Native Tribes of South-East Australia/Chapter 7

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Native Tribes of South-East Australia by Alfred William Howitt
Chapter VII - Medicine-Men and Magic



Term "medicine-man" explained—In all tribes there is a belief that the medicine-men can project objects invisibly into their victims—The Dieri Kunki—"Pointing the bone"—Roasting charms for the purpose of harming others—The Wotjobaluk Bangul—The Wurunjerri Wirrarap—The Wiimbaio Mekigar—The Wotjobaluk Bangal—The use of human fat in magic—The Yuin Gommera—The Wiradjuri Bugin—Magic of Bunjil-Barn and Bulk among the Kurnai—Curative practices of the medicine-men—Kurnai Birraark distinguished from the Mulla-mulung—Rain-makers and weather-changers—Charms to influence food-supply—Omens and warnings—The "Bad Country"—The making of medicine-men—Use of rock-crystal and human fat in magic—Conclusions as to the powers of medicine-men—Songs and song-makers.

I have adopted the term "medicine-men" as a convenient and comprehensive term for those men who are usually spoken of in Australia as "Blackfellow doctors"—men who in the native tribes profess to have supernatural powers. The term "doctor" is not strictly correct, if by it is meant only a person who uses some means of curing disease. The powers which these men claim are not merely those of healing, or causing disease, but also such as may be spoken of as magical practices relating to, or in some manner affecting, the well-being of their friends and enemies. Again, the medicine-man is not always a "doctor" ; he may be a "rain-maker," "seer," or "spirit-medium," or may practise some special form of magic.

I may roughly define "doctors" as men who profess to extract from the human body foreign substances which, according to aboriginal belief, have been placed in them by the evil magic of other medicine-men, or by supernatural beings, such as Brewin of the Kurnai, or the Ngarrang of the Wurunjerri. Ngarrang is described as being like a man with a big beard and hairy arms and hands, who lived in the large swellings which are to be seen at the butts of some of the gum-trees, such as the Red Gum, which grows on the river flats, in the Wurunjerri country. The Ngarrang came out at night in order to cast things of evil magic into incautious people passing by their haunts. The effect of their magic was to make people lame. As they were invisible to all but the medicine-men, it was to them that people had recourse when they thought that a Ngarrang had caught them. The medicine-man by his art extracted the magic in the form of quartz, bone, wood, or other things.

Other medicine-men were bards who devoted their poetic faculties to the purposes of enchantment, such as the Bunjil-yenjin of the Kurnai, whose peculiar branch of magic was composing and singing potent love charms.

At first sight the subject of this chapter might seem to be a very simple one, since the practices of the medicine-man may appear to be no more than the actions of cunning cheats, by which they influence others to their own personal benefit. But on a nearer inspection of the subject it becomes evident that there is more than this to be said. They believe more or less in their own powers, perhaps because they believe in those of others. The belief in magic in its various forms—in dreams, omens, and warnings—is so universal, and mingles so intimately with the daily life of the aborigines, that no one, not even those who practise deceit themselves, doubts the power of other medicine-men, or that if men fail to effect their magical purposes the failure is due to error in the practice, or to the superior skill or power of some adverse practitioner.

Allowing for all conscious and intentional deception on the part of these men, there still remains a residuum of faith in themselves which requires to be noticed, and if possible to be explained.

It is in this aspect that the question has shown itself as being most difficult to me. The problem has been how to separate falsehood from truth, cunning imposture from bona fide actions, and deliberate falsification from fact. The statements which I have made in these pages are the result of long-continued inquiries as well as personal observation. I must say for my aboriginal informants, that I have found them truthful in their statements to me whenever I have been able to check them by further inquiries, and in only one instance did I notice any tendency to enlarge the details into proportions beyond their true shape. Even this instance was very instructive. The man's information as to the customs of his tribe, and especially as to the initiation ceremonies, I found to be very accurate, but it was when he began to speak of the magical powers of the old men of the past generation that I found his colouring to be too brilliant, and more especially as regarded his tribal father, the last great warrior-magician of the tribe. In his exaggeration of the exploits of this man one might see an instructive example of how very soon an heroic halo of romance begins to gather round the memory of the illustrious dead.

It is not difficult to see how, amongst savages having no real knowledge of the causes of disease, which is the common lot of humanity, the very suspicion of such a thing as death from natural causes should be unknown. Death by accident they can imagine, although the results of what we should call accident they mostly attribute to the effects of some evil magic. They are well acquainted with death by violence, but even in this they believe, as among the tribes about Maryborough (Queensland), that a warrior who happens to be speared in one of the ceremonial fights has lost his skill in warding off or evading a spear, through the evil magic of some one belonging to his own tribe. But I doubt if, anywhere in Australia, the aborigines, in their pristine condition, conceived the possibility of death merely from disease. Such was certainly not the case with the Kurnai.

In all the tribes I refer to there is a belief that the medicine-men can project substances in an invisible manner into their victims. One of the principal projectives is said to be quartz, especially in the crystallised form. Such quartz crystals are always, in many parts of Australia, carried as part of the stock-in-trade of the medicine-man, and are usually carefully concealed from sight, especially of women, but are exhibited freely to the novices at the initiation ceremonies. Since the advent of white men pieces of broken bottle have sometimes taken the place of quartz crystals. Among the Yuin the hair of deceased relatives, for instance of father or brother, is used for making bags in which to carry quartz crystals, called by them Krugullung.

When travelling in the country back of the Darling River, before it was settled, I came across a blackfellow doctor, who accompanied me for the day, and he greatly alarmed my two black boys by seemingly causing a quartz crystal to pass from his hand into his body.

The Kunki or medicine-man of the Dieri tribe is supposed to have direct communication with supernatural beings called Kutchi, and also with the Mura-muras. He interprets dreams, and reveals to the relatives of the dead the person by whom the deceased has been killed. Kutchi was the cause of sickness and other evils, but could be driven out by suitable means applied by the Kunki. On one occasion Mr. Gason had caught cold, and Jalina-piramurana, hearing of it, sent to him to ask permission to "drive Kutchi out of the Police camp" before he came to examine Mr. Gason professionally as a medicine-man. If a Dieri has had a dream, and fancies he has seen a departed friend during the night, he reports the circumstance to a Kunki, and most likely embellishes the details. The Kunki probably declares that it is a vision and not a dream, and announces his opinion in camp in an excited speech. For the Dieri distinguish between what they consider a vision and a mere dream. The latter is called Apitcha, and is thought to be a mere fancy of the head. The visions are attributed to Kutchi, the powerful and malignant being, who gives to the Kunki his power of producing disease and death, or of healing that which has been brought about by some other Kunki. If the Kunki declares that he has had a real vision of his departed friend, he may order food to be placed for the dead, or a fire to be made so that he can come and warm himself. But it depends largely on the manner in which the interpretation is received by the elders whether the Kunki follows it up. The Kunki say that, like a Kutchi, they can fly up to the sky by means of a hair cord, and see a beautiful country full of trees and birds. It is said that they drink the water of the sky-land, from which they obtain the power to take the life of those they doom.[1]

One of the most common spells used by the Dieri is "pointing with the bone" (human fibula), and this practice is called Mukuelli-Dukana, from Muku, "a bone," and Dukana "to strike." Therefore, as soon as a person becomes ill, there is a consultation of his friends to find out who has "given him the bone." If he does not get better, his wife, if he has one, if not, then the wife of his nearest relative, accompanied by her Pirrauru, is sent to the person suspected. To him she gives a small present, saying that her husband, or so-and-so, has fallen ill, and is not expected to get better. The medicine-man knows by this that he is suspected; and, fearing revenge, probably says that she can return, as he will withdraw all power from the bone, by steeping it in water. If the man dies, and especially if he happens to be a man of importance, the suspected man is certain to be killed by the Pinya. When the tribe wished to kill some one at a distance, the principal men have joined in pointing their respective bones, wrapped in emu feathers and fat, in the direction of the intended victim, and at the same time naming him and the death they desired him to die. All those present at such a ceremony, which lasts about an hour, are bound to secrecy. Should they hear after a time that the intended victim continues to remain alive and well, they explain it by saying that some one in his tribe stopped the power of the bone.[2]

It is almost always the case for two persons to act together in "giving the bone." One of them points with it, and also ties the end of the hair cord, which is fastened to it, tightly round his upper arm in order that the blood may be driven through it into the bone. The other person holds the end of another cord fastened to the bone, and goes through the same motions as he who is holding the bone. This is done because the legend which accounts for the origin of this practice in the Mura-mura times recounts how two of the Mura-muras, acting together, revenged the murder of a Mura-mura boy by "giving the bone" to those who had killed him.[3]

In the Tongaranka tribe, and in all the tribes of the Itchumundi nation, pointing with the bone is practised. The medicine-man obtains the fibula of a dead man's leg, which is scraped, polished, and ornamented with red ochre, and a cord of the dead man's hair is attached to it. It is believed that any person towards whom the bone is pointed will surely die, and a medicine-man who is known to have such a bone is feared accordingly. Another way of pointing the bone is by laying a piece of the leg-bone of a kangaroo or an emu, sharply pointed at one end, on the ground in the direction of the intended victim when he is asleep. After a time this is removed and placed in some secret place, point downwards, in a hole dug in the ground filled up with sticks and leaves, and then burnt. As the bone is consumed, it is thought to enter into the victim, who then feels ill, and falls down and dies. As the bone is believed to cause pain, sickness, and ultimately death, so a victim can be cured by a medicine-man sucking the cause out of him, and producing it as a piece of bone. Apart from the direct removal of the bone by the medicine-man, another remedy is to rub the victim with the ashes of the bone, if they can be found.[4]

There is a peculiar form of pointing among the Wiradjuri. Some of the medicine-men use a small piece of wood shaped like a bull-roarer, placed close to the fire but pointing towards the intended victim, with the belief that when this instrument, which is called Dutimal, becomes quite hot, it springs up and enters the victim without his being aware of it. Others of the Wiradjuri believe that people are killed by a medicine-man getting a piece of a man's clothes and roasting it, wrapped up with some of a dead man's fat, in front of a fire. This is said to catch the smell of the person from his clothing. The former wearer of it is then expected to fall ill and die shortly after. This form of evil magic is called Murrai-illa.

The medicine-man of the Wiradjuri also uses a kind of charm called Yangura, consisting of the hair of a dead man mixed with his fat and that of the lace-lizard, rolled into a ball and fastened to a stick about six inches long. This is carefully concealed by the medicine-man until he wishes to make a person ill, or cause his death. Then it is unwrapped and laid before a fire, pointing in the direction of the intended victim, it is believed that the spirit of the dead man whose fat has been used will help the charm to act.

In the Wotjobaluk tribe when a man was believed to have "pointed the bone" at another, the friends of the latter would request the former to place the bone in water so as to undo the mischief which he might have caused. If a man died from "pointing the bone," his friends would take measures to kill the offender by the same means, or by direct violence.

The Kurnai fastened some personal object belonging to the intended victim to a spear-thrower, together with some eagle-hawk's feathers and some kangaroo or human fat. The spear-thrower was then stuck slanting in the ground before a fire, and over it the medicine-man sang his charm. This was generally called "singing the man's name" until the stick fell, when the magic was considered to be complete. Those who used this form of evil magic were called Bunjil-murriwun, the latter word being the name of the spear-thrower. It was, as the Kurnai say, made strong, that is, magically powerful, by being rubbed with kangaroo fat. Although most commonly used for roasting things, it could be also used, as the Kurnai think, in a very fatal manner, by sticking it in the ground where the victim had attended to a call of nature, and in such a case the medicine-man sang the name of the victim, mentioning also the death which he was to die.

An instance of the manner in which the spear-thrower is used, or rather in which Tankowillin wished to use it, came under my notice in the year 1888. He came to me and asked for the loan of a spear-thrower which I had, and which he thought to be of special magical power, because it had been used at the Jeraeil ceremonies. He informed me that he wanted it to catch one of the tribe who had married a relation of his, a widow, without the consent of her kindred, and also far too soon after the death of her husband, indeed so soon that "it had made all the poor fellow's friends sad, thinking of him." When I refused him the use of the Murriwun, he said it did not matter, for he and his friends had made a very strong stick to point at him with, singing his name over it, and spitting strong poison over it.

He used the word "poison" for "magic," but I think that in some tribes actual poison was used. For instance, in the Yuin tribe the Gommeras are credited with killing people by putting things in their food and drink. I was informed that one of these substances is a yellow powder. My informant said that he once obtained some of it from one of the old Gommeras and having rubbed it on some meat, he gave it to a kangaroo dog, who fell down and died very shortly.

A similar statement comes to me from the Kamilaroi on the Gwydir River,[5] About Moree it is said that the medicine-men have two kinds of poison, which they use to kill people with. The poisons are called Wuru-kahrel and Dinna-kurra, from Dinna, "a foot," and Kurra, "to catch." It is said that they get these poisons by putting the dung of the native cat in a hole in an ant-hill, covered up with gum-leaves. After a while a white mossy powder comes on it, which they say is the poison. It is said to be very slow in its action, taking three weeks to operate. I give this for what it is worth.

I may note also that the Rev. George Taplin mentions in his account of the Narrinyeri tribe the Neilyeri, or poison revenge, which is by using a spear-head or a piece of bone which has been stuck in the fleshy part of a putrid corpse, and kept there for some weeks. This weapon is used by pricking an enemy when asleep, and thus inoculating him with the virus of death.[6]

Such are the beliefs as to poisons from widely separated places. I have no means of testing their truth, but my informants fully believed in their effects, and there is no special improbability in their use by the medicine-men.

