Native Tribes of South-East Australia/Chapter 8
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Chapter VIII - Beliefs and Burial practices
BELIEFS AND BURIAL PRACTICES
The universe—A flat earth—A solid sky, resting on the horizon—The heavenly bodies—The rainbow, Aurora and other phenomena—The human spirit; ghosts—The spirits of the dead go to the land beyond the sky—The white man as a ghost—Instances of this belief—Burial practices; death believed to be due invariably to evil magic—Modes of burial—Totemic burials of the Wotjobaluk—The Kurnai Bret—Legendary beings—The Dieri Mura-muras—The Wotjobaluk Bram-bram-gals—The legends of Lohan—Kurnai legends—The Muk-kurnai—The tribal All-father.
There seems to be a universal belief among the Australian aborigines that the earth is a flat surface, surmounted by the solid vault of the sky. The legend of the Yuri-ulu tells how, after the holding of the Wilyaru ceremony they went on their wanderings, and finally beyond the mountains passed through what may be briefly termed a "hard darkness" into another country, whence looking back, they recognised what they had passed through as the edge of the sky. The Kapiri legend shows that the earth is supposed to be bordered by water; the Mura-mura Madaputa-tupuru, and the Mankara Waka and Pirna having both reached it in their wanderings.
The Wolgal belief is that there is water all round the flat earth. They know of the sea round the coast for a great distance, and heard of it from the more distant blacks, even before the white men came.The sky is a something, on the other side of which is another country like this, with trees and rivers. It is there that Thuramulung lives with the Bulabong, the ghosts.
A Wotjobaluk legend runs that at first the sky rested on the earth and prevented the sun from moving, until the magpie (goruk) propped it up with a long stick, so that the sun could move, and since then "she" moves round the earth. The Wurunjerri also believe that the earth is flat, as do the Jajaurung, and also that it was in darkness until the sun was made by Pupper-imbul, who was one of the race which inhabited the earth at that time, and whom they called the Murrumbung-uttias (old spirits). They both believed too that the sky was propped up by poles where it rested on the mountains in the north-east. Before the "white men came to Melbourne" a message was passed from tribe to tribe, until it reached the Wurunjerri, that the props were becoming rotten, and that unless tomahawks were at once sent up to cut new ones, the sky would fall and burst, and all the people would be drowned. This same belief is mentioned by Buckley, but in a different form, namely, that the earth was supported by props, which were in charge of a man who lived at the end of the earth.
A similar message reached the Wiimbaio, having been passed from tribe to tribe down the River Murray. It was to the effect that the props were becoming rotten, and that unless some tomahawks were sent at once the sky would fall and kill every one.
The sun is seemingly everywhere thought to be a woman. The Dieri have several legends bearing on this subject. One is that a Mura-mura at a place called Palunkurana had sexual intercourse with a young Dieri woman, who became the mother of Dietyi, the sun; and in consequence of this shame, sank into the earth at a place called Killa-wilpa-nina, about eight miles from the place before mentioned. Another legend is that the sun sets in a hole about twenty-five miles from Killalpanina, towards Lake Eyre, called by the Dieri Dityi-minka, or the "Hole of the sun." Then it travels underground to the east, where it rises in the morning. It is said that the sun at one time lived in the former hole, but found its way to the other, and continued to follow that course. Another legend is that at that place a Mura-mura became the sun, and went up into the sky.
The Wiimbaio said that at one time the sun never moved, and that Nurelli, being tired of an eternal day, ordered it to go down to the west, by the following song:—
The Wotjobaluk say that the sun was a woman who, when she went to dig for yams, left her little son in the west. Wandering round the edge of the earth, she came back over the other side. When she died she continued to do this.
The Wurunjerri also think that the sun is a woman, "the sister of every one," who goes round by the sea every night and returns next morning by the other side.
At first there was no moon, so that the Dieri old men held a council, and a Mura-mura gave them the moon; and in order that they might know when to hold their ceremonies, he gave them a new moon at certain intervals." Another legend, however, tells how the Mura-mura Nganto-Warrina climbed up a tree to collect grubs. His sons, who had a grudge against him, caused it to grow up to the sky, where he is now the moon. According to the Wiimbaio, the moon did not die periodically, as it does now, until Nurelli ordered it to do so by the following song:—
The Kulin account is that the moon was once a man who lived on the earth. He wished to give the old Kulin a drink of water, so that, when they died, they could after a time return to life again; but the Bronze-wing pigeon would not agree to this, which made the moon very angry.
In one of the Wotjo legends it is said that at the time when all animals were men and women, some died, and the moon used to say, "You up-again," and they came to life again. There was at that time an old man who said, "Let them remain dead." Then none ever came to life again, except the moon, which still continued to do so.
A Kurnai legend about Brewin is as follows. "Long time ago the moon (Narran) was a young man. He went out hunting, and found an emu on the other side of a creek. When he wanted to cross over on a log, Brewin twisted it round so that Narran fell into the water. Each time he tried to walk over, Brewin made him fall in." The emu is what we call the Southern Cross.
The Wiradjuri account is that long ago a piece of kangaroo was given to a boy to eat, and he threw a piece of the bone up to the sky, where it stuck fast. This is the moon, who is now a man who walks round by the south in the daytime.
The stars are many of them named, or perhaps it is that the more prominent ones are. Some are grouped together in the constellations, among which are the sons of Bunjil. These have been already referred to.
The Turrbal believed that a falling star was a Kundri (medicine-man) flying through the air and dropping his fire-stick to kill some one, and was sure if a sick man was in the camp he would die. Mr. Petrie relates that once he was in a camp when a woman was sick and a meteorite was seen. Her friends at once began to mourn and cut themselves for her.
The Wiimbaio thought that the stars were once great men. The planet Mars is Bilyara, the eagle; and another star is Kilpara, the crow.
The Pleiades are, according to the Wotjobaluk, some women named Murkunyan-gurk, and the following account explains to some extent who they are. When they were on the earth, Boamberik was always running after without overtaking them. Now he is up in the sky, still chasing them, and still behind. I have not been able to identify the star Boamberik, but as it must be one not far from the Pleiades, it seems not unlikely that it may be Aldebaran. According to the Wurunjerri, the Pleiades are a group of young women, the Karat-goruk, about whom there is a legend which recounts that they were digging up ants' eggs with their yam-sticks, at the ends of which they had coals of fire, which Waang, the crow, stole from them by a stratagem. They were ultimately swept up into the sky, when Bellin-Bellin, the musk-crow, let the whirlwind out of his bag, at the command of Bunjii, and remained there as the Pleiades, still carrying fire on the ends of their yam-sticks. Thomas speaks of the Pleiades as Karakarook, who was the daughter of Bunjil. When he made two men, his son Binbeal caused two women to come out of the water as wives for them, and Karakarook gave each of them a kunnan (woman's stick).
The Aurora signified with the Wotjobaluk that, at some great distance, a number of blacks were being slaughtered, and that the Aurora colour is the blood rising up to the sky. When the Aurora was seen by the Kurnai, all in the camp swung the Brett (dead hand) towards the alarming portent, shouting such words as "Send it away; do not let it burn us up." The Aurora is, according to one of their legends, Mungan's fire.The Ngarigo had much the same idea of the Aurora as the Wotjo. They said that it was like blood, and told that a number of blacks had died somewhere. When a meteorite was seen to fall, they watched it, and listened for the explosion. It was believed that this betokened that the blacks at the place towards which its path was directed were gathering together for war. Their neighbours, the Wolgal, thought that the Aurora showed that the blacks a long way off were fighting, and that a number of them had been killed.
According to the Wotjobaluk, the rainbow causes a person's fingers to become crooked or contracted if he points to it with a straight finger. This would prevent him from using his hand for making the markings with which the 'possum rugs are ornamented. Therefore, when pointing to a rainbow, the fingers must be turned over each other, the second over the first, the third over the second, and the little finger over the third, by which the evil is avoided.
The Bunya-Bunya people in Queensland are also very much afraid of the rainbow, which they call Thugine (large serpent). Once, they say, a camp of blacks was close to the beach, and all went out to hunt and fish, leaving only two boys in camp with strict orders not to go to the beach, or leave the camp till the elders returned. The boys played about for a time in the camp, and then getting tired of it, went down to the beach where the Thugine came out of the sea, and being always on the watch for unprotected children, caught the two boys and turned them into two rocks that now stand between Double Island Point and Inskip Point, and have deep water close up to them. "Here you see," the old men used to say, "the result of not paying attention to what you are told by your elders."
The Yuin believe that the thunder is the voice of Daramulun. The Gringai had a great dread of thunder, and believed it to be the demonstration of the anger of some supernatural being, rebuking them for some impropriety. As is shown later on, this being is Coen.
According to the Tongaranka, thunder is the song of a corrobboree held by the big old men in the sky, who are making rain; and at Frazer's Island it was the thunder that smashed up the trees.The Dieri called the Milky Way Kadri-pariwilpa, or the River of the Sky. The same is the case with the tribes on the Herbert River in North-east Queensland. They call the Milky Way Kooling, which is the road along which the ghosts of dead blackfellows find their way to the sky.
The Wiradjuri called the Milky Way Gular, by which name they also call the Lachlan River. The Corona Australis is Kukuburra, the Laughing Jackass; and a small star in Argus is the Bidjerigang, the Shell Parakeet.
The seasons are reckoned by the Bigambul according to the time of the year in which the trees blossom. For instance, Yerra is the name of a tree which blossoms in September, hence that time is called Yerrabinda. The Apple-tree flowers about Christmas-time, which is Nigabinda. The Ironbark tree flowers about the end of January, which they call Wo-binda. They also call this time, which is in the height of summer, Tinna-koge-alba, that is to say, the time when the ground burns the feet.
Connected with the Kulin belief in a flat earth of limited extent, there was another. They thought that when the sun disappeared in the west it went into a place called Ngamat, which has been described to me as like a hole out of which a large tree has been burned by a bush-fire.
A legend in one of the tribes near Maryborough (Queensland) also tells of a hole into which the sun retired at night. It says that when Birral had placed the blackfellows on the primitive earth, "which was like a great sandbank," they asked him where they should get warmth in the day and fire in the night. He said that if they went in a certain direction they would find the sun, and by knocking a piece off it they could get fire. Going far in that direction, they found that the sun came out of a hole in the morning and went into another in the evening. Then rushing after the sun, they knocked a piece off, and thus obtained fire.
Beyond the sky there is another country, which may be called the sky-land. This belief is indicated in one of the Dieri legends, which tells how Arawotya, "who lives in the sky," let down a long hair cord, and by it pulled up to himself the Mura-mura Ankuritcha and all those who were with him. Another legend of the Dieri and Tirari accounts for the fossil remains found at Lake Eyre, and called by them Kadimarkara, as having been creatures which, in the old times of the Mura-muras, climbed down from the sky to the earth by the huge Eucalyptus trees on which it rested, and which grew on the western side of Lake Eyre. The Wotjobaluk had a legend of a pine-tree, which extended up through the sky (Wurra-wurra) to the place beyond which is the abode of Mamen-gorak. The people of that time ascended by this tree to gather manna, which implies that trees grew there like the Eucalypt, which in the Wotjobaluk country shed the so-called manna. The Wurunjerri also had a sky country, which they called Tharangalk-bek, the gum-tree country. It was described to me as a land where there were trees. The tribal legends also tell of it as the place to which Bunjil ascended with all his people in a whirlwind. By the Kurnai this place is called Blinte-da-nurk, or (freely translated) "bright sky of the cloud," also Bring a-nurt, or "bone of the cloud." The Ngarigo called the sky Kulumbi, and said that on the other side of it there is another country with trees and rivers. This belief was also that of the Theddora and Wolgal.
When one comes to consider it, one should not feel surprised that the Australian savage thinks that the earth is a flat limited surface, and the sky a hard vault over it. I have been struck by this appearance myself when in the vast extents of the open treeless country in the interior of Australia, especially on clear starlight nights. To the savage the area of his tribal country is so vast as compared to the individual, that the idea of anything other than a flat earth could not suggest itself to him. We ourselves are so accustomed to speak of the sun "rising" and "setting," that we almost mentally disregard the fact of the earth's rotation, nor does our position as to the earth itself appear other than that of being always perpendicular to it, with a permanent sky over our heads. Thus we, in so far, perpetuate a savage belief; and more than this, there are even now persons who, otherwise sane, believe the earth to be a flat plane. It seems that such pseudo-beliefs are an inheritance to us from our savage ancestors, and from which we are not able to free ourselves.
The beliefs as to the stars, which I have noted, and the manner in which they are named, seem to throw some light on the origin of the names, and even of the legends of the constellations of the northern hemisphere.
The Human Spirit, Ghosts, Etc.
The Dieri tribe think that the spirit of a dead person can visit a sleeper. He reports such a dream to the medicine-man, who, if he considers it to be indeed a vision, directs that food be left at the grave and a fire lighted at it. The Narrang-ga likewise think that the human spirit can leave the body in sleep, and communicate with the spirits of others, or of the dead. These spirits wander for a time as ghosts in the bush, and can consume food, and warm themselves at fires left lighted.
The Dieri also believe that when any one dies his spirit goes up to the Piriwilpa, that is the sky, but also that it can roam about the earth. The Narrinyeri thought that the spirits of the dead went up to the sky, Wai-irre-warra; and the Buandik, who lived next to them, along the coast eastward, believed that there were two spirits in mankind, which they called Bo-ong. At death one went west, down into the sea, and would return a white man; the other went into cloudland. They said that the Bo-ong would go up there, where everything is to be found better than on the earth. A fat kangaroo is said to be like the kangaroos of the clouds. All the tribes which formed the Wotjo nation believed that a man's spirit, Gulkan-gulkan, can leave the body during life; for instance, when it goes to see the body of some one who has fallen victim to its evil magic; but after death it could visit its friends in sleep to protect them. An instance of this belief is that of a Mukjarawaint man, who told me that his father came to him in a dream, and said that he must look out for himself, else he would be killed. This saved him, because he afterwards came to the place which he had seen in the dream, and turned back to where his friends lived, so that his enemies, who might have been waiting for him, did not catch him. Among the Jupagalk a person in great pain would call on some dead friend to come and help him, that is to visit him in a dream and teach him some song to avert the evil magic affecting him. The Wurunjerri had the same belief, that each person has in him a spirit, which they call Murup, and which, after death, becomes a ghost. The Murup could leave the body during sleep, and the exact time is fixed as being when the sleeper snored. But the Murup might be sent out of the sleeper by means of evil magic; for instance, when a man hunting incautiously went to sleep in the open, at a distance from his camp, and thus fell a victim to some medicine-man. This belief in the temporary departure of the Murup during sleep still survives in the last of the Wurunjerri, after almost a lifetime with the white man and his ideas.
Berak explained this belief to me as follows: "When I sleep and snore, my Murup goes away, sometimes to the Tharangalk-bek, but it cannot get in, and it comes back. It can talk with some other Murups, for instance, with my father and others who are dead."
The following account which I wrote down many years ago, when he told me of it, is a good instance of the feelings which underlie the belief. His only child, a young lad, was ill, and Berak and his particular friend having taken him to the hospital, returned to where they were living. He said, "We had been crying about him all the evening after we returned," and then my friend went to sleep. When he woke up he said, "I saw that poor fellow, he was here, and he said to me, 'Stand there!' Two strings were hanging down, and he said, 'We will go up there, do not be afraid, we shall not fall down.' I climbed after him, and we came to a hole where some people were looking down at us. Your boy went through and said to me, 'I am only waiting here for you and my father, tell him that I will wait till he comes.' One of the girls said, 'How is my mother?' I said, 'Why! it is our Meena.' Then I went through and saw a lot of people there."
This not only brings out the belief in the power of the individual to leave his body during sleep, but also the idea of the sky country, to which the Murup goes after death. The ascent by a cord and the entrance, through a hole, into the sky country where the ghosts live, is in accord with the common belief in the powers of the medicine-man.
Returning to Berak and his belief in the ability of his Murup to leave his body in sleep and wander abroad, I give another instance which connects the old and the new conditions. In 1880 Berak told me that, when asleep, he went up Badger Creek, one of the tributaries of the Yarra River, and there saw a quartz reef full of gold; but although he had searched the place since then when awake, his Murup had never been able to take him to the spot. So firmly is the idea fixed in his mind, that in the latter end of the year 1900 I heard of his still searching for this spot.
The same belief is held by the Kurnai. The human spirit is by them called Yambo, and it can leave the body during sleep. As one of the Brabra Kurnai said to me, "He can go up to the sky and see his father and mother." This was also brought out clearly by another man, whom I asked whether he really thought that his Yambo could "go out" when he was asleep. He said, "It must be so, for when I sleep I go to distant places, I see distant people, I even see and speak with those who are dead."
The Ngarigo called dreams gung-ung-mura-nung-ya, and believed that in them they could see ghosts. The Yuin Gommeras could get songs in dreams, or information about approaching enemies, and a relative of a dead man could see in a dream who had killed him. The Wiimbaio had the same belief, and said, when they dreamed such a thing, they had been to some other country and a person had told them.
