Page:The aborigines of Australia.djvu/63

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50
THE ABORIGINES OF AUSTRALIA

such hours would be offensive or injurious to the airy beings. This belief may also, in some measure, account for the unwillingness of the blacks to converse about deceased persons or even mention their names,

A somewhat extraordinary practice is mentioned in connection with the blacks of the northern coasts. This is nothing less than the application of glass to the novel purpose of food. When a piece of that substance came by any means into their possession, it was broken into a number of small particles and distributed around. The sharp corners being then carefully rubbed smooth the pieces were swallowed, the recipients of these singular pills at the same time looking up at the sky, clapping their hands on their breasts, and, by sundry exclamations and gestures, expressing the pleasure they felt. What may be the real origin or the object of this strange custom it is difficult to say. As, however, it will be seen hereafter that the quartz crystal, which has latterly been found so abundantly in connection with the gold matrix, was formerly used for medicinal, or rather magical, purposes among the aborigines, it is more than probable that some extraordinary curative or talismanic properties were attributed by them to all substances of a crystallized nature and appearance.

As the corroboree appears to be the great festival among the New Hollanders, an account of it may be deserving of particular attention. Under this term may be comprised all the festivity and fun of which the aboriginal is cognizant, or in which he indulges.