Returning again to the practice of roasting things for the purpose of harming the owners of them, I mention another form of it by the Wotjobaluk. In this they used a small spindle-shaped piece of wood called Gulhiwil, in the same manner as other tribes used the spear-thrower or yam-stick. The name Guliwil was not used for these pieces of wood, usually of the Bull-oak (Casuarina glauca) alone, but also for the whole implement, which consisted of three or four of the pieces of wood, and was tied up with some article belonging to the intended victim and human fat. Each Guliwil has on it some marks, such as a rude effigy of the victim, and of some of the poisonous snakes. The bundle was roasted for a long time, or for several times at intervals.

I am told that after the whites settled on the Wimmera River the Wotjobaluk employed on the stations found the great chimneys of the huts, especially of those which were used as kitchens, unrivalled places in which to hang their Guliwils so as to expose them to a prolonged heat.[7]

The following is an account, by one of the Wotjobaluk old men, of the effects produced by such a Guliwil or the belief in it, which amounts to the same thing. "Sometimes a man dreams that some one has got some of his hair, or a piece of his food, or of his 'possum rug, or indeed anything that he has used. If he dreams this several times, he feels sure that it is so, and he calls his friends together and tells them he is dreaming too much about 'that man,' who must have something belonging to him. He says, 'I feel in the middle of the fire; go and ask him if he has anything of mine in the fire.' His friends do his bidding, probably

adding, 'You need not deny it, he has dreamed of it three times, and dreams are generally true.' Sometimes the suspected Bangal (medicine-man), seeing no other way out of it, admits that he has something that he is burning, but makes the excuse that it was given to him to burn, and that he did not know to whom it belonged. In such a case he would give the thing to the friends of the sick man, telling them to put it in water to put the fire out; and when this had been done, the man would probably feel better."

In the Jupagalk tribe the method was to tie the thing, or fragment which had belonged to, or been touched by, the intended victim, to the end of a digging-stick, by a piece of cord. This was stuck in the ground in front of a fire; and as it swung there, the Bangal sang over it till it fell, which was a sign that the spell was complete.

Among the Kulin tribes the practice was to use a spear-thrower for this purpose instead of a digging-stick, and it was called Kalbura-murriwun, or broken spear-thrower.

The Wurunjerri believed firmly that the Wirrarap (medicine-man) could kill persons, far or near, by means of Mung, or evil magic, through the agency of many substances, among which the Thundal, or quartz crystals, stood first. This he could project, either invisibly, or else as a small whirlwind a foot or so high. The effect on a man caught in such a way was, according to Berak, that he felt a chill, then pains and shortness of breath. A medicine-man, being consulted, would look at him and say, "Hallo! there is a lot of Mung in you." Then alone, or with other medicine-men, he sat near and watched the man, until one of them saw the magical substance trying to escape, it might be in the middle of the night. Then he would run after it, catch it, and breaking a piece off it to prevent it escaping again, put it into his magic-bag for future use. Any article once belonging to, or having been used by, the intended victim, would serve to work an evil spell. A piece of his hair, some of his faeces, a bone picked up by him and dropped, a shred of his opossum rug, would suffice, and among the Wotjobaluk, if he were seen to spit, this would be carefully picked up with a piece of wood, and used for his destruction.

The old beliefs are also adapted to their new surroundings since the settlement of Australia by the whites. The Wurunjerri dreaded a practice attributed to the native tribes about Echuca whom they called Meymet. This was the pounded flesh of a dead man with cut-up tobacco. This, given to the unsuspecting victim, caused him, when he smoked it, to fall under a deadly spell, which no Wirrarap could cure. The result was the internal swelling of the smoker till he died. Another instance of evil magic peculiar to the Wudthaurung tribe, the western neighbours of the Wurunjerri, was to put the rough cones of the She-oak (Casuarina quadrivalvis) into a man's fire, so that the smoke might blow into his eyes and blind him. The idea seems to have been that the eidolon of the rough seed cones would magically produce injury, as the object itself might do. This belief points to an attempted explanation of ophthalmia.

Besides these applications of evil magic, there was another form of this practice, namely, by placing sharp fragments of quartz, glass, bone, or charcoal in a person's footprints, or in the impression of his body where he has lain down. Rheumatic affections are often attributed to this cause. Once, seeing a Tatungalung man very lame, I asked him what was the matter. He replied, "Some fellow put bottle into my foot." I found out that he had acute rheumatism, and he believed that some enemy had found his footprint and buried in it a fragment of a broken bottle, the magic of which had entered into his foot.

One of the practices of the Wiimbaio Mekigar (medicine-man) was to step among the crowd at a corrobboree, and pick up something off the ground, saying that it was a piece of nukalo (quartz) which some Mekigar at a distance had thrown at them.[8]

When following down Cooper's Creek in search of Burke's party, we were followed by a number of wild blacks, who appeared much interested in examining and measuring the footprints of the horses and camels. My blackboy, from the Darling River, rode up to me with the utmost alarm exhibited in his face and said, "Look at those wild black-fellows!" I said, "Well, they are all right." Then he replied, "I am sure they are putting poison in my footsteps." This is another instance of the use of our word "poison" for "magic."

Use of Human Fat in Magic

The practice of using human fat as a powerful magical ingredient is widely spread over Australia, and consequently the belief is universal that the medicine-men have the power of abstracting it magically from individuals, or also of actually taking it by violence accompanied by magic. This is usually spoken of by the whites as taking "the kidney fat," but it appears to be the caul-fat from the omentum.

It is said by the Wiimbaio that the medicine-men of hostile tribes sneak into the camp in the night, and with a net of a peculiar construction garrotte one of the tribe, drag him a hundred yards or so from the camp, cut up his abdomen obliquely, take out the kidney and caul-fat, and then stuff a handful of grass and sand into the wound. The strangling-net is then undone, and if the victim is not quite dead, he generally dies in twenty-four hours, although it is said that some have survived the operation for three days. The fat is greatly prized, and is divided among the adults, who anoint their bodies with it and carry some of it about, as they believe the prowess and virtues of the victim will pass to those who use the fat.[9]

But they also say that the Mekigar of such tribes can knock a man down in the night with a club called Yuri-battra-piri, that is, ear-having-club, a club having two corners, i.e. ears. The man being thus knocked down, his assailant would remove his fat without leaving a sign of the operation. They had a great horror of those men of other tribes who, they believe, prowled about seeking to kill people. They called them Thinau-malkin, that is, "one who spreads a net for the feet," and Kurinya-matola, "one who seizes by the throat." These were their real enemies, and when they caught them they blotted them out by eating part of their bodies. Once when the Wiimbaio feared that their enemies from the south, the Wotjobaluk, might come and attack them, they requested a white man who was with them to sleep in the opening of a horseshoe-shaped screen of boughs, which they built round their camp. They said that their enemies would not step over a white man, but would otherwise come in among them and put cords on their throats, and thus having choked them, would carry them off and take their fat.

One old Mekigar of this tribe was seen sitting in the camp with a piece of reed in his hand, which he stuck from time to time in the ground, bringing up on it something like meat. It was said that he was catching some one at a distance, and bringing up some of his fat.[10]

The Wotjobaluk practised this fat-taking apparently to a great extent. Here is the account of the fat-taking powers of their medicine-men (Bangal) as given to me by one of the old men of the tribe. As usual, the favourite plan is to sneak on the victim when asleep. As soon as the Bangal is near enough to see the man by the light of the fire, he swings the Yulo (bone) round his head, and launches it at him. It is supposed to dart into him invisibly, and compel him to come out of his camp to the medicine-man, who throws him over his shoulder and carries him to a convenient spot. Or, if he was acquainted with the man, he would manage to arrive at his camp late, so as to be asked to remain for the night. Pretending to sleep, he watches until his host is in a sound slumber, when he passes his Yulo under his knees, round his neck, and through the loop of the cord attached to it, and so carries him a little way from the camp.

This old man also gave me an account of the manner in which the fat is always taken, whether the victim was noosed by the Yulo or knocked down by a blow on the back of the neck with the Breppen, that is a club with a knob at the end. The victim is laid on his back and the medicine-man sits astride of his chest, cuts him open on the right side below the ribs, and abstracts the fat. Then bringing the edges together, and singing his spell, he bites them together to make them join without a visible scar. Then he retires to a distance, leaving the man lying on his back. The medicine-man then sings a song with the following effect. At the first singing the victim lifts one leg, at the second the other, at the third he turns over, at the fourth a little whirlwind comes, and blowing under his back, lifts him up. At the same time a star falls from the sky, called Yerigauil, with the man's heart. He thereupon rises and staggers about, wondering how he came to be sleeping there. This process is called Deking-ngalluk, or "open side."

Whenever the Wotjobaluk see a falling star, they believe that it is falling with the heart of a man who has been caught by a Bangal and deprived of his fat.

The Yulo was used by all the tribes of the Wotjo nation. By the Mukjarawaint it was made in the following manner. When the corpse of a man had remained on the funeral stage so long that it had become dry, his father, own or tribal, made "magic" of the fibula. He pointed it at one end, and tied some of the dead man's flesh to it with kangaroo sinews, and anointed the whole with some of the dead man's fat mixed with raddle. Being then hung over a fire to make it "strong," it was tied up tight in a bag made of opossum-fur string, until required for use. When used it was swung round by a length of about five feet of kangaroo sinew, and then thrown in the direction of the intended victim, who was supposed in consequence to swell up and die. This instrument was, as a whole, called Yulo or Jinert (sinew), and the victim was believed generally to learn in a dream who had "caught him," and he then informed his friends. In the extreme verge of the country occupied by the Wotjo tribes, on the borderland between them and the Jajaurung tribe, there was the same practice and the same belief as to the falling star.

The song which the Bangal would use to make his victim regain his senses, and go away, is such a one as the following, which belongs to the Jajaurung of the St. Arnaud district. But in this case it is the man's ghost which is to get up and go away.

Moronga   morove   leanijulin   willain-gurk   kroia-bangalo.
Rainbow spirit (ghost) like a knife cutting swallow curlew.
If the victim were a stranger, the Bangal would not take the trouble to bring him back to life, but would leave him where he lay. But if he were some one whom he knew, he would do as described, and moreover he would be careful when laying him out, preparatory to operating on him, to place him in that direction in which the dead of his totem are buried.

The following account was given to me by one of the oldest of the Wotjobaluk people, who was one of the principal actors in it.

Before the white men came to the Wimmera River, a man died at a place beyond Lake Hindmarsh, from having his fat taken by a Bangal. My informant went out with a party of his friends into the bush surrounding the place where the dead man's camp was, and watched in the dark. He said that, after a time, they saw the figure of a man sneaking among the trees, and as he came nearer, they recognised him as the maternal uncle of the deceased. That is, they believed it to be the Gulkan-gulkan, the wraith, or spirit, of the suspected Bangal, sneaking to the camp where his victim lay. The brother of the murdered man struck at the Gulkan-gulkan, when it disappeared. It had just the appearance of a man, and carried its spear in rest in the throwing-stick, just as when he speared the victim, who was his sister's son, for his fat.

The belief that the Bangal always watches at the place where he has killed a victim is common to all the Wotjo tribes, and extends to their neighbours, the Jajaurung.

In the case mentioned, the relatives of the deceased, knowing who the murderer was, buried the body and made up a party to kill him. He was found near to where Nhill is now situated, and a false Wirriki, or messenger, a tribal brother of the deceased, was sent on ahead to the camp. The avengers followed, led by the brothers of the victim. It was arranged that the Wirriki should have three days' start in which to find the offender, and if possible to get him to go out hunting with him to a certain place. He, however, could not do this, and he met his party, and they agreed that they would surprise the camp at night. This was done, and at a signal from the Wirriki the man was speared.

The Mukjarawaint had a similar belief as to the fat-taking by medicine-men. The account given to me was almost identical with that of the Wotjobaluk, the only difference being that, unless the Bangal takes precautions, the victim will follow him when he regains his senses. He therefore hides till he sees him rise and stagger towards him, when he turns him away homewards, by throwing some earth at him. The time to elapse before the victim dies is fixed by the Bangal walking along the nearest fallen tree-trunk. Its length in strides fixes the number of days he has to live. The victim goes home, feels ill, does not know what ails him, but just before he dies dreams of the man or men who have taken his fat, and so is able to tell his friends, who forthwith make up an avenging party.

This belief in a sort of clairvoyance just before death seems to be very general among the aborigines. I have found it with the Wiradjuri, where a man, just before his death, said to his friends, who were standing round him, "Go on one side so that I may be able to see who it is who has caught me."

It also occurred in Gippsland, where a few years ago one of the Kurnai died from the effects of drinking and exposure. When so near death that he was lying speechless in his camp, his great friend, the before-mentioned Tankowillin, besought him earnestly to tell him who it was who had caused his death, and was inconsolable because the sick man died without being able to do so.

In speaking of the powers of the Gommeras with a number of the old men after the ceremonies in the Yuin tribe, they all agreed that they could throw Joïas at people, invisibly—"like the wind," as they said. A victim could not therefore know when he was hurt, but a man who was so killed might be able to tell his friends, before he died, who it was who had hurt him. But often some one was able to say in such a case, "I saw so-and-so going behind him throwing Joïas. The Gommera could tell the Yuin who had "caught" a deceased man. So, if they knew that he had been at some place shortly before he died—if, for instance, a Moruya man had been to Bodalla—then his father, or brothers, and a Gommera would sneak down to that place and look out for blacks. It would not matter whom they caught, any man from that place would do. I remember hearing from one of the Yuin that in a case of this kind some blacks from Tumut or Goulburn came and killed about twenty-five Braidwood people—men, women, and children. They put some Gubburra (evil magic) in their grog, and as they were having a drunken spree, all sucking out of one bottle, they all died.

