Native Tribes of South-East Australia

Date: 1901

[Education of the Australian Boy Through Initiation Ceremonies]

. . . . As soon as we had reached the camp and the men were distributed through it, the distant roaring sound of the Mudthis was heard and the whole camp was instantly in commotion. The women started up, and, seizing their rugs and blankets, hastily went with their children to a vacant space on the north side of the encampment, where they re-commenced the "tooth"-song. Meanwhile the men were stalking about among the camps shouting "Ha! Wah!" commanding silence among the women. In a very short time these with their children were huddled together in a close group, surrounded by the men, who were stamping a dance to the word "Wah!" finally closing in round them, and silently raising their hands to the sky. This silent gesture again means Daramulun, whose name cannot be lawfully spoken there.

A singular feature now showed itself. There were at this time two or three Biduelli men with their wives and children in the encampment, and also one of the Krauatungalung Kurnai, with his wife and child. When these ceremonies commenced they, with one exception, went away, because neither the Biduelli or the Krauatun Kurnai had, as I have said before, any initiation ceremonies, and these men had therefore never been "made men." The one man who remained was the old patriarch of the Biduelli, and he was now driven crouching among the women and children. The reason was self-evident; he had never been made a man, and therefore was no more than a mere boy.

The women and children being thus driven together, the old men proceeded to draw from them those boys who were considered to be ripe for initiation. The old men pointed out those who were to be taken, and their Kabos seized them and placed them in the front rank of the women. There was one boy, a half-caste, indeed he was nearer white than black, as to whom the old men were divided in opinion. He was in an agony of terror, clinging to his mother, but by the order of the head Gommera he was dragged out and discussed. After a few minutes the decision was given, "He is too young, put him back again." The women and children were now pushed together into as small a compass as possible, with the old Biduelli patriarch among them. Skin rugs and blankets were then placed over them, so that they were completely hidden, and were themselves unable to see anything. At a signal from Gunjerung, a Kabo seized his boy from under the covering, and holding him by one arm, ran him off to the place where the bundles were left. All of us followed as fast as possible, and as I left I could hear the muffled sound of the "tooth"-song being sung by the women under their coverings.

It was expected that there would be eight boys ready to be made men, but owing to the delays and to the non-arrival of the Kurnai contingent, there were only three who were passed by the old men. Two were about fourteen or fifteen, the other was older and had an incipient moustache.

The first proceeding at the trysting-place was that the Kabos placed on each boy, who had been stripped naked, a new blanket folded twice, so that when fastened down the front it formed a cone, the apex of which was over the boy’s head and the base barely touched the ground. The wooden skewers with which the sides of the blanket were fastened were so placed that the boy’s face appeared just over the uppermost one. The upper fold fell over the head so as to shade the eyes mad in fact most of the face.

This being all arranged, Gunjerung gave the signal to start, and our procession began to ascend the steep side of a grassy hill leading to the mountain. Some of the old men led the way, then came the three sets of Kabos, one on each side of a boy, holding the upper part of his arm, and in deep converse with him as they went. All the other men followed as they liked, each one carrying his bundle, and the Kabos carried, not only their own, but also their boys’ things.

The duty of the Kabos is to take charge of the boys during the ceremonies. They never leave them alone, and if one of them has to absent himself for a time, he calls some other man, of the same relation to the boy as himself, to take his place. It is the duty of the Kabo to prepare his boy for the coming ceremony by instruction, admonition, and advice, and this commences the moment the procession moves forward. One of the earliest, if not the first, instruction is that the boy must not under any possible circumstances show any surprise or fear, and no matter what is said or done to him, he is not by word or deed to show that he is conscious of what is going on, yet that he must narrowly observe everything, and remember all he sees and hears. It is explained that everything he hears said, to which the word "Yah" is appended, means the exact opposite to the apparent meaning. This word was explained when we started by Umbara. He said that it was like a white man saying "I sell you;" my messenger Jenbin said it was like a white man saying "gammon." The use of the word will be seen by illustration farther on.

The intention of all that is done at this ceremony is to make a momentous change in the boy’s life; the past is to be cut off from him by a gulf which he can never re-pass. His connection with his mother as her child is broken off, and he becomes henceforth attached to the men. All the sports and games of his boyhood are to be abandoned with the severance of the old domestic ties between himself and his mother and sisters. He is now to be a man, instructed in and sensible of the duties which devolve upon him as a member of the Murring community. To do all this is partly the object of the ceremonies, and the process by which this is reached is a singular one. The ceremonies are intended to impress and terrify the boy in such a manner that the lesson may be indelible, and may govern the whole of his future life. But the intention is also to amuse in the intervals of the serious rites.

The ceremonies, therefore, are marked by what may be called major and minor stages, and the intervals are filled in by magic dances, by amusing interludes and buffoonery, in which all the men take part, excepting the Kabos, whose duty is to unceasingly explain and admonish during the whole ceremony; to point the moral and adorn the tale. The pieces of buffoonery are perhaps some of the most remarkable features of the proceeding. If one were to imagine all sorts of childish mischief mixed up with the cardinal sins represented in burlesque, and ironically recommended to the boys on their return to the camp and afterwards, it would give a not unapt representation of what takes place. But there is a remarkable feature that at the end of almost every sentence, indeed of every indecent, immoral, or lewd suggestion, the speaker adds "Yah!" which negatives all that has been said and done. Indeed the use of the word "Yah" runs through the whole conversation carried on during the ceremonies, as when a man in the rear of the procession calls to some one in the-front, "Hallo there, you (mentioning his name), stop and come back to me—yah!" This gave to the whole of the proceedings, up to the time when we reached the Talmaru camp, in the recesses of the mountain, a sort of Carnival and April fool aspect.

The old men told me that the meaning of this inverted manner of speaking, of saying one thing when the speaker intended another, was to break the boys of a habit of telling lies, and to make them for the future truth-speaking.

The ceremonies are also intended to rivet the influence and power of the old men on the novices, who have heard from their earliest childhood tales of the fearful powers of the Gommeras, and of the Joïas by which they can cause sickness and death. At these ceremonies the Joïas are exhibited. A young man said to me after his initiation, "When I was a little boy I did not believe all I heard about the Joïas, but when I saw the Gommeras at the Kuringal bringing them up from their insides, I believed it all."

These remarks will be illustrated by the incidents which I am about to describe.

At the halt made the Kabos placed their boys in a row, and two old men sat down before them on the ground, facing each other with their feet touching. In the oval space thus enclosed by their legs they proceeded to make a "mud pie" of the wet soil, which they smoothed and patted into the semblance of a cake, with childish manner and gestures. All the men danced round them uttering some word which I omitted to note. Several men then came to the boys and spoke to them, in their buffoon manner, pointing at the same time to the dirt cake. It fortunately happened that one of the boys was a Bemeringal, whose language differed from that of the Katungal so much that throughout the ceremonies, while the men spoke to the Katungal boys in their own language, they spoke to the Bemering boy in the broken English which is used by the blacks and whites in speaking to each other. Thus I was able to follow the whole course of instruction and admonition very satisfactorily, and also to check the explanations given me by my friends Yibai-malian and Umbara and others. The men said, "Look at that! look at those old men, when you get back to the camp go and do like that, and play with little children—Yah!"

After a march of another quarter of a mile there was another halt. Some of the old men came out of the scrub with boughs held round their heads representing a mob of bullocks, and went through some absurd antics to make the boys laugh at their child’s play. But the boys, having been warned by their Kabos, looked on with the utmost stolidity.

From here we marched slowly up the mountain side, until at another little level a third halt was made. Here the second stage was marked by all the men rubbing themselves with powdered charcoal, making themselves almost unrecognisable. The use of powdered charcoal in this manner seems to have a very general application in these ceremonies and in other tribes to magic, as for instance the Bunjil-barn among the Kurnai.

This interlude Was an amusing one. The men, led by Umbara, pretended to be a team of working bullocks. Each man held a stick by both hands over his neck to represent a yoke, and the team danced slowly among the trees, past the boys with ludicrous gestures. Thence a further march was made, the men making laughable remarks to the boys, such as "You can go home now—Yah! We are going to the sea-shore to get oysters—Yah!"

On the summit of the hill there was another halt, and here was the first magic dance. The boys and their Kabos stood in a row and the men danced in a circle before them, shouting the name for "legs." This kind of dance is merely jumping round in a circle, with the legs wide apart and the arms stretched straight downwards swinging across each other in front, the word being loudly uttered, rhythmically with the body movement. After doing this for a minute or two, the circle of dancers opened, and joined on to the end of the line of Kabos and novices the whole then forming a new circle. One of the Gommeras darted into this enclosed space, and danced the magic dance. This is done as if sitting almost on the heels, but the knees are widely apart, and the two hands are extended downwards until the fingers almost touch the ground. The medicine-man then hops backwards and forwards with a staring expression of face, his head vibrates from side to side, and he suddenly shows, sometimes after apparently internal struggles, one of his Yogas between his teeth. This is supposed to have been brought from within himself. The other men are meantime dancing round him, and I have occasionally seen him work himself into a kind of ecstatic frenzy, and fall down, once almost into the fire, utterly exhausted. While this was going on, the Kabos spoke in earnest tones to their boys, explaining to them the great and deadly powers of the Gommeras, and the necessity of their obeying every instruction given to them.

After a further ascent of a steep mountain ridge, there was another halt before crossing the summit of the range, which was marked by the men representing to the boys a procession of old men, slowly and with rhythmical movements marching out of the forest into the little open space in which the boys had been halted. Great age was shown, as in all these representations, by each man walking in a stooping position, supported by a staff in each hand. After circling round the boys twice, the procession resolved itself into a ring in front of the boys and the men danced the usual magic dance round one who exhibited his Joïas in the usual manner. The men then, ceasing to dance, rushed to the boys in an excited manner, old Yibai-malian leading the way, and for the first time went through one of their most characteristic performances. They all shouted "Ngai!" meaning "Good," and at the same time moved their arms and hands as if passing something from themselves to the boys, who, being instructed by the Kabos, moved their hands and arms as if pulling a rope towards themselves, the palms of the hands being held upwards. The intention of this is that the boys shall be completely filled—saturated, I might say—with the magic proceeding from the initiated and the medicine-men, so that "Daramulun will like them."

