of such sacred heirlooms of Origin Houses as women’s gems and drums as exemplars of the tamanku-itanku. Spirits move along the imagined white tracks across the island, but they stop at large, sandstone “black rocks” ( furesi ) with exceptionally smooth surfaces (see Map 1.1: a location at the east cape of Dunang). The most well known of such rocks stands on the tindabana plateau overlooking the northern settlement. It is praised for its smoothness and for an association with a 16th-century chiefess, saNai isuba. In one event during the cold season kanbunaga festivals it is doused with the starchy white rice ferment which is similarly praised for its lustrousness (Figure 1.8). Words of prayer are ornate. Offerings are arranged with much attention to cuts, colors, and layout. Body language expresses respect and submission. In an address to an Other resident in nature, rice and fabrics are both vigorous illocutionary signs of such sentiment, that of paying a tribute. But their origins of this semiosis must be sought for in the past. Interior states are signified by place attributes, so the human subject in Dunang depends on a constant indexicalization to points in the ambient ecological milieu. In the whole ensemble of allusions, the lexeme ita has a central place. It iterates an ideal quality of levelness and smoothness. In one informant’s statement, it takes on the quality of a repository of sentiment. Let me quote a male member of the House whose duty it is to join in an annual worship ceremony at the base of a large rock, ita (Figure 1.8), on the tindabana plateau overlooking the northern area of Dunang: “The aim of our ritual efforts is to produce inside ourselves something that is smooth and level as the ita.” He was speaking of an interior state which he positioned in the bowels, the cimu. The stone is paired with a nearby water source lexemically as n’nuku-ita. On a revisit in 1989, I noticed that the sacred alignments of the locality had been broken, however, due to construction works, and an ita shrine had been set up at some distance from the sacred stone. Such alterations may pass on something negative to the lives of some people.

Commuted landscapes and species 51

Figure 1.8 Treating an ancestress with rice beer

His wife, a successor in a House enshrining the spirit of a past female chieftain, saNai isuba, was an officiant at this site. The ancestress had used the ita, level sandstone, as an observation platform when looking out at the ocean for cruising pirate vessels. In an exception to the usual sumptuous food offering, only freshlymade rice beer (miti ) was splashed upon the stone. Quantities of both rice and fabrics were products of labor in the villages during the age of the Ryukyu Kingdom. Both were taxation items, and now in the present both are exemplary submissions (dai ) to satisfy the demands of an awesome Other. The gift is a sacrifice. During the period of the Ryukyu Kingdom, tribute trade with China flourished, but with the Court itself gradually brought into subservience under the southern Japanese fief of Satsuma (culminating in 1609), a different type of payment evolved. Exactions breed other exactions, so the Ryukyu Court, responding to taxation demands from feudal Japan, imposed a per capita tax on its own population. A female above the age of 15 delivered spun cloth as tax to the Court. A male above the same age delivered hulled rice. Rice is a model tribute, as in the donations still made to village priestesses whose offices were once part of the formal Court hierarchies of the Ryukyu Kingdom. In this mode of an ideal gift, rice serves differentiated syntactic ends depending upon context. It attracts, in one sense, the deified Origin House founders; it dispels, in another, the ghosts of the recently deceased. But this indexicality is slippery. By the slightest slip of attention of the sort just mentioned, gatherings to worship life-matters can be transformed into gatherings that attract

52 Commuted landscapes and species death-matters. For implied by this signification of basic, yet disparate, attachments is society as the law-giving body.

Cultivated kinship
Living on the island of Dunang, I became familiar with a way of knowing from sensuous images. In Goddesses, Priestesses, and Sisters I described this as an eidetic mode of knowing. My chief example was that of mountains-as-centric places. The composite motif of rice now appears as a second presentational image of high importance in Dunang, not only in the association of the finished, polished grains, but also in the technicalities of the cultivation process. Increase in a quite inclusive sense is alluded to by the locution tani: “seed or “semen.” Nonetheless, I do not claim this trope to be a symbol for the South Ryukyuans. The idea is not a permanent inscription, but rises in consciousness only through a momentary interactivity. It can be brought out through different referents: by a phrase of a prayer for a full harvest, by a banner carried in a procession welcoming a high spirit of the First Fruits (ugaNfututi ), or worn in an impersonation of the spirit. And as I shall describe more substantially further on, a notion of increase materializes in a kinesthetic interactivity during a festival sequence dedicated not to the reading of increase-as-harvest thus far suggested, but to the reading of increase-as-pregnancy. A quite inclusive cultural fact is, thus, not a matter of a symbolism, but of an indexicality carried out by interactive contexts. The participation with words and material objects actualizes an idea of access and ownership. Hence in the House festivals of Dunang the relics of the past cannot be touched by anyone but its Sister Goddess, and in the increase festivals on other islands in the South Ryukyus, there can be a virtual exclusion of outsiders. Also the category of “seed” allows alternative readings, as when it appears in Dunang thoughts about kinship. Consanguines are seed people. The category, comprising the following relations, is quite inclusive: male inheritors of House eponymy together with their father’s sisters and own sisters, and children on the respective sides. So when the children of the sister are seed people – notwithstanding an agnatic premise for House succession – what matters is simply that affinity carries little consequence, possibly because marriage itself has been only weakly codified in Dunang. Children of the mother’s brother are siki people. The association of siki refers to the muddy bottom of the rice field, and in its inclusive aspect fertilization comprises seed and water. It is not, however, the affinity of husband to brotherin-law which lends weight to the relationship, but rather the siblingship between the wife and her brother. Children retain a dual extraction: in its tani bifurcation, it includes cross cousins on the father’s side; in its siki bifurcation, it includes cross-cousins on the mother’s side. Woman as sister and woman as wife are not just givens of a life career. Anthropology would handle this issue more realistically, in my opinion, if we accepted the equivocalness of more-or-less sister, more-or-less wife. An ndi woman

Commuted landscapes and species 53 acknowledged that the idea of dual extraction might not be too straightforward, so I was asked, instead, to contemplate on the matter after having heard the following story: Now and then we go to into the mountains to see if there are any citrus trees which can be picked up and taken to our gardens. We begin the transplantation by uprooting the chosen tree; branches are cut off and thrown away. The tree is denuded. In another patch of soil a new tree grows. The root is the same, but the branches are different. Sweet and delicious citruses mature on the new branches. One receives a bride from the outside. She brings fruits to a new branch. But the root remains the same. A bifurcation issue is sustained by a core image in nature: the root is the uterine origin. Branches yielding fruits are exemplars of multiplying offshoots. They are houses, where the uterine and the agnatic fall in place in each generation. As I have just said: affinity is downplayed as far as possible. Nature parallelisms allow for a differentiation between the tani and the siki. An idea of extraction builds upon the interactivity of tani and siki, yet does not favor one above the other. For it is contrary to good manners to name categories as such on any occasion when people are gathered together, as when mulling over the allocation of seats in the reception room. In my memory, however, the following setting is quite typical. Conscious of the rank implications, most arrivals (on the right side of the frontal area in Figure 1.4) are hesitant visitors waiting for a decisive gesture of welcome from the inside. Women congregate along the partition line of the house. Men congregate in the entrance area. Only after repeatedly being ushered on do the demonstrably more honored visitors shed their reluctance and accept a seat in the more prestigious zone below the shrine alcove (Figures 1.9 and 1.10). I have often witnessed the more recalcitrant guests being shoved up along the line before accepting a good seat. The appropriation of the seat was then sealed, with ashtrays and mugs filled with hot tea passed hurriedly from person to person. Hosting such a reception can be quite an arduous affair. If one is lucky, the oldest male guest is persuaded by the others already present in the reception area of the house (eastern partition in normal layout) to accept a good seat in the upper reaches along the end wall of the east. So the whole problem of separating the tani and the siki can be bypassed; age is accepted as the discriminatory value of seniority. If, however, a candidate to superior treatment remains stationary in the first seat available after entering, a measure of discrete intervention is called for. The guest must be politely ushered to the upper area of the room, as near as possible to the shrine alcove (Figure 1.9). But then the entire case of assessing nearness and distance remains to be addressed. If any degree of animosity between parties present is suspected, the seating distinctions in proportion to kin category must be rigidly observed. Preeminence is accorded the tani in the stricter reading of agnates. The justification is the obligation emanating from the ancestor cult whose altar meets the eyes of everyone. Bilaterality must suffer for the moment.32

54 Commuted landscapes and species

Figure 1.9 House shrine-alcove

Figure 1.10 A formal welcome

Commuted landscapes and species 55 To name the two sides as tani and siki is fraught with hazard. Invoking boundaries between kin is contrary to good manners. For despite the ideational prerogatives of patrilaterals, the practical prerogatives work in favor of matrilaterals. This, I was told, is not as simply because it is easier to ask matrilaterals for help in harvesting sugar cane. In accordance with an adage known by everyone one can count on the matrilaterals when in need: there are “eight [lateral removes of kin] on the father’s side, there are ten on the mother’s side.” More weight is accorded the maternal side despite the agnatic preference in succession matters. Consistent here with the notion of the avunculate, a mother’s brother is a boy’s confidant, as when he needs someone to talk with in matters of marriage. For that reason, some will even usher the siki people into the most prestigious seats. Weddings appear not to have been important occasions in the past, and many couples have chosen cohabitation without prior formal certification. In the uxorilocal choices, then, children receive entries in their mother’s house registers. One wedding I attended appeared to be an imitation of the contemporary Japanese style, with the added pageantry of suspended plastic flags of the countries of the world across the ceiling of the reception room of the house as if to emphasize the universality of the arrangement. In comparison, and complementary to the Dunang case, Ouwehand, on Hateruma, another island in the South Ryukyus, is attentive to the uncertainty of marriage contraction. He provides (Ouwehand 1985: 105) a diachronic tabulation of registered types of cohabitation as demonstration. The decisive issue is that of the nature of the conjugal relationship. Perhaps even more realistically than our functionalist predecessors in their study of kinship, the Dunang acknowledge that pedigrees are themselves utterances, claims to privilege relative to ancestral depth. The Dunang are equally realistic in stating the reasons for the imperfections in regard to this ideal, such as a lack of fit with experienced realities. These are: weak parental influence on children’s choice of a spouse; voluntary partnership rather than the ceremonialized contraction of a marriage; a recognized frequency of children born out of pre-marital and extra-marital liaisons. An unregistered partnership allows a patrimony to pass on from a father to his daughter without the latter’s partner having to declare himself an adopted husband to conform with Japanese legal requirements for patrimony transfer. In Japan proper, affinity is a mandatory interlinkage for a stopgap female succession to pass on house headship to anticipated male heirs. A daughter passes on an agnatically inherited identity to her own children through her adoptee husband already grafted onto the House lineage. So in the light of the Japanese code of succession, the flaw is an inability to fully answer a question of legitimacy. The ideological aspect of this is granted not only by national rules of House membership, but also by the Confucian heritage in society ethics sustained by court bureaucracies in the age of the Ryukyu Kingdom. The following episode illustrates its presence in practice: one woman, who is an accomplished shaman on Dunang, once watched me finish a kinship diagram. As she was constantly investigating pedigrees herself, she wanted to appropriate something of my own abilities. I taught her how to align the

56 Commuted landscapes and species triangles and circles within a quite comprehensive pedigree display. Whereupon she called out: “But they are all bastards!” She knew perfectly well that a moral issue is anticipated simply by drawing a pedigree. So the more I actually surveyed kinship by drawing diagrams – for each house in the ndi village, actually – the more these vicissitudes took on the character of questions of legitimacy. Confucianism, of course, heavily influences society morals in the Sino-Japanese ambit. But this is a moral code which itself is dependent upon some amount of literacy. So, with no Buddhist clergy on Dunang, the only ones capable of interpreting moral tenets would in former times be the court officials. But in South Ryukyu during the age of the Kingdom, many envoys to the outlying islands kept concubines, and the children of these unions became eligible to inherit patronymies through their mothers. First sons in future generations were accorded, nonetheless, a fragment of ancestry from the court official: their given names would contain an inherited ideographic character. Such retention of a partial identity by preserving a Chinese character throughout the generations entitles people in the present to look out for a truly agnatic eponymy in areas on the main island of Okinawa. In such quests for male ancestry a shaman’s opinions carry much weight. But are such uncertainties about the legitimization of a relationship a measure of its strength or weakness? Thinking of the broader Japanese context, conjugal relations among the Dunang often appear quite affectionate, even into advanced age. There is much bantering in the village where I lived about couples finding too many opportunities to go off to work together in the fields. One couple I know very well stick so much together that if the villagers had recourse to French, they would no doubt call it an egoisme à deux. On festival occasions, one can see very elderly couples perform dances with much attention to each other. With few incumbent obligations upon the conjugal relationship, there is a freedom for man and woman to appear in public – as a couple – to a much greater extent than I have seen in mainland Japan. Could it be, then, that the less cultural emphasis on the conjugal link, the stronger its subjectively experienced value? Could this pliable logic characterize also the brother–sister link? Ouwehand reports from Hateruma in the Yaeyamas: Particularly when they live in the same village, married sisters continue to visit their natal house, i.e. the house of their brother, and appear there often, sometimes daily. On these occasions it is evident that they are “at home” there and that this does not give rise to conflict with the wife and/or the mother. (Ouwehand 1985: 98) We are well justified in assuming that a stipulation of closeness between brother and sister, for instance, must be expected to reveal itself in actual conduct. Now considering a cultural emphasis on mutual sympathy in the bigi-bunai – (elder) brother – (younger) sister affiliation, what would the most likely correlate for behavior be? In the ndi village of Dunang, with the total number of houses at the

Commuted landscapes and species 57 time of fieldwork being 35, there were seven brothers and sisters living in close vicinity of each other (within a walking distance of approximately five minutes). Yet, out of the total number of seven pairs of houses thus linked, frequent intervisiting took place only between one bigi-bunai pair, one strongly obligated, I would assume, by Origin House membership (the tumujâ House to be introduced as pivotal in a fertility festival). Given the centricity of the relationship, one might even say that the absence of any informal association is quite conspicuous. If adding this to a more general view of the whole island society, the following may seem to apply. Firstly, the brother–sister ideal becomes the center of quite explicit attention when one or both of the implied houses are actively engaged in cult matters. In one instance in the nmanaga section of the north coast village, an elderly shrine priestess and her brother, both single-member householders, have adjoining domiciles. At the time of my fieldwork, they visited each other daily. Secondly, males in houses with ceremonial privilege assure pre-eminence for their sisters, in one accepted option, by seeking brides from other islands. Among three houses, each in their respective village plays a central part in the cold season increase rituals. One wife is from Miyako Island, another is from Ishigaki Island, and a third is from Iriomote Island. In fact, as I have already said, it appears that a prolonged brother and sister intimacy is granted more easily in houses with ritual duties. With considerable geographical distance to the natal houses, there would of course not be any brothers-in-law to invite for the festival occasion, and the less would the wife be predisposed to aspire to know the House history. During dynastic times, the cross-sibling link as the one incarnating mutual care was replicated around the archipelago through female–male shrine custodianships. No wonder, therefore, that houses of esteem and good resources maintain an emphasis on this link, the more since the most privileged among such Houses of renown had royal standing. I shall illustrate the practicalities of this, but first of all I would like to give an account of the subjective experiences of sororal preference among the Dunang. One woman who herself is a head of what is called an Origin House is a bunai tidigaN: a sister deity. So worried is she that her own marriage might interfere with her inheritance of powers from a heroic founder of the House that she at first lacked the courage to include the mortuary tablet of her husband inside the tiered family altar. I had known the husband for some time, since my first period of fieldwork, and my impression was that this was a very harmonious relationship. But what counts in the conjugal relation as compared with the sororal relation is not the prevalence of sentiment. An arrangement of posthumous divorce (cibagasi, Dividing the Blood) attests to this. So a mortuary altar was set up for the deceased husband in a shed in the southeastern area of the house compound.33 In the inverted layout of an Origin House (Figures 1.4 and 1.5), this would be the lesser-valued perimeter, that is, the southeast of the compound. The widow revealed to me her own idea about the role of the sister in regard to the House:

58 Commuted landscapes and species Long ago my forebears commanded much power in the vital matters of this island. A brother and a sister inhabited the house. The woman became pregnant, and a bastard child (acimiagami ) was born. After the delivery, she asked her brother if she had better prepare to leave the house. Here, she interrupts the account, adding a note to help me understand: “There is a saying in this island that sisters and looms make a medley [tzarasimunu] in the house.” The brother answered: “Yes, if you stay in the house, there will be nothing but trouble.” With these words from her bigi the woman strapped the baby to her back, and the sound of her footsteps waned as she departed through the gate. She sought shelter among the bushes on a mountain where the tûdama [capital shrine] now stands. While uttering a request to the spirits of the place for an omen, she put her baby to sleep. She laid her son down on the ground with the head pointing toward the west, as if laying a corpse to rest. The message arrived to her during sleep. “Clear the bush, and build a house for yourself.” A male shrine attendant to island priestesses gave me his thought on the relationship between sister and wife: “A bride is a mere stranger in the house. The sister belongs to a man’s seed. There is a saying that sisters and looms make a medley [tzarasimunu] in the house. Nevertheless, they command respect.” Many informants emphasized for my benefit that arranging for brothers and sisters to live near each other is a matter of the heart; it can be achieved only when the dutiful arrangement had been made for a son, preferably the eldest, to succeed to take on the responsibilities of the mortuary cult. A father parcels out land for a daughter so that she can build a house for herself. The new house becomes a Cadet House, designated by a suffix for endearment: -ti. An example: a House which in the Japanese reading has the name Irikomekura, West Komekura, has a so-called “island name” read as kumimurati. The latter means Little Kumimura. Incidentally, the uterine index is replaced with a directional index in the Japanese reading. Endearment of the wife, on the other hand, is an appreciation of her procreative function, expressed as the synecdoche, hi’ti, “Little Vagina.” The hi’ti locution is preeminently a vocative; it is constantly used by a mother-in-law to call for her daughter-in-law. A comparable vocative, with its suffixed diminutive, applies to the Dunang male only in pre-adolescent age. I only heard small boys being called by the term mara’ti – “Little Penis.” This is the case of the more-or-less, of making sensible alternations: a more rather than less value on woman-as-wife is emplaced in the kitchen. When wifehood is the focus, this is the arrangement: the spirit of the triangular stone assemblage of the earth-level cooking place is a Lord of Wife and Husband. The wife, not the sister of the husband, worships its physical markers on two days of the lunar month, the first and the fifteenth. On the same days, the shrine

Commuted landscapes and species 59 priestesses of the island, the classificatory sisters, meet at the capital shrine to address the Lord of Wife and Husband with a view on the larger landscape of the island. On one day of the year, these priestesses congregate at a communal hearth on an old watch post for sea traffic at the East Cape. The Court of the Ryukyus introduced a worship of the Chinese kitchen spirit. Today, the island priestesses still worship a capital kitchen spirit just as they also worship the physical index of orientation to the former capital of the kingdom: a stone with engraved compass bearings (see Røkkum 1998). The house – dâ – shelters alternate emphases on relationship preeminence. As for (a) siblingship, its diachronic situation calls for a focus on brother–sister relations as custodians of legal and ritual matters respectively (for a more substantial comment, see Røkkum 1998). A cult of the deified ancestors (ubudi-habudi ) projects a history of the house. As for (b) conjugality, its synchronic situation calls for attention to husband–wife relations. A cult of a hearth spirit projects a unity of a House as a commensality unit. (On house and relations cf. Gibson 1995; Howell 1990; Janowski 1995; Røkkum 1979, 2002a, 2002b, 2003.) As I claimed in “Fixed spaces for fluxed sentiments: defence perimeters for life and death domains in the South Ryukyus” (Røkkum 2003), there may be multiple reasons for House affiliation, and that in fact might be what makes a society a “house society” as expounded by Lévi-Strauss (1982).34 What is important to note here is that a Dunang House presents itself in society invoking the diachronic referent carried by siblingship.35 Yet if this takes place to the neglect of lineal alliances through marriage, it is not just a case as presented by Gillespie (2000: 37) of siblingship extending the case outward rather than downwards through descent (cf. also Marshall 1983: 8–9.) For without marrying women being fully covered by an idiom of consanguinity, as “born by brothers and sisters (utudanmari ),” they are House members even when living elsewhere. Even if the role of House priestess is acquisitioned later by niece (brother’s daughter), her own daughters are fully entitled as lineage members to worship the Founders on the festival occasion, honoring the ascending generations’ sister tie. Thus with a transfer of officiating rights from a woman to her brother’s daughter, a sibling tie (as I demonstrated with a diagram in Røkkum 1998: 84) is replicated in each generation. House history is created by this idealized self-replicating crux of relations. What I realized in Dunang is that there may also be reasons for nonaffiliation. Attendance at House festivals for members of a Gem Subjects (tamanindu) group is an onerous duty. Its less than perfunctory execution may cause many kinds of harm, even after departing from the island, I was told. The presentation of a ritual gift on a festival day is nothing but a plea for inclusion in the House congregation. I witnessed once a young woman presenting a miniature tribute of rice brandy and a bunch of incense sticks at the kucima Origin House in the ndi village. The offer was politely declined. I talked with the aging house head and his wife about the case. Their view is that in terms of kinship, there was no reason to decline the offer. The woman was a distant relative, referred to as such: Origin House head, through his mother, related to her mother. The couple feared, however, that the young woman would not be able to join the festivals at

60 Commuted landscapes and species the House for the rest of her life. The rites for disengaging oneself with the House deities are themselves quite demanding: a tinudi, Hand Release, is required. Gifts of rice, spirit money, and incense must be delivered to the House ancestors’ megaliths, and then, toward the sea, with particular attention to the abode of the nira goddess of the depths and the spirit guarding the passageway from the harbor out into the high seas. As this was being said, I was reminded that I was a possible candidate for these rites myself. Kinship is negotiable in this manner. Categories which at first sight appear crisp, as those between the tani and the siki, are realizable and operational mostly in such rigidly constructed social intercourse as that of paying respects to an ancestor. People on Dunang pay attention to dual extractions; during ceremonial events they celebrate them with sumptuous welcoming arrangements to visiting kin. Yet they are careful (as in welcoming events) not to label individuals as overtly belonging to one or the other set. They do not celebrate taxonomies that easily may become conduits of claims.

Fertilizing soils
People on the island of Dunang combat the nefarious inside their house compounds by activating aesthetics. The south-oriented courtyard (minaga) is covered with tzunta, “white soil.” This is coral sand fetched from the beach, or when named by the highborn women in prayer, the white beach. While the main entrance of the Dunang house leads out onto this bright side, an exit along the rear, northern, wall leads onto a shaded side, one with pigsties and toilet. For a Dunang house, functions pertaining to birth and death belong, however, to the darkened area. Courtyards are generally well kept in Dunang. The dutiful weeding of a courtyard in the morning, then sweeping it with a broom is, I would say, a matter of religiosity to the Dunang. As I was renting a Cadet House of an Origin House myself, I learnt that keeping the front yard of the house meticulously clean would be highly appreciated. The aesthetics of the gleaming white (as of rice and silk) extends in this manner to the very basics of inhabiting a house compound. Also, I learnt that the sweeping action itself removes traces of footprints from the day before so as to make new entries the more noticeable. A life-course is constant only if a trace is sustained with native turf. An act of fetching soil from the ground establishes a retrospective view: to a place of birth, to a moment of birth. Kinds of soil are separable by color attribute. So when an emigrant returns to his island of birth to honor a pledge to fetch a sample from the ground, she or he digs beneath the surface of the compound, sampling some “red soil,” aganta, or some “black soil,” furunta. The shaman supervising this action sees this as realignment with an individual Birth Spirit (nmaridi ). Soils and life-courses intersect in this manner. Additionally, sticks of incense planted into the soil on the original site of occupancy add a spatiotemporal indexicality (tanka) to the notion: a glow of incense connects the suppliant with the place, a pinch of soil preserves this index even when returning to a place far away. It brings an

Commuted landscapes and species 61 assurance of continuous participation in the matter of the island, and so it can be used as an amulet for health. To repeat from an examination above on selfhood and lithic referents in Dunang: the human subject depends on a constant indexicalization to points in the ambient ecological milieu. The very inception of the life-course is anchored in an image of a cavity. Life begins there, in the dark. Dunang Knowers (munuci ) claim that people’s souls may take refuge by backtracking a course to such places. Birth and death can be conceived of by these interpreters of life chances as converging within the gama – cave – motif. The resulting parallelism alludes to a tomb-as-womb.36 The shape of the mausoleum plays a part in this imagery. In a mortuary architecture strongly characterized by Chinese iconizing antecedents, Ryukyuan tombs have a dome-shaped roof and a paved courtyard. In the courtyard floor, an aperture allows a spot of turf to grow right in front of the tomb entrance. The more pragmatically inclined among those who commented on this detail referred to the need for drainage. Others responded to my question by quoting the following saying of the past: it is “The Old Lady’s Vagina” (abuhi’ti ). Ancient burial styles still extant on the island are indicative of a shift from exposure burials among stalactite caves (the gama) to more elaborate structures with limestone roofs and walls. Elderly informants were able to give detailed descriptions of mortuary architecture, with the repositories of the dead being made to resemble the houses of the living. The tomb, which might be partly dug out from the hill, had a roof thatched with maiden grass (dusiki; Miscanthus sinensis), fastened with ropes and bamboo, and walls made of stamped mud. Personhood is at its most critical state in infancy. Quite graphically, the Dunang contemplate that in conditions of extreme distress, children’s souls could easily reverse growth, undermining the life-course thus far sustained. There is a chthonic element in this: the child turning back to a cavity ( gama). The enclosed spaces of tombs, but also of houses, hold an icon of human physiognomy. So the husband of a pregnant woman is expected to refrain from fastening the protective cordage and bamboo poles on the ridge of the house where the delivery is due. As the woman goes into labor, he is expected to detach this strapping device to relieve pressure on his wife’s belly. Not to do so might provoke a feared return to a womb-as-tomb. Also, he must keep clear of the snakes which sometimes creep forth from the crevices of the stone walls girding the house. From their lairs in the stone walls, snakes climb up the trees lining the corners of the compound stone wall. Devouring the eggs in birds’ nests, snakes are inhibitors of multiplication. Through their own surfeit of propagating activity, snakes mix with humans’ affairs. It happened once, I was told, that a married woman was forced to abort the snake-children nourished in her womb. As intruders, snakes impart a negative image, a sub-human, life-draining yet multiplying agency. So their role in fertility magic is not of the positive kind. The species abundant on the island is not poisonous, and snakes are sometimes killed for food. With a pregnant woman in the house, however, a prohibition applies to

62 Commuted landscapes and species killing and eating the reptiles. One male informant pointed to the healthy look of his grandchildren as proof that his concern in this regard had proven to be effective. He also avoids hammering nails as the noise might reverberate into the womb, causing an adverse effect on the baby. A pregnant woman is served a select diet. A preferred dish is a bowlful of soup with ingredients such as crab meat (the creamy, soft part is ideal) and tuber vines (or, alternatively, the pith of the kasamudi wild tuber). “The dish is very savory,” I was told, and, besides, it may affect the outcome of the pregnancy positively (I will return to imageries of crabs in Garlic and crabs below). Tubers, I was told, are multipliers, they bring about duGabu ( jûgabu), that is, “increase.” But if consumed after birth, the dish will make the woman sick. A sumptuous meal containing festival food ingredients is given to a woman ready for delivery. The husband is her partner in these preparations. Also he ought to keep an eye on her so that she does not watch fires or quarrels. The flashes – of either kind – will leave a red spot in the face of the child. The cheeks of the mother, if exposed to the heat of fire, will transfer redness to the baby. The Dunang formerly practiced the so-called “roasting of mother and child.” As a woman went into labor, a temporary hearth dedicated to the Fire Spirit (cinukaN) was built in the mud floor north corner of the house for the purpose of boiling hot water. The taboo against watching fires is lifted as she goes into labor. Now, awaiting the moment of birth, women of the house gather around inside a temporarily erected rectangular enclosure of stone, around a “smooth mound of earth,” a diru’itamui (dira’itamui ) where they fill an iron cauldron. Theita lexeme here refers to the mound’s smoothness. The Fire Spirit in this area of the house is identified as the diruitanuti, Host of the Smooth Birth. Heavy, fresh, logs are preferred as firewood. Red clay, aganta, is chosen for the mound. Those evincing an interest in this topic were quite explicit as to the reason. When exposed to heat, it hardens, just like roof tiles. The hardening effect is the effect of good health, so in the words accompanying the action, the following expressions were mandatory: “May good health be granted! May souls fasten themselves in the body!” No particular metaphoric implication is carried by the hot water: its use is accepted in the pragmatic sense of cleansing. It is not the liquid itself – hot water – but the medium for its preparation – a solidified foundation hardening when heated – which makes a governing image for good health. With such indexicalizing mimesis, a newborn baby’s body gains vigor for living; any kind of affliction (dà-na-munu) will deflect from the bodies of both mother and child when exposed to the heat. In some comments, the heat takes their “bad blood” away. The parturient woman positions herself at the fireplace with her head aligned with the cardinal direction of south. There is no sentiment favoring the birth of boys above the birth of girls, I was told. And there is no defined sentiment favoring legitimate births. The act of giving birth is negotiated in this way, with an attention to rules which emanate from the reality of physical cohabitation rather than from the moral issues of lineage belonging. A right-twisted “birth-rope,” a sirun’na, must be suspended

Commuted landscapes and species 63 around the entire house compound, or, in the minimal case, across the back entrance leading into the parturition room. Soon after delivery, another rope is suspended across the compound entrance, a long rope for a girl, a short rope for a boy. (Girls will have long hair; therefore they need a long rope, a woman explained to me.) Another rope is suspended across the entrance to the delivery room. Looped straw charms (tzutza) are distributed around the house. Birth sui generis is a happy event. The use of a sirun’na can be differentiated from that of a buhan’na. The latter – a left-twisted rope – deflects attacks all inhabitants whatever their age. The lexeme buha (as in buhabuha) is in fact an imprecation in its own right. Along with a variety of looped straw charms (tzutza), the sirun’na fends off, more specifically, any visitations from the tomb precinct of the village. The newborn is in fact a furut’i – “the little black one.”37 Birth connects with true blackness, as does reproduction in general: pubic hairs = “black hairs” ( furuGi ). And the all-mother, the Polaris, is itself resident at the apex of the black sky. Blackness is encapsulated space; the shade is prototypical of the void. For the members of male initiation societies in the Yaeyamas, the iron cooking pot serves as the governing icon for this chromatic quality. It is black inside and its surface is covered with soot. Blackness holds a connotation of femininity. Redness holds a connotation of masculinity; the latter gathers its force from the fire beneath the pot. Formerly in South Ryukyu, mother and child were secluded in a parturition hut for some time after birth. A pair of old sandals was suspended at the entrance to ward off malignant arrivals. Soon after delivery, the infant’s brow was smeared with soot from a pot.38 Soon after delivery, there will be a check for red spots. The afterbirth is usually buried outside the delivery room, but it is delayed for a while if any malfunction is suspected. For if it the baby is found to be disfigured in some way, the afterbirth will be rubbed against its face. The treatment is repeated for two or three days. Only cooked food is served to the woman in the days after parturition. Raw food will make her sick. For the ensuing three months (one month in one version) there will be no hard work and no sexual intercourse. The privilege of not doing hard work is not stated as an ethical principle, however. “If she does,” I was told, “her cheeks will swell.” And if she goes to bed with her husband too early, another pregnancy may be due much sooner than expected. A rule is justified, not by an ideal, as through a symbolically recognized impurity, but through an effect, as through an indexically recognized displeasure. Ethics about gender relations are naturalized as bodily responses. In Dunang, just as in the villages of secret societies on nearby islands, people recite stories of chthonic birth. High spirits are born from the dark bottom of the gama stalactite caves. On Dunang, these are censuring beings; they act swiftly and with vengeance against the person casting a slur on the name of someone else. Other high spirits descend to the earth from the sky, along the leg of a tree. They are drawn to the surface of the island, not by spite, but by the dance and song of an assembled group of women. It follows that the act of giving birth calls for a similar mood, spoken of in conversations with me as a “celebration,” not as a matter of fact, but as what can gather the good forces in nature and

64 Commuted landscapes and species keep the not so good forces at bay. Even with an imagery that plays upon motifs in the landscapes of the island, there are invariably parallel motifs of morals in society to think of. The act of giving birth must be accompanied, therefore, by a feeling of joy. The light mood prevents Evil Things (madimunu) from intruding upon the birth-scene with their pent-up jealousies. And in a subsequent sequence of four– seven–ten days, invocations are made for the baby’s protection while burning incense. The baby is introduced to the high spirits as a kandani – a “red flower.” The birth ropes are removed after a period of ten days, at which time the mother and the baby can leave the rear quarters of the house and the fire on the hearth is extinguished. The tenth day of post parturition marks the baby’s first life-course “intercalation” – tanka.39 A celebration is repeated on the twentieth day. Other junctures in the incipient life-course come at 30 and 90 days. In the sense that participation by the Dunang husband in his wife’s pregnancy reflects upon the health of the offspring, one might recognize a case here of couvade, of sympathetic pregnancy. Douglas correlates its incidence with a sociological (im)balance between the sexes, that is, with a weak male control of female reproductive power (Douglas 1975). I am hesitant to make a claim for such functional parallelisms, yet I must admit that the Dunang case of weak codification of marriage and agnatic prerogatives fits eminently with her hypothesis.40 However, the present ethnography reveals a participation not only in this sociological sense, but also in a semiotic sense, as indexicality.41 The Dunang attach themselves to their territory, literally, in fact, to the ground of their island, through various modes of physical and verbal conduct. Attributes of places reflect upon the selves as indexes of people’s life trajectories. People in the island fix their attention on water sources, they think of the visual features of the island as criss-crossed by clusters of triangular paths, they leave the island with a pinch of its soil for the protection of their lives, and when children are born they need immediately to enter into a relationship with different varieties of soil. This is a religiosity which may draw on elements from Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and nowadays maybe even Shinto as well. But what strikes me in the fieldwork situation is how sparsely such influences from schools of thought come out and how easy this makes it for the anthropologist to identify a locus for knowing very near at hand.

A semantic ecology
For members of a women’s sisterhood of a Dunang New Water (aramidi ) cult group, a discriminatory value affixes itself to an image of tiny spouts of water filtered through coral sand along the beaches. Water reaching the surface of the island from underground crevices is a resource, not only for human sustenance and cultivation, but also for a local epistemology.

Commuted landscapes and species 65 Fresh water kept in cups on a site of ritual is introduced to the spirits as Prime Water (miN-nu-haci ). Kept inside a house shrine acquired by a woman as a member of a sisterhood, a small amount of water disperses a life-sustaining force resident in a spring. The personal shrine of the Chief Priestess of Dunang at araga (Map 1.1) stands on what is spoken of as a Water-course Mountain, midududama. Only the adjacent locus of naGun’ni (item d on the same map) is classified by the islanders as a mountain proper (a dry land mountain). The shrine keeper of the former place belongs to a most eminent Origin House on the island, the umata. Still today, with a predominantly sugar cane cultivation regime, and less need for periodical inundation of the soil, these Water-course Mountains are considered crucial loci for life in the island. Shrines of whichever type, dry or wetland “mountain,” sometimes hold traces of a house site. Even when the plots have been vacated long since there is no actual loss of importance to the community. The site with its monolith simply takes on the character of the familiar sacred grove. Most Origin Houses – dâmutu – celebrate their own ancestral poise. One distinctive category among these is recognized by the term tuni.42 Ancestral deeds appear as motifs also in the tuni festivals, yet the locations of these house sites (see Map 1.1) and the way they are spoken of as village sites point to a role in a wider public domain. The tuni are sites for a formal reception held for the shrine priestesses (k’a). Even deserted locales, where the only vestige of a House is a standing stone (bidiri ), are sufficient to evoke the notion of a House and its history. What else appears as a requirement is the participation of a tidibi, a male shrine steward, welcoming the arrival of priestesses in procession. I find it quite likely that the priestess cult that once emanated from the Ryukyu Court, bringing to the islands in the south such notions as guardianship of the hearth, was logically aligned with already existing cultural artifices of pre-eminence, such as a guardianship exerted through brothers and sisters of exemplary Houses with high stakes in the management of channels for rice cultivation. The original priestesses might have been guardians, not of the domestic fire, but of the public waterways. So when the Dunang explicitly refer to the tuni as public places, the reason is probably this: female and male shrine custodians were either real or classificatory siblings. The object for such a union of brother and sister was that of inducing the blessings of increase for the whole island. Such collation of legitimacy defines a diarchic premise for officiation – sacred grove/water duct – still today. So in South Ryukyu, there are two, separable roles, for woman to take charge of public affairs: (a) as priestesses of sacred groves, and (b) as priestesses of sacred ducts. From the head of the tumujâ, a tuni house of the south coast ndi village I received several allusions to custodianship of water being an inherited privilege. He was himself a tidibi of the past ndi village site, now in kubura village. He pointed to his own role as that of taking a part in life-preserving prayers, always grounding this skill in a shared experience in the island:

66 Commuted landscapes and species Under a heavy poll tax regime, and as far into the present as at the beginning of the 20th century, the islanders of the southern islands toiled in the fields to produce rice they could not afford to eat themselves. Over and over again the head of the tumujâ would return to this topic, as when saying that the moon had to be an object of prayer due to people’s dependence on its light to work far into the night. The tuni Houses, with their custodianship roles in a cult of channeled water and relationships to the midududama, Water-course Mountains (Map 1.1), had an important function to play in this regime of the past. Topography is essential both in a Dunang perspective of house and personhood. In the first place, the midududama, Water-course Mountains, with their sites of prayer for Origin Houses, carry an explicit reference to prime water from the ground. The locution itself engenders a connotation of channeled water-in-aduct. Water-course Mountains hence preserve the sources of water that can be diverted for irrigation. In the inevitable parallelism, the Houses are pivotal, as are the mountains. Rice is cultivated even at the upper reaches of the ridges of the mountainous terrain of Dunang. Fields in the area of the dunandagi heights, overlooking the south coast village of ndi, are classified according to their upper level locations, as kanda. Uphill rice fields connect with nearby water sources. People in the ndi area depend on these for irrigation. Other fields are typified by their muddy bottoms, as siki. Informants refer to the location of such fields in a depression of the terrain in the interior of the island. Water can be channeled laterally across several fields, and some of the Dunang add that what distinguishes kanda from the siki is precisely an excess of water of the latter. These are comments on the distinction: one option is laborious; water has to be distributed across the terraces. Another option, cultivating a level field, requires less effort. Water seeps out from the porous underground; it can easily be fed out from underground fissures. Water buffaloes are employed, not only for the plowing, but also for trampling solid the muddy floors of the rice field. Both regimes contrast with rice cultivation relying on rainwater for inundation. The latter, less preferable option, presents itself as the only alternative in other, less hospitable parts of the island. The kucima Origin House in the village below owns rice fields on the slopes of the sacred dunandagi mountain of the southern village. This was the only house in the village not to have replaced rice with sugarcane as the principal crop. Also the tumujâ Origin House cultivated rice in nearby uphill areas (and a patch of millet exclusively for ritual purposes). Ndi villagers acknowledge the sacredness of a mountain which holds not only rock but also water. Also, they acknowledge the life-sustaining capacity in a quite pragmatic sense: the mountain yields an ample supply both for household and agricultural use. Prayers sometimes allude to people’s habitat at the base of sacred mountains. In the outlook of the ndi villagers, an island territory that originated with the dunandagi took shape from the rocks of the sea. A Dunang narrative of island creation often starts with the motif of the dunandagi rising from a reef as the

Commuted landscapes and species 67 mound of sand displaced by a snail. The somewhat taller summit of urabudagi is a secondary formation. In their version of island origin, the mountain sacred to the north coast village merely took shape by the silt piling up from the rivers running down from the primeval dunandagi mountain. Dry land did not emerge from the sea, but from fresh water. Ritual displays recreate this dual creation from the sea and creation from fresh water. As for seawater, body-souls (mabui ) can be brought in place with splashes of seawater upon the face. Salt, whether presented in plastic packets or spread out on plates on lacquer trays, is introduced as a salty delicacy (mâsû’usai ). People benefit from the indexical evocations of aesthetic quality, as a translucency of fresh water, a whiteness of polished rice, of silk, and of salt. The knowable, as exemplified by the voices of the shamanic Knowers of Dunang, is quite inclusive. A semantic ecology reduplicates elements of nature, personhood, and kinship in the following chain: what is true Highness of mountains and of human souls, what is true Wetness of mountains, what is true Luminosity of human souls. But the centricity in people’s lives of rice derives from such poetic praise carried by the priestesses’ prayers. Sugar cane has replaced rice as the chief crop, and the dependence on rice as a tax resource fades in people’s reminiscences. Still, the semiosis of this historicity is still active in the festival life arranged along the annual cycle of agricultural events. I shall now pursue to a somewhat more fully the eidetic associations of landscapes and seascapes.

Garlic and crabs
Images, substances, and movements draw on an experience from within a bounded island ambience. Whenever I went beyond the concrete in my conversations responses turned bland and general and reminded me of the dull, stereotypic expressions of politicians and public servants one hears at public events. Such oratorical events were entirely devoid of the poetics of allusion-throughparallelism that thrived in the contexts I am describing here. People sustain these figures very much as place attachments. As shamans and other ritual experts envisage a positive soul force, a very essence of humanness, they make very stylized utterances of visual attributes: of whiteness, the glimmering surface of wave crests, of level hills, of rice and salt on display, and of spirit trails in the sky. People deliver their insight more as an eidos than as an ethos. This is a grounded knowledge, relative to life-domains and locality-domains. Imageries thrive in the familiar context of people’s habitats. Certain peculiarities of nature can be speculated upon, down the generations and in brief eruptions of curiosity. A mutual relevance of humans and species in nature, even in moral issues, lies at the core of this interest. In this section, I investigate one peculiarity of things partly natural, partly moral, as reported to me on the island of Dunang: garlic and crabs – sometimes in isolation, at others in combination – help gain what is wanted while resisting what is not. A three-day First Fruits festival is held in the South Ryukyus at the peak of the hot season. On Dunang, this event is known as the ugaNfututi. A distinctive

68 Commuted landscapes and species mood is called for, one of relief at seeing the field crops now ripe for harvest. The festival opens after nightfall, when people from important Origin Houses arrive at the capital shrine of tûdama on the north coast with samples of their harvests such as sheaves of rice and loads of tubers.43 This is a dedication that takes place inside the shrine building itself, upon and around the altar with its incense holders. The occasion calls for an address to the sunka, the this-worldly domain of benefactor spirits. Island priestesses, the k’a, assemble not inside but outside the shrine on the morning of the second day. They line up against the outside wall of the shrine, facing the innermost recess of the sanctuary. This is a quite formal arrangement which starts with the Chief Councillor greeting the elderly officiating priestess, the titleholder to the tuguru district. With the vacancy of Head Priestess position, the counterpart of the Chief Councillor is the priestess senior by age. Wooden lacquer trays for offerings contain none of the presentation produce of the previous night, only some garlic (Allium sativum) and live crabs. With this seating, facing the innermost of the shrine grove, the prayers – usutui – now uttered by the senior k’a are introductory to a duality of sea and land to be realized in an act of exchange. Fresh garlic bulbs from the land laid out on fine wooden trays form a presentation for the sea. Newly-collected crabs from the sea, also on trays, make a presentation for the land. The appearance of crabs on lacquer trays – carefully lined up inside the shrine compound – introduces a fertilizing, life-enhancing, agency. (Indeed, it is quite difficult to keep them thus confined; herding the crabs inevitably causes some distraction in executing the rites.) This crab for the First Fruits classifies as the uGaN’ná – shrine crab in the Dunang ethnozoological lexicon. This, the Grapsus tenuicrustatus (rock crab/lightfooted crab) is an intertidal species that thrives upon rocks along the shoreline.44 To repeat, none of the samples of field produce dedicated to the loci of incensestick burners inside the shrine are added to this event. In the early hours at dawn, there is a noticeable change in the festival mood. There are no more arrivals from the Origin Houses. A continuation of the festival in the early hours of the second day refers no longer to such society complementarities as those between a few high-ranking Houses and a central Shrine. The domain now at the center of interest does not even begin with the built structure of the shrine, but with a situation in the landscape of the innermost grove of the enclosure. Contiguous with the seashore and the lagoon entry specifically, the shrine occupies a space interfacing land and sea. Its locus evokes the ambience of an all-inclusive spirit force. The lagoon entrance with its recesses of coral visible through the translucent water harbors the presence of this spirit force, spoken of, inevitably with some hesitation, as the female nira of the submarine holes. Her entity repository includes those in marginal places: those not yet born and those not yet passed away. Bulbs as modifiers of sentiment Altogether, 13 crabs and 13 garlic bulbs dot the turf between the capital shrine and its detached sanctum. The number is a product of the following classifiers:

Commuted landscapes and species 69 (a) 11 mountains, each named by an uGaN shrine; (b) one capital shrine (the tûdama), and (c) the deep abode of the nira, whose closeness to the scene is established by an artifact indexicalizing a direction toward the lagoon entry: an incense-bowl standing on the altar inside the shrine building. A ritual of the First Fruits affixes an attention toward both land and sea. Garlic replicates profusely through its offshoots. It is a promoter of growth. But when brought to a tomb site, it turns itself into a promoter of anti-growth. It plays an essential role in activities thus situated. With the rearrangement of ossuaries inside a burial chamber about to be accomplished to make room for the admission of the corpse, or for allowing a re-burial in a more spacious structure in the vicinity, there will be a defined need for manipulating cloves of garlic for a Soil Release (dinudi ). The bulbs are thrown into an old tomb; in the accepted idiom, they “cleanse the soil.” Behind the expression lies a more precise idea of an action producing a countermeasure against the desires left by the dead. Such emanations must be abolished before they become lasting sentiments. With nunka (yesterday) matters predominating at the gravesite, garlic turns into an inhibitor of growth. The pungency of the bulbs suppresses the scent of humans working on the site of a new tomb, averting accidental plunges into the nunka. In previous days, according to reminiscences of old people, it was customary before going to a funeral to rub one’s face with a clove of garlic. A vaguely anthropomorphic Soil Host (diGaranuci ) is the avowed target when the bulbs are brought to the interment scene. Garlic is sometimes suspended above house entrances to serve this purpose of distraction, and, more specifically, it can be used as a charm to dissipate cravings for house assets such as cows and buffaloes. Garlic foils the spread of sentiment. Besides, I was told that the darkness of its abode in the topsoil can be penetrated by the luminous glances of the shamanic Knowers. Garlic is cultivated in dry-field topsoil. Penetration and pungency are features that are summoned when people need interlocutors with the otherworld. Garlic mediates a nearness to a nefarious Other, evoking it, for soon to send it packing. This is a double-edged effect. Crustaceans as modifiers of sentiment Garlic – hiru – connects with the nira female spirit of the depths by penetrating the topsoil of the island with its offshoots. A sand crab characterized by the Dunang as white (Ocypode ceratophtalmus; ghost crab) teems in the topsoil, just as garlic does. Not surprisingly, the Dunang identify the species as the garlic body, hirumi. Its burrowing ability and easy access to the sea permit it to interface with the nira. The association works like this: deep ground is often porous and criss-crossed by caves, some of which reach out into the sea. The garlic body is the species of choice for tomb-site rituals. But even so, it is interchangeable with the shrine crab on the occasion of the First Fruits. Not migrating very far from the water’s edge, the sand crabs are frequently encountered as one walks along the beach.

70 Commuted landscapes and species Crabs, just like garlic, are promoters of growth when placed on lacquer trays on the occasion of the First Fruits. But they can also be ensconced inside tomb vaults and as such act as agents of anti-growth. (Incidentally, the English name of the preferred species, ghost crab, is quite fitting for the Dunang lexicon.) Exemplars of garlic, crab, and shell are inhibitors of growth when confined in a grave vault. In fact, crabs are inhibitors and promoters at the same time when served from a cooking pot, as a repast suitable for a pregnant woman. Crabs are sign amplifiers; informants mention the (multiplicity of ) childbirths and the (multiplicity of ) offshoots in the fields. But unwanted amplification must be contained by the same sign vehicle. While organic growth is beneficial, the spread of sentiment can be detrimental. The Dunang visualize a nature of human sentiment (umui ) by expanding upon imageries rooted in nature. Garlic and crabs multiply easily. But even so, according to the comments I received, they carry the common feature of being able to deflect bad things cum dirty things (madimunu): the garlic through its odor, the crab through its immersion in clean seawater. With such steady watch on the sharing of attributes, even the spider conch (Harpago chiragra) can be added to the class. It can be seen adorning house and toilet entrances on Dunang. But while the crabs are kept alive to keep hold of an association with what is life giving, the spider conch is demonstrably an inanimate object. Still it can prove useful when there is a need to protect oneself, such as against the cravings upon a village and its inhabitants emanating from the tombs on its outskirts. On an island in the Miyako Group, I noticed the presence of sizable spider conchs in many house compound entryways. On an occasion of the Soil Release, for cleansing a newly-opened tomb, the presence of crabs inside the empty vault reflects an exorcistic purport, that of quelling cravings of one body for another. The dead – with their shattered desires – try to reach out to the living. The addressee of the Soil Release rite in this nunka alternative is a declared adversary, a Soil Spirit. So with a shift of context, from the sunka, this-worldy, ritual of the First Fruits to the nunka, that-worldly ritual of a tomb opening, crabs turn into agents for vitiating unwanted amplification, such as the desires of the nefarious Soil Host for the assets (e.g. cattle) of the living. They pass as equivalents in exchanges conducted by the shamans with the Soil Host. So there is fuzzy nature to consider: garlic and crabs promote what is wanted and they inhibit what is not wanted. Crabs, in particular, inhibit growth by exhuming infected soil in tombs just as they engender growth by propagating in burrows. Even in such attention to realistic appearances in nature, the Dunang engross themselves with a topic of sentiment. They appease their own worries about cravings from the depths of the tombs by deploying messengers which quite realistically can dig into matter. Crabs are not just prolific. They are also versatile in their movement between land and sea. As amphibians, they have unrestricted access to the hollow interiors both of the coral reef capping the beaches and the island itself. They travel between an ambience of the reef – with its crevices, escarpments and concave profiles of coral rock protruding from the sea – and the equally indented landscape of inshore limestone caves. They burrow, thrusting up to the surface

Commuted landscapes and species 71 harmful elements which might rest in the ground, and they perform ablutions by immersing themselves in the sea. (One informant illustrated the case by reciting the creation story: how the island was formed by a heap of sand dug from the reef by a snail.) But these twin characteristics, burrowing and immersion, are kept quite apart from each other in the single instance of the ritual. With habitual access to marine and terrestrial crevices, crabs have been allotted the role of intermediaries in the task of accessing the nirabandu (nirabansu). This is the realm of the female spirit to whom the fuzzy function of playing a part both in the joy of births and the horror of deaths has been ascribed. An elderly shrine steward, the tidibi of the ndi shrine, stated the point. The spirit is passionately attracted by the crabs.45 Special attention is paid to the course of their migrations. He said to me, “Watch their movement across the pandanus hill above the kataburu beach, and through the crevices on the mui spit [see Figure 1: an outcrop of coral inside the lagoon]. They move toward high ground in order to propagate.” Such visualizations of quality space nudged me further toward a closer look at zoological cases. I experienced that people marveled at the reproductive and gestational regularities of crabs due to a celestial implication: how obediently the process adjusts to the cycles of the moon. Listeners to one of the narrations I received on the topic at a gathering at an inn were quite attentive. Innuendoes about the crabs’ peculiarities caused some giggling. Other characterizations were accompanied by exclamations, such as, “How strange!” Some people welcomed my interest; one commented: “Someone ought to do some research about these mountain crabs.” Other potential informants, on Dunang, as well as on other islands I visited, turned away at the very mention of the word “crab.” Familiar with my involvement in matters of ritual, they judged – appropriately – that my interest was not of the pragmatic kind: “I don’t know anything about such things!” Or “Why don’t you instead ask the old priestess?”46 A view of life processes is anchored in territorial concepts. Crab activity is assigned to named zones in the island environment, but here the Dunang visualize not the fixed contours or massive outlines of territory against the sea but, rather, the sandy, rocky, and cavernous environments where land and sea meet. Even the physical outline of the island is fuzzy, and the Dunang include such meeting zones of land and sea in assigning names to places. Spirit trails extend into the characteristic capes of the east (aGaisati ) and west (irisati ) and into lagoon features of the north (the t’î ) and the south (the mui ). But the broad reefs are as fissured as the limestone and sandstone formations which indent the coastline. Crabs and other ocean species can be watched in the hollows between rocks at considerable distance from the beach. Some islanders told me that they don’t like spotting them there. People I talked with about this appeared to have an acute grasp on the characteristics of crab species differ in shape, color, and behavior. They make an initial distinction, however, between crabs that keep themselves within the limits of ocean tides and crabs that have a penchant for dry land. The latter variety is spoken of as a dama’ná, mountain crab. This is the Cardisoma hirtipes, a gecarcinid

72 Commuted landscapes and species land crab (Christmas Island blue crab). A further distinction applies to the character of the carapace. People watch sea crabs sloughing off their shells just as snakes their skins, but they assert that land crabs never lose their shells. The land crab searches for high ground during the cold season. According to ndi people’s observations crabs of this variety assemble in the lower reaches of the ridges which enclose the level rice fields of the ndi village from the west. These are the areas of nditaburu (bordering the village to the west) and tarumai (a strip of level land extending from an inlet just southwest of the village). Here they seek out deep caves with freshwater pools, the gama. Other colonies of crabs settle for a bamboo grove on the seashore, in the foothill area of anda. Having reached their destination, the mountain crabs burrow into the ground. Male crabs dig vertical holes. Females dig three or four shallow, almost horizontal holes, each measuring about six inches. The crabs intermingle by visiting each other’s burrows; they feed there, underground, and males and females huddle together. In the words of the elderly tidibi, shrine steward of the ndi sanctuary, suggesting a parallel to humans, they mix, simply in the manner of boys and girls.47 Females are impregnated about the time when the sun sets above the western ridges of the tarumai, elevations cresting the south-coast rice fields. People in the ndi village pinpoint the actual day as that of the third of the third moon. The date is easy to remember as it coincides with the day of Women’s Festival. Following the advent of the full moon of the fourth lunation, the females migrate down to the sea, first to wait for the eggs to mature, subsequently, as several villagers explained to me in a fixed expression, “to wash their pregnancies.” They advance in columns from elevated ground, early in the morning, so humans cannot see them. Each descent to the beach, commencing on the thirteenth, takes three days. The event recurs at full moon during the subsequent months. Crabs are fully grown by full moon five months later, on the day of the fifteenth of the eighth moon. This is the occasion of Men’s Festival. Now to the human side. Crabs, to reiterate the issue, procreate at the time of the third day of the third moon, and they tend their pregnancies in response to the indices of the lunations: they descend to the beach for the sake of “washing their pregnancies.” An occasion of a Women’s Festival on the third day of the third moon grants an opportunity for young boys and girls, despite the chastity concerns, to come together for a picnic all by themselves on the beach. A seaside picnic at low tide includes the menu of vagina-shaped soft rice cakes. Women cleanse their bodies on the outside by splashing water from the sea upon their head and legs and on the inside by imbibing the black ink-like fluid of the cuttlefish together with crab meat (cf. the section Gendered events Chapter 3). With such action, humans purify themselves in response to the icons they create by and for themselves. The crabs’ gestation period ends on the fifteenth day of the eighth moon. Again granted the license of a men’s full-moon festival, boys and girls are allowed to seek each other’s company on the beach. The main entry in the festival cuisine is a rice dumpling of an oblong shape, dotted with sweetened beans. These are penis replica (cf. the section Gendered events in Chapter 3).48

Commuted landscapes and species 73 Crabs lend clues to two aspects of conduct that are difficult to accommodate in human society: (a) procreation (this is the central motif of the kanbunaga festival of the tumujâ House, to be described below), and (b) securing social legitimacy for offspring. A quite suggestive parallelism for humans is contained in an utterance paraphrased above about the crabs’ immersion in the sea. The female crab “washes her pregnancy.”49 Female crabs discard their non-viable eggs in the sea, I was told. Seawater is itself a cleansing agent. So on the human side, those participating in a Women’s Festival perform ablutions, in what they speak of as “flowery waves.” With such metaphoric allusions they embed an ethical value in a semantic field of aesthetics. The ultimate effect of such a quest for natural precedents is that of an invocation of social precedents. Let me elaborate a bit on that. Ethics for the Dunang are grounded in a natal origin of House belonging, and, preferably, to a pedigree history. One of the more vexing issues of life is that of succession to the custodianship of ancestral tablets, that is, to lacquered strips ( gansu) of wood that can be fitted onto a casing as the visual indices of a House history. A great deal of active knowing by Dunang shamans (and probably by shamans in the larger part of the Ryukyu archipelago) bears upon the issue of succession alternatives. The ritual cleansing, to repeat, brings up the question of legitimate births. Future muddles in the pedigree of the woman’s house, occasioned by her bearing a child out of wedlock, can be forestalled by cleansing action. Ethics becomes body matter in this sense, and thus very easy to grasp. Humans and crabs remain quite distinct from each other in such reflection on society morals. But one aspect of crab character expressed in crab conduct should be kept in mind when contemplating a behavioral expression of an aspect of human nature. A twofold analogy is contained in what is a paraphrase on reproductive behavior, thus: crabs abide by the cycles of the moon whereas the islanders abide by the cycles of festival life. Crabs mate as dictated by cosmic rhythms. Yet, by the very regularities of these rhythms, they purify themselves. Despite a semantic and ideational association of menstruation and moon, humans do not spontaneously mate by cosmic rhythms. Menstruation is a Moon Thing, tî-nu-munu.50 But they can augment their fertility by aligning themselves with the moon: women with the crescent moon, men with the full moon. While crabs move in concert as a reverberation of the lunar/tidal movements, humans coordinate their conduct for the same purpose as dictated by the rules of a festival: they can be taught how to move down to the sea to purify themselves. Crabs and humans alike “wash their pregnancies.” This is a symbolic reading made possible by a coextension of realistic images. The cleansing is a symbolic act that draws upon realistic ecological insights. Let me make a comparison with a manual on Okinawan marine biology. Nagai and Nomura (1988: 78) write that the spawning period of the land crab lasts from June to September. On the island of Kuroshima of the Yaeyama group, it is possible to watch the hatching of larvae during the nights of full moon (or the nights immediately before and after). This appertains to a variable seasonal interval, dependent on the lunations,

74 Commuted landscapes and species about solar June. Tuned to the appearance of the full moon, colonies of female crabs migrate down the sandy beaches. But, then, what do crabs or garlic symbolize? This, perhaps, would be a commonsensical way of meeting another culture from the vantage point of our own assumptions of mental representations, favoring a one-to-one type of fixed relationship rather than a part-to-part relationship in horizontally or vertically bound semantic fields. What in the felicitous Lévi-Straussian phrase would be a science of the concrete can be shown, for the Dunang, to work in favor of both a shared understanding of nature and a shared experience of ethics quite without any analogies brought into play between humans (or categories of humans) and species in nature.51 No Dunang woman or man whom I met think that garlic and crabs are mystical species deserving of continuous attention. They are not sacred species, and they may not connect with definable “beliefs.” They are not divine messengers in crustacean guise. Nonetheless, garlic and crabs are culturally authored simulacra. And they are tell-tale impressions taken from nature, eminently serviceable for society ethics. The Dunang are meticulous in their observation of features in their ecosystem, but the knowledge they accumulate is allocated to even more holistic cultural tasks including birth and the issue of legitimacy. Here I agree with Ellen (1993: 149) in a view of classification of animals and plants: “[they] can never be morally neutral.” Garlic character and crab character can be reproduced in parallel images in order to affix something favorable to one condition and something less favorable to another. Subjective states of apperception reach a level of expression in this way. The Dunang collect indices of quite disparate species in order to nest both a positive image and its negative referent within the same ritual expression, such as the crab’s burrowing/cleansing as exorcistic behavior, and its spawning as fertilizing behavior. The distinctiveness may in fact be what makes it possible to think of a similarity in one sense. The lens is narrowed down to focus upon select attributes: penetration, burrowing, shedding, multiplying. Some are shared between the species; others, such as pungency, remain a characteristic of the one. Only a few are sufficient to grant comparability. Garlic connects people with increase through the multiplication of the bulbs. Crabs connect people with increase through their spawning behavior. Garlic suspends unwanted increase through its pungency. Crabs suspend unwanted increase through their cleansing habit. The semiotic figure of crabs and humans is inclusive, yet it subsists on a difference even if it covers a considerable biological span. It collects with equal versatility the notion of what must be neutralized for humans to be at ease as the notion of what must be augmented for humans to be at ease.52 A fuzzy logic makes its way into ritual by merging attributes from species demonstrably quite apart from each other. Yet it is not one way of blurring true distinctions between categories which is the issue here. Let me put an additional accent on the word “logic.” Here is a concatenation of carefully selected attributes for the sake of constructing an iconic sign. Brought out into the context of ritual, garlic and crabs churn out readings of each other. Resemblances matter.53

Commuted landscapes and species 75 The Dunang dramatize certain aspects of zoological and botanical appearances to produce signs about states in human health and morals. One might well expect a classification of species in nature to reveal something about the nature of the classifiers, such as hierarchic content (a hierarchy of a priestess of a hub shrine and other priestesses of cadet shrines, for example). Dunang knowing proceeds holistically in this sense, unifying opposites. Perhaps, even in a far broader format during the age of the Kingdom, this might have accounted for some cognitive flexibility in interactions with the outside world, thinking of the role of the Ryukyuan Court as an important partner in the tribute trade domains of Asia. The issue here, however, is not simply the match – more or less perfect – but the creative application of impressions from nature upon the canvas of society. In this sense, the present study is not one of indigenous taxonomies, but of an imaginist, and thus semiotic, resource, obtainable within a corpus of local knowledge of natural species.

