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The Euahlayi Tribe by K Langloh Parker

A Study of Aboriginal Life in Australia



By one of the Euahlayi Tribe (Omitted from etext)



No introduction to Mrs. Langloh Parker's book can be more than that
superfluous 'bush' which, according to the proverb, good wine does not
need. Our knowledge of the life, manners, and customary laws of many
Australian tribes has, in recent years, been vastly increased by the
admirable works of Mr. Howitt, and of Messrs. Spencer and Gillen. But
Mrs. Parker treats of a tribe which, hitherto, has hardly been
mentioned by anthropologists, and she has had unexampled opportunities
of study. It is hardly possible for a scientific male observer to be
intimately familiar with the women and children of a savage tribe. Mrs.
Parker, on the other hand, has had, as regards the women and children
of the Euahlayi, all the advantages of the squire's wife in a rural
neighbourhood, supposing the squire's wife to be an intelligent and
sympathetic lady, with a strong taste for the study of folklore and
rustic custom. Among the Zulus, we know, it is the elder women who tell
the popular tales, so carefully translated and edited by Bishop
Colenso. Mrs. Parker has already published two volumes of Euahlayi
tales, though I do not know that I have ever seen them cited, except by
myself, in anthropological discussion. As they contain many beautiful
and romantic touches, and references to the Euahlayi 'All Father,' or
paternal 'super man,' Byamee, they may possibly have been regarded as
dubious materials, dressed up for the European market. Mrs. Parker's
new volume, I hope, will prove that she is a close scientific observer,
who must be reckoned with by students. She has not scurried through the
region occupied by her tribe, but has had them constantly under her
eyes for a number of years.

My own slight share in the book as it stands ought to be mentioned.
After reading the original MS., I catechised Mrs. Parker as to her
amount of knowledge of the native language; her methods of obtaining
information; and the chances that missionary influence had affected the
Euahlayi legends and beliefs. I wrote out her answers, and she read and
revised what I had written. I also collected many scattered notices of
Byamee into the chapter on that being, which Mrs. Parker has read and
approved. I introduced a reference to Mr. Howitt's theory of the 'All
Father,' and I added some references to other authorities on the
Australian tribes. Except for this, and for a very few purely verbal
changes in matter of style, Mrs. Parker's original manuscript is
untouched by me. It seems necessary to mention these details, as I
have, in other works, expressed my own opinions on Australian religion
and customary law.[MAKING OF RELIGION, second edition; MYTH, RITUAL, AND
RELIGION, second edition.] These opinions I have not, so to speak, edited
into the work of Mrs. Parker. The author herself has remarked that,
beginning as a disciple of Mr. Herbert Spencer in regard to the
religious ideas of the Australians--according to that writer, mere
dread of casual 'spirits'--she was obliged to alter her attitude, in
consequence of all that she learned at first hand. She also explains
that her tribe are not 'wild blacks,' though, in the absence of
missionary influences, they retain their ancient beliefs, at least the
old people do; and, in a decadent form, preserve their tribal
initiations, or Boorah. How she tested and controlled the evidence of
her informants she has herself stated, and I venture to think that she
could hardly have made a better use of her opportunities.

In one point there is perhaps, almost unavoidably, a lacuna or gap in
her information. The Euahlayi, she says, certainly do not possess the
Dieri and Urabunna

custom of Pirrauru or Piraungaru, by which married, and unmarried men,
of the classes men and women which may intermarry, are solemnly
allotted to each other as more or less permanent paramours.[See
SECRET OF THE TOTEM, chapter iii.] That custom, for some unknown reason,
is confined to certain tribes possessing the two social divisions with the
untranslated names MATTERI and KIRARU. These tribes range from Lake Eyre
southward, perhaps, as far as the sea. Their peculiar custom is unknown to
the Euahlayi) but Mrs. Parker does not inform us concerning any recognised
licence which may, as is usual, accompany their Boorah assemblies, or
their 'harvest home' of gathered grass seed, which she describes.

Any reader of Mrs. Parker's book who has not followed recent
anthropological discussions, may need to be apprised of the nature of
these controversies, and of the probable light thrown on them by the
full description of the Euahlayi tribe. The two chief points in dispute
are (1) the nature and origin of the marriage laws of the Australians;
and (2) the nature and origin of such among their ideas and practices
as may be styled 'religious.' As far as what we commonly call material
civilisation is concerned, the natives of the Australian continent are
probably the most backward of mankind, having no agriculture, no
domestic animals, and no knowledge of metal-working. Their weapons and
implements are of wood, stone, and bone, and they have not even the
rudest kind of pottery. But though the natives are all, in their
natural state, on or about this common low level, their customary laws,
ceremonials, and beliefs are rich in variety.

As regards marriage rules they are in several apparently ascending
grades of progress. First we have tribes in which each person is born
into one or other of two social divisions usually called 'phratries.'
Say that the names of the phratries mean Eagle Hawk and Crow. Each

born Crow must marry an Eagle Hawk; each born Eagle Hawk must marry a
Crow. The names are derived through the mothers. One obvious result is
that no two persons, brother and sister maternal, can intermarry; but
the rule also excludes from intermarriage great numbers of persons in
no way akin to each other by blood, who merely share the common phratry
name, Crow or Eagle Hawk.

In each phratry are smaller sets of persons, each set distinguished by
the name of some animal or other natural object, their 'totem.' The
same totem is never found in both phratries. Thus a person marrying out
of his or her phratry, as all must do, necessarily marries out of his
or her totem.

The same arrangements exist among tribes which derive phratry and totem
names through the father.

This derivation of names and descent through the father is regarded by
almost all students, and by Mr. J. G. Frazer, in one passage of his
latest study of the subject, as a great step in progress.['The Beginnings
of Religion and Totemism among the Australian Aborigines,' FORTMIGHTLY
REVIEW, September 1905, p. 452.] The obvious result of paternal descent is
to make totem communities or kins local. In any district most of the
people will be of the same paternal totem name--say, Grub, Iguana, Emu,
or what not. Just so, in Glencoe of old, most of the people were MacIans;
in Appin most were Stewarts; in South Argyll Campbells, and so on.

The totem kins are thus, with paternal descent, united both by supposed
blood ties in the totem kin, and by associations of locality. This is
certainly a step in social progress.

But while Mr. Frazer, with almost all inquirers, acknowledges this, ten
pages later in his essay he no longer considers the descent of the
totem in the paternal line as necessarily 'a step in progress' from
descent in the maternal line. 'The common assumption that inheritance
of the totem through the mother always preceded inheritance of it through
the father need not hold good,'[IBID. p. 462.] he remarks.

Thus it appears that a tribe has not necessarily made 'a great step in
progress,' because it reckons descent of the totem on the male side. If
this be so, we cannot so easily decide as to which tribe is socially
advanced and which is not.

In any case, however, there is a test of social advance. There is an
acknowledged advance when a tribe is divided into, not two, but four or
eight divisions, which may not intermarry.[IBID. p. 454] The Euahlayi have
four such divisions. In each of their intermarrying phratries are two
'Matrimonial Classes,' each with its name, and these are so constituted
that a member of the elder generation can never marry a member of the
succeeding generation. This rule prevents, of course, marriage between
parent and child, but such marriages never do occur in the pristine
tribes of the Darling river which have no such classes. The four-class
arrangement excludes from intermarriage all persons, whether parents
and children or not, who bear the same class name, say Hippai.

Among the central and northern tribes, from the Arunta of the
Macdonnell hills to the Gulf of Carpentaria, the eight-class rule
exists, and it is, confessedly, the most advanced of all.

In this respect, then, the Arunta of the centre of Australia are
certainly more advanced than the Euahlayi. The Arunta have eight, not
four, intermarrying classes. In the matter of rites and ceremonies,
too, they are, in the opinion of Messrs. Spencer and Gillen, more
advanced than, say, the Euahlayi. They practise universal 'subincision'
of the males, and circumcision, in place of the more primitive knocking
out of the front teeth. Their ceremonies are very prolonged: in Messrs.
Spencer and Gillen's experience, rites lasted for four months during a
great tribal gathering. That the Arunta could provide supplies for so
prolonged and large an assembly, argues high organisation, or a region
well found in natural edible objects. Yet the region is arid and barren,
so the organisation is very high. For all these reasons, even if we do not
regard paternal descent of the totem as a step in progress from maternal
descent, the Arunta seem greatly advanced in social conditions.

Yet they are said to lack entirely that belief in a moral and kindly
'All Father,' such as Byamee, which Mrs. Parker describes as potent
among the less advanced Euahlayi, and which Mr. Howitt has found among
non-coastal tribes of the south-east, with female descent of the totem,
but without matrimonial classes--that is, among the most primitive tribes
of all.

Here occurs a remarkable difficulty. Mr. Howitt asserts, with Mr.
Frazer's concurrence, that (in Mr. Frazer's words) 'the same regions in
which the germs of religion begin to appear have also made some
progress towards a higher form of social and family life.'['The Beginnings
of Religion and Totemism among the Australian Aborigines,' Fortnightly
Review, September 1905, p. 452.] But the social advance from maternal to
paternal descent of the totem, we have seen, is not necessarily an advance
at all, in Mr. Frazer's opinion.[ IBID. p. 462.] The Arunta, for example,
he thinks, never recognised female descent of
the totem. They have never recognised, indeed, he thinks, any
hereditary descent of the totem, though in all other respects, as in
hereditary magistracies, and inheritance of the right to practise the
father's totemic ritual, they do reckon in the male line. By such
advantage, however it was acquired, they are more progressive than,
say, the Euahlayi. But, progressive as they are, they have not, like
the more pristine tribes of the south-east, developed 'the germs of
religion,' the belief in a benevolent or ruling 'All Father.' Unlike
the tribes of the south-east, they have co-operative totemic magic.
Each totem community does magic for its totem, as part of the food
supply of the united tribe. But the tribe, though so SOLIDAIRE, and
with its eight classes and hereditary magistracies so advanced, has
developed no germs of religion at all. Arunta progress has thus been
singularly unequal.

The germs of religion are spoken of as the results of social advance,
but, while so prominent in social advance, the Arunta have no trace of
religion. The tribes northward from them to the sea are also very
advanced socially, but (with one known exception not alluded to by Mr.
Frazer) have no 'All Father,' no germ of religion.

From this fact, if correctly reported, it is obvious that social
progress is not the cause, nor the necessary concomitant, of advance in
religious ideas.

Again, the influence of the sea, in causing a 'heavier rainfall, a more
abundant vegetation, and a more plentiful supply of food,' with an
easier and more reflective life than that of 'the arid wilderness of
the interior,' cannot be, as is alleged, the cause of the germs of
religion.[IBID. p. 463.] If this were the case, the coastal tribes of the
Gulf of Carpentaria and of the north generally would have developed the
All Father belief. Yet, in spite of their coastal environment, and richer
existence, and social advance, the northern coastal tribes are not
credited with the belief in the All Father. Meanwhile tribes with no
matrimonial classes, and with female descent of the totem--tribes
dwelling from five to seven hundred miles away from the southern sea--do
possess the All Father belief as far north as Central Queensland, no
less than did the almost or quite extinct tribes of the south coast,
who had made what is (or is not) 'the great step in progress' of
paternal descent of the totem.

Again, arid and barren as is the central region tenanted by the Arunta,
it seems to permit or encourage philosophic reflection, for their
theory of evolution is remarkably coherent and ingenious. The theory of
evolution implies as much reflection as that of creation! Their magic
for the behoof of edible objects is attributed to the suddenness of
their first rains,[IBID. p. 465.] and the consequent outburst of life,

which the natives attribute to their own magical success. But
rainmaking magic, as Mrs. Langloh Parker shows, is practised with
sometimes amazing success among the Euahlayi, who work no magic at all
for their totems. Their magic, if it brings rain, benefits their totems
at large, but for each totem in particular, no Euahlayi totem kin does

Again, agricultural magic has been, and indeed is, practised in Europe,
in conditions of climate unlike those of the Arunta; and totemic magic
is freely practised in North America, in climatic conditions dissimilar
from those of Central Australia.

For all these reasons I must confess that I do not follow the logic of
the philosophy which makes social advance the cause of the belief in
the All Father, and coastal rains the cause of social advance. The
Arunta have the social advance, the eight classes, the relatively high
organisation; but they have neither the climatic conditions supposed to
produce the advance, nor the religion which the advance is supposed to
produce. The northern coastal tribes, again, have the desired climatic
conditions, and the social advance, but they have not the germs of
religion found in many far inland southern tribes, like the Euahlayi,
whose social progress is extremely moderate. We thus find, from the
northern coast to the centre, one supposed result of coastal
conditions, namely, social progress, but not the other supposed result
of coastal conditions, namely, the All Father belief. I do not say that
it does not exist, for it is a secret belief, but it is not reported by
Messrs. Spencer and Gillen. On the other hand, among tribes of the
south-east very far from the coast, we find the lowest grades of social
progress, but we also find the All Father belief. I am ready, of
course, to believe that good conditions of life beget progress, social
and religious, as a general rule. But other causes exist; speculation
anywhere may take crudely scientific rather than crudely religious
lines. Especially the belief in ancestral spirits may check or nullify
the belief in a remote All Father. We see this among the Zulus, where
spirits entirely dominate religion, and the All Father is, at most, the
shadow of a name, Unkulunkulu. We may detect the same influence among
the northern tribes of Australia, where ancestral spirits dominate
thought and society, though they receive no sacrifice or prayer.
Meanwhile, if we accept Mrs. Parker's evidence, among the Euahlayi
ancestral spirits are of no account in religion) while the All Father
is obeyed, and, on some occasions, is addressed in prayer; and may even
cause rain, if property approached by a human spirit which has just
entered his mansions. Clearly, climatic causes and natural environment
are not the only factors in producing and directing the speculative
ideas of men in early society.

We must also remember that the neighbours of the Arunta, northwards,
who share certain peculiar Arunta ideas, possess, beyond all doubt,
either the earliest germs of belief in the All Father, or that belief
in a decadent condition of survival. This is quite certain; for,
whereas the Arunta laugh at all inquiries as to what went before the
'Alcheringa,' or mythic age of evolution, the Kaitish, according to
Messrs. Spencer and Gillen, aver that an anthropomorphic being, who
dwells above the sky, and is named Atnatu, first created himself, and
then 'made the Alcheringa,'--the mythic age of primal evolution. Of
mankind, some, in Kaitish opinion, were evolved; of others Atnatu is
the father. He expelled men to earth from his heaven for neglect of his
ceremonies, but he provided them with weapons and all that they
possess. He is not TROS FERRO SUR LA MORALE: he has made no MORAL laws,
but his ritual laws, as to circumcision and the whirling of the
bull-roarer, must be observed as strictly as the ritual laws of Byamee
of the Euahlayi. In this sense of obedience due to a heavenly father
who begat men, or some of them, punished them, and started them on
their terrene career, laying down ceremonial rules, we have certainly
'the germs of religion' in a central tribe cognate to the Arunta.

Mr. Frazer detects only two traces of religion in the centre, omitting
the Kaitish Atnatu, ['The Beginnings of Religion and Totemism among the
Australian Aborigines,' FORTNIGHTLY REVIEW, September 1905, p. 452,
Note 1.] but I am unable to see how the religious aspect of Atnatu,
non-moral as it is, can be overlooked. He is the father of part of the
tribe, and all are bound to, observe his ceremonial rules. He accounts for
the beginning of the beginning; he is the cause of the Alcheringa; men owe
duties to him. We do not know whether he was once as potent in their
hearts, and as moral as Byamee, but has DOGRINGOLO under Arunta
philosophic influences; or whether Byamee is a more highly evolved form of
Atnatu. But it is quite certain that the Kaitish, in a region as far
almost from the north sea as that of the Arunta, and further from southern
coastal influences than the Arunta, have a modified belief in the All
Father. How are we to account for this on the philosophic hypothesis of
Oceanus as the father of all the gods; of coastal influences producing a
richer life, and causing both social and religious progress?

Another difficulty is that while the Arunta, with no religion, and the
Kaitish, with the Atnatu belief, are socially advanced in organisation
(whether we reckon male descent of the totem 'a great step in
progress,' or an accident), they are yet supposed by Mr. Frazer to be,
in one respect, the least advanced, the most primitive, of known human
beings. The reason is this: the Arunta do not recognise the processes
of sexual union as the cause of the production of children. Sexual
acts, they say, merely prepare women for the reception of original
ancestral spirits, which enter into them, and are reincarnated and
brought to the birth.

If the women cannot accept the spirits without being 'prepared' by
sexual union, then sexual union plays a physical part in the generation
of a spirit incarnated, a fact which all believers in the human soul
are as ready as the Arunta to admit. If the Arunta recognise the
prior necessity of ' preparation,' then they are not so ignorant as
they are thought to be; and their view is produced, not so much by
stark ignorance, as by their philosophy of the eternal reincarnation of
primal human spirits. The Arunta philosophers, in fact, seem to
concentrate their speculation on a point which puzzled Mr. Shandy. How
does the animating principle, or soul, regarded as immaterial, clothe
itself in flesh? Material acts cannot effect the incarnation of a
spirit. Therefore, the spirit enters women from without, and is not the
direct result of human action.

The south-eastern tribes, with female descent of the totem, and with no
belief in the universal and constant reincarnation of ancestral
spirits, take the 'schylean view, according to Mr. Howitt, that the
male is the sole originating cause of children, while the female is
only the recipient and 'nurse.' These tribes, socially less advanced
than the Arunta, have not the Arunta nescience of the facts of
procreation, a nescience which I regard as merely the consequence and
corollary of the Arunta philosophy of reincarnation. Each Arunta child,
by that philosophy, has been in being since the Alcheringa: his mother
of the moment only reproduces him, after 'preparation.' He is not a new
thing; he is as old as the development of organic forms. This is the
Arunta belief, and I must reckon it as not more primitive than the
peculiar philosophy of reincarnation of ancestral spirits. Certainly
such an elaborate philosophy manifestly cannot be primitive. It is,
however, the philosophy of the tribes from the Urabunna, on Lake Eyre
(with female descent of the totem), to the most northerly tribes, with
male descent.

But among none of these tribes has the philosophy that extraordinary
effect on totemic institutions which, by a peculiar and isolated
addition, it possesses among the septs of the Arunta nation, and in a
limited way among the Kaitish.

Among all tribes except these the child inherits its totem: from the
mother, among the Urabunna; from the father in the northern peoples.
But, among the Arunta and Kaitish, the totem is not inherited from
either parent. According to the belief of these tribes, in every
district there is a place where the first human ancestors--in each case
all of one totem, whichsoever that totem, in each case, might happen to
be--died, 'went under the earth.' Rocks or trees arose to mark such
spots. These places are haunted by the spirits of the dead ancestors;
here they are all Grubs, there all Eagle Hawks, or all Iguanas, or all
Emus, or all Cats. Or as in these sites the ancestors left each his own
sacred stone, CHURINGA NANJA, with archaic patterns inscribed on it,
patterns now fancifully interpreted as totemic inscriptions. Such
stones are especially haunted by the ancestral souls, all desiring

When a woman becomes aware of the life of the child she bears, among
the Arunta and Kaitish, she supposes that a local spirit of the local
totem has entered her, and her child's totem is therefore the totem of
that locality, whatever other totems she and her husbands may own. The
stone amulet of the ancestral spirit, WHO IS THE CHILD, is sought; if
it cannot be found at the spot, a wooden CHURINGA is made to represent
it, and it is kept carefully in a sacred storehouse.

Even in the centre and north, where the belief in reincarnation
prevails, this odd manner of acquiring totems is only practised by the
Arunta tribes and the Kaitish, and only among them are the inscribed
stones known to exist as favoured haunts of ancestral spirits desiring
incarnation. The other northern tribes believe in reincarnation, but
not in the haunted sacred stones, which they do not, north of the
Worgaia, possess; nor do they derive totems from locality, but, as
usual, by inheritance.

It thus appears that these Arunta sacred stones are an inseparable
accident of the Arunta method of acquiring the totem. How they and the
faith in them cause that method is not obvious, but the two things--the
haunted sacred stone, and the local source of totems--are
inseparable--that is, the former never is found apart from the latter.
Now such stones, with the sense and usage attached to them, cannot well
be primitive. They are the result of the peculiar and strictly isolated
Arunta custom and belief, which gives to each man and woman one of
these stones, the property of himself or herself, since the mythical
age, through all reincarnations.

One cannot see how such an unique custom and belief, associated with
objects of art, can be reckoned primitive. Yet, where such stones do
not exist, the usage of acquiring totems by locality does not exist;
even where the belief in reincarnation and in local centres haunted by
totemic spirits is found in North Australia.[For an hypothesis of the
origin of the CHURINGA NANJA belief, see my SECRET OF THE TOTEM,
chapter iv.]

On these grounds it appears that the hereditary totem is the earlier,
and that the Arunta usage is the result of the special and inseparable
superstition about the sacred stones. It may be a relatively recent
complication of and addition to the theory of reincarnation. Meanwhile,
the belief and usage produce an unique effect. The Arunta and Kaitish,
we saw, are so advanced socially that they possess not two, or four,
but eight matrimonial classes. The tribe is divided into two sets of
four classes each, and no person in A division (nameless) of four
classes may marry another person of any one of these four, but must
marry a person of a given class among the four in B division
(nameless). The succession to the class is hereditary in the mate line.
But any person among the Arunta, contrary to universal custom
elsewhere, may marry another person of his or her own totem, if that
person be in the right class of the opposite division. Nowhere else can
a person of division A and totem Grub find a Grub to marry in the
opposite division B. But this is possible among the Arunta and Kaitish,
because their totems are acquired by pure accident, are not hereditary,
and all totems exist, or may exist, in division A and also in division B.

Mr. Frazer argues that the Arunta is the earlier state of affairs. He
supposes that men acquired their totems, at first, by local accident,
before they had laid any restrictions on marriage. Later, they divided
their tribe, first into two, then into four, then into eight classes;
and every one had to marry out of his class, or set of classes. All
other known tribes introduced these restrictions after totems had been
made hereditary. On passing the restrictive marriage law, they merely
drafted people of one set of hereditary totems into one division, all
the other totem kins into the other division. But the Arunta had not
made totems hereditary, but accidental, so all the children of one
crowd of mothers were placed in division A, all other children in
division B. The mothers in each division would have children of all the
totems, and thus the same totems now appeared in both of the exogamous
divisions. If a man married into his lawful opposite class, the fact
that the woman was of the same totem made no difference.

I have offered quite an opposite explanation. Arunta totems were,
originally, hereditary among the Arunta, as everywhere else, and no
totem occurred in both exogamous divisions. The same totems, later, got
into both divisions as the result of the later and isolated belief in
reincarnation PLUS the sacred haunted stones. That superstition has
left the Kaitish PRACTICE of marriage still almost untouched. A Kaitish
MAY, like an Arunta, marry a woman of his own totem, but he scarcely
ever does so. The old prohibition, extinct in law, persists in custom;
unless we say that the Kaitish are now merely imitating the usual
practice of the rest of the totemic races of the world.

Moreover, even among the Arunta, certain totems greatly preponderate in
each of the two exogamous intermarrying divisions of the tribe. This
must be because the present practice has not yet quite upset the
ancient usage, by which no totem ever occurred in both divisions. There
is even an Arunta myth asserting that this was so, but it is, of
course, of no historical value as evidence. Here it is proper to give
Mr. Frazer's contrary theory in his own words:--

'This [Arunta] mode of determining the totem has all the appearance of
extreme antiquity. For it ignores altogether the intercourse of the
sexes as the cause of offspring, and further, it ignores the tie of
blood on the maternal as well as the paternal side, substituting for it
a purely local bond, since the members of a totem stock are merely
those who gave the first sign of life in the womb at one or other of
certain definite spots. This form of totemism, which may be called
conceptional or local to distinguish it from hereditary totemism, may
with great probability be regarded as the most primitive known to exist
at the present day, since it seems to date from a time when blood
relationship was not yet recognised, and when even the idea of
paternity had not yet presented itself to the savage mind. Moreover, it
is hardly possible that this peculiar form of local totemism, with its
implied ignorance of such a thing as paternity at all, could be derived
from hereditary totemism, whereas it is easy to understand how
hereditary totemism, either in the paternal or in the maternal line,
could be derived from it. Indeed, among the Umbaia and Gnanji tribes we
can see at the present day how the change from local to hereditary
totemism has been effected. These tribes, like the Arunta and Kaitish,
believe that conception is caused by the entrance into a woman of a
spirit who has lived in its disembodied state, along with other spirits
of the same totem, at any one of a number of totem centres scattered
over the country; but, unlike the Arunta and Kaitish, they almost
always assign the father's totem to the child, even though the infant
may have given the first sign of life at a place haunted by spirits of
a different totem. For example, the wife of a snake man may first feel
her womb quickened at a tree haunted by spirits of goshawk people; yet
the child will not be a goshawk but a snake, like its father. The
theory by which the Umbaia and Gnanji reconcile these apparently
inconsistent beliefs is that a spirit of the husband's totem follows
the wife and enters into her wherever an opportunity offers, whereas
spirits of other totems would not think of doing so. In the example
supposed, a snake spirit is thought to have followed up the wife of the
snake man and entered into her at the tree haunted by goshawk spirits,
while the goshawk spirits would refuse to trespass, so to say, on a
snake preserve by quartering themselves in the wife of a snake man.
This theory clearly marks a transition from local to hereditary
totemism in the paternal line. And precisely the same theory could,
MUTATIS MUTANDIS, be employed to effect a change from local to
hereditary totemism in the maternal line; it would only be necessary to
suppose that a pregnant woman is always followed by a spirit of her own
totem, which sooner or later effects a lodgement in her body. For
example, a pregnant woman of the bee totem would always be followed by
a bee spirit, which would enter into her wherever and whenever she felt
her womb quickened, and so the child would be born of her own bee
totem. Thus the local form of totemism, which obtains among the Arunta
and Kaitish tribes, is older than the hereditary form, which is the
ordinary type of totemism in Australia and elsewhere, first, because it
rests on far more archaic conceptions of society and of life; and,
secondly, because both the hereditary kinds of totemism, the paternal
and the maternal, can be derived from it, whereas it can hardly be
derived from either of them.'

This argument appears to take for granted that the conception of primal
ancestral spirits, perpetually reincarnated, is primitive. But, in
fact, we seem to know it, among Australian tribes, only in these which
have advanced to the possession of eight classes, and have made 'the
great step in progress' (if it is a great step), of descent of the
totem in the paternal line. The Urabunna, with female descent of the
totem, have, it is true, the belief in reincarnation. But they
intermarry with the Arunta, borrow their sacred stones, and practise
the same advanced rites and ceremonies. The idea may thus have been
borrowed. On the other hand, the more pristine tribes of the
south-east, with two or four exogamous divisions, and with female
descent of the totem, have no known trace of the doctrine of
reincarnation (except as displayed by the Euahlayi), and have no doubt
that the father is the cause of procreation, save in the case of the
Euahlayi, who believe that the Moon and the Crow 'make' the new

It would thus appear that the central and northern belief in perpetual
reincarnation of primal spirits is not primitive, yet the Arunta method
of acquiring totems does not exist save by grace of this belief, PLUS
the isolated belief in primal sacred stones.

I am obliged to differ from Mr. Frazer when he says that 'it is easy to
see how hereditary totemism, either in the paternal or in the maternal
line, would be derived from' the Arunta belief and practice, whereas
'it is hardly possible that this peculiar form of local totemism
[Arunta], with its implied ignorance of such a thing as paternity at
all, could be derived from hereditary totemism.'

I do not know whether the other northern tribes share the Arunta
nescience of procreation, or not. Whether they do or do not, it was as
easy for them to e plain all difficulties by a reconciling myth--a
spirit of the husband's totem follows his wife--as for a white savant to
frame an hypothesis. The Urabunna, with female descent of the totem,
have quite another myth--to reconcile everything.

Nothing can be more easy. Supposing the Arunta to have begun, as in my
theory, with hereditary totemism, the rise of their isolated belief in
spirit-haunted sacred stones, encroached on and destroyed the
hereditary character of their totemism. The belief in CHURINGA NANJA is
an isolated freak, but it has done its work, while leaving traces of an
earlier state of things, as we have shown, both among the Kaitish and

If I am right in differing from such a master of many legions as the
learned author of THE GOLDEN BOUGH, the irreligion of the Arunta and
northern tribes (if these be really without religion) is the result of
their form of speculation, wholly occupied by the idea of
reincarnation, while the Arunta form of totemism is the consequence of
an isolated fantasy about their peculiar sacred stones. Meanwhile the
Euahlayi, as Mrs. Parker proves, entertain, in a limited way, not
elsewhere recorded in Australia, the belief in the reincarnation of the
souls of uninitiated young people. They also, like the Arunta,
recognise haunted trees and rocks, but the haunting spirits do not
desire reincarnation, and are not ancestral. Spirits of the dead go to
one or other abode of souls, to Baiame, or far from his presence to a
place of pain. So limited is human fancy, that here, as in Beckford's
picture of hell in VATHEK, each spirit eternally presses his hand
against his side. Were this a Christian doctrine, the Euahlayi would be
said to have borrowed it, but few will accuse them of plagiarising from
Beckford. These myths, like all myths, are not consistent. Baiame may
change a soul into a bird.

We may ask whether, with their limited belief in reincarnation, and
with their haunted Minggah trees and rocks, the Euahlayi have set up a
creed which might possibly develop into the northern faith, or whether
they once held the northern faith, and have almost emerged from it.
Without further information about intermediate tribes and their ideas
on these matters, the question cannot be answered. We are also without
data as to whether the nearly extinct southern coastal tribes evolved
the All Father belief, and transmitted it to the Euahlayi, to some
Queensland tribe, with their Mulkari, and even to the Kaitish, or
whether the faith has been independently developed among the tribes
with no matrimonial classes and the others. Conjecture is at present

In one respect a discovery of Mrs. Parker's is unfavourable to my
theories. In THE SECRET OF THE TOTEM have shown that, when the names of
the phratry divisions of the tribes can be interpreted, they prove to
be names of animals, and I have shown how this may have come to be the
case. But among the Euahlayi the phratry names mean 'light blood' and
'dark blood.' This, PRIMA FACIE, seems to favour the theory of the Rev.
Mr. Mathews, in his EAGLE HAWK AND CROW, that two peoples, lighter and
darker, after an age of war, made CONNUBIUM and marriage treaty, whence
came the phratries. The same author might urge, if he pleased, that
Eagle Hawk (about the colour of the peregrine) was chosen to represent
'light,' and Crow to represent 'dark'; while the phratry animals, White
and Black Cockatoo, were selected, elsewhere, to represent the same
contrast. But we need more information as to the meanings of other
phratry names which have defied translation.