Perhaps the best expression that could be used in English would be that by their thus passing their magical influence to the boys, the medicine-men and the initiated made the novices acceptable to Daramulun. . . . .

The old men being ready, we went down a cattle-track to the lower glen, where a place was chosen and a space cleared for the tooth ceremony. All the bushes were chopped up, the stones gathered, and even the grass plucked up by the roots—in fact, everything cleared from it for a space of about twenty-five feet square. In a line along one side three pairs of holes were dug, about a foot in depth, in which the novices were to stand. A great stringy-bark tree was close to the northern side, and on this the Bega Gommera cut in relief the figure of a man of life-size in the attitude of dancing. This represented Daramulun, whose ceremonies they are, and who, as is taught to the novices, is cognisant of the Kuringal proceedings.

While some of the old men were making these preparations, other men prepared sheets of stringy bark for the dresses of the performers in the next ceremony. These dresses were prepared by cutting the bark of the tree through all round the bole in two places about three feet apart. The outer bark is then chipped off and the inner bark beaten with the back of the tomahawk before being separated from the tree. It is then taken off as a sheet of fibres, and being extended on the ground, is at least three times its former circumference. The sheets of fibre are about three inches thick, and look like coarse bright yellow tow. Ten men were now decorated with this fibre round their bodies, tied round their legs and arms, and placed as monstrous wigs on their heads. Their faces were further disguised by reverting the upper and lower lips by cords made of the fibre tied behind the head, thereby showing the teeth and gums, and the effect was hideous. Two pieces of bark were now Stripped, each about four feet in length, by fifteen inches at one end and nine at the other. The ten men now knelt down in a row on the southern edge of the cleared space, and about six or seven feet distant from, and parallel with, the row of holes, which faced them. The kneeling men were shoulder to shoulder; the man at either end had one of the pieces of bark in his hands, and in front of him a small mound of earth raised up in such a position that he could strike it with the concave side of his piece of bark.

All being now ready, including the new bull-roarer, my messenger was sent to sound it on the mound of rocks overlooking our camp. The Kabos soon appeared, carefully leading their charges over the rocks and among the fallen trees, and down the cattle-track. The boys were ordered to keep their eyes fixed on their feet, and could therefore only proceed slowly, each one being guided by a Kabo. The remainder of the men who had remained at the camp followed them.

When the novices reached the cleared ground, still with bent heads and downcast eyes, each was placed with his feet in one pair of holes. Then they were told to raise their eyes and look, and the sight of the ten disguised figures must have been startling to them, but I could not see the slightest trace of emotion on the face of either of them.

At this time the scene was striking. Some of the men were standing at the east side of the cleared space, some on the west side, the boys and their Kabos being on the north, almost at the foot of the tree on which the figure, about three feet in length, of Daramulun was cut. In front of them were these motionless disguised figures. The Gommera Brupin was at a little distance almost hidden in some scrub, and old Gunjerung, the head Gommera, stood apart from all as was his custom, leaning on his staff, waiting for the moment when all being ready, he would give the signal for the ceremony to commence.

At length Gunjerung raised his staff, and the kneeling man nearest to the sea, that is at the east end of the row, raised his strip of bark and brought it down on the earthen mound before him with a sound like the muffled report of a gun. Then he and all the other men surged over to the west, uttering a sound like "sh" or "ush," long drawn out. The western man now, in his turn, struck his mound with a resounding blow, and all surged back making a rumbling sound; so they went on for some little time with the regularity of clockwork. This represents the waves breaking on the land, and rushing up on the shore, and the thunder answering it from the mountains.

Gunjerung now signed with his staff, and the masked figures, springing up, rushed to the novices, and commenced to dance to the words "Wirri-wirri-wirri," that is, "Quick, quick, quick." As they did this, one of the Kabos knelt behind his boy, with his right knee on the ground, and the boy sat on his left as a seat The other Kabo came behind and drew the boy’s head on to his breast, having his left arm round his chest, and his right hand over the boy’s eyes. The Kabo kneeling on the ground held the boy’s legs, his feet being in the holes.

From behind the bushes where he had been concealed, the Gommera Brupin now suddenly emerged dancing, bearing in one hand a short wooden club and in the other a piece of wood about eight inches long and chisel-shaped at the end. Being the representative of Daramulun, he was clothed only in a complete suit of charcoal dust.

The boy’s eyes being covered, he danced into the space between them and the masked men to excited shouts of "Wirri," to which the other men were also dancing, and thus approached the first boy. He now handed his implements to the man nearest to him, and seizing the boy’s head with his hands, applied his lower incisor to the left upper incisor of the boy, and forcibly pressed it upwards. He then, dancing all the time, placed the chisel on the tooth and struck a blow with the mallet. This time the tooth was loosened, and I could see blood. Some of the dancing-men now came between the boy and me, so that I lost count of the blows for a few seconds. However, I counted seven, and I think that there was at least one more. The tooth then fell out of its socket, and Brupin gave it to one of the old men. The boy was then led aside by the Kabo, who told him that he must on no account spit out the blood, but swallow it, otherwise the wound would not heal. The stoical indifference shown by this boy, to what must have been an exquisitely painful operation, was most surprising. I watched him carefully, and he could not have shown less feeling had he been a block of wood. But as he was led away I noticed that the muscles of his legs quivered in an extraordinary manner.

The Gommera now danced up to the second boy, and amidst the same shouts of "Wirri" gave a hoist to the boy’s tooth with his own, and then struck his first blow. This, however, produced a different effect on this boy, for he set up a tremendous yell and struggled violently. His outcry was, however, drowned by the cries of "Wirri," and the boy’s eyes being still covered, the Gommera again danced in from the masked figures, behind whom he had been crouching, and again struck his blow. This produced the same effect as before. The old men now said that the boy had been too much with the women, and had played too much with the little girls, thereby causing his tooth to be so firmly fixed. Yibai-malian now came forward, in his character of a great medicine-man, and first of all gave the tooth a tremendous hoist up with his lower jaw, then he put his mouth to that of the boy, who made a tremendous struggle, and got his arms free. Yibai told me afterwards that he then forced one of his Joïas, a quartz crystal, up against the tooth to loosen it. The boy, feeling this hard substance coming out of the medicine-man’s mouth, thought, as he afterwards told his Kabo, that the man was going to kill him by something out of his inside. While this was going on, the men near to the boy said to him, "Now you be quiet, only a little more and it will be out."

As soon as the boy was soothed down, the Gommera danced in again and succeeded in getting a good blow which knocked the tooth out. He struck thirteen blows in all.

The third boy now only remained, the smallest of the three, and in his case one of his Kabos, a man of the Ngarigo tribe, having first of all pushed the gum back from the tooth with his finger-nail, Yibai-malian gave the tooth the regulation hoist, and the Gommera, dancing in, knocked the tooth out with a few blows.

The three boys, having somewhat recovered from the severe ordeal through which they had gone, were led by their Kabos to the tree on which the figure of Daramulun was cut, and were told of him and his powers, and that he lived beyond the sky and watched what the Murring did. When a man died he met him and took care of him. It was he who first made the Kuringal, and taught it to their fathers, and he taught them also to make weapons, and all that they know. The Gommeras receive their powers from him, and he gives them the Krugullung. He is the great Biamban who can do anything and go anywhere, and he gave the tribal laws to their fathers, who have handed them down from father to son until now.

As the boys were then being led away to their camp, Gunjerung stopped them, and spoke to them in a most impressive manner. Alluding to the figure of Daramulun, he said, "If you make anything like that when you go back to the camp, I will kill you."

When the boys were taken away, the men stripped off their bark-fibre disguises and piled them over the foot-holes. Then they all formed a ring round the cleared space, standing with their faces outwards. At a signal from Brupin they all bent forwards, and with their hands scratched leaves, sticks, rubbish, anything they could reach, towards themselves, throwing it backwards on to the heap. Then they simultaneously jumped backwards, uttering the sounds "prr! prr! prt! wahl wahl wah!" three times. A large quantity of rubbish being thus gathered over the sacred ground, they all turned round, and each one motioning with his outstretched hands towards the heap with the palms downwards repeated the words "Yah! wah!" as a final conclusion.

We all now went up to the camp, and standing by the Talmaru fire, the boys were invested with the man’s belt. A tong cord of opossum-fur string, folded a number of times, was wound round the waist, and fastened by the end being tucked under the folds. This belt is coloured with red ochre. In front hangs the narrow kilt (Burrain), thrust up under it so as to hang down and preserve decency, being fastened to the belt by the two outside thongs, which are tucked once or twice under and round the belt. A Burrain also hangs down behind.

The novices were now covered as before with their blankets; and, being seated beside their Kabos, were told that, their teeth being out, nothing more would be done to them, that they were no longer boys, but were to look on and attend to all the Kabos told them.

The proceedings which I shall now describe continued all night, and are intended to enforce the teachings of the Kabos, to amuse the boys, and at the same time to securely establish the authority of the old men over them.

The magic fire was freshly built up, and the novices were told to stand up and observe. I may now mention once for all that the evening’s ceremonial entertainments and proceedings were carried on alternately by the two sections of the community—the mountain Bemeringal and the sea-coast Katungal.

Dances and performances alternated, some merely to amuse, others to illustrate the magical power of the Gommeras, and others to enforce tribal morality, or to perpetuate tribal legends. These were all strung together by a series of buffooneries, some of them of the broadest kind, and pervaded by the inverted manner of speaking before mentioned. Jokes, which were too broad for translation, were bandied about from side to side with the inevitable "Yah!" attached, which implied that they were not to be taken as serious.

In all these performances the men are naked, and even towards morning, when it clouded over and a smart shower fell, only a few put on a little covering. The old men especially adhered to the rules of their fathers, so far as they could do so, in the conduct of the ceremonies and their own procedure. One old man put on nothing when it rained but a pair of boots.

