Page:The aborigines of Australia.djvu/35

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
20
THE ABORIGINES OF AUSTRALIA.

them. The almost general unacquaintance with their language, their inability to enter into anything like a metaphysical conversation, and perhaps the general indisposition on the part of Europeans to make minute inquiries touching such matters—all these combined have tended to render mythological opinions of the aboriginal a matter of more than ordinary doubt and obscurity. The general scope of what information we do possess on the matter leads to the opinion that they hold belief in a Supernatural Being, exercising an unseen but extraordinary power over their whole race. This power, however, strange to say, is never mentioned by them as being exercised otherwise than for evil. Hence, in rendering his appellation into English, he is uniformly called after the Prince of Darkness—"Devil." Thunder, lightning, storms, and the other atmospheric or elemental disruptions are supposed to be among the chief manifestations of his power and wrath. Accordingly, whenever the elements are so disturbed, the blacks exhibit every symptom of extreme fear, concealing themselves in the most remote recesses of their haunts and habitations. The neighbourhood of extinct or smouldering volcanoes, of which several are dispersed throughout the territory, are avoided with a superstitious awe, as the favourite hiding-place of the much-dreaded evil genius. Very deep or lonely lagoons and water-holes are also shunned for the same reason. Whenever an individual disappears from a tribe in a mysterious manner, and is not again heard of, his