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Wild Victims: Hunting as Sacrifice and Sacrifice as Hunting in Huaulu

Author(s): Valerio Valeri

Source: History of Religions, Vol. 34, No. 2 (Nov., 1994), pp. 101-131
Published by: The University of Chicago Press
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Valerio Valeri WILD VICTIMS:

Theoriginfromwhichbeingsproceedis also the endtowardwhich

theirdestructionproceedsaccordingto necessity;fortheyoffersat-
isfactionandexpiationto one anotherfor theirinjusticeaccording
to the order of time. [ANAXIMANDER,
Diels, fragment B 1]


Years ago, Levi-Strauss performedon Totemism what would nowadays
be called an exercise in deconstruction. There were excellent reasons
for demolishing that hybrid, indeed slightly monstruous, anthropologi-
cal construct and Le Totemisme aujourd'hui certainly gave it a mortal
blow. Yet over the years we have come to realize that the structuralist
resolution of the totemic hybrid into the rarefied purity of the Saus-
surean langue involved as many losses in interpretive productivity as
gains in intellectual comfort. In brilliantly conjuring away all that was
conceptually ill formed in the house of totemism, Levi-Strauss's magi-
cal wand sanitized its premises but also made them disappointingly

My field research in Huaulu and other areas of central Seram in 1971-73, 1985, 1986,
and 1988 was sponsored by L.I.P.I. (the Indonesian Institute of Sciences) and the Uni-
versitas Pattimurain Ambon. Funding was provided by the Wenner-GrenFoundation, the
Social Science Research Council, the Institute for InterculturalStudies, and the Lichtstern
Fund. The analysis and write-up were facilitated by fellowships from the J. S. Guggen-
heim Foundation and the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. I am deeply indebted-
and grateful-to all these institutions. But my greatest thank you goes to my hosts, the
Huaulu people. One of the avatars of this essay was presented at the Conference on Sac-
rifice in Eastern Indonesia, held at Oslo University in June 1992. I wish to thank Signe
Howell for inviting me and the participants for their remarks.

? 1994 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.

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102 Hunting as Sacrifice

empty. A number of real issues that crowded its unhealthy halls are
gone. The reduction of the relationship between totem and group merely
to the relationship between two differences-a difference in the series
of the natural species and a difference in the series of social groups-
consigns to nonexistence or irrelevance the phenomena of cult that may
link a totem to its corresponding social units, turns its taboos purely into
differentiating devices, and obscures the processes of objectification
and fetishization through which animals, vegetables, or minerals be-
come totems in the first place.1
This impoverishment should stand as a warning to those who feel too
easily tempted to follow Levi-Strauss's example and do to "sacrifice"
what he did to "totemism." Indeed we have seen of late some Franco-
Belgian inexistentialists and a few Anglo-American deconstructionists
break a couple of lances, and even a bone or two, in totemistically
inspired jousts with this venerable-and venerably questionable-con-
cept. Marcel Detienne, for one, proclaims from the heights of an
"aujourd'hui"echoing that of Le totemisme aujourd'huithat the death of
"sacrifice" will not be long in coming after that of "totemism": "Au-
jourd'hui, today ... it seems importantto say that the notion of sacrifice
is indeed a category of the thought of yesterday, conceived of as arbi-
trarily as totemism-decried earlier by Levi-Strauss-both because it
gathers into one artificial type elements taken from here and there in the
symbolic fabric of societies and because it reveals the surprisingpower
of annexation that Christianity still subtly exercises on the thought of
those historians and sociologists who were convinced they were invent-
ing a new science."2 But is this claim of arbitrarinessas justified for
"sacrifice" as it is for "totemism"?Has the construct no theoretical jus-
tification and is it only due to the secret dominion of Christianity over
the minds of historians and sociologists?
I agree with Detienne that too many of the classical treatmentsof sac-
rifice suffer from the tendency "to minimize the alimentarycustoms, the

1 See M. Fortes "Totem and

Taboo," in Proceedings of the Royal Anthropological
Institute of Great Britain and Irelandfor 1966 (London: Royal Anthropological Institute,
1967), pp. 65-94; S. J. Tambiah, Culture, Thought,and Social Action: An Anthropological
Perspective (Cambridge, Mass.: HarvardUniversity Press, 1985), pp. 205-7; V. Valeri,
Kingship and Sacrifice: Ritual and Society in Ancient Hawaii (Chicago: University of Chi-
cago Press, 1985); A. Testart, Le communismeprimitif, I: Economie et iddologie (Paris:
Editions de la maison des sciences de l'Homme, 1985), pp. 257 ff.; T. Turner, "Animal
Symbolism, Totemism, and Fetishism," in Animal Symbols and Metaphors in South Amer-
ica, ed. G. Urban (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press).
2 M. D6tienne, "Culinary Practices and the
Spirit of Sacrifice," in The Cuisine of Sac-
rifice among the Greeks, ed. M. D6tienne and J.-P. Vernant, trans. P. Wissing (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press), p. 20; M. D6tienne, "Pratiques culinaires et esprit de sac-
rifice," in La cuisine du sacrifice en pays grec, ed. M. D6tienne and J.-P. Vernant (Paris:
Gallimard), p. 35.

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History of Religions 103

details of the killing, the status of the victims,"3 and to dissolve the ac-
tual complexity of form and motivation of the rites, into the "spirit of
sacrifice," that is, into an immutable essence that is supposed to coincide
with the essence of society itself. Thus in Durkheim's view sacrifice
constitutes the moral subject-and with it society-by inculcating the
habit of renunciationand abnegation. But taking refuge in particularistic
analyses of sacrificial practices in concrete societies is not an adequate
response to Durkheim's bulldozer universalism. For surely we need
some general idea of what to put under the term "sacrifice" if we are to
identify concrete rituals in different societies as "sacrificial."Detienne's
preface to La cuisine du sacrifice en pays grec may well denounce "sac-
rifice" as an arbitraryconstruct, an ethnocentric projection of Christian
obsessions; nonetheless the essays that follow it do presuppose a general
definition of "sacrifice," since they call a ritual "sacrificial"when it con-
sists in the public killing and eating of domesticated animals. But not
only is this definition not made explicit: it is not even properly moti-
vated. For nowhere in the book can one find an answer to the obvious
question that the definition raises: What is it that makes the "alimentary
customs, the gestures of putting to death, the status of victims" among
the Greeks or elsewhere worthy of being called "sacrificial"? What is
specifically sacrificial about them that is not found, say, in one of our
slaughterhouses or restaurants?How does sacrificial ritual differ from
mere table manners or the prescriptions of the Anti-Cruelty Society?
But leaving these contradictions aside, the issue raised by Detienne
remains valid: Is sacrifice a useful notion or should it be "dissolved"?
And if the latter, should it be just dissolved (as Detienne seems to
argue) or be dissolved into something else, as Levi-Strauss dissolved
totemism into a more general phenomenon? My short answer to these
questions is that sacrifice, when properly defined, remains a useful no-
tion, and thus it should not be dissolved or be dissolved into something
more comfortably general but less informative. Nevertheless, it must be
stressed that sacrifice identifies, in a very relative way, only certain mo-
dalities of a number of relations (between humans and animals and
more generally other forms of life, between humans and gods, between
friends and enemies or rivals), whose other modalities are apprehended
by other notions such as taboo, totemism, fetishism, animal symbolism,
gift, and so on. Sacrifice cannot, therefore, be turned into a distinct
thing, but must take its place in a family of notions, none of which has
any validity except if it is relativized by the others.
So what can a useful notion of sacrifice be? Faced with the bewildering
variety of phenomena that go under the name "sacrifice," it is possible

3 Detienne, "Pratiques culinaires," p. 32.

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104 Hunting as Sacrifice

to adopt one of two strategies: either to create a rigid definition of the

essence of sacrifice (sacrifice is a gift to the gods, sacrifice is a com-
munion, sacrifice is the mediation of sacred and profane through a vic-
tim, sacrifice is the catharsis of violence, etc.), excluding all phenomena
that do not fit it as nonsacrificial, or to treat sacrifice as a category of phe-
nomena with family resemblances, that is, phenomena related to one an-
other but not all sharingthe same features.4Both the "exclusive" and the
"inclusive" strategies have advantages and shortcomings. The advantage
of the exclusive strategy is that it makes sacrifice a discrete and clearly
identifiable phenomenon, to be comparedwith equally discrete and iden-
tifiable phenomena of another type. The exercise may be enlightening,
as in Ruel's recent article,5 in which he is able to contrast systematically
two kinds of Bantu ritual killings: those that have gods as addressees
(and thus correspond to the usual definition of sacrifice as gift to the
gods) and those that do not. But the fundamentaldisadvantage of the ex-
clusive strategy is that it reduces what is always a complex and multi-
faceted phenomenon to an "essence." The idea of "gift to the god," for
instance, may indeed be importantin many sacrifices, but even in those
it fails to account for such fundamental facts as that the gift is usually
a living being and that it ends up eaten by the giver. If sacrifice is a gift,
it is a strange one, since it consists in taking back with one hand what
has been given with the other. Obviously, there is much more than gift
giving involved in it.
The inclusive strategy is better, then, in that it takes in stride the
complexity and even heterogeneity of sacrificial rituals. Its shortcoming
is that no clear boundaries among categories can be established in a
"family-resemblances" approach. All one can do is to decide that cer-
tain phenomena are more "central" than others.6 The category "sac-
rifice" will then resemble a galaxy: it will become progressively thinner
when moving away from its solid center. Perhaps one should learn to
live with the fact that thought is necessarily intergalactic. I suggest,
then, that the central phenomena of sacrifice are elaborations of a basic
art: the ritualized taking of some life (or the destruction/removal from
the sphere of a purely human use of precious objects that stand as signs
of life) to bring about some benefit. The relationship of cause and effect

This is an approach that has found increasing favor in recent years. See W. Burkert,
"The Problem of Ritual Killing," in Violent Origins, ed. R. G. Hamerton-Kelly (Stanford,
Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1987), p. 180; C. Grottanelli and N. F. Parise, eds.,
Sacrificio e societa' nel mondo antico (Bari: Laterza, 1988); L. de Heusch, Sacrifice in Af-
rica: A Structuralist Approach (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985).
5 M.
Ruel, "Non-sacrificial Ritual Killing," Man, n.s., 25 (1990): 323-35.
6 On the ideas of family resemblance and centrality in categorization, see G. Lakoff,
Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987),
pp. 12-21.