The first performance was by the Bega Gommera, and it was a ludicrous one. It represents an old man tormented by opossums. It must be mentioned that, whenever possible, the men who represented animals were of those totems, and indeed all the animals which were represented in these performances were the totem animals of the tribe. Thus, when it is a kangaroo hunt, it is a kangaroo man who performs, and the wild-dog men hunt him. But if there are not sufficient of the necessary totems, then other men help them.

In this instance the great age of the performer was indicated, as in all other cases, by his leaning on a staff. He was occupied in chopping some animal out of a hollow log, and behind him were a number of opossums, crouching in the bushes. As he chopped, an opossum came behind him and scratched his bare leg, frightening him, to judge by the caper he cut and the yell he uttered, as he turned round and hit at it with his staff. His tormentor dodged him, and running past on all fours, lay down at the edge of the cleared space. The old man now resumed his chopping, when another opossum ran out and bit his leg, and the old man, jumping and yelling, hit at and missed him. So it went on till all the opossum men had passed from one side of the fire to the other, and were lying side by side. The performer now dropped his staff and tomahawk and rushed to the fire, where he clapped his hands, shouting the word for opossum, whereupon all the opossum men sprang up and danced round him and the fire.

The next was a magic dance to the word meaning "legs." In this the dancing of the Gommeras and the exhibition of their Joïas was a marked feature of the dance. At one time there would be only one, then others would rush into the ring, until there were four or five, once there were six, all dancing in an excited state, staring with goggle eyes, with their lips drawn back, showing their Joïas held between their teeth, in the firelight, for it had become dark. One man in his frenzy threw himself down on his knees, and danced on them. Others danced until, apparently overcome by their own magic, they fell down seemingly senseless. . . . .

Of the totem dances some were merely the magic dance to the name of the totem. Others were prefaced by pantomimic representations of the totem animal, bird, or reptile. Thus there was a dance to the word Yirai-kapin, the dog’s tooth, referring to the "ravenous tooth which devours everything." It commenced with the life-like howling of a dingo in the forest, answered by other dogs on the other side. Then nearer, till a man ran into the firelight on all fours, with a bush stuck in his belt behind, to represent a dingo’s tail. Others followed, till half a score were running round the fire, smelling each other, snarling and snapping, scratching the ground, in fact representing the actions of wild dogs, until the medicine-man leading them sprang to his feet, clapped his hands, vociferating in measured tones, "Yirai-kapin." While he danced, the others followed him, dancing round him, and the usual totem dance was made.

Another was the crow dance, in which men, with leaves round their heads, croaked like those birds, and then danced; the owl dance, in which they imitated the hooting of the Takula, owl; the lyre-bird dance, and that of the stone-plover. Finally, there was the dance of the rock-wallaby, which was pantomimic.

In this the rock-wallaby were at first concealed in the shadows to the right front of the fire, that is, looking north from where I sat. Brupin and Yibai-malian were the principal performers, the animals being represented by two or three of that totem, with other men helping them. Yibai had charge of the rock-wallaby, and Brupin tried, in a grotesque manner, to entice them from him, while talking to the former. When they ran to Brupin’s side, Yibai threatened him, and they had a comic combat, as if with club and shield. So it went on till all the wallaby had been enticed from Yibai, who evinced his grief at the loss in the most comical manner. It ended with the usual dance to the word Yalonga, that is, rock-wallaby.

Some of the pantomimes were curious, particularly one which represented a Gommera curing a sick child, which was a small log which one of the old men had taken from the fire and carried in his arms to and fro, imitating the crying of a sick child. Several of the men came up and imitated the actions of a "doctor," in stroking the child with their hands, and extracting from it stones, pieces of wood, bark, and other things, as the cause of the disease. This was received with shouts of laughter from all, from the medicine-men as well as the others. The only ones who did not even smile were the utterly unmoved novices.

Another pantomime represented a number of very old men who came up, following each other, out of the forest, and circled round the fire in the usual rhythmical manner, swaying from side to side at each step, and each holding his head with both hands, one at each temple. After going round the fire several times, the chain broke up into individuals, who began tickling each other, finally falling down into a heap, screeching with laughter. Such an exhibition of childishness in venerable old greybeards was ridiculous, and this was impressed on the novices by going up to them and saying, "When you go back to the camp do like that—yah!" by this warning them not to be guilty of such childish acts in their new characters of men.

Other pantomimic representations were to impress rules of tribal morality by visible instances.

A man lay down on the ground near the fire, as if a woman asleep. The other performers were hidden by the shadows thrown by the trees beyond the fire. One man then stole out, and seeing the woman sleeping, cautiously approached, after peering all round to see if any one were near. He tried in vain to wake her, and made comic gestures which left no doubt of his intentions. Being unable to succeed, he went across and lay down at the edge of the clear space. One by one the other men came by, each fruitlessly endeavouring to waken the sleeping woman, and also making gestures showing what he intended. When all had passed the pseudo-woman, one of the Gommeras jumped up and commenced his dance, the disappointed suitors joining in it. This play, taken by itself, was comic, but when looked at in reference to the gestures made by the men, suggested what might happen if a savage found a solitary woman sleeping in the bush. But a remarkable commentary was applied, not only by the broad allusions made by the men looking on, addressed to the novices, and always followed by the emphatic "Yah!" but by the direct statements of Gunjerung to the boys in the coast language, and to the Wolgal boy in English, which was, "Look at me! if you do anything like that when you go back to the camp, I will kill you; by and by, when you are older, you will get a wife of your own." . . . .

These representations went on from about six in the evening to near three o’clock in the morning. When one section had wearied themselves a short halt was called, and the boys were told, as in one instance, "You can go and lie down, we are going to sleep—yah!" The Kabos led them to the couch of leaves, and caused them to lie down covered by blankets. The men sat by their fires, or rolled themselves in their rugs; some smoked, some chatted, but before long, sometimes after no more than five minutes had passed, one of the leading Gommeras would start up, clap his hands, and rush to the Talmaru fire, shouting some word, in most cases either "Mirambul" (legs) or "Katir" (dance). The section to which he belonged then joined in, the proceedings recommenced, and the other section remained spectators.

Twice when the proceedings flagged a little, Yibai-malian made me a sign for Mudthi, namely, moving the forefinger of the right hand in a small circle, and I sent my messenger to the mound of rocks to sound the bull-roarer out of sight. Directly the sound was heard the whole camp, excepting the Kabos and novices, was in a state of excitement, the men shouting "Huh! huh!" and the dancing went on with renewed vigour.

The novices were thus kept in a constant state of excitement and suspense until, as I have said, at about three in the morning when the old men danced to the word Kair, that is, the end, the finish. The magic fire was let burn low, the boys were-laid on their couch of leaves, and all hands rolled themselves in their rugs or blankets and slept. . . . .

The three novices had now to go and live by themselves in the bush, on such food as they could catch, and which it might be lawful for them to eat. They were still under the charge of the Kabos, who would visit them from time to time, continue to instruct them, and see that they followed the rules laid down for them. In the case of the elder of the three, the period of probation would be shortened, because he was employed as a stockrider on a cattle station. But in all the cases the Gommeras would not consent to either of them taking his place in the tribal community until they were satisfied as to his conduct. For instance, he would not be allowed to take a wife for possibly several years.

Among the things which are told to the novice by his Kabos, is the Budjan, that is his totem name. These names are not much used, and a person does not know much of the Budjans of others. It is the personal name which is used, not the Budjan. The personal name is a tribal one given to an individual in childhood, and the use of the totem name is avoided, lest an enemy might get hold of it and do him an injury by evil magic. In this there is a difference between the Yuin and other tribes, in which the totem name is used, and the personal name strictly kept secret. The rule is that during the period of probation the novice is absolutely prohibited from holding any communication with a woman, even his own mother. He must not even look at one, and this prohibition extends to the emu, for the emu is Ngalalbal, the mother of Daramulun.

The food restrictions in connection with these ceremonies are that the Gumbang-ira (raw-tooth novice) may not eat any of the following: emu, because it is Ngalalbal; any animal, e. g. the wombat, which burrows in the ground, and therefore reminds of the foot-holes. Such creatures as have very prominent teeth, such as the kangaroo, because they remind of the tooth itself; any animal that climbs to the tree-tops, like the koala, because it is then near to Daramulun; any bird that swims, because it reminds of the final washing ceremony. Other food forbidden is spiny ant-eater, common opossum, lace-lizard, snakes, eels, perch, and others.

Thus the young man during his probation is placed in an artificial state of scarcity as to food, although perhaps surrounded by plenty. Included in the forbidden is the Budjan of the novice, although this rule is becoming more and more disregarded in the younger generations.

The novices were told that if they eat any of the forbidden animals, the Joïa belonging to it would get into them and kill them. But not only is there an immaterial Joïa which acts magically, but also a special magical substance which belongs to each such animal. In fact, these magical substances are some of the Joïas which the medicine-men exhibit at the Kuringal. As each Gommera has a totem name, his Budjan and the magical substance belonging to it are his special Joïas.

It is the evil magic of the Budjan that in great measure commands obedience, but there is also the belief that the Gommera can see in dreams the actions of the novices, and punish them by Joïa. In the old times a novice, known to have broken the food rules after initiation, would have been killed by violence.

The strictness with which these food rules are observed by the old men affords a measure of their force in the olden times. The old man whom I have mentioned as the Wolgal singer, and who seemed to be about seventy years of age, told me, when we were speaking of these rules, that he had never eaten of the flesh of the emu. He said that he had never been free of its flesh, by some one stealthily rubbing a piece of it, or the fat, on his mouth.

When the Gommeras are satisfied that the youth is fit to take his place in the tribe, he is allowed to return. In one case known to me, it was between five and six months before the old men were satisfied as to this. For some reason they were dissatisfied with the novices, and after a meeting was held of the old men, some of them went out to and told the novices that they must not let the women see them stripped of their rugs for some months after coming in.

