Page:The aborigines of Australia.djvu/52

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REVERENCE FOR THE DEAD. 37

ghostly guise! From this it is apparent that ghosts and goblins, and the other numerous airy denizens with which the imagination has peopled earth and air in European countries, have found a habitation and a name in the Australian wilderness. In some parts the relations of the deceased pretend to receive mysterious communications from him previous to interment.

Extreme reverence for the memory of the dead is a remarkable principle among the doctrines of the aborigines. De mortuis nil nisi bonum is the maxim inculcated by an enlightened benevolence among civilized men, and very generally acted upon. The Australian aborigine goes further, and not only proclaims that no evil shall be spoken of the dead, but that the silence of the tomb shall in no wise be broken by the living. This rule is carried out to the letter, and with the utmost stringency. Thus, if an individual bear the same name as the deceased, he is obliged to adopt some other for a certain period, so that even the name of the dead may not be spoken; and if a deceased person be inquired after by some one ignorant of his demise, he will not be answered otherwise than by the downcast looks and marked silence of those whom he questions.