Page:Native Tribes of South-East Australia.djvu/499

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VIII
473
BELIEFS AND BURIAL PRACTICES

and filled in with boughs of a tree, or with bushes, of the proper class.

If two blacks were out in the bush, and one of them died, the other would, if the ground were too hard to dig a grave, cover him up with earth or mud. Then he would make a big fire, ring-bark the trees in a circle, and perhaps place one or two hot coals from the fire in the dead man's ears, before he went away. If the other blacks were at a distance, say a week's or a fortnight's journey, nothing further would be done, except that at a future time they would burn the remains at the place where they were buried. The ghost of the deceased was supposed to haunt the place where he died, and to revisit his old camping-places. They believed that if his relatives were near him when he died, he would follow them, if they did not make a fire and place bushes in the forks of the trees before leaving the place, and entering into their ears would kill them. By placing bushes in the forks of the trees they think that the ghost will be induced to camp in them, and go to warm himself at the fires. The trees are blazed in a circle in order that the ghost, if trying to follow them, will go round in a circle and thus return to the spot from which he started. The coals are placed in the dead man's ears to keep the ghost in the body till his relatives get a good start away from him. They also believed that when a man died at a distance from his home, his spirit would travel towards it, and his friends, if they were going in another direction, would lay him in the grave with his face towards home. If he died in the night, they would throw a firebrand in that direction as a guide for the spirit to follow.

A peculiar belief of theirs was that right-handed men went up to the sky, while left-handed men went down under the ground. When they saw white men for the first time, they thought that they were some of the left-handed men come back again.

While the remains are being carried about by the relatives, they are, when a dancing corrobboree is held, placed up against a tree, and with a red band tied round that part of the bark envelope where the head is, as if for the deceased to see the dances.