The Native Tribes of Central Australia

Spencer Baldwin and F. J. Gillen


Table of Contents

[NOTE: Illustrations have been omitted from this edition.]




IN the following pages we have endeavoured to set forth an account of the customs and social organisation of certain of the tribes inhabiting Central Australia.

It has been the lot of one of us to spend the greater part of the past twenty years in the centre of the continent, and as sub-protector of the Aborigines he has had exceptional opportunities of coming into contact with, and of gaining the confidence of, the members of the large and important Arunta tribe, amongst whom he has lived, and of which tribe both of us, it may be added, are regarded as fully initiated members.

In the month of July, 1894, we met at Alice Springs, when the scientific expedition organised by Mr. W. A. Horn, of Adelaide, visited that part of the continent, and it was then that one of us gave to Dr. E. C. Stirling, the anthropologist of the expedition, notes which have since been published in the anthropological section of the report on the work of the expedition. This report included the results of the information gained up to that time with regard to the Central tribes, and in respect to certain points, we have, to some extent, had to traverse the same ground in order to make our account as complete as possible; but it was very evident that in regard to the customs and organisation of the tribe we were then only on the threshold of the inquiry, and at a subsequent time we determined to carry on the work.

[] During the summer of 1896–7, the natives gathered together at Alice Springs to perform an important series of ceremonies, constituting what is called the Engwura, and this, which occupied more than three months, we witnessed together. The series of ceremonies then enacted enabled us not only to gain a knowledge of, and an insight into the meaning of certain of them, which until then had not been seen by Europeans, but also served to indicate lines of inquiry along which further investigation would prove to be of value.

In addition to the investigation of various customs, such as those connected with initiation and magic, we have paid special attention to the totemic system and to matters concerned with the social organisation of the tribes. In connection especially with the totemic system, we desire to emphasize the fact that, whilst there is some degree of uniformity in regard to customs amongst the series of tribes inhabiting the continent, there is also, as might be expected, very considerable diversity. The physical conditions of the continent are such that groups of tribes inhabiting various regions have been, to a large extent, isolated from one another for a long period of time and have undoubtedly developed along different lines. The result is that, in respect to the totemic system, for example, groups of tribes differ from one another to a large extent, and the customs of no one tribe or group can be taken as typical of Australia generally in, at most, anything but broad outline.

The question of the social organisation of the Australian tribes and the significance of the “terms of relationship” have given rise to a considerable amount of difference of opinion, and into these we have inquired as carefully as possible. The result of our work is undoubtedly to corroborate that of Messrs. Howitt and Fison in regard to these matters.

[p.vii] We have endeavoured to set forth the results of our investigations so that the reader may see, on the one hand, the actual facts, and on the other, the conclusions at which, in certain cases, we have arrived after a consideration of these.

As it has been our main object to write simply an account of the Central tribes, we have not referred to the work of other authors, except so far as it was directly concerned with the tribes investigated. The work by Mr. W. E. Roth on the Aborigines of North-West Central Queensland reached us when our manuscript was written, and we have added references to it chiefly in the form of footnotes. Mr. Roth's work bears more closely upon certain parts of ours than that of any other author does, and is in some respects, especially in connection with the system of organisation, the most detailed account yet published of any Australian tribe, and we gladly take this opportunity, as fellow-workers in the same field, of expressing our high appreciation of his work.

The time in which it will be possible to investigate the Australian native tribes is rapidly drawing to a close, and though we know more of them than we do of the lost Tasmanians, yet our knowledge is very incomplete, and unless some special effort be made, many tribes will practically die out without our gaining any knowledge of the details of their organisation, or of their sacred customs and beliefs.

We have, in conclusion, the pleasant duty of acknowledging the assistance received from various friends. To Mr. C. E. Cowle and Mr. P. M. Byrne, both of whom, from long residence amongst them, are well acquainted with the natives, we are indebted in various ways for the most cordial assistance, and to Mr. Cowle one of us owes the opportunity of traversing certain parts of the interior which would otherwise have been inaccessible to him.

To Mr. C. Winnecke we are especially indebted. There is no one who has a fuller knowledge of the topography of [p.viii] Central Australia, and this knowledge he most generously and freely placed at our disposal, drawing up for us the two maps on which are indicated the localities of the principal spots associated with the traditions of the Arunta natives. It will be understood that these maps are not intended to indicate our present knowledge of the geographical features of Central Australia, all except the more important ones being purposely omitted.

We have to thank Mr. W. A. Horn and Dr. E. C. Stirling for permission to utilize certain drawings illustrative of native rock paintings which were originally made to illustrate Dr. Stirling's anthropological report dealing with the Arunta tribe.

Finally, we have to express our deep sense of the obligation under which we lie to Dr. E. B. Tylor and Mr. J. G. Frazer. It need hardly be pointed out how much we are indebted to their work as indicating to us lines of inquiry, but in addition to this we have received from them the most cordial personal encouragement and help. They have most kindly read through the proofs—indeed to Mr. Frazer we are deeply indebted for the final revision of these, and in offering them our warmest thanks, we venture to express the hope that the work may prove to be worthy of the interest which they have taken in it.

MELBOURNE, March, 1898.


Chapter I Introduction

Nature of the country occupied by the natives—Distribution of the natives in local groups—Names given to the local groups—Local Totemic groups—The Alatunja or head man of each group and his powers—The position of Alatunja a hereditary one—Strong influence of custom—Possibility of introduction of changes in regard to custom—Councils of old men—Medicine men—Life in camp—Hunting customs—Food and method of cooking—Tracking powers—Counting and reckoning of time—General account of the more common weapons and implements—Clothing—Fighting—Local Totemic groups—Variation in customs amongst different Australian tribes—Personal appearance of the natives—Cicatrices—Measurements of the body—Moral character—Infanticide—Twins—Dread of evil magic.

THE native tribes with which we are dealing occupy an area in the centre of the Australian continent which, roughly speaking, is not less than 700 miles in length from north to south, and stretches out east and west of the transcontinental telegraph line, covering an unknown extent of country in either direction. The nature of the country varies much in different parts of this large area; at Lake Eyre, in the south, it is actually below sea-level. As we travel northwards for between 300 and 400 miles, the land gradually rises until it reaches an elevation of 2,000 feet; and to this southern part of the country the name of the Lower Steppes may appropriately be given. Northwards from this lies an elevated plateau forming the Higher Steppes, the southern limit of which is roughly outlined by the James and Macdonnell [p.2] ranges, which run across from east to west for a distance of 400 miles.

The rivers which rise in the Higher Steppes find their way to the south, passing through deep gaps in the mountain ranges and then meandering slowly across the Lower Steppes until they dwindle away and are lost amongst the southern sandy flats, or perhaps reach the great depressed area centreing in the salt bed of Lake Eyre.

Away to the south and west of this steppe land lies a vast area of true desert region, crossed by no river courses, but with mile after mile of monotonous sand-hills covered with porcupine grass, or with long stretches of country where thick belts of almost impenetrable mulga scrub stretch across.

We may first of all briefly outline, as follows, the nature of the country occupied by the tribes with which we are dealing. At the present day the transcontinental railway line, after running along close by the southern edge of Lake Eyre, lands the traveller at a small township called Oodnadatta, which is the present northern terminus of the line, and lies about 680 miles to the north of Adelaide. Beyond this transit is by horse or camel; and right across the centre of the continent runs a track following closely the course of the single wire which serves to maintain, as yet, the only telegraphic communication between Australia and Europe. From Oodnadatta to Charlotte Waters stretches a long succession of gibber1 plains, where, mile after mile, the ground is covered with brown and purple stones, often set close together as if they formed a tesselated pavement stretching away to the horizon. They are formed by the disintegration of a thin stratum of rock, called the Desert Sandstone, which forms the horizontal capping of low terraced hills, from which every here and there a dry watercourse, fringed with a thin belt of mulga-trees, comes down on to the plain across which it meanders for a few miles and then dies away.

The only streams of any importance in this part of the country are the Alberga, Stevenson, and Hamilton, which run [p.3] across from the west and unite to form the Macumba River, which in times of flood empties itself into Lake Eyre. It is only very rarely that the rainfall is sufficient to fill the beds of these three streams; as a general rule a local flood occurs in one or other of them, but on rare occasions a widely distributed rainfall may fill the creeks and also the Finke river, which flows south from the Macdonnell range, which lies away to the north. When such a flood does occur—and this only takes place at long and irregular intervals of time—then the ordinary river beds are not deep enough to hold the body of water descending from the various ranges in which the tributary streams take their rise. Under these conditions the flood waters spread far and wide over the low-lying lands around the river courses. Down the river beds the water sweeps along, bearing with it uprooted trees and great masses of débris, and carving out for itself new channels. Against opposing obstacles the flood wrack is piled up in heaps—in fact, for months afterwards débris amongst the branches of trees growing in and about the watercourses indicates the height reached by the flood. What has been for often many months dry and parched-up land is suddenly transformed into a vast sheet of water. It is only however a matter of a very short time; the rainfall ceases and rapidly the water sinks. For a few days the creeks will run, but soon the surface flow ceases and only the scattered deeper holes retain the water. The sun once more shines hotly, and in the damp ground seeds which have lain dormant for months germinate, and, as if by magic, the once arid land becomes covered with luxuriant herbage. Birds, frogs, lizards and insects of all kinds can be seen and heard where before everything was parched and silent. Plants and animals alike make the most of the brief time in which they can grow and reproduce, and with them it is simply a case of a keen struggle, not so much against living enemies, as against their physical environment. If a plant can, for example, before all the surface moisture is exhausted, grow to such a size that its roots can penetrate to a considerable distance below the surface to where the sandy soil remains cool, then it has a chance of surviving; if not, it must perish. In just the same way amongst animals, those which can grow [p.5]rapidly, and so can, as in the case of the frogs, reach a stage at which they are able to burrow while the banks of the waterhole in which they live are damp, will survive.

It is difficult to realise without having seen it the contrast between the Steppe lands of Australia in dry and rainy seasons. In the former the scene is one of desolation; the sun shines down hotly on stony plains or yellow sandy ground, on which grow wiry shrubs and small tussocks of grass, not closely set together, as in moister country, but separated from one another, so that in any patch of ground the number of individual plants can be counted. The sharp, thin shadows of the wiry scrub fall on the yellow ground, which shows no sign of animal life except for the little ant-hills, thousands of whose occupants are engaged in rushing about in apparently hopeless confusion, or piling leaves or seeds in regular order around the entrance to their burrows. A “desert oak”2 or an acacia-tree may now and then afford a scanty shade, but for weeks together no clouds hide the brightness of the sun by day or of the stars by night.

Amongst the ranges which rise from the Higher Steppes the scenery is of a very different nature. Here, wild and rugged quartzite ranges, from which at intervals rise great rounded bluffs or sharply outlined peaks, reaching in some instances a height of 5,000 feet, run roughly parallel to one another, east and west, for between 300 and 400 miles. These ridges are separated from one another by valleys, varying in width from 200 or 300 yards to twenty miles, where the soil is hard and yellow and the scrub which thinly covers it is just like that of the Lower Steppes. The river courses run approximately north and south, and, as the watershed lies to the north of the main ranges, they have to cut at right angles across the latter. This they do in gorges, which are often deep and narrow. Some of them, except at flood times, are dry and afford the only means of traversing the ranges; others are constantly filled with water which, sheltered from the heat of the sun, remains in the dark waterholes when [P.6] elsewhere the watercourses are quite dry. The scenery amongst the ranges is by no means devoid of beauty. The rugged red rocks, with here and there patches of pines or cycads, or stray gum-trees with pure white trunks, stand out sharply against the clear sky. In the gorges the rocks rise abruptly from the sides of the waterpools, leaving often only a thin strip of blue sky visible overhead. In some cases the gorge will run for half a mile across the range like a zigzag cleft not more than ten or twelve feet wide.

In addition to the Steppe lands there lies away to the south and west the true desert country where there are no watercourses other than the very insignificant ones which run for at most a mile or two across the sandy flats which surround the base of isolated hills such as Mount Olga or Ayers Rock. In this region the only water is to be found in rock holes on the bare hills which every now and then rise out above the sand-hills and the mulga-covered flats. Nothing could be more dreary than this country; there is simply a long succession of sand-hills covered with tussocks of porcupine grass, the leaves of which resemble knitting-needles radiating from a huge pin-cushion, or, where the sand-hills die down, there is a flat stretch of hard plain country, with sometimes belts of desert oaks, or, more often, dreary mulga scrub. In this desert country there is not much game; small rats and lizards can be found, and these the native catches by setting fire to the porcupine grass and so driving them from one tussock to another; but he must often find it no easy matter to secure food enough to live upon. In times of drought, which very frequently occur, the life of these sand-hill blacks must be a hard one. Every now and then there are found, right in the heart of the sand-hills, small patches of limestone, in each of which is a deep pit-like excavation, at the bottom of which there may or may not be a little pool of water, though such “native wells,” as they are called, are of rare occurrence and are the remnants of old mound springs. More likely than not, the little water which one does contain is foul with the decaying carcase of a dingo which has ventured down for a drink and has been too weak to clamber out again. The most characteristic feature of the desert country, next to the sand-hills, are the remains of [P.7] what have once been lakes, but are now simply level plains of glistening white salt, hemmed in with low hills covered with dreary scrub. Around these there is no sign of life, and the most perfect silence reigns.

Such is the general nature of the great area of Steppe and desert land inhabited by the Central Australian natives. In times of long-continued drought, when food and water3 are both scarce, he has to suffer privation; but under ordinary circumstances, except in the desert country, where it can never be very pleasant, his life is by no means a miserable or a very hard one. Kangaroo, rock-wallabies, emus, and other forms of game are not scarce, and often fall a prey to his spear and boomerang, while smaller animals, such as rats and lizards, are constantly caught without any difficulty by the women, who also secure large quantities of grass seeds and tubers, and, when they are in season, fruits, such as that of the quandong or native plum.

Each of the various tribes speaks a distinct dialect, and regards itself as the possessor of the country in which it lives. In the more southern parts, where they have been long in contact with the white man, not only have their numbers diminished rapidly, but the natives who still remain are but poor representatives of their race, having lost all or nearly all of their old customs and traditions. With the spread of the white man it can only be a matter of comparatively a few years before the same fate will befall the remaining tribes, which are as yet fortunately too far removed from white settlements of any size to have become degraded. However kindly disposed the white settler may be, his advent at once and of necessity introduces a disturbing element into the environment of the native, and from that moment degeneration sets in, no matter how friendly may be the relations between the Aborigine and the new-comers. The chance of securing cast-off clothing, food, tobacco, and perhaps also knives and tomahawks, in return for services [P.8] rendered to the settler, at once attracts the native into the vicinity of any settlement however small. The young men, under the new influence, become freed from the wholesome restraint of the older men, who are all-powerful in the normal condition of the tribe. The strict moral code, which is certainly enforced in their natural state, is set on one side, and nothing is adopted in place of it. The old men see with sorrow that the younger ones do not care for the time-honoured traditions of their fathers, and refuse to hand them on to successors who, according to their ideas, are not worthy to be trusted with them; vice, disease, and difficulty in securing the natural food, which is driven away by the settlers, rapidly diminish their numbers, and when the remnant of the tribe is gathered into some mission station, under conditions as far removed as they can well be from their natural ones, it is too late to learn anything of the customs which once governed tribal life.

Fortunately from this point of view the interior of the continent is not easily accessible, or rather its climate is too dry and the water supply too meagre and untrustworthy, to admit as yet of rapid settlement, and therefore the natives, in many parts, are practically still left to wander over the land which the white man does not venture to inhabit, and amongst them may still be found tribes holding firmly to the beliefs and customs of their ancestors.

If now we take the Arunta tribe as an example, we find that the natives are distributed in a large number of small local groups, each of which occupies, and is supposed to possess, a given area of country, the boundaries of which are well known to the natives. In speaking of themselves, the natives will refer to these local groups by the name of the locality which each of them inhabits. Thus, for example, the natives living at Idracowra, as the white men call it, will be called ertwa Iturkawura opmira, which means men of the Iturkawura camp; those living at Henbury on the Finke will be called ertwa Waingakama opmira, which means men of the Waingakama (Henbury) camp. Often also a number of separate groups occupying a larger district will be spoken of collectively by one name, as, for example, the groups living along the Finke River are often spoken of as Larapinta men, [P.9] from the native name of the river. In addition to this the natives speak of different divisions of the tribe according to the direction of the country which they occupy. Thus the east side is called Iknura ambianya, the west side Aldorla ambianya, the south-west Antikera ambianya, the north side Yirira ambianya, the south-east side Urlewa ambianya. Ertwa iknura ambianya is applied to men living on the east, and so on.

Still further examination of each local group reveals the fact that it is composed largely, but not entirely, of individuals who describe themselves by the name of some one animal or plant. Thus there will be one area which belongs to a group of men who call themselves kangaroo men, another belonging to emu men, another to Hakea flower men, and so on, almost every animal and plant which is found in the country having its representative amongst the human inhabitants. The area of country which is occupied by each of these, which will be spoken of as local Totemic groups, varies to a considerable extent, but is never very large, the most extensive one with which we are acquainted being that of the witchetty grub people of the Alice Springs district. This group at the present time is represented by exactly forty individuals (men, women, and children), and the area of which they are recognised as the proprietors extends over about 100 square miles. In contrast to this, one particular group of “plum-tree” people is only, at the present day, represented by one solitary individual, and he is the proprietor of only a few square miles.

With these local groups we shall subsequently deal in detail, all that need be added here in regard to them is that groups of the same designation are found in many parts of the district occupied by the tribe. For example, there are various local groups of kangaroo people, and each one of these groups has its head man or, as the natives themselves call him, its Alatunja.4 However small in numbers a local group may be it always has its Alatunja.

[P.10] Within the narrow limits of his own group the local head man or Alatunja takes the lead; outside of his group no head man has of necessity any special power. If he has any generally-recognised authority, as some of them undoubtedly have, this is due to the fact that he is either the head of a numerically important group or is himself famous for his skill in hunting or fighting, or for his knowledge of the ancient traditions and customs of the tribe. Old age does not by itself confer distinction, but only when combined with special ability. There is no such thing as a chief of the tribe, nor indeed is there any individual to whom the term chief can be applied.

The authority which is wielded by an Alatunja is of a somewhat vague nature. He has no definite power over the persons of the individuals who are members of his group. He it is who calls together the elder men, who always consult concerning any important business, such as the holding of sacred ceremonies or the punishment of individuals who have broken tribal custom, and his opinion carries an amount of weight which depends upon his reputation. He is not of necessity recognised as the most important member of the council whose judgment must be followed, though, if he be old and distinguished, then he will have great influence. Perhaps the best way of expressing the matter is to say that the Alatunja has, ex-officio, a position which, if he be a man of personal ability, but only in that case, enables him to wield considerable power not only over the members of his own group, but over those of neighbouring groups whose head men are inferior in personal ability to himself.

The Alatunja is not chosen for the position because of his ability; the post is one which, within certain limits, is hereditary, passing from father to son, always provided that the man is of the proper designation—that is, for example, in a kangaroo group the Alatunja must of necessity be a kangaroo man. To take the Alice Springs group as an example, the holder of the office must be a witchetty grub man, and he must also be old enough to be considered capable of taking the lead in certain ceremonies, and must of necessity be a fully initiated man. The present Alatunja inherited the post [P.11] from his father, who had previously inherited it from his father. The present holder has no son who is yet old enough to be an Alatunja, so that if he were to die within the course of the next two or three years his brother would hold the position, which would, however, on the death of this brother, revert to the present holder's son. It of course occasionally happens that the Alatunja has no son to succeed him, in which case he will before dying nominate the individual whom he desires to succeed him, who will always be either a brother or a brother's son. The Alatunjaship always descends in the male line, and we are not aware of anything which can be regarded as the precise equivalent of this position in other Australian tribes, a fact which is to be associated with the strong development of the local groups in this part of the continent.

The most important function of the Alatunja is to take charge of what we may call the sacred store-house, which has usually the form of a cleft in some rocky range, or a special hole in the ground, in which, concealed from view, are kept the sacred objects of the group. Near to this store-house, which is called an Ertnatulunga, no woman, child, or uninitiated man dares venture on pain of death.

At intervals of time, and when determined upon by the Alatunja, the members of the group perform a special ceremony, called Intichiuma, which will be described later on in detail, and the object of which is to increase the supply of the animal or plant bearing the name of the particular group which performs the ceremony. Each group has an Intichiuma of its own, which can only be taken part in by initiated men bearing the group name. In the performance of this ceremony the Alatunja takes the leading part; he it is who decides when it is to be performed, and during the celebration the proceedings are carried out under his direction, though he has, while conducting them, to follow out strictly the customs of his ancestors.

As amongst all savage tribes the Australian native is bound hand and foot by custom. What his fathers did before him that he must do. If during the performance of a ceremony his ancestors painted a white line across the forehead, that line he must paint. Any infringement of custom, within [P.12] certain limitations, is visited with sure and often severe punishment. At the same time, rigidly conservative as the native is, it is yet possible for changes to be introduced. We have already pointed out that there are certain men who are especially respected for their ability, and, after watching large numbers of the tribe, at a time when they were assembled together for months to perform certain of their most sacred ceremonies, we have come to the conclusion that at a time such as this, when the older and more powerful men from various groups are met together, and when day by day and night by night around their camp fires they discuss matters of tribal interest, it is quite possible for changes of custom to be introduced. At the present moment, for example, an important change in tribal organisation is gradually spreading through the tribe from north to south. Every now and then a man arises of superior ability to his fellows. When large numbers of the tribe are gathered together—at least it was so on the special occasion to which we allude—one or two of the older men are at once seen to wield a special influence over the others. Everything, as we have before said, does not depend upon age. At this gathering, for example, some of the oldest men were of no account; but, on the other hand, others not so old as they were, but more learned in ancient lore or more skilled in matters of magic, were looked up to by the others, and they it was who settled everything. It must, however, be understood that we have no definite proof to bring forward of the actual introduction by this means of any fundamental change of custom. The only thing that we can say is that, after carefully watching the natives during the performance of their ceremonies and endeavouring as best we could to enter into their feelings, to think as they did, and to become for the time being one of themselves, we came to the conclusion that if one or two of the most powerful men settled upon the advisability of introducing some change, even an important one, it would be quite possible for this to be agreed upon and carried out. That changes have been introduced, in fact, are still being introduced, is a matter of certainty; the difficulty to be explained is, how in face of the rigid conservatism of the native, which may be said to be one of his [P.13] [P.14] leading features, such changes can possibly even be mooted. The only possible chance is by means of the old men, and, in the case of the Arunta people, amongst whom the local feeling is very strong, they have opportunities of a special nature. Without belonging to the same group, men who inhabit localities close to one another are more closely associated than men living at a distance from one another, and, as a matter of fact, this local bond is strongly marked—indeed so marked was it during the performance of their sacred ceremonies that we constantly found it necessary to use the term “local relationship.” Groups which are contiguous locally are constantly meeting to perform ceremonies; and among the Alatunjas who thus come together and direct proceedings there is perfectly sure, every now and again, to be one who stands pre-eminent by reason of superior ability, and to him, especially on an occasion such as this, great respect is always paid. It would be by no means impossible for him to propose to the other older men the introduction of a change, which, after discussing it, the Alatunjas of the local groups gathered together might come to the conclusion was a good one, and, if they did so, then it would be adopted in that district. After a time a still larger meeting of the tribe, with head men from a still wider area—a meeting such as the Engwura, which is described in the following pages—might be held. At this the change locally introduced would, without fail, be discussed. The man who first started it would certainly have the support of his local friends, provided they had in the first instance agreed upon the advisability of its introduction, and not only this, but the chances are that he would have the support of the head men of other local groups of the same designation as his own. Everything would, in fact, depend upon the status of the original proposer of the change; but, granted the existence of a man with sufficient ability to think out the details of any change, then, owing partly to the strong development of the local feeling, and partly to the feeling of kinship between groups of the same designation, wherever their local habitation may be, it seems quite possible that the markedly conservative tendency of the natives in regard to customs handed down to them from their [P.15] ancestors may every now and then be overcome, and some change, even a radical one, be introduced. The traditions of the tribe indicate, it may be noticed, their recognition of the fact that customs have varied from time to time. They have, for example, traditions dealing with supposed ancestors, some of whom introduced, and others of whom changed, the method of initiation. Tradition also indicates ancestors belonging to particular local groups who changed an older into the present marriage system, and these traditions all deal with special powerful individuals by whom the changes were introduced. It has been stated by writers such as Mr. Curr “that the power which enforces custom in our tribes is for the most part an impersonal one.”5 Undoubtedly public opinion and the feeling that any violation of tribal custom will bring down upon the guilty person the ridicule and opprobrium of his fellows is a strong, indeed a very strong, influence; but at the same time there is in the tribes with which we are personally acquainted something beyond this. Should any man break through the strict marriage laws, it is not only an “impersonal power” which he has to deal with. The head men of the group or groups concerned consult together with the elder men, and, if the offender, after long consultation, be adjudged guilty and the determination be arrived at that he is to be put to death—a by no means purely hypothetical case—then the same elder men make arrangements to carry the sentence out, and a party, which is called an “ininja,” is organised for the purpose. The offending native is perfectly well aware that he will be dealt with by something much more real than an “impersonal power.”6

In addition to the Alatunja, there are two other classes of men who are regarded as of especial importance; these are the so-called “medicine men,” and in the second place the men who are supposed to have a special power of communicating with the Iruntarinia or spirits associated with the tribe. Needless to say there are grades of skill recognised [P.16] amongst the members of these two classes, in much the same way as we recognise differences of ability amongst members of the medical profession. In subsequent chapters we shall deal in detail with these three special types; meanwhile in this general résumé it is sufficient to note that they have a definite standing and are regarded as, in certain ways, superior to the other men of the tribe. It may, however, be pointed out that, while every group has its Alatunja, there is no necessity for each to have either a medicine or an Iruntarinia man, and that in regard to the position of the latter there is no such thing as hereditary succession.

Turning again to the group, we find that the members of this wander, perhaps in small parties of one or two families, often, for example, two or more brothers with their wives and children, over the land which they own, camping at favourite spots where the presence of waterholes, with their accompaniment of vegetable and animal food, enables them to supply their wants.7

In their ordinary condition the natives are almost completely naked, which is all the more strange as kangaroo and wallaby are not by any means scarce, and one would think that their fur would be of no little use and comfort in the winter time, when, under the perfectly clear sky, which often remains cloudless for weeks together, the radiation is so great that at [P.17] night-time the temperature falls several degrees below freezing point. The idea of making any kind of clothing as a protection against cold does not appear to have entered the native mind, though he is keen enough upon securing the Government blanket when he can get one, or, in fact, any stray cast-off clothing of the white man. The latter is however worn as much from motives of vanity as from a desire for warmth; a lubra with nothing on except an ancient straw hat and an old pair of boots is perfectly happy. The very kindness of the white man who supplies him, in outlying parts, with stray bits of clothing is by no means conducive to the longevity of the native. If you give a black fellow, say a woollen shirt, he will perhaps wear it for a day or two, after that his wife will be adorned with it, and then, in return for perhaps a little food, it will be passed on to a friend. The natural result is that, no sooner do the natives come into contact with white men, than phthisis and other diseases soon make their appearance, and, after a comparatively short time, [P.18] all that can be done is to gather the few remnants of the tribe into some mission station where the path to final extinction may be made as pleasant as possible.

If, now, the reader can imagine himself transported to the side of some waterhole in the centre of Australia, he would probably find amongst the scrub and gum-trees surrounding it a small camp of natives. Each family, consisting of a man and one or more wives and children, accompanied always by dogs,8 occupies a mia-mia, which is merely a lean-to of shrubs so placed as to shield the occupants from the prevailing wind, which, if it be during the winter months, is sure to be from the south-east. In front of this, or inside if the weather be cold, will be a small fire of twigs, for the black fellow never makes a large fire as the white man does. In this respect he certainly regards the latter as a strange being, who makes a big fire and then finds it so hot that he cannot go anywhere near to it. The black fellow's idea is to make a small fire such that he can lie coiled round it and, during the night, supply it [P.19] with small twigs so that he can keep it alight without making it so hot that he must go further away.

Early in the morning, if it be summer, and not until the sun be well up if it be winter, the occupants of the camp are astir. Time is no object to them, and, if there be no lack of food, the men and women all lounge about while the children laugh and play. If food be required, then the women will go out accompanied by the children and armed with digging sticks and pitchis,9 and the day will be spent out in the bush in search of small burrowing animals such as lizards and small marsupials. The men will perhaps set off armed with spears, spear-throwers, boomerangs and shields in search of larger game such as emus and kangaroos. The latter are secured by stalking, when the native gradually approaches his prey with perfectly noiseless footsteps. Keeping a sharp watch on the animal, he remains absolutely still, if it should turn its head, until once more it resumes its feeding. Gradually, availing himself of the shelter of any bush or large tussock of grass, he approaches near enough to throw [P.20] his spear. The end is fixed into the point of the spear-thrower, and, aided by the leverage thus gained, he throws it forward with all his strength. Different men vary much in their skill in spear-throwing, but it takes an exceptionally good man to kill or disable at more than twenty yards. Sometimes two or three men will hunt in company, and then, while one remains in ambush, the others combine to drive the animals as close as possible to him. Euros10 are more easily caught than kangaroos, owing to the fact that they inhabit hilly and scrub country, across which they make “pads,” by the side of which men will lie in ambush while parties of women go out and drive the animals towards them. On the ranges the rock-wallabies have definite runs, and close by one of these a native will sit patiently, waiting hour by hour, until some unfortunate beast comes by.

In some parts the leaves of the pituri plant (Duboisia Hop-woodii) are used to stupefy the emu. The plan adopted is to make a decoction in some small waterhole at which the animal is accustomed to drink. There, hidden by some bush, the native lies quietly in wait. After drinking the water the bird becomes stupefied, and easily falls a prey to the black fellow's spear. Sometimes a bush shelter is made, so as to look as natural as possible, close by a waterhole, and from behind this animals are speared as they come down to drink. It must be remembered that during the long dry seasons of Central Australia waterholes are few and far between, so that in this way the native is aided in his work of killing animals. In some parts advantage is taken of the inquisitive nature of the emu. A native will carry something which resembles the long neck and small head of the bird and will gradually approach his prey, stopping every now and then, and moving about in the aimless way of the bird itself. The emu, anxious to know what the thing really is, will often wait and watch it until the native has the chance of throwing his spear at close quarters. Sometimes a deep pit will be dug in a part which is known to be a feeding ground of the bird. In the bottom of this a short, sharply-pointed spear will be fixed upright, and then, on the top, bushes will be spread and earth [P.21] scattered upon them. The inquisitive bird comes up to investigate the matter, and sooner or later ventures on the bushes, and, falling through, is transfixed by the spear. Smaller birds such as the rock pigeons, which assemble in flocks at any waterhole, are caught by throwing the boomerang amongst them, and larger birds, such as the eagle-hawk, the down of which is much valued for decorating the body during the performance of sacred ceremonies, are procured by the same weapon.

It may be said that with certain restrictions11 which apply partly to groups of individuals and partly to individuals at certain times of their lives, everything which is edible is used for food.12 So far as cooking is concerned, the method is primitive. Many of the vegetables such as the Irriakura (the bulb of Cyperus rotundus), may be eaten raw, or they may be [P.22] roasted in hot ashes. Very often large quantities of the pods of an acacia will be gathered and laid on the hot ashes, some of which are heaped up over them, and then the natives simply sit round, and “shell” and eat the seeds as if they were peas—in fact they taste rather like raw green peas. Perhaps the most standard vegetable diet of the natives in this part of the Centre is what is called by the natives in the north of the Arunta, Ingwitchika, and by white men usually Munyeru. This is the seed of a species of Claytonia. The women gather large quantities and winnow the little black seeds by pouring them from one pitchi into another so that the wind may carry off the loose husks, or else, taking some up in their hands, they blow the husks away. When freed from the latter, they are placed on one of the usual grinding stones and then ground down with a smaller stone held in the hand. Water is poured on every now and then, and the black, muddy-looking mixture tumbles over the side into a receptacle, and is then ready for eating either raw or after baking in the ashes. Munyeru seems to take the place amongst these tribes of the Nardoo (the spore cases of Marsilea quadrifolia) which is a staple article of food in the Barcoo district and other parts of the interior of Australia.

In the case of animals the larger ones are usually cooked in more or less shallow pits in the ground. An opossum is first of all disembowelled, the wool is then plucked off with the fingers and the body placed on the hot ashes. A rock wallaby is treated in much the same way, except that the hair is first singed off in the fire and then the skin is scraped with a piece of flint. The ashes are heaped up over the body, which, when partly cooked, is taken out and an incision made in each groin; the holes fill and refill with fluid, which is greatly appreciated and drunk up at once. The animal is then divided up, the flint at the end of the spear-thrower being used for this purpose. When cooking an Echidna the intestines are first removed. Then a small hole is dug, the bottom is sprinkled with water, and the animal placed in it. The back is covered with a layer of moist earth or sand, which is removed after about a quarter of an hour, and hot ashes substituted, which are removed after a few minutes. The [P.23] skin with the quills is next cut off with a flint, and the body is then placed amongst hot ashes till cooked.

When a euro or kangaroo is killed, the first thing that is always done is to dislocate the hind-legs so as to make the animal what is called atnuta or limp. A small hole is cut with a flint in one side of the abdomen, and after the intestines have been pulled out, it is closed up with a wooden skewer. The intestines are usually cooked by rolling them about in hot sand and ashes, any fat which may be present being carefully removed, as it is esteemed a great delicacy. One of the first things to be done is to extract the tendons from the hind limbs. To do this the skin is cut through close to the foot with the sharp bit of flint which is attached to the end of the spear-thrower. A hitch is next taken round the tendon with a stick, and then, with one foot against the animal's rump, the man pulls until the upper end gives way. Then the loose end is held in the teeth, and, when tightly stretched, the lower end is cut through with the flint and the tendon thus extracted is twisted up and put for safe keeping beneath the waist girdle, or in the hair of the head just behind the ear. These tendons are of great service to the natives in various ways, such as for attaching the barbed points on to the ends of the spears, or for splicing spears or mending broken spear-throwers. Meanwhile a shallow pit, perhaps one or two feet deep, has been dug with sticks, and in this a large fire is made. When this burns up, the body is usually held in the flames to singe off the fur, after which it is scraped with a flint. Sometimes this part of the performance is omitted. The hind legs are cut off at the middle joint and the tail either divided in the middle or cut off close to the stump. When the fire has burnt down the animal is laid in the pit on its back with its legs protruding through the hot ashes, which are heaped up over it. After about an hour it is supposed to be cooked, and is taken off, laid on green boughs so as to prevent it from coming in contact with the earth, and then cut up, the hind legs being usually removed first. In some parts where the fur is not singed off, the first thing that is done after removing the body from the fire is to take off the burnt skin. The carver assists himself, during the process [P.24] of cutting the body up into joints, to such dainty morsels as the heart and kidneys, while any juice which accumulates in the internal cavities of the body is greedily drunk.

When cooking an emu the first thing that is done is to roughly pluck it; an incision is then made in the side and the intestines withdrawn, and the inside stuffed with feathers, the cut being closed by means of a wooden skewer. A pit is dug sufficiently large to hold the body and a fire lighted in it, over which the body is held and singed so as to get rid of the remaining feathers. The legs are cut off at the knee joint, and the head brought round under one leg, to which it is fastened with a wooden skewer. The ashes are now removed from the pit, and a layer of feathers put in; on these the bird is placed resting on its side; another layer of feathers is placed over the bird, and then the hot ashes are strewn over. When it is supposed to be cooked enough, it is taken out, placed on its breast, and an incision is made running round both sides so as to separate the back part from the under portion of the body. It is then turned on to its back, the legs taken off and the meat cut up.

The tracking powers of the native are well-known, but it is difficult to realise the skill which they display unless one has seen them at work.13 Not only does the native know the track of every beast and bird, but after examining any burrow he will at once, from the direction in which the last track runs, tell you whether the animal is at home or not. From earliest childhood boys and girls alike are trained to take note of every track made by every living thing. With the women especially it is a frequent amusement to imitate on the sandy ground the tracks of various animals, which they make with wonderful accuracy with their hands. Not only do they know the varied tracks of the latter, but they will distinguish those of particular men and women. In this respect the men vary greatly, a fact which is well known to, and appreciated [P.25] by, those in charge of the native police in various parts of the interior of the continent. Whilst they can all follow tracks which would be indistinguishable to the average white man, there is a great difference in their ability to track when the tracks become obscure. The difference is so marked that while an ordinary good tracker will have difficulty in following them while he is on foot, and so can see them close to, a really good one will unerringly follow them up on horse or camel back.14 Not only this, but, strange as it may sound to the average white man whose meals are not dependent upon his ability to track an animal to its burrow or hiding place, the native will recognise the footprint of every individual of his acquaintance.

