The Significance Of Sun And Moon To West Papua Society

Meta Description: The sun and the moon is very important to West Papua society. They honor and worship them in their rituals. They also carve it on large stones.

Slug: Sun-MoonWest-Papua-Society 

Melanesians, the inhabitants of West Papua, possess a unique history and culture. It is said that they have cults related to the sun and moon. For them, the sun and moon are very sacred objects. This is seen by how they use the sun and moon as their cultural feature. The use of sun originated from Melanesians’ ancient stonework culture. There is a lot of sun representation found in the stone (Rivers, 2017).

The Sun Is A Sacred Object

According to Rivers (2017), the sun is sacred to Melanesians because they had celebrations called Areoi in the past. This is one of the secret rites of Melanesia, which worships the sun. The people believe that Wetmatliwo is the personification of the sun. It is said that Wetmatliwo, in the form of bright light, came to his wife’s parents and then sank into the ground. Thus it makes Wetmatliwo be the representation of the sun. 

The sun is so important among Melanesians in West Papua that it is found anywhere in the community (Rivers, 2017). The connection with the sun is present in the sacred rite. At the beginning of the rite, the people need to hold around six stakes tightly from the East to the West. This rite, which involves the representation of death, follows the sun‘s direction. The representation of the sun also uses Tamate liwoa in the form of rays. This form of ray can also be found in the form of diamond-shaped, and the people would mark it in the body of men.

 The representation of the sun is also shown in the name of the higher being that the people worship. Names such as Sukwe, Weometeloa, or Wemeteloa mean the man in the sun. The people not only have it in the rites, but they also kept the images of the sun on the sacred houses. 

The rites are connected with the sun. Its celebration is related to the rebirth of the sun, and it is celebrated annually. They celebrate it every year or season. The features of the rites show that the cult of the sun is part of them. Talking about the ritual, the people cannot separate it from religious cults. And the sun is a significant object to the cult. It is believed that kava-people are the ones who bring the culture of these rites (Rivers, 2017).

The people’s offerings show the significance of the sun. The people make an offering to the sun in their ceremony. In addition, they also make decorations that use the sun motif. The frequent use of the sun shows that it is a Melanesian cult, and it becomes an important thing in the secret ritual. Kava-people is the one who brings this cult to Melanesia, and now it spreads all over the region. 

Even in some places, the people see the sun as a god. The sun cult can be a result of the immigrant’s culture in which the kava-people is responsible, or it can be from the society’s ritual. Melanesians honor the sun because they believe that sunshine is magical (Rivers, 2017). 

The Moon As The Sun‘s Wife

Apart from the sun, the moon is also important among Melanesians (Rivers, 2017). There are a lot of moon images in the sacred house. There is an association between the sun and the moon. In some parts of the island, Melanesians carve the image of the sun and the moon on a large stone. The stone contains images of a crescent moon and a rainbow. There are two large stones. People call the larger one the sun and the smaller one the moon. 

According to Rivers (2017), there is a story believed by Melanesians about the relationship between the sun and the moon. They believe that the moon is the sun‘s wife. People worship and honor the moon with songs and dances. They also offer it food. 

Kava-people are the one who introduces the relationship between the sun and the moon. The people worship the moon on their rites by using the skulls. It is said the moon to be the creator of Vanikolans and their world. The secret ritual uses the moon to become part of it. It became Melanesian’s culture, and it is present among the ghost societies. 


Melanesians see the sun and moon as important. The sun and the moon play an important role in the people’s culture, beliefs, and rites. Some believe it to be their gods. There is evidence that the people keep the images of the sun and the moon in their sacred houses. In addition, they also crave it on a large stone. Historically, there are two large stones found in Melanesia. One of which is believed to be the sun and the other to be the moon. They also include the sun and the moon in their annual rite. 


Rivers, W., H. (2017). The History of Melanesian Society. CUP Archive.