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History of Religions 105

is constant, but the effect and the mechanism through which it is

supposed to work vary. The taking of life may be effective in itself,
because it is ritualized or because it allows the transfer of forces con-
tained in the victim; or it may be effective through the mediation of a
power to which it is addressed (without necessarily implying the idea
that the victim is a gift to him).7 The benefits that it brings about are
very diverse, but all have a common denominator:the maintenance and
furthering of the life of the sponsor of the rite and of his guests. One
way in which sacrifice brings benefit and furthers life is no less impor-
tant than others for being frequently unmarked. Except in rare cases
(such as holocausts), most of the victim's body is not destroyed to re-
move it from human consumption but is instead made available as food.
Sacrifice is also, and often first and foremost, a way of eating what may
not otherwise be eaten-particularly some forms of animal life.
In sum, sacrifice justifies the taking of significant forms of life both
for ulterior, symbolic purposes and for immediate, pragmatic ones such
as eating.8 In either case, sacrifice is the authorized consumption for
human purposes of what may not otherwise be consumed. Human con-
sumption is authorized by inscribing it in its symbolic negation. The
latter takes a variety of forms: dedication (or gift) of the victim to a god
(which is really a claim that it is killed to satisfy the desire of the god,
not that of the human killers),9 removal of parts of it (usually those that
embody life: blood, the head, the long bones, and the fat), or of some
victims if there are many, from human consumption, displacement of
the responsibility onto an enemy,10 and so on. This is the renunciatory
7 These two alternatives are not so clear-cut as it may be
supposed. This is one rea-
son for rejecting the strong typological opposition between sacrifice and mere ritual kill-
ing introduced by A. E. Jensen (Myth and Cult among Primitive Peoples, trans. M. Tax
Choldin and W. Weissleder [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963], pp. 162-90)
and developed by many others. The other reason is that, as processes, mere ritual killing
and ritual killing for a "supernatural"power may not otherwise differ much. I do not see
why an element, however important, should make more of a difference than a process.
8Of course, not all forms of life are sufficiently significant to demand a sacrificial
(or more generally ritual) justification for their killing. It may even happen that a species
has a purely pragmatic use in some contexts, and a purely sacrificial use in other con-
texts. This occurs where the "disenchantment of the world" has progressed to such
an extent that sacrifice has been turned into the gift of a purely utilitarian object to a
deity, or that the symbolic value of the offering is believed to depend exclusively on the
"magical" act of consecrating it (as happens in the transubstantiationtheory of the Eu-
charist, for instance). However, this radical separation of sacred and profane is rare.
9 More generally, the killing of animals for food may be conceived as a crime which
was in due time forgiven and thus authorized by the gods. See the Greek myths of
Clymene and Sopater (Porphyry, On Abstinence from Animal Food, trans. T. Taylor
[London: Centaur, 1965], pp. 68, 83) and Genesis (as interpretedin J. Soler, "Semiotique
de la nourrituredans la Bible," Annales: Economies, Societe's, Civilizations 28 [1973]:
10 As in the ancient Indian horse sacrifice (J. Gonda, Les religions de l'lnde, 1:
Vedisme et hindouisme ancien [Paris: Payot, 1979], p. 204).

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106 Hunting as Sacrifice

element of sacrifice; but it is importantto keep in mind that its ultimate

purpose is enjoyment, not renunciation for renunciation's sake (or for
its supposedly uplifting virtues, as in Durkheim).1l
This definition of sacrifice should explain why, in its fully developed
forms, the rite typically includes the following acts in the following or-
der of occurrence:
1. Induction. This refers to the procuring (especially if it is a wild
animal12or an enemy) and preparingof the victim. The preparationfre-
quently includes an element of persuasion (the victim is told that it is not
really going to die,13 or its assent to its death is determined by various
signs) and an invocation/dedication in which the purpose of sacrifice
and eventually its addressees and/or witnesses (human and divine), may
be specified. "Induction"is thus a much wider category than Hubertand
Mauss's "consecration." It recognizes that certain apparently nonritual
premises of the sacrifice (such as a raid on enemies and their cattle, a
hunt, and so on) are in fact fully partof it and sometimes more important
than formal consecration.
2. Taking of life. This is of course a conditio sine qua non of
sacrifice, if it involves living victims,14 as is usually the case.15 I use
"taking of life" rather than "killing" because the latter seems more
appropriateto animal or human sacrifice, in which the element of vio-
lence is much strongerand may take the theatricaland emotional aspects
1 As the Indian ritualists
recognized, it is desire that drives sacrifice (M. Biardeau, "Le
sacrifice dans l'hindouisme," in M. Biardeau and C. Malamoud, Le sacrifice dans l'Inde
ancienne [Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1976], pp. 7-154; 0. Herrenschmidt,
"A qui profite le crime? Cherchez le sacrifiant,"L'Homme18 [1978]: 7-18; V. Das, "Lan-
guage of Sacrifice," Man, n.s., 18 [1983]: 445-62).
But even a domesticated animal may have to be captured from the herd or the flock.
Furthermore,it may have to be captured from a herd or flock that belongs to an enemy.
My point is, these are not purely pragmatic acts preceding sacrifice, but are part of the
ritual and of what gives it efficacy. Sacrifice is, after all, a triumph, an act of human con-
trol that begins by controlling animals and humans. Even obtaining victims as presta-
tions from social partnersor rivals may be a sort of victory that contributes to the overall
success of sacrifice.
13 Thus, in Vedic sacrifice, the victim is addressed with the words, "You do not die,
nor do you come to harm, to the gods you go along paths good to go" (Taittiriya Brah-
mana, cited in J. C. Heesterman, The Broken World of Sacrifice: An Essay in
Ancient Indian Ritual [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993], p. 34).
14 Note that what may appear to us an inert object may be conceived as living by the
performers of sacrifice or as a symbolic substitute of their life.
15 It is
possible merely to dedicate a victim to the gods, or renounce it for ritualpurposes,
and then let it free without killing it. But renunciation without killing is not frequent. Fur-
thermore, future victims may be selected from these dedicated animals or humans. Also,
freeing these dedicated victims usually makes it possible to kill and eat other members of
their species (as happened with the first fish caught among the Maori; see R. Taylor, Te
Ika a Maui: or, New Zealand and Its Inhabitants, 2d ed. [London: Macintosch, 1870],
p. 200). Thus it is artificial to separate the freeing of dedicated victims from what follows
it and is made possible by it. Many acts of appropriationthat do not appear as sacrificial
are in fact rendered so by their logical connection with such antecedents.

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History of Religions 107

that are often its correlate. In vegetal sacrifice, there is taking of life, but
not killing, unless the plant has a special theomorphic, anthropomor-
phic, or theriomorphic status.16
3. Renunciation. This term designates the cutting off from human
consumption of part (and sometimes of the whole) of the victim. The
renounced part may be just abandoned, or buried, or immersed, or even
thrown away. But it may also be made unusable by combustion-a
common procedure.17The latter may be also associated with the idea
that the smoke brings a share of the victim, or the entire victim, to a god
who is the addressee of the sacrifice. In this case, the sacrifice may also
be conceived as a gift to him. But the idea of the gift is less widespread
and less fundamental than the ideas of renunciation or prescribed im-
molation.18 Indeed it is illegitimate to infer a giving to from a giving
up.19 The gift presupposes a renunciation, but the renunciation does not
necessarily imply a gift. And even when the idea of gift is present, the
identity of the recipient may be a matter of indifference.20The "other"
that is supposed to appropriatethe renounced share of the sacrifice is
often unfocused.21 What is focused is that something has to be given up
or destroyed so that something may be obtained.

16 Thus the Indian

sages say that the some plant-which is conceived as a god-is
"killed" when it is sacrificed (Heesterman, The Broken World, p. 9). See also the sac-
rifice of the kava (a plant that originated from the body of a human) in western Polynesia
(E. R. Leach, "The Structure of Symbolism," in The Interpretation of Ritual, ed. J. La
Fontaine [London: Tavistock, 1972]; V. Valeri, "Death in Heaven: Myths and Rites of
Kinship in Tongan Kingship," History and Anthropology 4 (1989): 209-47).
17 As for instance the cremation of the
long bones and the fat of the victims in the
Olympian sacrifice of the Greeks (Hesiod Theogony 540-41; see J.-P. Vernant, "A la
table des hommes: Mythe de fondation du sacrifice chez H6siode," in D6tienne and Ver-
nant, eds., La cuisine du sacrifice).
18 The idea of sacrifice as gift is not very noticeable in some of the paradigmatic sac-
rificial traditions. Far from seeing the essence of sacrifice in the gift, the Indian sages
"make a clear-cut distinction" between them, as they belong to different ages of the world
(Heesterman, The Broken World, p. 13; see Manu 1.85). At best one can say that "le don
est une forme du sacrifice (loin que le sacrifice soite une forme du don)" (C. Malamoud,
"Terminerle sacrifice: remarquersur les honoraires rituels," in Biardeau and Malamoud,
pp. 189-90. The gift-to-a-god element is absent in many Greek sacrifices, such as the
"ox-slaying" festival of Magnesia, which was nonetheless called thusia (sacrifice) (R. K.
Yerkes, Sacrifice in Greek and Roman Religions and in Early Judaism [New York: Scrib-
ners, 1952], pp. 74-79). Among the Hebrews too, as Heesterman (The Broken World,
p. 11) notes, there was at least one "sacrifice" (zebach) that was definitely not a gift, but
just a prescribed immolation followed by consumption (the pesach lamb, see Exod. 12:1-
27; Deut. 16:2).
19 See
Valeri, Kingship and Sacrifice (n. 1 above), p. 61.
Thus it was usually "quite irrelevant"to whom and how first fruit offerings went in
ancient Greece (W. Burkert, Structure and Change in Greek Mythology and Ritual [Ber-
keley: University of California Press, 1979], p. 52).
21 This is precisely why, although it is generically defined as divine, it
may in fact
take any form of otherness: the bird, the rat, the foreigner, the outcast that actually con-
sume the offering.