Parallel thought
Ritual language harbors well-directed double entendres, as in the concurrent play upon: (a) a wished-for increase, and (b) a not wished-for increase. I suggest that such semantic ambidexterity by counterpoising of paradoxes may play a positive role in fashioning awareness in culture. So far I have applied the term “fuzzy” to this characteristic; another apposite term would be “tacit.” Polanyi (1969: 141) articulates a perspective on a “tacit knowledge” which subsists on two kinds of awareness: focal and subsidiary. A tolerance of paradoxes may depend precisely on a malleability of attention: focal in one moment, subsidiary in another. (I return, in Chapter 3, with a more specific comment on the “focal”/“subsidiary” distinction articulated by Polanyi.) In this model of selective attention, it is not the total polyvalence of the parental images of garlic and crabs which go into the project of knowing. The lack of semantic crispness poses no obstacle to shared understandings. Living things visualize reproduction to the Dunang, not in a fully-sized image of humans and (different kinds of ) animals, but in a fully-sized image of bits of their respective characters. I see an interpretative consistency in this attention by the Dunang to nature even in the absence of any textual aid. In fact, the zodiacal species from a literary tradition (the Chinese) played a very limited role in the talks I had with people on a topic I might now phrase this way: “allegories about sentience.” Eco (1990) comments on the role of the Christian textual tradition for the formulation of symbolic theory. Medieval encyclopedias, according to Eco, allotted a symbolic meaning to “real” world entities: “In these encyclopedias the same object or creature can assume contrasting meanings, so that the lion promotes pari passu the figure of Christ and the figure of the devil. The work of the medieval commentators was to provide rules for a correct textual disambiguation. Symbols were ambiguous within the paradigm, never within the syntagm” (1990: 13). This is very much the endeavor also of the Dunang with no scriptural tradition of their own, working on “disambiguation” in ritual praxis.

76 Commuted landscapes and species In The Simplest Mathematics, Peirce draws a line between “kind,” “class” and “collection.” His view of the latter item is “a collection”: “The word collection does not imply that the singulars themselves are gathered together or are, in any way, externally affected. It is only the ideas of them that are grouped ” (my emphasis in the latter sentence) (CP 4.649). In ethnographic accounts we are familiar with affinities which have a reality because they are named as such, as for instance in the naming of totemic clans. The force of such cultural authorization of likeness overriding difference is evident in Peirce: . . . if I on Monday consider the collection composed of Don Quixote’s helmet, the procession of the equinoxes, Jean Dare’s children, and the star Mira Cete at its maximum brilliancy, and you on Wednesday, without knowing of my collection determine to take the first, second, and fourth of those objects as a collection, or lot, then, because Jean Dare had no children, your collection and mine will be identically the same collection, having precisely the same essential character. (CP 4.649) “Garlicness and crabness” is a question of the more-or-less of one state and the more-or-less of another. A seemingly “crisp” parameter, to compare, would possibly be made up of the sunka/nunka dimorphism. A Festival of the First Fruits is of the sunka variety; a grave-opening ceremony is of the nunka variety. But despite this somehow clear-cut categorization, and the efforts by people to avoid activities of the respective kinds taking place on the same days, there remains always a worry that they will overlap. For example, the Dunang prohibit meat dishes on the occasion of the First Fruits. But a notion is upheld of burial places for humans and cattle in the subsoil of their shrine groves. So I was not very surprised to observe that people on another island in the South Ryukyu, under the auspices of a secret society, ingest boiled buffalo meat together on the very occasion of the First Fruits, right inside the grove where prayers are recited. Moreover, Miyara (1979: 57) reports that the liver and lungs of cattle are brought to shrines on the occasion of a New Year of the Dead (the topic of An interstice of the year in Chapter 3), but received no responses as to why. Figurations used by the Dunang that relate humans with other species are signs that do in fact provide information on life processes. Visualizations dispense information about how likeness is to be experienced, or what particular likeness is to be asserted in the face of a perceptual difference. Peirce’s iconicity can be recognized in this, although the term should include a much wider range of similitude than what is picture-like. An icon has a quite circumscribed role to play. It is merely the figure for an affinity to make its way into awareness (the Peircean firstness). A parallel image of lunar periodicity and crustacean reproductive periodicity is a constructed equivocalness, however, even as the studied responses, such as “washing the pregnancies,” occur as a natural index. A less perfect, and hence more morally contingent issue of human reproductiveness, comes up with a further extension of the sign artifice in the direction of the symbol.

Commuted landscapes and species 77 With greater reflection, I would suggest that the term – a linguistic or social condition – for this similarity-in-difference is, pace Peirce, an interpretant. It speaks about the relation; it grants a condition for the rule to be valid. In my inquiry above, I found that what is being symbolized is, in fact, fertility of some kind. A similarity between humans and crabs, as a paradigmatic grounding of their similitude in reproductive behavior, is the outcome of this conditioning by the interpretant. The nature of pretense Visualization is not the first-hand perception of similitude. Rather, the figure at issue is itself, rather recursively, governed by the interpretant, told and retold in word (accounts of crab nature) and action (as the ritual use of crabs) countless times. If this conditioning were not to exist, life would just be a flurry of images. There is, however, yet another term to consider, not a flurry, but rather a consistent reversal of images. I have been commenting on reduced presentational images which are partly statements of intervals, on linkages in semantic fields, statements and their negations in a documented contextual situation. Crabs and garlic have differentiated uses in this contextual mapping. One and the same species is capable of indexicalizing quite disparate values. Values, in turn, can easily be sensitized to contexts with such versatility of knowing, and quite without the use of metaphor. So the following question, as applied to linguistics by Searle (1979: x), does not to my mind fully address the issue: “. . . the chief problem of metaphor is how can the speaker systematically mean and communicate something quite different from what the expressions he utters mean?” The truth-condition is not prior to the statement, but embedded in it as an interpretant spawning yet other signs. In the Greek etymological reading of the word metaphor, meta, “to transfer”, combines with pherein, “to carry.” Metaphors, in this account, are carriers of commuted meanings. Greek identifies a mode of cross-communication. In Sanskrit, lakshana is the word which compares with our “metaphor.” It identifies a category of indirect expression. Chinese and Japanese have alternative ideographic parallels to the Greek compound term. One Japanese compound, inyu translates as “skewed meaning.” Another Japanese compound, hiyu translates as “compared meaning.” A tacit premise can amplify meaning, it can twist meaning, or it can negate meaning. This could be the fuzzy nature of a symbolic sign, compatible I infer with Eco’s definition of the sign: A sign is everything which can be taken as significantly substituting for something else. This something else does not necessarily have to exist or to actually be somewhere at the moment in which a sign stands for it. Thus semiotics is in principle the discipline studying everything which can be used in order to lie. (Eco 1976: 7; emphases in the original) Dunang ritual makes an allowance for such pretense-as-substitution when pieces of raw meat are presented as the equivalents of human bodies, when strips

78 Commuted landscapes and species of white paper are presented as cloth, when hemp threads are presented as yarn, when bits of a broken pot are presented as coins, and when sheets of paper are presented as money bills. These symbols are, however, subject to a usage of indices of a kind and magnitude equivalent to an unredeemed debt between the living and the dead, or between humans and entities residing in nature. In the accompanying prayers, the quantification of each and every ingredient is crucial. The overall meaning of the ritual is that of a negotiation of nearness and distance between each party. The Dunang use various means to infuse pretense in their rituals. I see a tripartite cast of their execution: (a) praising the offerings, (b) demolishing them, and (c) celebrating the victory. The middle ground of this sequence is that of turning upside-down what has just been profusely praised, and then dousing it with the remaining rice brandy for a quick combustion in situ, upon the ground or in a makeshift kerosene can incinerator. What is thus delivered for destruction are offerings forbidden for ritual participants to savor: the tzûmiti “white,” yet false miti rice beer (see Figure 3.3) and the felictious rice cakes (muti ) which have been cut in order to be presented as kirimuti: “cut muti.” Such not-so-real liquids and edibles are helpful in cutting sentimental links. Vico envisaged in his treatise The New Science (1970) that pretense does not exist a priori, but is conditioned by a developed reflectiveness, one which can sustain a play on words, as in irony. In a chapter on “Corollaries concerning poetic tropes, monsters, and metamorphoses” he says: “Irony could not have begun until the period of reflection, because it is fashioned by falsehood by dint of a reflection which bears the mask of truth” (1970: 90). In Rappaport’s view (1999: 11), falsehood is possible when discourse breaks away “from the here and now”: “The very freedom of sign from signified that enlarges by magnitudes the scope of human life also increases by magnitude possibilities for falsehood.” It is the symbolic sign within the triadic alignment defined by Peirce which grants such freedom.54 Fuzzy nature What in a positivist approach to truth-conditions might appear contradictory can, in a fuzzier but no less valid logic, be a question of partial or even contrary truths accommodated by a single notion. Compound ideas such as the bigi-bunai and sunka-nunka abound in Dunang expressions. And as I said above, an imagery of garlic and crabs has a compound, even fuzzy, character by accommodating the contrariety of growth and the negation of growth. Maclaury’s term dual prototype is fitting for describing such dimorphic knowing (Maclaury 1991: 62). Eco, while addressing the issue of Kantian schematism, comments on perception and semiosic process.55 He identifies, inter alia, a cognitive type (CT) covering “pairs of oppositions” (Eco 2000: 157). The definition of the one (such as “husband”) attends to the definition of the other (such as “wife”). Zadeh (1982: 296) defines a prototype as “a single summarized object” and “we define a prototype as a fuzzy schema for generating or recognizing the

Commuted landscapes and species 79 elements of a population of objects”. In fuzzy set theory, according to Kosko (1992), the situation would correspond to the difference between a fuzzy membership function and a non-fuzzy indicator function. In the present ethnography I find examples of both the fuzzy and the non-fuzzy. The fuzzy: garlic and crabs have been allocated a participatory role both in matters of life and death; the non-fuzzy: but as this role is differentiated by context (a harvest festival, a cleansing rite, or a grave-digging event), each of the species becomes either an agent of life or of death, indexicalizing either the growth one wishes to come true or the growth one does not wish to come true. A fuzzy logic, it seems, tolerates any of these premises: (a) the both-and argument, (b) the either-or argument. Indexicality, in the Peircean sense, is what sustains the latter alternative. Adapting fuzzy set theory for anthropological usage, Laughlin (1993) utilizes the fuzziness–crispness construct for an “experiential proximity hypothesis.” His case, adducing an implication for a phenomenology of religious experience is that Tibetan Buddhism holds a store both of consciousness categories and meditative practices. The crispness of these categories is retained only for learning purposes. In the contemplative experience, they become “fuzzified”: “The categories become . . . the entry points into infinite sets of meaning that grade to all other sets of meaning and that encompass the entire field of consciousness” (Laughlin 1993: 31). We are accustomed to asking what such and such a species or cultural item “symbolizes” for a people. Yet a wider field of associations can, in the tradition of Victor Turner, be covered by such terms as “multivocality” and “polysemy.” There could even be some alternative readings, however, of the “many voices”/ “many meanings” proposition. I would like to illustrate this with a very commonplace motif. In the West, we give roses on happy occasions. Despite the thoroughly habituated link between a rose and a symbolic meaning of felicitousness, any social reality can be complex enough to induce an array of interpretations. Red roses or yellow roses – which would be appropriate? Hues of color might possibly be more finely tuned to hues of events and persons. Any nuance, it may seem, can be covered by our term “multivocality.” The parental image allows for a wide scope of readings and usages even given the weight of etiquette. What I find interesting is that the partial meanings we settle on tend to be crisper than the parental image, and specifically if it can be supported by metaphor. An utterance such as “red, fragrant, roses for a passionate encounter” enhances crispness. It will never be fully realized, however, for there will always be an unsettled question of how much redness in the scale of colors must be required for a sentence like “a rose is red” to be true. And there will always be an unsettled question of how much passion on the scale of emotions must be required for a sentence like “an encounter is passionate” to be true. Our initial perception of the rose intervenes with its own truth-condition. What we grasp for assembling our mental picture meets a boundary or some sort of filter. So we appreciate the feeling of the thing, and would not exclaim:

80 Commuted landscapes and species “Oh that thorny flower! Who could think of that as a gift?” So there is even a question of a borderline for the positive to slip into the negative, with the thorns relegating the flowers to the backstage of the impression. I conclude that roses can be tuned to emotions precisely because habit sharpens a sense of discrimination. If the full multivocality of the parental image – the thorns included – sticks to our associations of roses, the illocutionary thrust becomes severely blunted. A fuzzy logic, if applied to the cultural practice of giving roses, would be working on another level of conceptual integration than the one characterizing Cartesian logics. In a more synthesizing mood, one would be predisposed to accommodate the contrariness embedded in an object.56 The initial picture would be more integral than in Cartesian discriminations. So roses are beautiful, they are fragrant, and they are thorny. An interpretant vector, given for example by etiquette, would emphasize alternatively the beauty and the thorniness. One could well imagine the following twist in metaphoric wisdom: a girl benefiting from the beauty; a boy benefiting from the thorniness. So there is not an opposition, but a complementarity between these two semiotic figures of gender as they are linked together within the same composite symbolic sign. And to repeat an argument from above, the interpretant governs finely which condition prevails for one or the other sensation to come true. Beauty and resilience are the disparate attributes which can be made comparable, one in terms of the other, by being paired under the emblem of the rose. Being thus linked together is a sufficient condition for a membership class to exist, and for a mentalité to fall in place. Fuzziness would prevail, however, as there is no initial truth-condition. The more important, then, is the ethnographic document. Fieldwork, with an attention to etiquette, would reveal the limiting sense as to which reading of the sign would be allowed in a given context. Are the roses assembled as “beautiful things” to embalm an atmosphere or are they assembled as “thorny things” to stiffen resistance? My view is that the habitual works on our senses, not only as in a conventional wisdom, by blurring them, but by enhancing their selective potentiality. With sight, touch, and smell we include some attributes and exclude others. I illustrated the cultural latitude of this (Røkkum 2003) with an encounter between myself and a Yami (Austronesian speaking Taiwanese) informant: even while in deep contemplation, reciting mythic matter, he was mindful of the chirps of lizards inside the house, reacting with some wonder about possible purport, on a change of pitch. As for myself, the cacophony, which I had become used to, was hardly noticeable. Just as westerners may be disposed to divine some amount of sentiment of an Other in a spray of roses, a Yami may be disposed to divine some amount of sentiment of an Other in the chirp of a lizard, if not in the fuller impression of the lizard. The Yami informant needed no metaphor for expressing a relationship evoked by the chirp. I take this for granted because metaphors are not primary-level expressions. For the Dunang, a relationship of humans and crabs is in no sense metaphorically expressible as “man-crabs” or “crab-men.” But latent paradoxes in human society can receive a more succinct articulation, the focus narrows,

Commuted landscapes and species 81 and a question of moral nature can be raised by the relationship. It induces not an inclusive symbolic sign but rather a far more discriminating indexical sign. Here is the etiquette as seen through the lens of Dunang fieldwork: crabs propagate and purify themselves and humans propagate and purify themselves. So there is a rationale for a fuzzy, a more-or-less, kinship between the two species as the view sharpens and possible readings lessen. The symbolic sign which emerges from this dialogue within sentience has a far wider connotative range, playing upon the relationships between the sexes (of humans) and the legitimacy of births. At this level of analogical construction, the Dunang lay down a sine qua non for the concatenation of humans and crabs. Yet the intimate affinity to the island and to the soil revealed by such sympathy is not necessarily a case of a LévyBruhlean participation or duality-unity. Lévy-Bruhlean theory simply misses the important role of creative parallelisms. Literalness is granted in a perspective of comparative rationalities (Lévy-Bruhl 1975: 64): “[primitive mentality is] insensitive or at least more indifferent than ours to contradiction.” Regarding such issues of “primitive representations of the mind,” Hallpike writes (1979: 409): “the general absence of an awareness of the cognitive function of the mind as the translator and mediator of experience seems to be the basis for an apparently widespread belief that we would regard as inner states of external origin.” Can there be an absence of awareness? What, in my mind, emblazons insights through parallelisms or metaphors would in this view of “cognitive function” grant the opposite characteristic. Shamans in Dunang may portray their patients as typifying states of external origin by anthropomorphic and metamorphic sentients in the soil, and even by words “coming out from the mouths of people.” Their body souls go astray. Foreign hosts incubate their minds. This, I hold, is where experience-as-indexicality holds sway. A person’s outward show of expression witnesses sentiments, not from the inside, but from the outside. The woman Knower evokes such shifts of character with her oratory. Some of the in situ reports I will be giving below will replay such instances. Metaphors pronounced in prayer finalize the accommodation of contraries. Black (1962: 43) specifies a hierarchical arrangement of metaphors. Yet, if one argues that there is in fact an overarching – integrating – role of metaphor, it cannot just be what Black (p. 40) describes as “a system of associated commonplaces.” Indeed, as illustrated by the present ethnography: what is true and not true about crab conduct is a question of (a) careful observation and (b) situational discrimination. Recall also plays a part: one Dunang listener to the exposition on crab behavior in fact called for further, factual, study. He was not making any discrimination between the metaphoric and the literal, and he was not attending to any “associated commonplaces.” A metaphor may even subsist on a cluster of attributes. The Dunang usutui invocations allude profusely to “flowery” rice and salt. Yet, what in Black’s terms would be a “primary metaphor” is missing. What counts for the linkages and extensions of meaning are instead the subordinate metaphors. Consider an example of flowers.

82 Commuted landscapes and species A child can be introduced to the spirits as a “red flower.” The apperception is not that of a soul essence, but of an amplification which can be read metaphorically. It suffices to say that the select attributes of the subject are “flowery” when appearing as a subject for treatment by a shaman. We need no further semantic synthesis like “exalted” or “pure,” no convergence in an overarching “primary” metaphor. The issue is not one of thought or of “matter” in the Aristotelian sense. It is sufficient to observe that the Dunang actually set aside a patch for shrubs and flowers in their compounds to elicit a rapport with the otherworld. And, furthermore, that they include red flowers in the life-promoting cult of increase. Let me just add that this aesthetic motif is prominent even in the context of men’s initiation societies. On the neighboring island of Iriomote, I witnessed the scene of young boys lining up for the initiation trials of the secret, life-promoting cult of increase with Prince of Orange, orange-red flowers (Ixora chinensis), in their hair. They promote themselves for initiation as Subjects of the Mountains in this posture. Raw, milled rice spread out upon red-and-black lacquer trays laid out on a site of prayer becomes “flowery rice” (hanagumi ). Such a shift of semiotic status from the commonplace to the non-ordinary can take place even in the absence of blessings or other stylistic utterances for transporting the grains to a realm of the sacred. It takes nothing more than a rudimentary context – a date in the ceremonial calendar or a presence of the k’a priestesses – for people to view quite ordinary milled rice as “flowery.” The question, in fact, is not what kind of perceptual shift can be brought into effect by metaphor, for rice grains and flowers remain disparate and mutually distinctive as they ever have been in indigenous thought (contra Levy-Bruhl’s “participation”). What I see as the real issue, then, is the force exerted by imagery from nature on knowing, as (a) for one particular metaphoric purpose, bringing together manifestly disparate qualities, e.g. of rice or salt, and as (b) refining discrete qualities contained in the metaphoric image, e.g. the cleansing effect of salt, or the scouring effect of rice. Rice, for example, just as silk, can instantiate an aspect of whiteness, if not as the color category per se. A hue or refraction, rather, is the synthesized effect of the poetic gloss the priestesses are so adept at deploying. What emerges, therefore, is a strongly motivated sign, which itself can be put to use for linking human fertility with that of other species. The purport is in the first place of indexical signs traveling across an existential divide. In carefully directed utterances made by island priestesses, spirit tracks are silken and glimmering. Rice is all whiteness, either when laid out as grain offerings on square lacquer trays or as a fermented liquid in round lacquer cups. In one instance, whiteness asserts an aesthetic quality necessary for offerings to be accepted. In another instance, whiteness asserts, through an association with semen (see Figure 1.8), a biomorphic quality necessary for a linkage between spirit and body. It would be a gross overstatement to say that for the Dunang whiteness is symbolic of purity, yet I admit that to the European common sense the symbolic may be more easily accessible than the indexical.

Commuted landscapes and species 83 This, to repeat, is an investigation neither of overarching tropes nor of substrata of thought. But our familiarity with the world may be less structured by the crispness and the ultimacy of excavated concepts than by the sensuousness and tentativeness of drifting images. These I am describing as attributes. Whitehead ( [1920] 1957) criticizes a doctrine on matter, reviewing its Aristotelian precedent which postulates a primacy of substances (such as earth, fire, and water): “since it is impossible to express spatiotemporal truths without having recourse to the relations involving relata other than bits of matter.” Cross-linking insights by simple but bounded contrasts, by conditional reversals, and by prolific, voiced parallelisms, reveals to us a sensuous drift of insights. Dunang houses, shrines, and ad hoc ritual layouts inscribe some essentials for life-domains such as birth, ensoulment, and reproduction. Imageries can only be voiced by highborn women. In this eidetic fashion, a crucial activity is being pursued, by shamans and priestesses, for signs to emanate and reproduce.

Reproductive partnerships
Early in the fieldwork I received several suggestions from my neighbors in ndi village that there must be one or more stories recounting the origin of the tumujâ House. But no one but the head himself of an Origin House with a specific relationship to a midududama, Water-course Mountain, would be entitled to recite it. Well into the fieldwork and after some pondering, the tumujâ house titleholder divulged a House rule to me: When the job of brewing the miti [viscous, alcoholic rice brew, Figure 1.8] for the ndi festival has been accomplished, one must rinse one’s hands carefully, but not in a location outside the House compound. And one must not leave the jar for storage there, on the other side of the stone wall. Carelessness about this causes a hole to open up in the ground. I was at a loss as to the purport of the rule, defective as it was of a metaphoric evocation. The rule was simply nested within an image. My question was: “Did this ever happen?” The answer: Once, with the kanbunaga festival period [tuti ] approaching, people of the tumujâ were busy preparing the miti. As soon as the job was finished, a man left the house compound, first to rinse his hands, then to fetch the elongated stem of a giant taro [biNui; Alocasia odora] to serve as a cork for the jar. Soon a hole opened up in the sky, and a goddess descended to the ground, in the [adjacent] compound of the tagimuta House. The tagimuta people found nothing out of the ordinary with the woman, and took little notice of the entry. She then made her exit from their courtyard, clearing a passageway in the fence to proceed into the tumujâ compound. Her arrival was from the west. She was given an affectionate reception. Her name was kubantuja nu idanati [idanati of the kubantu House]. The tumujâ people made every effort to please

84 Commuted landscapes and species her. As she could not stand the raw smell of humans, they gave her miti from a jar carried on a stick. After two or three days, she made her way back up into the sky again. In gratitude, she conferred upon the tumujâ the mark of herself, the crescent moon. And she divulged a secret which granted wealth to them and to their future descendants: tending a rice field is not very different from tending a human body. Both soils and bodies are manageable. Bowels act upon their own movement. Rice fields need only to be watched over by feeding water at one time, then draining it off at another.57 A viscous liquid, which tends to stick to the hands of the brewer, was made ready for the festival. An exception to a rule takes place, with the consequence that an aperture opens, not as expected in the ground, but in the sky. Several villagers were interested in commenting on this high point of the story. In one opinion, the goddess was powerfully exposed to the sweet scent of the miti as the jar was left uncorked. So she could not resist the sweetness of what in actual ritual contexts soon to be introduced is alluded to as having a semen-like quality. In return, she leaves behind a mark of herself. The House head says that this is the seal of the House. He describes it as a crescent-shaped emblem of the moon and of the female sexual organ. A parallel image grew out of this experience, and an idea was born that the interiors of the ground of the island and of humans are not that much different. The terrestrial and the corporeal alike profit from a balance being struck between what is too much and too little. With this story, a crucial association of topographic anatomy – to be kept alive by the tumujâ descendants – was made available for people’s comprehension. A perception of water sluices (cf. the sandy area below a wall visible in the upper right of Figure 1) is granted by the analogy with the human anus. The tumujâ people become chief cultivators; their house compound became the site of annual kanbunaga ceremonials. The delivered insights are brought to realization by a character with dual, terrestrial and aquatic, attachments. This was a Bulging Bowels Grandfather (cimuhiki’asa). His broad jaws were like extra lungs, making him fully capable of swimming long distances underwater. In the words of the head of the House: This ancestor of the tumujâ became a warden of rice fields, with their ditches and sluices. He cleared a course for running water all the way from the caves of tarumai to the kataburu beach, along the way filling the refuse found on the bottom into a waisted basket. But this Bulging Bowels Grandfather was not adept at keeping his bearings underwater. So as not to lose his orientation, he clutched a long whip vine [itu; Flagellaria indica], which was fastened to the shore.58 He also clutched a harpoon, and never failed in providing his family with a good catch of fish. Fishes were hooked on to another vine, trailing in his wake. On occasion, he needed to swim all the way to the ubama lagoon to replenish his provisions of vines. But other men in the village were jealous of his accomplishments. One day, someone cut his lifeline.

Commuted landscapes and species 85 Despite his amphibious capabilities, the tumujâ ancestor drowned, yet he left a syllogism behind, one for realizing how to exploit the organic analogy. Bowels empty themselves naturally, but humans – in order to reap a harvest of rice – must clean the bowels of earth, and govern their function by building sluices. A rice field is impregnated. Its bowels are emptied. Why, then, don’t the Dunang just pronounce these things as simple metaphors, poetry-wise as, for example, that a body of a goddess is like a rice field? I must point out that this is not an understanding of the rice field with a simile of the body or of the body with a simile of the rice field. For tacit – primary process – knowledge among the Dunang is very concrete knowledge if we only admit its evocative – eidetic – attributes, joining the Dunang in their visualizations of a progress toward the more comprehensive insight. Utterances are not fixed, metaphorically, at this stage. Nonetheless, they subsist upon parallelisms just as metaphors do: of apertures (sky, ground, body), of borders (the inside and the outside of a house compound, of an island through the rice field ditches). The cultural artifice of the myth raises the value of an image of water-in-a-duct. A pictographical version of this very widespread cultural artifice in South Ryukyu – of water-in-a-duct – can be found in ikat designs in women’s textiles. A lack of overarching values appears very much a characteristic of a South Ryukyuan cultural experience. The pronouncements are rather embedded in enactments, of stories and in the ritual rehearsals I shall describe in a moment. It is typical for such embeddedness that they are guarded insights as in the present case of being held only by the descendants of an Origin House. Here they can be delivered for others’ comprehension only on one occasion of the year and only in one small village. As we shall soon see in the festival scene, when an audience of villagers is allowed to be present partaking in the secrets of the tumujâ, imageries evolve even further, into the fuller expression of metaphoric pronouncements. Insights can be anchored in a broader consciousness in this way. What next enfolds about the history of the tumujâ is a rather conventional preservation of heroic attributes: voyagers returning with seeds of other useful crops from the great land of tû (China). The house-site of tumujâ ranks as tuni in the Dunang catalogue of sacred spots (cf. the tuni located inside the south coast village, Map 1.1). A reverted east–west house plan, with pre-eminence granted to the west, is a diacritic of most Origin Houses on the island. The tumujâ, however, although enjoying the status of an Origin House, derives its status from the public – secular – domain. Its compound monolith, in accordance with the non-esoteric blueprint for a house compound, stands perpendicular to the eastern stone wall. Matters of the east outrank matters of the west in this perspective. What now enfolds on this site is a public act of asakadai.59 A welcoming of the island priestesses arriving in procession through the gate of the tumujâ takes place early on the annual festival day, occurring within a sequence of events (kanbunaga) of the cool season, about the time of rice transplantation. This marks the conclusion of a ritual event prevailing since the night before as strictly speaking a House festival.

86 Commuted landscapes and species The priestesses are welcomed as guests of the House, but in advance of their arrival they have prostrated themselves in the kadaribagu grove, a midududama (Water-course Mountain) type sanctuary on the border of the rice cultivation irrigation channels originally cleared by the Bulging Bowels Grandfather. They keep to a route of Spirit Trails before reaching the tumujâ courtyard. En route, a halt is made at the abandoned house-site of the tagimuta, precisely where the goddess once reached the ground in her celestial descent. Food offerings and libations on lacquer trays are spread out upon the ground at that spot. What is left of a House of high standing is simply its lithic index, the upright prayer stone. The visiting priestesses genuflect before it. Now at the moment of arrival, the house head of the tumujâ acts, not on behalf of his lineage, but on behalf of the island community. He grants the island priestesses, who themselves are goddesses, hospitality just as his ancestor did visà-vis a celestial woman. He bids them welcome by manipulating mugs brimming with the sweet miti. His partner in this act of greeting is the senior priestess of the island. A primordial encounter is realized, between a man of the island and a woman of the sky. The arriving women have cloaked themselves with the garbs of incumbency: yellow hemp robes and turtleshell hairpins struck through their hair-coils. Their headwear consists of the very same whip vines as the ancestor of the House used as a lifeline when diving into the rice field waterways. At the tumujâ gate, the house head presents them with fishes (Figure 1.11), which he picks up with chopsticks from a lacquer tray.

Figure 1.11 Fishes of life

Commuted landscapes and species 87 These are his words of greeting as he faces the senior woman, a Keeper of the uranu shrine on the northeastern coast: kaN nu ijû nut’i nu ijû ujanara tzâri kanka’uja Senior priestess: asajû kaN nu ijû bataGa hin’naiburu ijû ja turanuN! Origin House head: tanan minan haramasi tzâri! Senior priestess: mâmuni haramasjâ nâ! I say, fishes of life fishes of the divine are being presented to you, divine parent. Grandfatherly fishes of the divine with shrunken bellies will not be received! I say, they bear twins and triplets! Oh really! They are fecund!

Origin House head: sûnunti sû du matiburu tzâri Just wait and see until high tide, iribata nu kura ni and begin kindling firewood in the western timunu dzjunbi kî du ar’ja n’niwari! hut!60 The priestesses drop their yellow robes as they are invited to find seats along the inside, eastern, wall of the house. With this act of disrobement they also shed a presence as goddesses. In an instant, a rite of transition has been accomplished. And, with such safe retreat of sacred presences, ordinary villagers are licensed to join in. They take seats on the matted floor inside the western partition of the house as two young men of a village association in existence since the age of the Kingdom make their entry into the eastern house partition along with the priestesses. They are the dagusa, functionaries of an old territorial order of the Kingdom, who act both as festival helpers and wardens of rice fields. They spread out, in the space between themselves and the priestesses’ flat cushions, black lacquer vessels: bowls (sabaN) and pitchers (bataci ). Only the men don headwear, not of living matter, though, but of plain rush. A set of high-grade festival offerings stands directly in front of the reception room House shrine hosting the ceramic artifacts which position a guardian of the House alongside guardians for each family member. The display comprises the vegetarian sûai dish (cf. above, Cultivated identities) and a vessel with rice ferment (the miti ). Behind this uniquely pure offering combining the naturally sweet taste of rice ferment with the equally natural astringency of the herb stands a pyramidformed presentation of multicolored slices of steamed cakes combining different tastes from pastes of rice, fish, and soybean. The purity grade is far lower than

88 Commuted landscapes and species that of the beer-and-herbal stew dish, yet excluding meat and flaunting gaudy colors, it presents a typical festival meal. This festival food is shown to the high spirits of the House, but it is not offered to them. It is uniquely for human consumption, to be distributed upon individual plates when the House ritual is finished. In focus first is a large lacquer vessel named ubudara, “great vessel.” This is a shiny, black lacquer receptacle for serving miti. One pair of the kind is conspicuously on exhibit, in front of the House altar. The coupled vessels are worshiped as treasures bequeathed by House ancestors. The young men intone a chant to the praise of lacquer vessels: ujagi cinudara hajâsi ba du jûnauri jûnauti hajâsi ba du jûnauri bacima mikundati hajâsi ba du jûnauri inutigâbu sûmiNnu niGai hajâsi ba du jûnauri nasi handû nmarihandû nu niGai hajâsi ba du jûnauri tabigâbu mitigâbu hajâsi ba du jûnauri udagitibaN sabaNmui mijujasui hajâsi ba du jûnauri nsagutibaN batacimui mijujasui hajâsi ba du jûnauri! With the rich-man cinudara vessel let’s praise the renewal of growth! With a full harvest let’s praise the renewal of growth! Ancestral nuptial couple of our island, let’s praise the renewal of growth! With the granting of long life let’s praise the renewal of growth! With a prayer for fecundity and fruitfulness let’s praise the renewal of growth! With the granting of safe voyages and passageways let’s praise the renewal of growth! With brimful sabaN cups of beer let’s praise the renewal of growth! With brimful bataci pitchers let’s praise the renewal of growth!

Next follows a verse praising the nagadara – “medium-sized vessel” – lacquer bowls, a pair of which are on display behind the ubudara: mijujasui nu nsaGu hajâsi ba du jûnauri ujagi nagadara hajâsi ba du jûnauri ujagi jûnauri daGa jûnauru! With offerings of beer let’s praise the renewal of growth! With beer from the medium-sized rich-man’s bowl let’s praise the renewal of growth! May this rich-man bring renewal of growth!

The two men swinging the large-sized bowls pour miti into the outstretched smaller-sized cups held by the priestesses. The coupled artifacts are now identified as “bride vessels” and “groom vessels” respectively (dumidara and mugudara). Entreating the latter:

Commuted landscapes and species 89 Nai nsagu kadai nu nsagu! Request beer, display beer! The priestesses accept the beverage, each of them taking a small sip. Subsequently, with outstretched arms, the young men go on, swinging the cups from one side to the other. The two women respond, moving the smaller black lacquer bowls, accordingly, from side to side, but in the opposite direction. Occasional beats on a drum made from a hollowed-out stem with a horsehide membrane, strike the rhythmic key to such movement.61 Next follows a praise of the “groom vessel,” the mugudara: muGuNkamui dûmiNsui hajâsi ba du jûnauri inutigâbu sûmiN hajâsi ba du jûnauri nasiNsui nmariNsui datti hajâsi ba du jûnauri tabigâbu mitigâbu hajâsi ba du jûnauri udagitibaN mijujasui hajâsi ba du jûnauri nsagutibaN mijujasui! Receive a bridegroom, take a wife let’s praise the renewal of growth! With the granting of long life let’s praise the renewal of growth! Please embrace fecundity and fruitfulness let’s praise the renewal of growth. With the granting of safe voyages and roads let’s praise the renewal of growth! Fetching bulging cups of beer let’s praise the renewal of growth! With brimful bataci pitchers let’s praise the renewal of growth!

A spouted vessel, a pitcher, affixes an image of maleness to a bulging body, which is an image of femaleness. “With brimful bataci pitchers let’s praise the renewal of growth!” On reciting this final line from my field notes, a woman gave me a parallel reading: “batacimui.” Bataci = pitchers; mui = bulging. She uttered the response as a query, then in response to her own cue added: “Oh these are bulging tummies!” An interpretant value of jûnauri, “renewal of growth” in a very inclusive – symbolic – sense is thus brought into play by an iconism of bulging surfaces: ritual vessels, bodies, and hills. As to the latter, the curved outline of a promontory beside the ndi lagoon (see Figure 1) is spoken of simply as the mui or mainumui (Frontward Hillock). It is a very sacred place. A tidibi shrine steward living in the vicinity once said to me that it is a beautiful place. The festival of the First Fruits, too, releases this imagist motif of curved surfaces. The lexeme “increase” (dû ) appears in verbal expressions as dûmui. A key to nuptial connectivity is at this moment released by a kinesthetic association. With a bridal version of the song, the face-to-face female and male performers reverse their sideward arm movements. The matching of oscillatory movement is a mimetic evocation of coition. The dumidara, “bride vessel” comes into focus with the following antistrophe to the one in the previous stanza (muGuNkai dûmiNsui ). dûmiNsui muguNkamui hajâsi ba du jûnauri! Take a wife receive a husband!

90 Commuted landscapes and species

Figure 1.12 Fertilizing action

This punctuates the tonal address of the male festival helpers and the elderly priestesses. Both councillors now move closer to the priestesses, while flaunting the black lacquer pitchers containing the sweet and viscous miti. Spouted pitchers manipulated by the male side are phallic agents. Yet along with some further reflections I heard, one should also take notice of their capacious and mellifluous forms. The vessels are both male and female. A village functionary, a dagusa, moves on in a forward position right in front of the seated senior priestess. While on his knees, he makes a presentation of a large rice brandy bottle containing some miti ferment. A rush rope around his neck fastens the bottle, allowing its mouth to be pointed right at the woman. A stalk holding a red flower (Figure 1.12) – the Indian shot (nanbabusa; Canna indica) – has been stuck well into the liquid. The flower protrudes from the mouth together with stalks of maiden grass (dusiki; Miscanthus sinensis) and twigs with ripe guavas (bansuru; Psidium guajava). Listening to those seated around me during an interval, I learn that the redness of the flower is an effect of menstruation, and that the sagging of the ears of maiden grass an effect of pregnancy. The flower and the rice ferment are fertilizing agents: female and male juices respectively. Both are sweet. The upper part of the stalk of the flower was regarded a confection in former days. The guavas stand for fruitfulness and multiplication. The liquid in the bottom of the voluminous bottle is semen. A dagusa greets the senior priestess: mâmaritzâri! I say, for a true birth!

Commuted landscapes and species 91 Priestess: jamaburi tînburi ja turanu’n I take neither what is mountain-like nor what is finger-like.

The priestesses remain doubtful with such allusions to shapes: the capacious bottle is mountainous. The more voluminous of the bulging shapes, as in the instance of the lacquer bowls, place an emphasis on maleness. Also the “fingers” protruding above the thin leaves of the maiden grass adduce an image of male quality. In fact, so do the stalks themselves, stuck as they are firmly into the bottle. The chanters mime the maiden grass swayed by gusts of wind sweeping the hillsides. So with their bodies they release the imagery of sexual intercourse. With this, the sagging profiles of the tall grass mimic the fullness and ripeness of the promised condition of pregnancy. The tall grass is supple; it curves when the seeds are ripe. It shows an extraordinary resiliency, burgeoning even when the roots have been sliced. The latter motif eventually makes its entry in the final lines of the chant. In its totality, the imagery incarnates a compositeness of male and female character. In the continuing intonation, the association travels still further, toward an image of bamboo groves. Contrasted with the maiden grass, the bamboo is hard but, like grass, it bends with the wind. What otherwise matters, I was told, is that whereas its tube-like quality facilitates the transport of liquid matter, the maiden grass straws are rather tight yet more supple. So the bamboo stands more on the male side than does the maiden grass. The male partner in the duo prevails while apologizing for his perseverance: Dagusa: ututudagusa kîbi dumuti ni mutakari buru juNGara diN’ja dumuti kimi hirin’di nu niGai du mutiaiGu

Let us [the dagusa siblings] repair our conduct and vow to make a bid for headmanship next year.

The public nature of the event is underscored by the later remark. The warden admits having been scolded by the headman for his frivolities, now making a vow to repair his behavior and graduate to a more responsible position. In what follows, a chorus of festival attendants joins in the address to the priestesses. The scope of the idealized condition now expands to include victories in battle. The mnemonic aspect of this is a threat against the island by corsair attack, a historical reality of the 16th century. The pointed pitcher manipulated by the young men now alters its imagic quality from that of the male sexual organ to that of a harpoon:62 bataci mata kati’ikusa hajûni jûni iri mukajuti mata igunti sû hajûni jûri aGai mukajuti mata igunti sûhajûni With the bataci pitcher let’s sing for victory in battle, facing the west let’s sing for the brandishing of harpoons facing the east

92 Commuted landscapes and species sidu mukajuti mata igunti sûhajûni ijaba sikasi mata tarubama barai jûmabakatarai mâmaritzâri let’s sing for the brandishing of harpoons facing the lower areas let’s sing for the brandishing of the harpoons Let’s praise a true birth.

The chorus concludes the chant by reassembling an image of maiden grass dotting the mountainside: nandahana saga sijûri mutu sijûri nauriri kuGani hanazaka sijûri mutusijûri nauriri dusikidagi mujuiri mutusijûri nauriri kaguridagi arawari mutusijûri nauriri dûbi nu dusikidama nu mâmaritzâri! May the crystalline flowers bloom, may the rootstocks bear offshoots, may the golden coins bloom, may the rootstocks bear offshoots, may the maiden grass ripen may the rootstocks bear offshoots, may the bamboo unfurl may the rootstocks bear offshoots. Last night upon the maiden grass mountain . . . For a true birth!

The junior priestess, a holder of the officiant title to the tuguru district on north-coast lowlands, demands attention, retorting in plain Dunang vernacular to the final line: abunta ja mutijama dubigara umi dai kiruN di du burundi ja nu dusikijama nu hanasi ba kiruN sûja tsanuN uninu munu ja bagaranu’N! We, the old ladies, having busied ourselves since last night with a mountain of rice-cakes for this feast cannot join in the talk about a mountain of maiden grass. We know nothing of such a thing!

They resist impregnation by what is mountain-like. But the dagusa prevails (Figure 1.12): dûbi nu kataraiti ibitati taniturasiwari ibitati ibitati tandi tandi jûsitai jûsitai kubura kankauja dûbi mui nu kuci ni cjuôkômiNkaNcjô nu xxx-saN to nûba kîburu kaja’ndi umur’ja Please let us know the talk of last night! Just a little, just a little. Oh goodness, oh goodness, she said it, she said it! What did the divine parent of kubura so impatiently do beneath a pandanus on the

Commuted landscapes and species 93 muiguci promontory in the company of the gacigaci kî Chief Village Councillor? î katarai du kîbutaru yô jûsitai jûsitai What a nice talk! tuguru nu kankauja ndimura nu Let us hear it, let us hear it! ubuhama ni nuba kîburu kajandi What do you think the divine parent of tuguru umur’ja did at the ubama beach of ndi village? daja nu katagati ni nbiti ba nikki nikki At a clearing, her buttocks were kneaded, cimuNuti suri suri kî the pit of her stomach was rubbed. îkatarai du kîwataruN du nâ! Let’s have nice talk! Most Dunang rituals I have taken part in impart quietness. As may be inferred from my description later on of soul-saving rituals, the general mood may well leave a soothing effect on the participants. What I am now describing is something quite different. Dialogues are hardly discernible among an incessant mayhem. It seems like it is a persistent manipulation by a drum which paves the way for the words amid bursts of laughter and whistling from an audience of women and men of the village. The only message I was able to decipher among the audience was this: “Please don’t abuse the old ladies with such talk!” But the exposé does not end yet: Kubura kancjôsaN ja . . . kubura’n t‘unta bûru tîturasiwari. kubura ujanta bûru tîturasiwari x no obasan tû si jâ nu tanka nu arubandu dun’ni isjataN higasi kaNcjôsaN ja nai kun’ni du ndiwataru x nu kjôiN nu sinsinta mâsiku waruNsai uma naga nu tarubaN tui’tu nindjaN Headman of kubura . . . Please listen all from kubura! Please listen, elders of kubura! He [their headman] has indeed done something with the lady of the x in his own house! The headman of the East has now revealed this: There are many [female] teachers in the x village]. He slept with one of them. adaN nu katagati ni cimuNuti ba

The priestesses abstain from sexual activity for three lunations before the 25-day kanbunaga festival. So sacred are their presences that people in the ndi village avoid the roads when they arrive in procession from the bush, wearing its matter of vines as a head drapery. Nobody is allowed to come close enough to their bodies to be reached by their breath. Then why at the end of the festival such rehearsal of signs, not of difference but of intimacy? While priestesses of the Origin Houses are real sisters, the priestesses of “mountain” (bush) sites are classificatory sisters. So even in this minimal sense,

94 Commuted landscapes and species there is a role for simulation. Their lineages, quite restrictively, count only for the transfer of the title to incumbency: ideally from mother to eldest daughter. In their roles as “sisters,” there is little implication for entitlement to house assets. Hence on Dunang, there are no identifiable priestess houses except for the vacated residence of the Chief Priestess on the outskirts of the capital shrine. Such a lack of involvement with house matters allows a focus on their individual assets, however. As inheritors of entitlements from an old monarchic domain, they can position themselves beyond the limitations of kinship (cf. a note in Røkkum 1998: 86 on a license to take lovers). So what takes place at the tumujâ is not a subversive ritual, not a rite of rebellion against their dignity: their sacred nature, as goddesses, has simply a fuzzy yet very expansive character. People in Dunang do not perceive any self-contradiction here. In fact, I observe also in the present ethnographic instance a consistent play with the paradoxical. An abductive, in the Peircean sense, strategy for instantaneous acquisition of insight might characterize this South Ryukyuan knowing. It subsists on a steady production of simulacra, so it is not strictly speaking an example of the taxonomic knowing reproduced in ethnoscience writings.63 Even the things brought to the priestesses’ attention during the reception at tumujâ can be appreciated for their dual character, as male and female: bowls, pitchers, a bottle, and the species of plant life. Men manipulate a spouted vessel containing the inseminating agent, yet its body is female. A hollow vessel is manipulated by women, yet with a slight enlargement of size, it goes as male as well. Artifact shapes are not similarly invested with one singular attribute. The Origin House enjoys a deep ancestry and a high standing in the past. Its head is a shrine steward of the kubura shrine in the westernmost part of the island, on the original site of the ndi village. Yet it is not the kinship status of the House or the splendor of a symbolic wealth such as the shiny black vessels which impart the moods I have so far described. The present-day titleholder to the House says that he is a descendant in the 29th generation, yet he is not very happy speaking about individual ancestors. Even the slightest mispronunciation about their character would inflict pain on the House. He speaks in a low voice, weighing each word on the subject. Like other heads of Origin Houses he has far more explicit views about succession matters than heads of ordinary houses in the island. Now to return to the festival sequence. There is not much awe and admiration to note at this stage. The ritual is cast in a form of mime that directs attention to a select set of evocations and sensuous attributes: rhythmic alternation, curvaciousness, hollowness, whiteness, redness, enlargement, viscousness, fits of noise (drumming, whistling, shouting). If there were any specific mood to speak of, it would be that of relaxation of restraint to fashion a connective urge. The scandal brought out by the final verbalizations is not, I hold, a matter of ritual giving vent to tensions in society. What it does is more probably that of associating sex with comedy, an inclination, to be sure, which the Dunang share with people in many places of the world.

Commuted landscapes and species 95 Alternations prevail throughout the ritual, not as an underlying code, but as a substantial message delivered to an audience of villagers of the manifold blessings of human sexuality. For, as an elderly villager later told me, attraction between man and woman must be counted on as a force strong enough to resist any parental control, so there is no point in censuring anything related to pregnancy. I asked him if a word in standard Japanese stating an ideal of female–male involvement such as “sympathy” or “compassion” could be relevant here. My informant answered that attraction comes first. Therefore, young men in the island, he said, always ask themselves: “Does she desire me?” “Attraction is there, therefore they marry.”64 In other Dunang rituals I attended, women remain fixed in a positively valued position of receivers of hospitality. One might even read from one of the stanzas – Take a wife/receive a husband! – that in Dunang conjugality affairs, women are receivers of husbands. So an indexicalized interactivity of bodies, objects, and vegetal matter touches upon a broader field of gender reciprocity. A movement in synchronized opposition is itself an indexicalized expression of coition. In a farewell scene outside in the courtyard the sexes unite. With a circle dance right beside the gate, men and women stick together. They chant, tread to the beat of a gong, and they raise and lower arms locked together. In his convincing introduction to Categories and Classifications, Allen (2000: 30) reflects on the Maussian preference for the concrete and for what seems like bricolage. This can easily be overlooked as Mauss’s discourse is on mentalité. The notion of the fête reveals the centricity of the body in this view on a totality of expressions. Allen (2000: 30) writes, paraphrasing Mauss: “Under the hypnotic rhythm of the tribal dance individuals merge, as it were, in mind and body, moving in unity like the spokes of a wheel.” No metaphor can be more fitting for what I just described as the conclusion of the rites of increase at the tumujâ than that of “spokes of a wheel.” Mauss’s view on the emotive and bodily aspects of ritual participation might even find wide support today. Yet in a somewhat divergent tone I would like to stress this: for the greater part of the ritual I have described in this section it is not the totality but the partialities that count. Ritual, even in is mimetic exposure, e.g. of the characters of a defunct order of a Kingdom, is not simply something to study either as summation of statuses or as their effacement in total participation. Nonetheless, to stick with Mauss’s vocabulary, we might say that it bears upon mentalities, or, possibly, upon mental artifacts including their predication upon such material artifacts as shiny, black festival vessels. If these are not the full figures of gods and ancestors, they are – no less concretely in my mind – what can be assembled in parallel views as evoking some presences. Such indices are well worth looking at.

96 Person and island


Person and island

Lithic waypoints dot the island territory of Dunang. Most are remains of past habitations and, consequently, places of worship today. Each of these upright stones is a tanka: an intercalation. It acts as a node in a partly visual, partly imagined, lineament of trails. In addition, according to the claims of the shaman Knowers of the island, there is motion. Spirit trails, the kan-nu-miti, carry activity, from east to west and from south to north (Map 1.1). A mode of punctuating experience – pinpointing specific physical markers inside the territory and specific incidents along a continuum such as a House history – might in fact trigger an alertness to worrisome episodes in the lives of individuals. The island itself might be connecting with the lives of its inhabitants.

Fragments of desire
Human souls, the mabui, are made slippery by strong emotion. People speak of souls as moving out of the body, but invariably, in my experience of shamans employed in numerous soul-catching endeavors, a category of the soul(s) is in fact a category of human emotion. The disembodied experiences are always those of cravings. So the relationships they invoke are debt relationships. Human lives may depend on a transactional value, and I shall introduce the avowed equivalences which in Dunang are easily calculable assets. Few among the living have the ability to pronounce such desires as pointed curses, ikiru. I was told that they are inevitably women. From among the dead, however, curses amplify with even more versatility, as ta’tai. They may never end. The female Knowers diagnose these as instances of insufficient satiation. Invariably, these women articulate a desire for their cessation. Typically, the compensatory acts are made in loci of everyday activity such as the front yard of the compound, the well, or the toilet. Emotions should not be left to linger on beyond death. A shaman Knower can “divide the blood (cibagasi ) of a couple.” The stated effect is that of quelling emotion. The ritual should take place shortly after a spouse’s expiry. The shaman’s petition invariably ends with the words, “may nothing else remain: no thoughts, no desires.” Emotions are real in this view: they objectify, quite unbounded by the shapes originally hosting them. They stick to persons and – granted the

Person and island


reality of human avarice – to their belongings. Ideally, and as I was able to watch on one occasion during a post-mortuary visit to the tomb site, the dead person should be separated from remaining property by prescribed action. Someone uttering the following phrases cuts the turf in squares: “This is the flax field. This is the tobacco field. This is the potato field.” The spirit will be satisfied by having valuables parceled out for its disposition in the afterlife in this manner. Emotions can be diverted, countered as it were, only when dealt with as subjects accepting sacrifices. But not even the living individual has an entirely bounded self. A Birth Spirit, nmaridi, invigorates every human life. This spirit of individual birth is an animating force that expresses itself in the luminosity of the eyes. It is most often referred to by a metaphor, as mâdama, Real Gem. It sustains the emotive nature of humans, and, as such, their vivacity. It may prevail even with the demise of the body. Not losing its locomotive force, it may travel into the surroundings, mixing with soil, weeds, and trees. Also, a Rear Spirit, kusati, sustains every human life. Most often it is referred to as ubudama, High Gem. Drawing upon the rigidity in the spine of the back, it settles within the crown of the head, and withers with its demise. It sustains corporeality in its entirety. The body collapses if that entity goes astray. The Dunang do not split the image as the one of the eyes and the other of the top of the head. Conversing about these matters, I soon adopted the Dunang way of articulating it binomially, as nmaridi-kusati.1 For the crucial idea involved is that soul matter sustaining the body is pre-eminently what accommodates opposites. It goes against Dunang common sense to spell out their contrariety. A shaman watches patients’ postures in order to read their soul conditions. The subject is either acting or being acted upon. In the active mode, the subject is an actor. In the passive mode, the subject is an actant – an auxiliary of forces external to the self. The shaman announces the asymmetric conditions in people’s lives. Conditions of malaise or listlessness are typical examples. Whatever the condition, it externalizes itself with such indexicalizing signs. Souls in the head are principal life entities. But as humans walk around, they expose – by the number seven – further fragments of their lives. Two body souls come out in the front while two come out in the rear. In some comments, souls in the front originate in the eyes. Two body souls come out from each side of the person (cf. Takiguchi 2003: 136–7 for a similar conception on the island of Miyako). Yet human physiognomy – due to the slippery nature of souls – is only loosely interlaced with what sustains its own survival. The bolstering entity the shamans call upon is identical with the High Gem, and their own oratorical force in impressing this notion derives from a parallelism: an uprightness of the back of the human body compares well with the uprightness of the stone slab in a sacred zone of the House compound. Each raised compound stone (nîbai ) conserves rigidity (kusati = “of the rear”), for the benefit of those living there. An old man living in the zodiacal Rat direction of the ndi village first explained this parallelism between the corporeal and the lithic to me. He had broad knowledge of ritual, augury, natural species, and herbal medicine. Although without any fixed role for his insights in any of these activities except

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Figure 2.1 A celestial meal

as a householder (he only reported to have served in the association of wardens), he enjoyed respect for his insights everywhere in the island. His own identity was always given by an attribute of zodiacal house location: he was the Grandfather of the zodiacal Rat Direction, as seen from the midpoint of the ndi village. A conception of uprightness, kusati, is also emphasized by Nakamatsu. In a perspicuous study, he relates the term kushiati to a particular religious attitude among the Ryukyuans (Nakamatsu 1982: 151 ff.): an experience of remaining under the guardianship of a deity to whom they owe their birth. Mountains – kusatimui (kusati woods/hillocks) – are repositories of a High God’s blessings. Ceramic incense holders are placed in the center of paired sprays of evergreen leaves (of the croton, Codiaeum variegatum, kind in the present day) when body souls are invoked (Figure 2.1). This is complemented with libations of water and rice brandy. Wooden lacquer trays containing rice grains are laid out behind. Compared with collective rites, including addresses to the territorial genii, the display is of a somewhat restricted variety. Further items, such as fruits and chicken eggs, identify the particular nature of the occasion. The inclusion of eggs is made to secure a germination of life force. Eventually, during the execution of the rite, four eggs are picked up. Buried in each corner of the courtyard, they are treated as if they were seeds. What is designated as the front of a rather symmetric votive arrangement, as it is laid out on a short-legged table, evokes the corresponding spatiotemporal animal category. Hence if the beneficiary of the prayer is born in the year of the Monkey, the table points in the direction of 240 degrees of the compass, with

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attention also being paid to a spirit of the rear – Tiger – of 60 compass degrees. The animal sign is an identity tag for an individual thus submitted to a scrutiny of life chances. An impromptu statement of animal year and paired animal signs establishes the patient’s tanka, divinatory intercalation. The shaman officiant sees the life-course as bracketed by interstitial years, happenings, trajectories and places, as when relaying the sighting of a person situated within the landscape. She indexicalizes personhood through this method. The rite of invoking birth guardians can also be staged after the subject’s death to disentangle a relationship to the living. The patient is found occupying an interstice conjoining the sunka and nunka. In the latter instance, of gathering the desires of the dead, the kusati pair of vases, which are denotations of physiognomic form, are left out. But the element of personhood is not lost by death. A fragment, what emerges from the vitalizing principle, may still be hovering about the house compound. Several gifted islanders – not all of whom are shamans – discern these as red, white, or blue/green fireballs, grouping them together as the Evil Thing Flares (madimunuci ). To strengthen the subject’s life force against predictable hazards, the Knowers visit people’s houses to address individual birth spirits. Most Dunang subject themselves to a life force diagnosis by accepting these visits. Some ask a shaman to find a propitious day in the second and eighth lunar months; a few others stipulate that the felicitous interval lies in the days between the first and the eighth of the first month and the first and the eighth of the eighth month. A fixed year-end rite (nindunusubi ) is scheduled for the twelfth moon. Shaman calls can, besides, be requested at any other time, in the event of life-threatening circumstances, for a Body Prayer in a dubadaniGai. Origin Houses of Dunang make a quite special occasion out of the eighth of the eighth moon. This date marks the occasion High Spirit Prayer (ubudiniGai ) for life-preserving requests to the House heroes. With this linkage, a question of individual health also becomes a question of protection by invoking society. The heroes of the past were community-builders. I learned that in any crisis, the soul snippets will put up a defense of the body by repairing inside it. If, on the other hand, they flee, there is a peril to think of. Soul loss (mabui ut’i ) occurs when one is struck by horror, even, in fact, by a modest shudder. The human host of the mabui is now a partner of a fatal association with an alien host (nuci [nuti ] ). An array of shapes, including ordinary humans, birds and animals, are prone to change themselves into hosts serving the drifting passions of the yesterday world, the nunka. Humans who either died in agony or without experiencing the fulfillment of parenthood visit their frustration upon available human or animal hosts. In the afflicted state, anybody can play host to the cravings of the dead. Uncanny shapes and voices originate with such fragments of desire. All such appearances of the nunka are of the madimunu kind. They are Evil Things. With their reporting of unfamiliar shapes, shamans on Dunang are Knowers and Seers. They need not mimic the unfamiliar shapes, however. Most Dunang munuci avoid transfigurations into aberrant guises. I only witnessed itinerant


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shamans possessed by the sentiments of the dead with expressions such as trembling and weeping. They also place their utterances across a wider swath of expression than shamans indigenous to the island. The Dunang Knowers are content to make out each other’s faculties just by an exchange of gazes. One elderly munuci of the tumai area said to me that she senses by her gaze a woman’s high birth. The eyes of the other appear wide open, but as soon as they turn upon someone, they appear to shrink. Kawahashi (1992: 44) sees in a communication through gazes an important feature of ruler–priestess communication during the dynastic period of the Ryukyus: “. . . the king sees the divine priestess, and when the divine priestess sees him in return, she confers the supernatural power on him by transferring it through her gaze upon him.” In Dunang, seeing activity gathers the Real Gem, the shiny life essence of the other. It can be spoken of as either an expanding or shrinking lustrousness. In the latter eventuality, the doomed, and even those already dead, are observed. Full figurizations as in the following depiction by female Knower are very rare: “Once, a couple emerged inside a stack of mortuary tablets, then after having washed their feet at the well in the house yard, they reverted to their enshrined position.” An entire island is a “spirit high” (kandaga) place. Yet to live in such a territory causes exposure to a variety of nihilistic conditions. Even the increase carriers themselves – the culture heroes of Origin Houses – are capable of wreaking havoc with people’s lives. As a consequence of this double-edged nature, one and the same kind of action on Dunang Island can be staged to promote life force and to curb life force. It acts on opposites by containing them, the positive as well as the negative. This experience of nested contrariness embraces the Dunang category of personhood. I shall now demonstrate its latitude with examples of addresses to the contrary-yet-cooperative dimensions of animation. Chicken eggs are presented to the spirits of birth, of either living or dead humans, but in either case a Birth Prayer (nmarigaN) is of the sunka type. When beseeching territorial spirits of the island (taginisaN; Peak Spirits) for future fortunes of an individual through the mediumship of a birth guardian, a tin bowl containing eggs stands on the table containing the incense-burners, libations, and dishes for the spirits of front and back, indexicalizing not only the zodiacal year of birth as one space-time category (nmaridi ) but also its opposite (kusati ). An index of personhood compounds both the progressive and the regressive in a life-course. This rite is conventionally executed on the occasion of a young boy or girl leaving the island to seek employment or education in a town. Once during fieldwork I observed a quite exceptional case of this ritual performance purposely truncated in order to adjust its message in a specific direction. The issue was as follows. Normally, it would be quite counterproductive to invoke house ghosts in prayers for good luck. Yet the culture heroes of the Origin Houses are enshrined either within the house compound or in a former house site, as the illustrious dead. The hero ancestors of the island are somewhat nebulous otherworldly entities, yet not the unmistakably Evil Things (madimunu) of ordinary, haunting ghosts. House founders have sunka characteristics. They are gods and goddesses:

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life-giving and life-preserving agents to be invoked for the benefit of things in the present. On one specific occasion, I was told about a decision actually to invoke such ancients in order to bolster the fortunes of the male House titleholder, who was then running for his final term in an election. The House invoked its origins in order to manifest its status in the present. On the eve of the election the village was divided into two: one supporting, the other opposing the relevant sides in the political process. This was actually a stalemate, and I was told that it even made its way into family lives. An oftencited occurrence was for husband and wife to cast votes for opposing candidates. I spotted vigilant activity in the village aimed at preserving the balance. A wake was held by one of the candidate’s supporters in the west-oriented cult room of an Origin House (west is here the privileged orientation). His fortunes for re-election looked rather bleak at the moment, so his younger sister had hastened to the island from the provincial capital to exert her function as a bunai tidigaN – sister goddess – of the House. One would expect a nmarigaN, soul invigorating, ritual to be set up.2 The mandatory ritual layout is that of a symmetrical offering of sacred gifts in a bi-directional fashion. Focusing on a ceramic incense holder marking the time-space direction of birth and on another ceramic incense holder marking the opposite direction, there would be food and drink presentations, including a bowlful of eggs. In the present case, however, the symmetry of the incense holder in the front and another in the rear did not materialize. Contrary to the rules for such an occasion, the makeshift altar was not oriented toward the zodiacal direction of the candidate’s birth, but was set up to point directly toward an enclosed area with bidiri stones in the western area of the house compound. Actually, this was deliberately formed as a condensed arrangement, a Single Birth Prayer (katanmarigaN). The action is grounded in a ritual syntax where the front represents the enduring spirit force of the eyes (mâdama) while the rear represents the body supportive force emerging within the spine and neck (ubudama). Now, the lack of symmetric indexicality of a front– back incense-bowl arrangement reworks the message of the ritual. It was quite obvious that that what mattered was not the spirit force of the eyes of the protagonist of the rite, but rather one hovering somewhere among the upright megaliths in sight outside in the yard. The sliding doors of the western wall had been drawn wide apart. A syntax of chained activity had been revised, so an unexpected message had to be tuned in. This high-ranking Origin House owns a particularly protected prayer precinct with tall upright bidiri stones. The arrangement has been set off from the rest of the compound by a solid concrete enclosure. Such bidiri monoliths have an undetermined conceptual status in Dunang thinking. Many informants would prefer just to make them indexical emplacements of some sort of awesome spirit lacking any fixed identity. Others, including the inhabitants of the Origin House where the bidiri stand right inside the house yard, acknowledge their association to once-living humans. They find the upright stones indicative of the whereabouts of the ancestors proper (ubudi-habudi ).


