Page:Native Tribes of South-East Australia.djvu/470

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444
CH.
NATIVE TRIBES OF SOUTH-EAST AUSTRALIA

Dawson also speaks of the burning of the dead. If there is no time to dig a grave, they burn the body with all the effects except stone axes. When a married woman dies, her husband burns her body, and when old people become infirm and unable to accompany the tribe in its wanderings, it is lawful and customary to kill them. The victim is strangled with a grass rope, and when cold is burned in a large fire kindled in the neighbourhood.[1]

It is not surprising that the Kurnai, when they saw white men first, thought them to be Mrarts, ghosts. Such was the idea of one of the Brabralung when he saw a white man for the first time. He ran away, believing it to be a ghost, partly, as he said, from its strange appearance, and partly because it "was so very pale." Here we have again the idea that the white man must be a ghost because of his pale tint, and I may remark that the Kurnai probably derived this belief from their practice of roasting and eating portions of the skin of slain enemies.

Before the white man had entered Gippsland vague rumours telling of them had passed from tribe to tribe to the Kurnai. Messengers (Lewin) had brought news of them, with the exaggeration natural to rumour. The strange sight of ships sailing past their shores had been a wonder to them, and the white man when he arrived was recognised as a Mrart, or as Löan, and the white woman as Löantuka, the wife of Löan. When Tulaba described to me how the Kurnai first saw the white men when he was a boy, and cried out to each other, "Löan! Löan!" I observed that he looked down, and moved his eyes from side to side, as if to avoid a blow. On inquiry I found that the belief was that the white man possessed a supernatural power of the eye, to flash death to the beholder, or to draw together the banks of a river, and to pass over it. This power was called Ngurrung-mri, or "sinew eye," and I think that I have also heard it called Mlang-mri, meaning "lightning eye." Therefore when white men were near, the Kurnai would make off, crying to each other, "Don't look! don't look! he will kill you." In this we may see a dis-

  1. J. Dawson, op. cit. p. 62.