Page:The aborigines of Australia.djvu/76

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63
BELIEF IN THE METEMPSYCHOSIS.

character. A person being on one occasion cruising along the coast in a boat, the crew of which consisted of aboriginal natives, fired on a shoal of porpoises which made their appearance, and wounded one of them. The blacks had in vain used their utmost persuasion to dissuade him from his purpose of firing, and when they saw the result were in the highest degree concerned. On coming on shore they informed the tribe of what had happened, who immediately gave vent to their sorrow for what they seemed to regard as a great calamity, in loud outcries, the women weeping and uttering their grief in loud lamentations. Subsequently the individual who was the prime cause of all the commotion ascertained that the blacks regarded the porpoises as the former chiefs of their own and the neighbouring tribes, who, in their metamorphosed condition, still exercised a watchful care over the interests of their people by driving the fish on shore in times of scarcity—sometimes, during periods of more than ordinary want, sending carcases of whales to the relief of their hungering friends.

What has heretofore been said in reference to the aborigines relates principally to the male portion of the race—their habits, arts, and dispositions. It may therefore be desirable to devote a little space to the exclusive consideration of the principal characteristics by which the other sex is distinguished. Without such a review the picture which it is proposed to exhibit would, in fact, be incomplete. Here we will