Page:Aboriginesofvictoria01.djvu/182

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THE ABORIGINES OF VICTORIA:

The body is buried generally within one or two hundred yards of the spot where the death occurred. When a man approaches his end, his relatives and friends remove him a short distance from his miam-miam—say five or six yards—and, without regard to the weather, lay him upon the grass. One supports his head and shoulders, holding him tenderly in his arms. By his side are placed a cord, made of grass or some fibre, his opossum rugs, which are to form his pall, and perhaps some favorite weapons or utensils. If of a good heart and stout, the dying man regards these preparations without fear, and talks freely of his coming end. Watching him carefully, the attendant sees at length that the awful change has come; and when the last breath has been breathed, he raises the body, throws the pall over the head, and, with the help of his neighbours, fastens it tightly, passing the cord twice or thrice around the neck. The knees of the body are brought quite up to the breast, the elbows over the trunk and near the hips, and the hands raised and pressed against the chest, and in this position the corpse is made fast with the cords. The pall, meanwhile, has been so kept as to conceal the body, and the attendants have scrupulously avoided actual contact with the flesh. Three minutes, or less, are sufficient for these preparations, and the corpse is then ready for the last ceremonials and the tomb.

of considerable extent, which was enclosed by three small ridges, the surface within the artificial area having been made very level and smooth. The floor of the hut was covered with a bed of rushes, and it was plain it had been recently occupied. A near friend of the deceased had rested hero and watched the grave, in accordance with custom, until the flesh had left the bones. No fire had ever been made in the hut, but fires had been kindled on the heath outside.—Vol. II., p. 71.

Near the junction of the Murrumbidgee and the Murray, Major Mitchell found several graves all enclosed in separate parterres of exactly the same remarkable form, consisting of the same kind of double or triple ridges as those first seen in the lower part of the Lachlan. There were three of these parterres all lying due east and west. On one, apparently that most recent, the ashes of a hut still appeared over the grave. On another, which contained two graves (one of a small child), logs of wood mixed with long grass were neatly piled transversely; and in the third, which was so ancient that the enclosing ridges were barely visible, the graves had sunk into a grassy hollow. Major Mitchell learnt from the widow that such tombs were made for men and boys only, not for females, and that the ashes over one of the graves were the remains of a hut which had been burnt and abandoned, after the murder of the person whose body was buried beneath had been avenged by the tribe to whom the brother or relative keeping it company above ground had belonged. — Vol. II., p. 87.

Major Mitchell makes the following general observations;—"The graves on these hills [near the junction of the Darling and the Murray] no longer resembled those on the Murrumbidgee and the Murray, but were precisely the same as those we had seen on the Darling, viz., mounds surrounded by and covered with dead branches and pieces of wood. On these lay the same singular casts of the head in white plaster which we had seen only at Fort Bourke. It is indeed curious to observe the different modes of burying adopted by the natives on different rivers. For instance, on the Bogan, they bury in graves covered like our own, and surrounded with curved walks and ornamented ground. On the Lachlan, under lofty mounds of earth, seats being made around. On the Murrumbidgee and Murray the graves are covered with well-thatched huts, containing dried grass for bedding, and enclosed by a parterre of a particular shape, like the inside of a whale-boat; and on the Darling, as above stated, the graves are in mounds, covered with dead branches and limbs of trees, and surrounded by a ditch, which here we found encircled by a fence of dead limbs and branches."—Vol. II., pp. 112-13.

The same explorer noticed in one place a large ash-hill (mirrn-yong heap) on whose ample surface the vestiges of a very ancient grave were just visible, the grave having been surrounded by exactly the same kind of ridges which had been observed around the inhabited tomb near the junction of the Lachlan and Murrumbidgee.—Vol. II., p. 148.