Page:Native Tribes of South-East Australia.djvu/719

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XI
693
MESSAGE-STICKS

The message-stick was known and made use of by the Ngarigo, but not to such an extent as by other tribes. It was a piece of wood a few inches long, with notches at the edges which referred to the message with which the bearer was entrusted.

About the year 1840 my friend, the late Mr. A. M. M'Keachie, met two young men of the Ngarigo tribe at the Snowy River, near to Barnes's Crossing; one of them carried two peeled sticks each about two feet long, and with notches cut in them, which they told him reminded them of their message. The sticks were about one half- inch in diameter. Their message was that they were to collect their tribe to meet those of the Tumut River and Queanbeyan, at a place in the Bogong Mountains, to eat the Bogong moths.[1]

A messenger in the Wiradjuri tribe is provided with a message-stick, the notches on which remind him of his message, and if it is to call the people together for initiation ceremonies, he carries a bull-roarer (Bobu or Mudjigang), a belt (Gulir), a man's kilt (Buran or Tala-bulg) made of kangaroo-rat skin, a head-string (Ulungau-ir), and a white head-band (Kambrun). The messenger having made known his message to the man to whom he is sent, and delivered his message with the other emblems above mentioned, the recipient assembles the men at the council-place (Ngulubul). He then shows them the message-stick and other articles, and delivers to them the message which he has received. Sometimes, when the kilt is sent, the strands of skin forming it are used instead of a notched stick, to remind the bearer of his message.

The recipient of the message-stick sends it on, with all the articles which he has received, by one of his own people, and it thus travels until the farthest point is reached.

  1. A great gathering usually took place about midsummer on the highest ranges of the Australian Alps, where sometimes from 500 to 700 aborigines, belonging to different friendly tribes, would assemble almost solely to feast on roasted moths (Bogong). The moths were thickly congregated in the crevices of the rocks, and were stifled with smouldering brush. Being roasted on the hot ashes, they were shrivelled to about the size of a grain of wheat. The taste of the roasted Bogongs is said to be sweetish and rather pleasant eating. ("The Omeo Blacks," by Richard Helms, op. cit. p. 387).