In many other things, as in the account of the YUNBEAI of the Euahlayi,
their mode of removing the tabu on the totem in food, their magic,
their 'multiplex totems,' their methods of hunting, their initiatory
ceremonies, their highly moral lullabies, and the whole of their kindly
life, Mrs. Parker's book appears to deserve a welcome from the few who
care to study the ways of early men, ' the pit whence we were dug.' The
Euahlayi are a sympathetic people, and have found a sympathetic




The following pages are intended as a contribution to the study of the
manners, customs, beliefs, and legends of the Aborigines of Australia.
The area of my observation is mainly limited to the region occupied by
the Euahlayi tribe of north-western New South Wales, who for twenty
years were my neighbours on the Narran River. I have been acquainted
since childhood with the natives, first in southern South Australia;
next on my father's station on the Darling River, where I was saved by
a native girl, when my sisters were drowned while bathing. I was
intimate with the dispositions of the blacks, and was on friendly terms
with them, before I began a regular attempt to inquire into their
folk-lore and customary laws, at my husband's station on the Narran,
due north of the Barwon River, the great affluent of the Murray River.

My tribe is a neighbour of that mentioned by Mr. Howitt as the
'Wollaroi, ' 'Yualloroi,' or 'Yualaroi.'[Howitt, NATIVE TRIBES OF
SOUTH-EAST AUSTRALIA, pp. 57, 467, 694, 769.] I spell the tribal name
'Euahlayi'; the accent is on the second syllable--'You-ahl-ayi'; and
the name is derived from the tribal word for the negative: EUAHL, or
YOUAL, 'No,' as in the case of the Kamilaroi (Kamil, 'No'), and many
other tribes.

Mr. Howitt regards these tribes as on the limits of what he calls the
'Four Sub-Class' system. The people, that is to say, have not only the
division into two 'phratries,' or 'exogamous moieties,' intermarrying,
but also the four 'Matrimonial Classes' further regulating marriage.
These classes bear the Kamilaroi names, of unknown meaning, Ipai, Kumbo,
Murri, and Kubbi; but the names of the two main divisions, or phratries,
are not those of the Kamilaroi--DILBI and KUPATHIN.

The Euahlayi language, or dialect, is not identical with that of the
great Kamilaroi tribe to their south-east, but is clearly allied with
it, many names of animals being the same in both tongues. A few names
of animals are shared with the Wir djuri speech, as MULLIAN, Eagle
Hawk; Pelican, GOOLAYYAHLEE (Wir djuri, GULAIGULI). The term for the
being called 'The All Father' by Mr. Howitt is also the term used by
the Wir djuri and Kamilaroi, 'Baiame' or 'Byamee.' The Euahlayi,
however, possess myths, beliefs, and usages not recorded as extant
among the Kamilaroi, but rather forming a link with the ideas of
peoples dwelling much further west, such as the tribes, on Lake Eyre,
and the southernmost Arunta of the centre. Thus, there is a limited and
modified shape of the central and northern belief in reincarnation, and
there is a great development of what are called by Mr. Howitt '
sub-totems,' which have been found most in a region of Northern
Victoria, to the south of the Euahlayi. There is a belief in
spirit--haunted trees, as among the Arunta, and there is a form of the
Arunta myth of the 'Dream Time,' the age of pristine evolution.

The Euahlayi thus present a mixture of ideas and usages which appears
to be somewhat peculiar and deserving of closer study than it has
received. Mr. Howitt himself refers to the tribe very seldom. It will
be asked, 'How far have the Euahlayi been brought under the influence
of missionaries, and of European ideas in general?'

The nearest missionary settlement was founded after we settled among
the Euahlayi, and was distant about one hundred miles, at Brewarrina.
None of my native informants had been at any time, to my knowledge,
under the influence of missionaries. They all wore shirts, and almost
all of them trousers, on occasion; and all, except the old men, my
chief sources, were employed by white settlers. We conversed in a kind
of LINGUA FRANCA. An informant, say Peter, would try to express himself
in English, when he thought that I was not successful in following him
in his own tongue. With Paddy, who had no English but a curse, I used
two native women, one old, one younger, as interpreters, checking each
other alternately. The younger natives themselves had lost the sense of
some of the native words used by their elders, but the middle-aged
interpreters were usually adequate. Occasionally there were disputes on
linguistic points, when Paddy, a man already grey in 1845, would march
off the scene, and need to be reconciled. They were on very good terms
with me. They would exchange gifts with me: I might receive a carved
weapon, and one of them some tobacco. The giving was not all on my
side, by any means.

My anthropological reading was scanty, but I was well acquainted with
and believed in Mr. Herbert Spencer's 'Ghost theory' of the origin of
religion in the worship of ancestral spirits. What I learned from the
natives surprised me, and shook my faith in Mr. Spencer's theory, with
which it seemed incompatible.

In hearing the old blacks tell their legends you notice a great
difference between them as raconteurs--some tell the bare plot or
feature of the legend, others give descriptive touches all through. If
they are strangers to their audience, they get it over as quickly as
possible in a half-contemptuous way, as if saying, 'What do you want to
know such rubbish for?' But if they know you well, and know you really
are interested, then they tell you the stories as they would tell them
to one another, giving them a new life and adding considerably to their
poetical expression.



As throughout the chapters on the customary laws, mysteries, and
legends of the Euahlayi, there occur frequent mentions of a superhuman
though anthropomorphic being named Byamee (in Kamilaroi and Wir djuri
'Baiame'), it is necessary to give a preliminary account of the beliefs
entertained concerning him. The name Byamee (usually spelled Baiame)
occurs in Euahlayi, Kamilaroi, and Wir djuri; 'the Wir djuri language
is spoken over a greater extent of territory than any other tongue in
New South Wales.'[R. H. Mathews, J. A. I., vol. xxxiv. p. 284.] The word
occurs in the Rev. Mr. Ridley's GURRE KAMILAROI, an illustrated manual of
Biblical instruction for the education of the Kamilaroi: Mr. Ridley
translated our 'God' by 'Baiame.' He supposed that native term, which he
found and did not introduce, to be a derivative from the verb BAIA, or
BIAI, 'to make.' Literally, however, at least in Euahlayi, the word BYAMEE
means 'great one.' In its sense as the name of the All Father it is not
supposed to be used by women or by the uninitiated. If it is necessary to
speak to them of Byamee, he is called Boyjerh, which means Father, just as
in the Theddora tribe the women speak of Darramulun as PAPANG, 'Father.'
[Howitt, Native Tribes of South-East Australia, p. 493.] Among the
Euahlayi both women and the uninitiated use byamee, the adjective for
'great,' in ordinary talk, though the more usual adjective answering to
'great' is BOOROOL, which occurs in Kamilaroi as well as in Euahlayi. The
verb baia or biai, to make or shape, whence Mr. Ridley derived Baiame, is
not known to me in Euahlayi. Wir djuri has BAI, a footmark, and Byamee
left footmarks on the rocks, but that is probably a chance coincidence.

I was first told of Byamee, in whispers, by a very old native, Yudtha
Dulleebah (Bald Head), said to have been already grey haired when Sir
Thomas Mitchell discovered the Narran in 1846. My informant said that
he was instructed as to Byamee in his first Boorah, or initiation. If
he was early grey, say at thirty, in 1846, that takes his initiation
back to 1830, when, as a matter of fact, we have contemporary evidence
to the belief in Byamee, who is not of missionary importation, though
after 1856 Christian ideas may, through Mr. Ridley's book, have been
attached to his name by educated Kamilaroi. But he was a worshipful
being, revealed in the mysteries, long before missionaries came, as all
my informants aver.

There has, indeed, been much dispute as to whether the Aborigines of
Australia have any idea, or germ of an idea, of a God; anything more
than vague beliefs about unattached spirits, mainly mischievous, who
might be propitiated or scared away. Mr. Huxley maintained this view,
as did Mr. Herbert Spencer.[ECCLESIASTICAL INSTITUTIONS, p. 674.] Both of
these authors, who have great influence on popular opinion, omitted to
notice the contradictory statement of Waitz, published in 1872. He
credited the natives, in some regions, with belief in, and dances
performed in honour of, a 'Good Being,' and denied that the belief and
rites were the result of European influence.[Waitz, ANTHROPOLOGIE DER
NATUR--V(tm)LKER, vol. vi. pp. 796-798. Leipzig, 1872.] Mr. Tylor,
admitting to some extent that the belief now exists, attributed it in part
to the influence of missionaries and of white settlers.[Journal,
Anthropological Institute, vol. xxi. p. 292 ET SEQ.] 'Baiame,' he held,
was a word of missionary manufacture, introduced about 1830-1840. This
opinion was controverted by Mr. Lang,[MAGIC AND RELIGION, p. 25 SQ. MYTH,
RITUAL, AND RELIGION, vol. ii. chap. xii., 1899.] and by Mr. N. W. Thomas.
Mr. Thomas[MAN, 1905, No. 28.] has produced the evidence of Henderson,
writing in 1829-1830, for the belief in 'Piame' or Byamee, or
LAND, p. 147.]

In 1904 Mr. Howitt gave a great mass of evidence for the belief in what
he calls an 'All Father': in many dialects styled by various names
meaning 'Our Father,' dwelling in or above the sky, and often receiving
the souls of blacks who have been 'good.' These ideas are not derived,
Mr. Howitt holds, from Europeans, or developed out of ancestor-worship,
which does not exist in the tribes. The belief is concealed from women,
but communicated to lads at their initiation.[Howitt, NATIVE TRIBES OF
SOUTH-EAST AUSTRALIA, pp. 488-508.] The belief, in favourable
circumstances, might develop, Mr. Howitt thinks, into what he speaks of as
a 'religion,' a 'recognised religion.' Without asking how 'a recognised
religion' is to be defined, I shall merely tell what I have gathered as to
the belief in Byamee among the Euahlayi.

It may seem strange that I should know anything about a belief
carefully kept from women, but I have even been privileged to hear
'Byamee's Song,' which only the fully initiated may sing; an old black,
as will later appear, did chant this old lay, now no longer understood,
to myself and my husband. Moreover, the women of the Euahlayi have some
knowledge of, and some means of, mystic access to Byamee, though they
call him by another name.

Byamee, in the first place, is to the Euahlayi what the 'Alcheringa' or
'Dream time' is to the Arunta. Asked for the reason why of anything,
the Arunta answer, 'It was so in the Alcheringa.' Our tribe have a
subsidiary myth corresponding to that of the Alcheringa. There was an
age, in their opinion, when only birds and beasts were on earth; but a
colossal man and two women came from the remote north-east, changed
birds and beasts into men and women, made other folk of clay or stone,
taught them everything, and left laws for their guidance, then
returned whence they came. This is a kind of 'Alcheringa' myth, but
whether this colossal man was Byamee or not, our tribe give, as the
final answer to any question about the origin of customs, 'Because
Byamee say so.' Byamee declared his will, and that was and is enough
for his children. At the Boorah, or initiatory ceremonies, he is
proclaimed as 'Father of All, whose laws the tribes are now obeying.'
Byamee, at least in one myth (told also by the Wir djuri), is the
original source of all totems, and of the law that people of the same
totem may not intermarry, 'however far apart their hunting-grounds.' I
heard first in a legend, then received confirmation from all old
blacks, that Byamee had a totem name for every part of his body, even
to a different one for each finger and toe. And when he was passing on
to fresh fields, he gave each kinship of the tribe he was leaving one
of his totems. The usual version is, that to such as were metamorphosed
from birds and animals he gave as totem the animal or whatever it was
from which they were evolved. But no one dreams of claiming Byamee as a
relation belonging to one clan; he is one apart and yet the father of
all, even as Birrahgnooloo is mother of all and not related to any one
clan; Cunnumbeillee, his other wife, had only one totem.

Certainly woman is given a high place in their sacred lore. The chief
wife of Byamee, Birrahgnooloo, is claimed as the mother of all, for
she, like him, had a totem for each part of her body; no one totem can
claim her, but all do.

Mother of all, though mother of none in particular, she was not to be
vulgarised by ordinary domestic relations, For those purposes
Cunnumbeillee was at hand, as a bearer of children and a caterer. Yet
it was Birrahgnooloo whom Byamee best loved and made his companion,
giving her power and position which no other held. She too, like him,
is partially crystallised in the sky-camp, where they are together; the
upper parts of their bodies are as on earth; to her, those who want
floods go, and when willing to grant their requests, she bids
Cunnumbeillee start the flood-ball of flood rolling down the mountains.
Cunnumbeillee, as has been said, had but one totem which her children
derived from her.

Byamee is the originator of things less archaic and important than
totemism. There is a large stone fish-trap at Brewarrina, on the Barwan
River. It is said to have been made by Byamee and his gigantic sons,
just as later Greece attributed the walls of Tiryns to the Cyclops, or
as Glasgow Cathedral has been explained in legend as the work of the
Picts. Byamee also established the rule that there should be a common
camping-ground for the various tribes, where, during the fishing
festival, peace should be strictly kept, all meeting to enjoy the fish,
and do their share towards preserving the fisheries.

Byamee still exists. I have been told by an old native, as will be
shown later, that prayers for the souls of the dead used to be
addressed to Byamee at funerals; certainly not a practice derived from
Protestant missionaries.

Byamee is supposed to listen to the cry of an orphan for rain. Such an
one has but to run out when the clouds are overhead, and, looking at
the sky, call aloud

'Gullee boorboor. Gullee boorboor.'

'Water come down. Water come down.'

Or should it be raining too much, the last possible child of a woman
can stop it by burning Midjeer wood.

Bootha told me after one rain that she had sent one of her tutelary
spirits to tell Boyjerh--Byamee is called by women and children
Boyjerh--that the country wanted rain. In answer he had taken up a
handful of crystal pebbles and thrown them from the sky down into the
water in a stone basin on the top of the sacred mountain; as the
pebbles fell in, the water splashed up into the clouds above, whence it
descended as the desired rain.

It is told to me, that at some initiatory rites the oldest medicine
man, or Wirreenun, present addresses a prayer to Byamee, asking him to
give them long life, as they have kept his law.

The tribesmen do not profess to pray, or to have prayed, to Byamee on
any occasions except at funerals, and at the conclusion of the Boorah.

As for Byamee's relation to ethics, it will be stated in the chapter on
the tribal ceremonies, while the stories as to the rewards and
punishments of the future life will be given in their place. Baiame's
troubles with a kind of disobedient deputy, Darramulun, will also be
narrated: the myth is current, too, among the Wir djuri tribe.

Other particulars about Byamee will occur in the course of later
chapters: here I have tried to give a general summary of the native
beliefs. The reader may interpret them in his own fashion, and may
decide as to whether the beliefs do or do not indicate a kind of
'religion,' whether 'a recognised religion' or not. There is
necessarily, of course, an absence of temples and of priests, and I
have found no trace or vestige of sacrifice. What may be said on the
affirmative side as to the religious aspect of the belief, the reader
can supply from the summary of facts. Other potent beings occur in
native myth, as we shall show, but there appears to exist between them
and mankind no relation of affection, reverence, or duty, as in the
case of Byamee.

Here it seems necessary to advert to a remark of Mr. Howitt's which
appears to be erroneous. He says 'that part of Australia which I have
indicated as the habitat of that belief' (namely, in an All Father),'
is also the area where there has been the advance from group marriage
to individual marriage; from descent in the female line to that in the
male line; where the primitive organisation under the class system has
been more or less replaced by an organisation based on locality; in
fact, where these advances have been made to which I have more than
once drawn attention.'[Howitt, NATIVE TRIBES OF SOUTH-EAST AUSTRALIA,
p. 500.]

Mr. Howitt forgets that he himself attributes the early system of
descent through women, and also the belief in an All Father (Nurelli),
to the Wiimbaio tribe [IBID. p. 489] to the Wotjobaluk tribe,[NATIVE
TRIBES OF SOUTH-EAST AUSTRALIA, pp. 120, 490.] to the Kamilaroi, to the
Ta-Ta-thi,[IBID. p. 494] while female descent and the belief in Baiame
mark the Euahlayi and Wir djuri.[JOURNAL, ANTHROPOLOGICAL INSTITUTE,
XXV., p. 297.]

These tribes cover an enormous area of country, and, though they have
not advanced to male kinship, they all possess the belief in an All
Father. That belief does not appear to be in any way associated with
advance in social organisation, for Messrs. Spencer and Gillen cannot
find a trace of it in more than one of the central and northern tribes,
which have male kinship, and a kind of local self-government. On the
other hand, it does occur among southern tribes, like the Kurnai, which
have advanced almost altogether out of totemism.

In short, we have tribes with female descent, such as the Dieri and
Urabunna, to whom all knowledge of an All Father is denied. We have
many large and important tribes with female descent who certainly
believe in an All Father. We have tribes of the highest social
advancement who are said to show no vestige of the belief, and we have
tribes also socially advanced who hold the belief with great vigour. In
these circumstances, authenticated by Mr. Howitt himself, it is
impossible to accept the theory that belief in an All Father is only
reached in the course of such advance to a higher social organisation
as is made by tribes who reckon descent in the male line.



Some savants question the intellectual ability of the blacks because
they have not elaborate systems of numeration and notation, which in
their life were quite unneeded. Such as were needed were supplied. They
are often incorporate in one word-noun and qualifying numerical
adjective, as for example--

Gundooee      A SOLITARY EMU

Booloowah     TWO EMUS

Oogle oogle   FOUR EMUS

Gayyahnai     FIVE OR SIX EMUS


I fancy the brains that could have elaborated their marriage rules were
capable of workaday arithmetic if necessary, and few indeed of us know
our family trees as the blacks know theirs.

Even the smallest black child who can talk seems full of knowledge as
to all his relations, animate and inanimate, the marriage taboos, and
the rest of their complicated system.

The first division among this tribe is a blood distinction (I

Gwaigulleeah  LIGHT BLOODED

Gwaimudthen   DARK BLOODED.

This distinction is not confined to the human beings of the tribe, who
must be of one or the other, but there are the Gwaigulleeah and
Gwaimudthen divisions in all things. The first and chief division in
our tribe, as regards customary marriage law, is the partition of all
tribes-folk into these 'phratries,' or 'exogamous moieties.' While in
most Australian tribes the meanings of the names of phratries are lost,
where the meanings are known they are usually names of animals--Eagle,
Hawk, and Crow, White Cockatoo and Black Cockatoo, and so forth. Among
the great Kamilaroi tribe, akin in speech to the Euahlayi, the names of
phratries, DILBI and KUPATHIN, are of unknown significance. The
Euahlayi names, we have seen, are Gwaigulleeah, Light blooded, and
Gwaimudthen, Dark blooded.

The origin of this division is said to be the fact that the original
ancestors were, on the one side, a red race coming from the west, the
Gwaigulleeah; on the other, a dark race coming from the east.

A Gwaigulleeah may under no circumstances marry a Gwaigulleeah; he or
she must mate with a Gwaimudthen. This rule has no exception. A child
belongs to the same phratry as its mother.

The next name of connection is local, based on belonging to one country
or hunting-ground; this name a child takes from its mother wherever it
may happen to be born. Any one who is called a Noongahburrah belongs to
the Noongah-Kurrajong country; Ghurreeburrah to the orchid country;
Mirriehburrah, poligonum country; Bibbilah, Bibbil country, and so on.
This division, not of blood relationship, carries no independent
marriage restriction, but keeps up a feeling equivalent to Scotch,
Irish, or English, and is counted by the blacks as 'relationship,' but
not sufficiently so to bar marriage.

The next division is the name in common for all daughters, or all sons
of one family of sisters. The daughters take the name from their
maternal grandmother, the sons from their maternal great-uncle.

Of these divisions, called I Matrimonial Classes, there are four for
each sex, bearing the same names as among the Kamilaroi. The names

Masculine Kumbo     BROTHER AND SISTER
Feminine, Bootha

Masculine Murree    BROTHER AND SISTER
Feminine, Matha

Masculine Hippi     BROTHER AND SISTER
Feminine, Hippitha

Masculine Kubbee    BROTHER AND SISTER
Feminine, Kubbootha

The children of Bootha will be

Masculine Hippi     BROTHER AND SISTER
Feminine, Hippitha

The children of Matha will be

Masculine Kubbee    BROTHER AND SISTER
Feminine, Kubbootha

The children of Hippatha will be

Masculine Kumbo     BROTHER AND SISTER
Feminine, Bootha

The children of Kubbootha will be

Masculine Murree    BROTHER AND SISTER
Feminine, Matha

Thus, you see, they take, if girls, their grandmother's and her
sisters' 'class' names in common; if boys, the 'class' name of their
grandmother's brothers.

Bootha    can only marry Murree,

Matha     can only marry Kumbo,

Hippitha  can only marry Kubbee,

Kubbootha can only marry Hippi.

Both men and women are often addressed by these names when spoken to.

A PROPOS of names, a child is never called at night by the same name as
in the daytime, lest the 'devils' hear it and entice him away.

Names are made for the newly born according to circumstances; a girl
born under a Dheal tree, for example, was called Dheala. Any incident
happening at the time of birth may gain a child a name, such as a
particular lizard passing. Two of my black maids were called after
lizards in that way: Barahgurree and Bogginbinnia.

Nimmaylee is a porcupine with the spines coming; such an one having
been brought to the camp just as a girl was born, she became Nimmaylee.

The mothers, with native politeness, ask you to give their children
English names, but much mote often use in familiar conversation either
the Kumbo Bootha names, or others derived from place of birth, from
some circumstance connected with it, a child's mispronunciation of a
word, some peculiarity noticed in the child, or still more often they
call each other by the name proclaiming the degree of relationship.

For example, a girl calls the daughters of her mother and of her aunts
alike sisters.

Boahdee       SISTER
Wambaneah     FULL BROTHER
Dayadee       HALF BROTHER
Gurrooghee    UNCLE
Wulgundee     UNCLE'S WIFE
Kummean       SISTER'S SISTER
Numbardee     MOTHER
Numbardee     MOTHER'S SISTER
Beealahdee    FATHER

So relationships are always kept in their memories by being daily used
as names. There are other general names, too, such as--

Doore-oothai  A LOVER

Another list of names used ordinarily is--

Mahmee        OLD WOMAN
Yumbui        FATHERLESS BOY
Moogul        ONLY CHILD.

Those of the same totem are reckoned as brothers and sisters, so cannot
intermarry. 'Boyjerh' relations, as those on the father's side are
called, are not so important as on the mother's side, but are still

Now for the great Dhe, or totem system, by some called Mah, but Dhe, is
the more correct.

Dinewan, or emu, is a totem, and has amongst its multiplex totems' or

Goodoo        OR CODFISH
Gumbarl       SILVER BREAM
Inga          CRAYFISH
Boomool       SHRIMPS
Gowargay      WATER EMU SPIRIT
Booloorl      LITTLE NIGHT OWL
Byahmul       BLACK SWAN
Eerin         A LITTLE NIGHT OWL
Bunnyal       FLIES
Dheal         SACRED FIRE
Gidya         AN ACACIA
Yaraan        AN EUCALYPTUS
Deenyi        IRONBARK
Guatha        QUANDONG
Goodooroo     RIVER BOX
Mirieh        POLIGONUM
Niune         WILD MELON
Binnamayah    BIG SALTBUSH.

Bohrah, the kangaroo, is another totem, and is considered somewhat akin
to Dinewan. For example, in a quarrel between, say, the Bohrah totem
and the Beewee, the Dinewan would take the part of the former rather
than the latter.

Amongst the multiplex totems of Bohrah are--

Goolahwilleel    TOPKNOT PIGEONS
Boogoodoogadah   THE RAIN-BIRD
Buln Buln        GREEN PARROT
Gidgerregah      SMALL GREEN PARROT
Youayah          FROGS
Guiggahboorool   BIGGEST ANT-BEDS
Dunnia           WATTLE TREE
Mulga            AN ACACIA
Gnoel            SANDALWOOD
Brigalow         AN ACACIA

All clouds, lightning, thunder, and rain that is not blown up by the
wind of another totem, belong to Bohrah.

Beewee, brown and yellow Iguana, numerically a very powerful totem, has
for multiplex totems--

Gai-gai           CATFISH
Curreequinquin    BUTCHER-BIRD
Gougourgahgah     LAUGHING-JACKASS
Deenbi            DIVERS
Birroo Birroo     SAND BUILDERS
Deegeenboyah      SOLDIER-BIRD
Weedah            BOWER-BIRD
Mooregoo Mooregoo BLACK IBIS
Booloon           WHITE CRANE
Noodulnoodul      WHISTLING DUCKS
Goborrai          STARS
Gulghureer        PINK LIZARD
Goori             PINE
Talingerh         NATIVE FUCHSIA
Guiebet           NATIVE PASSION FRUIT
Boonburr          POISON TREE
Gungooday         STOCKMAN'S WOOD
Guddeeboondoo     BITTER BARK
Boorgoolbean or
Yarragerh         SPRING WIND
Muddernwurderh    WEST WIND.

Those with whom the Beewee shares the winds he counts as relations. It
is the Beewees of the Gwaimudthen, or dark blood, who own Yarragerh
(spring wind); the light-blooded own Mudderwurderh (west wind).

Another totem is Gouyou, or Bandicoot. The animal has disappeared from
the Narran district, but the totem tribe is still strong, though not so
numerous as either the Beewees or Dinewans.

Multiplex totems of Gouyou--

Wayarnberh              TURTLE
Mungghee                MUSSELS
Piggiebillah            PORCUPINE
Dayahminnah             SMALL CARPET SNAKE
Mungun                  LARGE CARPET SNAKE
Douyouie                ANTS
Moondoo                 WASPS
Murgahmuggui            SPIDER
Bayarh                  GREEN-HEAD ANTS
Mubboo                  BEEFWOOD
Coolabah                EUCALYPTUS, FLOODED BOX
Bingahwingul            NEEDLEBUSH
Mayarnah                STONES
Gheeger Gheeger         COLD WEST WIND
Gibbon                  YAM
Boondoon                KINGFISHER
Durnerh brown           PIGEON
Guineeboo               REDBREASTS
Munggheewurraywurraymul SEAGULLS
Guiggah ordinary        ANT-BEDS.

Next we take Doolungaiyah, or Bilber, commonly known as Bilby, a large
species of rat the size of a small rabbit, like which it burrows;
almost died out now. The totem clan are very few here too, so it is
difficult to learn much as to their multiplex totems, amongst which,
however, are--

Ooboon           BLUE-TONGUED LIZARD
Boothagullagulla BIRD LIKE SEAGULL

Douyou, black snake, totem claims--

Noongah            KURRAJONG--STERCULIA
Carbeen            AN EUCALYPTUS
Booroorerh         BULRUSHES
Gargooloo          YAMS
Yhi                THE SUN (FEMININE)
Gunyahmoo          THE EAST WIND
Kurreah            CROCODILE
Wa-ah              SHELLS
Douyougurrah       EARTH-WORMS
Deereeree          WILLY WAGTAIL
Burrengeen         JEEWEE
Bouyoudoorunnillee GREY CRANES
Ouyan              CURLEW
Bouyougah          CENTIPEDES
Bubburr            BIG SNAKE
Woggoon            SCRUB TURKEY
Beeargah           CRANE
Waggestmul         KIND OF RAT
Wi                 SMALL FISH
Millan             SMALL WATER-YAM--SOURTOP

Moodai, or opossum, another totem, claims--

Bibbil             POPULAR-LEAVED GUM
Birah              WHITEWOOD
Illay              HOP BUSH
Mirrie             WILD CURRANT BUSH
Mooregoo           SWAMP OAK--BELAH
Mungoongarlee      LARGEST IGUANA
Mouyi              WHITE COCKATOO
Beeleer            BLACK COCKATOO
Wungghee           WHITE NIGHT OWL
Mooregoo           MOPOKE
Narahdarn          BAT
Bahloo             MOON
Euloowirrie        RAINBOW
Bibbee             WOODPECKER
Billai             CRIMSON WING PARROT
Durrahgeegin       GREEN FROG.

Maira, a paddy melon, claims as multiplex totems--

Wahn                   THE CROW
Mullyan                THE EAGLE-HAWK
Gooboothoo             DOVES
Goolayyalilee          PELICAN
Oonaywah               BLACK DIVER
Gunundar               WHILE DIVER
Birriebungar           SMALL DIVER
Mounin                 MOSQUITO
Mouninguggahgui        MOSQUITO BIRD
Bullah Bullah          BUTTERFLIES
Tucki                  A KIND OF BREAM
Beewerh                BONY BREAM
Gulbarlee              SHINGLEBACK LIZARD
Budtha                 ROSEWOOD
Goodoogah              YALLI
Wayarah                WILD GRAPES
Garwah                 RIVERS
Gooroongoodilbaydilbay SOUTH WIND.

It is said a Maira will never be drowned, for the rivers are a
sub-totem of theirs; but I notice they nevertheless learn to swim.

Yubbah, carpet snake, as a kin has almost disappeared, only a few
members remaining to claim

Mungahran             HAWK.

Burrahwahn, a big sandhill rat, now extinct here, claims--

Mien                  DINGO
Dalleerin             A LIZARD
Gaengaen              WILD LIME
Willerhderh, or
Douran Douran         NORTH WIND
Bralgah               NATIVE COMPANION.

Buckandee, native cat kin, claim--

Buggila               LEOPARD WOOD
Bean                  MYALL
Bunbundoolooey        A LITTLE BROWN BIRD
Dunnee Bunbun         A VERY LARGE GREEN PARROT
Dooroongul            HAIRY CATERPILLAR.

Amongst other totems were once the Bralgah, Native Companion, and
Dibbee, a sort of sandpiper, but their kins are quite extinct as far as
our blacks are concerned; the birds themselves are still plentiful. The
Bralgah birds have a Boorah ground at the back of our old
horse-paddock, a smooth, well-beaten circle, where they dance the
grotesque dances peculiar to them, which are really most amusing to
watch, somewhat like a set of kitchen lancers into which some dignified
dames have got by mistake, and a curious mixture is the dance of
dignity and romping.

The totem kins numerically strongest with us were the Dinewans,
Beewees, Bohrahs, and Gouyous. Further back in the country, they tell
me, the crow, the eaglehawk, and the bees were original totems, not
multiplex ones, as with us.

It may be as well for those interested in the marriage law puzzles to
state that Dinewans, Bohrahs, Douyous, and Doolungayers are always

Kumbo             Hippi
Bootha            Hippitha.

That Moodai, Gouyou, Beewee, Maira, Yubbah are always

Murree            Kubbee
Matha             Kubbootha.

Our blacks may and do eat their hereditary totems, if so desirous, with
no ill effects to themselves, either real or imaginary; their totem
names they take from their mothers. They may, in fact, in any way use
their totems, but never abuse them. A Beewee, for example, may kill, or
see another kill, and eat or use a Beewee, or one of its multiplex
totems, and show no sign of sorrow or anger. but should any one speak
evil of the Beewee, or of any of its multiplex totems, there will be a

There will likewise be a quarrel if any one dares to mimic a totem,
either by drawing one, except at Boorahs, or imitating it in any way.

There are members of the tribes, principally wizards, or men intended
to be such, who are given an individual totem called Yunbeai. This they
must never eat or they will die. Any injury to his yunbeai hurts the
man himself In danger he has the power to assume the shape of his
yunbeai, which of course is a great assistance to him, especially in
legendary lore; but, on the other hand, a yunbeai is almost a Heel of
Achilles to a wirreenun (see the chapter on Medicine and Magic).