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These ancestors, though, are capable of wreaking havoc among the living, even more so than ordinary ghosts. But if they are offered the appropriate tributes, they become agents of bliss. At issue, in the moment now being recapitulated, was the correct execution of the rite. For the candidate to the election was opting for an alignment with deified forebears, presenting to them a large bowl of raw eggs, but also some fruits as would be the case in a mortuary ritual. His supporters were presented with sundry fishpaste cakes and cookies, but with the addition of a quite exceptional ingredient: boiled eggs. Eggs, in ordinary Dunang imagery, promise multiplication. I imagine that it might have been quite appropriate in the present situation, in fact, to invoke some multiplicity for the ballot box. An impasse occurred when it turned out that the sister goddess, having lived in the provincial capital for some years – and familiar with urban ways – had forgotten the Dunang recipe for invoking House spirits. Her mother did not come forward to aid her; she was squatting in a back entrance, looking with disbelief at the confusion. One solution won approval, however: I was urged to come to the sister’s relief by hastily leafing through the field notes I carried with me. She performed quantification and incineration of money to the ancestors. I managed the words. And the votes flourished. The following day was a day of celebration: sounds of the sansiN stringed instrument and the outcries and whistling of dancing celebrants resounded through the village. But let me add a second reflection on the nature of the ritual address. Eggs – to a fuller extent than words and money – are agents of ritual. They amplify luck and they thwart the spread of bad luck. The latter reading requires an additional look. Raw eggs are taken to house sites and tomb sites to cleanse the ground. The occasion is a Soil Release (dinudi ) ritual. Eggs are buried in each of the four corners of the house compound and on each side of the entrance to the tomb courtyard. Additionally, in the precincts of a tomb, slivers of kelp may also be buried along with the eggs. The affinities invoked are as follows: eggs buried in the soil are no different from eggs on an altar, but their effects are offset by their environmental situation. Eggs, like the specimens of kelp, are foreign to the ground. Soil offers no benign milieu for their maturation. But this is a much wished-for disharmony. Its significance is that of halting unwanted growth. As for the seaweed, people doubt whether it reproduces very easily even in the sea.3 Marked by the context, eggs become agents of non-proliferation. Semantic value is altered as the context is manipulated. An argument, which in the Peircean triadic layout lies on the side of the symbol, is inserted throughout the execution of ritual just described. This is a non-discursive, yet evocative, form of negativity.4 The symbolic weight of the argument dismantles a simple visual symmetry, that is, the bilateralism of the display on a table of incense bowls, flasks, cups, and food dishes. But with this syntax requiring quite consistent measures of situational discrimination – eggs on a raised altar vs. eggs buried in the ground – no conceptual confusion arises. A fuzziness of the

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sign is a question of its fundamental duality (in contrast to binarism). So eggs for multiplication and eggs for preventing multiplication can be entirely identical. Crispness is not initially granted; only by the ethnographic record of a usage, i.e. placed on a dais or buried in the soil, can the argument carried by the ritual be determined. Semantic parallelisms are created in order to travel between semantic domains, and the vehicles of their expression, such as garlic and crabs or eggs and seaweed, alter their attributes throughout the route of deployment. Utterances are weighted by context, not by an initial truth condition. What for the Dunang is a question of reproductive nature in humans can be extended to the observation of other species, as when multiplication by eggs is in focus, to crab and to fowl. Speaking of metaphor, we must follow the entire length of this fuzzy extension of an utterance. For what can be an unlikely juxtaposition in metaphoric usage, such as the one between humans and crabs, is paralleled by what I have shown to be a doubling of intentions, unexpected as it may be. In a fuzzy extension of intentions carried by the utterance, scope is granted by the involvement in ritual for wishing for a quality such as growth to be fulfilled or, at the opposite point of the scale, for wishing it to be eliminated. When the sunka nature of life is at issue, eggs are exposed at the scene of ritual to signify – beneficial – germination. When a nunka nature of death is at issue, eggs are buried at the scene of ritual to signify – detrimental – germination. Watching germinating species of fruits and nuts, people make this distinction: boosting something, countering something. Some species in nature encapsulate such contrariness. First, papayas (mandui ) are icons of fecundity. The papaya (Carica papaya) is a staple; it is grown inside most house compounds on Dunang. The unripe fruit is cut and boiled with meat or fan palm pith in a soup dish. The papaya is eaten in abundance by pregnant women for the purpose of stimulating lactation. Second, coconuts are icons of sterility. The coconut (Cocos nucifera) is disliked for its hard shell. It inhibits propagation, for it locks up the very matter of fertility, that is, semen. Both species, seen as appendices to the trunks of trees, compare with features of the human body, with breasts and testicles. The one affixes the positive; it is a promoter. The other affixes the negative; it is an inhibitor. Many Dunang are skeptical about planting coconut trees for decorative purposes. Incidentally, I am unsure whether coconut trees are indigenous to the island as they are on neighboring Iriomote Island. In the present, still, some coconut palms are left to grow only in the center of tumai village, near shops and administrative offices. But there are no exemplars near the village homesteads. A double-edged logic is at work. Its bipartite quality does not bracket reality by amplifying dissimilarity through such overarching expressions as, e.g., nature– culture. It is not the distinction between existences, but, rather, their common nature which causes people to worry. This is an ontology of transformations. Animals, such as pigs and cats, which attach themselves easily to humans, are prone to falling prey to ghosts. The latter are entities that have no nature of their own, but reduplicate the forms of their miscellaneous hosts. When reduplication


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of entities in novel shapes is the topic, people speak of the kidimunu ghosts. Their main feat is that of abducting people. Every case of people disappearing that transpired during the periods of fieldwork raised the issue of a kidimunu abduction. What causes concern about these manifestations is the frequency with which they materialize in human guises. Given this metamorphic dexterity in the spirit world, a certain reserve is called for among the living. A kidimunu may intrude even in the shape of a neighbor. As the eventualities were once discussed, I was told how to respond to late-night calls at my door: “Who are you?” Only with a persuasive assertion of the caller’s identity should a welcome be voiced. Sudden knocks on the roof during the night-time are true indices of kidimunu action. The Grandfather of the Rat direction – in the ndi village – said that it is a question of kidimunu presence when he manages to sense the individuality of an animal by looking it into its eyes. He is able to discover if it has good or evil intentions. Such ensoulment of the eyes is what sets cattle and horses apart; they share some inner quality with humans. Reptiles are sometimes spirited beings (they metamorphose easily), but they cannot be considered ensouled the way horses and cattle are. The same old man wondered why people appear paralyzed, lapsed into soul-loss, on encountering snakes. His amazement was quite reasonable: no poisonous snakes exist on Dunang. Nevertheless, he said, an elderly man in the village became bedridden after meeting a snake while sitting astride his horse. (The man had suffered a stroke.) This comment on nature by the Dunang is in fact a comment on hidden intentionalities. Nature shelters such human inner activity. It harbors sentiment. Intentionalities take effect even to a fuller extent when they are not articulated. A frequent topic of conversation with my informants was that of curses, ikiru. These are fragments of sentiment which reproduce even in the absence of verbalization. One sensation reduplicates into another. Piercing the trunk of a tree with a nail sustains it. A cursing and cursed anthropomorphic spirit (kinunuci ) is forever confined in the trunk of a tree – any tree. Also, finely chopped hairs in a dish of hot rice can destroy the life of a human adversary. Sentiments, however, allow themselves to be negotiated. Edibles, spirit money, incense, and even praises can be measured for discharge in distinctive quantities, and in such a refined fashion that satiation is assured. The monetary factor prescribes sheets of paper with impressed marks of denominations. The name of the currency presents the indexical sign of its validation, that is, utigabi, meaning Impressed Paper (money). Currency for incineration is recognized by the term kabianGu (“paper burning”). The Dunang distinguish between two varieties: white paper (itadiN = “blank money”) for this-worldly, helpful spirits of the island, and brown paper (karadiN = “Chinese money”) for that-worldly, invading spirits. Saving individual life forces is done in a soul-catching ritual (mabui’sui ). People are unsure when the general question was raised about whether vegetal species possess mabui, though they assert that the natural world is animated. Some species, as I shall demonstrate later on – with a depiction of an interaction between a man and an ebony root – are apparently thought of as being ensouled. But one

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kind of wood may be capable of neutralizing life-usurping influences. This, I realized once, as I was questioning the Grandfather of the Rat direction and his wife about the shrubs they had planted in their compound garden, is the mountain wampi (dasika; Randia canthioides). It terrifies ghosts so they found a spot for it near the compound gate. Other elderly people cut their walking sticks from branches of the dasika.5 The banyan tree (saNai; Ficus microcarpa) is imbued with spirit force, while the tropical almond (kubadîsa; Terminalia catappa), which likewise is allowed to grow in profusion on other islands in the archipelago for shade, is specifically a host of ill-intentioned spirits. This latter deciduous tree can be seen lining school grounds, however, planted by authorities who either do not share the assumption or the knowledge of its true character of connecting the living with matters of death.

Acts of engagement
The Dunang expatiate on a Taoist sexagenary principle for individual destinies. The moment of birth fixes the relationship, as indexicalized by a calendrical term. The prospects for a life-course depend on an association with a corporeal Birth Spirit (nmaridi ). Despite its gross character and unrelatedness to the Birth Spirit itself, the zodiacal animal of the year of birth is indispensable to a fuller assessment of personal identity, and for the shamans to divine about life prospects. My own animal of birth became well known in the ndi village, and I received ample warnings about what locations and what situations I should avoid as I left for an unlucky, interstitial year during one part of the fieldwork. Eberhard (1972: 6) reflects on the origin of the animal-year design: The ancient Chinese divided the course of the sun into twelve “houses,” similar to the divisions of our zodiac, and believed that each house was ruled by an animal. This custom perhaps had its origin in Central Asia and was observed in China not too long before the beginning of our era. In his introduction to Durkheim and Mauss (1963), Needham comments on the possible evidence of an original totemism. He criticizes Durkheim and Mauss’s conjectural history, that these animals were the totemic emblems of founding families. In Dunang I observed versatility in the deployment of the primary number “12” for a variety of uses. For all the Dunang emphasis on animal birth year, they assume no community of character such as Rat-like, Ox-like, or otherwise. Of far more consequence, however, is the situation of the body itself within the margins suggested by the paired categories of nmaridi and kusati, Birth Spirit and Rear Spirit. Invoking supernatural assistance for bolstering the souls’ attachment to the body of their human host, fresh sprigs are set up – in flasks or vases – at each end of a low stand set up either in the front yard or inside the house, in front of a shrine dedicated to guardianship of each individual. A citrus variety indigenous to the ndi village is the preferred variety. Now a vanishing


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species according to the villagers, it is referred to as the cinubi (scientific name not available). It has shown its tenacity in the past, so it is a good protector of human souls. In keeping with one story widely known on the island, the islanders were once showered by a burning, oily rain. The cinubi was the only species to survive the calamity. The nmaridi itself imparts the quality of the person at birth. A strong luminosity of the eyes indexicalizes a high birth: sûdaganmari. For the Dunang, this condition of personhood is a condition for knowing. When somebody is recognized as a highborn, she (or he) easily gains a reputation as a munuci, a Knower. No formal entitlement accompanies this recognition; hence I refer to the (mostly female) munuci as shamans. Yet the quality is not exclusively an aspect of personhood, for it manifests itself also in the lives of women inheriting specific entitlements by birth, as through a transfer: (a) from mother to daughter in a line of k’a, shrine priestesses; (b) from mother’s mother to daughter’s daughter in a line of initiates of the New Water (aramidi ) cult; (c) from a paternal aunt to a brother’s daughter in a line of bunai tidigaN, Sister Goddesses of Origin Houses. But whatever the manner of descent, the Dunang look for high birth in the individual character. The incumbency of an island priestess may itself impart attributes to the character. If we compare with European common sense regarding royalty, this might not be too far-fetched. With no less certainty, people in Europe expect personages of royal pedigree or even by royal marriage to impart a sense of difference.6 The more actively the life force of the high born manifests itself, the faster, however, it consumes itself. The munuci acknowledge their own high birth, and, as a consequence, the hazards imperiling their lives. Their vocation raises a question of self-restraint. A highborn individual, of either sex, needs to be soothed and calmed to be sheltered from sickness and accident.7

An animated ambience
Well-being for the individual, as I learned from attending prayer sessions with Dunang Knowers, is a question of an accommodation with the island, of making oneself, in fact, at ease with it. This is fundamentally a question of a lifelong dialogue with subjects of nature. Widespread extraction of topsoil, rocks and wood for the construction of roads and houses requires sacrifices of raw meat to the local “hosts” (nuci ). What has permanently been lost must be compensated for. A site of origin of a lifesustaining resource has to be accessed. In fact, a major healing event by a shaman usually calls for migration to be retraced to an original site showing the vestiges (such as a well) that once were a resource for life. Pilgrimages – often along paths overrun by plant growth – halt at sites where the signs of the past are tangible enough for a mnemonic image to be crafted. Vacated house sites, with their standing stones and wells, are the most tell-tale signs of life sustenance looked for by the shamans. The experience is dialogical even if there is no responding agency. So the communication must be in signs.

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To achieve this sense of ease with their environment, the Dunang shamans invoke action that is responsive and adaptive. To submit oneself to a regime of prayers and pilgrimages is a step deemed necessary at a particular juncture – tanka – in one’s life. Those with an extraordinary luminosity of the eyes, the highborn, may need to take measures to ensure a more level course for their inner lives. But the option to be aligned diametrically with natural features has been restricted to the female gender: only women attributed with high birth pay their respects to water in natural springs around the island. Others relate to the island by crouching in prayer before sprays of evergreens kept in ceramic vases or Coke bottles to address its plant life. This is a most consistent feature of a ritual awareness in the island. It may be noticeable to anyone walking around the villages, where the sliding doors to compound houses usually are left ajar during daytime, and where the gardens are open to view over the low stone walls. Twigs are on permanent display in the following loci: (a) kitchen (fire spirit) and (b) reception room (ancestors, birth-year spirit protectors of house members, water spring host for a woman of the house, and tiger direction guardian of the built structure). And in the compound itself, evergreen twigs mark a spot for prayer on a stone altar. A sprig in water is an easy and prolific sign of connectiveness with the island. While a pinch of soil can be transported to other locations for the recurrent worship of an original place, the green leaves and water must be constantly replaced. I sometimes joined emigrant islanders returning to their natal house plots. Invariably upon arrival, either on an empty house site or in a vacated dwelling, the first thing to do was to cut twigs and fetch fresh water and bring forth the empty Coke bottles. At least for the moment, an alignment had to be refurbished. Some water sources hold primal water. I was told that the original springs (in the dual sense of “primeval” and “real”) of Dunang could be found in the upper and lower reaches of hills of the island interior and along the coral-sand beaches. For people on the south coast, rather than the urabu, the ridge of dunandagi is what commands attention as a high feature of the landscape. Water is valued as a resource for cultivation on hilltop and hillside land, and for household use in the village below. Spring water from the area is valued in a very active sense, so there is a notion among the villagers of indebtedness to it for their life sustenance, and in a widespread but particular observation, female beauty can be granted by drinking it. A now almost forgotten site of worship in a field on elevated ground is said to contain a raised sacred stone. The area is referred to as mâGabaru, Real Stream Field. (People in the area remember that the previous owner was strongly dedicated to matters of worship.) The prefix mâ designates the topography as “real,” but not in terms of any visual outline. No stream comes into view, yet there is a shared knowledge among ndi villagers that the site holds subterranean water. By contrast, the prefix ufu (ubu) appearing in a place name of the northward area, just quoted, communicates “highness.” Thus evoked is the actual elevation of the locus, or its stature as a territorial icon. The difference, as between Real and High, is also spoken of when shamans make people’s souls the topic: one is real, the other is high.


Person and island

Quite apart from people on other islands in South Ryukyu, the Dunang do not think of waterways as a network of wells. Well spirits are included only in the cult of the house compound and its immediate environs, where water has been fetched from communal reservoirs. The latter are not “sources.” No “real” (mâ ) water trickles up to the surface. It needs, rather, to be fetched. Attention to the particular nature of their perimeter requires a calendrical observation. One man in the tumai area of the north coast inhabits a house site with a deep hole in his front yard. In the words of this head of an Origin House, the hole is a “pond.” Once a year, he makes his courtyard the site of festival. He worries about the attendance. Some of those due to pay annual visits in recognition of the parental standing of his house prefer to perform the required obeisance to deep ground in their own compounds. But this, in the words of the house head, is not such a simple matter. His own compound is clean, it is tidy; he habitually brushes its coral-sand cover. The rim of the hole is dense with vegetation. No kitchen wastes may be deposited alongside, and certainly not on its west side. Such care for the ground translates into a care for people. Adverse effects from severing ties to the site have been experienced, so my informant is now preoccupied with welcoming back defected cult members. The ancestral House is regaining the importance conferred by a custodianship of subterranean water. A key issue of the House festival is the arrangement suggestive of a passage from the island exterior to an interior marine landscape of the island in which a pair of roast fishes is mounted upon a bed of salt in a plate. The House tradition bears no relationship to fishing or any activity connected with the sea. Its worship focuses merely on the “pond,” which is just a dry basin in the courtyard. So why this indexicality of the salt sea? I made this the subject when talking with people about how to describe the landscape of the area. Invariably, this became a conversation about significance, first and foremost, of fissured landscapes. Many ravines (bandu) and caves ( gama) are places to avoid, I was told, the more so if the underground features allow the passage of creatures of the deep sea into the island itself. One woman with attachments to an island sanctuary pointed out a sacred spring among the ravines, in a precinct below the hillcrest of the northern village. As a child, she was afraid of the place, the more since she had the experience of stumbling across the remains of past burials. Here, in a dense wood, holes opened up in the ground, and she could peep down upon migrating eels and crabs. Her experience was that of a proximity to the realm of the nira, the female deity of hollow interiors. In such attention to subterranean domains of limestone, creatures of the sea, such as the two fishes resting on a bed of salt in the Origin House, intercede between the inside and the outside. A porousness of limestone obfuscates the difference between the island interior, with its ponds and pools, and the salt sea. So the House worshipers at a “pond” congregate simply to accept the emanations from below. Their attention converges on the nira, an entity both of fissured ground and fissured seabed. The ambience of this female entity is expressed in the word nirabandu (the ravines of the nira). This is a concave ambit and a limbo.

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Souls both of the living and the dead need to be brought out of it, either to be restored in the body or to be sealed into a tomb. A manipulation of souls, as I witnessed in shaman activity many times, invariably ends up with this concern for a soul drawn into a landscape or a seascape. But as a true attribute of cosmological status, nira also refers to a realm of those yet to be born. In some opinions, a Birth Spirit can itself be spoken of as nirabansu. So the worship itself obfuscates a difference between life and death. When the nira (or nirai kanai ) is topicalized in many modern discourses, as in pop music and internet communication, as a supreme deity of the Ryukyus, I would guess that the cause of such centricity can be found in its totalizing status within an ontology of sentience: it reigns both over life and death. It situates the life trajectory within the space of landscapes and seascapes. In effect, an indexical interface can be comprehended between persons and islands, ultimately, as an identity of the ucina people inhabiting the Ryukyu archipelago.

An adulation of watery flowers
Dunang myths unfold the origin of kinship arrangements with what in Chinese numerology is a prime number, namely, “seven.” Progenitors (ubudi-habudi ) of contemporary Origin Houses make up a group of seven siblings. The numeral also recurs in contexts where a question of access, either to the celestial or subaqueous world, is at stake, and also – as I now shall suggest – to a subterranean zone, as in the seven primal springs. These are not named straightforwardly, but nested, rather, in metaphoric expressions as the Seven Watery Flowers (miN-nu-nanahana) or as the Water Gems of Seven Places (nanasiki nu tamamiN). An image of rivulets of clear water revealed as a branched pattern in the sand (miN-nu-ciru) governs an identifying metaphor, Water Gem (miN-nu-tama), for a women’s initiation cult. Each spring contains the Gem Water of so-and-so locale. Women in the island make of such topographic attachments the terms for highborn (sûdaganamari ) status. These are indexicalizing attachments. A cult of spring water has both a gender group focus and community reference. During an annual festival of the New Water (aramidi ), a sisterhood of co-initiates meets with the k’a, island priestesses and the dumuti, village councillors. Annual visits to the water springs are stipulated by the ceremonial calendar, due on the first “water” day (mizu-no-to) in the eighth lunar month. The temporal concurrence is permutated every year by checking the cycles of “water” days as they converge with the eighth moon. The chief motif is that of replacing spring water in a woman’s house shrine along with some handfuls of sand for its ceramic incense bowl (cf. the east–west aligned configuration of objects at the far right side of the house shrine portrayed in Figure 1.9). Co-initiates to a spring guardianship make this a collaborative act. They speak of some 20 worship sites, but in the invocations made by the k’a priestesses, only seven – primal – springs are mentioned. Some islanders lament, however, that the shamans inflate sacred numbers to extend their own territorial concerns.


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Women native to Dunang associate themselves with spirits of freshwater springs. They enshrine the resident genii as their constant guardians, but – due to prewar and wartime persecution of sisterhoods by Japanese public authorities – there are no more ceremonials of induction. The last initiation into the cult of New Water took place in the early post-war years. But those who were brought into an alliance with water of the cool springs on the islands during adolescence hold onto the ties: to water sources and co-initiates. A miniature shrine for the worship of spring water stands in the reception room of their houses. But I had to rely on the reminiscences by the elderly initiates to recreate a scene of initiation. A women’s initiation cult This was the typical recollection of a formal induction to a sisterhood: a ceramic vessel intended to hold sticks of incense had once been held out, in a bid to engender response, by a Knower. A ceremony of induction was named by this key act: Raising the Incense Holder (kurudati ). The action involved a transfer of quality, of one residing in the flow of usutui utterances of prayer and another, in the flow of cool, spring water. Words retain sentiment (umui ); spouts of water retain soul matter: Gem Water (tamamiN).8 Spring water for the domestic water altar is replenished on the eighth day of the eighth moon. The fresh water is poured into two vases containing twigs that flank a centrically aligned cup just in front of the incense holder. Dunang women reinvigorate their own bodies through a “renewal of water,” yet the technicality involved by this entreaty is generally seen as advantageous even for others – first of all for other House members. Prayers mention Water Flowers. Regenerative quality is held by an image, most importantly, by its annual reiteration by women who connect with each other through their ties to loci in the territory. The quality spreads, however, only by being said. It replicates with metaphoric attributes held by repetitive speech acts, as “gem-like” and “flowery.” Women of this cult of freshwater springs ally themselves with features in the terrain through these cupfuls of spring water. They mention a juncture in their own personal biographies as necessitating a nexus with the island. Many quote experiences of illness, though one elderly shaman in the ndi village began the account of her initiation with an allusion to the suppression of gender identity. She was initiated at the age of 12. So much did her parents want a girl after the birth of seven boys that at first they could not think of her as such. As an infant, she used to be wrapped in a cloth. Not even the neighbors doubted that she was a boy. She was reared as a boy, and people outside the family did not know she was a girl before the age of 6. She adds to her account: “There is a song about this . . . a bird shut up in a cage.” The strangeness of the whole thing made people think of her as someone of high birth. At the age of 24, she married a man of a ndi Origin House, the tumujâ (see Chapter 1). These were her words about the consequence for her life: “The spirits of that house are particularly fierce.”

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And a power of character reveals someone as having “high birth.” In the typical life-career, a woman’s association with the spirit of a freshwater spring materializes during adolescence or in the early years after marriage. Her initiator to the partnership is an adept member of the cult, an elder who is a reputed munuci. With a patrilocal choice of residence, house solidarity does not easily match with cult solidarity. One ageing male informant of the ndi village revealed this dissonance in his recollection of the occasion of initiation. I was interviewing both the man and his wife about the particulars of the scene. This informant, one of my neighbors, passed away during the fieldwork period. He was a sugar cane cultivator, but had earned much renown for his skills in carpentry. Similar to the Grandfather-of-the Rat direction, he had no fixed position in cult arrangements. Still, he was generally regarded as one of the most insightful persons on the island in things peculiar to the island. His reminiscence is as follows. He had tried everything possible to thwart his wife’s admission to the water cult. A compromise saved the marital accord. The wife might worship the water source on the annual occasion, but would not have the license to keep a shrine of her own inside the house. She consented to keeping only a pair of kandiN vases, enshrining by that device simply her nmaridi birth guardian. In the latter, ubiquitous arrangement of Dunang house interiors, neutral as to gender, a configuration of vases or flasks flanking an incense bowl can be set up for each house member separately. The husband’s opposition was initially justified as a concern for the extravagances of the initiation rite. Indeed, several informants alluded to the burdens of expenditure. Some houses had to postpone the rite until they were able to stockpile offerings and celebratory dishes. Others petitioned neighbors for contributions. To mark the successful entry into the cult it might have been acceptable to slaughter a pig or a water buffalo. On this point, however, there was a divergence of opinion among my informants. Some claimed that meat dishes were anathema to the quest for alignment with the water spirits. Others maintained that meat entered the celebratory sequel to the rite, quite justifiably so by not being included among the presentations to the water spirit. Considering the scale of the arrangement, the informant just quoted would instead have preferred a purpose more conducive to the general welfare of the community. He expressed skepticism about the exclusiveness of the guardianship. It included women but not men. Why could not the women of the island align their ritual efforts with more practical ends? Why could they not merge their efforts on the occasion of the New Water with some rice cultivators’ ceremonials at water sluices in the rice paddies? He declared that the purpose of the prayers, appending the cultivator’s view, was to eradicate noxious insects from the fields. He added that neglecting the worship of a woman’s water spirit would cause subterranean water to turn stale and salty. What he resisted, he explained, was simply the restricted access to this cult, a view he repeatedly had defended in discussions with women initiates. His wife listened quietly as he gave me this opinion. Apart from this discord about the proper alignment to kinship and community in the observance of the annual “water” day, both sexes abide by the duty to pay


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obeisance. The dilemma in former days may have been that a girl’s initiation into the water cult called for a level of formality and display of festive food equal only to today’s weddings. She would have been expected to dress in a new robe (at considerable expense to the family). If married, her husband would also need special clothing for the celebratory feast after the conclusion of the rites in the shape of Japanese style ( Jap: montsuki hakama) attire with trousers, normally reserved for very formal affairs. Donning this garb, which displays a family crest, is itself an attestation of agnatic prerogative. It conflicts with a priority accorded to uterine succession, which – as shall be explained below – is carried by the event itself. Actually, the informant quoted above resisted his wife’s initiation partly because he knew that he himself would hardly be an active participant. Men were granted only conditional access. If their fates were, nonetheless, deemed by the shaman to be affected in one way or the other by the realities of the women’s cult, they would be invited to enter the courtyard, but then solely to burn 12 sticks of incense while performing their obeisance toward the east. The prevalence of a women’s initiation society would eventually run counter to Japanese precepts inculcated in the population after the collapse of the Kingdom about appropriate relations between the sexes. Critics of the initiations cited the culinary extravagance and the dancing as most unbecoming to Japanese women.9 Some male informants on this topic recounted that the cult facilitated the virtual rule in the island by the munuci shamans. These women played upon the fears of contagious diseases and upon malaria in particular. My female informants on the topic expressed a strikingly different mode of reasoning. Let me quote the view of a munuci initiate. The age of per capita taxation (cf. Røkkum 1998) imposed a burden on parenthood because young children would only be taught the skills required to enable taxes to be paid. Perfunctory motherly care might even have been deliberate in this deplorable past, she reflected. The water cult, then, maintained the obligation for a mother to do her utmost to save her daughters’ lives, by mobilizing the sisterhood. Now, noting the moral community’s pressure to favor special attention on boys to carry on the agnatic prerogative, an island version makes an option favorable for the care of young girls. And recollections of the hardships of the past, of a regime of per capita taxation, do not refer to unwanted births of girls, but to the hardships of raising children irrespective of sex. The act of Raising the Incense Holder aligns a girl permanently with the water sources and their branches – seen as rivulets in the sand. And however understated by the informants, it fills a vacancy in a line of successors. Some scope exists for a shaman to align a girl with either an unrelated or agnatically related senior. Ideally, however, succession progresses by alternating generations and by primogeniture: from a mother’s mother to a daughter’s daughter. With a lapse of one generation, a collateral extension of co-worshipers at the water sources to the cousin range is assured. Most women I met at the water sources on the eighth day of the eighth moon were willing to talk about these relationships. I learned that present-day pilgrimages to the springs feel natural due to the tight friendships experienced as subjects join in a link to a named freshwater

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spring. In fact, this loyalty to a place evolved more easily as a topic in these conversations than loyalty to an initiator. Eight women were able to recall their year of initiation and shared with me their memories. Each was initiated between 12 to 22 years of age. Three women I encountered at the springs on the annual occasion of worship were related thus as sisters and parallel cousin. Yet some deny that birth order carries any weight. In their view any group of sisters will inevitably contain one who is highborn. Only a munuci can decide on this pre-eminence. Affiliations to spring locations are passed on in this manner, as a transfer of highborn character. However, let me add an important exception for the Origin Houses. A woman entering a House as a bride must sever ties to the spring of a uterine predecessor, opting instead for a fresh alignment with the spring of the senior sister. The bunai of a House worshiping illustrious brothers and sisters must never sever her own ties to sources of inspiration. These are – figuratively and realistically speaking – the “gems” (tama) of spring water creating in her body the necessary vigor for an association with the “gems” (tama) of House ancestors such as jewelry, musical instruments, tools, and weapons. Health can only be granted to an initiate and her family if the dialogue with the water source is kept constant throughout life, even to its limit. For an object that is the guardian’s auxiliary, the ceramic incense bowl of the house shrine, accompanies a dead woman’s body during her funeral. It goes with her into the vaulted tomb. It is not passed on at death in any mode of succession, either by descent or by affinity. Intertwined with a woman’s personhood, the cult object can be left nowhere but behind her head as she is interred in the mausoleum. It follows that formalized modes of succession and purposive study of prayer are not compatible with the water cult’s emphasis upon personal knowledge. So the bond to the freshwater spring is ultimately abrogated. Water from the spring of the guardian spirit is fetched for a posthumous act of severance. Partially burnt offerings of incense and sacrificial money are taken from the spring to the tomb. This is, as I could witness in several other instances, a ritual for settling a debt. It involves the payment of a charge of “completion” (subimai ), and, in the further consequence, a Hand Release (tinudi ). The latter is a most decisive action to communicate separation. A compilation of initiates’ stories of the past gives the following review of a women’s rite of transition. These are the words attributed to the shaman on recruiting a new member to the cult as, initially, she focuses her attention on a particular house in the village: ndijagu nki tatun’jû! Someone [already] deceased shall depart from this place!

A call for initiation begins with a call for death. The neophyte incarnates a character of a dead woman. While dispensing a revelation of a departure for the tomb the shaman leaves no doubt as to the precise identity of the doomed figure: it can be no one but the girl herself.


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This is the opening statement of the ritual sequence. The initiator narrows down the options with an unstated “if not . . . then . . .” Only a quest to enter a sisterhood of water worshippers can sidetrack the way into the nunka world of the dead. Now taking responsibility as an initiator, the shaman elicits a permanent guardianship. She dedicates her usutui words to a potential water-source guardian spirit. She lights sticks of incense and ignites a copious amount of spirit money. In this way, the girl inaugurates a series of acts that culminate with the initiation. Three months ahead of an anticipated induction into the water cult, she takes steps to seal herself off from polluting agents (durimunu). She avoids funerals and refuses food with meat or fat content. At daybreak seven days before the scheduled initiation, a ceramic vessel for incense burning is brought to a courtyard subarea named by the Horse direction on the dial of the geomantic compass. The section extends from the southern corner of the inside of the dwelling to the outside. What lies ahead, on the seventh and final day, is the rite of Raising the Incense Holder. The sign of death beginning with the iconized vision of a course toward deep ground must be replaced with a sign of life: eventually the candidate will reach out for the vault of the sky. The course is set, and for the final seven days, a series of ritual performances shall turn out the junctures. First of all, vigor must be reinstated in the body of the girl. For its stoop is itself a most convincing index of soul-loss. Pure food is prepared in the courtyard site of initiation. The initial display is of large balls (kubanGu) of steamed rice. The rice balls preserve a clasping motion. They extend beyond the moment a beneficial effect of the elder’s hand movement. Such an extension from one body to another defines an indexical relationship. The clasping into shape of a handful of cooked rice visualizes the fastening of the lost souls of the girl. So the rice balls are iconic signs, as well, of matter essential to life. Here is the next announcement: uma nu kinai nu minunGa kuma nu miN uGamasî hirja’dû! A woman of that house shall pray to the water of this place!

This is an opening phase of an usutui oratory; now is the moment to announce the girl’s zodiacal birth year. Then the shaman proceeds with the following statement: miN-nu-ciru uGamari waitabaibi! So you shall worship rivulets of water!

For seven days in succession, the girl watches over the incense glows in the ceramic vessel. It is her particular obligation to see that the charcoal sticks are kept smoldering. The shaman inductor specifies the renewal of offerings at dawn in the subsequent succession of days: the first, the fifth, and the seventh. Such ritual ingredients such as rice grains and green twigs are replaced every morning. Festival food – surinu’usai – is dedicated to a miN-nu-nuci – a Water Host. Spring water is similarly presented and replaced. Let me add some preliminary remarks on the vital aspect of incense combustion.

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Nothing is more ubiquitous than the use of incense in the ritual life of people in the Ryukyus. The sticks are quite indispensable to any utterance of prayer. The liberal use of incense is reminiscent of Chinese practices, while, in the ritual life of the mainland Japanese, its inclusion is reserved mostly for mortuary ritual. As an olfactory medium, we think of incense as scented, acting either as a perfume or a purifier. Chinese and Japanese incense sticks are also attractively wrapped. In the Ryukyus, on the other hand, both the smell and the sight of the sticks produce a single association, that of charcoal. The sticks are black, and the smell is simply that of charred wood. They are not produced as single sticks, but as wafers of six indents, and are sold in unwrapped bundles. The accent is on abundance. Besides, it is not scent but sight which underlies their use. Spiritual activity resides in the supplicant’s eyes, and during the rite of initiation a subject is told to fix her gaze on the upright incense sticks. As a tanka – spatiotemporal intercalation – the glow of incense serves as an intermediary point, connecting the crouching supplicant with a mountain in the distance. With such indexicalization of the self within the wider compass of natural surroundings, the officiating shaman can allow her inner gaze to drift along the landscape, naming its sacred features and resident spirit hosts along the way. In the outdoor arrangement in the courtyard of the house, a small pile of sand serves as a base for the incense sticks. A pair of vases flanks the incense holder. These contain fresh sprays of leaves from shrubs in the vicinity, referred to in the usutui as Live Flowers (ikihana). While the mound of sand determines, by analogy as well as by contiguity, a relationship to a tagi – a peak – the twigs connect the supplicant with the mui – the woods and the hills (tagitagi-muimui in actual verbalization). Also, a cup of fresh water is an integral part of Dunang ritual display. Spirits are invited to quench their thirst. The menu establishes a true abundance of things to satisfy the palate. Olfactory and gustatory allusions abound in the prayers. Spirits are attracted by odor, taste, and presentational style of offerings, but only as the human side delivers these by words of prayer. The officiant elicits dialogue, and it is only through her own sensitivities as a highborn that she can read the answers. Unlike the Judeao-Christian notion of prayer, here is one which is only conceivable through a dialogue in signs. The Ryukyuans metaphorize their thoughts in prayer just as westerners do. Yet the participatory role of the suppliant is quite different. The Knowers in the island position themselves and their clients in an interface between a this-world (sunka) and a that-world (nunka). The knowledge of what passes on between these sides is one of a mindscape of the shaman made graspable by an audience in the moment of inspiration, as she fixes her gaze on the glow of incense. This is a momentary and inspirational type of knowledge, so it falls within the Peircean category of an abductive logic. Two vessels for transporting moods Now, the elementary form of any Dunang rite observed in the period of fieldwork contains an incense holder, a pair of twigs, and a cup of fresh water – items


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which define a forward line of the total layout – define, by analogy and contiguity, a minimum of signs. They extend from the person to the island. Behind this outward display, the following fixtures – also typical of ritual I witnessed during actual fieldwork – are laid out in the pre-initiatory arrangement: • Cleansed Flowers (araibana). This metaphoric allusion identifies two cups of uncooked rice. Four, respectively five, green leaves line the rims of the cups. Moistened rice grains in teacups are declared to have been rinsed seven times. With this combination of raw rice with fresh leaves, purity is enhanced, but as a corollary of this extraordinary product, the dish is not for human ingestion. Salty delicacies (mâsû’usai ). This is another metaphoric allusion to purity extracted from nature. Mounds of salt, today in the outline of plastic wrappings, are on display in square lacquer trays. Rice brandy ( gusiN) in a small cup. This is a celebratory and exorcistic drink with high alcoholic content. Flowery Rice (hanagumi ). A pile of rice grains in pairs of identically shaped lacquer trays. This marks the presentation of a tribute.

• •

The girl is the one constantly tending the incense whereas the elder authors the show of offerings. While thus preoccupied, the girl will be urged to cast off any disturbing feelings, any stray thoughts. By watching her comportment and by attuning herself to an otherworld by clasping her palms together in prayer, the shaman initiator will make a verdict either in the positive or the negative. Then, early in the morning on the seventh day, the initiator lets the girl know the prospects for herself and her family. The shaman can sense disturbing sentiments, but they may not originate within the girl herself. What now ensues is a revelation of hidden circumstances affecting all the members of her family. Several women mentioned the critical nature of this exposure – as the day of initiation drew close – of family secrets (cf. male skepticism to cult activity quoted above). The water spirit is a sunka entity. Even in this final stage of preparing access to the sisterhood, the shaman is capable of aborting the proceedings with a divination that something remains still to be done to clear the family of past sins. With a positive judgment, however, the girl can proceed right into the house yard for a rite called nisun’ni, Two Vessels. A precinct of the Horse corner of the house compound defines a site for the water cult initiation. Seven bamboo staffs with pennants colored white, red, yellow, green, and violet (with two colors once repeated) are lined up alongside the eastern stone wall. Behind these poles, three mounds of sand have been fashioned to serve as incense holders. These are flanked by ceramic vases containing sprays of green twigs, with a cup of sacred water in the middle. The latter are centerpieces of the forward display. The number of incense holders/flagpoles duplicates the number of original springs in the island. Piles of brown paper to be burnt as money for ghosts and white paper for territorial spirits are assembled at a makeshift incinerator near the incense holders. These are necessary provisions

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for an appeal to be made to the whole ensemble of otherworldly entities, to the culture heroes, and to the localized “hosts” in the island. Next in line come varieties of steamed rice cakes, differentiated by size: • On three daises are assembled piles of small rice cakes: diN cakes, according to the stand on which they are presented, e.g. “high” diN (cf. Ch: ting = tripod). The cakes would be in the bottom tray in a multi-tiered lacquerware setup. On each side of a sheet laid out on the ground are two sets of 12 large buN cakes, also named according to the tray on which they are presented (cf. Jap: bon = tray).

As to the latter item in the sequence, one initiate recalled that another kind of rice cake was also an ingredient in the display. Smaller trays contained the kirimuti. The term, “cut rice cakes,” evokes, as I experienced in similar settings, the idea of exorcism. One set was made up of eight finely chopped slices of one rectangular cake. Noting the this-worldly (sunka) type of occasion, inclusion of a shape that is an icon of something broken, “cut,” and an even number not considered very felicitous might seem puzzling. But one initiate intercepted from her revelation of the syntax of offerings a statement of long ago. In the quest for initiation, the candidate only opts for a momentary encounter with the spirit guardian. Her words: “Please revert to your spiritual form. Ascend to the sky, and let us be free from curses.” The cut rice cakes, consequently, are included to indexicalize the finalization of an interface with the otherworld. No meats, nor any kind of animal fat, can be included in the food display. The usutui words intoned by the shaman introduce an exorcistic dish: sudikubaN. Distributed on 13 trays are ordinary dishes, to be consumed afterwards by the participants. Condiments for broth are either bean paste or fish stock. In a set contained in one tray there are five dishes, consisting of the following items: • • • • • Cooked thing (nîmunu) in a large bowl: a soup dish cooked on a stock of bean paste, and with two or three cuts of pith from the fan palm. A soup dish (udiru) in a medium-sized bowl: containing large cuts of papaya, fish cake, kelp, and cayenne peppers. A soup dish (sabaN-nu-ciru) in a small-sized bowl: a fish broth. Sliced raw fish (namaci ) upon a plate. Rice dish (mainui’i ) shaped as a mound in a rice bowl.

Alcoholic drinks are included. Each variety is combined with a special repast of one, fish cakes (sagikubaN) dyed in felicitous red color to accompany the rice brandy; two, another dish (mitikubaN) with only herbal ingredients, which accompanies a presentation of a fermented rice drink. Other trays, in rows further away from the incense holders, may have included noodle soup dishes and plates with roast fish. Although a preference is clearly stated for the fan palm pith as the most appropriate ingredient for the occasion of this category, fish can be included as well – if prepared without water, batter


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or oil. In the sudikubaN, exorcistic meal, to recall, the fish is raw, of similar value as raw meat when the address is nunka oriented. But fish may also be served after exposure to heat, though only if it is steamed, as in the preparation of fish paste, or roasted, as in the preparation of whole fishes (cf. Lévi-Strauss 1966b on “the culinary triangle;” Røkkum 1991 on a note on differentiated flying-fish preparation among the Yami). The rite of Raising the Incense Holder addresses the figurations of nature residing in the environment, in the territory itself and in the sky. That said, there is an observation of form within the bounded quarters of the house compound. A spatial grid, extrapolated with the aid of the Chinese geomantic compass, governs the exposure. A southerly orientation aligns the person directly with the warming influence of the sun. Here, as in the Chinese spatial epistemology, the sun stands for a male force; in fact, a main object of the present rite is for women to try to account for its influence in their own lives. In the public affirmation of a girl’s “high birth,” a mimetic activity unfolds, one by which the female quality of divine rapport is combined with the male quality of steering a seagoing vessel. Again, on annual occasions in the present, mimetic activity directs attention on what emerges from beyond the horizon. Origin Houses reproduce scenes of facing what comes from the outside: women manipulate arms, ride on mock horses, and dance in delight over subdued enemies. Indeed, in Dunang speculation about the nature of celestial bodies, the sun evokes vitality, yet, however, to such an extent that its force is potentially detrimental. Joining the island priestesses on the yearly New Water day, it was obvious that the concerns underlying their prayers were not the beneficial effects of sunlight, but the scorching effects of too much of it. On the basis of my observations of similar arrangements during my Dunang fieldwork, I can give a further account of the initiation scene. Women assembled on the site of initiation inside the house compound of the neophyte acknowledge a dimorphic orientation, lexically, as ninuha’umjâ. • The ninuha- prefix is an ultimate female index, emanating from the Polaris. North (Rat) on the geomantic compass anchors its index within the house compound. This anchorage with the ground is spoken of as disiki, Earthly Place. So – distributed upon a north-oriented stand inside the southoriented front courtyard – here are the essentials of any Dunang ritual: green twigs in vases, cleansed rice in cups, and some festive foods. The -umjâ suffix is an ultimate male index, emanating from the warming rays of the sun. (But recall the doubts I previously recorded about its gender status.) South (Horse) on the geomantic compass anchors its index within the house compound. The umjâ, a solar domain, is reached by prayer from the southeastern area of the yard. Some shamans also characterize it as a Celestial Place (tiNsiki ). A Sun Lord (tida’nganaci ) can be worshiped with attention thus focused. The -ganaci, “lord” suffix, incidentally, was affixed to the titles of both King and the Chief Priestess of Ryukyus. Celebratory

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offerings constructed around a core of the essential offerings identical to those of the north are laid out upon the ground here, in a southeasterly area of the front yard. For a girl to successfully align herself with a spirit of the springs, the usutui appeal must reach the celestials. But this axial focus also allows a perspective below ground toward a cold and wet interior landscape of the island. One woman informant reflecting on the topic of Polaris guardianship said: “Speaking of the ninuha [“north direction”] spirit is just another way of speaking of the nira.” The latter, to repeat, is a female spirit of subaqueous and subterranean stalactite caves. In this final phase of the ceremonial, spatial regions are invoked; then the initiand has her position set with regard to the life-processes. She must allow herself to be reborn from the Polaris in order to free herself from an association with someone already dead. My elderly informants ascribed their enduring health to a celebration of this dependence on the north. The induction collapses female–male oppositions. A quite inclusive gender emphasis reigns throughout the initiation rite. Just as an alignment with the male south is now available for a woman, a man can also draw guardianship from the female north. Some men in Dunang do in fact associate themselves directly with the Polaris when worshiping the night sky on the occasion of the full moon of the eighth lunation. (I shall give some details below.) As an ally, the Star Spirit responds when the supplicant is in a state of utter anguish. Also, it can be called upon to mete out harm on an adversary. Such is the force of the star that it can only be invoked as an ultimate savior, when other means of rescue have failed. The assembled women assume stewardship of the jû, “increase,” in a quite specific sense, aligning themselves with the miniature streams in the sand. Such impressions are verbalized with a trope: Water Flowers. Yet, just as they append an index to life-processes and femininity, in these engagements, Dunang women also append an index to kingship and masculinity. In an attempt to reach out toward the sky, in the end the girl lets go of the thoughts that are burdening her. Two vessels (nisun’ni ) are presented to her as the means for reaching that end. Women on the site parade toward the flagpoles lined up in the southeastern compound corner. Some initiands, I was told, would respond convulsively as they felt the otherworld closing in upon them. As an initiate said: “There is always much commotion when the spirits are near.” It is the final part of the sequence which contains the ultimate test. Behind the trays of offerings, seven initiates line up; all wear headbands and sashes made of rush. The shaman initiator and the girl initiand enter a tangle of ropes and bamboo poles already rigged up in the yard. Squatting side-by-side, facing the flags, they mime the rowing of oars. Flagpoles serve as the masts, three in number to maintain an auspicious odd digit. The vessels carry cargoes; they are “junks carrying the fan palm pith” (kubacimi n’ni ). Pith of fan palm in a soup dish, to recall from above, is a precious ingredient in the ceremonial offerings.


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One vessel carries the master initiator, the other carries the novice. The destination lies in the umjâ region, where the Sun Lord resides. Meanwhile, seven women of the sisterhood chant a farewell song for the two vessels. And in the final act of the rite, they dance while clutching the cut fronds of the fan palm. In this fashion, they motion the two boats off onto a nunudami-itadami, a course marked by “cloth [and] fiber” stretching to the umjâ. What remains is only the shaman’s augury. Did the farewell greeting make it to its destination? If the girl passes this test of mimicry, she will have proven that she can successfully govern her exposure to male-oriented matters. At the end of the ceremonial, she must even prove that she can extricate herself from the encounter with the power of the south. She now enters a lifelong relationship with a Water Host, while remaining also under the protection of the superior female spirit of the north. The successful initiate remains secluded even after the closure of the ritual. Now she must hold on to her insights. This can only be done if she keeps to herself attributes of purity revealed during the ceremony: the “gems” of pure water sifting through the gleaming coral sand. Throughout the ensuing one and a half lunar month (mîsu, Three Tides) she remains confined in solitude. She accepts no fatty foodstuffs (no meat, no lard), and above all, no calls to attend funerals. She keeps a watch on the calendar. With each subsequent “water day,” she goes on a visit to the spring. The offerings she takes with her are soul-bolstering, large rice balls. Nowadays, these pilgrimages to fetch New Water – aramidi – are carried out by the cult adepts, as noted above, on a zodiacal “water day” in the eighth lunar month. Women initiates of the water cult genuflect in prayer, invoking not only a genius of the site but also those of ambient mountains. They raise sticks of incense at the base of a small rock as a point of orientation in between the focal hillcrests. On the coral beach of the ndi village, I witnessed women focus their attention in prayer, first on an almost invisible water source in the sand, next on the hill of anda above the site, and finally on the hillcrest of dunandagi further in the distance, toward the west. My informants invariably invested an aesthetic quality in the locale, speaking of it as anda tamamiN, the Water Gem of anda. But even material objects treasured by Origin Houses are “gems,” so what in this particular sense carries some luster also carries an ensoulment. Deities in this environment of knowing hold refractions of beauty. Yet despite such allusions to beauty, as can be recalled from a motif of Dunang mythology, the name of the site, anda, means “greasy.” Such double entendre might well be what makes eschatology commensurable with the paradoxes of ordinary living. It might even be that it is not the reiteration of a rule but rather that of a query which plays a crucial role in the mnemonic matter I am here relaying from Dunang. Yet I suppose that inroads made by modern religious sects of wider Japanese society into the religious practices of the islanders might loosen this tie to the incidental, the concrete, and the practical somehow.

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The day for fetching New Water is also observed by the island priestesses (themselves water cult members), and their attendants in the public function of ceremonial officiation, the dumuti, and village councillors. Now, with this appended community reference, it is not individual health, but the question of an ample supply of water and protection for the community which forms the focal point. The two categories of personnel meet at tabaru, a cultivated low-lying area at the base of the urabu mountain, and the k’a, island priestesses, renew water guardianship for the whole island. There is a capacious reservoir of water contained in a foothill gully in the locality. This physical feature of the terrain lends it its name. The priestesses refer to the terrain as the tabaru ufubandu: “superior ravine of the tabaru” (the latter nominal meaning “rice-land”). A stream running nearby forms the largest freshwater pool on the island. The rite is quite simple, just a presentation of rice and salt: seven trays of Flowery Rice in lacquer trays, on top of which are laid out plastic packs containing the salty Flowers of the Waves. A small coral stone centers attention across this display. Incense sticks are lighted at its base. This piece of coral is a lithic index to the site. Not long ago, the lagoon of the northern village flooded the marshy surroundings of the prayer site. This defined a marine ambience and propinquity to the nira spirit. People’s comments on the movements of crabs and fish in the area may be a further indication of this. I guess that the reason for the preference of coral rather than rock is that of retaining the original landscape association. In the further expanse mediated by this lithic intercalation one spots the urabu mountain and the valley down which the stream descends. As the senior priestess of the island begins her incantation, water from the freshwater pool in the neighborhood is scooped into a glass, and put on display at the base of the coral stone. Water prayers fall within the early phase of tending cold season dry-field crops, such as sweet potatoes, giant turnips, leeks, and onions. The opening of this agricultural season is marked a few days in advance of the aramidi by the rite aragada-du-tagabi. Its proper place of execution is on the tindabana plateau, somewhat to the west of the site just described. Here, a sizable stone functions as the tanka, intercalation, of a somewhat inaccessible area on the southern coast. In the latter vicinity of aragabana, the southern bifurcation of the urabu mountain drainage runs into the sea. So attention in this worship of running fresh water is on water drainage both in the north and in the south of the island. Freshwater streams bifurcate at both the northern and southern base of the urabu, the highest elevation in the landscape of Dunang. On the southern side of the urabu there is just a rivulet. But the latter, a quite inaccessible place in the area of araga, harbors more spirit nature than the one in the north. Once, returning to ndi from a two-night camp in this sheltered area beneath a rock formation jutting over the shoreline, I was told in plain terms that this, actually, is not a place to visit but to avoid. In other areas, particularly along the water’s edge along the shoreline, the springs are hardly visible at all; some are even inundated at high tide. I followed the advice given


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me to keep a record of these locations of water trickling up from the sand when walking along the coastline.10 Now, what is normally a period with ample rain remained in 1980 extremely hot, and the assembled priestesses and village councillors started to wonder if they ought not to organize prayers for rain, last arranged some 30 years ago. They tried to recollect the proceedings. First, priestesses would assemble in prayer at the hub shrine of tûdama. Second, they would beg for rain in a chanting voice while walking in a procession with iron pots on their heads and splashing well water onto the roadside. The cause of the drought was conceivable. Mountainside vegetation had been removed to make space for a large water tank. The senior priestess articulated this in an observation: Look at the urabu mountain! The face of the deity is all in a mess. Dunang Island has received little rain after a water tank was built up there. If no water, no life for the islanders. This is how things have ended. For the sake of the whole island, may the spirits bring forgiveness to the k’amui [the priestesses]. May they see and forgive, listen and forgive! The water cult itself, as an order based on initiations, grants no status in community hierarchies. While women in the initiation scene invoke a string of association with the officialdom of the Kingdom, in the motif of the two junks being dispatched to a celestial domain, their attention is not on the body politic, but somewhat more literally, on the corporeal body. They worship lifestrengthening and life-protecting agencies. Addresses are intended for a domain where the life-nurturing forces subsist. This preoccupation with physiognomic profiles, personal vigor, junctures along a life-course, designates as it were a set of skeleton notations for personhood. A now extinct ritual for initiating women to the secrets of life-giving water from springs reached its climax with a concatenation of matters of life and death and of matters of maleness and femaleness. Mind matters coalesce with such unity-through-difference.

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A “Birth Spirit” (nmaridi ) activates life. A “Rear Spirit” (kusati ) bolsters life. An idea of personhood as dynamic and interactive might not produce very settled selves. A Dunang category of personhood is not one of an autonomous character governed by a will and mindful of the limits of association with the Other. Its opacity expands its relevance to places, artifacts and species of bird and animal. Dunang shamans are Knowers (munuci ) of what particular disposition a patient is taking on in the moment. Moralities, too, are framed within such expanses of interagency. Events predicated by the lunar calendar raise the issues, such as motifs contained in myths and as enactments bounded by a festival. The context is loaded with sentiment. Can we perceive a tension, then, between individuation and collectivization? A self–society dichotomy may be a tacit, but typical, assumption characteristic of western thinking. The issue is identified by Lukes (1985: 286) who comments that Durkheim ( [1912] 1915) (and later, Freud) saw “a permanent tension between the demands of social life and those of the individual, organic nature, a tension which only increased with the advance of civilization.” Yet, if the Dunang case contributes an ethnographic example of some variety of homo duplex, it is not one of “cultural logic” as a patchwork of passive notations. It builds, rather, upon the in vivo experiences of contrariety. For the Dunang, this contrariety is itself a composite sign – of their individuation – just as it also, as I shall discuss, is a composite sign of male and female character.

