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Master Poets, Ritual Masters


Suti Solo do Bina Bane: Version II from the Domain of Thie

I recorded this version of Suti Solo do Bina Bane from Jonas Mooy on 25 October 2011. The recording was done during the seventh recording session in Bali of the Master Poets Project. This was the second session of the project that Jonas Mooy attended. Earlier, in 2009, Pak Mooy, as I usually referred to him, had come to Bali with a group of four poets from Thie, three of whom were capable poets. Of these poets, one died before he could be invited back to Bali for more recording. In the end, it was Pak Mooy who was able to return for another recording session, at which he offered his version of Suti Solo do Bina Bane. Thereafter he joined the recording sessions in 2013 and 2014.

From the outset, Jonas Mooy was something of a curiosity for me. Perhaps the most avid and earnest of all the poets, Pak Mooy did not fit the pattern of any of the other poets. He was curiously ‘bookish’: always taking notes on the other poets and especially the genealogies they evoked in their recitations. He would invariably be scribbling in his notebook or on a piece of paper during our recording sessions. Gradually, I came to realise that he, in his curious way, was much like my colleague Esau Pono with whom I had worked for years. He took an interest not just in his own traditions of Thie but also in all of the diverse traditions of the island. He could and would reflect on Rote’s different traditions and on the different recitations by his fellow poets, interpreting and comparing their significance. In time, I came to rely on him for insights on some of the more cryptic passages in recitations from different domains.

Pak Mooy explained to me that, as a young man, he wanted to become a teacher but instead he married early and settled down to ordinary Rotenese life. In time, he became a respected elder and began to master the use of ritual language. Although he never displayed the innate fluency of some master poets, his recitations were clear and coherent. He used our recording sessions to develop his skills. Thus, for example, Pak Mooy was particularly taken by the skills of Yulius Iu from Landu, whose speciality was to retell passages from the Bible in strict parallelism. He told me that, as a church elder, he would on occasion deliver sermons in the local church but these sermons were never in ritual language. However, during the fourth session with the group, he took up the challenge that I posed to him and he gave his own recitation: the Biblical passage of the Sermon on the Mount in strict, formal parallelism.

In 1966 and again in 1973, on visits to Oe Handi in Thie, I had recorded a corpus of chants, first from Guru Pah, and then from Guru Pak and his companion Sam Ndun. Initially, I read one or another of these chants to Pak Mooy, but when I came to realise his depth of understanding of his traditions, I shared most of this original corpus from Thie with him, asking him to give me his translation and interpretation of the texts.

Jonas Mooy’s recitation of Suti Solo do Bina Bane was done before I had the chance to share with him the Pah–Ndun version of Suti Solo do Bina Bane that I had recorded in 1973. I showed him this version and my translation of it in 2014 because there were a number of puzzling elements. He was able to elucidate many passages and certainly correct some of my misinterpretations. More significantly, he insisted that his version was the same telling of Suti Solo do Bina Bane as that of Guru Pah and Sam Ndun. By this, he did not imply an identity of recitation but rather that his recitation was intended to cover the same cast of events and was told for the same ritual purposes: the celebration of the origin of rice and millet in Thie. It is critical to recognise in Pak Mooy’s version the points of juncture that make the two versions the ‘same’ ritual chant.

The final lines in this recitation describe the ancestral establishment of one of the two limba or ‘origin’ ceremonies in Thie whose celebration, under pressure from the church, has long ceased to be performed. These lines contain references to important ritual elements of the ceremony.

Figure 22: Jonas Mooy

Suti Solo Liun Ma Bina Bane Saik

Suti Solo and Bina Bane Arrive at the Reef’s Base and Sea’s Edge


Bei hida fan na

At a time long ago


Ma bei dalu don na

And in an age long past


Lurik neu nala liun

A cyclone strikes the ocean’s depths


Ma sanggu neu tao sain

And a storm strikes the sea’s depths


Te inak ia Suti Solo sain

The woman Suti Solo of the sea


Ma fetok ia Bina Bane liun

And the girl Bina Bane of the ocean


Ara rama roko isi

They exude their insides


Ma ara rama ketu nggi.