Whilst in matters such as tracking, which are concerned with their everyday life, and upon efficiency in which they actually depend for their livelihood, the natives show conspicuous ability, there are other directions in which they are as conspicuously deficient. This is perhaps shown most clearly in the matter of counting. At Alice Springs they occasionally count, sometimes using their fingers in doing so, up to five, but frequently anything beyond four is indicated by the word oknira, meaning much or great. One is nintha, two thrama or thera, three urapitcha, four therankathera, five theranka-thera-nintha. Time is counted by “sleeps” or “moons,” or phases of the moon, for which they have definite terms: longer periods they reckon by means of seasons, having names for summer and winter. They have further definite words expressing particular times, such as morning before sunrise (ingwunthagwuntha), evening (ungwūrila), yesterday (abmirka), day before yesterday (abmirkairprina), to-morrow (ingwuntha), day after to-morrow (ingwunthairprina), [P.26] in some days (ingwunthalkura), in a short time (ingwunthaunma), in a long time (ingwuntha arbarmaninja).15 It may also be said that for every animal and plant which is of any service to them, and for numberless others, such as various forms of mice, insects, birds, &c., amongst animals, and various kinds of shrubs and grasses amongst plants, they have distinctive names; and, further still, they distinguish the sexes, marla indicating the female sex, and uria the male. In many respects their memory is phenomenal. Their mental powers are simply developed along the lines which are of service to them in their daily life.

However, to return to the native camp once more. If we examine their weapons and implements of various kinds, that is those usually carried about, they will be found to be comparatively few in number and simple. A woman has always a pitchi, that is a wooden trough varying in length from one to three feet, which has been hollowed out of the soft wood of the bean tree (Erythrina vespertilio), or it may be out of hard wood such as mulga or eucalypt. In this she carries food material, either balancing it on her head or holding it slung on to one hip by means of a strand of human hair or ordinary fur string across one shoulder. Not infrequently a small baby will be carried about in a pitchi. The only other implement possessed by a woman is what is popularly called a “yam stick,” which is simply a digging stick or, to speak more correctly, a pick. The commonest form consists merely of a straight staff of wood with one or both ends bluntly pointed, and of such a size that it can easily be carried in the hand and used for digging in the ground. When at work, a woman will hold the pick in the right hand close to the lower end, and, alternately digging this into the ground with one hand, while with the other she scoops out the loosened earth, will dig down with surprising speed. In parts of the scrub, where live the honey ants, which form [P.27] a very favourite food of the natives, acre after acre of hard sandy soil is seen to have been dug out, simply by the picks of the women in search of the insect, until the place has just the appearance of a deserted field where diggers have, for long, been at work “prospecting.” Very often a small pitchi will be used as a shovel or scoop, to clear the earth out with, when it gets too deep to be merely thrown up with the hand, as the woman goes on digging deeper and deeper until at last she may reach a depth of some six feet or even more. Of course the children go out with the women, and from the moment that they can toddle about they begin to imitate the actions of their mother. In the scrub a woman will be digging up lizards or honey ants while close by her small child will be at work, with its diminutive pick, taking its first lessons in what, if it be a girl, will be the main employment of her life.

So far as clothing is concerned, a woman is not much encumbered in her work. She usually wears around her neck one or more rings, each of which is commonly formed of a central strand of fur string, round which other strands are tightly wound till the whole has a diameter varying from a quarter to half an inch. The two ends of the central strand are left projecting so that they can be tied behind the neck, and the ring thus made is thickly coated with grease and red ochre. A similar kind of ring is often worn on the head16 and, amongst the younger women especially, instead of, or perhaps in addition to, the hair neck ring, there may be worn a long string of the bright red beads of the bean tree. Each bead is bored through with a fire stick, and the pretty necklet thus made hangs round the neck in several coils, or may pass from each shoulder under the opposite arm pit.

North of the Macdonnell Ranges the women wear small aprons formed of strands of fur string suspended from a waist string, and on the forehead they often wear an ornament composed of a small lump of porcupine-grass resin, into which are fixed either a few kangaroo incisor teeth or else a number [P.28] of small bright red seeds. A short strand of string is fixed into the resin and by means of this the ornament is tied to the hair, so that it just overhangs the forehead.

The men's weapons consist of shield, spears, boomerang and spear-thrower, all of which are constantly carried about when on the march. The shields, though they vary in size, are of similar design over practically the whole Central area. They are uniformly made of the light wood of the bean tree, so that their actual manufacture is limited to the more northern parts where this tree grows. The Warramunga tribe are especially noted for their shields, which are traded far and wide over the Centre. Each has a distinctly convex outer and a concave inner surface, in the middle of which a space is hollowed out, leaving a bar running across in the direction of the length, which can be grasped by the hand.

In the Ilpirra, Arunta and Luritcha tribes the ordinary spear is about ten feet, or somewhat less, in length; the body is made of Tecoma wood and the tip of a piece of mulga, which is spliced on to the body and the splicing bound round with tendon. Close to the sharp point a small curved barb is attached by tendon, though in many this barb is wanting. A rarer form of spear is made out of heavier wood, such as the desert oak (Casuarina Descaineana), and this is fashioned out of one piece and has no barb.

The spear-thrower is perhaps the most useful single thing which the native has. It is in the form of a hollowed out piece of mulga from two feet to two feet six inches in length, with one end tapering gradually to a narrow handle, and the other, more suddenly, to a blunt point, to which is attached, by means of tendon, a short, sharp bit of hard wood which fits into a hole in the end of a spear. At the handle end is a lump of resin into which is usually fixed a piece of sharpedged flint or quartzite, which forms the most important cutting weapon of the native.

The boomerangs are not like the well-known ones which are met with in certain other parts and which are so made that when thrown they return to the sender. The Central Australian native does not appear to have hit upon this contrivance, or, at least, if he ever possessed any such, the art of making [P.29] them is now completely lost; his boomerang has a widely open curve, and the flat blade lies wholly in one plane.

In addition to these weapons a man will probably carry about with him a small wallet which is made simply of part of the skin of some animal, or perhaps of short strips of bark [P.30] tied round with fur string. In this wallet he will carry a tuft or two of feathers for decoration, a spare bit or two of quartzite, a piece of red ochre, a kind of knout which has the form of a skein of string, and is supposed, by men and women alike, to be of especial use and efficacy in chastising women, and possibly he will have some charmed object, such as a piece of hair cut from a dead man's head and carefully ensheathed in hair or fur string. If the man be old it is not at all unlikely that he will have with him, hidden away from the sight of the women, a sacred stick or bull-roarer, or even a sacred stone.

In the south of the Arunta tribe the women weave bags out of string made of fur or vegetable fibre, in which they carry food, &c., but these are not found in the northern parts.

One of the most striking and characteristic features of the Central Australian implements and weapons is the coating of red ochre with which the native covers everything except his spear and spear-thrower.

As regards clothing and ornament, the man is little better off than the woman. His most constant article is a waist belt made of human hair—usually provided by his mother-in-law. On his forehead, stretched across from ear to ear, is a chilara or broad band made of parallel strands of fur string, and around his neck he will have one or more rings similar to those worn by the women. His hair will be well greased and also red-ochred, and in the Luritcha and Arunta it may be surmounted by a pad of emu feathers, worn in much the same way as a chignon, and tied on to the hair with fur string. If he be at all vain he will have a long nose-bone ornament, with a rat-tail or perhaps a bunch of cockatoo feathers at one end, his chilara will be covered with white pipeclay on which a design will be drawn in red ochre, and into either side of his chignon will be fastened a tuft of white or brightly-coloured feathers. His only other article of clothing, if such it can be called, is the small public tassel which, especially if it be covered with white pipeclay, serves rather as an ornament than as a covering.

Such are the ordinary personal belongings of the natives which they carry about with them on their wanderings.

[P.31 ]Each local group has certain favourite camping grounds by the side of waterholes, where food is more or less easily attainable, and in spots such as these there will always be found clusters of mia-mias, made of boughs, which are simply replaced as the old ones wither up, or when perhaps in the hot weather they are burnt down.

When many of them are camped together it can easily be seen that the camp is divided into two halves, each separated from the other by some such natural feature as a small creek, [P.32] or very often if the camping place be close to a hill, the one half will erect its mia-mias on the rising, and the other on the low ground. We shall see later that in the case of the Arunta tribe, for example, all the individuals belong to one or other of the four divisions called Panunga, Bulthara, Purula and Kumara, and in camp it will be found that the first two are always separated from the last two.

During the day-time the women are sure to be out in search of food, while the men either go out in search of larger game, or else, if lazy and food be abundant, they will simply sleep all day, or perhaps employ their time in making or trimming up their weapons. When conditions are favourable every one is cheerful and light-hearted, though every now and then a quarrel will arise, followed perhaps by a fight, which is usually accompanied by much noise and little bloodshed. On such occasions, if it be the women who are concerned, fighting clubs will be freely used and blows given and taken which would soon render hors de combat an ordinary white woman, but which have comparatively little effect upon the black women; the men usually look on with apparent complete indifference, but may sometimes interfere and stop the fight. If, however, two men are fighting, the mother and sisters of each will cluster round him, shouting at the top of their voices and dancing about with a peculiar and ludicrous high knee action, as they attempt to shelter him from the blows of his adversary's boomerang or fighting club, with the result that they frequently receive upon their bodies the blows meant for the man whom they are attempting to shield.

As a general rule the natives are kindly disposed to one another, that is of course within the limits of their own tribe, and, where two tribes come into contact with one another on the border land of their respective territories, there the same amicable feelings are maintained between the members of the two. There is no such thing as one tribe being in a constant state of enmity with another so far as these Central tribes are concerned. Now and again of course fights do occur between the members of different local groups who may or may not belong to the same or to different tribes.

We have already spoken of the local groups as being composed [P.33] [P.34] mainly of individuals each of whom bears the name of some animal or plant; that is each such group consists, to a large extent, but by no means exclusively, of men and women of, what is commonly spoken of as, a particular totem. The question of totems amongst these tribes will be dealt with in detail subsequently, what we desire to draw attention to here is simply the fact that, in these tribes, there is no such thing as the members of one totem being bound together in such a way that they must combine to fight on behalf of a member of the totem to which they belong. If, for example, a large number of natives are gathered together and a fight occurs, then at once the Panunga and Bulthara men on the one hand, and the Purula and Kumara on the other hand, make common cause. It is only indeed during the performance of certain ceremonies that the existence of a mutual relationship, consequent upon the possession of a common totemic name, stands out at all prominently. In fact it is perfectly easy to spend a considerable time amongst the Arunta tribe without even being aware that each individual has a totemic name, whilst, on the other hand, the fact that every individual belongs to one or other of the divisions, Panunga, Purula, etc., is soon apparent. This is associated with the fact that in these tribes, unlike what obtains in so many of the tribes whose organisation has hitherto been described, the totem has nothing whatever to do with regulating marriage, nor again does the child of necessity belong either to its mother's or its father's totem.

In many works on anthropology it is not unusual to see a particular custom which is practised in one or more tribes quoted in general terms as the custom of “the Australian native.” It is, however, essential to bear in mind that, whilst undoubtedly there is a certain amount in common as regards social organisation and customs amongst the Australian tribes, yet, on the other hand, there is great diversity. Some tribes, for example, count descent in the maternal line, others count it in the paternal line; indeed, it is not as yet possible to say which of these methods is the more widely practised in Australia. In some tribes totems govern marriage, in others they have nothing to do with the question. In some [P.35] tribes a tooth is knocked out at the initiation rite, in others the knocking out of the tooth may be practised, but is not part of the initiation rite, and in others again the custom is not practised at all. In some tribes the initiation rite consists in circumcision and perhaps other forms of mutilation as well; in others this practice is quite unknown. In some tribes there is a sex totem, in others there is no such thing; and in isolated cases we meet with an individual totem [P.36] distinct from the totem common to a group of men and women.

When the great size of the land area occupied by the Australian tribes is taken into account, such diversity in custom and organisation is not to be wondered at. When, if ever, we gain an adequate knowledge of the various tribes still left, it may be possible to piece the whole together and to trace out the development from a common starting-point of the various customs and systems of organisation met with in different parts of the continent. At the present time we can perhaps group the tribes into two or three large divisions, each possessing certain well-marked features in common, such as counting descent in the maternal or paternal line as the case may be, but beyond this, as yet, we cannot go.17

[P.37] In the matter of personal appearance, whilst conforming generally to the usual Australian type of features, there is very considerable difference between various individuals. In the matter of height, the average of twenty adult males measured by us, was 166.3 cm. The tallest was 178.2 cm., and the shortest 158.2 cm. The average of ten adult females was 156.8 cm.; the tallest was 163 cm., and the shortest was 151.5 cm. The average chest measurement of the same twenty men was 90.33 cm.; the greatest being 97 cm., and the least 83 cm.

In some the pronounced curve of the nose gave superficially a certain Jewish aspect, though in many this curve was completely wanting, and in all the nasal width was very considerable, the spreading out of the lobes being certainly emphasised by the practice of wearing a nose-bone. In the twenty males the average width was 4.8 cm. and the length 5.1 cm.; in the ten females the average width was 4.3 cm. and the length 4.6 cm. The greatest width in any male was 5.4 cm. and the least 3.9 cm.; the length of the former was 5.2 cm., and of the latter 4 cm. The greatest length was 6.2 cm., and in this case the width was 4.9 cm., which represents the greatest variation measured as between the length and width, the latter in some few cases (five out of the thirty) slightly exceeding the length. The root of the nose is depressed and the supra-orbital ridges very strongly marked. The buccal width is considerable, averaging 5.8 cm. in the males and 5.4 cm. in the females. The greatest width in the males is 6.5 cm. and in the females 6 cm., the least width being respectively 5.3 cm. and 4.7 cm. The lips are always thick.

In colour the Central Australian, though usually described as black, is by no means so. Out of the twenty males examined all, save one, corresponded as closely as possible with the chocolate-brown which is numbered 28 on Broca's scheme,18 the odd one was slightly lighter. The only way in which to judge correctly of the colour is to cut a small square hole in a sheet of white paper and to place this upon the skin; unless this is done there is a tendency on first inspection to think that the tint is darker than it really is. To ascertain [P.38] the tint two or three parts of the body were tested, the chest, back and legs. It must be remembered that the Central Australian native is fond of rubbing himself over with grease and red ochre, especially at times when ceremonies are being performed, but we do not think that in the individuals examined this interfered materially with the determination, the colour of all the individuals and of the various parts tested being strikingly uniform. While at work we always had two or three of them together, and they could always detect the patch of colour on the plate which corresponded to that of the skin examined. The women, with one exception, corresponded in colour to number 29, the odd one being of the darker shade, number 28, like the men. The new-born child is always of a decidedly lighter tint, but it rapidly darkens after the first day or two. A half-caste girl at Alice Springs corresponded to number 21 in colour, and the offspring, a few months old, by a white man of a half-caste woman in the southern part of the tribe, was undistinguishable in colour from the average English child of the same age.

The hair of the head is always well developed in the males, though, owing to certain customs which will be described later, and which necessitate the periodical cutting off of the hair, the amount on the head of any individual is a variable quantity. When fully developed it falls down over the shoulders in long and very wavy locks. As a general rule it is shorter than this, but it always appears to be more or less wavy, though the fondness of the natives for smearing it over with grease and red ochre frequently results in the production of tangled locks, in each of which the component hairs are matted together, whereas in the natural state they would simply form a wavy mass. The beard is usually well-developed, and better so amongst the Arunta, Ilpirra, and Luritcha than amongst the northern tribes, such as the Warramunga and Waagi, where the whiskers are usually but comparatively poorly developed. The beard is usually frizzy rather than wavy, and in some instances this feature is a very striking one; but we have never, amongst many hundred natives examined, seen one which could be called woolly. The colour, except amongst the older men who have reached an age of, [P.39] so far as can be judged, fifty or sixty years, when the hair becomes scanty and white, is usually jet black, though the presence of abundant red ochre may, at first sight, cause it to appear to be of a more brownish hue, and occasionally it is of a dark brown tint rather than jet black. Amongst the children there are now and then met with some whose hair is of a decidedly lighter colour, but the lightness is confined to the tips, very rarely reaching to the roots, and with the growth of the individual it usually, but not always, assumes the normal dark colour. The legs and arms usually have a thin coating [P.40] of short, crisp, black hair, and sometimes the whole body may be covered with hair, the most extreme development of which was seen in the case of one of the oldest men, where, as the hair was white with age, it stood out in strong contrast to the dark skin; but, as a rule, the hairs on the general surface of the body are nothing like so strongly developed as in the case of the average Englishman, and are not noticeable except on close examination.

The method of treatment of the hair varies in different tribes and produces a marked difference in the appearance of the face. In all the tribes living between Charlotte Waters in the south and Tennant Creek in the north the men, at puberty, pull out the hairs on the forehead, causing this to look much more lofty and extensive than it is in reality. Each hair is separately pulled out, and over the part thus artificially made bare the chilara or forehead band is worn. The remaining hair is tightly pulled back and usually bound round with fur string, and is often in the Arunta and Luritcha tribes surmounted by the emu-feather chignon already referred to. In the Urabunna tribe away to the south of Charlotte Waters the hair is often enclosed in a net-like structure. In the Warramunga tribe the older men, but only those who have reached an age of about forty years, pull the hairs out of the upper lip, a custom never practised in the more southern tribes.

Amongst the women the hair is generally worn short,19 which is closely associated with the fact that, at times, each woman has to present her hair to the man who is betrothed to her daughter, for the purpose of making him a waist-belt. The body is usually smooth with, at most, a development of very fine short hairs only perceptible on close examination, and there may be occasionally a well-marked development of hair on the lip or chin, which is especially noticeable in the old women, some of whom are probably fifty years of age and have reached a stage of ugliness which baffles description.

A very striking feature of both men and women are the body scars which are often spoken of as tattoo marks, a name which, as Dr. Stirling says, “is unfortunate and should be [P.41] abandoned, as the scars in question with which the bodies of Australian natives are generally decorated differ entirely from the coloured patterns produced by the permanent staining of the tissue with pigments to which the term tattoo mark ought to be limited.”20

Every individual has a certain number of these scars raised on his body and arms, but very rarely on the back. As is well known, they are made by cutting the skin with a piece of flint, or, at the present day, glass is used when obtainable, and into the wound thus made ashes are rubbed or the down of the eagle-hawk, the idea being, so they say, to promote healing, and not, though the treatment probably has this effect, to aid in the raising of a scar. In some cases they may stretch right across the chest or abdomen. As a general rule the scars are both more numerous and longer on the men than on [P.42] the women, but no definite distinction can be drawn in this respect; the absolutely greatest number of scars noticed being on a woman on whom there were forty roughly parallel cicatrices between the navel and a point just above the breasts. Very frequently, on the other hand, the scars are limited on a woman to one or two which unite the breasts across the middle line. The cicatrices in the region of the breast usually stand out most prominently, the most marked ones having an elevation of 15 mm. and a width of 20 mm. In addition to these roughly horizontal bands, which are always made in greater or lesser number, others may be present which we may divide into three series, (a) a few usually curved bands on the scapular region which are not often met with; (b) a series of usually paired short bands leading off on either side obliquely across the chest to the shoulder; (c) bands on the arms. In some cases these may be vertically disposed, in others horizontally, and in others we find some of one form and some of the other. In all of them again there is no distinction to be drawn between men and women. Occasionally the cicatrices on the arm will be as prominent as those on the body, but usually they are less so.

There is, apart from ornament, no special meaning, so far as their form or arrangement is concerned, to be attached at the present day to these cicatrices, nor could we discover anything in their customs and traditions leading to the belief that they had ever had any deeper meaning.21 Vague statements have been made with regard to marks such as these, to the effect that they indicate, in some way, the particular division of the tribe to which each individual belongs. Amongst the tribes from Oodnadatta in the south, to Tennant Creek in the north, they certainly have no such meaning, and we are very sceptical as to whether they have anywhere in Australia; they are so characteristic of the natives of many parts, that the idea of their having a definite meaning is one which naturally suggests itself; but at all events, so far as the tribes now dealt with are concerned, they have no significance at [P.43] the present day as indicative of either tribal, class, or totemic group.

In addition to these every man will be marked usually on the left shoulder, but sometimes on the right as well, with irregular scars which may form prominent cicatrices, and are the result of self-inflicted wounds made on the occasion of the mourning ceremonies which are attendant upon the death of individuals who stand in certain definite relationships to him, such, for example, as his Ikuntera or father-in-law, actual or tribal. Not infrequently the men's thighs will be marked with scars indicative of wounds inflicted with a stone knife during a fight.

Just like the men, the women on the death of certain relatives cut themselves, and these cuts often leave scars behind. Sometimes writers have described these scars and treated them as evidence of the cruel treatment of the women by the men, whereas, as a matter of fact, by far the greater number [P.44] of scars, which are often a prominent feature on a woman's body, are the indications of self-inflicted wounds, and of them she is proud, as they are the visible evidence of the fact that she has properly mourned for her dead.

Not infrequently platycnemia, or flattening of the tibial bones, is met with, and at times the curious condition to which Dr. Stirling has given the name of Camptocnemia. The latter consists in an anterior curvature of the tibial bone and gives rise to what the white settlers have, for long, described by the very apt term “boomerang-leg.” To what extent either or both of these conditions are racial or pathological it seems difficult to say, and for a full description of them the reader is referred to Dr. Stirling's report.22

As a general rule both men and women are well nourished, but naturally this depends to a large extent on the nature of the season. When travelling and hungry the plan is adopted of tightening the waistbelt, indeed this is worn so tight that it causes the production of a loose flap of skin, which is often a prominent feature on the abdomens of the older men. Though the leg is not strongly developed, so far as size is concerned, still it is not always so spindle-shaped as is usually the case amongst Australian natives, and the muscles are as hard as possible, for the black fellow is always in training. The calf is decidedly thin, the average of the twenty men, in circumference in its widest part, being 31.5 cm., and of the ten women, 29.8 cm.

The hands are decidedly small, the large span of the men averaging 16.8 cm. and of the women, 15.6 cm. Only three of the men measure over 18 cm., and one measuring 22 cm. was of very exceptional size for a native. The smallest measures 15.3 cm.

For the measurements of the head reference must be made to the appendix; here it must suffice to say that the average cephalic index of the twenty men is 74.5, and that of the ten women, 75.7. These are, of course, the measurements in the living subject; but, even if we allow for the two units which Broca concluded should be subtracted from the index [P.45] of the living subject to get that of the cranium,23 they are still relatively high as compared with the index of 71.5, which may be regarded as about the average index for Australian skulls. It must also be noted that there is great variability amongst the different individuals, the minimum measurement of the males being 68.8 lying at the extreme of dolichocephalic skulls, while the maximum of 80.55 is just within the limit of sub-brachicephalic skulls. In the females the smallest index is 73.88, and the largest 80.7. It must also be remembered that, owing to constant rubbing of the head with grease and red ochre, which mat the hairs together and form a kind of coating all round their roots, there is considerable difficulty experienced in bringing the instrument into contact with the actual scalp, and that this difficulty has of course to be encountered twice in the measurement of the transverse [P.46] diameter. Making all allowances, there remains the strongly marked variation which undoubtedly exists amongst the various individuals.

We may, in general terms, describe the Arunta native as being somewhat under the average height of an Englishman. His skin is of a dark chocolate colour, his nose is distinctly platyrhinic with the root deep set, his hair is abundant and wavy, and his beard, whiskers and moustache well-developed and usually frizzled and jet black. His supra-orbital ridges are well-developed, and above them the forehead slopes back with the hair removed so as to artificially increase its size. His body is well formed and very lithe, and he carries himself gracefully and remarkably erect with his head thrown well back.

Naturally, in the case of the women, everything depends upon their age, the younger ones, that is those between fourteen and perhaps twenty, have decidedly well-formed figures, and, from their habit of carrying on the head pitchis containing food and water, they carry themselves often with remarkable grace. As is usual, however, in the case of savage tribes the drudgery of food-collecting and child-bearing tells upon them at an early age, and between twenty and twenty-five they begin to lose their graceful carriage; the face wrinkles, the breasts hang pendulous, and, as a general rule, the whole body begins to shrivel up, until, at about the age of thirty, all traces of an earlier well-formed figure and graceful carriage are lost, and the woman develops into what can only be called an old and wrinkled hag.

In regard to their character it is of course impossible to judge them from a white man's standard. In the matter of morality their code differs radically from ours, but it cannot be denied that their conduct is governed by it, and that any known breaches are dealt with both surely and severely. In very many cases there takes place what the white man, not seeing beneath the surface, not unnaturally describes as secret murder, but, in reality, revolting though such slaughter may be to our minds at the present day, it is simply exactly on a par with the treatment accorded to witches not so very long ago in European countries. Every case of such secret murder, [P.47] when one or more men stealthily stalk their prey with the object of killing him, is in reality the exacting of a life for a life, the accused person being indicated by the so-called medicine man as one who has brought about the death of another man [P.48] by magic, and whose life must therefore be forfeited.24 It need hardly be pointed out what a potent element this custom has been in keeping down the numbers of the tribe; no such thing as natural death is realised by the native; a man who dies has of necessity been killed by some other man, or perhaps even by a woman, and sooner or later that man or woman will be attacked. In the normal condition of the tribe every death meant the killing of another individual.

Side by side, however, with this crude and barbarous custom we find others which reveal a more pleasing side of the native character. Generosity is certainly one of his leading features. He is always accustomed to give a share of his food, or of what he may possess, to his fellows. It may be, of course, objected to this that in so doing he is only following an old established custom, the breaking of which would expose him to harsh treatment and to being looked upon as a churlish fellow. It will, however, hardly be denied that, as this custom expresses the idea that in this particular matter every one is supposed to act in a kindly way towards certain individuals, the very existence of such a custom, even if it be only carried out in the hope of securing at some time a quid pro quo, shows that the native is alive to the fact that an action which benefits some one else is worthy of being performed. And here we may notice a criticism frequently made with regard to the native, and that is that he is incapable of gratitude. It is undoubtedly true that the native is not in the habit of showing anything like excessive gratitude on receiving gifts from the white man, but then neither does he think it necessary to express his gratitude when he receives a gift from one of his own tribe. It is necessary to put one's self into the mental attitude of the native, and then the matter is capable of being more or less explained and understood. It is with him a fixed habit to give away part of what he has, and he neither expects the man to whom he gives a thing to express his gratitude, nor, when a native gives him anything, does he [P.49] think it necessary to do so himself, for the simple reason that giving and receiving are matters of course in his everyday life; so, when he receives anything from a white man, he does not think it necessary to do what he neither does nor is [P.50] expected to do, in the case of his fellow-tribesmen. It does not occur to him that an expression of gratitude is necessary. On the other hand he parts, as a matter of course, and often for the merest trifle (not only what is a trifle to us, but also to him), with objects which have cost him much labour to produce, but which a white man perhaps takes a fancy to. That he is, in reality, incapable of the feeling of gratitude is, so far as our experience goes, by no means true. It may be added that, taking all things into account, the black fellow has not perhaps any particular reason to be grateful to the white man, for it must be remembered that his feelings are concerned with the group rather than with the individual. To come in contact with the white man means that, as a general rule, his food supply is restricted, and that he is, in many cases, warned off from the water-holes which are the centres of his best hunting grounds, and to which he has been accustomed to resort during the performance of his sacred ceremonies; while the white man kills and hunts his kangaroos and emus he is debarred in turn from hunting and killing the white man's cattle. Occasionally the native will indulge in a cattle hunt; but the result is usually disastrous to himself, and on the whole he succumbs quietly enough to his fate, realising the impossibility of attempting to defend what he certainly regards as his own property.

With regard to their treatment of one another it may be said that this is marked on the whole by considerable kindness, that is, of course, in the case of members of friendly groups, with every now and then the perpetration of acts of cruelty. The women are certainly not treated usually with anything which could be called excessive harshness. They have, as amongst other savage tribes, to do a considerable part, but by no means all, of the work of the camp, but, after all, in a good season this does not amount to very much, and in a bad season men and women suffer alike, and of what food there is they get their share. If, however, rightly or wrongly, a man thinks his wife guilty of a breach of the laws which govern marital relations, then undoubtedly the treatment of the woman is marked by brutal and often revolting severity. To their children they are, we may say [P.51] uniformly, with very rare exceptions, kind and considerate, carrying them, the men as well as the women taking part in this, when they get tired on the march, and always seeing that they get a good share of any food. Here again it must be remembered that the native is liable to fits of sudden passion, and in one of these, hardly knowing what he does, he may treat a child with great severity. There is no such thing as doing away with aged or infirm people; on the contrary such are treated with especial kindness, receiving a share of the food which they are unable to procure for themselves.

Infanticide is undoubtedly practised, but, except on rare occasions, the child is killed immediately on birth, and then only when the mother is, or thinks she is, unable to rear it owing to there being a young child whom she is still feeding, and with them suckling is continued for it may be several years. They believe that the spirit part of the child goes back at once to the particular spot from whence it came, and can [P.52] be born again at some subsequent time even of the same woman. Twins, which are of extremely rare occurrence, are usually immediately killed as something which is unnatural but there is no ill-treatment of the mother, who is not thought any the less of, such as is described as occurring in the case of certain West African peoples by Miss Kingsley. We cannot find out what exactly lies at the root of this dislike of twins in the case of the Arunta and other tribes. Dr. Fison once suggested that it might be due to the fact that the idea of two individuals of the same class being associated so closely was abhorrent to the native mind, that it was, in fact, looked upon much in the light of incest. In the case of the twins being one a boy and the other a girl, this might account for it, but when they both are of the same sex it is difficult to see how any feeling of this kind could arise. Possibly it is to be explained on the simpler ground that the parent feels a not altogether unrighteous anger that two spirit individuals should think of entering the body of the woman at one and the same time, when they know well that the mother could not possibly rear them both, added to which the advent of twins is of very rare occurrence, and the native always has a dread of anything which appears strange and out of the common. In connection with this it may be added that on the very rare occasions on which the child is born at a very premature stage as the result of an accident, nothing will persuade them that it is an undeveloped human being; they are perfectly convinced that it is the young of some other animal, such as a kangaroo, which has by some mistake got inside the woman.25

On rare occasions, at all events amongst the Luritcha tribe, children of a few years of age are killed, the object of this being to feed a weakly but elder child, who is supposed thereby to gain the strength of the killed one.

[P.53] When times are favourable the black fellow is as light-hearted as possible. He has not the slightest thought of, or care for, what the morrow may bring forth, and lives entirely in the present. At night time men, women and children gather round the common camp fires talking and singing their monotonous chants hour after hour, until one after the other they drop out of the circle, going off to their different camps, and then at length all will be quiet, except for the occasional cry of a child who, as not seldom happens, rolls over into the fire and has to be comforted or scolded into quietness.

There is, however, in these, as in other savage tribes, an undercurrent of anxious feeling which, though it may be stilled and, indeed, forgotten for a time, is yet always present. In his natural state the native is often thinking that some enemy is attempting to harm him by means of evil magic, and, on the other hand, he never knows when a medicine man in some distant group may not point him out as guilty [P.54] of killing some one else by magic. It is, however, easy to lay too much stress upon this, for here again we have to put ourselves into the mental attitude of the savage, and must not imagine simply what would be our own feelings under such circumstances. It is not right, by any means, to say that the Australian native lives in constant dread of the evil magic of an enemy. The feeling is always, as it were, lying dormant and ready to be at once called up by any strange or suspicious sound if he be alone, especially at night time, in the bush; but on the other hand, just like a child, he can with ease forget anything unpleasant and enter perfectly into the enjoyment of the present moment. Granted always that his food supply is abundant, it may be said that the life of the Australian native is, for the most part, a pleasant one.

In common with all other Australian tribes, those of the Centre have been shut off from contact with other peoples, and have therefore developed for long ages without the stimulus derived from external sources. It is sometimes asserted that the Australian native is degenerate, but it is difficult to see on what grounds this conclusion is based. His customs and organisation, as well as his various weapons and implements, show, so far as we can see, no indication of any such feature. It may be said that, as far as we are yet acquainted with their customs, the various tribes may be regarded as descended from ancestors who observed in common with one another certain customs, and were regulated by a definite social system which was at one time common to them all. In course of time, as they wandered over the continent and became divided into groups, locally isolated to a large extent from one another, these groups developed along different lines. It is true that there has not been any strongly marked upward movement, but on the other hand, with possibly a few exceptions which might have been expected to occur now and again in particular cases such as that of the Kulin tribe, instanced by Mr. Howitt, any movement which there has been in social matters has been clearly in the direction of increasing their complexity, and there is, at all events, no evidence of the former existence of any stage of civilisation higher than the one in which we now find them.

Chapter II The Social Organisation of the Tribes

Division of the tribe into two exogamous intermarrying groups—Remarks on “group-marriage”—Terms of relationship—The latter are not in these tribes “terms of address,” the object of which is the avoidance of the use of personal names—There are no terms of relationship in English which convey the same meaning as do those of Australian natives—Organisation of the Urabunna tribe—Marriage regulated by totem—Absence of individual marriage, and the existence of a form of group-marriage—Terms of relationship—Arrangement of the classes so as to allow of counting descent in either the maternal or paternal line—Organisation of the Arunta tribe—Marriage is not regulated by totem—Terms of relationship amongst the Arunta, Luritcha, Kaitish and Warramunga tribes—Details with regard to the terms of relationship in the Arunta tribe—Particular terms applied to father-in-law, &c.—Restrictions with regard to elder and younger sisters—The class divisions of the Ilpirra, Kaitish, Iliaura, Waagai, Warramunga, Bingongina and Walpari tribes—Distinct names for males and females in the last three.

THE fundamental feature in the organisation of the Central Australian, as in that of other Australian tribes, is the division of the tribe into two exogamous inter-marrying groups. These two divisions may become further broken up, but even when more than two are now present we can still recognise their former existence.

In consequence of, and intimately associated with, this division of the tribe, there has been developed a series of terms of relationship indicating the relative status of the various members of the tribe, and, of necessity, as the division becomes more complex so do the terms of relationship.

In the tribes with which we are dealing we can recognise at least two important types which illustrate different grades in the development of the social organisation. The first of these is found in the Urabunna tribe, the second in the Arunta, Ilpirra, Kaitish, Waagai, Warramunga, Iliaura, and Bingongina tribes.

[P.56] The less complex the organisation of the tribe the more clearly do we see evidence of what Messrs. Howitt and Fison have called, in regard to Australian tribes, “group marriage.” Under certain modifications this still exists as an actual custom, regulated by fixed and well-recognised rules, amongst various Australian tribes, whilst in others the terms of relationship indicate, without doubt, its former existence. As is well known, Mr. McLennan held that the terms must have been invented by the natives using them merely for the purpose of addressing each other or as modes of salutation. To those who have been amongst and watched the natives day after day, this explanation of the terms is utterly unsatisfactory. When, in various tribes, we find series of terms of relationship all dependent upon classificatory systems such as those now to be described, and referring entirely to a mutual relationship such as would be brought about by their existence, we cannot do otherwise than come to the conclusion that the terms do actually indicate various degrees of relationship based primarily upon the existence of inter-marrying groups. When we find, for example, that amongst the Arunta natives a man calls a large number of men belonging to one particular group by the name “Oknia” (a term which includes our relationship of father), that he calls all the wives of these men by the common name of “Mia” (mother),26 and that he calls all their sons by the name of “Okilia” (elder brother) or “Itia” (younger brother), as the case may be, we can come to no other conclusion than that this is expressive of his recognition of what may be called a group relationship. All the “fathers” are men who belong to the particular group to which his own actual father belongs; all the “mothers” belong to the same group as that to which his actual mother belongs, and all the “brothers” belong to his own group.

Whatever else they may be, the relationship terms are certainly not terms of address, the object of which is to prevent the native having to employ a personal name. In the Arunta tribe, for example, every man and woman has a [P.57] personal name by which he or she is freely addressed by others—that is, by any, except a member of the opposite sex who stands in the relationship of “Mura” to them, for such may only on very rare occasions speak to one another.27 When, as has happened time after time to us, a native says, for example, “That man is Oriaka (a personal name), he is my Okilia,” and you cannot possibly tell without further inquiry whether he is the speaker's blood or tribal brother—that is, the son of his own father or of some man belonging to the same particular group as his father—then the idea that the term “Okilia” is applied as a polite term of address, or in order to avoid the necessity of using a personal name, is at once seen to be untenable.

It is, at all events, a remarkable fact that (apart from the organisation of other tribes, in respect of which we are not competent to speak, but for which the same fact is vouched for by other observers) in all the tribes with which we are acquainted, all the terms coincide, without any exception, in the recognition of relationships, all of which are dependent upon the existence of a classificatory system, the fundamental idea of which is that the women of certain groups marry the men of others. Each tribe has one term applied indiscriminately by the man to the woman or women whom he actually marries and to all the women whom he might lawfully marry—that is, who belong to the right group—one term to his actual mother and to all the women whom his father might lawfully have married; one term to his actual brother and to all the sons of his father's brothers, and so on right through [P.58] the whole system. To this it may be added that, if these be not terms of relationship, then the language of these tribes is absolutely devoid of any such.28

A great part of the difficulty in understanding these terms lies in the fact that we have amongst ourselves no terms which convey the same idea of relationship as do those of savage peoples. When once, for example, the term “Mia,” used amongst the Arunta tribe, has been translated by the English term “mother,” an entirely wrong impression is apt to to conveyed. Mia does include the relationship which we call mother, but it includes a great deal more, and to the Arunta native the restriction of the term as used in English is as incomprehensible as apparently the extension of the term is to white men who are not accustomed to the native use. To understand the native it is simply essential to lay aside all ideas of relationship as counted amongst ourselves. They have no words equivalent to our English words father, mother, brother, &c. A man, for example, will call his actual mother “Mia,” but, at the same time, he will apply the term not only to other grown women, but to a little girl child, provided they all belong to the same group. We have, for example, asked a fully grown man who the little child was with whom he was playing, and have received the answer that it was so and so, mentioning her personal name, and that she was his Mia. Her own personal name he would use in speaking both to her and to us, but the term Mia expressed the relationship in which she stood to him.

