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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I dare say little with an air of finality about black people; I have lived too much with them for that. To be positive, you should never spend more than six months in their neighbourhood; in fact, if you want to keep your anthropological ideas quite firm, it is safer to let the blacks remain in inland Australia while you stay a few thousand miles away. Otherwise, your preconceived notions are almost sure to totter to their foundations; and nothing is more annoying than to have elaborately built-up, delightfully logical theories, played ninepins with by an old greybeard of a black, who apparently objects to his beliefs being classified, docketed, and pigeon-holed, until he has had his say.

After all, when we consider their marriage restrictions, their totems, and the rest, what becomes of the freedom of the savage? As with us, as Montague says, 'Our laws of conscience, which we pretend to be derived from Nature, proceed from custom.'

I have often thought the failure of the generality of missionaries lay in the fact that they began at the wrong end. Not recognising the tyranny of custom, though themselves victims to it, they ignore, as a rule, the religion into which the black is born, and by which he lived, in much closer obedience to its laws than we of this latter-day Christendom. It seems to me, if we cannot respect the religion of others we deny our own. If we are powerless to see the theism behind the overlying animism, we argue a strange ignorance of what crept over other faiths, in the way of legends and superstitions quite foreign to the simplicity of the beginnings.

To be a success, a missionary, I think, should—as many do, happily—before he goes out to teach, acquaint himself with the making of the world's religions, and particularly with the one he is going to supplant. He will probably find that elimination of some savageries is all that is required, leaving enough good to form a workable religion understanded of his congregation.

If he ignores their faith, thrusting his own, with its mysteries which puzzle even theologians, upon them, they will be but as whited sepulchres, or, at best, parrots.


