duk duk if you see them coming

In Papua New Guinea there is a secret religious society known as the Duk Duks.


It represents a rough sort of law and order through its presiding god Duk-Duk, a mysterious figure dressed in pine branches down to its waist, with a leafy green helmet like a gigantic candle-extinguisher made of leaves. Women and children are forbidden to look at this figure – but shemales are permitted to do so.


The society uses male Duk-Duk and female Tubuan masks. Both types are cone-shaped and are constructed of cane and fibre, with short, bushy capes of pine needles. Traditionally the Duk-Duk was taller than the Tubuan and was faceless. The Tubuan had circular eyes and a crescent-shaped mouth painted on a dark background.


Only males could belong to Duk-Duk, the entrance fees often being 50 to 100 human limbs.

Below is an excerpt from The Western Pacific and New Guinea by H Romilly (1886)

This curious and interesting institution, by working on the superstitions of the rest, enables the old men of the tribe to secure for themselves a comfortable retirement and unbounded influence.  The appearance of the Duk Duk is announced well in advance by the old men. Great preparations of food are then made to appease them.

The day before the Dukduk’s expected arrival the women usually disappear, or remain in their houses. It is immediate death for a woman to look upon this unquiet spirit. Before daybreak everyone is assembled on the beach, most of the young men looking a good deal frightened.

At the first streak of dawn, singing and drum-beating is heard out at sea, and five or six canoes, lashed together with a platform built over them, are seen to be slowly advancing towards the beach. Two most extraordinary figures appear dancing on the platform, uttering shrill cries.


The outward and visible form assumed by them is intended to represent a gigantic cassowary, with the most hideous and grotesque of human faces. The dress, which is made of leaves, certainly looks much like the body of this bird, but the head is like nothing but the head of a Dukduk. It is a conical-shaped erection, about five feet high, made of very fine basket work, and gummed all over to give a surface on which the diabolical countenance is depicted. No arms or hands are visible, and the dress extends down to the knees.

Cassowary found here

As soon as the canoes touch the beach, the two Dukduks jump out, and at once the natives fall back, so as to avoid touching them. If a Dukduk is touched, even by accident, he very frequently tomahawks the unfortunate native on the spot.

NOT this kind of Tomahawk

In the evening a vast pile of food is collected, and is borne off by the old men into the bush, every man making his contribution to the meal. The Dukduk, if satisfied, maintains a complete silence; but if be does not think the amount collected sufficient, he shows his disapprobation by yelping and leaping.

When the food has been carried off, the young men have to go through a very unpleasant ordeal, which is supposed to prepare their minds for having the mysteries of the Dukduk explained to them at some very distant period. They stand in rows of six or seven, holding their arms high above their heads.

The Dukduk selects a cane, dances up to one of the young men, and deals him a most tremendous blow, which draws blood all round his body. There is, however, on the young man’s part no flinching or sign of pain. After the blow with the cane he has to stoop down, on the ‘tail,’ which must be most unpleasant. Each of these young men has to go through this performance some twenty times in the course of the evening. He will nevertheless be ready to place himself in the same position every night for the next fortnight. The time of a man’s initiation may and often does last for about twenty years, and as the Dukduk usually appears six times a year, the novice has to submit to a considerable amount of flogging to purchase his freedom of the guild.


Published in: on April 12, 2010 at 8:08 am  Comments (40)  
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