We have dwelt somewhat at length upon this because so distinguished a writer as Mr. McLennan and others who, accepting his dictum, have dealt with the subject, have attempted to disprove the supposition that any such group relationship is actually expressed in the terms of relationship used by the Australian natives. For this reason we have, as [P.59] carefully and minutely as possible, and without prejudice in favour of one theory or the other, examined into the social organisation of the tribes with which we have come into contact. The conclusion to which we have come is that we do not see how the facts, which will now be detailed and upon a consideration of which this conclusion is based, can receive any satisfactory explanation except on the theory of the former existence of group marriage, and further, that this has of necessity given rise to the terms of relationship used by the Australian natives. As will be seen, group marriage, in a modified but yet most unmistakable way, occurs as an actual system in one of the tribes with which we are dealing.

We may now pass on to consider first the organisation of the Urabunna tribe, as this represents a less complex condition than the second type which is met with in the Arunta and other tribes.

In reference to the names to apply to the various divisions of the tribe, we have felt considerable difficulty, and have decided that as such terms as phratry, gens, clan, &c., have all of them a definite significance, and, as applied to Australian tribes, may be misleading, it is better to use the term class as applying to the two main exogamous intermarrying groups, each of which forms a moiety of the tribe, and the term sub-class as applying to the divisions of the class. We therefore use these terms with this significance.29

The Urabunna organisation appears to be, if not identical with, at least very closely similar to, that of the Dieri tribe, whose territory adjoins it on the south, and which has been dealt with previously by Mr. Howitt30 The whole tribe is [P.60] divided up into two exogamous intermarrying classes, which are respectively called Matthurie and Kirarawa, and the members of each of these again are divided into a series of totemic groups, for which the native name is Thunthunnie. A Matthurie man must marry a Kirarawa woman, and not only this, but a man of one totem must marry a woman of another totem, certain totems being confined to each of the exogamous classes. Thus a dingo marries a waterhen, a cicada a crow, an emu a rat, a wild turkey a cloud, a swan a pelican, and so on.31

The organisation can be shown as represented in the following table, only a limited number of the totems being indicated:—

Class. Totem.
Matthurie Wild duck (Inyarrie).
  Cicada (Wutnimmera).
  Dingo (Matla).
  Emu (Warraguti).
  Wild turkey (Kalathurra).
  Black swan (Guti), &c.
Kirarawa Cloud (Kurara).
  Carpet snake (Wabma).
  Lace lizard (Capirie).
  Pelican (Urantha).
  Water hen (Kutnichilli).
  Crow (Wakala), &c.

Descent is counted through the mother, both as regards class and totem, so that we can represent marriage and descent as counted in the Urabunna tribe by the following [P.61] diagram, in which the letter f indicates the female and the letter m the male.

m. Dingo Matthurie marries
f. Water-hen Kirarawa
m. Water-hen Kirarawa marries f. Water-hen Kirarawa marries
f. Dingo Matthurie m. Dingo Matthurie
m. or f. Dingo Matthurie m. or f. Water-hen Kirarawa

There are still further restrictions to marriage than those which merely enact that a dingo man must marry a water-hen woman, and it is here that we are brought into contact with the terms of relationship. Enquiring into case after case you meet constantly, in this matter of restriction in regard to marriage, with the reply that though a particular woman belongs to the right totem into which a man must marry, yet there is a further restriction preventing marriage in this particular case. For example, not every dingo may marry a particular water-hen woman. To a dingo man all water-hen women are divided into four groups, the members of which respectively stand to him in the relationship of (1) Nowillie or father's sisters; (2) Biaka, children or brothers' children; (3) Apillia, mother's younger brothers' daughters; (4) Nupa, mother's elder brothers' daughters. It will of course be understood that a mother's brother's child is identical with a father's sister's child, and that the fathers and brothers may be either blood or tribal.

We can, amongst the individuals named, distinguish women of three different levels of generation; the Nowillie belong to that of the father and to still older generations; the Biaka to younger ones and the Apillia and Nupa to the same generation as the individual concerned. A man can only marry women who stand to him in the relationship of Nupa, that is, are the children of his mother's elder brothers blood or tribal, or, what is the same thing, of his father's elder sisters. The mother of a man's Nupa is Nowillie to him, and any woman of that relationship is Mura to him and he to her, and they must not speak to one another. In connection with this it [P.62] must be remembered that it is not necessary for the woman to actually have a daughter for her to be Nowillie and so Mura to the man, the very fact that she was born a sister of his father places her in this relationship. In the same way Nupa, the term applied to a woman with whom it is lawful for a man to have marital relations, and which is thus the term applied to a wife, cannot, strictly speaking, be regarded as at all the equivalent of the latter term. It is applied indiscriminately by a dingo man to each and every member of a group of water-hen women with one or more of whom he may perhaps actually have marital relations, but with any one of whom it is lawful and possible for him to do so. When we say possible for him to have such marital relations, we mean that any one of those women might be assigned to him, as they all, in fact, stand to him in the relationship of potential wives.

The word Nupa is without any exception applied indiscriminately by men of a particular group to women of another group, and vice versa, and simply implies a member of a group of possible wives or husbands as the case may be.

While this is so, it must be remembered that in actual practice each individual man has one or perhaps two of these Nupa women who are specially attached to himself and live with him in his own camp. In addition to them, however, each man has certain Nupa women, beyond the limited number just referred to, with whom he stands in the relationship of Piraungaru.32 To women who are the Piraungaru of a man (the term is a reciprocal one), the latter has access under certain conditions, so that they may be considered as accessory wives.

The result is that in the Urabunna tribe every woman is the special Nupa of one particular man, but at the same time he has no exclusive right to her as she is the Piraungaru of certain other men who also have the right of access to her. Looked at from the point of view of the man his Piraungaru are a limited number of the women who stand in the relationship of Nupa to him. There is no such thing as one man [P.63] having the exclusive right to one woman; the elder brothers, or Nuthie, of the latter, in whose hands the matter lies, will give one man a preferential right, but at the same time they will give other men of the same group a secondary right to her. Individual marriage does not exist either in name or in practice in the Urabunna tribe.

The initiation in regard to establishing the relationship of Piraungaru between a man and a woman must be taken by the elder brothers, but the arrangement must receive the sanction of the old men of the group before it can take effect. As a matter of actual practice, this relationship is usually established at times when considerable numbers of the tribe are gathered together to perform important ceremonies, and when these and other matters of importance which require the consideration of the old men are discussed and settled. The number of a man's Piraungaru depend entirely upon the measure of his power and popularity; if he be what is called “ūrkū,” a word which implies much the same as our word “influential,” he will have a considerable number, if he be insignificant or unpopular, then he will meet with scanty treatment.

A woman may be Piraungaru to a number of men, and as a general rule men and women who are Piraungaru to one another are to be found living grouped together. A man may always lend his wife, that is, the woman to whom he has the first right, to another man, provided always he be her Nupa, without the relationship of Piraungaru existing between the two, but unless this relationship exists, no man has any right of access to a woman. Occasionally, but rarely, it happens that a man attempts to prevent his wife's Piraungaru from having access to her, but this leads to a fight and the husband is looked upon as churlish. When visiting distant groups where, in all likelihood, the husband has no Piraungaru, it is customary for other men of his own class to offer him the loan of one or more of their Nupa women, and a man, besides lending a woman over whom he has the first right, will also lend his Piraungaru.

All the children of women who are Nupa to any man, whether they are his special Nupas, or Piraungaru, or Nupa [P.64] women with whom he has no marital relations, call him Nia, and he calls them Biaka. Whilst naturally there is a closer tie between a man and the children of the women who habitually live in camp with him, still there is no name to distinguish between the children of his special Nupa and those of any other woman to whom he is Nupa, but with whom he has no marital relations. All Biaka, or children of men who are at the same level in the generation and belong to the same class and totem, are regarded as the common children of these men, and in the same way the latter are regarded collectively by the Biaka as their Nia.

It will thus be seen that in the Urabunna tribe we have apparently an organisation closely similar to that described by Mr. Howitt as occurring in the Dieri tribe with which it is associated locally. It will also be evident that in both these tribes there is what can only be described as a modified form of group-marriage, the important features of which may be summarised as follows. We have:—

  1. A group of men all of whom belong to one moiety of the tribe who are regarded as the Nupas or possible husbands of a group of women who belong to the other moiety of the tribe.

  2. One or more women specially allotted to one particular man, each standing in the relationship of Nupa to the other, but no man having exclusive right to any one woman, only a preferential right.

  3. A group of men who stand in the relationship of Piraungaru to a group of women selected from amongst those to whom they are Nupa. In other words, a group of women of a certain designation are actually the wives of a group of men of another designation.

A curious feature in the social organisation of the Urabunna tribe is the restriction in accordance with which a man's wife must belong to what we may call the senior side of the tribe so far as he himself is concerned. He is only Nupa to the female children of the elder brothers of his mother, or what is exactly the same thing, to those of the elder sisters of his father. It follows from this that a woman is only Nupa to men on the junior side of the tribe so far as she is concerned. [P.65] This marked distinction between elder and younger brothers and sisters is a striking feature, not only in tribes such as the Urabunna, in which descent is counted in the female line, but also in tribes such as the Arunta in which descent is counted in the male line.

If we draw up a genealogical tree in the Urabunna tribe, placing the elder members on the left side and the younger members on the right side, then every woman's Nupa lies to the right, and every man's to the left side of his or her position in the genealogical tree.

The following table gives the terms of relationship as they exist amongst the Urabunna tribe. It will be seen that we have given three columns of names, (1) the native names, (2) the exact equivalent of the native names in our English terms, and (3) the English terms included wholly or partly in the native terms. In this way it will be seen, for example, that there are no native words at all equivalent to our English terms cousin, uncle, aunt, nephew; in fact, as we have said before, unless all ideas of terms of relationship as counted amongst ourselves be abandoned, it is useless to try and understand the native terms. No native can understand how we can possibly apply the same term cousin to children of the brothers of a father and at the same time to children of the sisters of a father. In the same way it will be seen that a brother's children are perfectly distinct from those of a sister; if I am, say a crow man, then my brothers' children are born cicadas and my sisters' children are born crows. As my own children are cicadas, I naturally have a term in common between them and the cicada offspring of my brothers, and quite a different term for the crow children of my sisters.

It will be seen on examining the table that no man or woman applies the same name to, for example, both a crow and a cicada, and further still, that all the names are applied to groups of individuals all of whom stand in a definite relationship to the individual by whom the term is used.
In addition to the table we have also drawn up a genealogical tree which will perhaps aid in explaining what is without doubt a somewhat intricate subject, and in the table we have numbered each individual, and taking a particular individual have represented in tabular form the names [P.66] which he applies to the other members of the group so as to include and illustrate all the various terms as used.33


Native Terms; actual Relationship expressed in English Terms. English Terms, included wholly or partly in the Native Terms.
Nia Father Father.
  Father's brothers, blood and tribal Uncle.
Kawkuka Mother's brothers, blood and tribal Uncle.
  Wife's father Father-in-law.
  Husband's father  
Luka Mother Mother.
  Mother's elder sisters, blood and tribal Aunt.
Namuma Mother's younger sisters, blood and tribal Aunt.
Nowillie Father's sisters, blood and tribal Aunt.
  Grandmother on father's side, blood and tribal Grandmother.
  Husband's mother Mother-in-law.
  Wife's mother.  
Biaka Sons Son.
  Daughters Daughter.
  Brother's sons and daughters, blood and tribal Nephew and niece.
Thidnurra Sister's sons and daughters, blood and tribal Nephew and niece.
Nuthie Elder brother Brother.
  Father's elder brothers' sons, blood and tribal Cousin.
Kakua Elder sisters Sister.
  Father's elder brothers' daughters, blood and tribal Cousin.
Kupuka Younger brothers Brother.
  Father's younger brothers' sons, blood and tribal Cousin.
  Younger sisters Sister.
  Father's younger brothers' daughters, blood and tribal Cousin.
Wittewa Father's younger sisters' sons Cousin.
  Sisters' husbands, blood and tribal Brother-in-law.
  Wife's brother  
Nupa Father's elder sisters' daughters, blood and tribal Cousin.
  Wife Wife.
  Husband Husband.
Apillia Husband's sisters, blood and tribal Sister-in-law.
  Father's younger sisters' daughters Cousin.
Kadnini Grandfather on father's side, blood and tribal Grandfather.
  Grandmother on mother's side, blood and tribal Grandmother.
  Son's children Grandchildren.
Thunthi Grandfather on mother's side, blood and tribal Grandfather.
  Daughter's children. Grandchildren.

[P.67] If we take the man numbered 25 in the genealogical tree we shall find that he applies the following names to the various individuals represented. It will be noticed that in connection with the woman numbered 14 we have given a separate branch line of descent, so as to be able to indicate the grand-parents on the maternal as well as the paternal side.

The man numbered 25 applies the following names to the various individuals:—

Kadnini, to the individuals numbered 1, 2, b, 53, 54.  
Nowillie, to the individuals numbered 3, 5, 9, 17.    
Thunthi, to the individuals numbered a, 4, 55, 56.    
Nia, to the individuals numbered 6, 7, 8, 18.    
Kawkuka, to the individuals numbered 10, 12, 16.      
Luka,34 to the individuals numbered 13, 14.        
Namuma, to the individuals numbered 11, 15.        
Wittewa, to the individuals numbered 19, 30, 32, 37, 40.  
Apillia,35 to the individuals numbered 31, 33, 39.      
Nupa,36 to the individuals numbered 20, 36, 38.      
Kakua, to the individuals numbered 22, 24.        
Nuthie, to the individuals numbered 21, 23.        
Kupuka, to the individuals numbered 26, 27, 28, 29, 34, 35.
Biaka, to the individuals numbered 41, 42, 45, 46, 47, 48.
Thidnurra, to the individuals numbered 43, 44, 49, 50, 51, 52.

It may perhaps be wondered how the natives themselves become acquainted with what is to the average white man so apparently elaborate and even, at first sight, complicated, a scheme. In the first place it is not in reality so complicated as it appears, and if we lay aside all pre-conceived ideas of relationship and remember that the terms are constantly being used by the natives who live, so to speak, surrounded with object lessons in the form of the members of the local group, then the difficulty largely vanishes. Another thing to be remembered is that the relationship of one native to another is one of the most important points with which each individual must be acquainted. There are certain customs which are enforced by long usage and according to which [P.68] men and women of particular degrees of relationship may alone have marital relations, or may not speak to one another, or according to which one individual has to do certain things for another, such as providing the latter with food or with hair, as the case may be, and any breach of these customs is severely punished. The elder men of each group very carefully keep alive these customs, many of which are of considerable benefit to themselves, and when, as at any important ceremony, different groups are gathered together, then matters such as these are discussed, and in this way a knowledge of the various relationships is both gained and kept alive. When a man comes from a distant group, unless he be well known to the group into which he has come, the old men talk the matter over and very soon decide as to his standing.

It sometimes happens, in fact not infrequently, that a man from the neighbouring Arunta tribe comes to live amongst the Urabunna. In the former where it adjoins the latter there are four sub-classes, viz., Bulthara and Panunga, Kumara, and Purula, and in addition descent is counted in the male line. Accordingly the men of the Bulthara and Purula classes are regarded as the equivalents of the Matthurie moiety of the Urabunna tribe, and those of the Panunga and Kumara classes as the equivalents of the Kirarawa. In just the same way a Matthurie man going into the Arunta tribe becomes either a Bulthara or Purula, and a Kirarawa man becomes either a Panunga or a Kumara man. Which of the two a Matthurie man belongs to, is decided by the old men of the group into which he goes. Sometimes a man will take up his abode permanently, or for a long time, amongst the strange tribe, in which case, if it be decided, for example, that he is a Bulthara, then his children will be born Panunga, that is they belong to his own adopted moiety. He has, of course, to marry a Kumara woman, or if he be already provided with a wife, then she is regarded as a Kumara, and if he goes back into his own tribe then his wife is regarded as a Kirarawa and the children also take the same name.

This deliberate change in the grouping of the classes and sub-classes so as to make them fit in with the maternal line [P.69] of descent or with the paternal, as the case may be, will be more easily understood from the accompanying table.

Arunta. Urabunna arrangement of the Arunta sub-classes.
Bulthara moiety A Bulthara moiety A (Matthurie).
Panunga   Purula  
Kumara moiety B Panunga moiety B (Kirarawa).
Purula   Kumara  

The working out of this with the result that the children belong to the right moiety of the tribe into which the man has gone may be rendered clear by taking one or two particular examples.

Suppose that a Matthurie man goes into the Arunta tribe, then he is told by the old men of the group into which he has gone that he is, say, a Bulthara. Accordingly he marries a Kumara woman (or if, which is not very likely, he has brought a woman with him, then she is regarded as a Kumara) and his children will be Panunga, or, in other words, pass into the father's moiety as the sub-classes are arranged in the Arunta, but not into that of the mother as they are arranged amongst the Urabunna.

Again, suppose a Purula man from the Arunta tribe takes up his abode amongst the Urabunna. He becomes a Matthurie, and as such must marry a Kirarawa (or if married his wife is regarded as such). His children are Kirarawa, which includes the sub-class Kumara into which they would have passed in the Arunta tribe, and to which they will belong if ever they go into the latter.

These are not merely hypothetical cases but are, in the district where the two tribes come in contact with one another, of by no means infrequent occurrence; and, without laying undue stress upon the matter, this deliberate changing of the method of grouping the sub-classes so as to allow of the descent being counted in either the male or female line according to the necessity of the case, is of interest as indicating the fact that the natives are quite capable of thinking such things out for themselves. It is indeed not perhaps without a certain suggestiveness in regard to the difficult question of how a change in the line of descent might possibly be brought about.

[P.70] We may now turn to the consideration of the Arunta tribe in which descent is counted in the male line, and we may regard the Arunta as typical of the large group of tribes inhabiting the centre of the continent from Lake Eyre in the south to near Port Darwin in the north, in which descent is thus counted. The tribes with the classificatory systems of which we have knowledge are the Arunta, Ilpirra, Iliaura, Kaitish, Walpari, Warramunga, Waagai, and Bingongina, which occupy a range of country extending from the latitude of Macumba River in the south to about that of Powell's Creek in the north, that is over an area measuring from north to south some seven hundred and seventy miles (Fig. 1).

In regard to the organisation of the Arunta tribe, with which we shall now deal in detail, it may at the outset be mentioned that the existence of four sub-classes in the southern part of the tribe, and of eight in the northern, appears at first sight to indicate that in the latter the organisation is more complex. In reality, though without having distinct names applied to them, each one of the four sub-classes met with in the south is actually divided into two. The four are Panunga and Bulthara, Purula and Kumara; the first two forming one moiety of the tribe, and the latter two forming another. In camp, for example, the Panunga and Bulthara always camp together separated from the Purula and Kumara by some natural feature such as a creek. The Panunga and Bulthara speak of themselves as Nakrakia, and of the Purula and Kumara as Mulyanuka—the terms being reciprocal. Further details with regard to this, and evidence of this division into two moieties, are given in connection with the discussion of the Churinga and totems, and in the account of the Engwura.

The marriage system is, in broad outline, omitting at present certain details which will be referred to shortly, as follows. A Bulthara man marries a Kumara woman and their children are Panunga; a Purula man marries a Panunga woman and their children are Kumara; a Panunga man marries a Purula woman and their children are Bulthara; a Kumara man marries a Bulthara woman and their children are Purula.

[P.71] This may be graphically expressed following Mr. Howitt's plan (as already done by Dr. Stirling) in the following way.37

(Unclear:)Males. Females.
Panunga Kumara
Bulthara Purula
Purula Bulthara
Kumara Panunga

In these diagrams the double arrow indicates the marriage connections and the single ones point to the name of the class of the children.

As a matter of fact these diagrams as they stand, though perfectly correct in stating, for example, that a Panunga man marries a Purula woman, are incomplete in that they do not show the important point that to a Panunga man the Purula women are divided into two groups the members of one of whom stand to him in the relationship of Unawa whom he may marry, while the members of the other stand in the relationship of Unkulla whom he may not marry. This fact is one of very considerable importance. Each of the four sub-classes is thus divided into two, the members of which stand respectively in the relationship of Ipmunna to each other. We can represent this graphically as follows, taking, for the sake of simplicity, only two sub-classes, the divisions of one being represented by the letters A and B, and of the other by the letters C and D.

(Unclear:)Sub-class. Division. Division. Sub-class.
Panunga A C Purula
  B D  

A stands in the relationship of Unawa to C, Ipmunna to B, and Unkulla to D. In other words a woman who is Unkulla to me is Ipmunna to my wife. All women of group C (myself belonging to A), my wife calls sisters—Ungaraitcha if they be elder sisters, and Itia if they be younger sisters; and all of [P.72] them stand in the relationship of Unawa to myself; but the other Purula women whom my wife calls Ipmunna are Unkulla to me and I may not marry them.

It is somewhat perplexing after learning that a Panunga man must marry a Purula woman to meet with the statement, when inquiring into particular cases, that a given Panunga man must not marry a particular Purula woman, but in the northern part of the tribe matters are simplified by the existence of distinct names for the two groups; the relationship term of Ipmunna still exists, but if I am, for example, a Panunga man, then all my Ipmunna men and women are designated by the term Uknaria, and in the following tables the eight divisions are laid down, and it will be noticed that the old name is used for one-half and a new name adopted for the other.

(Unclear:)Panunga Panunga Purula Purula
  Uknaria Ungalla  
Bulthara Bulthara Kumara Kumara
  Appungerta Umbitchana  

The double arrows indicate the marriage connections.

This division into eight has been adopted (or rather the names for the four new divisions have been), in recent times by the Arunta tribe from the Ilpirra tribe which adjoins the former on the north, and the use of them is, at the present time, spreading southwards. At the Engwura ceremony which we witnessed men of the Ilpirra tribe were present, as well as a large number of others from the southern part of the Arunta amongst whom the four new names are not yet in use.

We have found the following table of considerable service to ourselves in working as, by its means, the various relationships fall into regular arrangement and can be readily indicated.

1 2 3 4
Panunga Purula Appungerta Kumara
Uknaria Ungalla Bulthara Umbitchana
Bulthara Kumara Uknaria Purula
Appungerta Umbitchana Panunga Ungalla

This table was drawn up in the first instance in order to show the marriage relationships and the divisions into which [P.73] the children pass. Thus, reading across the page, men of the sub-classes shown in column 1 must marry women of the sub-classes shown in column 2. For example, a Panunga man marries a Purula woman, an Uknaria man an Ungalla woman, and so on. Column 3 in the same way indicates their children, those of a Panunga man and a Purula woman being Appungerta, those of an Uknaria man and an Ungalla woman being Bulthara, &c. In the same way if a man of one of the sub-classes in column 2 marries a woman in one of those in column 1, then their children are as represented in column 4. That is, a Purula man marries a Panunga woman and their children are Kumara, and so on.

When, however, we came to deal with the various terms of relationship used in the tribe, we found that they also fell into orderly arrangement in the table, and could be easily shown by means of it.

It will be seen from the table that, as compared with the Urabunna tribe, marriage appears to be very much more restricted, because a man may only marry a woman who belongs to one of eight divisions into which the whole is divided. In the Arunta tribe, however, as will be described in the chapter dealing with the totems, there is, unlike most Australian tribes, no restriction whatever, so far as the totems are concerned. It may therefore be, perhaps, a matter of doubt as to how far the totems of the Arunta are the exact equivalents of those yet described as existing amongst other Australian tribes. Every Arunta native thinks that his ancestor in the Alcheringa38 was the descendant of the animal or plant, or at least was immediately associated with the object the name of which he bears as his totemic name. In many Australian tribes it seems to be a general custom that a man must not eat or injure his totem, whereas amongst the Arunta there are special occasions on which the totem is eaten, and there is no rule absolutely forbidding the eating of the totem at other times, though it is clearly understood that it must only be partaken of very sparingly. However, though the totems of the Arunta are in certain respects [P.74] unlike those yet described in other Australian tribes, still there can be no doubt but that they are correctly designated by this name, the most important feature in which they differ from those of other parts of Australia being that they have no reference to customs concerning marriage.

In the Arunta tribe, unlike the Urabunna, there is, as soon as marriage has taken place, a restriction, except on certain special occasions which are subsequently described, of a particular woman to a particular man, or rather, a man has an exclusive right to one special woman though he may of his own free will lend her to other men.

Despite this fact, there is no term applied to a woman who is thus the peculiar property of one man, the woman is simply spoken of as Unawa to the man in just the same way in which all the other women are who belong to the group from which the man's wife must come. The terms of relationship are not individual terms, but, just as in the Urabunna and other tribes in some of which we have a form of group marriage existing as an actual institution at the present day, the terms are group terms. To take an example—a Panunga man will have some special woman allotted to him as an individual wife, but the only term which he applies to her is Unawa, and that term he also applies to all the women of her group, each of whom might lawfully have been allotted to him. She is one out of a group of potential wives. When, again, a man lends his wife, he only does so to a member of his own group, that is to a man to whom, without having been allotted to him, the woman stands in the relationship of Unawa just as she does to the man to whom she has been allotted. In the southern part of the tribe, where only the four divisions exist, a Panunga man will not lend his Unawa to a man who belongs to the half of the Panunga to which he himself does not belong, that is he will not lend her to an Ipmunna man but only to men who are Okilia or Itia to him; and in the same way he will only have lent to him a Purula woman to whom he is Unawa and not one to whom he is Unkulla. In the northern division the original Panunga is divided up into Panunga and Ungalla, and here a Panunga man only lends his wife to a Panunga, an Ungalla to an [P.75] Ungalla, and so on. In this northern part in must be remembered that the Panunga men are the exact equivalents to another Panunga man of the Okilia and Itia, that is the tribal brothers of the southern part, while the Ungalla correspond to the Ipmunna.

The same group terms are applied in all other cases. Thus a man calls his own children Allira, and applies the same term to all his blood and tribal brothers' children, while all his sisters' children are Umba. If, again, I am a Panunga man, then my wife is Purula, and her actual father is a Kumara man. Not only do I call this particular man Ikuntera or father-in-law, but, where the eight divisions are in force, I apply the same name to all Kumara men. They are one and all the fathers of women whom it is lawful for me to marry.

That this group relationship is actually recognised is made clear by a variety of facts. If, for example, one of my Ikuntera dies, it is my duty to cut my shoulders with a stone knife as a mark of sorrow. If I neglect to do this, then any one of the men who are Ikuntera to me has the right to take away my wife and give her to some other man to whom she is Unawa. I have not only, supposing it to be the actual father of my wife who has died, neglected to do my duty to him, but I have offended the group collectively, and any member of that group may punish me. Again, if I am out hunting and have caught game, and while carrying this home to my camp I chance to meet a man standing to me in the relationship of Ikuntera, I should at once have to drop the food, which, from the fact of its having been seen by any one member of that group, has become tabu to me.

In just the same way amongst the women we see clear instances of customs founded on the existence of group relationship. When a child dies not only does the actual Mia, or mother, cut herself, but all the sisters of the latter, who also are Mia to the dead child, cut themselves. All women call their own children Umba, and apply precisely the same term to the children of their sisters, blood and tribal.

The tables which follow give the terms of relationship existing amongst the Arunta, Luritcha, Kaitish and Warramunga, [P.76] and, in the case of the Arunta, we have drawn up a genealogical tree and, taking a man and his alloted Unawa, have arranged in tabular form the various terms which they respectively apply to other individuals, whose relationship to them can be seen on the tree.

For the purpose of comparison we have made the genealogical tree identical with that used in the case of the Urabunna tribe, the individuals being numbered alike on both trees.

Native Terms. Actual Relationship expressed in English Terms. English Terms, included wholly or partly in the Native Terms.
Oknia Father Father.
  Father's brothers, blood and tribal Uncle.
Gammona Mother's brothers, blood and tribal Uncle.
Mia Mother Mother.
  Mother's sisters, blood and tribal Aunt.
Uwinna Father's sisters, blood and tribal Aunt.
Allira (man speaking) Sons Son.
  Daughters Daughter.
  Sons and daughters of brothers, blood and tribal Nephew and niece.
Allira (woman speaking) Sons and daughters of brothers, blood and tribal Nephew and niece.
Umba (man speaking) Sons and daughters of sisters, blood and tribal. Nephew and niece.
Umba (woman speaking) Sons and daughters Son.
  Sons and daughters of sisters, blood and tribal Daughter.
    Nephew and niece.
Okilia Elder brothers Brother.
  Sons of father's elder brothers, blood and tribal Cousin.
Itia (Witia) Younger brothers Brother.
  Sons of father's younger brothers, blood and tribal Cousin.
Ungaraitcha Elder sisters Sister.
  Father's elder brother's daughters, blood and tribal Cousin.
Itia (Quitia) Younger sisters Sister.
  Father's younger brothers' daughters, blood and tribal Cousin.
Unkulla Father's sisters' sons and daughters, blood and tribal Cousin.
Unawa (man speaking) Wife Wife.
  Brothers' wives, blood and tribal Sister-in-law.
Unawa (woman speaking) Husband Husband.
  Sisters' husbands, blood and tribal Brother-in-law.
Umbirna (male speaking) Wife's brother Brother-in-law.
  Sisters' husbands, blood and tribal  
Intinga (female speaking) Husband's sisters, blood and tribal Sister-in-law.
Ilchella (female speaking) Father's sisters' daughters, blood and tribal Cousin.
Arunga Grandfather, father's side Grandfather.
  Grandchild (son's child) Grandchild.
Chimmia Grandfather, mother's side Grandfather.
  Grandchild (daughter's child) Grandchild.
Aperla Grandmother, father's side Grandmother.
  Grandchild Grandchild.
Ipmunna Grandmother, mother's side Grandmother.
Ikuntera (man speaking) Wife's father, blood and tribal Father-in-law.
Mura (man speaking) Wife's mother, blood and tribal Mother-in-law.
  Wife's mother's brothers, blood and tribal  
Mura (woman speaking) Husband's mothers, blood and tribal Mother-in-law.
  Husband's mother's brothers, blood and tribal  
Nimmera (woman speaking) Husband's father, blood and tribal Father-in-law.

Kartu Father. Father.
  Father's brothers, blood and tribal Uncle.
Gammeru Mother's brothers, blood and tribal Uncle.
Yaku Mother. Mother.
  Mother's sisters, blood and tribal Aunt.
Kurntili Father's sisters, blood and tribal Aunt.
Katha Sons Son.
  Brother's sons, blood and tribal Nephew.
Urntali Daughters Daughter.
  Brother's daughters, blood and tribal Niece.
Ukari Sister's sons Nephew
  Sister's daughters, blood and tribal Niece.
Kurta Elder brother Brother.
  Father's elder brothers' sons, blood and tribal Cousin.
Mirlunguna Younger brother Brother.
  Father's younger brothers' sons, blood and tribal Cousin.
  Younger sister Sister.
  Father's younger brothers' daughters, blood and tribal Cousin.
Kangaru Elder sister Sister.
  Father's elder brothers' daughters, blood and tribal Cousin.
Watchira Mother's brothers' sons, blood and tribal Cousin.
Narunpa Mother's brothers' daughters, blood and tribal Cousin.
Kuri Husband Husband.
  Husband's brothers, blood and tribal Brother-in-law.
  Wife Wife.
  Wife's sisters, blood and tribal Sister-in-law.
Maruthu Sister's husband, blood and tribal Brother-in-law.
  Wife's brother, blood and tribal  
Sthoarinna Husband's sisters, blood and tribal Sister-in-law.
  Brother's wife, blood and tribal  
Sthamu Grandfather, father's side Grandfather.
  Grandfather's brothers, father's side  
Chimpa Grandfather, mother's side Grandfather.
  Grandfather's brothers, mother's side  
Kammi Grandmother, father's side Grandmother.
  Grandmother's sisters, father's side  
Kapirli Grandmother, mother's side Grandmother.
  Grandmother's sisters, father's side  
Waputhu (man speaking) Wife's father Father-in-law.
  Wife's father's brothers, blood and tribal  
Gammeru (woman speaking) Husband's father Father-in-law.
  Husband's father's brothers, blood and tribal  
Mingai (woman speaking) Husband's mother Mother-in-law.
  Husband's mother's sisters, blood and tribal  
Umarri Wife's mother Mother-in-law.
  Wife's mother's sisters, blood and tribal  
  Daughter's husband Son-in-law.
  Daughter's husband's brothers, blood and tribal  
Native Terms. Actual Relationship expressed in English Terms. English Terms, included wholly or partly in the Native Terms.
Akaurli39 Father Father.
  Father's brothers, blood and tribal Uncle.
Anillia Mother's brothers, blood and tribal Uncle.
Arungwa40 Mother Mother.
  Mother's sisters, blood and tribal Aunt.
Okulli Father's sister Aunt.
Atumpirri Son Son.
  Daughter Daughter.
  Brother's sons and daughters Nephew and niece.
Artwalli Sisters' sons and daughters Nephew and niece.
Alkiriia Elder brother Brother.
  Father's elder brothers' sons Cousin.
Achirri Younger brother Brother.
  Father's younger brothers' sons Cousin.
  Father's younger brothers' daughters  
Arari Elder sister Sister.
  Father's elder brothers' daughters Cousin.
Atinkilia Mother's brothers' daughters Cousin.
Auillia Mother's brothers' sons. Cousin.
Umbirniia Husband Husband.
  Wife Wife.
  Husband's brothers, blood and tribal Brother-in-law.
  Sister's husband  
  Wife's brothers, blood and tribal  
Untingiia Husband's sister Sister-in-law.
Ilchelii (woman speaking) Father's sisters' daughters Cousin.
Arungiia Grandfather, father's side Grandfather.
  Grandfather's brothers, father's side  
Atchualli Grandfather, mother's side Grandfather.
  Grandfather's brothers, mother's side  
Apirli Grandmother, father's side Grandmother.
  Grandmother's sisters, father's side  
Aanya or Atmini Grandmother, mother's side Grandmother.
  Grandmother's sisters, mother's side  


Ertwali Wife's father Father-in-law.
  Wife's father's brothers  
  Husband's father Father-in-law.
  Husband's father's brothers  
Erlitchi Husband's mother Mother-in-law.
  Husband's mother's sisters.  
  Wife's mother Mother-in-law.
  Wife's mother's sisters.  
Gampatcha41 Father Father.
  Father's brothers, blood and tribal Uncle.
Namini Mother's brothers, blood and tribal Uncle.
Kurnandi42 Mother Mother.
  Mother's sisters, blood and tribal Aunt.
Pinari Father's sisters, blood and tribal Aunt.
Kartakitchi Sons Son.
  Daughters Daughter.
  Brother's sons and daughters Nephew and niece.
Klukulu Sister's son or daughter Nephew and niece.
Papirti Elder brother Brother.
  Father's elder brother's sons Cousin.
Kukatcha Younger brother Brother.
  Father's younger brother's sons. Cousin.
  Younger sister Sister.
  Father's younger brother's daughters Cousin.
Kapurlu Elder sister Sister.
  Father's elder brother's daughters Cousin.
Wankili Mother's brothers' sons or daughters Cousin.
Kullakulla Husband Husband.
  Husband's brothers, blood and tribal Brother-in-law.
  Wife Wife.
  Wife's sisters, blood and tribal Sister-in-law.
Kallakalla Sister's husband Sister-in-law.
  Wife's brothers, blood and tribal Brother-in-law.
  Husband's sisters, blood and tribal  
Lina (woman speaking) Father's sisters' daughters Cousin.
Kangwia Grandfather, father's side Grandfather.
  Grandfather's brothers, father's side  


Tapertapu Grandfather, mother's side Grandfather.
  Grandfather's brothers, mother's side  
Turtundi Grandmother, mother's side Grandmother.
  Grandmother's sisters, mother's side  
Kulukulu Wife's father Father-in-law.
  Wife's father's brothers  
  Husband's father  
  Husband's father's brothers  
Unnyari Husband's mother Mother-in-law.
  Husband's mother's sisters  
  Wife's mother Mother-in-law.
  Wife's mother's sisters  
Namini Daughter's husband Son-in-law.
  Daughter's husband's brothers.  

If we take the man numbered 25 on the genealogical tree, which, it may be said, applies to both the Ilpirra and Arunta tribes, with slight variation in the names, we shall find that he applies the following names to the individuals indicated by their respective numbers. It will be noticed that two small branch lines are added to show descent in the maternal line.

The man numbered 25 applies the following names to the various individuals:—

Arunga, to the individuals numbered 1, 53, 54.      
Aperla, to the individuals numbered 3.          
Oknia, to the individuals numbered 6, 7, 8.      
Uwinna, to the individuals numbered 5, 9.        
Chimmia, to the individuals numbered a, 55, 56      
Ipmunna, to the individuals numbered b, c, 34, 35.    
Unkulla, to the individuals numbered d, 19, 20, 30, 31.  
Ikuntera, to the individuals numbered 10.          
Umba, to the individuals numbered 11, 43, 44, 49, 50.  
Mia, to the individuals numbered 13, 14, 15, 51.    
Gammona, to the individuals numbered 12, 16, 52.      
Mura, to the individuals numbered 17, 18.        
Okilia, to the individuals numbered 21, 23.        
Ungaraitcha, to the individuals numbered 22, 24.        
Witia, to the individuals numbered 26, 28.        
Quitia, to the individuals numbered 27, 29.        
Allira, to the individuals numbered 41, 42, 45, 46, 47, 48.
Unawa, to the individuals numbered 32, 36, 38, 39.    
Umbirna, to the individuals numbered 33, 37, 40.      