A very intelligent Jupagalk man gave me the following account of what he saw, as a boy of about ten years of age, of the fat-taking practice by the medicine-men of his tribe. He spoke as follows:—

"When I was a boy, I went out one day with some of the men to hunt. We were all walking in a line, when one of them hit the man in front of him on the back of the neck and knocked him down. Two or three of the men held me tight so that I could not run away, for I was very frightened. Then the man cut open the one he had knocked down, by a little hole in his side below his ribs, and took out his fat. After that he bit the two edges of the cut together, and sang to make them join, but he could not succeed. He then said he could not do this because some one had already taken this man's fat before, as he could see by the marks on the liver, and that whenever a man had been opened and closed up, no one could do it again. As they could not wake the man up, they buried him. They smoked the fat over a fire and took it away wrapped up tightly in a cloth. They wanted it to carry with them to make them lucky in hunting."

The Kurnai called this practice Bret-bung, or "with the hand." The men who practised it were called Burra-burrak, or "flying," and also Bret-bung mungar worugi, or "with the hand from a long distance." They were believed to throw their victims into a magic trance by pointing at him with the Yertung, which is a bone instrument, made of the fibula of a kangaroo, corresponding to the Yulo of the natives of north-western Victoria. In the Kurnai tribe men have died believing themselves to have been deprived of their fat, although there were no signs of violence on their bodies. At the same time there is no doubt that the taking of fat was actually practised. An informant on whom I can rely tells me that when a boy, not long after Gippsland was settled, he saw an old man roasting fat which they had taken from a blackfellow, whom they had knocked down with a club. This they ate, and told the boy that they would now have the strength of the other man. The alleged victim of this action did not die, but was killed some time after by his own people for some tribal misdemeanour.

The effect of dreams in which the sleeper believed that he had fallen into the hands of such a medicine-man may be seen from a remark made by my Wurunjerri informant, that "Sometimes men only know about having their fat taken by remembering something of it as in a dream."

The Omeo blacks used to take out the kidney fat of their slain enemies and rub themselves with it when they went out to fight. They used to grease their clubs and put them out in the sun to dry. In reference to this practice my informant said, "Once I was going to take hold of a waddy (club), which was being treated in this way, when the owner ran to me and said that, if I touched it, I should get a very sore hand."[11]

I feel no doubt that the property of evil magic attributed to this weapon was derived from its being anointed with human fat.

The Yuin called the fat-takers Bukin, and the belief extends with the same name in dialectic forms across the Manero tableland to Omeo and down the Murray and Murrumbidgee waters. The Wolgal medicine-man Yibai-malian had the character among the Kurnai of being a Bukin, or, as they call it, a Burra-burrak.

The Wiradjuri greatly dreaded the Bugin, as they call them, and their practices, and attributed to them all kinds of supernatural powers. They are generally believed to be the medicine-men of neighbouring tribes lower down the Murray and the Murrumbidgee Rivers. These are called Dulu-durrai, from Dulu, the great jag-spear, and are said to carry the pointed bone, and the long end of plaited sinew, called by the Wiradjuri Gungur, the analogue of the Wotjobaluk Yulo.

Watching till the victim sleeps, the Bugin is supposed to creep to him, pass the bone under his knees, round his neck, and through the loop end of the cord of sinew. Thus having secured his victim, the Bugin carries him away to extract his fat. This is said to be done in the manner already described.

The Bugin is thought to be able to walk invisibly, and to turn himself into an animal at will. My Wiradjuri informant, Murri-kangaroo, in speaking of this practice of the Bugin, of which he expressed great dread, said as follows:—"If I saw an old man kangaroo come hopping up, and sit and stare at me, I should keep my eyes fixed on him and try to get out of his way, lest he might be a Bugin, who, getting behind me, would have me at a disadvantage."

The Bugin when hard pressed is believed to be able to turn himself into a stump, or other inanimate object, or to go down into the ground out of sight, to escape his pursuers. Yibai-malian, the before-mentioned medicine-man, professed to have saved himself from the pursuit of his enemies by having entered into a horse and thus galloped off, a feat which was thought much of by the Murring to whom he told it.

Once when a feud was in progress between the Omeo people and those living at Bruthen in Gippsland, the former accounted for their enemy coming upon them unawares by saying that the medicine-men of the Gippsland blacks could turn themselves into crows, and fly about to watch the motions of the Omeo men.[12]

A very dangerous practice attributed to the Bugin is to get inside a tree, and when a blackfellow is climbing it to cause a limb of which he has laid hold to break off suddenly, so that he falls to the ground and becomes an easy victim. When a Wiradjuri man feels his flesh twitch, he knows that a Bugin is near, and thus is of the same opinion as the second witch in Macbeth, who says, "By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes."

The fat-taking practice of the Wurunjerri Wirrarap or medicine-men has been fully described to me. It was called Burring, and was carried out by means of an instrument made of the sinews of a kangaroo's tail and the fibula of its leg (Ngyelling), which had the same name. The sinew cord had a loop worked at one end, and the pointed bone was attached to the other. Armed with this, the medicine-man would sneak up to the camp during a man's first sleep. I am told that the most favourable time would be when the sleeper snored. The assailant would then place his fingers on the forehead of the sleeper. If it felt cool, he would not wake up, but if warm, the assailant waited. If the time was propitious, the cord was passed lightly round the sleeper's neck, and the bone being threaded through the loop, was pulled tight. Another Burring was then passed round his feet and the victim carried off into the bush, where he was cut open and the fat extracted. The opening was magically closed up, and the victim left to come to himself with the belief that he had had a bad dream. If the fat thus extracted was heated over a fire, the man died in a day or two, but otherwise he would linger for some time.

At other times the human fat was obtained by violence without recourse to the Burring. While out hunting with some pretended friends, one of them would engage the attention of the victim in conversation; suddenly another would say, "Look at those birds!" or something of the sort, to take his attention, while a third man would fell him with a blow by a club (Kugering). Then, according to my informant, he would be rolled about on the ground to make his Murup (spirit) come out of him. The fat was then extracted in the usual way. If not actually killed by the blow, the man might come to himself and be able to return to his camp. I was told of such a case, where an old man of the Wurunjerri tribe had been thus caught by some of the Jajaurung, but got back to his camp before he died. In all cases where such acts were said to have been done by a medicine-man, and the wound closed magically and invisibly, and the man died in the belief that his fat had been taken, we may feel assured that the origin of the belief was a dream, as in this particular case.

Among the Kamilaroi the taking of the fat was called Krammergorai, or stealing fat.[13]

The Yuin believed that their Gommeras could make a man go to sleep, and then take his fat, closing up the wound so as not to leave a mark, and then sending him home. He wakes up there, feels very ill, and dies. This they call Buggiin. When a spear was rubbed over with such fat, it became, as the Yuin say, "poisoned," that is, infected with evil magic.

The blacks living about Dungog believed that when a person became ill and wasted away, the medicine-man (Kroji) of some hostile tribe had stolen his fat.[14]

The Bunjil-Barn of the Kurnai

Death is attributed by the Kurnai not only to the action of evil magic, but also to the combination of evil magic and violence. Such is the magical proceeding called Barn, a practice much affected by the Kurnai, who called those who carried it out Bunjil-barn.

Here is an instance which took place in 1874. Some Brabralung Kurnai, among whom were Tankowillin and Turlburn, had a grudge against Bundawal, and they determined to catch him with Barn. They chose a young He-oak tree,[15] lopped the branches and pointed the stem, then drawing the outline (Yamboginni) of a man as if the tree-stump grew out of his chest, they also cleared the ground for a space round the tree, making a sort of magical circle. Then they stripped themselves naked, rubbed themselves over with charcoal and grease, a common garb of magic, and danced and chanted the Barn song. They told me afterwards that they did this for several days, but that, as Tankowillin expressed it, they "were not strong enough." Under the influence of their magic spells, Bundawal was expected to rise from his camp and walk to them in a trance, "like it sleep." When the victim entered the magic circle the Bunjil-barn would throw small pieces of He-oak wood, shaped like the Guliwils before mentioned, at him. When he fell to the ground they would cut out his tongue, or rather, as the Bunjil-barn explained to me, would have pulled out a great length of it, cutting it free at each side as it was protruded, and so sent him home to die. The Brabra clan of the tribe called this practice Jellun-daiun, or tongue-choke. The great Headman Bruthen-munji is said to have been the last known victim of this form of evil magic. His tribal son Tulaba has repeated to me his counter charm against Barn, which runs as follows: "Numba jellung barnda," literally, "Never sharp barn," or anglicised, "Never shall sharp barn catch me." This was repeated in a monotonous chant.

The secrecy with which personal names are often kept arises in great measure from the belief that an enemy, who knows your name, has in it something which he can use magically to your detriment.

I have been told of a certain way of catching a person with Barn, namely, to find the place where he has sat down on the ground and left an impression on it. But the incantation must be commenced immediately after his departure.

One of the spells sung by the Bunjil-barn is as follows:—

Mtinang   ngiai   (then the person's name),
Coming he is
biar   lounganda   barnda.
along swinging him barn is.

A practice analogous to that of Barn obtained in the Yuin tribe, where medicine-men, when it was deemed advisable to kill some one, or attack people in secret, went into the bush and made a Talmaru or magic fire. Round this they danced, rubbed with charcoal, and shouting the name of the person, and showing Joïa, that is, exhibiting magical objects after their manner at the initiation ceremonies. Having done this sufficiently, they piled a high mound of earth over the fire and drove a stake into the centre of it. This performance was to make the person or persons stupid and easily surprised.

A practice of evil magic much practised by the Kurnai is that of Bulk. This is a rounded and generally black pebble, which the medicine-man carried about and occasionally showed to people as a threat. One method of using it was to find the fresh excreta of the intended victim and to place the Bulk in it, the expected result being that he would receive the evil magic in his intestines and die. To touch it is thought to be highly injurious to any one but the owner. I have seen women and girls beside themselves with terror at an attempt to put one of these Bulk in their hands.

How a man might become possessed of a Bulk is seen from the account given to me by Tulaba as to how he obtained one. It was when he was gathering wild cattle for a settler on the Upper Mitchell River, and he dreamed one night that two Mrarts (ghosts) were standing by his camp fire. They were about to speak to him, or he to them (I now forget which), when he woke. They had vanished, but on looking at the place where they had stood he perceived a Bulk, which he kept and valued much.

A Bulk is believed to have the power of motion. For instance, Tankowillin and another man told me that the evening before they had seen a Bulk in the form of a bright spark of fire cross the roof of a house and disappear on the other side. Also that they had run round to catch it, but it had vanished.

Curative Practices of Medicine-men

I have now spoken of the manner in which the medicine-men, according to the beliefs of the aborigines, are accustomed to work ill upon them. It remains to show these men in a more favourable light, as alleviating suffering, and shielding their friends from the evil magic of others. One of the special functions of the medicine-man is to counteract the spells made by others.

Their method of procedure is that common in savage tribes, and which has been so often described that it may be dismissed in a few words, being, in perhaps the majority of cases, a cure effected by rubbing, pressing or sucking the affected part, possibly accompanied by an incantation or song, and the exhibition of some foreign body, extracted therefrom, as the cause of the evil. Or the evil magic may be sucked out as a mouthful of wind and blown away, or got rid of by pinching and squeezing to allay the pain. In some cases the "poison," as they now call it in their "pidgin English," is supposed to be extracted through a string, or a stick, by the doctor from the patient, who then spits it out in the form of blood. A few instances may be given from various tribes, which will show the similarity in the curative practice, and its range in the quarter of Australia with which I am now dealing.

Some years ago a party of Brajerak from Manero and some Biduelli came down into Gippsland to see me, and were friendly with the Kurnai. The two Headmen of the former were the before-mentioned Yibai-malian and Mragula. After they left on their return home, one of the Kurnai, in speaking of them said, that Yibai was a most powerful Mulla-mullung, or medicine-man, and he explained that during their visit his brother had become very ill, and Mragula had extracted from his body something like a glass marble which Yibai-malian had put into him. It was perhaps as well for Yibai that the patient recovered, otherwise he would have been held answerable for his death.

As an instance of the methods used by the Kurnai, I give the practice of Tankli the son of Bunjil-bataluk. His method of cure was to stroke the affected part with his hand till, as he said, he could "feel the thing under the skin." Then, covering the place with a piece of some fabric, he drew it together with one hand, and unfolding it he exhibited a piece of quartz, bone, bark, or charcoal, even on one occasion a glass marble as the cause of the disease. The use of the fabric was quite evident to any one but a blackfellow.

The Tongaranka medicine-man, when about to practise his art, sits down on the windward side of his patient, and his power is supposed to pass to the sick person "like smoke." The doctor then sucks the affected part, and withdraws his power out of him, and also at the same time the pain, usually in the form of a quartz crystal.[16]

One of the curative practices of the Wiimbaio was curiously associated with the offender. If, for instance, a man had nearly killed his wife in a paroxysm of rage, he was compelled to submit to bleeding. The woman was laid out at length on the ground in some convenient spot, and her husband's arms were each bound tightly above the elbow. The medicine-man opened the vein and the blood was allowed to flow over the prostrate body of the woman till the man felt faint.[17]

The Wiimbaio medicine-man was called Mekigar, from Meki, "eye," or "to see," otherwise "one who sees," that is, sees the causes of maladies in people, and who could extract them from the sufferer, usually in the form of quartz crystals.[18]

The extraction of pain by means of a cord tied to the sick person was also done by the Mekigar, The cord was made of his hair, and he rubbed it over his gums for a time. The blood thence resulting was believed to be from the patient, and the remedy seemed to give relief. For inflammatory affections of the lungs or bowels, the Mekigar laid the patient out and commenced to shampoo him, breathing and sucking over the affected part, and apparently extracting pieces of stone, bone, glass, as the cause, and as in other cases, often gave relief.

In one case in this tribe the Mekigar made use of a long slender reed, one end of which he placed on the spot in which the pain was, while he held the other in his mouth. After sucking some time he produced a piece of glass as the cause of the pain.