Tulaba, whom I have elsewhere mentioned, said that his "other father," Bruthen-munji came to him during sleep and taught him songs (charms) against sickness and other evils. One charm which he thus learned, and which I have heard him sing to cure pains in the chest, is as follows:—
Tundunga Brewinda nunduunga ugaringa mri-murriwunda
The belief is that Brewin has filled the sufferer's chest with the frayed fibres of the stringy-bark tree, called Tundung, by means of the hooked end of his spear-thrower. This hooked end is called the eye, Mri.
The wife of Tulaba believed before her death that she had gone up to the Nurt (sky) in sleep, but returned because she could not get through. At death the Yambo leaves the body and follows the Wauung, that is the path to the sky. I have heard this spoken of as the Marrangrang, along which the Mrarts (the ghosts) lead or carry the medicine-men to the sky. The Yambo is believed to be able to communicate with people when asleep, and, as a Mrart, to initiate men into its secret rites in sky-land. Mrarts are therefore not merely incorporeal ghosts, for they can be heard jumping down with the Birraarks from trees on to the ground. They are also able to carry off people in bags.
The Theddora believed in another land beyond the sky, and that there were other blackfellows therein. Their neighbours the Ngarigo also thought that the spirit of a dead person (Bulabong) went up to the sky, where it was met by Daramulun, who, as one of the old Ngarigo men said, takes care of it. The Chepara belief is that a male ancestor visits a sleeper, and imparts to him charms to avert evil magic. An old man of this tribe said with much feeling, that he saw distinctly in sleep his little daughter, who had died a short time before, standing near him, on the night after her death, and he said that once when sick he felt that she was near him, and that then he slept well and recovered. These beliefs in the existence of the human spirit after death are scattered over a great extent of the eastern half of the continent, and it is not unreasonable to conclude that they are held by the intervening tribes. It is now possible to advance another stage, and to adduce other facts which will go to show that the further beliefs arising out of these are a logical sequence from them. Collins in his account of the beliefs of the Port Jackson tribes, states that some thought that, after death, they went either on or beyond the great water, but by far the greater number signified that they went to the clouds.
The Kulin say that the Murup goes either direct to Ngamat, or lingers about the place familiar to it in life, and it can also revisit the earth from the sky. The account of the Murup which was caught at the edge of the earth, on its way to Ngamat, by the medicine-man, who conveyed it back to its deserted body, is a case in point as to the first alternative. As to the second, the spirit was believed to wander about, to stand at the grave near the body, to warm itself at fires left burning in the bush, perhaps by men who had been hunting, and often to eat the scraps of food they left. The Murup ascended to the sky by the Karalk, that is, the bright rays of the setting sun, which is the path to the Tharangalk-bek, and the Karalk was said by some to be made by the Murups when in Ngamat. The Wotjo also thought that the ghost remained for some time at the grave, and they also called the sunset rays Guralk, which is evidently the same as Karalk. This suggests that the Karalk may have been the way of the Gulkan-gulkan to the Wurra-wurra (sky). With the Kurnai the Yambo was supposed to pass away as a Yambo or shadow, or as a Mrart or ghost, to a place beyond the clouds; but it did not necessarily remain there, for male and female Mrarts are believed to wander about the country which they inhabited during life. As I have elsewhere said, the term Mrart includes not only deceased relatives but also strangers, of their own tribe or of other tribes, and then they were certainly enemies to be dreaded. I was told by a Tatungalung man of the Kurnai tribe, that when a boy sleeping in the camp of his parents, he was awoke by the outcries of his father, and starting up, found him partly out of the camp, on his back kicking, while his mother held him by the shoulders. His father said that while lying by the fire a Mrart came up with a bag, and tried to pull him out of the camp by the foot. He then cried out and his wife caught hold of him, and the Mrart vanished. In this account an evil Mrart represents the nightmare of our own people. Another instance is that of a ghost which, though not related to the sleeper, was not inimical to him. Tulaba, when mustering wild cattle for a settler near the Mitchell River in Gippsland, dreamed one night that two Mrarts were standing by his fire, and were about to speak to him, or he to them, I forget which. When he awoke they had vanished, but on looking at the spot where they had stood, he saw a bulk (magic-stone), which he kept, and valued much, for its magical powers. Tankowillin and Turlburn, were once walking past a fenced-in garden, when they were much alarmed by seeing what seemed to be a fiery eye watching them between two of the palings. Believing that a Mrart was there in hiding on the watch for them, they were afraid and ran off to their camp.
The Kamilaroi believe that the spirit of a man when he dies goes to the dark patch in the Magellan clouds, which they call Maianba, meaning endless water or river.
The Wiradjuri believed that the ghost (Jir) still haunted the place where it had lived, and took up its abode in some large tree. It might be seen sitting at the grave, by those who possessed the faculty of seeing such things, that is medicine-men, or by a boy who, having the power, would in time grow up to be one of them. A ghost which took up its abode at a grave was believed to be able to injure strangers who incautiously came near to it. By the Gringai also it was thought that the ghost haunted the grave for a time. The Bigambul belief was that people after death went to and fro, the shadows of what they were in life, and these ghosts they called Matu.
It is evident from these facts that there is a universal belief in the existence of the human spirit after death, as a ghost, which is able to communicate with the living when they sleep. It finds its way to the sky-country, where it lives in a land like the earth, only more fertile, better watered, and plentifully supplied with game.
The Murup, Yambo, Bulabong, or by whatever name it is known, represents during life the self-consciousness of the individual. Its apparent ability to leave the body during sleep naturally leads to the further belief that death is merely the permanent disability to return to the body, produced by the evil magic of some enemy. Thus it seems that the belief has arisen that the individual continues to exist after death, although usually invisible to the living.
This feeling gives rise to the reluctance to speak of the dead, which seems to be universal among the tribes dealt with here, and especially to do so by name. This applies equally to the living as to the dead, since a knowledge of the personal name would enable an enemy, as they put it, to "catch" its owner by evil magic. But the reluctance to name the dead arises, it seems, out of a fear of the anger of the deceased.
The following is a good illustration of this feeling. One of the Kurnai was spoken to about a man who was dead, and in doing so his name was used. The man addressed looking round uneasily, said, "Do not do that; he might hear you and kill me."
This feeling exists in the tribes known to me. A few instances will serve as examples. The Jajaurung, of the Upper Loddon River, called the human spirit or ghost Ku-it-gil. Stanbridge mentions this in referring to their reluctance to name the dead. It was supposed that doing so excited the malignity of the spirit of the departed, which hovered upon the earth for a time, and ultimately went towards the setting sun. One of the Jajaurung told me that the Kuitgil is the same name as the Murup of the Wurunjerri. Among the Geawe-gal the name of a deceased person was never mentioned after his death, and when a white man has carelessly or recklessly spoken of a dead man by name, the blacks there have been seen to hang their heads sorrowfully, while one of them would remonstrate, if he had any respect for the speaker, otherwise they would endeavour to turn the conversation. All implements, indeed every piece of inanimate property he had possessed, were interred with his body. In the tribes about Maryborough (Queensland) the name of a dead man must not be mentioned, and any one doing so would be told, "Do not say that." My informant's brother narrowly escaped being killed by a friend of the dead man throwing a spear at him, which went through his clothes.
These beliefs are similar, or identical, with beliefs which are world wide; and, bearing in mind the long isolation of the Australians in this continent, two alternative explanations suggest themselves. The ancestors of the Australians may have brought them from the primitive home of the race, or their descendants may have evolved them independently of any outside source. Yet it might be that both sources have contributed to the present state of belief. For the mental constitution of all races of man, is the same in kind, though differing in degree; and where two savage races are in about the same low level of culture and under the same physical conditions, the results are likely to be the same, although they may be separated by great distances from each other.
Thus with the Australians, their dreams could only represent the universe as it seemed to them, and, as the Kurnai man said of himself, they would see in sleep, distant people, even those who were dead. If we admit their inability to see the difference between real events of waking hours and the unreal ones of dreams, then it is easily seen how the beliefs, which I have noted in this and the previous chapter, may have been developed. Yet, on the other hand, it must be remembered that however low in culture the Australian ancestors may have been, as low as, or even lower than, the extinct Tasmanians, they must have had mental qualities which would more than suffice to provide the assumed starting-point. How far back in man's mental evolution this may be I am not prepared to suggest.
The White Man as a Ghost
The beliefs spoken of are at the root of another, namely, that white men are members of the tribe, returned in the flesh from death. The best known and perhaps the most important instance is that of William Buckley, a convict who escaped in the year 1803 from the settlement attempted by Colonel Collins, within Port Phillip Bay, where Sorrento is now. After wandering round the shore of the Bay, he was found by some of the Wudthaurung tribe, carrying a piece of a broken spear, which had been placed on the grave of one Murrangurk, by his kindred, according to the tribal custom. Thus he was identified with that man; and, as one returned from the dead, received his name and was adopted by his relations.
A version of the finding of Buckley, slightly different from that given by himself, is found in Dawson's work, taken from statements of a black woman who was alleged to be Buckley's widow. It is as follows:—"When they asked him a number of questions, all of which were suggested by the idea that he was one of themselves returned from the dead, he gave the same reply to all." That is, he "replied by a prolonged grunt and an inclination of the head, signifying 'Yes.'" This I can very well understand, for with the Kurnai, the word Ngaar uttered in a deep grunting manner with an inclination of the head at the same time would be "yes."
It is evident that Buckley was believed to be the Murup of Murrangurk, come back from Ngamat, or the Tharangalk-bek. In Morgan's account of Buckley's life and adventures there is mention of an occurrence at the burial of a man who had been speared at a great tribal meeting: "All things being completed for the disposal of the body," one word was uttered, "animadiate" which means, "He is gone to be made a white man," In another place it is again said that "amadiate" means a white man. It is evident that this must have occurred after the blacks had obtained some knowledge of white men, other than Buckley. Yet they must have been prepared for the pale tint of the skin of the white men by what they must have seen when they burned the body of a dead tribesman, or roasted the flesh of a slain enemy. The burning of the dead seems to have been a common practice, and the change in colour which takes place when the epidermis with its colouring-pigment is removed must have been observed. Indeed one of the Jajaurung, in speaking to me of the practice of roasting and eating the skin of the sides and of the thighs of people killed by the tribes of the Wotjo nation, said, "All of the people beyond St. Arnaud did this." His people called it Amidiat, that is, light-coloured, or white. Parker remarks that the very term applied to white men indicates the belief that they were their deceased progenitors, returning to their former haunts. He gives Amydeet (Jajaurung), Amerjig (Witowurung), as specimens of the designation applied to the white race, and the same term designates the state of the spirit when the body is dead."Although the burning of the body was not much practised by the Wurunjerri, Berak remembered two cases of it. One was of a man who died where Kew is now, the other was to the westward of Geelong, and thus in the country where Buckley lived. This was, as Berak put it, "before white men came to Melbourne." Buckley says that a woman was burned, who had been killed in a combat between the tribe he lived with and another they had visited. They made a large fire, and having thrown her body upon it, they heaped on more wood, so that it was burned to ashes. This done, they raked the embers of the fire together, and stuck the stick she used to dig roots with upright at the head.
Dawson also speaks of the burning of the dead. If there is no time to dig a grave, they burn the body with all the effects except stone axes. When a married woman dies, her husband burns her body, and when old people become infirm and unable to accompany the tribe in its wanderings, it is lawful and customary to kill them. The victim is strangled with a grass rope, and when cold is burned in a large fire kindled in the neighbourhood.
It is not surprising that the Kurnai, when they saw white men first, thought them to be Mrarts, ghosts. Such was the idea of one of the Brabralung when he saw a white man for the first time. He ran away, believing it to be a ghost, partly, as he said, from its strange appearance, and partly because it "was so very pale." Here we have again the idea that the white man must be a ghost because of his pale tint, and I may remark that the Kurnai probably derived this belief from their practice of roasting and eating portions of the skin of slain enemies.
Before the white man had entered Gippsland vague rumours telling of them had passed from tribe to tribe to the Kurnai. Messengers (Lewin) had brought news of them, with the exaggeration natural to rumour. The strange sight of ships sailing past their shores had been a wonder to them, and the white man when he arrived was recognised as a Mrart, or as Löan, and the white woman as Löantuka, the wife of Löan. When Tulaba described to me how the Kurnai first saw the white men when he was a boy, and cried out to each other, "Löan! Löan!" I observed that he looked down, and moved his eyes from side to side, as if to avoid a blow. On inquiry I found that the belief was that the white man possessed a supernatural power of the eye, to flash death to the beholder, or to draw together the banks of a river, and to pass over it. This power was called Ngurrung-mri, or "sinew eye," and I think that I have also heard it called Mlang-mri, meaning "lightning eye." Therefore when white men were near, the Kurnai would make off, crying to each other, "Don't look! don't look! he will kill you." In this we may see a distorted account of taking aim and discharging a firearm, and of making rude bridges, by the early explorers.
Among the Wolgal the white man was called Mamugan; by the Ngarigo Mugan. The Yuin called both the dead man and the white man Mumu-gang. The Kamilaroi called a white man Wunda, that is, ghost, and believed him to be a black come to life again. The late Mr. Naseby, who lived fifty years in the Kamilaroi country, had the marks of cupping on his back, and they could not be persuaded that he was not a Murri come back, the marks on his back being his Mombari, or family marks. As far back as 1795, when a man-of-war on its voyage to Port Jackson was anchored at Port Stephens, four men were found who had run away from Parramatta, and reached that place in a boat. The natives had received them as "the ancestors of some of them who had fallen in battle, and had returned from the sea to visit them again; and one native appeared to firmly believe that his father had come back as one or other of the white men, and he took them to the place where the body had been burned." The Kaiabara also thought that the white men were blacks returned after death. The old men of the tribes about Maryborough said when they first saw white men, "That is all right, they are the Muthara (ghosts) come back from the island"; and they recognised such men as their relatives, gave them names and a family, and were quite ready to do anything for them. About Moreton Bay Makoron and Mudhere signify ghost, and each of these words is applied to white men. In the tribes about Mackay in Queensland a man's spirit is called Meeglo, and the whites when first seen were supposed to be the spirits of their forefathers embodied. So the Namoi and Barwan blacks also call the white man Wunda.
As a final instance of the recognition of a white man as one of a tribe returned to it, I may give my own case. When on the Cooper's Creek waters in 1862, searching for the explorers Burke and Wills, I was frequently saluted by blacks when within hearing distance with the words Pirri-wirri-kutchi, which may be rendered as "wandering ghost." Even now the word Kutchi is used by the Dieri for any of the strange paraphernalia of the whites, for instance, even a dray and team of bullocks has been so called. Afterwards, on my second expedition, a group of the Yantruwunta, whom I met on their wanderings as far south as the Grey Range, identified me with one of their deceased tribesmen called Mungalli, "lizard." He was of that totem, and I was necessarily the same. It was through their speaking of me by that name that I found what their idea was, a circumstance which was of much use to me later on.
The clouds of dust raised on the plains of Central Australia are ascribed to Kutchi by the Dieri; and if one of these dust whirlwinds passes through the midst of a camp there is great consternation, as they fear that some great calamity will follow.
A young strong man of the Yendakarangu section of the Urabunna tribe, who lived at Strangway's Springs, chased a whirlwind for many miles, trying to kill Kutchi with boomerangs. He returned after some hours much exhausted, and said he had had a fight with Kutchi and had killed him; but, he added in the broken English spoken by the blacks, that "Kutchi growl along a me; by and by me tumble down." He pined away from day to day, and always insisted that his case was hopeless, as Kutchi had growled. In this sense "growling" means quarrelling, or using violent language.
Such beliefs as those mentioned in the last section explain much in the burial customs which would otherwise seem to be without meaning.
When one of the Dieri is dying his relatives separate into two groups. These are first, the Ngaperi, Ngata-mura, Noa, with those Kami and Kadi who are more nearly related to him. The second group consists of the Ngandri, Ngatani, Kaka, Tidnara, Buyulu, Neyi, Kaku, and Ngatata to whom may be added the Kami and Kadi, if not too distantly related to the dying man. This second group is called Kanayawora, or Palkule-kamaneli.
While those of the first group sit down close to the dying person, and even after the decease throw themselves on the body, those of the other group remain at some distance from him or from the body, and anxiously guard themselves from seeing his face. The reason for this custom is, according to some, lest they should become possessed by a great longing for the deceased, while others say that the spirit of the deceased might so draw them to itself that they also might die.
It is the duty of the men who are Kanayawora to the deceased, that is, of the second group, to dig the grave; but if there is none of that relation there, then a Ngaperi-waka digs it, so that he may be useful to the dead. For this service a woman is given to him for a wife, and if he have one already, he receives a second. As a sign of mourning the Kanayawora, and also the Kami and Kadi, if not of too remote "tribal" relation, paint themselves with Karku, mixed with Tuna. The Ngaperi, Ngata-mura, and Noa, together with the closer related Kami and Kadi, paint themselves with Tuna only.