[P.82]  The woman numbered 38 applies the following names to the various individuals:—

Arunga, to the individuals numbered 4.              
Aperla, to the individuals numbered 2, 53, 54.          
Oknia, to the individuals numbered 10.              
Uwinna, to the individuals numbered 11.              
Chimmia, to the individuals numbered c.              
Ipmunna, to the individuals numbered a, d, 19, 20, 30, 31, 55, 56.
Unkulla, to the individuals numbered 34.              
Nimmera, to the individuals numbered 6, 7, 8.          
Umba, to the individuals numbered 5, 9, 41, 42, 45, 46, 47, 48.
Mia, to the individuals numbered 17.              
Gammona, to the individuals numbered 18.              
Mura, to the individuals numbered 12, 13, 14, 15, 16.      
Okilia, to the individuals numbered 37.              
Ungaraitcha, to the individuals numbered 36.              
Witia, to the individuals numbered 40.              
Quitia, to the individuals numbered 33, 39.            
Allira, to the individuals numbered 43, 44, 49, 50.        
Unawa, to the individuals numbered 21, 23, 25, 26, 28.      
Ilchella, to the individuals numbered b, 35.            
Intinga, to the individuals numbered 22, 24, 27, 29.        

A comparison of the terms of relationship here set forth with those in use amongst other tribes, which have been described by Messrs. Howitt and Fison, and more recently and in most valuable detail by Mr. Roth, will serve to show how widely a similar series of terms is in use amongst the various Australian tribes.

We will further exemplify the system by taking a man of one particular group and describe in detail the various relationships which exist between him and other members of the tribe. These and all details given have been derived from various individuals and families, and have been corroborated time after time.

After ascertaining the various relationships we found that they could be represented graphically and in orderly arrangement by means of the table already employed, and, as we have found this table of the greatest service to ourselves in dealing with this somewhat intricate subject, we will make use of it here.


1 2 3 4
(Unclear:)Panunga Purula Appungerta Kumara
Uknaria Ungalla Bulthara Umbitchana
Bulthara Kumara Uknaria Purula
Appungerta Umbitchana Panunga Ungalla

The brackets signify groups, the members of which are mutually Ipmunna to each other.

Column 3 are the children of men of column 1 and of women of column 2. This applies to groups on the same horizontal line in the table. Thus an Appungerta is the child of a Panunga man and a Purula woman; a Panunga is the child of an Appungerta man and an Umbitchana woman. The same remark applies to all the other relationships indicated; thus a Panunga man is Gammona to a Kumara.

Column 4 are the children of men of column 2 and of the women of column 1.
A man of column 1 is Unawa to a woman of column 2 and vice versa, and Umbirna to a man of column 2. A woman of column 2 is Intinga to a woman of column 1, and vice versa.
Column 1 contains men who are Gammona of men and women of column 4.
Column 4 contains men who are Ikuntera or Umba of men, and Nimmera of women, of column 1.
Column 2 contains men who are Gammona of men and women of column 3.
Column 3 contains men who are Ikuntera or Umba of men, and Nimmera of women, of column 2.
Men and women of columns 3 and 4 stand mutually in the relationship of Unkulla or Chimmia.
Women of columns 3 and 4 stand mutually in the relationship of Ilchella.

1 2 3 4
Panunga Purula Appungerta Kumara
Uknaria Ungalla Bulthara Umbitchana
Bulthara Kumara Uknaria Purula
Appungerta Umbitchana Panunga Ungalla

In column 1 the larger and smaller brackets on the right side indicate the relationship of Uwinna, the overlapping [P.84] brackets on the left indicate that of Mura. In column 4 the reverse holds true, the brackets on the left indicate the relationship of Uwinna, and those on the right side that of Mura.
Taking now the case of an individual member of a particular group, we may describe as follows the various relationships in which he stands with regard to the other members of the tribe. We will suppose that this particular individual is an Appungerta man living in the northern part of the tribe where the division into eight groups exists, and we will suppose him to be speaking—

If I am an Appungerta man then—
My father is a Panunga.
All Uknaria are Ipmunna to him and Mura to me—that is, I may not speak to them if they be women. The daughters of Ungalla men and Uknaria women are Umbitchana and Unawa to me—that is, they are women whom I may lawfully marry, and one or more of whom are allotted to me as wives. The mother of the woman who is allotted to me is my Tualcha-mura.
The sons of Uknaria women, that is the brothers of my Unawa, are Umbirna to me; so that Umbitchana men are Umbirna to Appungerta men, and vice versa.
I call my father Oknia.
All men whom my father calls Okilia, elder brothers, or Witia, younger brother, are Panunga, and they are Oknia to me. I call his Okilia, Oknia aniaura, and his Itia, Oknia alkulla.
My Oknia's sisters are Panunga, and they are Uwinna to me. That is, Panunga women are Uwinna to Appungerta men.
All women whom my wife calls Ungaraitcha, elder sisters, or Quitia, younger sisters, are Umbitchana, and they also are Unawa to me.
All women whom my wife calls Ipmunna are Kumara, and they are Unkulla to me.
Speaking as an Arunta man living in a part where only four sub-classes are recognised, all the women of my wife's class, who in this case would be Kumara, I myself belonging [P.85] to the Bulthara, are divided into two sets, the members of one of whom are Unawa to me, so that I can marry them; while the members of the other are Unkulla, whom I may not marry. The latter are Ipmunna to my wife. I can only marry a woman who stands in the relationship of daughter to the women of the half of my father's class to which he does not belong—that is, who are Ipmunna to him.
My Ipmunna are Bulthara.
My Unkulla women are Kumara, and they must marry Bulthara men, and their children are Mura to me. That is, the relationship of Mura arises from the marriage of male Ipmunna and female Unkulla. This is an important relationship, as a Mura woman is the mother of my wife.
My Umbirna are Umbitchana men, who are the sons of Uknaria women—that is, of my female Mura.
My Ungaraitcha, elder sisters, and Quitia, younger sisters, are Appungerta, and are Unawa to my Umbirna, who are Umbitchana men.
The children of my Ungaraitcha and Quitia are Ungalla. I call them Allira and they call me Gammona—that is, Appungerta men are Gammona to Ungalla men and women.
My own and my brother's children are Allira to me, and I am Oknia to them. My mother is Purula. She calls her elder sisters Ungaraitcha and her younger ones Quitia. I call them all Mia. That is, Purula women are Mia to Appungerta men. Her elder sisters I call Mia apmarla, and her younger sisters Mia alkulla.43

Speaking again as an Arunta man only recognising four sub-classes the women of the class to which my mother belongs are divided into two groups, the members of one of which have the relationship of Mia to me and those of the other that of Umba.

The children of the Okilia of my Oknia, that is my father's elder brothers' children, will be Appungerta as I am, and they will be according to sex, my Okilia, elder brothers, or Ungaraitcha, elder sisters.
The children of my Oknia's Ungaraitcha and of his Quitia [P.86] are Kumara, and are Unkulla to me and Ipmunna to my wife.
The children of my Oknia's Okilia call me Witia or younger brother, and the children of my Oknia's Witia call me Okilia, and I call them Witia.
The children of my Okilia and Witia, that is of my elder and younger brothers, call me Oknia, just as my own children do, and I call them Allira, and they are Panunga.
The children of my Ungaraitcha and Quitia, that is of my sisters, I call Umba, and they are Ungalla.

That is, once more speaking as an Arunta man recognising only four sub-classes, my own and my brother's children go into the same sub-class as that to which my father belongs, whilst my sister's children go into the sub-class to which my mother belongs, but into the half of it to which she does not belong. That is, relations whom we class together as nephews or nieces as the case may be, are either, in respect to a man, Allira, that is, brother's children, or Umba, that is, sister's children. It will be noted that the terms Allira and Umba are applied to individuals of both sexes, so that each of them includes individuals whom we call nephews or nieces.

My male Allira's children are Appungerta, and are Arunga to me and I to them, the term being a reciprocal one.
My Allira are Panunga and my Umba are Ungalla, and these two are Unkulla to each other.
My Allira call my Ungaraitcha and Quitia, that is, my elder and younger sisters, Uwinna. That is, Appungerta women are Uwinna to Panunga men and women.
The children of my female Allira, that is of my daughters, are Kumara, and they are Chimmia to me and I to them. The term Chimmia expresses the relationship of grandfather or grandchild on the mother's side, just as the term Arunga expresses the same on the father's side.
My male Chimmias' male children will be Purula and Gammona to me, that is they are the blood and tribal brothers of my Mias.
My male Chimmias' female children will be Purula and Mia to me.
[P.87] The children of my female Chimmia are Uknaria and are Mura to me, and they are the Mias of my wife.
My sisters are Appungerta and the daughters of my father's sisters are Kumara, and therefore stand in the relationship of Ilchella to each other; the relationship of Ilchella only exists between women. That is, if I am an Appungerta man, then my father's sister's sons and daughters will be Kumara and Unkulla to me. If I am an Appungerta woman then my father's sister's daughters will be Ilchella to me.
My mother's mother is Bulthara and is Ipmunna to me.
My father's mother is Umbitchana and Aperla to me.
There are certain differences in the terms used if a woman be speaking which may be noted here. Thus, if I am an Appungerta woman, then I call my own and my sister's children Umba, but I call my brother's Allira.
I apply the term Urumpa to brothers and sisters collectively and also to men and women who are Unkulla to me.
The sisters of my husband are Umbitchana, and are Intinga to me and Unawa to my brothers.
The daughters of my father's sisters are Kumara and Ilchella to me.
The sons of my father's sisters are Kumara and are Unkulla to me.
My husband's father is Ungalla, and I call him and he calls me Nimmera; the same term applies to all men whose sons are born Unawa to me.

There is a special term Tualcha which is applied in the case of three particular relationships, or rather is added to the usual one in order to show the existence of a special connection between the individuals concerned.44 Thus, every man calls the members of a particular group by the name of [P.88] Ikuntera or father-in-law, but the particular one whose daughter has actually been assigned to him—whether he has married her or not has nothing to do with the case—he calls Ikuntera-tualcha. He may have other wives, but unless the mutual agreement was made between his and the girl's father that he should have the girl to wife, then the father of the latter is not spoken of as Tualcha. In the same way the special Mura woman to whose daughter a man is betrothed in his Mura-tualcha, and, lastly, the individual who is Ikuntera-tualcha to one man, is Unkulla-tualcha to the father of the latter. If, for example, I am an Appungerta man, then my Ikuntera-tualcha is an Ungalla man, and he is Unkulla-tualcha to my father.

It will be noticed that distinct names are given to elder and younger brothers and elder and younger sisters. Thus not only are my elder sisters in blood called Ungaraitcha, but the daughters of women whom my mother calls Ungaraitcha are Ungaraitcha to me, and those of women whom my mother called Quitia are Quitia to me. There are, however, certain exceptions to this which are of interest as showing the influence of counting descent in the male line. Not infrequently two brothers in blood will marry two sisters in blood. When this takes place the usual plan is for the elder brother to marry the elder sister; should, however, the elder sister marry the younger brother, then seniority is counted in the male line. In this case the sons and daughters of the younger daughter are the elder brothers and sisters of those of the elder sister.

A curious custom exists with regard to the mutual behaviour of elder and younger sisters and their brothers. A man may speak freely to his elder sisters in blood, but those who are tribal Ungaraitcha must only be spoken to at a considerable distance. To younger sisters, blood and tribal, he may not speak, or at least, only at such a distance that the features are indistinguishable. A man, for example, would speak to his tribal Ungaraitcha or elder sister at a distance of say forty yards, but he would not address his Quitia or younger sisters unless they were at least 100 yards away. [P.89] At night-time Ungaraitcha and Quitia may go to their brother's camp, and if he be present they may, sitting in the darkness where their faces are not distinguishable, converse with his Unawa or wife. We cannot discover any explanation of this restriction in regard to the younger sister; it can hardly be supposed that it has anything to do with the dread of anything like incest, else why is there not as strong a restriction in the case of the elder sisters? That there is some form of tabu, or, as the Arunta natives call it, ekirinja, in regard to the younger sister is shown also by the fact that a man can never inherit the Churinga of a deceased younger sister, but always inherits, on the other hand, those of a deceased elder sister.

In the tables which follow, we give the intermarrying groups of seven other tribes corresponding to those of the Arunta tribe; those of the Ilpirra are identical with the latter, which indeed, have been derived in their present form from the Ilpirra tribe. In all cases, men of column 1 marry women of column 2, and their children are as arranged in column 3; men of column 2 marry women of column 1, and their children are represented in column 4.

In the case of three tribes, Warramunga, Bingongina and Walpari, the system becomes still further complicated by the addition of distinct names for females. These names are those printed in brackets. In these cases a man of column 1, marries a woman of column 2, whose name is in brackets, and their children are shown in column 3. In the Warramunga tribe, for example, a Thapanunga man marries a Naralu, and their children, if males, are Thapungerta, and if females, Napungerta. In the same way a Chupilla man marries a Napanunga woman, and their children, if males, are Thakomara, if females, Nakomara.

The tables are arranged so that the equivalent groups in the various tribes can be seen at a glance. An Ilpirra Panunga man visiting the Waagi is regarded as a Pungarinju, and amongst the Bingongina he is a Tchana. An Ilpirra Purula woman amongst the Iliaura is regarded as an Upilla, and amongst the Bingongina as a Nala, and so on.

1 2 3 4
Panunga Purula Appungerta Kumara
Uknaria Ungalla Bulthara Umbitchana
Bulthara Kumara Uknaria Purula
Appungerta Umbitchana Panunga Ungalla
1 2 3 4
Apanunga Purula Appungerta Akomara
Uknaria Thungalla Kabidgi Umbitchana
Kabidgi Akomara Uknaria Purula
Appungerta Umbitchana Apanunga Thungalla
1 2 3 4
Apanunga Upilla Appungerta Akumara
Uknaria Thungalla Appitchara Umbitchana
Appitchara Akumara Uknaria Upilla
Appungerta Umbitchana Apanunga Thungalla
1 2 3 4
Pungarinju Ikumaru Wairgu Kingelu
Bilyarinthu Chamerameru Bliniwu Nurrithu
Bliniwu Kingelu Bilyarinthu Ikumaru
Wairgu Nurrithu Pungarinju Chamerameru
1 2 3 4
Thapanunga (Napanunga) Chupilla (Naralu) Thapungerta (Napungerta) Thakomara (Nakomara)
Chunguri (Namagili) Thungalli (Nungalli) Kabidgi (Nalchari) Chambein (Lambein)
Kabidgi (Nalchari) Thakomara (Nakomara) Chunguri (Namagili) Chupilla (Naralu)
Thapungerta (Napungerta) Chambein (Lambein) Thapanunga (Napanunga) Thungalli (Nungalli)
1 2 3 4
Tchana (Nana) Chula (Nala) Thungarri (Nungarri) Chimara (Nemara)
Chimita (Namita) Chungalla (Nungalla) Thalirri (Nalyirri) Chambechina (Nambechina)
Thalirri (Nalyirri) Chimara (Nemara) Chimita (Namita) Chula (Nala)
Thungarri (Nungarri) Chambechina (Nambechina) Tchana (Nana) Chungalla (Nungalla)
1 2 3 4
Chapanunga (Napanunga) Chupilla (Napula) Chapungarta (Napungarta) Chakuma (Nakuma)
Chunguri (Namilpa) Chungalla (Nungalla) Chapatcha (Napatcha) Champechinpa (Nambechinpa)
Chapatcha (Napatcha) Chakuma (Nakuma) Chunguri (Namilpa) Chupilla (Napula)
Chapungarta (Napungarta) Champechinpa (Nambechinpa) Chapanunga (Napanunga) Chungalla (Nungalla)


Chapter III Certain Ceremonies Concerned with Marriage Together with a Discussion Regarding the Same.

Marriage ceremony in the northern Arunta and Ilpirra tribes—Ceremony in the southern Arunta—Ceremony in the Kaitish, Warramunga, Iliaura, Waagai, Bingongina, Walpari and Luritcha tribes—On these occasions men standing in a definite relationship to the woman have access to her—Ceremonies are of the nature of those described by Sir John Lubbock as indicative of “expiation for marriage”—To be regarded as rudimentary customs—Sexual license during corrobborees in the Arunta, Kaitish, Iliaura and Warramunga tribes—This is not, strictly speaking, the lending of wives, as it is obligatory—Feeling of sexual jealousy not strongly enough developed amongst these tribes to prevent the occurrence of general intercourse or lending of wives—The putting of a man to death for wrongful intercourse is no proof of the existence of sexual jealousy—Term lending of wives restricted to private and voluntary lending by one man to another—Discussion of certain parts of Westermarck's criticism of the theory of promiscuity so far as concerns the tribes now dealt with—Customs at marriage and at certain other times afford evidence of the former existence of a time when there existed wider marital relations than now obtain.

WHILST under ordinary circumstances in the Arunta and other tribes one man is only allowed to have marital relations with women of a particular class, there are customs which allow, at certain times, of a man having such relations with women to whom at other times he would not on any account be allowed to have access. We find, indeed, that this holds true in the case of all the nine different tribes with the marriage customs of which we are acquainted, and in which a woman becomes the private property of one man.

The following is the custom amongst the Arunta and Ilpirra tribes. When a girl arrives at marriageable age, which is usually about fourteen or fifteen, the man to whom she has been allotted speaks to his Unkulla men, and they, together with men who are Unkulla and Unawa to the girl, but not [P.93] including her future husband, take her out into the bush and there perform the operation called Atna-ariltha-kuma (atna, vulva; kuma, cut.45 The operation is conducted with a stone knife and the operator who is, except in the southern Arunta, a man who is Ipmunna to the girl, carries with him one of the small wooden Churinga called Namatwinna with which before operating he touches the lips of the vulva, so as to prevent too great a loss of blood. When the operation has been performed, the Ipmunna, Unkulla and Unawa have access to her in the order named. This ceremony is often performed during the progress of an Altherta or ordinary corrobboree when, during the day time, the men habitually assemble at the corrobboree ground. When it is over the woman's head is decorated, by the Ipmunna man who operated, with head bands and tufts of Alpita,46 the neck with necklaces, the arms with bands of fur string, and her body is painted all over with a mixture of fat and red ochre. Thus decorated, she is taken to the camp of her special Unawa by the men who have taken part in the ceremony and who have meanwhile painted themselves with charcoal.47 On the day following the husband will most likely—though there is no obligation for him to do so—send her to the same men, and after that she becomes his special wife, to whom no one else has right of access; though at times a man will lend his wife to a stranger as an act of courtesy, always provided that he belongs to the right class, that is, to the same as himself. After wearing the decorations for a few days, the woman returns them to her Ipmunna man.

By reference to the tables already given, it will be clearly seen that on this occasion men of forbidden groups have access to the woman. Suppose, for example, that she is a Purula. Her proper Unawa will be a Panunga man, and such an one is normally the only one with whom she may have [P.94] marital relations. The woman's Ipmunna is an Ungalla man, that is, a man who belongs to her own moiety of the tribe; her Unkulla are Uknaria, that is, they belong to the half of her husband's class into which she may not marry. In addition to these forbidden men, there are the Unawa or men who are her lawful husbands, so far as their class is concerned, but whose general right of access to her is lost when she is allotted to some special individual amongst them.

In the southern Arunta the operation is performed by a man who is Nimmera to the woman, that is, a man of the same class as the father of her future husband. For example, if she be again a Purula the man will be a Bulthara. The ceremony is performed when a considerable number of men are together in camp, and the details vary somewhat from those in the northern part. A brother of the woman who has been told by the man that he, the latter, intends to claim his alloted Unawa takes the initiative and tells those who are not participating in the ceremony to remain in camp. Individuals who stand in the relationship to her of Mia, Oknia, Okilia, Ungaraitcha, Gammona, Ipmunna and the particular Unawa to whom she is allotted, sit down in camp, the woman being amongst them. Then a man who is Nimmera to her comes up behind, and, touching the woman on the shoulder, tells her to follow him. He goes away accompanied by perhaps two other Nimmera, one or two who are Unkulla to her, and one or two who are Unawa, that is, are of the same class as her future husband. After the ceremony has been performed, she is decorated and brought back to the camp, and told to sit down immediately behind her special Unawa whom, after a short time, she accompanies to his camp. That night he lends her to one or two men who are Unawa to her, and afterwards she belongs exclusively to him.

Amongst the Kaitish tribe the operation is performed by an Arari or elder sister of the woman, and men of the following relationship have access in the order indicated. Atmini, the equivalents of the Ipmunna amongst the Arunta; Atinkilia mothers' brothers' sons; Alkiriia and Achirri, elder and younger brothers (but not in blood); Gammona and Umbirniia the equivalent of the Unawa amongst the Arunta. It will be [P.95] seen that in the Kaitish tribe, the usual restrictions are even more notably broken than in the Arunta, for right of access is granted to men who are tribal brothers.

Amongst the Warramunga tribe the operation is performed either by a man who is Turtundi, the equivalent of Ipmunna in the Arunta, or, as amongst the Kaitish, by an elder sister. Men of the following relationship subsequently have access in the order named. Turtundi or Ipmunna; Wankili, father's sisters' sons; Papirti and Kukatcha, elder and younger brothers (not in blood); Kullakulla, the equivalents of the Unawa in the Arunta.

Amongst the Iliaura tribe the operation is performed by an Ipmunna man and the following, using the equivalent terms of the Arunta, have access in the order named; Ipmunna, Unkulla, Okilia, Itia, and Unawa.

In the Waagai and Bingongina tribes the ceremony is the same as in the Warramunga.

In the Walpari tribe the ceremony, as amongst the southern Arunta, is performed by a man who belongs to the same class as the woman's father-in-law, and is called Kulkuna; and men of the following relationship have access in the order named. Kulkuna; Thathana, the equivalents of the Ipmunna; Wankillina or mothers' brothers' sons; Papertina and Kukernina, elder and younger brothers; and Kullakulla, the equivalents of the Unawa of the Arunta.
In the Luritcha tribe the operation is performed by a man who is Sthamu to the woman, that is, grandfather on the father's side; and men of the following relationship have access in the order named—Sthamu; Watchira, mothers' brothers' sons; Ukari, sisters' sons; Kuri, the equivalents of the Unawa of the Arunta.

It will be seen that in the nine tribes referred to there is a substantial agreement in the ceremonies concerned with marriage. It must of course be understood that they refer to the marriage of men and women who have been allotted to one another in one or other of the various ways which obtain amongst the tribes dealt with. In all these tribes we find that individual marriage exists, though in none of them is there a special term applied to the special wife, apart from the [P.96] general one given in common to her and other women of her group whom it is lawful for a man to marry and outside of whom he may not marry.

In each tribe, again, we find at this particular time when a woman is being, so to speak, handed over to one particular man, that special individuals representing groups with which at ordinary times she may have no intercourse, have the right of access to her. In the majority of tribes, even tribal brothers are included amongst them. The individuals who are thus privileged vary from tribe to tribe, but in all cases the striking feature is that, for the time being, the existence of what can only be described as partial promiscuity can clearly be seen. By this we do not mean that marital rights are allowed to any man, but that for a time such rights are allowed to individuals to whom at other times the woman is ekirinja, or forbidden. The ceremonies in question are of the nature of those which Sir John Lubbock has described as indicative of “expiation for marriage,” and it is at least very probable that the customs are to be regarded as pointing back to the former existence of an exercise of wider marital rights than those which now obtain in the various tribes. They may in fact be best described as rudimentary customs in just the same way in which we speak of rudimentary structures amongst animals and plants. Just also as the latter are regarded as representative of parts which were once functional in ancestral forms, so also may we regard these rudimentary customs as lingering relics of a former stage passed through in the development of the present social organisation of the various tribes in which they are found.

In addition to the ceremonies which are concerned with marriage, there is another custom of somewhat the same nature, to which reference may be made here. In the eastern and north-eastern parts of the Arunta, and in the Kaitish Iliaura, and Warramunga tribes, considerable license is allowed on certain occasions, when a large number of men and women are gathered together to perform certain corrobborees. When an important one of these is held, it occupies perhaps ten days or a fortnight; and during that time the men, and especially the elder ones, but by no means exclusively [P.97] these, spend the day in camp preparing decorations to be used during the evening. Every day two or three women are told off to attend at the corrobboree ground, and, with the exception of men who stand in the relation to them of actual father, brother, or sons, they are, for the time being, common property to all the men present on the corrobboree ground. In the Arunta tribe the following is exactly what takes place: a man goes to another who is actually or tribally his son-in-law, that is, one who stands to him in the relationship of Gammona, and says to the latter: “You will take my Unawa into the bush48 and bring in with you some undattha altherta” (down used for decorating during ordinary corrobborees). The Gammona then goes away, followed by the woman who has been previously told what to do by her husband. This woman is actually Mura to the Gammona, that is, one to whom under ordinary circumstances he may not even speak or go near, much less have anything like marital relations with. After the two have been out in the bush they return to the camp, the man carrying undattha and the woman following with green twigs, which the men will wear during the evening dance, tied round their arms and ankles. There will be perhaps two or three of these women present on each day, and to them any man present on the ground, except those already mentioned, may have access. During the day they sit near to the men watching but taking no part in the preparation of decorations. The natives say that their presence during the preparations and the sexual indulgence, which was a practice of the Alcheringa, prevents anything from going wrong with the performance; it makes it impossible for the head decorations, for example, to become loose and disordered during the performance. At evening the women are painted with red ochre by the men, and then they return to the main camp to summon the women and children to the corrobboree.

In connection with this subject, a curious custom concerned with messengers may be noticed here. In the case of the Urabunna tribe it is usual to send as messengers, when [P.98] summoning distant groups, a man and a woman, or sometimes two pairs, who are Piraungaru to each other. The men carry as evidence of their mission bunches of cockatoo feathers and nose bones. After the men have delivered their message and talked matters over with the strangers, they take the women out a short distance from the camp, where they leave them. If the members of the group which they are visiting decide to comply with their request, all men irrespective of class have access to the women; but, if it be decided not to comply with the request, then the latter are not visited. In much the same way, when a party of men intent on vengeance comes near to the strange camp of which they intend to kill some member, the use of women may be offered to them. If they be accepted, then the quarrel is at an end, as the acceptance of this favour is a sign of friendship. To accept the favour and then not to comply with the desire of the people offering it, would be a gross breach of tribal custom.

So far, then, as the marital relations of the tribes are concerned, we find that whilst there is individual marriage, there are, in actual practice, occasions on which the relations are of a much wider nature. We have, indeed, in this respect three very distinct series of relationships. The first is the normal one, when the woman is the private property of one man, and no one without his consent can have access to her, though he may lend her privately to certain individuals who stand in one given relationship to her. The second is the wider relation in regard to particular men at the time of marriage. The third is the still wider relation which obtains on certain occasions, such as the holding of important corrobborees.

The first of these is purely a private matter, and it is only to this that the term lending of wives can be properly applied, and to it we restrict the term in the following pages. The second and third are what we may call matters of public nature, by which we mean that the individuals concerned have no choice in the matter, and the women cannot be withheld by the men whose individual wives they either are to be, or already are.

In the case of the women who attend the corrobboree, it is supposed to be the duty of every man at different times [P.99] to send his wife to the ground, and the most striking feature in regard to it is that the first man who has access to her is the very one to whom, under normal conditions, she is most strictly tabu, that is, her Mura. This definite way of breaking through the rules of tabu appears to show that the custom has some very definite significance more than can be explained by merely referring it to a feeling of hospitality, and the fact that every man in turn is obliged by public custom to thus relinquish, for the time being, his possession of the woman who has been allotted to him, strengthens the idea. At the same time, as young and old men alike have to do so at some time or other, it is impossible to regard it as a right which is forcibly taken by strong men from weaker ones. It is a custom of ancient date which is sanctioned by public opinion, and to the performance of which neither men nor women concerned offer any opposition.

In connection with this, it may be worth while noting that amongst the Australian natives with whom we have come in contact, the feeling of sexual jealousy is not developed to anything like the extent to which it would appear to be in many other savage tribes. For a man to have unlawful intercourse with any woman arouses a feeling which is due not so much to jealousy as to the fact that the delinquent has infringed a tribal custom. If the intercourse has been with a woman who belongs to the class from which his wife comes, then he is called atna nylkna (which, literally translated, is vulva-thief); if with one with whom it is unlawful for him to have intercourse, then he is called iturka, the most opprobrious term in the Arunta tongue. In the one case he has merely stolen property, in the other he has offended against tribal law.

Now and again sexual jealousy as between a man and woman will come into play, but as a general rule this is a feeling which is undoubtedly subservient to that of the influence of tribal custom, so far as the latter renders it obligatory for a man to allow other men, at certain times, to have free access to his wife, or so far as it directs him to lend his wife to some other individual as a mark of personal favour to the latter.

[P.100] Whilst jealousy is not unknown amongst these tribes, the point of importance in respect to the matter under discussion is that it is not strongly enough developed to prevent the occurrence of general intercourse on certain occasions, or the lending of wives at other times; it is, indeed, a factor which need not be taken into serious account in regard to the question of sexual relations amongst the Central Australian tribes. A man in these tribes may be put to death for wrongful intercourse, but at the same time this is no proof of the fact that sexual jealousy exists; it is a serious offence against tribal laws, and its punishment has no relation to the feelings of the individual.

We may now pass on to discuss briefly the customs relating to marriage which have already been enumerated, and in so doing, as we have often to refer to the lending of wives, it must be remembered that we use this term only as applying to the private lending of a woman to some other individual by the man to whom she has been allotted, and do not refer to the custom at corrobborees which has just been dealt with, and which, as it is in reality obligatory and not optional, cannot be regarded as a lending in the same sense in which the term is used in connection with the former custom.

In his well-known work dealing with human marriage, Westermarck49 has brought together, from various sources, facts relating to similar customs, and, while discussing the hypothesis of promiscuity from an adverse point of view, has endeavoured to explain them as due to various causes. These we may conveniently discuss, examining each briefly in the endeavour to ascertain whether it will or will not serve to explain the marriage customs as we find them in Australian tribes, of which those quoted above may be taken as typical examples. It must be understood that we are here simply dealing with this question so far as the evidence derived from these Australian tribes is concerned.

The first explanation offered is that in certain instances the practice is evidently associated with phallic worship, as, for example, when in the valley of the Ganges, the virgins had to offer themselves up in the temples of Juggernaut. This [P.101] implies a state of social development very different from, and much more advanced than, anything met with amongst the Australian natives, and the two customs are evidently quite distinct from one another. It is doubtful how far phallic worship can be said to exist amongst the Australian natives.

In other cases where the bride is for a night considered the common property of the guests at a wedding feast, Westermarck suggests that “It may have been a part of the nuptial entertainment—a horrible kind of hospitality no doubt, but quite in accordance with savage ideas, and analogous to another custom which occurs much more frequently—I mean the practice of lending wives.” This presupposes, and in fact is co-existent with, what does not take place in Australian tribes, and that is a more or less regular marriage ceremony at which guests assemble, and such an organised proceeding cannot be said to exist amongst the tribes with which we are dealing; moreover, apart from this, which is not perhaps a very serious objection, though it seems to imply a state of development considerably in advance of that of the Australian natives, there still remains what appears to us to be the insuperable difficulty of accounting, on this hypothesis, for the fact that this “hospitality” amongst Australian tribes is only allowed to a limited number of individuals, all of whom must stand in some particular relationship to the woman.

Westermarck further suggests that it is analogous to the custom of lending wives. Now, amongst the Australian natives wives are certainly lent, but only under strict rules; in the Arunta tribe for example no man will lend his wife to any one who does not belong to the particular group with which it is lawful for her to have marital relations—she is in fact, only lent to a man whom she calls Unawa, just as she calls her own husband, and though this may undoubtedly be spoken of as an act of hospitality, it may with equal justice be regarded as evidence of the very clear recognition of group relationship, and as evidence also in favour of the former existence of group marriage.

It is quite true, on the other hand, that a native will sometimes offer his wife, as an act of hospitality, to a white man; but this has nothing to do with the lending of wives which [P.102] has just been dealt with, and the difference between the two acts is of a radical nature. The white man stands outside the laws which govern the native tribe, and therefore to lend him a wife of any designation does not imply the infringement of any custom. This is purely and simply, as Westermarck points out, an act of hospitality, but the very fact that he will only lend his wife, if he does so at all, to another native of a particular designation, seems to at once imply that we are dealing with a custom at the root of which lies something much more than merely an idea of hospitality. The lending of women to men outside the tribe who are not amenable to its laws and customs is one thing, to lend them to men who are members of the tribe is quite another thing, and the respective origins of the customs in these two radically different cases are probably totally distinct—one is no doubt to be explained on the hypothesis of hospitality, the other is not. The hypothesis of hospitality does not, in short, appear to us to be capable of explaining the fact that both at marriage and at certain other times, it is only particular men who are allowed access to particular women.50

A third hypothesis suggested to account for certain customs such as the “jus primae noctis,” accorded to chiefs and particular individuals, is that “it may be a right taken forcibly by the stronger, or it may be a privilege voluntarily given to the chief man as a mark of esteem; in either case it depends upon his authority.”51 It will be generally admitted that here again no such explanation will account for the customs as met with amongst Australian tribes. In the first place, while the elder men are undoubtedly accorded certain privileges, there is not in any Australian tribe any one individual [P.103] to whom the term chief can, with strict propriety, be applied, and in the second place the privilege with which we are dealing is by no means enjoyed wholly by the elder men.52 Unless the leading man in any group stands in a particular relationship to the woman, he has no more right of access to her than the most insignificant man in the group.

A fourth hypothesis is suggested in connection with the right of access granted to men who have assisted the bridegroom in the capture of the woman. “In such cases the ‘jus primae noctis’ is a reward for a good turn done, or perhaps, as Mr. McLennan suggests, a common war right, exercised by the captors of the woman.”53 There is undoubtedly much to be said in favour of this, but there are objections applying to it as to the second hypothesis dealt with. In the first place, so far as Australia is concerned, it is founded upon such vague statements as that quoted by Brough Smyth upon the authority of Mr. J. M. Davis.54 Mr. Davis says, “when a young man is entitled to have a lubra, he organises a party of his friends, and they make a journey into the territories of some other tribe, and there lie in wait, generally in the evening, by a waterhole, where the lubras come for water. Such of the lubras as may be required are then pounced upon, and, if they attempt to make any resistance, are struck down insensible and dragged off. There is also this peculiarity, that in any instance where the abduction has taken place for the benefit of some one individual, each of the members of the party claims, as a right, a privilege which the intended husband has no power to refuse.”

Before it is safe, or indeed possible, to draw any conclusion from this, we require to know exactly who the men were, that is in what relationship they stood to the man whom [P.104] they were assisting. The more detailed is the information acquired in respect to the Australian tribes, the more clearly is it made apparent that on expeditions such as this, when the object in view is the obtaining of a wife, the man only asks the assistance of men who stand in certain definite relationships to himself. It does not at all follow, that, because a man forms a member of a party which captures a woman, he is therefore allowed to have access to her. In the tribes which we have investigated, marriage customs regulate the whole proceedings; the equivalent classes in the tribes are well known and, supposing for example, a party consists of men belonging to two classes, which we will call A and B, and a woman is captured belonging, say, to a third class C, which intermarries with Class A, but not with Class B, then no man in the party, if there be any such present, who belongs to Class B will be allowed, or will attempt, to have access to her. When we have merely such general statements as that quoted above from the report of Mr. Davis, it may look very much as if there did exist such a thing as “a common war-right, exercised by the captors of a woman,” but the more detailed our information becomes, the less evidence of any such “common war-right” do we find, and in the Australian tribes generally it may be regarded as very doubtful if any such right really exists. Amongst the tribes with which we are acquainted it certainly does not.

Marriage by capture is again, at the present day, whatever it may have been in the past, by no means the rule in Australian tribes, and too much stress has been laid upon this method. It is only comparatively rarely that a native goes and seizes upon some lubra in a neighbouring tribe; by far the most common method of getting a wife is by means of an arrangement made between brothers or fathers of the respective men and women, whereby a particular woman is assigned to a particular man. Marriage by capture may indeed be regarded as one of the most exceptional methods of obtaining a wife amongst the natives at the present day. We are not of course referring here to customs which may, in many tribes, be explained as indicative of a former existence of the practice; whether, in the remote past, [P.105] capture was the prevailing method can only be a matter of conjecture, but the customs at marriage in the tribes here dealt with—and it may be pointed out that these occupy a very large area in the centre of the continent, so that we are by no means dealing with an isolated example—do not seem to indicate that they owe their origin to anything like the recognition of the right of captor, as captor.

The fifth hypothesis is that of promiscuity. Certainly at the present day, so far as we can tell, there is some definite system of marriage in all Australian tribes and promiscuity, as a normal feature, does not exist. At the same time none of the hypotheses put forward by Westermarck will serve to explain the curious and very strongly marked features of the marriage customs, the essential points in which are, (1) that men have access to women who are strictly forbidden to them at ordinary times, and (2) that it is only certain definite men standing incertain particular relationships to the woman who thus have access.

To make use of the same analogy again, it seems that in the evolution of the social organisation and customs of a savage tribe, such features as those which we are now discussing are clearly comparable to the well known rudimentary organs, which are often of great importance in understanding the phylogeny of the animal in which at some time of its development they are present. Such rudimentary structures are emblematic of parts which are perhaps only transient or, at most, imperfectly developed in the animal, but their presence shows that they were, at some past time, more highly developed and functional in ancestral stages.

