Page:The aborigines of Australia.djvu/139

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126 THE ABORIGINES OF AUSTRALIA.

suppose that for so trifling a cause he would inflict such a torture and impose such a deformity on all the females of his tribe. Nothing can possibly afford a better clue for arriving at a just conclusion as to the probable meaning of the ceremony than an investigation of the practice among the North American Indians which has so strong a similitude to the one just mentioned. The ceremony among these last-named people, which is elaborately described by the author before quoted, is of a religious character, and is preceded by a process of torture of the worst possible description, at the termination of which the sufferer, as a last act of self-immolation, approaches a man appointed for the purpose, and placing his finger on the skull of a buffalo, it is chopped off at one stroke, the owner having previously offered it as a sacrifice to the Great Spirit. Among the Red Indians the operation appears to be confined to the men, and the loss of a finger, in the manner referred to, is regarded as a mark of the greatest distinction; nor are they in all instances content with the loss of one member, some warriors and chiefs, the more to bask in the favour of their Manitou, immolating at different times the first joint of several fingers: the greater the number missing the greater the reverence paid to the individual. Here then, most probably, is the true explanation of the practice among the New Hollanders which has been the cause of so much speculation. The amputation of the little finger of female children is — or was at a