Mai (or mwai) masks, represented as pairs of mythical brothers and sisters, are the teachers in the young men's initiation ceremonies. Mai masks represent the spirits of totemic names. Names are very sacred in PNG.No one actually says anyone's real name, including their own, for fear of drawing the attention of bad spirits or sorcerers. During initiations, the elder who wears the mai mask becomes a spirit teacher who may say the important totemic names without evoking personal risk. He tells and calls out names for use in magic, for healing and for other spiritual uses. These names number in the thousands and only powerful men have this knowledge.
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