Gendered events
On two occasions during the annual cycle of ceremonial events, people on Dunang take steps to ensure physical vitality. A Women’s Festival – minunGa nu sekku – coincides with the third day of the third moon, which is a date of the crescent moon. A Men’s Festival – binGa nu sekku – coincides with the fifteenth day of the eighth moon, which is a date of the full moon. Women’s Festival of spring The “double three” day – third of the third moon – is a happy exorcistic occasion. What is usually a rather tense affair (because of its ritualist association)


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of descending to the beach to perform an ablution in the sea, is on this day performed as part of a rather joyful picnic. In an exceptional relaxation of forms, there is no rehearsal of, or any debate about, how offerings should be laid out and seating organized. For children, the day offers a rare chance to play at the water’s edge.1 The receding tide exposes the coral reef. The lagoon is dotted with coral rocks. A favorite picnic site on an islet in the nantahama lagoon on the northern coast can be reached without using a boat. (The geography has been altered somewhat in recent years due to harbor construction.) Women who do not avail themselves of this sea-bathing opportunity are told to walk to the edge of the lagoon, and splash some water over their heads and upon their legs.2 Principal items on the menu of the day are triangularly shaped steamed rice cakes, with green color added by mixing the dough with a pulverized aromatic herb – the mugwort (Artemisia princeps) – and a fish broth dyed black with the ink-colored liquid of the cuttlefish. Crabs are added to the soup dish: land crabs are brought to boil in the broth with some salt, bean paste, and rice as condiments. The rules of the festival stipulate that the young men of the village should catch crabs at dawn and wrap them in the broad leaves of the giant taro (biNui; Alocasia odora). The shape of the rice cakes is that of the vagina. As for the herb, in Ryukyuan ethnobotany the mugwort is a remedy for numerous ills, having also been put to use for stopping excessive bleeding during abortions.3 But its abilities have a somewhat more general aspect as well, that of “driving out bad things.” The soup, too, figures as a potion for good health, specifically – in ethno-medicinal terms – as a remedy for eliminating bodily wastes and for bringing down blood pressure. This is a daytime festival. But in subdued attention to the movement of the tide, there is a role to play for the three-day old crescent moon in the festival. I have earlier (see Chapter 1) identified its status in Dunang as a vaginal icon. Archaic forms of the third of the third moon Festival in Chinese society, by comparison, also included the motifs so salient in the present arrangement: water, herbs, and the female sex.4 So the professed daytime activity of a woman immersing herself in the shallow water of the lagoon is reproduced each year by iconizing a subdued, nocturnal agent. The moon brings out a connotation with femaleness. The islanders watch the course of stars across familiar topographic features. Stellar positions make cues to note regularities both on land and in the sea. Let me add a note on the latter observation. When low tide is reached at approximately 2.10 p.m. on the third of the third moon, the sea would have taken six hours and 35 minutes to fully recede. It will then be at its lowest point of the lunar month. A midday ambience converges ideationally with the dim midnight illumination of the sky by the crescent moon. No observation of the moon, however, takes place on the third of the third moon, not on this occasion, though it does later in the year, on the night of the fifteenth of the eighth moon. The August moon is the occasion of a Men’s

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Festival. Also, the question raised during the event deals with health in a quite particular sense. Members of a picnic party I joined invited me to reflect on the behavior of crabs, specifically, the land crab species contained in the soup dish. My informants wished to talk about its character, as I have recounted in previously in this book. The particular aspect of crab behavior emphasized by the crescent moon celebrants is that of “washing its pregnancies.” Female crabs included in the soup repast are reputed for exhibiting some rather strange, cyclical conduct, associated with their pregnancies, that is, with their unwanted pregnancies. Now consider the following story in which I intersperse variations on the theme in parentheses. One man, unable to receive a full account from his wife about her sporadic disappearances, was advised by an old shaman to fasten a silk thread to her hairpin [loosen a thread of a sleeve]. This led him to a serpent’s lair. On the way back, the shaman [after telling the woman to apply some mugwort to her vagina] forced the wife to jump from rock to rock across the exposed reefs of the lagoon, provoking in this way snake-children to be aborted. With the festival of the third of the third moon sexuality is fully embedded within the moral order of things. Following the example of crabs shedding nonviable eggs in the sea, women observe the moon and the tide. They bathe as a precautionary step. Morality lies in the natural order of things. Men’s Festival of fall A nocturnal descent to the beach again on the fifteenth of the eighth lunar month has no other obvious purpose than assembling for a picnic. It is a simple affair, apart from the dilemma that boys and girls refuse to leave the beach when the moon-watching part is over. The authorities of the Ryukyu Kingdom tried to do away with the whole event precisely on that account, but still it adheres to the same old pattern. Boys and girls spend some time together on the moonlit beach. But how can maleness be associated with the moon? Recall that in the women’s water cult introduced above, sunlight defines a male sphere; in fact, it defines the very essence of kingship. But a paradox, in fact, emerges with the story of the celestial transvestitism which I quoted in an opening line of this book. To be sure, the license given on the night of the moon-watching is itself a reversal of the value of sexual restraint introduced in the Women’s Festival. Let me, however, allow for some exceptions. It might seem, in fact, that the publicized emphasis on a purified, that is, legitimate pregnancy, is, so to speak, a daytime value. With only a very dim moonlight on the night on the third of the third month, there is ample opportunity for trysts on the beach; this according to informants who had not forgotten the festival ambience of their youth. The Dunang observe the celestial position of the Pleiades at the time of the festival, referring to an alignment of the setting sun and moon in the Monkey direction on the geomantic compass. One of my informants on the topic of the


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transvestism of the luminaries, an initiate of the water cult, did in fact provide an introduction to the story, showing me precisely where, above the hills of majaNbana, as seen from the ndi village, there is a latitude for the sun/moon convergence. Moreover, the positions of stars are decisive in deciding the dates for sowing some time after the advent of the New Year. According to the Chinese calendar, watching the moon in the middle of the eighth lunation is a rite performed in the fall. Within the ecological regime of Dunang, this is the early growing season for cold season crops such as tubers and legumes. Again when watching the phases of the moon, a somewhat particular kind of health is at stake. A munuci, shaman, assigned a list of three, ranked intentions of the event: wishes for her husband’s health, promotion of fertility, and blessings for her secular business. The following story is provided as an explanation of how moon-watching originated: Two men were walking along the beach. The one warned the other: “Your head casts no shadow.” Knowing that he had lost his mabui [soul(s) ], the other went to seek the advice of an old shaman. She said to him: “Take your bow and arrow, and aim at what is most dear to you.” The man listened carefully to her suggestion, so he took aim at his horse. But facing an animal that indeed was shedding tears, he could not let the arrow go. The shaman then said: “Now, make a target out of what ranks as number two in your affections.” This was his wooden chest, and soon the arrow pierced its side board. As blood began trickling out, the man realized that he had killed someone. The shot from his bow had granted him victory over an adversary only seen by the shaman. His wife had been seeing a lover. With the sudden approach of her husband, the visitor had hidden himself in the chest. The two, wife and lover, had been making a design on his life, causing him to lose his mabui, souls. The man felt gratitude to the moon, and decided to worship it. As a first act of thanksgiving, he sucked the blood from the dead rival. But people nowadays cannot drink blood . . . So with the scene set in the present and the Dunang festival of the fifteenth day of the eighth lunation, ground rice is cooked, a dye is provided, and an all-red festival repast – a starchy gruel – is made ready for dedication to the moon (see Figure 2.1). The gruel dish is known as futaNu, alternatively, kutaNu. The fu- prefix constructs an association with stars. The ku- prefix constructs an association with the moon. An attribute quite absent in women’s sacrifices is evoked by this arrangement – that is, blood. Chopsticks cut from an ebony tree are spread out upon the mound of dyed rice in a crosswise fashion. Incidentally, in other exorcistic contexts I observed scissors instead of crossed ebony chopsticks. Not many worshippers of the stars were keen to talk about this meal arrangement, and a munuci, shaman, told me why. Manipulating the chopsticks in a crosswise fashion on top of a red gruel is one way of charging at an enemy. So the search for an auxiliary in the sky is

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a search for a helper. The pointed sticks indexicalize a piercing action, crossing out the existence of an adversary. I mentioned to a north-coast village Origin House priestess that the festival meal stands exposed to the moonlight and topped with crossed ebony chopsticks I had seen in the south-coast village. To which she reacted, “I am scared! These are a kind of machination!” This is what is exposed to the night sky on the moon-watching occasion, not during the picnic itself, but later on during the night. It is placed on an assemblage of wooden stands in the courtyards of a few village houses. This makeshift construction followed an east–west (alternatively, south–north) alignment of the house compound, so it duplicated the spatial basics of the ninuha’umjâ ritual, also realized in women’s water cult initiations. An incense holder – on each side flanked with vases containing green leaves – is indispensable to such presentations to celestial bodies inside a courtyard. Other items I could spot on some altars indicated a sacrificial-cum-exorcistic intent: a cup containing the non-miscible tzûmiti (introduced in some detail earlier), rice grains for showering Evil Things, raw fish for making a “body substitute,” by implication, deflecting cravings upon one’s own body. A glass containing fresh water stands alongside these items. I was given a reason for the inclusion of water. In another version of the story quoted above, while gazing into a pail of water, the protagonist sees no reflection of his face despite the light from the moon. The shaman tells him that he is a soul-less person. For unknown to himself someone has turned him into an adversary. It follows that a particular obligation impinges upon men to accept celestial bodies as their tutelaries, and to address them on the annual occasion, both in thanksgiving, and as an augury about the vigor of their mabui soul matter. With fresh water at hand, no exorcistic salt should be laid out on the table, one male worshiper explained to me. Prime Water (miN-nu-haci ) – pre-eminently a female resource – is an object of worship even as men’s health is the issue at hand. It is pure in and by itself, so it needs no complement of salt to create the scintillating effect which deflects the Evil Things. Despite the ambivalence of the whole act raised by the motif of a cuckold husband taking aim at a rival, the association of femaleness upholding a value of purity – in the moral sense as it were – is not at stake. And the myth crucial to the understanding of the festival honors women’s knowing. The festival menu also demands the inclusion of the following delicacy: steamed rice dumplings. Dotted with sweet beans to augment a fertility connotation, each is molded into an oblong shape and each will be offered in the subsequent meal as a binGa mara, “man’s penis.” The association is freely commented upon, yet on the occasion of my attendance, somewhat to the embarrassment of a female participant who, ignorant of the purport of the ingestion, said that she had considered it since her childhood as just another festival delicacy. The islanders differentiate between star-gazing and moon-watching houses. One highborn woman of the tumai area commented that she had been assigning star guardians to men who had come to her to seek help. She told me that she worshiped seven stars of the north and seven stars of the south herself. A shaman in the ndi area said that her deceased husband had been born from one eye


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of Polaris. As an initiate of the water cult, she was fully capable of invoking Polaris herself. It appeared, as I went around the villages on the night of the full moon, that among those dedicated to stellar worship attention fixes on a north–south axis of the sky. Some men acknowledged an attachment to the northern sky, specifically to the Ursa Minor constellation, and to Polaris in particular. Grouped together, these are “seven stars of the north” (nicinanacifuci ). Others acknowledged an attachment to the southern sky, to a cluster referred to in Dunang colloquial as “seven stars of the south” (hainanacifuci ), in the midst of which the ubuka enjoys primacy. I must admit to a little doubt regarding the exact positions of these stars, but indications I was given point to the constellation of Corona Borealis.5 Let me now juxtapose more fully two cyclical annual events. As icons of female and male sexuality, the Dunang make distinctions within the festival cuisine. A rice cake is fashioned to resemble the vagina and a dumpling is fashioned to resemble the penis. If, however, we focus our attention instead on the attributes of these items, each bit of information can be seen has having a counterpart across the dividing line in terms of lunations of the year. Here is the additional signification. At one festival, bitter-tasting purgative herbs on rice cakes are the main repast. At another festival sweet-tasting, sticky beans (from bean jam) on rice dumplings make up the main dish. Yet there is nothing intrinsically female about the pungent mugwort herb, as little as there is anything intrinsically male about sweet beans. To compare, for the ethnically Japanese, tastes are prescribed quite oppositely. Women (and children) have a taste for the sweet. Men have a taste for what is astringent. Sweetness and maleness make incompatible semantic associations. Sexuality is restrained, somewhat, on the occasion of the crescent moon. What is discouraged (yet practiced) at the time of a Women’s Festival, that is to say, illicit sex between unmarried people, is deemed fairly acceptable at the time of a Men’s Festival, however. Married men protect themselves against their wives’ infidelity by crossing the chopsticks in an attempt to target an adversary. Yet, in one comment on this issue, women have ample opportunity to take lovers even in everyday life, giving the pretext of having to leave the fields early in the day to do some chores in the house. Two festivals are prescribed by the Chinese calendar, and in an impressionistic view on the movements of the moon and the stars, people submit human sexuality to the regularities of what is seasonal. Pregnancy and body purification, from the point of view of the female sex, topicalize an event of the third moon, the crescent moon. Sexuality and body guardianship, from the point of view of the male sex, topicalize an event of the eighth moon, the full moon. The complementarity of the sexes spans the annual cycle. So there is a naturalness to count on, even if social morals are challenged. Such seasonality, as a cyclical framing of gender contrasts, might even have originated in China a long time ago. In his investigation of Chinese antiquity, Bodde (1975: 285) raises the

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possibility that a boy’s fall festival could be the cyclical counterpart of a girl’s festival in the spring: One curious feature of the Chinese observance must be noted . . . There is some evidence – not in the Han histories themselves but in poems attributed to Han writers as well as in later sources – that the third month Lustration festival was in Later Han times complemented by a similar festival occurring in the middle of the seventh month or, according to one statement, in the eighth month. This would mean early autumn according to the Chinese calendar . . .

An interstice of the year
Anything evil acquired in the island of Dunang – be it a spell of illness affecting an individual or a problem affecting the whole community – is manipulable in some way. It can be countered, then expelled. The Dunang struggle with Evil Things (dànumunu), or rather, with their indexicalized guises, such as certain discernible peculiarities of trees and animals, but not, however, with the generic Evil familiar to beliefs in the western world. Let me add here, in comparison, a note on the Japanese of the main islands. Unlike the Ryukyuans, ethnic Japanese iconize evil in a variety of ways; they impersonate a devil, oni, in a typical guise as an anthropomorphized entity with horns and a vicious mien. Such entities are of course anathema to positive acts of worship, as in Buddhist temples. Yet precisely for that reason, some Buddhist temples domesticate evil, and in so doing, protect people against it. They display roof-ridge ceramic slates (in each end) with images of devils embossed upon them.6 Like is combated with like, and this, in fact, achieves a successful assertion of negation. It was customary during the feudal period to offer consolation to vanquished enemies, mitigating thus the impact of imminent death, and forestalling a flood of vengeful sentiment.7 Yet in this particular sense of interlacing opposites within one single character of expression, the Ryukyuans and Japanese share a similar cognitive technique. Dunang compound gates are apposite loci for expelling evil things. For the entire island, some beaches are the chosen sites of letting go, not only of what infects the body of individuals, but also what infects the whole community, such as contagious diseases and blights. Dunang beaches are desolate places. Not even in the shallow lagoon in ndi are children to be seen playing. The slightest suspicion that a child has experienced a surprise in an area near the sea gives cause for soul-saving behavior. The shoreline along the island is a border zone between the dry and the wet. Ebb and flow and the shifting sands affix a parallel to critical phases of human biography, to birth and death in a single go. But the question of coincidence between form and movement, of spatial categories and temporal categories, does not only appear in a life-course evaluation of the individual. Indeed, as the year passes on, all life in the villages may reach a critical stage.


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A three-day festival – the siti – is held at the beginning of the cold season. It is pinpointed in the almanac by the first “earth” interface ( Jap: tsuchi-no-to-bi ) in the ninth lunar month. It occurs coincidentally with the shifts of the monsoon from south of the warm season to north of the cold season. There is a general atmospheric instability at the time. Whirlwinds sometimes hit the island. Gusts strike from sharply alternating angles. Old people recalled that it was formerly called the New Year of Old Days, alternatively, the New Year of the Otherworld ( gusu-nu-suNati ). Although a movable event by Chinese calendrical notations, elderly informants remember its occurrence as being computed by stellar positions. Despite its official abolition long ago, the lunar calendar sets the dates of such important calendrical events as the New Year. As a supplement to this traditional calendar, the Dunang retain a notion of stellar positions, finding these, and especially those of the Pleiades, more accurate than the lunar indices in predicting the seasonally suitable dates for carrying out specific tasks in agriculture. We find repeated here exactly the dilemma that in ancient times faced Chinese cultivators. A calendrical reform of 104 bc, which promulgated an adherence to the lunar year, admitted an interpolation of 24 “nodes.” The latter were aligned with the two solstices and two equinoxes, offering thus a set of seasonally fixed points of reference for the agricultural cycle (Bodde 1975: 28–9). The “nodes” of this solar cycle are referred to by the ideograph pronounced chieh; in Japanese, setsu. It is not surprising, then, that for observing a point of division of the year the Dunang prefer a term, siti, which very likely is a derivation of the Sino-Japanese. Could the term, nevertheless, refer to a division of the year, either antecedent to or coexisting with the lunar calendar? Apart from elderly informants’ notions of the New Year of earlier times, the clues are scarce. Of interest, however, is a line in the Yaeyama-jima ooamo yurai-ki, Records on the Origination of the Yaeyama Islands’ Great Mothers, probably from the early 18th century. It gives a list of year-cycle tasks. The New Year preparations like cleaning houses, gardens and roads must take place during the seventh and eighth moons. Interpolated by the calendar, a New Year of the Dead – the siti interstitial festival – would make a sequel to such preparations. A festival event marks the transition from the warm to the cold. With the meteorological upheavals paralleling violent forces in their own lives, people respond by taking ritual countermeasures. This involves a virtual combat. Loosely fastened children’s souls are particularly likely to fall pray to the nunka forces “of yesterday” during the event. The latter are identified as the madimunu, ghosts of human character and the kidimunu, metamorphic ghosts of non-human character. In preparation for the siti, Japanese climbing ferns (nbaganda; Lygodium japonicum) from the bush are brought to the homesteads. The viney creepers grow profusely around burial sites, cause enough according to some to feel somewhat edgy when carrying out the task. Creepers entangle emanations from the house compound. Priestesses of the island, when walking the Spirit Trails, use the same creepers as a head drapery.8 Strips of bark from the fan palm are similarly twisted and fastened to garments as amulets.

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Figure 3.1 A protective amulet

Entanglements capture evil things (madimunu), a pungency exuded by the vines puts them off. I watched people winding the nbaganda around pointed and protruding features of their compound. My neighbor to the west secured a kerosene drum (Figure 3.1) in this way. And I heeded a reminder myself, securing the toilet doorknob and other protruding objects with the creepers received from my neighbor. As darkness draws on, children are warned not to leave the house. The occasion bespeaks the collective risk of what the Dunang refer to as soul-loss (mabui u’ti ). This contrasts sharply with the license allowed for children’s playing outdoors until late at night during the suruN, a mid-seventh lunar month memorial for the dead in their more benign roles as enshrined in mortuary tablets and mausoleums. Now, however, is the time, not for invocations, but for visitations. Old ghosts are lurking on the fringes of the village during the siti night, according to an elderly woman of the village, whose munuci skills are in much demand. She recommends people to ignite incense sticks on either side of the compound gate, and in each corner of the courtyard. The luminosity from the glow deters those belonging to darkness. A winding or wriggling movement of trailing ferns and, in festival processions, of writhing lions – cici – is exorcistic action. A wooden mask with hinged jaws


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Figure 3.2 Welcoming an exorcizing agent

– in red, white, and black and manipulated by young men – bears the image of a Visitor from afar (Figure 3.2).9 At first, a munuci pays a daytime visit to the village headman’s house. Here she requests a display of offerings to be made in front of a cici mask, kept by the village specifically for this occasion. The lion is an otherworldly creature in Chinese tradition; it ramifies in various guises and replications across the East Asian region. A somber meal Ordinary dishes such as pig’s entrail soup, kelp, bean paste, and fish paste are laid out on the ground before the lion mask. The dishes are presented as set courses. Lacquered wooden trays line the ground of the courtyard, each containing a cooked meal for the spirit, and for the participants to savor at the end of the rite. Let me add further details on the nature of the display (Figure 3.3). The head of the lion faces an aluminum bowl with burning incense on one side and an offering tray on the other. The contents of the latter: two glasses of an exorcizing “false miti ” potion, two glasses of genuine rice brandy and one glass of water. Two cups containing rice rinsed seven times, adorned with five and four green leaves respectively, stand in front of this arrangement. A single tray holds a large bottle. Some of its contents of rice brandy are in two large bowls for the lion to imbibe. On one side, to the left, there is a tray filled with salt and another filled with five small plates: three steamed rice cakes

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Figure 3.3 Presentations to a visitor

on each of the plates in front, rice grains on the plates in the rear. A round plate with a conically shaped heap of salt completes an imagist statement: the layout depicts an exorcism. A rice tray occupies the space right behind a salt tray. As I was watching the enactment, a shaman resident in the north coast village stirred the rice with her index finger, making thus a divination about life and death prospects. A slab of raw pork occupied a tray to the right of the tray containing the raw rice. The shaman initiates the exorcizing sequence of the festival. She faces the andu – an imaginary island across the sea – to which the evils to be assembled from each house in the village during the festival shall ultimately be evicted. I was reminded at this point of an old cici lion that was suspected of being overloaded with old sins. It was removed from the proceedings out of fear that it might be harboring negative influences, might be a disperser of evil. A tidibi shrine steward of the ndi village on the south coast voiced his concern about the free movement of images, saying, “A line of separation between this world and the other world had better be observed.” So the margin is narrow in respect of this material object of a lion mask, between an indexical value of the good and of the evil. The Dunang, it seems to me, may be less sure than many are – in the West – of the immovability of ethical precepts. The display of offerings is fashioned with careful attention to what is edible. Non-consumable ingredients serve an exorcistic purpose. The inedible raw and unsliced pork is the culinary opposite of dishes consisting of finely cut entrails in a broth. Its display serves the stated purpose of the event: of dispersing


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evil. Likewise, a glass with a watery liquid, a concoction of water and rice flour (tzûmiti ), is a drink only for ghosts. In people’s reflections, the soluble tzûmiti of the exorcistic rite can be likened to the miti, a viscous rice brew. This was a recurring reply. Wherever in the island I queried about the usage of tzûmiti, the answer would be more or less along these lines: “It’s a kind of miti.” “You know how the miti is used?” I would answer “Yes.” The response would be more or less like this: “We cannot use the miti in this kind of ritual. That is why we use the tzûmiti.” The substitute, included in nunka, otherworldly, rituals, is a non-miscible fluid. It is white, but not shiny white. I recorded no metaphors for its praise. It does not ferment at all. If it did, it could not serve the purpose of allaying (evil) growth. A concoction of flour and water carries no germinating potency, and such a positive effect is not a stated aim of the ritual. The tzûmiti is positioned in the sacrificial layout, in fact, by what it is not. Its semiotic status is that of a negation. Both drinks – the fake and the real – can be emptied on the last glows of incense at the end of the rite, but with somewhat dissimilar effects. The phony drink aids the termination of growth (as an unpropitious turn of events). The real thing aids the promotion of growth (as a propitious turn of events). So in the Interstitial Festival, the negative involves the inclusion of an exorcistic dish: raw meat and a non-soluble beverage. Creepers and the banging of gongs are means to the same effect: ridding the villages of Evil Things. But this is a somber undertaking not very amenable to the celebratory association of the white rice ferment, the genuine miti. Meaning, in this semiotic statement from within a cultural tradition, emerges with a highly negotiable difference: one drink is non-miscible and tasteless, another drink – not yet present at the scene – is a thick fluid praised for its sweetness. Hence, during the kanbunaga sequence later on in the festival season, the positive key involves the inclusion of a fertilizing dish: a steamed vegetarian stew (sûai ) and a fermented, viscous beverage (miti ). With the happy state of rejuvenation as a basic idea of the festival, this time the included trailing creepers and beating of gongs attract – in the positive sense – the sponsors of growth such as the deified ancestors of the Origin Houses. I was told that to consume the forward display of offerings, as the one in sight before the lion mask, is tantamount to cursing one’s own life. Those that showed no concern for these distinctions are no more among the living: an irrevocable destiny awaits those who have inflicted harm in such a way. Dunang ritual conventionally includes a forward, centric set of presentations of food and drink, the maciri sandai. These components are presented on plates laid out in the immediate vicinity of the glowing incense sticks and a spirit money burner. The latter can be a kerosene can, or, more recently, a specially made, perforated, cylindrical metal container. The exorcistic set course is turned upside down in the end. Subject to ultimate immolation by being cast upon the last glows of incense along with notes of spirit money, foods belonging to this category are part of a value conversion. The true sacrifice, hence – even if

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presented as a food or a drink – constitutes an indelicacy. The sign plays on the negative: on the “not-so.” So a victual and a libation dedicated to a lion mask combine to make an exorcistic dish. Plates appended to this arrangement carry ingredients which can further dispel the visiting spirits once they have had their fill. Cleansed rice grains and salt, in small separate plates, link up in to form a wall of defense against the malevolent agencies. Grains of rice scour the interfering agency, salt cleanses the environment. In the words of a shaman, rice grains are agents of the land; salt crystals are agents of the sea. In a quite exceptional arrangement, the siti prescribes that salt be washed in saliva. What happens is this: from a position at a compound gate, the shaman throws handfuls of cleansed rice in all directions. The act doubles the scouring effect. In a more directed action against specific adversaries, salt mixed with saliva is sputtered from the mouth. The act doubles the cleansing effect. It was explained to me that way. But to recall an earlier note: in Dunang, spitting directly at something is tantamount to cursing – the Dunang are careful not to spit without forethought. So there is a special kind of cleansing to count on. The gate is an aperture – the only one – of the house compound. The mouth is an aperture of the body. One expels evil visitors by cursing them, not by words of the mouth but – in a parallelism – by discharging a substance from the mouth. The human body and the house compound alike allow discharges through their apertures. Such parallelism, however, does not necessitate a metaphoric equivalence of compounds-as-bodies (cf. Røkkum 2003), so I make a distinction here between likeness and analogy. With such centricity of meat and other agents battling negativity, the Interstitial Festival is unique in the cycle of annual events. People talked of how in earlier times they exhausted their means by slaughtering animals for the event. This slaying of pigs and water buffaloes still takes place in some house compounds on the island. The raw meat is a sacrifice. The cooked meat, prepared in large portions in kerosene drums, is a festival delicacy. A motif of the looseness of human souls during the three-day siti period incorporates an idea of the self as interstitial between progressive and regressive tendencies. It indexicalizes a profile of people as they meet the junctures of their lives and of the whole community as it meets a juncture of the year. How are my circumstances affected by the feelings of my children, my wife, my sister, my old parents, and my family ghosts? These are the questions posited by an expansive and interactive cast of Dunang personhood. The occasion calls for attention to these relations as sentimental relations. An affirmation of ties calls for the presentation of a meal. Children are served a soup with boiled meat, beef or pork, with bones attached, and with soul-bolstering balls of steamed rice. Cuts of unripe papaya may or may not be included. This is the main dish. It can be supplemented by some mixed delicacies consisting of cuts of bean curd, slices of fish paste, and strips of kelp. Children are exhorted to ingest the food quickly, not to leave an opening for jealous Evil Things. If they don’t swallow the food quickly, body


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souls might give way to the Evil Things (madimunu) of the nunka. They are treated to a dish, but they do not join in a family meal. But adults, too, take care: they ingest festival food, but not out of hunger, as that would easily be mimicked in the nunka as a craving. Since children are less disposed than adults to control their appetite, they are exhorted to help themselves to the food first. Others say, however, that the first to eat should be one’s sister and only then one’s children, whose sentiments cause such concern, so the siti occasion is an occasion for added generosity.10 So in the morning of the second day of the festival, children can be seen walking around the village with food trays. The standard fare, now presented to a linked house, is as follows: two meat soup bowls and one dish of sliced raw fish. This is a gift to close kindred, with a specific consideration for the elderly of a house. Privileged recipients are as follows: (a) Origin House people – even in the restricted sense of a present-generation elder brother; (b) sister’s house; (c) wife’s natal house. Children are admonished not to accept any return gifts of food on such visiting rounds, only a few coins for pocket money. The case is forcefully stated so as to avoid accepting food from the house where food is due as a gift. The negation of the return is a negation of obligation. The most feared continuity of obligations is that between near kin separated by death. So there should be no reciprocity between these houses, which often are linked through relations to a dead person who has yet to attain the status of venerable ancestorhood, habudi. And attaining this status is possible only by holding a grand memorial featuring felicitously dyed red offerings 33 years after the death of the person. An inverted New Year feast breaks the triad of the Maussian reciprocity figure (Mauss 1954) centered on the gift: its presentation, its acceptance, and its return. For the festival to fulfill the stated purpose of nullifying any residual debt to the dead (Røkkum, in progress), there can be no celebration of a return. It is this particular moment of not accepting the return which first and foremost makes the siti an inverted festival. Dunang annual events are festivals, or fête, as in Mauss’s view on the cyclical basis of social classifications (cf. Allen 1985: 36). Festivals are occasions for displaying society emblems, so the argument easily slips into the affirmative: festivals condense moralities. This is what caused a functionalist bias in this sociological view on our integration in society through symbols. I believe it is still a tacit assumption in many anthropological writings that the symbolic has a plus sign affixed to it. Within the Maussian scheme, the Trobriand kula exchanges are emblematic of this ideal, which, to my mind, suffers from a western bias. When calendrical signs determine their occurrence, rituals can easily be seen as rehearsals of links within a local ecology and a local community. True, the siti event is a recurrent event prescribing an annual retrieval of a physical object, that of the cici mask. In the essay “A category of the human mind: the notion of person; the notion of self,” Mauss (1950c) addresses the issue of ritually rehearsed interfaces between the individual and the social. He pioneers an analytical observation enabling us to see a link between such collective acts and discrete personhoods.

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A limited set of characters is recirculated through a community via a feast. It is par excellence the social – through character artifices – which names and lends identity to the individual. Let me briefly recapitulate his terms for comparison between two types of individuality-in-society: • • Personnage: the rehearsal itself of fixed identities; personnalité: a sustainable role. Personne: the moral person; moi: a sustainable conscience.

As in Lévi-Strauss’s view of “cold” societies, or even in his thinking about myth, individuality can only be categorized in a collective code. My observation, based on Ryukyuan ethnography, does not support the view, however, that societies as such differ in respect of a contrast between summation and individuation. My view, in light of an ancient New Year ritual, the siti in Dunang, is as follows. Whatever the cultural rigidity in staging the feast, the reason for its persistence up to this day is not localizable just in a habit, but, rather, in the vicissitudes of being. It should not be overlooked that a common feature of much ritual is a divinatory aspect: simple indices provide vantage points for the year ahead, for communities and for individuals. Its realization augurs something for someone. The event might in fact play upon a disposition for knowing.11 And as such, it relates to something truly individual, such as concern for the harvest or one’s own health. There is a corporeal feel to this whatever the regularities and collectivities involved. Despite its recurrence, an annual event makes – to borrow from the Dunang vernacular – an interstice: in the life of a community, in the life of an individual. It realizes a divide. This can be a divide of a very emotive kind. In the succeeding account of the siti event, I shall try to illustrate this aspect. A stage for a particular kind of interactivity is set in a twilit ambience. A walk in the dark Shamans divulge their impressions of movements, as well as the hues of traveling fireballs. Gleaming lights expose individual existences: of humans, animals, and vegetal matter. Such visualizations transgress not only the form and situation of their corporeal host, but also the life-course itself. They are indices of pulsating life. Women in the ndi village speak of two kinds, the Birth Flare (cirubi ) and the Evil Thing Flare (madimunuci ). The former is a pre-parturition light. It is an echo of the nascent life of the human embryo. The latter is a post-mortuary light. It is an echo of lingering life, a prolonged sentiment defying the mortification of its bodily host. The island Knowers employ a taxonomy of conduct, shapes, and noises. But the most generally agreed upon features refer to their hues, luminosity, and transparency. When accounts of the sightings reach the villages, there is sometimes a tell-tale frisson of unease. Bluish or greenish lights are precursors of happy arrivals. They are deity lights. Souls of the living self exude the hue of a hearth fire. They attain a reddish tint after death. Such reddish lights are precursors of unhappy arrivals (cf. de Groot 1907: 710–11 for a similar distinction among the Chinese).


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If one or more of the following sightings are made, suspicions will be raised that an individual’s life is coming to an end: if the light behaves erratically, veering to the sides and bobbing up and down; if it explodes while emitting a crackling sound; if it is preceded by a blipping sound; if it is glowing only very faintly. Death is imminent if the light is heading for the burial sites. Meanwhile, one Knower in the north village said to me during the festival that such precursors of death have very dark hues. She added that curse matter is involved in fireball matter. Ancestral curses drag people toward village graves, yet there is more to fear from sorcery and even from a growing lack of mutual understanding among the living. Curse matter, according to her reasoning, is social matter: it is nourished by sentiment alone. For a man, the sister’s resentment is a particular concern. A tidibi, priest, in the ndi village told me that some women state on their deathbed that they do not harbor any ill will and renounce claims upon the bodies of their kin. Let us recall, also, that the ill intentions of one’s fellows, whether a curse is formulated or not, are liable to usurp life force. Unmediated spite is externalized as visible fireballs, as the “flares of quarrel.” With the Interstice, a temporal divider of the year drawing near, there were frequent comments on the latter contingency, of a diffusion of resentment all over the village. Sightings of faint and errant lights are sightings of sentiments gone astray. A particularly difficult point mentioned by the women I talked with is how to relay the impressions. Suggestions to engage in ritual activity for a while, staging rites for birth-spirits, and going on pilgrimages to the house sites and other remains of the lives of dead spiritual adversaries, cause heavy resentment among some people – even bursts of abusive language. A vicious circle comes into play. Words of abuse take effect as spells. But deliberately casting evil might be unnecessary. For on the interstitial eve of the year, grievances harbored both by the living and the dead may mature, with no perceptible effort on anyone’s behalf, into curses. Spite grows into harm even in this unmediated sense. Such concentrated attention on negativity caused some to pull out. A few families, although observing the formal aspects of the calendrical rite, indicated that they did not welcome a nocturnal visit by a shaman to report sightings inside their house compounds. My neighbor to the west, for example, having meticulously carried out all preparatory measures for the event (see Figure 3.1), refused to have his house yard inspected by a shaman. Stating his case to me he asked, “What would you do if you got the message that life was drawing to an end?” Those who dare to be alerted in this manner refer to a specific technique used to obtain a glimpse of the fireballs, i.e., gazing from under the sleeve of a clean garment. Sliding doors to all houses in the ndi village remained shut during this night of the Interstice. Artificial illumination in the village had been switched off. As the sun was setting, I joined a munuci on a stroll along the roads and paths of the village. She was not yet an accomplished reciter of prayer, but reputed as a gifted seer. While waiting for the sky to turn darker, she was joined by a group of villagers, all women. In her words, the waning daylight offers the best

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circumstances for a fireball watch; she regretted being too busy in everyday affairs to enjoy the freedom of taking strolls around the village in the twilight hour. In fact, she had been designated a munuci by an elder adept, who was startled by her abilities to see fireballs even in stark daylight. I was reminded of the correct predictions this woman had made in previous years, such as that about an accident happening to a certain man in the village. Now, with the sun setting and road lights turned off, the whole landscape opened itself up to her gaze, and the walk around the village could begin. What was likely to emerge from the nunka? Now, the moment had come for divining the viability of each house in the village. The shaman looks out for scintillating fireballs passing by, especially those nearly colliding with the procession. She senses activities of another world. She mentions in a hushed voice that souls may be parting from children’s bodies. After inspecting the main entrances to the settlement area, she heads for the western residential cluster. The first house where the munuci is welcome to utter her judgment is inhabited by the anthropologist. Strolling through the gate, she shudders. A cold draught surprises her. “It is cold, isn’t it?” The question is addressed quite plainly to the occupant of the house. She feels uneasy due to a noticeable activity inside the house. Such disquietude is further aggravated by the sudden barking of a dog out of nowhere. Isn’t there some commotion taking place inside the mortuary altar itself ? Just a few months before, the items of the cult of the house ghosts had been evacuated in the prescribed ritual manner, transferred by the owner of the house – a widow – to another island. But now it turns out that something is still sticking on to the house; it refuses to let go of its attachment to it. What, then, could be the prospects for myself ? The Knower had been mulling on that question. Then, later during the same season, she gave me the happy tidings that there was nothing at all to worry about. She could now offer a clue to the activity going on in my courtyard. Souls of all dead villagers were assembling there in anticipation of the activity due to take place: the construction of a new funeral catafalque, while using the old one as a model. My courtyard had been designated a construction site. I shall elaborate on this in more detail in the section Preparing for a stately journey in Chapter 4. Let me return, however, to the procession meandering through the village. It makes its way with the following events duly attended to. At another site in the village a house was about to be set up. The shaman in the procession feels fit to predict a similar activity; not however encountering the souls of the dead, but those of live humans. Similar descriptions are given of the circumstances in houses with bed-ridden elderly people. Gazing in the direction of a compound entrance, the munuci whispers that she senses a great throng of people inside. Fireballs are errant and weak. She predicts two funerals to be held in the village in the year ahead.12 Again on the road, in order to investigate matters of death for the entire village, the Knower proceeds to a crossing en route to the seaside tomb precinct.


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She voices a warning. Then she stops at the gate of the youngest member of the procession. Again she senses a jostle inside the house. Then a faint light floats out of the kitchen area. It eventually flops down inside the yard. She hesitates, then speaks: “Who is the one who shall soon collapse?” In an effort to act upon this clue, the woman affected by the warning prances around, trying to reach out for her own vagrant body souls. Then – overwhelmed by emotion – she leaves the procession, scampering off toward her own house. (This is being written 25 years after the event. The woman defecting from the soul-searching procession is now recognized by the villagers as an accomplished Knower and is busy teaching others how to deal with unusual sightings.) Meanwhile, in the eastern part of the village, beside the gate of another of the women present, the shaman utters that she senses the presence of a stranger. She has encountered a soul of the previous owner of the house plot. It refuses to part with its natal soil (I shall return to this under the heading An encounter with a root force in Chapter 4). The munuci voices her fears. No amount of money (for the property) can alter the connection to the soil. The previous owner neglected to request the dinudi – Soil Release rite – for the Soil Host. Hence the illness of the woman presently occupying the homestead. Her husband was away on wagework at the time of the siti rite. The shaman says to the woman that right now he is certainly not wining and dining with his mates, he is simply on his way back from work to his dormitory. Staring intently into the house yard, the munuci conveys the image of a motorbike. If there actually is one somewhere in the backyard, it ought to be used only by the owner. (Actually, as was sometimes commented upon in the neighborhood, the motorbike was somewhat accident-prone.) Heading toward the next gate along the road, the shaman extends a final warning to the woman: “Take care, one day one of your children might fall down from the porch on the eastern side of the house.” The participants in the walk expressed their indebtedness to the munuci for being alerted to future occurrences. Words of the sightings soon spread around the village. The public character of this type of observation was even more prominent in times past, when – to get a panoramic view – shamans and their followers assembled on hilltops surrounding the settlements to trace the movement of the fireballs from house to house. A mountain plateau (tindabana) near the northern village was a favored site for the siti night-time surveillance. Publicizing the discovery of hidden substance, usually resentful sentiments, is itself an exorcistic device. The public nature of the Interstitial Festival invites a disclosure of moods. The standard Japanese word most often used when referring to the evocations made by traveling lights is sawarigoto, “touching [striking] things.” Any kind of disadvantage in life can be seen in Dunang as the result of a curse, or in the more general yet physical sense, a touch. But only the Interstitial Festival grants the opportunity of actually accessing the point – the light, in fact – of origin of such disadvantages. Let me cite Eco’s reading of Peirce on the nature of such semiotic matter:

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. . . there is a phenomenon we must understand as presemiotic, or protosemiotic (in the sense that it constitutes the signal that gets the semiosic process under way), which we will call primary indexicality or attentionality (Peirce spoke of attention as the capacity to direct the mind toward an object, and to pay attention to one element while ignoring another. (Eco 2000: 14; emphases in the original) With the walk in the dark the shaman plays upon many kinds of emotion, such as shock or relief. She turns a sensation such as the experience of a cool draft in the air into a primitive index of a knowing-through-sensation. The momentary experience latches on to both prior and subsequent experiences. So in this sense the shaman is a master of the presemiotic. Things touching upon oneself are decidedly indexical things. Their specific religious nature lies in their disclosure by the ritualist, a Dunang Knower, who makes known the sighting of an illumination – a flare – in the dark. Her pre-sentiment is a pre-sight. So in Dunang, an important calendrical event is an event for affixing people’s attention to the causes or origins of their various kinds of sentiment. A dance in the dark During the three-day siti period, the male village representatives, the dagusa, stage a grand exorcism. In the northern area of the island, the three residential blocks (nmanaga and the eastern and western sections of tumai ) arrange the affair jointly. In the southern and western areas of the island, the ceremonials are carried out independently of each other. The village lion mask – a ritual centerpiece discussed above – is attached to a garb of sackcloth, and carried around the village by adolescent men. An exorcism for the whole community is achieved in this manner, by a round of visits to houses welcoming a harbinger from the spirit world. Just as in the round made by the shaman, some let it be known that they do not expect a visit. As the whole island community is affected, the personification of a guardian lion is itself a comment on historical bonds between the constituent settlements. So in the village of ndi, a mask with a quite archaic design is a “grandfather lion.” In the western section of the northern village, the mask is identified as a “mother lion.” In the eastern section of the same village, a similar appearance poses as a “father lion.” In the central village, it poses as an “elder son lion.” 13 After nightfall, a procession of male villagers, mostly adolescents and village councillors, assemble at a road crossing on a plain beneath the mountain of urabudagi. The two lions wedded to each other now come together at the border between the village sections, in a spot with a direct view to the urabu mountain, the highest elevation on the island. (In former days, all three lions of the northern area assembled here.) A border between the eastern and western village section proceeds quite unnoticeably in everyday life, but now it is highlighted by a show of socializing lions.


Cyclical lapses

The wooden mask, sackcloth and a cover of bush creepers for two young men configure the image of a lion now departing to call on houses around the village. A gong sounds; the gong-bearer and a flute player begin to walk in front of the procession of the lion. The striking of gongs resounds into the realm of the that-worldly nunka. A percussive sound and the tonal cadences of a flute are as versatile in separating humans and spirits as they are in bringing them together. For in the opening sequence of the First Fruits Festival (ugaNfututi ) earlier in the sequence of annual events, the sound emitted during a procession vibrates into the this-worldly sunka. Sliding doors to the reception rooms of have been pulled apart for the moment of arrival. House members squat in formal poses as they await a visit from the beyond. They burn incense profusely in a ceramic incense bowl standing in the house entrance, at each side of the gate, and in each corner of the compound. The lion is a Lion Lord (ciciganaci ). The profuse and continuous burning of incense is an act of drawing the line between humans and what emanates from the beyond. In Goddesses, Priestesses, and Sisters, I pinpointed this as a crucial semiotic act characterizing the New Year reception of the King of the Ryukyus for his officials. In some areas of the Yaeyamas, the lion mask carries a character inscription identifying it as a lord. While I was collecting information recently on how to make replicas of South Ryukyuan masks for a museum collection, one informant with long experience as a village councillor on Ishigaki Island reminded me of an intimated parallel with the suiganaci, King at Shuri, the former capital of the Ryukyu Kingdom. It is a prancing lion that arrives through the gate. The playing of flute and percussion swells to a crescendo. A jostling crowd follows the players. Young men whistle stridently. Then, at the entrance, an encounter takes place between the lion and the titleholder to a house. The latter splashes a cupful of rice brandy inside the mythic beast’s jaws.14 I performed that act once. It happened while I was collecting the architectural measurements of a house I was renting. I welcomed the arrival of a squirming Grandfather Lion from a position at the entrance to the reception room. Its retinue included many children of the village; I had made ready some fruits as a welcoming treat for them. The woman owning the house and its sacred accouterments in the reception room had told me in advance to prepare a speech for the occasion. An address would only be understood by the lion if given in the Dunang language. As an experienced Knower she volunteered to help me draft it. The text introduced myself to the lion; it contained many hopes for my stay and general well being. So while a still very energetic grandfatherly lion was carrying on below in the compound, I delivered a prayer for its munificence. In the end, I cheered it, making sure that a good portion of rice brandy was poured down its throat. Finally, late at night, an encounter is again arranged between the lions of the eastern and western sections of the northern village.

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The twisted form of the exorcistic charms, creepers and fiber amulets is replicated in a Rotating Dance (makibudui ) and in the swaying performance of the young men of the village impersonating the lion guardian. In one village, the cancellation of the dances was criticized by a shaman for the following reason. Throughout the dark hours of the Interstice, a ghostly dance takes place also at the village tombs. Harmful effects produced by this flurry at the gravesite can only be combated by people staging dance performances themselves on the subsequent day. As the siti event changes from being a festival of the dead to a festival of the living, further theatrical elements are brought into use. With these more spectacular activities, i.e. the lion dance of Chinese origin and the circle dance of the Kingdom, a transition back to everyday affairs comes about. With the involvement of secular organizations and the technical facilities of contemporary society, the event is rephrased as one of collective entertainment. A show of masked beings belongs to this celebratory part of the festival. The Maitreya (miruku) Buddha (The Future Buddha) figures in a skit with an amused adversary. As in other South Ryukyuan islands, what is celebrated is a difference of moral character, between the fertile yet poor Maitreya and the infertile yet rich Shakyamuni (Røkkum 1998: 201). A banquet with meat finalizes the festival. Late at night on the third day of the festival, the lions of the eastern and western sections separate. In a joyous farewell scene, they engage each other in a Rotational Dance. Preceding this event in times past was a display of martial arts performed by adolescent boys in the courtyard of the village headman’s house. The separation between the villagers and the cici, lion, is ultimately staged from a position facing the ocean: upon the north coast beach of nantahama and upon the south coast beach of nâtahama. The lion rests on the sand, facing glowing sticks of incense. Accumulated malice, sickness and other afflictions can be expelled now, safely, into the sea in the direction of the notional island of andu. A semiosis involving exorcisms and sacrifices playing on the negative make the siti a nunka festival. It follows that no usutui addresses are made to the islanders’ spirit familiars of sacred places in the territory. What transpires during this rite of the Interstice is a grand exorcism. The unrelenting among the dead are sent off from the shores of Dunang, to somewhere beyond the horizon alluded to as the island of andu. The latter, imagined, territory – an anti-island so to speak – is the ultimate destination also for insect and vermin undesirables, in another rite of the agricultural cycle. Personhood, as seen through this ethnography, is a product of conflicting forces. Progress in lived human biographies is questioned at a set of junctures, so is that of the whole community. Space-time categories of movement and periodical lapses coalesce with all their constituent contradictions. A critical parallelism is presented by the tangle of creepers of the bush environment of Dunang Island. It brings into play an image of periodicity for the community, as a sensuous category made up of turbulent events, in nature as well as in people’s emotional lives, attacks on their souls, and subsequent liberation through collective enthusiasm.15


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Two kinds of awareness A Dunang Knower attends to impressions not normally within range; she reaches out for a subsidiary awareness. She adjusts the status of an interactant self. She sensitizes it to a natural and residential environment already mapped out by herself and loaded with a host of signs from the past. These are drifting sentiments; the dead leave their trauma behind among the living. I asked a ndi shaman about the nature of Evil Things (madimunu) and she gave me a list of sentiments such as avarice and crippled desires. I could have talked to her at length about the nature and occurrences of ghosts-as-hosts. But these, I realized, are just convenient referents from something even more graspable in society, that is, certain particular feelings that tend to hold onto people. Even the lion masks themselves – so crucial for the exorcistic action in the festival – may be suspected of depositing emotive matter of the past. That was reason enough to replace some old exemplars with freshly-crafted ones.16 In as culturally disparate areas of coastal archipelagos of Asia as the Izu Islands, the Ryukyus and the Lan Yü of the Yami, shamans share a concern about the status of the multiple souls within the human body. To speak about “shamanism” in a generic sense, though, I would like to avoid any a priori definitional characteristic such as “the shamanic flight,” or “the shamanic ecstasy,” accepting rather the claims, through any means culturally available, of accessing an otherworld, and then encoding a message, in any possible communicative manner, concerning its emanations. But the shift between what is ordinary and what is not so ordinary (guises, miens, sounds) is not simply an episodic occurrence rehearsed by the shaman. Both nature and society play a part in this. With the siti – “interstitial” – festival, things are turned upside-down because a general uncertainty intervenes in the normal course of events: in nature, as can be observed by the Dunang themselves when erratic atmospheric conditions prevail for a while; and in society when lights momentarily are switched off for the shaman to optimize the quality of sightings. The uncertainties involved parallel the uncertainties of the year-cycle.17 A tendency on the part of the Dunang to detach one thing from another within the constitution of the person is not definable, however, as an isolated psychological trait. In island societies of the western Pacific Rim where I have encountered shamanism, effervescence is separated from aberration. In the Izu Islands of Japan, possession is cultivated in initiations. On Dunang and on Lan Yü of aboriginal Taiwan, the shaman status is achieved by reporting visualizations. What is of even more significance is this: liberation from restraint, sometimes a characteristic of shamanic role-taking, does not refer specifically to a psychological condition, but to externalized sensations. My example from Izu and Dunang can be summarized as a gravitational pull, something that exerts a force from the outside, then weighs the body down. Mindsets can be indexicalized in such parallel views. Dunang shamans attribute sights of free flight to night-time dreams. Usually, they do not speak introspectively of sensations as such, but of their indexicalized

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versions, as if from some point outside their own bodies. Emotions are externalized: a plummeting fireball is someone’s failing energy; an ascending fireball is someone’s growing energy. Melancholy and euphoria as alternating states of a person’s interior life are transcriptions of body sensations in this image-work performed by Dunang shamans. They are primary process activities: images are reported, but they do not fully make their way into metaphors. So this is not simply a question of being burdened/unburdened in a metaphoric account of the mind. Melancholy and euphoria as alternating states of an interior life are, rather, literal transcriptions of body sensation, and the additional qualities are hues and luminosities. Fundamentally, the temporary lapses which are the shamans’ descriptions of soul-loss are forebodings of a more comprehensive totality of interactants within a wider expanse of nature and society. Even in a tradition as composite as that of China, where scientific speculation could unfold, e.g. in medicine and astronomy, interlinkages between person and things on the one hand and existences in the cosmos on the other were seemingly taken for granted. Consider this observation by Sivin (1989: 181): Ever since the sixth century, medicine has been strongly influenced by Buddhist ethics. Since its beginnings, physicians and medical scholars have drawn on numerology, yin-yang, and Five Phases cosmology, and even on astronomy, in order to investigate the links between the internal order of the body and the order of nature that surrounds it. The Dunang relate to the world in an eidetic manner. Meaning plays upon an arrangement of things which are close at hand: the domestic compound with its component sites, such as the toilet. But the imagery is far from static in this linkage to topology. An observation of movements is crucial for grasping the interactivity of persons, things, and nature. In fact, there are critical interstices also for the lunar year and for the island itself. In a quite literal sense, the Dunang try to hedge themselves against the natural environment outside the domestic compound by building fences, which may be stone walls or even hedges. Some Dunang in fact report night-time visions of moving stone walls. Here is one example. The informant, an island priestess, recounts how her father-in-law was taking a stroll in darkness. He had not been drinking. As he crossed the road near an inn, the stone fence along the road began shrinking. Knowing that an Evil Thing was advancing, he squatted down. If he had found the stem of a tree to hold on to, he would even have protected himself better. In the interpretations of the highborn of Dunang Island, these are very inauspicious sightings. When the spatial markers themselves move around, disaster is near. A subsidiary awareness, to conclude, arises from sensuous activity involving the body. It engages the body, as is documented by the prevailing views on soul


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behavior and body behavior during Dunang annual rites. It extends, even, to the immovable layouts so characteristic of the event. To summarize, when noting what the Dunang include in their rites, one might equally well ask what they elect not to include. The white miti – tzûmiti – concoction, for example, is the counterpart of the viscous, genuine, miti drink that is not on display. To repeat the comments of a male shrine steward (tidibi ), there is a need to keep things somewhat apart. He was probably thinking about the matters of the that-world of nunka and the this-world of sunka. Parental concepts may not be invoked, for it suffices for a semiosic process to subsist on evocative matter. The attention, not only to what is actual but also to what is potential, as in the subdued reference to differently valued but matching ritual elements relevant to other occasions, is an instance of Polanyi’s “tacit knowledge.” A tacit dimension of knowledge does not as such refer to the unconscious in culture, but, in my view, to what is crucial for knowing even if lacking in formulation. It forms a backdrop in consciousness. Yet, the conscious character of tacit knowledge is described by Polanyi (1969: 141) in terms of “two kinds of awareness.” Central to his argument is a proposed integrative functioning of “focal” and “subsidiary” awareness. In this perspective, cultural meaning has a corporeal base. In an extension of our bodily selves with the use of tools and language, we participate and empathize. Polanyi suggests the term “indwelling” (p. 148). Ritual imparts meanings, of course, it calibrates communicable signs out of raw intentions, even in the absence of metaphoric speech acts. The eidetic processes in such arrangements are primary processes. Mimetic acts rehearsed in ritual are at one and the same time reminders of the good things in life and the bad things in life. They settle, to begin with, on boundaries, fashioning our knowing indexically. For the Dunang, such indices pertain to the limits of bodies and house compounds. Mimetic acts settle, besides, on qualities, fashioning our knowledge iconically. For the Dunang, these are contrasting qualities, of liquids, for example. Knowing achieves a more generic – holistic – validity by accommodating such contrarieties. Let me elaborate. A woman’s spring festival cannot be abstracted from the reality of the calendar as an organizing totality nor can a man’s fall festival. Likewise, a nunka-type festival, which is a New Year celebration for the dead, retains a subdued referent of sunka festivals that celebrate life. One event shades off into another event, and the premise which is unstated for the one occasion is still somewhere within the grasp of awareness. Ritual may subsist on primary processes, but just like the disclaimers we can insert in a sentence, it can make provisions for the “not-so”, for the exception, the denial, even for the collapse of itself. It follows that action, if rehearsed by the rules of a ritual, may work equally well in the negative as in the positive. Ritual, I infer, resembles language in this versatility of replacing the affirmative with the negative. The “totality” held by a festival such as that of the siti lies in the wider expanse of the lunar year. The “elements” of the fête draw on the important paradoxes both in the lives of humans and in the life of an island.18 In this Interstitial

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Festival, a winding movement of creepers and lions indexicalize, as in a primary process, a focus on courses of action. People pay keen attention to physical directions, both as positive and negative identity markers. In this double attention to both the positive and negative identity markers, I take exception with the singular, positive, assumption underlying the Maussian perspective.


Fateful exchanges


Fateful exchanges

With The Gift (1954), Mauss demonstrated that society is not the morphological totality of religion, morals, law, economics, and aesthetics but something that in discrete acts of representation transcends boundaries thus affixed. Symbols rule in relationships, and the one that most prominently achieves such generality inheres in the gift. Gift-giving, if we follow the priority assumed by Mauss, is the specific act of setting a counterpoint for re-totalizing belonging in discrete partnerships, or, in a larger ethical community, through giving, receiving, and returning. There is merit in Mauss’s proposition despite, as I have said earlier, his stress on the emblematic and the idealistic. He makes observations of considerable generality without making generality his starting point as would be the case had he had considered reciprocity a constant of human nature. It is only by delving deeper into local ethnographies, then, that we can explore the fuller potential of his findings. But in this South Ryukyuan case there is another, no less important, characteristic of the gift-giving process which I dub the double entendre of giving. A gift may serve to write off the debts incurred by a relationship. The transaction can bring a relationship to a culturally acceptable conclusion as much as it, in the first instance, can bring it into being. Until further details are made available by ethnography, let us be sensitive to a double contingency. Gift giving does not necessarily induce harmony. It can be as destructive to relationships as it can be constructive. Think only of the tensions that run high when giving in return is blighted by inflationary pressures (Røkkum, in progress). It seems that Mauss did not take fully into account the spirit of the potlatch in his analysis of the ethnographies. The partnerships I comment on in subsequent sections unfold against a conception of the non-ordinary. Gifts are tributes, paid in excess, to quite realistic agencies in the unseen. It appears little recognized in anthropology that ritualized gift-giving carries the potentiality of communicating a double-faced intention.

Acts of disengagement
The k’a and the bunai, both priestesses of Dunang, elicit guardianship and regeneration. The former face a group of village councillors in public ceremonials, Sister Goddesses of the Origin Houses face a house congregation.

Fateful exchanges


Questions about hazards facing the life of the individual, in contradistinction to these collective concerns, cannot be made without the interlocution of the munuci, however. These “Knowers,” in the true rendering of the term, elicit guardianship for the individual and for a single house. To these shaman interpreters of destinies, human character appears as reduced to its barest aspects, described by them as an individual’s luminosity of the eyes and uprightness of the lumbar spine. This is the basic line in a cultural reading of person attributes: a view of human souls as only imperfectly connected with the bodily frame destabilizes the presentational image of the person. Dunang shamans introduce a generic ontological scale which disregards the boundaries between the living and the dead, between humans and animals. Persons become signs. A prayer I heard in the ndi village, addressing “the light of morning/light of evening,” protects the subject’s feet as she or he departs through the gate of the house compound. In a further utterance, it refers to the feet as they move across the surface of the island during the day. Ghosts of humans, land and sea animals, birds, and trees, are all intelligible alters in this inflated interactivity. As human victims face these detractors, acts and objects reverse their semiotic status. Dishes presented to an Other of the nunka are now sham food, or simply inedible. What otherwise is meant to be served as whole is cut or shredded. The “not-so” moves front-stage. The surface of the skin defines a critical physical referent of the corporeal self. A shudder is felt when mabui soul matter is drifting out and away from the body. In the outer range of this physiocentric view, the stone wall of the house compound is a “citadel” – a bulwark defending the house (with its own mabui) and its inhabitants. In this defense of life processes against a threatening Other, movement, form, and smell become critical indices. As we shall see in a while, with such an armature of defense, an environment can be comprehended as truly hostile. The house itself becomes a critical perimeter surrounding personhood itself. For a bulwark to be made against the “yesterday” realm of nunka and its emanations, twisted action is preferred. Left-twisted twirls, knots, and loops are indispensable in these dealings with an uncanny Otherness. First, for instance, a rice-straw taboo-rope (buhan’na) seals the house compound off from environment. The word means “imprecation rope.” The word buhabuha can itself be uttered as a charge at a source of evil. In the minimal option, the rope is drawn across the gate in the stone wall, but in most instances, it can be observed hanging round the whole of the enclosure (Figure 4.1). Elderly informants recall that when diseases were rampant in their childhood days, even the village itself would be declared a restricted area to Evil Things, by the suspension of taboo-ropes across critical approaches. Second, creepers growing in the wild can be fastened to any household implement, to any architectural feature inside the house compound, and to any tree (Figure 4.1). Action of this kind shields house dwellers against harm from the outside. Twists and knots combat movement. Their pungency camouflages the odors of human bodies and foods. Third, a looped straw – rice and maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis) or a pointed leaf of the pandanus tree (Pandanus odoratissimus) – can be fastened to bodies as a


Fateful exchanges

Figure 4.1 Taboo rope shielding a house compound

safety measure against soul-loss. This amulet is effective when wound around the waist and when suspended either in the front or on the back of one’s body. But most commonly, this device is placed upon ritual articles and food dishes to deter the approach of mischievous Others. Fourth, a knotted or looped charm of hemp fibers can be given to someone whose souls have been seen adrift. Fastened around the neck, wrists, and ankles, the knots or loops lock the souls up in their original configuration. Fifth, a left-twisted rag can be brought into action. It either combats spinning movements in nature – my informants mention the threats of tornadoes – or twisted forces in the minds of living or dead humans. The twisted cloth is invariably a shred of woman’s underwear – of modern underwear, of a kimono loincloth, or of the dated G-string. By rubbing the charm between her legs, a munuci infuses further female energy. She scorches the charm at one end, then – standing with her back to the crossroads of a village or to the entrance of a house compound – she waves the device in an anticlockwise direction, over her head. Alternatively, she waves a rag held in the right hand from right to left, and a rag in the left hand from left to right. As the munuci proceeds to twirl the twisted rag in the supposed direction of the adversary, she utters a spell alluding to the additional force of the sprouts of a wild, pungent, leek. She challenges the adversary with a word on the scorched underwear and with the imprecation buhabuha. With a further spell, she charges at the adversaries by naming them: the dànamunu ghosts (the dead) and the multiform kidi ghosts (animals). She promises them a meal of what is “worn and torn,” that is, a scorched rag.

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Early during my first stay on Dunang, I made the house I rented available for a full-scale exorcism (dânukamaci ). As I re-entered the dwelling from the western perimeter, I discovered there, right in the entranceway, a left-twisted, scorched rag. At the time, I had no knowledge of the practices just quoted. My open-ended question, “What is this?” elicited nothing but vacant responses from those around me. But later on, those in the village who knew that I had in fact seen the object shared with me the strange similarities of twistedness and insidious emotion. Adversaries’ emotions run like whirlwinds. One can only change this by charging in retaliation, by facing them head on with a left-twisted rag which has been scorched at one end. Here is the spell recited during the action: dánumunu kidimunu uma nu dâ’uti nkija hajugutuja nara minda birikagu hamirun’du Ghosts of the dead, ghosts of animals make no entry into this house help yourself to rags

The dànumunu belong to the house, they are human ghosts. The kidimunu belong to the outside compound. They are animal ghosts, yet nurture humanlike sentiment, they terrorize the living just like human ghosts. I learnt how to take precautions against their onslaughts. Even death does not sever the bonds between husband and wife. So a shaman staged a rag-twirling action as an all-out farewell for a widow who was cutting ties to her home. An attachment to a dead husband was abrogated by the action. He was provided with sacrifices, and told to find solace within the limits of the nunka. A twisted rag is an index of emotional commotion just as the more frequently seen left-twisted taboo rope. Twisted fiber is not the symbol, but the realistic simulacra, of twisted emotions. The leftwise action aims at what drifts out of the nunka domain of the nefarious. Similarly for mortuary arrangements, what is leftwise is more momentous than what is rightwise. For actions can carry intentions, such as blocking a route back to the village to a disgruntled spirit of the dead, or blocking the cravings for mortuary sacrifices of a spirit resting at the tomb site itself. The spirit bound for the tomb tries to return home. The spirit at the tomb site is ridden by avarice. Figures of contrariness are dramatized thus by the shamans as knots, swirls and loops, as left-to-right/anticlockwise action. The scorched rag visualizes anti-growth. Physiognomy is brought out by handedness and female genital parts, and by a spell: the resilience of a leek’s root makes it resistant to any wind, even the destructive force of a tornado. This exploitation by the Dunang of handedness to separate matters of life and death corresponds with Hertz’s (1960, 1973) general ethnographic comments on right–left polarities.1 Such physiocentric handedness amplifies for the Dunang a difference between a realm of life (sunka) and a realm of death (nunka). The left and the right are indices within a more composite symbolism of contrary forces in the lives of humans.


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In fact, somewhat contra Hertz, it is not the left side itself as a lateral orientation which has precedence, but rather the movement itself – and that is unequivocally leftwise. The lateral, rather, is contained within the fixed arrangements of the house compound: with its regions set by Chinese animal indices. What I just said is a “composite symbolism” holds a few other indexical signs which are all supportive of the ability to transport intentions: what is scorched, what is pungent, what is resilient, and what emanates from a female body. The left–right index is doubtless very versatile for cross-cultural comparison as Hertz has amply demonstrated. Yet to say that handedness suffices for the ethnographic case in question here would be inaccurate. For other indices, such as burnt/not burnt, pungent/not pungent, female/not female, are equally indispensable for the cultural validity of the practice of combating an adversary. Signs build upon fragments of each other in a layered semiosis. An imagework consisting of the twirling of a rag is brought to bear upon an image-work delivered by a shaman in response on an image-work earlier brought to her attention by a patient. Consider the following instance. Once, I observed some indecision in the ndi village about the make-up of work teams for the sugar cane harvest. Concerns were raised about the chances of saving the crop. At the time, a woman (who was not a munuci herself ) told that she had seen in her dreams the apparition of an elderly highborn lady. The latter woman, the dreamer reported, had a son, and she endorsed a work team that included him. No action was taken, however. Soon, the dreamer became sick and was unable join in the work on the sugar cane fields at all. Also her husband feared that he lacked the vigor even to salvage his own sugar cane harvest. In recognition of the omen, a partially charred, left-twisted rag was brought forth. The topic was too delicate for me to intervene with any “whys.” Yet, without any further comment, the case shows how easily tensions in society slip over into personal image-work – dreaming included. To be sure, a pair of scissors brought along with the rag convinced me that this was not an instance of easing tensions in society by immersion in ritual.

