Page:Native Tribes of South-East Australia.djvu/598

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
572
CH.
NATIVE TRIBES OF SOUTH-EAST AUSTRALIA

crystal in these tribes. They are possessed by the Koradjis or medicine-men. The Bumbat is presented on his initiation with one, which is wrapped up with the greatest solemnity, caution, and secrecy, and concealed in his belt. If a woman by chance saw one of these, her brains were knocked out, and women were therefore in great dread of seeing one of them by any chance.[1]

The Ceremonies at Port Stephens

A description of what was certainly part of the initiation ceremonies at Port Stephens has been given me by an eye-witness, who accidentally came across it and was permitted to see the final part.[2] I quote his own words:—

"A number of blacks were camped at the foot of a hill, the camp being in the form of a half-circle, round an oval cleared space, about thirty or forty feet in area. The edges of the space were raised about nine inches. This cleared space was connected with the top of the hill, and another cleared space by a narrow path. The women were not allowed to go up this path or to approach the top of the hill at all. When going to the creek for water they were careful to look another way. On more than one occasion when riding past the camp I heard most extraordinary noises proceeding from the top of the hill, a kind of bellowing or booming sound, continuing for a long time, then sinking away at times, and then swelling out as loud as ever. The blacks would not tell me what it meant, so I determined to see for myself. I therefore rode carefully round the hill, and up the other side from the camp. I found that a conical fire was burning in the centre of a cleared space, similar to the one at the foot of the hill. Round this fire, radiating from it like the spokes of a wheel, and painted like skeletons, were a number of naked blacks on their faces. Within the cleared space, and on one side of it, was a rough figure painted red, made of wood, formed by a stake driven in the ground with a cross piece for arms and the top dressed up with grass and bark, in the

  1. Dr. M'Kinlay.
  2. W. Scott.