After the novice is allowed to come into the camp, and till he is permitted to marry, the Gommeras can order him to do things for them, and he obeys them.

The ceremonies being now completed, there remained nothing for the people to do but gradually to return to their own districts. The tooth would be carried by the Gommera of the place most distant from that of the youth it belonged to. He would then send or hand it to the Headman of the locality next to him, and thus it would pass from group to group of the intermarrying community which had attended the Kuringal. It conveys its message, which is that so-and-so has been made a man. Finally it returns to its owner.

I took on myself, as being in their eyes a "Gommera of the Kurnai," and as having joined in causing the Kuringal to be held, to carry off two of the teeth, which were fastened with grass-tree gum one to each end of a piece of twisted fibre. An old man, the father of one of the boys, begged me not to put the teeth into my "Joïa bag," and Yibai, who was present, said that he would by and by fetch them back.

Some twelve months after, I was surprised by the arrival at Sale, in Gippsland, where I was then living, of the man who had acted as my messenger during the ceremonies. In the usual secret manner in which anything relating to the Kuringal is spoken of, he whispered to me that one of the boys had been taken ill, and that the old men feared that I had placed the teeth in my bag with Joïas, and had thereby caused his sickness. The old men had therefore sent him to ask me for them. I relieved his mind by showing him the teeth carefully packed in a small tin box by themselves, and sent him off with them on his return journey of some two hundred and fifty miles.

In one of the talks which I had with the old men at their Wirri-wirri-than, I asked them what would be done if a woman saw a Mudthi. The consensus of opinion was that if a woman found a Mudthi and showed it to a man, he would kill her. If a man showed a Mudthi to a woman or a child, he would be killed, and not unlikely those belonging to him also. If a woman were seen in the little Bunan ground, she would be killed. . . . .

The intention of the ceremonies is evidently to make the youths of the tribe worthy members of the community, according to their lights. Certain principles are impressed upon them for their guidance during life—for instance, to listen to and obey the old men; to generously share the fruits of the chase with others, especially with their kindred; not to interfere with the women of the tribe, particularly those who are related to them, nor to injure their kindred, in its widest sense, by means of evil magic. Before the novice is permitted to take his place in the community, marry, and join in its councils, he must possess those qualifications which will enable him to act for the common welfare.

As a hunter he is sent into the bush to find his own living, often for several months, and, under the prohibitions as to certain food animals which are imposed upon him, he is practically placed in a state of privation, while being possibly surrounded by plentiful but forbidden food.

The qualifications of the young men are tested in some tribes, especially those of Southern Queensland, by a ceremonial combat in which they take part.

The extraordinary restrictive powers of the food rules, and the powerful effect of the teaching at the ceremonies, has been shown in cases known to me by the serious and even fatal effects, produced by what one must call conscience, in novices who had broken the rules and eaten of forbidden food.

All those who have had to do with the native race in its primitive state will agree with me that there are men in the tribes who have tried to live up to the standard of tribal morality, and who were faithful friends and true to their word; in fact men for whom, although savages, one must feel a kindly respect. Such men are not to be found in the later generation, which has grown up under our civilisation, and is rapidly being exterminated by it.

In the ceremonies mentioned, with few exceptions, there is a similar mode of assembling the meeting for initiation, the making of a circular earthen mound, the removal of the boys from their mothers’ control, the knocking out of the tooth, the investment in some tribes of the novice with a man’s attire, the formation of a new camp by the women, and the showing of the boy to his mother, with the severance of her control over him by a formal act, and finally the period of probation under severe conditions. I have elsewhere referred to the belief inculcated as to the existence of a great supernatural anthropomorphic Being, by whom the ceremonies were first instituted, and who still communicates with mankind through the medicine-men, his servants.

All this is more or less clearly shown in the ceremonies in Victoria and New South Wales, but less so in those of Queensland, where the food rules, for instance, seem to be made with the object of providing a plentiful and superior supply of food for the old men, and not, as in the before-mentioned tribes, to inculcate discipline, under which the novices are placed. Yet they also act in the same direction in making the participation in the better class of food dependent on age. Whether the rule of the Queensland tribes, or of those of New South Wales and Victoria, is the older one, is a difficult question to answer. In my opinion the former is probably the older, for it seems to be most likely that where the old men have the power to do so, they will impose rules which favour themselves, leaving the disciplinary rule to be the secondary object.

The universality of the practice that the guardians of the novice are of the relation to him of sister’s husband, or wife’s brother, is clearly connected with the almost universal practice of betrothal, and exchange of sister for sister, in marriage. As, moreover, the boy is initiated by the men of the intermarrying moiety of the tribe other than his own, those men of the group from which his future wife must come are naturally suggested as his guardians and preceptors in the ceremonies. Their selection would be acceptable to both moieties, that to which the novice belongs, and that from which his wife must come. As, moreover, the relation of Kabo, to use the Yuin term of relationship, is not merely an individual, but a group of men, the arrangement would have the strength of numbers, and a strong kindred behind it. Thus the novice, who is taken from the protection of his own kindred during the ceremonies, is placed in that of the kindred of his future wife, whose interest it is that no harm shall come to him.

One of the causes which act strongly in producing uniformity of belief and of practice, is the fact that men come from a wide radius of country to the ceremonies, under what may be called a ceremonial armistice. The component parts of the several tribes which thus meet together are each, in their furthest limits, in contact with still more distant tribes, with whom they intermarry. I have referred to instances of a contingent from a distant locality being accompanied by people of another tribe, friendly to them, but strangers to the tribe which has convened the ceremonies. It is certain that in each contingent there will be leading men, probably medicine-men, who will take part with their fellows in the ceremonies they have come to see. When they return, they carry with them the sacred mysteries of this tribe, and will be able to introduce such new beliefs or procedure as may have recommended itself to them, and they may on their part have contributed something to those they visited. The effect of this intercourse, even if slight, must be to produce uniformity in the procedure of the ceremonies; and the period during which this may have been going on is not to be measured in years, that is, in view of the long-continuing isolation of the Australian aborigines, from any material outside influence. The fact that the ceremonies are the same in principle, even where they vary in practice, seems to me to strongly confirm the theory which I have suggested. . . . .—A. W. HOWITT, , 529—641 (Macmillan, 1904).

Every Australian native, so far as is known, has in the normal condition of the tribe to pass through certain ceremonies of initiation before he is admitted to the secrets of the tribe, and is regarded as a fully developed member of it. These ceremonies vary both in their nature and number to a very large extent in different tribes. Those of the eastern and south-eastern coastal districts are entirely different from those of the central tribes, amongst whom they are more elaborate and spread over a long series of years, the first taking place at about the age of ten or twelve, whilst the final and most impressive one is not passed through until probably the native has reached the age of at least twenty-five, or it may be thirty. In the Arunta and Ilpirra tribes the ceremonies are four in number:—

(1) Painting and throwing the boy up in the air; (2) Circumcision or Lartna; (3) Subincision or Ariltha; (4) The Engwura or fire ceremony.

The times at which these take place and the details of the ceremonies vary to a certain extent in various parts of the tribes, which it must be remembered, occupy an area of country stretching from Charlotte Waters in the south to at least 100 miles north of Alice Springs, that is over an area measuring 300 miles north and south by at least 100 miles east and west, and comprising in the south a wide extent of upland, stony plains and sand hills, and in the north a succession of ranges running east and west, and reaching an elevation of 5,000 feet.

The first ceremony takes place when a boy is between ten and twelve years of age. The men, and in this instance the women also, assemble at a central spot near to the main camp, and the boys who have reached the right age—the number varying from ceremony to ceremony—are taken one by one and tossed in the air several times by the men, who catch them as they fall, while the women dance round and round the group, swinging their arms and shouting loudly, "pau, pau, pau-a-a," the last cry being very prolonged. This over, the boys are painted on their chests and backs, as shown in the illustration, with simple designs consisting of straight or curved bands outlined by lines of red or yellow ochre. These have not of necessity any reference to the totem of the boys. They are painted by men who stand to the boys in the relation of Umbirna, that is, brother of a woman whom the boy may marry. In some cases, at all events, they are copied from old rock paintings, certain of which are associated with particular totems, but the boy will not of necessity be decorated with a design of his own totem. Certain of these particular designs are described in connection with the sacred drawings. If the boy has what is called an Unjipinna man, then it is the latter who will draw the design upon him at the close of the ceremony of throwing up.

In all the ceremonies of initiation the youth or man has certain designs painted on his body, and in no case have they of necessity any reference to his own totem, though they are emblematic of some totem with which usually the man who does the painting is associated. These designs come under the general term of Ilkinia, the name applied to the designs, as a whole, which are emblematic of the totems; and so long as the boy, youth or man has one or other of these painted on him, it does not signify which. It must be remembered that the man who does the painting is usually the person who decides upon the nature of the design, and it may also be noted that in the performance of sacred ceremonies men are constantly decorated with designs of totems other than their own.

In the case of this, the first of the initiatory ceremonies, the painting of each boy is done as stated by men who stand to him in the relationship of Umbirna, that is, a man who is the brother of a woman of the class from which his, i. e. the boy’s, wife must come. The design is called Enchichichika, and while they are being painted the boys are told that the ceremony through which they have just passed will promote their growth to manhood, and they are also told by tribal fathers and elder brothers that in future they must not play with the women and girls, nor must they camp with them as they have hitherto done, but henceforth they must go to the camp of the men, which is known as the Ungunja. Up to this time they have been accustomed to go out with the women as they searched for vegetable food and the smaller animals such as lizards and rats; now they begin to accompany the men in their search for larger game, and begin also to look forward to the time when they will become fully initiated and admitted to all the secrets of the tribe, which are as yet kept hidden from them.