In such cases as these, if the patient was not benefited by the procedure, the Mekigar had the patient carried out of the camp, while his friends swept the ground after him with boughs, to drive away the evil influence which had caused the disease. This evil influence, which may be called evil magic, was attributed to an invisible supernatural being called Bori.

A severe headache was sometimes treated by digging out a circular piece of sward, and the patient laying his head in the hole, the sod was replaced over his head, on which the Mekigar sat, or even stood for a time, to squeeze out the pain. Even under this practice the patient sometimes declared himself relieved.[19]

In the Wurunjerri tribe, when a man believed himself to be under some evil spell, or suspected that harm was impending to him, and if, as was likely, he felt ill, he had recourse to the Wirrarap. My Wurunjerri informant, speaking of this, said, "The Wirrarap, looking at him, might say, 'Yes, the fire is up so high,' pointing to his waist. 'It is well that you came to me, the next time they burn it, it might be up to your neck, and then you would be done for.'" The next time the wind blew towards the north, the Wirrarap would go through the air to the place where the man was burning something belonging to that poor fellow, and where that Yaruk (magic) was, pull up the spear-thrower, with which the spell was being worked, and bring it home. Giving the Yaruk to the sick man, he would say something like this, "You go and put this in a running stream to wash all the Yaruk out of it, and I will go up and put this Murriwun (spear-thrower) in some water up there." The reference to the wind blowing northwards is because, in this case, the offending medicine-man belonged to some tribe in that direction, for the Wurunjerri believed that the tribes on the Murray frontage, called by them Meymet, were of all others the most inclined to evil magic. The "going up" by the Kulin Wirrarap refers to the belief that such men could travel invisibly through space; by this means ascending through the sky to the Tharangalk-bek beyond it.

By the Ngarigo the medicine-man is called Murri-malundra, or Budjan-belan, but the former was specially a doctor who extracted the evil substances which a Murri-malundra had placed in the sick man. These were specially white stones called Thaga-kurha and black stones called Thaga-kuribong.[20]

The Yuin medicine-men are the Gommeras, but there are here, as in many other tribes, specialists who practise the art of extracting evil substances, and are called Nugamunga, the nearest translation of which that I can give is "doctor-he-is." One of them sucked the place on a man where there was a pain, and spat out a mouthful of blood, by which the patient felt much relieved. He also, in other cases, alleviated pain by warming his hands at the fire and placing them on the affected part. Some of these men dissipate the evil influence by blowing the place with short puffs.

One of the Yuin explained to me what his people did if they thought that they were the victims of evil magic. He said, "If you thought that some one had put Joïa on you, the only way would be to go to a Gommera and ask him to watch for the man when out hunting, so as to be able to throw a Joïa at him. This would be done by the friendly medicine-man climbing up a big tree and "spitting", Joïa at him as he passed under it. Such was the remedy one of my Yuin friends proposed to apply to a man whom he thought to have designs upon himself. It was thought that one of the very great Gommeras could get Daramulun to slay his enemies for him.

Collins, in speaking of the natives of Port Jackson,[21] mentions a matter which is worth quoting here. He says, "During the time that Booroong, a native girl, lived at Sydney, she paid occasional visits to the lower part of the harbour. From one of these she returned extremely ill. On being questioned as to the cause, she said that the women of Cam-mer-ray had made water in a path which they knew that she was to pass, and it had made her ill. Not recovering, though bled by a surgeon, she underwent an extraordinary and superstitious operation. She was seated on the ground with one of the lines worn by the men passed round her head once, taking care to fix the knot in the centre of her forehead; the remainder of the line was taken by another girl, who sat at a small distance from her, and with the end of it fretted her lips until they bled very copiously; Booroong imagining all the time that the blood came from her own head, and passed along the line until it ran into the girl's mouth. This operation they term Be-anny, and it is the peculiar province of the women."

The Geawe-gal believed in the mysterious power of the Koradji, but it is hard to say what special means of using it they ascribed to him as exercising it in his own tribe. If one of them wasted away, his ailment was almost always imputed to the evil influence of some Koradji of another tribe. Their own Koradji would, after resort to seclusion or mystery, pronounce from what quarter the malign influence had come, and then the whole tribe was committed to feud or revenge. The Koradji was supposed in some undefined way to have preternatural knowledge of, or power of communication with, supernatural influence.[22]

In the tribe about Dungog the Koradji were supposed to be possessed of supernatural powers, and also to be capable of curing people of all ills, and of causing disasters to others. Sickness they believed to be caused by the incantations and magic of the Koradjis of some hostile tribe.[23]

At Port Stephens the Koradji treated a sick person by winding round him a cord of opossum fur, and then round the body of some female relative or friend, who held the end of it in her hands, and passed the cord to and fro between her lips, until the blood dropped into a bowl, over which she held her head. It was believed that the evil magic which caused the disease passed up the cord into the body of the operator, and thence with the blood into the bowl.[24]

The tribes which extended inland from Port Stephens believed in the curative powers of the Koradjis, or Gradjis, as they were also called, to suck out evil magic projected into others by the medicine-men of other tribes, in the form of pieces of stone or charcoal. In one case a man was under the belief that when passing a grave, the ghost of a man buried there had magically thrown a pebble into him, and the Koradji, after sucking the place, produced a small pebble as the cause of the mischief. In another case, this same Koradji extracted the pain from a boy's foot which had been burned, in the form of a piece of charcoal.[25]

Among the Kamilaroi, who lived to the north of the last-named tribe, the Koradji was the medicine-man and doctor, and practised the same methods of sucking the part in pain as before described. But I have learned that these Koradjis also applied herbs as remedies, and treated snakebite by sucking and then rinsing out their mouths with water. They also used the "earth bath" as a cure for colds, which was effective, unless the patient were weak and died. In this treatment a hole was dug in moist earth, and the sick man or woman placed in it erect, and surrounded with earth to the waist. The patient was kept therein for four or five hours, and draughts of water were supplied, for this treatment causes great thirst, and the body sweats profusely. Usually the patient shouts with pain when in the earth bath.[26] About fifteen miles from Yanga station, near Balranald, is a limestone cave at Talla Lake. A number of blacks of the Wathi-wathi tribe were here put in the ground alive and buried, all but their heads, as a cure for some disease, and great numbers died.[27]

The sucking practice is also found in the Yualaroi and Bigambul tribes, the medicine-men in the former strengthening their magical practice by a plentiful application of saliva.[28]

The Turrbal medicine-man cured wounds by filling his mouth with water, then sucking the wound and spitting the blood and water over the face of the wounded man. Some sicknesses were attributed to the evil magic of the medicine-men of other tribes, even as far distant as one hundred miles, who had, as they said, "caught" the person suffering, and cut him to pieces internally with a sharp stone. To extract this, the doctor filled his mouth with water and sucked the place in pain until he could squirt out of his mouth blood and water, he finally produced a sharp stone, ostensibly through a cord tied to the patient, and up which it was sucked, as the Turrbal believed, into his mouth, and thence produced as the cause. For consumption, a rope made of opossum fur was tied round the patient's body; a woman seated herself three or four feet from him with a pot of water between her legs and the end of the hair rope in her hands. She dipped this end in the water and rubbed her lips and gums with it until they bled. The patient believed that the blood came from his body, and is said to have been relieved by the procedure.[29]

The Chepara believe in an evil being called Wulle, who was believed to influence, or to aid, the medicine-men in killing people. If a man died in spite of the medicine-man, they said it was Wulle who killed him. The medicine-man is called Ya-gul-kubba, and turns the patient about, presses his body all over, pinches him, and also anoints his body with saliva, all the time muttering incantations in a low tone of voice, finally producing some object, usually a piece of stone.[30]

In the Kaiabara tribe a black with a headache would have a rope or cord tied tightly round the head, and be bled with a shell or flint, the head being beaten with a small stick to cause the blood to flow freely. A pain in the back would be cured by another man standing on the back of the patient. Certain herbs, bruised and soaked in water, are used as medicine, also the gum from the Blood-wood tree dissolved in water. An aching tooth is pulled out with a string if a back one; if an incisor, it is knocked out with a stone, a stick being used as a chisel. They dress sores with mud, or down from a duck or hawk.

The medicine-men, in addition to the usual magical practices which have been described, also administered gum dissolved in water.[31]

In the Dalebura tribe it was common to find people with a circular scar round the leg just below the knee and above the calf, showing that the person had been bitten on the leg by a venomous snake. The operation was thus described by an eye-witness: "A woman, bitten by a snake, called to her husband, who upon seeing the reptile got a cord and tied it above the knee, twitching it tighter with a stick. He then picked up a quartz pebble, cracked it in two, and with the sharp edge cut a circle right round the leg, severing the skin. Blood oozed out, and though the woman became drowsy and ill, she eventually recovered. The blackfellow was asked if he would cut the arm in the same way if the bite were on the wrist, and his answer was: 'Baal, me stupid fellow, too much blood run away!' The blacks have a thorough knowledge of what snakes are venomous and what harmless, but in either case when hunting always smash the head to a pulp before hanging the body round the neck to carry it."[32]

The medicine-men Bubiberi of the Dalebura tribe professed to call down rain, and also to cure disease. They professed to be safe from harm, excepting from death. They have been seen to crunch up hot coals taken from fires of Gidyea wood, to show their immunity from fire."[33]

The curative powers of the medicine-men were in some cases of a much higher order than those which I have recorded. The following account of the practice of a celebrated Bangul of the Jupagalk tribe is an instance of this, and was given to me by one of the men who were present, and I record it as nearly as possible in his own words. "A blackfellow was very ill, and at dusk the Bangal came to see him. At dark he went off for a time. By and by we saw a light afar off, and as it seemed to be above the tree-tops to the eastward, it looked at first like a star. Then it went round to the west, and kept coming nearer and nearer. At last we saw the Bangal walking along the ground carrying a piece of burning rag in his hand. His legs were covered with something like feathers, which could be seen by the firelight, and the people said that they were Bangals feathers. He sat down by the poor fellow, saying that he had been over to the Avoca River, where he found a man who had the rag tied on a yam-stick roasting it before a fire. He then rubbed the place where the man was sick, and sucked out some pieces of stone and glass. The man then soon got better."

I also heard of one of these higher branches of the medicine-men's art in the Wurunjerri tribe. Soon after the white men came to Melbourne, a blackfellow living near where Heidelberg now is, was nearly dead. His friends sent for Doro-bauk,[34] who lived to the west of Mount Macedon. When he arrived, he found the man just breathing ever so slightly, and his Murup (spirit, ghost) had gone away from him, and nothing remained in him but a little wind. Doro-bauk went after the Murup, and after some time returned with it under his 'possum rug. He said that he had been just in time to catch it round the middle, before it got near to the Karalk.[35] The dead man was just breathing a little wind when Doro-bauk laid himself on him and put the Murup back into him. After a time the man came back to life.

These were the practitioners of the higher magic, and were credited with powers of which the case of Doro-bauk is a striking instance. But there were others who practised in other directions, and in a lesser degree. Such was a man of the Brataua clan of the Kurnai tribe, who dreamed several times that he had become a lace-lizard, and, as such, had assisted at a corrobboree of those reptiles. Thus it was that he acquired power over them, and he had a tame lace-lizard about four feet in length in his camp, while his wife and children lived in another close by. As he put it, his Bataluk (lace-lizard) and himself were like the same person, as he was a Bataluk also. The lizard accompanied him wherever he went, sitting on his shoulders or partly on his head, and people believed that it warned him of danger, assisted him in tracking his enemies, or young couples who had eloped, and in fact was his friend and protector. As might have been expected, people also believed that he could send his familiar lizard at night into their camps to injure them while they slept. In consequence of the comradeship with lace-lizards he acquired the name of Bunjil-bataluk.

A medicine-man belonging to the Dairgo clan of the Kurnai had a tame Thurung (brown snake) which he fed on frogs. People were very much afraid of him, because they believed he sent it out at night to hurt others.

I remember that many years back there was an old woman of the Biduelli tribe who was much feared because she had a tame native cat which she carried about with her, and which was believed to injure people during sleep at her wish.

One of the most curious practices of the lesser magic which has come under my notice was that of the Bunjil-yenjin of the Kurnai, which I have not met with elsewhere. I have spoken of them at length in another part of this work, and need not again refer to the particulars.

As part of the magical practices of the native tribes, the use of charms is not to be overlooked. As an instance which came under my notice I give a charm to drive away pains, which Tulaba learned from his deceased father in a dream. One evening when I was at the Jeraeil ceremonies I heard a most extraordinary song proceeding from his camp. I found that he was driving away pains which were troubling his old wife, and he told me that he was singing a most powerful song which his father Bruthen-munji had taught him while he slept. The words are as follows, an extraordinary emphasis being laid on the last word:—

Minyan   bulunma   naranke.
Show belly moon to.

The medicine-men were everywhere credited with the power of flying through the air—perhaps "being conveyed" would be a better term—either to distant places, or to visit the "sky-land," where dwelt, according to a widespread belief, their allies the ghosts and supernatural beings, such as Daramulun, from whom, in some tribes, their magical powers were supposed to be derived. If not conveying themselves by art of magic, they were supposed to climb up by means of a cord, which they threw up, or which was let down to them from above; or, as the Theddora medicine-men were said to do, they blew up a thread like a spider's web out of their mouths and climbed up thereby. The Kurnai Birraark was conveyed by friendly Mrarts or ghosts on the Marrangrang; a Ta-tathi Bangal was carried aloft by the ghost of a woman, whose powers he invoked by chewing a piece of skin which he had cut from her stomach after death, and cured in the smoke of his camp fire.