Leaving out the distantly related Kami and Kadi, the rule may be laid down that after the death of a male or female Kararu the people of that class are painted red, but the Matteri people require white. The reverse is the case on the death of a Matteri person.
Those painted with Tuna, especially a Tippa-malku or a Pirrauru, retain their white colouring until the leaves of the bushes used in the burial are dried up, or, as the practice of the others is, till the footprints of the deceased cannot be seen any more about the grave. When the Neyi or Kaka of the deceased are satisfied that there are no footprints, they collect a sufficient amount of red ochre, and, coming secretly into the camp without the others noticing it, rub the faces of the Kami with it. This application of red ochre remains for a short time and is then rubbed off; and if the deceased was a woman, her husband is permitted to seek another wife, always supposing that he has a sister, own or tribal, to exchange for her.
If the deceased was a person of influence, food is placed for many days at the grave, and in winter months a fire is lighted so that the ghost may warm himself at it. Should the food at the grave not be touched, it is supposed that the deceased is not hungry.
The corpse, having the big toes tied together and enveloped in a rug or net, is carried to the grave on the heads of three or four men, and there placed on its back for a few minutes. These men kneel near the grave, and some others then place the corpse on their heads. One of the old men, usually the nearest relative, now takes two light rods (Kuya) each about three feet long, and holds one in each hand, standing about three yards from the corpse. Then, beating the rods together, he questions the corpse as to who was the cause of his death, that is, by magic. The men sitting round act as interpreters for the deceased, and, according as opinion prevails, the name of some native of another tribe is given.
When the old man stops beating the rods, the men and women commence to cry, and the body is removed from the heads of the bearers and is lowered into the grave. Conclusions are drawn as to the locality in which the person who has caused the death lives from the direction in which the body falls from the heads of the two men who hold it. The body is laid on a plant called Kuya-marra, and is covered with it. Kuya is the Yaurorka and Yantruwunta word for fish (in Dieri, Paru), and means "new," so that Kuya-marra means new fish. An old man, who is in the relation of Kami to the deceased, steps into the grave and cuts off all the fat adhering to the face, thighs, arms, and stomach, and passes it round to be swallowed by the relations. The order in which they partake of the fat is as follows: The mother eats of her children, and the children of their mother; a man eats of his sister's husband, and of his brother's wife; mother's brothers, mother's sisters, sister's children, mother's parents, or daughter's children are also eaten of; but the father does not eat of his children, nor the children of their sire. The relations eat of the fat in order that they may be no longer sad. All those who eat of the deceased are decked with the Kuya-marra plant.
Even in cases where a man has killed one of another tribe, he will carefully preserve the fat for the purpose of protecting himself against a blood-feud. When the kindred of the dead man call him to account for the death, he gives them the fat to eat, and it has the effect that they become pacified, and even feel grateful to him for it, so that they need no longer feel sad or weep.
When the grave is filled in, a large stack of wood is placed on it, and this practice seems to be universal in the country of the Barcoo and Diamantina deltas, where I observed some striking instances of it. The most striking case was to the south of Sturt's Stony Desert, in the country of the Ngurawola tribe; and I was told that the group of several graves, each with a great pile of wood on it, contained men who had been killed in an attack by blacks of a neighbouring tribe.
Invariably after a death the Dieri shift their camp, and never after speak of, or refer to, the deceased person.
The Blanch-water section of that tribe fear the spirits of the dead, and take precautions to prevent the body from rising. They tie the toes together, and thumbs behind the back, sweep a clear space round the grave at dusk each evening, and inspect it to look for tracks early each morning for a month after death. Should tracks be found, the body is removed and reburied, as they think that the deceased is not satisfied with his first grave.
While the Dieri, Yaurorka, Yantruwunta, and Marula eat only the fat of the dead, other tribes eat the flesh also. Such are the Tangara, who carry the remains of the deceased in a bag (Billi), and whenever they feel sorrow for the dead they eat of the flesh until nothing but the bones remain. These are preserved until a flood occurs, when they are pounded up and cast into the waters as "fish-seed" (Kuyi-paua).
The Yerkla-mining never bury their dead or dispose of them in any way. When death approaches, the person is left alone, as comfortably as possible near a fire, and the tribe leave the neighbourhood, not to return for a considerable time. They seem to have a great fear of a dead body, though they treat the sick and wounded with much kindness, their medicine-men curing ailments by the usual aboriginal methods of rubbing and sucking, producing various foreign substances that they say have caused the pain, and have been put into the body by the Muparn (magic) of some enemy, who, though living at a distance, can inflict injury by Gaiji-angun, the invisible spear-throwing by which Muparn is conveyed. The only two causes of death which the Mining recognise are by Muparn and the spear, and the great aim of their lives would appear to be to avoid both. A death is always avenged by the next of kin, whose feelings are appeased by making the attack, even if the supposed offender be only wounded.
The Kukata bury their dead immediately, and place in the grave spears and other weapons, and on it a drinking vessel for the deceased to drink out of if thirsty. A digging-stick is also placed on the grave to keep evil spirits away.
When one of the Narrang-ga tribe dies, the corpse is carried about on a kind of bier for several weeks. The bier is made of sticks fastened together like the steering-wheel of a ship, and is carried, each holding one of the protruding stick ends. The body is buried with the knees doubled up, so as to be close to the face. Two men get into the grave, and the body being lowered to them, they hastily fix it in its place and then come out. The grave being quickly filled in, they light a fire at it and leave the place. If the deceased is one of the Kurnadjara division, his spirit is supposed to go a long way to the north, and so with the men of each of the local divisions, each to its own direction.
The tribes in the district about Adelaide, Gawler, and Gumeracha buried the dead in a straight position, wrapped up in wallaby rug, and packed comfortably with leaves and tender boughs. They dug a hole about three feet deep, deposited the body, and covered it up, first with earth and sand, then, if convenient, with stones. At the head of the grave a crescent of earth or stone was erected.
In the Tongaranka tribe, when a death occurs, the immediate relations smear themselves with Kopai (gypsum), hence the name Kopai-nongo is used for a widow. The body is buried in a sitting posture, and all implements are buried with it. Before the grave is filled in, the nearest male relation present stands over the grave and receives several blows with the edge of a boomerang, the blood being allowed to flow on the corpse. The grave is then filled in, and logs are piled on it to keep the dogs away. The loud wailing which is raised at a death is repeated every day for a whole moon. The place chosen for a grave is on a sand-hill, where it is easy to dig, and on the top of the grave a hole is made like a nest, and in it are placed ten or twelve white egg-shaped stones made of ground gypsum moistened with water, shaped like eggs and allowed to dry. A cone-shaped roof of branches is raised above this nest, big enough to hold two people.
When one of the now practically extinct Wiimbaio tribe died, his face was covered with the corner of his skin rug, because no one would look at the face of a dead person. The body was laid out at length, rolled in his rug, and corded tightly. The relations used to lie with their heads on the body, and even stretched at length on the corpse. Old Headmen, or men of note, or fathers of strong families, were buried in what may be called their cemeteries. These were on sand-hills where the pines grow, and thither their dead were carried with great lamentations and mourning. A six-foot hole was dug in the sand, and the body, being wrapped up in a rug or blanket and made comfortable with twigs and bark, was deposited and covered up with sand. A pile of wood about two feet in height was raised over the grave, and on this was deposited a pile of rushes or soft grass, tapering at the top, and secured by old netting or string. A space of about ten yards was carefully swept every morning. The fires were kept perpetually burning for a month, one to the right and one to the left of the grave, to enable the deceased to warm himself. The spirit was believed to walk about near the grave at night if he were not comfortable, but if his tracks were not visible in the morning, his friends thought that he was happy. His immediate relations cut off their hair and applied to their heads a paste of gypsum about two inches thick, and which became detached in about a month by the growth of the hair, and was then placed on the grave. If a man died when his friends were absent, all the men, when they returned, stood out and held their heads down to receive, each of them, a blow with a club. In such cases men have been killed.
One of Headmen of the Wathi-wathi was buried in the following manner, wailing being kept up for several days at the grave, which was within a cleared and fenced space about one hundred yards long by about fifteen wide. The fence was made of logs filled in with brush about three feet high. The inside of the enclosure was cleared of everything and made quite smooth. The grave itself was completely covered over with sheets of bark, like a hut with a ridge pole in the centre.
When a man of the Wotjobaluk died, he was corded up with his knees drawn up to the chest and his arms crossed. Under these, on his naked breast, was placed his spear-thrower (Garik). He was then rolled up in his opossum rug. An oblong grave was dug, about four feet in depth. A sheet of bark was placed on the bottom, and on this leaves, covered with strands of opossum pelt pulled asunder, so as to make a soft bed for the "poor fellow." Another lot of leaves and pelt was then laid on the corpse, over it bark, and the earth, being returned, was trodden tight. Logs were placed on the grave to prevent dogs interfering with it. A fire was then lighted at the grave for the ghost (Gulkan-gulkan) to warm itself at, and then the relatives returned to their camps. On the following day they went back to the grave and carefully cleared an oval space, some thirty paces in its longer diameter, with internal parallel ridges of soil, and within these the grave. The kindred went away from the place for three or four months, and when they returned, visited the grave to see that all was right. They thought that small fires could be seen at the grave by night at times, and these "corpse-candles" were believed to be fires lighted by the ghost.
In the Mukjarawaint tribe, when a man died he was left lying in his camp (Lur) for two or three days. Then he was tied up tightly with his knees drawn up, his elbows fastened to his sides, and his hands to his shoulders. His relatives cried over him and cut themselves with tomahawks and other sharp instruments for about a week. Then he was put into a hollow tree, or on a stage, built on the pollarded branches of a "Bull-oak" tree. After camping at this tree for a time, say about a month or so, they leave it for a time; and if on returning the body was found to be dry, the head and arms were cut off and carried by his wife, and eventually buried with her. His father, own or tribal, made magic of the fibula bones of the legs.
The people of the Wotjo nation buried the dead with the head in a certain direction, which is determined by his class and totem. The several directions are all fixed with reference to the rising sun. Two of my informants, who were old men, spent about two hours in laying out the mortuary directions on the ground with sticks, and I constructed the following plan from compass bearing of the directions.
The diagram is probably not altogether correct, for the same reason given as to the list of totems, that my informants knew the mortuary totems of their own class and of some others, but had not so complete a knowledge of those with whom they had little to do. The information is, however, quite sufficient to show clearly the principles on which these burial arrangements were made. It confirms the statement made to me that Ngaui and Garchuka "went together," and that there were Batya-ngal in each class. It shows that Munya and Krokitch-batya-ngal were each divided into two branches. As far as I could learn, Gamutch-jallan had no mortuary totem.The spaces between the directions have names, which I have written down as far as I could obtain them. The being "nearer to him" than others. I am unable to ascertain the precise meaning of this expression. When pressed upon this question, a black would say, "Oh, that is what our fathers told us."
The information which I have given about the class organisation of the Wotjobaluk applies also to the Mukjarawaint and the Jupagalk, but although I know that the classes Gamutch and Krokitch extend over a much wider range, I am unable to give a detailed account of the several systems.
The Gournditch-mara used to make fires at the graves, in order that the spirits of their departed friends might warm themselves, and they also put food there so that they could eat if they were hungry.
When a Jupagalk man died, all the men went out of the camp at dusk and watched carefully to see the gulkan-gulkan of the man who killed him, that is, by magic, peeping about in the bush about the camp. Then, knowing who it was, they formed a jolung-ulung, literally a "sneaking party," and go quietly and kill him. If they could, they hit him on the back of the neck with club (dolone-gunne) and took his fat.
To make the account of the burial customs of the Victorian tribes more complete, I again quote from Dawson's work.
When a person of common rank dies, the body is immediately bound, with the knees upon the chest, and tied up with an acacia bark cord in an opossum rug. Next day it is put between two sheets of bark, as in a coffin, and buried in a grave about two feet deep, with the head towards the rising sun. All the weapons, ornaments, and property of the deceased are buried with him. Stone axes are excepted, as being too valuable to be thus disposed of, and are inherited by the next of kin. If there is no time to dig a grave, the body is placed on a bier, and removed by two men to a distance of a mile or two. Then the relatives prepare a funeral pyre, on which the body is laid, with the head to the east. All the effects belonging to the deceased are laid beside the body, with the exception of stone axes. Two male relatives set fire to the pyre and remain to attend to it till the body is consumed. Next morning, if any bones remain, they are completely pulverised and scattered about. When a married woman dies and her body is burned, the husband puts her pounded calcined bones into a little opossum skin bag, which he carries in front of his chest until he marries again, or until the bag is worn out, when it is burned.
Immediately after the death of a chief, the bones of the lower part of the leg and the forearm are extracted, cleaned with a flint knife, and placed in a basket; the body is tied with a bark cord, with the knees to the face, and wrapped in an opossum rug. It is then laid in a wuurn (hut) filled with smoke, and constantly watched by friends with green boughs to keep the flies away.When all the mourners, with their faces and heads covered with white clay, have arrived, the body is laid on a bier formed of saplings and branches, and is placed on a stage in the fork of a tree, high enough from the ground to be out of the reach of the wild dogs. Every one then departs to his own home. The adult relatives and friends of the deceased visit the spot every few days and weep in silence. At the expiry of one moon the relatives and the members of his own and the neighbouring tribes come to burn the remains. The body is removed from the tree. Each chief, assisted by two of his men, helps to carry it and to place it on the funeral pyre, while the relatives of the deceased sit in a semicircle to windward of the pyre, and each tribe by itself behind them. The fire is lighted and kept together by several men of the tribe, who remain till the body is consumed, and till the ashes are sufficiently cool to allow the fragments of the small bones to be gathered. These are then pounded up with a piece of wood and put into the small bag prepared for them. The widow of the deceased chief, by first marriage, wears the bag of calcined bones suspended from her neck, and she also gets the lower bones of the right arm, which she cleans and wraps in an opossum skin. These relics she carries for two years, and keeps them under cover with great care. In the tribes referred to by Mr. Dawson, the custom of eating the bodies flesh of every part is roasted and eaten, excepting the vitals and the intestines, which are burned with the bones. The aborigines said that the body was eaten, with no desire to gratify or appease the appetite, but only as a symbol of respect and regret for the dead.
The Wurunjerri buried a man's personal property, such as it was, with him. His spear-thrower was stuck in the ground at the head of the grave. At a woman's grave her digging-stick was also placed at the head. It is said that if the deceased was a violent man, who did injury to others, no weapon would be placed with him. When there was no medicine-man there to tell them who had killed him, it was the practice when digging the grave to sweep it clean at the bottom and search for a small hole going downwards. A slender stick put down it showed by its slant the direction in which they had to search for the malefactor. The male kindred of the deceased then went in that direction, until they met some man whom they killed to avenge the dead, and might leave the corpse on a log for his friends to see and take warning by.
In the case of Murrangurk, for whom Buckley was taken by the Wudthaurung tribe, his spear was planted on his grave, and the fact that Buckley had this in his hand when they found him was proof of his identity.
Richard Howitt in 1840 remarked that the Yarra, Goulburn, Barrabool, and Port Phillip blacks buried their dead, while those of Mt. Macedon, the King, Ovens, and Murray Rivers generally burned them. After the flesh was consumed they gathered the bones and put them in a hollow of a tree some height from the ground. The grave was a small mound of earth, circular and gently and nicely rounded at the top, the soil bare and patted smooth. About five feet from the centre of the grave was a slight elevation, and in it at short intervals were driven stakes, five feet high and twenty in number.
Among the Jajaurung, persons of mature life, specially old men and medicine-men, were buried with much ceremony. With the body were interred the weapons and other articles belonging to the deceased, and for a time a small fire was made at the foot of the grave.
Among the Kurnai, when a man died, his relatives rolled him up in a 'possum rug and enclosed it in a sheet of bark, cording it tightly. A hut was built over it, and in this the mourning relatives collected. The corpse was placed in the centre, and as many of the relatives as could find room lay with their heads on it. There they lay lamenting their loss, saying, for instance, "Why did you leave us?" Now and then their grief would be intensified by some one, for instance, the wife, uttering an ear-piercing wail "Penning-i-torn" (my spouse is dead), or a mother would say "Lit-i-torn" (my child is dead). All the others would then join in with the proper term of relationship, and they would cut and gash themselves with sharp stones and tomahawks until their heads and bodies streamed with blood. The bitter wailing and weeping continued all night, only the more distant relations rousing themselves to eat until the following day. After this had continued for several days the mourners unloosed the body to look at it, and thus renewed their grief If by this time the hair had become loose, it was plucked off the whole body, and preserved by the father, mother, or sisters in small bags made of opossum skin. Then the body was once more rolled up, and was not again uncovered till it had so far decomposed that the survivors could anoint themselves with oil which had exuded from it. The Kurnai say that this was to make them remember the dead person. Sometimes they opened the body and removed the intestines to make it dry more rapidly. The body in its bark cerements was carried with the family in its wanderings, and was the special charge of the wife, or of some other near relative. Finally, the body having, perhaps after several years, become merely a bag of bones, was buried or put into a hollow tree. Sometimes the father or mother carried the lower jaw as a memento.