It is thus perhaps permissible to speak of “rudimentary customs,” in just the same way, and with just the same significance attached to them, in which we speak of “rudimentary organs” and we may recognise in them an abbreviated record of a stage passed through in the development of the customs of the tribe amongst which they are found.55 Such [P.106] rudimentary customs, like those which are associated with the Maypole for example, point back to a time when they were more highly developed than they are at present, and when the customs were more or less widely different from those now prevailing.

The origin of the marriage customs of the tribes now dealt with cannot possibly, so it seems to us, be explained as due either to a feeling of hospitality, or to the right of captors; nor can they be explained, as in certain cases the “jus primae noctis” can, as a right forcibly taken by the stronger from the weaker. There can be no reasonable doubt but that at one time the marriage arrangements of the Australian tribes were in a more primitive state than they are at the present day, and the customs with which we are dealing can be most simply explained as rudimentary ones serving, possibly in a very abbreviated way, to show the former existence of conditions which are no longer prevalent.

In regard to the marriage customs of the tribes now dealt with, we have the following facts. In the first place we have a group of women who are, what is called Unawa, to a group of men and vice versa, that is, all of these men and women are reciprocally marriageable. This, it may be observed, is not a matter of assumption but of actual fact. In the Arunta tribe for example a Panunga man will call the Purula whom he actually marries Unawa, but he has no name to distinguish her from all the other Purula women whom he does not actually marry, but any one of whom he might lawfully marry.56 Further than this, while he has no actual right of access to any woman, except his own special Unawa woman or women, there are times, as, for example, during special ceremonies, or when he is visiting a distant group, when a woman is lent to him, but that woman must be one who is [P.107] Unawa to him. In other words, we have individual marriage in which a man is limited in his choice to women of a particular group, each one of whom stands to him in the relationship of a possible wife, and with whom it is lawful for him, with the consent of her special Unawa man, to have marital relations. However hospitably inclined a man may feel, he will never lend his wife to a man who does not belong to a group of men to each of whom she stands in the relationship of Unawa or possible wife. A Panunga man may lend his wife to another Panunga, but for a man of any other class to have marital relations with her would be a gross offence.

In the second place, we have certain customs concerned with marriage which are of what we may call a transient nature. Taking the Kaitish tribe as an example, we find that, when marriage actually takes place, the operation of Atna-ariltha-kuma is performed by the elder sister of the woman, and that men of the following relationship have access to her in the order named: Ipmunna, that is individuals of the same moiety of the tribe as her own; mothers' brothers' sons; tribal elder and younger brothers; and lastly, men whom she might lawfully marry, but who have no right to her when once she becomes the property of a member of the group to which they belong. By referring to the tables already given, it will be seen that these men, if we take a particular example, say a Panunga woman, are Ungalla, Uknaria, Purula and Panunga. In other words, both men of her own, and of the moiety of the tribe to which she does not belong, have access to her, but only for a very limited time, and the same holds true in the case of all the tribes examined.

It will therefore be seen that (1) for a given time a woman has marital relations with men of both moieties of the tribe, and (2) that she may during her life, when once she has become the special wife of some individual man, have lawfully, but dependent always upon the consent of the latter, marital relations with any of the group of men to each and all of whom she stands in the relationship of Unawa.

These are the actual facts with which we have to deal, and the only possible explanation of them appears to us to lie [P.108] along the following lines. We are here of course only dealing with those tribes in which descent is counted in the male line, the remaining tribe—the Urabunna—in which descent is counted in the female line, will be referred to subsequently. It appears to us that, in the present customs relating to marriage amongst this section of the Australian natives, we have clear evidence of three grades of development. We have (1) the present normal condition of individual marriage with the occasional existence of marital relations between the individual wife and other men of the same group as that to which her husband belongs, and the occasional existence also of still wider marital relations; (2) we have evidence of the existence at a prior time of actual group marriage; and (3) we have evidence of the existence at a still earlier time of still wider marital relations.

The evidence in favour of the hypothesis, that the present marriage system of such a tribe as the Arunta is based upon the former actual existence of group marriage, seems to us to be incontestable. The one most striking point in regard to marriage at the present day is that a man of one group is absolutely confined in his choice of a wife to women of a particular group, and that it is lawful for him to marry any woman of that group. When once he has secured a woman she is his private property, but he may, and often does, lend her to other men, but only if they belong to his own group. Further still, the natives have two distinct words to denote on the one hand surreptitious connection between a man and a woman who is not his own wife, but belongs to the proper group from which his wife comes, and, on the other hand, connection between a man and a woman belonging to forbidden groups. The first is called Atna-nylkna, the second is Iturka. In the face of the facts which have been brought forward, we see no possible explanation other than that the present system is derived from an earlier one in which the essential feature was actual group marriage.

When we turn to the Urabunna tribe we find the evidence still clearer. Here we have only two classes, viz., Matthurie and Kirarawa. A Matthurie man marries a Kirarawa woman, and vice versa. There is no such thing as an [P.109] individual wife. Every Matthurie man stands in the relationship of Nupa to a group of Kirarawa women, and they are, in the same way, Nupa to him. Every man has, or at least may have, one or more of these Nupa women allotted to him as wives, and to whom he has the first but not the exclusive right of access. To certain Nupa women other than his own wives he stands in the relationship of Piraungaru, and they to him. These Piraungaru are the wives of other men of his own group, just as his own wives are Piraungaru to some of the latter men, and we thus find in the Urabunna tribe that a group of women actually have marital relations with a group of men. Westermarck57 has referred in his work to what he calls “the pretended group-marriages” of the Australians. In the case of the Urabunna there is no pretence of any kind, and exactly the same remark holds true of the neighbouring Dieri tribe.

The matter can be expressed clearly in the form of a diagram used by Mr. Fison in explaining the marriage system of the Dieri tribe:58

It must be remembered, of course, that any one woman may be Piraungaru to a larger number of men than the two who are represented in the diagram. The relation of Piraungaru is established between any woman and men to whom she is Nupa—that is, to whom she may be lawfully married [P.110] by her Nuthie or elder brothers. If a group be camped together, and, as a matter of fact groups of individuals who are Piraungaru to one another do usually camp together, then in the case of F1, her special Nupa man M1 has the first right to her, but if he be absent then M2 and M3 have the right to her; or, if M1 be present, the two have the right to her subject to his consent, which is practically never withheld.

It is difficult to see how this system can be regarded otherwise than as an interesting stage in the transition from group to individual marriage. Each woman has one special individual who has the first right of access to her, but she has also a number of individuals of the same group who have a right to her either, if the first man be present, with his consent or, in his absence, without any restriction whatever.

In this tribe, just as in all the others, connection with women of the wrong group is a most serious offence, punishable by death or very severe treatment.

The evidence in favour of the third grade, that is the existence of wider marital relations than those indicated by the form of group marriage which has just been discussed, is naturally more indefinite and difficult to deal with. Westermarck, after having discussed at length the hypothesis of promiscuity, says:59 “Having now examined all the groups of social phenomena adduced as evidence for the hypothesis of promiscuity, we have found that, in point of fact, they are no evidence. Not one of the customs alleged as relics of an ancient state of indiscriminate cohabitation of the sexes or ‘communal marriage’ presupposes the former existence of that state,” and further on he says:60 “It is not, of course, impossible that, among some people, intercourse between the sexes may have been almost promiscuous. But there is not a shred of genuine evidence for the notion that promiscuity ever formed a general stage in the social history of mankind.”

It need scarcely be pointed out how totally opposed this conclusion of Mr. Westermarck's is to that arrived at by other workers, and we think there can be little doubt but that Mr. Westermarck is in error with regard to the question of group marriage amongst the Australian natives.

[P.111] We are here simply concerned with the question as to whether there is any evidence in favour of the supposition that in former times there existed wider marital relations amongst the Australian natives than is indicated in the system of group marriage, the evidence in favour of which has been dealt with. If any were forthcoming, there can be little doubt but that, a priori, we should expect to find it in the nature of what we have called a rudimentary custom, such as might be met with at the actual time of marriage, that is, when a woman is handed over to become the possession of one man. None of the hypotheses brought forward by Westermarck to explain the customs on this occasion can, we think, be considered as at all satisfactory in regard to those of the tribes with which we are dealing. The one striking feature of the marriage customs is that particular men representative of the woman's own moiety, and of the half of the tribe to which she does not belong, have access to her, and always in a particular order, according to which those who, in the present state of the tribe, have lawfully the right to her come last.

These customs, together with the one already dealt with, referring to a general intercourse during the performance of certain corrobborees are, it appears to us, only capable of any satisfactory explanation on the hypothesis that they indicate the temporary recognition of certain general rights which existed in the time prior to that of the form of group marriage of which we have such clear traces yet lingering amongst the tribes. We do not mean that they afford direct evidence of the former existence of actual promiscuity, but they do afford evidence leading in that direction, and they certainly point back to a time when there existed wider marital relations than obtain at the present day—wider, in fact, than those which are shown in the form of group marriage from which the present system is derived. On no other hypothesis yet advanced do the customs connected with marriage, which are so consistent in their general nature and leading features from tribe to tribe, appear to us to be capable of satisfactory explanation.


Chapter IV The Totems

Every individual is born into some totem—Variations in the significance of the totems in different parts of Australia—Totems of the Urabunna tribe—The child takes the mother's totem—Totems of the Arunta tribe—No relationship of necessity between the totem name of the child and that of the father and mother—Marriage not regulated by totem—Examples of totem names as they exist in particular families—Though differing much from one another in many points, there is a fundamental unity in customs, sufficient to indicate the origin of all Australian tribes from ancestors who practised certain customs which have been developed along different lines in different localities—Ceremonies of the Engwura serving to show the way in which each individual acquires his or her totemic name—The Alcheringa times—The ancestral members of certain totemic groups restricted wholly, or almost so, to members of one moiety of the tribe—The wanderings of certain groups of Alcheringa ancestors, each of whom carried one or more sacred Churinga, with each of which is associated the spirit part of an individual—Where the Churinga are deposited there local totem centres are formed, the native name of which is Oknanikilla—Each Oknanikilla is associated with one totem, and when a child is born it is one of the spirit individuals resident at a particular spot which goes inside a woman, and therefore its totem is the totem of the spirits associated with that spot—Examples of how a child gets its totemic name—Totem never changes, but the class may—The totems are local in their distribution.

EVERY individual of the tribes with which we are dealing is born into some totem—that is, he or she belongs to a group of persons each one of whom bears the name of, and is especially associated with, some natural object. The latter is usually an animal or plant; but in addition to those of living things, there are also such totem names as wind, sun, water, or cloud—in fact there is scarcely an object, animate or inanimate, to be found in the country occupied by the natives which does not gives its name to some totemic group of individuals.

Much has been written with regard to the totems of the Australian natives since the time when Grey first described them under the name of Kobong, which, it must be remarked, is only of local application in certain parts of the west, the [P.113] word being entirely unknown over the greater part of the continent. As might have been expected, when we take into account the vast area of land over which the Australian tribes are spread, and the isolation by physical barriers of those occupying the Central area from the tribes living on the east and west, there have arisen, in respect to the totemic system, variations of so important a character that it is by no means possible to describe that which is found in any one tribe or group of tribes and regard it as typical of Australian natives generally. The Arunta, Ilpirra and Luritcha tribes, and there is little doubt but that the same holds true of other tribes to the north, such as the Waagai, Iliaura, Bingongina, Walpari, and Warramunga, differ in important respects from the tribes which either now do, or formerly did, inhabit the east and south-eastern parts of the continent, and to whom nearly all our knowledge of totems in Australia has been confined. Between these central and the southern and south-eastern tribes a sharp line can be drawn, so far as their totemic systems are concerned; indeed it looks very much as if somewhere a little to the north-west of Lake Eyre we had a meeting-place of two sets of tribes, which migrated southwards, following roughly parallel courses, one across the centre of the continent, while the other followed down the course of the main streams on the east, and then turned slightly northward on the west side of Lake Eyre; or, possibly, in their southern wanderings, part of this eastern group spread round the north, and part round the south end of the lake (Fig. 1).

We find, so far as their organisation is concerned, a sharply marked line of difference between the Urabunna tribe, the members of which are spread over the country which lies to the west and north-west of Lake Eyre, and the Arunta tribe, which adjoins their northern boundary. The Urabunna tribe is associated with the migration along the eastern side, while the Arunta is the most southern of the Central tribes.

In the Urabunna and the adjoining Dieri tribe, as well as in those which spread northwards on the east side of Lake Eyre towards the borders of Queensland, and in others who lived along the shores of Spencer Gulf and along the southern [P.114] coast, we find that descent is counted in the female line. In the Urabunna, for example, we find that all the members of the tribe are divided into two classes, which are called respectively Matthurie and Kirarawa, and each of these again contains a certain number of totems, or, as the natives call them, Thunthunie. The same totem name is only to be found in one or other of the two classes, but not in both. Thus, for example, among the Matthurie we find the following totems—Inyarrie (wild duck), Wutnimmera (green cicada), Matla (dingo), Waragutie (emu), Kalathura (wild turkey), Guti (black swan); whilst amongst the Kirarawa are such totems as Kurara (cloud), Wabma (carpet snake), Kapirie (lace lizard), Urantha (pelican), Kutnichilie (water-hen), Wakala (crow).61

Now not only must a Matthurie man take as wife a Kirarawa woman, but he must only take one of some particular totem.62 Thus a wild duck Matthurie man marries a snake Kirarawa woman, a cicada marries a crow, a dingo a water-hen, an emu a rat, a wild turkey a cloud, and a swan a pelican. Every child, male or female, of a wild duck Matthurie man belongs to the class Kirarawa, and to the totem snake to which his mother belonged. Thus in every family the father belongs to one class and totem, while the mother and all the children belong to another. We have already dealt at length with certain aspects of the social organisation of the Urabunna tribe, and enough has now been said to show that it is a typical example of one of the many Australian tribes in which the totem of the child is simply determined by that of the mother.

Passing northwards from the Urabunna into the Arunta tribe, we are brought into contact with a very different organisation, but with one which, in regard to the class names, is typical of tribes which occupy an area extending north and south for some 800 miles, and east and west for perhaps [P.115] between 200 and 300. We find also essentially the same system in tribes inhabiting other parts of Australia, such as the Turribul, living on the Maryborough river in Queensland.63 Without entering here into details, which will be fully explained subsequently, we may say that, so far as the class is concerned, descent is counted in the male line. The totem names are, however, at first sight decidedly perplexing. Just as in the Urabunna tribe, every individual has his or her totem name. In the first place, however, no one totem is confined to the members of a particulars class or subclass; in the second place the child's totem will sometimes be found to be the same as that of the father, sometimes the same as that of the mother, and not infrequently it will be different from that of either parent; and in the third place there is no definite relationship between the totem of the father and mother, such as exists in the Urabunna and many other Australian tribes—in fact perhaps in the majority of the latter. You may, for example, examine at first a family in which the father is a witchetty grub and the mother a wild cat, and you may find, supposing there be two children, that they are both witchetty grubs. In the next family examined perhaps both parents will be witchetty grubs, and of two children one may belong to the same totem, and the other may be an emu; another family will show the father to be, say, an emu, the mother a plum-tree, and of their children one may be a witchetty grub, another a lizard, and so on, the totem names being apparently mixed up in the greatest confusion possible.

We give below the actual totem names of five families, selected at random, who are now living in the northern section of the Arunta tribe, and these may be taken as accurately representative of the totem names found in various families throughout the tribe. After making very numerous and as careful inquiries as possible, always directly from the natives concerned, we can say that every family shows the same features as these particular examples do with regard to the totems, the names of the latter varying, of course, from family to family and in different parts of the country, certain [P.116] totems predominating in some, and others in other parts. You may, for example, find yourself in one district of more or less limited area and find one totem largely represented; travelling out of that district, you may meet but rarely with that particular totem until you come into another and perhaps distant part, where—it may be 40 or 50 miles away—it again becomes the principal one. The reason for, or rather the explanation of, this curious local distribution of totem names, as given by the natives, will be seen presently.

Family 1. Father, little hawk. Wife No. 1, rat; daughter, witchetty grub. Wife No. 2, kangaroo; no children. Wife No. 3, lizard; two daughters, one emu, the other water.
Family 2. Father, eagle-hawk. Wife No. 1, Hakea flower; no children. Wife No. 2, Hakea flower; four sons, who are respectively witchetty grub, emu, eagle-hawk, elonka; two daughters, both witchetty grubs.
Family 3. Father, witchetty grub. Wife No. 1, lizard; two sons, one lizard, the other witchetty grub. Wife No. 2, lizard.
Family 4. Father, emu. Wife, munyeru; two sons, one kangaroo, the other, wild cat; one daughter, lizard.
Family 5. Father, witchetty grub. Wife, witchetty grub; two sons, one, kangaroo, the other, witchetty grub; one daughter, witchetty grub.

Taking these as typical examples of what is found throughout the whole tribe, we can see that while, as already stated, marriages are strictly regulated by class rules, the question of totem has nothing to do with the matter either so far as making it obligatory for a man of one totem to marry a woman of another particular one, or so far as the totem of the children is concerned. The totem name of the child does not of necessity follow either that of the father or that of the mother, but it may correspond to one or both of them. Whether there ever was a time when, in the Arunta and other neighbouring tribes, marriage was regulated by totem it is difficult to say. At the present day it is not, nor can we find any evidence in the full and numerous traditions relating to the doings of their supposed ancestors which affords indications of a time when, as in the Urabunna tribe, a man might only marry a woman of a totem different from [P.117] his own. In their curious totem regulations, the Arunta and Ilpirra tribes agree, as we know from personal observation, while we have reason to believe that large and important tribes living to the north of them—viz. the Kaitish, Warramunga, Waagai, Iliaura, Bingongina and Walpari—are in accord with them on all important points. The difference in this respect between the tribes whose customs and organisation are now described, and those of other tribes which have been dealt with by able and careful investigators, such as Grey, Fison, Howitt, Roth and others, will serve to show that various tribes and groups of tribes, starting doubtless from a common basis, but isolated from one another during long periods of time by physical barriers, have developed along different lines. Except, perhaps, in the extreme north and north-east, Australia has had for long ages no intercourse with outside peoples, and such as it has had has only affected a very small and insignificant coastal fringe of the continent, and even there the influence has been but very slight. What we have to deal with is a great continental area, peopled most probably by men who entered from the north and brought with them certain customs. We are not here concerned with the difficult question of exactly where the ancestors of the present Australian natives came from. The most striking fact in regard to them at the present day is that over the whole continent, so far as is known, we can detect a community of customs and social organisation sufficient to show that all the tribes inhabiting various parts are the offspring of ancestors who, prior to their migrating in various directions across the continent, and thus giving rise to groups separated to a great extent from one another by physical barriers, already practised certain customs and had the germs of an organisation which has been developed along different lines in different localities.

The class and totem systems, variously modified as we now find them in different tribes, can only be adequately accounted for on the hypothesis that, when the ancestors of the present natives reached the country, they spread over it in various directions, separated into local groups, and developed, without the stimulus derived from contact with outside [P.118] peoples, along various lines, each group retaining features in its customs and organisation such as can only be explained by supposing them all to have had a common ancestry.64

However, to return to the totems of the Arunta. It was while watching and questioning closely the natives during the performance of the Engwura ceremony—a description of which will be found in a later chapter—that we were able to find out the way in which the totem names of the individuals originate and to gain an insight into the true nature of their totemic system.

The Engwura ceremony, which forms the last of the initiatory rites through which the Arunta native must pass before he becomes what is called Urliara, or a fully developed native, admitted to all the most sacred secrets of the tribe, consisted in reality of a long series of ceremonies, the enacting of which occupied in all more than four months. Those with which we are here concerned were a large number, between sixty and seventy altogether, which were connected with the totems and were performed under the direction of the old men, who instructed the younger men both how to perform them and what they represented.

The native name for these ceremonies is Quabara,65 and each one is known as a Quabara of a certain totem associated with a particular spot. Thus we have, for example, the Quabara Unjiamba of Ooraminna, which means a ceremony of the Unjiamba or Hakea flower totem of a place called Ooraminna; the Quabara Achilpa of Urapitchera, which means a ceremony of the wild cat (a species of Dasyurus) [P.119] totem of a place called Urapitchera on the Finke River; the Quabara Okira of Idracowra, which means a ceremony of the kangaroo totem of a place called Idracowra on the Finke River, or, to speak more correctly, of a special spot marked by the presence of a great upstanding column of sandstone, called by white men Chamber's pillar, of the native name for which, Idracowra is a corruption; the Quabara Unchichera of Imanda, which means a ceremony of the frog totem of a spot called by the natives Imanda, and by the white men Bad Crossing on the Hugh River. Each ceremony was thus concerned with a special totem, and not only this, but with a special division of a totem belonging to a definite locality, and, further, each ceremony was frequently, but by no means always, in the possession of, and presided over by, an old man of the totem and locality with which it was concerned. It will shortly be seen that the totems are strictly local, but that we have what may be called local centres of any one totem in various districts of the wide area over which the Arunta tribe is scattered. For our present purpose, which is the explanation of the way in which each individual gets his or her totemic name, the following general account will suffice.

The whole past history of the tribe may be said to be bound up with these totemic ceremonies, each of which is concerned with the doings of certain mythical ancestors who are supposed to have lived in the dim past, to which the natives give the name of the “Alcheringa.”

In the Alcheringa lived ancestors who, in the native mind, are so intimately associated with the animals or plants the name of which they bear that an Alcheringa man of, say, the kangaroo totem may sometimes be spoken of either as a man-kangaroo or as a kangaroo-man. The identity of the human individual is often sunk in that of the animal or plant from which he is supposed to have originated. It is useless to try and get further back than the Alcheringa; the history of the tribe as known to the natives commences then.

Going back to this far-away time, we find ourselves in the midst of semi-human creatures endowed with powers not possessed by their living descendants and inhabiting the same [P.120] country which is now inhabited by the tribe, but which was then devoid of many of its most marked features, the origin of which, such as the gaps and gorges in the Macdonnell Ranges, is attributed to these mythical Alcheringa ancestors.

These Alcheringa men and woman are represented in tradition as collected together in companies, each of which consisted of a certain number of individuals belonging to one particular totem. Thus, for example, the ceremonies of the Engwura dealt with four separate groups of Achilpa or wild cat men.

Whilst every now and then we come across traditions, according to which, as in the case of the Achilpa, the totem is common to all classes, we always find that in each totem one moiety66 of the tribe predominates, and that, according to tradition, many of the groups of ancestral individuals consisted originally of men or women or of both men and women who all belonged to one moiety. Thus in the case of certain Okira or kangaroo groups we find only Kumara and Purula; in certain Udnirringita or witchetty grub groups we find only Bulthara and Panunga; in certain Achilpa or wild cat a predominance of Kumara and Purula, with a smaller number of Bulthara and Panunga.

At the present day no totem is confined to either moiety of the tribe, but in each local centre we always find a great predominance of one moiety, as for example at Alice Springs, the most important centre of the witchetty grubs, where, amongst forty individuals, thirty-five belong to the Bulthara and Panunga, and five only to the other moiety of the tribe.

These traditions with regard to the way in which the Alcheringa ancestors were distributed into companies, the members of which bore the same totem name and belonged, as a general rule, to the same moiety of the tribe, are of considerable importance when we come to consider the conditions which now obtain with regard to totems. It is not without importance to notice that the traditions of the tribe point back to a time when, for the most part, the members of [P.121] any particular totem were confined to one moiety of the tribe, in face of the fact that at the present day it seems to be a characteristic feature of many tribes—such as the Urabunna, which are in a less highly developed state than the Arunta, Ilpirra and certain other tribes of Central Australia—that the totems are strictly confined to one or other of the two moieties of the tribe, and that they regulate marriage. At the same time it may again be pointed out that the totems in no way regulate marriage in the tribes mentioned, and, further still, we can find no evidence in any of the traditions, numerous and detailed as they are, of a time when marriage in these tribes was ever regulated by the totems.

If now we turn to the traditions and examine those relating to certain totems which may be taken as illustrative of the whole series, we find that they are concerned almost entirely with the way in which what we may call the Alcheringa members of the various totems came to be located in various spots scattered over the country now occupied by the tribe the members of which are regarded as their descendants, or, to speak more precisely, as their reincarnations. We will take as examples the following totems—Achilpa or wild cat, Unjiamba or Hakea flower, Unchichera or frog, and Udnirringita or witchetty grub.67

In the Alcheringa there appear to have been four companies of wild cat men and women who, tradition says, appeared first in the southern part of the country. It has been already pointed out that, in the native mind, the ideas of the human and animal nature of these individuals are very closely associated together. Starting from the south out to the east of Charlotte Waters, one of these companies, consisting in this case of Bulthara and Panunga individuals, marched northwards, keeping as they did so considerably to the east of the River Finke. A second and larger party, consisting of Purula and Kumara individuals, came from the south-west and, at a place not far from Henbury on the Finke River, divided into two parties. One of them crossed the Finke and went on northwards to the Macdonnell Ranges, which were traversed [P.122] a little to the east of Alice Springs, and then passed on northwards. The other half, forming the third party, followed up the Finke for some distance, crossing it at a spot now called Running Waters, after which the Macdonnell Ranges were traversed some twenty or twenty-five miles to the west of Alice Springs, and then the party passed on to the north in the direction of Central Mount Stuart. The fourth party, consisting of Purula and Kumara individuals, started from far away to the south-east, and travelled northwards, crossing the Range at Mount Sonder, and continued its course northwards, so says tradition, until it reached the country of the salt water.

The principal traditions with regard to the Unjiamba or Hakea flower totem refer to the wanderings of certain women. In one account, two women of this totem are described as coming from a place about 35 miles to the north of Alice Springs, where they had a sacred pole or Nurtunja.68 Starting southwards, they travelled first of all underground, and came out at a place called Arapera. Here they spent their time eating Unjiamba. Then leaving here they took their sacred pole or Nurtunja to pieces and travelled further on until they came to Ooraminna, in the Macdonnell Ranges, where there is a special water-hole close beside which they sat down and died, and two great stones arose to mark the exact spot where they died. In their journey these two women followed close by the track taken by one of the Achilpa parties, but did not actually come into contact with the latter, which was travelling in the opposite direction.

In addition to these traditions of the wanderings of various companies of men and women belonging to different totems, we meet with others which refer to the origin of special individuals, or groups of individuals, who did not wander about but lived and died where they sprang up. Thus, for example, an Inarlinga or “porcupine” (Echidna) man is supposed to have arisen near to Stuart's waterhole on the Hugh River, [P.123] while at the Emily Gap, near to Alice Springs, tradition says that certain witchetty grubs became transformed into witchetty men, who formed a strong group here, and who were afterwards joined by others of the same totem, who marched over the country to the Gap.

Each of these Alcheringa ancestors is represented as carrying about with him, or her, one or more of the sacred stones, which are called by the Arunta natives Churinga,69 and each of these Churinga is intimately associated with the idea of the spirit part of some individual. Either where they originated and stayed, as in the case of certain of the witchetty grub people, or else where, during their wanderings, they camped for a time, there were formed what the natives call Oknanikilla, each one of which is in reality a local totem centre. At each of these spots, and they are all well known to the old men, who pass the knowledge on from generation to generation, a certain number of the Alcheringa ancestors went into the ground, each one carrying his Churinga with him. His body died, but some natural feature, such as a rock or tree, arose to mark the spot, while his spirit part remained in the Churinga. At the same time many of the Churinga which they carried with them, and each one of which had associated with it a spirit individual, were placed in the ground, some natural object again marking the spot. The result is that, as we follow their wanderings, we find that the whole country is dotted over with Oknanikilla, or local totem centres, at each of which are deposited a number of Churinga, with spirit individuals associated with them. Each Oknanikilla is, of course, connected with one totem. In one part we have a definite locality, with its group of wild cat spirit individuals; in another, a group of emu; in another, a group of frog, and so on through the various totems; and it is this idea of spirit individuals associated with Churinga and resident in certain definite spots that lies at the root of the present totemic system of the Arunta tribe.

As we have said, the exact spot at which a Churinga was [P.124] deposited was always marked by some natural object, such as a tree or rock, and in this the spirit is supposed to especially take up its abode, and it is called the spirit's Nanja.70

We may take the following as a typical example of how each man and woman gains a totem name. Close to Alice Springs is a large and important witchetty grub totem centre or Oknanikilla. Here there were deposited in the Alcheringa a large number of Churinga carried by witchetty grub men and women. A large number of prominent rocks and boulders and certain ancient gum-trees along the sides of a picturesque gap in the ranges, are the Nanja trees and rocks of these spirits, which, so long as they remain in spirit form, they usually frequent. If a woman conceives a child after having been near to this gap, it is one of these spirit individuals which has entered her body, and therefore, quite irrespective of what the mother's or father's totem may chance to be, that child, when born, must of necessity be of the witchetty grub totem; it is, in fact, nothing else but the reincarnation of one of the witchetty grub people of the Alcheringa. Suppose, for example, to take a particular and actual instance, an emu woman from another locality comes to Alice Springs, and whilst there becomes aware that she has conceived a child, and then returns to her own locality before the child is born, that child, though it may be born in an emu locality, is an Udnirringita or witchetty grub. It must be, the natives say, because it entered the mother at Alice Springs, where there are only witchetty grub spirit individuals. Had it entered her body within the limits of her own emu locality, it would as inevitably have been an emu. To take another example, quite recently the lubra or wife of a witchetty grub man, she belonging to the same totem, conceived a child while on a visit to a neighbouring Quatcha or water locality, which lies away to the east of Alice Springs, that child's totem is water; or, again, an Alice Springs woman, when asked by us as to why her child was a witchetty grub (in this instance belonging to the same totem as both of its parents), told us that one day she was taking a drink [P.125] of water near to the gap in the Ranges where the spirits dwell when suddenly she heard a child's voice crying out, “Mia, mia!”—the native term for relationship which includes that of mother. Not being anxious to have a child, she ran away as fast as she could, but to no purpose; she was fat and well favoured, and such women the spirit children prefer; one of them had gone inside her, and of course it was born a witchetty grub.71

The natives are quite clear upon this point. The spirit children are supposed to have a strong predilection for fat women, and prefer to choose such for their mothers, even at the risk of being born into the wrong class. We are acquainted with special, but somewhat rare cases, in which a living man is regarded as the reincarnation of an Alcheringa ancestor whose class was not the same as that of his living representative. At Alice Springs there is a man who is an Uknaria belonging to the lizard totem, and is regarded as the reincarnation of a celebrated Purula lizard man of the Alcheringa. The spirit child deliberately, so the natives say, chose to go into a Kumara instead of into a Bulthara woman, and so the man was born Uknaria instead of Purula. Though the class was changed, the totem could not possibly be.

Such examples could be multiplied indefinitely; but these, which may be taken as typical ones, will serve to show that, though at first sight puzzling, yet in reality the totem name follows a very definite system, if once we grant the premises firmly believed in by the Arunta native.

One point of some interest is brought out by this inquiry into the origin of the totem names, and that is that, though the great majority of any one totem belong to one moiety of the tribe, yet there may be, and in fact always are, a certain number of members who belong to the other moiety. Just as in the Alcheringa, all the witchetty grub men were Bulthara and Panunga, so at the present day are the great majority of their descendants who inhabit the local areas in which the mythical ancestors formed witchetty totem centres. So, in [P.126] the same way, all the Alcheringa emu ancestors were Purula and Kumara, as now are the great majority of their descendants, but, owing to the system according to which totem names are acquired, it is always possible for a man to be, say, a Purula or a Kumara and yet a witchetty, or, on the other hand, a Bulthara or a Panunga, and yet an emu.

Two things are essential—first a child must belong to the totem of the spot at which the mother believes that it was conceived, and, second, it must belong to the moiety of the tribe to which its father belongs. Its totem never changes, but its class may. Once born into a totem, no matter what his class may be, a man, when initiated, may witness and take part in all the sacred ceremonies connected with the totem, but, unless he belong to the predominant moiety, he will never, or only in extremely rare cases, become the head man or Alatunja of any local group of the totem. His only chance of becoming Alatunja is by the death of every member of the group who belongs to the moiety to which the Alcheringa men belonged.

What has gone before will serve to show what we mean by speaking of the totems as being local in their distribution. The whole district occupied by the Arunta, and the same holds true of the Ilpirra and Kaitish tribes, can be mapped out into a large number of areas of various sizes, some of which are actually only a few square yards in extent, while others occupy many square miles, and each of which centres in one or more spots, for which the native name is Oknanikilla—a term which may be best rendered by the phrase “local totem centre.” Each of these represents a spot where Alcheringa ancestors either originated or where they camped during their wanderings, and where some of them went down into the ground with their Churinga, or where they deposited Churinga. In any case the Churinga remained there, each one associated with a spirit individual, and from these have sprung, and still continue to spring, actual men and women who of necessity bear the totem name of the Churinga from which they come.

We shall, later on, deal in greater detail with the traditions which are concerned with the wanderings of the ancestors of [P.127] the local totem groups, and also with certain points of importance, such as the various ceremonies connected with the totems and the relationship existing between the individual and his totem. It will be evident from the general account already given that the totemic system of the Arunta and other Central Australian tribes differs in important respects from those of other tribes which have hitherto been described. It is based upon the idea of the reincarnation of Alcheringa ancestors, who were the actual transformations of animals and plants, or of such inanimate objects as clouds or water, fire, wind, sun, moon and stars. To the Australian native there is no difficulty in the assumption that an animal or a plant could be transformed directly into a human being, or that the spirit part which he supposes it to possess, just as he does in his own case, could remain, on the death of the animal, associated with such an object as a Churinga, and at some future time arise in the form of a human being.

The account which the Arunta native gives of the origin of the totemic names of the various members of the tribe is to him a perfectly feasible one. What gave rise in the first instance to the association of particular men with particular animals and plants it does not seem possible to say. The Arunta man accounts for it by creating a series of myths, according to which he is the direct descendant of the animal or plant, and weaves in and around these myths details of the most circumstantial nature.

We shall have to return to the question of the totems after certain of these myths of the Alcheringa have been related; meanwhile it may be said that, though different in certain respects from that of other Australian tribes, yet the totemic system of the Arunta shows us the one essential feature common to all totemic systems, and that is the intimate association between the individual and the material object, the name of which he bears.


Chapter V The Churinga or Bull Roarers of the Arunta and Other Tribes

General description of Churinga—Mystery attached to their use—Finding of the Churinga when the child is born—The Nanja tree or stone—Relationship between an individual and his Nanja—The Ertnatulunga or sacred storehouse; its sanctity—The earliest rudiment of the idea of a city of refuge—The spirit part placed in the Churinga undergoes reincarnation—The Tundun in the case of the Jeraeil of the Kurnai tribe is associated with a great ancestor—No association between the spirit part of the living man and his Churinga, but between the Arumburinga, the spirit double of the man, and the Churinga—The giving of a sacred or Churinga name—Reticence with regard to secret names—The showing of his Churinga Nanja to a man—Examination of the Churinga at the Ertnatulunga—Ceremony concerned with telling a man his Churinga name—Exact contents of an Ertnatulunga—The term “message-stick” misleading as applied to the Churinga—Descriptions of particular Churinga, and explanation of the designs upon them—Resemblance between the initiation rites and Churinga of the Central tribes and those of Central Queensland, described by Mr. Roth—Absence of stone Churinga amongst southern groups—Ownership of the Churinga—Extinction and subsequent resuscitation of a local totemic group—The Churinga taken charge of by another group—Examples of extinction of local totemic groups—The Churinga are under the charge of the Alatunja—Inheritance of Churinga of men and women—Various forms of Churinga—The Churinga of the Kaitish and Waagai tribes—The borrowing and returning of Churinga; ceremonies attendant upon the same.

CHURINGA is the name given by the Arunta natives to certain sacred objects which, on penalty of death or very severe punishment, such as blinding by means of a fire-stick, are never allowed to be seen by women or uninitiated men. The term is applied, as we shall see later, to various objects associated with the totems, but of these the greater number belong to that class of rounded, oval or elongate, flattened stones and slabs of wood of very various sizes, to the smaller ones of which the name of bull-roarer is commonly applied.

The importance and use of these in various ceremonies such as those attendant upon initiation of the young men, was [P.129] [P.130] first shown in Australia by Messrs. Howitt and Fison, and since then they have been repeatedly referred to by other writers.

Amongst the aborigines of the Centre, as indeed everywhere else where they are found, considerable mystery is attached to their use—a mystery which has probably had a large part of its origin in the desire of the men to impress the women of the tribe with an idea of the supremacy and superior power of the male sex. From time immemorial myths and superstitions have grown up around them, until now it is difficult to say how far each individual believes in what, if the expression may be allowed, he must know to be more or less of a fraud, but in which he implicitly thinks that the other natives believe.

Whilst living in close intercourse with the natives, spending the days and nights amongst them in their camps while they were preparing for and then enacting their most sacred ceremonies, and talking to them day after day, collectively and individually, we were constantly impressed with the idea, as probably many others have been before, that one blackfellow will often tell you that he can and does do something magical, whilst all the time he is perfectly well aware that he cannot, and yet firmly believes that some other man can really do it. In order that his fellows may not be considered in this respect as superior to himself he is obliged to resort to what is really a fraud, but in course of time he may even come to lose sight of the fact that it is a fraud which he is practising upon himself and his fellows. At all events, and especially in connection with the Churinga, there are amongst the Australian natives beliefs which can have had no origin in fact, but which have gradually grown up until now they are implicitly held. It is necessary to realise this aspect of the native mind in order to understand the influence which some of their oldest and most sacred beliefs and customs have upon their lives.