The ceremony of throwing up is called Alkirakiwuma (from alkira the sky, and iwuma to throw), and very shortly after this, sometimes even before it, the boy has his nasal septum bored through, usually by his father or paternal grandfather, and begins to wear the nose bone. This boring is practised by men and women alike, and the operation is attended by a short but interesting special ceremony, which is elsewhere described. Amongst the women the nose boring is usually done by the husband immediately after marriage, and it may be remarked in passing that in both sexes the constant wearing of the nose bone emphasises the flattening out of the lobes of the nose.

A good many years may elapse between the throwing up ceremony and the performance of the two much more important ceremonies of circumcision or Lartna, and that of subincision or Ariltha. Speaking generally, it may be said that circumcision may take place at any age after the boy has arrived at puberty.

Before the time at which the boy is thrown up in the air he is spoken of as an Ambaquerka, which is the term applied to a child generally, of whichever sex it may be. After the throwing up, and until the ceremony of circumcision, he is called Ulpmerka.

When it has been decided by the boy’s elder male relatives (usually his elder brothers) that he has arrived at the proper age, preparations are made unknown to him, for the carrying out of the [Lartna] ceremony. These consist first of all in the gathering together of a large supply of food material for the ceremonies are attended with the performance of what are usually spoken of as corrobborees, which last over several days. If a stranger belonging to any other group happens to be present in camp when the operation is being performed he will take part in the proceedings, but in the Arunta tribe there is usually no sending out of messengers to other groups to bring them in to the performance, as there is in the coastal tribes; nor is it usual to operate upon more than one, or at most two, novices at the same time; each boy is initiated when he is supposed to have reached the proper age, and the ceremony is controlled by the men of his own local group, who may ask any one to take part or not in it just as they feel disposed.

In the following account we will describe what took place during an actual ceremony, which was conducted recently by a group of natives associated with a spot called Undiara, one of the most important centres of the kangaroo totem situated near to the Finke River. It must always be remembered that the details of these initiation ceremonies vary to a certain extent according to the locality in which they are performed; thus at Undiara the men of the kangaroo totem directed the proceedings and therefore sacred ceremonies concerned with this particular totem were much in evidence; had Undiara been an emu locality then emu ceremonies would have predominated. Bearing this in mind, the ceremony now to be described may be regarded as typical of the rite of circumcision as carried out by the natives living along the Finke River, who are often spoken of as Larapinta blacks to distinguish them from other groups, Larapinta being the native name of the river.

The boy was seized early in the evening at the Ungunja, or men’s camp, by three young men who were respectively Okilia, Umbirna and Unkulla to him. As soon as they laid hands on him they shouted loudly, "Utchai, utchai," while being frightened, he struggled, trying to get free from them. He was at once carried off bodily to the ceremonial ground which had been carefully prepared at some distance from and out of sight of the main camp, so that the women, when at the latter, could not see anything of what was taking place at the former, which is called the Apulla. A path about five feet wide is cleared of grass and shrubs, and the surface soil is heaped up on either side, so as to form a low, narrow bank of the same length as the path, which is some forty or fifty feet in length, and always made so as to run east and west. At a distance of about forty feet from the eastern end was a brake of boughs at which the men were assembled [and behind which the women were grouped].

Once on the ground, and in the presence of all the men and women, the boy made no further resistance, but apparently resigned himself to his fate. He was taken to the men and sat down amongst them, while the women, who had been awaiting his arrival, at once began to dance, carrying shields in their hands. The reason assigned for this is that in the Alcheringa certain women called Unthippa carried along with them as they travelled over the country a number of young boys who were just being initiated. As they travelled along, dancing the whole way, they also carried shields: and therefore it is that, at the present day, the initiation ceremony must commence with an imitation of the Unthippa dance of the Alcheringa. Except in connection with this ceremony women may never carry shields, which are exclusively the property of the men, just as much as the digging-stick is the peculiar property of a woman. While the women were dancing the men sang of the marching of the Unthippa women across the country. After the boy had watched and listened for some time, an Unkulla man came up and twined round and round his hair strands of fur string, until it looked as if his head were enclosed in a tight-fitting skull cap. Then a man who was Gammona to him came up and fastened round his waist a large Uliara, that is, the human hair girdle worn by the men, the girdle being provided by an Oknia of the boy. The two first-named men were respectively the brother of the boy’s mother and the son of this man, the Oknia being a tribal brother of the boy’s father who was dead, as also was the actual mother. After this a council of the Oknia and Okilia of the novice was held, and three men, who were respectively Mura, Gammona and Chimmia, were told off to take the boy away and paint him. These men are afterward called Wulya, or Uwilia, by the boy. They first of all went away and built a second brake of bushes at the western end of the Apulla, at a distance of about forty feet from the end of the cleared path, so that in position the second brake corresponded to the first one at the opposite end. This was henceforth to be the brake behind which the boy had to remain except when brought on to the ground to witness performances. When this had been made the three men returned and led the boy through the dancing women to his brake, where, with great deliberation, they rubbed him all over with grease, and then decorated his body with pinkish-white clay and bird’s down.

During all the proceedings every detail, such as the appointing of the various officials, was determined upon by a council of men consisting of the Oknia (tribal fathers) and Okilia (blood and tribal elder brothers) of the novice, and of this council the elder Oknia was head man.

After painting him the Uwilia told the boy that he was now no longer an Ulpmerka but a Wurtja, that during the proceedings about to follow he must render implicit obedience, and on no account must he ever tell any woman or boy anything of what he was about to see. Should he ever reveal any of the secrets, then he and his nearest relations would surely die. He must not speak unless spoken to, and even then his words must be as few as possible, and spoken in a low tone. He was further told to remain crouched down behind his brake when left there, and that on no account must he make the slightest attempt to see what the men at their brake were doing. Should he try to see what was going on at the Apulla, except when taken there and told to watch, some great calamity would happen to him—Twanyikira, the great spirit whose voice was heard when the bull-roarers spoke, would carry him away. When these instructions had been given to him by the Uwilia they went away, and he was then visited by his Okilia, who repeated precisely the same instructions, and after this the Wurtja was left for an hour or two to his own reflections. Meanwhile a man had been appointed to act as Urinthantima, whose duty will be seen shortly, and until daylight dawned the dancing and singing went on with astonishing vigour. Then one of the Okilia went and brought back the Wurtja, passing with him as before through the middle of the dancing women, who opened out to allow them to pass through, and placed him sitting on the lap of the Urinthantima man.

The oldest Mia woman of the boy (his actual Mia or mother being dead) had brought with her from her own camp a fire-stick, which she had been careful to keep alight all night. At daylight she lit a fire by means of this, and then took two long sticks with which she had provided herself, and lighting them at the fire, went and sat down, holding them in her hands, immediately behind the Urinthantima man. The Uwinna, that is the sisters of the boy’s father, went and also sat down along with her. Then as the men began to sing a special fire song, she handed one of the fire-sticks to the woman who was the Mura tualcha of the boy, that is the woman whose eldest daughter, born or unborn, has been assigned to the Wurtja as his future wife, so that she is potentially his mother-in-law. While the singing went on this woman approached the boy, and, after tying round his neck bands of fur string, she handed to him the fire-stick, telling him as she did so to always hold fast to his own fire—in other words not to interfere with women assigned to other men. After this, at a signal from an old Okilia, the Wurtja got up and ran away, followed by a number of shouting boys, who after a short time returned, and, along with the women, left the Apulla ground and ran back to the main camp. The old Mia took her fire-stick with her, and in camp guarded it with great care, fixing it at an angle into the ground so as to catch the wind and ensure its being kept alight. The Wurtja had, whilst in his camp, to guard his fire-stick in just the same way, and was cautioned that if he lost it, or allowed it to go out, both he and his Mia would be killed by Kurdaitcha. On the day on which he was taken back to the camp, they both threw away their fire-sticks.

When the Wurtja left the Apulla, he was accompanied by some Okilia and Unkulla men who remained out in the bush with him for three days. During this time nothing of any special nature happened to him beyond the fact that he might not speak unless he was first spoken to, which seldom took place, and that he might not eat freely, though as yet he was not bound by the restrictions with regard to food which he would shortly have to obey. The main object of this partial seclusion is to impress him with the fact that he is about to enter the ranks of the men, and to mark the break between his old life and the new one; he has no precise knowledge of what is in store for him, and the sense that something out of the ordinary is about to happen to him—something moreover which is of a more or less mysterious nature—helps to impress him strongly with a feeling of the deep importance of compliance with tribal rules, and further still with a strong sense of the superiority of the older men who know, and are familiar with, all the mysterious rites, some of which he is about to learn the meaning of for the first time.

On the fourth day the Wurtja was brought back, and at once placed behind his brake, which is called Atnumbanta, and from which he might not move without the permission of one of the Okilia who had been told off to guard him, and whose father was the Oknia who acted as the head man of the council. On the night of the fourth day the men sang of the marchings of the men of the Ullakuppera (little hawk) totem in the Alcheringa, and of their operations with their famous Lialira or stone knives. It was these men who, according to tradition, first introduced the use of a stone knife at circumcision, the operation having been previously conducted by means of a fire-stick. At times they broke into the Lartna song:

Irri yulta yulta rai Ul katchera ul katchar-rai,

which is always sung in loud fierce tones. About midnight two Okilia went to the Wurtja’s brake, and having put a bandage round his eyes led him to the men who sat as usual on the side of their brake facing towards the Apulla. Here he was placed lying face downwards, until two men who were going to perform a ceremony were in position between the Apulla lines. The Quabara, which they were about to perform, was one of a certain number which are only performed at a time such as this, though in all important respects these Quabara are identical with those performed during various ceremonies concerned with the totems. When the boy was told by his Okilia and Oknia to sit up and look he saw, lying in front of him, and on his side, a decorated man whom the Okilia and Oknia, both of them speaking at once, told him represented a wild dog. At the other end of the Apulla a decorated man stood, with legs wide apart, holding up twigs of Eucalyptus in each hand, and having his head ornamented with a small Waninga, which is a sacred object emblematic of some totemic animal, in this particular case a kangaroo. This man moved his head from side to side, as if looking for something, and every now and then uttered a sound similar to that made by a kangaroo, which animal he was supposed to represent. Suddenly the dog looked up, saw the kangaroo, began barking, and, running along on all fours, passed between the man’s legs and lay down behind the man, who kept watching him over his shoulder. Then the dog ran again between the kangaroo-man’s legs, but this time he was caught and well shaken, and a pretence was made of dashing his head against the ground, whereupon he howled as if in pain. These movements were repeated several times, and finally the dog was supposed to be killed by the kangaroo. After a short pause the dog ran along on all fours to where the Wurtja sat and laid himself on top of the boy, then the old kangaroo hopped along and got on top of both of them, so that the Wurtja had to bear the weight of the two men for about two minutes. When the performers got up, the Wurtja, still lying down, was told by the old men that the Quabara represented an incident which took place in the Alcheringa, when a wild dog-man attacked a kangaroo-man, and was killed by the latter. The article which the kangaroo wore on its head was a Waninga, which was a sacred object, and must never be mentioned in the hearing of women and children; it belonged to the kangaroo totem, and was indeed the representative of a kangaroo. When all had been explained to him, he was led back to his brake, and the men continued singing at intervals all night long.