Women are given a yunbeai too, sometimes. One girl had a yunbeai given
her as a child, and she was to be brought up as a witch, but she caught
rheumatic fever which left her with St. Vitus's dance. The yunbeai
during one of her bad attacks jumped out of her, and she lost her
chance of witchery. One old fellow told me once that when he was going
to a public-house he took a miniature form of his yunbeai, which was
the Kurrea--crocodile--out of himself and put it safety in a bottle of
water, in case by any chance he got drunk, and an enemy, knowing his
yunbeai, coaxed it away. I wanted to see that yunbeai in a bottle, but
never succeeded.

The differences between the hereditary totem or Dhe, inherited from the
mother, and the individual totem or yunbeai, acquired by chance, are
these: Food restrictions do not affect the totem, but marriage
restrictions do; the yunbeai has no marriage restrictions; a man having
an opossum for yunbeai may marry a woman having the same either as her
yunbeai or hereditary totem, other things being in order, but under no
circumstances must a yunbeai be eaten by its possessor.

The yunbeai is a sort of alter ego; a man's spirit is in his yunbeai,
and his yunbeai's spirit in him.

A Minggah, or spirit-haunted tree of an individual, usually chosen from
amongst a man's multiplex totems, is another source of danger to him,
as also a help.

As Mr. Canton says: 'What singular threads of superstition bind the
ends of the earth together! In an old German story a pair of lovers
about to part chose each a tree, and by the tree of the absent one was
the one left to know of his wellbeing or the reverse. In time his tree
died, and she, hearing no news of him, pined away, her tree withering
with her, and both dying at the same time.

Well, that is just what a wirreenun would believe about his Minggah.
These Minggah and Goomarh spirit trees and stones always make me think,
perhaps irrelevantly, of one of the restored sayings of the Lord, which
ends 'Raise the stone, and there thou shalt find Me; cleave the wood,
and I am there.'

Blacks were early scientists in some of their ideas, being before
Darwin with the evolution theory, only theirs was a kind of evolution
aided by Byamee. I dare say, though, the missing link is somewhere in
the legends. I rather think the Central Australians have the key to it.
One old man here was quite an Ibsen with his ghastly version of

He said, when I asked him what harm it would do for, say, a Beewee
totem man to come from the Gulf country, where his tribe had never had
any communication with ours, and marry a girl here,--that all Beewees
were originally changed from the Beewee form into human shape. The
Beewee of the Gulf, originally, like the Beewee here, had the same
animal shape, and should two of this same blood mate the offspring
would throw back, as they say of horses, to the original strain, and
partake of iguana (Beewee) attributes either in nature or form.

From the statements just given, it will be seen that the Euahlayi are
in the Kamilaroi stage of social organisation. They reckon descent in
the female line: they have 'phratries' and four matrimonial classes,
with totems within the phratries. In their system of 'multiplex-totems'
or 'sub-totems' they resemble the Wotjobaluk tribe.[Howitt, NATIVE TRIBES
OF SOUTH-EAST AUSTRALIA, pp. 121, 125, 453, 455.] The essence of the
'sub-totem' system is the division of all things into the categories
provided by the social system of the human society. The arrangement is a
very early attempt at a scientific system of classification.

Perhaps the most peculiar feature in the organisation of the Euahlayi
is the existence of Matrimonial Classes, which are named as in the
Kamilaroi tongue, while the phratry names are not those of the Kamilaroi,
and alone among phratry names in Australia which can be translated, are
not names of animals. The phratries have thus no presiding animals, and in
the phratries there are no totem kins of the phratriac names. The cause of
these peculiarities is matter of conjecture.

A peculiarity in the totemic system of the Euahlayi--the right of each
individual to kill and eat his own totem--has been mentioned, and may
be associated here with other taboos on food.

The wunnarl, or food taboo, was taken off a different kind of food for
boys at each Boorah, until at last they could eat what they pleased
except their yunbeai, or individual familiar: their Dhe, or family
totem, was never wunnarl or taboo to them.

A child may not perhaps know that it has had a yunbeai given to it, and
may eat of it in ignorance, when immediately they say that child

Should a boy or a girl eat plains turkey or bustard eggs while they
were yet wunnarl, or taboo, he or she would lose his or her sight.
Should they eat the eggs or flesh of kangaroo or piggiebillah, their
skins would break out in sores and their limbs wither.

Even honey is wunnarl at times to all but the very old or very young.
Fish is wunnarl for about four years after his Boorah to a boy, and
about four months after she is wirreebeeun, or young woman, to a girl.

When the wunnarl was taken off a particular kind of meat, a wizard
poured some of the melted fat and inside blood of that animal or bird,
as the case might be, over the boy, and rubbed it into him. The boy,
shaking and shivering, made a spluttering noise with his lips; after
that he could eat of the hitherto forbidden food.

This did not necessarily refer to his totem, but any food wunnarl to
him, though it is possible that there may have been a time in tribal
history, now forgotten, when totems were wunnarl, and these ceremonies
may be all that is left to point to that time.

When a boy, after his first Boorah, killed his first emu, whether it
was his Dhe, or totem, or not, his father made him lie on the bird
before it was cooked. Afterwards a wirreenun (wizard) and the father
rubbed the fat on the boy's joints, and put apiece of the flesh in his
mouth. 'The boy chewed it, making a noise as he did so of fright and
disgust; finally he dropped the meat from his mouth, making a blowing
noise through his lips of 'Ooh! Ooh! Ooh!' After that he could eat the

A girl, too, had to be rubbed with the fat and blood of anything from
which the wunnarl was to be removed for her. No ceremony of this sort
would be gone through with the flesh, fat, or blood of any one's
yunbeai, or individual familiar animal, for under no circumstances
would any one kill or eat their yunbeai.

Concerning the yunbeai, or animal familiar of the individual, conferred
by the medicine men, more is to be said in the ensuing chapters. The
yunbeai answers to the Manitu obtained by Red Indians during the fast
at puberty; to the 'Bush Soul' of West Africa; to the Nagual of South
American tribes; and to the Nyarong of Borneo. The yunbeai has hitherto
been scarcely remarked on among Australian tribes. Mr. Thomas declares
it to be 'almost non-existent' in Australia, mentioning as exceptions
its presence among the Euahlayi; the Wotjobaluk in Victoria; the
Yaraikkanna of Cape York; and 'probably' some of the northern tribes on
the other side of the Gulf of Carpentaria.[MAN (1904), No. 53, p. 85.]

Perhaps attention has not been directed to the animal familiar in
Australia, or perhaps it is really an infrequent thing among the



I used to wonder how the wirreenuns or doctor-wizards of the tribe
attained their degrees.

I found out that the old wizards fix upon a young boy who is to follow
their profession. They take him to a tribal burial-ground at night.
There they tie him down and leave him, after having lit some fires of
fat at short distances round him.

During the night that boy, if he be shaky in his nerves, has rather a
bad time.

One doctor of our tribe gave me a recital of his own early experience.

He said, after the old fellows had gone, a spirit came to him, and
without undoing his fastenings by which he was bound, turned him over,
then went away. Scarcely had the spirit departed when a big star fell
straight from the sky alongside the boy; he gazed fixedly at it, and
saw emerge from it, first the two hind legs, then the whole of a Beewee
or iguana. The boy's totem was a Beewee, so he knew it would not hurt
him. It ran close up to him, climbed on him, ran down his whole length,
then went away.

Next came a snake straight towards his nose, hissing all the time. He
was frightened now, for the snake is the hereditary enemy of the
iguana. The boy struggled to free himself, but ineffectually. He tried
to call out but found himself dumb. He tried to shut his eyes, or turn
them from the snake, but was powerless to do so. The snake crawled on
to him and licked him. Then it went away, leaving the boy as one
paralysed. Next came a huge figure to him, having in its hand a gunnai
or yam stick. The figure drove this into the boy's head, pulled it out
through his back, and in the hole thus made placed a 'Gubberah,' or
sacred stone, with the help of which much of the boy's magic in the
future was to be worked.

This stone was about the size and something the shape of a small lemon,
looking like a smoothed lump of semi-transparent crystal. It is in such
stones that the wi-wirreenuns, or cleverest wizards, see visions of the
past, of what is happening in the present at a distance, and of the
future; also by directing rays from them towards their victims they are
said to cause instantaneous death.

Next, to the doctor-boy on trial, came the spirits of the dead who
corroboreed round him, chanting songs full of sacred lore as regards
the art of healing, and instructions how, when he needed it, he could
call upon their aid.

Then they silently and mysteriously disappeared. The next day one of
the old wizards came to release the boy; he kept him away from the camp
all day and at night took him to a weedah, or bower-bird's, playground.
There he tied him down again, and there the boy was visited again by
the spirits of the dead, and more lore was imparted to him.

The reason given for taking him to a weedah's playground is, that
before the weedah was changed into a bird, he was a great wirreenun;
that is why, as a bird, he makes such a collection of pebbles and bones
at his playground.

The bower-bird's playgrounds are numerous in the bush. They are made of
grass built into a tent-shaped arch open at each end, through which the
weedahs run in and out, and scattered in heaps all around are white
bones and black stones, bits of glass, and sometimes we have found
coins, rings, and brooches.

The weedahs do not lay their eggs at their playgrounds their nests are
hard to find. A little boy always known as 'Weedah,' died lately, so
probably a new name will have to be found for the bird, or to mention
it will be taboo, at all events before the old people, who never allow
the names of the dead to be mentioned.

For several nights the medical student was tied down in case he should
be frightened and run away, after that he was left without bonds. He
was kept away from the camp for about two months. But he was not
allowed to become a practitioner until he was some years older: first
he dealt in conjuring, later on he was permitted to show his knowledge
of pharmacy.

His conjuring cures are divers.

A burn he cures by sucking lumps of charcoal from it. Obstinate pains
in the chest, the wizard says, must be caused by some enemy having put
a dead person's hair', or bone in it. Looking wisdom personified in
truly professional manner, he sucks at the affected spot, and soon
produces from his mouth hair, bones, or whatever he said was there.

If this faith-healing does not succeed, a stronger wizard than he must
have bewitched the patient; he will consult the spirits. To that end he
goes to his Minggah, a tree or stone--more often a tree, only the very
greatest wirreenuns have stones, which are called Goomah--where his own
and any spirits friendly towards him may dwell.

He finds out there who the enemy is, and whence he obtained his poison.
If a wirreenun is too far away to consult his friendly spirits in
person, he can send his Mullee Mullee, or dream spirit, to interview

He may learn that an enemy has captured the sick person's Doowee, or
dream spirit--only wirreenuns' dream spirits are Mullee Mullee, the
others are Doowee--then he makes it his business to get that Doowee

These dream spirits are rather troublesome possessions while their
human habitations sleep they can leave them and wander at will. The
things seen in dreams are supposed to be what the Doowees see while
away from the sleeping bodies. This wandering of the Doowees is a great
chance for their enemies: capture the Doowee and the body sickens;
knock the Doowee about before it returns and the body wakes up tired
and languid. Should the Doowee not return at all, the person from whom
it wandered dies. When you wake up unaccountably tired in the morning,
be sure your Doowee has been 'on the spree,' having a free fight or
something of that sort. And though your Doowee may give you at times
lovely visions of passing paradises, on the whole you would be better
without him.

There is on the Queensland border country a dillee bag full of
unclaimed Doowees. The wirreenun who has charge of this is one of the
most feared of wirreenuns; he is a great magician, who, with his
wonder-working glassy stones, can conjure up visions of the old fleshly
habitations of the captured Doowees.

He has Gubberahs, or clever stones, in which are the active spirits of
evil-working devils, as well as others to work good. Should a Doowee
once get into this wirreenun's bag, which has the power of
self-movement, there is not a great chance of getting it back, though
it is sometimes said to be done by a rival combination of magic. The
worst of it is that ordinary people have no power over their Doowees;
all they can do is to guard against their escaping by trying to keep
their mouths shut while asleep.

The wirreenuns are masters of their Mullee Mullees, sending them where
they please, to do what they are ordered, always provided they do not
meet a greater than themselves.

All sorts of complications arise through the substitution of mad or
evil spirits for the rightful Doowee. Be sure if you think any one has
suddenly changed his character unaccountably, there has been some
hankey-pankey with that person's Doowee. One of the greatest warnings
of coming evil is to see your totem in a dream; such a sign is a herald
of misfortune to you or one of your immediate kin. Should a wirreenun,
perhaps for enmity, perhaps for the sake of ransom, decide to capture a
Doowee, he will send his Mullee Mullee out to do it, bidding the Mullee
Mullee secrete the Doowee in his--the wirreenun's--Minggah, tree or

When he is consulted as to the return of the missing Doowee, he will
order the one who has lost it to Sleep, then the Doowee, should the
terms made suit the wirreenun, re-enters the body. Should it not do so,
the Doowee-less one is doomed to die.

In a wirreenun's Minggah, too, are often secreted shadow spirits stolen
from their owners, who are by their loss dying a lingering death, for
no man can live without Mulloowil, his shadow. Every one has a shadow
spirit which he is very careful not to parade before his enemies, as
any injury to it affects himself. A wirreenun can gradually shrink the
shadow's size, the owner sickens and dies. 'May your shadow never be

The shadow of a wirreenun is, like his head, always mahgarl, or taboo;
any one touching either will be made to suffer for such sacrilege.

A man's Minggah is generally a tree from amongst his multiplex totems,'
as having greater reason to help him, being of the same family.

In his Minggah a wirreenun will probably keep some Wundah, or white
devil spirits, with which to work evil. There, too, he often keeps his
yunbeai, or animal spirit--that is, his individual totem, not
hereditary one. All wirreenuns have a yunbeai, and sometimes a special
favourite of the wirreenuns is given a yunbeai too--or in the event of
any one being very ill, he is given a yunbeai, and the strength of that
animal goes into the patient, making him strong again, or a dying
wirreenun leaves his yunbeai to some one else. Though this spirit gives
extra strength it likewise gives an extra danger, for any injury to the
animal hurts the man too; thus even wirreenuns are exposed to danger.

No one, as we have said, must eat the flesh of his yunbeai animal; he
may of his family totem, inherited from his mother, but of his yunbeai
or individual familiar, never.

A wirreenun can assume the shape of his yunbeai; so if his yunbeai
were, for example, a bird, and the wirreenun were in danger of being
wounded or killed, he would change himself into that bird and fly away.

A great wirreenun can substitute one yunbeai for another, as was done
when the opossum disappeared from our district, and the wirreenun,
whose yunbeai it was, sickened and lay ill for months. Two very
powerful wirreenuns gave him a new yunbeai, piggiebillah, the
porcupine. His recovery began at once. The porcupine had been one of
his favourite foods; from the time its spirit was put into him as his
yunbeai, he never touched it.

A wirreenun has the power to conjure up a vision of his particular
yunbeai, which he can make visible to those whom he chooses shall see

The blacks always told me that a very old man on the Narran, dead some
years ago, would show me his yunbeai if I wished; it was Oolah, the
prickly lizard.

One day I went to the camp, saw the old man in his usual airy costume,
only assumed as I came in sight, a tailless shirt. One of the gins said
something to him; he growled an answer; she seemed persuading him to do
something. Presently he moved away to a quite clear spot on the other
side of the fire; he muttered something in a sing-song voice, and
suddenly I saw him beating his head as if in accompaniment to his song,
and then--where it came from I can't say--there beside him was a
lizard. That fragment of a shirt was too transparent to have hidden
that lizard; he could not have had it up his sleeve, because his
sleeves were in shreds. It may have been a pet lizard that he charmed
in from the bush by his song, but I did not see it arrive.

They told me this old man had two yunbeai, the other was a snake. He
often had them in evidence at his camp, and when he died they were seen
beside him; there they remained until he was put into his coffin, then
they disappeared and were never seen again. This man was the greatest
of our local wizards, and I think really the last of the very clever
ones. They say he was an old grey-headed man when Sir Thomas Mitchell
first explored the Narran district in 1845. We always considered him a

It was through him that I heard some of the best of the old legends,
with an interpreter to make good our respective deficiencies in each
other's language.

In the lives of blacks, or rather in their deaths, the Gooweera, or
poison sticks or bones, play a great part.

A Gooweera is a stick about six inches long and half an inch through,
pointed at both ends. This is used for sickening' or killing men.

A Guddeegooree is a similar stick, but much smaller, about three inches
in length, and is used against women.

A man wishing to injure another takes one of these sticks, and warms it
at a small fire he has made; he sticks the gooweera in the ground a few
inches from the fire. While it is warming, he chants an incantation,
telling who he wants to kill, why he wants to kill him, how long he
wants the process to last, whether it is to be sudden death or a
lingering sickness.

The chant over, and the gooweera warmed, he takes it from the fire.
Should he wish to kill his enemy quickly, he binds opossum hair cord
round the stick, only leaving one point exposed; should he only want to
make his enemy ill, he only partially binds the stick. Then he ties a
ligature tightly round his right arm, between the wrist and elbow, and
taking the gooweera, or guddeegooree, according to the sex of his
enemy, he points it at the person he wishes to injure, taking care he
is not seen doing it.

Suddenly he feels the stick becoming heavier, he knows then it is
drawing the blood from his enemy. The poison is prevented from entering
himself by the ligature he has put round his arm. When the gooweera is
heavy enough he ceases pointing it.

If he wants to kill the person outright, he goes away, makes a small
hole in the earth, makes a fire beside it. In this hole he puts a few
Dheal leaves--Dheal is the tree sacred to the dead; on top of the
leaves he puts the gooweera, then more leaves this done, he goes away.
The next day he comes back with his hand he hits the earth beside the
buried stick, out jumps the gooweera, his enemy is dead. He takes the
stick, which may be used many times, and goes on his way satisfied.
Should he only wish to inflict a lingering illness on his enemy, he
refrains from burying the gooweera, and in this case it is possible to
save the afflicted person.

For instance, should any one suspect the man with the gooweera of
having caused the illness, knowing of some grudge he had against the
sick person, the one who suspects will probably intercede for mercy.
The man may deny that he knows anything about it. He may, on the other
hand, confess that he is the agent. If the intercessions prevail, he
produces the gooweera, rubs it all over with iguana fat, and gives the
intercessor what fat is left to rub over the sick person, who, on that
being done, gradually regains his normal condition after having
probably been reduced to a living skeleton from an indescribable
wasting sickness, which I suspect we spell funk.

The best way to make a gooweera effective is to tie on the end of it
some hair from the victim's head--a lock of hair being, in this country
of upside-downs, a hate token instead of one of love.

When the lock of hair method is chosen as a means of happy dispatch,
the process is carried out by a professional.

The hair is taken to the Boogahroo--a bag of hair and gooweeras--which
is kept by one or two powerful wirreenuns in a certain Minggah. The
wirreenun on receiving the hair asks to whom it belongs. Should it
belong to one of a tribe he is favourably disposed towards, he takes
the gooweera or hair, puts it in the bag, but never sings the I death
song' over it, nor does he warm it.

Should he, however, be indifferent, or ill-disposed towards the
individual or his tribe, he completes the process by going through the
form already given, or rather when there are two wirreenuns at the
Boogahroo, the receiver of the hair gives it to the other one, who
sings the death-song, warms the gooweera, and burns the hair. The
person from whose head the hair on the gooweera came, then by
sympathetic magic, at whatever distance he is, dies a sudden or
lingering death according to the incantation sung over the
poison-stick. Gooweeras need not necessarily be of wood; bone is
sometimes used, and in these latter days even iron.

Sometimes at a large meeting of the blacks the Boogahroo wirreenuns
bring the bag and produce from it various locks of hair, which the
owners or their relations recognise, claim, and recover. They find out,
from the wirreenun, who put them there; on gaining which knowledge a
tribal feud is declared--a regular vendetta, which lasts from generation
to generation.

If it be known that a man has stolen a lock of hair, he will be watched
and prevented from reaching the Boogahroo tree, if possible.

These gooweeras used to be a terrible 'nuisance to us on the station. A
really good working black boy would say he must leave, he was going to
die. On inquiry we would extract the information that some one was
pointing a gooweera at him.

Then sometimes the whole camp was upset; a strange black fellow had
arrived, and was said to have brought gooweeras. This reaching the
boss's ears, confiscation would result in order to restore peace of
mind in the camp. Before I left the station a gin brought me a gooweera
and told me to keep it; she had stolen it from her husband, who had
threatened to point it at her for talking to another man.

Some of them, though they still had faith in the power of such charms,
had faith also in me. I used to drive devils out with patent medicines;
my tobacco and patent medicine accounts while collecting folk-lore were

A wirreenun, or, in fact, any one having a yunbeai, has the power to
cure any one suffering an injury from whatever that yunbeai is; as, for
example, a man whose yunbeai is a black snake can cure a man who is
bitten by a black snake, the method being to chant an incantation which
makes the yunbeai enter the stricken body and drive out the poison.
These various incantations are a large part of the wirreenun's
education; not least valuable amongst them is the chant sung over the
tracks of snakes, which renders the bites of those snakes innocuous.



The wirreenuns sometimes hold meetings which they allow
non-professionals to attend. At these the spirits of the dead speak
through the medium of those they liked best on earth, and whose bodies
their spirits now animate. These spirits are known as Yowee, the
equivalent of our soul, which never leave the body of the living,
growing as it grows, and when it dies take judgment for it, and can at
will assume its perishable shape unless reincarnated in another form.
So you see each person has at least three spirits, and some four, as
follows: his Yowee, soul equivalent; his Doowee, a dream spirit; his
Mulloowil, a shadow spirit; and may be his Yunbeai, or animal spirit.

Sometimes one person is so good a medium as to have the spirits of
almost any one amongst the dead people speak through him or her, in the
whistling spirit voice.

I think it is very clever of these mediums to have decided that spirits
all have one sort of voice.

At these meetings there would be great rivalry among the wirreenuns.
The one who could produce the most magical stones would be supposed to
be the most powerful. The strength of the stones in them, whether
swallowed or rubbed in through their heads, adds its strength to
theirs, for these stones are living spirits, as it were, breathing and
growing in their fleshly cases, the owner having the power to produce
them at any time. The manifestation of such power is sometimes, at one
of these trials of magic, a small shower of pebbles as seeming to fall
from the heads and mouths of the rivals, and should by chance any one
steal any of these as they fall, the power of the original possessor
would be lessened. The dying bequeath these stones, their most precious
possessions, to the living wirreenun most nearly related to them.

The wirreenun's health and power not only depend upon his crystals and
yunbeai, but also on his Minggah; should an accident happen to that,
unless he has another, he will die--in any case, he will sicken. Many of
the legends deal with the magic of these spirit-animated trees.

They are places of refuge in time of danger; no one save the wirreenun,
whose spirit-tree it was, would dare to touch a refugee at a Minggah;
and should the sanctuary be a Goomarh, or spirit-stone, not even a
wirreenun would dare to interfere, so that it is a perfectly safe
sanctuary from humanly dealt evil. But a refugee at a Minggah or
Goomarh runs a great risk of incurring the wrath of the spirits, for
Minggah are taboo to all but their own wirreenun.

There was a Minggah, a great gaunt Coolabah, near our river garden.
Some gilahs build in it every year, but nothing would induce the most
avaricious of black bird-collectors to get the young ones from there.

A wirreenun's boondoorr, or dillee bag, holds a queer collection:
several sizes of gooweeras, of both bone and wood, poison-stones,
bones, gubberahs (sacred stones), perhaps a dillee--the biggest, most
magical stone used for crystal-gazing, the spirit out of which is said
to go to the person of whom you want to hear, wherever he is, to see
what he is doing, and then show you the person in the crystal. A
dinahgurrerhlowah, or moolee, death-dealing stone, which is said to
knock a person insensible, or strike him dead as lightning would by an
instantaneous flash.

To these are added in this miscellaneous collection medicinal herbs,
nose-bones to put through the cartilage of his nose when going to a
strange camp, so that he will not smell strangers easily. The blacks
say the smell of white people makes them sick; we in our arrogance had
thought it the other way on.

Swansdown, shells, and woven strands of opossum's hair are valuable,
and guarded as such in the boondoorr, which is sometimes kept for
safety in the wirreenun's Minggah.

Having dealt with the supernatural part of a wirreenun's training,
which argues cunning in him and credulity in others, I must get to his
more natural remedies.

Snakebite they cure by sucking the wound and cauterising it with a
firestick. They say they suck out the young snakes which have been
injected into the bitten person.

For headaches or pains which do not yield to the vegetable medicine,
the wirreenuns tie a piece of opossum's hair string round the sore
place, take one end in their mouths, and pull it round and round until
it draws blood along the cord. For rheumatic pains in the head or in
the small of the back and loins they often bind the places affected
with coils of opossum hair cord, as people do sometimes with red

The blacks have many herbal medicines, infusions of various barks,
which they drink or wash themselves with, as the case may be.

Various leaves they grind on their dayoorl-stones, rubbing themselves
with the pulp. Steam baths they make of pennyroyal, eucalyptus, pine,
and others.

The bleeding of wounds they stanch with the down of birds.

For irritations of the skin they heat dwarf saltbush twigs and put the
hot ends on the irritable parts.

After setting a broken limb they put grass and bark round it, then bind
it up.

For swollen eyes they warm the leaves of certain trees and hold them to
the affected parts, or make an infusion of Budtha leaves and bathe the
eyes in it.

For rheumatic pains a fire is made, Budtha twigs laid on it, a little
water thrown on them; the ashes raked out, a little more water thrown
on, then the patient lies on top, his opossum rug spread over him, and
thus his body is steamed. To induce perspiration, earth or sand is also
often heated and placed in a hollowed-out space; on it the patient
lies, and is covered with more heated earth.

Pennyroyal infused they consider a great blood purifier they also use a
heap as a pillow if suffering from insomnia. It is hard to believe a
black ever does suffer from insomnia, yet the cure argues the fact.

Beefwood gum is supposed to strengthen children. It is also used for
reducing swollen joints. A hole is made in the ground, some coals put
in, on them some beefwood leaves, on top of them the gum; over the hole
is put enough bark to cover it with a piece cut out of it the size of
the swollen joint to be steamed, which joint is held over this hole.

Various fats are also used as cures. Iguana fat for pains in the head
and stiffness anywhere. Porcupine and opossum fats for preserving their
hair, fish fat to gloss their skins, emu fat in cold weather to save
their skins from chapping.

But what is supposed to strengthen them more than anything, both
mentally and physically, is a small piece of the flesh of a dead
person, or before a body is put in a bark coffin a few incisions were
made in it; when it was coffined it was stood on end, and what drained
from the incisions was caught in small wirrees and drunk by the

I fancy such cannibalism as has been in these tribes was not with a
view to satisfaction of appetite but to the incorporation of additional
strength. Either men or women are allowed to assist in this
particularly nauseating funeral rite, but not the young people.

Nor must their shadows fall across any one who has partaken of this
rite; should they do so some evil will befall them.

If the mother of a young child has not enough milk for its sustenance,
she is steamed over 'old man' saltbush, and hot twigs of it laid on her
breasts. To expedite the expulsion of the afterbirth, an old woman
presses the patient round the waist, gives her frequent drinks of cold
water, and sprinkles water over her. As soon as the afterbirth is
removed a steam is prepared. Two logs are laid horizontally, some
stones put in between them, then some fire, on top leaves of
eucalyptus, and water is then sprinkled over them. The patient stands
astride these logs, an opossum rug all over her, until she is well
steamed. After this she is able to walk about as if nothing unusual had
happened. Every night for about a month she has to lie on a steam bed
made of damped eucalyptus leaves. She is not allowed to return to the
general camp for about three months after the birth of her child.

Though perfectly well, she is considered unclean, and not allowed to
touch anything belonging to any one. Her food is brought to her by some
old woman. Were she to touch the food or food utensils of another they
would be considered unclean and unfit for use. Her camp is gailie--that
is, only for her; and she is goorerwon as soon as her child is born--a
woman unclean and apart. Immediately a' baby is born it is washed in
cold water.

Ghastly traditions the blacks have of the time when Dunnerh-Dunnerh,
the smallpox, decimated their ancestors. Enemies sent it in the winds,
which hung it on the trees, over the camps, whence it dropped on to its
victims. So terror-stricken were the tribes that, with few exceptions,
they did not stay to bury their dead; and because they did not do so,
flying even from the dying, a curse was laid on them that some day the
plague would return, brought back by the Wundah or white devils; and
the blacks shudder still, though it was generations before them, at the
thought that such a horror may come again.

Poison-stones are ground up finely and placed in the food of the person
desired to be got rid of. These poison-stones are of two kinds, a
yellowish-looking stone and a black one; they cause a lingering death.
The small bones of the wrist of a dead person are also pounded up and
put into food, in honey or water, as a poison.

One cure struck me as quaint. The patient may be lying down, when up
will come one of the tribe, most likely a wirreenun with a big piece of
bark. He strikes the ground with this all round the patient, making a
great row; this is to frighten the sickness away.

What seems to me a somewhat peculiar ceremony is the reception a coming
baby holds before its birth.

The baby is presumably about to be born. Its grandmother is there
naturally, but the black baby declines to appear at the request of its
grandmother, and, moreover, declines to come if even the voice of its
grandmother is heard; so grannie has to be a silent spectator while
some other woman tempts the baby into the world by descanting on the
glories of it. First, perhaps, she will say:

'Come now, here's your auntie waiting to see you.'

'Here's your sister.'

'Here's your father's sister,' and so on through a whole list. Then she
will say, as the relatives and friends do not seem a draw:

'Make haste, the bumble fruit is ripe. The guiebet flowers are
blooming. The grass is waving high. The birds are all talking. And it
is a beautiful place, hurry up and see for yourself.'

But it generally happens that the baby is too cute to be tempted, and
an old woman has to produce what she calls a wi-mouyan--a clever
stick--which she waves over the expectant mother, crooning a charm which
brings forth the baby.

If any one nurses a patient and the patient dies, the nurse wears an
armlet of opossum's hair called goomil, and a sort of fur boa called

If blacks go visiting, when they leave they make a smoke fire and smoke
themselves, so that they may not carry home any disease.

As a rule blacks do not have small feet, but their hands are almost
invariably small and well shaped, having tapering fingers.



Our witch woman was rather a remarkable old person. When she was, I
suppose, considerably over sixty, her favourite granddaughter died.

Old Bootha was in a terrible state of grief, and chopped herself in a
most merciless manner at the burial, especially about the head. She
would speak to no one, used to spend her time about the grave, round
which she fixed upright posts which she painted white, red, and black.
All round the grave she used to sweep continually.

More and more she isolated herself, and at last discarded all her
clothes and roamed the bush A LA Eve before the Fall, as she had
probably done as a young girl.

She dug herself an underground camp, roofed it over, and painted
enormous posts which she erected in front of her 'Muddy wine,' as she
called her camp. She never came near the house, though we had been
great friends before.

She used to prowl round the outhouses and pick up all sorts of things,
rubbish for the most part, but often good utensils too; all used to be
secreted in the underground camp. She never talked to any one, but used
to mutter continually to herself and her dogs in an unknown tongue
which only her dogs seemed to understand.

