Page:Native Tribes of South-East Australia.djvu/529

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VIII
503
BELIEFS AND BURIAL PRACTICES

prefatory note speaks of their traditions concerning Baiame (the maker of all), as "a ray of true light which has passed down through many generations."[1]

Mr. J. Dawson, in speaking of the beliefs of the native of the south-west of Victoria, says, "The good spirit Pirnmeheeal is a gigantic man living above the clouds"; and he goes on to say that, as he is of a kindly disposition and harms no one, he is seldom mentioned, but always with respect. The meaning of the word Pirnmeheeal in the Peek wuuruung language he gives as "our father."[2]

The use, or misuse, of the term "great spirit" or "good spirit" is not confined to Dawson. I must confess that I have also committed this misleading error before I really perceived the true facts of the case. Gason also uses the term "good spirit" in reference to the Mura-muras, which I have already referred to.[3]

The views of the late Mr. E. M. Curr find a place here. He says that from inquiries of blacks on the subject of beliefs of the tribes concerning God and the next world, that they had, as it seemed to him, no beliefs on the subject. He is strongly of the opinion that "those who have written to show that blacks had some knowledge of God, practised prayer, and believed in places of reward and punishment beyond the grave, have been imposed upon; and that, until they had learned something of Christianity from missionaries and others, the blacks had no beliefs or practices of the sort. He considers that, having heard the missionaries, they were not slow to invent what he might call kindred statements with aboriginal accessories, with a view to please and surprise the whites."[4] That the blacks had no knowledge of God, and that they did not practise prayer, is quite true; but they had, and have beliefs such as those which I have recounted, which were evidently unknown to Mr. Curr, and which he was not likely to learn from the manner of his inquiries "concerning God and the next world." Nor would those he questioned voluntarily tell him, even if they

  1. Rev. W. Ridley, op. cit. p. vi.
  2. James Dawson, op. cit. p. 49.
  3. Op. cit. p. 13.
  4. Op. cit. vol. i. pp. 44, 45.