One evening during my stay on Fano Island, another man was severely reprimanded by his mother on the suspicion that he had stolen some hoarded household funds and gambled them away. The noisy argument that ensued, which took place next door to my home on Fano, was the culmination of a long series of the mother’s complaints about what she felt was her son’s profligate behavior. On this occasion, after an exchange of shouting accusations, the young man stormed out of the house. Later that night he took a length of rope to the village church, and tried to hang himself from the rafters.
Fortunately he was cut down by a passerby shortly after, and his life was saved.
The following day three of the woman in the young man’s lineage, the only females with small babies, all arranged to have their infants treated with the medicine for “Sea spirit spasms.” Since the young man’s attempted suicide had frightened and upset the mothers, according to the theory, their children’s lives were endangered. By taking this action the members of his lineage were not only protecting the children; they were also informing the young man that he was not responsible to himself alone. His foolish action constituted a threat to the continuity of the entire lineage, and to the health and lives of its members.
When I talked to the young man about his suicide attempt a few days later, he observed that it had been a very stupid thing for him to do and indicated he would never do anything like that again in the future.
[#8] Frank Joseph Mahony, A Trukese Theory of Medicine. Ph. D. Dissertation, Stanford University, 1969.
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#8 Sea Spirit Spasms
(Frank Joseph Mahony, 1950-1968, 1970)
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