Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 16, 1905.djvu/489

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431
The Religious Ideas of the Arunta.

incarnation of invisible individuals (not merely spirits), who live in trees, crevices, water-holes, etc., in human or animal form, and enter the bodies of women, being named after the species of animals from which they originated. The soul does not go back to the knanakala place at death, preparatory to reincarnation; it goes northwards, to the island of the dead, called laia, where it wanders for many years and is finally annihilated. The tjurunga is not the abode of the soul, but the body of the dead person, and is therefore painted with red ochre, and at times decorated like the body of a living person. The bodily existence of the deceased ceases with the destruction of the tjurunga. It is further erroneous to maintain, as do Spencer and Gillen, that there is no meaning now obtainable for the tjurunga songs. I have a collection of thirty with a translation, which are still understood by the chief men."

It is clear from internal evidence that Gillen's Ulthaana is not a proper name; the same appears to be the case with altjira, which, according to Kempe, is applied not only to five gods, whose names he gives, but also to the sun, moon, and remarkable things generally. This so entirely coincides with what we know of theological terminology in the lower planes of culture that we need have little doubt of the accuracy of the information. It is hardly possible to suggest seriously that the beliefs detailed by Kempe and others are derived from missionaries, whose arrival among the Arunta only dated back ten years before the publication of the information. Certain details apart, the information now published seems equally unassailable on this ground. "Immortal virgins," it is true, are hardly a savage conception; but it seems hardly likely that such an idea would be derived from a Lutheran missionary; if anything they rather recall the houris of Mohammedanism than any Christian idea. Probably, however, it is rather a question of translation than of the invasion of foreign ideas. If we had the original text before us it would