The most remarkable custom connected with the dead was that of the "Bret" or hand. Sometimes the Kurnai cut off one hand of the corpse, or both hands, soon after death, which they wrapped in grass and dried. A string of twisted opossum fur was attached to it, so that it could be hung
FIG. 26.—THE BRET OK DEAD HAND. round the neck and worn in contact with the bare skin under the left arm. It was carried by the parent, child, brother, or sister. The belief of the Kurnai was that at the approach of an enemy the hand would push or pinch the wearer. Such a signal being experienced, the hand would be taken from the neck and suspended in front of the face, the string being held between the finger and thumb. The person would then say, "Which way are they coming?" If the hand remained at rest, the question would be again put, but now facing another way, and so on. The response being that the hand vibrated in some direction, and it was thence that the danger was coming. My informants have told me that the swinging of the Bret was sometimes so violent that the string broke. In one case which I heard of, the Bret did not respond to its wearer, who said to it, "Munju! Munju! Wunman? Munju! tunamun nganju, brappanu mabanju," that is, "There! There! Where? There! Speak me to (or) throw dingo-to." That is, he would throw it to the wild dogs.
The Theddora believed that the dead do not always remain in the grave, but come out at times. This accounts for their graves being dug like cylindrical pits with a side chamber, in which the corpse was placed, blocked in with pieces of wood. An account of a burial by some of the Theddora, which was reported to me, and which I verified by further inquiry from another man who was present, is very characteristic of their beliefs.
This man said: "We were at the Snowy River, and one of the old men died. We dug a hole in the river bank, and as we were putting him into it we thought that he moved. We were all much frightened and all fell back except old Nukong, who stood forward and said, 'What are you doing that for? What are you trying to frighten us for?' We rammed up the hole with wood and stones and earth and went away."
One of the Ya-itma-thang tribe went to Gippsland with one of my correspondents in the early days of settlement. He died there, and was buried in his full dress—head-band, nose-peg, waist-belt, and apron, or, more properly, a kind of kilt of kangaroo skin strands.
By the Ngarigo the body was tied up tightly, with the knees bent and the arms crossed. It was buried either simply rolled up naked, or in other cases dressed in full male ornament, with the belt and Bridda-bridda on, and painted with pipeclay. The weapons, implements, and Bridda-bridda, if the latter was not put on, were buried with the body, and as they said, the "Bulabong (spirit or ghost) went into the scrub." They had the same belief as the Kulin, that the ghost remained in the bush for a time killing game, making camps, and lighting fires—in fact, continuing its former mode of existence. But in this the Bulabong was better off than the Mrarts or Kurnai ghosts, who were said to live on sow-thistles.
The Ngarigo practice was to cross a river after burying a body, to prevent the ghost following them. An instance of this came under my notice. A leading man of that tribe died at the Snowy River, and was buried there. The survivors, who had camped not far away, were much alarmed in the night by what they supposed to be the ghost of the deceased prowling about the camp—as one of the men said, "coming after his wife."
The Wolgal were very particular in burying everything belonging to a dead man with him; spears and nets were included; even in one case a canoe was cut into pieces so that it could be put in the grave. Everything belonging to a dead person was put out of sight.
The Ngarigo tied a dead man up tightly, the hands placed open on either side of his face, and the knees drawn up to the head. The grave was sometimes made like a well with a side chamber. In other cases it was made by digging out a cavity in a bank, as was done in the case just quoted by the Theddora. In this tribe also everything belonging to the deceased was buried with him.
The practice of the Yuin tribes is that when a man dies his body is wrapped up in an opossum rug. His articles of dress or ornament are put with him, stuffed under his head, or wherever there is room. A sheet of bark is rolled round him and corded tight. His weapons are given to his friends. The medicine-man then climbs up a tree, at the foot of which the corpse has been placed, and the tree must be a large and branching one. The women and children remain at the camp. All the men present, whether related to the deceased or not, climb up the tree after the medicine-man. He, being up among the branches, shouts out "Kai!" that is, "Hallo!" and looks up into the air. Then all listen carefully for the voice of the Tulugal, that is, the spirit or ghost. At length there is heard a far-distant reply of "Kai!" If the voice of the Tulugal is clear and distinct, he has died of some sickness, but if it is dull and choking, then he has been "caught," that is, killed by some evil magic. Sometimes the Tulugal tries to get back to the body. If the medicine-man is not strong enough to send him away, it has been said to come rushing into the tree-top with a noise like a bird flying, and to push the medicine-man down the bole of the tree by the head, and then to get into the covering of bark surrounding the corpse, from which the medicine-man has much apparent difficulty in removing him.
The Tulugal, as I have said, is the ghost, from Tulu, "a hole," or "grave," and gal, the possessive postfix, "of," or "belonging to." The word, however, means not only the human ghost, but also is applied to beings who lived in trees, rocks, or caves in the mountains, and who were credited with stealing and eating children. It was said that long ago the old men used to go into the mountains, which lie at the back of the Yuin country, where they thought Tulugal might be, and after making a noise like a child crying, they would watch for a Tulugal peeping out of its hole. Having found its abode, they made a fire and burned it.
The Yuin were always afraid that the dead man might come out of the grave and follow them.
The burial practice of the Port Jackson tribes is described by Collins in the year 1796. These tribes, it may be observed, belonged to the Katungal, and were thus kindred to the Yuin.
The young people were buried, but those who had passed the middle age were burned. A boy who died, apparently of fever, was buried in the following manner. The body was placed in a canoe cut to the proper length, together with a spear, fishing-spear, and spear-thrower, and the cord which the dead man had worn round his waist. The canoe with the corpse was carried on the heads of two natives to the grave, the boy's father accompanying it, armed with his spear and throwing-stick. At the grave one man stretched himself in it on the grass with which it was strewn, first on his back and then on his right side. On laying the body in the grave great care was taken to so place it that the sun might look at it as it passed, the natives cutting down for that purpose every shrub that could at all obstruct the view. He was placed on his right side, with his head to the north-west. When the grave was covered in, several branches of shrubs were placed in a half-circle on the south side of the grave, extending from the head to the foot of it. Grass and boughs were likewise placed on the top of it, and crowned with a large log of wood. After strewing it with grass the placer laid himself full length on it for some minutes.
When the wife of Bennillong, who appears from the account to have been a Headman, died, her body was burned. A pile of wood having been prepared of about three feet in height and strewn with grass, the corpse was borne to it, and placed with the head towards the north. A basket, with the fishing apparatus and other small furniture of the deceased, was put by her side, and her husband having placed some logs over the body, the pile was lighted by one of the party. On the following day the husband raked the ashes together with his spear, and with a piece of bark he raised a tumulus of earth, on which he placed the piece of bark, and a log was placed on each side of the mound.
In another case where a woman had died, her infant at the breast was placed alive in the grave with her, a large stone was thrown on it, and the other natives instantly filled in the grave with earth.
In the Geawe-gal tribe all the implements, the property of a warrior, were interred with his body, and indeed every piece of inanimate property he possessed.
In the Gringai country there were places where numbers of blacks were buried, at least since the year 1830, and it was probably a continuation of an old custom. The dead were carried many miles to be buried in this place.
When the grave, which was very neatly dug, was considered to be of sufficient depth, a man got in it and tried it by lying down at full length. The body, nicely tied up in bark, was carried to it by friends of the deceased. Before being lowered into the grave, the medicine-man, standing at the head, spoke to it to find out who caused its death, and received answers from another medicine-man at the foot of the grave. All the articles belonging to the deceased were buried with him, and every black present contributed something, all of which things were placed at the head of the deceased. Then the grave was filled in.
The following was the practice in another part of this district, namely at Dungog, and it relates to a time somewhere about the year 1830. Venerable men, and men of distinction, were buried with much ceremony, but ordinary members and females were disposed of in a perfunctory manner. The body of a man belonging to a strong family, and with a good following, would be buried in the following manner. The body was doubled up, heels to hips and face to knees, and the arms folded. It was then wrapped up in sheets of Ti-tree bark secured by cords of string-bark fibre. A hole was dug in easy soil and in a well-shaded locality, about two feet deep and circular. The body was dropped in sideways, and after putting a stone hatchet and a club beside the body, the grave was filled in, and the ceremonies ended. The grief displayed at the funeral of a venerable and honoured man was unquestionably great and genuine. The lamentations at a grave, and the chopping of heads and burning of arms, was something not to be easily forgotten. The grief, though violent, was not of long duration, and by the time the wounds were healed the sorrow was ended.
At Port Stephens the body was neatly folded in bark and was placed in the grave at flood-tide; never at ebb, lest the retiring water should bear the spirit of the deceased to some distant country. Before placing the corpse in the grave, two men held it on their shoulders, while a third, standing at the side, struck the body lightly with a green bough, at the same time calling out loudly the names of the acquaintances of the deceased and of others. The belief was that when the name of the person who had caused his death was spoken, the deceased would shake, and cause the bearers to do the same. The next thing would be to seek revenge.
In this tribe an old couple had an only daughter, of whom they were very fond. She died, and her parents built their hut over her grave close to the shore of the harbour, and lived there many months, crying for her every evening at sunset. They then removed their hut a few yards away and remained in it till the grass had completely covered the grave, when they left, and never again visited the place.
It seems probable that the Gringai natives belonged to the same tribe, at any rate the former held the same belief that if the dead were not buried at flood-tide, the ebb might carry away the spirit of the deceased. They also thought that the spirit lingered at the grave for a time.
It is now necessary to revert in the description of burial customs to those of the inland tribes.
With the Wiradjuri, Bulungal, that is, "death," is the passing away of the Jir, "ghost" or "spirit." After death, the body is rolled tightly in a skin rug, and then placed in a grave about four feet deep. All the personal property, except perhaps some choice articles, are then laid on the corpse, and the grave filled with sticks and bark, covered over with earth and with large logs placed on it. The surrounding trees are marked, the grave is left, no one going near it and no one speaking of it. The name of the deceased is never mentioned, and if any one else has the same name he is obliged to drop it and assume another.
There is a curious belief among the Wiradjuri that, when a man is near death he can see the shadow of the person who has caused his death by evil magic. Under such circumstances, he will say to those about him, "Get out of my way so that I may see who it is who has caught me." This same belief existed elsewhere, for instance in the Jupagalk tribe; and I remember a case in the Kurnai, when a man being almost at the point of death, his friend Tankowillin, who was attending to him, said again and again, "Can you see who it is?" and was greatly troubled when his friend died without being able to tell him.
Speaking of about the year 1830, it is said that among the southern Kamilaroi loud cries were raised on the occasion of a death in the camp. The relatives, and especially the women, cut their heads with tomahawks, and the blood was allowed to remain on them, while for mourning they smeared the head with pipe-clay. While the body was still warm, they brought nets and opossum rugs as wrappers for the corpse, spread them on the ground, and doubled the body into the form of a bale, with the knees and chin touching each other. Then they wrapped the bale in the nets and rugs and tied it tightly. A shallow hole was dug with yam-sticks, in which the body was placed, and being filled in with soil, was covered with logs and deadwood to keep the dingoes out. In the northern districts of the Kamilaroi country the burial was sometimes in soft ground. If there was not any soft ground at hand, the body was placed in a hollow tree.
When an old infirm black had become too feeble to accompany the section of the tribe to which he belonged, he was left in charge of a man; or, if a woman, in charge of a woman, assisted by a youth whose duty it was to attend to and finally to bury their charge if death occurred. A Headman might be buried in a Bora ground, under one of its marked trees, but to cheat the Kruben (an evil being), other trees were marked, and other graves dug, without any bodies in them. The Kruben is supposed to be a supernatural creature, living in hollow trees, or in water-holes. It is supposed to go about doing harm, especially by carrying off children. The Murri (i.e. Man, in the Kamilaroi tongue) say that it would steal up to the camp at night, and catch children, and tear them. This seems to be an analogous belief to that of the Coast Murring as to the Tulugal.
The Wollaroi placed the body of a man on a stage, and the mourners sat under it and rubbed the oil which exuded from the body on themselves, so that they might become strong. When the flesh left the bones, they were buried. A female was buried at once, and a child was placed in a tree.
Among the Unghi the usual method of burial is the same as our own, but occasionally a blackfellow after death undergoes a very primitive system of embalming. A kind of platform is erected upon which the corpse is laid, having first been placed in a rude bark coffin. Beneath the platform a fire is lighted on which is thrown green boughs of a species of sandal-wood, and a dense smoke is kept up for perhaps a week or ten days, after which the tribe depart, taking the body with them, and visit the places the deceased frequented during life. Months are spent in this way, and the remains are finally deposited in a hollow tree.
On the Maranoa the graves are nearly always boomerang-shaped, with the convex side towards the west. The body is tied up in a sheet of bark immediately after death, the toes being tied together, as are the hands also. Occasionally a vessel containing water is suspended near the grave lest the deceased should want a drink. Not infrequently, however, the body is dried and carried about for a long time—even, as in one case, for three years. Such a body is dried by being placed on a stage under which the women keep a slow fire constantly burning. The fat which exudes from it is collected in vessels and the young men rub it over their bodies to impart the good qualities of the deceased to themselves.
It is usually some young man who has died a violent death who is dried and carried about by his kindred. The reason assigned for the custom is that he has died before his time and would not rest in his grave. Such a body is tied up tightly at full length in a sheet of bark, which is painted or ornamented with emu feathers. When they are travelling two young men carry the body in the day and watch it at night, then two others the day following, and so on.
In the Chepara tribe, when a man becomes ill, and believes that a man of another clan of the tribe has "caught" him—for instance, by giving him a 'possum rug made deadly by magic—he tells this to his friends before his death, and they take measures afterwards to avenge him. The medicine-man (Bugerum) in his dreams will see the culprit, and also the immediate cause of death, which had been in the gift, flying back to the river. When a man died he was tied up in the bark of the Ti-tree, the arms being crossed over the chest, the legs doubled up, and the knees close to the chin. The grave was dug about six feet deep with yam-sticks, in a lonely place, and where no tree could fall over it.When about to bury the body, they stripped some bark and laid it at the bottom of the grave; they placed grass on the bark and then the body. Split sticks were placed across the body and the earth filled in, with a mound on the top covered with grass. A fire was made at the grave by the father or other near relative. The body was carried to the grave tied to a pole on the shoulders of two men. If the deceased had been killed by violence or was believed to have been the victim of evil magic, an old man blew into his ears, and whispered the name of the suspected culprit. The bearers then ran for a short distance in the direction in which the suspected person lived. After the burial, a party was made up to go and kill him.
When a man died, many of his things—rugs, tomahawks, spears, etc.—were buried, but some were given to his kindred, for instance, to his son, or brothers, own or tribal, and after a death the camp was moved to another place.
The mourning in this tribe was as follows. The relations of a dead person for several months after wore emu feathers, dyed red with a dye called Quitye, and said to be obtained from a soft stone found in the mountains at the sources of the Tweed River, The mother of the deceased had her nose and all her body painted with stripes of white pipe-clay, and wore red feathers over the whole of her head. A sister had also her head covered with red feathers, but was not painted white. After a few weeks the painting was changed to red, and then was worn by father, mother, and sisters for a long time.
After a death in a family, the name of that family was dropped for several months. That is to say, the members of it were addressed, the males as Warkumbul, and the females as Watmungun, which implies that one of their kindred has died, and avoids the mention of the name of the deceased.
In the Bigambul tribe, on the occasion of a funeral, the body of a man was carried round the grave on the heads of two men, and was asked who was the cause of his death. On such occasions my correspondent has heard them say, when they thought the corpse moved, "Oh! he has heard it!"
If a Kaiabara black dies, his tribes-people never mention his name, but call him Wurponum (the dead), and in order to explain to others who it is that is dead, they speak of his father, mother, brothers, etc. As a sign of mourning they put charcoal and fat under the eyes, and rub red ochre over the head and body. They do not bury a man of note at once, but dry the body before a fire and then carry it about for six months before burying it.
The Turrbal attributed all deaths, other than by violence or in battle, to magic. When a man died, he was placed on a stage and a space was cleared under it. The medicine- man would on the following morning make a track on the ground with the side of his hand, and tell the people that tracks were there, and that he knew from them who had killed the man, naming some one of another tribe. Then their aim was to kill that man.
A corpse was rolled up in Ti-tree bark and placed in a fork of a tree, the feet being left bare. A fire was made under the body. A spear and club were left near it, that the spirit of the dead might have weapons wherewith to kill game for his sustenance in the future state. A yam-stick was placed in the ground at a woman's grave, so that she might go away at night and seek for roots.
In the tribes within 30 miles of Maryborough (Queensland), when a man died, the body was either buried, burned, placed on a stage, or eaten. When the body was eaten, the bones were collected at once. When it was burned, the teeth were collected from the ashes. When it was buried, the bones were dug up after a time. There was no rule whether a deceased person should be buried, burned, or placed on a stage; but it was considered the greatest honour to eat your friends, if they had been killed at one of the ceremonial combats.