Uncanny partnerships
Incidental matter is transformed by Dunang shamans into coincidental mater. Let me here recast a culturally enabled construction of portent out of chance encounters with species in nature. Depletion of life force is the outcome of sudden encounters; a shudder can be recorded as an important index. A vital force has been ejected. Visitations from the world of nunka are never far away. My occupancy of a farmhouse in the ndi village aligned me with the unseen presences of past inhabitants. No one asked if I believed in the mysteries existing in the island, only how I, just as everybody else, might be sensing them. Nothing is more characteristic of the human condition in its Dunang interpretation than this involvement with the long-gone. To the ndi villagers, a foreigner is just as likely as themselves to perceive the signs of visitations from the world of

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Figure 4.2 Protective spider conch upon a toilet door

nunka. In the following treatment of the concept of a confluence of forms I shall include some of the instances related to my own stay on the island. These are first-hand insights of chance encounters. Ambiguous visitors A pigeon slipped into my house, a snake climbed up the trunk of a tree in the southern corner of my compound, a beehive appeared in my outhouse kitchen, and a dead piglet and, later, a cat, were retrieved from under the floor of my dwelling. The decisive question was if each of these occurrences was an emanation of some sort. Were they isolated happenings, or were they accumulated indices of something really untoward? My neighbors shared their concerns with me, and a shaman instructed me how to take the proper precautions. This was her advice. Suspend a spider conch (Figure 4.2) (Harpago chiragra) across the house entrance to ward off spirits prone to assume unexpected shapes (the kidimunu). I did. All these incidents took place early on in the fieldwork. Now it seems that the munuci has kept a mental record of these circumstances in my life, as I found out when revisiting the island many years later. For the shaman, then, looking into the sudden intrusions into people’s lives is to no small extent a question of recollecting incidents, even when the rest of the villagers have largely forgotten them. In a typical encounter with a patient, the munuci excels as “the Knower” by restoring into consciousness a few vaguely remembered images. A typical interview opening is: “Were you ever frightened by a pigeon?” Another shaman of ndi village decided that the inauspiciousness of the pigeon is a relative matter. She splits the index into two with the following question:


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“Did it head off toward the east? If it did, there is nothing to worry about. You are bound for a journey across the sea. Or, did it head off toward the west?” She does not give a clear answer to the second contingency. But the implication may be this: if a pigeon finds its way out of the house by choosing a course to the west, the journey will stop at the tombs. Someone will die. Some exorcistic action was taken by a shaman while interviewing me about the precise behavior of the pigeon and about how and when I had noticed the beehive. A neighbor took the carcass of the cat to a place on the outskirts of the village; there to be buried with some cooked rice, bean paste, and salt. This was his view: an automobile will be haunted if it hits a cat. Cats keep themselves close to humans, and should be buried together with offerings that confirm this companionship. In fact, cats are people’s familiars in the otherworld. A ghost reaches for the sky by clinging to a cat’s tail. Imprints of a cat’s paws or a hen’s claws on a gravesite are visible assurances that the spirit has arrived at its destination. In an effort to witness this evidence, some people fetch sand from the beach to sprinkle before the tomb entrance.2 In the words of the shaman pondering about these events, as dream animals, cats are harbingers of quarrels in the family, and perhaps of future accidents. Snakes are no lesser harbingers. Some years later a snake visited the munuci herself. As I witnessed during the 49th day memorial of her husband – the most important post-mortuary event – a snake emerged from the stone wall of her own house yard. The sighting was duly noted. The snake might possibly be a messenger from the nunka. Not long after my experience with the cat, however, the following incident happened to my neighbor. After a heavy downpour, the channel draining excess water from the ndi paddy land swelled. My neighbor was able to kill a large sea eel with his sickle as he was walking to the sugar cane fields in the morning. He discovered it in a flooded water duct (cf. the whereabouts of the Bulging Bowels Ancestor, Chapter 1) near the kadaribagu shrine of the tumajâ Origin House. Happy with the feat, he asked me to photograph the eel, now suspended from a hook on a wall inside his house compound. My neighbor looked forward to a savory dinner in the evening. But his wife thought that he had killed a high spirit. She saw the eel’s excessive size as a testimony to its divine nature. Obviously, the eel had been heading through the waterway on a course toward the mountains, where, escaping from the gaze of humans, it intended to transfigure itself into a dragon. The husband’s action had aborted the attempted metamorphosis. Thematic parallels with snakes surfaced in the reflections this couple and others shared with me. A story was told of one islander who, while struggling to escape an attacking snake, was killed by the sudden swirl of a tornado. The killer wind was a metamorphosed dragon. In the case of the eel an impasse arose with some talk of the possibility of giving the eel to people in the tumai village on the opposite side of the island. The day was hot, but it was still hanging from the hook in a wall. Then, finally, the wife’s interpretation was accepted, and the eel was given the same burial treatment

Fateful exchanges


as the cat just mentioned. At the end of the day, the couple agreed that the corpse of the eel was worthy of a funeral. The eel was an intruder into a habitat not its own. This occasioned an ad hoc ban on its consumption as food. Its metamorphic nature emerged as a motif for interpretation. Its movement iconized a broader array such as the twistedness of tornados and dragons. Such enlargement of character made the eel a familiar of a broad, symbolic, category. In the semiosic process, this is interpretant activity. The woman with the reservations is very skilled at catching wild pigeons. She has no misgivings about that. The birds are caught within their proper habitat, in very dense thickets along the shoreline. She also, sometimes, prepares cats for food, affirming, though, that she harbors some doubts due to their peculiar character. She strongly emphasized that cats can only be eaten to regain one’s health, as a medicine; they must not be served as an ordinary meal. Species such as those just mentioned share no intrinsic qualities. In fact, the same woman later emphasized that if treated as beings quite apart from other living things, cats could not be ingested at all. The saddest moments Many people I talked with in Dunang have qualms about attending mortuary rituals. Such reluctance to make an entry into an orbit of death became most demonstrably clear to me when joining search parties for missing persons. An entire village is mobilized when someone, from any district on the island, is announced as missing. The obligation to join in is measured against the hazard. Obliviousness to take part is explained as being caused by fear of encountering a dying person, or the corpse of someone who died in agony. The fear prevails even when death is established. At issue, then, is a definite worry to be dragged on into the nunka by meeting someone already dead, dying, or simply actively opting for death. The human subject is susceptible to being harmed by the image of death. Semiosis replicates this image: the moment of dying reverberates among the living in the activity of an indexical sign. In the words of a tidibi priest: “If possible one should avoid facing a moribund person. I try to avoid making sick calls. There is a saying that facing someone dying co-opts company to the tomb. Souls of healthy persons are drawn to souls of the ailing. I know examples which confirm this.” When an individual’s life is deemed at risk, an appeal for guardianship is made to what has been described above as the giver of all human life, the ku’udiN spirit of the Polaris, and to the umjâ deity of sunlight. A makeshift altar is erected inside the house for a Birth Prayer ceremony (nmarigaN). This rite sets the positions for spirits of the front and rear (nmaridi-kusati ) of the affected person. A bowl of eggs is the most indispensable item on the table of offerings. With this arrangement, a mediation of life force can be realized. In the house compound, island spirits of the east and west are invoked as offerings are distributed behind two sets of three incense holders, one toward the east/southeast, the other toward the west/northwest.


Fateful exchanges

People calculate the risk of losing parts of their souls due to unsettling events. These soul elements are prone to disappear into bush or sea. The munuci formulate the problems – and the answers – and are thus capable of exerting considerable influence on individual destinies. The Dunang focus their attention on an inconstancy of species in nature: there are no sharply edged boundaries, one category shades off into another. Landscapes and seascapes are equally blurred: the nirabandu domain of a female spirit of the below extends from the sea into the hollow limestone interiors of the island. A perception of the associated hazards, as a question of what the repercussions would be of any misstep while walking in this island environment, was never communicated more succinctly than when departing on search parties for missing persons. Someone either already deceased or foundering in the direst distress might possibly be controlling the rescuer’s own footsteps. I experienced three instances of missing persons: first an elderly woman, then a young boy, and finally, an adult man.3 Only the woman was rescued. She was discovered at the water’s edge in a very sacred zone of the mui promontory. She was subjected to a very elaborate ritual aimed at resurrecting vital souls within her body. A munuci took her into the shallow waters of the lagoon. The shaman lifted even scoops of seawater over her head to retrieve her bodily souls from “the seven reaches” separating humans from the nira goddess of the depths. Following this, she was led through a wreath of rice straw (kabuci ) seven times. Passing through this aperture, she crossed the perimeters of nunka and sunka. The shaman brought her back into life again by repositioning her in this fashion. Now, the critical point, regaining access to society, is the passage through the aperture in the house compound stone wall. The courtyard itself is a buffer zone, shielding the house dwellers from ill-intentioned visitors from the outside. The gate is the entranceway to life in society. Having led the patient back to her house, the munuci ordered the same kind of treatment as she had organized on the beach. Also the members of the search party, whose mabui might possibly have suffered from the horror of the situation, were invited to join in the soul-saving action. The corpse of the young boy was never retrieved. He had plummeted into the sea from the plateau at the west cape. There was some comment on the character of the place: it is a spot where spirit trails from across the entire island converge. This made an index of horror. A funeral was prepared even in the absence of the boy’s corpse. A presence of the corpse, however, was made the subject of imagework. Forty-nine pebbles from the beach were laid out to mark the outline of the body. With this arrangement, an assumed totality of 49 bones in the human body could be sufficiently resurrected. In this eidetic arrangement, a plunge into the nunka was transfigured into a rehearsed dispatch into the nunka. A mock body, an icon of a self, was treated as an abode of human souls ready for interment. In another instance of a similar kind I witnessed, the search party employed verbal circuitousness: they put up defenses against an approaching nunka by deliberately phrased speech acts. This is what happened.

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Figure 4.3 Preparations for a hearty meal

A young man on a brief stay in the island, drowned in the surf at the entry point to the nantahama harbor of the northern village, near the sacred point of t’î (a key point of alignment for the tûdama capital shrine, and a key point for the nira goddess). Fishermen launched their boats for a search. A corpse is a menace. Not only does the sight of it cause people to shudder and lose their souls, the circumstance of death might even replicate itself, bringing about strange encounters for fishermen just as they try to navigate the difficult passage into the harbor through a channel across the coral reef. Now the image of a corpse about to be recovered from the sea could only be spoken of by using the pretense so familiar in ritual: a big fish had been caught. The situation called for a big fish to be hauled out of the sea. So, as said on the beach by a munuci engaging the boy’s girlfriend on the beach in a ritual of separation, “Why be afraid?” For wasn’t it actually a fish they were handling? The crew would be blessed with good catches in the future. While this munuci of the northern village was engrossed in the retrieval of the corpse’s souls, the crewmembers slaughtered a goat (Figure 4.3). Goat meat is not properly part of the ritual cuisine on the island. But regarded as a rare treat, and strongly energizing when cooked in a broth, it helps recovery from any distressing encounter. It bolsters body souls when treated as a sacrifice to the body. The avoidances I registered in the search parties were body defenses, and as such, not simple matters of convention. Not only did they refer to the physical contact with a decaying body but also to terror itself: that of the moment of death. I agree with Valeri (2000: 112) in the following observation: “A taboo


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usually marks some event or situation that is likely to threaten the integrity of the body as the seat of the integrity of the subject.” A reversal of signs is necessary to calm the emotions. A corpse transfigures into a fish. What was loaded with negative feeling becomes an instance of joy.4 Any other nuance of the experience can be safely dispelled. The image predicates the happy state, and by accomplishing that by concrete action, it even becomes indexical of the end result. The semiosis of the image-work could even go on with the rescuers expecting good catches of fish in the future. A predicated course of action carries a self-fulfilling prophecy, and that might well be characteristic of much persuasive effort, even outside this ambience of shamanism. A single experience is frozen in attention after being rearranged by a shaman Knower into a motif. This necessitates a closer look at the part played by the shaman, noting a double capacity of her role of knowing. In a generic sense, I suggest, the shaman as a master of miraculous feats cannot cursorily be typified on the background of a specific ethnography, even though we might be familiar with such themes as celestial ascent or fights with mythical beasts. For it is not just an enactment, but also a capacity for instilling in an audience an interpretation through an extended signification which defines the cultural latitude of the character. The shaman can be seen as a master of sign reversals: someone adept at defining one particular form as a transfiguration of another. I observed on Dunang, as in the Izu Islands during a previous fieldwork (Røkkum 1975), that shamanism involves fights against behavioral excesses. Symptoms of affliction are perceived in terms of what, from the point of view of social participation, is too little, that is, reclusion, and what is too much, that is, instances such as unannounced intrusions into other people’s houses, or indecent or aggressive public behavior. Shamans are healers, with their own miraculous recovery from affliction as a governing example. The dramatis personae in these miraculous feats engage their followers not simply in a release of messages, giving voice to the grievances of the dead, but more fundamentally, in a syntax of signs resident in images. These are governed by expressions, not of content, but of form, of postures, miens, and cadence. Shamanism deals with the extraordinary, scaling personhoods down to a format of signs. Patients are diagnosed by their gazes, their physical comportment, by their dreams. When assembling such signs, the shamans speak of their patients not as subjects in the normal fashion as actors, but rather as actants in a conception that encompasses more than just personhood. Sebeok (1984: 213) makes a distinction between the experienced symptom and the observed sign: “The symptom is felt, the sign is observed by some other person.” And, “the fact of privacy looms as a critical distinctive feature that demarcates any symptom from any sign.” Shamans, in my view, as distinct from medical practitioners, operate in this zone between an inner world of experience and one of outside meanings. They are practitioners with skills at mediating between “symptomatologies” and unorganized “symptoms.”

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The symptomatologies are pre-existing templates, syndromes of interpretative matter in a semantic field of “signs.” They precede a given symptom in time. However, they give a posteriori rationale for the occurrence of the symptom. In the latter sense, I feel justified in adducing Sebeok’s observation (1984: 225): “temporally, or for predictive purposes, symptoms generally precede signs.” My own view is that the subjectively felt symptoms may be signs without a proper object, inchoate conceptual matter so to speak, as in the feeling that something might be wrong. What might go wrong is something that might cause bodily ruin. The Dunang speak of “polluted things” as durimunu, and they perform rituals (munuN) during the growing season when they can be identified quite precisely in the guise of rodents and other vermin. Pollution is not an attribute sui generis of that type of pestilence, however. It is not a stable state, but something, rather, that predicates upon the body or, otherwise, upon what is needed for its sustenance, which may possibly cause its destruction. On that account, whenever foods are taken to ritual enactments, looped rush or leaf charms (tzutza) are carefully laid out upon them to deflect the cravings for them of an unseen Other. Likewise, there is nothing inherently polluting in meat and fatty foods, but whenever the occasion calls for an invocation of a life-giving effect such as the maturation of crops, they become polluting due to the index they still convey of an act of slaughter. During the grand exorcism of the year, the Interstitial Festival (siti, “node”), pollution is demonstrably a case of some contagion that must be disposed of, dispatched onto another territory. And when adversity is a matter of urgency, as in the case of missing people, pollution is a fait accompli. Yet I find no reigning Dunang concept of pollution. In the ritualized dealings with pollutants such the cleaning of corpses and, with the lapse of some years, their bones during a secondary burial, a women’s activity domain emerges. But this does not associate women with pollution in any sense particular to their gender. For when the nunka (that-worldly) preoccupation is replaced by a sunka (this-worldly) preoccupation, as in rituals of increase, women become protagonists not of death, but of its opposite. There could be a “double aspect of funerals,” to quote Bloch (1982: 224), who affirms Hertz’s stance. But there could also be a double aspect, a latitude for messages with both the “no” and “yes” in other matters as well, when ritual is sensitized to partial, situational, or conditional messages. In one sense, polluting; in another sense, not polluting. What I try to avoid is constructing stereotypes, pegged on female/male for instance, when people themselves see none.5 The notions I have just indicated are flexible; they adjust to the stated purposes of occasions in the annual cycle of rituals and to occasions arising without warning as well. Such potentiality, however, covers a wide variety of contingencies, hence I also agree with Valeri (2000: 103) in his critic of Meigs’ distinction between what is polluting and what is harmful. In fact, it can be argued that when discriminatory practices are reported among the mainland Japanese in their dealings with disaster victims (of Second World War nuclear bombings and of earthquakes), it is the resultant disequilibria themselves (apart from the bodily


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scars) that cause the kegare, a term conventionally translated as “pollution.” Disorders of all kinds displace people and relationships, and that in itself – as in the Japanese case – effectively makes them marginal.6 To this I would like to add the following observation. The semiotic substance of contagion is, of course, one of contact, as when actually exhuming a dead body. Quite plainly, its matter may mix with one’s own bodily matter. But this, in the situations described above, appeared less of a dread of actual physical contact than of discharged sentiment: (a) a response – the agony – replicates itself with the upshot that (b) a situation replicates itself. In this, I discern a semiotic side to the issue: the dead body is an indexical sign of things to come true. It has a divinatory and indexical role to play. The case, hence, is not one of a determined contagion but with no less effect on human sentiment, one of a possible contagion. “One never knows on beforehand.” This paraphrases many comments I received. It implies that there may be no further indications of what may strike. Pollutants can be measured by the effects they bring about.

Recipes for sharing and not sharing
Acts of replacement and exchange of foods and libations are essential to any Dunang ritual. An etiquette of presentation is less than a perfect realization. For even the most minor disruption of forms equals a disruption of a harmonic interplay. Items of food and drink are presented on a site of an invocation; the female ritualist names them and assesses their value. Contents of cups, flasks, platters, and trays are “flowery,” “shining,” and “precious.” In the ambience of a Dunang ceremonial, words, acts, and substances interact as part of a well-rehearsed ritual syntax. But however well rehearsed, there is always some hesitation. I often heard exclamations like these: “How many sets [of offerings]?” “Something is lacking!” “This is not enough to get the prayers through!” Even the lack of a single ingredient will reverberate on the worshiper. Rigor characterizes such arrangements. Culinary layouts transcribe into another code the pleadings of the usutui strings of prayer. Not only are the varieties and number of offerings of vital importance for a safe dispatch into an otherworld inhabited by localizable “hosts” (nuci ), even the shape of the vessel for such transport influences the outcome. The Dunang pay attention to semblance so that the exchange status of an item changes along with the design of the container. To mention a basic distinction, rites both of the nunka and the sunka kind call for samples of milled, raw rice. First, in the nunka alternative, the addressees are hosts of nature and ghosts proper, all of whom demand a ransom to release the human souls (live or dead) they are hanging on to. The offerings yield a meal of Flowery Rice (hanagumi ). The rice is displayed on round lacquer trays – or on small, round plates. Second, in the sunka alternative, the addressees are culture heroes or island spirits (taginisaN). The offerings yield a meal of Divine Flowers (kanbana). The rice is displayed upon square lacquer trays.

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The participants usually consume the major part of the offerings. Foods and libations are presented, and distributed soon afterward among the people assembled at the place of worship. To mark that the ambient spirits have touched the raw rice, the officiant priestess stirs it – on the lacquer tray – with a stick before accepting it as a tribute to herself (to be brought home as a supply for household use). Raw rice on round trays or plates, in contrast, is not returned to the donors, but thrown on to the heap of glowing ashes of paper and incense as an act of ultimate suspension of the nearness of a spirit host. Common both to sunka and nunka rites is the emptying of rice brandy, salt and raw rice on the incense holder, although there is a requirement in the sunka rites that the brandy is of the “flowery” kind, that is, with a high alcoholic content (60 per cent), and that the rice has been presented to the otherworld as a “flowery” variety. While the nunka alternative stipulates a presentation of meat (raw meat in the sacrifice and boiled meat in the consumable offering), the sunka alternative prohibits any meat of quadruped animals, or – more generally – of any fatty edible. The duality of raw/cooked specifies alternating kinds of communication between human and spirit: First, raw inedibles (namadagana [namadagara]) are body substitutes and, consequently, exchange substances. The usutui prayers reveal that the intentions behind the presentations of pieces of raw pork are to compensate an Other who might well have a craving for one’s own means of sustenance, even for the body itself. Second, cooked offerings (kubaN), by contrast, have the ingredients of a meal acceptable to the human palate. As recipients of cooked dishes, the spirits partake in precisely the kind of food that humans themselves relish. Salt, retaining its original association with sea waves, is a cleansing agent. The unmodified shapes of pieces of meat and mounds or packets of salt emphasize the nunka address of the ritual. Shapes are either exaggerated or diminished. This “not so” – for human ingestion – provides a clue for understanding the nature of the occasion; the intent is unmistakably that of dissipating things. Despite the centricity of prayer, this intent needs no further articulation. As the ritualists say themselves, the character of the ritual is determined by shapes, as when they epitomize the inedibility of the offerings in that (a) they are too large to be swallowed in the normal way, or (b) they are cut, as in the case of “cut rice cakes” (kirimuti ) or shredded, as in the case of a mix of vegetables and bean curd (nbusimunu: Steamed Thing.). What has been described so far is the sacrifice – maciri sandai – communicable by a ritual presentation. The dishes holding the sacrificial items align with a centric incense holder. Presented on trays behind them are ordinary edibles such as soup with chopped pork entrails, other soup dishes with normal cuts of pork, boiled, green papaya, as well as bowls with boiled rice. After an initial presentation on the site, as offerings, these become the ingredients of a festival meal. The sacrificial dish is isolated in a spot near the sticks of burning incense, and is left untouched until the end of the rite, when it is emptied upon the last glows. In the end, it is heaped upon the mound of burning incense or emptied into the


Fateful exchanges

kerosene can (see Figure 1.1) with smoldering spirit money. Willful ingestion of an edible sacrifice is deemed tantamount to an attempt at suicide. This is the nunka version. The sunka alternative prescribes exclusion of meat and fatty foodstuffs. The sûai – a stew of herbs, palm pith, and bean paste – is ideal, clean, food. As in the nunka alternative, the sacrifice arrangement centers on a forward incense holder on the site of ritual. Yet unlike the nunka rituals, the participants of the sunka ritual are allowed to consume the dish. Libations of nunka and sunka contrast in terms of viscosity and solubility. The tzûmiti – “white miti ” of nunka rites – to repeat is a mock sacrifice. The drink enhances one’s fortunes with the that-world much like the incineration (kabianGu) of counterfeit paper bills pays one’s way past nature spirits and a heavenly bureaucrat. It has almost the same color as true miti, and passes as such with the otherworldly. But just a concoction of flour and water, it lacks the alcoholic brew’s hue and viscousness. Other ingestible dishes are set off by shape. Full-sized steamed rice cakes (muti ) and rice balls (kubanGu) are suitable as tributes to spirits proper, of “peaks and hills,” while smaller varieties belong to the culinary resources necessary for saving the life of a human subject. Steamed rice is molded into shape in the fashion of a wayward body-soul being clutched and brought back into the body. During the New Year of the ghosts (siti ), to repeat, children are the recipients of this fare. Culinary acts show a purport not very different from speech acts in prayer, as in the following string of association. What is whole and cooked must be negated when the recipient is a host of soil, wood or stone or an animal, or even a ghost of a person. A culinary code is equally well tailored to the negative and the positive. In fact, the nunka sacrifice alternative attends to the sunka alternative by reversing its critical signs. A dish consisting of unsteamed, shredded rice cakes (kirimuti ) is brought forth whenever the declared intention of the ritual is that of cutting relationships. Agents of nature, either of vegetal, animal or human origin, are sentiment carriers. Yet the more human the recipient of a food gift, the less the appeal to ordinary human tastes. Judging from Ahern’s observation on Taiwan, quite the opposite observation may be valid for the Chinese: the more remote personages of the otherworld are presented with quite non-standard fare (Ahern 1973: 169). Also formulated on the basis of fieldwork in Taiwanese society, McCreery (1990) makes the proposition about Chinese ritual that dishes of realistic food invite closeness to the spirits while unrealistic money – the feigned banknotes referred to as spirit money – restore distance. (For a historical comment on uncooked offerings accompanying the promotion to ancestorhood, see Ebrey’s Introduction to Chu 1991; see also Chang 1977.) In Dunang, currency presentations are ciphered with much exactitude and then put into a furnace for an otherworld accounting system. In a post-mortem ritual at which I was assigned the task of tending the kerosene can fire myself, the following value enumerations were made: • • • To the dead husband of the woman administering the rites: 500,000 yen. To his patrilaterals (the tani side): 100,000 yen. To his matrilaterals (the siki side): 100,000 yen.

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In conclusion, Dunang culinary arrangements invite us to look for a distinction between offerings and a sacrifice in the fashion of gifts and non-gifts, thus – one, the sacrifice. A gift is addressed as a payment which must not revert to the donor. The display consists, one, of “goods” destined to make their way to the spirits as a “charge,” and, two, of non-food, uninviting chunks of meat or equally uninviting finely chopped or crushed dishes. Merit to the worshipers accrues with the immolation of the gift, suppressing any urge to share. Two, the offering. A gift reverts in the end to the donor. The manner of presentation is governed by rules of symmetry and aesthetics. Displayed ceramics, lacquerware and pewter enhance the value of a culinary transport, which additionally is praised by the ritualist for its taste, fragrance, and beauty. The usutui oratory itself is ripe with aesthetic allusions. Dishes are laid out on a dais, on a floor, or upon the ground. Ultimately, they are brought forth right in front of the worshipers. Merit to the worshipers accrues with the partaking in the gift, consuming it either on the site itself or after returning home. The sheer magnitude of food gifts is itself an invitation to share them with others. Like produces like: sadness in a that-world creates sadness in a this-world, sapping human vitality. So where continuity is all too obvious, the Dunang employ sacrifices in an image-work of calculable removes. The shady spirits of the nunka, who are spoken of as hosts incarnating trees, ground and animals, do in fact host the sentiments of humans. Their shapes may be collapsed, perceived by the Knower only as the shadows of clouds running across the landscape. Sentiment, thus, is not the mind matter of western common sense, but rather what, in a shamanic expression, flows across the landscape. It is cloud-like. A culinary praxis, as noted in previous chapters, has far wider implications than simply that of “ritual communion.” A selection of ingredients for a meal, the choice of one or the other alternative modes of preparation in cooking, fermentation or other means of presentation, are all acts with implications for a specific mode of community experience, of past and present, death and life, woman and man.

Lingering debts
Among the Austronesian-speaking Yami of Lan Yü (Orchid) Island to the south of Dunang (Røkkum 1991), the killing of an animal strikes a particular sentiment. The Yami of aboriginal Taiwan review stages of the past, and they assemble the links to the spirits (anitou) and kindred around the villages of the island by submitting a slaughtered animal (the spirits receive only morsels, though). No sense of loss is incurred by the act; for the amount of meat amassed is precisely what attracts bilateral kin, even from distant villages, to join in a work team. And people who are able to parade an array of pigs’ jaws and rams’ horns on wallboards in their homes as the trophies of past labor feasts acquire the reputation of a Rich Man. But in the present ethnography of South Ryukyu, the slaughter of an animal does not augment wealth. I was sometimes reminded of this burden impinging upon Origin Houses, of putting on display a copious amount of food during the festivals, and of the drainage of their resources as a consequence.


Fateful exchanges

Festival life prescribes an amplitude that semantically shades off into associations of well-being. Sometimes, however, a deleterious effect on wealth accumulation is the price to pay for realizing the ideal. Sacrificial moods The meat both of pigs and goats is part of Dunang cuisine. Beef, either from water buffaloes or cattle raised on the island, is not staple food, however. Raising cattle for meat is a recent preoccupation. A note left by shipwrecked Koreans in the year 1477 indicates a lack of interest in any animal meat. And to recall a myth quoted earlier, the consumption of a cow by early ancestors was a historical misadventure, inviting distance rather than closeness to the creator spirits. So the Dunang decided to ban meat presentations from the cold season of kanbunaga rituals of growth and protection, restricting its usage to strictly established exchanges with the otherworld. Such exchanges, characteristic of mortuary ritual activity, involve feelings of loss. In the Dunang wet rice, sugar cane, and lately cattle breeding economy, killing a buffalo does away with an animal bred either for traction, burden, or for sale. Also, with corvée labor demanded by the authorities of the Ryukyu Kingdom, there would not be much leeway for slaughtering of domesticated animals to spur local teamwork. But I found an exception made for the killing of a cow, buffalo or pig for a ceremonial meal marking the opening of the siti. This has been described above as the New Year of the Dead. It is a schismatic event of the year (“it divides the year”). The killing of a valued animal hints at the sacrificial mood of the festival for the dead, and the butchering work is itself an exceptional instance of participation by a large number of men from the village in the chores of a single homestead. Pork, on the other hand, can easily be brought to any scene of invocation as a sacrifice. I noted the following instances: • • Funerals: a chunk of raw pork stands on a plate placed between the head of the corpse and an incense vessel. The (siti ) New Year of the Dead: a chunk of raw pork stands on a plate oriented toward an incense vessel aligned with the wooden head of a mythical lion. The Single Birth Prayer, for a dead person (katanmarigaN): a chunk of pork stands in a centric position behind an incense vessel, on a table facing the opposite direction of the deceased’s animal birth-year. Rituals both for dedicating and vacating houses and tombs: a chunk of pork stands on a plate resting on the ground near an incense vessel.

On occasions of mortuary ritual, a broth is invariably served to the callers. A standard ingredient is a boiled, green papaya, but the dish is classified according to the meat ingredient, for instance a cut of pork on the bone, or finely cut pig entrails.

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Figure 4.4 A dismembered animal sacrifice

The most articulate way of addressing the that-world of nunka is by sacrificing not just a piece of meat upon the ground but the whole animal in a dismembered state (Figure 4.4). Head, legs and tail are distributed over the ground. The parts, I learnt, are indices of the whole. But this is fake wholeness. The body of the animal has been removed to be cooked for a meal. But the Dunang feel comfortable with that. The pig sacrifice is a fake, the tzûmiti sacrifice is a fake, the sacrificed money bills are fakes, and strips of hemp, paper and potsherds also deployed in sacrificial transactions are fakes. The “not-so” of such dummy sacrifices is, in fact, a crucial aspect of human communication, as acknowledged by Eco (1976: 7) in his definition of the sign: it can be used to tell a lie. In speaking of Dunang engagement in ritual as involving primary processes, I include not only the versatility of mimetics, but also the versatility of pretense. The natures of the partners in such dubious exchanges are sometimes very human-like, particularly when matters of property, such as that of a house compound, are at stake. I witnessed three separate scenes in which the gravity of the case at hand justified the sacrifice of a pig. In one instance, a shaman’s client was heavily burdened with debts to nature. In another instance a widow was inaugurating the mausoleum for her departed husband. She was intent on avoiding any mistakes in carrying out the mortuary ritual for she had just received a notice from the


Fateful exchanges

ghost that she would live to the age of 100. Her dead husband would grant her longevity rather than cutting her life short, as indeed she had feared. In the third instance, I stumbled upon a dismembered pig carcass in a spot overlooking the ocean within the perimeter of the north coast village tombs (Figure 4.4). I found out that the sacrifice had been implemented for retrieving the souls of a man drowned at sea. Sacrifices transport intentions. Whatever the realism of an icon, as of a pig’s body to a human body, significata arise on two levels: (a) as indices they transport intentions, (b) as symbols they indicate that a condition has been met for a transaction. No further display of foods and libations is required in such ritualized calibration of mind matter to reach an Other somewhere out of view. An incense holder is made by molding sand into a conical shape; the bodily features of the pig are remodeled just behind this incense holder, as soon as the incense sticks have been ignited. When the invocation comes to an end, the remains of the carcass are thrown away, left to rot, together with the ashes of the incense sticks. But a less taxing option is preferred in the normal run of affairs. A cut of choice meat from the neck of the pig is presented on a square lacquer tray, flanked by whole packets of salt. “This is the mark that a full-size pig has been butchered.” For the sake of my realization of the matter, it was once said that way. So the presentation of a cut of pork indexicalizes a part–whole condition. It is sufficiently indicative of a full-bodied pig to be conceived as such by some stretch of imagination. The sacrifice restores balances. The execution is identified by a fixed trope: maciri sandai. Here is the full utterance: kumuti nu daN’ja ugituiwari Receive all sorts of offerings sûmiN’ja ugituiwari Receive a long life sandai’ja tabaramiwari . . . then leave all the rest behind . . . Sentiments are left behind. Any tribute to the otherworld, as I could experience by listening to the usutui utterances of shamans and priestesses, includes a phrase beginning with the word sûmiN, meaning longevity.7 At the end of the praying event, an exchange is fulfilled. The spirit has received all possible kinds of delicacies. The beseechers, on their part, have received an assurance for their lives. What follows next is a final prostration, a sequence containing 99 presentations of Great Worship (unpai ). In the latter act, the officiant pluralizes her prayer while she prostrates herself in front of a mound of smoldering incense. Her voice fades away and, after the final prayer is said, there is silence. A fraction of any display of ritual food is set aside for this specific maciri sandai rite. It includes, to repeat what was said above, a mix of steamed vegetables (nbusimunu), rice brandy ( gusiN), and a concoction of water and flour (tzûmiti ). I was strongly warned not to try to sample the meal. No part of this food gift can go back to the sacrificer. If it does, there will be no longevity. Death is certain. To eat tabooed sacrificial food is equivalent to soliciting one’s own death.

Fateful exchanges


There are two versions of this final act. In one alternative, dishes are emptied into a kerosene can incinerator. The contents are stirred with a stick, some splashes of rice brandy are added, and the whole lot is then ignited along with the final bundle of incense sticks and spirit money. In the other alternative, dishes are emptied onto a mound of sand serving as a support for sticks of incense. The contents are turned upside-down with a stick, then abandoned together with smoldering incense and paper. A sign speaks just as well in the negative as in the positive. Normality is re-established with this gift-destroying act. Allowing negative forces their say, distance between the living and the dead is restored. Curse and punishment Sentiments linger on in familiar places even after the death of those that once harbored them. Spirits of the dead or of any entity that might possibly inhabit wood, rocks, and soil qualify for gifts of edibles. Cuts of meat are satiating; they liberate the occupants of a house from ties to the dead and buried whose bonds with familiar surroundings have proved difficult to break. They also do away with what might remain of jealous sentiment in places scarred by activities aimed at obtaining wood, rock, gravel, and earth for construction purposes. The desecration either of inherited festival wealth, such as the objects of adornment worn by the sister goddesses, or of features in the landscape, such as old monoliths, result in issue of strong curses from the that-world of nunka. No words need to be uttered; the curses subsist on sentiment alone. It might even be a truer ethnographic statement to say that the Dunang make sacrifices, not to definable spiritual entities, but to lingering sentiments in definable locales. The gods are nebulous, the sentiments less so. Ritual plays on the umui, expressible feeling, that can be held in such places, and the display of raw meat on plates laid out upon the ground is made in order to fend off anticipated punishments. In the core area of the Yaeyamas in South Ryukyu, where secret societies exist in some villages, an idea of “sacrifice” is quite differently deployed, and the gods themselves are in no sense nebulous entities. In the beginning, I noticed that people reacted to my questions about “punishment” in quite a different manner than the Dunang. I was accustomed to a vocabulary of “curses” as insidious and inestimable “punishments” for any kind of possible misbehavior. Male initiates of the cults of masked spirits explained things for me. “Punishment” is the actual attack by the gods of the First Fruits Festival ( pûru), effected either with a stick or a whip. Besides, “sacrifice,” in the reflection of the cult initiates, refers to the following practice during the festival of the First Fruits (this applies to the cult on Iriomote Island): the most mischievous boy in the village is seized by gongbeaters belonging to the retinue of the high gods. They tell him that he is just the thing needed for a meal for the masked visitors from the otherworld. In this inversion of the Dunang sacrifice, there is no intermediation by “surrogate bodies.” Humans and spirits are able to face each other (the gods are named by the color of their masks) in a fruitful, but possibly also fatal, confrontation.


Fateful exchanges

I talked with Dunang islanders quite cognizant of these practices in places just across the horizon. They perceive the difference as the one which applies to life in the present, which matches their own version of the festival, and life in the past, which matches the festival on the other islands. In the villages of the secret societies, on the other hand, the awe surrounding these acts makes its way also into the moral disciplining of the entrants in the age-set of the young. Moral discipline is a source of pride, and the masks demonstrate attachments to founder houses. Yet common to views in both areas in South Ryukyu is a motif consisting either of blessings or visitations induced by gods appearing either out of the sky or from the bowels of the earth. A ndi shrine steward said to me that they are most likely to exert punishments, above all, for slurs cast on someone. Their vengeful action comes out of the blue, as when one might be engrossed in some work. The Dunang appease such entities with delicately presented dishes, and they embellish their words when making incantations to them. Compare this ethnography of sacrifice with Valeri’s emphasis on divisibility in the actual presentation: one part of the offering for the deity, another for the sacrificer (Valeri 1985: 38). The Dunang contravene this by making the sacrifice simply as they destroy it, even going so far as to place an interdiction on its consumption. We may go back to Hubert and Mauss (1964) for a further comment on the possible invariant features of sacrifice. Even when taking into account the rather scant ethnographic references for their comparative task, one easily recognizes similarities between their generalized concept, and the notion kept by the Dunang about the sacrifice as (a) an object for deflecting violent emotion, and (b) an intermediary for communication between the profane and the sacred (see especially pp. 98–9). Hubert and Mauss articulate their position on the mediating role of sacrifice with a dualistic assumption (p. 99): “Thanks to it, the two worlds that are present can interpenetrate and yet remain distinct.” Even if I introduce “two worlds,” namely the nunka and the sunka of the Dunang, I maintain, nonetheless, that observations of boundaries are simply partial statements. Our ethnographic work would involve a task of mapping out a fuller context: the enveloping sentiments may themselves be borderline values.

An evil spirit of the sea
Shamans of Dunang see it as their special task to name individuals that are accumulating debts with agents of the otherworld. A munuci fills an available bracket with implication, with a primary process indexicality. A debt-laden person is a person with a stooping physique. The weight of a debt works its way into the human body, bringing about a sagging profile. And remember the experience related above of pall-bearers feeling burdened as they transported a corpse to its place of entombment. In the sunka alternative, however (see Chapter 1), sagging profiles are felicitous, for they allow readings such as fullness/ripeness/multitude. A Dunang munuci asks questions like these: “Did you ever experience a sudden fright?” “Can you imagine any of your forebears being neglectful in his duties

Fateful exchanges


as an inheritor of mortuary tablets?” As in Barthes’s apt expression (1988: 187), she assembles “extended fragments of signs.” She keeps an image in mind of the bodily posture of someone deprived of life-sustaining souls, and she scans the gamut of situations and biographies for additional cues. The munuci suggests how to settle the matter first and foremost by projecting an idea of culpability, or stating the moral category that can be filled with any kind of illness, accident, quarrel, loss of money, or property loss. Personhood, as perceived by South Ryukyuan Knowers, is loosely or firmly integrated depending on the nature of the sentiment that includes it in the society of other humans and even of animals. Once a suspicion has been raised that someone has been struck by such strong sentiments as avarice or vengefulness, a fuller post factum diagnosis performed by the Knower details the indices with more precision. The logic is circular, of course, for the indices may as well prefigure the suspicion, as in western ways of healing attentive to symptomatologies. The patient is invited to take part in a calculated mnemonic exercise, the purpose of which is to reassemble all kinds of heterogeneous experiences attesting to the verdict. The shaman narrows down the alternatives by first asking a question like: “Why did your child fall ill at the time?” Normally, and as the munuci expects, the patient is dumbfounded. She then reviews the case as if scrutinizing a codebook of ritual obligations. Given the intricacy and frequency of usutui demands in the Dunang calendar of cyclical rites, some negligence of minor observances might well go unheeded despite, in my experience, most people keeping good track of crucial lunar dates. In the most ordinary encounter between shaman and patient, the neglect of some observance is given as the reason for accruing adversity. Debris of miscellaneous past events is gathered to reproduce a chain of events. Yet as curative rites are being rehearsed, most shamans offer few if any details on the spectacle of ghosts and spirits that underpins their conclusions. No theatrical enactments of the otherworld transpire in the Dunang case, the more so since it is not the shaman herself, but rather someone in her audience whose appearance is subjected to scrutiny while invoking spirit helpers from the pantheon of the island. In the following I shall retrace the developments of one such episode. I am recasting this from fieldnotes. They include the officiating shaman’s version of what was taking place. The male patient remained passive throughout the entire ritual. He hardly said a word, which is why I am unable to describe his version. I include, however, his responses as reported to another shaman on the island. An elderly female munuci kneels in prayer. A middle-aged man crouches at her side. She rubs her palms together energetically. The concentrated movement aids her in locking attention onto glowing incense, which plays a central role in the whole suite of sacrifices. The profile of the man kneeling beside her impresses itself upon her inner gaze as amazingly unfamiliar. A dwindling life-force makes its entry into her awareness: it lacks both luminosity and erectness. She decides to make an attempt to extricate her patient from an encounter in the depths of the ocean:


Fateful exchanges n’nitumi t’îtumi waitabaibi x nu binGa nu ugarati bagi naiburu kudu nu tuci niGai tzarita bagi tzaritaru uti ni dunu ni dunu tanka kuta naniGutu nansai minun’ki . . . Please see and listen This is about a man of x birth Uttering prayers of the year May nothing befall him as he heads for his tanka [intercalation]

The patient’s identity is alluded to simply by the name of his animal birthyear. In fact, the shaman addresses him only quite circuitously by way of his Birth Spirit. The word tanka in the last line appertains to a spatiotemporal measure for progress in the life-course or in a year cycle, as alluded to by the utterance “prayers of the year.” A man submitting himself to this ritual scrutiny is now thoroughly defined as a subject requiring watchful attention. A change of appearance – a noticeable torpor – suggests that his body is hosting a sentiment emerging from the “yesterday” realm: from the nunka. In the shaman’s glance, only a sagging posture, merely a profile, appears. The man’s lumbar spine does not really look straight. In the woman’s further observation, there is a peculiar bend of the neck. The ubudama, supportive soul, is suffering. No vigor emanates from his eyes. The mâdama, energizing soul, is suffering also. The first location of this ritual is a house compound occupied by the man at the time. His uxorilocal choice of residence adds a further complication to the matter. The second location is the compound of his previous house. The centric point of attention here is the nîbai, the erect compound stone slab. In a crucial parallelism to the situation of the man’s body, the upright stone in the house compound is itself an upright spine. It is a supportive agent, yet at the same time a mirror that can cast the rays of the sun against the face of a crouching worshiper. For the sake of healing, it meets both critical provisions of uprightness and luminosity. The shaman gathers such attributes necessary for a healthy life by facing the stone. She kneels and prays. The officiating munuci is a woman who – although she has been residing on Okinawa Island for some years – keeps to the island style of spirit invocation. Commending the patient’s constant acts of devotion, she now tries to extricate him from the pull of the dead. The man is joined at the site of invocation by his wife, who is the widow of his former colleague on a fishing vessel. The late husband drowned while diving with drive-in nets in another area of the archipelago. It appears that a ghostly adversary is refusing to relinquish his marital claim to the woman. Carnal desire was not wiped out by death. This interpretation was occasioned by the following incident. The ritual protagonist had visited another munuci first. According to her version, a dead man was clinging to the patient’s body. Waking up after having fallen asleep upon a tomb, he had experienced a sudden sense of dread, and decided to go straight to the shaman to ask for solace. In a paraphrase of this shaman’s own view, let me recount the process of fashioning an imagery. Before reaching this munuci’s house, the man had heard a crow squawking. He had encountered the ghost of his former friend. No, it was not the crowing of a

Fateful exchanges


bird, it was the dead man weeping. This woman had noticed the bird herself, as it descended on its flight across the rooftop of her house. What a sickly bird it was! Facing the man, she said, “No wonder you are horror-stricken. I must warn you. Something terrible has happened. You are coming here, and you don’t feel well. You have been sleeping upon a tomb. A crow descended from heaven. Can you remember the warning?” “Yes,” he recalled, “the crow was flying right in front of my eyes.” The munuci went on: “I see a shadow beside you. Shouldn’t you begin to prepare for some rites – gather some salt and rice?” At this point in the dialogue she turned to question him about the accident in which his friend drowned. The man’s face turned pale. She had asked if he was not afraid of the fishes passing by when diving in the sea. Facing the spirits of her house shrine, she could not stop pronouncing the name of the dead man. Now, back at the ritual to recapture the man’s spiritual doubles – his mabui – the elderly shaman who had come all the way from Okinawa to deliver the usutui words, enlarges upon the fundamentals of his present character. Her impressions are fashioned in a vocabulary of personhood. She recasts the posture of her client in the imagery defining the inactive state: the characteristic bend of the neck, a lax posture. A picture emerges of an individual deprived of sustaining life-force. What is dragging him to the ground is simply the weight of his own body. The protagonist wrestles with the ghost of his wife’s former husband. He feels sick, but no doctor is able to spell out the symptoms. Even his children may have lost their souls. Life-force fragments may have been ejected, one by one, in incidents fresh in memory of unexplainable sudden shivering. This is the second time the old munuci requests intervention. She continues to consider the outlook bleak. The profile of the man’s skull does not look too well. He must submit himself to acts of propitiation for the former husband of his wife until the 33rd anniversary of his drowning has elapsed. The munuci admits that it is quite demanding to retrieve souls of the drowned. One must call forth a picture of the location of the accident. Keeping the correct orientation, a live hen is brought to the shore and launched on a small raft in the appropriate direction. Soul doubles of drowned humans rest in seafloor crevices, with the nira female spirit. The intention of the rite now to take place is to exchange fowl for soul. But a simple one-to-one transaction does not suffice. The animated fragments of the sick person respond only to the most careful beckoning. Only the shaman herself knows how to make them respond to the entreaties of their legitimate host to return. While the nira spirit of the depths is treated to a live fowl, the souls accept a fare of ordinary delicacies, that is, a dish consumable by humans. To further increase the likelihood of success and the settling of debts, respects must be paid to the magistrate, busuganaci, of an important bureau in what is fashioned by a Chinese cosmology as a hierarchically ordered otherworld of officialdom – and also to the whole ensemble of possessive landscape spirits of Dunang. We have already witnessed the first line of this sequence: an invocation of the client’s Birth Spirit. But due respects are also to be paid to the architectural


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setting in which this focal act is taking place. The patient is an adopted husband. The munuci instructs him now to go back to the house of his natal family. Arriving in the compound, he begins by paying obeisance to the following entities: • • • • Family ghosts of the mortuary altar. House (physical house) guardian in the direction of Tiger. Fire Spirit, family protector, kitchen, located near stove. All sacred spots in the courtyard: gate, stone altar, well, and the four corners of the surrounding stone wall.

These are the cardinal realignments. The gate is the final place for an invocation. To fend off ghosts lingering there, the munuci places sprays of green leaves on each side, executing such exorcistic action while facing the road extending past the frontal area of the compound. The twigs solicit high spirits. Intrusive ghosts, on the contrary, are showed off through the gateway with some handfuls of salt: Words that the munuci now utters are ornamental, though not emptily so. An aesthetical reverberation of oratory cleanses the ground, clears away the elements of death. Incense sticks which she lights are the visual foci of her attention during the various rites that unfold. They are “flowery,” and so are the provisions of rice brandy, money, and salt: usutui . . . nanasai nu usû nu hana . . . kaGiurusi rjûGû nu kami nkai . . . I pray surf flowers of the seven fathoms . . . a spirit of the Dragon’s Palace [in the depths of the ocean] has been brought up and sent down again . . . x nu kinai utigara In the house of x x nu nasjaru aGami mana kandani . . . a child of x birth nni’uduruti t’îuduruti du anGa . . . mana is his name a spirit-seed with a surprise of eyes of ears . . .

Seven, a cardinal number in East Asian numerology, attains particular implication as an interstice in this crucial act of aborting a course toward disaster.8 To review the major occurrences I found of this number: • • • • Seven founder siblings of the island. Seven souls of the human body. 49 bones of the human body, as in the outline of 49 pebbles representing a corpse not yet recovered. Seven reaches to the spirit of a lower world: the nira.

Fateful exchanges • • •


Seven reaches to a spirit of spirit of an upper world: the ku’udiN (Polaris). Weekly post-mortuary rites on each seventh day, until the 49th day. Collective worship of the dead in the seventh lunation of the year.

Just as we noted a progressive and regressive thrust (a nmaridi and a kusati ) within each discrete life-cycle of individual existence, there are protectors and usurpers in a broader sentience, too. The ku’udiN of the Polaris is a goddess of naissance. She can be invoked as a savior of body souls in great danger. The nira of the depths is a goddess of demise. She can be invoked as one who can release the grip of souls heading for the death-world: anagakunaga naruta dunu ubudama-mâdama tuikuminu naranu nagagara . . . For a long time this High Soul and this Real Soul could not be held . . .

The patient’s situation thus identified, the munuci goes on to introduce the presentation of tangibles by numerical indices: nanacigumi nu hanagumi ba sindasi miN nu nanadaci nsagi nu hana mainasi saNbjakugozjûrokunici sutaru kunGuhana . . . usutui Seven sets of flowery rice have just been presented seven measures of water flowery beer together for 360 days golden flowers . . . I pray

While the munuci is engrossed in this detail of the visual complement of her address, a woman in the vicinity attends to the syntax of the rite. She cries out, kabianGu, “Ignite the spirit money!” The shaman ends her address: mataN utihiruGi . . . nanasai gara nditaru nandamasu . . . utihiruGi sagikubaN mitikubaN umaci ndasi diN nu hana ba ndasi dûdi’N nanzjûmaN nu diNnuhana ba ndasi Lay out again . . . lay out the salty treasures of the seven fathoms delicacies for the worship of rice brandy and beer are presented flowery ingots are presented full quantities of flowery ingots are presented

Items indexed by the number seven are valued as “treasured” and “flowery” in a decorative display of plates and trays of distinctive shapes. In a subsequent series of offerings, the denominator is now the numeral 12.9 An allusion to a multiplication of 12 is made in the stanza above with the statement of 360 days of prayers (the number of days in the lunar year). A square lacquer lunchbox is now brought forth, containing 12 items of each of the following items: flax,


Fateful exchanges

iron potsherds, cloth, and small bundles of rice grain. These are miniature valuables, once the centerpiece items in the economy of the Kingdom, now taxation articles under the realm the celestial busuganaci administration. Only the potsherds are delivered in the symbolic mode, offered as a substitute for ingots (but iron pots were among the most treasured items in the not too distant past). Other presentations are realistic miniatures. The shaman enacts the paying of tributes: bû nu zjûnikiN . . . kani’N nu zjûnikiN . . . nunu nu zjûnitaN . . . tara nu zjûnihjô tuisikuri arasi ba . . . Twelve strips of flax twelve weights of money twelve lengths of cloth twelve bales of first-rate rice have been prepared and displayed!

Now at the seaside location in the harbor, women assisting in the execution of the rituals exhort the shaman to step up the burning of spirit money notes. The scene is oriented toward the entrance to the lagoon. Bundles of spirit money line up on the ground. Their denominations are assessed; then the shaman consigns the exact quantities to the kerosene can acting as the furnace. Now the time has come to recuperate the departed souls. A woman standing at the side of the shaman exclaims: nda mabui tuiturai jô nidi gara ndai gara . . . Will you please grip the souls from right and left . . .

A lacquer lunchbox containing rice grains and knotted flax amulets soaked in water is brought to the water’s edge. Eggs are put on display, sufficiently evocative of a live fowl to serve in the exchange with the nira spirit. The life-soul of the head of a survivor in an accident at sea could be retrieved somewhere along the fissures of a subaqueous landscape of coral. The shaman’s patient crouches at her side. She beckons his souls. They are now in sight: mana mana mana oide nasai oide nasai oide nasai si si sui sui sui tîci tâci mîci dûci icici mûci nanaci dâci kuGunuci tû . . . mana, mana, mana please come here please come here Grip, grip, grip . . . One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten . . .

The shaman utters some nonsense syllable to capture the souls’ attention. Both mimicry and gesture demonstrate that the moment has come at last. With clutched hands, the woman reaches out for the invisible entities, fragments of the patient’s own life. With a quick movement they are caught and transferred to the bowl. The lid is replaced in the very same moment.

Fateful exchanges


Throughout the ritual, the man requesting the rather sumptuous display of festival delicacies and the benefactor of the elaborate action, submits himself to the supervision of the shaman. In the addresses leading up to the scene on the beach, he has been referred to, not by his proper name, but by the pseudonym of his animal year. When the rite draws to a conclusion, suddenly, however, the shaman discards the circumlocution. She voices her patient’s name, but in so doing, looks away from him, gazing and beckoning at the sea. She identifies his fractured self there, at a location some distance away from the beach. The man remains in a crouching position at the munuci’s side. His presence as a person, however, is only partial and conditional. Rules of spatiality defining personhood in the normal mode cease to apply. The profile of his physiognomy is not what marks off his presence or non-presence; it does not assign an exact appearance, nor a definite situation in the island environment. The shaman assigns the condition of his presence, a certain demeanor registered during the proceedings of the rite, as if he were not there. What follows is a counting of prostrations. The shaman, clasping and rubbing her hands, bends in a formal posture, and utters the numbers from 1 to 99. With this obeisance, a ubiquitous sequel to the usutui, a break in the ritual is signaled. The only task now remaining to be carried out is to transport the souls of the man to the place of his present residence, there to be reunited with his body. People lingering on the site are warned not to look back in the direction of the sea. As the nira female spirit comes close, humans must obey a rule to lower their gazes, and turn another way. The scene at the beach was concluded with the munuci closing the lid on the soul-box and showering over it a handful of salt as a measure of protection. The act of realigning the souls with their human host was carried out in a different village, inside the man’s present house. There, another large assemblage of food offerings, libations, and spirit money was unveiled. Prayers were recited before the shrines of the house. The decisive act was the unsealing of the box. Here is the scene. The shaman begins her dealings with her client by calling his name repeatedly in the fashion already quoted, exhorting the evasive souls to accept the delicacies laid out for them. Sniffing at the dishes, they can be kept quiet long enough to be caught. The pantomimic gestures made by the munuci assure the onlookers that the souls have been gathered and are now locked in her grip. She retains a hold on them by shifting them to an entanglement of knotted hemp-fiber amulets. The woman turns to her patient, who once again humbles himself in a squatting position. She splashes water from the box on his legs, the soles of his feet and on his forehead. The amulets are tied around neck, ankles, and wrists. A pinch of rice grains from the lacquer box is sprinkled on the top of his head, and an augury performed by studying their configuration. The response – positive in the shaman’s interpretation – reveals itself in the pattern. The woman reassembles the grains in pairs, with none remaining unduplicated in the circle she draws in her palm. One of this man’s children, a girl of about the age of 10, was given the same treatment. Children’s souls are more likely to go astray than those of an adult. A


Fateful exchanges

shudder is enough. They can prove fatal if they retrace the course back to birth, to a cavity. To avert this, the shaman captures the souls in a separate location – the toilet – which aligns the occupants of a house plot with the Polaris, the divine all-mother. As darkness draws on, an ambience can be created suitable for this goddess of the night sky. A pair of vases with fresh green twigs is placed within the access to the toilet. The shaman burns incense, and offers a few delicacies to attract the stray doubles of members of the family. I joined in this final part of the ritual, learning, however, that it was a very private affair. Finally, the moment has come to face the spirit of the tragedy at sea. The munuci takes her retinue to the house where the drowned man’s memorial tablet stands on a shelf within the ancestral altar. The circumstance of his death does not make him a likely candidate for regular enshrinement. But a record of his name within the world of the nunka must still be given. He must register himself as a denizen who belongs there, and only there. The shaman assures him that whatever possible provisions he might need, are now at his disposal. No more desires aimed at the living. This act of Dividing the Blood – between the woman and her late husband – punctuates the dealings. Sign action forms a matrix on which the map of a human life can be traced within a landscape. Mountains and humans join in a parallelism. They are conceivable in an image-work of curvature and luminosity. In this tradition of reductive imagination, personhood has a fleeting character. Self-expression is subject to a shift of tense: acting, or acted upon. “Heaviness” is not simply the metaphor of something burdening one’s life. It is, rather, the bodily sensation of being drawn to the ground. The image has an efficiency of its own, quite unaided by metaphor. Shamans are the interlocutors in the sharing of such sensations, and perhaps even the creators of many of them by virtue of their adeptness at rehearsing a dialogue-as-interview. I put more emphasis on this phenomenon of co-participation of interior lives than on any categorical identification either of the shamanic ecstasy or spirit possession. Shamanism, in my view, is a practice which imparts sign activity along an axis of self–other–object. It lends us a unique insight into primary processes. Whitehead describes a state of experience, a sort of immediacy, a receptiveness to what impinges upon the self. It lacks the normal, spatially extended, relation between subject and object (Whitehead [1927] 1958: 45–6): “These primitive emotions are accompanied by the clearest recognition of other actual things reacting upon ourselves.” Whitehead attributes a “heavy, primitive experience” to the periods in people’s lives when sensation is either strongly enfeebled or unusually heightened. Such states are manifestations of “primitive functioning,” “retreat from,” “expansion toward” (p. 45), fundamentally a condition in which causality enters as a fusion between contrasting modes of perception. A “primitive mode” enters into articulation with the spatially, more active, extension of the self. Shamans, if I were to generalize from my observations in the Ryukyus and in the Izu Islands, operate as interpreters of alternating states of euphoria

Fateful exchanges


and lethargy in the client’s interior life. Such alternating states necessitate a reversal of signs.

An evil spirit of the soil
Biographies of an island and of its people map events and their situation within the landscapes. Obeisance is paid where spirit pathways in the landscape converge upon such space-time nodes. Dunang rituals trace memory paths back to schismatic events in the past of the island. The Origin House priestesses’ simulation of battle scenes in kanbunaga festival of the cold season exposes, mimetically, the actuality of a place and an event. In the western perimeter of the Origin House compounds, a bidiri lithic marker remains as the index of an event in the past and a place to be accessed with some consideration in the present. The brandishing of mock or real weapons by the women officiants impersonates an ancestral vigor that still protects against onslaughts from the outside. Speeches given by male representatives of village associations sometimes allude to this continuous sense of finding shelter from the ikokuzin-taikokuzin, “people of alien countries/large countries.” Indubitably, when the utterances are made, there is little sense of Dunang itself being constituted within a “large country” as that of Japan. As a matter of fact, returning to the island and my rented farmstead after a trip, I was often greeted with the words: “Did you even go to Japan?” In fact, as I talked with people about this need for constant protection, the identity of the “aliens” was sometimes described as Japanese corsairs of centuries past. Such safeguards are iconized in various ways during the kanbunaga sequence of cold season festivals, first and foremost, in a woman’s sword dance. But another sword dance, at another site, invites a quite contrary reflection, that of replicating the vigor of ancestors who reached out for an abundance of territories across the horizon. One sentiment is negative toward the outside world; another sentiment celebrates its richness. Writings about South Ryukyuan religion frequently mention the sacralization of what lies across the horizon. But sentiments harbor double entendres, so there would be much scope, also, for another motif to gain ground: of depositing evils gathered within the island upon the island of andu – rather vaguely pinpointed as lying in a southerly direction as seen from the Dunang shores. Loading evil matter upon another territory becomes a motif both of the munuN agricultural rites of the growing season and the siti exorcistic rites later on in the year. Let me illustrate with a few lines from records of a conversation with the clairvoyant shaman who, as I said in an introductory note, helped me sometimes in my quests for understanding: Informant, reaching for a packet of cigarettes as the anthropologist (a Norwegian) enters. Is there a glint of alarm in her expression? Smoking impassively for a while before saying: “A schoolteacher told me you come from a land of pirates, and that they raid for fun.” Anthropologist, about the Vikings: “Yes, but that was a very long time ago.”


Fateful exchanges

In Dunang, time-space holds sentiment, and the ubiquitous marker for indicating closeness or distance is a standing stone. Yet a megalith does not quite match our own image of a memorial stone. It indexicalizes a past site of habitation, and it may symbolize some quality important for lives in the present, such as success in battle. Still, in its indexicalizing mode, it stands in the spot as a carrier of sentiment. A quality of the lives of people who inhabited the site lingers on even today. The index is still there. It reverberates into the present, imbuing the site, mixing with rock and turf. It is not the commemoration as through a symbolic sign, but the actuality as through an indexical sign, which imparts restrictions on accessing the sites and touching the physical remains in the form of monoliths and festival articles. Such felt quality can brought into the present and removed from the present by the “Highborn” (sûdaga/sâdaga) women of Dunang. While priestesses of island shrines and island Origin Houses engross themselves in matters of protection in these larger schemes of the island territory and a collective past, the Knowers – shamans – topicalize space-time convergences in individual lives. Common to both concerns, however, is an active, mimetic, reconstruction of an incident: not as a simple commemoration, either in the history of the island or in the biography of the individual, but as something that can be captured by onlookers as an actuality of the moment. Diachrony and synchrony coalesce in these schemes which are upheld by women’s knowing-as-inspiration. It follows that an individual life, in Dunang thinking, does not extend, with the past residing in dim memory. Instead, for the life events the Dunang shaman Knowers so keenly are scrutinizing, the past must be accessed in order to diagnose what sentiments it actualizes for the present. Links between past and present are sentimental links. To them – the munuci of Dunang – ill-fated persons may flicker as shadows across the ground. Persons are judged by their profiles. Looks are frigid or animated. At certain critical life junctures, words can be received about an estimated direction of life essences. For, in this shamanic insight, the present and the past can be contained within a single moment and within a single juncture in space. Life is itself an event, enveloped as it is by the contrary forces of sunka and nunka. The physical profile of a human body indexicalizes the life-course in a progressive or regressive sense. Comportment details include a recapitulation of crucial episodes in the life of the subject. Questions are typically raised about encounters made in physical space. Are the defenses, i.e., the stone fences surrounding the house compound, solid enough to withstand unseen onslaughts? Children’s souls are supple. They are prone to retrace a course from a birth cavity. As it happened one day, a little boy scaled a stone fence surrounding a village house compound in my neighborhood. He slipped and fell to the ground, but suffered only a small bruise. His aunt contemplated the incident, and advised the mother to prepare for a soul-saving rite. An auspicious date was pinpointed in the almanac for what was designated a nocturnal event. Entreaties in the usutui vocabulary would take the aunt of the little boy into a tenebrous interface with the nunka. Joining the mother and the

Fateful exchanges


boy, the woman proceeded to the spot of the mishap. This was a place along the northern extension of the stone fence enclosure. She ordered presentations of foods and drinks to be laid out between the base of the stone wall and the toilet. Sand was scooped up from the ground creating a base for the burning of incense and for a contiguity relationship with the exact spot of the mishap through an interstice. Trays with food, libations, spirit money, and incense sticks were laid out upon the ground, half way between the incense sticks and the crouching supplicants. Now, in the verbatim, the woman appends a cadence to her words. The prayers carry a distinctive prosody. It fills her vocalizations with almost a musical timbre: nditati waitabaibi uGamari ti’ndari waitabaibi sûnu ci î’ci abi’nuci kuGanici ba dûdi’N di . . . kunu hana ba ndasi ubutu gara agaraifutarai sû . . . arabana ja ndasi kî ikibana ja ndasi kuNguhana . . . icigu gusiN ba ndasi Please come out I join my palms in prayer on such a good day such a fine day such a golden day . . . These flowers are presented the bright and sparkling salt of the ocean . . . cleansed flowers are presented live flowers are presented nine measures of flowers five measures of beer are presented

The woman’s invocation calls upon denizens of familiar loci of the entire island. She alludes to an amplitude of the senses. By visual, olfactory, and gustatory means, she coaxes these agencies of insular landscapes to come to her aid in a soul-rescuing effort: dûdi’N di tzariru’N su’ja bici gutu ja aranu kunu x nu kinai uti dufu uti gara si ugarati nmadint’u nu agabana kandani munu bagaranu kutu’N bagaranu aigara agidja’N dunnarja’N nindu’N di du tzuru ja agabana ma kandani munu’N bagaranu kutu’N bagaranu nagagara dûdi’N di tzariru’N su’ja bicigutu ja ara nu I say, may nothing else come up in the house of x within its four corners.10 A red flower a Horse-born spirit-seed cannot tell one thing from the other, the only thing he knows is that at dawn he rises and at dusk he goes to rest. I say a red flower a spirit-seed cannot tell one thing from the other, may nothing else be said.