We thought she was quite mad.

One day, while we were playing tennis, she suddenly, muttering her
strange language and dancing new corroboree steps, clad only in her
black skin, came up. Matah told her to go away, but she only
corroboreed round him and said she wanted to see me. I have the most
morbid horror of lunacy in any form. I was once induced to go over a
lunatic asylum--the horror of it haunts me still. However, I thought it
would never do to show the coward I was, so though I felt as if I had
been scooped out and filled up with ice, I went to her. She danced
round me for a little time, then sidled up to me and said:

'Wahl you frightened, wahl me hurt you. I only womba--mad--all
yowee--spirits--in me tell me gubbah--good--I lib 'long a youee; bimeby
I come back big feller wirreenun; wahl you frightened? I not hurt you.'

And after crooning an accompaniment to her steps off she went, a
strange enough figure, dancing and crooning as she went towards her
camp; and not until the spirits gave up possession of her did she come
near the house again.

One day she gave us a start. We were schooling a new team of four
horses. The off-side leader had only been in once before, and was a
brumby (horse run in from a wild mob). We had to pass Bootha's camp. I
looked about as we neared it but saw nothing of her. Suddenly from the
ground, as it seemed, out dashed the weird old figure, arms full of
things, jabbering away at a great rate. Whiz came a tin plate past the
leaders' heads; the offside horse reared and plunged and took some
holding. Whiz came an old bill; then, one after another, a regular
fusilade of various utensils.

It did not take us long to get past, but for as long as we could see
the attack was kept up. Coming back we saw nothing of Bootha, and all
the utensils had been picked up.

I used to tell the other blacks to see that Bootha had plenty of food.
They said she was all right, the spirits were looking after her.
Lunatics, from their point of view, are only persons spirit-possessed.

Gradually old Bootha, clothed as usual, came back about the place.

Strange stories came through the house blacks to me of old Bootha. She
was very ill for a long time, then suddenly she recovered; not only
recovered but seemed rejuvenated. We heard of wonderful cures she made;
how she always consulted the spirits about any illness; how there were
said to be spirits in some of her dogs; how she was now a rainmaker
and, in fact, a fully fledged witch.

I was curious to see some of these wonders, so used to get the old
woman to come up when any one was ill, consult her, and generally make
much of her. There is no doubt she could diagnose a case well enough.
Matah suffered a good deal with a constant pain in one knee, he was
quite lame from it. He showed it to Bootha one day. She sang a song to
her spirits, then said:

'Too muchee water there; you steam him, put him on hot rag; you drink
plenty cold water, all lite dat go.'

As it happened a medical man was passing a few days afterwards with an
insurance agent. Matah consulted him.

'Hum! Yes, yes. Hot fomentations to the place affected, poultices, a
cooling draught. There's a stoppage of fluid at the knee-joint which
must be dispersed.'

I thought Bootha ought to have been called in consultation.

A girl I had staying with me was taken suddenly and, to us,
unaccountably ill. She was just able to get out of her room into the
drawing-room, where she would lie back on the cushions of a lounge
looking dreadfully limp and utterly washed out. Hearing of her illness
old Bootha came up. I thought it might amuse Adelaide to see an old
witch; she agreed, so I brought her in.

Bootha went straight up to the sick girl, expressed a few sympathetic
sentences, then she said she would ask the spirits what had made
Adelaide ill and what would cure her.

She moved my furniture until she left the centre of the room clear; she
squatted down, and hanging her head began muttering in an
unintelligible dialect. Presently her voice ceased and we heard from
beside her a most peculiar whistling sort of voice, to which she
responded, evidently interrogating. Again the whistling voice from
further away. Bootha then told me she had asked a dead black fellow,
Big Joe, to tell her what she wanted to know; but he could not, so now
she was going to ask her dead granddaughter. Again she said a sort of
incantation, and again, after a while, came the whistling voice
reply--this time from another direction, not quite so loud. The same
sort of thing was gone through with the same result.

Then Bootha said she would ask Guadgee, a black girl who had been one
of my first favourites in the camp, and who had died a few years

The whistling voice came from a third direction, though all the time I
could see Bootha's lips moving.

Guadgee answered all she was asked. She said Adelaide was made ill
because she had offended the spirits by bathing in the creek under the
shade of a Minggah, or spirit-tree, a place tabooed to all but
wirreenuns, or such as hold communion with spirits.

Of course, according to the blacks, to disturb a shadow is to hurt the

In this Minggah, Guadgee. said, were swarms of bees invisible to all
but wirreenuns, and they are ready always to resent any insult to the
Minggah or its shadow. These spirit-bees had entered Adelaide and
secreted some wax on her liver; their bites, Guadgee said, were on her

Well, that can't be it, I said, I for you never did bathe in the shade
of a Minggah; for, going as you always do with the house-girls, you are
bound to be kept from such sacrilege; they would never dare such

'Which is their Minggah? Is it a big Coolabah between the Bend and the


'Then I did bathe there the last time I went down. I was up too late to
go with the Black-but-Comelys, and as the sun was hot I went further
round the point and bathed in the shade. And the bee-bites must be
those horribly irritating pimples I have across my back.'

The cause of illness settled to her satisfaction, Bootha asked how to
cure it. The patient was to drink nothing hot nor heating but as much
cold water as she liked, especially a long drink before going to bed.
Guadgee said she would come in the night when the patient was asleep
and take the wax from her liver; she would sleep well and wake better
in the morning.

Bootha got up then, came over to the patient, took her hand, rubbed it
round the wrist several times, muttering an incantation; then saying
she would see her again next day, off she went, taking, she told us,
all the spirits away inside her, whence at desire they could be
returned to such Minggah in their own Noorunbah, or hereditary
hunting-grounds, as wirreenuns had placed them in, or to roam at their
pleasure when not required by those in authority over spirits. Our old
spiritualist denies us freedom even in the after-life she promises us.

Adelaide slept that night, looked a better colour the next morning, and
rapidly recovered.

We think old Bootha must be a good physician and a ventriloquist, only
I believe it is said ventriloquists cannot live long, and Bootha is now
over eighty.

Others besides wirreenuns see spirits sometimes, but rarely, though
wirreenuns are said to have the power to conjure them up in a form
visible to ordinary eyes.

Babies are said to see spirits when they are smiling or crowing as if
to themselves; it's to some spirit visible to them but to no one else.

When a baby opens his hands and shuts them again quickly, smiling all
the while, that baby is with the spirits catching crabs!

Dogs see spirits; when they bark and howl suddenly and you see nothing
about, it is because they have seen a spirit.

One person may embody many spirits, but such an one must be careful not
to drink anything hot or heating, such would drive out the spirits at
once. The spirits would never enter a person defiled by the white man's

Old Bootha had an interview with a very powerful spirit after she was
ill, who told her that the spirit of her father was now in Bahloo, the
moon; and that it was this spirit which had cured her, and if she kept
his commands she would live for ever. The commands were never to drink
'grog,' never to wear red, never to eat fish. This was told her fifteen
years ago, never once has she transgressed; her vigour for an old woman
considerably over eighty is marvellous.

She was going away for a trip. Before going she said, as she would not
be able to know when I wanted rain for my garden, she would put two
posts in it which had in them the spirits of Kurreahs, or crocodiles.
As these spirits required water I might be certain my tanks would never
go dry while they were on guard. She asked one of my Black-but-Comelys,
a very stalwart young woman, to help her lift one of these posts into
the garden where she wanted to erect it. The girl took hold of one end,
but in a little while dropped it, said it was too heavy. Old Bootha got

'I get the spirits to help me,' she said, and started a little
sing-song, then shouldered the post herself and carried it in. These
posts are painted red, black, and white, with a snaky pattern, the
Kurreah sign, on them. She also planted in my garden two other
witch-poles, one painted red and having a cross-bar about midway down
it from which raddled strings were attached to the top; this was to
keep away the Euloowayi, black fellows possessed of devils, who came
from behind the sunset.

The other was a plain red-painted, tapering pine-pole which she said,
when it fell to the ground, would tell of the death of some one related
to an inmate of the house. Should it lean towards the house it foretold
misfortune; or if she were any time away, when she was returning she
would send her Mullee Mullee to sit on the top and bend it just to let
us know. This pole would also keep away the spirits of the dead from
the house during her absence. While she was away there would be no one
to come and clear the place of evil by smoking the Budtha twigs all
round it, as she always did if I were alone and, she thought, in need
of protection.

Old Bootha has what she calls a wi-mouyan, clever-stick. It is about
six feet long, great lumps of beefwood gum making knobs on it at
intervals; between each knob it is painted. Armed with this stick, a
piece of crystal, some green twigs, and sometimes a stick with a bunch
of feathers on top, and a large flat stone, she goes out to make rain.
The crystal and stone she puts under the water in the creek, the
feathered stick she erects on the edge of the water, then goes in and
splashes about with green twigs, singing all the time.

After a while she gets out and parades the bank with the wi-mouyan,
singing a rain-song which charms some of the water out of the creek
into the clouds, whence it falls where she directs it. Once my garden
of roses looked very wilted. I asked Bootha to make rain, but just then
she was very offended with Matah. One of her dogs had been poisoned,
she would make no rain on his country. However, at last she said she
would make some for me. I bound her down to a certain day. The day
came; a heavy storm fell just over my garden, filling the ground tank,
which was almost empty. About two inches fell. Within half a mile of
each side of the garden the dust was barely laid.

Old Bootha's luck stuck to her that time, and I had to give her a new
dress and some 'bacca.' But during the last drought she failed
signally. Her excuse for failing was that a great wirreenun up the
creek was so angry with the white people who were driving away all emu,
kangaroo, and opossums, the black fellow's food, and yet made a fuss if
their dogs killed a sheep for them sometimes, that he put his
rain-stone in a fire, and while he did that no rain would fall. He said
if all the sheep died the white fellows would go away again, and then,
as long ago, the black fellows' country would have plenty of emu and

We saw a curious coincidence in connection with one of Bootha's
witch-poles in my garden, the pole whose falling foretold death of some
relative of some one in the house.

One afternoon there had been drizzling rain and a grey mist
overshadowing things. Matah went out to look at the chances of a
continuance of rain, the usual drought being on. He called to me to
come and see a curious sky. Looking towards the west I saw a golden
ball of a sun piercing the grey clouds which seemed like a spangled
veil over its face; shooting from the sun was a perfect halo of golden
light, from which three shafts spread into roadways up past the grey
clouds into the vault of heaven. The effect was very striking indeed,
against the grey clouds shaded from silver to almost black.

As we stood waiting for the sun to sink and the afterglow to paint
these clouds, as it did, from shrimp pink and heliotrope to vivid
crimson, we saw Bootha's pole fall. The air was quite still.

'The damp has loosened its setting,' said Matah, 'but we had better
leave it alone and let the old girl fix it up again herself; it may be
taboo to ordinary mortals like us.'

We left it.

That evening a messenger arrived from the sheep station to say my
cook's mother had died just before sunset. The camp were firm believers
in Bootha's witch-stick after that.

It was just as well we did not touch that stick; had we done so, Bootha
says we should have broken out in sores all over our bodies.

They say that long ago the wirreenuns always used to have a sort of
totem wizard-stick guarding the front of their camps.



To begin at the beginning, Bahloo, the moon, is a sort of patron of
women. He it is who creates the girl babies, assisted by Wahn, the
crow, sometimes.

Should Wahn attempt the business on his own account the result is
direful; women of his creating are always noisy and quarrelsome.

Bahloo's favourite spot for carrying on the girl manufacturing is
somewhere on the Culgoa. On one of the creeks there is to be seen, when
it is dry, a hole in the ground. As water runs along, the bed of this
creek, gradually a stone rises from this hole. As the water rises it
rises, always keeping its top out of the water.

This is the Goomarh, or spirit-stone, of Bahloo. No one would dare to
touch this stone where the baby girls' spirits are launched into space.

In the same neighbourhood is a clear water-hole, the rendezvous of the
snakes of Bahloo. Should a man go to drink there he sees no snakes, but
no sooner has he drunk some of the water than he sees hundreds; so even
water-drinkers see their snakes.

The name of the hole is Dahn.

Spirit-babies are usually despatched to Waddahgudjaelwon and sent by
her to hang promiscuously on trees, until some woman passes under where
they are, then they will seize a mother and be incarnated. This
resembles the Arunta belief, but with the Euahlayi the spirits are new
freshly created beings, not reincarnations of ancestral souls, as among
the Arunta. To live, a child must have an earthly father; that it has
not, is known by its being born with teeth.

Wurrawilberoo is said to snatch up a baby spirit sometimes and whirl
along towards some woman he wishes to discredit, and through the medium
of this woman he incarnates perhaps twins, or at least one baby. No
doubt were it not for signs of teeth in a spirit-baby of immaculate
conception, many a camp scandal would be conveniently nipped in the

Babies are sometimes sent directly to their mothers without the
Coolabah-tree or whirlwind medium.

The bronze mistletoe branches with their orange-red flowers are said to
be the disappointed babies whose wailing in vain for mothers has
wearied the spirits who transform them into these bunches, the red
flowers being formed from their baby blood. The spirits of babies and
children who die young are reincarnated, and should their first mother
have pleased them they choose her again and are called millanboo--the
same again.

They can instead, if they like, choose some other woman they know,
which seems very accommodating in those presiding over the
reincarnation department.

Sometimes two baby spirits will hang on one branch and incarnate
themselves in the same woman, who as result is the mother of twins, and
the object of much opprobrium in the camp. In fact, in the old days,
one of the twins would have been killed.

One of my Black-but-Comelys said, on hearing that a woman had twins:

'If it had been me I would have put my fingers round the throat of one
of them and killed it.' The woman who made this speech I had always
looked upon as the gentlest and kindliest of creatures.

The father of the twins has treated his wife with the utmost contempt
since their birth, and declines to acknowledge more than one of the

They say the first-born of twins is always born grinning with his
tongue out, as if to say, 'There's another to come yet; nice sort of
mother I have.'

No wonder the women cover themselves under a blanket when they see a
whirlwind coming, and avoid drooping Coolabah trees, believing that
either may make them objects of scorn as the mother of twins.

When a baby is born, some old woman takes the Coolabah leaf out of its
mouth. Such a leaf is said always to be found there if the baby was
incarnated from a Coolabah tree; should this leaf not be removed it
will carry the baby back to spirit-land. As soon as the leaf is taken
away the baby is bathed in cold water. Hot gum leaves are pressed on
the bridge of its nose to ensure its flatness; the more bridgeless the
nose the greater the beauty.

When a baby clutches hold of anything as if to give it to some one, the
bargie--grandmother--or some elderly woman takes what the baby offers,
and makes a muffled clicking sort of noise with her tongue rolled over
against the roof of her mouth, then croons the charm which is to make
the child a free giver: so is generosity inculcated in extreme youth. I
have often heard the grannies croon over the babies:

Oonahgnai Birrablee,
Oonahgnoo Birrahlee,
Oonahgnoo Birrahlee,
Oonabmillangoo Birrahlee,
Gunnoognoo oonah Birrahlee.

Which translated is:

'Give to me, Baby,
Give to her, Baby,
Give to him, Baby,
Give to one, Baby,
Give to all, Baby.'

As babies are all under the patronage of the moon, the mothers are very
careful every new moon to make a white cross-like mark on the babies'
foreheads, and white dabs on cheeks and chins.

And very careful are the mothers not to look at the full moon, nor let
their babies do so; an attack of thrush would be the result.

Bahloo, too, has a spiteful way of punishing a woman who has the
temerity to stare at him, by sending her the dreaded twins.

If babies do not sleep well their mothers get the red powdered stuff
like pine pollen, from the joints of the Bingahwingul, or needlebush
tree, and rub it on the babies' skulls and foreheads.

If the babies cry too much their mothers say evil spirits are in them,
and must be smoked out. They make a smoke fire of Budtha twigs and hold
the baby in the thick of the smoke. I have seen the mother of a fretful
child of three or four years even, apply the smoke anodyne.

Whenever the mother of a young child woke in the night, if well up in
her mother duties, she was supposed to warm her hands, and rub her
baby's joints so that the child might grow lissome and a good shape,
and she always saw that her baby's mouth was shut when the child was
asleep lest an evilly disposed person should slip in a disease or
evil-working spirit. For the same reason they will not let a baby lie
on its back unless they cover its head.

If a gilah flies over the camp crying out as it passes, it is a sure
sign of 'debbil debbil'; the child, to escape evil consequences, must
be turned on to its left side.

If a gooloo, or magpie, did the same, the child had to be laid flat on
her moobil--stomach: for the passing of a cawing crow, a child had to
be laid on the right side.

As these birds are not night birds, it is evident that they are evil
spirits abroad in bird form, hence the precautions. As soon as a baby
begins to crawl, the mother finds a centipede, half cooks it, takes it
from the fire, and catching hold of her child's hands beats them with
it, crooning as she does so:

'Gheerlayi ghilayer,
Wahl munnoomerhdayer,
Wahl mooroonbahgoo,
Yelgayerdayer deermuldayer,
Gheerlayi ghilayer.'

Which means:

'Kind be,
Do not steal,
Do not touch what to another belongs,
Leave all such alone,
Kind be.'

The accompaniment being a muffled click of a rolled-up tongue against
the roof of a mouth.

No child must touch the big feathers of a goomblegubbon, or bustard's
wings, nor any of its bones. At the age of about four, the mother takes
one of these wings and beats the child all over the shoulders and under
the arms with it. Again making the clicking noise, she croons:

'Goobean gillaygoo,
Oogowahdee goobolaygoo,
Wahl goonundoo,
Ghurranbul daygoo.'

Which charm means:

'A swimmer be,
Flood to swim against,
No water,
Strong to stop you.'
And so was a child made a good swimmer.

The wirreenuns would see that the septum of a child's nose was pierced
at the right time, and their tribal marks cut on them. The nose was
pierced at midwinter when ice was about, with which to numb the place
to be pierced; ice was held to the septum, then prod through it went a
bone needle.

An old gin who worked about the station had a pierced nose, and often
wore a mouyerh, or bone, through it. A white laundress wore earrings.
She said one day to the old gin:

'Why you have hole made in your nose and put that bone there? No good
that. White women don't do that.'

The black woman looked the laundress up and down, and finally anchored
her eyes on the earrings.

'Why you make hole in your ears? No good that. Black gin no do that,
pull 'em down your ears like dogs. Plenty good bone in your nose make
you sing good. Sposin' cuggil--bad--smell you put bone longa nose no
smell 'im. Plenty good make hole longa nose, no good make hole longa
ears, make 'em hang down all same dogs.' And off she went laughing, and
pulling down the lobes of her ears, began to imitate the barking of a

There is often a baby betrothal called Bahnmul.

For some reason or another it has been decided that a baby girl is to
be given to a man, perhaps because he has been kind to her mother,
perhaps she is owed to his kin by her own; any way the granny of the
baby girl puts feathers, white swansdown, on the baby's head, and takes
her over to the man when she is about a month old. Granny says to the

'Look at him, and remember him, because you are promised to him.'

Then she takes some feathers off the baby's head and puts them on to
his; that makes it a formal betrothal, binding to both sides.

I have heard great camp rows because girls made a struggle for
independence, having found out they had only been promised, not
formally betrothed, to some old chap whom they did not wish to marry.
Perhaps the old fellow will already have a wife or so, a man can have
as many as he pleases. I have heard of one with three; I have known
some with two; but the generality of them seem content with one.

Should a young girl marry a man with an old wife, the old wife rules
her to any extent, not even letting her have a say about her own
children, and no duenna could be stricter. Should the young wife in the
absence of her husband speak to a young man, she will probably get a
scolding from the old wife and a 'real hiding' from the old man, to
whom the old wife will report her conduct. Quite young men often marry
quite old women; a reason sometimes given is that these young men were
on earth before and loved these same women, but died before their
initiation, so could not marry until now in their reincarnation.

Certainly, amongst the blacks, age is no disqualification for a woman;
she never seems to be too old to marry, and certainly with age gains

At whatever age a girl may be betrothed to a man he never claims her
while she is yet Mullerhgun, or child girl; not until she is
Wirreebeeun, or woman girl.

A girl's initiation into womanhood is as follows. Her granny probably,
or some old woman relation, takes her from the big camp into the scrub
where they make a bough shade. As soon as this is made, the old woman
sets fire to a thick heap of Budtha leaves and makes the girl swallow
the smoke. She then bids her lie down in a scooped-out hollow she has
made in the earth, saying to her, 'You are to be made a young woman
now. No more must you run about as you please. Here must you stay with
me, doing as I say. Then in two moons' time you shall go and claim your
husband, to do for ever what he bids you. You must not sleep as you lie
there in the day time, nor must you go to sleep at night until those in
the camp are at rest. I will put food ready for you. Honey you must not
eat again for four moons. At first streak of day you must get up, and
eat the food I have placed for you. Then when you hear a bird note you
must shake yourself all over, and make a noise like this.'

And the old woman makes a ringing noise with her lips.

'That you must do every time you hear a fresh bird note; so too when
you hear the people in the camp begin to talk, or even if you hear them
laugh or sneeze. If you do not, then grey will your hair be while you
are yet a young woman, dull will your eyes be, and limp your body.'

Girls have told me that they got very tired of being away with only the
old woman for so long, and were glad enough when she told them they
were to move to a new camp, nearer to the big one, which the women had
prepared for them.

When they reached this the old woman rubbed off the mud with which she
had plastered the girl's limbs when first they went away to camp, and
which she had renewed from time to time. When this was all off she
painted the girl in different designs with red ochre and white gypsum,
principally in spots. She put on her head a gnooloogail, or forehead
band, made of Kurrajong fibre, plaited and tied with some Kurrajong
string, from over the cars to the back of the head; in this band, which
she had painted white, she stuck sprays of white flowers. Sweetly
scented Budtha and clustering Birah were the flowers most used for this
ceremony. Should neither of these be in bloom, then sprays of Collarene
or Coolibah blossom were used. When the flowers were placed in the band
the old woman scattered a handful of white swansdown over the girl's
head. Next she tied round her a girdle of opossum's sinews with strands
of woven opossum's hair hanging about a foot square in front. Round her
arms she bound goomils--opossum hair armlets--into which she placed
more sprays of flowers, matching those in the girl's hair.

To show that the occasion was a sacred one a sprig of Dheal tree was
placed through the hole in the septum of the nose. The toilet of a
wirreebeeun was now complete.

The old woman gave her a bunch of smoking Budtha leaves to carry, and
told her what to do. Note here the origin of bridal bouquets.

Having received her instructions, the girl, holding the smoking twigs,
went towards the big camp.

When the women there saw her coming they began to sing a song in, to
her, a strange language.

On a log, with his back towards her--for he must not yet look on her
face--sat the man to whom she was betrothed. The girl went up to him.
As the women chanted louder she threw the smoking Budtha twigs away,
placed a hand on each of his shoulders and shook him. Then she turned
and ran back to her new camp, the women singing and pelting her with
dry twigs and small sticks as she went. For another moon she stayed
with her granny in this camp, then the women made her another one

In a few weeks they made her one on the outskirts of the main camp.
Here she stayed until they made her another in the camp, but a little
apart. In front of the opening of this dardurr they made a fire. That
night her betrothed camped on one side of this fire and she on the
other. For a moon they camped so. Then the old granny told the girl she
must camp on the same side of the fire as her betrothed, and as long as
she lived be his faithful and obedient wife, having no thought of other
men. Should he ill-treat her, her relations had the power to take her
from him. Or should he for some reason, after a while, not care for
her, he can send her back to her people; should she have a child he
leaves it with her until old enough to camp away from her, when it is
returned to him.

The wedding presents are not given to the bride and bridegroom, but by
the latter to his mother-in-law, to whom, however, he is never allowed
to speak. Failing a mother-in-law, the presents are given to the
nearest of kin to the wife. You can hardly reckon it as purchase money,
for sometimes a man gives no presents and yet gets a wife.

In books about blacks, you always read of the subjection of the women,
but I have seen henpecked black husbands.

There are two codes of morals, one for men and one for women. Old
Testament morality for men, New Testament for women. The black men keep
the inner mysteries of the Boorah, or initiation ceremonies, from the
knowledge of women, but so do Masons keep their secrets.

As to the black women carrying most of the baggage on march, naturally
so; the men want their hands free for hunting en route, or to be in
readiness for enemies in a strange country.

Black women think a great deal of the Moonaibaraban, or as they more
often call them, Kumbuy, or sister-in-law. These are spirit-women who
come a few days after the Boorah to bring presents to the women
relations of the boys who have been initiated. The Kumbuy are never
seen, but their voices are heard--voices like dogs barking; on hearing
which the women in the camp have to answer, calling out:

'Are you my Kumbuy?'

An answer comes like a muffled bark, 'Bah! bah bah!'

Then the old men--crafty old men--go out to where the 'bahing' comes
from, and bring in the gifts, which take the form of food, yams, honey,
fruit principally.

These Kumbuy are among the few beneficent spirits they never hurt any
one, simply supply the bereaved women with comfort in the shape of
food, for the temporary loss of their male relatives. Should an
uninitiate have a wife, which of course is improper, the Kumbuy decline
to recognise her; and should she presume to answer their spirit back,
they make in token of displeasure a thudding noise as if earth were
being violently banged with a yam stick. She has encroached on the
Kumbuy preserves, for prior to his initiation a man should only have a
spirit wife, never an incarnate one.

If you ask a black woman why the Kumbuy thud the earth in answer to an
initiate's wife, she will say:

'Dat one jealous.' jealousy even in the spirit world of women!

Unchaste women were punished terribly. After we went west even the
death penalty for wantonness was enforced, though at the time we did
not know it.

Should a girl be found guilty of a frailty, it being her first fault,
her brothers and nearest male relations made a ring round her, after
having bound her hands and feet, and toss her one from the other until
she is in a dazed condition and almost frightened to death.

The punishment over, she is unbound and given to her betrothed, or a
husband chosen for her.

Should a woman have been discovered to be an absolute wanton, men from
any of the clans make a ring round her, she being bound, and tossed
from one to the other, and when exhausted is unbound and left by her
relations to the men to do as they please to her--the almost inevitable
result is death. With this terror before them, it is possible the old
blacks are right who say that their women were very different in their
domestic relations in olden times.



At the boy manufactory, Boomayahmayahmul, the wood lizard, was the
principal worker, though Bahloo from time to time gave him assistance.

The little blacks throw their mythical origin at each other tauntingly.
A little black girl, when offended with a boy friend, says:

'Ooh, a lizard made you.'

'Wah! wah! a crow made you,' he retorts.

Up to a certain age boys are trained as are girls--charms sung over
them to make them generous, honest, good swimmers, and the rest; but
after that they are taken into the Weedegah, or bachelors' camp, and
developed on manly lines.

When he is about seven years old, his mother will paint her son up
every day for about a week with red and white colourings. After that he
would go to the Weedegah Gahreemai, bachelors' camp. He would then be
allowed to go hunting with boys and men. He would see, now when he was
out with the men, how fire was made in the olden time, almost a lost
art now when wax matches are plentiful.

No boy who had not been to a Boorah would dare to try to make fire.

The implements for fire-making are a little log about as thick as a
man's arm, of Nummaybirah wood--a rather soft white wood--and a split
flat piece about a foot long and three inches wide. The little log was
split open at one end, a wedge put in it, and the opening filled up
with dry grass broken up. This log was laid on the ground and firmly
held there; the fire-maker squatted in front, and with the flat piece
rubbed edgeways across the opening in the log. The sawdust fell quickly
into the opening. After about a minute and a half's rubbing a smoke
started out. After rubbing on a little longer the fire-maker took a
handful of dry grass, emptied the smoking sawdust and dry grass into
it, waved it about, and in three and a half minutes from starting the
process I have seen a blaze. Sometimes it has taken longer, but just
under five minutes is the longest time I have ever seen it take.

They use pine too, I believe, but whenever I timed them it was
Nummaybirah they were using.

The boys pick up the woodcraft of the tribes when they begin going out
with the men. As the boys began to grow up, when a good season came
round, and game and grass were plentiful, the old men were seen to draw
apart often and talk earnestly.

At length there came a night when was heard a whizzing, whirling boom
far in the scrub. As the first echo of it reached the camp, the women,
such as were still young enough to bear children, stopped their ears,
for should any such hear the Gurraymi, the women's name for the
Gayandi, or Boorah spirit's voice, that spirit will first make them
mad, then kill them.

The old women began to sing a Boorah song. To deaden the sound of the
dreaded voice, opossum rugs were thrown over the children, none of whom
must hear, unless they are boys old enough to be initiated; the sound
reveals the fact to such that the hour of their initiation is at hand.

The men all gathered together with the boys, except two old wirreenuns,
who earlier in the evening have seemingly quarrelled and gone away into
the scrub.

The men and boys in camp march up and down to some distance from the
camp. The old women keep on singing, and one man with a spear painted
red with a waywah fastened on top, walks up and down in the middle of
the crowd of men, holding the spear, with its emblematic belt of
manhood, aloft; as he does so, calling out the names of the bends of
the creek, beginning with the one nearest to which they are camped.
When he gets to the end of the names along that creek and comes to the
name of a big river, all the men join him in giving a loud crow like

'Wah! wah! wah!'

Then he begins with the names along the next creek across the big
river, and so on; at the mention of each main stream the crowd again
join in the cry of

'Wah! wah! wah!'

All the while, closer and still closer, comes the sound of the Gayandi,
as the men call the Gurraymi, or bull roarer.

At length the two old wirreenuns come back to the camp and the noise
ceases, to recur sometimes during the night, when I expect, did any one
search for them, the old wirreenuns would be found missing from the

After the first whirling of the bull roarers and calling of the creek
names, the Gooyeanawannah, or messengers, prepare for a journey, and
when ready, the wirreenuns start them off in various directions to
summon neighbouring tribes from hundreds of miles round to attend the
Boorah. The messengers each carry a spear with a waywah (or belt of
manhood) on the top, seeing which no tribe, even at enmity with the
messenger, will molest him. When a messenger arrived at a strange camp,
he was not asked his business but left to choose his own time for
telling. He would squat down a little way from the strangers' camp,
food would probably be brought to him which he would cat.

He would find out who was the chief wirreenun of the tribe, then take
him apart, give to him his Boorah message-stick as guarantee of his
good faith, and tell him where and when the Boorah was to be held.
After having given all necessary information, the Gooyeanawannah would
return to his tribe; the wirreenun to whom he had given the
Doolooboorah, or message-stick, would send it on by the messenger of
his tribe, and so with others, until all were summoned, each tribe
letting it be known that a Boorah summons had been received by sounding
the Gayandi, which would carry its own tale to those in the camp.

Should young boys be chosen as messengers, they were held in high
honour; Woormerh they were called.

While the messengers were away, the old men of the tribe in whose
Noorumbah, or hereditary hunting lands, the Boorah was to be held,
prepared the sacred grounds.

