Page:Aboriginesofvictoria01.djvu/193

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111
DEATH, AND BURIAL OF THE DEAD.

Mr. Stanbridge, writing of the natives of the central part of Victoria, says that "when a person dies of a loathsome disease, the body is burned; while that of a young person, whose death is attributable to a different cause, is put into a tree to decay. The bones are afterwards collected and buried, the mother sometimes securing the small bones of the legs, to wear round her neck as a memorial. Persons of matured life, especially old men and doctors, are buried with much ceremony. The grave is made in a picturesque spot, to which the body is borne by the relatives; and with it are interred the weapons and other articles belonging to the deceased. The grass is cleared away around the grave for about a yard at each side, and eight yards at each end, in the form of a canoe, and the ground carefully swept daily by the female relatives; and for a time a small fire is made every night at the foot of the grave. If the person were much respected, a little covering of boughs or bark upon four supports is placed over it, and the canoe-shaped space neatly fenced with stakes." Mr. Stanbridge adds that they have the same belief in sorcery as in other parts, and that they select men to avenge the death, who go forth and kill the first persons they meet, whether men, women, or children; and the more lives that are sacrificed, the greater is the honor to the dead. When a death occurs, the women weep and lament, and tear the skin of their temples with their nails. The parents of the deceased lacerate themselves fearfully, especially if he be an only son. The father beats and cuts his head with his tomahawk, and groans bitterly; and the mother sits by the fire and burns her breast and abdomen with a fire-stick until she wails with pain. This continues for hours daily, until the time of lamentation is completed. Sometimes the burns are so severe as to cause death. The relatives of the deceased cover their heads and the upper part of their faces with white clay, which is worn during the time of mourning, and widows in some cases have the hair first taken off with a little fire-stick, by the doctor or priest, before they assume this badge of woe. The dead are rarely spoken of, and never by name. To mention the name would excite the malignity of Couit-gil, the spirit of the departed, which hovers over the earth for a time, and finally goes towards the setting sun.

The following account of the burial ceremonies of the tribes living near the mouth of the River Murray is compiled from a report written by the Rev. Geo. Taplin. The report was published in the South Australian Register:—

The Narrinyeri, inhabiting the Lakes and the Lower Murray, believe, when a death occurs, that sorcery has caused it. When a man dies, his nearest relative sleeps with his head on the corpse, and dreams a dream and discovers the name of the sorcerer who has caused the death of his friend. When the body is being carried to the grave, the male members of the tribe gather around it, and they call out the names of those who they think may have practised sorcery, watching the dead body all the time. If it moves when a name is mentioned, then they know on whom to be avenged. As a rule, the body stirs not until the dreamer tells the name of the sorcerer of whom he has dreamt. At that sound the bearers bend forward towards the dreamer, believing, and making others believe, that the impulse is given by the corpse; and thereupon the tribe is satisfied that the murderer is discovered. The deceased, lying on a