The Quabara, which are performed at these initiation ceremonies, vary according to the locality in which they are being performed, and the men who are taking the leading part in them. If, for example, the old man who is presiding belongs to the emu totem, then the Quabara will at all events to a certain, and probably a large extent, deal with incidents concerned with ancestral emu men. In the particular ceremony upon which this account is based, the old man presiding belonged to the kangaroo totem, and therefore Quabara belonging especially to this totem were much in evidence. The totem of the novice has no influence whatever on the nature of the particular Quabara performed. Each old man who presides over, or takes the leading part in, a ceremony such as this has possession of a certain number of Quabara, and naturally those performed are chosen from this series as they are the ones which he has the right to perform. It is necessary also to remember that ceremonial objects, such as the Waninga, which figure largely in some districts, are unknown in others where their place is taken by entirely different objects. Thus, for example, in the northern part of the Arunta and in the Ilpirra tribe, a sacred pole called a Nurtunja is used, and in these parts this has precisely the significance of the Waninga, which is never met with in the northern districts, just as the Nurtunja is never met with in the south.

On the fifth day, in the afternoon, another performance in which two kangaroos and one dog figured was given. The kangaroos wore, as before, small Waninga in their hair, and this time carried between their teeth, and also in their hair, bunches of wooden shavings soaked in blood, which were supposed to represent wounds received from the bites of the dogs. The performance was essentially similar to that of the previous day, and the antics of the dog as he ran round and looked up, barking at the kangaroo or howled lustily as his head was bumped against the ground brought smiles to every face except that of the Wurtja. Finally the dog ran along and got on top of the Wurtja, and then the two kangaroos followed, so that this time the boy had three men on top of him. When all was over he was once more instructed, cautioned, and taken back to his brake.

On the sixth day the Wurtja was taken out hunting by Okilia and Umbirna men, and the night was spent in singing with little intermission songs which referred to the wanderings of certain of the Alcheringa ancestors, to which the Wurtja, sitting quietly at the men’s brake, listened.

It must be remembered that it is now for the first time that the Wurtja hears anything of these traditions and sees the ceremonies performed, in which the ancestors of the tribe are represented as they were, and acting as they did during life. In various accounts of initiation ceremonies of the Australian tribes, as, for example, in the earliest one ever published the one written by Collins in 1804—we meet with descriptions of performances in which different animals are represented, but except in the ease of the Arunta tribe, no indication of the meaning and signification of these performances has been forthcoming beyond the fact that they are associated with the totems. In the Arunta and Ilpirra tribes they are not only intimately associated with the totemic system, but have a very definite meaning. Whether they have a similar significance in other tribes we have as yet no definite evidence to show, but it is at all events worthy of note that whilst the actual initiation rite varies from tribe to tribe, consisting in some in the knocking out of teeth, and in others in circumcision, &c., in all, or nearly all, an important part of the ceremony consists in showing to the novices certain dances, the important and common feature of which is that they represent the actions of special totemic animals. In the Arunta tribe, however, they have a very definite meaning. At the first glance it looks much as if all that they were intended to represent were the behaviour of certain animals, but in reality they have a much deeper meaning, for each performer represents an ancestral individual who lived in the Alcheringa. He was a member of a group of individuals, all of whom, just like himself, were the direct descendants or transformations of the animals, the names of which they bore. It is as a reincarnation of the never-dying spirit part of one of these semi-animal ancestors that every member of the tribe is born, and, therefore, when born he, or she, bears of necessity the name of the animal or plant of which the Alcheringa ancestor was a transformation or descendant.

The nature of these performances may be gathered from one which was performed on the next—the seventh day. As usual in all these ceremonies, the body of the performer was decorated with ochre, and lines of birds’ down, which were supposed to be arranged in just the same way as they had been on the body of the Alcheringa man. From his waist was suspended a ball of fur string, which was supposed to represent the scrotum of the kangaroo, and when all was ready the performer came hopping leisurely out from behind the men’s brake, where he had been decorated, lying down every now and then on his side to rest as a kangaroo does. The boy had, as usual, been brought blind-folded on to the ground, and at first was made to lie flat down. When the performer hopped out he was told to get up and watch. For about ten minutes the performer went through the characteristic movements of the animal, acting the part very cleverly, while the men sitting round the Wurtja sang of the wanderings of the kangaroo in the Alcheringa. Then after a final and very leisurely hop round the Apulla ground the man came and lay down on top of the Wurtja, who was then instructed in the tradition to which the performance refers. He was told that in the Alcheringa a party of kangaroo men started from a place called Ultainta, away out to the east of what is now called Charlotte Waters, and that after wandering about they came to a spot called Karinga (in the Edith Range about thirty miles south-west of Alice Springs), where one of the party who was named Unburtcha died; that is, his body died, but the spirit part of him was in a sacred Churinga, which he carried and did not die, but remained behind along with the Churinga when the party travelled on. This spirit, the old men told him, went, at a later time, into a woman, and was born again as a Purula man, whose name was, of course, Unburtcha, and who was a kangaroo man just as his ancestor was. He was told that the old men know all about these matters, and decide who has come to life again in the form of a man or woman. Sometimes the spirit child which goes into a woman is associated with one of the sacred Churinga, numbers of which every Alcheringa individual carried about with him or her (for in those days the women were allowed to carry them just as the men were), and then, in this ease, the child has no definite name, but of course it belongs to the same totem as did the individual who had carried the Churinga about in the Alcheringa; that is, if it were a kangaroo man or woman, so of course must the child be, and then the old men determine what shall be its secret or sacred name.

It is in this way that the boy during the initiation ceremonies is instructed, for the first time, in any of the sacred matters referring to the totems, and it is by means of the performances which are concerned with certain animals, or rather, apparently with the animals, but in reality with Alcheringa individuals who were the direct transformations of such animals, that the traditions dealing with this subject, which is of the greatest importance in the eyes of the natives, are firmly impressed upon the mind of the novice, to whom everything which he sees and hears is new and surrounded with an air of mystery. . . . .

The Engwura, or, as it is called in some parts of the tribe, Urumpilla, is in reality a long series of ceremonies concerned with the totems, and terminating in what may be best described as ordeals by fire, which form the last of the initiatory ceremonies. After the native has passed through these he becomes what is called Urliara, that is, a perfectly developed member of the tribe. We cannot fully translate the meaning of either term, but each of them is formed, in part, of the word ura, which means fire. The natives themselves say that the ceremony has the effect of strengthening all who pass through it. It imparts courage and wisdom, makes the men more kindly natured and less apt to quarrel; in short, it makes them ertwa murra oknirra, words which respectively mean "man, good, great or very," the word good being, of course, used with the meaning attached to it by the native. Evidently the main objects of it are, firstly, to bring the young men under the control of the old men, whose commands they have to obey implicitly; secondly, to teach them habits of self-restraint and hardihood; and thirdly, to show to the younger men who have arrived at mature age, the sacred secrets of the tribe which are concerned with the Churinga and the totems with which they are associated.

The Engwura may be performed in various places, but, as it is a ceremony at which men and women gather together from all parts of the tribe, and sometimes also from other tribes, a central position is preferred if it be intended to carry it out on a large scale. It is, indeed, a time when the old men from all parts of the tribe come together and discuss matters. Councils of the elder men are held day by day, by which we do not mean that there is anything of a strictly formal nature, but that constantly groups of the elder men may be seen discussing matters of tribal interest; all the old traditions of the tribe are repeated and discussed, and it is by means of meetings such as this, that a knowledge of the unwritten history of the tribe and of its leading members is passed on from generation to generation. Not only this, but while the main effect is undoubtedly to preserve custom, yet on the other hand, changes introduced in one part of the tribe (and, despite the great conservatism of the native such changes do take place) can by means of these gatherings, become generally adopted in much less time than would be the case if they had to slowly filter through, as it were, from one locality to another.

Some idea of the importance of the ceremony may be gathered from the fact that the one which we witnessed commenced in the middle of September, and continued till the middle of the succeeding January, during which time there was a constant succession of ceremonies, not a day passing without one, while there were sometimes as many as five or six within the twenty-four hours. They were held at various hours, always one or more during the daylight, and not infrequently one or two during the night, a favourite time being just before sunrise. . . . .

For the purpose of making things clear we may briefly refer again to the constitution of the tribe. The whole area over which it extends is divided up into a large number of localities, each of which is owned and inhabited by a local group of individuals, and each such locality is identified with some particular totem which gives its name to the members of the local group. The term used by the native, which is here translated by the word totem, is Oknanikilla. If you ask a man what is his Oknanikilla he will reply Erlia (emu), Unchichera (frog), Achilpa (wild-cat), &c., as the case may be.

Special men of the Alcheringa are associated with special localities in which they become changed into spirit individuals, each associated with a Churinga, and with each locality are associated also certain ceremonies which in the Alcheringa were performed by these individuals, and have been handed down from that time to the present. Each local group has also, as already described, its own Ertnatulunga, or sacred storehouse, in which the Churinga are kept. The men assembled at the Engwura represented various local totem groups, and they—that is, the older men of each group—had brought with them numbers of the Churinga from the storehouses.