And they cut loose their pods.


De rama tani sira nggin nara

They cry for their pods


Ma rasa kedu sira isin nara

And they sob for their insides


Ruma posi pedan ma unuk hun.

At the sea’s edge and reef’s base.


Tehu ina mana-adu lolek

The woman who creates beautifully


Ma feto mana-doki ladak

And the girl who designs wonderfully


De rama tani unuk hun

They cry at the reef’s base


Ma bele halu posi pedan.

And they are sad at the sea’s edge.

The next lines introduce the women Lutu Koe and Rema Ko, who scoop in the sea and fish in the tide. They hear the shells calling and are told of their sad condition. The shells beg to be scooped up and placed on the edge of the shore.

The Woman Lutu Koe and the Girl Rema Ko Encounter Suti Solo and Bina Bane


Boe ma neu faik ia dalen

Then on a particular day


Ma ledok ia tein

And at a certain time


Feto mana-ndai tasi

The girl who scoops in the sea


Fetok nade Lutu Koe

The girl named Lutu Koe


Boema inak mana-seko meti

And the woman who fishes in the tide


Inak nade Rema Ko

The woman named Rema Ko


Ara su seko neu langgan

They rest the fishnet on their heads


Ma ara ndae ndai neu arun.

And they hang the scoop-net on their shoulders.


De ara loe mada loak reu

They descend to the wide drying area


Ma ara loe meti naruk reu

And they descend to the long tidal area


Ara losa posi pedan ma unuk hun

They arrive at the sea’s edge and reef’s base


Boema ara rama-nene dasik kara ra-nggou

They hear a voice shouting


Ma harakara haru kara ralo’o

And they discern a tongue calling


Dua de’a-de’a dua

The two speak with one another


Ma telu kola-kola telu:

And the three talk with each other:


‘Ai mama ketu nggi

‘We have cut our pods


Ma ai mama roko isi ia

And exuded our insides


De ai mamatani ai nggi

We are crying for our pods


Ma ai masakedu ai isin ia

And sobbing for our insides


Hu sanggu ana tao ai

A storm has done this to us


Ma lurik ana tao ai.

And a cyclone has done this to us.


De torano dua nggarene

My two relatives


Ma takadena dua nggarene,

And my two companions,


Mai ndai tasi mini ai

Come fish us from the sea


Ma seko meti mini ai dei

And scoop us from the tide


Mbeda ai miu nembe hun dei

Place us at the shore’s edge


Ma tao ai miu oli su’un dei.’

And put us at the estuary’s mouth.’

The women agree to scoop up the shells and leave them near two trees along the shore. The shells ask that they come back and visit them at their resting place.

The Shells are Scooped Up and Placed Near Two Trees at the Edge of the Estuary


Boe ma dua sara rahik rala.

So the two agree.


Ara seko meti reni sara

They fish them up


Ma ara ndai tasi reni sara

And they scoop them up


Tehu bei ra-ndeni aru

But they are heavy on the shoulder


Ma bei ra-ta’a langga

And weighty on the head


De ara losa nembe hun

They come to the shore’s edge


Ma oli su’un [bifin].

And to the estuary’s mouth.


Boema ara dua de’a-de’a dua ma rae:

The two speak with each other and say:


‘Ela ei mai ia leo

‘Let us set you here


Boema ai mbeda ei mai ia leo.

Let us place you here.


Tehu ai helu ela ei duangga

But we promise you two


Ai fedu ai sauk neu

We will bend the ai sauk tree


Ma tumbu lenggu-ha’ik neu

And we load the lenggu-hai’k tree


De ama rada mai ia leo

That you may lean here


Ma ama tia mai ia leo.’

And that you may attach here.’


Boe ma rae:

So they say:


‘Ei ela ai duangga mai ia

‘If you leave the two of us here


Do tehu, mai la’o ladi ai dei

Do still come stop and see us


Ma mai lope tule ai dei

And come swing past and visit us


Tehu ai mai bengga lada mbeda

For we come to offer delicious nourishment


Ma ai mai tou lole heu ia.