When the body was buried, or placed on a stage, one or more fires were lighted, not only to let the spirit of the deceased warm itself, when it got out of the grave, but also to keep away spirits of dead blacks of other tribes, or of bad men of their own tribe. It showed greater affection to light more fires than one, so as to give more warmth and greater security.
The bones, after being collected and carried about for a time, were put up in trees and left there.
When a man died, his intimate friends and relations would for a time, out of respect for him, taboo certain words or invent others, and a man might for instance say, "I will not speak his language any more, but will speak another language," and would for a time use one of the neighbouring dialects. The old men would also probably taboo certain animals, saying, "He ate that animal, we will not eat it for a long time." This might last for a year, or even more.
Among the Kuinmurbura, the custom was to make a hole about a foot deep for a grave, place the body in it and cover with sticks and logs. When the flesh had decayed away, the bones were collected in a bag, called by the whites a "dilly-bag," and placed in a hollow tree.
It was said by the Kuinmurbura that the natives of the Keppel Islands at the mouth of the Fitzroy River, called the Wapio-bura, that is, of or belonging to Wapio, an island, simply lay their dead on one particular place, on one of the islands, and never touch them again. This I have not been able to verify, and record it for what it may be worth.
Great fighting-men were placed, when dead, on a stage about six feet high, until the flesh decayed, and the young men would stand underneath and rub themselves with any juice which fell from it, in order to get the strength and fighting power of the dead man. When the bones were free from flesh, they were placed in a tree.
The Wakelbura belief was that no strong black would die, unless some one had placed a spell on him. When a man died, the body was placed on a frame, lying on bark and covered with branches, all of which must be of a tree of the same class and sub-class as that to which the deceased belonged. For instance, if he were a Banbe man, then the wood, bark, and branches would be of the Broad-leaved Box-tree, that tree being also of the Banbe sub-class. Men of the Malera class, which includes both Banbe and Kurgilla, would build the stage and cover the dead body. It must be remembered that in this tribe the two class names divide the whole universe between them. This being done, the women wailed, and cut themselves with stone knives, and at later times with broken glass. The old men, after the stage was made and the body placed on it, carefully loosened the ground under it so that it was reduced to dust, on which the slightest mark or print could be seen. They then made a large fire close to the spot, and went back to the camp. The next morning a few armed blacks went to the spot, and surrounded the stage, while one going very gently on tiptoe, and kneeling down, examined the smoothed ground. If he saw nothing, he rose very cautiously, and looking round him uttered some half-stifled growls about the ghost of the dead. Then biting some grass and muttering some words to the ghost, he cast it on the fire, and after making this up, he and his companions returned to the camp. At sunset they would again visit the stage and examine the ground for marks, and this might be done for several days, until they found some mark or track on it. This they believed to have been made by the ghost of the dead man, and from the appearance of the mark or track they could tell whom it represents. For instance if the track were that of a dingo, and therefore Malera-banbe, they would soon make out who the Malera-banbe man was who had killed him. They say that a track made by a dingo could not deceive them, for it would be deeply impressed on the soil, while an impression made by the ghost would be like a shadow.
Having ascertained who had killed him, they take the body down from the stage, and breaking it up with a tomahawk, the pieces are enveloped with twigs, and enclosed within bark stripped from a sapling, and fastened by sewing opossum skin round it. The mother or sister of the deceased takes charge of it, and sometimes the remains are carried about for as long as eighteen months, until the matter has been settled by the offender being punished. Then the remains, bark covering and all, are put into some hollow tree in the country of the deceased. All the trees at the place are ring-barked where the remains are deposited, and boughs are placed in their forks. If there is no fork, they drive two stakes into the ground and heap up boughs between them.
There are exceptions to this rule, for where no large hollow tree can be found, the remains are buried in the ground, on some sandhill, the grave being filled with decayed wood, so that at any time they can remove them. Two stakes are driven into the ground at the head of the grave, and filled in with boughs of a tree, or with bushes, of the proper class.
If two blacks were out in the bush, and one of them died, the other would, if the ground were too hard to dig a grave, cover him up with earth or mud. Then he would make a big fire, ring-bark the trees in a circle, and perhaps place one or two hot coals from the fire in the dead man's ears, before he went away. If the other blacks were at a distance, say a week's or a fortnight's journey, nothing further would be done, except that at a future time they would burn the remains at the place where they were buried. The ghost of the deceased was supposed to haunt the place where he died, and to revisit his old camping-places. They believed that if his relatives were near him when he died, he would follow them, if they did not make a fire and place bushes in the forks of the trees before leaving the place, and entering into their ears would kill them. By placing bushes in the forks of the trees they think that the ghost will be induced to camp in them, and go to warm himself at the fires. The trees are blazed in a circle in order that the ghost, if trying to follow them, will go round in a circle and thus return to the spot from which he started. The coals are placed in the dead man's ears to keep the ghost in the body till his relatives get a good start away from him. They also believed that when a man died at a distance from his home, his spirit would travel towards it, and his friends, if they were going in another direction, would lay him in the grave with his face towards home. If he died in the night, they would throw a firebrand in that direction as a guide for the spirit to follow.
A peculiar belief of theirs was that right-handed men went up to the sky, while left-handed men went down under the ground. When they saw white men for the first time, they thought that they were some of the left-handed men come back again.While the remains are being carried about by the relatives, they are, when a dancing corrobboree is held, placed up against a tree, and with a red band tied round that part of the bark envelope where the head is, as if for the deceased to see the dances.
They cannot bear to hear the name of the dead mentioned, and to do so would cause violent quarrels and perhaps bloodshed.
The Dalebura sometimes bury the dead, sometimes place the body on a stage of wood, and covered with Ti-tree bark, tied on with cord. Later on, the friends return, and, having danced round the stage, bury the bones. The widow or the mother takes some of the finger bones, which she carries in her bag, especially if the deceased was a great fighting-man, or had any special virtues.
No one is believed by the tribes at the Herbert River to die from any cause but the magic of some one of a neighbouring tribe. A shallow grave is dug with pointed sticks close to water, and the father or brother of the deceased, if a man, or the husband if a woman, beat the body with a Mera or club, often so violently as to break the bones. Incisions are generally made in the stomach, on the shoulders, and in the lungs, and are filled with stones. After this, the body is placed in the grave, the knees drawn up to the chin, and laid on its side, or seated head erect. Weapons, ornaments, in fact everything which the deceased had used in life, are put with the body, the whole is covered up, and a hut is built on the top of the grave. A drinking-vessel is put inside the hut, and a path is made to the water for the spirit to use. The legs are generally broken to prevent the ghost from wandering at night. The beating is given in order to so frighten the spirit that it would be unlikely to haunt the camp, and the stones are put in the body to prevent it from going too far afield. Food and water are often put on the grave. After the burial the camp is shifted to a distance. The grave is visited and kept clean, often for years after. The spirits of the dead roam up and down for a time in the places they had frequented during life, but finally go to the Milky Way.
These burial customs not only confirm the conclusions deducible from the previous evidence, but show that the deceased might follow his kindred corporeally and injure others. Hence it is that the body is tied up tightly in its cerements and placed in a grave, blocked in some cases with wood before being filled with earth. The common practice of placing logs on the grave is, I think, not so much to prevent the ghost from getting out, as to prevent the dingoes from disinterring the body. The breaking of the bones by the Herbert River tribes is a very clear example of the precautions taken to prevent the ghost from wandering, although it is an exceptionally severe means of doing so. The practice of burying implements, ornaments, or weapons with the dead is clear proof that they are supposed to continue their lives as ghosts in the sky-land much as they had done when in the body on earth.
Beliefs in some Legendary Beings
A belief is common to all the tribes referred to, in the former existence of beings more or less human in appearance and attributes, while differing from the native race in other characteristics. Their existence, nature, and attributes are seen in the legendary tales which recount their actions.
These tales may be divided into three kinds, which roughly agree with the areas indicating the range respectively of the Lake Eyre tribes, those to the north of them, first discovered by Spencer and Gillen, and of the tribes to the south-east.
The legends of the Lake Eyre tribes are, however, not peculiar to them, but are held by those who have the same two-class system of social organisation, as far to the south as Spencer Gulf, and to the north of Lake Eyre approximately to latitude 25°.
These legends relate to the Mura-muras, who were the predecessors and prototypes of the blacks, who believe in their former and even their present existence. Their wanderings over Central Australia, the origin of the present native race and of the sacred ceremonies, are embodied in the legends and preserved by oral tradition.
As these legends, which have been carefully preserved by my fellow-worker, the Rev. Otto Siebert, are given fully in Chapter X. and the Appendix, all that I need do here is to state their purport concisely so as to show clearly the nature of the Mura-muras, who are the chief actors in them.
The Mura-mura Paralina when out hunting saw four unformed beings crouching together. He smoothed their bodies with his hands, stretched out their limbs, slit up their fingers and toes, formed a mouth, nose, and eyes, stuck ears on, and otherwise turned them into mankind.
Another legend says that in the beginning the earth opened in the middle of Lake Perigundi, and thence the totem animals came forth, one after the other. They were quite unformed, without sense organs, and they lay on the sandhills, which then as now surrounded the lake, until being revived and strengthened by the warmth of the sun, they stood up as human beings and separated, some to the north-east, some to the east, and others to the south-west and south.
Another accounts for the dispersal of the totems. The Mura-mura Mandra-mankana, having been killed by the people for his misdeeds, was brought to life by a crow, which tapped with its bill on the logs which lay on his grave. He, waking up and seeing no one near, followed the footprints of the people who had gone fishing, and were then busy driving the fish with bushes into their nets. He, keeping himself concealed in the water, and opening his mouth, swallowed water, fish, and men. Some who escaped ran off in all directions; and, as they ran, he gave to each a Murdu, that is, a totem name. In this way it came about that the totems are scattered over the country, while some are more common in one part than in another.
The next stage shown by the legends is the origin of the rites and ceremonies of circumcision and subincision. They form a very interesting series, the three first of which are versions of the same as recorded by different tribes and related by them in their ceremonies. The first belongs to the Yaurorka, the eastern Dieri, and the Yantruwunta. It tells how two Mura-mura youths were hunting for game at Perigundi, when one of them became accidentally circumcised, and saw that he had now become "a perfected man." Then his companion having also become circumcised, they performed that rite on their father with a stone knife (Tula), and set out on their wanderings, carrying it with them, and teaching people to use it instead of the fire-stick, which had caused the death of many youths.
The second belongs to the Ngameni and Karanguru, and relates the wanderings of two Mura-mura youths who, finding men about to use the fire-stick for circumcision, suddenly used their stone knife, and thus saved the boys from imminent death. Having instructed the men, who were astounded by what they saw, they wandered farther, when having become accidentally subincised, they became fully completed men.
Having conferred the use of the stone knife on mankind, they now introduced the practice of Dilpa, that is, subincision, and thus again, as the legend says, became "the benefactors of mankind."
The Dieri, who also know this legend, say that they still live, wandering far away in the north, invisible to men, but relieving the distress of others, carrying lost children to their camp, and caring for them till they are found by their friends.
The third legend belongs to the Urabunna, the Kuyani, and the southern tribes as far as Spencer Gulf. It says that two Mura-mura youths, coming from the north, travelled through the land, introducing the use of the stone knife for circumcision. After thus showing themselves in many places as life-givers, they turned back northwards, and at Lake Eyre one went to the west, and the other to the east and then to the north, taking everywhere the Tula and introducing its use. Thus they still wander, showing themselves at times as living and as life-givers.
Another legend of two Mura-mura youths, the Yuri-ulu, belongs to the Wonkanguru, and relates partly to the circumcision ceremony, and partly to their wanderings to the north-westward, where in the mountains they passed through the edge of the sky, which rested on the earth, into another country. There both of them died, according to this legend; but returning to life, they called to their father, with the voice of thunder, that they had died in a strange land. The Yuri-ulu are the stars Castor and Pollux.
Other legends of these tribes relate to the wanderings of the Mura-muras over a large part of Australia north and south of Lake Eyre, either in connection with certain of their food ceremonies, or for other purposes, or to explain the origin of things which to the aborigines seem to require explanation.
The wanderings of the Mura-mura Makatakaba, are told by a Wonkanguru legend. He was nearly blind, but recovered his sight by seeing a distant fire which his daughters had observed when out with their mother gathering seeds for food. Leaving them behind, he went forth on his wanderings, singing a song into which he wove all that he saw. At length he reached a great water, on the shores of which he gathered glowing coals from a fire which had sprung up by itself. Thence he wandered back southwards, still making his song, until he reached the Macumba country, where, being ridiculed by the people, he destroyed them by a fire which he lighted with the coals carried in his bag. Meanwhile his wife and daughters were carried away by a whirlwind, farther and farther to the north, until they were finally overwhelmed with sand. The account of his wanderings suggests that the great water which he met with was the Gulf of Carpentaria, which lies about 700 miles to the north-east of the Wonkanguru country.One of the most remarkable of these legends is that of the Pirha-malkara. It is one of those about which songs are sung at the ceremonies of circumcision, and it relates to the wanderings of the Mankara-waka and the Mankara-pirna, two parties of young women, the younger and the elder. The legend is divided into two parts: the first belongs to the Urabunna, Tirari, Dieri, and other tribes, and the second to the Wonkanguru.
The legend recounts their adventures, and gives the reasons for the names they gave to the places at which they halted or camped. It traces them to a place on the east side of Lake Eyre round its southern end, and to some place on the north-east side apparently in the Wonkanguru country.
A second legend gives the wanderings of the young women to a place where they met a similar party of Wonka-mala girls, who therefore must have come southwards, from about two hundred miles north of Lake Eyre.
The two parties having joined, they wandered still farther to the north, until they reached a vast sheet of water, with high waves. Following its shore, they came to a steep hill, at which some of them turned back. These came upon a number of men engaged on a Wodampa ceremony, who being enraged that the girls should have seen what was not lawful for them to see, strangled them all. Meanwhile the others, being stopped by the steep hill, which they could not pass, the eldest one struck it with her Wona, or staff, and as it opened, they danced through the opening, and came to a place where Ankuritcha, an ancient man, was sitting on the ground, twisting cord, in front of his camp. They seated themselves near him, and as he listened to them, with his ear turned to the sky, Arawotya, who lives there, let down a long hair cord, and drew them up to himself.
The Mankara-waka are the Pleiades, and Orion's Belt is the group of the Mankara-pirna. All that is known of Arawotya is that he once wandered over the earth, and that he made the deep springs of water which rise here and there in otherwise waterless districts of north-western Queensland.
As in the legend of the Mura-mura Makatakaba, it is not easy to say what the great sheet of water can be, unless it is the Gulf of Carpentaria, which is nearer to the Wonka-mala country than that of the Wonkanguru. Northern tribes-people who came to the Minkani ceremonies would meet Dieri, and thus made known to them facts as to the geography of parts still farther to the north. At any rate, there is no sheet of water which would strike the Lake Eyre tribes as remarkable between their country and the sea.
Besides these legends, there are others which relate to the ceremonies by which it is sought to produce a supply of food, animal and vegetable, on which the native tribes depend for their subsistence; and these legends relate how, for instance, the ceremonies for producing a crop of lizards and carpet-snakes originated.
One of the most interesting legends is that of the Mura-mura Minkani. It is a Yantruwunta legend, also held by the Yaurorka and Dieri. It tells how a Mura-mura, called Anti-etya, went away to a place now known as Farrar's Creek, where he lived in a cave in a sandhill, and became the Mura-mura Minkani. It says that while he burrowed deeper and deeper in the sandhill, presents were carried from him to Andrutampana, another Mura-mura in the north, on the understanding that after his death the sacred song of each should be combined. These songs are sung at the cave of the Mura-mura Minkani elsewhere described.
The other legends given in the Appendix show that the lives and customs of those mythical people were similar to, and indeed identical in most points with, those of the native tribes who believe in them.
As perhaps indicating a stage in culture, there is a Dieri legend, relating how the existing marriage rules, based on the totemic restrictions, were instituted, and with this it is necessary to consider what has been called the "Murdu legend" of Mr. S. Gason. In the course of my inquiries as to the Dieri traditions, I became doubtful as to whether Mr. Gason's Murdu legend might be taken to actually give the belief in a "good spirit" called Mura-mura as held by the Dieri. I therefore requested Mr. Siebert to investigate this question, the result being the mass of legends which are now rescued from oblivion.
The following is Mr. Gason's legend, which was quoted by Dr. Lorimer Fison and myself in our work, Kamilaroi and Kurnai, in 1880:—
"After the creation brothers, sisters, and others of the nearest kin intermarried promiscuously, until the evil effects of the alliances becoming manifest, a council of the chiefs was assembled to consider in what way they might be averted, the result of their deliberations being a petition to the Mura-mura (good spirit), in answer to which he ordered that the tribe should be divided into branches, and distinguished one from another by different names, after objects animate and inanimate, such as dogs, mice, emu, rain, iguana, and so forth; the members of any such branch not to intermarry, but with permission for one branch to mingle with another."