Fateful exchanges

The shaman officiant draws a character for her patient: the 3-year-old boy is a Red Flower. The vocative affixes a chromatic diacritic to identity. In South Ryukyu, childhood status can be made communicable with gaudy red dress, as when children line up in a mask procession celebrating the Maitreya Buddha. Another diacritic goes to the spatiotemporal coordinates of the personhood. Birth in the year of Horse (in the south) engages the boy with that zodiacal animal as an invigorating Birth Spirit of his body. Rat (in the north) becomes the complementary, supportive agent. This munuci tries to manipulate a spirit of the nunka already found responsible for abducting some of the boy’s physiognomic souls. She holds out some beautiful offerings and testifies that the boy was thoroughly intentionless in scaling the stone wall: ubuninuha ku’udiN ba tarumi Pleas are carried to the High Rat ku’udiN duhamui ba tarumi pleas are carried to the mounds of the four duNutinuci tundinuci’N tarumi kî corners11 kuribadu . . . pleas are carried to the Host of Gateway Host of Exit . . . Between these articulations, she alludes to a settlement that needs to be achieved with the dufunuci duNutinuci, Hosts of Four Corners and Gateway. The dimorphic quality of the human body matches the dimorphic quality of the house compound (for a comment on house–body parallelisms, see Røkkum 2003): in both cases the principal entities have matching, supportive entities. The officiating woman ensures that the primary locus of prayer is contiguous with the High Rat orientation of the compound, where the toilet stands. She wants to draw upon the soul-rescuing powers of its resident spirit, the female ku’udiN. In the axial arrangement of the house yard, the contrary, and therefore complementary, spirit resides in the south. Simultaneously, therefore, she pays her respects also to the genius loci of that direction, a Host of Gateway Host of Exit. Her knowing is sensitive to indexicalizing powers: she designates the age of 3 as a tanka. The lexeme is the primary spatiotemporal designation in Dunang culture. Whereas in English a lexeme like “point” needs the qualification “in space,” “in time” to render a precise meaning, a tanka designation may refer to age as such, and, with no less justification, to the spot on the ground marked by burning incense sticks. The praying itself conflates time and space, and the subject appears as signified by that larger context. Yet even a boy of 3 should be constricted by certain rules of conduct, or, rather, of movement as to certain forbidden places. But is he to be held responsible for trespassing? Let us recall that an analogy of “hardening” or “solidifying” is applied to the notion of nascent human life, as when a hearth made ready in the birth room. Red clay, when molded and exposed to heat, imparts that quality. The parallel image is that of a human body in need of vigor. During the span of a life, the question of the physiognomic souls’ firmness or hardness is raised at the tanka ages of 3, 7 and 13. The question is this: do the mabui, the souls, remain firmly within their bodily hosts, or do they hover around

Fateful exchanges


in the immediate surroundings? The little 3-year-old boy is at the first of the junctures in his life. The Highborn woman sees reason to enhance his vitality: kunu agabana kandani nmadint’u . . . This red flower kunu ubudama ja mâdama ni suidati kî Horse-born spirit-seed . . . kurariru’ndindu nagagara Now I shall clutch this High Soul and this Real Soul . . . Words which describe physical presentations as “golden” and “flowery” allay fear. The day is “beautiful.” A seed sown by the spirits germinates as a “red flower.” Now, in the continuation of the invocation, spirits enfold themselves in the woman’s gaze just as the landscape enfolds itself: dasiki ba hiruGi dûnifu nu kami nindudusu nu kami ucihiruGi tagijatagi ucihiruGi kîturiba urabudagi kunkidama ucihiruigi imbidagi . . . aNainu nu jû mo ucihiruGi nâtahama ciruhama ucihiruGi . . . nâta u’di’N . . . kataburuhama cirahama nuci’N ucihiruGi waitabai du usutui Lay out the house compound lay out spirits of the four corners and of the twenty-four places lay out the spirits of peaks lay out the urabu and the kunki mountains the imbi mountain lay out the aNainujû, too lay out the nâta Beach that white beach Please lay out the High Spirit of nâta [and] the host of kataburu that white beach

The magic in the moment is a sound-image that can be caught and held in order to re-establish a life-course within the landscapes of the island. The woman attempts to take on this expanded view. Beginning with the four corners of the compound, she gazes into the plurality of spirit loci of the island, which in a fixed utterance is numbered as 24. She pairs mountains and beaches. Within the landscape of the village now in full view, she focuses on a feature on the surrounding mountainous crest and on two localities along the south coast. She recapitulates features of the island landscapes and, in one location, she sees a High Spirit. This is the nâta u’diN – a genius locus of the village sanctuary (cf. Ouwehand (1985: 62) for the identification of a heroic personage with a similar surname on Hateruma Island). Having thus assembled the island spirits, the woman goes on with an entreaty for the little boy: nu’nu kutugutu aru ba’N kunu agabana ma kandani ja . . . ciburuci du aiburu munu’N bagaranu Whatever happens this red flower, a spirit-seed still unfledged cannot tell one thing from the other . . .


Fateful exchanges kutu’N bagaranu nagagara du dûdi’N di . . . usutui mi’uduruti tî’uduruti . . . mabui surindi aru nagagara . . . midari-kidari kimi waitabaranu’nki udiburi sudiburi arasi waitabari’ndi dô I pray . . . A shock for the eyes, for the ears . . . such is his soul condition: languor of eyes languor of mind let neither come true may wrists and sleeves be shaken

Born in the recent year of Horse, the boy’s head is still ciburuci, “unfledged.” The word refers to blood of the head, which is the trope in colloquial Dunang referring to a low-level of consciousness. As the boy slipped and was startled, he had the countenance of midari-kidari, that is, “dullness of eyes and mind.” The metaphoric testimony alludes to a ghostly encounter. Thus perplexed, the boy starts to behave like a ghost himself. But the shaman invokes the invigorating force. Her words reverse the image with another figure of speech, “shaking wrists and sleeves,” which refers to a condition of prolific vivacity. Throughout the oration, she plays on aesthetic metaphors. She makes food and valuables ready for an exchange with the spirit who carried away the mabui life-force. The rite is conducted as a sequence of exchanges. At stake is the boy’s body, on which the evil spirit has advanced a claim. The shaman’s task is to divert the attention of the spirit, tempting it with sacrifices both tasty and fragrant, and with sheets of paper, providing thus a denomination, a currency, through which the exchange can be carried out in quite definite terms. Now, to solicit aid in this enterprise, she widens her gaze: isami ba arasi nindu ba ndasi diciku hiruGi tiNciku hiruGi kunu indintu nu . . . kuguru gara sigata ba ugusi . . . rjûgû nu kami ucihiruGi ta’tinburu nagagara du dinunira utihiruGi waitabari (...) kunu indintu nu unnanmari bunarinmari nu . . . usutui . . . ugarati tagasakami ba usuribakagi dûdi’N ja dûnifu nindudusu utasi waitabaibi Rejoicing is revealed amounts [of sacrifices] are laid out . . . Lay out the realms of the earth lay out the realms of the sky [for] this Wild Boar person . . .12 Shapes emerge from the heart . . . lay out the spirit of the Dragon’s Palace lay out the [earth] (?) nira . . .

This Wild boar person. born as a woman born as a sister . . . I pray Imbue her with the awe of the High Spirit [the Polaris] Spirits of Four corners and 24 Peaks I beg you

Fateful exchanges


The officiating woman identifies herself as a “sister.” Her actual status, however, in an Origin House cult group in the island, is that of a spouse. In people’s reminiscences, she had opted for assuming the cult leadership, exerting her powers as a “sister” all through her adult life by reason of quite awe-inspiring appearances during the kanbunaga ceremonials. At one event at which I was present, the enacted drama of the past appeared more as a contest between two women, one as sister another as wife, each with a stake in the affairs of the House. Now she has come to the point in her incantation where the entity threatening the boy’s souls can be spotted. As may be expected considering the image of children as being liable to retrace their steps to a cavity of birth, narration reveals that the culprit rests within the ravine of kundiN. Its locus is computed every year by consulting the Taoist almanac, sometimes by requesting the services of a geomancer: ugarati . . . kundiN-nu-ana’N aru nagagara mi’uramisa ki’uramisa aru nagagara. From the abyss of kundiN gazed with avarice listened with avarice.

A ravine in the otherworld shelters an adversary coveting something among the living. It is this sentiment of avarice which caused the soul-loss. The officiant implores this spirit of the kundiN to release the soul of the boy, identified through a binomialism as the Thought Soul Little Soul (umuimabui-kumabui ). In another trope, it is a Real Soul of the eyes. It works in tandem with the High Soul on the top of the head. The soul matter will now be fastened to the boy’s body by means of knotted flax amulets. No more shall that soul go on careering around in the house compound: usutui . . . gusakudu cin nu kuhuN tuimatumi irikuba irimi waitabaibi sû gara nu sátijata gara nu sátija midari du ataiburu kidari du ataiburu acidarusa tidarusa du ataiburundidu kutu’N aramiwaitabaranu’nki (...) mabui tzuikumi ku’ba . . . udifurasi waitabai naniGutu nansai arami waitabaranu’nki tarucjan . . . nmadint’u . . . I pray . . . May [the souls] enclose themselves within the 49 bones. From today on languor of body languor of mind . . . may not a languor of legs and hands result.

May this soul be gripped and enclosed my wrists be shaken may nothing else come up! taru . . . born of Horse [in the year of the horse]


Fateful exchanges ti nu hira ni . . . dûdi’N ja . . . mabui nu ucikumari’N du burundi’N du kutu’N arami waitabaranu’nki . . . kunu dufu ni . . . ta’ti nuguriburu’ndi arami waitabaranu’nki â usutui . . . dûdi’N ja . . . irimi waitabaibi . . . may your soul be caught contained between my palms may nothing else come up within the four corners of this compound may nothing be left behind I pray, may it be enclosed . . .

Now is the moment for the officiant to enact the soul-catching action: umuimabui ja kumabuija tuikumi ja waitabaibi dûnifu nu kami nindudusu nu kami . . . usutui. taginisaN murinisaN . . . tagi nu tagitagi nu tagi’N utihiruGi du ta’tijaburu munu du a’taru tiNja . . . mabui ja tzuikumiruba iru ja kaNnuiru mutasi waitabari dubada ja gàri ni mutimabui waitabaibi naniGutu nansaiminunkidu kunu nmadint’u nu agahana ma kandani ja . . . dûdi’N ja tujumasi waitabari’ndidu . . . usutui May the Thought Soul and the Little Soul be caught may the spirits of the twelve places of the 24 hills of peaks and woods come forth

Let the souls be caught may a divine complexion be achieved may the body gain protection may nothing else come up for this Horse-born spirit-seed may this plea resound Please accept my worship!

As the invocation proceeds toward a conclusion, the shaman steadily expands her territorial scrutiny, from the house compound where the accident took place to the entire landscape of the island. She anchors a single personhood within inflated surroundings, affecting it with speech-acts with a reality of belonging. Now, in the end, she retraces a spirit path route around the archipelago, imploring the spirits to lay out sacred territories before her eyes. She identifies mountains of Okinawa Island, Miyako Island and the Yaeyama Islands. Finally, she returns to the familiar place-names of Dunang. Sanctuaries generally known in the Ryukyus as utaki are “mountain” places. Even single individuals are affected by these linkages within a wide span of landscapes and seascapes. A nexus extends beyond the island. A partnership discloses itself to the woman, with other places, other souls: kunu agabana ma kandani . . . mabuinu tuimatumi ja This red flower, this spirit-seed I catch and close up his soul

Fateful exchanges kunu dufu ni ka’titumi du aru tuikumarirun’du buru’ndi du kutu’N arami waitabaranu’nki . . . dûdi’N ja . . . sû nu ci îci abici kuGanici ni . . . n’di . . . kumeru mabui ja gather it within the four corners of this compound do not reveal that catching and closing up [the soul] cannot be done! Caught [the soul] on such a good day on such a fine day on such a golden day


The woman clears the balances. What follows is an enumeration of the treasures of ingots, rice, and cloth available for a swap with the spirit adversary. A layout of offerings right in front of her shows how these treasures are itemized in miniature replication: (...) kunu agabana ja kandani nmadint’u nu tarucjan . . . umuimabui kumabui ja . . . sû nu ci abici hikiwatasi waitabai dûdi’N di ja . . . tujumasi . . .

This red flower this Horse-born spirit-seed . . . taru, may the Thought Soul and the Little Soul be caught and passed on today on such a fine day may that resound . . . [I] worship

She kowtows at this final point of the invocation. The exact number of these unpai is uttered. In this finale of the performance, she reassembles the spirits of the island. The gloss delivered by her usutui, prayer, reinstalls them within permanent locales. These are the ultimate appeals: naniGutu nansai arami waitabaranu’nki . . . usutui dûnifu nindudusu tuicirabi waitabaibi . . . kunu nmadint’u nu agabana kandani ja mabui nu tuikumarirun’du ta’tiburun’di . . . May nothing else come up . . . I pray may inspections be made by the spirits of the four corners of the 24 peaks May the souls of this Horse-born red flower remain firmly in place!

This marks the end of the invocation. Women well-wishers who have remained crouching behind the shaman throughout the event begin to tidy the sacrifice site up. The shaman, however, lingers behind, talking gently to the little boy.


Fateful exchanges

She reiterates the main issue: that devoid of any kind of intent, he had climbed a stone wall. A delicate zone had been crossed, but he will not have to answer to those in higher places for his act. The Highborn woman extricates her little patient from the consequences of soul-loss. With the help of territorial spirits, she broadened her gaze so as to envisage a direction within the boy’s life-course. In this state of inspiration, she assembled the poetic attributes of various sensations and sentiments. This woman is not a native philosopher whose critical terms we might translate into our own language as “immaturity” and “non-intention.” Her mindset subsists entirely on the parallelisms of primary process images and of some metaphors. In that sense, she is a Knower among the Dunang islanders, and a poet.

An encounter with a root force
Strolling through the village one day, I found a man trying to pull an ebony root out of the ground. It was growing in a spot in his compound where normally a sacred stone would have been standing. My arrival was an excuse for a break for tea and some reflection on the work. My conversation partner was an émigré from another island in the Ryukyu archipelago. He had married uxorilocally, on Dunang, managing, however, to become a titleholder to a homestead purchased by his own means. He was the owner of a house site. Still, he continued to feel strong attachment to his birthplace. So when his wife became ill, he traveled back to the other island to converse with a shaman he trusted about the hidden matter of the disease. For healing to be effective, the shaman needed to know the circumstances: what sort of deficiency could lie behind his wife becoming sick? Back on Dunang, he contacted two shamans. Their impression was that his wife’s physical profile had changed. She must be encumbered by something. He was also worried about a particular dream, of moving to a new house, but however much he traveled in the right direction, no house appeared before his eyes. Moving to another place in the village was actually a decision he was faced with as a result of plans issued by the island authorities to turn his plot into a construction site. Present family ills were found to have been caused by the omission of the former owner to execute the Soil Release prior to leaving the compound. An evil spirit had infested the soil. No nîbai upright stone remained after the former owner. So my informant had planted a bird’s nest fern (Asplenium nidus) in the location where in a luckier circumstance a stone altar would have been standing. During the conversation, he asserted that this was a plant whose leaves do not easily wither. It had a vitality that would serve his family well. Nearby, he had planted a hardwood variety, an ebony tree (Diospyros ferrea). The resilience of that tree was another thing he had thought carefully over. But as it now turned out, the good effects of these very tangible indices of much-needed qualities had been defused. The unlucky emanations stemming from the Soil Host were seeping into the area. The hardwood would no longer solidify his wife’s mabui, souls. No more could he trust the goodness of the ebony.

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A sponsor had turned into a usurper, and his wife’s bodily energies were now, instead, being sapped by the ebony tree. Besides, even with the nîbai standing stone of the former owner removed, a Soil Host familiar of that man was found to be creeping around. It had now, my informant told me, allied itself with the ebony, or rather, its host. The latter is an anthropomorphic character peculiar to trees. The Tree Spirit (kinunuci ) is a male whose metamorphosis into a spirit causes amorous advances to be rejected. Ultimately, he was forever confined within an arboreal ambience: his arms forever stuck to the leg of a tree by the vengeful action of a displeased woman. Tree spirits have insidious intents. Given their humanlike proclivities, they may be thought of as true adversaries. At the time of my residence on the island, another man, before demolishing his house to build a new one on the same plot, decided to do away with a particular tree lining a field across from his yard. He lit a fire at its base, and knocked several iron nails – indispensable accessories in encounters with tree genii – into its trunk. Spirits of ebony trees are particularly forceful. Instances are cited by the islanders of strange mishaps befalling men as they transplant wild hardwoods into their own courtyards. These are minor commercial dealings. Curses are said to flourish among those who grow hardwoods. Deaths are recorded as punishments for alienating the tree spirits from their familiar, verdant surroundings. Recognizing this spiritual efficacy of the ebony, to repeat what was said in a previous chapter, men who worship stars on the night of the full moon of the eighth lunation cross a pair of ebony chopsticks on top of a bowl of red rice-flour gruel. The woman for whose benefit the present action was taken had the courtyard inspected during the Interstitial Festival. Recall the description of the siti procession in which a woman asked the munuci about her husband, who was away working at the time. Now, the immediate task at hand was to vacate the plot to comply with a request from the administrative office on the island. Moving one’s place of residence involves a most critical passage. The genii residing in domestic spaces must be safely assembled, transported, and familiarized with the new surroundings. The Dunang deal with this by employing a shaman capable of supervising each step in the process. Normally, the spirits concerned are the family ghosts, the spirit of the hearth, and the individual corporeal guardians. They are all well-enshrined spirits, and therefore easier to deal with. Other, more waywardly disposed existences are told never to intrude any more upon future members or activities at the abandoned plot. The couple had been advised by another Knower, and also by a male geomancer, to implement an orderly evacuation of their plot, along a direction that would not transport them into the abyss of kundiN. To repeat, each lunar year has its own disastrous direction. In the instance now considered, the geomancer calculated the ravine to be somewhere in the direction of Snake. But no decision on the purchase of a new house compound could be made within the time limit set by the geomancer. It was impossible for the couple to honor his advice to observe a quarantine period of at least 25 days before making the final decision concerning the most suitable environment to live in. The geomancer therefore had to accept the urgency of the case. He offered the couple no more than a


Fateful exchanges

specific date on which to move, with a condition attached: that they did not move into a house made available to them by a brother of his wife. If they moved in the direction of that vacant house, the couple would head straight into the abyss. Another house, owned by another brother was, however, found by the geomancer to stand right in the most fortunate direction of the year. And as that house was occupied by myself at the time, I received a visit. The husband addressed me in a very solemn tone, required when important matters are discussed in a face-to-face relation. The partners to the verbalized transaction bend their knees and maintain a rigid posture on the floor mat; one straightens his back, keeping a steady eye on the other. I witnessed this particular encounter being enacted on ceremonial occasions. The greeting is most likely a form of dialogue still in use since the age of the Ryukyu Kingdom. This was the request: would I consent to the couple setting up a temporary domicile right behind the house I was renting? Having no trouble in finding an alternative place to live, I suggested vacating the house. However, I was soon convinced by the man’s reasons for actually rebuilding his house temporarily in the compound. He did not want, not even for a brief period of time, to abandon his own quarters in favor of some belonging to someone else. He intended to retrieve from his demolished house the materials necessary to set up a makeshift structure. With matters thus settled, the following activities enfolded. The munuci Knower now involved in solving the matter had decided that the operation would begin at 6 a.m. in the plot to be vacated. But at the last moment, she changed her mind, requesting all articles for the rite transferred to the new plot. This was a bad start to the day. She had expected someone to call at her house, but had to leave for the prayer site all by herself. On the way, she found the main benefactor of her ministrations, the husband, idling away his time chatting and drinking tea with my neighbor – her nephew. Her countenance was commented upon by women of the village, who were joining in to make preparations for the rites. They had experienced such grouchiness before. But such wayward disposition, it was commented, could be just another message from the otherworld. After things were cleared up, the shaman went to work in the old house plot. First of all, there is an announcement to be made regarding the couple’s birth guardians. This is a statement of vitae, and, as such, a preamble to a ninuha’umjâ address to celestial places of north and south. The munuci scoops up sand from the surface of the courtyard, fashioning three incense holders for the southeast and three for the northwest. With this index, a marker is made with a twofold purpose: (a) to invoke the island spirits of the respective regions, and (b) to invoke the luminaries of sun and Polaris. Next for attention are the sacred loci of the former dwelling, of compound corners and of the toilet. Six women from the neighborhood are now assisting in the execution of offerings. What remains as the crucial action of the day is the relocation of spirit tablets to the new house. (The tablets had also previously been moved, I was told, from the husband’s native island.) In order to protect the sun from the polluting effects

Fateful exchanges


Figure 4.5 Collecting bones of the dead

of death, the officiating munuci instructs the wife to carry an umbrella above the head of the husband as he carries a wooden box containing the mortuary tablets through the doorway of a shed still standing in the plot. Consider for a moment the implications of this act. I recorded the umbrella maneuver, as an aspect of a larger complex of mortuary arrangements, in the following instances as well: carrying provisional spirit tablets in the funeral cortège and taking from a mausoleum an urn containing bones that were assembled in a previous, secondary burial (see Figure 4.5 for another instance of this kind). A definite purpose is given: to shade – not the person standing beneath the umbrella, but rather the sun – from the darkness prevailing in the otherworld and the impurities held by such darkness. The shaman decided that darkness indeed had to be combated along the route to the new house location. Here is what happened. The husband produces a torchlight, but the shaman says it will not do the job. Instead, she insists that I drive an automobile to transport the mortuary articles. I listen to her directions: “Turn on the headlights. Drive straight to the destination.” Charms of knotted rush straw are carefully laid out upon the wooden trays containing the ritual items and food offerings, which are now in the automobile.


Fateful exchanges

One charm is suspended right above the steering wheel. The shaman, requesting an unhurried ride, seats herself at my side. As I emerge onto the village road, she opens the window on her side, and directing her gaze outwards she yells a spell in a shrill voice. She can sense the avarice emanating from roadside spirits. But the charms placed over the sacrifices contained in lacquer boxes in the back of the car will keep them at bay. They should not be able to creep up on the souls enshrined in the mortuary tablets. She showers the roadside with handfuls of salt and raw rice. A few people along the route deduce the character of the mission; they halt, and retreat back into their houses. While this protracted act of exorcism is carried out, I am told not to drive straight to the destination, but to take a detour along the fence of the compound belonging to the wife’s brother. This man, in fact, is the owner of the new compound. The following scene unfolds in the compound I was occupying. The shaman Knower divides the tasks of preparing the various items for the rites. To begin with, green leaves are washed. They will play the role of Cleansed Flowers (araibana) in cups. The cups also contain rinsed rice. The couple’s Birth Spirits will benefit from this arrangement of the sunka. The cups are arranged in pairs, one containing five leaves, the other containing four leaves. The husband starts to sweep the ground at the gate, but is quickly summoned by the shaman to perform, instead, the more urgent chores associated with the ritual preparations. Now, while the women assistants start working on the enumerated tasks, the husband is asked to carry around trays containing the sacrificial items, and even to perfect already completed sacrificial arrangements. One set of lacquer trays decks the inside of a shed, but the munuci changes her mind. She calls out the husband’s name in a shrill tone, ordering the items to be reassembled, then transported to yet another spot. She complains at the slowness of the work. In early afternoon, an announcement is made that the rites are to be concluded. Other urgent ritual tasks need to be done before the day is over. With a quick glance up toward the sun, she asks me (Figure 4.6): “Is it two o’clock already?” I confirm, checking my watch, “Yes almost, it is two minutes to.” The protean character of the Knower’s conduct mimicked a similar state of mind in the otherworld. Yet likeness was proving somewhat deficient as an icon. Her posture did little to inform about any otherworldly feature: unlike a priestess of either the k’a or bunai kind (shrine or House), she was not a goddess for the duration of a ritual. Still her pose was quite effective in imparting to the situation an otherworldly sentiment. People may themselves be signs, as in the Peircean view, and in the case in question, sign behavior was slanted toward the index. No further speculation about the nature and character of spirits may be necessary in a context in which the shamans divulge matters to the extent thus quoted. Through her conduct, but without acting in the way of a “medium,” the woman enacts a mimesis of things in the beyond. She indexicalizes the sentimental conditions of a realm of yesterday with her own verbal and bodily performance.

Fateful exchanges


Figure 4.6 Dealing with a Soil Host

This Knower, however, is keenly aware of her own capriciousness. She makes the following announcement: “No one shall take offense, for my words come from the spirits!” The route itself to the land of the dead is layered: there are seven steps to the sky and seven reaches in the realm of watery caves. The otherworld itself is divided into ranks. The governing motifs echo the grand analogies of Chinese cosmologies, where this-worldly and that-worldly domains are inversions of each other. The gloominess of the nunka is a tiered ambience: Dunang gloss identifies a tax-collecting personage there as the suru. This subjection to taxation is a central theme in Dunang recollections of their past; it keeps alive a Chinese motif of negotiating one’s fortunes with the other world by cash prestations. The idea among the Dunang, as among the Chinese, is that incineration transfigures the sheets of paper into authentic money, carrying the converted currency by smoke into the coffers of the Celestial Treasury. This is the assumption made by Hou (1975: 98) in his study dedicated to the topic of Chinese sacred currency: “. . . la fumée dégagée par les papiers-monnaie en combustion s’y transforme en argent véritable et parvient de la sorte dans l’autre monde.” Now the shaman, showing the utmost concern about her own schedule, enacts quite realistically a bureaucratic displeasure with minor infractions. Fortunes were not settled for the couple by moving into the new precincts, and another shaman (the protagonist of the Interstitial Festival soul-viewing) offered her interpretations. These would highlight a geomantic configuration. Too many compromises had been made when the makeshift dwelling was set up in the cramped locus of my backyard. Therefore, another rite had to be


Fateful exchanges

executed to rescue the loose souls of the couple. A propitious day was found in the almanac, and a full address was then made to the entire sub-universe of the temporary location. Stray souls were retrieved at the toilet, and knotted fiber amulets were fixed to the couple’s bodies. A visit was made to the tomb area of the village to present a dish of uncooked food. Culprits had been identified and isolated. They were the Soil Spirit and the Tree Spirit. Still, to cover any further possible detrimental effects, a full address had to be made to an ensemble of powers. In the meantime, the couple shielded the entranceway to their house by displaying the following exorcistic device: a plate containing a quantity of salt with a pair of scissors placed on top. It now turns out that the new compound layout, in the view of the new shaman, is no less skewed than the previous one. The arrangement of the old compound, according to the judgments of three different shamans, had been severely deficient in two respects. One, the toilet had been positioned right on the Rat–Horse (north–south) diagonal. The correct alignment would have been a few compass degrees to the northeast, toward the Ox. Second, the occupants had neglected setting up a nîbai stone upright. The layout of the new compound made a mess of the angular and axial categories. An invisible track from the Tiger-direction vase occupying the northeastern corner of the new dwelling did not reach its destination in the northeast corner of the compound, but interfered with the spatial integrity of the toilet. The other crucial linear extension from the house corner did not reach its destination, the nîbai, but collided with the rear wall of the main dwelling. And still worse, the Tiger–Monkey line from the corner of the northeast to the corner of the southwest was distorted by the installation a waterpipe and a watertap. This organization had been manipulated by myself for having showers on the mud floor inside a shed. The latter impediment to good health was repaired, somehow, with an improvisation that readjusted the course of the waterpipe. Eventually, in order to shorten the walking distance to her brother’s house, the woman, with the help of her husband, had removed some stones from the northern compound wall. In the judgment of the munuci, this maneuver was wrong. There was a rule stipulating that passage to and from the compound must only be made in the southern area. Still there are variations worth noting in the application of these rules. In fact, part of the reason for the failure of the compound arrangement may be that, as an immigrant from another island, the husband had not fully heeded an adage about calculated deviations when planning the house compound. The following relations are contiguous, but invite disaster if they overlap even slightly: • • • Toilet with reference to the north–south diagonal. Stone altar with reference to the ridge of the house. Gate with reference to due south.

In order to balance the circumstances, one of the shamans reviewing the case recommended that I articulate the following prayer when using various facilities

Fateful exchanges


in the house yard, including the toilet: “Please forgive me. I am simply renting this plot. The owner was mistaken. May I receive your protection until everything has been duly repaired!” Eco (2000: 14) reflects on the “presemiotic” or “protosemiotic.” This, in his words, is a “primary indexicality . . . something we set against the general background.” I assume that suffering, as in the case of illness, is a good example of a cause worthy of attention. Where shamanism is involved, semiotic activity is at the forefront of healing activity. A root force exemplifies this interface between what alerts us, calling for immediate attention, and what is routinized through past interpretive activity. Yet the generative sign of planting the ebony tree in lieu of setting up a prayer stone stretched an analogy too far. Although seconded by a parallelism, notably a shared hardness, as it turns out the ebony saps the vigor of the wife’s body instead of injecting resilience. A sign works as well in the negative reading as in the positive, and this realization at the level of the Peircean interpretant had not been sufficiently made when the relocation of the tree from the bush to a house compound took place. The owner of the house compound planted the tree in recognition of its resemblance-across-a-difference. He was not bound by a realistic representation, for – from an early moment – he was already manipulating signs for the purpose of healing illness. At the level of a Peircean firstness, he recognized that a tree might serve him as an upright stone might serve him. The clues to this possibility were near at hand. In Dunang, ebony is interchangeable with iron, as chopsticks are with scissors, for deflecting evil attacks on the body. So at the level of secondness, there would be a supposed interactivity between a tree in the compound and the body of this person’s wife. Planting the tree would possibly trigger a (beneficial) response in the body. A parallelism makes an icon: a tree becomes a special tree because of its resemblance to an upright stone. Another parallelism makes an index: the actual growth of the tree in compound soil aids his wife in a quest to invigorate her body. This is a highly specific quest, however, not supported by any rough and ready “beliefs” that I could pinpoint among the islanders. An impressionistic firstness shades off into an equally impressionistic secondness. Yet on the level of generality – thirdness – we find a cultural latitude in Dunang that enables them to extract the maximum effect from such vague affinities. One example: garlic cloves and spider conches are suspended in house entrances to ward off evil attacks. Pungent garlic penetrates subsoil. A spiked spider conch is a natural tool for attack. Both instantiate attack by means of natural resemblance and by means of assumed effects. Signs of this kind subsist on images drawn from nature. They demonstrate how intimately icon and index work together in projects of raising human attention. Icons and indices work in tandem. The garlic instantiates attack against evil by means of its pungency and growth characteristics. The spider conch instantiates


Fateful exchanges

attack against evil by means of its weapon-like appearance. But even such matterof-course associations – commonsensical associations even – are supported by culturally authorized rules, for example, that objects with hard surfaces work well for weak bodies. Here we encounter what in Peirce’s terms would be an interpretant activity. A mimesis of moral qualities becomes a mimesis of natural qualities. If evil in many guises, such as ancestral curses and ill effects from uprooted trees, evinces a shared characteristic of movement then, of course, it can be vitiated by counter-movement. Sentiments become easily manipulable in the process. The shaman trying to better the circumstances of a couple did not need many metaphors for her speech acts. For the sake of healing, it was sufficient for her to bring together image attributes and image coincidences. The husband, who had uprooted a hardwood tree to transplant it within his compound, activated unknowingly one of its particular attributes – resiliency – to work in favor of spirit matter in the subsoil. The ebony tree itself began releasing the icon of a disease that began to sap the vigor of his wife’s body. Her symptoms turned into indices of weight: her posture suffered from this. A motif of entitlement to the ground held the cultural rule, sustaining a symbolic sign. Sentiments were retrieved from such natural images of an ebony tree bereft of its original habitat. Later on, when the wife forged a passageway through a stone wall to reach her brother’s compound, after having moved to a new location in the village, she inadvertently actualized the image of the house belonging to her brother although her husband had set up an independent dwelling. Another set of images, one passed on from the geomantic tradition of the Chinese, allows clear readings to be made, as the identifiable interstices brought upon a situation of suffering. A parallelism links compound architecture and the bodies of the inhabitants. As one of the inhabitants of the place, I was subject to such readings myself.

Preparing for a stately journey
Early in the period of fieldwork beginning in 1976 I rented a farmstead in the ndi village, and myself now a householder, I joined my neighbors to maintain good relationships with the dead and entities of nature. I wish to stress that it was simply the coincidence of inhabiting a Dunang house that made me part of such activities, and that made me vulnerable – just like my neighbors – to things from the otherworld. I could be exposed to visitations of some kind due to the uncanny arrival of some living species in my compound. That seemed to be the prevailing opinion in the village. But in one instance, I turned out to be a lucky person, not quite within the reach of a vindictive ensemble of the dead. My arrival at a house compound and the fresh slate I carried became the occasion for building a new palanquin used for transporting the corpse to the tomb for interment. The object was invariably named by circumlocution as the Precious Implement – tagaraduGu. Whereas a mortuary tablet standing in a house altar is the posthumous sign of a person of an identifiable genealogical status, the artifact now to be introduced

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brought up the question of ties between the living and the predecessors of the villagers en masse. If, as the elderly claimed, the catafalque of the village was as old as 150 years, there remained a possibility that the people long dead might be still be clinging to its walls. The Precious Implement of that purported age had to be replaced. Constructing the vessel For the past ten years, the villagers had debated which house yard to use for the construction work. Their predicament was that no new death palanquin could be made without using the old one as a model, because none of the carpenters could use a drawing. And with hosts of souls presumably still sticking to the vessel, no one was willing to invite a work party into their house yard. Then, with the arrival of an anthropologist, the village representatives decided that his ghosts were not among the quantities of unhappy agents refusing to release their grip on the catafalque. So my courtyard was chosen for the replacement work. It was to be organized by the current village headman, the dumuti, and executed by my neighbor in the adjacent compound to the west. The village made available the money and materials, and my neighbor – the master carpenter – quite unenthusiastically as it turned out, prepared himself for the job by trying to recruit a work team. But as one after the other of the possible candidates produced excuses, the carpenter started voicing his doubts. Wouldn’t he be quite unqualified for the assignment? His thoughts, which run like a semiosis with indices in the making, proceeded with one motif redoubling its force by being nested into another. He noted that the fixtures embossed on death catafalques portrayed dragons. As he himself had been born in the year of the Dragon, he insisted that the potency of the dragon would be double. Things might then run quite out of hand. And, what would happen if the work, which was scheduled to start late in the year, dragged on into what would be a year of the Dragon? People in the village stressed that it was a hazardous undertaking under any circumstances. To be carried out safely, it would necessitate attention to detail only otherwise required for the kanbunaga rites of renewal. Not simply the technical skills, but also the particular circumspection appropriate for completing the project had to be recollected from sayings of the past. Shreds of memory had to be assembled by conversing with the very oldest in the village. While the funerary implement itself could easily be made as a replica, there was no simple way of determining which emotive keys should characterize the event. Was it a happy occasion calling for a celebration of a gaudy-colored new funerary object, or was it a sad occasion calling for the disposal, not only of an old wooden box, but also of the sentimental ties it embodied? The carpenter now declared that he was acting only in line with instructions from the village headman. His own involvement was of an entirely passive kind. With this provision, the old death palanquin was brought into my house compound to serve as a model for the one to be built.


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This became both a sad and happy event. Accordingly, a decision was made in the village to arrange both an exorcism and a celebration. Reminiscences of several generations were sorted out; eventually conflict broke out among the villagers regarding the right requirements. As it turned out, each participant took the necessary precautions to bolster his life-force by having an invocation staged to the benefit of his nmaridi, Birth Spirit. What remained somewhat undecided, however, was whether the occasion called for a large-scale propitiation of the diGaranuci, Soil Host. Would it be necessary to suspend a taboo rope (buhan’na) around the enclosure where the work was going to be carried out? A middleaged munuci of ndi (see A walk in the dark in Chapter 3 in which a woman heads a soul-spotting procession) said: “Should not the occupant of this house be properly protected? True he comes from far away, but our spirits reach out everywhere into the world, and he has his own Birth Spirit to care about. He might be affected.” On the night before the work was scheduled to begin, a celebration took place in my courtyard, with the attendance of male villagers, including the headman and the work team. Let me now reconstruct what took place in the early hours on the following day. Recovering from dealings with death The carpenter is awake at 5 a.m. When his father’s sister, an elderly Knower, and myself enter the house yard, we find him immersed in prayer before a stand displaying the provisions for his Birth Spirit. Coke bottles acting as vases for croton sprigs are on display in the reception room of the house. These are the carpenter’s own soul vases (kandin) (see Figure 1.9 for a view of the kandin). They are festooned with knotted hemp amulets, which will later be tied around his neck, wrists and ankles by his paternal aunt (see Encounters with a root force, in which the same woman presides over a relocation of mortuary tablets). Her involvement attests to the uniqueness of the occasion. She asks for the floor mats to be removed, then, while showering handfuls of rice grains onto the ground below, she utters words of exorcism. She faces a subversive Other – the diGaranuci spirit of the ground – head on. Even as the village headman gathers the work team in my courtyard, the carpenter is still loath to leave his house. He reveals to me that every night for the past few weeks he has been woken by a dream. He dreamt that his own face was imprinted on the sides of the palanquin. With this image weighing on his mind, he is suffering from toothache as well as from a headache. He fears the envy of the specters of the dead, but even more, “words coming out from the mouths of the living.” Inside my courtyard, the old palanquin is standing in the southeastern area, on the right when entering through the gate from the outside. To begin with, a simple purification is staged. The carpenter, who now appears, molds an incense holder by scooping sand from the ground near the palanquin. With incense sticks having already been lighted, he performs the purification rite by sprinkling salt and rice brandy on each side of the parallel bars of the bier.

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What follows is a sequel to the party which lasted until the small hours the night before. The carpenter acts as the host. Leftovers of food and drink from the previous night are gathered, and the celebration drags on throughout the day. No work is done. The above-mentioned munuci, talented in spotting souls, monitors the affair. She reminds me of her predictions of just a couple of months ago. During a tour of inspection through the village on the eve of the Interstitial Festival, she had given a clairvoyant preview of the activity now unfolding in my courtyard. She assures me that there is really no danger to think of, and that I have all reason to feel relieved now since she can verify the nature of the activity. But why are people so frightened? She asked, continuing: This is simply a wooden box. It shouldn’t cause peril to anyone – if only the correct precautions are taken, that is, to request the permission of the Celestial Host, the Soil Host and the Gate Host. It should even be considered a treasure of this village. Why are people so hesitant to welcome its entry into their courtyards? Indeed, when the new palanquin is ready to be dedicated to the village, a person of the highest esteem should be allowed to take a ride in it, joining a procession to the burial place. A new palanquin was ready to stand beside the old (inside the house compound I rented) after approximately a month’s concerted effort. Again an exorcism and a celebration had to be arranged to cover both extremes of sentiment. The village representatives consulted a geomancer (sanziNsô ) from the north coast village about the rules for the ceremonial.13 The following was to be done: the physiognomic souls of everyone involved in the project would have to be gathered at the house of the headman, then brought to the site of construction, and again back to the village headman’s house. A great exorcism was then scheduled to take place at the house of the headman on a day found by the geomancer to be particularly auspicious in consideration of the delicate nature of the project. But this sanziNsô excused himself from actually visiting the site of the activity. This being the situation, there was no other option but for the village headman to shoulder responsibility for the requisite rites. Another of the visionary women in the village – the headman’s mother – would incant prayers suitable for the occasion. What follows recounts how a parting with the ensemble of the dead in the village takes place. Even villagers with only indirect knowledge of what had transpired in my courtyard came with quantities of spirit money, sticks of incense and bottles of rice brandy. But the one who made the initial exorcisms for the construction work – the master carpenter – was absent. Meanwhile, the officiating woman invokes the spirits enshrined in the ghost altar of her own residence, a dâmutu – Origin House – in ndi village. The tiers of the repository for mortuary tablets are bedecked with candles, offerings and libations. In compliance with the inversed architectural blueprint of Origin


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Houses, the altar with these relics of the cult of the dead occupies the rear of the bi-partitioned frontal area, along the western extension of the house. The headman’s father ignites sheets of spirit money which are then disposed in a kerosene can for incineration. Each sheet is marked with the spirit currency of the House. A low table has been set up to carry a double set of offerings to the headman’s souls. The visual arrangement communicates a double notation. Focus is on the spirit of birth, an animus and, also, the non-animated, supportive agent of the opposite direction. The officiant turns to another house shrine, the da’tugu, that is, the niche extending from the ghost altar toward the end of the room. Here, she intones an address to individual guardian spirits of house members, and to her own guardian, the spirit once passed on to her as an initiate of the water cult, and, finally, to the spirit of the wooden frame of the house (Spirit of the Tiger direction). To conclude this opening address to the spirits that possibly have relevance to the situation, she repeats the call to the birth-year guardian of her son. This privileged recipient of life-invigorating spells has gathered bundles of spirit money, cash donations from himself and other beneficiaries of the rite. He opens the packaging and flings the sheets into the kerosene can for instant incineration. While he is attending to this, his mother brings a bowl of water. It contains a few rice grains and knotted hemp amulets. While chanting in a pitched voice, she throws a few handfuls of rice into the water. The invocations continue with words uttered for the benefit of the birth guardian of individual participants in the rite. Water is splashed on people’s head, wrists and feet. Hemp amulets which have been thoroughly soaked are tied around neck, wrists, and ankles. The woman concludes this soul treatment ceremony with a firm clasp upon the crown of each beneficiary’s head (Figure 4.7). With this, she identifies a crucial site of the life force, which she thus repairs, just in case it might have gone astray while working on the palanquin. This part of the session concludes with her winding an amulet around her own neck. In an addendum to the soul-catching activity, the woman of this Origin House fetches, together with an amulet, a paper packet containing soaked rice. This separate item is placed on a tray of offerings, later to be fetched by someone who was obliged to be absent from the ceremony. I could not quite confirm who this person was. However, someone who was conspicuously missing was the master carpenter. Now as the crucial liturgy of life force transference is brought to an end, people dismantle the visual arrangements. The officiant walks into the adjacent kitchen where she invokes the Fire Spirit of the Origin House; she offers just a pinch of salt. To complete her round of obeisance calls, she moves out of the dwelling into the courtyard where the Well Spirit, a Fire Spirit of an outside kitchen hearth, and other subsidiary points of observation of domestic space are each heeded with a prayer. Although the Origin House is separated by several rows of houses from the palanquin construction site, the officiant voices a full address to the resident

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Figure 4.7 Soul-catching action

spirits of the House. These spirits are sunka denizens and agents of cultured life in the island, and would, in the normal manner of soul-saving rites, be quite out of consideration. But now, with their environment possibly under threat from nunka agents of the “yesterday” realm, high spirits need to be placated as well. The officiating woman prostrates before these spirits at what is a sanctuary within a house plot: three monoliths joined together in an area cordoned off from the rest of the compound by a low stone wall. A prospect ranging from the single entity of animated personhood to the wider expanse of the island and its culture heroes has been completed. The worshipers have reached the compound gate. Here, in the middle of the gateway, a heap of coral sand has been formed as an incense stick holder. Smaller heaps of salt remain on each side. The rite ends, and with this final arrangement, the compound is sealed off from nunka activity. Some men lingering at the gate exchange toasts. Libations of cupfuls of liquor, a slightly fermented rice beer, and water are poured over the glowing sticks of incense. Offerings at the various prayer sites are turned upside down. Salt is sprinkled along the circumference of the well. Other possible harmful characters still lingering behind the compound walls are challenged. The headman shoos them off, effecting their disappearance by throwing handfuls of rice out through the gate.


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A ride worthy of a king An auspicious day was chosen for what was announced to be a great celebration. An incense holder is shaped on the ground in my courtyard to placate the Soil Host. The new catafalque stands ready for inauguration. Images of dragons, peach flowers, and birds adorn its vermilion sides. The carpentry work relied on the use of the old palanquin as a prototype. Its presence inside my courtyard had caused some concerns in the village, but now it could be affirmed that the work had been accomplished without serious accident or sickness. No bad luck due to this unfamiliar sight could be noted. There was another good cause for a feast too. The inauguration of the death-palanquin, if the sayings of the past are to be heeded, demands the attendance of personages of the highest rank. Formal invitations to the inauguration celebrations had to be presented to politicians and schoolteachers. So the exorcism aspect gave way to the celebration aspect. Dignitaries can only be invited if there is something to celebrate. It goes without saying that they cannot be invited if there is something that needs exorcising. In fact, it was thanks to the memories of the village elderly that one of these notables was selected to play a leading role as a mark of the ceremony’s prevailing key – of enjoyment. At this point, a happy sentiment was beginning to gain precedence because it was predicated as such by a course of action (I have already pinpointed such cognitive activity using the expression “self-fulfilling prophecy”). Iconic imaginations were at this point on the verge of being reprocessed as indexical signs, to make realizable with a good amount of certitude the one instead of the other outcome. Recollections on the correct procedures for inaugurating a death palanquin had made it incumbent on the village leaders to find someone, ideally of high social standing, to take an inaugural ride in it. It would indeed be a stately journey. As I joined the work team in my courtyard there was some talk about who could be asked to take part in inaugurating the palanquin. It was taken more or less for granted that the highest-ranking man in the island would be happy to accept the honor of be being carried to the tomb area of the village. Could he possibly decline treatment worthy of a king? As the days passed, however, with no confirmation arriving from the island dignitaries, ideas for candidates became less socially discriminating. When, in the end, I was asked, I found reasons, as good as those of everyone else, to say no. The candidates for such an honorable appointment as King of the Day had reservations about the regal cortège. They would not accept a metaphor for metaphor’s sake, like simply recasting a grand procession of former days. They felt that a mimetic act of this nature would co-opt the other events. Accepting an invitation to ride in the palanquin would therefore be tantamount to inviting their own demise. So the image – the primary process artifact – along with its indexicalizing power, would hold sway. As the preparations proceeded further, I asked someone in the neighborhood if the arrival of the corpse vessel would not upset the few ailing old people residing along the route, considering the present mayhem. Absolutely not, was

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the answer, quite to the contrary, they would find it greatly amusing. On her part, the shaman in question invoked realism: “Isn’t it just another wooden frame?” But the rest of the villagers are quite unable to cast off other connotations. While the shaman – who is skilled at manipulating images – looks at what is going on with a sense of detachment, others cannot free themselves from the force of an eidetic parallelism. To ride in a death palanquin is not just a way of imitating regal personages of ancient days. It is an attempt to make something happen in the future. The impersonation would not simply enact the past; it would just as well act upon things ahead. This was a moment for tacit knowledge to be distinctly articulated, of a sign with a dual nature. But the exegesis was incapable of balancing the implied contrarieties: the wooden box brought a death connotation. The association held sway over the interpretations, determining which sentiment would prevail in the end. It was announced now that a buhan’na, taboo rope, needed to be quickly tied around the catafalque. But in the formal addresses of the inauguration, it was repeatedly emphasized that it was truly an occasion of enjoyment and great celebration. Here is my verbatim report. A cortège lines up at the gateway of my house compound. In recognition of the joyful occasion, the schoolchildren have been given a day off. The school brass band lines up inside the compound, facing the gate. Men of solid standing, including several officials from the island’s administrative office, follow in line after the mayor. Then come the schoolteachers, and making up the rear, the ordinary villagers – myself included (Figure 4.8). The master carpenter is not here.

Figure 4.8 A lighthearted exit


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While the brass band strikes up a favorite tune – and a drummer beats another rhythm – the pallbearers lift the palanquin carefully up from the ground. The music and the garish children’s costumes leave no doubt that this is a lighthearted journey. From the gate of my courtyard, a procession meanders toward the tombs. But the course is not set straight for the destination. First, a trip must be made all round the village. En route to the tombs, the pallbearers are admonished not to relax their grip. The palanquin must not touch the ground. The direction taken is along the main road, to the eastern end of the village where, near the lagoon, the road ends at a breakwater fence. From the latter location a view extends toward the eastern horizon. While turning in the direction of the necropolis of the ndi village situated near an inlet toward the west, a member of the palanquin retinue (the man I introduced above in An encounter with a root force) lights a torch, sweeping it along the road, preparing some illumination for the spirits who eventually will embark on the same ride. Having arrived at the tombs, the notables – who had been walking in front of the cortège all through the village – indicate what is now the proper action. They crouch behind the headman’s mother – the woman in charge of the ritual component of the activity. She ignites incense sticks, which they fix into an incense holder of sand. Others follow suit. Preparations in motion for the final act give people a chance to gather around the new death palanquin and admire its features. Now comes a moment for reflection. The elderly tidibi, caretaker of the ndi shrine, says it is a pity that no one volunteered to inaugurate the palanquin by accepting a ride on the route from my house to the tomb site. There is no reason to fear, he asserts, that taking the ride would reduce anyone’s life span. (At which a man standing near me said in a hushed voice: “What a magnificent implement this palanquin is. But if possible, one should avoid going for a ride in it.”) The tidibi proceeds with a review of the situation. The beautiful palanquin attests to the civilized method of corpse disposal among the Dunang. He asks people to think about this, to contrast their practices with what prevailed until quite recently on another island in the archipelago (which he names, and which, incidentally, is the birth place of the man in An encounter with a root force), where they just abandon the dead, launching them out into the ocean without further ado.14 As prescribed by the practices revived for the occasion, the old palanquin must be transformed to ashes. Charms (tzutza), made of knotted leaves, are fastened to each upper corner. The wooden box is then immediately set ablaze together with materials left over from the carpentry work.15 Meanwhile, the headman’s mother has made a sand incense holder a small distance away from the bonfire, in a seafront location. Here, with a view of the horizon and in the direction from which the wood for building the new palanquin came, she distributes on a lacquer tray a variety of offerings and libations. The following combination determines the character of the ritual:

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Iron potsherds, wrappings of rice, bundles of hemp fiber, and flakes of white paper: 12 of each kind.

In the usutui spell, these items are introduced as ingots, rice stipends, yarn, and cloth – assembled as reparation for the unsolicited attack on distant forests. Twelve, to repeat, is a cardinal number in Chinese numerology. Prayers are enunciated for the payment of a Wood Debt (kinudai ). On another, identical tray, these are the contents: • • • Twelve small, round cakes, made of unsteamed rice dough. A cup of the tzûmiti (“white miti ”) exorcistic concoction. A big piece of raw pork.

The cakes of dough are inedible for humans, but digestible by entities believed to be closer to nature, such as the anthropomorphic Tree Host (kinunuci ). The potion was identified above in this study as an insoluble mixture of cold water and rice flour. The libation contrasts with the viscous, authentic rice brew consumable by humans. The meat is a big chunk placed upon the ground. It is absolutely not fare suitable for humans. With only the charred remains of the old palanquin left comes the final part of the inauguration of artifact that will replace it. The new palanquin is stowed away at a cemetery storehouse. As the doors are being shut, a taboo rope is quickly hung around the outer walls. With the storehouse thus sealed off against outside onslaughts, the woman officiant initiates a period of merrymaking. Male villagers bring out a drum, a double-membraned horse-skin instrument, the body of which is made up of a hollowed-out trunk. I join in the dance to drum beats, taking part in the tonal cadence of happy abandon. Rice brandy and festive dishes are spread out upon the ground. While these preparations for a picnic in a Dunang necropolis are being made, the invited dignitaries excuse themselves saying they have other appointments to attend before the day comes to an end. But the feast goes on, and the happy state rules in the end. The end of the journey Sentiments, even in western readings, are double entendres. They are held by individuals, yet in discourse they can easily be portrayed as collective. We may speak of a sentiment proper for an event, and we may read such sentiments on the faces of, e.g., condolence callers. Emotions, to compare, are less tuned to occasions than to situations. We describe these instances of people being overcome with emotion. We can speak of a dominating sentiment, but with more difficulty, of a dominating emotion or feeling. The inauguration of a new catafalque and the disposal of the old one called for a display of sentiment, but not of emotion. For the cravings of the specters clinging to the old catafalque were pre-eminently emotive in refusing to release their grip not only on the catafalque, but maybe


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even on the living descendants. Any uncontrolled outburst of grief during the event might have locked someone in an embrace with a ghost. Dunang sentiments, such as care and compassion, to recall earlier chapters of this book, are firmly incorporated in mythically or historically situated events. An idea of a civilizing past is an idea of a civilizing sentiment. A reflective old man, the tidibi caretaker of the ndi shrine, did in fact remind the assembled villagers about this, producing as a contrast the not-so-civilizing sentiments on another island. But despite the manifest pageantry, including a brass band from the primary school, the participants were not entirely comfortable with what was the ritually indexicalized sentiment for the day: enjoyment. How, then, can this sentiment be accommodated with the evocation of an entombment? In a quite different context, commenting on the life and death concerns of her clients, a middle-aged munuci of the tumai village on the north coast said this to me: “On this island, we may even think of death as a happy thing.” She was aware, however, of a need for extreme reserve when dealing with death. In her words: “What we may fear is the sudden death, and unfulfilled desires carried over into the afterlife.” In the adverse instance, the deceased turns into a demon, that is, an Evil Thing (madimunu). I sometimes noticed an ambience of conviviality among people gathered around the house, waiting for the departure to the cemetery. A meal can be savored. While the wailing still can be heard from the inner quarters of the house, children move around the courtyard with funerary paper flowers, receiving sweets which are also dedicated to the afterlife. But these are not close relatives of the departed. Attendance follows the bilateral extension of kinship I outlined earlier, with no definite limiting range. Hurried genealogical inquires are sometimes made upon the notification of a death on the island. This was the case once in ndi village, when the message came that a man had died in the tumai village on the other side. A munuci contemplated the possibility of kinship. Was not the deceased a son of a sister of her own departed husband’s mother? Having received information from the sister of her departed husband, she gave the affirmative answer herself, rushing off to the funeral. Non-native, but long-time residents of the island originally from Okinawa report as bewildering the predominance of happy tunes in contexts where they themselves would expect expressions of mourning. This, as I now shall explain, can be attributed to the force of parallelism. While a loud wailing is heard when a corpse is moved from within a house to the courtyard, happy exclamations should announce the return of a king to his castle. The corpse is itself a king – for the day of interment. A form of tacit knowledge underlies this sentiment: a fear that the mimesis of corpse-asking may not work. Recall what was said in a subdued voice by a bystander as the tidibi announced the governing image: a ride in the palanquin is a ride into death. A similar rearticulation was exemplified above in the case of a retrieved corpse treated as if it were a timely catch of a big fish. The nature of ritually-staged pretense is genuinely frail: one reading easily shades off into another.

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The royal personage is remembered in the island for his association with the sun and for his seclusion inside a castle in a grove at the hilltop of Shuri. And if we look back into extant records from dynastic times, as I did in a previous work (Røkkum 1998: 60), there is indication that his appearance in ceremonials identified him as otherworldly connected. When New Year audiences were given for higher officials he sat behind a vessel holding glowing incense sticks. This – his ancestral poise – is what indexicalized his remoteness. He was not the subject igniting incense, but the object receiving it. In Dunang today, the corpse is, likewise, an object of receiving incense, as when it lies on display during a wake. A funerary palanquin is a Precious Implement. In the fuller image, it is a spirit boat. But however magnificent the utensil, what it encases – the corpse – is capable of polluting the biological environment, and even the sun, I was told. It then follows that the deceased should be carried to the tomb in a fashion that avoids contact with open air and ground.16 The following account shows what might happen if this precaution fails. Once, making ready to leave for the burial ground, the pallbearers lost their grip. As the palanquin sank to the ground, the mourners felt startled. The sensation did not emanate from the weariness of their own bodies. What they experienced was that the corpse itself was becoming heavier and heavier, weighing them down. Hardly anything more uncanny could have happened. If a corpse is to be carried along the village road, it must be encapsulated within a wooden frame, ensconced in a coffin of plain timber, which is further encased within the ornate palanquin. The palanquin must unfailingly be spoken of as a Precious Implement. As long as the deceased is kept in place, no spirit matter will seep out into the environment. When in the past a high personage, a local aristocrat, or even the king, was carried in a sedan chair to conduct worldly affairs, he would be similarly encapsulated. But in the former case there is a reversal of perspective that allows for a change in the value of a sign vehicle: the wooden box does not protect against the spiritual effluvia that might emerge from within, but rather against what comes from the outside – emanating from the social environment. High personages of the Kingdom were tida’nganaci, Sun Lords. They were themselves agents for diffusing sunlight upon their subjects. When the corpse, in Dunang exegesis, is a King for a Day, it is carefully lifted from the ground, just as the former sovereign of the archipelago was when departing on a tour of inspection among his subjects. In the same perspective, and as a corollary, the most unfortunate way of dying is by drowning, that is, by being weighed down, carried over to the otherworld by downward movement itself.17 In ordinary circumstances, it suffices to think of the deceased in an existence apart from the living as being ensouled in the mausoleum and in a memorial tablet. But, what with the wayward disposition of the dead, they may just as well be clinging to the catafalque walls, refusing to let go of the vehicle that brought them to the tomb. Despite the opportunity of employing a munuci to voice possible grievances of the dead against the living on one of the weekly, post-mortuary memorial days, no one can be certain that the profuse display of offerings to


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stave off these cravings will have actually achieved its end, that is, to rebalance any imbalances. In one exceptional instance, this question was raised with reference, not to the individual dead, but to the whole ensemble of village ghosts. By incinerating the old death palanquin, the souls would have no vehicle with which to re-enter the village. By sealing off the entranceway to the storehouse with a taboo rope, they would be prevented from heading toward the new palanquin. The following account taken down during a post-mortuary ritual illustrates how cravings can linger on. Once, during a post-mortuary ritual I attended, a sense of eeriness arose a when a sister turned ventriloquist as she held a farewell address for her dead brother. All those around her urged her to sing a happy tune. It appeared to me that striking the lighter mood was a culturally valid option to combat an approaching otherworld. Let me add just a brief excerpt from a nighttime elegy inside a Dunang house. It is not just an outpouring of emotion. The mourner narrates a relationship. The sister retraces a life and its difficult relationships. A conflict between the sister and the widow comes to light, as do vicissitudes related to House property. Sister, a woman in her seventies, talking in the voice of the dead elder brother: “Had I only lived a few days more, I might have told you everything. I wanted to let you know everything, but now you had better try to work things out among yourselves.” Sister, in her own voice: “Even if I wanted to go into the otherworld [myself ], there is nobody there to receive me. The help of x [the ritualist in Encounters with a root force] is necessary. Please, may this connection between me and my elder brother be severed! It suffocates me!” Someone in the vicinity: “Your brother is blaming you just because you have not said it all.” The sister: “My jaws are locked, I cannot say anything!” She chants, but it is not a happy tune. The words inflate the address she is already making. The first strophe: “I went to the x village as a bride . . .” She reaches a high pitch, and those around her call out, ndiwari! “Let it come out!” The dead can be thought of as upsetting the relations among those who live on, inflicting such rupture in relations as just indicated. I sometimes heard that the dead cling on to the living and to their possessions. I took part in post-mortuary activity for cutting ownership ties: actually, by dividing the possessions among the mourners and, symbolically, by apportioning tombside turf cut by a knife as field land. The symbolical transport of the corpse out of the sway of such particular relations and toward the apex of society makes it a king for one day. A ride in a royal palanquin is one of excellence: Ryukyuan kingship in its posthumous guise is brought out in this association. From now on, there can be no more dialogues with the corpse, and ordinary reciprocities should cease to exist. The inauguration of a new catafalque ought to have been the occasion for reproducing the master design of the parallelism corpse – king. Some islanders were found worthy of impersonating the king himself. But they refused the offer. One indexical string displaces another. A journey worthy of a king is based on “a ride in a palanquin” as metaphorically valid as a paraphrase of a “a stately journey.” But in the opinions of those who rejected the offer, it was not the

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symbolic journey itself which counted, but rather its indexicalized destination to the perimeter of a tomb. They were alarmed at the possibility of a contiguity made vivid on this level of reflection, drawing them even farther into the nonordinary, precipitating, as it were, a premature death. So a feast was staged among the crypts to combat the sombre moods of the otherworld. An attempt to invite someone to enter the sedan chair fails, but the notion of kingship is sufficiently evoked. Readings on a catafalque wall Built structures on Dunang indexicalize values through their compass orientations and landscape alignments, but they seldom bear any ornaments. Figures painted upon the sides of the vermilion death palanquin are an exception to this restraint in portrayal. A parent Chinese tradition is very much in view. In Chinese color classification red is an attribute of vitality, specifically of infancy and virginity. Red is, besides, the color of the south (cf. Eberhard 1986: 248–9; Watson 1982; Wolf 1970). The red dye of a Treasured Implement contrasts with the undyed character of other funerary paraphernalia. A relation between the Chinese originals and the Dunang readings enables us to see why something that symbolizes happiness as richly as the color red and the gaudy decorations is to be found imprinted upon a piece of funerary paraphernalia. The feature begs for a comment, for in our western common sense just as well as in the common sense of mainland Japanese, it is the monochrome white or black which befits the sentiment of somberness on a site of mortuary activity. But let me first make one provision. I do not hold that the Dunang readings mime those of the Chinese in any simple way. They might even reverse the precedents. For instance, while the Dunang read the imprints of cats or hens at a tomb as distressing evidence of a ghost’s “discharge” (a negative value), the Chinese read them as evidence of a “welcome” (a positive value). Dragon ornaments on a palanquin witness a tangible link between the corpse and celestial potentates. Among the Chinese, this emblematic association is called forth by dragon embroideries on wedding dresses. For the day of her wedding, a woman is an emperor’s consort. Metaphors in either instance – a Chinese wedding or a Dunang funeral – converge in a sign of transition. A Chinese marriage is expected, of course, to be a happy event; yet, as suggested by Freedman (1967), the exclamations that accompany the departure of a bride in her vermilion sedan chair on a circuitous route to the husband’s house may sound like loud wailing. So a bride, despite the enjoyment of the occasion wails as if at a wake. A Dunang funeral is, of course, a sad event; yet the corpse is taken to the mausoleum in a gaudily decorated, vermilion sedan chair. So a mourner, despite the sadness of the occasion, celebrates a happy departure as the deceased sets out on a journey. For a corpse is indeed worthy of the displays of jubilation showered upon the king himself.18 The corpse is a King for a Day. The master carpenter shared with me some reflections on this motif. Master carpenter: “There was a personage like that at


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Shuri [the castle town on Okinawa Island].” Anthropologist: “The king of the nation?” Master carpenter: “Yes, and he was someone somehow connected with death. Therefore, with someone’s death, the connection must be recreated. The flowers on the palanquin sides are flowers of the last stage.” The dragon of Chinese mythology is a creature of the east, of the sunrise and of the spring rain. Still, very much like the double entendre I have described as characteristic of Dunang imagination, it revolves around an association with the west, with the tiger, and with death (Eberhard 1986: 83). It is a symbolic sign of and for life and of death and, as such – as a sign of entirety – it belongs to cosmology. Peach flowers that embellish the walls of the Dunang catafalque play similarly on mythical enigmas. They are flowers of longevity, but the originators of such decorative styles might possibly have known that they originate in the “peachblossom cave” (Eberhard 1986: 228). That particular cave is a coffin. Femaleness, which is the yin of darkness, is also implied in this semantic field. In Dunang, the omega-shaped Chinese-style tombs are spoken of as wombs. Birds tend the grave of a primeval emperor, and they assist in the care of the corpses of the pious, embedding them in feathers and earth (Eberhard 1986: 39). Still, the embeddedness of the symbolic sign in its original context of imperial extravagancy does not manage effectively to disguise the underlying sentiments associated with death and decay. The suggestiveness held by indexes holds sway: it is not the retrospect but rather the prospect which interests people. In the Dunang mortuary arrangement on the 49th day after death, a fowl with all but a few tail feathers plucked out stands erect (held up by sticks) in front of the ancestor altar (Figure 4.9). Stray birds entering people’s living quarters are harbingers of misfortune. Such traces of activity take the attention toward something. As in the case of the Chinese wedding, where the destination is the bridegroom’s residence, the procession centering on a vermilion palanquin follows a circuitous course. It is held aloft all the way to the place of interment. According to Freedman (1967: 16), the bridal procession imparts an experience of transition. It is a matter of etiquette, for a Dunang corpse and for a Chinese bride, to avoid contact with the ground for the duration of the journey. In contrast to the Chinese wedding, there are no lanterns suspended along the walls of the Dunang sedan chair. However, with the impromptu ignition of a torch by a member of the cortège, the path toward the destination is adequately illuminated. Let me again extend an ethnographic parallel. In Freedman’s analysis (1967: 18), the redness of the sedan chair and of the bridal clothing is another way of expressing the notion of light and fire. Sixteen years after the reconstruction of the death palanquin I learnt that the names of the village headman and the master carpenter had been inscribed on its walls despite their lack of enthusiasm. Notwithstanding the assurances of a man of learning on the island that there was no reason to worry, the master carpenter was now, from the vantage point of the present, telling me about a road accident that had almost crippled him.