And we come to provide fine attire here.


Ai tu’u sara sira

We can hold ourselves here


Ai mbeda sara sira

We can place ourselves here


Ara reu de ara losa uma.’

When you leave and return to your house.’


Boe ma ara rama nene

They listen


Ma ara raka-se’e bebenggu

And they are noisy as horses’ bells


Ma ara raka-doto kokoro,

And they are as lively as kokolo birds,


Numa olik su’un ma nembe hun.

At the edge of the estuary and shore’s base.

The ancestral founders of Thie, Tola Mesa and Le’e Lunu, go to see what has happened after the storm. They arm themselves but they only encounter the two shells, who plead with them not to fire their flintlocks or draw their swords. The shells ask to be wrapped in cloth and taken to the house.

Tola Mesa and Le’e Lunu Encounter Suti Solo and Bina Bane


Boe ma bai ia baing Tola Mesa

Our grandfather of grandfathers, Tola Mesa


Ma ai soro ia sorong Le’e Lunu

And our ancestor of ancestors, Le’e Lunu


Ara hengge bosan nara reu

They tie their pouch


De ara ndae tafa nara reu

And they hang their sword


De rae fama kate

They then consider


Lurik mai tao sira

The cyclone comes to strike them


Do sanggu mai tao sira

And the storm comes to strike them


De reu mete ma reu suri.

They go to look and go to see.


Reu de ara sudi sira su’u reu sara

They go, ready to fire their flintlocks


Ma ara ndae tafa dale reu sara

And set to draw out their swords


Ara rahara ma rae:

They answer and say:


‘Boso sudi sira su’u ai

‘Don’t fire your flintlocks at us


Ma boso ndae tafa dale ai.

And don’t draw your swords at us.


Te ai mini lole heu rai ia

For we bring fine attire here


Ma ai mini lada mbeda rai ia.

And we bring delicious nourishment here.


De ei lai ai

Have sympathy for us


Boe ma ei sue ai boe

And have care for us


Na pa’a pou su’u mini ai dei

Wrap us in a sarong and take us


Ma hengge bosa dale mini ai dei

Tie us in a pouch and take us


Miu ndae ai miu fara tanar dei

Hang us on the door post


Ma mbeda ai miu lulutu nasun dei.’

And place us at the fence’s base.’

The shells instruct Tola Mesa and Le’e Lulu to take up a flat stone from the harbour and cut a tree from near the shore and bring them, along with the shells, to become the focus for the first origin feast. These critical ritual instructions include preparation for the ‘coconut-holding post’.

The Ancestors are Instructed to Obtain the ‘Rock and Tree’ for the Origin Ceremony


Boe ma bai-ia baing Tola Mesa

So my grandfather of grandfathers, Tola Mesa


Ma soro ia sorong Le’e Lulu rae:

And my ancestor of ancestors, Le’e Lulu say:


‘Mete ma leonak

‘If this is so, then


Na ma hehere fo ita la’o

Fold it so that we may go


Do ma bebenda fo ita la’o.’

Or save it so that we may go.’


Ara pa’a pou su’u reu sara

They wrap a woman’s sarong around them


Ma ara mboti lafa una neu sara

And they fold a man’s cloth around them


Ma ara ra selu reu sara rae:

They reply, saying:


‘Mete ma ei pa’a pou

‘If you wrap the sarong


Ma hengge bosa meni ai

And strap the pouch to take us


Na tati ai nia nembe dei

Then cut the tree near the shore


Ma ei hengge bosa muni ai

And strap with the belt to take us


Na ko’o batu bela namo dei

Cradle a flat stone by the harbour


Fo mu tian neu tu’u batu

Balance it as a resting stone


Ma ama fara neu rai ai

And plant it as a standing pole


Fo ai masa-rai dei

For us to lean upon


Ma ai mangga-tu’u dei.

And for us to rest upon.


Boe ma ama sau leli sara dei

So we may comb ourselves gently


Ma ama tusi bangga na’us sara dei.’

And we may rub ourselves softly.’