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108 Hunting as Sacrifice

4. Consumption. Only after some part of the sacrifice has been

given up, or given to the gods, can the human participants enjoy the
rest-usually the largest share.22 This is the more social and festive
part of sacrifice, in which all kinds of purely human components (shar-
ing, dividing according to rank, creating debts or paying them, acquir-
ing prestige, and also-why not?-filling one's belly)23 take over. Not
infrequently, and in contrast to Hubert and Mauss's scheme, this is the
climax of sacrifice.
Three main kinds of relations are played out throughout the above
stages. The first and often more overt one is the relationship between
humans and gods. The sacrifice may be performed as an obligation to
the gods or because it was instituted by them. In addition, it may be per-
formed to please them or to obtain favors from them. But the gods may
also be present as those who legitimize the taking of life and neutralize
its dangers.24 In the latter case, it is the relationship between humans
and their victims (usually animal and vegetal, but sometimes also hu-
man) that is central to sacrifice. The gods are only an accessory to it-
and they are not even a necessary one, as we have seen. Interestingly,
this-the authorization of killing for human consumption-is the as-
pect of sacrifice that seems most resilient,25 even when all the rest is

It may also be the whole, if the part reserved for the god is simply the invisible
"essence." Then one can say that gods and humans consume different "wholes" that re-
produce their distinct forms of being: the spiritual whole and the material whole. This
view may or may not imply the blending of the consumption stage with the renunciation
one, that is, the idea that gods and humans eat together. When there is blending, sacrifice
becomes essentially a banquet with the god or gods, as is the case with the pesach sacrifice
of the Hebrews and with Roman sacrifice (C. Santini, "Il lessico della spartizione nel sac-
rificio romano," in Grottanelli and Parise, eds., p. 299; cf. P. Veyne, Bread and Circuses
[Harmondsworth, England, Penguin, 1990], pp. 93-94, 168, n. 108). These banquet or
even communion sacrifices are ways of confirming the alliance of gods and humans, but
also-more subtly-ways of lowering the gods to one's level as much as raising oneself
to theirs (see L. Feuerbach, "Das Geheimnis des Opfer, oder der Mensch ist, was er isst,"
in Kleinere Schriften (1851-1866) [Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1972], 4:26-52).
23 The desire
for meat is a recognized element of Vedic sacrifice (Heesterman, The
Broken World, p. 28). Sacrifice is represented as a meal of meat in Hesiod and else-
where; further, the Greek verbs that indicate the killing of an animal for meat are identi-
cal to those that refer to its immolation in sacrifice (Vernant, pp. 43, 44-45).
24 The
paradigmatic case is here Vedic sacrifice: "Non seulement le sacrifice efface le
caractere violent du meurtrerituel, mais il contribue a laver toute souillure caus6e par la
violence" (Biardeau [n. 11 above], p. 126). In Manu's words, "Killing in a sacrifice is not
killing" (Manavadharmasastrav, 39; trans. W. Doniger and B. Smith, The Laws of Manu
[Harmondsworth,England: Penguin, 1991], p. 103).
25 It is also much more
importantand widespread than is usually recognized. Sacrifice
is the only legitimate way of eating animals or even plants when these have, for whatever
reason, a "sacred"status. This "sacredness" is minimally a sign of the reciprocity that ex-
ists among humans and animals, particularly when the latter are very close to humans, as
is almost universally the case with cattle among pastoralists and agriculturalists (the la-
boring ox in ancient Greece is a case in point; see P. Vidal-Naquet, "Chasse et sacrifice
dans l"Orestie'd'Eschyle,"in J.-P. Vernantand P. Vidal-Naquet,Mytheet tragddieen Grece

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History of Religions 109

gone. Of the Hebrew sacrifice, little is left but the prescription that all
meat consumed should come from animals that are still killed according
to the ancient sacrificial prescription, that is, with the attribution of
blood-of life-to God. The old idea that a person who kills an animal
nonsacrificially is guilty of bloodshed, indeed of murder, and should
thus, by right, be "cut off," is thus still around, and not only in Jewish
and Islamic practice.26Indeed, as Vialles has suggested, its presence is
still felt in the Christian world, which has evidently not completely lost
touch with its most remote, Mosaic sources.27
Finally, interhuman relations play a fundamental role in sacrifice.
The sequential structure of the ritual indicates this. It starts with an
induction of the victims, which signifies competition or conflict with
other humans: either because their different abilities in procuring vic-
tims is demonstrated, or because the rivals are themselves turned into
(human) victims, or because they are forced or persuaded to contribute
victims. The ritual ends with a banquet, which should stress reconcili-
ation and reaffirm existing hierarchies or validate new hierarchies as
displayed by the sacrificial event, but may provide instead an opportu-
nity for new conflicts and contests. In the extreme, sacrifices become
struggles to death-in which the true victim may be the sacrificer. In
fact, all fundamental relations involved in sacrifice are permeated by
the spirit of contest: not only interhuman relations, but also relations
between humans and gods and between animals and humans. There are

ancienne [Paris: Maspero, 1977], p. 139; J.-L. Durand, Sacrifice et labour en Grece an-
cienne [Paris: Editions de la d6couverte; Rome: Ecole francaise de Rome, 1986]), and
with the largest game among hunters. In those cases, the taking of a life that is so closely
intertwined with human life evokes the possibility of a reversal, of a revenge: the taking
of the human life by powers that represent those animals.
26 "Any Israelite who slaughters an ox, a sheep, or a goat, either inside or outside the
camp, and does not bring it to the entrance of the Tent of the Presence to present it as an
offering to the LORD before the Tabernacle of the LORD shall be held guilty of blood-
shed: that man has shed blood and shall be cut off from his people" (New English Bible,
Lev. 17:3-5). This passage clearly shows that the killing of the three main domesticated
animals is equated to murder unless the animal is sacrificed to God (see C. Grottanelli,
"Aspetti del sacrificio nel mondo greco e nella Bibbia ebraica," in Grottanelli and Parise,
eds., p. 130). One could not find a more perfect statement of the idea of sacrifice as au-
thorization of killing for human consumption.
27 N. Vialles, Le sang et la chair: Les abattoirs des pays de l'Adour(Paris: Editions de
la maison des sciences de l'Homme, 1987). Leach has also noted that "a curious usage
suggests that we are ashamed of killing any animal of substantial size. When dead, bul-
lock becomes beef, pig becomes pork, sheep becomes mutton, calf becomes veal, and
deer becomes venison" (E. R. Leach, "Anthropological Aspects of Language: Animal
Categories and Verbal Abuse," in New Directions in the Study of Language, ed. E. H.
Lenneberg [Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1964], p. 47). On these issues, see also
S. dalla Bernardina, "Une personne pas tout a fait comme les autres: L'animal et son
statut,"L'Homme31 (1991): 33-50; C. M6chin, "Les regles de la bonne mort animale en
Europe occidentale," ['Homme 31 (1991): 51-67.

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110 Hunting as Sacrifice

sacrifices that even include struggles between animals, as in Toraja

(Sulawesi, Indonesia), where water buffalos are made to fight before
they are slaughtered.28
It appears that when one of these relations is emphasized over the
others, certain aspects of sacrifice will correspondingly be emphasized
at the expense of others. Thus, if the relationship of humans with gods
is emphasized at the expense of interhumanrelations, the consumption
stage may be reduced or may even disappear altogether. Correspond-
ingly, renunciation, most likely in its gift form, becomes paramount.
The victim may be entirely destroyed.29But reciprocally, if interhuman
relations are emphasized, the consumption aspect of sacrifice is likely to
be expanded and the renunciation one reduced. Finally if the relation of
human and victim is emphasized, it will probably be at the expense of
the gift-to-the-gods component. Renunciation may then take a largely
negative form: not eating certain parts may become a more important
idea than giving them to a certain god. But it goes without saying that
nothing is predetermined, and that different outcomes are possible.
The nature of the victim may also imply the modification or even
elimination of aspects of the sacrifice. For instance, if the victim is veg-
etal instead of animal, the induction stage is unlikely to be very devel-
oped or dramatic: a plant does not have to be captured or persuaded to
die, although it may still be dedicated. But if the victim is human, the
induction stage may be greatly developed, together with its rivalrous
and antagonistic elements, inasmuch as the capture and "taming"of the
enemy may be the ideal first step of the sacrifice.30 Finally, whenever
the sacrifice consists in the offering of an inanimate object to the gods,
the renunciation stage (usually in the specific form of a destruction) is
the most developed. The induction stage may well be reduced in scope.
The taking of life does not apply and the consumption stage is most
likely absent.
Other variations in emphasis and shape may be produced by the var-
ious purposes of the sacrificial action, of course. These purposes and
their effects are rather easily worked out from the three main relations
underlying sacrifice.31 For instance, if the purpose of the rite is expia-

28 Personal
observations, July 1990.
As Mauss pointed out, "la destruction sacrificielle a pr6cisement pour but d'etre une
donation qui soit n6cessairement rendue" (M. Mauss, "Essai sur le don," in Sociologie et
anthropologie [Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1968], p. 167).
30 In ancient
Hawaii, the war to procure victims was part of the sacrificial process as
much as their immolation (Valeri, Kingship and Sacrifice [n. 1 above]; V. Valeri, "The
Transformationof a Transformation:A StructuralEssay on an Aspect of Hawaiian History
(1809-19)," in Clio in Oceania, ed. A. Biersack [Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Insti-
tution Press, 1991], pp. 101-64).
31 On this topic, see Valeri, Kingship and Sacrifice, pp. 81-83.

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History of Religions 111

tion, then it is quite evident that the relationship with the gods must be
emphasized. Or if the main purpose of the rite is to legitimize the kill-
ing and eating of animals that are forbidden for ordinary consumption,
then it stands to reason that the idea of a do ut des transaction with the
gods plays a secondary role at best.
But in introducing the above scheme of sacrifice, my purpose was
not to trace all its permutations. I only wanted to lay down the prem-
ises for developing the real topic of this article: the relationship of
hunting and sacrifice.

The majority position is that there is a radical contrast between sacrifice
and hunting, however ritualized the latter may be. Sacrifice, we are
told, is a phenomenon typical of pastoral and agriculturalpeoples, since
it is essentially an offering, and one can only offer what one owns, and
thus, necessarily, domesticated animals (and plants). Hunting, in con-
trast, is a predatory activity, which seems to imply that the animal is
"stolen" instead of being produced.32 How could it be offered, then?
Furthermore,as a gift to the gods sacrifice implies the expectation of a
relatively long-term return and thus a notion of temporality which, it is
asserted, can only be found among agriculturalists (used to expect
harvests) and pastoralists (used to expect the results of their selective
breeding of animals).33 But one may well ask if this strong scholarly
contrast between hunting and sacrifice-as two forms of appropriation
of animals-does not reflect the ideology of the agriculturaland pasto-
ral civilizations that have most strongly influenced our perceptions.
Perhaps nowhere is the contrast more strongly drawn than in the Bible,
which excludes wild animals and prescribes domesticated ones (cow,
sheep, goat) as sacrifices to God. No less strong is the contrast between
hunting and sacrifice in ancient Greece.34 Yet it was precisely the
Olympian sacrifice of the Greeks which furnished Karl Meuli with the
paradigmatic case for his famous thesis that a historical continuity
exists between the sacrifice of domesticated animals and the ritual-
ized killing of game.35 Also, it is not the case that the sacrifice of
32 Jensen
(n. 7 above); V. Lanternari, La grande festa: Storia del capodanno nelle
civilta'primitive (Milan: II Saggiatore, 1959); A. Brelich, Presupposti del sacrificio umano
(Rome: Edizioni dell' Ateneo, 1967); J. Z. Smith, "The Domestication of Sacrifice," in
Hamerton-Kelly, ed. (n. 4 above).
33 Smith.
34 M. D6tienne,
Dionysos mis a mort (Paris: Gallimard, 1977), p. 75; "Pratiquesculi-
naires" (n. 2 above); pp. 17, 19; Vidal-Naquet (n. 25 above), pp. 138-39.
35 K. Meuli, "Griechische Opfergebrauche,"in Phillobolia: Festschrift Peter von der
Muiihll(Basel: Schwabe, 1946), pp. 185-288. See W. Burkert, Homo Necans: Interpre-
tationen altgriechischer Opferriten und Mythen (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1972), and Greek
Religion, trans. J. Raffan (Cambridge,Mass.: HarvardUniversity Press, 1985), pp. 37, 57.