They cleared a big circle, round which they put a bank of earth, and
from the circle was cleared a path leading to a thick scrub; along this
path were low earthen embankments, and the trees on both sides had the
bark stripped off, and carved on them the various totems and multiplex
totems of the tribes. Such carvings were also put on the trees round
the Bunbul, or little Boorah ring, where the branches were also in some
instances lopped, and the trunks carved and painted to represent
figures of men, amongst whom were supposed to be the sons of Byamee's
wives. Two of these sons had been made young men at the first Boorah
Byamee instituted in this district, the ground of which is pointed out
to this day.

In the middle of the Bunbul a large heap of wood was placed ready for
the Yungawee, or sacred fire.

When the preliminary preparations were over, the camps were moved to
just outside the Boorah, or big Boorah ring. By that time the other
tribes began to arrive. First came from each tribe the boys to be
initiated and the Munthdeeguns, or men in charge of them. The men were
painted, and had leafy twigs tied round their wrists and ankles, as had
the boys also, and all carried in their hands small branches of green.
Those especially in charge of boys held, too, a painted spear with a
waywah on top of it.

As they approached the place of gathering the head man, with the
painted spear, began calling out all the names of the places along the
creeks from whence he came; at the name of each big watercourse they
all cried together

'Wah! Wah! wah!'

They were met at some distance from the camp by the men who had
summoned them, and who had made a round brush yard where they were to
meet them. Here the older women were singing Boorah songs. Some held
their breasts as a sign they had sons among the initiates; others put
their hands on their shoulders, which showed they had brothers going to
be made young men. All the women had leafy twigs tied round their
wrists and ankles as the men had. The newcomers and the men who met
them walked round the yard at a measured beat, lifting one leg and
throwing up one arm each time the cry of 'Wah! wah! wah!' was given,
for here too the enumeration of geographical names went on.

When the Boorah song was over, the men marched out of the yard; closely
behind them the two oldest men with the tufted spears; the Boorah boys
closely after them. The women followed, carrying bunches of leafy twigs
with which they pelted the boys until they reached the camp.

Matah and I had been watching the whole performance, and followed in
the wake of the women.

The whole scene impressed us as picturesque--the painted figures of the
men and boys, with the peculiarly native stealthy tread, threading
their way through the grey Coolabah trees; the decorated women throwing
their leafy missiles with accurate aim into the ranks of the boys, who
did not dare to look at their assailants. A Boorah boy must give no
evidence of curiosity; the NIL ADMIRARI attitude then begun clings to a
black man through life. The women of the tribe express voluble
surprise, but a black man never except by the dilation of his eyes.

Every night after this a corroboree was held. The fully initiated of
each tribe, as they arrived, help in the preparation of the inner
sacred ground, while the younger men collected game and other food.

The old men cut out of the ground along the narrow path leading to the
Bunbul, and round it, huge earthen animals, their various totems, such
as crocodiles, kangaroos, emus and others, all of a colossal size.
These they plastered over with mud and painted in different colours and
designs. On the right of the Bunbul they made an earthen figure of
Byamee--this figure was reclining holding in each hand a Boondee. On
the other side was the huge figure of a woman--this represented
Birrahgnooloo, the favourite wife of Byamee; she held two spears. There
was a third figure not so large as the other two but like them, apart
from the figures near the path and the Bunbul; this was Baillahburrah,
according to some, Dillalee according to others, the supernatural son
of Byamee--or as some say, brother--not born of woman, having lived
before the human race existed, before Byamee travelled as Creator and
culture hero through Australia.

Of the Gayandi, the Boorah spirit, sometimes called
Wallahgooroonboooan, there was no figure, because he was always present
at Boorahs, though invisible. His voice only gave evidence of his

The wirreenuns said it was he who had placed in the forks of trees
round the big ring heaps of dry wood, which they said, when the
ceremonies began, he would light, making a dazzling illumination of the

In the middle of the Boorah ring was placed a mudgee, a painted stick
or spear, with a bunch of hawk's feathers on the top. Every night was
heard at intervals the Gayandi, and immediately the younger women and
children stopped their ears, while the old women shrieked their

As each fresh batch of blacks arrived the volume of sound was
increased, for the old men with their Gayandi would go into the scrub
and whirl them. These bull roarers sound curiously uncanny--I did not
wonder the uninitiated accepted the spirit theory as to their origin.

The bush of Australia is a good background for superstition; there is
such a non-natural air about its Nature, as if it has been sketched in
roughly by a Beardsley-like artist.

The function of the Gayandi is to inspire awe, and it fulfils it.
Byamee himself made the first. It was some time before he got quite the
effect he wanted. At first he desired to give the Boorah spirit a form
as well as a voice, to inspire awe; he also wished it to knock out the
front tooth of an initiate.

He made a stone figure in the image of man, having a voice. This
spirit, known variously as Gayandi, or Darramulun, went to the Boorah,
but when he was to knock out the front tooth, he began to eat the boys'
faces. He was too strong; he would not do to preside over, Boorahs.
Byamee transformed him into a large piggiebillah-like animal, though
instead of being covered with spines, thick hair grew over him; he has
since been known as Nahgul. He went away into the bush, where he has
been a dreaded devil ever since; for if he touches a man's shadow even,
that man will itch all over and nothing can cure him of it. He haunts
Boorah grounds.

Next Byamee made a stone bull roarer sort of thing, but this was too
heavy to make the noise he wanted. One day he was chopping a big
Coolabah tree close to Weetalibah water-hole, which tree, much to the
horror of our blacks, was burnt down a few years ago by travellers.

As Byamee chopped, out flew a big chip. He heard the whizzing sound it
made, gave another chop, out flew another; again the whizzing sound.

'That is what I want,' he said I'll make a Gayandi of wood.'

He cut a piece of mubboo, or beefwood, and shaped it; he tied a piece
of string to a hole in one end; he hung it up in the big Coolabah tree.
Then he went and cut one out of Noongah or Kurrajong, tied a string on
to that and put it beside the other on the tree, and left them swinging

One day he came back and was camping near; his wives, came along to the
big tree. There the Gayandi swung, making a whirring noise.

'What's that?' said the women. 'We'll have a look what it is.' Seeing
Byamee they said, 'We heard voices in that big tree over there.'

'Whereabouts?' he said.

'In that Coolabah tree. Such strange voices, such as we never heard.'

'You two go' he said, 'to our camp and make a fire. I'll go and see
what it is.'

When the women were out of sight he went to the tree and took the
pieces of wood down. He was satisfied now they would answer his
purpose. He carefully hid them until he made a Boorah. And since then
such pieces of wood have been the medium for the Gayandi's voice, and
are kept carefully hidden away from all but the eyes of wirreenuns.

At length all the expected tribes had arrived, preparations were
finished, and a signal was given for a move to be made that the real
ceremonies might begin.

The fully initiated men went away after their midday meal, and about
sundown came in single file along the banked-in path each carrying a
firestick in one hand, a green switch in the other. When they reached
the mudgee in the middle of the big ring and corroboreed for a little
round it, the old women answered with a Boorah song, and all moved to
the edge of the ring. At this stage men often tried to steal each
other's boys, and great wrestling matches came off. One man would try
to pull up the mudgee, out would rush one of another clan to wrestle
with him. First the boys would wrestle, then the elder men, each
determined his clan should prove victorious at this great Boorah

The skill of the eeramooun, or uninitiated boys, would be tried in sham
fights too. They were given bark shields, and their attackers had bark
boomerangs; great was the, applause when the boys ably defended
themselves. Previously they have been tried with boomerang and boodthul
throwing, and other arts of sport and warfare, boys of each tribe
trying to excel those of the others. If a boy comes well out of these
trials the men say he is worthy to be a yelgidyi, or fully initiated
young man.

When the wrestling and sham fights are over, corroborees begin. All
night they are kept up, and sometimes there are day performances too.



At last would come the night when everything was ready. Sports and
corroborees would be held as usual, until, at a given signal, the
younger women were ordered into bough sheds which were round the ring.

The old women stayed on singing.

The boys, who are painted red, are beckoned into the middle of the
ring, where their respective Munthdeeguns daub them with white. That
done, each man seizing his charge, hoists him on to his shoulder, and
dances round the ring with him. Then the old women are told to bid the
boys good-bye.

Forward they come, singing each her own brumboorah, for every oldest
woman relation of each of the boys makes a song for him. They
corroboree a few steps behind the men, chanting a farewell, then
corroboree back a few steps, then hasten to join the younger women in
the bough sheds, which are now pulled down on top of them by the men,
that they may see nothing further. Then the Munthdeeguns disappear down
the track into the scrub.

When they are out of sight the women are released, that they may get
ready to travel to where the Durrawunga, or Little Boorah, will be held
in about four days' time, at about ten miles distance.

As the Munthdeeguns passed their totem-marked trees, or images, which
would be those of the boys in their charge--for each guardian was a
relation of the same totem as his charge--they would perform some
magical feat, such as producing gubberahs, charcoal, gypsum, and so on,
uttering as they did so a little chant about that totem.

The boy's eyes are closed all this time and his head bent down.

Boys at a Boorah always remind me of WILHELM MEISLER'S TRAVELS, where,
at the school to which Wilhelm takes Felix, he learns, on inquiry as to
the three attitudes assumed by the pupils, that these gestures
inculcate veneration, which also seems to be the keynote of the
eeramooun's instruction. The Boorah over, he too, 'Stands erect and
bold, yet not selfishly isolated; only in an union with his equals (his
fellow initiates) does he present a front towards the world.'

And only when the fear, the abasement, is gone does the true reverence
come, which makes the most primitive creed a living religion.

As the Munthdeeguns pass the sacred fire they throw in a weapon each.
This done they place their charges in slightly scooped-out places,
already prepared in the inner ring.

Then they bid them, on pain of death, not to look up whatever happens.

Soon a great whirring is heard, telling that Gayandi, the Boorah
spirit, is near.

Yudtha Dulleebah, one of the oldest black men in the district, said at
this stage once two boys did look up.

The wirreenuns saw them, though the boys did not know it and went on
looking. These boys saw the men advance each to the fire where they had
thrown their weapons; chanting in a strange tongue, they corroboreed
round the fire for some time.

Then the wirreenuns snatched up the coals left from the weapons and
rubbed them into their limbs, trampling as they did so on the edge of
the fire, which did not seem to burn them, rubbing and chanting until
the sacred coals were supposed to be absorbed by them, from which they
would derive new powers.

This over, the boys were all ordered to get up, and march round, hands
on thighs and heads abased, while they learnt a Boorah song, giving new
words for common things, which acted as pass-words hereafter for the
initiated. Into a slow chant these words were strung, as the men and
boys passed round the ring, two of the oldest men standing beating time
with painted spears with tufted tops.

The two boys who had transgressed before looked up again, curious as to
their surroundings. Suddenly the men with the spears roared at the boys
to lower their heads.

The boys laughed. Their fates were sealed. Out flashed the sacred
gubberahs of these two old men.

'Dead is he,' they cried, 'who laughs in the Bunbul where yungawee
burns more fiercely than Yirangal, the sun, where near lies the image
of Byamee: Byamee, father of all, whose laws the tribes are now
obeying.' Then the men chanted to the gubberahs and held them between
the fires and the boys, the light of the flames seemed to play on them
and stretch its beams to the boys, who began to tremble. As louder grew
the chant an answer came from the scrub, the voice of Gayandi; shaking
with fear the boys fell to the ground, to all appearance lifeless. Then
the old men went forward, each with a stone knife in hand. Stooping
over the two boys they opened veins in each, out flowed the blood, and
the other men all raised a death cry. The boys were lifeless. The old
wirreenuns, dipping their stone knives in the blood, touched with them
the lips of all present. Then the bodies were put on the edge of the
sacred fire and the other initiates taken a little further into the
scrub. There they were tried in many ways.

With the Boorah spirits whistling and whizzing all round them, spears
were pointed at them. Their skins were scratched with stone knives and
mussel shells. Hideously painted, fiendish-looking creatures suddenly
rushed upon them. Should they show fear and quail at the Little Boorah
they would be returned to their mothers as cowards unfit for
initiation, and sooner or later sympathetic magic would do its work, a
poison-stick or bone would end them. Or if one of the initiates was
considered stupid and generally incapable, having been brought to the
Boorah for that purpose, he was now, after having been made to suffer
all sorts of indignities, such as eating filth and so on, bound to the
earth, strapped down, killed, and his body burnt.

When the trials were over and the old wirreenuns said to the boys who
had not quailed, 'You are brave; you shall be boorahbayyi first and
afterwards yelgidyi, and carry the marks that all may know.'

Then they made on the shoulder of each boy a round hole with a pointed
stone; this hole they licked to feel no splinter of stone remained,
then filled it with powdered charcoal.

After this, leaving the boys there, the men went back to the Bunbul
ring. The bodies of the Boorah victims were cooked. Each man who had
been to five Boorahs ate a piece of this flesh, no others were allowed
even to see this done. Then the bones and what was left of the bodies
were put into the middle of the fire, and all traces of the victims so

The men then sang a song, saying that so must always be served those
who scoffed at sacred things; that the strength they had wasted should
go into other men who would use it better; while the spirits of the
victims should wander about until reincarnated if the Boorah spirit
gave them another chance. Perhaps he would only let them be
reincarnated in animals.

After another dance and chant round the yungawee, the men went and
brought the boys back again. They came with their hands on their
thighs, and their heads abased; each was taken to his allotted place
near the outer edge of the ring. There each Munthdeegun told his boy he
could sleep that night; he would go to sleep the boy he had been, to
wake in the morning a new man; his courage had now been tried, and in
the morning a new name and a sacred stone would be given to him. The
Gayandi would settle their names that night and tell the wirreenuns.

The next morning the boys were awakened by the Munthdeegun chanting and
dancing before them. They stopped in front of the first boy, called him
to rise by a new name; as he did so all the men clapped their thighs
and shouted

'Wah! wah! wah!'

Then an old wirreenun gave him a small white gubberah, which he was
bidden to keep concealed for ever from the uninitiated and the women,
and he must be ready to produce it whenever called upon to do so. The
result of failure would be fatal to him. With the loss of the stone his
life spirit would be weakened, and the strength of the Boorah spirit,
with which he was now endowed, be used against him instead of for him,
as would be the case as long as he kept the stone.

These stones seem somewhat in the way of 'Baetyli' of pagan antiquity,
which were of round form; they were supposed to be animated, by means
of magical incantations, with a portion of the Deity; they were
consulted on occasions of great and pressing emergency as a kind of
divine oracle, and were suspended either round the neck or some other
part of the body.

As each boy received his stone another loud chorus of 'Wah! wah! wah!'
went up from that crowd, making the scrub ring with the sound.

Some of those, of whose tribe it was the custom--it is not invariably
so--now had a front tooth knocked off; this done a wirreenun chanted to
the boy, who had been blindfolded and almost deafened by the whirring
of Gayandi.

One chant was as follows:--

Now you can meet the Boorah spirit,
Now will he harm you not.
He will know his spirit is in you.
For this is the sign,
A front tooth gone.
That is his sign,
He will know you by it.

Some of the wirreenuns buried these teeth by the Boorah fire, others
carefully wrapped them up to keep as charms, or to send to other
tribes, each according to the individual custom of his tribe.

This all over, once more there was a marching and chanting round the
fire, then the boys were taken away and given food for the first time
since they left their mothers.

No wonder that the ' supernatural' was mixed up with their impressions
of the Boorah: fasting nourishes hallucinations. While the boys were
eating, they could hear in the distance other chants, and knew that
ceremonies were going on to which they were not yet to be admitted,
there being degrees of initiation.

On the fourth day the men took them about ten miles, and camped with
them where they could hear faintly in the distance the noise of the
main camp; so they knew they were near the place chosen for the
Durramunga, or Little Boorah.

Just before dawn next morning each Munthdeegun took his Boorahbayyi, or
partially initiated one, to the Durramunga. There was a Boorah ring,
but instead of earth grass was heaped all round it. No young women were
visible, only the old women, who sang and corroboreed towards the boys.
Slowly they came forward, peered at their shoulders, and seeing there
the marks, embraced them, shrieking out cries of joy that their boys
had borne the tests. They danced round them, then at a sign from the
old men embraced them again; and while, the women sang their brumboorah
and danced, the boys were taken away by their guardians.

For two moons they remained away, learning much as to sacred things.
They were told that the oldest wirreenuns could see in their sacred
crystals pictures of the past, pictures of what was happening at a
distance in the present, and pictures of the future; some of which last
filled their minds with dread, for they said as time went on the
colours of the blacks, as seen in these magical stones, seemed to grow
paler and paler, until at last only the white faces of the Wundah, or
spirits of the dead, and white devils were seen, as if it should mean
that some day no more blacks should be on this earth.

The reason of this must surely be that the tribes fell away from the
Boorah rites, and in his wrath Byamee stirred from his crystal seat in
Bullimah. He had said that as long as the blacks kept his sacred laws,
so long should he stay in his crystal seat, and the blacks live on
earth; but if they failed to keep up the Boorah rites as he had taught
them, then he would move and their end would come, and only Wundah, or
white devils, be in their country.

It is said that this prophetic vision was the reason that so many of
the first-born half-caste babies were killed, the old wirreenuns seeing
in them the beginning of the end.

At the end of two moons they make back towards the place where the
Boorah had begun, and where preparations were now being made to receive

They camped in the scrub near the old camp of the tribe who had started
the Boorah.

That night in the camp the Gayandi was heard again, another ceremony
was at hand.

The next day the women at the big camp made a big fire, a little
distance away. When this fire was nearly burnt out they covered it
thickly with Budtha, Dheal, and Coolabah leaves to make a great smoke.
On the top of these leaves, which were piled about two feet high, logs
were placed; this fire was round a Dheal tree.

When the thick smoke was seen curling up in a column, the Boorahbayyi
were brought out of the scrub by the Munthdeegun, while in the distance
sounded the whizzing voice of the Boorah spirit. As it ceased, when the
women's chanting rose above it, the painted boys came into the open. On
they came, heads down and hands on thighs, looking neither to the right
nor to the left, but walking straight ahead until they stood on the
logs on the fire. They leaned over and placed a hand each on the tree
in the centre, there they stood while the smoke curled all round them.
The women past child-bearing were singing all the time, while the men
danced outside the leaf-smoke, clicking boomerangs as they did so.

For some time this went on, then the men took the boys back into the

In about four moons' time another leaf-smoke was made ready, and the
Boorahbayyi were again brought out and smoked. This time while chanting
a song the old women brought a big net and put it right over the boys.
Then they stepped back and danced round to the clicking of boomerangs
by the men. The boys were again taken away.

But after this they were allowed to camp nearer the general camp,
though they held no intercourse with the people of it. I have often met
these Boorah boys in the bush, and on sighting me they have fled as if
I were a devil in petticoats.

In about another moon's time, the boys were painted principally white,
a waywah put on them, a yunbean--a piece of beefwood gum with two
kangaroo teeth stuck in it, and a hole through it--was tied to their
front lock of hair. A number of these yunbean were tied to forehead
bands, which they wore too. Armlets of opossum's hair string were put
on their arms, and feathers stuck in them. Feathers were also stuck
upright in the forehead bands.

Some of the old men added to their own decorations by putting on
wongins, from which were hanging those most precious possessions to
inland blacks--seaside shells. Some had fresh beads of gum fastened on
to their hair, hanging round their heads in dozens.

The women, too, had coiffured themselves with fresh gum beads; the
mothers of the Boorahbayyi were painted, too, in corroboree style. They
had made a smoke fire, but the logs instead of being put on it, were
placed at a little distance; on these the painted boys sat, the smoke
enveloping them.

After they had been seated there some time, their mothers came up
behind them, and put their hands on their sons' shoulders. Then they
rubbed all the paint off the boys' bodies; the boys never once looking
at them. When the paint was all off, the women sang and danced, until
the men in charge took the boys away again.

After this, supervision was relaxed except at night. During the
day-time the boys might wander at will, so as they kept clear of the
general camp. They might not receive food from nor speak to a woman for
twelve months, as if they were monks of Byamee in training.

At his second Boorah a young man was allowed to see the sacred fire
ceremony, throwing in of weapons, walking on burning coals, and the
rest. He saw the huge earthen figures of Byamee, Birrahgnooloo, and
Baillahburrah, or Dillalee, and was told all about them; that Byamee
having initiated the Boorah, only such as have been through its rites
can go to his sky-camp.

Three sins are unforgiveable, and commit a spirit of a guilty one to
continual movement in the lower world of the Eleanbah Wundah, where,
but for big fires kept up, would be darkness.

There the guilty one had to keep his right hand at his side, never
moving it, but he himself perpetually moving. Those who know the blacks
and their love of a 'dolce far niente,' will understand what a
veritable hell this perpetual movement would make.

The three deadly sins were unprovoked murder, lying to the elders of
the tribe, or stealing a woman within the forbidden degrees--that is,
of the same hereditary totem, i.e. of the same blood, or of the
prohibited family name clan.

But by a curious train of reasoning two wrongs make a right. Should by
any chance a man succeed in getting a wife he had no right to, having
lived with her, he could keep her, if he came unhurt from the trial he
had to stand; he only having a shield to defend himself with, the men
of the stolen woman's kin threw weapons at him. Only the men of her kin
are assailants, not as in a murder trial, when the men of all kins can
throw at the guilty man. Should he defend himself successfully, he can
keep the woman on the understanding that a woman of his family is given
to a man of hers, to square things. A man who stands his trial is
called a Booreenbayyi.

Kindliness towards the old and sick is strictly inculcated as a command
of Byamee, to whom all breaches of his laws are reported by the
all-seeing spirit at a man's death, and he is judged accordingly. Sir
Thomas Mitchell, writing in 1837 his experiences of the blacks during
his explorations, notices as very striking their care and affection for
the aged of their race.

At his second Boorah a man is allowed to see the carvings on the trees
and to hear the legends of them. Also to hear the Boorah song of
Byamee, which Byamee himself sang; and to hear the prayer of the oldest
wirreenun to Byamee, asking him to let the blacks live long, for they
have been faithful to his charge as shown by the observance of the
Boorah ceremony.

The old wirreenun says words to this effect several times imploringly,
his head turned to the east; facing this direction the dead are mostly

Though we say that actually these people have but two attempts at
prayers, one at the grave and one at the inner Boorah ring, I think
perhaps we are wrong. These two seem the only ones directly addressed
to Byamee. But perhaps it is his indirect aid which is otherwise
invoked. Daily set prayers seem to them a foolishness and an insult,
rather than otherwise, to Byamee. He knows; why weary him by
repetition, disturbing the rest he enjoys after his earth labours? But
a prayer need not necessarily be addressed to the highest god. I think
if we really understood and appreciated the mental attitude of the
blacks, we should find more in their so-called incantations of the
nature of invocations. When a man invokes aid on the eve of a battle,
or in his hour of danger and need; when a woman croons over her baby an
incantation to keep him honest and true, and that he shall be spared in
danger, surely these croonings are of the nature of prayers born of the
same elementary frame of mind as our more elaborate litany. I fancy
inherent devotional impulses are common to all races irrespective of
country or colour.

When the prayer was over the old men chanted Byamee's song, which only
the fully initiated may sing, and which an old black fellow chanted for
us as the greatest thing he could do.

There seemed very little in this song, for no, one can translate it,
the meaning having been lost in the 'dark backward,' if it was ever
known to the Euahlayi.

'Byamee guadoun.
Byamee guadoun.
Byamee guadoun.
Mungerh wirree.
Mungerh wirree.
Mungerh wirree.
Birree gunyah, birrie gunyah.
Dilbay gooran mulah bungarn.
Oodoo doo gilah.
Googoo wurra wurra.
Bulloo than nulgah delah boombee nulgah.
Delah boombee. Nulgah delah boombee boombee.
Buddereebah . . . . . . Eumoolan.
Dooar wullah doo. Boombee nulgah delah.'

The old fellow said wherever Byamee had travelled this song was known,
but no one now knew the meaning of the whole, not even the oldest

Another stone was given to a Boorahbayyi when he first heard this song.

The wirreenuns, they say, swallow their stones to keep them safe.

At each Boorah a taboo is taken off food. After a third Boorah a man
could eat fish, after a fourth honey, after a fifth what he liked. He
was then, too, shown and taught the meanings of the tribal
message-sticks, and the big Boorah one of Byamee. As few men now have
ever been to five Boorahs, few know anything about these last. At each
Boorah a stone was given to a man, and when he had the five he could

After each Boorah all the figures and embankments are destroyed.

After the fifth Boorah the mystery of the Gayandi was revealed and the
bull roarers shown--oval pieces of wood pointed at both ends, fastened
to a string and swung round; but though this was shown, the wirreenuns
told them that the spirit's voice was really in this wood animating it.
After a man has been to one Boorah he can have war weapons and is a
warrior, but not until he has been to five can he join or be one of the
dorrunmai--sort of chiefs--who hold councils of war, but have few
privileges beyond being accepted authorities as to war and hunting.
With the wirreenuns rests the real power, by reason of their skill in

Besides Boorahs are minor corroboree meetings where marriages are
arranged; meetings where the illegality of marriages is gone into, and,
if necessary, exchanges effected or arranged; meetings where the
wirreenuns of the Boogahroo produce the bags of hair, etc., and
vendettas are sworn; meetings of Boodther, or giving, where each person
receives and gives presents. A person who went to a Boodther without a
goolay full of presents would be thought a very poor thing indeed.

Of course every meeting has a corroboree as part of it.

Every totem even has its own special corroboree and time for having it,
as the Beewees, or iguanas, when the pine pollen is failing and the red
dust-storms come. And if you abused these dust-storms to a Beewee
black, you would insult him: it is not dust, it is the pollen off the
pines, and so a multiplex totem to him!

The winds belong to various totems, and the rains are claimed by the
totem whose wind it was that blew it up.

If a storm comes up without wind it belongs to Bohrah, the kangaroo.

The big mountainous clouds when they come from the south-west are said
to be Mullyan, the eagle-hawk, who makes the south-west wind claimed by
Maira, paddy melon totem, one of whose multiplex totems Mullyan is.

The crow keeps the cold west wind in a hollow log, as she was too fond
of blowing up hurricanes; she escapes sometimes, but the crow hunts her
back. But they say the log is rotting and she will get away yet, when
there will be great wreckage and quite a change in climates.[Here we see
the usual antagonism of crow and eagle-hawk.--A. L.]

Away to the north-west a tribe of blacks have almost a monopoly in
wind-making, holding great corroborees to sing these hurricanes up. One
of this tribe came to the station once and wanted to marry a girl
there. She would not consent, and told him to go home. He went,
threatening to send a storm to wreck the station. The storm came; the
house escaped, but stable, store, and cellar were unroofed. I told my
Black-but-Comelys to kindly avoid such vehemently revengeful lovers for
the future.



I was awakened one morning on the station by distant wailing.

A wailing that came in waves of sound, beginning slowly and lowly, to
gain gradually in volume until it reached the full height or limit of
the human voice, when gradually, as it had risen, it fell again. No
shrieking, just a wailing inexpressibly saddening to hear.

I lay for some minutes not realising what the sound was, yet penetrated
by its sorrow. Then came consciousness. It was from the blacks' camp,
and must mean death. Beemunny, the oldest woman of the camp, who for
weeks had been ill, must now be dead.

Poor old Beemunny, who was blind and used to get her
great-granddaughter, little Buggaloo, to lead her up to the tree
outside my window, under whose shade she had spent so many hours,
telling me legends of the golden age when man, birds, beasts, trees,
and elements spoke a common language. But the day before I had been to
the camp to hear how she was. The old women were sitting round her; one
of the younger ones told me her end had nearly come.

The Boolees, or whirlwinds, with the Mullee Mullees of her enemies in,
had been playing round and through the camp for days, they said,
watching to seize her fleeting spirit--a sure sign the end was near.
That night surely would come Yowee, the skeleton spirit, with the big
head and fiery eyes, whose coming meant death.

Last night more than one of the blacks had dreamt of an emu, which
meant misfortune to one of that totem, which was Beemunny's.

As Yellen spoke in a hushed sad voice, suddenly, though no breath of
wind was stirring, sprang up on the edge of the camp a boolee, rearing
its head as if it were a living thing. Round it whirled, snatching the
dead leaves of the Coolabahs, swirling them with the dust it gathered
into a spiral column, which sped, as if indeed a spirit animated it,
straight to the camp of the dying woman. Round and round it eddied, a
dust-devil dancing a dance of death.

The watchers drew nearer to Beemunny, who was past heeding even the
spirits of evil.

The women in other camps clutched their children to them, but spoke no
word. All was silent but the swirling leaves as the column gathered
them. Finding the deathbed guarded, the boolee turned sharply from the
camp and sped away down the road, dissolving on the poligonum flat in
the distance.

Yellen gave a sigh of relief.

But now her fears were verified; Beemunny was dead.

Poor old Beemunny! How the vanities of youth cling to one; how we are
'all sisters under the skin.'

She was ever so old, she was blind, her face was scarred with wrinkles,
yet one of her beauties remained, and she absolutely joyed in its
possession: it was her hair. Her hair was thick and fuzzy, when combed
would stand nearly straight out, which is quite unusual with the native
women's hair in that part. Beemunny one day asked one of the younger
women if I had ever heard what a lot of lovers she had had in her
youth, what fights there had been over her, and all because of her
beautiful hair.

Poor old Beemunny! Something in my own woman nature went out to her in
sympathy. She was old, she was ugly, her husband was dead, as were all
men to her.

Poor old Beemunny! Having once learnt her vanity, I never passed her
without saying 'Gubbah Tekkul!' 'Beautiful hair!' at which she would
beam and toss her head.

At sunrise came again the wailing; the singing of the Goohnai, or
dirge, wherein are enumerated all the multiplex totems of the deceased,
crooned in a wailing way, and each fresh person who comes to the camp
sings this dirge again. In olden times all would have been painted in
full war paint, weapons in hand, to see the corpse.

I was given permission to go to the funeral, old Bootha was to take me.

I heard that Beemunny had died early in the night. Her daughter and
nearest of kin had sat all night beside her body, with each a hand on
it to guard her from the spirits. She was now in her bark coffin, round
which were her own blankets to be buried with her. The coffin was made
of bark cut off right round a tree, split on one side from end to end;
the body was placed in this, then the bark lapped over it, the ends
were blocked up with other pieces, the whole secured by ropes. All day
until the burial some one of kin stayed beside the coffin, little fires
of Budtha kept smoking all the while. In the afternoon old Bootha came
for me, and we set out.

First in the procession marched two old men of the tribe, behind them
some young men, then those in charge of the coffin and the two nearest
women relations, immediately behind them the old women, then the young
women. No women with babies were allowed to go, nor any children. I
came last with old Bootha.

The procession moved along an old winding track on the top of a
moorilla, or pebbly ridge, pine-trees overarching in places carving the
sky into a dome--a natural temple through which we walked to the

Every now and then we heard a bird note, which made the women glance at
each other and say, first, 'Guadgee,' then 'Bootha,' as it came again,
and a third time 'Hippitha.' To my uneducated ear the note seemed the
same each time. I asked Bootha what it was. She told me it was the note
of a little bird, something like a wren, called Durrooee, in whose
shape the spirits of dead women revisited the earth. It seems that
Numbardee, the first woman, was, like Milton's Eve, a caterer; she
acquired art in beating the roots of plants into flat cakes much
esteemed; she was never to be met without some, carrying them always in
a bag across her shoulders.

