Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 14, 1903.djvu/359

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327
Western Australia.

of those too who have reached a certain age are covered with wheals. Cuts are made into the flesh of the arms, back, and breast with a bit of glass bottle, and ashes or sand is rubbed into the wound to prevent the flesh closing up.

This morning we were out for a walk before the sun was up, and passed a group of natives. In the midst of them was a man wearing what my husband told me was a girdle of chastity, in the form of a large pearl oyster shell decorated with a sort of key-pattern, the pattern scratched in with a pointed nail and wilgy[1] rubbed in until the shell has the appearance of being inlaid. . . . .

The aborigines obtain fire by rubbing two sticks together—a very long process. I think I mentioned that they covered themselves with a decoration in red and white, black and grey. The three latter are made from the ashes of the wood fire mixed with beef fat; the red pigment by scraping the blocks of ironstone together, and making a paste in the same manner, which is streaked in all sorts of devices, according to tribe, over their faces and bodies. 'Possum fur is also used for decorative purposes, and is made to adhere by blood and spinifex gum. The whole of the soil here is of loose red sand or ironstone. Yesterday while out walking we came across a camp of aborigines on the seashore; the houses, or "biggars," to use the native term, look like haycocks. Round about were the fires, and children were playing at throwing the boomerang. I made inquiries about a man we recently saw whose face and body were covered with wilgy, and I hear that when a man becomes engaged to be married, he smears himself or is smeared entirely over from head to foot with the ironstone clay mixed as aforementioned. Then he has to sit perfectly still for three days and nights. The tribe holds a big feast meanwhile, and so that none of the clay may come off, the engaged man is fed by his friends. The clay remains on

  1. Wilgy, see below, p. 338.