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112 Hunting as Sacrifice

hunted animals is absent among domesticators and agriculturalists.The

Greeks, again, offer many examples.36 And so do the ancient Indian rit-
ualists, however much they insist on the appropriateness of domestic
animals for sacrifice.37 Furthermore,they tell us that hunting is legiti-
mate (for kings) if the hunted animal is partially offered to the gods,
and thus is treated as a sacrifice.38 And, on a more egalitarian mode,
does not the Bible tell, at one point, that the Hebrew who does not re-
side in Jerusalem, and cannot therefore present to the sanctuary as a
sacrifice the cow or sheep or goat he wants to eat (as was the rule when
many sanctuaries existed; see Lev. 17:3-4), is allowed to kill it follow-
ing the same ritual that is minimally necessary for hunted game, that is,
by spilling its blood as God's share? Does not this rule imply a bottom-
line identity between the ritual slaughter of the hunt and the sacrificial
There is no doubting a contrast between the sacrificial killing of do-
mesticated animals and the ritualized killing of game among hunters.
But there is also no denying certain strong continuities, overlappings,
and crisscrossings between the two phenomena. As the few examples
just given suggest, wild animals may be offered in sacrifice side by side
with domesticated ones, and hunting may involve rituals that are felt to
be equivalent to the sacrificial ones in certain respects at least. The sim-
ilarities that derive from the necessity of ritualizing-and thus regular-
izing and justifying-killing seem more fundamental, at times, than the
differences predicated on the nature, wild or domesticated, of the ani-
mal killed. Moreover, are we so sure that the contrast between domes-
ticated and wild animals is always as strong as some theorists assume?
Do not many of the herds of pastoralists live in semiwild state? Do they
not have to be capturedor even "broken"to be offered in sacrifice? And

36 P.
Stengel, Opfergebrduche der Griechen (Leipzig-Berlin: Teubner, 1910), pp.
37 Thus, in the horse sacrifice, wild animals are to be sacrificed together with domes-
ticated ones (Heesterman, The Broken World [n. 13 above], p. 30). On other Vedic re-
ferences to the sacrifice of wild animals, or to the use of hunting imagery to describe
sacrifice, see Heesterman, The Broken World, p. 234, n. 72. Also, the Mahabharatalists
seven wild sacrificial animals (pasus): lion, tiger, boar, monkey, bear, elephant, and
buffalo (W. Doniger O'Flaherty, Other Peoples' Myths: The Cave of Echoes [New York
and London: Macmillan, 1988], p. 83). Other texts add the rhinoceros, which is sacrificed
to the ancestors (F. Zimmermann, La jungle et le fumet des viandes [Paris: Gallimard/
Seuil, 1982], p. 202). More generally on the links of sacrifice and hunting in ancient In-
dia, see Zimmermann,pp. 74-75, 201-3, 206.
38 Biardeau (n. 11 above), p. 134; Zimmermann,pp. 202-3.
39 Soler (n. 9 above),
p. 948, referring to Deut. 12:15-16; but see especially Lev.
17:13-14. This is certainly the view that I have found in Seram among both Moslems
(who follow the Mosaic tradition in this respect, see the Koran 2, 175) and their pagan

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History of Religions 113

is this preliminary act-so reminiscent of the hunt-not an important

part of some sacrificial processes, as I have suggested?
In fact, it seems to me that many of the assumptions that underlie the
thesis that there is nothing in common between sacrifice and ritualized
hunting (but hunting is always ritualized)40 are equally open to doubt.
That sacrifice must be exclusively defined as a gift, for instance, or that
no gift-to-the-gods element is present in the hunter'srites are question-
able claims. To reduce sacrifice to the offering of propertyis to simplify
it drastically, and to confuse the totality of a phenomenon with one of
its distinctive features. Offering is not in any case incompatible with
hunting. The reason is that hunters are not devoid of a sense of prop-
erty-both because they claim ownership to game through the owner-
ship of the land on which it lives, and because the hunter owns, by right
of conquest, the animal he has killed. And are we so sure, conversely,
that traditional pastoralists and settlers share our own bourgeois sense
of property? Or is it not the case that their flocks and their crops, their
land or their irrigation water, belong to the gods before they belong to
them? So that their gifts to the gods could in fact be viewed less as gifts
than as restitutions, as token acknowledgments of the gods' ownership.
Such indeed were the sacrifices of firstlings among the Hebrews (Exod.
22:29-30, 23:16-17, 19) and other peoples.
There is also an interesting intermediate case that should be men-
tioned in this connection. It is the case of human sacrifice. Frequently,
this sacrifice is-at least in the most prestigious form-the sacrifice of
an enemy captured in war. What makes the sacrifice efficacious, in this
case, is less the offering of the victim per se than the fact that the vic-
tim has been successfully vanquished, and as such it signifies success.
This gives the induction stage of human sacrifice a remarkableaffinity
with the hunt (an affinity that becomes extremely pronounced in head-
hunting rituals, as we shall see). We should not be surprised, therefore,
by the fact that the human victim is often strongly assimilated to a
hunted wild animal. Here again the Greeks furnish us with excellent il-
lustrations, since among them the sacrifice of a hunted animal is often
the substitute for a human sacrifice (as in the case of Iphigenia).41
What makes the case of human sacrifice so interesting is that it shows

Even, of course, in.modern Europe (see J. Ortega y Gasset, "A 'Veinte aftos de caza
mayor' del conde de Yebes," Obras Completas, vi (1941-6), 3d ed. (Madrid: Revista de
Occidente, 1955); C. Fabre-Vassas, "Le partage duferum: un rite de chasse au sanglier,"
Etudes rurales 87-88 (1982): 377-400; B. Hell, Entre chien et loup: Faits et dits de
chasse dans la France de l'Est (Paris: Editions de la maison des sciences de 1'Homme,
1985); V. Padiglione, Le cinghiale cacciatore: antropologia pimbolica della coccia in
Sardegna (Rome: Armando, 1989); G. von Rezzori, The Snows of Yesteryear (London:
Chatto & Windus, 1990), p. 158.
41 Vidal-Naquet (n. 25 above), pp. 138-39.

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114 Hunting as Sacrifice

that there is no intrinsic incompatibility between hunting and sacrific-

ing. In fact, it shows that sacrifice can sometimes be modeled on hunt-
ing, because hunting provides an extremely powerful image of the
.power that sacrifice attempts to achieve: the power to neutralize and
subjugate what counters or resists life-furthering projects.
More importantthan anything else, though, is the fact that the differ-
ence between sacrifice and hunting is exaggerated if the comparison is
reduced to one trait on each side-if hunting is reduced to killing, and
sacrifice to the giving of gifts (via killing or destroying). If we escape
such reductive definitions and attempts to see sacrifice and hunting in
all their facets, as global processes, then a better assessment of both
differences and similarities between particularhunting rituals and par-
ticular sacrificial rituals may be achieved. I propose, then, to take my
processual and relational scheme of sacrifice as a starting point for a
comparison with "hunting," understood here as the entire process by
which wild animals are obtained and socially appropriated.It is time,
however, to turn from the abstract to the concrete. I wish to do the
comparison through one particularcase, that of Huaulu hunting.

Huaulu is the name of a small population that lives in the forested in-
terior of central Seram.42Undomesticated resources predominateby far
in their diet. Food grown in gardens only plays a small role. Naturally
propagating sago is the staple, but the most liked and prestigious food
is meat, or ayokuam. The term properly refers to the flesh of terrestrial
or arboreal animals that are hunted by men but is extended to fish and
crustaceans that are procured, in part or entirely, by women. No meal is
complete without "meat" in this extended sense. But it is taboo for the
Huaulu to raise animals for food. Meat must always be wild and thus,
one way or another, procured through predation. The three domesti-
cated species (dogs, cats, and chickens) that live with the Huaulu are
strictly taboo and so are, with very few exceptions, individual wild an-
imals that are brought back to the village alive, and even those that

42 For details on Huaulu

society, see V. Valeri, "Alliances et 6changes matrimoniaux
a Seram Central," pts. I and II, L'Homme 15 (1975): 83-107 and 16 (1976): 125-49,
"Notes on the Meaning of Marriage Prestations among the Huaulu of Seram," in The
Flow of Life: Essays on Eastern Indonesia, ed. J. J. Fox (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard
University Press, 1980), pp. 178-92, "Both Nature and Culture: Reflections on Men-
strual and ParturitionalTaboos in Huaulu (Seram)," in Power and Difference: Gender in
Southeast Asia, ed. J. M. Atkinson and S. Errington(Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University
Press, 1990), pp. 235-72, "Autonomy and Heteronomy in the kahua Ritual: A Short
Meditation on Huaulu Society," Bijdragen tot de Taal- Land- en Volkenkunde 146
(1990): 56-73, and "Buying Women but Not Selling Them: Gift and Commodity Ex-
change in Huaulu Alliance," Man, n.s., 28 (1994): 1-26.

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History of Religions 115

enter the village spontaneously.43In sum, if feeding on undomesticated

resources is a preference with regard to vegetables, it is a strict pre-
scription with regard to meat. Animals are edible only if they have an
autonomous life distinct from Huaulu social life. They can become
meat only if they are defeated in a struggle with the hunter or fisher-
man. The premise of this struggle is that it may always be resolved in
the animal's favor. It is very much like war with humans (indeed war is
fought with the same weapons of hunting), and thus humanizes animals
in the Huaulu eyes. This humanization of animals (and, to some extent,
animalization of humans) implies a measure of reciprocity between
them, which in turn requires that the turning of animals into meat be le-
gitimated by rigorous prescriptions and proscriptions. The Huaulu are
predators,but not predatorsas in urbanor rural fantasies: their relation-
ship with their prey is based on a minimum (and often a maximum) of
respect. The intimacy that the pastoralist experiences with the animals
of his flocks and herds, the agriculturalist with his cereals or tuberous
plants, and the warriorwith his enemy, the hunter experiences with the
game on which his life and sense of worth depend.44
The "element of personal duel,"45 which this intimacy always gives
to predation,46is particularlystrong when the opponent is a large, pow-
erful, and often dangerous animal. These qualities give the hunt an even
greater affinity with war, and the game an even greater similarity to hu-
mans, than is usually the case. There are three such animals in the forest
of Seram: the wild pig (hahu), the rusa deer (maisarale), and the cas-
sowary (asuali). The first two provide most of the meat consumed by
the Huaulu. The cassowary, a solitary animal that is difficult to hunt, is
of less economic significance-although its meat is much appreciated.
Both the cassowary and the wild pig are dangerous animals. The cas-
sowary has powerful legs that are capable of giving tremendous kicks.
I was told of cassowaries that killed pythons. The boars are extremely
aggressive, especially when wounded, and made dangerous by their
tusks. Even in the warlike past, more men were killed by boars than by
human enemies. As for the deers, they are not aggressive, but a male's
antlers can occasionally be dangerous. I have myself seen stags goring
each other in duels over females-another basis of comparison with

43 V. Valeri, "If We Feed Them, We Do Not Feed on Them: A Principle of Huaulu

Taboo and Its Application," Ethnos 57 (1992): 149-67.
44 See G. Bataille, Theorie de la religion (Paris: Gallimard, 1983), p. 47.
45 R. Bulmer, "Why Is the Cassowary Not a Bird? A Problem of Zoological Taxon-
omy among the Karam of the New Guinea Highlands," Man 2 (1967): 12.
The element is no less strong when traps are used-contrary to what is postulated
by Smith (n. 32 above). For traps are only a special development of the technique of am-
bushing that is typical of the hunt with bow and arrow or spears; see R. Bulmer, "The
Strategies of Hunting in New Guinea," Oceania 38 (1968): 312.

