Page:Aboriginesofvictoria01.djvu/200

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118
THE ABORIGINES OF VICTORIA:

ensued, and they lowered the body into the grave, resting on the back, with the soles of the feet on the ground and the knees bent; they filled the grave with soft brushwood, and piled logs on this to a considerable height, being very careful all the time to prevent any of the soil from falling into the apertures; they then constructed a hut over the wood-stack, and one of the male relations got into it and said, 'Mya balung einya ngin-na'—('I sit in his house'). One of the women then dropped a few live coals at his feet, and having stuck his dismantled meerro at the end of one of the mounds, they left the place, retiring in a contrary direction from that in which they came, chanting."

At King George's Sound the body is laid in a short, narrow, and rather shallow grave. It is covered with a cloak, and the knees are bent and the arms crossed. At the bottom of the grave is placed a sheet of bark, over which are strewn leaves and branches. Leaves and green twigs are heaped on the body also, and the hole is then filled with earth. Green boughs are placed over the grave, and the weapons of the deceased are laid likewise on it. The mourners carve circles on the trees that grow near, at a height of six or seven feet from the ground; and, lastly, make a small fire in front. Their mourning is black or white, laid on in blotches across the forehead, round the temples, and down the cheek-bones, and is worn for a considerable time. They scratch the cheeks to produce tears.—(Mr. Scott Nind.)

Capt. Grey observes that the natives of many parts of Australia, when at a funeral, cut off portions of their beards, and singeing these, throw them upon the dead body. In some instances they cut off the beard of the dead body, and, burning it, rub themselves and the body with the singed portions of it.

All that relates to the customs of the natives of Cooper's Creek is of more than common interest, because they appear to be in many respects inferior to those tribes living in parts where food is more abundant and of better quality than that obtainable in any part of the great depression towards which Cooper's Creek trends; and I was glad to receive through Mr. A. W. Howitt the following paper from Senior Constable James:—

"During a residence of about eight years in that portion of South Australia that is inhabited by the Dieyerie tribe of blacks (Cooper's Creek), I had only two opportunities of observing the full funeral rites performed by them. As both were precisely similar, I will only describe one. The deceased was an old man who had been sick for a long time, and there was a considerable number of the tribe assembled, having probably come to be present at the obsequies. As soon as the breath was out of the body, all the women and children left the wurleys, and, sitting down about fifty yards off, the women set up a great wailing, and covered their heads and smeared their bodies with pipeclay. Pipeclay on the head of a black of this tribe always denotes that the wearer is lamenting the death of one of their number. The wailing was kept up for hours; it was a kind of monotonous howl, in which a sort of time was kept, and which now and again would almost altogether subside; then suddenly break out afresh as loud and as vehement as ever. I may add that tears often course down the cheeks of the women when they are lamenting the dead thus, but there appears to be little grief in reality, for, if spoken to, they will at once stop lamenting, and answer