One of the most interesting days for me (including all of my trips to Papua New Guinea) was the day we visited the village of Tari, where the Huli wigmen live.
This is a tribe where the women and men live separately. In order to visit their village, we tourists had to duck through hobbit holes cut into jungle hedges and then trudge through muddy pathways until we found a clearing in the woods. While it would have been forbidden for the local women to enter this area, we had special permission (but could only go so far into the jungle).
During one of these visits, we found ourselves at the village and practicing place of the local fortune teller. This man was the 8th generation in his family to be practicing his craft and was training his son to do the same.
The skulls of his ancestors, all previous fortune tellers, were painted yellow and red and lined up in a hut, each in their own section. A new section is built on the end of the hut when the current fortune teller dies. His skull is then placed inside. (I asked and no, they don’t eat their relatives.)
When we asked our guide what sort of things the fortune teller can help with, he explained, “If something is stolen, like a pig, you go to the fortune teller to find out who stole it. You can also find out your future.”
He went on to explain that a Japanese couple, having trouble conceiving, had visited wanting to know if they would have a baby. The fortune teller predicted yes. When they returned home, the woman got pregnant.
The cost for such a service is about 500 kina ($250 U.S.) or 1 pig. But we got a group fortune for free.
In order to tell our fortune, he chose one of the skulls on display (it wasn’t clear how he knew which one to use).
He then placed it in a kind of holder, like a stretcher that had long poles on either side and held the skull in what looked like leaves and bark.
He then lifted the poles up at one end using just a couple of fingers. If he can lift it easily, then that’s a good sign. If he has difficultly, then there’s a problem with your fortune.
Luckily, it was easy to lift for us and he let us know the remainder of our journey and our travels home would be safe.