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116 Hunting as Sacrifice

humans, in Huaulu eyes. But there are many more sources to the sense
of affinity between these animals (among others) and humans. The cas-
sowary, for instance, is the only purely terrestrialanimal known to the
Huaulu that is bipedal like man. It appears more like a man in plumes
than a bird (although it is classified as manu-"bird"). The wild pig is
highly intelligent, combative, and resourceful-all human qualities to
the Huaulu. Furthermore,the sow is very caring of her piglets, which
she ferociously defends against dogs and hunters. The pig is, in fact, the
most anthropomorphizedof all animals, even more so than the cas-
sowary and the kuskus-although the latter looks more human.47
Anthropomorphizationand economic significance explain that wild
pig, deer, and cassowary form a very special group in Huaulu practices
and beliefs. It is not just the killing, but the entire process of appropri-
ation of these animals that is highly codified and dense with significa-
tions. It is a process that, as I have anticipated,parallels the ideal-typical
scheme of sacrifice because it represents one of its permutations.It rep-
resents, more precisely, the "authorization of consumption" aspect of
sacrifice. Sacrifices always involve a confrontationbetween humans and
the sacred (gods, spirits, or less definite powers) but with two opposite
purposes-as was recognized by Hubert and Mauss: they either "sa-
cralize" or "desacralize."48And their victims may be means or ends (or
both means and ends) in these sacralizations or desacralizations. An
animal may be sacralized or desacralized so that the sacrificer may be
sacralized or desacralized through it, as in all sacrifices that involve the
idea of substitution. Or the sacralizations and desacralizations may con-
cern the animal alone and have consequences for what humans can do
with it. All wild animals, and particularlypig, deer, and cassowary, are
imbued with sacredness for the Huaulu. What this means is that they are
intangible, forbidden, and that there are nonhuman, occult forces that
represent that intangibility and actively enforce it. To appropriatethe
animals, then, humans must desacralize them, which means persuading
these occult forces to let them go. Or perhaps it is more correct to say
that every time a Huaulu kills an animal, he commits a sacrilegious act
and thus becomes vulnerable to retaliation from the occult forces that
protect his victim. These forces must therefore be neutralized and pro-
pitiated through a variety of ritual means, some of which are sacrificial
by any definition of the term "sacrifice." The main one is a metonymic

47 See R. Ellen, "The Marsupial in Nuaulu Ritual Behaviour," Man, n.s., 7 (1972):
48 H. Hubert and M.
Mauss, "Essai sur la nature et la fonction du sacrifice" (1899), in
M. Mauss, Oeuvres, 1: Les fonctions sociales du sacre (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1968),
pp. 256-66. I should say that in my view these two terms are acceptable only as short-
hands for the ritual affirmationor negation of the "forbidden"or "restricted"characterof
an object, which in turn depends on the object's symbolic and moral status.

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History of Religions 117

preservation of the sacredness (i.e., intangibility) of the animal through

the "offering" of its prime part-the head-to the occult powers.
The general name for the occult powers that receive the head is kai-
tahuupuem,"the lords of the forest."49Each tract of the forest is owned
and ruled by one or more of them. They are responsible for its fertility,
but especially for its availability to humans. They thus represent the
continuity of animal (and, less markedly, vegetal) species in relation-
ship to humans. It is not surprising, then, that the lords of the forest are
composite images of animal and human, of prey and predator.They are
supposed to become angry at a Huaulu hunter and his fellow villagers
when he kills one of their animals (or also, as is said, i rahe ayokuam,
"their meat"). They are especially angry and dangerous when the ani-
mal is large or when too many animals have been killed. Their anger
takes the form of ominous yellow lights at sunset, or of loud and fre-
quent thundering. Also they attack the weakest members (children and
women) of the Huaulu community in retaliation. In any case, a fearful
reciprocity exists between them and humans. Just as humans hunt game
with their dogs, so the lords of the forest invisibly hunt humans-and
their dogs are pigs, deer, and cassowaries! The price of eating meat is
becoming meat-an idea very reminiscent of the Brahmanical one ac-
cording to which the relationship of eater and eaten in this world is re-
versed in the other world, where animals in human form eat their
human eaters.50
While in India the twice-daily sacrifice that is connected with the
meal (agnihotra)51 avoids the fulfillment of this reciprocity and gives
full mastery over the world to the performer,52in Huaulu the sacrifice
of the head of the animal simply reduces and postpones a reckoning that
cannot be avoided. Ritual for the Huaulu, contraryto what is the case in
Brahmanical theory,53 guarantees nothing: it is just one weapon in the

49 Kaitahu refers to land in general, but more specifically to wild land, which is al-
ways covered with forest in Huaulu experience. While kaitahuupuemmay be translated
as "the lords of the land," I think that "the lords of the forest" is more appropriatein that
"forest" evokes the environment in which game animals are found. The suffixes -am
(sing.) and -em (pl.) function very much like definite articles. The suffixed form of a
noun is the normal one in Huaulu usage.
50 See Malamoud (n. 18 above), pp. 205-6. The idea finds its expression in the cele-
brated etymology of Sanskrit mdmsa, "meat," provided by Manu: it allegedly derives
from mdm, "me," and sa, "he." Charles Lanman's translation captures this pun in En-
glish: "He whose meat in this world do I eat will in the other world me eat" (Doniger
and Smith, trans. [n. 24 above], p. 104).
51 See Heesterman, The Broken World
(n. 13 above), p. 211.
"And, in truth, whoever, this knowing, offers the agnihotra, makes himself master
of everything, conquers everything" (Satapatha Brahmana xi, 6,1,1 ff., translated from
the French translation by Malamoud (Cuire le monde, p. 208).
53 See Heesterman, The Broken World; and J. C. Heesterman, The Inner Conflict of
Tradition: Essays in Indian Ritual, Kingship, and Society (Chicago: University of Chi-
cago Press, 1985).

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118 Hunting as Sacrifice

struggle and reciprocity of all beings. Moreover, the lords of the forest's
retaliation may take a form in which humans become the accomplices
of their own destruction. This happens when the lords of the forest
chase humans not as food, but as sexual objects. They then appear as
panic figures that, assuming the illusory form of a lover or husband or
even wife, assault or seduce humans, driving them to death through the
madness of insatiable longing and desire. Eating thus becomes "eating"
(a Huaulu metaphor for sexual intercourse). The arrow shot at the ani-
mal bounces back at the human. But at the end of its loop, it takes a
genital form: it penetrates humans at the point of their greatest vulner-
I cannot go into details-however fascinating they would prove to be.
As evidence for some of my claims, a statement of my friend Patakuru
may suffice:

Only the akaniam,"head"[in realitythe head withoutthe jaws], of wild pig

anddeer are put on the treesfor the lordof the forest(si kaitahuupuam).Not
that of the cassowaryor of the kuskus.The jaws are hung in the kitchenfor
peopleto countthem(ala i sehere,"so thatthey will countthem").The skulls
of deerandwild pig areputon the treesfor the lordof the forestso thathe will
grantgame to us again (ala ia rulu ["makedescend"]lekupeni si ita). The
deers,wild pigs, andcassowariesarethe dogs of the lordof the forest(kaitahu
upuam ia rahe wasuem hini maisarale pohi hahuem, asualiem). The game
hunted by the lord of the forest are the humans (kaitahu upuam ia rahe peni
hini manusia). His aspect is like that of humans (ita oi wahi manusia). He is
like us. As big as us. Some are male othersare female. The male lord of the
forest screws women and screws men (ia polo hini hihina pohi hini manawa).
Becausehe appearsdeceptively(ia hali ruwana)as man or as woman.He or
she appearsas our husbandor as our wife, just like the lusi kinaem(literally:
"the evil eagles/hawks":a categoryof evil "spirits").If we [men] screw her
(holo hini eme), or he screwsus [women],we are as good as dead(ita maata'
naunam).Afteryou have/arescrewed,you don'tknowit any more.You forget
whathappened,but thenyou die. Onlythe Sewaem(spiritfamiliarsof the sha-
mans)can discoverwhathappenedandcureus so thatwe do not die.54

But, as I have said, there are more sacrificial aspects to the Huaulu ap-
propriationof animals than the offering alone. The offering is not just a
religious icing put on the practical cake of hunting for meat and eating
it. It is the culmination of a process that bears comparison as a whole
with the ideal-typical sacrificial ritual. Let us compare stage by stage.
Just as the first stage ("induction") of sacrifice has elements that are
strongly reminiscent of the hunt (the victim must often be pursued and

54V. Valeri, "HuauluField-Notes,"(manuscript,September12, 1985). There are

manyaspectsof this text thatrequireextendedcomments.Somewill be brieflydiscussed
below;for othersthereis no roomin this essay.

