Jour. Roy. Soc. Of New So. Wales

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When a man is killed by open violence by any of the people of a hostile tribe, the relatives and fellow tribesmen of the deceased hold a council . . . at which all the old headmen and warriors assemble, painted with pipe clay on the forehead, breast, and shoulders. Two of the eldest men then sing one of their tribal dirges. . . . When this song has been droned for some time, the warriors get small portions of hair which have been cut from the head of the deceased. Each man takes one of the fragments of hair and plaits opossum fur around it, making a small parcel about the thickness of a pencil, and a few inches in length, called murur, and puts it away in a little bag, called guraga, which he uses for storing similar charms. . . . Two or more strong, active men, who are also supposed to be clever sorcerers, are then sent forward as spies to report upon the precise place where the tribe they are in quest of is located. They hold up the murur in their hand as they travel stealthily along, because it is supposed to possess the magic power of guiding them to the quarter of the camp occupied by the slayer. . . .

They have timed the approach of the dawn so well that they have not long to wait. The first bird which hails the morning is the signal for the assailants to surround the hostile camp, some men branching off in single file round one side and some going round in the opposite direction, until they meet on the other side of the camp. While marching round, they tramp heavily on the ground with their feet. Let us assume that a magpie begins to sing. All the men at once commence to imitate the call as they start away. This will startle other large birds, whose calls are also imitated. Little birds will chirp, dogs will bark, and they are likewise mocked. This and the heavy trampling of the men gives the enemies the impression that a numerous host is surrounding them, as they cannot in their excitement distinguish between the calls of the animals and those of the men. The assailants also shout out the names of some of the principal stars which may appear in the orient at the time. The planet Venus, if then a morning star, is mentioned.

The ringleader or headman of the pirrimbir party now calls out to the headman of the people in the camp, and asks for the surrender of the man they wish to punish. He uses the secret name only, so that the women and children will not know who is doomed. The headman addressed then also invokes some of the eastern stars, to wait a little, while he shouts out the secret or kuringal name of the man who has been asked for, and tells him to be ready to defend himself.

The doomed man then catches his best shield and stands out to parry the spears which are thrown at him by the kinsmen of the deceased. All the spears intended for this purpose have been charmed and anointed with human fat, to render their course unerring and increase their power. The spears must all be thrown from one direction, namely, the front of the victim. Perhaps the man wards off a considerable number of the missiles with little or no injury, until one spear, which is therefore believed to have been more specially greased than the rest, catches him in a vital part, and he falls to the ground. Two or three of the assailants then rush upon him and despatch him, and the members of the surrounding cordon thereupon shout, Wirrh! Wirrh! . . .

It should be mentioned that when an early morning attack, such as that particularized in the foregoing pages, is made upon an individual, none of his fellow tribesmen interfere, because they are probably all acquainted with the facts of his having shed the blood of some man in another neighboring camp, and retributive justice must take its course. When they hear the shouting of the pirrimbir party, they sit up at their campfires, or perhaps spring to their feet, and take particular notice of the man who strikes the fatal blow, because they know that, sooner or later his blood, or that of a tribal brother, will also be required by the relatives of his present victim.1

1Mathews, R.H.n/an/an/an/a, "Ethnological Notes on the Aboriginal Inhabitants of New South Wales and Victoria," , 38: 239–250, passim.

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Chicago: Jour. Roy. Soc. Of New So. Wales in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. Thomas, William I. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937), Original Sources, accessed September 22, 2023,

MLA: . Jour. Roy. Soc. Of New So. Wales, Vol. 38, in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, edited by Thomas, William I., New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937, Original Sources. 22 Sep. 2023.

Harvard: , Jour. Roy. Soc. Of New So. Wales. cited in 1937, Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. , McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 22 September 2023, from