Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 16, 1905.djvu/127

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105
Reviews.

The reference to these supernatural commands leads me to another subject discussed by the author. Controversies, portions of which have appeared in the pages of Folk-Lore, have compelled Dr. Howitt to clear up the doubts entertained by anthropologists as to the exact status of Baiame, Daramulun, and Co. He has, therefore, not contented himself, as perhaps he otherwise would have done, with recounting the legends and ceremonies relating to these mythical beings. He has carefully examined those legends and ceremonies; he has defined the area within which they are told and practised; he has analysed the statements and opinions of previous writers; he has canvassed the possibility of fraud or error on the part of his own native informants; and he has given the result as it shapes itself in his own mind after forty years of intimate converse with the blackfellow.

The theory put forward in the work which provoked the controversies just alluded to was, in its later and presumably final form, that among man's earliest original conceptions is an idea of a kind, creative, relatively Supreme Being whom men may worship, and that this, contrary to current theories, was earlier than animism, and did not grow out of it, but was in practice (though not entirely in belief) superseded by it. Applying the doctrine to Australia it was contended that Bunjil of the Wotjoballuk, Mungan ngaua of the Kurnai, Baiame of the Kamilaroi, Daramulun of the Coast Murring, and the corresponding mythical personages of other tribes, were to be identified with this relatively Supreme Being. Now, if the identification were correct and the theory well-based, we should expect to find that the most backward tribes had the most fully developed belief in, and the clearest conception of, the Supreme Being in question. But this, so far as has been ascertained, is the direct reverse of the fact. The area of belief in this important Being seems to be confined to the south-east. The tribes which hold it are precisely those in which the greatest advance has been made in social organization. Among them group-marriage (or what look like more or less lively survivals of group-marriage) has given way to individual marriage, descent in the female line has been replaced by that in the male line, the primitive organization under the class system has been abandoned, or is in process of being abandoned, for organization