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History of Religions 119

captured, its resistance must be broken, and so on, even if it is a do-

mesticated animal), so the first stage of the hunt echoes certain charac-
teristic features of the sacrificial induction. Indeed the wild animal is
not simply found out and pursued through practical means. Deceived
by the hunter's magic or by the occult powers allied with him, the ani-
mal is persuaded to surrenderitself (for instance by running toward the
hunter while he thinks that he runs away from him), so that it can be
put to death. There are several types of occult powers that push the an-
imal toward the hunter. One type is the dead (matamataem, topoyem),
particularly the father and mother, and grandfather and grandmother.
They continue to feed their children or grandchildren by taking the
illusory shapes of animals that (like those that were called "les judas"
in French slaughterhouses) lead their own kind toward the killers. An-
other type (the main example of which is the mutuaulamclass) consists
of animals (obviously representatives of their species) that appear in
dreams and propose a covenant: they will surrendersome of their own
to the dreamer, on a number of conditions. One condition is the
premise of all Huaulu predatory activity: one should not take too much
of any living thing. If the dreamer will hunt too many of the animals
with which he has established a covenant, they will cease to become
available altogether. Another condition is one or more food taboos.
These usually concern the edible leaves of lokuem and laitiliem that
are also eaten by the offspring of the contracting animals. In this way,
humans express a concern for what stands closest to heart to the ani-
mals (and to the Huaulu): the perpetuation of their species. In ex-
change, that species makes itself available, albeit in limited quantities,
to the Huaulu. A third kind of occult powers that give animals to the
Huaulu as a result of a state of reciprocity with them is the already-
mentioned lords of the forest, who represent not a particular animal
species, but all animal (and vegetal) life that prospers on his land. As
Patakuru mentions, the lords of the forest will not "descend" the two
main game animals to the hunter if he does not give up their heads
(and follow other prescriptions to which I shall return shortly).
The contrast usually established between the relationship of the
hunters with their game, and of the domesticators with their domesti-
cated animals, is thus clearly overdrawn, at least as far as the Huaulu
are concerned. Both relationships are governed by reciprocity-how-
ever weighed in favor of humans. Just as the domesticated animals give
themselves up selectively to their domesticators as a reciprocation for
the food and protection they receive,55 so the game animals surrender
55 For eastern Indonesian instances of this
idea, see H. G. Schulte-Nordholt, "The Sym-
bolic Classification of the Atoni of Timor," in Fox, ed. (n. 42 above), p. 243; L. Onvlee,
"The Significance of Livestock in Sumba," in Fox, ed., pp. 195-207; J. Hoskins, "Vio-
lence, Sacrifice, and Divination: Giving and Taking Life in Eastern Indonesia,"American

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120 Hunting as Sacrifice

some of their kind as a reciprocation for a number of things that the

Huaulu-like so many other hunters-have surrendered to them. In
both cases, then, the appropriationof animals by humans can only take
place as a moral act and in a moral context. It cannot be purely instru-
mental and utilitarian. Animals are partners and agents in their own
right. Their assent, or that of their representatives, must be sought be-
fore making use of them, for ulterior ritual purposes as well as for
merely alimentary ones. Alternatively, they may only be killed at the
behest or command of powers that are above humans and animals
alike: gods, ancestral shades, and so on. The Huaulu emphasizes the
first option; other peoples-admittedly most of them domesticators-
emphasize the latter but never forget the former. But these differences
of emphasis should not be reified into a watertight contrast between
"ritual killing" and "sacrifice," itself corresponding to a contrast be-
tween hunters and domesticators. The similarities are much greater
than the differences. Their source is an equal sentiment of intimacy,
and thus also of reciprocity and mutual dependence, existing between
animal and human. Only in the stockyards of Chicago has the animal
become a mere thing, of which only the squeal is not used.56 But so has
its killer. And in his case even the squeal is used.
The next stage, in both sacrifice and hunt, is the killing. But it is less
the killing than its consequences that are elaborated in the Huaulu
hunt. One consequence is the intensification of the taboo on laughing
at wild animals-a behavior considered disrespectful and thus one that
angers the powers that protect them.57 One cannot even laugh in the
presence of fresh meat (ayoku holuholuam), as the animal is still
present in it. Only when its meat is processed (by being smoked or

Ethnologist 20 (1993): 159-78; see also the chant in P. Graham, Iban Shamanism: An
Analysis of the Ethnographic Literature (Canberra: Department of Anthropology, Re-
search School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University, 1987), pp. 37-39.
56 U. Sinclair, The Jungle (New York: Penguin, 1985), p. 42.
57 Their
anger takes the form of loud and uninterruptedthundering.The belief that the
"mockery of animals" induces thunderingis widespread in Southeast Asia. Several inter-
esting explanations have been proposed for it: R. Needham, "Blood, Thunder, and the
Mockery of Animals," Sociologus 14 (1964): 136-49; D. Freeman, "Thunder,Blood, and
the Nicknaming of God's Creatures," Psychoanalytic Quarterly 37 (1968): 353-95;
R. Blust, "Linguistic Evidence for Some Early Austronesian Taboos," American Anthro-
pologist 83 (1981): 294-307; G. Forth, "Animals, Witches, and Wind: Eastern Indone-
sian Variations on the 'ThunderComplex,"' Anthropos 84 (1989): 89-106. The belief has
a variety of motivations in Huaulu culture, only one of which I emphasize here: respect
for animals. Another is that laughter is only appropriatewith humans-and closely re-
lated ones at that. The taboo thus emphasizes the otherness of wild animals and thus, in
a sense, the right to kill them. A proof of this is that the animals that one can mock,
namely, the domestic animals, cannot be eaten (and, in the case of the dog, killed)
because they are quasi-human or, more exactly, quasi-Huaulu (see Valeri, "If We Feed
Them" [n. 43 above]).

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History of Religions 121

boiled) and thus fully transformed into food does the taboo cease. But
the more severe consequences of the killing are experienced by the
killer, that is, the man who "owns" (rahe) the animal because his ar-
row or his trap58has killed it. If the animal is one of the three largest,
he cannot eat any of its meat.59 He must give it entirely to others. The
only part of it (or rather, of pig and deer) that he can use is the lower
jaw, which he suspends under the roof in his house so that "it is
counted"-as Patakuru mentions. In other words, all that the hunter
eats of his own kill is the glory of having killed it. Why this avoidance
of eating? It is not connected with a sense of guilt,60 but with a fear of
retribution, I think. It is the clearest indication that killing is a danger-
ous, a "sacrilegous," act, simply because it invites retributionfrom the
killed, or ratherfrom the powers that stand for it. Hence the double ap-
peasement of the lord of the forest: the collective renunciation of the
head (minus the lower jaw)61 and the killer's renunciation of eating
what he has killed. The killer and the eater must be split to avoid, as
much as possible, the fulfillment of the fearful reciprocity between
animals and humans. The rule thus instills a double sense of reciproc-
ity: reciprocity between humans and animals, and reciprocity among
humans-for a hunter cannot feed himself62 and is thus utterly depen-
dent on other hunters.
We have thus moved, almost by necessity, from the taking of life to
consumption, passing through renunciation. For the human consump-
tion of meat is not made possible by killing alone, but also by its met-
onymic negation: something is not eaten so that the rest may be eaten,
somebody does not eat so that the rest may eat. This negation or renun-
ciation is more radical than the positive counterpartthat it usually and
almost inevitably takes: what is renounced, is given back or is even
given to a power that reconstitutes the integrity that has been lost in
the process by which life feeds on life, and thus becomes dependent on
death. Also, most of what is renounced reemerges as gift to others, to
58 Usually a spring trap that releases a short bambu spear (supanam).
59 Smaller animals are
dangerous to eat only if they are killed in large quantities. Then
the danger must be reduced and diffused by giving away part of the catch.
As Burkertwould have it. See Burkert, Homo Necans (n. 35 above) and "The Prob-
lem" (n. 4 above).
61 As Patakuru'stext mentions, the
upper part of the cassowary's head is not offered.
The reason is that the animal does not have much of a skull. What is offered of the cas-
sowary (as of the other two animals) to the lord of the forest are blood clots found in the
carcass when it is butchered. But none of the blood is preserved for eating. In fact, the
meat is completely drained of it, as it is cut in small pieces. The Huaulu themselves as-
sociated this draining with the Koranic idea that blood cannot be consumed because it
belongs to God (in their case, the lords of the forest).
62 Not, at least, until he has killed such a large number of animals that he has
the right to undergo a special rite that purifies once and for all his mouth from the pollu-
tion of eating his own meat. Very few men are able to reach this stage.

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122 Hunting as Sacrifice

fellow human beings. Through the appropriation of animals as meat,

humans are appropriatedto society.
The consumption stage thus takes the form of complex reciprocations
that link hunter to hunter and hunt to hunt. This is not the place, how-
ever, to go into details. Suffice it to say that every Huaulu hunter has a
group of close partners and kinsmen (the two overlap but do not coin-
cide) to whom he gives most of the meat he kills and from whom he
receives most of the meat he eats. Beyond this circle, another exists-
made of consanguineous relatives and affines (exclusively wife-takers)
to whom he is obligated to give meat. Finally every household in the
village should receive at least a skewer of meat.63 In addition, certain
parts of the animal, or animals that have died in a certain way, should
go to the wife-takers or, as the Huaulu say, to the mulua anaem, "the
female children/children through females."64 A skewer of meat (called
maraisiam) including three vital parts65of the first animal killed by a
young man should go to his owai (paternal aunt) or, failing her, to any
other married out woman of his lineage, and be eaten by her and her
children. She should reciprocate with a porcelain plate, which becomes
her first contribution to his future bridewealth. It is said that this ex-
change inaugurates the man's taboo on eating the meat of deer, wild
pig, and cassowary that he himself kills. Subsequently, the maraisiam
usually goes to women or younger people of the hunter's lineage who
eat it with their friends.
The maraisiam portion is given to these people, I speculate, because
it embodies the vitality of the animal to the highest degree. It therefore
makes sense that it is eaten by sisters, who must transfer the vitality of
their lineage, and to their children, who represent the embodiment of
that vitality. It also makes sense that it is given, more generally, to
women and to young people to increase their fertility and vitality, re-
spectively. But note that the vitality of the maraisiam is not the vitality
of mere meat. This is indicated by the fact that the share is said to be
makuwoli, "taboo/sacred." It thus has a sacramental value that, again,
may be compared to the sacramental value of parts or the whole of the
meat from a sacrificed animal. The meat of animals that have died a
strange, usually too quick, death (a sign of spirit intervention) is also
reserved for the female children and is extremely dangerous for any-
63 When I first
went to Huaulu in the early seventies this rule was always followed,
particularly with respect to animals that fell in traps near the village. In recent years,
however, some people have become less generous, although they are roundly criticized
for being "stingy" (i mohohuku).
64 That is, the married out sisters, their husbands, and their children and sometimes
the children of the female among these children.
65 One looks like a valve of the
heart, another is a piece of the spleen, the third I am
unable to identify but it is taken from the genital area.

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History of Religions 123

body else to eat. These customs show that, just like the meat of sac-
rificed animals, the meat of hunted animals is not just meat. It has
differential values, different degrees of sacredness, and different pow-
ers, which signify different social relations and reproduce them in the
various prestations through which that meat is appropriated.
In sum, the evidence that I have presented suggests that similar
schemes, in turn dependent on similar ideas, may underlie the appropri-
ation of wild and domesticated animals in different societies. It is mis-
leading, therefore, to radically separate the two. By associating them,
moreover, we can bring out more clearly a dimension of sacrifice that
has not received the attention it deserves, perhaps because its very im-
portance makes it mute, at least to the religiously minded scholar of re-
ligion. It is the aspect I have called "authorizedconsumption." Sacrifice
should not be reduced to its substitution or sacralization dimensions,
which admittedly are best served by domesticated animals. But even
this dimension is by no means incompatible with the use of a hunted
victim. This is what I wish to show, again through Huaulu evidence, in
the next section.


