Page:Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London, Volume 1 (2nd edition).djvu/66

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46
Description of the Natives of King George's Sound

paths, lest their footsteps be discovered; for, like other savages, the Australians are wonderfully sagacious in tracking by the impressions of the foot. Upon discovering the encampment of their enemies, they wait till night, and then cautiously approach, by creeping on their hands and knees, until they have selected the person they are in search of, and immediately spear him through the body. The party who are thus surprised will instantly fly, without attempting resistance; for during the darkness of the night they cannot discern their friends from a foe, and the light of their fires serves to expose them to the spears of their enemies.

Women and children are alike sacrificed, but we seldom heard of more than one individual being killed at an attack. They are, however, so constantly at war that their numbers must be considerably diminished by it. When an individual falls, there are always some who take upon themselves to revenge his death.

Immediately after the burial, the encampment is broken up, and they quit the neighbourhood for a period, during which time they are cautious not to utter the name of the deceased; and in relating the occurrence, the names of the survivors are alone mentioned, and by the omission of that of the dead his fate is told. Upon inquiring into the cause of this custom, they say it is not good to speak his name, lest they should see his gnoit or ghost.

Their funeral solemnities are accompanied by loud lamentations. A grave is dug about four feet long and three wide, and perhaps a yard in depth. The earth that is removed is arranged on one side of the grave in the form of a crescent; at the bottom is placed some bark, and then small green boughs, and upon this the body, ornamented and enveloped in its cloak, with the knees bent up to the breast, and the arms crossed. Over the body is heaped more green boughs, and bark, and the hole is then filled with earth. Green boughs are placed over the earth, and upon them are deposited the spears, knife, and hammer of the deceased, together with the ornaments that belonged to him; his throwing-stick on one side, and the curl or towk on the other side of the mound. The mourners then carve circles in the bark of the trees that grow near the grave, at the height of six or seven feet from the ground; and lastly, making a small fire in front, they gather small boughs, and carefully brush away any portions of the earth that may adhere to them. The face is coloured black or white, laid on in blotches across the forehead, round the temples, and down the cheek-bones, and these marks of mourning are worn for a considerable time. They also cut the end of the nose, and scratch it, for the purpose of producing tears. During the period of the mourning they wear no ornaments or feathers. It frequently occurs that two individuals bear the same name, and in this case,