Page:Aboriginesofvictoria01.djvu/185

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103
DEATH, AND BURIAL OF THE DEAD.

This inquest being concluded, the digging of the grave is ordered. Two men are selected for this duty. A dry but not a much elevated spot is generally

Revenge for the death of a member of a tribe is very deliberately planned. "Should a man of influence and well connected—that is, have numerous relatives—die suddenly, or after a long illness, the tribe believe that he has been killed by some charm. A secret council is held, and some unhappy innocent is accused and condemned, and dealt with by the Pinya. "The armed band [Pinya] entrusted with the office of executing offenders is appointed as follows:—A council is called of all the old men of the tribe; the chief—a native of influence—selecting the men for the pinya, and directing when to proceed on their sanguinary mission. The night prior to starting, the men composing the pinya, at about seven p.m., move out of the camp to a distance of about three hundred yards, where they sit in a circle, sticking their spears in the ground near them. The women form an outer circle round the men, a number of them bearing fire-sticks in their hands. The chief opens the council by asking who caused the death of their friend or relative, in reply to which the others name several natives of their own or neighbouring tribes, each attaching the crime to his bitterest enemy. The chief, perceiving whom the majority would have killed, calls out his name in ii loud voice, when each man grasps his spear. The women who have fire-sticks lay them in a row, and, while so placing them, call out the name of some native, till one of them calls that of the man previously condemned, when all the men simultaneously spear the fire-stick of the woman who has named the condemned. Then the leader takes hold of the fire-stick, and, after one of the old men has made a hole a few inches deep in the ground with his hand, places the fire-stick in it, and covers it up, all declaring that they will slay the condemned, and see him buried like that stick. After going through some practices too beastly to narrate, the women return to the camp. The following morning, at sunrise, the pinya attire themselves in a plaited band, painted white (charpoo), and proceed on their journey until within a day's stage of the place where they suppose the man they seek will be found, and remain there during the day in fear they may be observed by some straggling native. At sunset they renew their journey until within a quarter of a mile of their intended victim's camp, when two men are sent out as spies to the camp, to ascertain if he is there, and, if possible, where he sleeps. After staying there about two hours, they report what they have seen and heard. The next thing done is the smearing of the pinya with white clay, so as to distinguish them from the enemy, in case any of the latter should endeavour to escape. They then march towards the camp at a time when they think the inmates are asleep, from about midnight to two a.m.; and, when within one hundred yards of it, divide into two parties—one going round on one side of the camp, and the second round on the other—forming a complete circle to hinder escape. The dogs begin to bark, and the women to whimper, not daring to cry aloud for fear of the pinya, who, as they invest the camp, make a very melancholy grunting noise. Then one or two walk up to the accused, telling him to come out and they will protect him, which he, aware of the custom, does not believe, yet he obeys, as he is powerless to resist. In the meanwhile, boughs are distributed by the pinya to all the men, women, and children, wherewith to make a noise in shaking, so that the friends and relatives of the condemned may not hear his groans while he is being executed. The pinya then kill the victim by spearing him and striking him with the two-handed weapon, avoiding to strike him below the hips, as they believe, were they to injure the legs, they would be unable to return home. The murder being consummated, they wait for daylight, when the young men of the pinya are ordered to lie down. The old men then wash their weapons, and, getting all the gore and flesh adhering to them off, mix it with some water; this agreeable draught being carried round by an old man, who bestows a little upon each young man to swallow, believing that thereby they will be inspired with courage and strength for any pinya they may afterwards join. The fat of the murdered man is cut off and wrapped round the weapons of all the old men, which are then covered with feathers. They then make for home."—The Dieyerie Tribe of Australian Aborigines, by Samuel Gason, Police-Trooper, 1874. Threlkeld mentions a bone—Mur-ro-kun—which is obtained by the Ka-ra-kul, a doctor or conjuror. Three of the doctors sleep on the grave of a recently-interred corpse, and in the night, when the doctors are asleep, the dead person inserts a mysterious bone into each thigh of the three doctors, who do not feel the puncture more than if an ant had stung them. The bones remain in the flesh of the doctors without causing them any inconvenience. When they wish to kill any person, by means which cannot be known, they use the bone in a supernatural manner. The bone enters the body of the victim, and he dies.