The "Bau a" Ceremonial Hunting Lodge of the Kaluli of Papua New Guinea

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Photograph taken in 1966 at Didessa village, Kaluli ethnic group, Mt. Bosavi region, Papua New Guinea.


From "The Bau a Ceremonial Hunting Lodge: An Alternative to Initiation" by Edward L. Schieffelin, in Rituals of Manhood: Male Initiation in Papua New Guinea, edited by Gilbert H. Herdt (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 1998), originally published in 1982 by University of California Press.

Note: The following information relies on firsthand accounts by people who witnessed the practice before it was discontinued.

The growth of young boys who were around the age of puberty was encouraged specifically by pederastic homosexual intercourse with some of the older bachelors. Kaluli believe that girls attain full maturity as women by natural growth but that boys cannot do so without being given a “boost,” as it were, by the semen of older men. This pederasty was considered a major male secret vis-à-vis the women, and it was generally regarded with embarrassment and lascivious humor among the men themselves. Homosexual intercourse for boys also took place in everyday life beyond the bau a context whenever a boy reached the age of about ten or eleven. At that time, his father would choose a suitable partner to inseminate him, and the two would meet privately in the forest or a garden house for intercourse over a period of months or years. Less frequently a boy might choose his own inseminator, although this was risky: if the man was a witch, his semen would turn the boy into one too. In the bau a, boys were inseminated “openly” (that is, they were inseminated by their homosexual partner after lights out in the close, crowded, smoky darkness of the bau a while the rest of the exhausted hunters were thought to be asleep). A few of the bachelors came to the bau a specifically to act as inseminators, and fathers sometimes assigned their sons to one or the other of them. Other lads chose their own inseminators from among the older bachelors (or bachelors chose them) and formed specific liaisons for a while. Side by side with the serious business of hunting, pederastic intercourse was a marked feature of the bau a which men chuckled over self-consciously in reminiscence.

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