Page:Myth, Ritual, and Religion (Volume 1).djvu/85

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Gideon Scott Lang.[1] These two writers take no account of the singular "dichotomous" divisions, as of Kumite and Kroki, but they draw attention to the groups of kindred which derive their surnames from animals, plants, and the like. "The origin of these family names," says Sir George Grey, "is attributed by the natives to different causes. . . . One origin frequently assigned by the natives is, that they were derived from some vegetable or animal being very common in the district which the family inhabited." We have seen from the evidence of Messrs. Fison and Howitt that a more common native explanation is based on kinship with the vegetable or plant which bestows the family surname. Sir George Gray mentions that the families use their plant or animal as a crest or kobong (totem), and he adds that natives never willingly kill animals of their kobong, holding that some one of that species is their nearest friend. The consequences of eating forbidden animals vary considerably. Sometimes the Boyl-yas (that is, ghosts) avenge the crime. Thus, when Sir George Grey ate some mussels (which, after all, are not the crest of the Greys), a storm followed, and one of his black fellows improvised this stave—

     "Oh, wherefore did he eat the mussels?
     Now the Boyl-yas storms and thunders make;
     Oh, wherefore would he eat the mussels?"

There are two points in the arrangements of these stocks of kindred named from plants and animals which we shall find to possess a high importance. No

  1. Lang, Lecture on Natives of Australia, p. 10.