It is much to be regretted that Mr. Gason did not give his legend, as nearly as possible, in the words of his informants, rather than in the above anglicised version.
The other version which we have obtained is as follows: "The several families of Murdus married in themselves without shame. This occasioned great confusion, and sexual disorder became predominant. The Pinnarus (elders) observing this, came together to consider how these evils might be avoided. They agreed that the families should be divided, and that no member of a segment should marry within it. In accordance with this it was ordered that 'Yidni padi madu (murdu) wapanai kaualka kuraterila, yidni kaualka wapanai warugatti kuraterila, etc.' That is, 'Thou grub totem, go to produce crow; thou crow totem, go to produce emu, etc.,' and so on for the other totems."
These two legends differ in a very material matter. That of Mr. Gason says that the Murdus were established for the purpose of regulating marriage, while that of Mr. Siebert says that the Murdu families existed, but that they married within themselves, and that the evils which were experienced therefrom were avoided by establishing what was, in fact, exogamy. By it marriage, which pre-existed, was regulated, and this was done by the Pinnarus, not by the order of a Mura-mura, but by their own will. If we accept this as having been done in the Mura-mura times, then both legends are, to a certain extent, reconciled, for the Pinnarus then were the Mura-muras.
It seems to me that this view not only falls into line with the general conclusions which may be drawn from all the legends given here regarding the beliefs of the Lake Eyre tribes, and the sequence of the several stages of their social evolution, but also with conclusions which have been drawn by Spencer and Gillen from the analogous legends of the Arunta tribes.
It seems to me that these legends may be taken to be not merely mythical, but rather dim records of former events, such as the wanderings of the early Australians, dressed in a mythic garb, and handed down from generation to generation, from father to son, in the sacred ceremonies. After observing the reverence with which the blacks hear such legends, I can see plainly how true their feeling is when they say to a question, "Why do you do such or such a thing?" "Our fathers told us to do so."
The legends show what the Mura-muras are supposed to have been. At the present time they are said to inhabit trees, which are, therefore, sacred. It is the medicine-men alone who are able to see them, and from them they obtain their magical powers.
Some of these legends identify natural features of the country with the Mura-muras; for instance, the thermal springs near Lake Eyre with the Mura-mura Kakakudana, and certain petrifactions to the south-east of Lake Eyre where some Mura-mura women were turned into stone. Professor Baldwin Spencer has told me that the equivalents of the Mura-muras occur with the Urabunna, and the places are pointed out where they died and where their spirits still are. One of these places is shown in the accompanying illustration of a mass of rocks which are said to be the spot where some Pigeon ancestors went into the ground.
This evidently connects the Mura-mura beliefs of the Dieri with the Alcheringa beliefs of the Arunta. So far, however, I have not been able to find that the Dieri have the Arunta belief in the reincarnation of the ancestor, nor have I found any trace of it in the tribes of South-east Australia.
For comparison with the Mura-mura beliefs, I quotefrom Spencer and Gillen a few comprehensive passages descriptive of the beliefs of the tribes of which the Arunta are the representatives (type).
The Alcheringa is the name applied to the far-distant past, with which the earliest traditions of the Arunta tribe deal, and in the Alcheringa lived ancestors who, in the native mind, are so intimately associated with the animals and plants the name of which they bear, that an Alcheringa man of, say, the kangaroo totem, may be sometimes spoken of either as man-kangaroo, or as a kangaroo-man.
Going back to this far-away time, we find ourselves in
FIG. 27.—PIGEON ROCK, URABUNNA TRIBE.
The rocks are supposed to be full of pigeon spirit individuals left behind by the ancestor of the pigeon totem group. The spirits are called Mai-aurli (or Mura-mura) by the Urabunna.
the midst of semi-human creatures endowed with powers not possessed by their living descendants, and inhabiting the country which is now inhabited by the tribe. The traditions recognise four more or less distant periods in the Alcheringa. During the first of these, men and women were created; in the second, the rite of circumcision by means of the stone knife, in place of the fire-stick, was introduced; in the third, the rite of Arilta, or subincision was brought in; and in the fourth, the present organisation and marriage system.
Every individual is supposed to be the reincarnation of an Alcheringa being, or, in other words, one of the ancestors. Thus one of the most remarkable features in the beliefs of the Arunta is that of the existence of spirit-ancestors who become reincarnate by entering some woman, and are again born under their original totem names.
The Yerkla-mining believe in the existence of an evil-disposed being called Burga who can harm them unseen. He is white in colour, and is always lurking about with intent to do harm, and may be met anywhere at night or after sunset.
One of my correspondents, hearing that the oldest Mobungbai had, as the blacks express it in their "pidgin English," "fought the devil," went out to see the place in the Mallee scrub, on the top of the cliffs. He found a small open space where the ground was torn up, and tufts of grass torn up by the roots. The place looked as if fifty natives had been at battle, but the tracks and footprints were all evidently made by the same person. The Mobungbai who had fought was very ill and quite exhausted for some days afterwards. These men professed to learn from dreams when and where the other people arc to hunt, travel, or visit, etc. They surround their lives with as much mystery as possible.
I take the beliefs of the native tribes of Victoria as representing those of the tribes of South-east Australia.
The Wotjobaluk account of the creation of man says that long ago Ngunung-ngunnut, the bat, who was a man, lived on the earth, and there were others like him, but there was no difference between the sexes. Feeling lonely, he wished for a wife, and he altered himself and one other, so that he was the man and the other was the woman. Then he made fire by rubbing a stick on a log of wood.
According to the Wurunjerri, it was Bunjil who made men of clay and imparted life to them, while his brother, Pallina, the bat, brought women up out of the water to be their wives.
According to the Yuin, the eastern neighbours of the Kurnai, before there were men there were creatures somewhat like human beings, but without members. Muraurai, the Emu-wren, turned them into men and women by splitting their legs, separating the arms from the sides, and slitting up their fingers, and otherwise perfecting them.
A legend of the Wotjobaluk tells of the wanderings of the two Bram-bram-gal in search of Doan, the flying-squirrel, who had been killed and eaten by Wembulin, the so-called Tarantula. It tells of their adventures, and of the naming of the places where these occurred, until the younger of the brothers died. Then the elder shaped part of a tree in the form of a man, and by his magic caused it to become alive, and to call him elder brother. United once more, the two Bram-bram-gal travelled far to the west, where they lived in a cavern; but no one knows where they then went to.
The Wurunjerri legend of Lohan is, that when he was cooking eels at the Yarra River he observed a swan's feather carried by the south wind. Walking in that direction, he at length came to Westernport Bay, where the swans lived. There he remained till they migrated to the east, and he followed them. Coming to Corner Inlet, he made his home in the mountains of Wilson's Promontory, and watched over the welfare of the people who followed him.
Although the Kurnai had no legend of the migration of Lohan, they also believed that he lived in the mountains of Wilson's Promontory, with his wife Lohan-tuka. The Brataua clan, in whose country his home is, said that their old men had seen him from time to time marching over the mountains with his great jag-spear over his shoulder. They also believed that he watched over them, and that he caused their country to be deadly to strangers. It was therefore to him that they attributed the taboo which protected them against the visits of other tribes, from the eastern extremes of Gippsland to the lower Murray River.There is a legend that the first Kurnai man marched across the country from the north-west, bearing on his head a bark canoe in which was his wife Tuk, that is the Musk-duck, he being Borun, the Pelican.
The sacred legends of these tribes which are connected with the ceremonies of initiation attribute their institution to a great supernatural being, called among the Wurunjerri, Bunjil, and not to origins such as are attributed to them by the tribes of Central Australia. This is a very marked feature, which will be enlarged upon later.
A Kurnai tale tells how the supernatural being called Bullum-baukan stole the fire of the early Kurnai. Narugul, the Crow, and Ngarang, the Swamp-hawk, having recovered it, Bullum-baukan ascended to the sky by climbing up a cord made of the sinews of the red wallaby.
Another legend shows the composite nature of the actors, other than Bunjil. Karwin, the Blue Heron, who had been fishing, met two young men, and having given them some of his fish, which they ate, they went to sleep by the fire. He then by his magic caused a log of wood to rise upon end, and fall on to the young men, and kill them. Then Bunjil for this, and also because he had not given food to his wife, fought with him and speared him through the thigh so that his legs shrivelled up and became very thin, and always hang down when he flies.
This composite character of the actors in the legendary tales is shown by the Kurnai tales, of which the following is an example.
There was a great flood which covered the land, and drowned the people, excepting a man and two women. Bunjil Borun, the Pelican, came by in his canoe, and took the man across to the mainland, then one woman, leaving the better-looking one to the last. She, being frightened, swam over to the land, having placed a log rolled up in her rug by the fire as if she were there asleep. Bunjil Borun discovering this, when he returned, became very much enraged and began to paint himself ready for fighting with the man whose wife had played him this trick. While he was doing this another pelican came up, and seeing a queer-looking creature, half-black and half-white, struck at it with his beak and killed Bunjil Borun.
Such tales as these might be multiplied indefinitely, from the tribes of South-east Australia, but what I have given will show their character, and serve for a comparison with those from Central Australia. As to the actual character of these half-human, half-animal actors of the tales, something may be said, and perhaps the best example is that of the Kurnai.
With them certain animals, birds, and reptiles have each its own individual name, but all are known collectively as Muk-jiak, that is, "excellent flesh" (or meat); while other creatures used for food are merely Jiak. Now in all these tales, in which a bird-man or reptile-man or animal-man takes part, in a twofold character, it is a Muk-kurnai. This may be translated as "eminent man or men," the Kurnai of the legend being thus distinguished from the Kurnai of the present time. The whole term may be fairly interpreted as "eminent ancestors," for they were not only the predecessors of the tribe, but also in one sense the Wehntwin, that is, the Grandfathers. It may be added that there are not only Muk-kurnai but also Muk-rukut (Rukut being woman). The Kurnai say that the bird Leatherhead is appropriately placed among the Muk-rukut, because it is continually chattering. The Muk-kurnai and the Muk-jiak animals are therefore the same as the ancestors, and a suggestion naturally arises that these latter were also the totems.
The Mura-muras, Alcheringa ancestors, and Muk-kurnai are all on somewhat the same level, while the tribal All-father as represented by Mungan-ngaua belongs to a distinctly higher level of mental development.
The three types of belief represented by the Alcheringa ancestors, the Mura-muras and the Muk-kurnai have certain features in common. They recognise a primitive time before man existed, and when the earth was inhabited by beings, the prototypes of, but more powerful in magic, than the native tribes. Those beings, if they did not create man, at least perfected him from some unformed and scarcely human creatures. Although this appears when one looks at the subject broadly, there are yet differences which distinguish the several types of belief from each other. In the legendary tales of South-east Australia the actors are either of the composite human and animal natures, or entirely human, like Bunjil or Baiame. With the Lake Eyre tribes they are almost entirely human as Mura-muras, and only in rarer cases are they of the composite character, as in the legend of the Mura-muras who became emus, or the tale of Pirinti and Kapiri where they are almost completely animal. But the principal difference lies in this absence among the native tribes of Central Australia of a belief in a tribal All-father, which I shall consider in the following section.
The Tribal All-father
Altogether apart from the Mura-muras, Alcheringa ancestors, or the Muk-kurnai is the supernatural anthropomorphic being in whom the tribes of the south-east of Australia believe, under different names. In the chapter on the initiation ceremonies I describe the manner in which the sacred beliefs are imparted to the novices, and I shall now record what may be gathered therefrom, and also from statements recorded by various writers bearing on this belief.
In doing this I commence with the Narrinyeri, as the most western tribe in which I find the belief exists.
According to Taplin, the Narrinyeri "call the Supreme Being by the names Nurrundere and Martummere. He is said to have made all things on the earth, and to have given to men the weapons of war and hunting, and to have instituted all the rites and ceremonies which are practised by the aborigines, whether connected with life or death. On inquiring why they adhere to any custom, the reply is Nurrundere commanded it. Nurrundere went to Wyirra-warre, taking his children with him."
Wyirra-warre is said to be the sky, and Taplin says: "The Narrinyeri always mention his name with reverence. I never heard them use it lightly or with levity." In speaking of a great kangaroo hunt at which 150 natives were present, he says: "On reaching the hunting-ground, a wallaby, which had been killed on the road thither, was produced, and a fire kindled by the women. Then the men standing round, struck up a sort of chant, at the same time stamping with their feet. The wallaby was put on the fire, and as the smoke from it ascended, the hunters, at a concerted signal, rushed towards it, lifting their weapons towards heaven. I afterwards learned that this ceremony was instituted by Nurrundere."
This description exactly recalls to me the action of the men at the commencement of the Bunan ceremonies, when they point to the sky with their weapons or the boughs they hold, as indicating the great Biamban, whose name it is not lawful to mention excepting at the ceremonies, and when only initiated persons are present.
The Wiimbaio spoke of Nurelli with the greatest reverence. He was said to have made the whole country, with the rivers, trees, and animals. He gave to the blacks their laws, and finally ascended to the sky, where they pointed him out as one of the constellations. He is said to have had two wives, to have carried two spears, and his place of ascension is pointed out as at Lake Victoria.
In the tribes of South-west Victoria Nurelli is replaced by a being, who, according to Dawson, is the good spirit Pirnmeheeal, who is a gigantic man, living above the clouds; and, as he is of a kindly disposition and harms no one, he is seldom mentioned, but always with respect.
The Wotjobaluk spoke of Bunjil as a great man, who was once on the earth, but is now in the sky. His wives were two sisters Ganawarra (Black Swan). A brother of Bunjil was Djurt, who is now a star near to him. I am in doubt as to which star is Bunjil, for the one pointed out to me was Fomalhaut, but elsewhere in Victoria among the Kulin it is Altair. Yet Dawson, in speaking of the south-western tribes, gives among the stars "Fomalhaut, Bunjil."
The Wotjobaluk also spoke of Bunjil as Mami-ngorak, that is, "our father," and said that he is in some place beyond the Wurra-wurra, or sky. This place is said to be also beyond the Wurk-kerim, or dark place, which the medicine-men told them "is like a mountain." My informants, who did not belong to the medicine-man calling, said further that the Bangal (medicine-men) told them that they were met at the Wurk-kerim by another being called Gargomitch, who leaving them there went to where Mami-ngorak is and brought back to them his answer to their inquiries.
I feel that it is well that I should guard myself against any misconception as to the real meaning of the expression "our father." Taking the Kurnai case as an example, the term used is Mungan, that being the relation of a man and of all his brothers to his child. It is a group relationship, and further it includes all those who were made Jeraeil at the same ceremonies. As to this, I was Jeraeil with the before-mentioned Tulaba, he being therefore my Bramung, or younger brother. Consequently I was also in the relation of Mungan to his son. It happened that I did not see the latter for some ten or fifteen years, and when we met, he came forward, with his eyes cast down toward the ground, and with his hand raised to his mouth, and said in a low tone, with great reverence, "Mungan! Mungan!" There was, however, more in this than a mere salutation to one of his kindred. As one of the leaders in the Jeraeil, at which he was present, I was, so to say, in the position of one of the Gweraeil-kurnai, or Great Men, whom, independently of any group relationship, he would have addressed as he did me, by saying with reverence "Mungan! Mungan!" that is, Father! Father!
Now this is precisely the position in which the tribes-people stand to Bunjil, Daramulun, Baiame, and Mungan- ngaua, who are all spoken of as "father"; while the last has no other name than "Father of all of us." It is necessary to guard carefully against such a feeling toward Mungan-ngaua as is embodied in our expression "Our Father in heaven." Mungan-ngaua is the Headman in the sky-country, the analogue of the Headman of the tribe on the earth.
In the Wotjobaluk tribe, which had not any initiation ceremonies of the Bora type, the medicine-men evidently kept to themselves certain beliefs as to Mami-ngorak, just as the initiated men keep the beliefs as to Mungan-ngaua, Daramulun, or Baiame from the uninitiated.
All that I know of the beliefs of the Mukjarawaint is that Bunjil was once a man who was the father of all the people, and that he was good and did no harm to any one. I may mention here as in one sense belonging to this part of my subject, that one of the Mukjarawaint said that at one time there was a figure of Bunjil and his dog painted in a small cave behind a large rock in the Black Range near Stawell, but I have not seen it, nor have I heard of any one having seen it.
The following are the beliefs of the Kulin as they appear in their legends, and from the statements of surviving Wurunjerri to me. Bunjil, as represented by them, seems to be an old man, the benign Ngurungaeta or Headman of the tribe, with his two wives, who were Ganawarra (Black Swan), and his son Binbeal, the rainbow, whose wife was the second rainbow which is sometimes visible. Bunjil taught the Kulin the arts of life, and one legend states that in that time the Kulin married without any regard for kinship. Two medicine-men (Wirrarap) went up to him in the Tharangalk-bek, and he said in reply to their request that the Kulin should divide themselves into two parts—"Bunjil on this side and Waang on that side, and Bunjil should marry Waang, and Waang marry Bunjil."