We may say at once that the Churinga are one and all connected with the totems, and that the word signifies a sacred object, sacred because it is thus associated with the totems and may never be seen except upon very rare occasions, [P.131] [P.132] and then only in the distance and indistinctly by women and uninitiated men.

In the last chapter we described the association between men of the Alcheringa and their Churinga. We saw that each spirit individual was closely bound up with his Churinga, which he carried with him as he wandered about his ancestral home, the Oknanikilla, or rested on the Nanja tree or stone which he is supposed especially to frequent.

The tradition of the natives is that when the spirit child goes inside a woman the Churinga is dropped. When the child is born the mother tells the father the position of the tree or rock near to which she supposes the child to have entered her, and he, together with one or two of the older men, who are close relatives of the man, and of whom the father of the latter is usually one, and also an elder brother of the father, goes to the locality, at once if it be near at hand, or when opportunity offers if it be distant, and searches for the dropped Churinga. The latter is usually, but not always, supposed to be a stone one marked with a device peculiar to the totem of the spirit child and therefore of the newly-born one. Sometimes it is found, sometimes it is not. In the former case, which is stated to occur often, we must suppose that some old man—it is most often the Arunga or paternal grandfather who finds it—has provided himself with one for the occasion, which is quite possible, as Churinga belonging to their own totem are not infrequently carried about by the old men, who obtain them from the sacred storehouse in which they are kept. We questioned native after native on this subject—some of them had actually found such stones—but there was no shaking them in the firm belief that such a Churinga was always dropped by the spirit child whether it was found or not. If it cannot be found then they proceed to make a wooden one from the Mulga or other hard wood tree nearest to the Nanja, and to carve on it some device or brand peculiar to the totem.

Ever afterwards the Nanja tree or stone of the spirit is the Nanja of the child, and the Churinga is its Churinga nanja.

As might have been expected, there is a definite relationship supposed to exist between an individual and his Nanja [P.133] tree or stone. Whilst the belief is by no means general at the present time, there is at least one definite case known to us in which a blackfellow earnestly requested a white man not to cut down a particular tree because it was his Nanja tree, and he feared that if cut down some evil would befall him. Very possibly in times past this feeling was more widely prevalent than it is now. At the present time the special association between a man and his Nanja tree lies in the fact that every animal upon that tree is ekirinja or tabu to him. If an opossum or a bird be in the tree it is sacred and must not on any account be touched. There is no special ceremony performed by the individual in reference to his Nanja tree, but it is one in which he is supposed to have a special interest as having been the home of the spirit whose reincarnation he is.

In each Oknanikilla or local totem centre, there is a spot called by the natives the Ertnatulunga. This is, in reality, a sacred storehouse, which usually has the form of a small cave or crevice in some unfrequented spot amongst the rough hills and ranges which abound in the area occupied by the tribe. The entrance is carefully blocked up with stones so naturally arranged as not to arouse suspicion of the fact that they conceal from view the most sacred possessions of the tribe. In this, often carefully tied up in bundles, are numbers of the Churinga, and in one or other of these storehouses every member of the tribe, men and women alike, is represented by his or her Churinga nanja. When, after the birth of a child, one of the latter is found, or made, it is handed over to the headman of the local totem group within the district occupied by which the child was conceived, and is by him deposited in the Ertnatulunga.

The spot at which the child was born and brought up, and at which it will spend probably the greater part of its life, has nothing whatever to do with determining the resting place of the Churinga nanja. That goes naturally to the storehouse of the locality from which the spirit child came—that is to the spot where the Churinga was deposited in the Alcheringa. In the case, for example, which has already been quoted, in which a witchetty woman conceived a child in an emu [P.134] locality, twelve miles to the north of Alice Springs, the latter place being the woman's home, the child was born at the latter and lives there, but the Churinga nanja was found at the place of conception and is now deposited in the store-house of that group.

So far as the possession of Churinga nanja is concerned, men and women are alike, each possesses one or, as will be seen later, very rarely more than one. Whilst, however, there comes a time when each man is allowed to see and handle his, the women not only may never see them but, except in the case of the very old women, they are unaware of the existence of any such objects. Into the mysteries of the Ertnatulunga and its contents no woman dare pry at risk of death. The position of the Ertnatulunga—not their exact position, but their locality—is known to the women, who are obliged to go long distances round in order to avoid going anywhere near to them. One of these storehouses was on the side of a deep gap which, for several miles in either direction, is the only way of passing through the ranges which lie to the south of Alice Springs, and, until the advent of the white man, no woman was ever allowed to walk through the gap, but, if she wished to traverse the ranges, she had to climb the steep declivities in order to pass across, and this also at some distance from the gap. Even at the present day, unless in the company of a white man, she carefully avoids the side on which lies the cleft which serves as a store-house for Churinga, and it is only the presence of white men in this locality which has resulted in women being allowed to walk through the gap.

The immediate surroundings of one of these Ertnatulunga is a kind of haven of refuge for wild animals; once they come close to one of these they are safe, because any animal—emu or kangaroo or wallaby—which, when pursued, ran by instinct or by chance towards the Ertnatulunga was, when once it came close to it, tabu and safe from the spear of the pursuing native. Even the plants in the immediate vicinity of the spot are never touched or interfered with in any way.

The sanctity of the Ertnatulunga may be understood when it is remembered that it contains the Churinga, which are [P.135] associated not only with the living members of the tribe, but also with the dead ones. Indeed, many of the Churinga are those of special men of the Alcheringa, who, as tradition relates, wandered about and descended at these spots into the earth where their Churinga, the very ones which are now within the storehouse, remained associated with their spirit part. Each Churinga is so closely bound up with the spirit individual that it is regarded as its representative in the Ertnatulunga, and those of dead men are supposed to be endowed with the attributes of their owner and to actually impart these to the person who, for the time being, may, as when a fight takes place, be fortunate enough to carry it about with him.72 The Churinga is supposed to endow the possessor with courage and accuracy of aim, and also to deprive his opponent of these qualities. So firm is their belief in this that if two men were fighting and one of them knew that the other carried a Churinga whilst he did not, he would certainly lose heart at once and without doubt be beaten.

The Ertnatulunga may be regarded as the early rudiment of a city or house of refuge. Everything in its immediate vicinity is sacred and must on no account be hurt; a man who was being pursued by others would not be touched so long as he remained at this spot. During the Engwura ceremony, when temporary storehouses were made to hold the large number of Churinga which were brought in to the ceremonial ground, and when, as always happens when men from different parts are assembled in large number, there arose any small quarrel, no display of arms was allowed anywhere near to the stores of Churinga. If the men wanted to quarrel they had to go right away from the Churinga stores.

The loss of Churinga is the most serious evil which could befall a group, but, though it might have been expected that [P.136] stealing them would have been resorted to in times of fighting between different groups, yet this does not seem to take place. This is probably to be accounted for in various ways. In the first place the exact spot, which is under the charge primarily of the headman of the group and of the older men associated with him, is only known to the initiated men of the group, all of whom are equally and deeply interested in keeping the secret. Beyond this any interference by a stranger would surely result sooner or later in the death of the latter. The knowledge also that retaliation of a similar kind would inevitably follow must have acted as a strong deterrent on any individual or group who was at all anxious to interfere with other peoples' Churinga. Whatever the reasons for it may be the fact remains that on the very few occasions on which we could find out that the Ertnatulunga had been robbed the aggressors were white men. On each occasion also the natives have attempted to kill the member of the tribe who had shown the spot to the white men, and would certainly have been successful in so doing but for the protection afforded to the guide by the latter. In the case of the removal of the Churinga from one of these Ertnatulunga, the men of the group to which they belonged stayed in camp for two weeks weeping and mourning over their loss and plastering themselves over with white pipeclay, the emblem of mourning for the dead.

Whilst, on the one hand, the Churinga seem to be safe from robbers, so far as the natives are concerned, on the other hand, as we shall see shortly, they are occasionally lent as an act of courtesy by one group to another friendly group.

We have already said that the original Churinga—that is those of the Alcheringa, with regard to the origin of which the natives have no tradition—are all, or at least the great majority of them, supposed to have been of stone. What was the origin of these we have been unable to determine; they were present in the Alcheringa, and behind that it is impossible to penetrate. Once we ventured to inquire whether there was no story relating how the Alcheringa men came to have them, but the mirth which the question provoked showed us that to the mind of the Arunta native the idea [P.137] of the possibility of anything before the Alcheringa was a ridiculous and an incomprehensible one. In this tribe “It was so in the Alcheringa” takes the place of the more usual form of expression: “Our fathers did it, and therefore we do it,” which is so constantly the only reply which the ethnological inquirer receives to the question: “Why?”

We have evidently in the Churinga belief a modification of the idea which finds expression in the folklore of so many peoples, and according to which primitive man, regarding his soul as a concrete object, imagines that he can place it in some secure spot apart, if needs be, from his body, and thus, if the latter be in any way destroyed, the spirit part of him still persists unharmed. The further extension of the idea according to which the spirit can undergo reincarnation is, at least so far as Australian tribes are known, a feature peculiar to the Central tribes. At the same time we are not without indications that possibly other tribes, though the system is not so highly developed as in the case of the Arunta, may to a certain extent associate with the bull-roarer the idea of the spirit part of some great ancestor. We are not referring to the fact that, as Mr. Howitt first showed, and as has since been abundantly verified by other workers, the women and children are taught to believe that the voice of the bull-roarer is that of some spirit such as Daramulun, but in Mr. Howitt's paper dealing with the Jeraeil of the Kurnai tribe73 we meet with the still more suggestive fact that at a certain time during the initiation ceremonies the men who are in charge of the novices say to them, “This afternoon we will take you, and show your grandfather to you.” “This,” says Mr. Howitt, “is the cryptic phrase used to describe the central mystery, which in reality means the exhibition to the novices of the Tundun, and the revelation to them of ancestral beliefs.” The Tundun is the native name amongst the Kurnai for the bull-roarer. In this account we see, first, that the bull-roarer is identified with a man who is regarded as a great ancestor or Weitwin, that is father's father of the Kurnai. He it was who conducted the first ceremony of initiation, and he made the bull-roarer which [P.138] bears his name and also made another smaller one which represents his wife. It is quite possible that under a somewhat modified form we have in this legend of the Kurnai an expression of the same idea as that which has undergone still further development in the case of the tribes in the centre of the continent.

To return however to the Arunta. We meet in tradition with unmistakable traces of the idea that the Churinga is the dwelling place of the spirit of the Alcheringa ancestors. In one special group of Achilpa men, for example, the latter are reported to have carried about a sacred pole or Nurtunja with them during their wanderings. When they came to a camping place and went out hunting the Nurtunja was erected, and upon this the men used to hang their Churinga when they went out from camp, and upon their return they took them down again and carried them about. In these Churinga they kept, so says the tradition, their spirit part.

Whilst this is so with regard to the Alcheringa men and women it must be clearly pointed out that at the present day the Arunta native does not regard the Churinga as the abode of his own spirit part, placed in the Ertnatulunga for safe keeping. If anything happens to it—if it be stolen—he mourns over it deeply and has a vague idea that some ill may befall him, but he does not imagine that damage to the Churinga of necessity means destruction to himself. In the native mind the value of the Churinga, at the present day, whatever may have been the case in past time, lies in the fact that each one is intimately associated with, and is indeed the representative of, one of the Alcheringa ancestors, with the attributes of whom it is endowed.74 When the spirit part has gone into a woman and a child has, as a result, been born, then that living child is the reincarnation of that particular spirit individual.

Not only does each member of the tribe have a Churinga nanja but, shortly after the birth of the child, the headman of [P.139] the particular group in whose Ertnatulunga the Churinga is deposited consults with the older men of the group and bestows upon him (and the same holds true in the case of a female child) his Aritna churinga, or secret name.75 Every member of the tribe has his or her secret name, which may be either a new one or that of some celebrated man or woman of the Alcheringa whose name has been handed down in the traditions. This secret name is never uttered except upon the most solemn occasions when the Churinga are being examined, and that of any particular individual is only known to the fully initiated men of his own local totem group. To utter such a name in the hearing of women or of men of another group would be a most serious breach of tribal custom, as serious as the most flagrant case of sacrilege amongst white men. When mentioned at all it is only in a whisper, and then after taking the most elaborate precautions76 lest it should be heard by anyone outside the members of his own group. The native thinks that a stranger knowing his secret name would have special power to work him ill by means of magic.

Before being allowed to see the Ertnatulunga the native must have passed through the ceremonies of circumcision and subincision, and have shown himself capable of self-restraint and of being worthy by his general demeanour to be admitted to the secrets of the tribe. If he be what the natives call irkun oknirra, that is, light and frivolous and too much given to chattering like a woman, it may be many years [P.140] before he is admitted to the secrets. When he is thought worthy of the honour, and at a time appointed by the Alatunja of the local group to which he belongs, he is taken, accompanied by the older men, to the Ertnatulunga. There he is shown the sacred Churinga which are examined carefully and reverently, one by one, while the old men tell him to whom they now belong or have belonged. While this is going on a low singing of chants referring to the Alcheringa is kept up, and at its close the man is told his Churinga name and cautioned against ever allowing any one, except the men of his own group, to hear it uttered. Then, at least in the witchetty group in which we have witnessed the performance, he is painted on the face and body with a kind of pinkish soapstone and red ochre by the Alatunja and the older men who stand to him in the relationship of Oknia, that is actual or tribal father. The pattern with which he is decorated represents the particular device belonging to the totem, and in this instance consisted of long parallel bands copied from the sacred painting which from time immemorial has existed on a smooth rock surface in the Emily gap, the local centre of the witchetty grub totem. When this has been done the party returns to camp and the painting is allowed to remain on the man's body until in course of time it wears off. The old women are aware that he has been to the Ertnatulunga, but even they have no idea of the nature of the ceremony, and to the younger ones it is still more a matter of deep mystery, for no women in the natural condition of the tribe dare go near to the gap in which is the sacred rock painting, and near to which lies the Ertnatulunga.

The exact contents of the Ertnatulunga vary of course from group to group, important ones containing a large number of Churinga many of which will be stone, but perhaps in the majority of cases the wooden ones will predominate. It does not, of course, follow that even a majority of them will belong to the totem with which the locality is associated; for, owing to, first, the way in which Churinga are inherited, and second, the fact that one group will sometimes lend a certain number to a friendly group, Churinga belonging to various totems will always be found in one Ertnatulunga.

[P.141] We give as a fair example of a small-sized Ertnatulunga an account of the contents of a sacred storehouse of the Yarumpa or honey-ant totem at a place called Ilyaba, away to the north-west of Alice Springs. The Ertnatulunga itself is a round hole in the side of a rocky hill, which hole was in the Alcheringa an ant nest. What may be called the prize of the collection is the Churinga, though it is only a small wooden one, of a celebrated Alcheringa leader of the Yarumpa people named Ilatirpa, who sent out the wandering bands of Yarumpa from Ilyaba, the great centre of the totem. A long stone Churinga represents a mass of honey which he carried with him and fed upon, and a slender stone Churinga pointed at each end, represents a piece of wood which he used for digging out the honey-ants. These two are the only stone ones in the storehouse which in this respect is rather poor. There are sixty-eight wooden Yarumpa Churinga and several Echunpa or lizard ones, three of which are very old and boomerang-shaped, and have been borrowed from a lizard group living near Hermannsburg on the Finke. In addition to these there are two Achilpa or wild cat Churinga which have been lent to a Yarumpa man by his son-in-law for a time.

We may now describe more in detail the Churinga themselves—that is the Churinga which are associated with the individuals and which, by various writers, have been described as ceremonial sticks and stones, festival plates, message-sticks or magic-sticks. The term message-stick is misleading; it is quite true that one or more of them is carried by certain messengers sent to summon other members of the tribe to ceremonies of various kinds, but there is nothing in common between them and other message-sticks such as are found in other parts of the continent, on which notches and marks of different kinds are cut as an aid to the memory of the messenger, but which without the verbal explanation of the messenger would, in no case, so far as we have reliable evidence, be capable of being deciphered by the recipient of the message. The Churinga carried by an Arunta messenger is, in reality, a badge of office showing the bona fides of the bearer, whose person is safe so long as he carries the sacred [P.142] emblem, and though the showing of the Churinga is regarded in the light of a summons which cannot, except at the risk of a serious quarrel, be neglected, yet it is misleading to apply the same term, message-stick, both to the sacred emblem, and to the stick, the marks, if any, on which are quite arbitrarily drawn by the sender and cannot be deciphered without his assistance. We may remark in passing, that though we have made careful inquiry we have been unable to discover the use of any real message-stick in the Arunta tribe.77

The Churinga of the Arunta—that is the particular ones with which we are now concerned—are of two descriptions, stone ones and wooden ones, the latter being sometimes spoken of as Churinga irula. The wooden one, just like the stone one, is Churinga—indeed, the term irula, which simply means “dressed wood,” is seldom used by the natives, and then only as a qualifying term, and never by itself. The stone is no more sacred than the wooden one, and is most highly valued if it be, as many of them are, associated with some special Alcheringa ancestor. At the same time there are often wooden ones of evidently great antiquity, pieced together with sinew of kangaroo or emu to prevent them falling to pieces through decay of the less durable portions, and with holes carefully filled up with porcupine-grass resin, and such as these, though insignificant in appearance, are yet as highly valued as the stone ones. It may be generally said that the value of any particular Churinga, in the eyes of the natives, varies inversely with its value from a decorative point of view; the more obliterated the design, the more it has been patched with resin and bound together with sinew, the more highly is it valued, and the careful way in which many of them have been thus preserved shows the value which is placed upon them by the natives.

Amongst the Churinga in each storehouse are usually a certain number of especially large ones made by Alcheringa men, or by specially celebrated men of olden times who lived since the Alcheringa, for the purpose of being used in the [P.143] performance of ceremonies connected with the totems. These are spoken of as Churinga, but they differ from the majority in that there is not associated with them the idea of a spirit individual. In addition to these there are also at times other forms of Churinga present in the storehouse which represent such objects, for example, as the eggs of the witchetties, or in some cases a special object such as a pitchi which was carried about by an Alcheringa man, or a yam-stick carried by a woman.

In size and shape they differ much. The smallest will be perhaps three or four inches in length, the longest five feet or more. In the Arunta tribe all, with very rare exceptions, are more or less flattened and either oval (rarely roughly circular) in outline, or, most usually, elongate with either end tapering to a more or less rounded point. Five very old wooden Churinga which belonged to two lizard totems differed from all the others of which, in company with the members of the various groups to which they belong, we have seen and examined many hundreds, in having the shape of a curved boomerang.

The stone ones are always flat on either side, the wooden ones may be of the same form or more usually have one side flat, and the other slightly concave, or they may frequently be concavo-convex in transverse section. A certain number of the smaller ones—but this is not usual in those of more than a foot in length—have a hole pierced through them at one end to which is attached a string usually made of human or opossum hair. Those that are bored in this way and are only a few inches in length are used as bull-roarers during certain ceremonies, the sound being produced by whirling them rapidly round with the string kept taut between the hand and the bull-roarer, the latter rotating as it whirls through the air, and tightening the string which vibrates and produces the roaring sound. A certain number of the stone ones are bored like the wooden ones, but such are never used as bull-roarers, nor indeed, at the present day, for any purpose which would require them to be thus bored. At the same time it may be pointed out that we have traditions according to which, in the Alcheringa, the men used to hang up their Churinga on the Nurtunja; for this purpose they [P.144] would require to be bored, and though at the present day there is no need for this, yet that it is sometimes practised is no doubt to be associated with the myths of the Alcheringa.

The stones are usually micaceous in nature, being split off from suitable rock, and then carefully ground down to the desired shape and size. The wooden ones are generally made of Mulga (Acacia aneura) for the simple reason first, that this wood is the hardest and most durable known to the natives, and second, that the tree is perhaps the most widely distributed of any species throughout the great Central area and therefore easily obtainable. If, however, Mulga be not obtainable, then it may be made of the pine (Callitris sp.) or of some species of Eucalyptus the wood of which (such as that of E. tesselaris) the natives have learnt by long experience, is not touched by white ants.

In the great majority of cases the Churinga, wooden ones and stone alike, have patterns incised on their surfaces, the tool used being usually an incisor tooth of an opossum, with which also the hole at one end, if present, is bored. In some cases, though these are quite in a minority, they are perfectly plain and show no markings of any kind, and in others, such as were once present, are now scarcely decipherable, owing to the constant rubbing to which they have been subjected at the hands of generation after generation of natives.

Whenever the Churinga are examined by the old men78 they are, especially the wooden ones, very carefully rubbed over with the hands. First of all dry red ochre is powdered on to them, and then rubbed in with the palm of the hand, the grease of which doubtless assists in preserving the wood to a certain extent. The stone ones are, some of them, rubbed with red ochre, but others with charcoal, which is never used in the case of the wooden ones.

We now come to deal with the patterns on the Churinga all of which have a definite meaning attached to them, though to decipher each individual one, it is essential to gain the information from a man of the totem to which it belongs. Other natives may volunteer information, but as the same [P.145] device will mean one thing to a native of one totem and quite another thing to a man who belongs to another totem, and as a man's knowledge is strictly confined to the designs of his own totem, it is quite unsafe to ask, say, an emu man to describe to you the markings on a wild cat Churinga, or vice versâ.

The whole design consists, with few exceptions, of a conventional arrangement of circular, semi-circular, spiral, curved and straight lines together often with dots. The most frequent design met with is that of a series of concentric circles or a close set spiral, the sets of circles or the spirals varying in number from two or three to as many as twenty, or even more; and these, when present, usually indicate the most important object which it is intended to represent in the whole design. In one Churinga each will represent a tree, on another a frog, on another a kangaroo and so on, so that it will easily be realised that to obtain a true interpretation of any one Churinga, it is absolutely essential to obtain the information from some one to whom it is personally known, and such an one can only be an old man of the particular local totemic group to which it belongs; it is only the old men who continually see and examine the Churinga of the group, which are very rarely indeed seen by any one who does not belong to the latter. Time after time, when the Ertnatulunga is visited, the Churinga are rubbed over and carefully explained by the old men to the younger ones, who in course of time come to know all about them that the old men can impart, and so the knowledge of whom the Churinga have belonged to, and what the design on each one means, is handed on from generation to generation.

We will now explain the meaning of the designs on a few of the Churinga, as these will serve to illustrate and to give some general idea of them. The descriptions now given were obtained from the special individual in charge of whom the Churinga was, which is described in each instance.

Figure A. represents the Churinga nanja of a dead man of the frog totem. On either side of the Churinga, which is a wooden one 39 cm. in length, are three large series of concentric circles (a), which represent three large and [P.146] celebrated gum-trees which grow by the side of the Hugh River at Imanda, the centre of the particular group of the frog totem to which the owner of the totem belonged; the straight lines (b) passing out from them on one side of the Churinga [P.147] represent their large roots, and the two series of curved lines at one end (c) their smaller roots. These trees are intimately associated with the frog totem, as out of them frogs are supposed to come, which is doubtless an allusion to the fact that in the cavities of old gum-trees one species of frog is often found, and can be always heard croaking before the advent of rain. The smaller series of concentric circles on the same side of the Churinga (d) represent smaller gum-trees, the lines attached to them being their roots, and the dotted lines (e) along the edge are the tracks of the frogs as they hop about in the sand of the river bed. On the opposite side of the Churinga the large series of double concentric circles represent small frogs which have come out of the trees, and the lines connecting them are their limbs. This device of small concentric circles united by lines is a very common one on frog Churinga.

Figure B. represents the Churinga nanja of the celebrated Ilatirpa of the Yarumpa or honey-ant totem, and is in the storehouse at Ilyaba. The series of circles (a) with a hole bored in the middle of them represent the eye. The circles (b) represent the intestines, (c) the painting on the stomach, and (d) the posterior part of the man. On the reverse side the circles (g) represent the intestines of the Alatirpa, a little bird which is regarded as the mate of the Yarumpa.

Figure C. represents the Churinga of an Achilpa or wild cat man. The three series of circles (a) represent Unjiamba or Hakea trees, while the circles of spots (b) represent [P.148] the tracks of the men dancing round them. The lines (d) represent the Wanpa sticks, which are beaten together to keep time to the dancing; and the dots (e) represent again the tracks of dancing men. This Churinga is in the store-house at Imanda, and was used during the Engwura ceremony.

Figure D. represents the Churinga of an Udnirringita or witchetty grub man, and is in the Emily Gap store-house. The curved lines (a) represent a large grub, (b) represents a lot of grubs in a hole which is scooped out in the ground, [P.149] and (c) represents a man sitting down and squeezing the dirt out of the animals preparatory to cooking them. On the reverse side, (d) represents a grub, (e) the eggs of various sizes, and (f) marks on the body of the grub.

Figure E. represents one side of the Churinga nanja of the elder of the two women who accompanied the Ulpmirka men of the Ukakia or plum-tree totem (Santalum sp.) in the Alcheringa, and were taken away to the north by a celebrated individual called Kukaitcha. The three series of concentric circles (a) represent frogs, the two outer rows of dots represent the tracks of the women. The lines across the Churinga (b) represent bark of gum-trees, and the curved lines at one end (c) represent an old woman collecting frogs.

Figure F. represents one side of the Churinga nanja of the younger of the same two women. Here again the [P.150] concentric circles (a) represent frogs, the semi-circles (b) represent women sitting down opposite to each other, while the dots between them (c) are the holes which they make in scratching the frogs out of the sand. The three dotted lines at the end (d) bored through represent the vulva.

Figure G. represents the Churinga nanja of an Echunpa or lizard man (the large lizard, Varanus giganteus), and is remarkable as being one of the only five Churinga of this shape which we have seen amongst a very great number. On one side the greater part is occupied by four roughly parallel, sinuous lines which represent the long tail of the animal; the semi-circular lines are the indications of ribs, and the dotted lines at one end are the tracks. On the other side, (a) represents the shoulder of the animal; (b) the spotted black marks across the chest; (c) the large ribs—those, as the natives say, with much fat on them; (d) the smaller ribs, and (e) the spotted marks along the under surface of the animal. This Churinga was evidently a very old one; it was slightly broken at one end, and by constantly repeated rubbing the design was indistinct in parts.

The workmanship of the Churinga varies to a considerable extent in its quality [P.151] on some the lines are clearly cut, and, considering the hardness of the material and the crudity of the tool used, the result is surprisingly good so far as the regularity of the design is concerned; but in all cases the design is a purely conventional one, and never attempts to indicate in form the specific object which it is supposed to represent, or rather to indicate. The most important feature is almost always indicated by a series of concentric circles or by spiral lines, while tracks of men and animals seem to be represented by dots arranged in circular or straight lines. Individual men and women appear to be uniformly represented by semi-circular lines, and may be said, speaking generally, to be regarded as subordinate to the animal or plant indicated in the design by complete circles or spirals, though, as will be noted, the latter is not by any means of necessity the totem of the individual to whom the Churinga belongs. When dealing later on with the decorative art of the natives we shall refer further to these designs; meanwhile it may be pointed out here that the concentric circles appear to have been derived from what was originally a spiral, and not vice versa. Whence the Central natives derived a style of decoration of their sacred objects which is so entirely different from that of the tribes living both on the east coast and to the west of them, it is difficult to understand. One thing is certain, and that is that wherever they derived it from they have had it for long ages, as it is associated with their oldest traditions. The entirely different scheme of ornamentation found amongst the tribes of the eastern and south-eastern coasts, of the centre and of the west, points to the fact that these three large groups, each of which consists of many tribes, must have diverged from one another at an early date, and that each one has since pursued its own path of development practically uninfluenced by the others. In connection with this it may be noted that, though as yet but little is known concerning the West Australian natives, the initiation rites of the Eastern coastal tribes, whilst they agree in all important points amongst themselves, are markedly different from those of the Central tribes, including amongst these those of the internal parts of Queensland and New [P.152] South Wales, in regard to certain of which we have recently had most valuable information published in the monograph by Mr. W. E. Roth, dealing in great detail with the northwest-central Queensland aborigines. The physical conditions of the continent have also been such as to shut off for probably long ages the Central tribes from those of either the eastern and south-eastern coastal districts, or those of the west.

At the same time, though the initiation rites of the tribes described by Mr. Roth are closely similar to those of the Central tribes, and though certain of the bull-roarers figured by him are identical in form and ornamentation with those of the latter, and are, as he describes, used in connection with initiation ceremonies and as love charms, and may not be seen by women, yet there does not appear to be the significance attached to them in the tribes studied by Mr. Roth that there is in the Central tribes.

Various local groups differ to a great extent in the number of the Churinga in their possession, and amongst some, especially in the southern part of the tribe, stone ones may be absent, and only wooden ones present. Why this is so we cannot say; the natives themselves simply say that originally all totem groups had stones ones, and that those which have not got them now have lost them; but if this be so, it is not easy to understand why, as is actually the case, it is only in the south that we meet with groups without any stone Churinga. A group without any of the stone ones is certainly regarded as inferior to a group which does possess them; and possibly this absence of them in the south may point back to a time when they were stolen.

We now come to deal with the question of ownership of the Churinga. It will be seen from a consideration of the way in which each individual acquires his own totem name, that it is not at all improbable that every now and again a particular local group of some totem may become extinct. If no child happens for some length of time to be conceived in some particular totem locality—and some of these are very limited in extent—then there may come a time when that particular group has no men or women representing it.

Every local group is regarded as owning collectively the [P.153] locality in which lies its Ertnatulunga. The boundaries of this locality are well known, and if it happens that all the individuals associated with it die, then a neighbouring group will go in and possess the land. It is not, however, any neighbouring group which may do this, but it must be one the members of which are what is called Nakrakia to the extinct group—that is, they belong to the same moiety of the tribe as the latter. For example, supposing the extinct group consisted mainly of Purula and Kumara men, then the new occupiers must be of the same sub-classes, and not Bulthara and Panunga.

It is also clear that a group temporarily extinct may be resuscitated at any time, for the Churinga of the Alcheringa and their associated spirit individuals still inhabit the spot, so that no one knows when one of these may enter a woman, and the once extinct group spring into human existence again.

When any group becomes thus extinct, the Churinga are either taken care of by the new comers, or they may be handed over to some other local group of the same totem. Two instances which came under our notice will illustrate what actually takes place. In the first, all the members of a wild dog group, consisting mainly of Kumara and Purula men, died out; a contiguous group of the same sub-classes, but of a different totem, took possession of the land, but carefully sent the Churinga from the Ertnatulunga to a distant group of wild dogs.79 In the second case, all the men of a lizard totem, situated some twelve miles to the north-east of Alice Springs, died out. They belonged to the Bulthara and Panunga moiety, and accordingly their locality was taken possession of by a neighbouring group of Bulthara and Panunga, who belonged to the Unchalka totem (a little grub), and in this instance these men also took care of the Churinga, leaving them undisturbed in the Ertnatulunga, the old men periodically examining them and rubbing them over with red ochre, so as to keep them in good state, just as if they were [P.154] their own. After some time a child was conceived in the old lizard locality, and thus the local totemic group was again brought to life, and the child—a boy—having reached mature age, was given charge of the Churinga which belonged to his totemic ancestors. The ceremony of handing over the Churinga which we witnessed took place during the Engwura and is described in connection with this.

Whilst the Churinga are always under the immediate charge of the Alatunja, or head man of the local totem group, various individuals are regarded as having a special proprietary right in certain Churinga. Every one, in the first instance, has his own Churinga nanja, but in addition to this he most probably has others which have come to him by right of inheritance, the line of descent which they follow being strictly defined. Supposing a man dies, if he has a son of mature age, the latter—the eldest son, if there be more than one—is given charge of the dead man's Churinga. If he has no son of mature age, they are handed over to a younger brother, never to an elder one, and the former will take care of them until such time as the son is old enough to be entrusted with the duty of periodically rubbing and polishing them. It must be understood that they are always under the control of the Alatunja, without whose consent they cannot be touched even by the man who has, under his direction, special charge of them. If there be no son, then the younger brother retains charge of them, and in course of time they descend to his son or younger brother, and so on from generation to generation.

In the case of a woman's Churinga they do not descend to her son, but to a younger brother, if she has one. It never descends to an elder brother, and if she have no younger brother-in-blood, then the men who stand in the relationship of Oknia (blood and tribal fathers) and Arunga (blood and tribal grandfathers) decide upon some man younger than herself, standing to her in the relationship of Witia—that is blood or tribal younger brother—and to him the charge of the Churinga is given.

It will be seen that in the descent of the Churinga of men and women they always remain in the custody of a man [P.155] belonging to the moiety of the tribe to which the individual belonged. If a woman's Churinga went to her son, then, as descent is counted in the paternal line, they would pass into the possession of a man belonging to the moiety to which she did not belong.

The question of totem does not enter into consideration in regard to the descent of the Churinga, and the fact that this is so accounts for what was at first a matter of considerable perplexity to us. Whilst the Churinga during the Engwura were, as frequently happened, brought on to the ceremonial ground to be examined and rubbed over with red ochre, a man would show us perhaps as many as twenty belonging to various totems, and in which it was evident that he had a special proprietary right. He would speak of them as belonging to him, though the great majority were Churinga of totems other than his own, and it was only after inquiry into a number of special cases that we came to understand how the Churinga of dead men and women were inherited by particular individuals. A man, for example, would tell us that such and such Churinga in the store lying in front of us had belonged to his Oknia, and that when the latter died then they came to him. Now a man calls his actual father Oknia, and also his father's brothers, and a man may inherit, as we have already seen, Churinga which belonged to his own father and to the elder brothers of the latter. As we found frequently, you cannot tell, without further inquiry, whether a particular Churinga belonged to a man's actual father or to an elder brother of his father.

A man may thus inherit (1) the Churinga which belonged to his own father—that is, not only his father's Churinga nanja, but any which have descended to him by right of inheritance; (2) the Churinga which belonged to an elder brother who has died, leaving no son to inherit them; and (3) the Churinga nanja of an elder (but not of a younger) sister. Not only does he inherit these Churinga, but at the same time, and along with them, he also inherits certain sacred ceremonies which belonged to the Alcheringa individuals who are represented by the Churinga—a matter to which we shall have to again refer when we are dealing [P.156] with the Quabara or ceremonies concerned with the totems.

In addition to these which have already been dealt with, and all of which belong—so far as their shape is concerned—to the type of object popularly called a bull-roarer, there are other objects which are equally called Churinga, but both the external form as well as the significance of which renders them quite distinct from the former. The one point in which all the various articles agree, to which the name of Churinga is applied, is this—they are all in some way associated with individual men, women, plants, or animals of the Alcheringa, and at the present day are strictly tabu to women. Thus, for example, at Undiara, the great centre of the Okira (kangaroo) totem, there lies buried beneath the ground a slab of stone, triangular in section and about three feet in length, which represents part of the tail of a celebrated kangaroo which was killed there in the Alcheringa, and has ever since remained in the form of this stone, which is Churinga, and only to be seen by initiated men during the performance of certain totemic ceremonies. Again, in the witchetty grub totem each man has associated with himself, in addition to the usual Churinga, a few small rounded stones called Churinga unchima. Each of these is usually about an inch in diameter, and represents one of the eggs with which the bodies of the Alcheringa individuals were filled. Large numbers of these were deposited at various camping places of the Alcheringa witchetty ancestors, the greater number being left at the central camp in the Emily Gorge near to the present site of Alice Springs. The spirit individual carries a certain number of these about with him as well as his usual Churinga, and deposits them around the base of his Nanja tree, where they may be found after the birth of the child to which he gives rise. Usually the older witchetty men carry a small number of these about with them, and when a man is dying a few of them are always placed under his head, being brought from the Ertnatulunga for this special purpose, if he does not happen to have any in his possession, and after death they are buried with him. Of the origin and meaning of this particular custom the [P.157] natives have no idea, and this was the only occasion on which we could discover that anything of a sacred nature was buried with the men. This of course applies to men of the witchetty grub totem, but it is quite possible that in other totems there may be somewhat similar objects present, though we have not been able to learn of the existence of any amongst the representatives of a large number of totems with whom we have come into contact.

Stones which are evidently Churinga are met with amongst other Central Australian tribes. In the Ilpirra and Luritcha we can say from personal knowledge that their use and meaning is precisely similar to that already described amongst the Arunta. In the case of the Kaitish and Warramunga tribes, which are located further to the north, the Churinga are distinct in shape from those of the Arunta. Each consists of a flat, micaceous slab, which in outline is characteristically pear-shaped, with always a small lump of resin affixed to the narrow end. The stone may either be quite plain, or ornamented with designs similar to those of the Arunta Churinga, or, again, in the Kaitish tribe it may be decorated with a design painted on with charcoal and pipe-clay, the stone itself having been previously coloured red with ochre. Those in our possession are enclosed in a covering of emu feathers, both to preserve them from getting chipped and to prevent their being seen by the women (Fig. 21).

Amongst the Waagai, both flat and somewhat spherical shaped stones are known, the latter looking much like one of the Churinga unchima of the witchetty men. The flattened stone (Fig. 22) has, unlike the Churinga of the Arunta or Ilpirra, its edge marked with very definite serrations; the incised design consists of concentric circles, while at one end a hole is bored, to which a strand of hair string is attached.

There can be little doubt but that the same essential idea underlies the Churinga in all these tribes. We have traced through them all the same system of social organisation, with descent counted in the paternal line, together with corresponding terms of relationship, and, judging by the [P.158] nature of their Churinga,80 it seems highly probable that the same, or at least essentially the same, totemic system exists amongst the Waagai, Kaitish and Warramunga as we know to exist among the Arunta, Luritcha and Ilpirra tribes.