Bahloo, moon (masculine). Bibbil, poplar-leaved box-tree. An Eucalyptus. Byamee, their god; culture hero 'Great One.' Boorak, initiation ceremony. Boonal, a sort of flail. Boobeen, wooden cornet. Bootha, woman's name; divisional family name. Boahdee, sister. Beealahdee, father and mother's sisters' husbands. Bargie, grandmother on mother's side. Boothan, last possible child of a woman. Beewun, motherless girl, Boomerang, weapon. Bubberah, a 'come-back' boomerang. Billah, spear. Belah, swamp oak. Booreen, shield. Birah, whitewood tree. Boodthul, toy waddy. Boondee, heavy-headed club. Binguie, Coolamon; canoe-shaped wooden vessel. Beewee, brown and yellow iguana. Bunbul, little boorah ring. Boormool, shrimps. Boolooral, a night owl. Byahmul, a black swan. Beerwon, bird like a swallow. Bunnyal, flies. Binnantayah, big saltbush. Bohrah, kangaroo. Boogodoogadah, rainbird. Buln Buln, green parrot. Boogahroo, a tree where poison-sticks are kept. Boondurr, wizard's bag of charms. Budtha, shrub EREMOPHILA. Bumble, shrub CAPPARIS MITCHELLIENSIS. Brambahl, skipping. Boogalah, ball. Bayarrh, green-head ants. Bingahwingul, shrub needlebush. Boondoon, kingfisher. Bilber, sandhill rat. Boothagullagulla, bird like seagull. Booroorerh, bulrushes. Burrengeen, peewee; white and black bird. Bouyoudoorimmillee, grey cranes. Bouyougah, centipede. Bubburr, large brown and yellow snake. Beeargah, crane. Buggiloo, girl's name; little yam. Boolee, whirlwind. Boogurr, things belonging to a dead person. Bullimah, sky-camp; heaven. Bulleerul, breath. Boorboor, come down. Boyjerh, father, or relation of father. Brigalow, an acacia. Birroo Birroo, bird; sand-builders. Booloon, white crane. Boonburr, poison tree. Boorgoolbean, a shrub with creamy flowers. Birrahlee, baby. Bahnmul, betrothal of babies. Boomayahmayahmul, a wood lizard. Brewarrina, name of place; place of Myall trees. Boorool, big, great, many. Birrahgnooloo, woman's name meaning hatchet-faced. Booloowah two emus. Bibbilah, belonging to the Bibbil country. Barahgurree, girl's name; a kind of lizard. Bogginbinnia, girl's name; a kind of lizard. Billai, crimson-wing parrot. Birriebunger, small diver-bird Burrahwahn, a rat now extinct. Bralgah, bird; native companion. Bean, Myall tree; a weeping acacia. Beebuyer, yellow flowering broom, shrub. Beeleer, black cockatoo. Bibbee, woodpecker, Bullah Bullah, butterfly. Beeweerh, bony bream. Buggila, leopard wood. Bunbundoolooey, a little brown bird. Brumboorah, boorah song. Boorahbayyi, boy undergoing initiation. Boodther, a meeting where presents are exchanged. Berai Berai, the boys; Orion's sword and belt. Beereeun, lizard. Birrahmulgerhyerh, devils with poison-sticks. Byjerh, expression of surprise. Buckandee, native cat. Coolabah, flooded box; Eucalyptus. Curreequinquin, butcher-bird; piping shrike. Cumbee, stone tomahawk. Cocklerina, a rose and yellow crested cockatoo. (Major Mitchell.) Carbeen, an Eucalyptus. Collarene, Coolabah blossom. C-ngil, ugly, nasty, bad. Cunnumbeillee, woman's name meaning pigweed root. Dhe, hereditary totem. Dheal, sacred tree. Dayoorl, grinding-stone. Doonburr, grass seed. Dheelgoolee, a bird-trapping place. Dardurr, a camp shelter of bark. Dheala, girl's name. Dayadee, half-brother. Dadadee, grandfather on mother's side. Doore-oothai, a lover. Dillahga, an elderly man of same totem as person speaking of or to him. Dooloomai, thunder. Dillee, treasure bag. Deenyi, ironbark. Doowee, any one's dream-spirit. Dinahgurrerhlowah, death-dealing stone. Dumerh Dumerh, smallpox. Dumerh, brown pigeon. Doolungaiyah, sandhill rat, bilber. Douyougurrah, earthworms. Deereeree, willy wagtail. Durrooee, spirit-bird. Dinewan, emu. Dunnia, wattle tree. Deenbi, diver. Deegeenboyah, soldier-bird. Dayahminyah, small carpet snake. Douyouie, ants. Dulibah, bald. Dulleerin, a lizard. Douran Douran, north wind. Dunnee Bunbun, a very large green parrot. Dibbee, sort of sandpiper. Durrahgeegin, green frog. Dooroongul, hairy caterpillar. Durramunga, little boorah. Doolooboorah, boorah message-stick. Dulloorah, tree manna-bringing birds. Eerin, little night owl. Euloowayi, long-nailed devils. Euahlayi, name of the Narran tribe. Euloowirree, rainbow. Eeramooun, uninitiated boy. Eleanbah wundah, spirits of the lower world. {One page missing from the scanned edition} Hippi, man's divisional family name Hippitha, woman's