Boe ma ko’o reni batu bela namo

Then they cradle a flat stone from the harbour


De reu de ara tao neu tu’u batu

They go and make it a resting stone


De ana dadi neu oli do limba

To be used for an origin and harvest ceremony


Boe ma ara ha’i rala ai nia nembe

And they take a tree from the shore


De ara fara no tu’u batu

They plant it with the resting stone


De ana dadi neu rai ai

To make it a leaning post


Fo dadi neu fara no.

To become the coconut-holding post.

The lines that follow indicate the performance of an initial ritual celebration intended to bring the rains and prepare the earth for the planting of seeds. The instructions for the ceremony centre on the coconut that will ‘distribute the dew and allot the rain’ to prepare the earth for planting. When, after the ceremony, the rains have fallen, the shells give instructions for their own planting at particular named fields.

A Celebration Brings the Rains and Prepares the Earth for the Planting of Seeds


De ara hene Tola Mesa non

They climb Tola Mesa’s coconut


Ma ketu Le’e Lulu non

And they pluck Le’e Lulu’s coconut


De ara leli sau neu sara.

They soften and cool them.


Boe ma ara bamba lololo neu sara

They beat the drum steadily


De ana ba’e dinis mai dae

It distributes the dew upon the earth


Ma ana bati udan mai lane.

And it allots the rain upon the fields.


Boe ma rae:

So they say:


‘Udan dai dae ena

‘If the rain is sufficient for the earth


Ma dinis konda lane ena

And the dew falls upon the fields


Tehu ai mini bini buik nai ia

Then we bring the basic grains with us here


Ma mbule sio nai ia.

And the nine seeds with us here.


De mete-ma ei mai pake do hambu

If you want to use them and have them


Na keko seluk ai dei

Then move us again


Ma lali seluk ai dei

And shift us again


Fo ela neu lada mbeda

To become delicious nourishment


Ma ela neu lole heu.

And become fine attire.


De mete ma ei mae leo nak

If you agree to this


Na keko ai miu

Then move us


Fafa’e Tali Somba dei

To Fafa’e Tali Somba


Fo tande ai miu na

To plant us there


Boema lali ai miu

And shift us


Teke Me Re’ik Oen dei

To Teke Me Re’ik Oen


Fo sele ai miu na.’

To sow us there.’

Following instructions from the shells, the planting is begun and the seeds sprout. The first fields in Thie where the seeds are planted are: 1) Fafa’e Tali Somba; 2) Teke Me Re’ik Oen; 3) Mundek Na’u Dale; and 4) Nggonggoer No Lasi Lain. Thereafter, these plants are spread throughout Rote. The place name Ledo So’u//Anda Iko indicates an area that extends from the east to the west of Rote, while the place name Pena Pua//Rene Kona connotes an area from the north to the south of Rote. Significantly, it is emphasised that orphans and widows are the ones to consume the harvest of rice and millet.

The Planting of the Seeds Begins in Fields in Thie and Thereafter Throughout Rote


Ara sele neu

They sow them


Fafa’e Tali Somba

At Fafa’e Tali Somba


Ma ara tande neu

And they plant them


Teke Me Re’ik Oen.

At Teke Me Re’ik Oen.


Boe ma ara do dua

They form two leaves


Ma ara beba telu

And form three stalks


De mbule na tatali

Seeds with sprouts


Ma don na sese’i

And leaves with spikes


Boe ma ara dadi reu lada mbeda

They become delicious nourishment


Ma ara moli reu lole heu.

And they turn into fine attire.


Boema ara keko neu

They move them


Mundek Na’u Dale

To Mundek Na’u Dale


Boema ara lali neu

They shift them


Nggonggoer No Lasi Lain.

To Nggonggoer No Lasi Lain.


De ana ndule losa Ledo So’u

It spreads to Ledo So’u


Ma ana losa nala Anda Iko

And to Anda Iko


Ki losa Pena Pua

North to Pena Pua


Ma kona losa Rene Kona.

And south to Rene Kona.


De ana mar ara fati hade

The orphans consume rice


Ma ina falur ra ara hao bete

And the widows eat millet


Ela lole heur bali

Enjoy fine attire


Ma lada mbeda bali.