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Figure 4.9 A heavenly messenger

So in the end, the images that held a cluster of aesthetic metaphors gave way to a bare imprint. Indexicality prevailed as the more lasting effect in the semiosis.

The final moment: body for body
In one of the myths I introduced above, a self-sacrificing ancestral hero concocts a soup of his own bowels for his sister. The sisters of today’s House festivals ban the meat of animals in sacrifices. An inchoate exchange offers no escape from congenital nihilism. Male behavior is often quoted as disruptive. In Goddesses, Priestesses, and Sisters (Røkkum 1998), I cited the views of women on the disruptiveness caused by men’s occasional negligence of purity rules. Somewhat paradoxically, then, as I showed in the section above, mortuary styles establish nonetheless a male pre-eminence with the mimesis of corpse-as-king. The domain itself of a that-world – the nunka – is in fact, as in the Chinese tradition, populated by Court officials. But even in the female-dominated sunka activities, I found allusions to maleness, if not, however, in the present sense of roles and offices. Within the Dunang kanbunaga complex of cold season rites, presided over by priestesses who are staunchly defensive of purity values, the following takes place on the night on the final day. A torch, a long bunch of rushes, is ignited. Priestesses join hands and dance, clockwise, around what in giggling comments by youngsters joining in the merrymaking, is a giant penis. I joined this circle dance in two places where the


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festival was being held, one of which was mentioned above as the tumujâ tuni House. An image of the self-combustive penis punctuates the 25-day quest for fertility and protection (cf. Chapter 1, Reproductive partnerships). This iconized phallus releases the symbolic sign of a male fertility also connoting death. A somewhat similar scene is enacted as a nocturnal conclusion of the fertility-promoting rites of the secret male societies on an island in the Yaeyamas. Here, in the core of the Yaeyama Isands, impersonated spirits bearing red and black masks are sent off to their permanent abodes, the locations of which are known only to initiated cult members. Non-members who have been admitted to attend the leave-taking find a line of burning rush torches laid out as a barrier between themselves and the retreating spirits. Women dance toward the barrier, but are unable to cross it – some get so close that they almost burn themselves. As the experience is described: “It is utter sadness. People feel pain when parting with their parental spirits.” Glowing incense sticks are material indices of exception in any Dunang arrangement of sacrifice. Any food or drink in lacquer and ceramic dishes in this frontward placement must be delivered to the flames without delay. Losing one’s balance and falling onto the burning incense sticks is no less destructive than consuming the food brought there. The offender runs the risk of plunging into the nunka. The Dunang funeral rehearses a safe passage toward the borderline. I attended several funerals on the island. The only notable exception to what I describe in the following is the exclusion of meat dishes at the funeral of an Origin House member. A close kin screams at the top of his or her voice to announce that the final moment has come. “What hardship [aharidû ]!” I once asked, “What kind of hardship is it?” The answer was, “It is a hardship to throw away one’s father.” On other occasions, too, those commenting on the sentiments accompanying the death-call said that it was a feeling of extreme exhaustion, most distinctly a feeling of simply abandoning the corpse. The funeral arrangement is an answer to this sentiment. A meal and a catafalque are made ready to provide the “notso” in this semiotic string of association: one does not simply throw away those who are nearest to oneself. The corpse is soon taken to a room with access from the outside through its northern wall. In the cosmological ideas appropriate for this area of the house, it belongs to the north. And in this perspective of cardinality, west is implied. For, as explained by a shrine steward of ndi, the corpse must be made to align with the west, for that is the direction in which people in the past thought the Emperor of China resided.19 Subsequent to the washing of the dead body on the mud floor, beside a hearth made for the occasion, it is laid out in the reception area of the house. Floor mats are turned over. Whether made of rush ropes or old rags, the simulacra of an otherworld are always twisted leftwise. With an inversion of the right-hand governed practices of the world of the living (cf. Hertz 1960, 1973), these are devices for penetrating the nunka. Where intimacy obtained a while ago, distance now reigns. Behind the head of the corpse stands a makeshift incense holder, a ceramic or tin bowl filled with

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sand. As the life-soul sustaining the body from the lumbar spine to the crown of the head gives out, the person is lost to the forces of nunka. Yet, the sentiments harbored by the dead at the moment of expiration may well linger on. And the only way to counter this is to make one’s own sentiment expressible (umui ). Pent up sentiments, either among the dead or the living, cause harm. In Dunang thinking, they simply mature into curses. Participants at the funeral introduce themselves to the corpse, and speak about the relationship now to be severed. They act within the context of the relation. Firstly, an alimentary association establishes intimacy. A contiguity optimum – communicating intimacy – is achieved by the flesh of the living and the flesh of the dead coalescing through the partaking of a meal. Secondly, the ultimate aim of invocations of the ghost is exorcism: establishing a separation that is final. The dirge molds individual emotion into expressible sentiment. One by one, the bereaved deliver a soliloquy rendering their umui, expressible thought, as a reflection upon the relationship itself. Wailing is not an uncontrolled outburst of emotion; weeping is subdued. The tone of the dirge has a leveled, articulate cast. The scene at the deathbed is one of elegiac vocalization, where the addressee offers no response. Dunang ceremonial behavior abounds with greetings followed by an impromptu delivery of small speeches. The participants in the exchange straighten their backs as they assume a formal squatting position. They fill each other’s cups with rice brandy, and introduce the vital aspects of their relation to each other. These are spontaneous encounters, yet a prescribed opportunity for people to review their commitments, and to wish each other the best for the future. The bereaved introduce themselves as kin of so-and-so category, their laments are couched in a highly articulate expression. These are coded relations, according to Confucian notions of closeness and distance. The principal example used by my informants when commenting on the mortuary practices was that of an eldest son lamenting the death of his father. Upright incense sticks in a ceramic bowl a short distance from the head of the corpse makes it an object of worship. The cut of meat is laid out close to the head of the corpse to fulfill a purpose of worship. Apart from this, food provisions are laid out to authenticate such wailed utterances as “We cared for you while you were ailing, gave you all your favorite foods . . .” Canned foods and drinks behind the head of the corpse attest to this.20 So the wailer concludes: “Please make no demands upon us.” The preserved foods – durable sacrifices – are provisions for the journey into nunka. The funeral meal initializes an exchange across this barrier. Sacrificing a choice cut of a pig, the bereaved abandon some portion of themselves. The lump of meat is explicitly a “body substitute.” The incense glow is a tanka, an interstice and a point of attention in the relation sacrificer–corpse. Sticks of incense are replaced all throughout the dirge. Outside in the house compound, meanwhile, the condolence callers assemble, dividing various tasks between themselves. These include construction of the coffin (to be enclosed in the catafalque), and supplying bamboo staffs for the cortège


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funerary banners. Either in an outdoor kitchen or in an improvised arrangement under a tarpaulin, cuts of pork and entrails are boiled in a large iron pot. None of the usual procedures where people are welcomed and shown to a seat for the meal apply to this assembly of people waiting to leave for the tomb. Dishes are not served on the ubiquitous lacquer trays. Everyone present receives a soup bowl containing a broth with pieces of boiled pork on the bone. In summary, the comments of the participants were essentially that while the slice of raw meat may satisfy any cravings the spirit of the deceased might harbor for the bodies of the living, the dish of bony meat is a vestige of a savage past, of consuming the flesh of the dead. A cut of raw pig’s meat defines a sacrifice as a “body substitute.” A soup of bony meat invites compassion. Together these acts prevent a lapse back to the chaos of the past when there was no other way of expressing sorrow than making a meal of the corpse itself. The rigidly rehearsed funeral is a ceremony for exchanging sentiment. I take part in you as you take part in me. The “prestation” in this exchange – in the Maussian sense – evens out the balances. It finalizes a link between one person and another. In this reading, sentiment oscillates between intimacy and distance. The bereaved find a moment to care for their dead just as they find another moment to dispel the dead, as in this paraphrase: “Everything has been done for your maximal satisfaction. From now on, nothing remains between us.” Dunang oratorical and sacrificial praxis instantiate reciprocity and its limitations. The Dunang funeral is orchestrated with such double entendres.21 On starting the journey to the mausoleum, the corpse is taken from the reception room to the courtyard. It is lowered via an opening made in the wall from the elevated floor in the area of the house where the cult articles are stored, down to the ornamental garden of the east/southeast area of the compound. The departure of the funerary cortège, thus, starts with a brief movement toward the east and the southeast in dedication to the powers of those regions. Ideally, the corpse ought to be aligned with its cavity of birth, nmaribansu, before being transported to the tomb in a fetal position. It is this recognition among the Dunang of the interconnectedness of form and feeling which may explain the gravity associated with the replacement of the old death palanquin. In the actual dispatch of the corpse for emplacement in the funeral palanquin – the Treasured Implement – I once heard this explanation: “This is to show that we do not simply throw the corpse away.” In the terms used by Bateson (1951) to describe psychic states, Dunang funeral arrangements could well correspond to the “primary process” level of communication, where relations (between people or between imagined objects) can be interchanged in a one-to-one manner. What is lacking in the sacrifice of raw meat at a funeral is a mode of expressing intentionalities other than enacting them. “Secondary process,” in contradistinction, would include Firth’s “as if ” condition of figurative speech (Firth 1959). In western understanding, to compare, commonsensical experience is conventionally upheld tied up with symbolic signs. This allows us for instance to say,

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allegorically, that we put our signature to a protocol of condolences in expression of a sentiment, but that is not to say that it is the act of signing the protocol that makes the sentiment for us. Our penchant for symbolic knowing may in fact be a part of our – western – Cartesian heritage of operating intellectually along a dichotomy between what is literal (or real) and what is figurative (or contrived). “Symbolist studies” in anthropology might well take a lesson from this.

Elegies for a departed priestess
Whatever the actual elevation or vegetation, shrines where the k’a – island priestesses – preside are “mountains” (dama). In a wider extension of the view, they link up with the tagitagi-muimui: “peaks [and] wooded hills.” In an alternative perspective, however, they link up with each other, as bigi-bunai: “brother [and] sister” (I reproduced a Dunang inventory of such semantic dyads in an appendix to Goddesses, Priestesses, and Sisters). The only shrine standing alone in this arrangement is the north coast tûdama sanctuary where the ubuk’a, Chief Priestess, presides. As the pivot, it represents the entirety. That was the answer I received whenever I raised this topic: it stands alone because it includes every single one among the shrines in the territory. The sibling relation essentializes an idea of sympathy, at once a sense of connectivity and a sense of belonging to a House and a priestess shrine in alignment with the tagitagi-muimui. The islanders in general acknowledge devotedness to such named loci, referring to them as damanindu – Mountain Subjects. But they visit them for worship only once a year, on a day which the Chinese lunar calendar calls the double ninth: the ninth of the ninth moon. Brothers and sisters meet at these sites. In the Chinese tradition, the so-called double nine is a festive day for mountain worship. The Dunang imbibe strong rice brandy with leaves of chrysanthemum on the occasion of the shrine visit, in a bid for good health. The sister is the one who can grant it. Binomials such as tagitagi-muimui and bigi-bunai abound in Dunang addresses to the otherworldly. It struck me, while going through kinship details with members of each house in the ndi village, that the bigi-bunai lexemic compound denoting siblingship does not at all appear as a relationship term for collaterals. It goes well, however, for other classifications by gender and size. Yet as such, it does not predicate categorical neutrality, more sentimental sympathy. The human relation of bigi and bunai is idealized in myth and in songs. So in an extension to object categories, roof tiles are bigi and bunai. Food and drink containers are bigi and bunai. They differentiate and they connect by being motivated by a relation of endearment. The “brother” term, bigi, is versatile also for labeling the gender of an animal as “male.” When asking people for examples, I met with some restraint when it came to identifying female animals as bunai. The preferred lexeme is mi, “female.” A male goat is a bigi-hibida; a female goat is a mi-hibida. As I have variously outlined above, among islanders in South Ryukyu there is some celebration of opposites and a celebration of their union. This might be a characteristic of a


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Ryukyuan mentality-in-society, yet only further fieldwork on other islands in the archipelago would enable us to generalize on this. The k’a priestesses position themselves beyond the limitations of kinship. They are classificatory sisters. Their classificatory brothers are shrine stewards (tidibi ). Even without the slightest trace of kinship, the two are prohibited from marrying, for the linkage between them replicates the sentiment of a real brother and sister of a former generation. An incest taboo is sustained by sentiment alone. In the tumujâ festival described in Chapter 1, however, the priestesses shed their robes of office and their statuses as relationship sisters. The play that unfolds in this Origin House is not about the priestesses’ sisterly capacities, but their sexual capacities. Sentiments are left behind, passion rules for the moment. Apart from the reality of a mountain shrine – nothing more than a shed behind a standing stone – there is no evocation of habitation of a priestess sister and a shrine steward brother. The Dunang are not much inclined to approach such places, whether or not located in the wild. They speak of presences there, though not very often as the biographies of remembered persons. I found a very weak idea of corporeality attached to past personages, and even to their House origins and burial places. One shrine on a mountain plateau, the tuibaru, was apparently set up early in the 20th century as an enshrinement of a departed priestess. But it was with quite noticeable reluctance that my informants spoke of it. Invariably, they would express some doubt: “Possibly it was dedicated to a priestess of the matsubara House.” Others would say that the place did not qualify as a shrine for the island at all, only as one uniquely associated with a single Origin House. During the age of the Ryukyu Kingdom, Chief Priestesses in the islands were Court appointees. Their descendants today are still beneficiaries of rice offerings. For in death, even more than in life, a priestess connects people with an otherworld. That, however, could be a cause of fear. A priestess’s tomb is absolutely a place to avoid. Ageing Highborns relieve themselves of the obligations of officiation before they become too disabled to walk the Spirit Trails. This can be done by joining the kanbunaga processions, opting for a tinudi – a Hand Release rite of disengagement. In some instances, daughters perform this penance on behalf of their mothers. But with the death of the mother, participation in important ceremonials must be postponed for a period of three years. The daughter would be an intruder in the rites of life because of a lasting effect of death. In the words of a bunai priestess who voiced her concern: “The dead try to stick to the living.” Throughout the course of fieldwork, there were cases of deaths during the three-month period of abstinence. These coincidences produced rather contradictory situations for people involved in the rituals of the Origin Houses serving as centers in the cult of culture heroes. In one year, a kanbunaga ceremonial was canceled due to fear of repercussions. At the time of fieldwork, no one had the genealogical credentials to assume the office of Chief Priestess of Dunang. A priestess, senior by age, however, assumed the duties on a semi-official basis. I introduced her in Chapter 1 as the

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senior priestess of a fertility festival. The head village councillor of the island (dumuti ) acknowledged her formally and treated her with the respect required of the office. She was de facto officiant of the pivotal shrine (tûdama) on the north coast. This priestess passed away shortly before I returned to the island, ten years after I first got to know her. Again there was a succession dilemma: the woman acting as chief mourner was eligible to succeed as the titleholder of the uranu shrine district at the opposite end of the island. Yet as I had learned while observing the daughter helping her ageing mother some years before I joined in processions along sacred pathways, the younger woman was unable to recite the incantations needed at the critical waypoints across the landscape. She would have to wait for inspiration to come. What follows is a description of the situation at the cemetery for the western area of the island as I arrived there. No more than the minimum number of relations necessary for executing the mortuary rite is assembled at the grave site. They have brought with them square lacquer trays, and now are now filling them with milled rice grains. Islanders in general do not attend, but some asked me later to tell them what I had seen. I explained the layout on the ground of trays filled with “flowery” raw rice, the hanagumi. The rice set out before the tomb opening is a gift. As a recipient in a gift transaction, the dead woman occupies now – just a few days after her death – a position of an island deity. She is deemed worthy of an allowance of rice in afterlife, as she also was as a senior priestess whose sustenance imposed duties on the villages. The priestess had been a promoter of blessings for the island, assigning rice donations to its high spirits. In death, as in life, she would be entitled to receive her own portions of Flowery Rice. Yet in death she will not be the one to deliver them, but to accept them. But a negative value is put on the association of donor with gift. The provider of rice does not express any wish to strengthen connections with the dead priestess. This is, contra Mauss, a gift presented not for affirming bonds, but for negating them. The trays are put on display in front of the mausoleum entrance, at some distance from another set of offerings, somewhat to the right. The latter, duplicate arrangement, is for the Soil Host. A menu equally befitting the tastes of nature hosts is presented in this manner. The occasion prescribes the worship of uncooked pig’s meat, and that the mourners partake of pork soup within the confines of the mausoleum. But no pig was slaughtered for the occasion of the priestess’s mortuary rites. The decision to ban meat did not come about easily. The daughter of the departed priestess was a successor to the incumbency, but also, otherwise, in terms of uxorilocal house belonging, she was the only one eligible to exert custodianship of her mother’s domain at the uranu shrine. The problem concerned whether the special status of her dead mother overrode the rules of the occasion. The problem was resolved when agreement was reached that the calendar excluded the inclusion of meat. Beginning with the first day of the eighth moon, priestesses of the island must prepare themselves for the cold season festivals by


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avoiding meat (and sexual contact). Abiding by the rules of the this-worldly domain of sunka – to which a priestess, in life as in death, belongs – no meat can appear on the site, not even on the spot assigned to a very demanding Soil Host. The nunka of nature hosts must give way to the sunka of the priestess. She will never become a denizen of the yesterday of nunka. Her domain is a life domain. With much uncertainty about what kind of presence this means, there is much reluctance about coming to the site of her burial. Let me add a mythic account germane to this issue. I did not hear it in the context just depicted, yet it illustrates the motif of someone who quite graphically places herself beyond the limits of normal dietary and kinship rules: A spirit descended upon the island. Her feathery robe caused her to float in the air like a bird. She was a beautiful woman; her hair was long. She rinsed it in the stream passing along the mikarasjû rice-field. Being thus preoccupied, her hair – floating in the water – twirled into the hatchet of the man of the house of that name. The man stowed away the robe, and made her his wife. The couple became parents of two children, one girl and one boy. One day, as the woman was sitting at her loom, the elder child chanted a lullaby while walking around with the younger sibling strapped to her back. Listening intently to the words, she perceived in them a message pointing to the hiding-place of her robe. Seven years had been spent in confinement imposed upon her by humans. Now the moment had come for her to ascend to the sky again. Dressed in the robe of flight, she clutched her two children. But they were too heavy for her to leave the ground. She dropped one. Still she was unable to light. She dropped the other. Before disappearing into the sky, these words could be heard on the ground: “Keep yourself alive by eating Flowery Rice!” The girl became the first k’a priestess. The boy became the first tidibi shrine steward. The goddess impersonates gender attributes such as beauty and long hair, yet she lacks the sentiments of a woman. She enthralls a man, but she dismisses crucial feelings of conjugality and parenthood. She is not a figure of kinship and she is not a figure deserving the normal fare of cooked rice. She passes on the culinary preference to her daughter as she heads for another world. Just as the senior priestess – whose afterlife is now the topic – in the enactment of a fertility rite of the tumujâ House, she places herself beyond certain moral bounds. The motif of the feather-robed female spirit is the common denominator of several versions of a myth whose parallels are abundant in the larger SinoJapanese tradition.22 Yet the brother–sister theme and that of ingesting Flowery Rice are what make a locally invented appendix. The problem of hazardous intimacy with the otherworld was a constant topic of conversation. By defining the spirits’ culinary preferences as counter to what humans think is digestible, an indexicalized remoteness can be upheld. To the Dunang, it is the

Fateful exchanges


conclusion to the story, the line affixed by themselves, that actually counts. People who connect with things in the beyond ought to receive a solid meal of raw rice, and in extension, a beverage of rice, fermented by being masticated by a virgin. Accordingly, the departed priestess is served a meal of uncooked rice, proper only for a celestial woman. A sacrifice thus promotes not a connection but a dis-connection. The moment arrives for a woman in the present, someone in a line of descent from deified priestesses, to be removed from the ambit of human connections. This was the elegy intoned by an officiating shaman, a paternal cousin of the departed priestess: A sibling of mine departed for an unknown nuti aiburu banu ja destination iciaci kurasi hiruNga the one who is still alive does not know how to go on dâ nu magunta agaminta hadimi May thorough protection be granted the mabuiwai grandchildren and children of the house kjatunai nu agaminta dunaN ippaN nu Protect the children of the neighborhood, and t’unta kami mabuiwari yô all the people of dunaN tuiburu utuda bagaranu tabi tatasi The senior priestess of the island has entered the otherworld as a goddess. Now is the time, on the occasion of a postmortem rite, to elicit her guardianship in a valedictory address to the children of her house, to the neighborhood, to the whole island. People had, until her death, carefully listened to the oratory of the priestess herself. When I presented the rites of the cult of fresh water above, I quoted the warnings of this senior priestess about future curses on the island. She feared the harmful consequences of construction works on its territory. Now, after her death at the ripe old age of 92 there were words that her influence might linger on. No one was comfortable with the idea of closeness to a high spirit of the island. To quote what one person requested in plain words: “Now as you have become a goddess, please extend your guardianship to us!” Subsequently, when I visited a gathering of women of high ritual standing – a former k’a priestess, a bunai priestess, and a munuci – my tape-recorder became the object attention as a potential carrier of matter accumulated while attending the postmortem rite for the priestess. I was asked if I was intending to take it along to a place in the neighborhood where preparations were underway for the celebration of one of the house members, who had reached the lucky age of 88. I promised not to. After a while, I noticed a tzutza, a looped rush charm – the ubiquitous device used to drive ill-intentioned spirits away from foods and artifacts – lying in the entrance to the


Fateful exchanges

house. I alerted the others. I had not seen anything of the kind when I entered the house. The bunai priestess, whose guest I was, exclaimed: “A tzutza! Who brought it here?” I asked: “Could I take it with me?” All three women approved the idea. I picked up the tzutza and carried it with the tape-recorder. A connectivity with an apotheosed woman remained with the object for a while.

Conclusion 219


The only written statement of godhood that I found during several periods of fieldwork on Dunang was delivered by some brushstrokes on an inside shrine wall. It reads, as translated in Røkkum (1998): “No form, no voices. Yet, in the ways things come into being, there is nothing which does not bear witness of them.” In the same book, I drew a parallel with St. Augustine’s De divinatione.1 Now, I would like to add another note. While Christian epistemology allocates an amplifying status for signs, as in evocations of “the divine intelligence,” a nonwestern epistemology such as that of the Ryukyuans works perfectly well without any overarching interpretant totality such as sin or evil. Whatever affinities might exist, as e.g. between crab behavior and human behavior (recall the section Garlic and crabs in Chapter 1), there is no overlay of order – moral or otherwise – that could possibly be invoked to justify them. According to Sahlins (2000: 557): Resemblances such as those between walnuts and brains now seem arbitrary to us, bringing together things “in reality” or “objectively” quite indistinct. Yet it was just these obscure affinities that signified an invisible Providence – and by amulets or alchemy, just as in curing – synthesized the Adamic opposition of nature and humankind. “Objectionable in itself,” the world, Huizinga remarks, “became acceptable by its symbolic purport. For every object, each common trade had a mystical relation with the most holy, which ennobled it. Godhood is mimicked by many kinds of attributes, and the Ryukyuans feel perfectly at ease without any underlying or bridging symbolic order.2 As portrayed in this book, inchoate figures not easily characterized as “symbolic” are activated by ritual. Following Bateson (1951), I have suggested that the kind of mimetics occurring in South Ryukyuan rituals exemplify a “primary process.”3 In Peirce, Signs, and Meaning, Merrel (1997: 292), likewise, addresses the issue of primacy, seeing “corporeal sensing and feeling as precursors to thoughts, concepts, and habits of mind and action.” He infers that “symbolicity depends upon iconicity and indexicality for its very sustenance” (p. 292). Whitehead ( [1927] 1957: 21) writes, “What we find in space are the red of the rose and the smell of the jasmine and the noise of the cannon.” To western



understanding, it makes good sense to speak of symbolizations, as through color, fragrance, and sound, only if one knows, firstly, something about the rose, the jasmine, and the cannon and, secondly, something about how to condense these impressions in figures of speech, such as metaphors. Yet granting the corporeal basis of such knowing, the sense – as of beauty – is not fostered by subjecting the body to discipline.4 It might even involve a difference between an Uchina (ethnic Ryukyuan) and Yamato (ethnic Japanese) cultural experience. The practice of either a familiar Japanese tea ceremony or flower arrangement as an expression of austerity is not much in evidence in the islands in the south, nor any idea that menstruating women may cause a disruptive kegare (conventionally translated as “pollution”). (Cf. Miyata 1996, who gives an extensive review of the Japanese concept of kegare; also Yoshida and Duff-Cooper 1989: 235 who find little evidence of any concept of menstruation-as-pollution in Bise Village, Okinawa Island.) Writing this just after having returned from fieldwork visits, first to Aogashima in the outermost part of the Izus (of Japan proper) and to Yonaguni (Dunang) in the outermost part of the Ryukyus, it strikes me that the topic of kegare naturally became part of conversations in the former island, with no urging on my part. In the Ryukyuan island, by contrast, informants commented on the sexuality motifs of the ndi festival portrayed in this book as very auspicious despite their quite distinctive evocations of female corporeality.5 A most delicate link here, in a cultural domain of the South Ryukyus, is one between object (including natural species) and thought. In this book I have been trying to record an ongoing dialogue between an inner world and a natural world. Some well-being among people in the islands may depend on the healthy state of this dialogue. I find no concept of purity in Dunang semantic culture, nor do I find any concept of nature. In this ethnography, even a category of “purity” can be known only in the particular, as “a sense of,” like a reflection of something. There may be no purity to speak of, but many purities: of blank surfaces, coral sand, hulled rice, surf of ocean waves, white paper, and of smooth stone. With their incantations and in full view, the island shamans gather such sign attributes, and so – by the very same expression – they rid foods, artifacts, and live species of traces of bothersome, piled up, human intention. And the “hosts” (nuci ) of a mindset like avarice may turn up in quite un-anthropomorrphic species, such as crows and snakes. Aesthetics in Dunang is not simply the amplifications of ethnopoetry as such, but a cognitive device brought upon matters of relationship-bound indebtedness. Enormous sums of money intended for an otherworldly treasury are counted and recited. The Dunang shamans assemble sensuous qualities only later to disperse them. An ability of both the qualifier and the disqualifier runs as a constant syntax through South Ryukyuan ritual, in words as in and action. A growing umui – the positive sentiment – is achieved in the opening acts of a ritual. Priestesses connect with the otherworldly, expressing its aura in their own deportment and posture.

Conclusion 221 An increase of ta’tai, the negative sentiment, is combated in the closing ritual acts by settling a debt. The exemplary offerings conducive to the respective sentiments are (a) the true miti – a viscous fermented rice libation; and (b) the false miti, a non-miscible concoction of flour and water. So the mimetic speaks both in the affirmative through images of connectivity and in the negative by the “not-so.” One might expect that only language would allow us to achieve exchanges amenable to such pretense. This ethnography illustrates otherwise.6 It endorses, to some extent, the argument in Rappaport (1999) and Robbins (2001) that rituals are sustained even more by indexical signs than by symbolic signs, that language makes room for belief and non-belief while ritual makes room for a sense of conviction created by the very act of participation.7 In Dunang, words take effect simply by being pronounced. In Goddesses, Priestesses, and Sisters (1998: 191–2), I quoted a shrine steward who said, this being the case, there would be no need for any particular effort of mind on the part of the priestesses. Saying is performing.8 And in my own participation, as in a ritual for bolstering body souls of a candidate for an election (recall Fragments of desire in Chapter 2), no one would be interested whether I believed in the words I was reciting from my notes; for there was no cultural latitude for what in standard Japanese might be an intervening kokoro, “mind,” with its different shades of sincerity. Accordingly, even language, when encapsulated by ritual, tilts toward indexicality. This is one reason why I hesitate fully to join Rappaport in his delineation. I must point out that if there is any difference of significance between language and ritual, the line of division must be fuzzy. But a more weighty reservation is this. The pretense made possible by figurative language is no less sustainable by the make-belief of ritual. Hopefully, by being able to draw on extended fieldworks, and thus being able to reproduce some involvements, I have written a version of ritual in this book which is ritual minus the stereotypes and repeats, a version which draws on the active engagement spurred by real life experiences. Monotony and repetition may be appropriate for characterizing ritual when we make classification the head motif, opting for constancy by stressing taxonomy, as with regard to environment (species in nature) or time (calendrical rites). It is a common feature to several cases in this book, however, that a ritual had to be composed – more like a movement in a symphony than a string of sentences in a novel – to attune to certain keys and moods in the human mind. It mediates re-presentations (as of the past) and presentations (as of the future). I indicated in Chapter 4 that such cognitive action can come about as an instant realization, as when ndi villagers realized that to ride in a death palanquin is not just a way of simply imitating regal personages of ancient days. It is, rather, an act with the potential of inducing something – perhaps ghastly – to take place in the future. The reality construed by ritual is sustained precisely by the make-belief that Eco (1976) finds so crucial to the understanding of the sign. I find no contradiction here between the figurative and the real. Here is an example.



In an exception to the general disinterest in humanizing the otherworld in the South Ryukyus through icons, gods named by the color of their masks come into view in some South Ryukyuan villages during the pûru rites of the First Fruits. They emerge either from the bush or shallow waters, from an islet off a mangrove marshland. The fact that the voluminous figures draped with wild grape vines and palm fronds are props carried by young men of the villages is not something that is spoken of. Ritual – so far pace Rappaport – makes little allowance for doubt. So it felt natural for me to speak of the figures as what they actually were: gods. When speaking about their numbers, I was told to carefully avoid numeral suffixes applicable for counting animals.9 Gradually I realized that there was a slippery nature to such rituals. Even the slightest mistake, such as ascribing a wrong suffix to a deity, turns life-givers into life-usurpers. Gods, equipped with whips and sticks, become true avengers. Spirits of the dead incubate humans and animals as their “hosts.” The Dunang, for their part, confront this issue of doubt head on, reserving one sequence of a ritual to elicit participation with an Other, and another sequence to terminate it, performing ostentatious sacrifices that will not flourish, destroying what is left of a presentation both by turning the things upside-down and by incinerating them. A genuflecting ritualist supports the image with words about achieved closure. So – as I have tried to suggest with the present ethnography – ritual can work as efficiently in the negative as in the positive, as in the case of communication through language (cf. also Røkkum 2002a). And, somewhat curiously, it is precisely such make-believe, as when, e.g., iron potsherds are counted as bona fide money, which actively allocates indexical signs. One informant – a woman with responsibilities as a head of an Origin House and its festival association – was in fact quite stunned when she realized that visiting mainland Japanese accustomed to pray at Shinto shrines were using real coins as offerings at a site of prayer along a sightseeing track. Hence I see no radical difference here between the pretense of a vocalized metaphor and the make-belief of an executed ritual act. The certitude of participation and thus of dedication is just a single – sociological – aspect of ritual.10 A pliable image work equally characteristic of ritual enjoins persuasion whether emerging in word or in action. Evocations may even be more graspable than symbolizations in such contexts. To reflect further on Whitehead, they might account for a more important role in shaping human knowledge than what can be granted by European epistemologies. Compare, for example, Wagner’s study of the role of iconic knowledge among the Usen Barok of New Ireland. He (1986: 175) recognizes a reticence to verbalize knowledge: “force and effect cannot be explicated by verbal glosses.” People in South Ryukyu have at their disposal the semantic means to appropriate the force of images. Dyed glass beads are sacred for what they signify. Beads are “gems.” Fibrous matter from the bush is sacred for what it entangles. Creepers are also “gems.” Lustrousness in one example, entrapment in the other, have “force and effect” in Wagner’s sense. Images intermesh. As parallel images they communicate

Conclusion 223 effectively without being elucidated in sayings. Beads and creepers become “gems” as they are put to use as headgear for the Highborn women of the island. Sometimes, when finding Ryukyuan motifs in Japanese folkloristic discourse, it has struck me that a literary syntax – seemingly emblematic of “stories of olden days” – appears to enforce itself on the recited matter. Images and effects (icons and indices) tilt, by some tacit rules of narrative, toward the symbolic, as when a goddess emerging from the sky becomes a “heavenly messenger.” The discourse itself might be loaded with Peircean interpretants, templates not actually of, but for meaning. In discussing cultural imageries, I have tried to catch tempered articulations, types of awareness more than propositions about the world. We know that myth, law and canons of faith can be shared even though they are not put into writing. But how can awareness be shared? This I may not be able to answer in any satisfactory manner, yet I believe it is possible to gain insight into the processes at work in the field. Cultural truths may not even be available to us as imperatives in beliefs, aphorisms, and rules resident in myths, laws or canons of faith.11 That said, many kinds of situational and partial evocations, I suggest, can be shared, mimetically, in an unbounded series of parallelisms as in the “limitless semiosis” envisaged by Peirce. It might be tempting to portray a cultural entity of the Ryukyus as a scheme of some sort, a calendrical arrangement of annual rituals. Van Gennep (1960: 131) made rites of transition a general category through the analytical device of a “scheme.” Orderliness is assumed. But as Ionesco ( [1959] 1962) realizes in Rhinoceros, “Life is an abnormal business,” so in South Ryukyu, there are experts everywhere to sort out the exceptional in people’s lives. Male geomancers, who are experts in construing their divinations from a yin-yang scheme, occupy a distinctive, yet very limited, niche in the cultural landscape of South Ryukyu, whereas the female Knowers, construing their divinations out of subjective sensations, are the ones most people tend to trust. Letters are less trusted than voices. A culture rich in allusive powers might even be able to do well without the centrifugality of godhood. Sered (1999: 11) introduces an Okinawan concept of divinity as immanence, conceivable as equally ranked deities. And in the same vein, divinity embodies itself in the kaminchu women ritualists. Interestingly, in a Geertzian search for a cultural ethos within the island of fieldwork, she finds an underlying personality type categorized by a standard Japanese term meaning “gentleness,” but with an extended meaning, she claims, in the local usage. Somewhat paradoxically, or maybe due to cultural differences within the archipelago, many women I talked with in Dunang said that the most outstanding trait of those of “high birth” is the lucidity of their vision and their quite masculine character. They are not necessarily gentle. Male and female ancestors possess the Sister in their most important ritual of the year. The women adorn themselves with a glass-bead headdress, which is an accouterment only for women, but at the same time they brandish swords, spears, and halberds. What they in fact embody is not the god, but the attribute, or rather, simply the sentiment



left by what both in prayer and ordinary talk appear as “the ancestors” (ubudi-habudi ). This might well be a punitive sentiment. It can, in fact, be very graspable without any link to a particular divined being. In Dunang there is far more talk about unsettled debts and possible retribution than there is of any specific god capable of harboring retributive intentions. The “gods” – apart from the heroic ancestors of a distant past – are nothing but the “hosts” – nuci – of such emanations of interior states. It is through sentiment alone that incubi, including species in nature, materialize. Some Dunang Origin Houses do display opened scrolls with illustrations of bearded Taoist deities in misty mountainous landscapes, I admit. But these are not portrayals of anything familiar to the Dunang. Unseen entities are sufficiently known, not by what they are, but, perforce, by what they induce. The nira (nirai kanai ) female deity, which – quite exceptionally – is an object of prayer throughout the whole Ryukyu archipelago – is not known by her individual character, though, but – in the Dunang view – by her whereabouts in the hollow interiors of land and seabed. There, she may be holding on to the souls both of the living and the dead. The sacred is not a substance, but a mystery, knowable by what it conceals: in a cave, in an old tomb, in a dense grove. It is not surprising, therefore, that while some Origin Houses display the scrolls of Taoist gods, what is positively divine resides rather in the shiny, black lacquerware containers of rice ferment arranged on the ground on festive occasions. With a critical eye on anthropological studies of cultural representations, Boyer (1996) raises an issue of intuition and counter-intuition. He addresses the topic of a “projection of intentional psychology onto putative agents such as spirits or ancestors” (p. 91). He finds, however, little association between such intuitive dispositions and the belief in an actual similarity between humans and spirits. I agree. For human intention is a real enough force in its own right, as it manifests itself in passionate behavior, to make the basis of cultural representations (cf. Rosaldo 1980). An index, of some desire for example, may not depend on the icon of any supplementary animistic agent, such as a god with a particular kind of disposition. The iconic link in the sign relationship, I suggest, posits instead a resemblance between an expression, such as a faint look and slouching figure, and a disembodied feeling, such as the avarice of an ancestor gone wild in time and space. The faint look and slouching figure might even be predicated by the abductive logic (in the Peircean sense) of shamanic interpretation: she removes the commonsenseness of everyday experiences, heightening consciousness as if of a possibility of eerie consequences resulting from, e.g., a crow crossing a rooftop. She loads interpretive quality upon sensations, not simply with a fixture of categories but, to no lesser extent, with a fixture of sentiments. We may ask if the fear caused by her words is totally numbing or if it, maybe, stimulates cognitive activity. In a somewhat more subdued sense, it might as well be the realization of unsuspected kinds of connectedness foregrounded by dialogue yet taking place against a backdrop of ritual that makes the memory tracks.

Conclusion 225 Interestingly, Eco (2000: 99), reinterpreting Peirce, finds a trace of sensation in indexicality: “. . . the second moment (that of indexicality) becomes a type of experience that has the form of a shock; it is an impact with an individual, with a haecceitas that ‘strikes’ the subject without being a representation yet.” What I find remarkable in a Ryukyuan view of sentience is a relative lack of interest in personifications but keen attention to sensations. In comparison, Japanese Shinto is considerably more deity-oriented. A culture strongly influenced by women’s knowing, it seems, does not re-present the divine as a lasting presence either in persons, sculptures, or pictures. It rests, rather, with the indexical, in attributes and evocations reproduced in ritual. A boon for life in the island, for example, emanates from the heirlooms stored in Origin Houses. It can be carried further on into people’s lives only by actual touch. A Sister Goddess (bunai tidigaN) makes bodily contact with the glass beads hosting ancestral forces either by clutching them or carrying them on her head while dancing. Gods are hosts, and so are the women protagonists worshiping them. Returning to Sered’s portrayal, unlike what appears to be the case on Henza Island, no Dunang women can be permanently conceived of as goddesses. But as women dance with weaponry in Origin House courtyards or as they walk in procession along the Spirit Trails, on rare occasions with creepers from the surrounding bush draping from their heads, they host – themselves – the sentiments emanating from artifacts and features of the ambient bush. And, in that – quite extraordinary – sense, do they become goddesses. So the out-of-the ordinary, in its various appearances, imposes distance rather than intimacy. No one is allowed to draw close enough to them as to feel their breath. Priestesses of the island, and priestesses of Houses as well, must occasionally be sheltered from physical intimacy with others. On the occasion of prayers for the health an Origin House of the ndi village at the ninth of the ninth moon, an officiating woman said that the anger of House ancestors would be kindled if someone who has eaten polluted food (i.e. durimunu: meat or animal fats) comes near her. She herself would suffer, she would vomit and have a choking sensation in her chest. Goddess status must be temporary, for in its negation of physical proximity and commensality it negates relationships to other people. So, contra the Henza case of a godhood-in-the-ordinary, which is neutral with regard to bodily effluvia, no sexual contact with male partners can be allowed when the women host a particular kind of receptivity to an Otherness beyond the pale. When the sexual accessibility of the priestesses arises as a festival topic (the festival of the tumujâ), the women are goddesses no more. For they take off the yellow robes which connote their attributes of incumbency. A woman assumes godhood simply by donning a yellow ramie robe. She sheds it by taking it off. This simple rite of passage is what makes it possible for people in Dunang to speak of persons as gods. If there is a sacredness to speak of, it is invariably one relativized by a moment and a place. The final word by the Dunang Highborn women is inexorably this: “may nothing else remain: no thoughts, no desires.”



This is a word about the two-sidedness of reciprocity. All rituals represented in this book consist of presentations made deliverable by the female ritualist naming their attributes. Items are identified and counted. But they become deliverable by being destroyed: turned upside-down and then incinerated. Such gifts resolve debts imparted by a craving other. No sentiments linger on: the settlement is final. But when all is said and done, and the “beautiful” offerings lie smoldering in a heap of ashes, there remains a quite exact bureaucratic testimony. The prayers, spirit money, foods, libations, and miniature cargoes which have been praised are entered into the record.12 The make-belief upholds the separation. Withholding a gift, or even tasting it, is like asking for one’s own death. Such non-gifts include things such as a fake rice brew, inordinately inflated numbers of spirit money and chipped rice cakes. A disembodied pig fakes a human body. Eggs and seaweed are buried in the ground, where they cannot possibly nourish anything. Lingering sentiments of jealousy are conceived of as controllable by such sacrifices. They can be neutralized, additionally, by presentations of live crabs and fresh garlic. What, in my reading, Mauss did not take account of was a double entendre of gift-giving as in the fuller implication of the potlatch: its ability to make connections and – with equal versatility due to its role as a sign – to disconnect.13 Mauss excluded the economic rationale from a kula ethnography of relationships. Whereas for Mauss a gift makes it possible for a person to take part in others and they in him, for Strathern (1996), also commenting on a Melanesian case, there is a declared limit on reciprocity, a stop in the flow (See also Røkkum, in progress). This is made possible by measurability against non-human substitutes, such as shell money: “values are the outcome of relational practices” (Strathern 1996: 527). South Ryukyuans, for their part, exhibit spirit money, raw pig’s meat, and other reproductions of values in very calculable quantities to terminate relationships (Røkkum, in progress). Human relationships are recognized in such ritual devices as quite measurable yet indistinct from (a) a social artifice such as a magistracy projecting its reign into the otherworld or (b) a natural artifice such as the spread of a force through roots and creepers. A further question, raised by Strathern, is whether the hybridization of forms, in fact, might give us an awareness of unity between traditional and modern forms of knowledge. The gift upholds the double entendres as relationships governed by sentiment yet pari passu calculable and terminable. Accordingly, I find Derrida’s notion of the double bind of the gift very apposite (Derrida 1992). His critique raises doubts about Maussian claims concerning both the originary status of gift relationships and the premise that gifts sustain social relationships. Derrida’s emphasis on a temporal condition of gift-giving calls for further attention. Interestingly, he fashions his argument on Mauss in the latter’s observation of the kula as a “circle” or a “ring” in Malinowski. A temporal extension allows the gift to retrace its tracks back to the donor. It is not simply an invitation to participate in con-sociability: it contains, in fact, far more of the economic rationale of resolving obligations than Mauss was inclined to admit. Derrida (1992: 41) writes:

Conclusion 227 The gift gives, demands, and takes time. The thing gives, demands, or takes time. That is one of the reasons this thing of the gift will be linked to the – internal – necessity of a certain narrative [récrit] or of certain poetics of narrative. That is why we will take account of “Counterfeit Money” and of the impossible account [compte-rendu] that is Baudelaire’s tale. In the South Ryukyuan case, the economic rationale infuses sentiment: the cultural artifice of a celestial treasury enables one to record each and every prestation. Such ciphering of a debt to enable its cancellation, as in the quantification of celestial banknotes prior to their incineration, is unheard of in the estimation of a gift. Yet words about this are poetic (cf. Derrida’s “poetics of narrative”), for the issue at hand is what to do to inhibit the cravings that recirculate from the otherworld and which multiply in time. Such karmic passion for bodies – as in a lost partnership – and for soil – as in a lost ownership – is what calls for a negation, and a presentational image of the non-gift.




abuhi’ti The Old Lady’s Vagina; an open patch of soil within a Dunang tomb enclosure. acimiagami Child born out of wedlock. aGai East. aganta Red soil. aharidû What hardship! A death-call. andu Imagined territory beyond the horizon where evil and pestilence can be safely deposited. aragada-du-tagabi A seasonal ritual in the agricultural calendar. araibana Cleansed Flowers; rinsed hulled rice in cups. aramidi New Water; a sisterhood. See kurudati. bagi (kinai ) Cadet (house). See mutu. bandu Ravine(s). bansuru Psidium guajava; guava. bataci A lacquer pitcher. bidiri Monolith. bigi (Elder) brother. binGa mara Man’s penis; steamed rice dumplings dotted with sweet beans. See binGa nu sekku. binGa nu sekku A Men’s Festival. biNui Alocasia odora; the giant taro. buhabuha An imprecation. buhan’na Taboo-rope for death matter. bunai (Elder) sister. bunai tidigaN Sister Spirit/Sister Goddess. buN Large rice cake(s). busuganaci A magistrate of the otherworld, a controller of human destinies. cibagasi Dividing the Blood; a rite of separation between a living and a dead spouse. ciburuci Unfledged life. ciciganaci Lion Lord; a mythic beast impersonated in many guises in the Ryukyus. cimu The bowels; the seat of human knowing and emotion.



cinubi A citrus variety indigenous to Dunang. cinukaN The Fire Spirit. cirubi A pre-parturition soul fireball. dâ ( jâ ) House. dai(mai) Presentation, celebration, submittal. dagusa Village functionary; a title remaining from the old civil order of the Ryukyu Kingdom. dama Mountain(s), the wilds. dama’ná Cardisoma hirtipes; a gecarcinid land crab (Christmas Island blue crab). damanindu Mountain Subjects; cult association congregating at a bush shrine. dâmutu Origin House; site of congregation for a cult association. See tamanindu. dânukamaci An all-out exorcism of the house compound. dànumunu Scourge, blight, curse. dasika Randia canthioides; the mountain wampi. da’tugu Recess in house for the worship of souls of living occupants. diGaranuci Soil Host; in-dwelling spirit of the ground in house compounds and tombs. dinudi Soil Release; a rite of exchange with an in-dwelling spirit to sever its tie to the area. diN Small rice cake(s). diru (dira) A ground-level area of the house aligned with the north. diru’itamui (dira’itamui ) Smooth mound of earth; hearth for boiling water on the occasion of childbirth. disiki Earthly Place; a cosmological region. See tiNsiki. dubadaniGai Body Prayer; soul-saving rite. dufunuci duNutinuci Hosts of Four Corners and Gateway (of house compound). duGabu ( jûgabu) Increase. dumidara Bride vessel; a ritual receptacle. dûmui Bulging increase; the blessings of harvest. dumuti Village councillor(s). durimunu Polluting agents, fatty food. Meat and animal fats. dusiki Mischanthus sinensis. furuGi Black hairs; pubic hairs. furunta Black soil. furut’i The little black one; a newborn baby. futaNu (kutaNu) Star Dish (Moon Dish); a red rice gruel. See binGa nu sekku. gama Cave, grotto. gansu Mortuary tablet. gunna Peucedanum japonicum; a herb. See sûai. gusiku Citadel, fortress, castle, stone wall. gusiN (nsagu) Rice brandy. hainanacifuci Seven stars of the south. hanagumi Flowery rice; hulled rice for worship. hiru Garlic. hirumi Garlic body; the Ocypode ceratophtalmus; ghost crab.



hi’ti Little vagina; bride. ibi An inner recess of a bush sanctuary. ikihana Live Flowers; sprays of twigs with leaves on kept in vases. ikiru Curse, the act of cursing. ikokuzin-taikokuzin People of alien countries/large countries. iri West. itadiN Blank money; white paper serving as a currency for spirits of the island. itu Flagellaria indica; a creeper. jû (dû ) An abundance of the world; increase. juta Shaman (the generic Okinawan term). k’a Priestess of a sacred grove. kabianGu Spirit money incineration. See utigabi. kabuci A rice-straw wreath used to make a passage for rebirth. kaciasi A Ryukyuan dance. k’amui The shrine priestesses of Dunang. kanbana Divine Flowers; rice in square lacquer trays. kanbunaga A 25-day sequence of rites of the early cold season. Priestesses of sacred groves and Origin Houses invoke guardianship and multiplication of life inside the confines of an island. kanda Uphill rice field. kandaga “Spirit high”; sacredness. kandiN A vase arrangement for individual guardianship kept in a recess of the house. kan-nu-miti Spirit trails; pathways of divine passage across island territory. karadiN Chinese money; brown paper serving as a currency for ghosts and nature spirits. katanmarigaN Single Birth Prayer; a soul-bolstering address directed to the spirit of the dead. See nmarigaN. ka’ti House-compound stone-fence enclosure. kidari Calendrical festival event. kidimunu Ghosts taking human or animal shapes. See madimunu. kinudai Wood Debt paid to spirits of building materials. kinunuci Tree Host; a subversive spirit force residing in wood. kirimuti Cut (shredded) rice cake(s); an exorcistic offering. kuba Livistona chinensis; the fan palm. kubacimi n’ni Vessels carrying the fan palm pith, oriented toward the sky in a women’s initiation ritual. kubadisa Terminalia catappa; the tropical almond. kubanGu Steamed rice balls; a soul-invigorating dish. kubaN Cooked dishes as offerings to spirits. kundiN An abyss associated with an unlucky direction of the year. kurudati Raising the incense brazier; the initiation ritual of a sisterhood devoted to the worship of sacred springs. See aramidi. kusati Rear Spirit; body-sustaining soul. ku’udiN The spirit of Polaris.



mabui Body soul(s). mabui’sui Soul-catching action. mabui ut’i Soul-loss. maciri sandai Sacrificial meal meant for destruction. madimunu Evil Things; spirit attackers. madimunuci Evil Thing flare(s); soul fireballs. mai Front. mainui’i Rice dish; a mound of cooked rice in a bowl. makibudui Rotating dance. mara’ti Little Penis; boy. mâsû’usai Salty delicacy; salt for worship. midari-kidari Dullness of eyes and mind; a perplexed countenance. midududama Water-course Mountain; areas where rice can be cultivated by utilizing subterranean water. minaga Courtyard. minunGa nu sekku A Women’s Festival. miN-nu-ciru Branched pattern by water trickling through the sand. miN-nu-haci Prime Water; worshiped by initiates in a sisterhood. See aramidi. miN-nu-nanahana Seven Watery Flowers; primal water springs. See nanasiki nu tamamiN. miN-nu-nuci Water Host; a spirit of water. miN-nu-tama Water Gem; spirit of fresh water. mîsu Three Tides; a temporal measure. miti A viscous brew of fermented rice; a rice beer festival libation. See tzûmiti. mitikubaN High-grade herbal ritual dish. See sagikubaN. mugudara Groom vessel; a ritual receptacle. munuci Knower; shaman. See juta. munuN Agricultural rites of the growing season. muti Steamed rice cake(s). See kirimuti. mutu (kinai ) Origin (house). See bagi. nagadara Medium-sized vessel; a lacquer receptacle. namaci Sliced raw fish. namadagana (namadagara) Raw edibles; meat or fish. For sacrifices. nanasiki nu tamamiN Water Gems of Seven places; primal water springs. See miN-nu-nanahana. nanbabusa Canna indica; the Indian shot, a red flower. nbaganda Lygodium japonicum; Japanese climbing fern. nbusimunu Steamed Thing; a mix of vegetables and bean curd for sacrifices. ndai-nu-udi Deity of the left; left-side gatepost. nîbai A raised stone, a marker of the genius locus of a house compound. nicinanacifuci Seven stars of the north. nidi-nu-udi Deity of the right; right-side gatepost. nîmunu Cooked Thing; a soup dish. nindunusubi A year-end rite. ninuha The zodiacal direction of north.



ninuha’umjâ Spirits of northern and southern regions; the Polaris and the sun. nira (nirai kanai ) Female high spirit of the subaqueous and subterranean interiors. The pan-Ryukyuan nirai kanai. nirabandu (nirabansu) A realm of the female spirit nira. See nira. nisun’ni Two vessels – for reaching a sky spirit. See kurudati. nmaribansu A cavity of birth localizable by calendrical notations specific for any individual. nmaridi-kusati Birth-spirit Rear Spirit; paired centers of bodily vitality located in the eyes and on the top of the head. nmarigaN Birth Prayer; a soul-bolstering rite. nuci (nuti ) Host, in any natural feature: soil, rock, tree. nundaN-uridjaN [going] Up-Down; the well spirit. nunka-sunka The ambit of death, a that-world of “yesterday”/the ambit of life, a this-world of “today.” nunudami-itadami Imaginary cloth [and] fiber stretched out as a course. pûru First Fruits festival in the Yaeyamas, at the peak of the warm season. See ugaNfututi. sabaN A lacquer bowl. sagikubaN A ritual presentation of steamed dishes such as fish cakes and rice cakes; of lower grade than the mitikubaN. See mitikubaN. sansiN Stringed instrument. sanziNsô (Male) geomancer. saNai Ficus microcarpa; the banyan tree. siki Muddy bottom of rice field; matrilaterals. See tani. sirun’na Taboo rope for birth matter. siti “Interstitial” festival, a three-day exorcistic event during the autumnal seasonal shift; also referred to as the “New Year of old days”/“New Year of the otherworld ( gusu-nu-suNati ).” sûai Herbal stew of the highest purity, indispensable as an offering in revitalizing rituals. See gunna. suba Locality priestess; a priestess native to an island (not a court appointee). subimai Rite of completion. sûdaganmari High Birth people with particular abilities such as seers and knowers; the highborn priestesses and shamans. sudikubaN Exorcistic dish; a full meal to defend the body against spirit attacks. suiganaci Lord at Shuri; the king of the Ryukyus. sûmiN Longevity. surinu’usai Festival food. suruN A mid-seventh lunar month memorial for the dead. tagaraduGu Funerary catafalque. tagasa’udi High Spirit; the Polaris. taginisaN Peak Spirits. tagitagi-muimui Peaks [and] wooded hills. tamamiN Gem Water; spirit of fresh water. See miN-nu-tama.



tamanindu Gem Subjects; cult association congregating at an Origin House. See dâmutu. tani Seed, semen; patrilaterals. See siki. tanka Interstice, a temporal and spatial situation. ta’tai Curse(s). tîda’n ganaci Sun Lord; the king of the Ryukyus. tidibi Male shrine steward, counterpart to the island priestesses in the sacred groves. See k’a. tinudi Hand Release; extricating oneself from further ritual involvement with the spirits of the territory. tî-nu-munu Moon Thing; menstruation. tiNsiki Celestial Place; a cosmological region. tugara Snake. tugu House altar for the spirits of the dead. tuni Festival house; a place where representatives of the village and Mountain Subjects (see damanindu) entertain the island priestesses. tuti Period. tzarasimunu Confusion, mess. tzui Back. tzûmiti White miti; a fake rice-beer consisting of flour mixed with water. See miti. tzunta White soil. tzutza A looped straw or leaf charm. ubudama-mâdama High (ubu) Gem(s); souls residing in the crown of the head; Real (mâ ) Gem(s); souls residing in the eyes. See umuimabui-kumabui. ubudara Great vessel; a lacquer receptacle. ubudi-habudi (ujabudi-habudi ) The remote dead of divine stature, specifically, the heroic ancestors of Origin Houses. See dâmutu. ubudiniGai Life-preserving prayers addressed to ancestors of Origin Houses. See dâmutu. ubuka A star in the southern sky. ubuk’a Chief Priestess (of Dunang). ubunku tamanku-itanku What is upright as compared with what is blank and gem-like. Attributes of sacred heirlooms and features of the terrain. ucina (uchina) Okinawa, the Okinawans. udiru A papaya soup. uGaN Sanctuary attended by a priestess and a shrine steward. See utaki. ugaNbusa Male festival functionary. ugaNfututi First Fruits festival. See pûru. uGaN’ná Shrine crab; the Grapsus tenuicrustatus. umincjû “Sea people”; An Okinawan fishing population. umui Sentiment. umuimabui-kumabui Thought Soul Little Soul. See ubudama-mâdama. unpai Great Worship; prostration, kowtowing.



usutui Prayer, incantation. utaki High Peak; generic term for a Ryukyuan sacred grove. See uGaN. utigabi Impressed Paper [Money]; sheets of paper marked as sacrifices to spirits. See kabianGu. utudanmari Sibling Birth; consanguines.

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Introduction 1 Cf. Lakoff (1987) on embodiment and linguistic prototypes. Cf. Csordas on embodiment and phenomenology, and his critical remark (1994b: 7) on the body–mind association with a “Cartesian dualism.” Chinese and Japanese notions on personhood put the accent on sociality preferences, but if viewed as folk models, one cannot ignore that they are scholarly arguments, often made in opposition to presumed western individuality preferences. What strikes me, then, e.g. in the outlook on “Pacific selves” in Becker’s introduction to the topic (Becker 1995), is the fuller attention to the harmonizing aspects in the non-western alternatives compared to possible self-disciplining aspects (which may come at a cost). In Japanese society, even the most cursory impression of scenes of interaction cannot fail to grasp that sculptured kinesthetic expression is nothing if not a differentiation – in society and for purposes in society – by gender and other ranks stipulating some weighing and assessment of the individual. I am writing this just after having left a monorail station, where – for no apparent reason – two women were posted performing set bows at an angle of 45 degrees to each and every passing passenger. I find it likely that the more selves merge in the way prescribed by some non-western folk models, the better the chances for bodies to be sensitized to status and worth. Even in the upbringing of children, the dichotomizing aspects are something to consider, as in prescribed self-effacement for girls’ sociality vs. prescribed ego-boosting for boys’ sociality. 2 In Japan today, assorted ideographic devices – including even hand-held slats figuring key expressions of the topic – are brought into use to disambiguate the voice during TV newscasts. Yet, the Japanese ambience being very much a relationship ambience, there are limits to the range of the written record in public matters. Settlements with public agencies may perfectly well materialize quite ad hoc, as in dialogue. Even if the sources of power rest with the legal aspect – in Weber’s sense – rather than with the charismatic or traditional aspects, an entitlement to exercise discretionary powers may rest far more heavily with the person of the one negotiating a decision than in the West, where the society referent constantly calls for a transparency of the legal moorings. It follows that in Japan – with the best of circumstances – there may be charitable noblesse oblige. In the worst of circumstances, the invocation of the law on the part of a client may be deemed too dysfunctional to a much-valued stillness in relationship contexts. Advocacy places itself naturally at the fringes of society, with the possible exception, however, of farmers refusing to forsake ownership to rice paddies, e.g. for airport development projects. For rice and its cultivation, unlike the legal document and its readings, touch on deep-set sentiments central to the notion of collective being (cf. Ohnuki-Tierney 1993). 3 Cf. Eco (1979: 4): “The reader as an active principal of interpretation is a part of the picture of the generative process of the text.”