And Byamee was so pleased with her for always having food for the
hungry that, when at length she died, he allowed her to revisit her old
gahreemai, or camp, her spirit returning in the form of the little
honey-eater bird, Durrooee; and all women after her had a like
privilege if they had done their duty in life. These birds are sacred;
no one must harm them, nor even imitate their cry. It would be hard to
hurt them, for the spirit in them is so strong. If any one even takes
up a stick or stone to throw at them, hardly is it raised from the
ground when the would-be assailant is forcibly knocked over, though he
sees nothing but the little bird he was about to attack. Then he knows
the bird must be a spirit bird, and perhaps seeing him look at her, the
bird calls a woman's name, then he knows whose spirit it is.

A black boy on the station was badly hurt by a fall from a tree. It had
seemed strange that such a good climber should fall. The blacks said it
was because there was a Durrooee's nest in that tree, the spirit had
knocked him down, and for a time so paralysed the man with him that he
could not move to his assistance. Needless to say, they have avoided
that tree since.

In the distance we heard the sound of the grave being dug. None of the
same totem as the dead person must dig the grave. The coffin was put
down beside the grave, the daughter and other nearest women relations
stayed with it, the other women went away into the bush in one
direction, some of the men in another.

Old Hippi heaped up some Budtha twigs he had gathered, I noticed as we
came along; these he set fire to, and made a dense smoke which hung low
over the open grave and spread over the old graves.

Hippi smoked himself in this smoke. The women came back with arms full
of small branches of the sacred Dheal tree, these they laid beside the
grave, then sat down and broke them into small twigs; the old women had
twigs put through the bored hole in their noses.

The men came back with some pine saplings; two of these they laid at
the bottom of the grave, which was about five feet deep. On these pines
they spread strips of bark, then a thick bed of Dheal twigs; then a
woman handed a bag containing the belongings of the dead woman--boogurr
they were called--to the oldest male relative, who was standing in the
grave; he placed it as a pillow at one end. Then Hippi and the
daughter's husband took each an end of the coffin and lowered it into
the grave; the daughter cried loudly as they did so. Over the coffin
they laid a rug, and on the rug they placed Beemunny's yam stick. Hippi
signalled to the daughter, who then came with the other women close to
the edge of the grave. She sat at one end, looked over into the grave,
and called out: 'My mother! Oh, my mother! Come back to me, my mother!
My mother that I have been with always, why did you leave me?' Then she
wailed the death-wait, which the other women caught up. As the wail
died away, Hippi said:

'She has gone from us; never as she was will she return.
Never more as she once did will she chop honey.
Never more with her gunnai dig yams.
She has gone from us; never as she was to return.'

As he finished all the women wailed again, and loudest of all the
daughter. Then the old man in the grave said:

'Mussels there are in the creek and plenty,
But she who lies here will dig no more.
We shall fish as of old for cod-fish,
But she who lies here will beg no more oil,
Oil for her hair, she will want no more.'
Then again the women wailed.

Old Hippi said, as the other man, in a sort of recitative

'Never again will she use a fire.
Where she goes fires are not.
For she goes to the women, the dead women,
And women can make no fires.
Fruit is there in plenty and grass seed,
But no birds nor beasts in the heaven of woman.'

Again the women wailed, wail after wail. Then they handed the remaining
twigs of Dheal to the men, who laid them on the top of the coffin, then
bark again over the twigs, and pine saplings on them, on top some old

While this was being done the old, old gins danced slowly a corroboree
step round the edge of the grave, crooning a Goohnai-wurrai or dirge.

Then the men began to throw in the earth, the oldest male relative of
the deceased standing in the grave to guard the body until the earth
covered the coffin. As thud after thud went the earth in, the daughter
shrieked and swayed over as if to fall into the grave, but her friend
drew her back. She called 'Mother! mother!' took a sharp stone which
was beside her and hit it against her head until the blood gushed out.
They took the stone from her. There she sat rocking her body to and
fro, wailing all the time, the other women wailing too, until the grave
was quite covered in.

When it was filled in Hippi made another big smoke, thoroughly smoked
himself, calling to all the men to do the same.

An old woman made a big smoke behind where the women were sitting; she
called them one by one and made them stand in the thick of it for a

Hippi said something to her. I caught the word 'Innerah'--they called
me Innerah, which meant literally a woman with a camp of her own. The
old woman gave the smoke fire a stir, and out at once came a thick
column of smoke circling round my guest and myself.

They covered the grave with logs and boughs and then swept round it.

All was over, we turned homewards. As we did so a flock of screeching
gilahs flew over, their bright rose colouring lighting up the sombre
scene where the only colour was that of the dark pines silhouetted
against a sky from which the blue had now faded. Going home Bootha told
me that the smoking process was to keep the spirits away, and to
disinfect us from any disease the dead might have; and she said had we
not been smoked the spirits might have followed us back to the house.

They would at once change their camp; the old one would be gummarl--a
tabooed place; but before they left it they would burn smoke fires
there to scare away the spirits.

I asked her why they swept round the grave. She said, in case the dead
person had been poisoned or killed by magic; and, indeed, so little do
they allow the possibility of death from natural causes, they even said
old Beemunny had been given poison in her honey by an old-time rejected
lover. Well, by sweeping round the grave they would see what track was
on the swept place next morning, and according to that they would know
to what totem the murderer belonged. If the track should be an
iguana's, then one of the Beewee, or iguana totem, was guilty; if an
emu, then one of the Dinewan, or emu totem, and so on.

Old Hippi joined me a little further on. He explained that the service
was not as it would have been some years ago. That I knew, because when
I first went to the station I had seen them going to funerals all
decorated as if for corroborees. Round their waists, wrists, knees and
ankles had been twigs of Dheal, the sacred tree, and the rest of their
bodies had been painted.

Hippi said a great deal more would have been spoken and sung at the
grave if the dead person had been a man. His spirit would have in a
short sort of prayer been commended to Byamee, who would have been
intreated to let the dead enter Bullimah (heaven), as he had kept the
Boorah laws--that is, of course, if he had been initiated: the spirits
of the uninitiated wander until they are reincarnated, and never enter
Bullimah. One curious coincidence occurred in connection with this

Seeing the droughty desolation of the country, as we walked to the
grave, I asked old Bootha when she thought it would rain again. Coming
very close to me she half whispered:

'In three days I think it; old woman dead tell me when she dying that
"'sposin" she can send 'em rain, she send 'im three days when her Yowee
bulleerul--spirit breath--go long Oobi Oobi.'

Beemunny died on Wednesday night. On Saturday when we went to bed the
skies were as cloudless as they had been for weeks. In the middle of
the night we were awakened by the patter of rain-drops on the iron
roof. All night it rained, and all the next day.

It is said that a dead person always sends rain within a week of his
death to wash out his tracks on earth.

One little black girl told me she always felt sad when she saw
thunderclouds, because she thought some dead person had sent them.

As a rule, there is a good deal more shedding of blood over a grave
than I saw. This blood offering is said to please the dead, being a
proof to them of the affection of the living. It is funeral etiquette
to prepare yourself with a weapon with which to shed this blood, but
likewise etiquette for a friend to intervene and stop your

On emerging from the grave the spirit finds the spirits of his dead
relations waiting to go with him to Oobi Oobi, that is, a sacred
mountain whose top towers into the sky, nearly touching Bullimah. The
new spirit recognises his relations at once; they had, many of them,
been round the death-bed visible at the last to the dying, though not
to any of the watchers with him, though these are said sometimes to
hear the spirit voices.

The spirit from the grave carried with him the twigs of the sacred
Dheal tree which were placed over and under his body; he follows his
spirit relations, dropping these twigs as he goes along, leaving thus a
trail that those who follow may see. At the top of Oobi Oobi he finds
the spirits called Mooroobeaigunnil, whose business it is to bridge
over the distance a spirit has to traverse between the top of the
mountain and Bullimah, the great Byamee's sky-camp.

One of these Mooroobeaigunnil seizes him and hoists him on to his
shoulders; then comes another and hoists the first; and so on, until
the one holding the spirit can lift him into Bullimah. As the spirit is
hoisted in, one of the Mooroobeaigunnil, knocks the lowest one in the
ladder of spirits down; thud to the earth come the rest, making a sound
like a thunderclap, which the far away tribes hear, and hearing say:

'A spirit has entered Bullimah.'

Should a big meteor fall followed by a thunderclap, it is a sign that a
great man has died. Should a number of stars shoot off from a falling
star, it is a sign that a man has died leaving a large family. When a
star is seen falling in the day-time, it is a sign that one of the
Noongahburrah tribe dies.

In the olden time some of the tribes would keep a body at least five
days. Then they would rub the outside black skin off, make an opening
in the side of the body, take out the internal parts, fill it up with
Dheal leaves. They would place the rubbed-off skin and internals in
bark and put it in hollow trees. They would then bury the body, which
they said would come up white.

Sometimes they would keep their dead for weeks, that they might easily
extract the small joint bones with which to make poison.

A baby's body they would sometimes carry for years before burying, but
it would usually have been well smoke-dried first, though not, I
believe, invariably so.

Sometimes a body was kept so that relations from a distance might come
and see for themselves the death was not the result of foul play.

After the body was filled up with Dheal leaves it was put into its bark
coffin and smoke fires made round it.

As each relation arrived he was blindfolded and led up to the corpse,
which was held up standing by some of the men. When the blindfolded
relation came near, the bandage was taken off him and before him he saw
standing his relation, whom he examined to see if wounds were visible.
If signs of violence were apparent, the murderer had to be discovered
and stand his trial. He was given a shield to defend himself with.
Every man had a right to throw a weapon at him; should he manage to
defend himself successfully, as far as that crime was concerned he
would be henceforth a free man, no stigma attaching to him whatever. In
which, I fancy, the blacks show themselves a larger-minded people than
their white supplanters, who make this world no place for repentance
for wrong-doers, 'though they seek it with tears.' In the world's
opinion there is no limit to a man's sentence. We read the letter of
the Gospel, and leave the spirit of it to the blacks to apply.

Should there be a difficulty as to discovering the criminal, all the
men of the tribes amongst whom the murderer could be stand round the
coffin. A head man says to the corpse, 'Did such and such a man harm
you?' naming, one after another, all the men. At the guilty one's name
the corpse is said to knock a sort of rap, rap, rap.

That man has to stand his trial.

But as a rule the blacks like to bury their dead quickly, because the
spirit haunts their neighbourhood or its late camp until the body is
buried. Mysterious lights are said to be seen at night, and there is a
general scare in camp-land until a corpse is safely buried.

There are variations in the funeral rites of nearly every tribe. Even
in our district the dead were sometimes placed in hollow trees. I know
of skeletons in trees on the edge of the ridge on which the home
station was built. These are said to be for the most part the bodies of
worthless women or babies.

In the coastal districts there are platforms in trees on which dead
bodies were laid. In some places corpses are tied up in a sitting
posture. The tying, they say, is to keep them secure when spirits come
about, or body-snatchers for poison bones.

In some places the graves are covered with a sort of emu egg-shaped and
sized lumps of copi; and also, when a widow's term of mourning was
over, she would take the widow's cap--which was a sort of copi or gypsum
covering put on wet to her head--and place it on the grave of her

On the Narran the widows plaster their heads with copi or bidyi, as
they call it, but so thinly that it cakes off. They renew it, and keep
their heads covered with it for the allotted term of mourning, then
just let it gradually all wear off.

Those widows' caps, having the imprint of nets inside them, are very
old; for hair nets have been out of fashion for very many years in
camp-land, so such rank as antique curios.

I don't think the small girl who thought when she grew up she'd choose
to be a widow, would have thought so if she had been born black.

When a black woman's husband dies she has to cover herself with mud,
and sleep beside a smouldering smoke all night. Three days afterwards,
black fellows go and make a fire by the creek. They chase the widow and
her sisters, who might have been her husband's wives, down to the
creek. The widow catches hold of the smoking bush, puts it under her
arm, and jumps into the middle of the creek; as the smoking bush is
going out she drinks some of the smoky water. Then out she comes, is
smoked at the fire; she then calls to those in the camp, and looks
towards her husband's grave and calls again; his spirit answers, and
the blacks call to her that they have heard him.

After that she is allowed to speak; she had been doomed to silence
since his death, but for lamentations. She goes to the new camp, where
another big smoke is made. She puts on her widow's cap, which, as it
wears out, has to be renewed for many months; for some months, too, she
keeps her face daubed with white.

Every time a stranger comes to the camp the widow has to make a smoke
and smoke the camp again. The nearest of kin to her husband has a right
to claim her as wife when her mourning is over.

Should a woman be left a widow two or three times there are sinister
whisperings about her. She is spoken of as having a 'white heart'; and
no man can live long, they say, with a woman having a 'white heart.'

The graves in some parts of Australia are marked by carved trees; only
a few painted upright posts marked them on the Narran.

A tabooed camp has always a marked tree--just a piece of bark cut off
and some red markings made on the wood, which indicate that the place
is gummarl.

Any possessions of the dead not buried with them are burnt, except the
sacred stones; they are left to the wirreenun nearest of kin to the
dead person.

Lately a case came under my notice of the taboo extended to the
possessions of dead people.

A black man having two horses died. Neither his widow nor her mother
would use those horses, even when he had been dead over a year. They
would walk ten or twelve miles for their rations and carry them back,
rather than use those horses before the term of mourning was over.

The widow was one of my particular friends, but she would not come to
see me because her husband had been at the house shortly before he
died. She camped nearly a mile away, and I went to see her there. After
he had been dead about a year, she came to see me; but before she did
so her mother walked all round the out-buildings, garden, yards, etc.,
with a bunch of smoking Budtha, crooning little spirit songs.



Venus in the Summer evenings is a striking object in the western sky.
Our Venus they call the Laughing Star, who is a man. He once said
something very improper, and has been laughing at his joke ever since.
As he scintillates you seem to see him grinning still at his
Rabelais-like witticism, seeing which the {aborigines} say:

'He's a rude old man, that Laughing Star.'

The Milky Way is a warrambool, or water overflow; the stars are the
fires, and the dusky haze the smoke from them, which spirits of the
dead have lit on their journey across the sky. In their fires they are
cooking the mussels they gather where they camp.

There is one old man up there who was once a great rainmaker, and when
you see that he has turned round as the position of the Milky Way is
altered, you may expect rain; he never moves except to make it.

A waving dark shadow that you will see along the same course is
Kurreah, the crocodile.

To get to the Warrambool, the Wurrawilberoo, two dark spots in Scorpio,
have to be passed. They are devils who try to catch the spirits of the
dead; sometimes even coming to earth, when they animate whirlwinds and
strike terror into the blacks. The old men try to keep them from racing
through the camp by throwing their spears and boomerangs at them.

The Pleiades are seven sisters, as usual, the dimmed ones having been
dulled because on earth Wurrunnah seized them and tried to melt the
crystal off them at a fire; for, beautiful as they were with their long
hair, they were ice-maidens. But he was unsuccessful beyond dulling
their brightness, for the ice as it melted put out the fire. The two
ice-maidens were miserable on earth with him, and eventually escaped by
the aid of one of their 'multiplex totems,' the pine-tree. Wurrunnah
had told them to get him pine bark. Now the Meamei--Pleiades--belong to
the Beewee totem, so does the pine-tree. They chopped the pine bark,
and as they did so the tree telescoped itself to the sky where the
five other Meamei were, whom they now joined, and with whom they have
remained ever since. But they who were polluted by their enforced
residence with the earth-man never shone again with the brightness of
their sisters. This legend was told emphasising the beauty of chastity.

Men had desired all the sisters when once they travelled on earth, but
they kept themselves unspotted from the world, with the exception of
the two Wurrunnah captured by stratagem.

Orion's Sword and Belt are the Berai-Berai--the boys--who best of all
loved the Meamei, for whom they used to hunt, bringing their offerings
to them; but the ice-maidens were obdurate and cold, disdaining lovers,
as might be expected from their parentage. Their father was a rocky
mountain, their mother an icy mountain stream. But when they were
translated to the sky the Berai-Berai were inconsolable. They would not
hunt, they would not eat, they pined away and died. The spirits pitied
them and placed them in the sky within sound of the singing of the
Meamei, and there they are happy. By day they hunt, and at night light
their corroboree fires, and dance to the singing in the distance. just
to remind the earth-people of them, the Meamei drop down some ice in
the winter, and they it is who make the winter thunderstorms.

Castor and Pollux, in some tribes, are two hunters of long ago.

Canopus is Womba, the Mad Star, the wonderful Weedah of long ago, who,
on losing his loves, went mad, and was sent to the sky that they might
not reach him; but they followed, and are travelling after him to this
day, and after them the wizard Beereeun, their evil genius, who made
the mirage on the plains in order to deceive them, that they and Weedah
might be lured on by it and perish of thirst.

When they escaped him Beereeun threw a barbed spear into the sky, and
hooked one spear on to another until he made a ladder up which he
climbed after them; and across the sky he is still pursuing them.

The Clouds of Magellan are the Bralgah, or Native Companions, mother
and daughter, whom the Wurrawilberoo chased in order to kill and eat
the mother and keep the daughter, who was the great dancer of the
tribes. They almost caught her, but her tribe pursued them too quickly;
when, determined that if they lost her so should her people, they
chanted an incantation and changed her from Bralgah, the dancing-girl,
to Bralgah, the dancing-bird, then left her to wander about the plains.
They translated themselves on beefwood trees into the sky, and there
they are still.

Gowargay, the featherless emu, is a debbil-debbil of water-holes; he
drags people who bathe in his holes down and drowns them, but goes
every night to his sky-camp, the Coalpit, a dark place by the Southern
Cross, and there he crouches. Our Corvus, the crow, is the kangaroo.

The Southern Crown is Mullyan, the eagle-hawk. The Southern Cross was
the first Minggah, or spirit tree a huge Yaraan, which was the medium
for the translation of the first man who died on earth to the sky. The
white cockatoos which used to roost in this tree when they saw it
moving skywards followed it, and are following it still as Mouyi, the
pointers. The other Yaraan trees wailed for the sadness that death
brought into the world, weeping tears of blood. The red gum which
crystallises down their trunks is the tears.

Some tribes say it was by a woman's fault that death came into the

This legend avers that at first the tribes were meant to live for ever.
The women were told never to go near a certain hollow tree. The bees
made a nest in this tree; the women coveted the honey, but the men
forbade them to go near it. But at last one woman determined to get
that honey; chop went her tomahawk into that hollow trunk, and out flew
a huge bat. This was the spirit of death which was now let free to roam
the world, claiming all it could touch with its wings.

Of eclipses there are various accounts. Some say it is Yhi, the sun,
the wanton woman, who has overtaken at last her enemy the moon, who
scorned her love, and whom now she tries to kill, but the spirits
intervene, dreading a return to a dark world. Some say the enemies have
managed to get evil spirits into each other which are destroying them.
The wirreenuns chant incantations to oust these spirits of evil, and
when the eclipse is over claim a triumph of their magic.

Another account says that Yhi, the sun, after many lovers, tried to
ensnare Bahloo, the moon; but he would have none of her, and so she
chases him across the sky, telling the spirits who stand round the sky
holding it up, that if they let him escape past them to earth, she will
throw down the spirit who sits in the sky holding the ends of the
Kurrajong ropes which they guard at the other end, and if that spirit
falls the earth will be hurled down into everlasting darkness.

So poor Bahloo, when he wants to get to earth and go on with the
creation of baby girls, has to sneak down as an emu past the spirits,
hurrying off as soon as the sun sinks down too.

Bahloo is a very important personage in legends.

When the blacks see a halo round the moon they say,

'Hullo! Going to be rain. Bahloo building a house to keep himself dry.'

All sorts of scraps of folk-lore used to crop out from the little girls
I took from the camp into the house to domesticate. When storms were
threatening, some of the clouds have a netted sort of look, something
like a mackerel sky, only with a dusky green tinge, they would say:
'See the old man with the net on his back; he's going to drop some

Meteors always mean death; should a trail follow them, the dead person
has left a large family.

Comets are a spirit of evil supposed to drink up the rain-clouds, so
causing a drought; their tails being huge families all thirsty, so
thirsty that they draw the river up into the clouds.

Every natural feature in any way pronounced has a mythical reason for
its existence, every peculiarity in bird life, every peculiarity in the
trees and stones. Besides there are many mythical bogies still at
large, according to native lore, making the bush a gnome-land.

Even the winds carry a legend in their breath.

You hear people say they could have 'burst with rage,' but it is left
to a black's legend to tell of a whole tribe bursting with rage, and so
originating the winds.

There was once an invisible tribe called Mayrah. These people, men and
women, though they talked and hunted with them, could never be seen by
the other tribes, to whom were only visible their accoutrements for
hunting. They would hear a woman's voice speak to them, see perhaps a
goolay in mid-air and hear from it an invisible baby's cry; they would
know then a Mayrah woman was there. Or a man would speak to them.
Looking up they would see a belt with weapons in it, a forehead band
too, perhaps, but no waist nor forehead, a water-vessel invisibly held:
a man was there, an invisible Mayrah. One of these Mayrah men chummed
with one of the Doolungaiyah tribe; he was a splendid mate, a great
hunter, and all that was desirable, but for his invisibility. The
Doolungaiyah longed to see him, and began to worry him on the subject
until at last the Mayrah became enraged, went to his tribe, and told
them of the curiosity of the other tribes as to their bodily forms. The
others became as furious as he was; they all burst with rage and rushed
away roaring in six different directions, and ever since have only
returned as formless wind to be heard but never seen. So savagely the
Mayrah howled round the Doolungaiyah's camp that he burrowed into the
sand to escape, and his tribe have burrowed ever since.

Three of the winds are masculine and three feminine. The Crow,
according to legend, controls Gheeger Gheeger, and keeps her in a
hollow log. The Eagle-hawk owns Gooroongoodilbaydilbay, and flies with
her in the shape of high clouds. Yarragerh is a man, and he has for
wives the Budtha, Bibbil, and Bumble trees, and when he breathes on
them they burst into new shoots, buds, flowers, and fruits, telling the
world that their lover Yarragerh, the spring, has come.

Douran Doura woos the Coolabah, and Kurrajong, who flower after the hot
north wind has kissed them.

The women winds have no power to make trees fruitful. They can but moan
through them, or tear them in rage for the lovers they have stolen,
whom they can only meet twice a year at the great corroboree of the
winds, when they all come together, heard but never seen; for Mayrah,
the winds, are invisible, as were the Mayrah, the tribe who in bursting
gave them birth.

Yarragerh and Douran Doura are the most honoured winds as being the
surest rain-bringers. In some of the blacks' songs Mayrah is sung of as
the mother of Yarragerh, the spring, or as a woman kissed into life by
Yarragerh putting such warmth into her that she blows the winter away.
But these are poetical licences, for Yarragerh is ordinarily a man who
woos the trees as a spring wind until the flowers are born and the
fruit formed, then back he goes to the heaven whence he came.

Then there are the historical landmarks: Byamee's tracks in stone, and
so on, and the battle-fields, too, of old tribal fights. just in front
of our station store was a gnarled old Coolabah tree covered with warty
excrescences, which are supposed to be seats for spirits, so showing a
spirit haunt.

In this particular tree are the spirits of the Moungun, or armless
women, and when the wind blows you could hear them wailing. Their cruel
husband chopped their arms off because they could not get him the honey
he wanted, and their spirits have wailed ever since.

Across the creek is another very old tree, having one hollow part in
which is said to be secreted a shell which old Wurrunnah, the traveller
of the tribes, and the first to see the sea, brought back. No one would
dare to touch the shell. The tribe of a neighbouring creek, when we
were first at the station, used to threaten to come and get it, but the
men of the local tribe used to muster to protect it from desecration
even at the expense of their lives.

The Minggah by the garden I have told you of before. Further down the
creek are others.

At Weetalibah was the tree from which Byamee cut the first Gayandi.
This tree was burnt by travellers a few years ago. The blacks were
furious: the sacred tree of Byamee burnt by the white devils! There are
trees, too, considered sacred, from which Byamee cut honey and marked
them for his own, just as a man even now, on finding a bee's nest and
not being able to stay and get it, marks a tree, which for any one else
to touch is theft.

A little way from the head station was an outcrop of white stones.
These are said to be fossilised bones of Boogoodoogahdah's victims. She
was a cannibal woman who had hundreds of dogs; with them she used to
round up blacks and kill them, and she and her dogs ate them. At last
she was outwitted and killed herself, and her spirit flew out as a bird
from her heart. This bird haunts burial grounds, and if in a drought
any one can run it down and make it cry out, rain will fall.

During a drought one of these birds came into my garden, hearing which
the blacks said rain would come soon, and it did. In another drought
when the rainmakers had failed, some of the old blacks saw a rain-bird
and hunted it, but could not get it to call out.

Geologists say there should be diamonds along some of the old
water-courses of the Moorilla ridges. Perhaps the white stone that the
blacks talk about, which shows a light at night, and has, they say, a
devil in it, is a diamond. Ruskin rather thought there was a devil in
diamonds, making women do all sorts of evil to possess them. The blacks
told me that a Queensland tribe had a marvellous stone which at great
gatherings they show. Taking those who are privileged to see it into
the dark, there they suddenly produce it, and it glows like a star,
though when looked closely at in daylight seems only like a large drop
of rain solidified. This stone, they said, has to be well guarded, as
it has the power of self-movement, or rather, the devil in it can move

The greatest of local landmarks is at Brewarrina; this is the work of
Byamee and his giant sons, the stone fisheries made in the bed of the

At Boogira, on the Narran Lake, is an imprint in stone of Byamee's hand
and foot, which shows that in those days were giants. There it was that
Byamee brought to bay the crocodiles who had swallowed his wives, from
which he recovered them and restored them to life.

At Mildool is a scooped-out rock which Byamee made to catch and hold
water; beside it he hollowed out a smaller stone, that his dog might
have a drinking-place too. This recurrence of the mention of dogs in
the legends touching Byamee looks as if blacks at all events believed
dogs to have been in Australia as long as men.

At Dooyanweenia are two rocks where Byamee and Birrahgnooloo rested,
and to these rocks are still sticking the hairs he pulled from his
beard, after rubbing his face with gum to make them come out easily.

At Guddee, a spring in the Brewarrina district, every now and then come
up huge bones of animals now extinct. Legends say that these bones are
the remains of the victims of Mullyan, the eagle-hawk, whose camp was
in the tree at the foot of which was the spring. This tree was a tree
of trees; first, a widely spreading gum, then another kind, next a
pine, and lastly a midgee, in which was Mullyan's camp, out of which
the relations of his victims burnt him and his wives, and they now form
the Northern Crown constellation. The roots of this gigantic tree
travelled for miles, forming underground water-courses. At Eurahbah and
elsewhere are hollowed-out caves like stones; in these places
Birrahgnooloo slept, and near them, before the stock trampled them out,
were always to be found springs made at her instigation for her
refreshment; she is the patroness of water.

At Toulby and elsewhere are mud springs. It is said that long ago there
were no springs there, nor in the Warrego district, and in the droughts
the water-courses all dried up and the blacks perished in hundreds.
Time, after time this happened, until at last it seemed as if the
tribes would be exterminated. The Yanta--spirits--saw what was
happening and felt grieved, so they determined to come and live on the
earth again to try and bring relief to the drought-stricken people.
Down they came and set to work to excavate springs. They scooped out
earth and dug, deeper and deeper, until at length after many of them
gave in from exhaustion, those that were left were rewarded by seeing
springs bubble up.

The first of those that they made was at Yantabulla, which bears their
name to this day.

The blacks were delighted at having watering-places which neither a
drought nor the fiercest sun could dry up. The Yantas were not
contented with this nor with the other springs they made. They
determined to excavate a whole plain, and turn it into a lake so deep
that the sun could never dry it, and which would be full of fish for
the tribes.

They went to Kinggle and there began their work. On they toiled
unceasingly, but work as they would they could not complete their
scheme, for one after another wearied and died, until at last nothing
was left on the plain but the mud springs under the surface and the
graves of the Yantas on top. No blacks will cross Kinggle plains lest
some of these spirits arise through the openings of their graves.

This legend shows what a disheartening country the West is in a
drought. When even the spirits gave in, how can ordinary men succeed?
But indeed it is not ordinary men who do, but our 'Western heroes,' as
Will Ogilvie calls them, who wear their cross of bronze on neck and
cheek in the country where 'the green fades into grey.'



Some of the blacks' methods of catching game I have seen practised,
some have long since died out of use.

Of course the sportsmen knew the favourite watering-holes of the game.
At such a place they made a rough break at each side, leaving an
opening where the track was. Along this track they would lay a net with
one end on the edge of the water; in the water they put sticks on the
ends of which the birds rest to drink, the other ends are out in the
trap. They would make a hole low down on each side of the net, and a
man would hide in each.

A bird's watering-place, where the blacks trap them, is called
Dheelgoolee. When the Dheelgoolee trapping begins, on the first day
those who go out hunting must bring home their game alive to give the
man at the Dheelgoolee luck. Then they never try to catch an emu or
kangaroo, only iguana, opossum, piggiebillah, paddy melon, or
bandicoot, all of which could be brought home alive. But after the
first day they can kill as they go along.

All day some birds come to the Dheelgoolee-pigeons, gilahs, young
crows, and others, and the man watching catches them. When the game was
thick on the net, the men in the holes would catch hold of the ends of
the sticks in the net and quickly turn them over the lower ends, thus
entrapping all on the net. In the evening turkeys and such things as
water at night-time, amongst which are opossums and paddy melons, would
be trapped.

Ducks were trapped, too, by making bough breaks across the shallow part
of the creek, with a net across the deep part from break to break. A
couple of the men would go up stream to hunt the ducks down, and some
would stay each side of the net armed with pieces of bark. The two
hunters up stream frightened the ducks off the water, and sent them
flying down stream to the trap. Should they seem flying too high as if
to pass, the blacks would throw the pieces of bark high in the air,
imitating, as they did so, the cry of hawks. Down the ducks would fly
turning back; some of the men would whistle like ducks, others would
throw bark again, giving the hawk's cry, which would frighten the
birds, making them double back into the net, where they were quickly
despatched by those waiting.

Murrahgul is another trap. This is a yard made all round a waterhole
with one opening; about this opening they will fasten, from stumps or
logs, strong strings with a slipping knot. The game, emu or kangaroo,
would probably step into one of these string nooses, would try to pull
its leg out; the harder it pulled the tighter the knot. Or the blacks
might have put a sort of cross-bar overhead at the entrance, with
hanging strings having a slip knot; in would go an emu's head, the bird
would rush on and be strangled.