A peculiar feature in the Kurnai magic is that the functions of the Birraark are separated from those of the medicine-man (Mulla-mulung). The former combined the functions of the seer, the spirit-medium, and the bard, for he foretold future events, he brought the ghosts to the camp of his people at night, and he composed the songs and dances which enlivened their social meetings. He was a harmless being, who devoted himself to performances which very strikingly resembled those of the civilised "mediums." A man was supposed to become a Birraark by being initiated by Mrarts or ghosts, when they met him hunting in the bush; but, that they might have power over him, he must at the time be wearing a Gumbart, that is, one of those bone pegs which the Australian aborigine wears thrust through the septum of his nose. By this they held him and conveyed him through the clouds. Some say that he was conveyed hanging to a Marrangrang, which was described as being either like a rope or else something on which the Birraark can sit. But whatever it was like, the Mrarts went first and the Birraark last. It is said that, when they reached the sky, the leading Mrart gave a signal, and some one inside opened a hole and looked out. This, it is said, was a Gweraeil-mrart, in fact a Headman of ghost-land, as a Kurnai man remarked to me when speaking of this matter, "like a Gweraeil-kurnai." As the Birraark climbs through the hole last, the Mrarts put a rug over his head, all but a place through which he can see the people there, the women beating their rugs, and the men dancing. Looking on, he learns new songs and dances (Gunyeru), which he afterwards teaches to the Kurnai. But he must not on any account laugh. One Birraark was away from his camp for a time, and on returning he told his people that when aloft with the Mrarts he could not help laughing, because two Mrarts caught hold of him by the sides and tickled him. As a penalty they kept him with them for some time, after which his tribes-people called him Brewin.

A Birraark might not eat any part of a kangaroo that had blood on it, nor carry home a kangaroo that he had killed. Others did this for him, and gave him some part of it free from blood. Nor might he kill any man. If he did any of these things, the Mrarts would never again take him up aloft.

Having been thus introduced to the land of ghosts, he could return there at will, calling on the Mrarts to carry him on the Marrangrang, or as I have heard it said, to take him along the Wau-unga-nurt, the path or track to the sky, along which the Yambo (spirit) travels after death.

One of the best remembered of the Birraarks was a man of the Brabralung clan named Mundauin. It is related of him that he became a Birraark by dreaming three times that he was a kangaroo, and as such participating in a kangaroo Gunyeru, or dancing corrobboree. He said that after dreaming of the kangaroos, he began to hear the Mrarts drumming and singing up aloft, and that finally one night they came and carried him away. A man who was in the camp on the occasion of one of his manifestations said as follows:—

"In the night his wife shouted out, 'He is gone up.' Then we heard him whistling up in the air, first on one side of us and then on the other, and afterwards sounds as of people jumping down on the ground. After a time all was quiet. In the morning we found him lying on the ground, near the camp where the Mrarts had left him. There was a big log lying across his back, and when we woke him and took the log off, he began to sing about the Mrarts and all he had seen up there."

In another account of a séance by Mundauin, the same account was given of his departure in the night. Then his voice was heard shouting to them, and then noises of people in the tree-tops, and then of them jumping down on to the ground. The Mrarts answered questions put to them, as to the movements of the Brajerak and the Lohan (white men), and whether the former were pursuing them. Finally, the ghosts said, "We must now go home (Mellagan), or the west wind might blow us into the sea." In the morning the Birraark was found lying on the ground outside the camp, and round him were the footprints of the Mrarts.

A third account of one of these séances I give in the words of my informant, "I was once at Yunthur at the Lakes, and the Dinna-Birraark[36] Brewin was there with his wife. In the night she woke up, and shouted out that he was gone up to the Mrarts. We all got ready, and soon some one shouted out, 'Where are you?' He replied, 'Here I am, I am coming down.' He said that he had heard the Mrarts having a great Gunyeru and making a great noise, and he had gone up to them. Then the Mrarts came down with him, and conversed with us as to where the other mobs of the Kurnai were, and whether any Brajerak were coming after us. When the Mrarts went away, we found Brewin lying, as if asleep, where we had heard them speaking to us. The Mrarts talked in very curious voices."

Another case was when, on a certain night, the people were in their camps, and strict silence was maintained by the direction of the Birraark. The fires were let go down, and then the Birraark uttered a loud coo-ee at intervals. At length a shrill whistle was heard, then the shrill whistlings of the Mrarts, first on one side and then on the other. Shortly after the sound as of persons jumping down to the ground, in succession. This was the Mrarts, and a voice was then heard in the gloom, asking in a strange muffled tone, "What is wanted?" Questions were asked by the Birraark, and replies given. At the termination of the séance, the voice said, "We are going." Finally, after all was over, the Birraark was found in the top of an almost inaccessible tree, apparently asleep, where he said the Mrarts had left him when they went away. At this séance the questions related to the movements of absent friends, and of their enemies the Brajerak.

Besides learning news about absent friends and possible enemies from the ghosts, the Birraarks were material benefactors to their tribesmen, as, for instance, when the Mrarts informed them of a whale stranded on the shore, for it was in such cases thought that the whales were killed by the Mrarts and sent ashore for the Kurnai.

At such times messengers were sent out, and the people collected to feast on the food sent them. No doubt the Birraark was at such times not forgotten.

The last Birraark was killed in the troubles which occurred in the early years of settlement in Gippsland. My information has therefore been derived from the old people, and such of the younger who were brought up in the primitive conditions of the tribe, and who saw the changes consequent upon the inroad of the white men into their country, and who still remembered the old beliefs and customs.

As the Birraark brought new songs and dances, he was the master of the ceremonies in the Gunyeru, and chose the place at which it was to be held. I remember how one of the Kurnai who was a noted dancer spoke with enthusiasm of the Gunyerus of the old times at which a Birraark officiated. He said, "When the Birraark comes to the place, he has a Kunnin[37] in each hand, which he beats together. All the men and women then say, 'Hallo! we shall have some fun. We must dance; we must make our legs light.' Each woman gets her rug to drum upon—a lot of blacks dancing."

When the whites first came into Gippsland in 1842 the following were the Birraarks, of whom there was one in each clan. They were all called Dinna-Birraark, the prefix implying age, and according to the old men, my informants, they were located as follows:—

(1) Bunjil-brindjat[38] at Lake Tyers, that is, he was of the Wurnungati division of the Krauatungalung clan.

(2) Mundauin at Bruthen-munji, that is, of the Bruthen division of the Brabralung clan.

(3) Batti-batti at Dairgo, that is, of the Dairgo division of the Brabralung clan.

(4) Takit-berak in the district round what is now called Rosedale, that is, of the Bunjil-kraura division of the Brayakaulung clan.

(5) Brewin of the Ngarawut division of the Tatungalung clan.

(6) Bunjil-narran at Boney Point, on the Lower Avon River, that is of the Bunjil-nullung division of the Brayakaulung clan.

(7) Bunjil-bamarang at the Inlet from Lake Victoria called Newlands Backwater, of the Dairgo division of the Brabralung clan.

(8) There was also at least one Birraark belonging to the Brataualung clan, but whose name I was unable to ascertain.

Men like the Birraarks were also found in the tribes of the Wotjo nation. I take the following from the Mukjarawaint tribe. The medicine-man in question was the maternal grandfather of my informant. He was of great repute in the tribe because of his power of communication with Nung-yim or ghosts, that is with the spirits of deceased tribesmen. He occasionally disappeared from the camp, saying on his return that he had been up to the Nung-yim, and he brought back with him an account of their deceased relations and friends. My informant remembered one moonlight night in particular, when his grandfather went from the camp, and disappeared from sight. After a time the sound as of some one jumping down on to the ground was heard, and the medicine-man walked into the camp, and told of his meeting with the Nung-yim, and what they had said to him. But this man was not merely a medium, he also practised the curative branch of the medicine-man's art, extracting from those afflicted with pain, quartz, broken glass, or a tooth, in the manner I have described. Having extracted such substances, he rubbed them with red ochre, and placed them in his bag where he kept his magical things.

In this tribe there was also a female seer, who went up aloft, being supported, as it was believed, by ghosts, from whom she gleaned information as to the dead.


Rain-makers and weather-changers are important persons in most parts of Australia, but especially in those parts of the continent which are subject to frequently recurring periods of drought.

In the Dieri country the whole tribe joins under the direction of the medicine-man in "making rain." The sky is supposed to be a vast plain inhabited by wild savage tribes, between whom and the inhabitants of the earth there is no connection. But the legends tell of former inhabitants of the earth, especially the Mura-muras, who live up there, some in constellations, others in hideous forms, such as snakes with feet. The Kunkis sometimes relate their wanderings in that country in the form of crows, snakes, and other creatures, perhaps the result of nightmare. The clouds are supposed to be bodies in which rain is made by the rain-making Mura-muras, influenced by the ceremonies of the Dieri. The clouds are called Thallara-paulka, or the body or substance of rain.[39]

In time of severe drought Mr. Gason has witnessed the Dieri calling upon the rain-making Mura-muras to give them power to make a heavy rainfall, crying out in loud voices the impoverished state of the country, and the half-starved condition of the tribe, in consequence of the difficulty in procuring food in sufficient quantity to preserve life.

During such a drought, to which the Dieri country is much subject, the rain-making ceremonies are considered of much consequence. Mr. Gason witnessed them many times, and gave the following account of them.

When the great council has determined that such a ceremony is to be held, women, accompanied by their Pirraurus, are sent off to the various subdivisions of the tribe, to summon the people to attend at some appointed place. When the tribe is gathered together, they dig a hole about two feet deep, twelve long, and from eight to ten feet wide. Over this they build a hut of logs with the interstices filled in with slighter logs, the building being conical in form and covered with boughs. This hut is only sufficiently large to contain the old men, the younger ones being seated at the entrance or outside. This being completed, the women are called together to look at the hut, which they approach from the rear, and then separating, some go one way and some the other round the building, until they reach the entrance, each one looking inside, but without speaking. They then return to their camp, about five hundred yards distant.

Two Kunkis, who are supposed to have received an inspiration from the rain-making Mura-muras, are selected to have their arms lanced. These are tightly bound near the shoulders to prevent a too profuse effusion of blood. This being done, all the old men huddle together in the hut, and the principal Kunki of the tribe bleeds each of the men inside the arm below the elbow with a sharp piece of flint. The blood is made to flow on the men sitting round, during which the two Kunkis throw handfuls of down into the air, some of which becomes attached to the blood on the men, while some still floats about. The blood is to symbolise the rain, and the down the clouds. Two large stones are placed in the centre of the hut, representing gathering clouds presaging rain. The women are now called to visit the hut again, and after having looked in and seen its inmates, they return to their camp.

The main part of the rain-making ceremony being now concluded, the men who were bled carry away the two stones and place them as high as possible in the branches of the largest tree about. In the meantime the other men gather gypsum, pound it fine, and throw it into a water-hole. The Mura-mura is supposed to see this, and thereupon to cause the clouds to appear in the sky. Should no clouds appear as soon as expected, the explanation given is that the Mura-mura is angry with them; and should there be no rain for weeks or months after the rain-making ceremony, they suppose that some other tribe has stopped their power.

After the ceremony, the hut is thrown down by the men, old and young butting at it with their heads. The heavier logs which withstand this are pulled down by all dragging at the bottom end. The piercing the hut with their heads symbolises the piercing of the clouds, and the fall of the hut symbolises that of the rain.

In the rainy seasons which are too wet, the Dieri also supplicate the Mura-muras to restrain the rain, and Mr. Gason has seen the old men in a complete state of frenzy, believing that their ceremonies had caused the Mura-muras to send too much of it.

The prepuce, which is carefully kept from the Kurawali ceremony, is also believed to have great power of producing rain. The great council has always several of them for use when required. They are kept carefully concealed, wrapped up in feathers, with the fat of the wild dog and the carpet-snake. Mr. Gason has seen such a parcel unwrapped, while the men watched with cat-like vigilance that no woman should be near, although they knew that no woman was nearer than half-a-mile. They implored him not to reveal the contents of the parcel to a woman.

After the ceremonial opening of the parcel, and the exhibition of the prepuce, it is buried, its virtue being exhausted.

If no rain follows, the explanation is that some neighbouring tribe has influenced the Mura-mura not to grant it to them. During the time of partial drought the Dieri do not feel anxiety if they have a prepuce, believing that with its aid they can cause rain to come before long.[40]

The principal rain-making Mura-muras, according to the Lake Hope Dieri, are the two Daras (Dara-ulu), and the two Pampos (Pampo-ulu), as to whose rain-making powers there are legends, which will be found in the Appendix.