4 In a synopsis for research on non-vocal communicative styles, Hendry and Watson (2001: 7) point to exchange practices. Exchange-cum-semiotic transaction will appear as the topic of Chapter 4 in this book. 5 In a critical note on “the latest winds of doctrine,” saying that everything is a text, Wilshire (2002: 29) argues in favor of Peircean phenomenology and in particular the notion of “secondness”: “there is always a present in every experience.” The indexical nature of the sign included by this notion shall receive attention in this book. Cf. also Leawitt (1996: 530) on emotions as communicable and translatable by virtue of their sign expression. 6 Cf. Sahlins (2000: 301) on the event: “an endogenous event is a relation between an incident and a structure” and Ohnuki-Tierney’s critique (1995: 247) from the vantage point of Japanese ethnography: “Structure should not claim either ontological or historical priority over event.” 7 Cf. Hornborg (1996: 57) on conceptualization of nature and beliefs. 8 Ryukyuans are constantly engaged with issues of traditional knowing, most prominently in their involvements – all across the archipelago including its urban centers – with female shamans. A globalizing force may also be consistently present through the presence of US military bases on Okinawa Island. Yet if taking into account that the indigenous techniques for dealing with western military missions were fairly well developed already in the 19th century (Røkkum 1998), it may not be surprising that Americanization does not diffuse very much further on into island cultures. The presence of artifacts of mass consumption may say something about ways but not very much about minds. One example might illustrate this: during my periods of fieldwork, Coke bottles had replaced indigenous pewter-ware and ceramic bottles as sacred bottles for offering arrangements. Their shapes mimic a pregnant woman’s torso, as did also the old bottles. But are we justified in saying that the acceptance of Coke bottles signifies a “Coke culture”? 9 Hviding (1996: 171–2), writing about the Marovo of the Solomon Islands, observes: “Nature may be an analytical category to us, but not to Marovo people.” A contrary view about the Ryukyu Islands is held by Itô (1980: 220): “the mechanism of space in nature and space in society” (my translation). Cf. also Ellen (1993: 94) relating the Nualulu concept of nature to an “order in the world,” and Descola (1997: 406) on nature: “it is only the moderns who have proved capable of conceiving its existence . . .” 10 In Goddesses, Priestesses, and Sisters (1998) I have dealt with the monarchic tradition as filtered through locality-bound territorial and religious attachments in South Ryukyu. For a comprehensive look at the topic of Ryukyuan royalty, cf. Kishaba (2000). 11 Cf. e.g. the Norwegians who – in frontstage affairs – pride themselves with an absence of a military parade and a presence of a children’s parade on their Constitution Day. 12 Let me add a key note here for the subject of cultural basis of self-construction in this book. Chapter 4 introduces shamanic healing acts for regarding aspects of the self lost in a field of interactivity encompassing the dead and species in nature. Selfhood in this context will be depicted as dynamic, and with the aid of the shaman healer, adaptive to pragmatic circumstance. The account does not support an idea of a selfhood sustaining cultural norms. Shamanism could itself be a cultural practice dramatizing such interactive cast of personhood. Cf. perspicuous analysis of Jivaroan Achuar ethnographic data by Taylor (1996). 13 Eco (2000: 131) takes the following radical stance: “if we postulate a CT [Cognitive Type], we no longer have to bring concepts into play.” 14 Trapping fish is a technique practiced on neighboring Iriomote Island. Fishweirs built of piled stones can be seen along the coastline. 15 Incidentally, an islander asked what – out of my own experience on the island – would be a reasonable stance on the issue. My answer: “I think nothing particular would ensue if the landing strip were to be laid out on top of the sanctuary, not unless

Notes 237
something out of the ordinary strikes later on, such as a passenger suddenly falling ill while the aircraft is landing.” Previously, however, during the initial construction work for the runway, a spot for praying to protective spirits of cattle was transferred to a nearby site. That was a relatively minor incursion, and carried no negative consequences. Yet, as was added later on in the same conversation with a man who had been a pilot during the war, now living in the vicinity: once, when taking a nap during work on the runway, the workers all of a sudden were woken up by sounds coming out of nowhere, of drumming and singing. They looked around, and found an exposure burial place. A shaman was called to put the spirits to rest. 1 Commuted landscapes and species 1 The italicized vocabulary transcribed into the International Phonetic Alphabet is obtained from fieldwork. Otherwise, studies have been made by islanders of Yonaguni (Dunang) Island themselves. I recommend the following works in Japanese: Ikema Nae (1998) on vocabulary and Yonaguni kyôiku-iinkai [Yonaguni Educational Committee] (1995) on flora. Both resources have been very useful for consultation in the final stages of this book. 2 I addressed the issue of women’s position in the monarchic society of the Ryukyus in Goddesses, Priestesses, and Sisters (Røkkum 1998). See also Fuyû (2000), Higa (1987), Lebra (1966), Miyagi (1967, 1979), Sakima ( [1926] 1982), and Tanaka (1982). 3 To append just a few of the attributes: my informant was an officiant in the cult group of an Origin House of the eastern village of the north-coast settlement. An utterance of m’minku–tamanku identifies paired rice fields in the eastern part of the island, but also sacred festival articles held by her House. An utterance of mutuk’ahamai identifies the tomb site of an Original Priestess. A rock, uranudai-mintunuci, shelters trysting boys and girls (I shall later comment in more detail on the islanders’ accommodating view of human sexuality). A place/spirit of activity, icitarainuti, identifies a control post for checking textiles collected as taxation articles during the age of the Kingdom. The fuzan (Map 1.1) area belonged to the chieftain, dunaNbara azi, of the eastern perimeter. It includes a festival site for the present-day dunaNbara House. For a recent examination of archaeological indices on the consolidation of the Ryukyu Kingdom by including island territories in the south of the archipelago, see Pearson (2003). 4 Cf. Wacker’s thoughtful review of this issue (Wacker 2000), with a particular note on the case of the South Ryukyuan Hateruma Island. She mentions ( p. 165) that the sacred sites of the Miyako and Yaeyama islands rarely are ancestral graves. I agree they may not be ancestral graves. Nonetheless in Dunang it was sometimes alluded to that priestesses might be buried in such places. Then, all of a sudden one day (as described in Røkkum 1998: 186) I was invited to join in an excavation of the subsoil of a shrine enclosure: no more was it spoken of as a “prayer place,” but instead as “the tomb of a high spirit.” Knowledge otherwise tacit surfaced in explicit comment, prompted by an unusual event of having to dig to find the foundations of a shrine. For much of the same purpose, I shall put some emphasis on other unusual events in this book. For it could possibly be the shock, the surprise, or the delight – the peaked emotion – that in fact opens up trajectories, not just for a heightened experience in the moment, but also for remembering. 5 “Supreme = tagasa; u = honorific prefix; di, possibly, as in Chinese, “god/emperor.” Cf. also a landscape spirit, the nâta u’di’N, to be read as place name (nâta) – honorific (u) – god (di[N] ). 6 With a comparative study of ritual language, Mauss (2003: 36) tried to find an illustrious interplay between formality and creativity: “the efficacious power of form is never as evident as in prayer. Creation by the word is the very type of creation ex nihilo.” Prayer, hence, is a social phenomenon. The problem of how to loosen the study of ritual language from the domain of introspection/subjectivity enjoys a continuous





9 10

11 12


14 15

currency in anthropology. Although not quoting Mauss on this issue, Keane (1997: 48) underlines current views loosening an association of (prior) belief–ritual form: “concrete activities such as speaking, chanting, singing, reading, writing or their purposeful suppression can be as much a condition of possibility for the experience of the divine as a response to it.” South Ryukyuan ethnographies carry distinct affinities with the Austronesian world, most particularly in the salience of the brother–sister relationship, sacralization of ancestral houses, and materialization of ancestral sacredness through raised stone slabs (cf. Røkkum 1998). See also an illustration of the Oceanic configuration by Kirch (2000). For a recent discussion of the ethnographic case of “house society,” heirlooms and social memory, cf. Joyce (2000). Let me quote her (2000: 200) on just one aspect of the present case: “Stone is a particularly important medium for materially anchoring history in many house societies.” The village to territory links: kubura to kuburadagi; tuguru to tugurudagi; ndi to ndidagi; nmanaga to araga; uranu to urabudagi; ndaN to urabudagi. The monetary aspect of such payments refers to a celestial treasury. Igniting mock money bills for the transaction is a habit originating in China. Another mimetic practice, of submitting payments in kind such as cloth and yarn (iron) potsherds-ascoins is more likely of local origin. Wacker (2000) offers a substantial comment on the association of sun-political power. As I argued in Goddesses, Priestesses, and Sisters (1998), a Chinese geopolitical-cummagical scheme was probably incorporated into the architectural blueprints for village and domestic spaces in the Ryukyus. A striking parallel lies in the attention to the north. An architectural renovation of the 15th and 16th centuries of the Chinese imperial city made no arrangements for physical entry from the north (Wright 1977: 67; see also Wu 1963). A lexemic analysis renders the following possibility as to the etymology of the ku’udiN star spirit. The second part of the name is udi’N, “supreme deity.” “Deity,” is di in the Chinese pronunciation. (The appended N appears to be a phonemic mode of punctuating a final vowel in a word; it is quite pervasive in Dunang vernacular as a mode of separating lexemes.) The former part leaves a blank since no informants were able to comment further on the meaning of the word. However, with a distinctly Chinese idiomatic parallel to the goddess of the north, a justified guess would be an ideograph pronounced as ku in the original Chinese instance, conventionally translated as “maid.” The motif of a female spirit of the toilet meets a parallel in the Chinese Tzu-ku, Toilet Spirit. According to Eberhard (1986: 42), she is honored by women on the fifteenth day of the first moon. Cf. also Uematsu (2001) on notions about body soul conditions held by the Chinese on Taiwan. That was 26 years ago. He is still busy gathering adherents around the islands. He goes on re-reading the vestiges of the past and creating new ones for generations to come. Let me quote another field experience, from the Yami on the island of Lan Yü (Orchid Island) off the southern tip of Taiwan. They, too, record myth as not yet fulfilled, awaiting the end of the story. The Yami draw attention to the still unsatisfactory states of life in the present as the outcome of a sorry condition in the past, one of people lacking the sentiment of caring for each other. The reason for this deficiency was that the creation of the world itself had been left unfinished by the demiurge creator who was part man, part ram. The unsatisfactory topography of an uninhabited island somewhat off the coast was shown me as the final product of the misadventures. The ram-god had been borrowed by a boat crew in the northern Philippines just across the horizon for finishing the act of creation on their island. But they never took him back to where he belonged. The Yami narrators then asked me: Will the Yami crafts be seaworthy? Will they navigate well enough to traverse the sea toward the

Notes 239
south to search for the missing creator? Would I assist them in the endeavor? Myth does not necessarily state the present as the terminus of things originating in distant past; hence we may all play some part in it. The semiosis of a story is still waiting for a closure. Cf. Røkkum (2002a) on creation myths among the Taiwanese Bunun which topicalize the origins of empathy. Women explaining childbirth practices to me remembered washing bloodstained textiles in these clean springs. The ubudi are distant ancestors whose identities may be vague. Habudi identities are assured by individual wooden, memorial slates ( gansu). The suffixal -di of ubudi-habudi is possibly a derivation of the Chinese di = creator, god, emperor. A comparison between the Ryukyus and mainland Japan reveals an interesting difference. Whereas some very sacred places, spoken of as mountains, are off limits for males in the Ryukyus, some very sacred places, on mountains, are off limits for females in mainland Japan and the surrounding islands. In a 1973 New Year morning climb to the top of the volcanic Hachijôfuji mountain in the outer Izu Islands off Honshû main island of Japan, I carried around my neck a parcel containing an offering of rice for an imperial ancestress (the Ofuji-gongen-kono-hana-sakuyahime, The Flower-blossoming Princess of Mt Fuji). The offering was prepared by a miko, female shaman, whose emissary I was. Japanese mountain goddesses are bedeviled by jealousy of other women and by repugnance of their menstrual blood. A woman’s scaling of the mountain summit in the early hours of the New Year might be considered an option, however, I was told in a humoristic vein by a female informant on a revisit in 2002: if her wish is to break off a relationship to a man. So there is both a sentimental and corporeal aspect to this. In 2001, Japanese media reported that a woman member of a municipal delegation inspecting a tunnel construction site in northern Japan was refused entry. The reason was specified as not one of discrimination against women: it was simply a precaution for avoiding accidents. So it seems that a semiosis involving male and female bodies associates sentiments with very definite pragmatic effects. Cf. Maclaury’s view on an originary “dual prototype” (Maclaury 1991: 62). A literal translation of the Chinese notion t’ishen, rendered in English as “offering,” reads “substitute body.” Hou (1979: 196) describes how the substitute may take the form of a body of straw or paper. In spiritually inflicted contemporary Taiwanese society, this effigy is applied as an object onto which to divert sickness. For a graphic description of the inclusion of straw effigies in contemporary ritual, see Liu Chih-wan 1983–84, vol. I, part I, Ch. 4. Cf. de Heusch (1985: 204), who, in a comment on Evans-Pritchard’s ethnography of Nuer sacrifice, notes how products of a cow, namely its water-diluted bile and some milk, become ingredients in an exchange which seals the end to quarrels: “Sacrifice ends the violence of men and spirits.” The Dunang invoke an otherworldly official, busuganaci, to achieve this placation. A Chinese parallel is illuminating: in late imperial China, according to Weller (1987: 36–7), ghosts were considered too unruly and marginal for the state cult. Ghost concepts were manipulated, and “they treated ghosts as full, if low-ranking, members of the official hierarchy.” Evidently, a notion of supremacy is at stake, as well as a need for extracting the essentials of a this-world for the use in a that-world. This is truly a work of semiotic parallelism. For an ethnographic parallel of rice as a valued staple due to an association with the ancestors, see Bloch’s note on the Merina (Bloch 1989: 172). Ohnuki-Tierney (1993: 118) writes about the various meanings of rice to the Japanese, as in the imperial ritual of ônamesai. “[It] enacts the symbolic equations among food consumption, ritual, agricultural production, and human reproduction.” Cf. Chang (1977) for a view of rice among the Chinese.

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26 If sustained by the poetic and oratorical devices inhering in priestesses’ prayers, metaphors can, however, induce a generative quality as in the amplification of utterances of “whiteness” and “blankness.” Cf. also Eco’s claim (1979: 69) about metaphor and a creativity of language even outside the domain of poetic discourse. 27 About the latter term, cf. CP 2 Introduction p. iv: “the method of obtaining new ideas.” 28 If archaeological indices could be added to this native theory of the past, the homeland of rice can be traced to the Red River delta area, where a culture of wet-rice cultivation developed about 2000 years ago (Higham 1984). The motif of arrivals from across the ocean coupled with the motif of a pan-Ryukyuan deity of nirai kanai is sufficiently inclusive for Japanese language discourses to hoist it on a still more inclusive – Japanese – motif of the mythic marebito – also Visitors from afar. In the latter respect, etymological justifications refer back to the archaic Japanese chronicles, the Kojiki. My informants, though, never mentioned the marebito or any other entities recognizable as entrants from mainstream Japanese mythologies. What strikes me instead is the absence of generality in this ethnography of South Ryukyu: (a) the motif of a female deity (nirai kanai ) is intriguing, not for the possibility of interpolating a common source otherwise accessible only through historical and philological methods, but for the possibility of grasping a situated knowledge (e.g. within an island ecology); and (b) stories of visiting deities come out in much detail in locally-known stories. It seems to me, then, that it is not an easy feat of reconstructive scholarship either to predicate a descent from or, alternatively, an ascent into a parental motif as e.g. that of the ancient Japanese chronicles. Not even the most tenuous philological argument of lexical kinship can be falsified granting such powerful notions of a geopolitical longue durée. Smits (1999: 159–60), advocating a recognition of a Ryukyuan history, articulates a perspective on such reification of ethnicity: “Ryukyu must always have been part of Japan, the thinking goes, because it is so today or because its people allegedly belong to the same ethnic group (minzoku) as ‘the Japanese’ ” Cf. also Christy (1993: 609): “Since annexation, Okinawan ethnic identity has been subsumed under Japan in these terms by philological studies which emphasize the common archaic origins of Japanese and Okinawan languages on the one hand, and by cultural anthropological studies which have unrelentingly been concerned with constructing lineages between Japanese and Okinawan cultural practices on the other.” But cf. Kawahashi’s substantial comment (Kawahashi 1992: 236), which makes a distinction between folklore studies and a modern anthropological stance: “hardly any Japanese anthropologists these days share the traditional position held by the folklore studies, concerning the cultural specificity of Okinawa”, i.e. as typifying Japan’s ancient past. 29 Yet cf. Eco (2000: 112) on Peirce and intuition: “[he] denies that intuition possesses any power and asserts that all cognition springs from previous cognitions . . .” Parmentier brings up Peirce’s opposition against a Cartesian intuitionism “which postulates the existence of immediate (and thus nonsemiotic) cognition” (1994: 33). 30 Such inclusive signification of rice, even with a strong association with female matters, has been portrayed by Janowski (2001) as characteristic of the Kelabit of Sarawak. An association of fermentation with conception is, likewise, realizable in various cultural instances, as e.g. among the Amazonian Arakmbut (Gray 1996). 31 15th-century shipwrecked Koreans left records of a staple beverage in Dunang, a rice beer. They recorded, in fact, what is equally a maxim in the contemporary age: fermentation is ideally set off by a woman masticating a pinch of rice. 32 Fittingly for the present issue, Sebeok (1979: 118) reserves a wider domain for iconic representations than that of visual images. He points to the role of iconicity in “small group ecology, illustrated, for instance by our seating behavior . . .” Sometimes, in the critical comments on diagrammatic representations of kinship, one encounters the argument that it is entirely unrealistic to assume that people we study imagine relationships through matrices. True, but in my mind, even a seating arrangement could

Notes 241
in fact play an adequate role in this respect. I see no reason why one way of representation needs to mimic the permanency of pictures and texts. It may be sufficient for safekeeping in our memories that the patchworks of relationships are molded into some sort of coherence only when some occasion, such as a ritual, comes up. Mere flashes of insight may suffice, particularly so when kinesthetics of comportment resonate against a material context. The view of an extended role of iconicity invites us to look for representations in other fields than those of artistic or textual matter, e.g. as in those of the house itself as a template for relationships. Lévi-Strauss’s contribution in this respect (cf. the material culture focus in The Way of the Masks, 1982) is considerably more influential in current anthropological discussion than his perspectives modeled on linguistic matter. The widow hesitated to affix her husband’s agnatic identity to the lineage of her own house. But she was very troubled about the choice she had made. She felt sorry for her husband’s posthumous eviction from the house. Well before his death, she had even given up her own house name in favor of the surname of her husband, and on a revisit, I discovered that the tablet had in fact been given a slot in the mortuary altar of the main house, yet in a position to the east of, hence separate from, the assembly of tablets of the House. For a further comment on the issue, see Barraud (1979); Carsten and Hugh Jones (1995); Howell and Sparkes (2003); Joyce and Gillespie (2000); Janowski (1995); McKinnon (1995); Macdonald (1987); Waterson (1990). Barraud (2001: 290) pinpints a radical difference, in this respect, between gender constructions of the Kei Islanders and those emerging from a model of alliance. A critical review of the ethnography of the shape of Ryukyuan tombs as seen from the notion of uterus resemblance is provided by Heshiki (1995). Let me insert a remark on the issue of gender. In the comments I received in the ndi village, “the little black one” is an infant, boy or girl. Yet there is room for caution here as Ikema (1998: 306) – herself an islander – specifies this as a term for boys. This ceremonial practice was recorded in the annals of the Kingdom. I refer to the Yaeyama-jima ooamo yurai-ki, Records of the Origination of the Yaeyama Islands Great Mothers (early 18th century?). I have no exegesis to quote to explain the usages of worn sandals and soot from a pot. But what – to quote present-day shaman vocabulary – is “worn and torn” can be used to send off evil things. Wacker (2000: 85), reviewing Furuie (1994) on the motif of a Ryukyuan spirit of fire, refers to a practice of smearing the forehead of the newborn with soot from the fire as a request for guardianship. As I explained more fully in Goddesses, Priestesses, and Sisters, the temporality of a lifecourse is fully understood with referents in territorial waypoints marking a particular life activity at a particular stage. Both a critical age and a critical waypoint (such as a well where a person has fetched drinking water) can be spoken of as a tanka; the idea is that of an intercalation. Raised stone slabs dotting the territory are tanka of the whole island. Diamond (1974), in a juxtaposition of western and “primitive” society, makes a distinction between the reduction of person to status and progress to social progress in the former and “personal progress” in the latter. I make no particular claim for the Ryukyuans belonging to one or the other, and I actually see a difficulty in sustaining the dichotomy, for whatever personal realization might be involved at the moment of entering a life-course status, for whatever kind of society, obligation ensues (as I inferred, watching an initiation ritual for boys in the island of Iriomote). In the broader Japanese society, the progress itself is obligatory to an extent hardly conceivable in the West. If I were to choose one word to characterize – modern – Japanese society it would be “graduation.” Any delay along the critical junctures, if only by a few months, is likely to raise doubts about eligibility – to a “status,” e.g. as a company person. The symbolizing referent is totalizing. A personal realization or specialization, as the experience and record of a university study carries little weight. But


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the name of the university does carry weight. The juncture, such as celebrating an induction to a company, is a graduation from one life-course stage (the ultimate stage of childhood) and one type of collectivity (the university) to another stage (adulthood, marriagibility) and another collectivity (the company). The issue is excellently portrayed in Nakamaki’s study of the funeral as a company ritual (Nakamaki 2002). The individual life cycle is incorporated into the affairs of the company, for “the company always faces the problem of rebirth in its organization.” On Aogashima Island outermost in the Izu Chain east of Honshû, but part of Japan proper, pregnant women were formerly given only one small meal a day. They practically starved, a woman informant told me on a revisit in 2002. I told her about the South Ryukyuan islands. “Quite the opposite attitude to pregnant women there,” was her response. Male authority over the pregnant woman is more definitely codified here than in the Ryukyuan island. Cf. Tambiah’s types (Tambiah 1990), “causal efficacy” and “performative efficacy” (of communicative acts), associating participation with the latter conceptual alternative. Higa (1999) expands the implications of the term to denote a distinctive cult group membership centered on a “stem lineage.” The names in official Japanese writing: Matsubara, Ômoto, Shimoji, Sûna. It was emphasized that young men had fetched the crabs. This might be one way of stressing a role in rejuvenation. He spoke about the spirit of the depths in a quite circuitous way, not once pronouncing its name. Only after considerable hesitation, mental preparation perhaps, do the ritual adepts on the island articulate the name, nira. The remark touches on an interesting aspect of power relations. Sillitoe (2002), following Lakoff (1987), makes a distinction between egalitarian – tribal – societies and hierarchical societies as to what extent dispute is tolerated in issues of knowledge such as taxonomic arrangement of indigenous species. Typically, informants in the South Ryukyus invoke the right to know when doubt surfaces. I often experienced a limit to insight as a limit to the right to know. Shamans designate themselves as Knowers, and with this claim to insight, they appropriate a slot in the social scheme that parallels the ideational scheme. The island priestesses, to compare, inherit such entitlement through their matrilineage. The social scheme reproduces the entitlement and so also the corpus of knowledge granted only that a successor qualifying as a first daughter can pronounce the component prayers with some ease, as in a state of shamanic inspiration. It may not be surprising that gender appears as a qualifying premise for the right to know, yet what is particular to this Ryukyuan case is the way hierarchically conceived power stipulates rights for women. A tidibi, male shrine caretaker of the ndi shrine (the priestess had abdicated from her responsibility before my fieldwork) was the one to give the most extensive account for this behavior on the part of female crabs. I was sometimes puzzled about his persistent humanization of crustacean life. I had to ask him, for example, “huddling together in the burrows . . . just like boys and girls . . . what is that?” With a surprised look at me he replied: “You don’t know what boys and girls do?” I did not press the issue whether or not the migration from the sea toward an area where subterranean streams feed freshwater into the rice fields carried any particular significance. Aware of the amphibious character of the land crab and its close association with the nira goddess, I might have done that, perhaps. The nira itself, a goddess of hollow interiors, is also amphibious as when negotiating the landscapes of deep ground, maybe as far off as into the rice fields. What is certain, however, is that the nira goddess is much at attention in South Ryukyu at the time of the First Fruit’s rituals. Entities of both sea and land in association matter very much for the rejuvenation of growth in the rice fields, at the hub shrine of Dunang as on other islands. Note also the informant’s word about another phalanx of crabs heading for the anda area, where a foothill reaches the lagoon beach. Crabs file into an area where, on the New Water’s Day, women gather

Notes 243
to fetch water from springs for the purpose of rejuvenating their own bodies. Though not realizable here as an ethnographic record, it could be possible, however, that this imagery sustains a semantic string of association: of crabs/connecting with the nira/ with its abodes along the coral reef/with its abodes along subterranean streams adjacent to the rice fields/with its abodes (even much closer to the shore) at freshwater springs gushing forth from the coral sand. As seen from a more general point of view, the semantic category most specifically pointing to the goddess is that of jû – “increase.” This notion of increase is fairly inclusive, connoting well-being in the sense of ample growth in fields and births to humans and to domestic animals. More specifically, it can include well-being both for rice fields and humans relying of ample sources of fresh water. Note that beans perform as sexuality markers also in other societies. In a footnote above I inserted a line from my conversation with a shrine steward on this subject. I take further note of his consistent usage of the phrase “washing her pregnancy.” It took me some moments to come to grip with the implication, for – consciously or not – he was tuning his attention toward some commonality of crab character and human character. Even if knowledgeable of the biological features involved, he would not e.g. say “washing her roe sack.” Cf. Knight (1991), who argues for a literal synchronicity between lunar phases and menstrual onset. Lévi-Strauss (1966a: 5), drawing on Smith (1960), adduces such indigenous knowing with the example of Kabira Village on nearby Ishigaki Island. Such observed similarity-across-difference could hold some emotive charge sustaining lasting cultural imageries. The Dunang are mindful of parallel substances and processes both in botanical and zoological domains. While sharing the view that indigenous percepts are at our attention, and that metaphoric knowing, if it exists, is crucial in the ethnographic document, the Ryukyuan case brings forth the possibility of a semiotic framework of human sentiment capable both of a “yes” and a “not so” together with a stronger emphasis on imagist parallelisms than on metaphors per se (cf. also Røkkum 2002a). Bloch (1998: 52) says that symbols in the context of ritual are present “conceptual analogies.” I agree with his viewpoint that such analogies seem most fertile when the species at attention are defined as live species, but harboring problematic intentionalities: “the more ambiguous, yet convincing, the relationship, the more it can be evoked and used in this game of ‘one moment I am here, the next I am not’.” Cf. also Barnes (1994). Who sees an adaptive advantage in the human ability to lie, yet does not include a perspective on ritual in this respect. Cf. also the review by Gell (1996). Let me add a reflection on Kant. Intuitive sensibility, in his view, is not a matter of attributes, but of relations of time and space. In the 1787 treatise Critique of Pure Reason, he writes that there is “a subjective constitution of our manner of sensibility” (1929: 73), but “there is nevertheless a determinate form [namely time] in which alone the intuition of inner states is possible (1929: 67).” The soul cannot be intuited, in Kant’s view, but its relation in time can. We do not talk about such relations, either in time or in space, yet they are the relations inhering our knowing of the world. In my reading, Kant perceives here a role for the habitual and the relational. Csordas (1994a: 5) identifies a generic human condition as the experience of the sacred as Otherness: “it defines us by what we are not” and “touches us precisely at our limits.” In the Dunang example, the latter observation carries weight. A sacredness-as-otherness is not something beyond our limits. Every person walking around in a state of soullessness makes abundant proof of Otherness even being hosted by ourselves. There may be some local variation within the motif if we compare it with another informant account available in Iwase et al. (1983: 2–4). In the alternative version, the

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goddess is drenched in festival beer upon reaching ground. Leaves of the giant taro are then fetched to wrap up her body. For a focused analysis of the motif of celestial maidens in Ryukyuan narrative tradition, see Kuratsuka (1994). Shrine priestesses use Flagellaria indica vines for a headdress when traversing the village of ndi in festival procession. See Figure 1.11. I received no definite comment as to the lexemic purport of this term. The latter lexeme, kadai, though, means “display.” Informants were unsure of the implication of what is pronounced asa. One possibility is that the allusion is to the ancestor in question, the Bulging Bowels Grandfather (cimuhiki’asa): asa, then, meaning “grandfather.” “kindling firewood in the western hut.” The strophe refers to a typical preparation for childbirth in former days. A sticky ferment contained in a polished black bowl makes conception a recognizable fact of life through the released immediacy, which in Peircean semiotics is firstness. Several ndi villagers said that they have trouble understanding the songs they themselves are chanting in the ndi festival. Very often when trying to transcribe Dunang oral matter in prayers with more archaic substance than ordinary language, informants are unsure of the precise meaning of words, yet they may very vividly tell me what they evoke. They interpret by the spirit rather than by the letter. As I was making ndi festival transcriptions from my tape recordings, I was sometimes told that the songs had been brought to the island from the outside. Some suggested that the original gloss is that of the Ishigaki Island, but I am unsure of that. The next stanza might be the one most difficult to transcribe. Without claiming any final authority as to the “correct” version, I choose to include it, however. For it condenses – even to some very few islanders who helped me in this – very distinctive imageries, which, as they themselves have been told, make up the contents. Where chanting ends and dialogue begins, a more genuine Dunang vernacular takes over. Transcription and translation become easier tasks at that point. For a recent contribution on taxonomic knowing cf. Sillitoe (2002). Cf. also Basso (1976) who unveils metaphoric resources in indigenous classifications. Fuyû Iha – a prominent name in Ryukyuan scholarship – points out the abundance of erotic motifs in Dunang folk songs (Fuyû 2001: 240).

2 Person and island 1 The -ti (di ) is a suffix probably denoting “spirit”/“deity.” 2 Cf. Kawahashi’s (1992: 116) observation on the role of the sister as gradually being taken over by that of the wife on account of increasing residential mobility in Okinawa. 3 Kelp, though not native to the warm waters around the islands, is much appreciated as an ingredient of local festival cuisine. Its ribbon-like appearance makes it a favorite choice for decorating the dishes with auspicious knots. 4 An instance demonstrating the triadic layout in Merrell (1991: 177–8) draws upon a Chinese example in Granet. 5 According to Sakihara (1987: 24), in one version of an Okinawan creation myth, “the tashika tree was brought forth and planted to build mountains.” 6 Royal portraitists are said to be sensitive to this aura. When the difference is neglected, the support for royalty suffers. A recent royal marriage in Norway illustrates this. The Norwegians seemed even to take pride in the un-aristocratic poise of the royal family, but only as it was flaunted as such, as in what became an eidetic prototype of a kingpaying-for-a-ride-on-a-tram. It is a quite different matter when the margins between a Royal House and ordinary people reshuffle as if from one day to the other. The Norwegian monarchy is presently exposed to such uncertainties. 7 Shamans report on the risks associated with their insights. This concern is also mentioned by the miko shamans in the Izu Islands of Japan (Røkkum 1975): they

Notes 245
opted for the formal induction in order to soften their own tempers. With this, they recover from the spectacle of death. 8 In an overview of annual rites in the island, Ikema (1957: 145) – a physician native to the Ryukyus – takes notice of women extracting a positive force from fresh water. 9 Recapitulations by cult initiates indicate that the vivacity of the ritual action ran counter to the Japanese beau ideals inculcated among the populations in the islands. A female pre-eminence narrated as folklore has a constant currency, most prominently in the tale of a 16th-century female chiefess. 10 This is not a deserted place any longer. A now very actively publicized assumption that the sea floor below is dotted with the ruins of a “lost civilization” of Yonaguni, Japan, has had its effects. 3 Cyclical lapses 1 Children are rarely seen playing along the beaches. An observation made on Kume Island by Allen (2002: 208) is a case in point: on a trip for collecting refuse on a beach, children do venture into the water, but not the adults. 2 This is the minimal version of a festival engagement widely observed in the southern Ryukyus. I took notice of its mention – a stroll in the shallow lagoon – in the electronic version of the Ishigaki newspaper, Yaeyama Mainichi Shinbun, in 2003. 3 The species brings an association with the female gender also in the Greek tradition. The mugwort, artemisia, connects with femaleness (the Greek female goddess Artemis) and with childbirth. 4 The conventional Japanese usage of ancient Chinese calendrical prototypes does not pertain to the ethnography of South Ryukyu. I did not observe any Japanese sekku celebrations on 3 March for girls and 5 May for boys. 5 The Okinawa dai hyakka-jiten (Encyclopedia of Okinawa) s.v. “hoshi no hôgen” (Dialect terms of stars) offers two options for the star cluster’s location. Either these are six stars of the Sagittarius constellation or seven stars in a cluster observed when combining the view of the Southern Cross with that of the Centaurus (viz. of the Southern Cross: _, ß, _, _; and of Centaurus: _, ß, _.). I add that from a position of observation in South Ryukyu, stars of the Southern Cross rise only slightly above the horizon in the peak of summer. I made a visit to an astronomical observatory to piece together such details. 6 I thank Mr. Murakami, director of a Japanese museum with oni mask collections (Nihon no oni no kôryû hakubutsukan), for pointing this out to me. Let me add that the Ryukyuans have not embraced the motif of some anthropomorphized evil in their mask traditions. Sifting through museum records elsewhere, I found only a single image of the horned oni of mainland Japan. Evil Things come in many semblances, but not in these islands as an icon of capital Evil. 7 Consolation rituals for killed whales are carried out in Japan. The practice might build upon the same rationale, and hence include whales in a concept of ensouled beings. Yet that might not be easy to corroborate given the current resistance in Japan against a western inclination to anthropomorphize whales. 8 According to Walker’s (1976: 44) botanical evaluation, its trailing vines and tough rachises make the Lygodium microphyllum well suited for strapping objects. 9 Some people I met on a recent visit regretted that the South Ryukyuan lion masks are now being exchanged for masks of a more commonplace Japanese mainland type. The mask worshiped in the village where I lived is one instance of this. After greeting it with a splash of rice brandy, paying my respects while having to wake it up from its slumber, I took some photographs and some measurements. An exact copy, made by a mask carver on Ishigaki Island, Mr Arashiro Hiroshi, has been brought to Norway and put on museum display. The wood is that of the Indian coral bean (Erythrina variegata). 10 According to a man in his eighties, in previous times rats were provided for on the same occasion. If that is the case, the event does not differ very much from the



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Norwegian jul, Christmas. The latter event prescribes, according to tradition, that not only should children receive gifts on Christmas Eve but animals too. A portion of porridge is left for their enjoyment in the barn. For an analytic comment on individual disposition, including that of an anthropolgist subject in light of the Bourdieuan habitus, cf. Tanabe (2002). Now in retrospect, as I listened to people’s comments after a year had passed, these siti-event predictions proved accurate. Note that gender mimics conjugal relationships. The observation of the bigi-bunai relation, of (elder) brother and (younger) sister, is reserved for the sunka type of ritual. The rite we are observing here is a nunka type rite, a domain which in kinship terms is associated with agnatic preferences of the mortuary cult, including a preference for husband–wife rather than brother–sister as the gendered relationship. The motif itself, of an exorcizing lion, originates in the visual and sonorous context of a Chinese tradition. The masks consist of an upper and lower shell hinged in such a way that the jaws are manipulable from the inside. On Aragusuku ( panari ) Island in the Yaeyamas, there is a similar grand exorcism on the eve of the New Year of the dead. On that island, there is an additional requirement to fetch fresh water for drinking and libations early in the morning of the following day. Spatulas used for scooping cooked rice are brought down to the beach to be washed in seawater. While the fresh water has a natural purity, seawater has a natural cleansing effect. The first day is devoted to exorcisms and the protection of individual health; the second day includes the whole community, with the involvement of priestesses for prayers at the shrines. In 2002 I saw that the old cici of the ndi village had been stowed away in the rear of the village assembly house. A gaudier monster has taken its place in the festivals, to the regret of some of the people I talked with. I share the interest with an Ishigaki mask carver, Mr Arashiro Hiroshi, in conserving the features of the old mask if not the connotations it holds of death matter. Mr Arashiro kindly offered to make replica for the Oslo Ethnographic Museum, and he traveled to the Dunang village himself to see it. The wood used for mask making is that of the Indian coral bean (Erythrina variegata). In preparation I took some measures and still photographs. In apology for waking the old mask up from its slumber and for deflecting evil things possibly provoked by the disturbance, I doused it with some strong rice brandy. My request was initially for a copy of the mask of the ndi village. But after some further reflection, Mr Arashiro suggested that we also reproduce the mask in the nmanaga village on the north coast. For characters of that kind thrive fully when going in pairs. I am grateful for this reminder that a Ryukyuan material culture is not just a thing of the bygone. Sivin (1989: 185), commenting on Chinese traditional scientific thinking, emphasizes a corresponding relationship between demarcations and uncertainty conditions – as making a claim about time. Hubert (1999) draws attention to the experiential nature of temporality in a study, not of the feast, however, but of festival dates, suggesting (p. 64) “[a] theory of time as a scale of tensions in the consciousness . . .” and a “system of signatures”: “In themselves, dates are the sign or signatures of things that occur on them.” This, in my opinion, is an early view on how signs take on social characteristics.

4 Fateful exchanges 1 Granet (1973) demonstrates that the relevance of Hertz’s theory in the Chinese case is less strong. Yet even with the quite demonstrable Chinese influence on Dunang mortuary practices, the noxious is always a matter of the left. 2 According to Eberhard (1972: 45), in previous times, the Chinese spread ashes in front of the grave in anticipation that the return of the spirit would be revealed by

Notes 247
footprints. See also de Groot (1892: 44), referring to the corpse/cat motif as a relic of ancient tiger-lore, quoting a saying about the cat’s tail: “hair that causes the soul to return.” Note, however, that the Dunang employ the imagery, not to welcome the spirit back, but to assure themselves that it has effectively been sent off and away from the living. The topic of restless ghosts is well known across East Asia. It is familiar on Japanese television as live events of ghost-spotting. The programs include a studio audience, invariably of very young women and men. Formoso (1996) makes the interesting observation that for ethnic Thai the unfortunate dead are those hit by sudden adversity while for the ethnic Chinese they are those who lack sons to worship them. The South Ryukyuan case of ghost infliction draws closer to the Thai alternative. Cf. the following case mentioned to Wang (1974: 189–90) by the Chinese on Taiwan: “The body of a person who drowned or hanged himself is considered dangerous but at the same time powerful.” Wang mentions temples being built for those suffering an unnatural death. I see an interesting ethnographic parallel in Watson’s portrayal of a Cantonese funeral ( Watson 1982). While men feel respect for the corpse, women feel fear. Yet women are required to expose themselves to the chaotic effects of death pollution, securing that (p. 182) “the deceased’s life ‘essence’ or fertility is released.” It appears that they truly play a dual role. A recent (2004) case in point: the Japanese authorities did their utmost to secure the release of Japanese nationals taken hostage in Iraq. Nonetheless, news media depicted an arrival in Japan of very self-effacing subjects. These were also the words uttered in acknowledgement when I once gave a tin of butter cookies to a Dunang priestess. Accepting the token, she made quick obeisance to the spirit of her shrine district. In Chinese numerology, according to Eberhard (1986: 261–2) the number seven defines critical years of a woman’s life. The number also applies to a Buddhist mortuary ritual, carried out at intervals of seven days after death. In Chinese literary sources, 12 is a cardinal number in different aspects of cosmological thought, including calendar, zodiac, and the human organism. See e.g. Eberhard (1986), who also emphasizes that it included the actual astronomical observation of Jupiter’s 12-year orbit of the sun. The expression “four corners” refers to the physical margins of the house compound. The utterance “mounds of the four corners” refers to makeshift holders for incense sticks, made by scooping sand up from the topsoil. Someone born in the year of the Wild Boar, according to the Chinese calendrical cycles, is in Dunang gloss a “Wild Boar person.” A geomancer extracts his divinations from Taoist literature. He performs auguries, but unlike the female shamans, aptitude does not come from inspiration but from interpretation. His sources are in books; to many fellow villagers the implication would be that his knowledge is hidden in books. In my impression, some male diviners are not happy about showing their texts to others. Cf. Lebra (1966: 85–8) for a study of the geomantic function. According to Lebra, pre-war legal strictures against the practice of shamanism did not apply to the geomancers. Let me quote from Lebra ( p. 87) an answer from a high-ranking police official to the question “why”: “We could only punish them if they gave advice which was not in their books.” Clearly, when nation state and its associated Confucian moralities are involved, divination is legitimate if it can be classified as a record. A similar form of ideology is incorporated in Dunang ritual in the custom of exactly reckoning offerings as a form of relaying levies to an otherworldly magistracy. Kubo (1990) provides a thorough treatment of the subject of Chinese geomantic tenets adapted to the Ryukyuan environment. Hara (2000: 63–108) offers an example of Ryukyuan feng shui with the Yonaguni (Dunang) case.




6 7 8 9

10 11 12 13



14 The master carpenter later elaborated this point for me. In a not-so-distant past on Dunang, there were remains of haphazard burials everywhere. Children’s remains were buried in shallow pits. Concern for place and direction, in his opinion, is a function of current, Chinese tomb architecture. 15 If, on the other hand, the treasured object of the past had been preserved, for sentimental reasons, or for the sake of continuity of a local artisan tradition, this might have weakened the ideational justification of its use. Although I was aware of the dilemma, I asked the headman of the village if there might be a possibility to take care of the old palanquin as a museum artifact. My question was passed on to a village meeting. The headman explained the position taken. “By general agreement,” he said, “this is something to think carefully about.” However, my suggestion was not realizable; no ship’s captain would dare to take the wooden box aboard his ship. “What about an airplane?” I asked. The answer: “Even worse. Nobody would wish to travel with that plane any more.” In the end I actually welcomed this prevalence of sentiment over conservation. 16 When taking funerary items, such as bone jars or ancestral tablets, into the light of day, an umbrella is always hoisted as a shield against the rays of the sun (see Figure 4.5). 17 Cf. Needham (1978: 40) referring to Hocart. “Hocart has suggested . . . that the common practice of carrying kings and other potentates so that they are never in contact with the earth is a ceremonial surrogate for the imagined gift of flight.” 18 Cf. Hocart (1927) for an original account of kingship and cosmological powers. 19 Samuels and Samuels (1989: 204) pinpoint a “cosmo-magical core” of emperor cult and geomancy imprinted in exemplary architecture of the Chinese capital. 20 Just as the Chinese since ancient times place dried meat at the disposition of the dead when performing rites at the tomb, the Dunang, when contemplating the provisions to be brought along, prefer preserved delicacies, such as canned fruits. 21 Cf. Conklin (2001: 182) on the subject of compassionate cannibalism among the Amazonian Wari: “Wari cannibalism . . . carried a message of objectification, for it externalized the dead . . .” Animal meat instead of human meat for the meal upholds the association, of the corpse with something outside of human society. 22 The story that recreates the origin of the priestess–priest relation represents one version of a familiar tale among the peoples of China and Japan. See Miller (1987a, 1987b) for the distribution of tales of feather-robed women. Conclusion 1 “Ideas are certain original forms of things, their archetypes, permanent and immutable, which are contained in the divine intelligence. And though they neither begin to be or cease, yet upon them are patterned the manifold things of the world which come into being or pass away.” Cited in the entry on “Idealism,” Catholic Encyclopedia (New York: D. Appleton Co., 1910), vol. 7, p. 634. 2 In that sense, I see a similarity outside the perimeters of Sino-Japanese civilizations, where the religious defines a sub-domain in society. In a view on the Amazonian Achuar, Descola (1994: 100) refers to “two distinct levels of reality created by distinct modes of expression,” thus pointing to the interconnectivity of pure idealities and epiphenomenona. Cf. also Taussig (1993) on the role of images as contrasted with concepts and Iteanu (1995) for an illuminating ethnographic treatment of the subject of “personified transcendence.” 3 Dove (1996) reworks Bateson’s systemic model of knowing to understand augury practices among the Bornean Kantu: “how to transcend the limits of consciousness, how to escape the conceptual tyranny of the self-contained system” (Dove 1996: 585). In comparison, the Ryukyuan case presents something of the opposite: the selfreferential aspect of human sentiment appropriates the elements of nature I have

Notes 249
introduced in this book. Consciousness is abundant, so the Dunang experience little scarcity of meaning. It is not engulfed by a wider “system” – religion or nature (cf. also Ellen and Fukui 1996: 26). As e.g. suggested in the section An encounter with a root force, divinations enacted by a shaman effectively amplifies an ad hoc choice pattern along the axis of body – nature – architecture. On some islands in the Yaeyamas, there are, however, age-set initiation requirements calling for some ordeals. Informants speak of these as attendant to learning basic matters of society morals. A Dunang initiation ritual for women (recall A women’s initiation cult in Chapter 2) requires that a neophyte seclude herself but not on account of any unclean state. Cf. the critical comment by Powers (1995) on an assumed linkage between female initiation and pollution. Valeri (2000: 412) pinpoints a “totalizing function” when writing of the action and non-action involved by taboos. Let me quote his view: “The coexistence of affirmation and negation in the variety of forms it takes is . . . ultimately the mechanism by which identity is constituted.” This may not contradict the fact that ritual scenarios such as those portrayed in this book (Chapter 4, in particular) involve uncertainty and may be executed simply on the suspicion that something may have gone wrong. “Abductive inferences,” as in Boyer’s discussion of causal understandings (Boyer 1995), may well single incidents meaningful with little or no traceability to the general causes. The informant used the standard Japanese term, kokoro, sometimes translated as “heart.” Matters of the heart are focal in Japanese discourses on interior states. I find the Ryukyuan alternative, cimu, which locates a “mind” in the bowels, less to the forefront of poetic and moral conceptions. Cf. Heshiki (1990: 396), who – with an example from Aragusuku Island in the Yaeyamas – argues against a thesis that the cults of visiting masked gods represent animal worship or totemism. Rappaport (1999: 72), consistent with the view taken in this book, positions “participation” within the realm of Peircean indexicality. In his expansion of this semiotic premise, he equates indexicality with “high-order meaning,” iconicity with “middleorder meaning,” and symbolicity with “low-order meaning.” Keesing gives an illustration from fieldwork of this difficulty for the anthropologist. I quote his general comment (1987: 164): “Meanings . . . are not in the cultural texts, not inherent in cultural symbols, but evoked by them.” (Emphasis in the original.) Cf. also the Basso’s (1976) examination of “semantic gaps.” Cf. Solinas (1994) on the issue of ritualization of indebtedness. The Austronesian-speaking Bunun of the mountainous central regions of Taiwan (Røkkum 2002a) make kinship a field of such dual signification. Sharing festival meat, or just assuming that such an act of commensality has taken place once in the past, is quintessentially the kind of sharing which makes exogamous kinship. In a closer inspection of the issue, I found that the Bunun may ban marriage – for the exchange it induces – while they may consent to sexual liaisons between the same partners. Contracts of marriage imply rules of sharing between in-laws. So they become akin, and must exclude each other from further partnerships through marriage. The sharing of meat indexicalizes mating which has taken place and/or should not take place. So the Bunun idea of incest does not spring out of an idea of intimacy of a biogenetic kind, but is construed by an idea of matching reciprocities. The Bunun construct kinship through such acts of sharing and withholding.

4 5




9 10


12 13




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Ahern, Emily M. 162 Allen, Matthew 95, 245n Allen, N.J. 136 Alocasia odora, the giant taro 83, 124 ancestors: ubudi-habudi (ujabudi-habudi ) 36, 49, 59, 99, 101, 109, 224; see also house and cultural heroes Arashiro, Hiroshi 246n Artemisia princes, the mugwort 124, 125, 128 Austin, J.L. 6 Austronesian Taiwanese: Bunun 239n, 249n; Yami 80, 160, 238n autochtony 34–7, 39–41, 42–4, 240n Bachnik, Jane M. 11 Barnes, J.A. 243n Barraud, Cécile 241n Barthes, Roland 169 Basso, Keith H. 244n, 249n Bateson, Gregory 12, 37, 212, 219 Becker, Anne E. 235n Benedict, Ruth 11 birth 32, 60–4 Black, Max 81 Bloch, Maurice 239n, 243n Bodde, Derk 128–9, 130 Boyer, Pascal 11, 224 Burke, Kenneth 23 Codiaeum variegatum, the croton 98, 196 Canna indica, the Indian shot, a red flower 90 Cannon, W.B. 45 Cardisoma hirtipes, a gecarcinid land crab (Christmas Island blue crab) 71, 72 Carica papaya, the papaya 103, 117, 135, 161, 164 Carsten, Janet and Stephen Hugh Jones 241n

Catholic Encyclopedia 248n Chang, K.C. 162, 239n Christy, Alan S. 9, 240n Cocos nucifera, the coconut 103 Conklin, Beth A. 248n Corrington, Robert S. 2 Csordas, Thomas J. 2, 235n, 243n cultural simulacra 37 curses 104, 127, 135, 138, 152, 167 death: and rescue missions 155–8; and treatment of corpse 41, 156–8, 204–6; and treatment of a dead priestess 213–18; and ventriloqism 206 Deely, John 12 de Groot, J.J.M. 247n de Heusch, Luc 239n Derrida, Jacques 226 Descola, Philippe 236n, 248n Diamond, Stanley 241n Diospyros ferrea, the ebony 126, 186, 187, 193, 194 Dove, Michael R. 248n Duff-Cooper, Andrew 220n Durkheim, Émile 32, 123 Eberhard, Wolfram 9, 238n, 247n, 207, 208 Ebrey, Patricia Buckley 162 Eco, Umberto 37, 75, 77, 78, 140–1, 165, 193, 221, 225, 235n, 236n, 240n environment: and gender 118–22, 123–9, 125–6, 128; and personhood 60–4, 99–102, 118–19, 123, 156, 169, 171, 175, 181, 184, 186; and physical defense 177; and women’s cult association 109–22, 121


Heshiki, Yoshiharu 241n, 249n Higa, Masao 237n, 242n Higham, C.F.W. 240n Hocart, A.M. 248n Hokama, Shuzen 29 Hornborg, Alf 236n Hou, Ching-lang 191, 239n house: architectural plan of 7, 30–2; and conjugality 55–60; and cult group 59–60, 83–95, 214, 225; and cultural heroes 42; and origin myths 83–4; and prestige objects 20, 21–2, 26, 43, 49, 50, 94, 167, 222, 223, 225; and siblingship 56–60; see also ancestors/myth Howell, Signe 22, 241n Hubert, Henri 246n, 168 Hviding, Edvard 236n Ikema, Nae 241n, 245n illocution 6, 33, 50, 80 initiation groups 27, 43–6, 213 Ionesco, Eugène 223 Iteanu, André 248 Iwase, Matsunami 57 Ixora Chinensis, a flower 45, 82 Izu islanders 37, 158, 176, 239n Jacobson, Roman 4 Janowski, Monica 59, 240n, 241n Joyce, Rosemary A. 238n, 241n Kawahashi, Noriko 27, 100, 240n, 244n Keane, Webb 238n Keesing, Roger M. 249n kingship 204–8 kinship: and conjugality 55–7; and exchange 249n; as semiotic activity 52–5; and siblingship 57–8, 213–14 Kirch, Patrick V. 238n Kishaba, Kazutaka 236n Knight, Chris 243n knowledge 4, 12–13, 37–8, 46, 219–20; as awareness 144–6, 223; and Cartesian dualism 80, 235n; as classification 76, 118, 213; and corporeal self 5; as ethnozoology and ethnobotany 68–75, 103–5, 105–6, 124, 130–1, 242n; as fuzzy logic 77–81, 103, 221; as gathering indices 153–5, 168–9, 224–5; as situated knowledge 64, 240n; as social privilege 242n; as tacit knowledge 75, 85, 146, 201, 204,

Ellen, Roy 8, 74, 236n, 249n emotion: in debt relationships 96–7, 99; experience of 5, 32–41, 145, 176–7; and self-sacrifice 36, 211–12; and sentiment 203–4, 207, 211, 212, 213, 224, 226–7; and sign reversal 158; as topic for ritual acts 144, 151, 183, 195, 200–3, 210, 220; as umui categories 22, 36, 70, 110, 167, 183, 184, 185, 211, 220 Encyclopedia of Okinawa 245n ethnographic writing 1–2, 240n Erythrina variegata, the Indian coral bean, a tree exchange activity: double entendre of 148, 149, 158, 177, 187, 203, 204, 212, 226, 226–7, 249n; as offerings and sacrifice 34–5, 38–9, 161–2, 163–7, 211, 215, 217; in ritual 51–2, 136, 160–1, 162–8, 169–77, 185, 206, 211, 215, 220–1, 226 Ficus microcarpa, the banyan tree 105 fieldwork, context of 6–7, 16–17, 38–9, 244n Firth, R. 1959 212 Flagellaria indica, a creeper 84 Formoso, Bernhard 247n Freedman, Maurice 207, 208 Fukui, Katsuyoshi 8, 249n Furuie, Shinpei 241n Fuyû, Iha 237n, 244n Gailey, Christine Ward 28 gender: and authority 19–23, 28, 36, 214, 237n; and knowledge 225; as ritually configured 209–10, 214; and sexuality 72, 94 –5, 124–5, 126–8 geomancy 197, 247n Gibson, Thomas 59 Gillespie, Susan D. 59, 241n Girardot, N.J. 37 Goldman, Laurence 8 Granet, Marcel 244n, 246n Grapsus tenuicrustatus, the rock crab/ light-footed crab Gray, Andrew 240n Hallpike, C.R. 81 Hara, Tomoaki 247n Harpago chiragra, the spider conch 70 Hendry, Joy 236n Hertz 5, 28, 151–2, 210, 246n

223; as unifying opposites 74, 77–83, 100, 102–3, 129, 134, 146, 147, 151; see also signs as indexes Kosko, Bart 79 Kubo, Noritada 247n Kuratsuka, Akiko 244n Lakoff, George 37, 235n, 242n Laughlin, Charles D. 79 Leawitt, John 236n Lebra, William P. 237n, 247n Lévi-Strauss, Claude 40, 59, 118, 137, 241n Lévy-Bruhl, Lucien 81, 82 Liu, Chih-wan 239n Livistona chinensis, the fan palm 33, 48, 49, 103, 130 locality 14–16 Lock, Margaret 12 Lukes, Steven 123 Lygodium japonicum, the Japanese climbing fern 130, 131, 134, 142, 143, 147, 149 Lygodium microphyllum, the Old World climbing fern 245n McCreery, John 162 Macdonald, Charles 241n McKinnon, Susan 241n Maclaury, Robert E. 78, 239n Marshall, Mac 59 Mauss, Marcel 4, 5, 23, 32, 95, 136–7, 147, 148, 168, 215, 226, 237n Merrell, Floyd 4, 5, 12, 219, 244n metaphor 77–8, 80, 81–2, 182, 186, 194, 200 Miller, Alan L. 248n Mischanthus sinensis, the maiden grass 61, 90, 91, 92, 149 Miyagi, Eishô 237n Miyara, Kentei 76 Miyata, Noboru 220 myth 35–6, 83–4, 216; see also house and origin myths Nagai, Seiji 73 Nakamaki, Hirochika 242n Nakamatsu, Yashû 98 national character debate 9–11 nature concepts 8–9 Needham, Rodney 8, 25, 248n nira (nirai kanai ), goddess 29, 32, 60, 68, 69, 71, 108, 109, 119, 121, 156, 157, 171, 172, 173, 174, 175, 224


Nomura, Kei-ichi 73 numerology 172–3, 173–4, 175, 180, 203 Ocypode ceratophtalmus, a crab 69 Ohnuki-Tierney, Emiko 235n, 236n, 239n Ortner, Sherry B. 11 Ouwehand, Cornelius 55, 181 Pandanus odoratissimus, the pandanus parallelisms 50, 81, 86, 103, 135, 176, 186, 193, 194, 195, 201, 204, 206, 223, 243n Parmentier, Richard J. 45 Pearson, Richard 237n Peirce Charles S. 4, 5, 12, 43, 45, 76, 140–1, 223, 240n person: and body ensoulment 97–8, 106, 130–2, 135–4, 138, 149, 170, 175, 180–1, 184, 211; cultural construction of the 98–9, 143; and house architecture 149–52, 156, 172, 176, 180, 191–3; and island ecology 99–102, 106–9, 123, 143; and mabui categories 67, 96, 99, 104, 126, 127, 131, 149, 156, 171, 174, 180, 182, 183, 184, 185, 186, 217; Maussian perspective and 136–7; and mortuary lay outs 195–7, 200–3, 205, 208, 210–12, 215–16; and pregnancy 61–4; and sensory manipulation 114–15, 179; and soul protection techniques 149–52, 155, 196, 197–9; and ubudama-mâdama categories 97, 101, 170, 173, 181; see also ritual and ensoulment Peucedanum japonicum, a herb 48 Polanyi, Michael 75, 146 pollution 159–60, 220, 225 Powers, Marla N. 249n Psidium guajava, the guava 90 Quinn, Naomi 37 Randia canthioides, the mountain wampi 105 Rapoport, Amos 30 Rappaport, Roy A. 13, 78, 221, 222, 249n rice: cognitive significance of 46–9, 52, 65, 67, 84, 85; cultivation of 15, 42, 43–5, 65–6, 87, 164; ritual significance of 29, 67, 68, 72, 78, 81, 82, 83, 85, 86, 87, 90, 92, 98, 104,


78, 81, 155, 166, 194, 208, 210, 212–13, 219; and symptoms 158–9, 169, 170–1; see also knowledge as gathering indices/spatio-temporal configurations as space-time indexes Sillitoe, Paul 242n, 244n Sivin, N. 145, 246n Smith, Allan H. 243n Smits, Gregory 240n Solinas, Pier Giorgio 249n Sparkes, Stephen 241n spatio-temporal configurations: as lateral inversions 149–52, 210; as sacred space 23–7, 85; as space-time indexes 178, 238n; as spirit trails 18, 20, 44, 45, 50, 67, 71, 86, 96, 130, 156, 214, 225; as sunka-nunka categories 33, 34, 37, 47, 49, 69, 70, 99, 100, 103, 115, 116, 117, 142, 146, 151, 156, 159, 160, 161, 162, 165, 168, 170, 190, 191, 199, 209, 210, 211, 216; as tanka categories 26, 45, 60, 64, 96, 99, 107, 115, 121, 170, 180, 211; as upright stones 2, 17, 18, 23, 26, 33, 34, 48, 50, 51, 60, 65, 86, 96, 97, 101, 106, 107, 121, 170, 172, 177, 178, 186, 187, 192, 193, 214; see also signs as indexes speech acts 4, 110, 146, 156, 162, 194 spirit money 33, 60, 78, 102, 104, 113, 114, 116, 134, 162, 167, 173, 174, 175, 179, 191, 197, 198, 220, 222, 226, 227 Strathern, Marilyn 226 Takiguchi, Naoko 97 Tambiah, Stanley Jeyaraja 242n Tanabe, Shigeharu 246n Tanaka, Masako 237n Taussig, Michael 248 Taylor, Ann 236n Teiser, Stephen F. 37 Terminalia catappa, the tropical almond 105 territorial categories 20–2, 29–32, 32–3, 237n; as indices of power 50–1 Turner, Victor 79 Uematsu, Akashi 238n Valentine, Daniel E. 45 Valeri, Valerio 157, 159, 168 van Gennep, Arnold 31, 223 Vico, Giambattista 11, 78

111, 114, 116, 117, 118, 120, 121, 124, 126, 127, 128, 132–5, 154, 160–2, 171, 172, 173, 174, 175, 185, 187, 196, 198, 190, 199, 203, 214, 215, 216, 217; as tribute 51 ritual: anthropological theory of 221; and culinary styles 48–9, 116–18, 124–5, 126–8, 132–6, 160–3, 164–7, 211–12; and ensoulment 104; of increase 64–8; masks in 29, 43–4, 131–2, 141–3, 167, 210, 222, 245n; primary processes in 85, 141, 146, 168, 176, 186, 200, 212, 219; and spatiality 187–90; and temporality 130; see also person and body ensoulment Robbins, Joel 13, 221 Røkkum, Arne 4, 5, 10, 11, 16, 19, 23, 25, 28, 30, 31, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 59, 80, 94, 112, 118, 135, 136, 143, 148, 158, 180, 205, 209, 219, 222, 224, 226, 236n, 237n, 238n, 239n, 241n, 243n, 244n, 249n Rosaldo, Michelle Z. 12, 224 Ryûkyû Shiryô Goshô 36–7, 41, 240n Sahlins, Marshall David 219, 236n Sakima, Kôei 237n Samuels, Carmencita M. 248n Samuels, Marwyn S. 248n Savan, David 5 Scheper-Hughes, Nancy 12 Searle, John R. 4, 77 Sebeok, Thomas A. 13, 158, 159, 240n Sered, Susan 9, 10, 223, 225 shamanism 144, 158, 176 shrines 16, 20, 22, 23–6, 27, 45, 50, 53, 58, 59, 65, 68, 69, 71, 75, 76, 83, 87, 94, 105, 109, 110, 111, 113, 122, 154, 157, 171, 175, 178, 198, 213, 214, 215, 219, 222 signs: and abduction 45, 94, 115, 224; and dialogue 115, 211; dimorphic quality of 48; and divinations 175; duplicity of 6, 193; as icons 74, 146, 193, 194, 200, 240–1n; as indexes 4–5, 52–3, 64, 79, 81, 82, 95, 97, 105, 108–9, 114, 133, 137, 140, 144–5, 146, 147, 152, 155, 158, 160, 166, 178, 188, 193, 200, 206–7, 208–9, 221–5, 241–2n; and interpretants 8, 12, 77, 193, 194; and mimetic responses 190–1; and reversals 158, 162; as symbols 74,

Wacker, Monica 237n, 238n, 241n Wagner, Roy 222 Walker, Egbert H. 48, 245n Wang, Sung-hsing 247n Waterson, Roxana 241n Watson, C.W. 207, 236n Weller, Robert P. 239n Whitehead, Alfred North 83, 176, 219, 222 Whitehouse, Harvey 45, 46 Wilshire, Bruce 236n Wolf, Arthur P. 207 Wright, Arthur F. 238n Yaeyama-jima ôamo yurai-ki 130, 241n Yonaguni kyôiku-iinkai 237n Yoshida, Teigo 220 Yoshikawa, Toshio 48 Zadeh, L.A. 78



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