Page:Aboriginesofvictoria01.djvu/189

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107
DEATH, AND BURIAL OF THE DEAD.

replies. The sorcerer would have told the people that as their deceased brother had killed many wild blackfellows, so, in justice, should many die for him, and that the dead man had promised that if his murder should be sufficiently avenged his spirit would not haunt the tribe, nor cause them fear, nor mislead them into wrong tracks, nor bring sickness amongst them, nor make loud noises in the night. Such a speech would have nerved the arms of the young men, and the strongest exertions would have been used to kill many wild blackfellows. The women would have urged speed, and the young children would have given the men strength by their tears and their alarm; because all believe that if a dead man's wrongs be not avenged, his spirit will return and cause calamity to the whole tribe of which he was a member.

If the death of a black occur after sunset, when there is not time to use all the proper ceremonials in the light of day, the body is left in the place where the spirit fled; and the nearest of kin—male and female—sit by the side of it during the long hours of night. Two fires are made, one at the east side of the corpse, and one at the west; and the male watches the east fire, and the female the west. Not until the glare of the morning light has turned the green tree-tops to gold does the camp move or the ceremonials begin.

On the occurrence of the death of a Goulburn black, on the south bank of the River Yarra, a circumstance attending the last rites baffled the ingenuity of the sorcerers not a little. After digging the small trench around the body, no aperture was found, neither in the trench nor in the space between that and the corpse, and the sorcerers and the mourners were perplexed and uneasy. But the wise men were troubled but for a short time. If there was not the ordinary manifestation, it was a sign that they were to look for another; and one sorcerer lying on his stomach spoke to the deceased, and the other sitting by his side received the precious messages which the dead man told. The sorcerer, thus informed, rose after the lapse of a quarter of an hour, and delivered his speech. He told the credulous mourners that the dead man had given instructions as to the way which they should go to find the wild black who had taken his kidney-fat; and the people were satisfied.

Sometimes a black, when he knows that he is dying, will save trouble by naming the tribe to whose wicked arts he has become a victim. Gen-nin—well known in Melbourne many years ago, and called by the whites "Jack Weatherly"—was bitten by a snake, and all the usual remedies failing, and Gen-nin knowing that his end had come, told his friends that a man of a tribe living in the north, whose country he described minutely, had entered the snake and taken his kidney-fat; and he gave sufficient information to lead to warfare, if not to the avenging, by the murder of the right man, of his blood.

In some cases a strong and often successful effort is made to screen the real offender where injury is inflicted on a black. At the gathering of three tribes on the banks of the River King, and during a fight which occurred as the result of the meeting, one black belonging to the Ovens River tribe was pierced through the lungs by a spear. Before he died he screened the tribe he had been fighting with by declaring that a wild Murray black had directed the spear, and that the black who hurled it had nothing to do with the result.