And delicious food.

The next stage in this recitation marks the ‘institutionalisation’ of the origin ceremony. A sacred space is created around a ‘sitting stone and standing tree’ where there is dancing and the beating of drums and gongs to bring cooling rain down on the earth. Although initially rice and millet are planted, the chant expands its designation of what is planted, referring to ‘the nine seeds and the basic grains, the nine children of Lakamola’. This is a ritual designation for all of the seeds that Rotenese plant in their fields.

The Perpetuation of the Limba Ceremony in Thie


De ara tia neu tu’u batu

They create a sitting stone


De ara tao neni rai ai

They make a standing tree


De mete ma fain na-nda

So that when the day comes


Ma ledo na-tetu

And the time arrives


Na ha’i nala babamba mba’u bibi rouk

They take a drum sounding with goat’s skin


No meko riti fani oen

And a gong whose beat is sweet as bees’ honey


Fo mu lutu mbatu lain

To climb on top of piled stone


Fo bamba mbaun kurudo

To drum with a begging sound


Ma dali sole hara doe

And dance with a requesting voice


Ma lo neu Mana Adu Lain

Calling upon the Creator of the Heaven


Fo Mana Adu Deti Ledo

The Creator who shaped the Sun


Ma Mana Sura Ndu Bulan

And who drew the Stars and Moon


Ma lo neu Mana Adu Lalai

Calling to the Creator Above


Ma dae bafok

For the surface of the earth


Tasi oe no isin

The sea with its contents


Ma hatahori do andi ana

Mankind and humankind


Fo ana monu fei

To let fall


Ha’u dini makasufuk

A gentle dampening dew


Ma uda oe makarinik

And cooling rain water


Fo ana tolite batu poik

To pour upon the world


Ma ana bibiru dae bafak.

And to cool the earth.


Boe ma ana totoli laner

It pours upon the rice fields


Ma ana tete tiner

And it drips upon the dry fields


Fo tande mpule sio neun

To plant the nine seeds


Ma sele bini bui’k neun.

And sow the basic grains.


Fo Laka Mola anan sio.

The nine children of Laka Mola.


Fo ela leo be na

So it is thus


Ara rabuna fefeo

They carry flowers that wind round


Na ra fefeo rifuk

Wind a thousandfold


Na deta leo rifu ana tali do

Like a thousand winding cords


Boe ara rambule roroso

They set seeds that spread round


Na ra roroso natu

Spread round a hundredfold


Na leo natu ana bolao.

Like a hundred tiny spiders.


Fo ha’i malan fo mu’a

Take them to eat


Fo tengga malan fo pake

Grab them to use


Ma lo neu falu inar

And provide for the widows


Fo ita tesik be na

For those of us present


Teik esa ma dalek esa

One stomach and one heart


Boe ma ita hambu lada mbeda

We have delicious food


Ma lole heu

And fine clothing


Tuda ma monu mai dae bafok

Fallen and descended upon the earth


Boe ma lenak Rote Ndao.

Particularly on Rote Ndao.

Comparing the Two Versions of Suti Solo do Bina Bane as Origin Chants

There is a span of 38 years between my recording of the first version of Suti Solo do Bina Bane and my recording of the second version. Guru Pah and Sam Ndun, from whom I recorded the first version, were among the oldest members of their community in 1973 and had undoubtedly seen, and possibly participated in, the origin celebration for which their recitation provides a cosmological foundation. Yet there is no mention of the origin ceremonies in their recitation; their composition is an account of the origins of the planting of rice and millet in Thie.

By contrast, for Jonas Mooy, who was 63 at the time of my recording in 2011, Thie’s origin ceremonies could only be a memory; yet his recitation is concerned both with the planting of rice and millet and with the establishment of the first origin ceremonies.

A most interesting contrast between the two versions of Suti Solo do Bina Bane from Thie and most other versions is that almost from the moment the shells are fished from the sea, they begin issuing instructions about precisely where they should be placed and how they should be treated. There is no dialogue in their interaction with those who carry them from the sea.

