Kwényïï: a brief note
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Story of Mâgénîînê
New Caledonia, 1967, Benedicto Kotere, Jean-Claude Rivierre
On the Île des Pins, everyone knows that Mâgénîînê is the name of a snake (blackbanded sea krait) living in a cave on the shores of the Oro sea, in the region of Tuété, in the eastern part of the island. According to Father Lambert, the author of the first work on Kanak ethnography, offerings must be left near Mâgénîînê’s cave by people who visit the area for the first time. This was obviously forgotten by the imprudent young girl who came to Wacia to swim and collect shells... The story has a happy ending and explains, according to the storyteller, the origin of the marriage alliances between the families from Tuété and those from Wacia. The Tuété Ti-Koice who, according to Father Lambert, rever Mâgénîînê are themselves in relation with Maré where traditions surrounding this snake are also current. [cf. M. J. Dubois, 1947, Mythes et traditions de Maré, Nouvelle-Calédonie, Les Eletok, Paris, Musée de l'Homme (Publications de la Société des Océanistes, n°35) and J. Guiart, 1963, Structure de la chefferie en Mélanésie du Sud, Paris, Institut d'Ethnologie (Travaux et mémoires de l'Institut d'Ethnologie, LXVI pp. 218-219)]. A visit to Mâgénîînê’s cave “Here is a narrow cave of a new character, given the strange memories attached to it. It bears the name of Kouaouété cave. The surrounding countryside is very pleasant. In this part of the island, lonely and silent, everything tends towards the supernatural and mysterious. Thus we found many sacred offerings there. To get to the cave, one must walk over a white sand beach, washed twice a day by the sea and bordered on both sides by a forest of Cook pines. The imagination of the natives saw, in these islets, at high tide, a great snake called Mangéméné, who visited the cave. One day, the reptile shed its skin and out of it came a mythical being, which was neither man, nor the spirit of man. It did however have a human face, but with its articulations backwards; its elbows were on the inside of its arms and its knees in the place of the calves. It had little feet and eyes at the back of its head. Some say they’ve seen traces of its feet in the sand, others say they’ve heard it hiss; but no one has actually seen it. This mysterious being is the center of a cult analogous to that offered to the ancestors. The Ti-Koïe family has always had control over it. When the members of this family decide to go fishing, or to travel by sea, they make up a packet of certain herbs, in which they put a small water snake, they then dip the packet in the sea, drink a few mouthfuls and beg for favorable winds, a calm sea, an abundant catch. With the same purpose, they place near the cave, as an offering, yams decorated with birds’ feathers. On returning from their travels or their fishing expedition, they return to offer fish to retain the genie’s favors. Two steps away from the cave is a small rock covered with shrubs. Any traveler visiting the place must hang an offering from the branches so as to ward off the genie’s curses. Thus these shrubs are covered with this sort of offerings.” [in Lambert (P.), Moeurs et superstitions des Néo-Calédoniens, Nouméa, Nouvelle Imprimerie Nouméenne, 1900, pp. 286-288].