Each totem has its own ceremonies, and each of the latter may be regarded as the property of some special individual who has received it by right of inheritance from its previous owner, such as a father or elder brother, or he may have, in the case of the men who are supposed to possess the faculty of seeing and holding intercourse with the Iruntarinia or spirits, received it as a gift directly from the latter, who have at some time, so he tells his fellows, performed it for his benefit and then presented it to him. This means either that he has had a dream during which he has seen a ceremony acted, which is quite as real a thing to him as actually seeing it when awake, or that being of a more original and ingenious turn of mind than his fellows—as the men skilled in magic certainly are—he has invented it for himself and has then told the others, who implicitly believe in his supernatural powers, that the spirits have presented it to him.1

Each ceremony, further, is not only connected with some totem, but with a particular local group of the totem, and its name indicates the fact. Thus we have the Quabara Unjiamba of Ooraminna, which is a performance connected with the Unjiamba or Hakea flower totem of a place called Ooraminna, the Quabara Ulpmerka of Quiurnpa, which is a ceremony concerned with certain Ulpmerka, or uncircumcised men of the plum tree totem of a place called Quiurnpa, and so on.

Naturally the ceremonies performed at any Engwura depend upon the men who are present—that is, if at one Engwura special totems are better represented than others, then the ceremonies connected with them will preponderate. There does not appear to be anything like a special series which must of necessity be performed, and the whole programme is arranged, so to speak, by the leading man, whose decision is final, but who frequently consults with certain of the other older men. He invites the owners of different ceremonies to perform them, but without his sanction and initiation nothing is done. Very often the performance is limited to one or perhaps two men, but in others a larger number may take part, the largest number which we saw being eleven. The man to whom the performance belongs may either take part in it himself, or, not infrequently, he may invite some one else to perform it, this being looked upon as a distinct compliment. The performer, or performers, need not of necessity belong to the totem with which the ceremony is concerned, nor need they of necessity belong to the same moiety of the tribe to which the owner does. In some cases while preparations are being made for the ceremony only the members of one moiety will be present, but very often there is no such restriction as this. In many instances those who are present during the preparation are the men who belong to the district with which the ceremony is associated. Frequently we noticed, for example, that the men from a southern locality would be associated in preparing for a ceremony connected with a southern locality, and, in the same way, men from the north would be present during the preparations for a ceremony concerned with a northern locality.

Not infrequently two performances would be prepared simultaneously, and when this was so one of them would be a ceremony concerned with Panunga and Bulthara men and the other with Purula and Kumara men. Under these circumstances one group would consist of the one moiety and the other of the other moiety, and they would be separated by some little distance and so placed in the bed of the creek that they could not see one another.

Speaking generally, it may be said that every man who was a member of the special totem with which any given ceremony was concerned would have the right of being present during the preparation, but no one else would come near except by special invitation of the individual to whom it belonged, and he could invite any one belonging to any class or totem to be present or to take part in the performance. The mixture of men of all groups is to be associated with the fact that the Engwura is an occasion on which members of all divisions of the tribe and of all totems are gathered together, and one of the main objects of which is the handing on to the younger men of the knowledge carefully treasured up by the older men of the past history of the tribe so far as it is concerned with the totems and the Churinga.

On this occasion everything was under the immediate control of one special old man, who was a perfect repository of tribal lore. Without apparently any trouble or the slightest hitch he governed the whole camp, comprising more than a hundred full-grown natives, who were taking part in the ceremony. Whilst the final decision on all points lay in his hands, there was what we used to call the "cabinet," consisting of this old man and three of the elders, who often met together to discuss matters. Frequently the leader would get up from the men amongst whom he was sitting, and apparently without a word being spoken or any sign made, the other three would rise and follow him one after the other, walking away to a secluded spot in the bed of the creek. Here they would gravely discuss matters concerned with the ceremonies to be performed, and then the leader would give his orders and everything would work with perfect regularity and smoothness. The effect on the younger men was naturally to heighten their respect for the old men and to bring them under the control of the latter. With the advent of the white man on the scene and the consequent breaking down of old customs, such a beneficial control exercised by the elder over the younger men rapidly becomes lost, and the native as rapidly degenerates. On the one hand the younger men do not take the interest in the tribal customs which their fathers did before them, and on the other the old men will not reveal tribal secrets to the young men unless they show themselves worthy of receiving such knowledge.

After these few general remarks we may pass on to describe more in detail certain of the ceremonies which will serve to illustrate the long series.

The first phase of the proceedings was opened by the Alice Springs natives performing the Atnimokita corrobboree, which occupied ten evenings. As a mark of respect and courtesy it was decided by the Alatunja of the group, after, as usual, consultation with the older men, that this corrobboree should be handed over in a short time to the man who took the leading part in the Engwura and who belonged to a more southern group. When once this handing over has taken place, it will never again be performed at Alice Springs. As soon as the Atnimokita performance was concluded, another called the Illyonpa was commenced, and this also occupied ten nights. Two days after it had begun the old leader of the Engwura went down to the ground which had been chosen—the corrobborees mentioned taking place at a separate spot visited by men and women alike—and digging up the loose, sandy soil he made a low mound called the Parra, measuring about thirty feet in length, two feet in width and one foot in height. It was ornamented with a row of small gum tree boughs, which were fixed one after the other along the length of the mound, and is said to represent a tract of country, but, despite long inquiry, we have not been able to find out what is the exact meaning of the word Parra. All that the men could tell us was that it had always been made so during the Engwura—their fathers had made it and therefore they did—and that it was always made to run north and south, because in the Alcheringa the wild cat people marched in that direction. On the level flat to the western side of this Parra the sacred ceremonies forthwith began to be performed.

When the Illyonpa corrobboree had come to an end, no more ordinary dancing festivals were held until the close of the whole proceedings some three months later. From this time onwards, and until the last act of the Engwura is performed the younger men who are passing through the ceremony must separate themselves completely from the women, and are entirely under the control of the older men. They must obey the latter implicitly. Their days are spent either in hunting, so as to secure food, the greater part of which is supposed to be brought in to the older men who remain in camp, or in watching the ceremonies, or in taking part in them under the guidance of the old men, and their nights are spent on, or close to, the Engwura ground.

With the opening of the second phase, the performance of the sacred ceremonies concerned with the totems began in earnest, and as descriptive of this, we may relate what took place during the last eight days of the five weeks which it occupied.

About ten o’clock on the morning of the first day it was decided to perform a ceremony called the Quabara Unjiamba of Ooraminna. This is concerned with certain women of the Unjiamba or Hakea totem, who in the Alcheringa came down from the north and marched southwards as far as a spot called Ooraminna, about twenty-five miles to the south of Alice Springs. The head men of the local group is the owner of this ceremony, and together with six Purula men and one Panunga man, he repaired to the bed of the small creek, where they all sat down under the shade of a small gum tree. The other men remained in various places round about the Engwura ground, but no one came near to the place where the preparations were being made.

On occasions such as this every man carries about with him a small wallet, which contains the few odds and ends needed for decoration in the performance of the various ceremonies. The wallet consists of a piece of the skin of some animal, such as one of the smaller marsupials, with the fur left on, or else some fiat strips of a flexible bark tied round with fur string are used. In one of these wallets will be found a tuft or two of eagle-hawk and emu feathers, bunches of the tail feathers of the black cockatoo, some porcupine-grass resin, pieces of red and yellow ochre and white pipe-clay, an odd flint or two, balls of human hair and opossum fur string, a tuft or two of the tail tips of the rabbit-kangaroo, and not least, a dried crop of the eagle-hawk filled with down.

The men squat on the ground, and their wallets are leisurely opened out. There is no such thing as haste amongst the Australian natives. On this occasion the owner of the Quabara had asked his younger brother to perform the principal part in the ceremony. He was a Purula man of the Hakea totem, and he had also invited another man who was a Panunga of the Achilpa or wild eat totem, to assist in the performance. The reason why the latter man was asked, though he belonged neither to the same moiety nor totem as those to which the owner of the ceremony did, was simply that his daughter had been assigned as wife to the owner’s son, and therefore it was desired to pay him some compliment. After some preliminary conversation, carried on in whispers, which had reference to the ceremony, the performers being instructed in their parts, and also in what the performance represented, a long spear was laid on the ground. One or two of the men went out and gathered a number of long grass stalks in which the spear was swathed, except about a foot at the lower end which was left uncovered. Then each man present took off his hair waist-girdle and these were wound round and round until spear and grass stalks were completely enclosed, and a long pole, about six inches in diameter and about eight feet in length, was formed. Then to the top of it Was fixed a bunch of eagle-hawk and emu feathers. When this had been done one of the men by means of a sharp bit of flint—a splinter of glass, if obtainable, is preferred—cut open a vein in his arm, which he had previously bound tightly round with hair string in the region of the biceps. The blood spurted out in a thin stream and was caught in the hollow of a shield, until about half a pint had been drawn, when the string was unwound from the arm and a finger held on the slight wound until the bleeding ceased. Then the down was opened out and some of it was mixed with red ochre which had been ground to powder on a flat stone. Four of the Purula men then began to decorate the pole with alternate rings of red and white down. Each of them took a short twig, bound a little fur string round one end, dipped the brush thus made into the blood, and then smeared this on over the place where the down was to be fixed on. The blood on congealing formed an excellent adhesive material. All the time that this was taking place, the men sang a monotonous chant, the words of which were merely a constant repetition of some such simple refrain as, "Paint it around with rings and rings," "the Nurtunja of the Alcheringa," "paint the Nurtunja with rings." Every now and again they burst out into loud singing, starting on a high note and gradually descending, the singing dying away as the notes got lower and lower, producing the effect of music dying away in the distance. Whilst some of the men were busy with the Nurtunja, the Panunga man taking no part in the work beyond joining in the singing, another Purula man was occupied in fixing lines of down across six Churinga, which had been brought out of the Purula and Kumara store for the purpose of being used in the ceremony. Each of them had a small hole bored at one end, and by means of a strand of human hair string passed through this it was attached to the pole from which, when erect, the six hung pendant. Of the Churinga the two uppermost ones were supposed to have actually belonged to the two Hakea women who in the Alcheringa walked down to Ooraminna. Of the remaining four, two belonged to women and one to a man of the same totem, and the remaining one was that of a man of the Achilpa totem.

