BY ROSE KRANZ
MY GRANDPARENTS came from the Nolkummabuno tribe near Goglme and lived in a village called Kigletnigle.
Grandmum told me there were certain parts of the valley and nearby mountains where masalai-people lived and you must not go there or they could do bad things to you.
Being Catholic, she explained this by saying maybe they were evil angels who came to earth after being cast out of heaven. From her description they sounded a bit like trolls or goblins.
If you had the misfortune of seeing one, bad things will happen to you. They can take revenge by hurting a part of you that may have hurt them (e.g., making you blind if you look at them, or poisoning your leg if you tread on one).
They are ugly but small. Not completely evil, but malicious and best to be avoided.
One day when Grandma was young, she was out looking for a plant called Mingai which is used for stakes in the garden. It grows in clumps surrounded by a circle of grass.
She accidentally wandered into a spirit-place, but saw some great Mingai stalks, so cut them down and took them home and used them as intended in the garden.
The next day her right arm swelled up and was very painful. Her family took her to the nearest clinic and the medical orderly (a local man) could find nothing physically wrong with her.
But he asked what she had been doing and she explained about cutting the Mingai. He advised her to go home and consult with the village elders, as she may have offended the masalai of that place where she cut the plants.
She did so, but the next day her arm was worse, so the village elder decided to try and placate the spirit people. They made a mumu and prepared an offering of pig's heart, yams, taro and money, placed this on a banana leaf and went to the edge of the place where she cut the plants.
The village 'wise man' placed the offering on the ground and proceeded to cut her right arm with a special sharp leaf while pleading with the spirit-people to remove their curse as Grandma had not meant any harm to them.
He said they had informed him that she had unknowingly cut down part of their house, but as she was just a girl they would remove the curse.
It apparently worked, because when she woke up the next day her arm was better.
She never trespassed on masalai places again.