Page:Aboriginesofvictoria01.djvu/195

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113
DEATH, AND BURIAL OF THE DEAD.

The funeral rites—as observed by the people of the Encounter Bay tribe, in South Australia—are thus described by Mr. H. E. Meyer:—

"Children still-born, or that have been put to death immediately after birth, are burned. If a child dies a natural death, it is carefully packed up, and the mother or grandmother carries it about with her for several months, or a year; after which it is exposed upon a tree until the bones are completely cleaned, after which they are buried. Young and middle-aged persons are buried in the following manner:—As soon as the person is dead, the knees are drawn up towards the head, and the hands placed between the thighs. Two fires are kindled, and the corpse placed between, so as to receive the heat of the fires and of the sun. After a few days the skin becomes loose, and is taken off. Such a corpse is then called Grinkari. This custom may explain why this name has been applied to Europeans, from the resemblance between their color and that of the native corpse after the skin has been removed. After this all the openings of the body are sewn up, and the whole surface rubbed with grease and red-ochre. Thus prepared, the corpse is placed upon a hut so arranged that the head and arms can be tied. It is then placed with the face to the east, and the arms extended, and a fire is kept constantly beneath. It remains thus until quite dry, when it is taken by the relations and packed up in mats, and then carried from one place to another—the scenes of his former life. After having been thus carried about for several months, it is placed upon a platform of sticks, and left until completely decayed. The head is then taken by the next of kin, and serves him for a drinking vessel; and now his name may be mentioned, which if done before would highly offend his relations, and is sometimes the cause of a war. This may be the reason of there being several names for the same thing. Thus, if a man has the name Ngnke, which signifies water, the whole tribe must use some other word to express water for a considerable time after his death. If a man is killed in battle, or dies in consequence of a wound, he is supposed to have been charmed with the plongge. And, in addition to the above-mentioned ceremonies, they hold a kind of inquest over the corpse, to ascertain to whom he owes his death. One of the nearest relations sleeps with his head resting upon the corpse until he dreams of the guilty person. As soon as this is ascertained, which is generally after the first or second night, he orders wood to be brought to make a kind of bier, upon which the corpse is placed. Several men then take the bier upon their shoulders, and the dreamer—striking upon the breast of the corpse—asks, 'Who charmed you?' He then mentions the name of some person. All remain quiet. After he has asked this question many times, and mentioned several names, he mentions the name of the person he saw in his dream. The bearers then immediately begin running, as if mad, pretending that the corpse has moved itself. The corpse is then erected as above described, and all the friendly tribes come to lament. The nearest relations cut off their hair and blacken their faces, and the old women put human excrement on their heads—the sign of the deepest mourning. If the supposed guilty one should come to the lamentation, the dreamer looks narrowly to his countenance, and if he does not shed tears, is the more convinced of his guilt, and considers it now his duty to avenge his relation's death. The person who sews up the apertures