The Kaupelanese mythology received various influences – from Papuan, Hindu-Javanese, Timorese and Moluccan culture – over its ancient Austronesian basis. Some mythological entities are described below:

Nai Watera (from Kaupelanese, ‘the Lord Sun’) – is the great Sun-King, the most powerful mythological entity that rules upon the Earth and the Heaven. He has a long and gray beard and wears a black sarong with a white band along the waist and a red headdress. His body is full of tattoos, necklaces and gold bracelets. Legends tell about Mawaungi, the Night-Princess, a virgin that was furious when the king has chosen her sister, the Moon-Queen, as wife.

Yoisi (from Waimahui, hūoitji ‘Moon-woman’) – The Moon-Queen, or Naihin Unin as she is also known, wears a black, white and blue sarong, an orange stole and silver ornaments. She, with her pale skin and black hair arranged in a long plait, enchants people with magical songs at the moonlight.

Yukewi (from Old Hubian, *iul keue ‘devil’s blood’) – also called Nahin Songi, or the Witch-Queen, wears a red sarong, a white shirt with a red ornamented stole and several silver ornaments and necklaces. She has long, gray and frizzy hair. This very old and wicked woman uses to frighten people in the dark nights. Legends tell about her devotion to an ancient evil spirit, called Yaruk, Yugara or Aramyaat.

Ninafel (from Palayanga dialect, nina féél ‘mother water’) – also called Puri Tasi, the princess of the sea. From her kingdom in the bottom of the sea, she helps sailors and fishermen cast away. She has a huge tiger shark, Puhut, as servant. She, with her blue skin, wears white feathers and a black sarong with white and yellow stripes.

Tempe (from Wisanyo dialect, tewo impe ‘bug man’) – These minute people are merry gnomes that used to trap men that dare to come into their domain, the forests. Their conversation, in a secret language (sometimes supposed to be the old Libaru, the ancient language of Wisanu) is many times masked by the blowing wind in the shrubberies or by the bird songs. They wear orange headdresses and blue sarongs.

Moi (from Moinate, ‘stone’) – Also called Masar Rata, or the Giant of the Mountain, dwells hidden in the mountains of Nilau. This creature is shy and terribly strong. His food consists of trees and human beings. Whenever he walks, an earthquake occurs. He has a gray skin and wears ritual white paint at his face and a primitive plaited grass vest.

Buhut or Ulnut (from Old Narikese, Ulnwut ‘ten heads’) – The Dragon of the Volcano, or Naga Rataahi as he is also known, is in fact a demon that dwells in the centre of the Earth. He has ten heads and spits fire, provoking eruptions when he is angry. The myth is based on Ravana, the Devil-King of the rakshasas, from the Hindu epic of Ramayana.

Yambak (from Old Hubian, *ia mbakə ‘protector spirit’) – They are ancestor spirits that protect a family or clan. These guardian angels are represented by the ancestors’ bones and skulls stored on the top floor of the huts.

Rauntawamati (from Old Narikese, ra’u ntamwamati ‘wraith killer’) – This hero is reverenced by the Narikese people as the general from abroad that lead his warriors through the volcano crater right to the hell where he fought and defeated Ulnut, the king of the demons and his army to save the kidnapped princess Mawa.


Spirits of the Underworld

The free spirits (yan) of the underworld can be either kyutem, spirits of people that died of illness or accident caused by malevolent spirits; pulik, spirits of people who were killed; or yambak, spirits of persons that died because of old age or illness not caused by evil spirits. These spirits remain in raingumu, the underworld, until they are ready to go to yaguru, the land of spirits. Kyutem and pulik do not easily find peace. These ghosts (known as nitu or yaruk) are extremely dangerous before departing from the underworld. They can enter a person’s body and take possession of it, in which case the victim will wake up seriously ill. On the other hand, yambak are ancestral spirits that pass quickly to yaguru. They normally protect their descendants and are harmful only when a taboo is violated.

Sacred Places

Spirits of deceased persons enter in yaguru through special places like holes in trees, underground caves along the rivers or a crevice in a rock. Mountaintops, beautifully shaped stones and some woods are considered kuru mali, or sacred places (also known as morowate by the Moinate people and lage idwomnē to the Suduk). These places are protected by ancestral spirits. Only after asking spirits’ permission one is allowed to traverse such places. Ancestral spirits not only guard but also reside in such places. From there, they watch over their descendants. Not respecting this rule is considered a violation of taboo, and will cause the yambak to attack the person that violated it.


A songi, or witch (also known as yukewi in the south of Kiwangar), is a person, either male or female, having malign power to harm people through sorcery (yukyawa). The witch has a malevolent spirit (yu) that can leave his/her body at night to invade a body and steal the victim’s soul (aram) taking it to the underworld. The soul is conceived as shadow or mirror image of the person that surrounds and protects its owner. The loss of the soul is the cause of illness and death, sooner or later. According to the Waimahui people, witches (sōen) can fly and also can take the form of a small animal such as mouse, snake, frog, worm, locust, wasp or beetle. Not only the witch’s spirit but also spirits of the underworld can attack a soul. The cause of illness can be identified through divination (rame) by skilled person and/or consulting the yambakra, the ancestral spirits, summoned by mediums (duhun). Once the cause is determined as sorcery and the sorcerer located, the remedies can be: request yambakra to take it out; spells (awahe) and herbal potions to exorcize the possession of a nitu or to nullify the black magic; and counter-sorcery. The healer (twawa or toyatahi), sometimes a traditional midwife, possesses knowledge of how to retrieve a lost soul. She or he will call the lost soul back and ask the causer to release it, after which the soul returns into its body. Tattoos provide protection against pain or spirit attack.

Spells and magic words

mokina kudu pali, hi yambak kurun mali    'ancestors, let clear the way, through your sacred land'
yambakra mimakinti angimi    'ancestors, protect your child'
yambakra uburung wenemi    'ancestors, I invoke your presence'


Even after the diffusion of Islam and Christianity, the “pagan” beliefs still survive in the country, especially in communities far from the main cities. Syncretism is also observed, for instance, when healers use the sign of the cross and Christian prayers in their healing rituals. Furthermore, some ancient terms are adapted to the new religions, such as yu, rukui and yaguru, that originally mean ‘witch’s soul’, ‘underworld’ and ‘land of spirits’, and now mean respectively ‘demon’, ‘hell’ and ‘heaven’ (sorga, of Sanskrit origin, also means ‘heaven’).

The Lord's Prayer in Kaupelanese

Hami Amam hi sorga, Ho ngaram kumu santu, Ho ni dahe nèma, Ho ni kemusing kumu nudak hi nurwese hayen hi sorga. Mopana
ai hami lèye nami paung diwa-diwa, moperdaung nami salahe, hayen amperdaung era ina rasala made hami. Na humai mokina amtyampu hi yatyalan, tikai mokina amso moli yu ni hanrya, amen.

Hail Mary in Kaupelanese

Sambi Maria, Ho ibi nimet, Syor rang Ho, I nèberkat Ho taran watra wese na nèberkat nwal Ho angim, Yèsus. Santa Maria, Tuamu Ninan, moyamain uni hami, tosala, ngi ye na ngi kilun ina hami amati, amen.

The Sign of the Cross

Hi Ama, Angin na Tuamu Yan Lui ngaran, amen.