HotFreeBooks.com
The Euahlayi Tribe - A Study of Aboriginal Life in Australia
by K. Langloh Parker
Previous Part     1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

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 burial-ground.

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 rugs.

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 while.

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 burial.

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 self-mutilation.

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 husband.

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.



CHAPTER XI

SOMETHING ABOUT STARS AND LEGENDS

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 world.

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 hailstones.'

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 it.

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 Barwon.

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.'



CHAPTER XII

THE TRAPPING OF GAME

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 emu.

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 out.

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 funerals.

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 unclean.



CHAPTER XIII

FORAGING AND COOKING

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 cook.

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 feathers.

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 quantities.

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.



CHAPTER XIV

COSTUMES AND WEAPONS

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 one.

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 merely.

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 words.

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 there.

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.



CHAPTER XV

THE AMUSEMENTS OF BLACKS

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 throwing.

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 sounds.



CHAPTER XVI

BUSH BOGIES AND FINIS

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 about.

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 night.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse