Page:The aborigines of Australia.djvu/62

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49
CEREMONY OF INITIATION.

only permitted to associate with the women and children. No woman is permitted to be present at or to witness this ceremony, which generally takes place in a sequestered spot, at a distance from the camp; and should any female be known to have furtively witnessed the scene she would be liable to pay the penalty of her forbidden curiosity by death.

Numerous half-caste children of the female sex are to be observed among the aborigines, while, on the contrary, a half-caste boy is scarcely ever seen. The reason of this is said to be that the latter is always destroyed when born, the former being spared. The cause alleged for this barbarous practice is that the male children, if permitted to grow to manhood, would become too wise, and would thereby exercise an undue influence among their compeers. Practices similar to this, and from like motives, are common among other barbarous nations. It is said that negroes returning to their native country after a residence in any of the civilized nations are sometimes killed at the instigation of the heathen priests, who dread lest the influence and example of the new comer might, by destroying the credulity of their followers, sap the foundations of their dignity and power.

A great variety of circumstances tend to show beyond question that the aborigines are believers in spirits. They imagine that the air is peopled during the night by the shades of those who have "shuffled off the mortal coil," and it is said that they never fight during the night time, believing that human strife at