Page:Aboriginesofvictoria02.djvu/341

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THE ABORIGINES OF AUSTRALIA.

formed by making incisions and then filling the cut with charcoal, which answered as a styptic, and also kept the lips of the wound apart and formed the desired ridges. The arrangement of these marks differed amongst different tribes, each tribe having its own peculiar and distinct coat-of-arms; so that those versed in such lore could at once, in looking over a body, decide to what tribe it belonged, and send the information, if required.

Along the Murray, Murrumbidgee, and Lachlan, and in New South Wales, all the males, on arriving at manhood, have either one or two teeth knocked out of the left side of the upper-jaw, as a distinguishing mark; and at certain seasons of the year certain ceremonies are gone through at a distance from the main body of the tribe. These ceremonies occupy several days, are performed in covered-in wirleys, where only the initiated are admitted, and from which the females are most carefully kept a long way off. Certain signs are also used amongst the initiated, and it may therefore be fairly presumed that a species of rude Freemasonry exists amongst the Aborigines, the bequest perhaps of some amongst the many strange visitors who visited these coasts in the far-off days of yore. It is a well-known fact amongst the old settlers, that Aborigines, both old and young, who were in their employ and apparently perfectly comfortable and satisfied, would yet, on the receipt of the summons, insist upon going away immediately; and no temptation, however great, could ever induce them to stop, nor, on their return, could any information be obtained from them as to what had been done at the meeting.

It has always been the practice amongst the Aborigines for the warriors of one tribe to make incursions into the territories of another, either to steal lubras, or to surprise and attack males, who, after being struck down, had an incision made in their sides, through which the caul-fat was drawn, and which fat was carefully kept and used by the assassin to lubricate himself—the belief being that all the qualifications, both physical and mental, of the previous owner of the fat were thus communicated to him who used it. On the Upper Murray, a cord, about the thickness of ordinary whipcord, was formed out of the sinews obtained from the tail of the kangaroo; this cord had a running noose at one end, also two small bones, each sharpened to a very fine point, so fixed that when the noose was drawn tight the points would enter the jugular vein at each side of the neck. Armed with one of these, a black would steal at night up to the camp of another tribe, and, having selected some sleeping man, slip the noose round his neck, strangle his victim, and depart with the coveted caul-fat, without creating any noise or alarm. That these nooses were not used by the Aborigines on the men of other tribes alone, but also on Europeans, is beyond a doubt, as I recollect an instance of a shepherd who, having, at the expiration of his term of service, left the out-station at which he was employed to go to the head-station, and several days having expired without his arrival, an alarm was caused, and a search made, when the body was found, with his faithful dogs lying beside it, with the mark of the fatal noose round the neck. It was afterwards ascertained that the man had engaged a blackfellow and his lubra to carry his swag, and most probably the sight of the blankets had been too much of a temptation to the black; the