Boobeen is a primitive cornet, a hollowed piece of Bibbil wood, one end
partially filled up with pine gum, and ornamented outside with
carvings. To blow through it is an art, and the result rather like a
big horn. The noise is said to be very like an emu's cry, and this emu
bugle will certainly, they say, draw towards it a gundooee, or solitary

The blacks used on the sandhills to make a deep hole to hide themselves
in, usually only one though. From this hole they would run out a drain
for about thirty yards. The man with the Boobeen would have a little
break of bushes round him; scattered over the leaves he'd have emu
feathers, and then he would have a strong string, on the end of which
he would have a small branch with this he would place about midway emu
feathers on it; down the drain.

When the emu answers the Boobeen's call, the bugler gets lower and
slower with his call. The emu sees the feathered thing in the drain,
comes inquisitively up and sniffs at it. The man in the hole pulls in
the string slowly; the emu follows, on, on, until heedlessly he steps
on a Murrahgul, or string trap, and is caught. The hunters would
sometimes stalk kangaroo, holding in front of them boughs of trees or
bushy young saplings, closing silently in and in, until at last the
kangaroo were so closely surrounded by men armed with boondees and
spears that there was no escape for them.

For catching emu they had a net made of string as thick as a
clothes-line. These nets were made either of Kurrajong (Noongah) bark,
or of Burraungah grass. The Kurrajong bark is stripped off the trees,
beaten, chewed, and then teased. Then it was taken and rubbed,
principally by the women on their legs, into strands.

The grass was used preferably to Kurrajong bark, as it was easier to
work. The process of preparation was as follows:--

A hole was dug in the ground, some fire put in it, a. quantity of
ordinary grass was put on the top of the coals, and on top of that a
heap of Burraungah grass, that topped with ordinary grass.

Water was sprinkled over it all and the hole earthed up.

When it had been in long enough the earth was cleared away, and the
grass, which was quite soft, taken out. It was then chewed and worked
like the Kurrajong bark, than which it was much more pliable.

String was made of various thicknesses according to what it was
required for.

Fishing nets were always smoked before being used, and all nets had
little charm songs sung over them. In netting, their only implement was
a piece of wood to wind their string on. An emu net was about five feet
high, and between two and three hundred yards long.

When any one discovered a setting emu, they used not to disturb her at
once and get her eggs, but returned to the camp, singing as they neared
it a song known as the Noorunglely, or setting emu song; those in camp
would recognise it, and sing back the reply. The black fellows having
learnt where the nest was, would get their net and go out to camp near
it. All that evening they would have an emu-hunting corroboree. The
next morning at daylight they would erect their net into a sort of
triangular-shaped yard, one side open. Black fellows would be stationed
at each end of the net, and at stated intervals along the mirroon, as
the net was called. When the others were all ready some of the blacks
would make a wide circle round the emu, leaving open the side towards
the net; they would close in gradually until they frightened the emu
off her nest; she would run in the direction where she saw no black
fellows and where the net was; the black fellows closing in behind,
followed quickly. Poor Noorunglely floundered into the net, up rushed a
black fellow and, seizing her, wrung her neck. Having secured her, they
would next secure her eggs; that they might be a trifle stale was a
matter of indifference to them.

Another old method was by making sort of brush yards and catching the
emus in these.

One modern way is to run them down with kangaroo dogs, the same way
with kangaroo; but at one time still another method obtained. A black
fellow would get a long spear and fasten on the end a bunch of emu
feathers. When he sighted an emu he would climb a tree, break some
boughs to place beneath him, if the trees were thinly foliaged, to hide
him from the emu, then he would let his spear dangle down. The emu, a
most inquisitive bird, seeing the emu feathers, would investigate.
Directly the bird was underneath the tree, the black fellow would grip
his spear tightly and throw it at the emu, rarely, if ever, failing to
hit it, though the emu might run wounded for a short distance, but the
black fellow would be quickly after it to give it happy despatch.

If the emu got a good start even, it was easily tracked by the trail of
blood. It has happened that a black fellow has not found his emu until
the next day, when it was dead and the spear still in it; but usually
very soon after the wounded birds start running the spear is shaken

Sometimes the blacks killed birds with their boomerangs, ducks in
particular. I fancy this killing of ducks by a well-thrown boomerang is
one of the feats that black fellows allow themselves to blow about.
Every man has usually one subject, a speciality he considers of his
own, and on that subject he waxes eloquent.

Pigeons, gilahs, and plains turkeys are also killed with boomerangs.
Blacks' fishing-nets are about ten feet by five, a stick run through
each end, for choice of Eurah wood. Eurah is a pretty drooping shrub
with bell-shaped spotted flowers, having a horrible smell. The wood is
very pliable. It is sometimes used instead of the sacred Dheal at

Two of the fishermen take the net into the creek, one at each end; they
stand in a rather shallow place, holding the net upright in the water.
Some other blacks go up stream and splash about, frightening the fish
down towards the net. When those holding the net feel the fish in it,
they fold the two sticks together and bring the net out.

To catch fish they also make small weirs and dams of stones, with
narrow passages of stones leading to them. The fish are swept by the
current into these yards, and there either caught by the blacks with
their hands, or speared. The most celebrated of these stone fish-traps
is at Brewarrina on the Barwon. It is said to have been made by Byamee,
the god and culture-hero of these people, and his giant sons. He it was
who established the rule that there should be a camping-ground in
common for the various tribes where, during the fishing festival, peace
should be strictly kept, all meeting to enjoy the fish, to do their
share towards preserving the fisheries.

Each tribe has its particular yards; for another to take fish from
these is theft. Each tribe keeps its yards in repair, replacing stones
removed by floods, and so on.

These stony fish mazes are fully two hundred yards in length,
substantially built; some huge boulders are amongst the stones which
form these most intricate labyrinthine fish yards, which as traps are
eminently successful, many thousands of Murray cod and other fish being
caught in them.

Dingo pups, in the days when dingoes were plentiful, were a most
esteemed delicacy. To eat dog is dangerous for a woman, as causing
increased birth-pangs; that suggests dog must be rather good eating,
some epicure wirreenun scaring women off it by making that assertion.

Ant larv', a special gift from some spirit in the stars, and frogs, are
also thought good by camp epicures.

The blacks smear themselves over with the fat of fish or of almost any
game they catch. It is supposed to keep their limbs supple, and give
the admired ebony gloss to their skins which, by the way, are very fine
grained. After a flood, when the water is running out of the
tributaries of the creek, the blacks make a bough break beginning on
each bank and almost meeting in the middle; across the gap they place a
fishing-net which folds in like a bag, thus forming a fish-trap in
which are caught any number of fish. Crayfish and mussels they caught
by digging down their holes in the mud for them. Their mode of catching
shrimps was very (with all apologies to scientists for using the word)
primitive. Quite nude, the women sit down in the water, let the shrimps
bite them; as they nip, seize them.

Iguanas burrow into the soft sand ridges and there remain during the
winter, only coming out after the Curreequinquins--butcher birds--one
of their sub-totems, sing their loudest to warn them that the winter is
gone, calling Dooloomai, the thunder, to their aid lest their singing
is not heard by their relations, who after the storms come out again in
as good condition as when they disappeared.

Black men do not approve of women cooks. At least the old men, under
the iron rule of ancient custom, will not eat bread made by gins, nor
would they eat iguana, fish, piggiebillah, or anything like that if the
inside were removed by a woman, though after themselves having prepared
such things, they allow the gins to cook them--that is, if they have
not young children or are enceinte; under those conditions they are



It is very strange to me to hear the average white person speak of the
blacks collectively as having no individuality, for really they are as
diverse in characteristics as possible; no two girls I had in the house
but were totally different.

There has been too much generalisation about the blacks. For instance,
you hear some people assert all blacks are trackers and good bushmen.
That there are some whose tracking power is marvellous is true, but
they are not the rule, and a black fellow off his own beat is often
useless as a bushman.

So with their eyesight; what they have been trained to look out for
they see in a marvellously quick way, or so it seems to us who have not
in their lines the same aptitude. Of course, for seeing things at a
distance a black has the advantage, unless the white has had the same
open-air life. Some white bushmen are as good as any blacks.

Nimmaylee, a little black girl who lived in the house, used to tell me
all sorts of bush wonders, as we went in the early summer mornings for
a swim in the river. She was a great water-baby, with rather a contempt
for my aquatic limitations. Then she thought it too idiotic to want to
dry yourself with a towel,--just like a mad white woman!

White people were an immense joke to Nimmaylee. She conformed to their
rules as one playing a new game. She has a little brother as black as
herself. She has a substantial pair of legs, but his are so thin and
his little body so round that he looks like a little black spider.

Nimmaylee is quite an authority on corroborees, knowing ever so many
different steps, from the serpentile trail of the codfish to the mimic
fight. The songs she knows too. She used, when she lived in the camp,
to marshal in a little crowd of camp children, and put them through a
varied performance for my benefit.

These performances were of daily occurrence when the fruit was ripe,
for Nimmaylee's capacity for water-melon was practically unlimited.

Nimmaylee was a wonderful little fisherwoman; she delighted in a
fishing expedition with me. Off we used to go with our lines, worms or
frogs for bait, or perhaps shrimps or mussels if we were after cod. If
we were successful, Nimmaylee would string the fish on a stick in a
most professional manner, and carry them with an air of pride to the
cook. She attributes her fishing successes to a charm having been sung
over her to that end as a baby.

Accompanied by some reliable old 'gins' and ever so many piccaninnies,
I used to take long walks through the 'bush.'

How interesting those blacks made my bush walks for me! Every ridge,
plain, and bend had its name and probably legend; each bird a past,
every excrescence of nature a reason for its being.

Those walks certainly at least modified my conceit. I was always the
dunce of the party--the smallest child knew more of woodcraft than I
did, and had something to tell of everything. Seeing Oogahnahbayah, a
small eagle-hawk, flying over, they would say, 'He eats the emu eggs.'
He flies over where the emu is sitting on her eggs and makes a noise
hoping to frighten the bird off; having done so, he will drop a stone
on the eggs. If the emu is not startled off the nest, the hawk will fly
on, alight at some distance, and walk up like a black fellow, still
with the stone in his beak, to the nest; off the emu will go, then the
hawk bangs the eggs with the stone until he breaks them. He throws the
stone on one side, has a feed of emu eggs, and goes off, leaving poor
Moorunglely, the sitting emu, to come back and find her eggs all
destroyed. As the narrative ended, the little {aborigines} would look
quite sad, and say 'Nurragah!' 'Poor thing!' at the thought of the
domestic tragedy in bird life.

I had to hear the stingless little native bees humming before I could
see them; and as to knowing which tree had honey in it, unless I saw
the bees, that was quite beyond me, while a mere toddler would point
triumphantly to a 'sugar-bag' tree, recognising it as such by the wax
on its fork, black before rain, yellowish afterwards.

This honey is good strained, but as the blacks get it, it is all mixed
up with dirty wax and dead bees.

I deplored the sacrifice of the bees one day, but was told it was all
right. Whoever had chopped the nest out would take home the waxy stick
they had used to help get the honey out; they would throw the stick in
the fire, then all the dead bees would go to a paradise in the skies,
whence next season they would send Yarragerh Mayrah, the Spring Wind,
to blow the flowers open, and then down they would come to earth again.
One year the manna just streamed down the Coolabah and Bibbil trees; it
ran down like liquid honey, crystallising where it dropped.

The old blacks said, 'It is a drought now, but it will be worse. Byamee
has sent the manna by the little Dulloorah birds and the black ants,
because there will be no flowers for the bees to get honey from, so he
has sent this manna.' Each time he has done so, a great drought has
followed, and indeed it was followed by one of the worst droughts
Australia has ever known. Byamee, it is said, first sent them the manna
because their children were crying for honey, of which there was none
except in the trees that Byamee, when on earth, had marked for his own.
The women had murmured that they were not allowed to get this; but the
men were firm, and would neither touch it nor let them touch it, which
so pleased Byamee that he sent the manna, and said he always would when
a long drought threatened.

A great chorus of 'My Jerhs' would tell something was sighted.

It might be the track of a piggiebillah porcupine. This track was
followed to a hollow log; then came the difficulty, how to get it out,
for porcupines cling tightly with their sharp claws, and all a dog can
do where a piggiebillah is concerned is to bark, their spines are too
much to tackle at close quarters. But the old gins are equal to the
occasion: a tomahawk to chop the log, and a yam-stick to dislodge the
porcupine, who takes a good deal of killing before he is vanquished.

They say a fully initiated man can sing a charm which will make a
piggiebillah relax his grip and be taken captive without any trouble.
The piggiebillahs burrow into the sand and leave their young there as
soon as the faintest feel of a spine appears. The baby piggiebillahs
look like little indiarubber toys.

The opossums all disappeared from our district. When we were first
there they were very numerous and used to make raids at night to my
rose-bushes--great havoc the result. It is said a very great
wirreenun--wizard--willed them away so that his enemy, whose yunbeai, or
personal totem, the opossum was, should die. This design was frustrated
by counter magic; two powerful wizards appeared and, acting in concert,
put a new yunbeai into the dying man; he recovered.

When the opossums were about the blacks used to see their scratched
tracks on the trees, and chop or burn them out. They miss the opossums
very much, for not only were they a prized food, but their skins made
rugs, their hair was woven into cords of which were made amulets worn
on the forearm or head against sickness, and with no modern instrument
can they so well carve their weapons, as with an opossum tooth.
Naturally their desire is to see Moodai, the opossum, return; to that
end a wirreenun is now singing incantations to charm him back.

Opossum hunters had a way of bringing them home strung round their
necks; very disagreeable, I should think, but custom, that tyrant,
rules it so. The old gins dug out yams vigorously; some were eaten raw,
others were kept for cooking.

To cook them they dug out a hole, made a fire in it, put some stones on
the fire, then, when the stones were heated and the fire burnt down,
they laid some leaves and grass on the stones, sprinkled some water,
then put on the yams, on top of them more grass, sprinkled more water,
then more grass and a. thick coating of earth, leaving the yams to

Several other roots they cooked and ate. Raw they ate thistle tops,
pigweed, and crowfoot, with great relish. Their game they cooked as
follows. Kangaroo were first singed, cleaned out, and filled with hot
stones, then put on the top of a burnt-down fire, hot ashes heaped all
over them. The blacks like their meats with the gravy in, very
distinctly red gravy. Emu were plucked, the insides taken out, and the
birds filled up with hot stones, box leaves, and some of their own
feathers. A fire was made in a hole; when it was burnt down, leaves and
emu feathers were put in it, on top of these the bird, on top of it
leaves and feathers again, then a good layer of hot ashes, and over all
some earth.

The piggiebillahs were first smoked so that their quills might be
easily knocked off. This done, the insides were taken out, then the
piggiebillahs were put in little holes made beside the fire, and
covered over with hot ashes, as were also opossums, ducks and other
birds, iguanas and fish.

Ducks were plucked by our tribe, but in some places they were encased
thickly in mud, buried in the ashes to cook, and, when done, the
plaster of mud would be knocked off, and with it would come all the

The insides of iguanas and fish are taken out all in one piece. Each
fish carries in its inside a representation of its Minggah--spirit
tree; by drying the inside and pressing it you can plainly see the
imprint of the tree.

When we go bathing, the blacks tell me that the holes in the creek
filled with gum leaves are codfish nests. They say too, that when they
beat the river to drive the fish out towards the net waiting for them,
that they hear the startled cod sing out.

Mussels and crayfish are cooked in the ashes.

The seagulls, which occasionally we used to see inland, are said to
have brought the first mussels to the back creeks.

Emu eggs the blacks roll in hot ashes, shake, roll again; shake once
more, and then bury them in the ashes, where they are left for about an
hour until they are baked hard, when they are eaten with much relish
and apparently no hurt to digestion, though one egg is by no means
considered enough for a meal in spite of its being equal to several
eggs of our domestic hen.

Not only are the blacks very particular in the way their game is carved
or divided, but also in the distribution of the portions allotted to
each person. The right to a particular part is an inherited one. No
polite offering of a choice to an honoured guest, no suggestion of the
leg or wing. You may loathe the leg of a bird as food, but at a black
fellow's feast, if convention ordains that as your portion, have it you
must; just as each rank in society had its invariable joint in early
mediaeval Ireland.

The seeds of Noongah--a sterculia--and Dheal, were ground on their flat
dayoorl-stones and made into cakes, which they baked, first on pieces
of bark beside the fire to harden them, then in the ashes. These
dayoorl, or grinding-stones, are handed down from generation to
generation, being kept each in the family to whom it had first
belonged. Should a member of any other use it without permission, a
fight would ensue. Some of these stones are said to have spirits in
them; those are self-moving, and at times have the power of speech. I
have neither seen them move nor heard them speak, though I have a
couple in my possession. I suppose the statement must be taken on
faith; and as faith can move mountains, why not a dayoorl-stone?

The so-called improvident blacks actually used to have a harvest time,
and a harvest home too. When the doonburr, or seed, was thick on the
yarmmara, or barley-grass, the tribes gathered this grass in

First, they made a little space clear of everything, round which they
made a brush-yard. Each fresh supply of yarmmara, as it was brought in
by the harvesters, was put in this yard. When enough was gathered, the
brush-yard was thrown on one side, and fire set to the grass, which was
in full ear though yet green. While the fire was burning, the blacks
kept turning the grass with sticks all the time to knock the seeds out.
When this was done, and the fire burnt out, they gathered up the seed
into a big opossum-skin rug, and carried it to the camp.

There, the next day, they made a round hole like a bucket, and a square
hole close to it. These they filled with grass seed. One man trampled
on the seed in the square hole to thresh it out with his feet; another
man had a boonal, or stick, about a yard long, rounded at one end, and
nearly a foot broad; with this he worked the grass in the round hole,
and as he worked the husks flew away.

It took all one day to do this. The next day they took the large bark
wirrees, canoe-shaped vessels, which when big like these are called
yubbil. They put some grain in these, and shook it up; one end of the
yubbils being held much higher than the other, thus all the dust and
dirt sifted to one end, whence it was blown off. When the grain was
sufficiently clean, it was put away in skin bags to be used as
required, being then ground on the large flat dayoorl-stones, with a
smaller flat stone held in both hands by the one grinding; this stone
was rubbed up and down the dayoorl, grinding the seed on it, on which,
from time to time, water was thrown to soften it.

When ground, the grain was made into little flat cakes, and cooked as
the tree-seed cakes were. When the harvesting of the yarmmara was done,
a great hunt took place, a big feast was prepared, and a big corroboree
held night after night for some time.

The two principal drinks were gullendoorie--that is, water sweetened
with honey; and another made of the collarene, or flowers of the
Coolabah (grey-leaved box), or Bibbil (poplar-leaved box) flowers,
soaked all night in binguies (canoe-shaped wooden vessels) of water.
Just about Christmas time the collarene is at its best; and then, in
the olden days, there were great feasts and corroborees held.

The flat dayoorl-stones on which the seeds are ground with the smaller
stone, are like the 'saddle-stone querns ' occasionally found in
ancient British sites. These primitive appliances preceded the circular
rotatory querns in evolution, and as the monuments prove were used in
ancient Egypt. I cannot say whether, amongst the Euahlayi, there was a
recognised licence as to exchange of wives on these festal occasions,
or at boorahs. If the custom existed, I was not told of it by the
blacks; but it is quite possible that, unless I made inquiries on the
subject, I would not be told.



I have seen a coloured king simply smirking with pride, in what he
considered modern full dress--a short shirt and an old tall hat.

And I suppose, as far as actual clothing went, it was an advance on the
old-time costume of paint and feathers. A black woman's needle was a
little bone from the leg of an emu, pointed. Her thread was sinews of
opossums, kangaroos, and emus; that was all that was necessary for her
plain sewing, which was plain indeed.

Her fancy work consisted of netting dillee, goolays, or miniature
hammocks to sling her baby across her back, or, failing a baby, her
mixed possessions, from food to feathers; her larder and wardrobe in

Her costume being simple in the extreme did not require much room. It
consisted of a goomillah, which was a string wound round the waist,
made of opossum sinews, and in front, hanging down for about a foot,
were twisted strands of opossum hair. A bone, or on state occasions a
green twig, stuck through the cartilage of her nose, a string net over
her hair, or perhaps only a fillet, or a kangaroo's tooth fastened to
her front lock, gum balls dried on side-locks, an opossum's hair
armlet, and perhaps a reed bead necklet and a polished black skin,
toilette complete, unless for certain ceremonies a further decoration
of flowers or down feathers was required.

The principal article of the man's dress was called waywah. It was a
belt, about six inches wide, made of twisted sinews and hair, with four
tufts about eighteen inches long hanging back and front and at each
side from it, made of narrow strips of kangaroo or paddy melon skins.

For warmth in winter they would wrap themselves in their opossum-skin
rugs. Sometimes both sexes adorned themselves with strings of kangaroo
teeth fixed into gum, in which a little hole was made, round their
heads and necks--yumbean they called them; or forehead bands with
hanging kangaroo teeth, which were called gnooloogail.

Pine gum they rolled into small egg-shaped balls, warmed them and stuck
them in dozens all over their heads, where they would be left until
they wore off, hairdressings being only an occasional duty. The gum
they used for sticking the kangaroo's teeth was that of the Mubboo, or
beefwood tree.

Sometimes wongins were worn; they consisted of cords round the neck and
under the arms, crossing the chest with a shell pendant at the centre
of the cross. A shell is still a most prized ornament.

The corroboree dress is one of paint; the feature of it being its
design, a man can gain quite a tribal reputation for being an
originator of decorative designs.

Their original paint colourings were white, red, and yellow;
occasionally they said they got some sort of blue by barter, but very
occasionally, as it came from very far. White was from Gidya ash, or
gypsum; red and yellow, ochre clay; but they also got both red and
yellow from burning at a certain stage certain trees, gooroolay for
red; the charcoal, instead of being black, having red and yellow
tinges. But since the white people came the blue bag has put yellow out
of fashion, and raddle is used for the red.

Their opossum rugs used to have designs scratched on the skin sides and
also painted patterns, some say tribal marks, others just to look
pretty and distinguish each their own.

Feathers tied into little bunches and fastened on to small wooden
skewers were stuck upright in the hair at corroborees, also swansdown
fluffed in puff balls over the heads.

The Gooumoorh, or corroboree, is a sort of black fellow's opera; as to
the musical part, rather, as some one found an oratorio, a thing of
high notes and vain repetition.

The stage effects of corroborees are sometimes huge sheets of bark
fastened on to poles; these sheets of bark are painted in different
designs and colours, something like Moorish embroideries. Sometimes
there is a huge imitation of an alligator made of logs plastered over
with earth and painted in stripes of different colours, a piece of wood
cut open stuck in at one end as a gaping mouth. This alligator
corroboree is generally indicative of a Boorah, or initiation ceremony,
being near at hand. Sometimes the stage effects are high painted poles

At the back of the goomboo, or stage, are large fires; in the front, in
a semicircle, sit the women as orchestra, and the audience; a fire at
each end of the semicircle, as a sort of footlights. The music of the
orchestra is made by some beating time on rolled-up opossum rugs, and
some clicking two boomerangs together. The time is faultless. The tunes
are monotonous, but rhythmical and musical, curiously well suited to
the stage and layers. These last have a very weird look as they steal
Pout of the thick scrub, out of the darkness, quickly one after
another, dancing round the goomboo in time to the music, their
grotesquely painted figures and feather-decorated heads lit up by the
flickering lights of the fires around.

As the dancing gets faster the singing gets louder, every muscle of the
dancers seems strained, and the wonder is the voices do not crack. just
as you think they must, the dancing slows again; the voices die away,
to swell out once more with renewed vigour when the fires are built up
again and again; the same dance is gone through, time after time--one
night one dance, or, for that matter, many nights one dance.

The dancers sometimes make dumb-show of hunts, fights, slaughters, the
women sometimes translating the actions in the songs; sometimes the
words seem to have nothing to do with them, and the dances only a
series of steps illustrating nothing.

Corroborees seem to fit in with the indescribable mystery of the bush.
That the spirit of the bush is mystery makes it so difficult to
describe beyond bald realism, otherwise it seems an effort to seize the
intangible. Poor Barcroft Boake got something of the mystery into

If an Australian Wagner could be born we might hope for a musical
adaptation of corroborees. Wagner was essentially the exponent of
folk-lore music, wherein must be expressed the fundamentals of human
passion unrefined.

The most celebrated weapon is probably the boomerang the most
celebrated kind to whites, though not most useful to blacks, is the
Bubberab, or returning boomerang. These are made chiefly of Gidya and
Myall. Here these 'Come backs' are never carved, are more curved than
the ordinary boomerang, and were greased, rubbed with charred grass,
and warmed before being used, so that the slightest warp would be
straightened. It is marvellous the accuracy with which an adept can
throw one of these weapons, locating it on the exact place to which he
wishes it to return.

Gidya is the favourite wood for boomerangs. They are first roughly
shaped, then thrown into water and soaked for two or three days; taken
out and made into the proper shape, rubbed with charred grass, greased
well, and carved in various designs with an opossum's tooth.

Boomerangs have many uses--in peace two clicked together as a musical
instrument, as a war weapon, and as a weapon in the chase. Its last and
rapidly approaching use will be as a curio for collectors.

Billah, or spears, are made of Belah (swamp oak) or Gidya. These too
are cut roughly first and thrown into water, then cut a little more,
thrown into water again, and so day after day until finished. Sometimes
they are carved with a running featherstitch-like pattern from end to
end, sometimes have bingles, or barbs, cut down one or both sides; some
barbarous things with barbs pointing both ways, so that they could be
neither pushed out nor drawn through a wound; some are plain, painted
at each end or darkened with poison tips.

Billah are war weapons; a larger kind called Moornin are used for
spearing emu.

Woggarahs, the hatchet-shaped weapons, were made of Myall, Gidya, and
other woods, carved as were boomerangs, each carver usually having a
favourite design by which his weapons were recognised.

Booreens, or shields, were of three kinds: a narrow kind made of
hardwood, a broad flat kind of Kurrajong, and a medium-sized one of
Birah, or whitewood, all painted in coloured designs. It is wonderful
the way a man can defend himself single-handed against a number of men,
he having only a narrow shield, the only defence he is allowed when he
has to stand his trial for a breach of the laws.

Their tomahawks, or Cumbees, were of dark-green stone, of which there
is none in this district, so it must have been obtained by barter, as
in the first instance were the flat, light Booreens from the Queensland
side, and the grass-tree gum from the Narrabri mountains side, for
which Gidya boomerangs were given in exchange.

The stone tomahawks have a handle put over one end of the stone, gummed
on with beefwood gum, then drawn together under the stone, crossed, and
the two ends tied together as a handle, with sinews of emus, opossums,
or kangaroos.

Muggils, or stone knives, are just sharpened pieces of stone.

Moorooleh are plain waddies used in war and for killing game; a smaller
kind called Boodthul are thrown for amusement.

Boondees are heavy-headed clubs used in war.

The black fellow won't allow his womenkind a heaven of rest, for the
spirit women are supposed to make weapons which the wirreenuns journey
towards the sunset clouds to get--the women's heaven is in the
west--giving in exchange animal food and opossum rugs, no animals being

For carrying water they used to make bags of opossum skins. To prepare
the skins they would pluck the hair off, and, after cleansing them
well, sew up the skins with sinews, leaving only the neck open. They
would fill this vessel with air and hang it out to dry.

As, a water vessel, to mix their drinks and medicines in, they used
Binguies or Coolamons, a deep, canoe-shaped vessel cut out of solid
wood, carved sometimes and painted, a string handle to it. They used
little bark vessels to drink out of, like shallow basins, cut from
excrescences on eucalyptus trees; these were called wirree. A larger
bark vessel they used for holding water, honey, or anything liquid.

While on the subject of personal decoration I forgot the Moobir, or
cuts on the bodies, some of which are tribal marks, some marks of
mourning, some merely of ornamentation. Both men and women are seen
with these marks in the Narran district; some huge wales on the skin
from the shoulders half-way down the back, some on the chest and the
forepart of the arms. They are cut with a stone knife, licked along by
the medicine man, filled in with charcoal, and the skin let grow over.

Various reasons are given for these marks: some say they are to give
strength, others as a tribal sign, others just to took pretty. Some
give the final reason for everything, 'Because Byamee say so.'

In summer the blacks are great bathers, and play all sorts of games in
the water. Their soap is clay; they rub themselves with that, the women
plastering it under their arms again and again; the little children rub
themselves all over with it, then tumble into the water to wash it off.

In winter they forgo bathing, and rub themselves with liberal
applications of grease.

The old blacks used to have very good teeth; they never ate without
afterwards rinsing out their mouths, and sometimes munched up charcoal
to purify them. But the younger generation have discarded the
mouth-rinsing habit, and not yet attained to a tooth-brush: result,
gradual deterioration in teeth, a deterioration probably helped by the
drinking of hot liquids. Blacks of the old time drank nothing hot.
Perhaps, too, their tough meats gave muscular strength to their jaws.

To blacks, kissing is a 'white foolishness,' also handshaking; in olden
times even to smell a stranger was considered a risk.



A very favourite game of the old men was skipping--Brambahl, they
called it.

They had a long rope, a man at each end to swing it. When it is in full
swing in goes the skipper. After skipping in an ordinary way for a few
rounds, he begins the variations, which consist, amongst other things,
of his taking thorns out of his feet, digging as if for larv' of ants,
digging yams, grinding grass-seed, jumping like a frog, doing a sort of
cobbler's dance, striking an attitude as if looking for something in
the distance, running out, snatching up a child, and skipping with it
in his arms, or lying flat down on the ground, measuring his full
length in that position, rising and letting the rope slip under him;
the rope going the whole time, of course, never varying in pace nor
pausing for any of the variations.

The one who can most successfully vary the performance is victor. Old
men of over seventy seemed the best at skipping.

There is great excitement over Bubberah, or come-back boomerang

Every candidate has a little fire, where, after having rubbed his
bubberah with charred grass and fat, he warms it, eyes it up and down
to see that it is true, then out he comes, weapon in hand. He looks at
the winning spot, and with a scientific flourish of his arm sends his
bubberah forth on its circular flight; you would think it was going
into the Beyond, when it curves round and comes gyrating back to the
given spot. Here again the old ones score.

Wungoolay is another old game.

A number of black fellows arm themselves with a number of spears, or
rather pointed sticks, between four and five feet long, called
widyu-widyu. Two men take the wungoolays, which are pieces of bark,
either squared or roughly rounded, about fifteen inches in diameter.
These men go about fifty yards from each other; first one and then
another throws the wungoolays, which roll swiftly along the ground past
the men with the spears, who are stationed midway between the other two
a few yards from the path of the wungoolays, which, as they come
rolling rapidly past, the men try to spear with their widyu-widyu; he
who hits the most, wins the game. It looks easy enough, but here again
the old men scored.

For Gurril Boodthul, if a bush is not at hand, a bushy branch of a tree
is stuck up. The men arm themselves with small boodthuls, or miniature
waddies, then stand a few feet behind the bush, which varies from five
to eight feet or so in height at competitions. They throw their
boodthuls in turn; these have to skim through the top of the bush,
which seems to give them fresh impetus instead of slackening them. The
distance they go beyond is the test of a good thrower; over three
hundred yards is not unusual. As practice in this game is kept up, the
young men hold their own.