It is universally believed by the tribes of the Karamundi nation, of the Darling River, that rain can be brought down by the following ceremony. A vein in the arm of one of the men is opened and the blood allowed to drop into a piece of hollow bark until there is a little pool. Into this is put a quantity of gypsum, ground fine, and stirred until it has the consistency of a thick paste. A number of hairs are pulled out of the man's beard and mixed up with this paste, which is then placed between two pieces of bark and put under the surface of the water in some river or lagoon, and kept there by means of pointed stakes driven into the ground. When the mixture is all dissolved away, the blackfellows say that a great cloud will come, bringing rain. From the time that this ceremony takes place until the rain comes, the men are tabooed from their wives, or the charm will be spoiled, and the old men say that if this prohibition were properly respected, rain would come every time that it is done. In a time of drought, when rain is badly wanted, the whole tribe meets and performs this ceremony.[41]

Among the Kurnai there were rain-makers, and also those who caused rain and storms to cease. The former were to be found in each clan, and the methods used for producing rain by the Bunjil-willung, or rain-men, were to fill the mouth with water and then squirt it in the direction appropriate to the particular clan, and each one sang his especial rain-song.[42] The Brayaka squirted water, and sang, towards the south-west (Krauun); the Brayaka and Tatungalung did this in the same direction; the Brabralung and the Krauatungalung squirted water towards the direction of the south-east, the east winds (Belling) being from their rainy quarter. From these several directions the rain came in Gippsland; and when, for instance, a south-westerly rain came to the Brabralung they said that it was the Brayaka who sent it, and so on with the others. These rain-makers could also bring thunder, and it was said of them, as of the other medicine- men, that they obtained their songs in dreams. I have before spoken of one of the Brayaka Headmen who was credited with the power of calling up the furious west winds, whence he derived his name of Bunjil-kraura. His song by which he stopped the gales which prevented his tribes-people from climbing the tall trees in the western forest, ran thus—

"Kutbuna-wang Kraura,"

from Kutbun to bear or carry, Wang a bond, or something tied, and Kraura, the west wind. I did not hear the song by which he caused the western gales to arise, but I have no doubt that it was of the same character. When these gales came, he was propitiated by presents to send them away.[43]

Another instance of the practice of rain-making in Victorian tribes is that of the Wotjobaluk. There the rain-maker was not necessarily a medicine-man or a doctor; in fact, so far as I know, few of them were. The office of rain-maker and medicine-man were distinct. To produce rain he took a bunch of his own hair which he carried about with him for the purpose. Soaking it in water, he then sucked the water out and squirted it to the westward. Or he twirled it round his head, so that the water passed out like rain. In this somewhat arid district the office was much thought of, and an instance came under my notice in which the rain-maker scored a success from a white man, in a severe time of drought. He and others of his tribe were camped at Morton's plains, and on his boasting of his power to produce rain, the then owner of the station said to him: "I will give you a bag of flour, some tea, and half a bullock, if you will fill my tank before to-morrow night." The tank was a large excavation just finished. This was early in the morning, and the rain-maker set to work at once, saying, "All right, me make him plenty rain come." The next day there was a tremendous thunderstorm, the rain fell over all the run and the tank was filled. Then the rain-maker went to the owner of the run saying, "You see, plenty rain come." It was to the honour of the white man that he made him happy with the gifts which he had promised him.

In the tribe at Port Stephens the medicine-men used to drive away the rain by throwing fire-sticks into the air, and at the same time puffing and shouting.[44]

In the Turrbal tribe when a rainbow was seen at the river, the medicine-man went to the place to "cut the rainbow off where its stem held it down to the river bottom." There was only one part of the Brisbane River where this was done, and each medicine-man had his own part of the river where he could do this when a rainbow placed itself in a favourable position. Whenever rain squalls came it was thought that the medicine -men (Kundri) had sent them. And to clear away storms the Kundri threw up fire-sticks into the air.[45]

In the Wakelbura tribe there were men who professed to bring or send away rain. This was by magical practices, just as the same men professed to destroy their enemies by magic. In performing these functions the medicine-man must only use things of the same class as himself. As I have before stated, in that tribe everything is thought to belong to one or the other of the classes Malera and Wuthera.[46]

The Buntamurra believed that their "doctors" could cause rain to fall and cure diseases, death being caused by an evil spirit choking the person.

In the Kuinmurbura tribe there are also men who profess to make rain. There is usually one in each totem, but there were three or four in the Bau totem. The power is apparently hereditary, for although a young man will not profess to use the power, he will do so, and the older he gets the more powerful he becomes. In one case the power descended to a daughter, there being no son. The rain-maker is called Kalli (water), but has neither power nor authority as a member of the tribe.[47]

Charms to influence Food-Supply

The Dieri have certain ceremonies which are performed for the purpose of increasing the food-supply. Such is the Minkani ceremony described in the legends of the Anti-etya and the Ngardu-etya given in the Appendix.

The Wiimbaio were afraid of blood falling into lakes or rivers, lest great storms and other disasters should result, not the least of which would be the destruction of fish.[48]

There is a spot at Lake Victoria, in the Narrinyeri country, where when the water is, at long intervals, exceptionally low, it causes a tree-stump to become visible. This is in the charge of a family, and it is the duty of one of the men to anoint it with grease and red ochre. The reason for this is that they believe that if it is not done the lake would dry up and the supply of fish be lessened. This duty is hereditary from father to son.

Near Dandenong there is a rock on which the Ngaruk-willam clansmen of the Wurunjerri tribe used to place leafy boughs when going out hunting kangaroos, to ensure a good catch.

A tribe at White Cliffs, Frazer's Island, on the coast of Queensland, held a ceremony for the purpose of ensuring plentiful supplies of fish and honey, in which both men and women took part, swinging bull-roarers.

Omens and Warnings

Omens and warnings are in some measure connected with magic, and may therefore follow the lesser magic. I have before mentioned the belief that kangaroos can give a warning of coming danger. A young man of the Yuin tribe who had served me as a messenger about initiation matters, had a bag of what he said were powerful charms (Joïa) which had been given to him by a Gommera, his relative, and which, by the way, on inspection I found to have among them the round part of a decanter-stopper. When I asked him in what manner they would serve him, he gave me the following explanation:—"If I were going along and I saw an old-man kangaroo hopping towards me, and looking at me, I should know that he was giving me warning that enemies were about. I should get my spear ready, and I should hold my Joïa bag in my hand, so that if a man were to throw something at me, I should be safe." The throwing of a Joïa is, in other words, the projection by some medicine-man of a magical substance, such as a quartz crystal, invisibly at the intended victim. When he said that he should get his spear ready, this was merely a figure of speech, for the Yuin have long ago abandoned the spear for the gun. But it was curious to note how the old saying recurred in this connection.

In this case the young man had the kangaroo for his totem, having inherited it from his father, descent being in this tribe in the male line.

The Kurnai also believe in kangaroo warnings, and for one to dream that a number of old-man kangaroos are sitting round his camp, is to receive a serious warning of danger.

Instances have been made known to me which show that there is a magical influence peculiar to the persons of one class, which is injurious to those of the other. But this evil personal influence attaches not to the men alone. There is the same between men on one side and women on the other. In the Wurunjerri tribe, when it happened that Bunjil and Waang men were camped at the same fire, each one had his own stick to stir it, and to cook his food on it with, A man would not touch any other man's stick, especially if he were of the other class name, lest his fingers should swell. If this happened, he had to go to the Wirrarap, who would draw out the piece of wood from his hand.

The Narrang-ga believed that if a person killed a snake and gazed too long upon it, it would magically enter his body and make him ill.[49]

If a Kamilaroi black saw a whirlwind, he rushed to a tree and held on, remembering that "blackfellows have been carried up by them and have never come back."[50] And a Gringai when on a journey, and it seemed that night would overtake him, placed a stone in the fork of a tree, and felt sure that he would finish his journey by daylight, as they have a dread of travelling in the dark.[51]

Among the Turrbal[52] the chirping of insects foretold the coming of blacks, while if a Wakelbura man dreamed of seeing a kangaroo, he would expect a person of the Banbe sub-class to arrive next day, and so on with the other totems.

Another Wakelbura superstition relates to eggs that have been laid on the ground. Although they would take and eat other food placed on the ground some 50 yards from the camp, none of the men would touch eggs left in the same position.

During initiation a Wakelbura youth was not allowed to drink water out of a water-hole unless through a kangaroo bone. Before drinking he must make sure that no woman has been near to or drunk of the water.

One of the Wakelbura was observed to take the tongue out of a certain grey-and-white lizard called Bungah, and give to his little son, a child of about thirteen months old, and gave as a reason for doing so that after eating the tongue his child would soon be able to talk.[53]

In the Unghi tribe a man would not drink out of a place where a woman drank. Certain holes were dug at the water, small circular holes for the men and oval holes for the women. Each sex kept to its own drinking-place.[54]

In the tribes about Maryborough (Q.) a woman must not on any account step over anything belonging to a man. For instance, if a man were making a fishing-line and left it on the ground, and a woman stepped across it, he would throw it away.[55]

This reminds one of the prohibition at the initiation ceremonies—for instance, the Kurnai Jeraeil—as to the novices having anything to do with a woman during their probation. They are specially warned against touching a woman, or letting a woman touch them, or receiving anything from one. Even the shadow of one falling on him would be evil magic. The intention of this is evidently to keep the novices apart from the women.

The practice of magic, or the belief in the harmful magic of others, pervades the daily life of the aborigines. Either it is the baleful influence of a stranger or, as I have just shown, of a man of the other class, or of one of the other sex, or as I shall now show, of some tract of country acting injuriously on strangers.

The "Bad Country"

Such a tract of country is that lying along the coast between the La Trobe River and the Yarra River, and extending to the sources of those rivers. It therefore includes two tribes, the Kurnai and the Bunurong, and the knowledge of it extended from the latter to the tribes at least as far as Kilmore. In Gippsland it was called Wea-wuk or the "Bad Country," the Kulin tribes called it Marine-bek or the "Excellent Country." It was by this name that it was known to the Wurunjerri and the Jajaurung.

That part of the tract referred to, which is in Gippsland, belonged to the Brayaka and the Brataua clans. If a stranger, that is a man of one of the other Kurnai clans, came into it as a visitor, it was necessary that he should have some one to look after him. During his first visit, before he became, so to say, acclimatised, he did nothing for himself as to food, drinking-water, or lodging. He was painted with a band of white pipe-clay across the face below the eyes, and had to learn the Nulit language before going further. If his guardian went away from the camp, he deputed some one to take his place. He slept on a thick layer of leaves so that he should not touch the ground; he was fed with flesh-meat from the point of a burnt stick, and when he drank, it was water contained in a hollow piece of bark and stirred with a burnt stick.

The knowledge of the Marine-bek extended as far at least as the Bangerang and Wotjo. A Jajaurung gave the following account of the ceremonies connected with a visit to it. The visitor draws water out of a small hole made in the ground by his entertainers, and which they made muddy by stirring round with a stick. He was only allowed to take three mouthfuls at a time, each of which he must let slowly trickle down his throat. If he did otherwise, his throat would close up. He was fed with small pieces of roasted flesh put into his mouth on a pointed stick and removed by his teeth, not his lips.

The Making of Medicine-Men

In the Tongaranka tribe the office of medicine-man passed from a man to his son. The eldest son was the successor to his father, but only practised the office at the death of the latter.

Among the Wiimbaio one man, being a Mekigar, could initiate another and make him a Mekigar in the following manner. They procured the body of a man, usually by digging one up. The bones were pounded up and chewed. One of my correspondents[56] saw one of these men being initiated in the office of Mekigar. He was plastered with human excrement, and carried about with him the humerus of a disinterred body wrapped round with twigs, and he kept gnawing it. These men are, at such times, brought to a state of frenzy, their eyes are bloodshot, and they behave like maniacs.

In the Mukjarawaint branch of the Wotjo nation the medicine-man was trained for the office. For instance, if it became known that a boy could see his mother's ghost (Nungim) sitting by her grave, a medicine-man would take him for the purpose of making him a Lanyingel, or medicine-man. Part of the process of making a boy a Lanyingel was to smoke him with the leaves of the native cherry (Exocarpus cupressiformis) and anoint him with red ochre and grease. These were public acts, but my native informants did not know what the real training was.

The Wotjobaluk believed that a man became a Bangal by being met by a supernatural being called by them Ngatya, who is said to live in hollows in the ground, in the mallee scrubs. They think that the Ngatya opens the man's side and inserts in it such things as quartz crystals, by which he obtains his power. From that time on he can, as they say, "pull things out of himself and others," such as quartz, wood, charcoal, etc., and also out of his arms something like feathers, which are considered to have healing properties. In the case quoted elsewhere, these feathers are spoken of in connection with a medicine-man of the Jupagaik tribe, which belongs to the Wotjo nation.

In the Jajaurung tribe the office of doctor is alleged to be obtained by the individual visiting the world of the spirits while in a trance of two or three days' duration, and there receiving the necessary initiation.[57]

The Wurunjerri believed that their medicine-men became such by being carried by the ghosts through a hole in the sky to Bunjil, from whom they received their magical powers.

The Theddora, Wolgal, and Ngarigo believed that Daramulun was the source of the magical powers of their medicine-men.

Among the Narrang-ga the Gurildra or medicine-men were said to be able to communicate with departed spirits, and to receive from them the power of inflicting evil magic on others by songs. It is also said that a Gurildra could not remove the evil magic which he had inflicted; but that it could only be removed by another Gurildra.[58]

The Yuin thought that a boy could be trained to be a Gommera. The Gommera Waddiman said of himself that he was taken as a boy by a great Gommera, who taught him to be one, and that he obtained his power from Daramulun.

Collins says of the Port Jackson tribe that the general idea was that a man became a Car-rah-di by sleeping at the grave of a deceased person. "During that awful sleep the spirit of the deceased would visit him, seize him by the throat, and opening him, take out his bowels, which he replaced, and the wound closed up."[59]

The Wiradjuri medicine-men professed to go up to Baiame for their powers. But they also trained their sons to follow in their steps. The account which follows was given to me by a Wiradjuri of the Murri sub-class and the Kangaroo totem, and is an excellent instance of the beliefs held as to such matters. The narrative was given voluntarily during a conversation I had with him about the Burbung ceremonies of his tribe. He had been careful not to betray anything unlawfully, until he found from my answers to his questions that I was indeed one of the initiated. He then, as I have always found to be the case under such circumstances, became communicative and gave me a full account of the Wiradjuri Burbung, and from previous knowledge I was able to check his statements and found that he was quite accurate. He then, when we were talking of the magical exhibitions by the medicine-men at the ceremonies, said, "I will tell you how my old father began to make a blackfellow doctor of me."

My impression of his account is that it was bona fide, and from my experience I should say that it would be an unheard-of thing for a man to falsify, when speaking of matters relating to such sacred subjects as the initiation ceremonies, to one of the initiated. I mention this because I have not been able to check his statements.

I give his account, so far as possible, in his own words, and leave it to my readers to form their own opinion of its value.

