Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 16, 1905.djvu/487

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The Religious Ideas of the Arunta.

theory of reincarnation leaves no room; the elimination of superhuman beings is less easy to explain, however, and it would have been more satisfactory to learn under what circumstances it was resolved to omit all mention of the sky-being known to Gillen in 1896, whose name clearly means no more than spirit.

With the intention of clearing up some of the difficulties, I put myself in communication with Mr. Strehlow, missionary at Hermannsburg, and successor of the gentlemen whose reports were reproduced by Krichauff. He is, I understand, intending to publish in the near future a work upon the Arunta, of whose language he is a master. I publish the following communications, for which I take this opportunity of thanking him most heartily, not as in any way a complete statement of the beliefs of the southern Arunta, but as a contribution to the vexed question of the primitiveness or otherwise of the Arunta beliefs described by Spencer and Gillen. Mr. Strehlow writes to me in German; his letters, dated February 11th and August 3rd, 1905, run in a somewhat condensed form as follows:

"Altjira, the god of the Aranda, lives in the sky (or heaven). He is like a strong man in outward appearance, save that he has emu-feet, whence he receives the name of Altjira iliinka, the emu-footed god. He is of reddish skin (red is the favourite colour of the blacks), and has long hair, which falls over his shoulders. His dress is a netlike garment. He eats latjia (a sort of carrot?) which is always fit for food in the sky, and eatable berries, such as agi and lalitja, which are always in season there.

"Altjira is surrounded by handsome youths and immortal virgins. He is the creator of the heavenly bodies—sun, moon, and stars. The Milky Way is a river, hence called by the blacks lara, river, or ulbaia, creek, with fresh water-holes and fruit; birds and beasts, too, wander through the realm of Altjira. When rain clouds come up, it is Altjira walking through the sky—a good omen for mankind of a