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Wai Lia Bere

Uma Lulik: Ledatame Ikun

 The story of the Wai Lia Bere cave water source is connected to Wai Lia in Baucau town. Wai Lia spring has origin or source on the Baucau plateau at Wai Lia Bere (near a place called Darasula). In the beginning there were two brothers there tending buffaloes. One day they were hungry so they decided to dig, cook and eat some yams. But then they were very thirsty. While they were sitting down wondering where they could get water they remembered the day when their dogs went missing and came back all wet. They wanted to know where the dogs got this water. So they made a plan. They cooked some more yams to give to the dogs, but before they gave them to the dogs they made a bamboo collar—tied with string—for one of the dog's neck. Inside the hollow piece of bamboo they placed ash from the fire and made a small hole in the bamboo. Then they gave the yams to the dogs to eat. The dogs were thirsty and headed off. In about one hour they returned all wet. Now the brothers had a way to find the water. They followed the ash that had trickled from the bamboo collar until they came to a big cave with water inside. They both went down into the cave and drew water, which they carried back out of the cave to drink. 

After this they were still thirsty so the younger brother then went down again to fetch water. Inside the cave there were two places to draw water. On one side was a big cave; on the other side was a small cave. From the large opening the younger brother could hear the water flowing very loudly. He went in to have a look at what was making such a loud noise and suddenly he fell down into the water. He was under water for a period of seven days and seven nights during which time he encountered two eels, one white and one black/yellow. Both offered to help him find his way out. He chose to go with the white eel and eventually he emerged in the still water of another cave—Wai Lia in Baucau [if he had chosen the black eel he would have followed the waters underground path to the sea (the 'other world') and never re-emerged in this world again]. During his long journey he had eaten his clothes as the white eel had warned him that if he had eaten the fruits of the gardens he encountered under the water he would never have emerged from that world. Arriving in the spring waters of Wai Lia he was now naked, and so he decided to stay there beneath the surface and wait.

Then to the spring came two women, the daughters of a woman from Bahu. The older sister entered the cave and drew water from a very clean source. The man from Darasula was crouching beneath the surface and saw this woman drawing water but decided not to do anything. Then the younger sister came in to draw water, but when she exited the spring she saw that in contrast to her older sister the water she had drawn was dirty. She drew water two more times and each time it was dirty. 'What is making my water dirty'?, she thought with frustration. She looked down into the water and beneath it she made out a naked man. The naked man explained: 'I am from the savanna; I was tending buffalo there when I was thirsty and went down into a cave to draw water. Then I somehow ended up here.' 'But what do you want?' asked the women. 'Could you go and ask your brothers to bring me some clothes to wear?' asked the man. So the women went to ask their older brothers to take the man a tais [woven cloth] to wear. They did this and he got dressed in the water. 

When he came out of the water the two sisters and their older brother who had brought the tais were still there. It was decided that the younger sister would now marry this man. So they got married and lived together at the woman's home and they had a child together. And then the woman said, 'Now it is time for us to go to try to find your place so I can see where you come from. Do you still have family there, I wonder?' So they set off to look for this place, telling his story along the way and asking people if they knew of his brother and if he was still alive. Eventually they found some of his possessions hanging in a tree: his carry basket, cotton spinning stick, spear and digging stick. 'This is the place where I was tending buffaloes the day I became lost', he said. He got down his possessions and they kept walking. 

They kept asking people they met about his brother and finally one man responded: 'Yes, it is me, I am your older brother. I thought you were lost forever.' The two hugged each other and cried together. The older brother explained that now as the younger brother had returned to his fuu [M: trunk/origin], they would now make a sacred house here at this place by the cave with water. The house was needed so that offerings could be made to the water and the story would not be forgotten. 'When the time comes for us to make offerings to give thanks to the water which we both found together, the people from Bahu, Caibada, Buruma, Tirilolo [the four villages in Baucau that receive water from Wai Lia] must also come together to kill goats, buffalo, pigs and chickens and then also bring some of them here for us to make our offerings at Darasula.' 'You must also make a sacred house at Wai Lia,' said the older brother. This was so the four villages could also make the same collective offerings at Wai Lia spring in Baucau.

After this they made their sacred houses in both places so they could remember this story and give thanks to the water. Each year the local population would carry out ceremonies so that the two springs would never be dry. This meant that they could make fields and plant rice and have plenty to eat. 

However, eventually the people from the four villages sharing the water from Wai Lia forgot to make their sacrifices. The water stopped flowing and many animals, crops and trees began to die. The people from Baucau went to the custodians of the water on the plateau and asked, 'Why is our water dry?' The custodians of the water explained the reason: 'You have not been making the sacrifices and you need to start doing this again.' So the people in Baucau started to make the required sacrifices again and after this their rice could grow again.

As a past and present focal point for the coastal region water increase ceremonies, the Wai Lia Bere and Wai Lia Mata cave springs are critical to the organization of Baucau's regional water ritual ecology. Yet thesub-villageof Darasula (M: 'the edge of the savanna') in general and Darasula's Ledatame Ikun sacred house have only a few hectares of wet-rice cultivation themselves. Irrigated by a small seasonal spring called Wai Lobi these rice fields are known as the 'plate' (M: ra'u) which feeds the ancestors of the Ledatame sacred house. With their water predominantly subterranean, the Waima'a and Makasae speaking peoples of Darasula are largely dryland agriculturalists of rice, peanuts and other vegetables. In addition to tending candlenut plantations they also graze many livestock across their unfenced lands. According to the Ledatame ritual custodians of the water, one of the conditions of the sacred oath between the Ledatame ancestors and those from other communities connected through 'downstream' subterranean water flows, is that these latter communities can only farm the very edges of escarpment zone and the marine terraces below it. As the underground water from the plateau descends to feed and make fertile the lush spring groves of the marine terrace zone, this sacred agreement ensures that the coastal populations refrain from grazing their livestock on the savanna proper. The savanna is the domain of dryland agriculturalists of Darasula and surrounds.
Type of spring
Spring Complex
Other name
Wai Lia Oli
Waima'a/Makasae: 'big cave water' (Wai Lia Boot)
Image file


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