"My father is Yibai-dthulin.[60] When I was a small boy he took me into the bush to train me to be a Wulla-mullung. He placed two large quartz crystals[61] against my breast, and they vanished into me. I do not know how they went, but I felt them going through me like warmth. This was to make me clever and able to bring things up. He also gave me some things like quartz crystals in water. They looked like ice and the water tasted sweet. After that I used to see things that my mother could not see. When out with her I would say "What is out there like men walking?" She used to say, "Child, there is nothing." These were the Jir (ghosts) which I began to see.

"When I was about ten years old, I was taken to the Burbung and saw what the old men could bring out of themselves; and when my tooth was out the old men chased me with the wallungs in their mouths, shouting 'Ngai, Ngai,' and moving their hands towards me. I went into the bush for a time, and while there my old father came out to me. He said, 'Come here to me'; and he then showed me a piece of quartz crystal in his hand, and when I looked at it he went down into the ground and I saw him come up all covered with red dust. It made me very frightened. He then said, 'Come to me,' and I went to him, and he said, 'Try and bring up a Wallung.' I did try, and brought one up. He then said, 'Come with me to this place.' I saw him standing by a hole in the ground, leading to a grave. I went inside and saw a dead man, who rubbed me all over to make me clever, and who gave me some Wallung. When we came out, my father pointed to a Gunr (tiger-snake) saying 'That is your budjan; it is mine also,'[62] There was a string tied to the tail of the snake, and extending to us. It was one of those strings which the doctors bring up out of themselves, rolled up together.

"He took hold of it, saying, 'Let us follow him.' The tiger-snake went through several tree trunks, and let us through. Then we came to a great Currajong tree,[63] and went through it, and after that to a tree with a great swelling round its roots. It is in such places that Daramulun lives. Here the Gunr went down into the ground, and we followed him, and came up inside the tree, which was hollow. There I saw a lot of little Daramuluns, the sons of Baiame. After we came out again the snake took us into a great hole in the ground in which were a number of snakes, which rubbed themselves against me, but did not hurt me, being my Budjan. They did this to make me a clever man, and to make me a Wulla-mullung. My father then said to me, 'We will go up to Baiame's camp. He got astride of a Mauir (thread) and put me on another, and we held by each other's arms. At the end of the thread was Wombu, the bird of Baiame. We went through the clouds, and on the other side was the sky. We went through the place where the Doctors go through, and it kept opening and shutting very quickly. My father said that, if it touched a Doctor when he was going through, it would hurt his spirit, and when he returned home he would sicken and die. On the other side we saw Baiame sitting in his camp. He was a very great old man with a long beard. He sat with his legs under him and from his shoulders extended two great quartz crystals to the sky above him. There were also numbers of the boys of Baiame and of his people, who are birds and beasts.

"After this time, and while I was in the bush, I began to bring things up, but I became very ill and cannot do anything since."

There are some few things to notice in connection with this man's statement which I shall for convenience refer to later on in this chapter.

The belief of the Kurnai is that the Mulla-mullung obtains his power in dreams. The ancestral ghosts either visited the sleeper, and communicated to him harmful or protective chants and knowledge, or they completed his education elsewhere. One of the old Kurnai explained it in this way:—He is shown the things which kill people, such as Groggin (quartz crystals) and Bulk; and songs are taught him, for there is a song for everything the Mulla-mullung uses. For instance, suppose some man has got Groggin inside him, or bottle (that is, a piece of glass) in his arm, the Mulla-mullung straightens it out, and rubs it downwards, and then sings his song, and sucks the place, and brings the Groggin out, or the bottle, or whatever it is.

Tankli, the son of Bataluk the Lace-Lizard, gave me an account of how he became a Mulla-mullung, which is as follows:—

"When I was a big boy about getting whiskers I was at Alberton camped with my people. Bunjil-gworan was there and other old men. I had some dreams about my father, and I dreamed three times about the same thing. The first and the second time, he came with his brother and a lot of other old men, and dressed me up with lyre-bird's feathers round my head. The second time they were all rubbed over with Naial (red ochre), and had Bridda-briddas on[64] The third time they tied a cord made of whale's sinews round my neck and waist, and swung me by it and carried me through the air over the sea at Corner Inlet, and set me down at Yiruk.[65] It was at the front of a big rock like the front of a house. I noticed that there was something like an opening in the rock. My father tied something over my eyes and led me inside. I knew this because I heard the rocks make a sound as of knocking behind me. Then he uncovered my eyes, and I found that I was in a place as bright as day, and all the old men were round about. My father showed me a lot of shining bright things, like glass, on the walls, and told me to take some. I took one and held it tight in my hand. When we went out again my father taught me how to make these things go into my legs, and how I could pull them out again. He also taught me how to throw them at people. After that, he and the other old men carried me back to the camp, and put me on the top of a big tree. He said, 'Shout out loud and tell them that you are come back.' I did this, and I heard the people in the camp waking up, and the women beginning to beat their rugs for me to come down, because now I was a Mulla-mullung. Then I woke up and found that I was lying along the limb of a tree. The old men came out with fire-sticks, and when they reached the tree, I was down, and standing by it with the thing my father had given me in my hand. It was like glass, and we call it Kiin.[66] I told the old men all about it, and they said that I was a doctor. From that time I could pull things out of people, and I could throw the Kiin like light in the evening at people, saying to it Blappan (go!). I have caught several in that way. After some years I took to drinking, and then I lost my Kiin and all my power, and have never been able to do anything since. I used to keep it in a bag made of the skin of a ring-tail opossum, in a hole of a tree. One night I dreamed that I was sleeping in the camp, and my wife threw some Kruk[67] at me, and after that my Kiin went out of my bag, I do not know where. I have slept under the tree where I left it, thinking that my power might come back, but I have never found the Kiin, and I never dream any more about it."

The general belief as to the powers of the medicine-man are much the same in all the tribes herein spoken of. He is everywhere believed to have received his dreaded power from some supernatural source, or being, such as Baiame, Daramulun, or Bunjil, or the ancestral ghosts.

In all cases he is credited with being able to see men in their incorporeal state, either temporarily as a wraith, or permanently separated from their body as a ghost, which is invisible to other eyes. He can ascend to ghost-land beyond the sky, or can transport himself, or be transported by the ghosts, from one spot of earth to another at will, much after the manner of the Buddhist Arhat. The powers thus conferred on him he can use to injure or to destroy men, or to preserve them from the secret attacks of other medicine-men. He can, it is also thought, assume animal forms and control the elements.

In these beliefs there is a striking resemblance to those which have been recorded concerning wizards, sorcerers, and witches in other parts of the earth, as well as to the beliefs of savages the world over, nor can it be said that they have altogether died out even in the most civilised peoples.

Some of the practices described are found all over the Australian continent, locally if not generally. For instance, the use of human fat, and the belief in the magical properties of the quartz crystal. But as to the latter the use of the crystal globe is still with us also, and may have been handed down from the distant times when our ancestors were savages. I have found it somewhat difficult to explain satisfactorily the taking of human fat; but after considering all my evidence, it has seemed that it may have been the outcome of two beliefs which are generally held by the blackfellows. One is as to the nature of dreams, and the other as to the position which, in their estimation, fat holds in the human economy. When the blackfellow sleeps by his camp fire and has dreams, he explains them by saying that while his body lies motionless, his spirit goes out of him on its wanderings. I have fully gone into this matter in the chapter on "Beliefs," and need now only say that his view of the reality of dreams enables him to reach, by a natural stage of reasoning, the conception of the individual apart from the body. The second belief is that a man's fat and his strength and vitality are connected. Health, strength, and vitality run together, and therefore the wasting of the body, and disease, are the result of the absence of fat, perhaps followed by death. This belief that a man's vitality and his fat have some connection seems to be shown by the widespread practice of eating the fat of the dead and of those slain. By eating a man's fat, and thus making it part of himself, the blackfellow thinks that he also acquires the strength of the deceased. So also they think that human fat brings success in hunting, causes spears, which are anointed with it, to fly true, or the club to strike irresistible blows.

It is a common belief that when two things are associated together, any magical power possessed by the one will be communicated to the other.

The possession of human fat is therefore much desired by these aborigines, especially those who feel age or disease, or who wish to be successful in magical arts. But it is not only the human fat which is thus utilised. The desire to use those portions of the human body in which they believe the vital strength resides leads them to use not only fat, but also another source of strength, which may be inferred when it is stated that it is practised by tribes who subincise. The tribes to which I refer are the Kurnandaburi, and, as described to me by the late Mr. C. M. King, formerly the Police Magistrate at Milperinka, in New South Wales, in the Wilya tribe.

The most difficult matter with which I have had to deal in this inquiry has been to determine how far the medicine-men believe in their own power?. All explanations concerning them must be given either by themselves or by their tribes-people; and when they are given by the former, one has to distinguish between those explanations which are truthful and those which are not, and which have been made with the intention of blinding the tribe. Herein the great difficulty lies. The class of blackfellow doctors was almost extinct in the tribes of which I had a personal knowledge; and in the tribes which were in their quite wild state there was little or no opportunity of an acquaintance with the medicine-men. In those tribes with which I had friendly relations, the medicine-men were of the second generation, that is, it was their predecessors who had practised their arts in the wild state of the tribe. The real old Gommeras of the Coast Murring became extinct when the before-mentioned "Waddiman" died. The Wirrarap of the Wurunjerri, and the Bangal of the Wotjobaluk, disappeared about the time of the early gold-diggings in Victoria. But I think that the amount of evidence which I have been able to rescue from oblivion will enable a fair estimate to be made of the powers claimed by the medicine-men, and their influence on the tribal life to be judged.

As to the two men Murri-kangaroo and Tankli, the case is somewhat different, and they represent a class which was larger in the tribes formerly. Granting all that can be said as to the intentional fraud of the medicine-men, and admitting that many of them are mere cheats and frauds, there remain some who really have belief in their own powers as well as in those of other men. I feel strongly assured that both the Wiradjuri and the Kurnai man believed that the events which he related were real, and that he had actually experienced them. As to Tankli, it seems that his case was one of nervous exaltation, combined with somnambulism, and that upon the "subjective realities" in that state he built up a structure of deceit in the practice of his curative art. That he also believed in the reality of the dream which caused him to lose his Kiin and his magical powers seems most probable, when one considers that he voluntarily relinquished the practice of an art which brought him great consideration.

The case of Murri-kangaroo seems to point to the practice of some form of hypnotic suggestion among the old class of medicine-men. The youth, at the time of initiation, is in a peculiar and an abnormal mental state. He is fed full of magical ceremonies and beliefs. He has undergone fearful and impressive ceremonies, and is in a condition which would be peculiarly fitted for the practice of hypnotism.

One can understand that a youth who has passed through such an experience could never doubt the reality of the magic powers of others, even when he is conscious that he himself has no such power.

Songs and Song-makers

The songs and dances of the Australian aborigines are usually spoken of by our own people as "corrobborees," and this word is also frequently applied to any of their social gatherings. This application is, however, not correct, for the songs, the songs with dances, and the assemblies for social or other purposes have each its own distinctive name. The word "corrobboree" was probably derived from some tribal dialect in the early settled districts of New South Wales, and has been carried by the settlers all over Australia. It may be now considered as being engrafted on the English language.

The word "corrobboree" probably meant originally both the song and the dance which accompanied it, which is the meaning of the word Gunyeru in the Kurnai tongue.

The songs are very numerous, and of varied character, and are connected with almost every part of the social life, for there is little of Australian savage life, either in peace or war, which is not in some measure connected with song. Some songs are only used as dance - music, some are descriptive of events which have struck the composer, some are comic or pathetic. There is also an extensive class of songs connected with magic, and of these many are what may be called "incantations"—words of power, chanted in the belief that supernatural influence is, not asked, but compelled, by them, an influence for evil, or for warding off evil.

There are also songs which are only heard at the initiation ceremonies, and which are therefore not known to the uninitiated, or to women. To English ears, unaccustomed to the simple and somewhat monotonous airs to which the words are set, there seems but little melody in the chants. But with custom they grow upon one, until at length one feels in some measure the effect which they produce upon an aboriginal audience in so powerful a manner. There is a wild and pathetic music in some of the songs which I have heard chanted by a number of voices together. Such was the song of Ngalalbal, as I heard it at the Murring Kuringal, and the song of the bat, in which at early dawn the whole of the men joined one by one in chorus, the words describing the bats "flitting about in the dim light which shows between the upper boughs of the trees."

The makers of Australian songs, or of the combined songs and dances, are the poets, or bards, of the tribe, and are held in great esteem. Their names are known in the neighbouring tribes, and their songs are carried from tribe to tribe, until the very meaning of the words is lost, as well as the original source of the song. It is hard to say how far and how long such a song may travel in the course of time over the Australian continent.

A good example of such far-travelled songs is the following, of which I have heard two versions. One runs as follows:—

Malla-malle   taria-rara   uananga
Nguinheranga ye-yandaba

I heard it first sung by one of the Narrinyeri in 1861, and afterwards Mr. G. W. Rusden sang it for me from memory, having heard it in the Geawe-gal tribe many years before. In neither case was the meaning of the words known.

The second version I heard sung at the Murring Kuringal in 1880 by Yibai-malian, who said that it came to his tribe, the Wolgal, many years before, having been, he believed, originally brought from the Richmond River in New South Wales. The air to which it was sung was the same as I had before heard, but the words differed from those of the first version given, being:—

Mulla-mulle   kuruitba   tarria-rara
Platypus large rock bend of river
Guiltura nanga ebenneranga

He said that the words spoke of a platypus sitting on a rock in the river, but he could not explain the second


Whether his explanation is correct I am unable to say, but he spoke with certainty and apparent candour.

With some songs there are pantomimic gestures or rhythmical movements, which are passed on from performer to performer, as the song is carried from tribe to tribe.