The decorated pole which is made in this way is called a Nurtunja, and in one form or another it figures largely in the sacred ceremonies, especially in the case of those which are associated with northern localities. Its significance will be referred to subsequently.

As soon as the Nurtunja was ready, the bodies of the performers were decorated with designs drawn in ochre and bird’s down, and then, when all was ready, the Nurtunja was carried by the Purula man to the ceremonial ground, and there, by the side of the Parra, the two men knelt down, the hinder one of the two holding the Nurtunja upright with both hands behind his back. It is curious to watch the way in which every man who is engaged in performing one of these ceremonies walks; the moment he is painted up he adopts a kind of stage walk with a remarkable high knee action, the foot being always lifted at least twelve inches above the ground, and the knee bent so as to approach, and, indeed, often to touch the stomach, as the body is bent forward at each step.

The Purula man who had been assisting in the decoration now called out to the other men who had not been present to come up. This calling out always takes the form of shouting "pau-au-au" at the top of the voice, while the hand with the palm turned to the face, and the fingers loosely opened out is rapidly moved backwards and forwards on the wrist just in front of the mouth, giving a very peculiar vibratory effect to the voice. At this summons all the men on the ground came up at a run, shouting as they approached, "wh’a! wha! wh’r-rr!" After dancing in front of the two performers for perhaps half a minute, the latter got up and moved with very high knee action, the Nurtunja being slowly bent down over the heads of the men who were in front. Then the dancers circled round the performers, shouting loudly "wha! wha!" while the latter moved around with them. This running round the performers is called Wahkutnima. Then once more the performers resumed their position in front of the other men, over whose heads the Nurtunja was again bent down, and then two or three of the men laid their hands on the shoulders of the performers, and the ceremony came to an end. The Nurtunja was laid on one side, and the performers, taking each a little bit of down from it, pressed this in turn against the stomach of each of the older men who were present. The idea of placing hands upon the performers is that thereby their movements are stopped, whilst the meaning of the down being pressed against the stomachs of the older, men is that they became so agitated with emotion by witnessing the sacred ceremony that their inward parts, that is, their bowels, which are regarded the seat of the emotions, get tied up in knots, which are loosened by this application of a part of the sacred Nurtunja. In some ceremonies the Nurtunja itself is pressed against the stomachs of the older men, the process receiving the special name of tunpulilima.

The whole performance only lasted about five minutes, while the preparation for it had occupied more than three hours. . . . .

. . . . The fourth phase was a very well-marked one, as with it were ushered in the series of fire ordeals which are especially associated with the Engwura. The young men had already had by no means an easy time of it, but during the next fortnight they were supposed to be under still stricter discipline, and to have to submit themselves to considerable discomfort in order to prove themselves worthy of graduating as Urliara. . . . .

Avoiding on this, the first morning of the new departure in the ceremonies, the women’s camp, which lay out of sight of the Engwura ground on the other side of the river, the Illpongwurra were taken out through a defile amongst the ranges on the west side of the camp. As the day wore on it became evident that there was unusual excitement and stir in the women’s camp. One of the older ones had been informed that the Illpongwurra would return in the evening, and that they must be ready to receive them. She had been through this part of the ceremony before, and knew what had to be done, but the great majority of the women required instructing. About five o’clock in the evening all the women and children gathered together on the flat stretch of ground on the east side of the river. The Panunga and Bulthara separated themselves from the Purula and Kumara. Each party collected grass and sticks with which to make a fire, the two being separated by a distance of about one hundred yards. A man was posted on the top of a hill overlooking the Engwura ground on the west, and just before sunset he gave the signal that the Illpongwurra were approaching. They stopped for a short time before coming into camp, at a spot at which they deposited the game secured, and where also they decorated themselves with fresh twigs and leaves of the Eremophila bush. These were placed under the head-bands, so that they drooped down over the forehead, under the arm-bands, and through the nasal septum. Then, forming a dense square, they came out from the defile amongst the ranges. Several of the Urliara who were carrying Churinga met them, some going to either side, and some going to the rear of the square. Then commenced the swinging of the bull-roarers. The women on the tip-toe of excitement lighted their fires, close to which were supplies of long grass stalks and dry boughs. The Illpongwurra were driven forwards into the bed of the river, pausing every now and then as if reluctant to come any further on. Climbing up the eastern bank, they halted about twenty yards from the first group of women, holding their shields and boughs of Eremophila over their heads, swaying to and fro and shouting loudly "whrr! whrr!" The Panunga and Bulthara women to whom they came first stood in a body behind their fire, each woman, with her arms bent at the elbow and the open hand with the palm uppermost, moved up and down on the wrist as if inviting the men to come on, while she called out "kutta, kutta, kutta," keeping all the while one leg stiff, while she bent the other and gently swayed her body. This is a very characteristic attitude and movement of the women during the performance of certain ceremonies in which they take a part. After a final pause the Illpongwurra came close up to the women, the foremost amongst whom then seized the dry grass and boughs, and setting fire to them, threw them on to the heads of the men, who had to shield themselves, as best they could, with their boughs. The men with the bull-roarers were meanwhile running round the Illpongwurra and the women, whirling them as rapidly as possible; and after this had gone on for a short time, the Illpongwurra suddenly turned and went to the second group of women, followed, as they did so, by those of the first, and here the same performance was again gone through. Suddenly once more the men wheeled round and, followed by both parties of women who were now throwing fire more vigorously than ever, they ran in a body towards the river. On the edge of the bank the women stopped, turned round and ran back, shouting as they did so, to their camp. The Illpongwurra crossed the river bed and then ran on to the Engwura ground where, sitting beside the Parra, was a man decorated for the performance of an Unjiamba ceremony. Still holding their shields, boomerangs, and boughs of Eremophila, they ran round and round him shouting "wha! wha!" Then came a moment’s pause, after which all the men commenced to run round the Parra itself, halting in a body, when they came to the north end to shout "wha! wha! whrr!" more loudly than before. When this had been done several times they stopped, and then each man laid down his shield and boomerangs and placed his boughs of Eremophila so that they all formed a line on the east side of and parallel to the Parra, at a distance of two yards from this. When this was done the Illpongwurra came and first of all sat down in a row, so that they just touched the opposite side of the Parra to that on which the boughs were placed. In less than a minute’s time they all lay down, in perfect silence, upon their backs, quite close to one another, with each man’s head resting on the Parra. All save one or two old men moved away, and these few stayed to watch the Illpongwurra. For some time not a sound was to be heard. None of them might speak or move without the consent of the old men in whose charge they were. By means of gesture language one or two of them asked for permission to go to the river and drink at a small soakage which had been made in the sand. In a short time they returned, and then it was after dark before they were allowed to rise. . . . .

. . . . In the early part of the afternoon of this day the Illpongwurra had to submit themselves for the second time to an ordeal by fire. A secluded spot amongst the ranges some two miles away from Alice Springs was selected, and here, while the young men rested by the side of a water-hole in the bed of the Todd, the Urliara, who were in charge of them, went to the chosen spot and made a large fire of logs and branches about three yards in diameter. Then the young men, of whom forty were present, were called up, and putting green bushes on the fire they were made to lie down full length upon the smoking boughs, which prevented them from coming into contact with the red-hot embers beneath. The heat and smoke were stifling, but none of them were allowed to get up until they received the permission of the Urliara. After they had all been on once, each one remaining for about four or five minutes on the fire, the old men came to the conclusion that they must repeat the process, and so making up the fire again, they were once more put on in the midst of dense clouds of smoke, one of the older men lifting up the green boughs at one side with a long pole so as to allow of the access of air and ensure the smouldering of the leaves and green wood. There was no doubt as to the trying nature of the ordeal, as, apart from the smoke, the heat was so great that, after kneeling down on it to see what it was like, we got up as quickly as possible, and of course the natives had no protection in the way of clothes.

When this was over, the Illpongwurra rested for an hour by the side of the waterhole, for the day was a hot one, the thermometer registering 110.5° F. in the shade, and 156° F. in the sun, while the ceremony was in progress. . . . .—n/a SPENCER AND n/a GILLEN, Native Tribes of Central Australia, 212–30; 271–86; 347–51; 372–73 (Macmillan, 1901).

1 Attention may be drawn to the fact that in the Arunta tribe the men who are supposed to be able to hold intercourse with the spirits and to receive these ceremonies from them are quite distinct from those usually called "medicine-men," and that both the former and the latter are characteristically the reverse of nervous or excitable in temperament.


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Chicago: "[Education of the Australian Boy Through Initiation Ceremonies]," Native Tribes of South-East Australia in Source Book for Social Origins: Ethnological Materials, Psychological Standpoint, Classified and Annotated Bibliographies for the Interpretation of Savage Society, ed. Thomas, William I. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1909), 214–227. Original Sources, accessed September 29, 2023,

MLA: . "[Education of the Australian Boy Through Initiation Ceremonies]." Native Tribes of South-East Australia, in Source Book for Social Origins: Ethnological Materials, Psychological Standpoint, Classified and Annotated Bibliographies for the Interpretation of Savage Society, edited by Thomas, William I., Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1909, pp. 214–227. Original Sources. 29 Sep. 2023.

Harvard: , '[Education of the Australian Boy Through Initiation Ceremonies]' in Native Tribes of South-East Australia. cited in 1909, Source Book for Social Origins: Ethnological Materials, Psychological Standpoint, Classified and Annotated Bibliographies for the Interpretation of Savage Society, ed. , University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp.214–227. Original Sources, retrieved 29 September 2023, from