From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.

When a woman or a child dies, none but the bereaved exhibit sorrow. Ceremonies there are none. A grave is dug, and the body is buried, and one might suppose that the deceased was uncared for but for the fire which is lit near the tomb. In burying a young girl, they raise a tumulus, and make a fire on the top of it.

Some tribes inhabiting the country to the north and north-east are said to be more than ordinarily scrupulous in interring the dead. If practicable, they will bury the corpse near the spot where, as a child, it first drew breath. A mother will carry a dead infant for weeks, in the hope of being able to bury it near the place where it was born; and a dead man will be conveyed a long distance, in order that the last rites may be performed in a manner satisfactory to the tribe.[1]

When a man is killed in a fight, the tribes enquire whether or not the slain was N'uther jum-buk—sulky or sullen. If violent or mad, N'ya-arunning, or vicious, Karndooith—that is to say, if he pursued his enemy with malignity, and not in the calm manner of a man seeking merely for victory, but rather with savage bloodthirstiness—he would be held to be unworthy of decent burial. He would be left to chance mutilation and decay in the place where he fell. If he were the aggressor, and suffered death, the rites would not be performed. But if the victim acted merely in self-defence, his body would be burned, and his bones gathered together, and placed with decent care in the hollow branch of a tree.

The tribes holding country on the Delatite River, Ovens River, Broken River, and King River, appear to have burned the bodies of those who had been married; and a man killed accidentally was thought to deserve more than common care in regard to the disposal of his body. His bones were collected and placed in a hollow tree. The bodies of dead children were, in most cases, also placed in the hollow branches of trees. In thus disposing of the body of a child, there was neither negligence nor indecent haste. The hollow branch

  1. The people of the Wimmera follow some remarkable customs:—"In August 1849 a small tribe of blacks was encamped on Pettit's Creek, a branch of the Wimmera, near its sources in the Pyrenees, where one of their number, named 'Georgey,' a remarkably fine young man, and a great favorite with them, was carried off by consumption. Having first asked permission, his people chose an elevated spot within my paddock, and dug a grave, in which, after the bottom had been covered with dry grass, 'Georgey's' remains were placed compactly 'folded' within a good blanket, tied round and across with a woollen comforter, and his pannikin and sundry small articles besides. The grave was closed with a sheet of bark, and the vault so formed covered with the heaped-up soil, and further, a fence was put up to keep the horses off it. In the month of November following a great storm of wind and rain swept through the country, and almost as soon as it had cleared off 'Georgey's' friends again presented themselves and begged for the loan of spade and shovel. In reply to my enquiry why they wanted these, I was told that 'poor fellow "Georgey" was too much cold and wet and miserable where he was buried,' and they wished to remove him. Having exhumed the body, they wrapped an additional blanket and comforter round it, placed it on a bier made of saplings, and carried it across the creek to another spot in the paddock, and placed it in a hollow tree, all the openings in which they carefully stopped with dead sticks, so that no animals could get in. The tree was frequently visited, and swept round about; and the wails of the women used to be heard on these occasions. The remains of the poor fellow remained here until a bush-fire consumed the tree some years afterwards, a heap of ashes and a few calcined bones marking the spot when I revisited it."—W. E. Wright, MS., 30th October 1876.