It is also interesting to compare the ritual sites named in the first version with those in the second version. The first version recounts a succession of seven named sites; by contrast, the second version names only three sites, two of which are, however, the same as in the first version.

Table 16: Ritual Sites in Thie’s Two Versions of Suti Solo do Bina Bane

First version:

Second version:

1) Teke Me//Re’ik Oen

1) Deras//Le Lena

2) Mundek//Na’u Dalek

2) Mundek//Na’u Dale

3) Rote//Kode Ana

4) Oe Batu//Bau Foe

5) Kone Ama//Sai Fua

6) Nggonggoer//Lasi Lai

3) Nggonggoer No//Lasi Lain

7) Liti//Sera Dale

The second version goes on to extend the planting of rice and millet—and of seeds in general—from Thie to the rest of the island. The ritual names Ledo So’u//Anda Iko and Pena Pua//Rene Kona are not actual place names but are dyadic sets that Jonas Mooy has created (from well-known domain names) to indicate the whole of the island. Ledo So’u is taken from the name of the domain of Oepao, Fai Fua ma Ledo Sou, at the eastern end of the island; Anda Iko from the name of the domain of Delha, Deli Muri ma Anda Iko, at the western end of Rote; Pena Pua from the name of the domain of Ba’a, Pena Pua ma Maka Lama, on the northern coast; while Rene Kona comes from one of the names for Thie, Tada Muri ma Rene Kona, on the southern coast.

The Role of the Coconut in the Origin Ceremony of Thie

In the second version, there is a particular emphasis on the coconut that the ancestors must gather and bring to the ceremony. Although it is not made explicit, this coconut is the focus of the origin ceremony: it brings ‘gentle dampening dew and the cool rainwater’ that pour down upon the earth.

In 1921, the Dutch colonial officer B. Koopmans, at the end of his tour of duty, wrote a long report on Rote, Memorie van Overgave, for his successor. In this Memorie, he describes an origin ceremony, which he apparently observed in Thie. His observations are, however, brief and inserted in a rambling disquisition on the comparative religions of the world, which makes up almost one-quarter of his transfer report.

According to these observations, an uneven number of women would first form a row by locking arms across each other’s backs and then would dance in a circle around a pole that was less than 1m high on which was placed a young coconut. As they circled the pole, one of the dancers—the one who was the most decorated with golden ornaments—reached out and took the coconut and placed it three times between her legs. Thereafter all of the women adjourned to a nearby sacred house, where they were sprinkled with coconut water so that they would have as many children as ‘the stars in the heavens and the sands on the beach’ (Koopmans 1921: 18).

In Thie, the traditional marriage ceremony also centred on the use of a coconut whose fertility was invoked. This invocation gives some idea of the symbolism of the coconut:

No ia, tadak lima:

This coconut has five layers:

Mbunu holu so’en

The husk embraces the shell

So’en holu isin

The shell embraces the flesh

Isin holu oen

The flesh embraces the water

Ma oen holu mbolon.

And the water embraces the kernel.

De ela leo be na:

So let it be:

Ana touk ma ana inak-kia

That this boy and this girl

Ela esa holu esa

Let one embrace the other

Ma ela lili esa

And let one cling to the other

Fo ela numbu non ana dadi

That the sprout of the coconut may come forth

Ma sadu mbuan ana mori

And the core of areca nut may appear

Fo ela bonggi sio lai sio

That they may give birth to nine times nine

Ma rae falu lai falu.

And bring forth eight times eight.

Ritual Language Usage in Jonas Mooy’s Version of Suti Solo do Bina Bane

Jonas Mooy’s recitation of 204 lines is composed of 93 dyadic sets. This includes several formulaic sets that cannot be meaningfully analysed into component sets: 1) data don//hida fan; 2) fara tanar//lulutu nasun; or 3) bini buik//mbule sio. However, the majority of these dyadic sets, as in other versions of Suti Solo do Bina Bane, belong to a recognisable island-wide repertoire of similar dyadic sets. Given the similar focus of each of the texts, it is not surprising that these sets are familiar: 1) liun//sain (‘ocean’//‘sea’); 2) fetok//inak (‘girl’//‘woman’); 3) lafa//pou (‘male cloth’//‘female cloth’); 4) fai//ledo (‘day’//‘sun’); 5) dale//tei (‘inside, heart’//‘stomach’); 6) -ndai//-seko (‘to fish with a net’//‘to use a scoop-net’); 7) meti//tasi (‘tide’//‘sea’); 8) ai//batu (‘tree’//‘rock’); 9) de’a//kola (‘to speak’//‘to talk’); 10) dua//telu (‘two’//‘three’); 11) ki//kona (‘left, north’//‘right, south’); 12) bete//hade (‘millet’//‘rice’).