The offering of parts of the victim, wild or domesticated, may be used

to make the rest of its meat available for human consumption. But it
may also be used to obtain benefits that have nothing to do with eating.
Of course, as the Huaulu rites that we have just considered show, these
nonalimentary benefits are always in some measure implied even in the
most alimentary-minded offering, since eating is not a purely material
act but involves the maintenance of complex moral relations between
society and cosmos. Still, there is no doubting that the main purpose of
the offering is to authorize the eating of animals. But in other sacrifices
the eating of the victim is excluded or its symbolic signification is em-
phasized over its alimentary one. These are the sacrifices that are ad-
dressed to powers that, contrary to the lords of the forest, have more to
do with humans than with animals. These powers are characterized by
a stable social relationship with Huaulu society as a whole or some of
its parts or members. They could therefore be called "bound spirits" or,
since they frequently visit the village or even reside in houses, "spirits
of the inside." To call them "tame" by opposition to the "wild" spirits
of the forest would be quite misleading, though. They are anything but
tame, and they have to be placated by, among other things, offerings
and prayers.
Their main categories are: ailaem ("the ancients," "the old men,"
i.e., the progenitors), lumaupuem (the lords of the house), and sewaem
(shamanic spirits). The category ailaem refers to ancestors proper but

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124 Hunting as Sacrifice

also to any spirit that has been handed down-often through an object
(utuam) that is the connecting point between spirit and owner-by the
ancestors. It is therefore frequently used to encompass all spirits from
the three categories. It is also used, of course, to refer to the ultimate
ancestors: ita amare Lahatala ("our father Lahatala"), who is associ-
ated with the sky, ikta inare Puhum ("our mother Puhum"), who is
associated with the earth. The luma upuem are the spirit protectors of a
house (here understood as an equivalent of an ipa, a descent group) but
the term may also be used to include its ancestral shades and even its
hereditary sewaem. The term also includes the spirit protectors of the
village as a whole, who reside in a sacred house (luma makuwoliam),
which embodies Huaulu society as a whole. Because of these more en-
compassing references, I find it convenient to use "lords of the house"
as the generic term for the bound spirits and "lords of the forest" as the
generic term for the wild spirits.66
Just like the lords of the forest, the lords of the house receive offer-
ings. But a number of important differences exist between these offer-
ings. The offerings to the lords of the forest are meant to make the
consumption of "their meat" possible. The offerings to the lords of the
house serve to neutralize misfortune (sickness, sterility, lack of food,
constant thundering, excessive rain) or to obtain success in hazardous
enterprises (such as hunting and war). In both cases the basic idea is
that the benefits follow from the neutralization of the power's anger.
But the anger of the lords of the forest is due to the fact that humans
kill their animals, while the anger of the lords of the house is due to
transgressions that have to do with the interhumanrelations over which
they preside.
Corresponding to these differences in purpose, and in the character
of the powers addressed, there are differences in the nature and treat-
ment of the offerings. The offering to the lord of the forest is more a
symbolic restitution than a compensation. Indeed it consists in the re-
nunciation of an unprocessed part of the animal (the head), which is
symbolically the most importantbut is also largely inedible. The rejec-
tion away from the human world is thus strongly marked and is further
emphasized by the absence of any verbal accompaniment. No prayer or
invocation is pronounced when the head of the animal is put on a tree
for the lord of the forest. Nothing is requested in exchange for what is
given. The offering is mute because it is self-explanatory and has no
motives beyond that of sending the lord of the forest away so that hu-
mans can enjoy their meat in peace.
66 It should be
kept in mind, however, that these terms, and particularly kaitahuu-
puam, are not usually employed by the Huaulu with as wide an extension as I give to

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History of Religions 125

In contrast, offerings to the lords of the house are always accompa-

nied by prayers, requests, curses, and even threats. One speaks to them
for two reasons: because they are largely human and because one has
to explain the signification of the offering, since the latter consists of
objects that have no immediate connection with what they are sup-
posed to bring about. We are here, then, in the realm of exchangeabil-
ity and commutability that characterizes human relations. No wonder,
then, that, to use Versnel's67 apt contrast-the dimension of the don-
of giving valuable things in exchange for others, ratherthan that of the
abandon, is emphasized, together with the more complex temporality it
presupposes (the effects of the offering are not obtained immediately as
is the case for the offering to the lord of the forest). This gift dimen-
sion is accentuated by the fact that the offering is processed (smoked,
cooked, or boiled), and thereby assimilated to the human givers: it can
thus stand for them.
Nevertheless, the contrast between the two kinds of sacrifice should
not be overestimated. For the Huaulu do not use offerings that, being
completely domesticated, belong completely to their social world. Or
rather, their completely domesticated offerings are the least important,
if the more frequent: certain socially significant vegetables and arti-
facts.68 The most importantofferings are blood offerings, none of which

67 See his comment on a

paper in G. S. Kirk, "Some Methodological Pitfalls in the
Study of Ancient Greek Sacrifice (in Particular)," in Le sacrifice dans l'Antiquite
(Geneva: Fondation Hardt, 1980), p. 86.
68 The simplest and most frequent offering to ancestors consists of a tobacco leaf or a
cigarette, which is stuck in between two thatches of the roof, after an invocation. Betel
offerings are also extremely frequent and are part of practically all rituals. They illus-
trate, in their simplicity, the most classical of sacrificial schemes. Through the betel, the
offerer establishes a connection with a spirit, who imparts his power to it by consuming
it invisibly. The transformed betel is then chewed by the offerer and other people who
are present. The sacramentalcharacterof the betel is indicated by the fact that it must be
completely swallowed. It is taboo to spit its juices out, like ordinary betel. The sacra-
mental use of the plant is, however, an extension of its ordinary use-which is to signify
closeness among those who share it (cf. J. Atkinson, The Art and Politics of Wana Sha-
manship [Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989], pp. 182-84, for similar ideas
among the Wana of Sulawesi). The artificial valuables sometimes offered to ancestors
and other spirits of the lord-of-the-house type consist of red cloth (asopem), armshells
(papilem), and porcelain plates (afalaem), in order of decreasing frequency (and increas-
ing value). They are the same valuables as those that are exchanged for life among hu-
mans (in marriage exchanges, murder and adultery compensations, and so on). Since
they stand for life, they are, in a sense, alive (see Valeri, "Notes on the Meaning" [n. 42
above]). But a valuable given to a spirit is forever removed from human use, it can never
return as such, but only transformed into something vital. In this sense, the valuable is
not just offered-it is "killed," symbolically destroyed. Indeed when a plate is offered it
may be literally broken or cracked to mark its alienation from the human sphere. Such
plates are then said to be maatae nika, "dead." Note that, however artificial these valu-
ables may be, part of their efficacy as offerings resides in the fact that they evoke the
successful subjugation of uncontrolled others, animal and human alike. The connection

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126 Hunting as Sacrifice

may be provided by animals domesticated by the Huaulu (dog, chicken,

and cat) or by any other people, for that matter.69
There are, or ratherwere, two kinds of blood sacrifices-that is, sac-
rifices in which, according to the Huaulu themselves, the main source
of efficacy was the spilling of blood (lasi). The first, and most impor-
tant, was the sacrifice of "wild" humans-that is, of enemies or in any
case of people who were not members of Huaulu society. The second
was the sacrifice of wild animals (I have heard of wild pigs and eels) to
make permanent peace between two communities that had been at war
for a long time.70 A third, and more dubious, kind may be added: what
seems like the offering of five makilem marsupials in the final banquet
of the kahua feast, a practice that still occurs (see below).
It may seem strange that I put the sacrifice of human outsiders to-
gether with that of wild animals. But the close connection between
them is indicated by the fact that the preferred victim in peacemaking
sacrifices is a human, not an animal. The animal substitutes for the
human.71Analogously, it is likely that the five makilem that are-as it
appears-the ancestors' share in the banquet symbolize the victimized
enemy in displaced form. In any case, human victims share with animal
ones the fact of being outsiders and even enemies and, of course, the
fact of being hunted. Indeed the expression "head-hunt"is not inappro-
priate in Huaulu, since they themselves speak of stealing (amana') peo-
ple as they steal animals, and of their human victims as game (peni) or

with wild animals is indicated by the belief that plates and other valuables-which are
normally hidden in caches in the forest-have a tendency to turn into pigs, deer, and cas-
sowaries. These may be wounded by the hunters and run back to the cache, where they
retransforminto valuables, and expire (they will then be found cracked, or "dead," as it
is said). The connection of valuables and successfully hunted enemies is demonstrated
by the fact that the head of an enemy could function as a substitute for bridewealth ac-
cording to Huaulu traditions. The fundamental analogy between head and "hard"valu-
ables such as plates and armshells is that-in the Huaulu view-they were all "stolen"
(amanae) from enemies (and one should add that outsiders with whom no pact exists are
ipso facto enemies for the Huaulu). Alternatively, they were obtained as blood money,
that is, as ransom for prisoners of war, or as "protection price," for not raiding a certain
people, or as payments for giving help in war. Valuables and heads are thus, one may
say, enemy blood in different forms.
69 In
this, Huaulu differ from some other peoples of Seram, including the neighboring
people of Openg, who until recently used to sacrifice cocks in the course of the initiation
of boys (now discontinued).
Each of the two parties held one side of the animal while they called on Lahatala
and Puhum and their other ancestors to witness the swearing of the pact and to sanction
it. The animal was then cut in two, as the Gordian knot of war itself (i toto lisam, "they
cut the war"), and each party cooked and ate the half it was holding. After which if any
of the two parties broke the peace they were "killed" (in the form of deadly misfortunes)
by the guaranteeing powers that had been invoked.
In all of the most ancient instances of the rite, as reported in Huaulu historical nar-
ratives, the victim was an old lady or, in the more serious cases, the nubile daughterof the
Latunusa, the ritual chief of an autonomous community. These victims had to be provided
by the losing side.

