Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 14, 1903.djvu/355

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325
Western Australia.

folklore interest, but I think as we are in so primitive a place with the "bush" so close—in fact one could by plunging into the bush within five minutes from the house get lost and wander for hours with nothing to guide one again to the place from which one started—we shall after a time be able to send you much information of the habits and superstitions of the aborigines who are all about and around us.

As we were walking up from the jetty on the day of our arrival we passed a woman in whose hair were an innumerable quantity of lumps of red mud. On inquiry I found that this was a sign of mourning amongst the natives. Later I heard that only the women "decorated" their heads and so went into mourning, and then they were exempt from working, with the exception of attending to the fire. Afterwards I noticed many women in mourning, and was told their tribe so intermarried (or rather were so interconnected) that the mourning might be for the remotest of connections.

The natives here are so primitive that they do not know the value of money, and instead, for a day's work, are paid with a stick of tobacco and a pannikin of either flour or rice. We have several on the station here; and while at work the men wear an old pair of pants or trousers and a vest; the women, a vest and sarong. The children go perfectly naked, but as soon as work is finished by the men, off come the clothes, excepting a string round the waist to which is attached an old bit of rag in front, or their hair belt and chastity shell.[1] Soon they disappear into the bush, the men carrying a long spear of sharpened wood, a small wooden shield, and two or three boomerangs (kylies). The women sometimes carry a kylie too, and always what are known as digging-sticks (a long thick stick shaped somewhat like a spud at one end), which they use as weapons of defence, as well as to procure for their husbands certain roots and sweet potatoes [see sequitur. They do not walk

  1. See further, p. 334.