Sacred ‘Pwo’ ceremony on Saturday

Posted on Oct 04 2019

A traditional and rare initiation ceremony for open ocean celestial navigators in Micronesia will be done this Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019, in the Marianas.

Grand master navigators Ali Haleyalur and Sesario Sewralur arrived on Saipan yesterday to carry out the sacred initiation of “Pwo” for Antonio “Tony” Urmeyang Piailug. Sesario and Tony are the sons of grand master navigator Pius “Mau” Piailug and the ceremony will be the first one ever in the CNMI.

“Pwo” is a sacred ritual for individuals who have successfully concluded a rigorous course of training in traditional wayfinding and are initiated into the secrets of master navigators.

“‘Pwo’ means pounding. We have the pounding stone that we pound the taro or breadfruit. The name ‘pwo’ comes from the pounding stone. It is like pounding all the knowledge into the person. When you are initiated into the ‘pwo’ ceremony, it means you are getting all the knowledge required for you to learn in the navigational term. And, right after when the ‘pwo’ is finished, you are called ‘Pwo,’” said Haleyalur.

The “Pwo” ceremony will begin on Oct. 5 at 9am and conclude on Oct. 8 at 11am at the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs’ Commonwealth Council for Arts and Culture Seafaring Traditions Canoe House in Susupe.

Though it is rare, the public is invited to witness the sacred “Pwo” ceremony. However, during the ceremony, silence must be observed and the canoe house will be off-limits. There will be a designated seating area for the public to observe and listen to the rituals and chants. Once, the ceremony concludes on Oct. 8, the public will have the opportunity to enter the canoe house and meet the navigators.

The “Pwo” ceremony is made possible by the DCCA-CCAC in partnership with the Carolinian Affairs Office, Indigenous Affairs Office and Palau Community College. For more information, call 322-9982 or email (PR)

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