Another legend relates that he finally went up to the sky-land with all his people (the legend says his "sons") in a whirlwind, which Bellin-bellin (the Musk-crow) let out of his skin bag at his order. There, as the old men instructed the boys, he still remains, looking down on the Kulin. A significant instance of this belief is that Berak, when a boy, "before his whiskers grew," was taken by his Kangun (mother's brother) out of the camp at night, who, pointing to the star Altair with his spear-thrower, said: "See! that one is Bunjil; you see him, and he sees you." This was before Batman settled on the banks of the Yarra River, and is conclusive as to the primitive character of this belief.
One of the legends about Bunjil in the Woëworung tribe is perpetuated in a corrobboree which was witnessed in the early forties by Richard Howitt. The legend is that Bunjil held out his hand to the sun (Gerer) and warmed it, and the sun warmed the earth, which opened, and blackfellows came out and danced this corrobboree, which is called Gayip. At it images curiously carved in bark were exhibited.
Usually Bunjil was spoken of as Mami-ngata, that is, "Our Father," instead of by the other name Bunjil.
It is a striking phase in the legends about him that the human element preponderates over the animal element. In fact, I cannot see any trace of the latter in him, for he is in all cases the old blackfellow, and not the eagle-hawk, which his name denotes; while another actor may be the kangaroo, the spiny ant-eater, or the crane, and as much animal as human.
Protector Thomas and Protector Parker, who had much knowledge of the Kulin tribes, give some particulars of their beliefs as to Bunjil which are worth quoting. Bunjil was the maker of the earth, trees, and men, and his name exists in the language as the term for wisdom or knowledge.
Among the Kurnai, under the influence of the initiation ceremonies, the knowledge of the being who is the equivalent of Bunjil is almost entirely restricted to the initiated men. The old women know that there is a supernatural being in the sky, but only as Mungan-ngaua, "our father." It is only at the last and the most secret part of the ceremonies that the novices are made aware of the teachings as to Mungan-ngaua, and this is the only name for this being used by the Kurnai. They are told that long ago he lived on the earth, and taught the Kurnai of that time to make implements, nets, canoes, weapons—in fact, everything that they know. He also gave them the names they have from their ancestors. For instance, Tulaba received his when he was made Jeraeil, it being the name which had belonged to his maternal grandmother's brother. Mungan-ngaua had a son named Tundun, who was married, and who is the direct ancestor of the Kurnai, their Weintwin, or father's father. Mungan-ngaua instituted the Jeraeil, which was conducted by Tundun, who made the instruments bearing the names of himself and his wife. When some one impiously revealed the secrets of the Jeraeil to women, and thereby brought the anger of Mungan-ngaua on the Kurnai, he sent his fire, the Aurora Australis, which filled the whole space between the earth and the sky. Men went mad with fear, and speared each other, fathers killing their children, husbands their wives, and brethren each other. Then the sea rushed over the land and nearly all mankind was drowned. Those who survived became the Muk-kurnai. Some turned into animals, birds, reptiles, fishes, and Tundun and his wife became porpoises. Mungan left the earth, and ascended to the sky where he still remains.
All that I can say as to the beliefs of the Theddora is from what an old woman, one of the sole survivors of that tribe, said. When I asked her if she knew who Daramulun was, she answered: "All that I know of Tharamulun is that he comes down with a noise like thunder, to make the boys into men. We call him Papang." The word Papang is "father."
In the tribes down the course of the Murray River, starting from the Wiradjuri, there is, according to Mr. A. L. P. Cameron, a belief "in a deity," or, as he afterwards says, "perhaps a supreme supernatural being." The Wathi- wathi called him Tha-tha-puli, and the Ta-tathi Tulong. They say that he came from the far north, and now lives in the sky. He told each tribe which language they were to speak. He made men, women, and dogs, and the latter used to talk, but he took the power of speech from them. According to the Wathi-wathi, it was Tha-tha-pulli who changed the Bookoomurri (the primitive beings) into animals. Another legend says that they transformed themselves, and that as animals they felt an interest in the new race of human beings which Tha-tha-pulli created after their change.
The conception of Baiame may be seen from Ridley's statements, and so far as I now quote them, may be accepted as sufficiently accurate. I have omitted the colouring which appears to be derived from his mental bias as a missionary to blacks. He says that Baiame is the name in Kamilaroi of the maker (from Biai, "to make or build") who created and preserves all things. Generally invisible, he has, they believe, appeared in human form, and has bestowed on their race various gifts.
The following is the statement of one of the early settlers in the Kamilaroi country, and, I think, gives the aboriginal idea of Baiame free from any tinge derived from our beliefs. If you ask a Kamilaroi man "Who made that?" referring to something, he replies, "Baiame deah," that is, "Baiame, I suppose." It is said that Baiame came from the westward long ago to Golarinbri on the Barwon, and stayed there four or five days, when he went away to the eastward with his two wives. They believe that some time he will return again.
In proceeding with this branch of my subject I must turn from the inland to the coast tribes, recommencing with the Coast Murring.
The belief in Daramulun, the "father," and Biamban, or "master," is common to all of the tribes who attend the Yuin Kuringal. I have described them at length in Chapter IX., and may now summarise the teachings of the ceremonies. Long ago Daramulun lived on the earth with his mother Ngalalbal. Originally the earth was bare and "like the sky, as hard as a stone," and the land extended far out where the sea is now. There were no men or women, but only animals, birds, and reptiles. He placed trees on the earth. After Kaboka, the thrush, had caused a great flood on the earth, which covered all the coast country, there were no people left, excepting some who crawled out of the water on to Mount Dromedary. Then Daramulun went up to the sky, where he lives and watches the actions of men. It was he who first made the Kuringal and the bull-roarer, the sound of which represents his voice. He told the Yuin what to do, and he gave them the laws which the old people have handed down from father to son to this time. He gives the Gommeras their power to use the Joïas, and other magic. When a man dies and his Tulugal (spirit) goes away, it is Daramulun who meets it and takes care of it. It is a man's shadow which goes up to Daramulun.
Such are the beliefs which are taught at the Yuin Kuringal, and as the Ngarigo attended these ceremonies it is not surprising that they believed the same. The following is the statement of a very intelligent old man of that tribe which I took down as he said it: "Tharamulun once lived on the earth, where he taught the Murring what to do. He gave them the Kuringal and told them what food to eat. When he died and was put in the ground, his Bula-bong (spirit, ghost) went up to the Kulumbi (sky). Women know of his existence, but only speak of him as Pabang (father). It is only when a young man has his tooth knocked out that the name of Tharamulun is told to him. Tharamulun can see people, and is very angry when they do things that they ought not to do, as when they eat forbidden food." This account speaks of him as a man whose spirit or ghost went up to the sky, while the usual statement is that he went up in the flesh as one of the Gommeras, or medicine-men, might do.These beliefs extend along the coast, to my knowledge at least as far as the Shoalhaven River, and, according to the old men who were with me at their Kuringal, as far as Newcastle.
My information as to the tribes farther north along the coast is very fragmentary. My valued correspondent the late Dr. M'Kinlay, speaking of a time as far back as the year 1830, said that "they believed in evil spirits who disported themselves in the night, but also in a master spirit, in some unknown habitat, who ruled their destinies." He said that he did not know his name, but that they often pointed upwards as indicating his whereabouts. He it was who settled them in their country, apportioned them their hunting-grounds, gave them their laws and instituted the Boombat. This shows me clearly that they told him as much as was lawful to tell to an uninitiated man, to one who was not Boombat, for that is their name for an initiated person as well as for the ceremonies. The blacks of Port Stephens, who were of the same great tribal community as those at Dungog, believed in an "evil being, Coen" who could take the form of birds, and possibly of animals. Any mysterious noise at night was attributed to Coen, and they never travelled at night without a fire-stick to keep him off.
In this connection it is worth noticing what Dawson says about Coen, when writing about the time when he was at Port Stephens, before the year 1830. "They are afraid of Coen, an evil spirit of the woods, which they say "Crammer (steals) blackfellow when Nangry (asleep), in bush." Speaking of a thunder-storm, he says, "I could, however, learn nothing from them, except that it was Coen who was very angry, and was come to frighten them; but of the origin or motives of Coen I could not now, more than upon former occasions, get any other explanation than that he was in form a blackman, and an evil being who delighted in tormenting and carrying them away when he could get opportunities."
Some further light is thrown on Coen by what Threlkeld says in his work on the language spoken at Lake Macquarie.
"Koin is an imaginary male being, who has now, and has always had, the appearance of a black; he resides in thick bushes or jungles; he is seen occasionally by day, but mostly at night. In general he precedes the coming of natives from distant parts, when they assemble to celebrate certain of their ceremonies, as the knocking out of the teeth in the mystic ring, or when they are performing some dance. He appears painted with pipe-clay, and carries a fire-stick in his hand; but generally it is the doctors (a kind of magician), who alone perceive him, and to whom he says, 'Fear not, come and talk.' At other times he comes when the blacks are asleep, and takes them up, as an eagle his prey, and carries them away for a time. The shout of the surrounding party often makes him drop his burden; otherwise he conveys them to his fireplace in the bush, where he deposits his load close to the fire. The person carried off tries to cry out, but cannot, feeling almost choked; at daylight Koin disappears, and the black finds himself conveyed safely to his own fireside."
This shows clearly that Koin is the equivalent of Baiame or Daramulun, and that Threlkeld repeats what the initiated blacks told him, as one of the uninitiated. It is very characteristic, and not less significant of the relative positions of the blacks and the missionaries, that even Threlkeld, who had aquired their full confidence, knew so little, while he was yet on such intimate terms with Biraban, the account of whom shows that he must have been one of the initiated, and able, had it been lawful for him to do so, to have given Threlkeld a full description, not only of the real attributes of Koin, but also of the ceremonies to which he "precedes the coming of natives." I have no doubt that Koin is the equivalent of Daramulun, for he holds the place in the ceremonies which the latter has in the tribes farther south along the coast; and moreover the old men of the Yuin told me that their ceremonies extended up the coast as far as Newcastle, which is the same as saying that they extended to Lake Macquarie.
There is a long extent of coast between the Port Stephens blacks and those who are known to me as the Chepara tribe. They believed in a supernatural being whom they called Maamba, who was supposed to be "in the Bugerum, that is, in the medicine-man, who at their ceremonies is raised almost to frenzy, much as are the Gommeras at the magical dances of the Kuringal.
In the tribes about Maryborough (Q.), Birral was the name of the supernatural being who lived in an island farther north, to which place he directs their ghosts after death. That is to say, the ghosts of those who are good, or those who have some high degree of excellence in any particular line, fishing, hunting, fighting, dancing, and such like. This is all that I have been able to learn about Birral; but it suggests that he may be the supernatural being spoken of in connection with the ceremonies of initiation. This perhaps is strengthened by what I have learned of the beliefs at the Herbert River, still farther to the north along the coast.
In these tribes there is a striking belief in a supernatural being called Kohin. He is said to have his dwelling in the Milky Way (Kuling), but to roam about by night on earth as a gigantic warrior, who kills those whom he meets. He can at will make himself invisible. He sends thunder and lightning, and the blacks talk to him during the storm, and spit and put up their hand towards the sky, as if to ward off the lightning. When the frogs are croaking, it is said that they are calling on him to send the rain. It is said that Kohin is offended by any one taking a wife from the prohibited sub-class, or not wearing the mourning necklace for the prescribed period, or eating forbidden food. Such offences bring on the offender Kohin's anger, and sooner or later the person dies in consequence. Kohin came long ago down from Kuling, and appeared to their fathers as a carpet-snake. He said that where he came from was a good land and in it a vast river full of splendid fish. He had two Tikovinas with him, which he presented to the tribe, and told them that if they were good men and wore them, they would not be killed in fight, and that they could fly. Two men tried it, and succeeded in going from tree to tree as the flying-squirrels do. Afterwards, becoming more expert, they flew from mountain to mountain. He then told them to get two large bags filled with gum-tree leaves, and to start for the Milky Way. This they did, and confirmed all that Kohin had said. One returned, but the other refused to leave such good quarters, and sent his Tikovina by the other. Kohin, who had remained on the Herbert while the two were absent, and had cured some old women of sores and had made them young again, now went away, leaving
the two Tikovinas with the tribe, telling them that when he sent another, marked red in the centre, they would have all to go to Kuling, and live there.
The Tikovina is a flat thin piece of soft wood cut from the north Queensland fig-tree. It is about a foot long, by about three or four inches wide, brought gradually to a point at the bottom, while the top is cut in the rude representation of a man's face with mouth and eyes. It is painted all over the front red and black with human blood and clay. As a sort of war-charm it is worn round the neck of a warrior, and hangs down between the shoulders behind, showing that the wearer means fighting, and that he will not miss with his club, spear, and boomerang, while the weapons of his adversary will glance aside from him. It is kept hidden away from women and children, who seem afraid of it.
As my authority for these statements put it to me, Kohin seems to these blacks to be a glorified and deified blackfellow, and they speak of him to those in whom they have confidence as their father.
It seems quite clear that Nurrundere, Nurelli, Bunjil, Mungan-ngaua, Daramulun, and Baianie all represent the same being under different names. To this may be reasonably added Koin of the Lake Macquarie tribes, Maamba, Birral, and Kohin of those on the Herbert River, thus extending the range of this belief certainly over the whole of Victoria and of New South Wales, up to the eastern boundaries of the tribes of the Darling River. If the Queensland coast tribes are included, then the western bounds might be indicated by a line drawn from the mouth of the Murray River to Cardwell, including the Great Dividing Range, with some of the fall inland in New South Wales. This would define the part of Australia in which a belief exists in an anthropomorphic supernatural being, who lives in the sky, and who is supposed to have some kind of influence on the morals of the natives. No such belief seems to obtain in the remainder of Australia, although there are indications of a belief in anthropomorphic beings inhabiting the sky-land. That part of Australia which I have indicated as the habitat of tribes having that belief is also the area where there has been the advance from group marriage to individual marriage, from descent in the female line to that in the male line; where the primitive organisation under the class system has been more or less replaced by an organisation based on locality; in fact, where those advances have been made to which I have more than once drawn attention in this work.
This supernatural being, by whatever name he is known, is represented as having at one time dwelt on the earth, but afterwards to have ascended to a land beyond the sky, where he still remains, observing mankind. As Daramulun, he is said to be able to "go anywhere and do anything." He can be invisible; but when he makes himself visible, it is in the form of an old man of the Australian race. He is evidently everlasting, for he existed from the beginning of all things, and he still lives. But in being so, he is merely in that state in which, these aborigines believe, every one would be if not prematurely killed by evil magic.
Combining the statements of the legends and the teachings of the ceremonies, I see, as the embodied idea, a venerable kindly Headman of a tribe, full of knowledge and tribal wisdom, and all-powerful in magic, of which he is the source, with virtues, failings, and passions, such as the aborigines regard them.
Such, I think, they picture the All-father to be, and it is most difficult for one of us to divest himself of the tendency to endow such a supernatural being with a nature quasi-divine, if not altogether so—divine nature and character.
The earliest instance of this tendency which I have met with is in an interesting paper by Mr. James Manning, in which he reproduces notes written in the years 1844-1845, and mainly taken from the most intelligent of those natives who frequented his home in the bush at that time. He says that he afterwards met with fresh confirmation of the beliefs of the blacks in "a supreme being or Deity," in all parts of New South Wales, in Victoria as far as the Grampians, and in Queensland as far as Rockhampton.
To show what, according to his statements, these beliefs were, I now quote such parts of his account, which, allowing for the medium of transmission, coincide with those which I know to be held by the aborigines in most of the area indicated by him. It is well also to preface this by what he says as to possible missionary preachings, on which Mr. E. M. Curr has laid much stress in speaking of these beliefs. Mr. Manning says, "For the first four or five years or more, of that earliest time" (that is of ten years before he made the notes), "there was no church south of the little one at Bong-bong at Mittagong. The cities and towns of Goulburn, Yass, Albury, and Melbourne did not exist. It was a common parlance among the settlers, when travelling south, before Goulburn and Yass townships were formed, to say that 'there was no Sunday after crossing Myrtle Creek.' No missionaries ever came to the southern districts at any time, and it was not until many years later that the missionaries landed at Sydney on their way to Moreton Bay."
His statements, when condensed, are that "they believe in a supreme Being called Boyma who dwells in the north- east, in a heaven of beautiful appearance. He is represented as seated on a throne of transparent crystal, with beautiful pillars of crystal on each side. Grogorally is his son, who watches over the actions of mankind. He leads the souls of the dead to Boyma. The first man made by Boyma was called Moodgegally, who lives near the heaven of Boyma. He lives on the earth and has the power of visiting Boyma, whose place he reaches by a winding path, round a mountain, whence he ascends by a ladder or flight of steps. There he received laws from Boyma."
In these statements I easily recognise, although in a distorted form, the familiar features of Baiame and his son Daramulun, Bunjil and his son Binbeal, or Mungan-ngaua and his son Tundun. The first man who ascends to the sky-land is typical of the medicine-man who says that he can ascend to the sky and commune with the "great master."
