Page:Aboriginesofvictoria01.djvu/204

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
122
THE ABORIGINES OF VICTORIA:

another tribe—is known amongst the Ajitas, natives of the Philipjiine Islands. A dead warrior amongst them cries from his grave for vengeance. His friends arm themselves and disperse through the forests, and kill something—man or beast—in order that the dead may rest in peace. They break little twigs as they pass along as a warning to friendly natives; but if accident brings them near even a friend, then he is regarded as the enemy of the deceased, and must die. The same idea moves the Wanyamuêzi and other African tribes to ascribe the sickness of a man to sorcery.

The placing of the dead body on a bier in the woods is a custom always observed by the natives of the Nine or Savage Islands; by the Tahitans; by the Dyaks of Borneo; by the Araucanians, by the Ahts, and by other tribes of American Indians.

The custom of neglecting the body of a man who has been killed in a quarrel brought on by his own misconduct is found, with some modifications, in many parts of the world. Amongst the Kaffirs, a man who has been killed by order of the king is left to become the prey of wild beasts. A man of the Latooka tribe killed in battle remains uburied on the field to be eaten by hyenas.

The curious method of interring the body in the bed of a running stream is practised by the Obongos of Africa;[1] and the body is placed in the hollow branch of a tree in Central Africa, in New Zealand, and in Borneo. The Ashira tribe, and the Krumen in Africa, and the Kingsmill Islanders, keep a fire burning beside the corpse. The Australian places a bunch of acacia or a throwing-stick at the head of the grave of a warrior, and the Manganja tribe lay a weapon or an implement of some kind on the tomb.

The repugnance which some of the Australians have to touch a dead body is as strong in the Kaffir and the Bechuana.

The Latooka and Camma tribes in Africa, and the New Zealanders, smear their faces and other parts of their bodies with red-ochre and grease and throw wood ashes on their heads when they mourn.

  1. "When an Obongo dies, it is usual to take the body to a hollow tree in the forest, and drop it into the hollow, which is afterwards filled to the top with earth, leaves, and branches. Sometimes, however, they employ a more careful mode of burial. They take the body to some running stream, the course of which has been previously diverted. A deep grave is dug in the bed of the stream, the body placed in it, and covered over carefully. Lastly, the stream is restored to its original course, so that all traces of the grave are soon lost."—The Natural History of Man, by J. G. Wood, vol. I., p. 540. I have already stated that interring bodies in the beds of running streams is practised by some of the natives of Australia; and when I informed Professor Hearn of this fact, he at once drew my attention to the description of the funeral of Alaric, King of the Goths, as given by Gibbon:—"The ferocious character of the barbarians was displayed in the funeral of a hero whose valour and fortitude they celebrated with mournful applause. By the labor of a captive multitude, they forcibly diverted the course of the Busentinus, a small river that washes the walls of Consentia. The royal sepulchre, adorned with the splendid spoils and trophies of Rome, was constructed in the vacant bed; the waters were then restored to their natural channel; and the secret spot where the remains of Alaric had been deposited was forever concealed by the inhuman massacre of the prisoners who had been employed to execute the work."—Gibbon's Decline and Fall (Dr. W. Smith's edition), vol. IV., p. 112.