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History of Religions 127

even meat (ayokuam). They also say that certain territories constitute
their hunting grounds for procuring human victims. The expression
head-hunt is inappropriate,however, if it suggests that only the head is
the object of the hunt. In reality, the head is a token of the whole person
and it is the latter, his blood and his flesh, that is indirectly offered to
the "masters of the house," and in particular to Lahatala and Puhum,
"to eat" (ala ia kae).
Outsiders are offered to these spirits to eat in exchange for insiders,
though, and from this point of view the efficacy of human victims lies
precisely in their being human, not animal. It seems fair to say, then,
that the whole point of choosing them is that they are both similar and
dissimilar to the sacrifiers (the Huaulu) in a way that no animal can be.
Nevertheless the fact that they are hunted, subjugated like animals, is
absolutely crucial. Hunting is not just a practical preface to their sac-
rifice-it is their sacrifice. It is, in fact, the most efficacious act of the
ritual. The reason is that an analogy is established between the success-
ful subjugation of a hostile force outside society and the subjugation of
constantly angry and threatening spirits that are "bound" and "of the
house" only for as long as they are fed human victims.72 Otherwise they
eat the Huaulu. Indeed, it is to their inability to offer human sacrifices
that the Huaulu attributetheir present weakness and their frequent mis-
fortunes: they are being "eaten"by their lords of the house-by the very
powers that should make them strong and prosperous. These powers
cannot give life except through the sacrificial principle-at the expense
of some life. If it is not somebody else's, it must be the Huaulus'.
The blood-sacrifice complex of the Huaulu was extremely compli-
cated and I cannot treat it here even by way of summary. I only want to
indicate, very briefly, that the appropriationof human victims and their
incorporation into society closely parallels the appropriationand incor-
poration of wild animals. In both cases, the induction stage is well de-
veloped, due to the obvious fact that the victim must be found and
subdued. But head-hunting is a much more elaborate process than hunt-
ing, as one may expect from the fact that the stakes are much higher. The
elements of struggle and reversibility are also much more developed
than in hunting: struggle with an enemy who can always turn out to be
the victor and struggle with rival headhunters.Indeed head-hunting was
connected with a hierarchy of grades based on achievement.73As in the
hunt, the pursuit and capture of the victim were not viewed in purely

Thus it is subjugation (which implies a resisting, wild, opponent), rather than sub-
jection (which implies a docile, domesticated, counterpart),that must characterize the re-
lationship with the victim.
73 The number and
quality of the heads taken (of children, women, and warriors, in
rough order of increasing value) determined the grade to which a headhunter could as-
pire. For instance, the grade kapitane required the killing of at least ten people.

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128 Hunting as Sacrifice

pragmatic terms. The headhunter'ssuccess was determined by various

personal spirits (nasinahem), who accompanied and guided him and
who blinded and fooled the victim, just as in the hunting of animals.
Other spirits (lusiem and atalayem) possessed the headhunterand gave
him the invincibility, invulnerability, and especially the fury to kill as
soon as a potential victim was spotted. In the Huaulu view, the head-
hunter's consciousness was partly displaced by these spirits, who put
him in a "trance."He was their tool: they wished to drink blood and to
eat human flesh, thanks to his kill.74
The taking of life was immediately followed by, or even consisted
of, the decapitation of the victim. As in the case of deer and wild pig,
the head was reserved for the "lordly" spirits. The human carcass was
abandoned without ceremony, though. None of it was eaten, except for
sometimes some of the blood that dripped from the head. This blood
was licked or mixed with some sagu and then eaten raw (it was taboo to
cook on a head-hunt). Just like the hunter who had actually killed the
animal, the headhunterwho had killed the victim and "owned" the priv-
ilege of carrying his head off was in a dangerous state of pollution-
only much more serious. He could not enter the village before he had
been purified in a stream by an elder who "had seen blood"-that is, a
headhunterhigher up in the hierarchical scale. The head itself had to be
purified: it was oiled with candlenut oil to make it perfumed and to
honor it. Otherwise, the headhunter could not be successful again. In
former times, the head was brought into the village and it and the head-
hunting party were welcomed with a number of rites, including presta-
tions of valuables. The headhunterwho "owned" the head rolled it on
the floor of the village temple, where the "masters of the house" re-
sided. The act signified that it had been offered to them as a token of a
human life. A feast ensued during which men and women danced
around the head all night long, sometimes for several months.75 The
feast was (and is) called kahua, like this dance. At the end of the feast,
the head was hung under the roof of the village temple, where it re-
joined many others. Probably in the late nineteenth century, when ex-
ternal intrusions from the colonial power made its public display risky,
the head ceased to be brought into the village. It was left in an offering
place in the forest, and what was brought into the village was only a to-
ken of it, in the form of a leaf plucked from a wild plant (sokasoka) and
a leaf from the croton bush (suli) that is planted near the village temple.
This substitute formation nicely reveals an awareness of the composite

74 Thus these
spirits were also "fed" by the Huaulu, albeit more passively than those
to whom they presented the victims' heads in the village.
75 Valeri, "Autonomy and Heteronomy" (see n. 42 above).

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History of Religions 129

natureof the human victim: it is both wild, of the outside, and-through

its subjugation-tame, of the inside. It represents a transformation.
Given this, it is not surprising that, while the head is offered in both
cases, the greatest differences between hunting and head-hunting con-
cern the treatment and destination of the offering. As I have indicated,
the head of deer and wild pig is left unprocessed where the killing has
occurred, that is, in the forest. The carcass is instead transformed and
incorporated into the village for food. Just the opposite happens with
human victims. The carcass is left behind, untouched, and the head is
brought into the village, transformed and incorporated there as the
"food" of the "masters of the house" spirits. There is, however, a par-
tial overlapping between animal and human head if we take into ac-
count that the lower jaw of the animal is treated in a way that is
reminiscent of the way the human head is treated. Indeed, the jaw is
brought back to the village, left on the shelf over the fireplace of the
house of the hunter, and then hung under the roof, just like the human
heads in the temple, for display.
The consumption stage also seems different in the two processes of
appropriation.In the head-hunt, this stage seems fused with the offering
stage, since the only consumers of the victim are the spirits: there is no
cannibalism. But things are not so simple. The consumption of human
flesh by the spirit is metonymically associated with the consumption of
animal flesh by humans in the kahua feast, and certain overlappings
seem to exist. For instance, as I have mentioned, five marsupials of the
makilam variety (Phalanger maculatus chrysorrhous) have to be pro-
vided for the banquet that marks the end, and climax, of the kahua
feast. There is more than one hint that these animals are associated with
the offering of the enemy victim to the lords-of-the-house type of spir-
its, whom the Huaulu also call ailaem, "ancestors." First of all, the
makilam is the favorite transposition of the enemy headhunterin narra-
tives. The reason, beside the animal's strikingly anthropomorphicas-
pect, is its aggressiveness, which not infrequently provokes the fatal
fall of the men who climb the trees to hunt it. So in a sense the dead
makilem may be considered as the enemy victim in transposed form.
Then their number, preparation, and consumption set them apart from
all other meat consumed in the banquet and seem to indicate that they
are consecrated to the ancestral powers just like the human victims.
There must be five-and the use of this number is a standard ritual
means of connecting with ancestral powers. They are smoked (just as
the heads hung under the roof are smoked by the fires from the temple's
kitchen), instead of being boiled or steamed, like all the other meat that
is served at the banquet. Finally they may only be eaten by the male
elders, who are said to be like ancestors among the living and who are

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130 Hunting as Sacrifice

addressed and referred to with the same term (ailaem) that is employed
for the ancestors. Thus, although there is no formal offering of these
marsupials to the lords of the house that I could ascertain, they may be
regarded as mediating between the human flesh that is the food of those
lords exclusively and the cooked animal flesh that is the food of humans
exclusively. Human consumption and ancestral consumption meet in
the makilem; which are, therefore, the edible appendage of the hu-
man victim. It is interesting that, while the human offering has disap-
peared-at least officially-from the final banquet of the kahua feast,
the five makilem must still be present-and I almost said presented.
However this may be, in the past human and ancestral consumptions
were linked throughthe idea that the abundantsupply of meat at the ban-
quet was due to ancestral intervention, itself motivated by pleasure at
having been fed with human flesh. So humans ate, because the lords of
the house ate. Not only were the hunt and the head-hunt similar in struc-
ture, they also converged in the concluding banquet of the kahua feast.


The intricate parallelisms, contrasts, and crisscrossings of what goes

under the names of "hunt" and "head-hunt"confirm that, rather than
radically opposing "ritual killing" to "sacrifice," it is better to use the
latter as the name for the entire family of practices connected with the
taking of life where this life, in its various forms, has strong symbolic
significations and thus a certain quality of "forbiddenness" or, as it is
also possible to say, "sacredness." As I indicated in Kingship and Sac-
rifice,76 the symbolic characterof animals especially, but also of plants
and of artificial objects that stand for life, is an obstacle, but also a mo-
tive, in their use. It is an obstacle, because they cannot be used in ways
that contradict their symbolic associations. It is a motive, because their
symbolic associations allow the use of animals, plants, and so on for
symbolic purposes. In either case, consumption is not a matter of in-
difference: it has to be justified by practices that make something of
those symbolic associations-by "ritual."A basic polarity exists in the
destiny of those associations in ritual. Either they are removed from
most of the animal, or from the visible animal, to be concentrated in a
part that remains forbidden because it remains symbolic; or they are, in
contrast, accentuated and specified, to be put to work to some effect. In
Kingship and Sacrifice, I identified the first pole with "genocentric sac-
rifice" and the second with "nomocentric"and "ergocentric"sacrifices.
The offering of the first part of the hunted deer and wild pig,77 and re-
Valeri, Kingship and Sacrifice (n. 1 above), pp. 70-83.
77 Also the analogous offering of the first fishes obtained from communal fish poison-
ing, which I do not have space to treat here.

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History of Religions 131

lated practices, of the Huaulu hunt are an instance of genocentric sac-

rifice-that is, a sacrifice that is meant on the one hand to preserve the
integrity of symbolic significations of an animal species (Gr. genos),
and on the other to remove from the meat of an animal of that species
the prohibition that is the consequence of those significations. The
signification of the head is reinforced by the idea that it goes to a
power-the lord of the forest-which is its counterpart. At the same
time, this offering has a nomocentric (Gr. nomos, "law") dimension, in
that it reproduces a moral relation with that power. It thus brings about
a transformationnot only in the meat, but also in the humans who eat it.
The latter aspect, the victim-mediated transformation of sacrifiers
through the transformationof their relationship with powers that repre-
sent the moral laws of the society, is accentuated in such nomocentric
sacrifices as those that are performed in Huaulu to turn enemies into
friends. Here the eating of the animal victims is made possible not by the
displacement of their symbolic value, but by the iconic use (separation
and cutting of the wild self of the combatants) to which some of those
symbolic values are put. Only the sacrifice of human victims-inedible
for humans in Huaulu-can be purely symbolic, and thus purely no-
mocentric, like the holocaust in other cultures.
In the framework that I suggest, it makes little sense to identify sac-
rifice solely with the use of domesticated animals and thus to consider
it as the exclusive practice of settled agriculturalistsand pastoralists (as
suggested, more recently, by Smith).78 On the contrary, it is important
to recognize that the sacrificial substances can be extremely diverse in
every society and form a whole spectrum from the wild to the domes-
ticated, from the unprocessed to the processed, from the natural to the
artificial and, of course, from the nonhuman to the human. Only this
spectrum is the fully appropriateunit of analysis, even where it is nec-
essary to recognize that domesticated or, as in Huaulu, wild, victims
predominate. But my purpose in this article was not to give a complete
account of Huaulu sacrificial practices: it was to show that they are not
incompatible with wild, hunted victims-and even that only such vic-
tims are able to fully validate them.

University of Chicago

78 Smith (n. 32 above).

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