Equally familiar are terms that reflect the sound changes that distinguish the dialect of Thie from that of Termanu. Among these differences are the use of ‘r’ in Thie where Termanu uses ‘l’; the use of ‘ngg’ where Termanu has ‘ng’; the use of ‘mb’ where Termanu has ‘p’; and the use of final ‘r’ for emphasis where Termanu would use final ‘k’. Examples of these sets are the following:

Table 17: Termanu–Thie Dialect Comparisons


















‘to sound’//‘to ring’



‘to tie’//‘to bind, fence’



‘to stand’//‘to sit’




ana mak//falu inak

ana mar//falu inar







‘to wind’//‘to creep’



‘to cool’//‘to make fresh’




Yet more interesting are the dyadic sets in Jonas Mooy’s recitation that are distinctive to Thie: first among these expressions is the set limba//oli. This is a dyadic set used to designate Thie’s origin ceremony; in Termanu, this ceremony is referred to by the dyadic set hu(s)//sio, which may be translated as ‘the feast of origin’//‘the celebration of nine’. Another set is takadena//torano, which is used to refer to a ‘relative, close companion’; the equivalent in Termanu is tola-tunga//dudi-no. Both expressions relate to the term tolano (Thie: torano), which is used, in ordinary language, for a ‘relative’. For ‘human being or person’, Thie uses the dyadic set andiana//hatahori. Thie also has a special expression for ‘ancestors’, ba’i//soro, which combines the terms for ‘grandfather’ and ‘great grandfather’. Another set of particular relevance to this composition is bini buik//mbule sio (‘the basic grains’//‘the nine seeds’). There is no exact equivalent in Termanu but Ringgou’s ritual language uses the set pule sio//poko falu (‘the nine seeds’//‘the eight kernels’); Dengka has mbule sio//la’a mola (‘the nine seeds and eaten grains’). Finally, Thie utilises the set lada mbeda//lole heu, for which it is difficult to find an appropriate translation. This formula has as one of its components the well-known set lada//lole. Lada carries the notion of ‘taste, good taste’, while lole connotes what is ‘beautiful, lovely, pleasant’. The only explanation that I was able to obtain for this formula as a whole is that it refers to the ‘taste of food’//‘attractiveness of clothing’.

The Formula for ‘A Time Long Ago’

Some of the most recurrent formulae in ritual language are difficult to translate in any literal sense. In the first lines of his recitation, Jonas Mooy uses a formula of this kind:

Bei hida fan na

At a time long ago

Ma bei dalu don na

And in an age long past

This is a common formula with which to begin an origin narrative. To translate it literally makes little sense: ‘still (how) much little’//‘still long time’. More interesting is the variety of forms that this formula takes.

Guru Pah uses the following formula:

Hida bei fan na

At a time long ago

Dalu bei don na

At a period long past

But he also uses this formula in slightly abbreviated form:

Bei dalu don

Still in a former time

Do hida fan

Or in a bygone period

The poet Pe’u Malesi also uses this formula as follows:

Hida dodo bei leo fan

Once long ago

The poet A. Amalo, from Termanu, uses yet another variation on this formula:

Hida hatan ma data don-na

In a former period and a past time

Ande Ruy, in his version of Suti Solo do Bina Bane, uses the formula in this way:

Hida bei leo hatan

At a time long ago

Ma data bei leo dona

At a period long past

Each of these expressions is translated in a slightly different way to convey the range of variation in this formula. To some extent, each poet uses a slightly different variant as a personal signature of his style of composition.

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