Mr. Manning has built up on these facts a superstructure which represents Christian dogmas, and he has done this evidently with full faith in the truth of his deductions. The following are his own words: "They not only acknowledge a Supreme Deity but also believe in his providential supervision of all creation, aided by his son Grogorally, and by the second mediator, in the supernatural person, of their intercessor Moodgegally."
I believe that the late Archdeacon Gunther wrote an account of the belief in Baiame by the natives of Wellington Valley in New South Wales, but I have not been able to find it. However, the following occurs in a vocabulary compiled by him, "Baiamai, a great God, he lives in the east."
The Rev. William Ridley identifies Baiame with God, and says that he "sometimes appeared in human form, and will bring (them) before him for judgment, and reward the good with endless happiness." This account has, and not unnaturally, the mental colour of the writer, who in his prefatory note speaks of their traditions concerning Baiame (the maker of all), as "a ray of true light which has passed down through many generations."
Mr. J. Dawson, in speaking of the beliefs of the native of the south-west of Victoria, says, "The good spirit Pirnmeheeal is a gigantic man living above the clouds"; and he goes on to say that, as he is of a kindly disposition and harms no one, he is seldom mentioned, but always with respect. The meaning of the word Pirnmeheeal in the Peek wuuruung language he gives as "our father."
The use, or misuse, of the term "great spirit" or "good spirit" is not confined to Dawson. I must confess that I have also committed this misleading error before I really perceived the true facts of the case. Gason also uses the term "good spirit" in reference to the Mura-muras, which I have already referred to.
The views of the late Mr. E. M. Curr find a place here. He says that from inquiries of blacks on the subject of beliefs of the tribes concerning God and the next world, that they had, as it seemed to him, no beliefs on the subject. He is strongly of the opinion that "those who have written to show that blacks had some knowledge of God, practised prayer, and believed in places of reward and punishment beyond the grave, have been imposed upon; and that, until they had learned something of Christianity from missionaries and others, the blacks had no beliefs or practices of the sort. He considers that, having heard the missionaries, they were not slow to invent what he might call kindred statements with aboriginal accessories, with a view to please and surprise the whites." That the blacks had no knowledge of God, and that they did not practise prayer, is quite true; but they had, and have beliefs such as those which I have recounted, which were evidently unknown to Mr. Curr, and which he was not likely to learn from the manner of his inquiries "concerning God and the next world." Nor would those he questioned voluntarily tell him, even if they understood his meaning, the sacred and secret teachings of the initiation ceremonies. In my experience, men have in such circumstances put on an appearance of dense stupidity, or have resorted to absolute denial of any knowledge, and even to lies.
In reading Mr. Curr's work, The Australian Race, I find, however, that such beliefs as those I have stated are noticed by his correspondents. The Larrakia believe in a being who dwells in the stars, and never dies. The Cape River tribes believe that when a blackfellow dies whose actions have been in life what they hold to be good, he ascends to Boorala (i.e. the Creator, literally "good"), where he lives much as he did on the earth. In this we may recognise the Birral of the tribes inland from Maryborough (Queensland) referred to a few pages back.
Some of the authorities whom I have quoted to show the wide range of this belief in the tribal All-father have raised upon it a structure which has caused others to feel the doubts which Mr. E. M. Curr has expressed. It seems therefore advisable that I should give the reasons which appear to me to prove conclusively the aboriginal origin of the belief in the tribal All-father as I have given it.
It has been necessary for me, in recording and discussing these beliefs, to bear in mind the possibility of fraud or error on the part of my native informants. Especially is this the case as to those who have been much with the missionaries in Gippsland. The two mission-stations were, as far as I remember, established there about 1860, therefore subsequently to the Jeraeils at which my most trusted native informants were initiated. The strongest instance bearing upon the possibility of later external beliefs having been engrafted upon the primitive beliefs of the Kurnai is that of the man who at first identified Brewin with Jesus Christ, and afterwards with the Devil, I gave that as an instance of what one might assume to be the grasp of the Christian religion obtained by a converted Australian savage of fairly good intelligence, I knew this man, and I believe he said what he really thought. I was the more struck by it because I remembered the religious function at which he was confirmed by the Bishop of Melbourne. But I have not made use of anything else which I may have heard from him, other than that remarkable opinion. He took no part in the Jeraeil when it was revived, nor did he know of the intention to hold the ceremonies when the old men were ready for them.
The men from whom I obtained the Kurnai views on this subject, and who took the most prominent part in the Jeraeil ceremonies, were boys or youths when Gippsland was settled by the whites in 1844. Two years earlier Angus M'Millan had entered it from New South Wales and made known, on his return, its value as a pastoral district.
Twenty years later, when I came to know the Kurnai men just mentioned, the old men of 1844 had mostly died off, or been killed in the troublous times of early settlement.
It was their sons who were now men of the tribe, say between thirty and forty years of age, and they had been initiated by their fathers probably before 1855.
When the Jeraeil was held at my instance, these men conducted them, and they assured me that they did so exactly as "the old men" had done when they themselves were initiated. In answer to inquiries about the legends told at the ceremonies, including that of Mungan-ngaua and his son Tundun, they said, "The old men told us so."
As to the possibility of this belief having been introduced by blacks from the settled districts of New South Wales and Victoria, it will suffice to say that the Kurnai were isolated from other tribes by the nature of the country surrounding them. Moreover, they did not attend the ceremonies of any other tribe, nor did they receive visitors at theirs.
As to the tribes which have ceremonies of the western type, I must now point out that missions have been in existence in the Narrang-ga, the Parnkalla, the Dieri, and the Arunta tribes for long periods. In all of them, with perhaps the exception of the Narrang-ga, the missionaries have taught and preached in the native language, and as to the Arunta have, I believe, evolved a name for the Deity from the term which Spencer and Gillen have given as Alcheringa, or the Alcheringa ancestors. Such being the case, how is it, if we are to assume that the All-father belief in the south-east has been due to missionary teachings, that there has not been a similar adoption of it by the western tribes?
If I am correct in saying that the Kurnai belief in Mungan-ngaua is aboriginal, then the similar beliefs of the other coast tribes may also be accepted.
It seems to be usually assumed from the evidences, for instance, of tribes like those of Fiji that ancestor worship has been at the root of primitive religions; but Australian evidence seems to carry us back to a stage before ancestors came to be worshipped, although they were looked upon as having been greater and wiser than their descendants, the present race. This is very evident from the account given by Spencer and Gillen of the Arunta and other tribes having kindred beliefs. I find that among the Lake Eyre tribes it was not the ancestors but a supernatural human race, antecedent to them, who are seen in myth and tradition to have been similarly superior to their successors. Here there is even less of a possible approach to ancestor worship than with the Arunta.
In the tribes of South-east Australia the ancestors appear in the guise of totems or theriomorphic human beings, in some respects resembling both the Alcheringa ancestors and the Mura-muras. But it must be remembered that in these tribes there has been a clearly marked advance in the status of society, from group marriage to a form of individual marriage, from descent in the female to the male line, and from a society organised on the class systems to one based on locality. Here, as I have now shown, the tribe living on the earth is represented by the tribe of the dead, living in the sky-country, but also able to visit the earth, and with a Headman who is spoken of as "father" by the natives from the Murray mouth in South Australia to the Herbert River in North-eastern Queensland.
In this being, although supernatural, there is no trace of a divine nature. All that can be said of him is that he is imagined as the ideal of those qualities which are, according to their standard, virtues worthy of being imitated. Such would be a man who is skilful in the use of weapons of offence and defence, all-powerful in magic, but generous and liberal to his people, who does no injury or violence to any one, yet treats with severity any breaches of custom or morality. Such is, according to my knowledge of the Australian tribes, their ideal of Headman, and naturally it is that of the Biamban, the master in the sky-country. Such a being, from Bunjil to Baiame, is Mami-ngaia, that is, "our father"; in other words, the All-father of the tribes.
The mental stages by which the conception of the All-father of the tribe may have been reached in these tribes perhaps commenced with the belief in the existence of the human self-consciousness as a spirit or a ghost, whose home on the earth and in the sky-country was dreamland. This would naturally lead to the belief in the existence of the ancestral ghosts, as a tribe like that on the earth, with a Headman and medicine-men, its fighting, feasting, and dancing. From this it is not a long stretch to the idea of the All-father of the tribe, since it is not uncommon, indeed I may go so far as to say, that it is, in my experience, common to address the elder men as father. Such seems to me the probable course of development of this belief, which moreover I am satisfied has been locally evolved, and not introduced from without. But in saying this I must guard myself from being thought to imply any primitive revelation of a monotheistic character. What I see is merely the action of elementary thought reaching conclusions such as all savages arc capable of, and which may have been at the root of monotheistic beliefs.
But all this does not bring us to the worship of the ancestor.
Although it cannot be alleged that these aborigines have consciously any form of religion, it may be said that their beliefs are such that, under favourable conditions, they might have developed into an actual religion, based on the worship of Mungan-ngaua or Baiame.
There is not any worship of Daramulun; but the dances round the figure of clay and the invocating of his name by the medicine-men certainly might have led up to it.If such a change as a recognised religion had ever become possible, I feel that it would have been brought about by those men who are the depositaries of the tribal beliefs, and by whom in the past, as I think, all the advances in the organisation of their society have been effected. If such a momentous change to the practice of religion had ever occurred, those men would have readily passed from being medicine-men to the office of priests.
- Stanbridge, op. cit. p. 301.
- Morgan, op. cit.
- J. Shaw
- S. Gason.
- Killa, "vagina," wilpa, "hole."
- O. Siebert.
- O. Siebert.
- J. Bulmer.
- S. Gason.
- M. E. B. Hewitt, op. cit. No. 4
- J. Bulmer.
- M. E. B. Howitt, Legends and Folklore. MS.
- M. E. B. Howitt, Legends and Folklore. MS.
- J. Bulmer.
- Murka, "egg," gurk, the feminine postfix. I do not know, but I suspect that this name may refer to the legend just mentioned, and that the eggs referred to are ants' eggs which they dug up.
- The native cat, Dasyurus; boam, "tail," and berik, "stinking."
- Karat, "group"; goruk, feminine postfix.
- M. E. B. Howitt, Legends and Folklore. MS.
- W. Thomas, Letters of Victorian Pioneers.
- M. E. B. Howitt, Legends, etc. MS.
- Harry E. Aldridge.
- Robt. Dawson, op. cit.
- O. Siebert.
- J. Gaggin.
- J. Lalor.
- In Mr. Maiden's work, The Useful Native Trees of Australia, London and Sydney, 1898, I find that "Angophoras are called Apple-trees in the colonies, from a fancied resemblance to those trees."
- The following trees are noted as being called Ironbark in New South Wales and Queensland: Eucalyptus leucoxylon; E. siderophloia, Benth.; E. largiflorens; E. melanophloia.—J. H. Maiden, op. cit.
- H. E. Aldridge.
- O. Siebert. See Appendix, p. 793.
- Idem. See Appendix, p. 800.
- M. E. B. Howitt, Legends, etc. MS.
- Mamen, "father"; gorak, "ours."
- Tharatigalk is the Eucalyptus viminalis, the Manna gum-tree.
- S. Gason.
- T. M. Sutton.
- O. Siebert.
- Rev. G. Taplin, The Narrinyeri, p. 1 5.
- This is evidently an addition to the original belief, added since the advent of the white man.
- Mrs. James Smith, op. cit.
- Yamun, "sleep"; Yamun-urra, "snoring."
- J. Shaw.
- That is, the brother of his father.
- J. Bulmer.
- J. Gibson.
- Collins, op. cit. p. 354.
- Cyrus E. Doyle.
- James Lalor.
- A. M'Lean.
- W. E. Stanbridge, Trans. Ethnological Society of London, vol. i. New Series, 1861, p. 286.
- G. W. Rusden.
- H. E. Aldridge.
- According to Berak, who knows the dialect of the Wudthaurung, Murrangurk is probably Murrung-ai-galko, or " tomahawk-handle," Galk being "wood," or "handle," and Murran, "stone-axe."
- James Dawson, op. cit. p. 110.
- Op. cit. pp. 25, 84.
- Op. cit. pp. 25, 84.
- Parker, Lecture delivered in Melbourne, etc., 1854, p. 25.
- Morgan, op. cit.
- J. Dawson, op. cit. p. 62.
- That is "man," one of the Kamilaroi tribe.
- Collins, op. cit. p. 303.
- Jocelyn Brooke.
- H. E. Aldridge.
- Tom Petrie.
- G. H. Bridgeman.
- R. Crowthers.
- O. Siebert.
- Frank James.
- Father's brother, or male Pirrauru.
- Karku is "red ochre."
- Tuna is "gypsum."
- O. Siebert.
- S. Gason.
- Eremophilia longifolia.
- O. Siebert.
- S. Gason.
- O. Siebert.
- S. Gason.
- Frank James.
- O. Siebert.
- W. Williams.
- F. Gaskell.
- T. M. Sutton.
- Dr. M'Kinlay.
- J. W. Boultbee.
- Dr. M'Kinlay.
- Captain Garside.
- Casuarina cambagei, Baker.
- J. H. Stähle.
- Dawson, op. cit. pp. 63-67.
- Impressions of Australia, 1845.
- W. C. Stanbridge, op. cit. p. 229; also E. S. Parker, op. cit. p. 25.
- The kilt worn by the men.—J. Buntine.
- In one case at least this was done by the Krauatun Kurnai when they buried one of their tribe who had been killed in the seizure of the woman Bolgan.
- Collins, op. cit. pp. 388, 393.
- G. W. Rusden.
- A. Hook.
- Dr. M'Kinlay.
- W. Scott.
- J. H. Gribble.
- C. Naseby.
- Cyrus E. Doyle.
- R. Crowthers.
- A. L. P. Cameron.
- R. C. Lethbridge.
- James Gibson.
- James Lalor.
- Jocelyn Brooke.
- Tom Petrie.
- H. E. Aldridge.
- W. H. Flowers.
- According to Mr. J. H. Maiden, in his work The Useful Plants of Australia, the Broad-leaved Box of Queensland is the Eucalyptus acmenioides.
- J. C. Muirhead.
- R. Christison.
- John Gaggin.
- Explanatory footnotes are given in the Appendix.
- A lake in the Dieri country.
- M. E. B. Howitt, op. cit.
- The Mankara-pirna ya waka, that is, the girls big and little, otherwise older and younger.
- The Dieyeri Tribe, p. 13. Cox, Adelaide, South Australia, 1874.
- Spencer and Gillen, op. cit. pp. 73, 119, 120, 377, 378, 513.
- D. Elphinstone Roe.
- William Thomas, Letters from Victorian Pioneers, p. 65. Government Printer, Melbourne.
- M. E. B. Howitt, Legends and Folklore, MS.
- M. E. B. Howitt, Legends and Folklore, MS.
- Of course this does not include the sex totem.
- Op. cit. p. 55.
- Op. cit. p. 55.
- The late Dr. M'Kinlay, who knew the Wiimbaio well, soon after their country was settled, informed me that the constellation was the Pleiades. This seems doubtful to me, as they are called by the Victorian tribes by some name indicating a group of women, for instance, Karat-goruk, from Karat a "group," and goruk the feminine postfix.
- On the north side of the river Murray, with which it is connected by the Rufus, and about 50 miles from Wentworth.
- Op. cit. p. 49.
- Op. cit. p. 100. In Mrs. James Smith's work, The Buandik Tribe (Adelaide, 1880), the vocabulary, p. 128, gives this, "Boongil—the planets observable." It is evident that she refers to Bunjil as one of the stars.
- But Mungan-ngaua is also spoken of at the ceremonies as Kurnai-talung or Kurnai-ma-ngittel, that is, "my man."
- Richard Howitt, op. cit., 1845.
- Letters from Victorian Pioneers, p. 84. Melbourne, 1899.
- Parker, op. cit. p. 24.
- Op. cit. p. 364
- Op. cit. p. 368.
- Ridley, Kamilaroi, etc., p. 135. 1875.
- Cyrus E. Doyle, quoting one of the earlier settlers in the Kamilaroi country.
- W. Scott.
- R. Dawson, op. cit. p. 153.
- L. Threlkeld, An Australian Language, p. 47. Sydney.
- Op. cit. p. 88.
- J. Gibson.
- Harry E. Aldridge.
- J. Gaggin.
- James Manning, Royal Society of New South Wales, Notes on the Aborigines of New Holland, Nov. 1, 1882.
- Baiamie, as I have heard the word pronounced.
- Dr. John Fraser, op. cit. p. 56.
- Rev. W. Ridley, Gurre Kamilaroi, p. 7.
- Rev. W. Ridley, Kamilaroi and other Australian Languages, p. 135. Sydney, 1875.
- Rev. W. Ridley, op. cit. p. vi.
- James Dawson, op. cit. p. 49.
- Op. cit. p. 13.
- Op. cit. vol. i. pp. 44, 45.
- Op. cit. vol, i. p. 253.
- Op. cit. vol, iii. p. 146.
- Op. cit.