In the Urabunna tribe the equivalent of the sacred stick of the Arunta is called Chimbaliri, and has the form of a plain piece of wood with each end rounded, so that it has the general form of a wooden Churinga. It differs from the latter in being very distinctly concavo-convex in section, in having no incised pattern, and in not being red-ochred. The one figured (Fig. 20) measures 67 cm. in length and 9 cm. in width. After the initiation ceremony a Chimbaliri is given to the youth to carry about until the wound is healed.

We have previously stated that one group will occasionally lend Churinga to a neighbouring and friendly group as a very special mark of good-will. It is somewhat difficult to find out the idea which is present in the native mind with respect to the lending and borrowing of Churinga beyond the fact that it is universally regarded as a most desirable thing to have possession of as large a number as possible, because [P.159] with them the spiritual part of their former possessors is associated. So far as we can find out, they are not borrowed or lent for any very definite purpose, but only because, on the one hand, a particular group is anxious to have in its possession for a time a large number, with the general idea that it will in some vague and undefined way bring them good fortune, and, on the other hand, the second group is willing to lend them, and thus show a kindness which at the same time reflects a certain amount of dignity upon itself owing to the very fact that it has a large number to lend. Beyond this there is the important item from the point of view of the lenders that the borrowing group is always supposed to make presents to the former on the occasion of returning the Churinga.

It is not necessary for the two groups concerned to belong to the same totem—they may or they may not.

The following is an account of what actually took place, when, two or three years ago, an Erlia, or emu totem, group, living in the Strangway Range, lent some of its Churinga to another Erlia group which lives about twelve miles to the east of Alice Springs. These Churinga have only recently been returned, and the ceremonies enacted at both the borrowing and returning will serve to show what takes place on these occasions, though in various parts of the tribe and in the case of different totems there are, of course, differences in detail.

The Alatunja or headman of the group which is anxious to borrow the Churinga sends a properly accredited messenger to the Alatunja of the group from which it is desired to borrow them. This messenger, who is called Inwurra, carries with him as his credentials a few Churinga, perhaps three or four, and they are usually stone ones. When he reaches the country of the strange group, he remains at some little distance from the main camp, the fact of his acting as a messenger being known at once from his behaviour. After some little time, during which he is left entirely to himself, as is usual on the approach of a stranger to a camp, the Alatunja and some of the older men go out to the spot at which he has remained seated since his approach. He then, [P.160] in a whisper, asks the Alatunja to take care of the few Churinga which he has brought with him and to keep them safe for the group which he represents. Nothing whatever is said on either side as to the real object of his visit, but what this is is at once known from the fact of his asking the Alatunja to take care of his Churinga. If the Alatunja in whose hands, after consultation with the older men, the matter lies, does not feel disposed to lend Churinga, he politely declines to keep the Inwurra's offering, and the messenger at once returns to his own group, carrying his Churinga with him. In this particular case the Alatunja accepted the Churinga, thereby implying that he was willing to lend a larger number in return, though no words to that effect passed on either side, and the messenger at once went back and reported the success of his mission. As soon as he had returned, the Alatunja of the borrowing group organised a deputation, which, headed by himself, went across to the Strangway Range group of emu men.

When the party came within a distance of about half a mile of the main camp, a halt was ordered by the Alatunja, and a messenger was sent on to announce the advent of the party. Presently the Alatunja of the local group and some of the older men, as usual, came out to the halting-place and sat down in perfect silence. After a short time they embraced the visitors; and during the next two or three hours the embracing was repeated at intervals, conversation with regard to the Churinga being carried on in whispers. As a general rule there are upon these deputations one or two of the more recently initiated men who are being gradually inducted into such ceremonies, but are not, as yet, allowed to see everything which takes place. For example, though they come with the others, they will not be shown the stone Churinga, at least not close to, as this is the first important mission with which they have been associated.

As usual on such occasions, the deputation had arrived about mid-day. Until sunset the men remained at the meeting-place, and then, when it had grown dark, they were conducted by their hosts to the ordinary corrobboree ground, where a performance was given in their honour. On such occasions [P.161] it is esteemed a polite attention to guests to perform a part of an Altherta or ordinary corrobboree, belonging to the district from which the visitors come, and in which one or two of the latter are usually asked to take part.

When the dancing was over the visitors were conducted to the camp of the single men, where the night was spent. The performance lasted several days, while the visitors remained as guests in the camp. At its termination, and when all the women had been sent away from the corrobboree ground, the local Alatunja, accompanied by some of the older men, went to the Ertnatulunga, or sacred store-house, and, choosing out the Churinga to be lent, returned with them to the ground where the visitors had remained. During the night the Churinga were carefully inspected, greased, rubbed with red ochre, and stacked in an elaborately decorated shield. At daylight they were solemnly handed over to the visiting Alatunja, the lender saying in low tones, “Keep the Churinga safely, they are of the Alcheringa; we lend them to you freely, gladly; do not be in a hurry to return them.” While he was saying this, the older men murmured approvingly; the young men present who had only recently been initiated had been sent some little distance away. Then the leader of the deputation replied, speaking in low tones, and supported by the fervent “Auatta, auatta” (“Yes, yes”) of his colleagues on the deputation. He said, “We will watch over them with care, and return them to you after some time; the emu Churinga are good, the emu men are strong and good.” After a further conversation in whispers, during which the virtues of the Churinga were dilated upon, the deputation departed, waving spears and shouting loudly, “Uwai! Uwai! Uwai!”—an exclamation used to denote fear or danger, or to frighten women and children, who, when they hear it, will quickly make off out of the way.

The return journey was made by the least frequented path, so as to avoid as far as possible any chance of meeting women. On arrival in camp, the Churinga were carefully examined by the old men, and then hidden away amongst their own in the Ertnatulunga. There then followed a corrobboree, [P.162] in which those who took part introduced a Strangway Range performance.

After rather more than two years had elapsed, the Churinga were returned. It is usual for this to take place within the area occupied by the lending group, but on this particular occasion it was arranged that the ceremony should take place at a spot on the Todd River, just within the district of the borrowing group.

To this spot accordingly came the Alatunja of the Strangway Range group, attended by his men. While camped here and awaiting the coming of the party returning the Churinga, various ceremonies concerned with the emu totem were performed at night-time, in the centre of a large space which had been specially cleared for the purpose.

On the day on which the deputation was to come in, the men assembled here, all painted with charcoal and birds' down in front, and with designs on their backs copied from the Churinga Ilkinia, or designs peculiar to the totem. About half an hour before the main deputation reached the spot, a single messenger arrived and, approaching the Alatunja with an air of great deference, told him that the Inwurra bearing the sacred Churinga were close at hand. Two shields were placed on the ground in front of the Alatunja, who sat down in the native fashion, with his legs bent up under him, so that his knees projected towards the shields. All the other men with him, between forty and fifty in number, sat down, forming a solid square, the front row of which was occupied by the elder men, with the Alatunja in the middle. A little to the right of him was a shield, on which had been placed a flat cake called ekulla made from crushed grass seeds, and on the top of this were placed a number of freshly-made Imitnya, or fur string head bands. A few yards distant, on either side of the square, a man was stationed, sitting on the ground, and each of these men alternately struck the ground heavily with a hard flat piece of wood, while those within the square, led by the Alatunja, sang with great gusto, the sidesmen continuing to beat time upon the ground, until, at length, the Inwurra emerged into the pathway which had previously been prepared for them [P.163] [P.164] to traverse by clearing away the stones, bushes, and tussocks of grass.

As soon as they came in sight of the waiting men they at once halted, shouting loudly, “Uwai, Uwai!” and brandishing their weapons, the man who carried the bundle of Churinga being well in front of the column. The men of the waiting group at once stopped singing, and shouted excitedly, “Erlia! Erlia!”—the native name of their totem, the emu. After a short halt, the Inwurra party came on at a trot, with the curious high knee action always adopted by the natives when engaged in performing ceremonies. Spears and boomerangs were waved about, amid shouts of “Uwai! Uwai!” and answering cries of “Erlia, Erlia!” The leading old man, who carried the Churinga, imitated, as he came along, the action and characteristic zig-zag course of a running emu, the bundle of Churinga, which was held at an angle above his head, giving him, indeed, somewhat the appearance of the animal.

At this time, those who were seated in the square began to sing, except only the old Alatunja, whose head was bent low down, as if he were too much overcome with emotion to take any part in the singing.

When the strangers had reached the waiting group, the Churinga were placed on one of the shields, the singing ceased, and the new-comers sat down so that they formed a second square immediately facing the other one. The old men occupied the front row, with the Alatunja in the centre of it.

After a short pause, the leader of the Inwurra bent over and whispered in the ear of the Alatunja, every one meanwhile assuming a strikingly grave demeanour, as if something of the greatest importance were taking place. Then all, except the two leaders, joined in a short chant and when it was over, the leader of the Inwurra and other old men of his party took up the bundle of Churinga and deposited it on the lap of the Alatunja, who took it up, rubbed it several times against his stomach and thighs, and then against those of the older men who were sitting beside him. The object of this rubbing is, so the natives say, to untie their bowels, which become tightened and tied up in knots as a result of [P.165] the emotion felt when they once more see their Churinga. The latter were then placed on the lap of the leader of the Inwurra, and then the Alatunja sitting immediately opposite to him, as well as the old men on each side of him, leaned across and rubbed their foreheads against the stomachs of the front row of the Inwurra party. This was done to show that they were friends, and were not angry with the visitors because they had kept the Churinga for such a long time.

The leader of the Inwurra party now began to unwind the Imitnya, which were quite newly made of opossum fur, and in which the Churinga were swathed, forming altogether a torpedo-shaped bundle about four feet in length. Every now and then they paused and repeated the rubbing of the stomachs with their foreheads, until, finally, when the Imitnya and a number of Uliara, or human hair girdles, lying under them, had all been removed, the Churinga were displayed. Then, one by one, they were handed over to the Alatunja, who carefully examined each one, and rubbed it over his stomach and thighs, and over those of the men of his group, and then placed it on one of the shields in front of him.

This performance occupied a considerable time, and it was conducted with great solemnity. Then the leader of the Inwurra addressed the Alatunja and his men, saying in effect, “We return your great Churinga, which have made us glad. We bring you a present of these Imitnya and Uliara, and we are sorry that we could not bring more, but the Anthinna (opossum) is scarce and hair does not grow quickly.” This was somewhat modest, as there must have been, at the least, fifty large new Imitnya or opossum fur-string bands, besides a great number of Uliara.

The Alatunja replied, “It is good, yes, we are glad you kept our Churinga so well; they are all here. We accept your present and offer you these Imitnya in return; we are sorry we cannot give you more.” Then he handed the Imitnya, about fifteen in number, which were placed on one of the shields, to the leader of the Inwurra, and taking up the ekulla or cake of grass seed, he divided it into two with a Churinga, and, giving one half each to the leader and another [P.166] old man of the latter's party, said, “Eat, feed your men with our ekulla.”

After the old men of the local party had spent a long time in carefully examining the Churinga, the ceremony came to an end, and the Alatunja told the old men, in whispers, that he was about to perform the ceremony of Intichiuma of the emu totem. This is not, however, of necessity performed when the Churinga are returned, and is described in the chapter dealing with the Intichiuma ceremonies of various totems.


Chapter VI Intichiuma Ceremonies

Object of the ceremonies—No absolute restriction with regard to eating the totem—Eating of totem obligatory on certain occasions—Restriction with regard to eating of the wild cat—The disease Erkincha—Individuals who may attend the ceremonies—Time of holding of the ceremonies—Intichiuma of the Udnirringita or Witchetty grubs—Ceremony of eating and distributing the Udnirringita after the Intichiuma—Intichiuma of the Erlia or Emu—Intichiuma of the Unjiamba or Hakea—Intichiuma of the Ilpirla or Manna—Intichiuma of the Yarumpa or Honey-ant—Intichiuma of the Quatcha or Water—Undiara—Description of the spot—Cave containing the Nanja stone of a Kangaroo animal—Different position held by women at the present day in comparison with that held in the past—Traditions concerned with Undiara—History of Ungutnika and his boils—Ungutnika pursued by the wild dogs—Reconstitutes himself, but is finally killed and his tail buried near to Undiara—The Kangaroo and the Okira men—An Arunga or Euro man changes himself into a Kangaroo man and pursues the Kangaroo—Arrival at Undiara and killing of the Kangaroo; the ceremonial stone arising to mark the place where its body was deposited in the cave—Intichiuma of the Okira totem—Relationship between the individual and his totem—An Arunga man making a Churinga of his totem to assist a Plum Tree man in catching Arunga—Ceremonies concerned with eating the totem after Intichiuma—Traditions referring to the eating of the totemic animal or plant.

THE name Intichiuma is applied to certain sacred ceremonies associated with the totems, and the object of which is to secure the increase of the animal or plant which gives its name to the totem. These ceremonies are perhaps the most important of any, and it does not seem possible to discover when and how they arose. The natives have no tradition which deals with their origin.

In connection with them we may note an interesting feature with regard to the relationship existing between an individual of the Arunta and other tribes in the centre of the continent and his totemic animal or plant. We find amongst these tribes no restriction according to which a man [P.168] is forbidden to eat his totem, as is stated to be the case amongst certain other Australian tribes. On the other hand, though he may only under ordinary circumstances eat very sparingly of it, there are certain special occasions on which he is, we may say, obliged by custom to eat a small portion of it or otherwise the supply would fail. These occasions are those on which the Intichiuma ceremonies now to be described are performed. Further still, the lead in the ceremony must be taken by the Alatunja, and when we asked the Alatunja of the witchetty grub totem why he ate his totem, which is always regarded by the native as just the same as himself, the reply was that unless he did eat a little, he would not be able to perform properly the ceremony of Intichiuma.

There is however one notable exception to the restrictions upon eating, and this is concerned with the Achilpa or wild cat81 totem. Only a very little of this is allowed to be eaten, and that only by the old people; but in this case the restriction is not confined to the members of the totem, but is of universal application, applying to every member of the tribe. There is no similar restriction applying to any other animal or plant, but, in the case of Achilpa, there are reasons given for not eating it which serve to show that for some cause or other this particular animal has associations with the tribe as a whole which do not exist in respect of any other. In the first place, it is supposed that any one, save an old man or woman, eating Achilpa would be afflicted with a special disease called Erkincha; and in the second, it is believed that if any man who had killed another at any time of his life were to eat this particular animal, then his spirit part or Yenka82 would leave his body and he would soon be killed by some enemy, so that to a man who has ever killed another—and there are very few men who do not lay claim to this distinction—the Achilpa is tabu or forbidden for life, no matter what be his age. There are amongst the traditions dealing with the Achilpa of the Alcheringa, very explicit references to the Erkincha disease, though why this should be especially [P.169] associated with the Achilpa people it is difficult to say, and the natives have no explanation to offer.83

We may now describe the ceremonies of Intichiuma as they are performed in the case of certain of the totems. Each totem has its own ceremony and no two of them are alike; but though they differ to a very great extent so far as the actual performance is concerned, the important point is that one and all have for their sole object the purpose of increasing the number of the animal or plant after which the totem is called; and thus, taking the tribe as a whole, the object of these ceremonies is that of increasing the total food supply. To this question we shall have to return, as in connection with it there are certain points of very considerable interest.

Every local totemic group has its own Intichiuma ceremony, and each one is held at a time decided upon by the Alatunja under whose direction it is carried out. Any man who is a member of the totem can attend irrespective of the class to which he belongs, though, as we have already pointed out, the great majority of the members of any local group belong to one moiety of the tribe. In some cases men who are in the camp at the time when the ceremony is to be performed, and who belong to the right moiety of the tribe, are invited by the Alatunja to be present; but this is rather an exceptional thing, and under no circumstances are men who belong neither to the totem nor to the right moiety allowed to be present.

In connection with the times at which the ceremonies are held, it may be said that while the exact time is fixed by the Alatunja in each case, yet the matter is largely dependent on the nature of the season. The Intichiuma are closely [P.170] associated with the breeding of the animals and the flowering of the plants with which each totem is respectively identified, and as the object of the ceremony is to increase the number of the totemic animal or plant, it is most naturally held at a certain season. In Central Australia the seasons are limited, so far as the breeding of animals and the flowering of plants is concerned, to two—a dry one of uncertain and often great length, and a rainy one of short duration and often of irregular occurrence. The latter is followed by an increase in animal life and an exuberance of plant growth which, almost suddenly, transforms what may have been a sterile waste into a land rich in various forms of animals, none of which have been seen for it may be many months before, and gay with the blossoms of endless flowering plants.

In the case of many of the totems it is just when there is promise of the approach of a good season that it is customary to hold the ceremony. While this is so, it sometimes happens that the members of a totem, such as, for example, the rain or water totem, will hold their Intichiuma when there has been a long drought and water is badly wanted; if rain follows within a reasonable time, then of course it is due to the influence of the Intichiuma; if it does not, then the non-success is at once attributed to the evil and counter influence of some, usually, distant group of men. With the meaning of the ceremonies we shall deal later on; meanwhile it may be said here that their performance is not associated in the native mind with the idea of appealing to the assistance of any supernatural being.


When the ceremony is to be performed at Alice Springs the men assemble in the main camp, and then those who are about to take part in the proceedings leave the camp quietly, slinking away to a meeting place not far off, the women and men who do not belong to the totem not being supposed to know that they are gone. A few, perhaps two or three, of the older men of the totem stay in camp, and next morning they ask [P.171] the men who do not belong to the totem to return early from their hunting. Every man has left all his weapons in the camp, for all must go quite unarmed and without any decoration of any kind; even the hair girdle, the one constant article of clothing worn by the men, must be left in camp. They all walk in single file except the Alatunja, who sometimes takes the lead and at others walks by the side of the column to see that the line is kept. On no account must any of the men, except the very old ones, eat any kind of food until the whole ceremony is over; anything which may be caught in the way of game has to be handed over to the old men. The procession usually starts late in the afternoon, so that it is dusk by the time that a special camping ground near to the Emily Gap is reached, and here they lie down for the night.

At daylight the party begins to pluck twigs from the gum trees at the mouth of the Gap, and every man carries a twig in [P.172] each hand except the Alatunja, who carries nothing save a small pitchi or wooden trough, which is called Apmara.84 Walking again in single file they follow—led by the Alatunja—the path traversed by the celebrated Intwailiuka, the great leader of the Witchetty grubs in the Alcheringa, until they come to what is called the Ilthura oknira, which is placed high up on the western wall of the Gap. In this, which is a shallow cave, a large block of quartzite lies, and around it are some small rounded stones. The large mass represents the Maegwa, that is, the adult animal. The Alatunja begins singing and taps the stone with his Apmara, while all the other men tap it with their twigs, chanting songs as they do so, the burden of which is an invitation to the animal to lay eggs. When this has gone on for a short time they tap the smaller stones, which are Churinga unchima, that is, they represent the eggs of the Maegwa. The Alatunja then takes up one of the smaller stones and strikes each man in the stomach with it, saying, “Unga murna oknirra ulquinna” (“You have eaten much food”). When this has been done the stone is dropped and the Alatunja strikes the stomach of each man with his forehead, an operation which is called atnitta ulpilima. Leaving the Ilthura the men descend from the range to the bed of the creek in the Gap, and stop under the rock called Alknalinta, that is, the decorated eyes, where, in the Alcheringa, Intwailiuka used to cook, pulverise and eat the grub. The Alatunja strikes the rock with his Apmara, and each man does the same with his twigs, while the older men again chant invitations to the animal to come from all directions and lay eggs. At the base of the rock, buried deeply in the sand, there is supposed to be a very large Maegwa stone.

It was at this spot that Intwailiuka used to stand while he threw up the face of the rock numbers of Churinga unchima, which rolled down again to his feet; accordingly the Alatunja does the same with some of the Churinga which have been [P.173] brought from the store-house close by. While he is doing this the other members of the party run up and down the face of the rocky ledge, singing all the time. The stones roll down into the bed of the creek and are carefully gathered together and replaced in the store.

The men now fall once more into single file and march in silence to the nearest Ilthura, which is about a mile and a half away from the Gap in the direction of Alice Springs. The Alatunja goes into the hole, which is four or five feet deep, and scoops out with his Apmara any dirt which may have accumulated in it, singing as he does so a low monotonous chant about the Uchaqua. Soon he lays bare two stones which have been carefully covered up in the base of the hole; the larger one is called Churinga uchaqua, and represents the chrysalis stage from which emerges the adult animal; the smaller is one of the Churinga unchima or egg. When they are exposed to view, songs referring to the Uchaqua are sung, [P.174] and the stones are solemnly handled and cleaned with the palm of the hand. One by one the men now go into the Ilthura, and the Alatunja, lifting up the Churinga uchaqua, strikes the stomach of each man with it, saying again, “You have eaten much food.” Finally, dropping the stone, he butts (this is the only word expressive of the action) at each man in the abdomen with his forehead.

There are altogether some ten of these Ilthura, in each one of which is a Churinga uchaqua, and each Ilthura is visited in turn by the party and the same ceremony is repeated.

When the round of the Ilthura has been made and the same ceremony enacted at each one, then a start is made for the home camp. When within a mile or so of the latter they stop and decorate themselves with material which has been purposely brought to the spot. Hair string is tied round their heads, [P.175] and Chilara or forehead bands are put on, beneath which twigs of the Udnirringa85 bush are fixed so that they hang downwards. Nose bones are thrust through the nasal septum, and rat tails and topknots of cockatoo feathers are worn in the hair. The Alatunja is but little decorated; he has only the Chilara across his forehead, and the Lalkira or nose bone. Under his arm he carries the Apmara, and in his hand a twig of the Udnirringa bush. While the men walk along they keep their twigs in constant motion, much as if they were brushing off flies. The totem Ilkinia or sacred design is painted on the body of each man with red ochre and pipe clay, and the latter is also used to paint the face, except for the median line of red. When the decorations are complete a start is again made, all walking in single file, the Alatunja at the head with his Apmara under his arm. Every [P.176] now and then they stop and the old Alatunja, placing his hand above his eyes, as if to shade the latter, strikes an attitude as he peers away into the distance. He is supposed to be looking out for the women who were left in camp. The old man, who had been left in charge at the camp during the absence of the party, is also on the look-out for the return of the latter. While the men have been away he has built, away from the main camp, a long, narrow wurley, which is called Umbana, and is intended to represent the chrysalis case from which the Maegwa or fully-developed insect emerges. Near to this spot all those who have not been taking part in the ceremony assemble, standing behind the Umbana. Those men who belong to the other moiety of the tribe—that is, to the Purula and the Kumara—are about forty or fifty yards away, sitting down in perfect silence; and the same distance further back the Panunga and Bulthara women are standing, with the Purula and Kumara women sitting down amongst them. The first-named women are painted with the totem Ilkinia of red and white lines; the second are painted with lines of white faintly tinged with red. When the old man at length sees the party approaching he steps out and sings—

“Ilkna pung kwai, Yaalan ni nai, Yu mulk la, Naan tai yaa lai.”

The Alatunja, as the party comes slowly along, stops every now and then to peer at the women. Finally all reach the Umbana and enter it. When all are inside they begin to sing of the animal in its various stages, and of the Alknalinta stone and the great Maegwa at it base. As soon as the performers enter the wurley, the Purula and Kumara men and women lie face downwards, and in this position they must remain until they receive permission to arise. They are not allowed to stir under any pretext whatever. The singing continues for some time; then the Alatunja in a squatting position shuffles out of the Umbana, gliding slowly along over the space in front, which has been cleared for a distance of some yards. He is followed by all the men, who sing of the emerging of the Maegwa from its case, the Umbana. Slowly they shuffle out and back again until all [P.177] are once more in the wurley, when the singing ceases and food and water are brought to them by the old man who had remained in camp and built the Umbana. This, it must be remembered, is the first food or drink which they have partaken of since they originally left the camp, as, except in the case of the very old men, it is peremptory that the ceremony be carried out without any eating or drinking on the part of the participants. When it is dusk they leave the wurley, and go round to the side away from that on which the Purula and Kumara men are lying, so that, to a certain extent, they are [P.178] hidden from their view. A large fire is lighted, and round this they sit, singing of the witchetty grub. This is kept up till some little time before daybreak, and during all that time the women of the right moiety must stand peering about into the darkness to see if the women of the other moiety, over whom they are supposed to keep watch, continue to lie down. They also peer about, watching the Intichiuma party just as the women did in the Alcheringa. Suddenly the singing ceases, and the fire is quickly put out by the Alatunja. This is the signal for the release of the Purula and Kumara men and women, who jump to their feet, and these men and all the women of whatever class they may be, at once run away to the main camp. The Intichiuma party remains at the wurley until daylight, when the men go near to the Ungunja,86 make a fire and strip themselves of all their ornaments, throwing away their Udnirringa twigs. When all the Uliara, Imitnya, Lalkira and cockatoo feathers are removed, the Alatunja says, “Our Intichiuma is finished, the Mulyanuka must have these things or else our Intichiuma would not be successful, and some harm would come to us.” They all say, “Yes, yes, certainly;” and the Alatunja calls to the Mulyanuka (i.e. men of the other moiety of the tribe), who are at the Ungunja, that is the men's camp, to come up, and the things are divided amongst them, after which the old man, who before brought them food, goes to the various camps and collects a considerable quantity of vegetable food which is given to him by the women. This is brought back and cooked and eaten by the fire, where they still remain. During the afternoon the old man again visits the camp, and brings back with him some red ochre and the fur string which belongs to the various members of the party, and, just before sundown, the old men rub red ochre over their bodies, and over those of the younger men, thus obliterating the Ilkinia and the painting on the face. The men then put on their arm strings, &c., and return to their respective camps, and with this the main part of the ceremony is brought to a close. When all is over, the [P.179] Apmara or pitchi of the Alatunja is held in great regard, and the Panunga and Bulthara women enjoy the privilege, each in turn, of carrying it about.


The Intichiuma of the Erlia or emu group of Strangway Range, differs very considerably from the ceremony which has just been described, and it must be remembered that there are considerable differences in detail between the Intichiuma ceremonies of even the different local groups of the same totem.

We have already described the returning of the emu Churinga to the Strangway Range men by the members of another group to which they had been lent, and the following ceremony was performed upon this occasion. As is always the case, the decision to hold the Intichiuma was arrived at by the Alatunja. He and a few other men, amongst whom were his two sons, first of all cleared a small level plot of ground, sweeping aside all stones, tussocks of grass and small bushes, so as to make it as smooth as possible. Then several of the men, the Alatunja and his two sons amongst them, each opened a vein in their arms, and allowed the blood to stream out until the surface of a patch of ground, occupying a space of about three square yards, was saturated with it. The blood was allowed to dry, and in this way a hard and fairly impermeable surface was prepared, on which it was possible to paint a design. This is the only occasion on which we have known of any such method being adopted. With white pipe clay, red and yellow ochre, and powdered charcoal mixed with grease, the sacred design of the emu totem was then outlined on the ground. In this particular case, when the design was for the special occasion drawn on the ground, it was called an Ilpintira, which is simply one of the Ilkinia or totemic designs drawn under these conditions. The drawing was done by the Alatunja, his blood brothers, and two sons. It is supposed to represent certain parts of the emu; two large patches of yellow indicated lumps of fat, of which the natives are very fond, but the greater part [P.180] represented, by means of circles and circular patches, the eggs in various stages of development, some before and some after laying. Small circular yellow patches represented the small eggs in the ovary; a black patch surrounded by a black circle was a fully-formed egg ready to be laid; while two larger concentric circles meant an egg which has been laid and incubated, so that a chicken has been formed. In addition to these marks, various sinuous lines, drawn in black, red, and yellow, indicate parts of the intestines, the excrement being represented by black dots. Everywhere over the surface, in and amongst the various drawings, white spots indicated the feathers of the bird, the whole device being enclosed by a thin line of pale pink down. It will be noticed that this design differs in important respects from others associated with the sacred objects of the totem. The latter, such as the designs on the Churinga, have no definite relationship, and no attempt at any resemblance to the objects which they are supposed to indicate, but in this drawing, though it is to a certain extent conventionalised, still we can see very clearly that an attempt is made to actually represent the objects. The large yellow patches representing fat, the small yellow circles the eggs in the ovary, and the patches with enclosing circles, eggs with shells, serve to show that the original designer had a definite idea of making the drawing, conventional though it be to a large extent, indicative of the objects which it is supposed to represent.

During the day, and in fact throughout the whole ceremony, the Alatunja was treated with the greatest deference; no one spoke to him except in a whisper, and he it was who regulated the whole proceedings, even down to the minutest detail.

The drawing, or Churinga ilpintira, was completed before the arrival of the messengers bearing the borrowed Churinga, and, when done, it was carefully concealed from view with branches. After the Churinga had been returned with the formalities already detailed, the Alatunja informed the visitors of his intention to perform Intichiuma, and, rising from the ground, he led the way, carrying the Churinga, to the spot close by where the Ilpintira was concealed. He removed the [P.181] boughs, and, placing the Churinga on one side, squatted down, all the rest of the men following his example. In the intervals of a monotonous chant, which lasted for half an hour, he explained the different parts of the drawing, which was then again covered up and the men returned to the original meeting place, where, for the rest of the night, they chanted, sitting round the Churinga.

During the night three large wooden Churinga, each about four feet in length, were decorated with series of concentric circles of red and yellow ochre and of white pipe clay, and tipped with bunches of emu feathers and the red-barred tail feathers of the black cockatoo. The Alatunja selected three of the older men to act the part of Inniakwa, who are supposed to represent ancestors of the emu totem of considerable antiquity, but not so far back as the Alcheringa. At the same time a number of the younger men were chosen to act the part of Illiura, who are the descendants of the [P.182] Inniakwa, and they were painted on their chests with designs belonging to the totem, in charcoal and white down.

At daylight the decorated Churinga were fixed on the heads of the Inniakwa, and, while three or four of the Illiura were despatched to the women's camp, the rest of the men assembled at, and sang round, the drawing. Just at sunrise the party left the camping ground and went to an open space, which had been previously selected for the purpose, on the opposite side of a ridge of low scrub-covered hills. The Illiura had meanwhile driven the women and children out from their camp, and shortly after the arrival of the main party of men the former came running towards the ceremonial ground and took up a position at one end. The Inniakwa stood in the centre some distance away from, but still clearly seen by, the women and children, and without moving their feet imitated the aimless gazing about of the emu, each man holding a bunch of twigs in his hands, the [P.183] Churinga on the head with its tuft of feathers being intended to represent the long neck and small head of the bird. The women watched intently, for this is one of the very few occasions on which they are allowed to see, even at a distance, a sacred ceremony. Then, with a curious gliding movement, the performers moved in the direction of the women, who thereupon uttered cries of alarm. Once more the three men stood quietly, moving only their heads, and then again ran for a few yards. Upon this the women turned and fled towards their camp, while the audience of men moved their arms as if with the one to urge the women to run away and with the other to call back the Inniakwa to the centre of the ground.

When the women and children were out of sight the Inniakwa, accompanied by the other men, ran over the low hill back to the camping ground, where the Churinga were taken from the heads of the Inniakwa and placed upright in the ground. About midday the Churinga, which had been brought back by the visiting group and had been placed on a small platform, were taken down and brought to the centre of the ceremonial ground, where they were again examined and rubbed with red ochre by the Alatunja and the older men to the accompaniment of continuous chanting on the part of the other men who sat around. When this was over all gathered together at the Ilpintira, the meaning of which was again explained by the Alatunja. Singing continued at intervals during the day, and just before dusk three newly appointed Inniakwa were decorated, the Illiura again drove the women and children from their camp to the ceremonial ground, and the performance of the early morning was repeated.

On the second day precisely the same programme was gone through, after which the men returned to their camping place, the three Churinga were divested of their decorations, the Ilpintira was very carefully obliterated by the Alatunja and his sons, and the ceremony came to an end. The strange natives then went back to their country, and the returned Churinga were taken by the Alatunja and the old men of his group and placed in the sacred store-house.



At a place called Ilyaba the ceremony is performed by men of the Bulthara and Panunga classes, and the exact spot at which it takes place is a shallow, oval-shaped pit, by the side of which grows an ancient Hakea tree. In the centre of the depression is a small projecting and much worn block of stone, which is supposed to represent a mass of Unjiamba or Hakea flowers, the tree being the Nanja tree of an Alcheringa woman whose reincarnation is now alive.

Before the ceremony commences the pit is carefully swept clean by an old Unjiamba man, who then strokes the stone all over with his hands. When this has been done the men sit around the stone and a considerable time is spent in singing chants, the burden of which is a reiterated invitation to the Unjiamba tree to flower much, and to the blossoms to [P.185] be full of honey. Then the old leader asks one of the young men to open a vein in his arm, which he does, and allows the blood to sprinkle freely over the stone, while the other men continue the singing. The blood flows until the stone is completely covered, the flowing of blood being supposed to represent the preparation of Abmoara, that is, the drink which is made by steeping the flower in water, this being a very favourite beverage of the natives. As soon as the stone is covered with blood the ceremony is complete.

The stone is regarded as a Churinga, and the spot is ekirinja, or forbidden to the women, children and uninitiated men.


Ilpirla is a form of “manna,” very similar to the well-known sugar-manna of gum trees but peculiar to the mulga tree (Acacia aneura).

About five or six miles to the west of Ilyaba there is a great boulder of grey-coloured gneissic rock, curiously marked with black and white seams, at which the men of the Ilpirla totem perform the ceremony of Intichiuma. On the top of the boulder, which stands about five feet above the ground, there is a similar stone weighing about twenty pounds, together with smaller ones, all of which represent masses of Ilpirla. The large boulder, on which the others lie, has the same significance, and is supposed to have been deposited there in the Alcheringa by a man of the Ilpirla totem, who has at the present time no living representative.

When Intichiuma is performed, a clear space is first of all swept round the base of the stone, and after this the Alatunja digs down into the earth at the base of the boulder, and discloses to view a Churinga which has been buried there ever since the Alcheringa, and is supposed to represent a mass of Ilpirla. Then he climbs on to the top of the boulder and rubs it with the Churinga, after which he takes the smaller stones and with these rubs the same spot, while the other men sitting around sing loudly, “Inka parunta, nartnapurtnai, urangatcha chuntie, urungatcha chuntie.” [P.186] The meaning of these words is an invitation to the dust produced by the rubbing of the stones to go out and produce a plentiful supply of Ilpirla on the mulga trees. Then with twigs of the mulga he sweeps away the dust which has gathered on the surface of the stone, the idea being to cause it to settle upon the mulga trees and so produce Ilpirla. When the Alatunja has done this, several of the old men in turn mount the boulder and the same ceremony is repeated. Finally, the Churinga is buried at the base in its old position, and with this the ceremony closes.


In this ceremony, as performed at Ilyaba, the majority of men are Panunga and Bulthara, only a few Kumara and Purula belonging to the totem.

At early morning on the appointed day the men assemble at the men's camp, where they decorate their foreheads, arms and noses with twigs of the Udnirringa bush and smear their bodies all over with dry red ochre. Then they march in single file, the Alatunja at the head, to a spot about fifty yards from, and opposite to, the Erlukwirra or women's camp, where the women and children stand silently. Here the Alatunja, turning his back upon the women, places his hand as if he were shading his eyes and gazes away in the direction of the Intichiuma ground, each man as he does so kneeling behind him so as to form a straight line between the women and the Intichiuma ground. In this position they remain for some time, while the Alatunja chants in subdued tones. After this has been done, all stand up, and the Alatunja goes to the rear of the column and gives the signal to start. In perfect silence and with measured step, as if something of the greatest importance were about to take place, the men walk in single file, taking a direct course to the ground. Every few yards the Alatunja, who is in the rear, goes out first to one side and then to the other, to see that the men keep a straight line.

[P.187] After having traversed perhaps half a mile one man is sent by the Alatunja to the Ertnatulunga to bring a special stone Churinga, which is required during the ceremony.

The Intichiuma ground is situated in a depression in a rocky range, at a considerable elevation above the surrounding plains, and all over the depression are blocks of stone standing up on end and leaning in all directions, each of which is associated with a honey-ant man of the Alcheringa. The messenger sent to the Ertnatulunga arrives at the ground as the party approaches; he has to go a long way round, and must run the whole way.

All the men then group themselves round a pit-like depression in the rocks which is surrounded with a horseshoe-shaped wall of stone, open at the western end. On the east side is an ancient mulga tree, which is the abode of the spirit of an Alcheringa man, whose duty it was to guard the sacred ground. In the centre of the pit is a stone, which projects for about eighteen inches above the ground, and is the Nanja of an Alcheringa man who originated here and performed Intichiuma.

On the arrival of the party the Alatunja at once goes down into the pit, and some time is spent in clearing out the débris, while the other men stand round in perfect silence. After a time he beckons to some of the older men to come down and assist him, and then they all begin to sing while the sacred stone, which represents an Alcheringa man called Erkiaka, is disclosed to view and taken out of the earth, together with a smaller smooth round pebble, which represents a mass of honey collected by the ants and carried about by the man.

