The Fire Next Time: the conversion of the Huli apocalypse

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    Christian notions of the Apocalypse, which were first introduced to Huli speakers of the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea during the 1950s, encountered an existing indigenous eschatology, or doctrine of last things. Precontact Huli cosmology posited a moral constitution for the fertility of the universe in which the health of people and the land reflected the state of moral order in Huli society. Failure in social behaviour, which could be gauged from the declining condition of the "skin" of the land, was attributed to an inexorable process of loss of the knowledge of customary lore. Human agency, however, was accorded a significant role in redressing this universal tendency to entropy, and ritual leaders claimed the ability to induce an apocalyptic, earth-renewing fall of fertile soil from the sky. The adoption of Christian understandings of the Apocalypse as the revelation of divine will, and the abandonment of most of the precontact rituals, have thus had significant consequences for Huli conceptions of the role of human agency in history, and for the nature of their engagement with the land.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)205-225
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2000


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