divisional family name. Inga, crayfish. Innerah, a woman with a camp of her own. Illay, hop bush. Kumbo, man's divisional family name Kubbee, man's divisional family name Kubbootha, woman's divisional family name. Kummean, father's sister. Kurreah, crocodile. Kumbuy, sister-in-law. Kamilaroi, name of a tribe. Kurrajong, tree; a sterculia. Moodai, an opossum. Minggah, spirit tree. Murrahgul, a bird string trap. Murree, man's divisional family name. Matha, woman's divisional family name Mullayerh, a temporary companion. Moothie, a friend of childhood in afterlife. Mirroon, emu net. Mubboo, beefwood tree. Myall, a drooping acacia; violet-scented wood. Moornin, emu spears. Muggil, stone knife. Moorooleh, plain waddy. Moogul, only child. Mah, hand or totem. Moograbah, big black and white magpie. Mirrieh, poligonum. Mullee Mullee, dream spirit of a wizard. Mullowil, shadow spirit. Moolee, death-dealing stone. Moondoo, wasps. Murgahmuggui, spider. Mayamah, stones. Munggheewurraywurraymul, seagulls. Matah, corruption of master. Mooroobeaigunnil, spirits on the sacred mountain. Midjeer, an acacia. Mulga, an acacia. Mooregoo Mooregoo, black ibis. Mooloowerh, a shrub with cream coloured flowers. Muddurwerderh, west wind. Mungghee, mussels. Millanboo, the first again. Moobil, stomach. Mouyerh, bone through nose. Moonaibaraban, spirit sister-in-law. Mayamerh, Gayandi's camp. Mullyan, eagle-hawk. Mirriehburrah, belonging to poligonum country. Millan, small water yam. Mooregoo, swamp oak; belah, Mouyi, white cockatoo. Maira, a paddy melon. Mouninguggahgul, mosquito bird. Maira, wild currant bush. Mungoongarlee, Largest iguana. Mooregoo, mopoke. Mounin, mosquito. Mungahran, hawk. Mien, dingo. Munthdeegun, man in charge of initiate at boorah. Meamei, the girls; Pleiades. Mayrah, wind. Marahgoo, man-shaped devil. Marmbeyah, tree spirits. Moorilla, pebbly ridge. Mahmee, old woman. Nimmaylee, girl's name; young porcupine. Nurragah, an exclamation of pity. Noongah, Kurrajong. Numbardee, mother and mother's sisters. Niune, wild melon. Noongahburrah, belonging to the country of the Noongah. Noorumbah, hereditary bunting ground. Noodul Noodul, whistling duck. Nummaybirrah, wild grape; Namoi. Narahdarn, bat. Noorunglely, a setting emu. Nahgul, a devil haunting boorah grounds. Oganahbayah, a small eagle-hawk. Ooboon, blue-tongued lizard. Oobi Oobi, sacred mountain. Oonahgnai, give to me. Oonahgnoo, give to her or him. Oonahmillangoo, give to one. Oogowahdee goobelaygoo, flood to swim against. Oogle oogle, four emus. Oonaywah, black diver. Ouyan, curlew. Piggiebillah, porcupine. Quarrian, yellow and red breasted grey parrot. Tuckandee, a young man of the same totem reckoned a kind of brother. Tekel barain, large white amaryllis. Tekkul, hair. Talingerh, native fuchsia. Tucki, a kind of bream. Wirreenun, medicine man, wizard. Wunnarl, food taboo. Wirreebeeun, young woman. Wirree, canoe-shaped bark vessel for drinking from, or holding things in. Wambaneah, full brother. Wulgundee, uncle's wife. Woormerh, a boorah boy messenger. Waywah, man's belt. Wongin, a string breastplate. Wogarrah, hatchet-shaped weapon, Wi, clever. Weedah, bower-bird. Wundah, white devil. Wi-mouyan, magic stick. Wungoolay, a game with discs and spears. Widyu Widyu, toy-spear. Wahl, no. Wa-ah, shells. Woggoon, scrub turkey. Wimberoo, game with leaf and fire. Woolbooldarn, game; riding on bent branch. Whagoo, game; hide-and-seek. Wahn, crow. Wurrawilberoo, the whirlwind devils. Waddahgudjaelwon, a birth-presiding spirit. Wahl nunnoomahdayer, do not steal Wahl goonundoo, no water. Weedegah, bachelor's camp. Wir djuri, name of a tribe. Waggestmul, kind of rat. Wungghee, white night owl. Willerhderh, north wind. Wi, small fish. Wayarah, wild grapes. Womba, mad, deaf. Weeweemul, a body-snatching spirit. Wayambah, turtle. Yhi, the sun (feminine). Yarragerh, spring wind, north-east. Yunbeai, individual totem. Yarmmara, barley grass. Yubbil, large bark vessel. Yungawee, sacred fire. Yumbean, kangaroo teeth fixed in grim, ornaments. Yumbui, fatherless boy. Yaraan, an Eucalyptus. Yowee, a soul equivalent. Yahweerh, sham fight. Youayah, frogs. Yelgayerdayer deermuldayer, leave all such alone. Yudthar, feather. Yubbah, carpet snake. Yelgidyi, fully initiated young man. Yowee bulleerul, spirit breath.


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