Within the last few years a corrobboree dance was brought to the Dieri by a party of men from that part of Queensland which is north-easterly from the Dieri country. It is the Molongo dance mentioned by Dr. Roth.

Another instance is a song that was accompanied by a carved stick painted red, which was held by the chief singer. This travelled down the Murray from some unknown source. The Rev. John Bulmer tells me that he saw this performance in the Wiimbaio tribe. Such a song, accompanied by a red stick, was brought into Gippsland from the Melbourne side, and may have even been the above-mentioned one on its return.

In the tribes with which I have acquaintance I find it to be a common belief that the songs, using that word in its widest meaning, as including all kinds of aboriginal poetry, are obtained by the bards from the spirits of the deceased, usually of their kindred, during sleep in dreams. Thus, as I have before said, the Birraark professed to receive his poetic inspirations from the Mrarts, as well as the accompanying dances, which he was supposed to have seen first in ghost-land.

In the Narrang-ga tribe there are men who profess to learn songs and dances from departed spirits. These men are called Gurildras.[68]

In the Yuin tribe some men received their songs in dreams, others when waking. Of the latter was Umbara, the Murring bard, who composed his songs when in his boat, tossing on the waves. Some of these Murring song-makers compose social songs, others make songs for the initiations, but many of all kinds have been handed down

from time immemorial, or have been brought from an unknown distance.

According to the tribes near Maryborough (Queensland), it is Birral who inspires the makers of corrobboree songs.[69]

The medicine-men who made songs in the Turrbal tribe either obtained them when they went underground, or when they went up in the air. But there were other men who made songs under ordinary circumstances in their camps.[70] The former class of men had clearly the attributes of the medicine-men, perhaps of the Birraark.

I found an interesting example of the "inspired song" in the Wurunjerri tribe. According to Berak, it was composed by Wenberi, the henchman of the Ngurungaeta (Headman) Bebejan, Berak's father, to lament the death of his brother by evil magic, near Geelong. This is a good instance of that class of song, and also of the belief of the composer, that he was inspired by something more than mortal when composing it. In this case it is Bunjil himself who "rushes down" into the breast of the singer.

Once when I asked for the origin of a song, it was said that the person who sang it "got it from his grandfather, who got it from his parents, who got it from the old people, who got it from Bunjil."

I am under very great obligations to the Rev. Dr Torrance for most kindly writing down the music of this, and two other songs, from the lips of the singer Berak, and for his most valuable remarks on them and on the singer's musical powers, which follow:—

"Being the result of but a single interview with a native bard, the particulars here noted are of necessity imperfect and superficial. Such as they are, however, it is hoped that they may prove of some little historic value, and lead to further inquiry into a subject which cannot fail to be one of interest to the anthropological student.

"Generally speaking, the rude attempt at melody exhibited by those untaught natives may be described as a kind of nasal monotone or chant, usually preceded by a downward progression somewhat resembling the 'intonation' in Gregorian music. The songs are marked throughout by sudden, frequent, and ever-varying inflections of voice, in compass rarely exceeding the distance of a third, and minor intervals predominating.

"Much of the character of the music depends upon the rhythm, which, while very strongly marked, is also most irregular, changing suddenly, and alternating frequently between double and triple; the changes, moreover, being sometimes introduced by a slackening of the time, and a curious sliding of one sound into another, not unlike the slow tuning of a violin string.

"In the corrobboree the rhythmic measures are emphasised by clapping of hands and stamping of feet. When one singer or set of singers is exhausted, others in turn take up and continue the chant till the wild dance is concluded.

"The native bard alluded to above, from whom the illustrations were obtained, is an intelligent representative of his race. His voice is a baritone of average compass and not unpleasing quality. His ear is also fairly quick and accurate, though occasionally he would pause long as if trying to recall the test sounds before repeating them; and his patience, good temper, and evident pleasure at seeing his songs committed to paper were very remarkable.

"In order to obtain the compass of this aboriginal's voice, and his power of retaining and expressing some distinct musical idea, a simple solfeggio passage was sung to him. After a brief silence, and without attempting to repeat the given sounds, he began slowly and deliberately, and with much emphasis on each note, the following impromptu—

Native tribes of South-East Australia - Music 1.jpg

"As an ear test, he then repeated accurately, pausing as before—

Native tribes of South-East Australia - Music 2.jpg

an effort which the bard voluntarily supplemented by—

Native tribes of South-East Australia - Music 3.jpg

evidently much pleased with his performance, and the applause of his auditors.

"The appended native songs, jotted down as nearly as possible in modern notation, will help to illustrate the foregoing observations. The bard was in each case allowed to choose his own starting note, and generally pitched on or about D in the bass.

Kurburu's Song.

Native tribes of South-East Australia - Music 4.jpg

"The above was repeated several times, without break or pause, omitting the 'intonation' at each repetition, and ending abruptly at the double bar.

Wenberi's Song.

Native tribes of South-East Australia - Music 5.jpg
Native tribes of South-East Australia - Music 6.jpg

"This song was repeated on B, a third lower, and sung through to the same sound.

Corrobboree Song.

Native tribes of South-East Australia - Music 4.jpg

"This drone or chant is repeated ad lib. as long as the ceremony lasts, a tone lower each time, and accompanied throughout with clapping of hands and stamping of feet."

Kurburu's song serves as an example of those which are connected with the supernatural, and it brings into view a curious belief, which is found in so many Australian legends and tales, of a supernatural relation of men and beasts. It was composed and sung by a bard called Kurburu, who lived during the early settlement of the country by the whites near where the town of Berwick now stands. He was supposed to have killed a "native bear," and being possessed by its Murup or spirit, thenceforth sang its song. I was not able to obtain a verbatim translation of it, but Berak gave me the following free translation: "You cut across my track, you spilled my blood, and you broke your tomahawk on my head."

Wenberi's song, as given by Dr. Torrance, differs slightly from it as I wrote it down from Berak's dictation some time before, which with its translation runs as follows:—

Nge   tuigar   ngala   ngibenba   ngaluga
We go all the bones to all of them
diudirunding   nga   Dullur   wiluit
shining white in this Dullur country
waweinduing   Bunjil   mamen-ngata   yennin
the rushing noise Bunjil father ours


thulurm-eik   nga   wur-galuk-eik.
breast mine this inside mine.

Berak said that this song was made on the death of Wenberi's brother, who died through evil magic in the Dullur country beyond Geelong.

The corrobboree song given by Dr. Torrance is one used by the Wurunjerri, but of which I have no translation.

Other poets composed under what may be called natural, as distinguished from supernatural, influence. Umbara told me that his words came to him, "not in sleep as to some men, but when tossing about on the waves in his boat with the waters jumping up round him." This man was a fisher-man, and owned a good Sydney-built boat, which he managed with the aid of his wife. In the olden times these "sea-coast men" (Katungal) used to go out a mile or more from the coast in their bark canoes to spear fish.

As an example of his songs, I give one he composed when going down the coast in his boat to the Kuringal ceremonies, which are described in chap. ix.

He sang this song in the evening at the camp, beating time with two short sticks, while an appreciative and admiring audience stood round.

Umbara's Song.

Galagala   binya   bunninga   ngali
Capsizing me striking me
winbelow   jena   ngarauan   udja
the wind blows hard the sea long stretched
kandubai   buninga   melinthi   buninga
between striking hard hitting striking
ngali   mulari   binja   buninga.
me dashing up me striking.

There is a curious instance in Umbara's song of the manner in which English words may become engrafted on the native language. Winbelow is really "the wind blows." This song may be freely but yet not incorrectly translated much as Umbara himself explained it to me, "Between the furious wind and the dashing waves of the long-stretched sea I was nearly upset."

I have mentioned songs which are accompanied by rhythmical gestures or by pantomime, which greatly adds to the effect. A favourite one which I have seen describes the hunting of an opossum, and its extraction from a hollow log by the hunter, who is the principal singer, and his assistants. Every action of finding the animal—the ineffectual attempt to poke it out of its retreat, the smoking it out with fire, and the killing of it by the hunters as it runs out—is rendered, not only by the words of the song, but also by the concerted actions and movements of the performers in their pantomimic dancing.

A very favourite song of this description has travelled in late years from the Murring to the Kurnai. It was composed by Mragula, who, it may be mentioned, was a song-maker in his tribe, the Wolgal, describing his attempt to cross the Snowy River in a leaky canoe during flood. The pantomimic action which accompanies this song is much fuller than the words, and is a graphic picture of the pushing off in the canoe, the paddling into the stream, the gaining of the leak, and after an ineffectual attempt to bale the water out by hand, a hurried return to shore. Then the hole being carefully stopped with adhesive mud, the performers again put off and paddle across. The words are in the Wolgal language, and therefore quite unintelligible to the Kurnai.

Mragula's Song.

Burraburai   baiajanu   kumber-neino   wurgaiama
Quickly talking to his mate looking about.
ngillingua   burbundu-malagua   nunna
now paddling this side.

Many other songs could be given, but these will suffice

to show their character. Nor is it necessary for me to do more than point out that the comic songs all relate, so far as I know, to some passing event. A favourite song of this kind with the Murring is about "going to Melbourne in the steamer," and I have heard the Kurnai sing one inviting a friend to come to a "cool shady place with a bottle." I regret that I have not been able to pay more attention to this branch of my subject, namely, the songs of the Australian aborigines. There is something to be learned from them as to their mental condition and their intellectual status. The songs also in some cases throw light on their beliefs and their customs. No doubt there are, amongst their songs, some which are coarse and indecent, as among those of more civilised peoples. But they can be disregarded, unless they have some bearing on beliefs or customs. As it is, white men know little of the blackfellow's songs, which to most people are unmeaning barbarous chants, and to the missionaries who have some knowledge of them they savour of heathendom, and must therefore be altogether pushed into oblivion and be forgotten. Thus before long all these songs, old and new, will be lost.
  1. O. Siebert.
  2. S. Gason.
  3. "Some Native Legends from Central Australia," Mary E. B, Howitt. Folk-Lore, vol. xiii. No. 4, p. 403.
  4. J. W. Boultbee.
  5. Cyrus E. Doyle.
  6. Op. cit. p. 23.
  7. Guliwil is apparently from guli, "anger, rage," not from guli or kuli, which is "man." For example, guliyan, "I am enraged"; guliyarra, "thou art enraged"; guliya, "he is enraged"; guliyaugal, "we two are enraged"; guliyangno, "we all are enraged," and guliyatgalik, "you three are enraged."
  8. J. Bulmer.
  9. Dr. M'Kinlay.
  10. John Bulmer.
  11. J. Buntine.
  12. J. Buntine.
  13. C. Naseby.
  14. Dr. M'Kinlay.
  15. Casuarina suberosa.
  16. J. W. Boultbee.
  17. Dr. M'Kinlay.
  18. J. Bulmer.
  19. Dr. M'Kinlay.
  20. Kurha, "white," and Kuribong, "black."
  21. Op. cit. p. 382.
  22. G. W. Rusden.
  23. Dr. M'Kinlay.
  24. W. Scott.
  25. J. W. Boydell.
  26. Dr. M'Kinlay.
  27. Captain Garside.
  28. R. Crowthers.
  29. Tom Petrie.
  30. J. Gibson.
  31. Jocelyn Brooke.
  32. R. Christison.
  33. Ibid.
  34. Doro, a certain kind of grub, and Bauk, "high up."
  35. Karalk is the bright colour of sunset, and is said to be caused by spirits of the dead going in and out of Ngamat, which is the receptacle of the sun just beyond the edge of the earth.
  36. Dinna-Birraark is the old Birraark—that being his name.
  37. Kunnin is a pointed stick about 18 inches to 2 feet in length, which is used as a missile weapon by the men. The name is also applied to the digging-stick used by the women, which is their special weapon. It is about 7 to 8 feet in length, flattened on one side and pointed at one end. It is made of Barlan, the Melileuca ericifolia.
  38. Brindjat is a fish, the Flathead.
  39. S. Gason.
  40. S. Gason.
  41. J. W. Boultbee.
  42. Willung is rain. The Kurnai say that the frogs when croaking in chorus in the swamps are "singing for rain," and that the big sonorous bull-frogs are the Bunjil-willung.
  43. M. E. B. Howitt, MS.
  44. Robt. Dawson, op. cit.
  45. Tom Petrie.
  46. J. C. Muirhead.
  47. W. H. Flowers.
  48. Dr. M'Kinlay.
  49. T. M. Sutton.
  50. C. Naseby.
  51. Dr. M'Kinlay.
  52. Tom Petrie.
  53. J. C. Muirhead.
  54. A. L. P. Cameron.
  55. Harry E. Aldridge.
  56. Dr. M'Kinlay.
  57. " Some particulars of the general characteristics of the tribes in the central part of Victoria," W. E. Stanbridge, Transactions of the Ethnological Society of London, 1861, p. 300.
  58. Julius Kuhn.
  59. Op. cit. p. 383.
  60. Dthulin is a lizard, and I think the lace-lizard.
  61. Called wallung. This word may be spoken anywhere or by any one, but its equivalents, gunabillung and ugulin, may not be uttered before uninitiated persons.
  62. Budjan is totem. This is his secret personal totem. His totem of kangaroo is not so. It is derived from his mother.
  63. Brachychiton populneum.
  64. A Bridda-bridda is a kind of kilt which the men wore in front and behind hanging from the cord which was wound round the waist as a belt.
  65. Wilson's Promontory.
  66. Kiin is a word of the Nulit language which was spoken by the Brataua clan to which Tankli belongs.
  67. Kruk is menstrual blood.
  68. J. Kühn.
  69. H. E. Aldridge.
  70. Tom Petrie.
  71. The "t" in "wurtein" apparently inserted or omitted at pleasure. (N.B.—ei="ai" in "rain.")
  72. dh= sound of "th" in "this."
  73. Mueik=mweik. So also gueik.