Page:The aborigines of Australia.djvu/46

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traditions and fables not a whit more reasonable, and not half so logical, are common in the most civilized nations. Eclipses are among the phenomena which the aboriginals regard with peculiar interest and attention, such occurrences being always looked upon as the forerunners of calamity. And, strange to say, an eclipse of the moon is looked upon as a much more important and serious matter than an eclipse of the sun. Whenever the former luminary becomes obscured by an interposition of our globe the aborigines manifest the utmost alarm and concern; they say that she is assailed by her enemies, and with loud clamours and violent gesticulations, discharge arrows, spears, and other missiles towards her supposed tormentors, which they continue to do till the eclipse has terminated. This and many other reasons tend to the conclusion that the orb of night is regarded with greater veneration by the blacks than the luminary of the day. For this, however, some very probable reasons can be adduced. By the light of the moon their fishing expeditions are carried out; by the same light they hunt the animals on which they chiefly depend for sustenance, and many of these latter are only to be procured during the hours of night. Thus the moon is their more immediate benefactress, although her benefactions fall far short of those conferred by the more ardent source of light; and acting in accordance with the maxim that the best gift is best remembered, the aborigines regard the former with the greater amount of veneration.