Folk-Lore/Volume 26/Folklore Notes from South-East Australia
Folklore Notes from South-East Australia.
Muldarbi.—The object of the propitiatory rites practised by the natives of this part of Australia is to ward off the anger of Muldarbi, the evil spirit. Only men take part in these ceremonies, while the women and children conceal themselves and hide their faces as far as possible. The full moon is the time selected for those rites.
Black Magic.—When a party of Blacks are eating, and particularly if the meal consists of teal, the greatest care is taken to burn all the bones to ashes. If an enemy were to secure a bone the person who had eaten a teal would fall completely into his power. To make such a bone capable of doing injury to another person it must be well smeared with the fat of a corpse. It must then be thrust into a hollow kangaroo bone lubricated in the same way, and the ends of the bone in which it is enclosed must be carefully plugged with resin obtained from the gum tree. When the victim's enemy wishes to work the charm he must place the magic bone in an upright position close to a fire. As the fat in the bone begins to melt the strength of the victim wastes away, and unless it be removed from the neighbourhood of the fire the man attacked will rapidly weaken and eventually perish. If it is removed before dangerous symptoms begin to occur he will gradually recover. For such magical rites the fat round the kidneys of a corpse is preferred. The greatest secrecy is used in the performance of this rite, and a stranger finds it very difficult to obtain information about it; in fact, all questions are usually met with a denial that such rites are performed, and an outsider must obtain the complete confidence of the tribe before he is able to ascertain the facts.
Tienatinnati and the Giant Goat-sucker Bird.—Many years ago, when I was living in the Long Desert, a dreary heath country lying between Adelaide and Melbourne, and close to the Victorian boundary, I amused myself by collecting natural history specimens. One day I secured a giant goat-sucker, a night bird with a collection of stiff hairs upon its beak. While I was away from home I left the bird in charge of my cook. On my return I found the bird dead, and the chief of the Coorong tribe told me the following story, which his nephew, a favourite of mine, interpreted to me.
In an age long ago there was a gigantic, savage member of the tribe called Tienatinnati, who was greatly feared. He had two wives, from whom two sons were born. Detested on account of his sulky disposition, he left his tribe and retired to the interior, where he made his home. Food was easily obtained, as the district abounded in kangaroo and emu. At last a drought occurred, and the family were reduced to grievous straits. Tienatinnati did not mind his wives suffering privations, but he was deeply concerned about his sons and himself. So at last he seized one of his wives, cut off one of her arms, and cooked it. Finally he killed and devoured both the women. After a time the rain broke, and when his kinsmen in the tribe heard what had happened they determined to be revenged. It was thought too dangerous to attack Tienatinnati openly, so the brothers of the murdered women devised a plan. Taking with them only their hunting weapons and a large quantity of an intoxicant made from the gnoudong root, they went to his camp. They were received in a sulky fashion, but as they were only two in number they were allowed to erect a mi-mi shelter. They offered the liquor to their enemy, who at once fell into a drunken sleep. Then the brothers went into the bush and collected a quantity of bind-weed, which is like the tendrils of the vine. They told the boys that they intended only to make their father warm and comfortable; and they commenced winding the fibre in and out round his mi-mi. When they had succeeded in confining him, they set fire to his mi-mi; and when the boys showed fight they were immediately killed. Aroused to a sense of his danger, Tienatinnati made vigorous attempts to escape. But he was burnt to ashes. The Blacks believe that his spirit still animates the giant goat-sucker, and it is still known by his name.