There is another throwing stick somewhat larger than the gurril
boodthul, which only weighs about three ounces, and is about a foot in
length. The other stick is thrown to touch the ground, then bound on,
sometimes making one high long leap, sometimes a series of jumps, as a
flat pebble does when thrown along the water in the game children call
'ducks and drakes.'

Yahweerh is a sort of sham trial fight. One man has a bark shield, and
he has to defend himself with it from the bark toy boomerangs the
others throw. Here again the old men win. Their games, which old and
young alike play, are distinctly childish.

Boogalah, or ball, is one. In playing this all of one Dhe, or totem,
are partners. The ball, made of sewn-up kangaroo skin, is thrown in the
air; whoever catches it goes with his or her division--for women join
in this game--into a group in the middle, the other circling round. The
ball is thrown in the air, and if one of the circle outside the centre
ring catches it, then his side namely, all his totem--go into the
middle, the others circling round, and so on. The totem keeping it
longest wins.

Goomboobooddoo, or wrestling, is a great Boorah-time entertainment.
Family clan against clan. Kubbee against Hippi, and so on. A Hippi, for
example, will go into a ring and plant there a mudgee, or painted stick
with a bunch of feathers at the top. In will run a Kubbee and try to
make off with the stick; Hippi will grapple with him, and a wrestling
match comes off. Into the ring will go others of each side wrestling in
their turn. The side that finally throws the most men, and gets the
mudgee, wins. Before wrestling matches, there is much greasing of
bodies to make them slippery.

Wimberoo was a favourite fireside game. A big fire was made of leafy
branches. Each player got a dry Coolabah leaf, warmed it until it bent
a little, then placed it on two fingers and hit it with one into where
the current of air, caused by the flame, caught it and bore it aloft.
They all jerked their leaves together, and anxiously watched whose
would go the highest. Each watched his leaf descend, caught it, and
began again. So on until tired.

Woolbooldarn is an absolutely infantile game. A low, overhanging branch
of a tree is chosen, and as many as it will bear, old and young, men
and women, straddle it; and, holding on to the higher overhanging
branches, they swing up and down with as much spring as they can get
out of the branch they are on.

Whagoo is just like our I hide and seek.'

Gooumoorhs, or corroborees, are of course their greatest entertainment,
their opera, ballet, and the rest; only they reverse the usual order of
things obtaining elsewhere. The women form the orchestra, the men are
the dancers, as a rule, though women do on occasions take part too. The
dancers rarely sing while performing their evolutions, though they will
end up a measure at times with a loud 'Ooh! Ooh!' or 'Wahl Wah!'

There are two dances they think very clever: one a sort of in and out
movement with the knees, while keeping the feet close together.
Another, which they called I shivering of the chest,' a sort of drawing
in and out of their breath, causing a vibratory motion.

Then they give a sort of Sandow performance all in time to the music.
They first start the muscles of their legs showing, then the arms, and
down the sides of the chest. I am afraid I was not educated up to be
appreciative of any of these special wonders, though Matah and others
said their muscular training was marvellous.

From a spectacular point of view I thought much more interesting a
corroboree illustrating the coming of the first steamer up the Barwon.

The steamer was made--for the corroboree, I mean--of logs with mud
layered over them, painted up, a hollow log for a funnel in the middle.
There was a little opening in the far side of the steamer in which a
fire was made, the smoke issuing through the hollow log in the most
realistic fashion. The blacks who first came on the stage were all
supposed to represent various birds disturbed by this strange
sight--cranes, pelicans, black swans, and ducks. The peculiarities of
each bird were well imitated; and as each section in turn was startled,
their cries were realistically given. Hearing which, on the scene came
some armed black fellows, who, seeing what the birds had seen, started
back in astonishment, seemed to have a great dumb-show palaver, then
one by one, clutching their weapons, they came forward to more closely
examine the new 'debbil debbil.' Here some one would stoke the fire,
out would belch through the funnel a big smoke and a lapping flame,
away went the blacks into the bush as if too terrified to stay. But you
can't describe a corroboree, it wants the scenic effects of the grim
bush: tapering, dark Belahs, Coolabahs contorted into quaint shapes and
excrescences by extremes of flood and drought, and their grotesqueness
lit up by the flickering fires, until the trees themselves look like
demons of the night, and the painted black fellows their attendant
spirits stealing into the firelight from what seems a vast, dark,
unknown Beyond.

The sing-song seems to suit it, and the well-timed clicking of the
boomerangs and thudding of the rolled-up rugs. The blacks are great
patrons of art, and encourage native talent in the most praiseworthy
way; although, judging from one of their legends, you might think they
were not.

This legend tells how Goolahwilleel had the soul of an artist, and when
his family sent him out to hunt their daily dinner, he forgot his quest
and perfected his art, which was the modelling of a kangaroo in gum.
When his work was finished, with the pride of a successful artist he
returned for applause.

His family demanded of him meat; he showed his kangaroo.

His masterpiece was unappreciated. Even as did Palissy's--of pottery
fame--wife, so did Goolahwilleel's family revile him.

His freedom to wander at will, seeking inspiration and giving it form,
was taken from him. He was driven out: daily to slay, that his family
might feed, and never again was he let go alone--a crowd of relations
went with him!

Figure to yourself what a damper to inspiration must have been that
crowd of relations; how it must have slain the artist in Goolahwilleel.

How the old legend repeats itself, and now as then, how often the
artist is woman--slain that she by the caterer may live. Surely in the
interests of intellect was the prayer made: 'Give us our daily bread.'

Perhaps the old legend of Goolahwilleel was originally told with a
moral, and that may be: why black artists are so well treated now.

A maker of new songs or corroborees is always kept well supplied with
the luxuries of life; it may be that such an one is a little feared as
being supposed to have direct communication with the spirits who teach
him his art. A fine frenzy is said to seize some of their poets and
playwrights, who, for the time being, are quite under the domination of
the spirits--possessed of devils, in fact. When the period of mental
incubation is over and the song hatched out, the possessed ones return
to their normal condition, the devils are cast out, and the songs are
all that remain in evidence that the artist was ever possessed.

Some songs do not require this process of fine frenzy they come along
in the course of barter, handed from tribe to tribe.

Ghiribul, or riddles, play a great part in their social life, and he
who knows many is much sought after.

Most of these ghiribul are not translatable, being little songs
describing the things to be guessed, whose peculiarities the singer
acts as he sings--a sort of one-man show, pantomime in miniature, with
a riddle running through it.

Some which I will give indicate the nature of others.

What is it that says to the flood-water, 'I am too strong for you; you
can not push me back'? ANS. Goodoo, the codfish.

What is it that says, 'You cannot help yourself; you will have to go
and let me take your place; you cannot stay when I come'? ANS. The grey
hairs in a man's beard to the black ones.

'If a man hide himself so that his wife could not see him, and he
wanted her to know where he was, yet had promised not to speak, laugh,
cry, sneeze, cough, nor move his hands nor feet, how could he do so?'
ANS. Whistle.

'The strongest man cannot stand against me. I can knock him down, yet I
do not hurt him. He feels better for my having knocked him down. What
am I?' ANS. Sleep.

'I am not water, yet all who are thirsty, seeing me, come toward me to
drink, though I am no liquid. What am I?' Ans. Mirage.

'What is it that goes along the creek, across the creek, underneath it,
and along it again, and yet has left neither side?' ANS. The
yellow-flowering creeping water-weed.

'Here I am, just in front of you. I can't move; but if you kick me, I
will knock you down, though I will not move to do it. Who says this?'
ANS. A stump that any one falls over.

'You cannot walk without me, yet you grease your body and forget me and
let me crack, even though but for me you could neither walk nor run.
Who says that?' ANS. A black fellow's feet, which he neglects to grease
when doing the rest of his body.

With riddles ends, I think, the list of the blacks' amusements, unless
you count fights. The blacks are a bit Celtic in that way; some are
real fire-eaters, always spoiling for a row. But in most everyday rows
the feelings are more damaged than the bodies.

An old gin in a rage will say more in a given time, without taking
breath, than any human being I have ever seen; it is simply
physiologically marvellous. From the noise you would think murder at
least would result. You listen in dread of a tragedy; you hear the
totem and multiplex totems of her opponent being scoffed at, strung out
one after another, deadly insult after deadly insult. The insulted
returns insult for insult; result, a lively cross fire.

It lulls down; the insults are exhausted, quietude reigns. Some one
makes a joke, all are laughing together in amity. From impending
tragedy to comedy the work of a few minutes. A mercurial race indeed,
but not a forgetful one. A black fellow never forgives a broken
promise, and he can cherish a grudge from generation to generation as
well as remember a kindness.

Though, when high pitched in quarrels, their voices lose their natural
tones, as a rule those of the blacks are remarkably sweet and soft,
quite musical; their language noticeable for its freedom from harsh



Weeweemul is a big spirit that flies in the air; he takes the bodies of
dead people away and eats them. That is why the dead are so closely
watched before burial.

Gwaibooyanbooyan is the hairless red devil of the scrubs, who kills and
eats any one he meets, unless they are quick enough to get away before
he sees them, as one woman of this tribe is said to have done on the
Eurahbah ridge. It would really seem as if there were a debbil debbil
on that ridge; every boundary rider who lives there takes to drink. I
think the red spirit must be rum.

Marahgoo are man-shaped devils, to be recognised by the white swansdown
cap they wear, and the red rugs they carry. Red is a great devil's
colour amongst blacks some will never wear it on that account.

These Marahgoo always have with them a mysterious drink, which they
offer to any one they meet. It is like drinking dirt, and makes the
drinker dream dreams and see visions, in which he is taken down to the
underground spirit-world of the Marahgoo, where anything he wishes for
appears at once. The entrance to this world is said to be near a
never-drying waterhole, in a huge scrub, near Pilliga. If a man drinks
the draught, unless he is made Marahgoo, he dies.

Each totem is warned by its bird sub-totems of the coming of Marahgoo,
and after such a warning tribes take care, if wise, to stay in camp; or
should a man go out, he will smear his face with black, and put rings
of black round his wrists and ankles, and probably have a little charm
song sung over him.

Birrahmulgerhyerh are blacks with devils in them, who, armed with bags
full of poison-sticks, or bones--called gooweera--are invisible to all
but wirreenuns or wizards. Others are warned of their coming by hearing
the rattle of the gooweeras knocking together. When the
Birrahmulgerhyerh are about, all are warned not to carry firesticks,
which at other times after dark they are never without in order to
scare off spirits, but now such a light would show the
Birrahmulgerhyerh where to point their gooweeras. They are said only to
point these poison-sticks at law-breakers, and even then only against
persons in a strange country. Their own land is down Brewarrina way,
but there they make no punitive expeditions, travelling up the Narran
and elsewhere for that purpose.

The Euloowayi, or long-nailed devils, are spirits which live where the
sun sets. just as the afterglow dies in the sky, they come out
victim-hunting. These Euloowayi demand a tribute of young black men
from the camp, to recoup their own ranks.

When this tribute has to be paid, the old men get some ten or so young
ones, and march them off to a Minggah at about ten or fifteen miles
from the camp. There they make them climb into the Ming-ah, to sit
there all day. They must not move, not even so much as wink an eyelid.
At night time they are allowed to come down, and are given some meat,
which they must eat raw.

The old men from the camp go back leaving their victims with the
Euloowayi, who keep the boys up the tree for some days, bringing them
raw meat at night. At last they say:

'Come and try if your nails are long and strong enough. See who can
best tear this bark off with them.'

They all try, and if all are equally good, the old Euloowayi say:

'You are right. How do you feel?'

'Strong,' they answer.

They are kept on the tree about a month, then taken into the bush to
hunt human beings, to deceive whom they take new forms at times. A
couple of blacks may be hunting--one will be after honey, another after
opossums. The one after opossums will go to a tree, see an opossum,
chop into the tree, seize the opossum by the tail as usual. He cannot
move him. He'll seize him by the hind legs, still he cannot move him.
Then he will hear a voice say, 'Leave him alone, you can't move him.'

The hunter will look down, see nothing but a rainbow at the foot of the
tree. Wonderingly he'll come down, and immediately the Euloowayi, who
have been in the form of the opossum in the tree and the rainbow on the
ground, seize him, tear him open with their long nails, take out all
his fat, stuff him up again with grass and leaves, and send him back to
the camp. When he reaches there, he starts scolding every one. Probably
they guess by his violent words and actions that he is a victim of the
Euloowayi. If so, they are careful not to answer him; were they to do
so he would drop dead. Any way, he will die that night. When the
magpies and butcher-birds sing much it is a sign the Euloowayi are

Gineet Gineet, so called from his cry, is the bogy that black children
dread. He is a black man who goes about with a goolay or net across his
shoulders, into which he pops any children he can steal.

Several waterholes are taboo as bathing-places. They are said to be
haunted by Kurreah, which swallow their victims whole, or by Gowargay,
the featherless emu, who sucks down in a whirlpool any one who dares to
bathe in his holes.

Nahgul is the rejected Gayandil who was found by Byamee too destructive
to act as president of the Boorahs.

He principally haunts Boorah grounds. He still has a Boorah gubberrah,
a sacred stone, inside him, hence his strength.

He sets string traps for men, touching which they feel ill, and
suddenly drop down never to rise again. The wirreenuns know then that
Nahgul is about. They find out where he is. Circling, at a good
distance, the spot he is on, they corroboree round it. Hearing them,
Nahgul comes out. They close in and seize him, kill him, drink his
blood, and eat him; by so doing gaining immense additional strength.

Marmbeyah are tree spirits, somewhat akin to the Nats of Burmah. One, a
huge, fat spirit--if you can imagine a fat spirit--carried a green
boondee, or waddy, with which he tapped people on the backs of their
necks: result, heat apoplexy. A few years ago, an old black fellow laid
wait for him and 'flattened him out,' since which there has been no
heat apoplexy. We think it is because the bad times have made people
too poor to overheat themselves with bad spirits of a liquid kind. The
blacks differ, and certainly there were some cases of even total
abstainers falling victims to the heat wave.

Hatefully frequent devil visitors are those who animate the boolees, or
whirlwinds. If these whirl near the house they smother everything with
debris and dust.

The Black-but-Comelys say, as they clear the dirt away: 'I wish whoever
in this house those boolees are after would go out when they come, not
let 'em hunt after 'em here and make this mess.'

The Wurrawilberos chiefly animate these. But sometimes the wirreenuns
use whirlwinds as mediums of transit for their Mullee Mullees, or dream
spirits, sent in pursuit of some enemy, to capture a woman, or
incarnate child spirit; women dread boolees, more even than men, on
this account. Great wirreenuns are said to get rid of evil spirits by
eating the form in which they appear. I'm sure we all swallowed a good
share of the dust devils, but still they came; evidently we were not
wizards or witches.

The plain of Weawarra is haunted. Once long ago there was a fight
there. Two young warriors but lately married were slain. As their
bodies were never recovered, they were supposed to have been stolen and
eaten by the enemy. Their young widows spent days searching for them,
after the tribe had given up hope of finding them. At last the
widows--who had refused to marry again, declaring their husbands yet
lived, and that one day they would find them--disappeared.

Time passed; they did not return, so were supposed to be dead too. Then
arose the rumour that their ghosts had been seen, and to this day it is
said the plain of Weawarra is haunted by them.

Should men camp there at night, these women spirits silently steal into
the camp. The men, thinking they are women from some tribe they do not
know, speak to them; but silently there they sit, making no answer, and
vanish again before the dawn of day, to renew their search night after

The high ridges above Warrangilla are haunted by two women, who
tradition says were buried alive. Their spirits have never rested, but
come out at all times from the huge fissure in the ridges where their
bodies were put. Their anguished cries as the stones and earth fell on
them are still to be heard echoing through the scrub there; and
sometimes it is said one, keener sighted than his fellows, sees their
spirit forms flitting through the Budtha bushes, and hears again their
tragic cries, as they disappear once more into the fathomless fissure.

There is a tradition--common, I believe, to many black tribes, even
outside Australia--that, long before the coming of the white people
into this country, two beautiful white girls lived with the blacks.
They had long hair to their waists. They were called Bungebah, and were
killed as devils by an alien tribe somewhere between Noorahwahgean and
Gooroolay. Where their blood was spilled two red-leaved trees have
grown, and that place is still haunted by their spirits.

Amid the Cookeran Lake still wanders the woman who arrived late at the
big Boorah, having lost her children one by one on the track, arriving
at last with only her dead baby in the net at her back. As she died she
cursed the tribes who had deserted her, and turned them into trees.
Some of the blacks were in groups a little way off; those, too, she
cursed, and they were changed into forests of Belah, which look dark
and funereal as you drive through them; and the murmuring sound, as the
wind wails through their tops, has a very sad sound. She wanders
through these forests and round the lake, the dead baby still in the
goolay on her back, and sometimes her voice is heard mingling with the
voices of the forest; and as the shadows fall, she may be seen flitting
past, they say.

Noorahgogo is a very handsome bronze and peacock-blue beetle, said to
embody a spirit which always answers the cry of a Noongahburrah in the
bush. The bright orange-red fungi on the fallen trees are devils'
bread, and should a child touch any he will be spirited away.

Very mournful are the bush nights if you happen to be alone on your
verandah. Away on the flat sound the cries of curlews; past flies a
night heron; then the discordant voice of a plover is heard. In all
these birds are embodied the spirits of men of the past; each has its

Perhaps some passing swans will cry 'Biboh, biboh,' reminding in vain
the camp wizards that they too were once men, and long to be again.
Poor enchanted swans! to whose enchantment we owe the lovely flannel
flowers of New South Wales, and the red epacris bells.

But in spite of their sadness the bush nights are lovely, when the
landscapes are glorified by the magic of the moon. Even the gum leaves
are transmuted into silver as the moonlight laves them, making the
blacks say the leaves laugh, and the shimmer is like a smile.

No wonder trees have such a place in the old religions of the world,
and wirreenuns, even as do Buddhists, love to linger beneath their
branches--the one holding converse with his spirit friends, the other
cultivating the perfect peace.

There would not be much perfect peace about a wirreenun's communing
with the spirits if it happened to be in mosquito time. The blacks say
a little grey-speckled bird rules the mosquitoes, and calls them from
their swamp-homes to attack us. In the mythological days this bird--a
woman--was badly treated by a man who translated her sons to the sky;
having revenged herself on him, she vowed vengeance on all men, and in
the form of the mosquito bird wreaks that vengeance. Her mosquito
slaves have just the same spots on their wings as she has.

I dare say little with an air of finality about black people; I have
lived too much with them for that. To be positive, you should never
spend more than six months in their neighbourhood; in fact, if you want
to keep your anthropological ideas quite firm, it is safer to let the
blacks remain in inland Australia while you stay a few thousand miles
away. Otherwise, your preconceived notions are almost sure to totter to
their foundations; and nothing is more annoying than to have
elaborately built-up, delightfully logical theories, played ninepins
with by an old greybeard of a black, who apparently objects to his
beliefs being classified, docketed, and pigeon-holed, until he has had
his say.

After all, when we consider their marriage restrictions, their totems,
and the rest, what becomes of the freedom of the savage? As with us, as
Montague says, 'Our laws of conscience, which we pretend to be derived
from Nature, proceed from custom.'

I have often thought the failure of the generality of missionaries lay
in the fact that they began at the wrong end. Not recognising the
tyranny of custom, though themselves victims to it, they ignore, as a
rule, the religion into which the black is born, and by which he lived,
in much closer obedience to its laws than we of this latter-day
Christendom. It seems to me, if we cannot respect the religion of
others we deny our own. If we are powerless to see the theism behind
the overlying animism, we argue a strange ignorance of what crept over
other faiths, in the way of legends and superstitions quite foreign to
the simplicity of the beginnings.

To be a success, a missionary, I think, should--as many do,
happily--before he goes out to teach, acquaint himself with the making
of the world's religions, and particularly with the one he is going to
supplant. He will probably find that elimination of some savageries is
all that is required, leaving enough good to form a workable religion
understanded of his congregation.

If he ignores their faith, thrusting his own, with its mysteries which
puzzle even theologians, upon them, they will be but as whited
sepulchres, or, at best, parrots.


Bahloo, moon (masculine).
Bibbil, poplar-leaved box-tree. An Eucalyptus.
Byamee, their god; culture hero 'Great One.'
Boorak, initiation ceremony.
Boonal, a sort of flail.
Boobeen, wooden cornet.
Bootha, woman's name; divisional family name.
Boahdee, sister.
Beealahdee, father and mother's sisters' husbands.
Bargie, grandmother on mother's side.
Boothan, last possible child of a woman.
Beewun, motherless girl,
Boomerang, weapon.
Bubberah, a 'come-back' boomerang.
Billah, spear.
Belah, swamp oak.
Booreen, shield.
Birah, whitewood tree.
Boodthul, toy waddy.
Boondee, heavy-headed club.
Binguie, Coolamon; canoe-shaped wooden vessel.
Beewee, brown and yellow iguana.
Bunbul, little boorah ring.
Boormool, shrimps.
Boolooral, a night owl.
Byahmul, a black swan.
Beerwon, bird like a swallow.
Bunnyal, flies.
Binnantayah, big saltbush.
Bohrah, kangaroo.
Boogodoogadah, rainbird.
Buln Buln, green parrot.
Boogahroo, a tree where poison-sticks are kept.
Boondurr, wizard's bag of charms.
Budtha, shrub EREMOPHILA.
Brambahl, skipping.
Boogalah, ball.
Bayarrh, green-head ants.
Bingahwingul, shrub needlebush.
Boondoon, kingfisher.
Bilber, sandhill rat.
Boothagullagulla,, bird like seagull.
Booroorerh, bulrushes.
Burrengeen, peewee; white and black bird.
Bouyoudoorimmillee, grey cranes.
Bouyougah, centipede.
Bubburr, large brown and yellow snake.
Beeargah, crane.
Buggiloo, girl's name; little yam.
Boolee, whirlwind.
Boogurr, things belonging to a dead person.
Bullimah, sky-camp; heaven.
Bulleerul, breath.
Boorboor, come down.
Boyjerh, father, or relation of father.
Brigalow, an acacia.
Birroo Birroo, bird; sand-builders.
Booloon, white crane.
Boonburr, poison tree.
Boorgoolbean, a shrub with creamy flowers.
Birrahlee, baby.
Bahnmul, betrothal of babies.
Boomayahmayahmul, a wood lizard.
Brewarrina, name of place; place of Myall trees.
Boorool, big, great, many.
Birrahgnooloo, woman's name meaning hatchet-faced.
Booloowah two emus.
Bibbilah, belonging to the Bibbil country.
Barahgurree, girl's name; a kind of lizard.
Bogginbinnia, girl's name; a kind of lizard.
Billai, crimson-wing parrot.
Birriebunger, small diver-bird
Burrahwahn, a rat now extinct.
Bralgah, bird; native companion.
Bean, Myall tree; a weeping acacia.
Beebuyer, yellow flowering broom, shrub.
Beeleer, black cockatoo.
Bibbee, woodpecker,
Bullah Bullah, butterfly.
Beeweerh, bony bream.
Buggila, leopard wood.
Bunbundoolooey, a little brown bird.
Brumboorah, boorah song.
Boorahbayyi, boy undergoing initiation.
Boodther, a meeting where presents are exchanged.
Berai Berai, the boys; Orion's sword and belt.
Beereeun, lizard.
Birrahmulgerhyerh, devils with poison-sticks.
Byjerh, expression of surprise.
Buckandee, native cat.
Coolabah, flooded box; Eucalyptus.
Curreequinquin, butcher-bird; piping shrike.
Cumbee, stone tomahawk.
Cocklerina, a rose and yellow crested cockatoo. (Major Mitchell.)
Carbeen, an Eucalyptus.
Collarene, Coolabah blossom.
C-ngil, ugly, nasty, bad.
Cunnumbeillee, woman's name meaning pigweed root.
Dhe, hereditary totem.
Dheal, sacred tree.
Dayoorl, grinding-stone.
Doonburr, grass seed.
Dheelgoolee, a bird-trapping place.
Dardurr, a camp shelter of bark.
Dheala, girl's name.
Dayadee, half-brother.
Dadadee, grandfather on mother's side.
Doore-oothai, a lover.
Dillahga, an elderly man of same totem as person speaking of or to him.
Dooloomai, thunder.
Dillee, treasure bag.
Deenyi, ironbark.
Doowee, any one's dream-spirit.
Dinahgurrerhlowah, death-dealing stone.
Dumerh Dumerh, smallpox.
Dumerh, brown pigeon.
Doolungaiyah, sandhill rat, bilber.
Douyougurrah, earthworms.
Deereeree, willy wagtail.
Durrooee, spirit-bird.
Dinewan, emu.
Dunnia, wattle tree.
Deenbi, diver.
Deegeenboyah, soldier-bird.
Dayahminyah, small carpet snake.
Douyouie, ants.
Dulibah, bald.
Dulleerin, a lizard.
Douran Douran, north wind.
Dunnee Bunbun, a very large green parrot.
Dibbee, sort of sandpiper.
Durrahgeegin, green frog.
Dooroongul, hairy caterpillar.
Durramunga, little boorah.
Doolooboorah, boorah message-stick.
Dulloorah, tree manna-bringing birds.
Eerin, little night owl.
Euloowayi, long-nailed devils.
Euahlayi, name of the Narran tribe.
Euloowirree, rainbow.
Eeramooun, uninitiated boy.
Eleanbah wundah, spirits of the lower world.
{One page missing from the scanned edition}
Hippi, man's divisional family name
Hippitha, woman's divisional family name.
Inga, crayfish.
Innerah, a woman with a camp of her own.
Illay, hop bush.
Kumbo, man's divisional family name
Kubbee, man's divisional family name
Kubbootha, woman's divisional family name.
Kummean, father's sister.
Kurreah, crocodile.
Kumbuy, sister-in-law.
Kamilaroi, name of a tribe.
Kurrajong, tree; a sterculia.
Moodai, an opossum.
Minggah, spirit tree.
Murrahgul, a bird string trap.
Murree, man's divisional family name.
Matha, woman's divisional family name
Mullayerh, a temporary companion.
Moothie, a friend of childhood in afterlife.
Mirroon, emu net.
Mubboo, beefwood tree.
Myall, a drooping acacia; violet-scented wood.
Moornin, emu spears.
Muggil, stone knife.
Moorooleh, plain waddy.
Moogul, only child.
Mah, hand or totem.
Moograbah, big black and white magpie.
Mirrieh, poligonum.
Mullee Mullee, dream spirit of a wizard.
Mullowil, shadow spirit.
Moolee, death-dealing stone.
Moondoo, wasps.
Murgahmuggui, spider.
Mayamah, stones.
Munggheewurraywurraymul, seagulls.
Matah, corruption of master.
Mooroobeaigunnil, spirits on the sacred mountain.
Midjeer, an acacia.
Mulga, an acacia.
Mooregoo Mooregoo, black ibis.
Mooloowerh, a shrub with cream coloured flowers.
Muddurwerderh, west wind.
Mungghee, mussels.
Millanboo, the first again.
Moobil, stomach.
Mouyerh, bone through nose.
Moonaibaraban, spirit sister-in-law.
Mayamerh, Gayandi's camp.
Mullyan, eagle-hawk.
Mirriehburrah, belonging to poligonum country.
Millan, small water yam.
Mooregoo, swamp oak; belah,
Mouyi, white cockatoo.
Maira, a paddy melon.
Mouninguggahgul, mosquito bird.
Maira, wild currant bush.
Mungoongarlee, Largest iguana.
Mooregoo, mopoke.
Mounin, mosquito.
Mungahran, hawk.
Mien, dingo.
Munthdeegun, man in charge of initiate at boorah.
Meamei, the girls; Pleiades.
Mayrah, wind.
Marahgoo, man-shaped devil.
Marmbeyah, tree spirits.
Moorilla, pebbly ridge.
Mahmee, old woman.
Nimmaylee, girl's name; young porcupine.
Nurragah, an exclamation of pity.
Noongah, Kurrajong.
Numbardee, mother and mother's sisters.
Niune, wild melon.
Noongahburrah, belonging to the country of the Noongah.
Noorumbah, hereditary bunting ground.
Noodul Noodul, whistling duck.
Nummaybirrah, wild grape; Namoi.
Narahdarn, bat.
Noorunglely, a setting emu.
Nahgul, a devil haunting boorah grounds.
Oganahbayah, a small eagle-hawk.
Ooboon, blue-tongued lizard.
Oobi Oobi, sacred mountain.
Oonahgnai, give to me.
Oonahgnoo, give to her or him.
Oonahmillangoo, give to one.
Oogowahdee goobelaygoo, flood to swim against.
Oogle oogle, four emus.
Oonaywah, black diver.
Ouyan, curlew.
Piggiebillah, porcupine.
Quarrian, yellow and red breasted grey parrot.
Tuckandee, a young man of the same totem reckoned a kind of brother.
Tekel barain, large white amaryllis.
Tekkul, hair.
Talingerh, native fuchsia.
Tucki, a kind of bream.
Wirreenun, medicine man, wizard.
Wunnarl, food taboo.
Wirreebeeun, young woman.
Wirree, canoe-shaped bark vessel for drinking from, or holding things in.
Wambaneah, full brother.
Wulgundee, uncle's wife.
Woormerh, a boorah boy messenger.
Waywah, man's belt.
Wongin, a string breastplate.
Wogarrah, hatchet-shaped weapon,
Wi, clever.
Weedah, bower-bird.
Wundah, white devil.
Wi-mouyan, magic stick.
Wungoolay, a game with discs and spears.
Widyu Widyu, toy-spear.
Wahl, no.
Wa-ah, shells.
Woggoon, scrub turkey.
Wimberoo, game with leaf and fire.
Woolbooldarn, game; riding on bent branch.
Whagoo, game; hide-and-seek.
Wahn, crow.
Wurrawilberoo, the whirlwind devils.
Waddahgudjaelwon, a birth-presiding spirit.
Wahl nunnoomahdayer, do not steal
Wahl goonundoo, no water.
Weedegah, bachelor's camp.
Wir djuri, name of a tribe.
Waggestmul, kind of rat.
Wungghee, white night owl.
Willerhderh, north wind.
Wi, small fish.
Wayarah, wild grapes.
Womba, mad, deaf.
Weeweemul, a body-snatching spirit.
Wayambah, turtle.
Yhi, the sun (feminine).
Yarragerh, spring wind, north-east.
Yunbeai, individual totem.
Yarmmara, barley grass.
Yubbil, large bark vessel.
Yungawee, sacred fire.
Yumbean, kangaroo teeth fixed in grim, ornaments.
Yumbui, fatherless boy.
Yaraan, an Eucalyptus.
Yowee, a soul equivalent.
Yahweerh, sham fight.
Youayah, frogs.
Yelgayerdayer deermuldayer, leave all such alone.
Yudthar, feather.
Yubbah, carpet snake.
Yelgidyi, fully initiated young man.
Yowee bulleerul, spirit breath.

End of The Euahlayi Tribe--A Study of Aboriginal Life in Australia
by K Langloh Parker

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