Page:Aboriginesofvictoria01.djvu/201

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119
DEATH, AND BURIAL OF THE DEAD.

just as at any other time, the features and voice assuming the ordinary expression and tone. Directly the women left the camp, the men gathered round the dead man and pulled his wurley down, so that they could get close around the body. An old man then advanced, and, with a green bough of gum in each hand, stood astride over the body, facing the head, and, waving the boughs, began to utter a sort of chant (keeping time with the boughs) over the body; at times he would make a sudden pause, and then call the deceased sharply by name; again pausing, as if for a reply. The chant would then go on again in precisely the same manner as before, always ending with the abrupt pause and sharp call on the dead man by his name. His incantation, or whatever it was, was kept up for fully two hours, the rest of the men standing silent around the while; the old man at length appeared to have satisfied himself that he could not cause the dead man to answer, and so finished his conjuration; and saying something in his own language to the other men around, they all proceeded to put pipeclay on their heads and little spots of alternate red and white all over their bodies. This done, some of the younger men were sent off to dig a grave, and the elder ones proceeded to tie the great toes of the body together very securely, with strong, stout string, and then tied both the thumbs together behind the back, the body being turned face downwards whilst the latter operation was going on. From the manner in which the strings were tightened and the care taken over that part of the business, one would think that even a strong, healthy living man could not break or rise from such bonds. In reply to me, they said the tying was to prevent him from 'walking.' The tying of the body being completed, and the grave ready, eight men knelt down, four on each side of the body, and, taking it up, placed it on their heads, and thus carried it to the grave, followed by the rest of the men in a disorderly, straggling crowd. The grave was about a quarter of a mile from the camp. It was about four feet deep, and into this two men jumped and assisted the bearers to place the body; then, getting out of the grave, aided those present in bringing and laying lengthwise on the body a large quantity of dead wood, filling up the grave, and piling it above to the height of about four feet and around the ends and sides of the grave, forming thus a pile of about twelve feet in diameter, being round on the top. They said that wood was used instead of earth to prevent Kintala (native dog or dingo) from scratching into the grave and eating the body. The grave was then swept carefully all around so as to obliterate the traces of footsteps, and every one at once returned to the camp, and proceeded to re-erect the wurleys a short distance from the camp in which the death had taken place, as this tribe never again occupies a camp in which a death has occurred. Every night for one moon (four weeks) two old men went to the grave about dusk, and carefully swept all round it; each morning, for the same period, they visited it, to see if there were any tracks of the dead man on the swept space. They told me that if they were to find tracks they would have to remove the body and bury it elsewhere, as the foot-marks would denote that the dead man was 'walking' and discontented with his present grave. For some days after a death the women indulge in an occasional howl of lament. The men never howl or give utterance to grief; merely wearing the pipeclay and