Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 16, 1905.djvu/490

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The Religious Ideas of the Arunta.

perhaps turn out that "virgin" is a translation of a word which means only unmarried female.

If, therefore, these ideas are substantially native in origin, the question arises. Do they represent the primitive Arunta creed, or are we rather to turn to the pages of Spencer and Gillen for an idea of what was originally the philosophy of the whole Arunta nation?

Those who are not convinced that the philosophy of the Arunta is anything more than an interesting "sport" will see in the opposing camps of Arunta theology fresh evidence that the ideas of part of the tribe have undergone evolution away from the main current of Australian belief It is for those who still maintain that the Arunta of Spencer and Gillen are the old-established firm to show how another portion of the nation comes to hold entirely different views. There are, I conceive, three and only three possible theories—(1) it may be asserted that the ideas here published are the product of Christian influence; or (2) it may be maintained that they are derived from neighbouring tribes; or (3) that they are being evolved by a portion of the tribe to replace an original non-theistic, non-eschatological (virtually, at any rate) belief.

To the first theory the character of the beliefs seems an insuperable objection. No trace of Christian teaching is discernible in them. Not only so, but they are recorded by missionaries within ten years of the opening of the mission, and again twenty years later, with no important variation. If the natives had so eagerly thrown aside native belief for Christian ideas, it is inconceivable that the latter should in the short space of ten years have become crystallised. We should find them, on this hypothesis, at a different stage in 1905. But this is not the case.

In the case of the second theory the onus probandi is equally on those who advance it. Correspondences of name and incident with the mythology of the Urabunna, or other neighbouring tribes, must be shown in detail before even a