When the stone has been taken out it is rubbed over reverently with their hands by the old men, and then rubbed over with the smaller stone, after which it is replaced in the ground. This done, the big stone Churinga from the Ertnatulunga, which represents a mass of honey carried about by a celebrated Oknirabata88 of the Alcheringa, named Ilatirpa, [P.188] is brought up. This Ilatirpa was the leader of the Yarumpa and sent out the wandering parties who started from this spot. In the Ertnatulunga is a long, thin, stone Churinga, pointed at each end and evidently very old, the markings being nearly effaced, which represents the piece of wood which was carried by Ilatirpa for the purpose of digging up the ants on which he fed. This and the large Churinga are the only stone ones in this particular Ertnatulunga.89

The old Alatunja takes up the Churinga, and calling the men up one by one, each of them walks into the pit, and lies down, partly supported on the knees of two or three of the older men. In this position the Alatunja, keeping up all the time a low chant, first of all strikes each man's stomach sharply two or three times with the Churinga, and then moves it about with a kind of kneading action, while another old man butts at the stomach with his forehead. When all have passed through this performance the singing ceases, the Churinga is handed back to the man who brought it, with instructions to take it back to the Ertnatulunga, and the column forms again and marches back, taking a different course, which, however, just as on the first occasion, leads them past the women's camp, where again the women and children are standing in silence.

On the way home a halt is made at a spot in the Ilyaba creek, where in the Alcheringa, as now, the final act of the ceremony was performed. On the banks of the creek are a number of mulga trees, each of which is associated with, in fact is the Nanja tree of, an Alcheringa man, who stood watching the performance as it was being conducted in the bed of the creek. In the same way the stones standing out from the banks have each of them their association with an Alcheringa man. On arrival at this spot all the men sit down, and about an hour is spent in singing of the Yarumpa men, of their marchings in the Alcheringa, of the honey, of the ant nests, of the great man Ilatirpa, and of those Yarumpa men who, in the Alcheringa, changed into the little birds now called Alpirtaka, which at the present day are the mates of the honey-ant people, to whom they point out [P.189] where the ant nests can be found. After some time the decoration of the Alatunja commences, while he leads the singing, which now has reference to the men on the banks, who are supposed, in spirit form, to be watching the performance from their Nanja trees. The decorations on the body of the performer are intended to represent the chambers in the ant nests, and those on the arms and neck the passages leading to the inner parts of the nests where the honey-ants are found. The performer squats on the ground, and for some time the other men run round and round him in the usual way, while he occupies himself with brushing the ground between his legs with little twigs, pausing every now and then to quiver. When this is over the decorations are removed, and the party starts back for the men's camp, passing as described, the women's camp on the way.


In connection with the making of rain there are certain ceremonies, some of which are not of the nature of sacred Quabara, and take the form of ordinary dancing festivals which any member of the tribe, men and women alike, irrespective of class or totem, are permitted to see; but there is in addition to these a special and sacred ceremony, only shared in by the initiated men of the totem, and this is the Intichiuma.

As in the case of the kangaroo totem the majority of the members of the water totem belong to the Purula and Kumara. To them the secret of rain-making was imparted in the Alcheringa by an individual named Irtchwoanga, who also settled upon the exact places at which the ceremony should be performed. One of the most important of the water totem groups is a local subdivision of the Arunta people, inhabiting a district of about fifty miles to the east of Alice Springs, this part being known as Kartwia quatcha, or the “rain country.”90 The Alatunja of this group at the present time is [P.190] a celebrated rain-maker, and the ceremony which is described below is the one which is performed by him. The office of Alatunja, or as it is called in these eastern groups “Chantchwa,” descended to him from his father, who died recently, and the fact that he is now the head man, and not his elder brother, illustrates an interesting point in regard to the inheritance of the office of Alatunja in the Arunta tribe. The office has, in fact, descended to him, and not to his elder brother, for the simple reason that he was born a water man, while the woman who is the mother of both of them conceived the elder one in an opossum locality. The latter man is therefore the reincarnation of an Alcheringa opossum individual, and so it is of course impossible for him to be the head of a water group. If the old Alatunja had had no son of the right totem then the office would have descended to one of his blood brothers—always provided of course that he were of the right totem—and failing such a one, to some tribal [P.191] brother or son of the water totem as determined upon by the elder men, or, more probably still, by the old Alatunja before his death. As soon as the Chantchwa has decided to hold the ceremony he sends out messengers, called Inwurra, to the surrounding groups, to inform them of his intention, and to call the members of the totem together. In addition to the latter other men are invited to come, though they will not be allowed to take any part in the actual Intichiuma ceremony. Each messenger carries in this instance a human hair girdle, a bunch of black cockatoo tail feathers and a hollow nose bone stopped at one end with a plug made of the resin obtained from the porcupine-grass, and ornamented at the other with a small bunch of owl feathers. These objects are the property of the Chantchwa, and to refuse to attend to the request of a messenger thus accredited would be considered a grave discourtesy, and the person committing such an offence would be spoken of as irquantha, that is churlish.

When all are assembled, those who are to take part in the ceremony, that is the men of the totem, march into camp, painted with red and yellow ochre and pipeclay, and wearing bunches of eagle-hawk feathers on the crown and sides of the head. At a signal from the Chantchwa all sit down in a line, and with arms folded across their breasts sing the following words for some time:—“Ulgaranti alkwarai lathrik alkwaranti ulgaraa-a.” Suddenly, at another signal from the Chantchwa, all jump to their feet and silently march out of the camp. They walk in single file, and camp for the night at a spot some miles away. At daybreak they scatter in all directions in search of game, which is cooked and eaten, but on no account must any water be drunk, or the ceremony would fail. When they have eaten they again paint themselves, this time broad white bands of bird's down being fixed on as usual with human blood, so that they encircle the stomach, legs, arms, and forehead. Some of the older Purula and Kumara men have meanwhile been building a special bough wurley or hut, which is called nalyilta at a spot not far distant from the main camp, where all the women and those men who are not taking part in the ceremony have remained behind. The floor of the hut is strewn with a thick layer of gum leaves to [P.192] make it as soft as possible, as a considerable time has to be spent lying down here. When the decorating is complete, the men march back, silently and in single file, to where the wurley has been built; this always takes place about sunset, and on reaching the hut the young men go in first and lie face downwards at the inner end, where they have to remain until the ceremony is over. Meanwhile, outside the wurley, some of the older men are engaged in decorating the Chantchwa. Hair girdles covered with white down are placed all over the head, while the cheeks and forehead are covered with pipeclay and two broad bands of white down pass across the face, one over the eyebrows and the other over the nose. The front of the body has a broad band of pipeclay outlined with white down, rings of which adorn the arms. When fully decorated the Chantchwa takes up a position close to the opening into the wurley, from which extends, for thirty yards, a shallow trench. The old men, who sit around him, now begin to sing, and continue to do so for some time, the following words:—

“Illunga ilartwina unalla
Illunga kau-wu lungalla
Partini yert artnuri elt artnuri
Yerra alt nartnura alla
Partinia yarraa alt nartnurai
Yerra alla partinia atnartnurai
Yokaa wau wai.”

When the singing comes to an end the Chantchwa comes out of the wurley and walks slowly twice up and down the trench, while he quivers his body and legs in the most extra-ordinary way—far more than is customary in other ceremonies in many of which a quivering movement is a characteristic feature. While this performance is taking place the young men arise and join the old men in singing—

“Purlaarau kurlaa
Rumpaa arri
Umpaakunla karla
Rumpaa arri
Paakur tai,”

the Chantchwa's movements appearing to accord with the singing. When he re-enters the wurley the young men at [P.193] once lie down again—in fact they are always in this position while the Chantchwa is in the wurley. The same performance is repeated at intervals during the night, the singing continuing with but little intermission, until, just at daybreak, the Chantchwa executes a final quiver, which lasts longer than usual, and at the end of which he appears to be thoroughly exhausted, the physical strain of the performance having been, as can be well imagined, of a severe nature. He then declares the ceremony to be at an end, and at once the young men jump to their feet and rush out of the wurley, screaming in imitation of the spur-winged plover. The cry is heard in the main camp, and is taken up with weird effect by the men and women who have remained there. The decorations of the Chantchwa are removed, and then all march, led by him, to a spot just within sight of the main camp, where an old Purula or Kumara woman has cleared a large space and then covered it with gum-tree leaves. Here they lie down for a short time and then go to the main camp, where food and water await them. The whole performance may last forty-eight hours, and on the next night one of the ordinary rain dances, as they are popularly called by white men, is held, in which all the men take part, either as performers or as audience. The women do not perform, but may look on and assist in singing and beating time to the dancing of the men.


About fifteen miles to the east of Henbury, on the Finke River, is a spot called by the natives Undiara.91 Here, at the base of a steep quartzite ridge, which runs east and west, and forms part of what is now called Chandler's Range, there lies under the shelter of a gum tree a small water-hole, which has ever since the far away times of the Alcheringa been associated with the members of the Okira or kangaroo totem. From [P.194] the side of the water-hole the rocks rise perpendicularly for some fifty feet, and over them, in the short rainy seasons, the water falls from a pool on a rock ledge, behind which again rises the bare summit of the ridge. This pool arose to mark the spot where the Engwura fires burned in the Alcheringa, and the ledge is called by the natives the Mirra Engwura, or Engwura camp of the Alcheringa. In dry seasons there is no water. From the rocks a small gum creek meanders away, but is soon lost in the dry sandy country stretching out to the south.

Immediately on the eastern side of the water-hole is a shallow cave, about twenty feet in height and thirty in length, where the rocks have weathered in such a way as to leave a ledge of rock about ten feet high, running along the length of the cave, the top of which can be gained by a partly natural, partly artificial series of rough steps lying at the end next to the pool. Tradition says that on this ledge the Alcheringa men cooked and eat their kangaroo food.

A short distance away from the eastern side of the cave is a curious rocky ridge, with a very sharply marked vertical slit, which indicates the spot where an Alcheringa Kumara man named Abmilirka performed the rite of Ariltha upon himself.

The ledge arose, so says tradition, in the first instance to mark the spot where the body of a great kangaroo was deposited in the Alcheringa. It was, in fact, the Nanja stone of this kangaroo inhabited by its spirit part; and tradition says further that to this stone came great numbers of other kangaroo animals, who went into the earth, leaving their spirits in the same way in the rocky ledge. To this tradition we shall have to refer at a later time, when discussing the nature of the Intichiuma ceremonies; meanwhile the interesting point may be drawn attention to, that, just as the Alcheringa individual has his Nanja tree or stone, so in certain cases such as this the Alcheringa animal is possessed of one. In this instance, for example, the natives are very clear upon the subject that the tradition deals with an animal and not with an Alcheringa man—in fact, one of the latter was in pursuit of and killed the former, dragging the body into Undiara.

Another tradition relates how one night a group of kangaroo [P.195] Alcheringa men had arranged a number of Nurtunjas or sacred poles close by the water-hole, with a specially large one in the centre and smaller ones all round it. While they slept two Alcheringa women of the Unjiamba totem came down from the north, and very quietly, without waking the men, took away the large Nurtunja, and, clambering up a slit, which is still to be seen in the perpendicular face of the rock above the pool, made their way to the north again to a place called Arapera, where they kept the Nurtunja, which figures prominently in certain ceremonies connected with that spot.

This tradition, like very many others dealing with the Alcheringa times, may be, with little doubt, regarded as indicative of the fact that at some past time the women were possessed of greater privileges than they enjoy at the present [P.196] day. There is a great gap between the Alcheringa and recent times, and a very noticeable feature is the change which has in some way been brought about with regard to the position of women. The contrast in this respect may be well seen from a comparison of the former tradition with one which relates to a time which the natives say was very long ago, but since the Alcheringa. At this time the women were not allowed to go anywhere near to Undiara, where the sacred Churinga of the group were stored. One day, however, a woman, being very thirsty, ventured in to the water-hole to drink and saw the sacred pool and the ceremonial stone. She was detected in the act, and after a great deal of what the natives call “growling” at her, it was decided to punish her by making her for the time being common property to all the men—a punishment which is not infrequently inflicted after the committal of some serious offence, as an alternative to that of being put to death. In consequence of this men of all classes had intercourse with her, and when this was over she was returned to her proper Unawa man.

After, however, the woman had seen the place, the peculiar sacredness of the spot was lost, the Churinga were removed to another place, and the women were allowed to see the water-hole, except of course when the ceremony of Intichiuma was being performed. As a matter of fact, though a woman would not actually be put to death if she came near, the old feeling is still so strong that the women do not often venture near to the spot unless compelled to do so by thirst.

We may now give a short account of one or two traditions which are concerned with Undiara and the kangaroo totem, as they serve to illustrate certain points of interest in connection with the totems and totemic animals generally.


At the present day there is living an aged man of the Okira or kangaroo totem, named Ungutnika. He is the reincarnation of a celebrated kangaroo of the Alcheringa, who sprang into existence at Undiara, close to the big gum tree which overhangs the water pool. Ungutnika was sorely afflicted with [P.197] boils, called Tukira, which appeared first in the form of hard lumps. He bore with them for a long time, and then, being angry, pulled them out and placed them on the ground alongside of where he sat.92 They became changed into stones, and have remained there ever since. He was not as yet fully grown, and was an Okira kurka, or a little kangaroo, and after a short time he set out to go to a place called Okirilpa. After he had travelled about three miles, he came to an open plain, upon which he saw a mob of Ukgnulia, or wild dogs, who had come from Okirilpa, and were then lying down close to their mother, who was very large. He hopped about looking at the wild dogs, and presently they saw and chased him, and, though he hopped away as fast as he could, they caught him on a plain called Chulina, and, tearing him open, eat first his liver, and then, removing the skin, they threw it on one side and stripped all the meat from off the bones. When they had done this they again lay down.

Ungutnika was not however completely destroyed, for the skin and bones remained, and, in front of the dogs, the skin came and covered the bones, and he stood up again and ran away, followed by the dogs, who caught him this time at Ulima, a hill a little to the north of a spot now called the Bad Crossing on the Hugh River. Ulima means the liver, and is so called because on this occasion the dogs did not eat the liver, but threw it on one side, and the hill, which is a dark-looking one, arose to mark the spot. The same performance was once more gone through, and again Ungutnika ran away, this time as far as Pulpunja, which is the name given to a peculiar sound made in imitation of little bats, and at this spot Ungutnika turned round and, jeering derisively at the dogs, made the noise. He was at once caught, cut open, and again reconstituted himself, much to the wonder of his pursuers. After this he ran straight towards Undiara, followed by the dogs, and when he reached a spot close to the water-hole they caught and eat him, and, cutting off his tail, buried it at the place where it still remains in the form of a stone, which is called the Churinga okira pura, or Kangaroo tail Churinga, [P.198] which is always shown and carefully rubbed at the Intichiuma ceremony. The Churinga which he carried with him was associated with his spirit part, and the latter has since entered into a woman and been born in human form.


A Kumara man named Ulpunta, whose last descendant was a celebrated medicine man, who died during the course of the Engwura ceremony described in this work, started from Okruncha, carrying only spears and other weapons and no Nurtunja. He was in pursuit of a large kangaroo, which carried a small Nurtunja, and followed it till he came close to Chuntilla, but being unable to catch it, gave up the chase and turned back, a stone arising to mark the spot. He ever afterwards stayed at Okruncha. The kangaroo went on and camped at Chuntilla, and a stone marks the spot where it stood up and looked over the country. Here it was seen by a Bulthara man of the Arunga or euro totem, who at once changed himself into an Okira or kangaroo man and gave chase to the kangaroo, as he wanted to kill and eat it. For a long way he followed the kangaroo, the two camping apart from each other at various places. At Thungalula or Pine Tree Gap, in the Macdonnell Range, the kangaroo made a large Nurtunja and carried it away to Ilpartunga, not far from Owen's Springs, a small sand-hill arising where the animal lay down, and a mulga tree where the man camped. Travelling south along the Hugh River, they came to Alligera, where the kangaroo planted his Nurtunja, a large gum tree now marking the spot. Hearing a noise, he raised himself up on his hind legs and saw a kangaroo running about. A stone twenty-five feet high now represents him standing on his hind legs. After this he scratched out a hole for the purpose of getting water, and this hole has remained to the present day. Travelling south, he came to the Doctor's Stones, and here erected the Nurtunja for the last time, as he was too tired to carry it any further, so it was left standing and became changed into a fine gum tree, which is now called Apera Nurtunja, or the Nurtunja tree.

[P.199] Still following down the Hugh River, the kangaroo reached Ulpmura utterly worn out, and lay down. In a little time a number of kangaroo men from Undiara came up and saw the Bulthara man, who had also arrived. The Undiara men, using gesture language, said to the Bulthara man, “Have you got big spears?” And he replied, “No, only little ones; have you got big spears?” And they replied, “No, only little ones.” Then the Bulthara man said, “Put down your spears on the ground;” and they replied, “Yes, put yours down too.” Then the spears were thrown down, and all the men advanced upon the kangaroo, the Bulthara man keeping in his hand a shield and his Churinga. The kangaroo was very strong and tossed them all about; then they all jumped upon him, and the Bulthara man, getting underneath, was trampled to death. The kangaroo also appeared to be dead. They buried the Bulthara man with his shield and Churinga, and then took the body of the kangaroo into Undiara. The animal was not then really dead, but soon died, and was placed in the cave but not eaten. The rock ledge in the cave arose where the body was put, and when the animal was dead its spirit part went into this, which thus became the animal's Nanja. Shortly afterwards the men died, and their spirit parts went into the water pool close by. Tradition says that great numbers of kangaroo animals came at a later time to the cave, and there went down into the ground, their spirits also going into the stone.


In the Alcheringa the Okira or kangaroo men of Undiara belonged almost, but not quite, entirely to the Purula and Kumara moiety of the tribe; and at the present day the same holds true, but to a somewhat less extent, for, as in the case of all totems, there is a certain admixture of the members of both moieties. The head man, or Alatunja, is a Purula, and under his direction the ceremony of Intichiuma is performed at intervals, though being now an old man, he sometimes deputes the performance to his eldest son, who will succeed to the position on the death of the old man.

[P.200] When the ceremony is to be performed a camp is made at a spot a little to the west of the cave and out of sight of the water-hole, which is placed in a slight dip in the range from which the small gum creek leads. Early in the morning of the day on which the ceremony is to take place, one of the younger men is sent on ahead to a special spot which lies about a hundred yards to the west of the water-hole. The object of this is to make certain that no women or uninitiated men, or men other than members of the totem, are in the neighbourhood. The main body of men comes up skirting closely the base of the range, and halts at the place where the young man is stationed. Here there lies hidden underground a block of soft grey sandstone, about three feet in length and one foot in greatest diameter, its shape in transverse section being triangular. The apex of the stone lies about a foot below the surface, and as the men gather round the spot, the position of which is precisely known,93 the leader clears away the sandy soil and brings the sacred stone into view. Its sides, worn smooth by constant rubbing, are covered over with smaller stones, amongst which is a special flattened one with which the rubbing is done. The Alatunja takes this stone in his hands, and in the presence of all the men, who stand round in perfect silence, rubs over the exposed surface. When this has been done the stone may be lifted up so as to be seen better. It is the Churinga okira pura, that is, the tail of the Alcheringa kangaroo, which was driven in by the wild dogs from Okirilpa, and deposited by them, as already described, in the ground at this spot. Certain large blocks of sandstone, which have evidently tumbled down from the hillside and lay close by—the largest of them being fully eight feet in height—are said to represent the dead bodies of the wild dogs.

After the stone has been rubbed by the Alatunja and then examined by all present, it is covered up and the party moves onward, still skirting the base of the hill, so that the cave and ceremonial stone are not seen until they are close at hand. A halt is made at the water-hole on the side away from the cave, where the men drink, and then come round [P.201] and sit right in front of, and at the base of the ceremonial stone. On the left hand, looking towards the stone, sit the Panunga and Bulthara men, and on the right the Purula and Kumara. Then the head man, who is at the present day a Purula, and a man to whom he is Gammona, and who is therefore Bulthara, go out from the rest, who remain seated, and climb up the hill-side just to the east of the stone. Here at a height of about twenty feet above the level of the plain, are two special blocks of stone projecting immediately above one another from the hill-side. One is supposed to represent an “old man” kangaroo and the other a female. The former is rubbed with a stone by the Purula man and the latter by the Bulthara man. This over, the two men descend and rejoin the main party, which is the signal for the decoration of the rock-ledge to begin. Red ochre and powdered and calcined gypsum are used, and with these alternate vertical lines are painted on the face of the rock, each about a foot in width, the painting of the left side being done by the Panunga and Bulthara men, and that of the right by the Purula and Kumara.

The red stripes are supposed to represent the red fur of the kangaroo (Macropus rufus), while the white ones represent the bones.

When the painting is done, a certain number of young men, perhaps two or three Panunga and Bulthara and five or six Purula and Kumara, go on to the top of the ledge. The former sit down at the left and the latter at the right side, and then they open veins in their arms and allow the blood to spurtle out over the edge of the ceremonial stone on the top of which they are seated. While this is taking place, the men below sit still watching the performers and singing chants referring to the increase of the numbers of the kangaroos which the ceremony is supposed to ensure.

When the blood-letting is over, the old men go back to the camp and remain there, while the rest of the day is spent by the young men out on the rocks and plains in search of game, which is brought in and presented to the old men. This may extend over several days, and at night-time sacred Quabara are performed in camp.


There are certain points of considerable interest with regard to the totems which may be briefly referred to now, in which certainly the Arunta and Ilpirra and, in all probability, others of the Central tribes agree together and differ, so far as is yet known, from other Australian tribes. The first point is the important one, to which we have had occasion to make frequent reference, as it is, we may say, the fundamental feature of the totemic system of these tribes, namely, that each individual is the direct reincarnation of an Alcheringa ancestor, or of the spirit part of some Alcheringa animal (as in the case of Ungutnika of the kangaroo totem), which carried a Churinga, and the spirit associated with which became, so to speak, humanised, and subsequently entered a woman and was born in human form.

The second point is concerned with the relationship which at the present day is supposed to exist between the individual and his totem. A man will only eat very sparingly of his totem, and even if he does eat a little of it, which is allowable to him, he is careful, in the case, for example, of an emu man, not to eat the best part, such as the fat.94 The totem of any man is regarded, just as it is elsewhere, as the same thing as himself; as a native once said to us when we were discussing the matter with him, “that one,” pointing to his photograph which we had taken, “is just the same as me; so is a kangaroo” (his totem). That they claim a special connection with, almost in certain respects a right to, their totemic animal or plant may be seen from the fact that, for example, in the witchetty grub totem, while the members of the latter do not eat it, or, at least, only sparingly themselves, [P.203] the members of the local group who do not belong to the totem must not eat it out of camp like ordinary food, but must bring it into camp and cook it there, else the men of the totem would be angry and the supply of grubs would fail. We may, in fact say, that each totemic group is supposed to have a direct control over the numbers of the animal or plant the name of which it bears, and further that, in theory at least, they have the first right to the animal or plant. That this is so, and that it is well recognised, will be seen from the following facts.

The first is concerned with a curious, but suggestive use of a Churinga. In the possession of a man of the Akakia or plum tree totem, we found a stone Churinga, roughly circular in shape and about 8 cm. in diameter, wrapped up carefully in fur string, so as not to be seen by women as he carried it about with him. It was a Churinga, which had been specially made for him by a man who was Ikuntera or father-in-law to him. The man belonged to the euro totem, and the Churinga in question was marked with a design belonging to the same, a series of concentric circles in the middle of each side representing the intestines of the animal, while two groups of semi-circles indicated, one of them a male, and the other a female euro. The Churinga had been sung over or charmed by the euro man and then given by him to the plum tree man for the purpose of assisting the latter to hunt the animal.

The second is a series of equally suggestive ceremonies, which are connected with the close of the Intichiuma performance in various local totem groups.

After the performance of Intichiuma, the grub is, amongst the Witchetty grubs, tabu to the members of the totem, by whom it must, on no account, be eaten until it is abundant and fully grown; any infringement of this rule is supposed to result in an undoing of the effect of the ceremony, and the grub supply would, as a consequence, be very small. The men of the Purula and Kumara classes, and those of the Panunga and Bulthara, who are not members of the totem, and did not take part in the ceremony, may eat it at any time, but it must always be brought into camp to be cooked. It must, on no account be eaten like other food, out in the bush, or [P.204] the men of the totem would be angry and the grub would vanish. When, after Intichiuma, the grub becomes plentiful and fully grown, the witchetty grub men, women and children go out daily and collect large supplies, which they bring into camp and cook, so that it becomes dry and brittle, and then they store it away in pitchis and pieces of bark. At the same time, those who do not belong to the totem, are out collecting. The supply of grubs only lasts a very short time—the animals appearing after rain—and when they grow less plentiful the store of cooked material is taken to the Ungunja, or men's camp, where, acting as usual under instructions from the Alatunja, all the men assemble. Those who do not belong to the totem, place their stores before the men who do, and the Alatunja then takes one pitchi, and with the help of other men of the totem, grinds up the contents between stones. Then he and the same men all take and eat a little, and when this has been done, he hands back what remains to the other people. Then he takes one pitchi from his own store and after grinding up the contents, he and the men of the totem once more eat a little, and then pass the bulk of what remains over to those who do not belong to the totem.

After this ceremony the Witchetty grub men and women eat very sparingly of the grub. They are not absolutely forbidden to eat it, but must only do so to a small extent for, if they were to eat too much, then the power of successfully performing the Intichiuma would depart from them, and there would be very few grubs. On the other hand it is equally important for them, and especially for the Alatunja, to eat a little of the totemic animal as to eat none would have the same effect as eating too freely.

In the case of the kangaroo totem of Undiara, after the men have allowed the blood to pour out of their arms over the stone ledge they descend, and after rubbing themselves all over with red ochre return to the main camp, which is always placed at some distance from the rock so as to prevent the women and children from being able to see anything of what is going on. All of the younger men then go out hunting kangaroo which, when caught, they bring in to the older men [P.205] who have stayed in camp. It is taken to the Ungunja, or men's camp, and there the old men of the totem, the Alatunja being in the middle of them, eat a little and then anoint the bodies of those who took part in the ceremony with fat from the kangaroo, after which the meat is distributed to all the men assembled. The men of the totem then paint their bodies with the totem design or Ilkinia in imitation of the painting on the rock at Undiara, and that night is spent in singing about the doings of the Alcheringa kangaroo people and animals. On the next morning the young men again go out hunting and bring in more kangaroo to the old men, and the ceremony of the previous day is repeated. The night is spent in singing, and the proceedings terminate with the performance of a number of sacred Quabara connected with Undiara, the great centre of the totem. After this the animal is eaten very sparingly by the kangaroo men, and there are certain parts, such as the tail, which are regarded as the choice bits, which a kangaroo man, or of course woman, must on no account touch.

In the Irriakura totem (the Irriakura is the bulb of a Cyperaceous plant) the members of the totem do not, after Intichiuma, eat the totem for some time. Those who do not belong to the totem bring a quantity in to the Ungunja, where it is handed over to the Alatunja and other men of the totem, who rub some of the tubers between their hands, thus getting rid of the husks, and then, putting the tubers in their mouths, blow them out again in all directions. After this the Irriakura people may eat sparingly.

In the Idnimita totem (the Idnimita is the grub of a large longicorn beetle) the grub must not, after Intichiuma, be eaten by the members of the totem until it becomes plentiful, after which those men who do not belong to the totem collect it and bring it into the Ungunja, where the store is placed before the Alatunja and men of the totem, who then eat some of the smaller ones and hand back the remainder to the men who do not belong to the totem. After this the men of the totem may eat sparingly of the grub.

In the Bandicoot totem the animal is not eaten, after Intichiuma, until it is plentiful. When it is, those who do [P.206] not belong to the totem go out in search of one which, when caught, is brought into the Ungunja, and there they put some of the fat from the animal into the mouths of the bandicoot men, and also rub it over their own bodies. After this the bandicoot men may eat a little of the animal.

It will be seen from what has now been described that at the present day the totemic animal or plant, as the case may be, is almost, but not quite, tabu or, as the Arunta people call it, ekirinja to the members of the totem. At the same time, though a man will tell you that his totem is the same thing as himself, he does not mean to imply by that what Grey says with regard to the totems of the natives whom he studied, and who always killed with reluctance an animal belonging to their totem under the belief “that some one individual of the species is their nearest friend, to kill whom would be a great crime, and to be carefully avoided.”95

The members of each totem claim to have the power of increasing the number of the animal or plant, and in this respect the tradition connected with Undiara, the great centre of the kangaroo totem, just as the Emily gap is the great centre of the Witchetty grub totem, is of especial interest. In the Alcheringa, as we have already described, a special kangaroo was killed by kangaroo men and its body brought to Undiara and deposited in the cave close by the water hole. The rocky ledge arose to mark the spot, and into this entered its spirit part and also the spirit parts of many other kangaroo animals (not men) who came subsequently and, as the natives say, went down into the earth here. The rock is in fact the Nanja stone of the kangaroo animals, and to them this particular rock has just the same relationship as the water hole close by has to the men. The one is full of spirit kangaroo animals just as the other is full of spirit men and women. The purpose of the Intichiuma ceremony at the present day, so say the natives, is by means of pouring out the blood of kangaroo men upon the rock, to drive out in all directions the spirits of the kangaroo animals and so to increase the number of the animals. The spirit kangaroo [P.207] enters the kangaroo animal in just the same way in which the spirit kangaroo man enters the kangaroo woman.

In this tradition we have probably the clue to the general meaning of the series of Intichiuma ceremonies, the object of each of which is to increase the number of the totemic animal or plant. Further still, attention may be drawn to the fact that the object of increasing the number of the totem is, in all cases, such as that of the Hakea or the Irriakura or plum tree amongst plants, or the kangaroo, euro, lizard, snake and so forth amongst animals, in which the totemic animal or plant is an article of food, that of increasing the food supply. That the totemic animal or plant is not regarded exactly as a close relative, whom it would be wrong to kill or to assist anyone else to kill, is very evident; on the contrary, the members of one totem not only, as it were, give their permission to those who are not of the totem to kill and eat the totemic animal or plant, but further, as shown clearly in the case of the euro man who made and charmed a special Churinga with the express object of assisting a plum tree man to catch euro, they will actually help in the destruction of their totem.

The question of the killing and eating of the totem which this opens up, quite apart from the ceremonial eating of a small portion of the same, after the performance of Intichiuma, is, so far as these tribes are concerned, one of considerable difficulty to deal with. We may first of all draw attention to certain points in the traditions which bear upon the question. These traditions or myths, whichever they be called, cannot be regarded as having been invented simply to account for certain customs now practised, for the simple reason that they reveal to us a state of organisation and a series of customs quite different from, and in important respects at variance with, the organisation and customs of the present time. In connection with the eating of the totem, for example, though we find very circumstantial references to this, there is no attempt to explain how the present tabu arose, but we find, on the contrary, that, in the far away times to which the traditions are supposed to refer, there simply was no such tabu. Under these circumstances we are probably justified [P.208] in regarding the traditions in question as actually indicative of a time when customs in this and in other respects were very different from those in force at the present day.

So far as the eating of the totem is concerned the following incidents, amongst others, are of importance. A euro man named Algura-wartna was in pursuit of a euro which carried fire in its body. After following it up for some time the man killed it and, taking the fire out of its body, cooked therewith some euro which he carried with him. After that he cooked and eat the one which he had killed.

In a Quabara relating to an Oruncha96 man, the decoration on the head referred to an Idnimita (grub of beetle) man who was killed by this Oruncha. The man was carrying with him Idnimita grubs, which were specially represented in the decorations, and on which he was feeding.
In a Chankuna (small edible berry) ceremony a Chankuna man was represented as eating the berries which he plucked from his beard.
At a spot called Erathippa a plum tree woman was out finding plums to eat when a man came and stole her Nurtunja which she had left in camp.
An Irpunga (fish) man was seen by certain wild cat men during their wanderings, fishing in a small pool to catch the fish on which he fed.
An opossum man was robbed by another man of the moon which he carried about with him at night time so as to help him to catch opossums.
During the wanderings of a party of wild cat men they are reported to have come to a certain spot where they met some men who were what is called Ulpmerka of the plum tree totem. The wild cat men went into the earth and arose as plum tree men, and after that went on eating plums.
A bandicoot woman started out with a Hakea woman. After some time, she, the bandicoot woman, made Quabara undattha, that is performed a sacred ceremony, and painted the Hakea woman with down used during the ceremony, thus changing her into a bandicoot woman, after which, says the tradition, the latter went on feeding upon bandicoot.
[P.209] An Arunga or euro man started out in pursuit of a kangaroo which he was anxious to kill and eat but, to enable himself to do this, he first of all changed himself into a kangaroo man.

These and other statements of a similar nature are so precise (they are, as it were, often dragged into the tradition apropos of nothing), and are yet so entirely different from the present customs of the tribe, that they can only be understood on the hypothesis that they refer to a former time in which the relationship of the human beings to their totemic animals or plants was of a different nature from that which now obtains.

At some earlier time it would appear as if the members of a totem had the right to feed upon the totemic animal or plant as if this were indeed a functional necessity, though at the same time it must be remembered that in the same traditions from which the above extracts have been made for the purpose of drawing attention to this feature, there are also plenty of references to men and women eating animals and plants other than their own totem.97 The idea of a kangaroo man freely eating a kangaroo or a bandicoot woman feeding on bandicoots is so totally opposed to the present custom of the tribe that we are obliged to regard these traditions as referring to a past time when customs in respect of the totems were different from what they are now.

In his Vocabulary of the Dialects of South-Western Australia,98 Sir George Grey, when giving the meaning of certain of the native names for totems, says, in regard to the Ballaroke, a small opossum, “Some natives say that the Ballaroke family derived their name from having in former times subsisted principally on this little animal”; and again of the Nag-karm totem, he says, “From subsisting principally in former times on this fish, the Nagarnook family are said to have obtained their name.” In regard further to five totemic groups, which bear the names of birds, he says, that they, that is the [P.210] members of the respective totems, are said to be the birds transformed into men. The curious agreement between this and what we have just described as occurring in the Arunta tribe is of considerable interest. In the latter, the belief in the origin of the members of any totem from the animal or plant whose name they bear is universal and is regarded as a satisfactory reason for the totemic name. It may be that in the traditions dealing with the eating of the totem, we have nothing more than another attempt to explain the origin of the totem name. Judging, however, from the curious traditions of the Arunta tribe, taken in conjunction with the ceremonies of Intichiuma, this does not seem to be so probable as that they point back to a past time when the restrictions with regard to the eating were very different from those now in force. It is quite possible that the curious ceremony in which the members of any local group bring in to the men's camp stores of the totemic animal or plant and place them before the members of the totem, thus clearly recognising that it is these men who have the first right of eating it, as well as the remarkable custom according to which one man will actually assist another to catch and kill his—i.e., the former's—totemic animal, may be surviving relics of a custom according to which, in past times, the members of a totem not only theoretically had, but actually practised, the right of eating their totem.

It may perhaps be that this eating of the totem shows that for some reason, as Mr. Frazer99 has suggested in the case of certain other tribes in which the totem is eaten, the respect for the totem has lessened in comparison with what it once was; but, in face of the solemn ceremony of Intichiuma and of the explicit traditions to which reference has been made, it is difficult to believe that this can be so. The two traditions, in one of which a bandicoot woman is stated to have changed her companion, a Hakea woman, into a bandicoot woman, who after that went on feeding on bandicoot, while in the other a euro man is described as changing himself into a kangaroo man for the purpose of being able to pursue, kill and eat a kangaroo, are perhaps sufficient to show, taken in [P.211] conjunction with the Intichiuma ceremonies, that, in the Arunta and Ilpirra tribes, a man is most intimately associated with his totem, but in a way quite unlike that which is usually associated with the idea of a totem. At the same time, though the relationship is different in certain respects from that which exists in other tribes, yet it will be clearly seen that what have been described as the totems agree in fundamental points with the definition given by Mr. Frazer,100 viz., “A totem is a class of material objects which a savage regards with superstitious respect, believing that there exists between him and every member of the class an intimate and altogether special relation;” and further still we can see, to use Mr. Frazer's terms, the existence of both a social and a religious aspect. The former is not so strongly developed as it is in many other Australian tribes, amongst whom not only does the totem regulate marriage, but the members of the totem are bound to mutually assist one another. In the Arunta tribe the most striking feature from a social point of view is the strongly local character, though at the same time it must be remembered that any initiated member of a particular totem, whatever local group he belongs to, may take part in the totemic ceremonies. The religious aspect is most clearly seen in connection with the ceremonies of Intichiuma and the subsequent solemn eating of the totem, though here again the relationship between the man and his totem cannot be described as one “of mutual respect and protection.”101 It seems as if, in the case of the Central Australian tribes, the totemic system has undergone a somewhat curious development; at all events, it differs in certain respects from that of all other Australian tribes with which we are as yet acquainted.


Chapter VII Initiation Ceremonies

All Australian natives, with rare exceptions, have to pass through some initiation ceremony before being admitted to the secrets of the tribe—Enumeration of ceremonies amongst the Arunta and Ilpirra tribes—Absence of the knocking out of teeth as an initiation rite—Ceremonies amongst natives of Finke River—First ceremony—Throwing the boy up in the air—The second ceremony—Circumcision or Lartna—The Apulla ground—Women dancing—Decorating of the boy—Appointment of officials to conduct various parts of the ceremony—Boy receives title of Wurtja—Handing the firestick to the boy—Seclusion in the bush—Performance of certain sacred ceremonies—Ceremony of Okoara—The Waninga, its construction and meaning—Woman running off with the Wurtja—Appointing an official to paint a totemic design on the novice's back—Painting of the boy—Bringing in of the Arachitta poles—Two women rub the design off the boy's back—The women stripping the Arachitta poles while the men dance—Setting fire to the brakes—The women retire—Arachitta poles placed on the Wurtja—Performance of the actual ceremony—Presentation to the novice of the men who had acted as officials—Giving Churinga to the novice and sending him into the bush—Restrictions to be observed by certain relatives of the boy while he is out in the bush—Ceremony of head-biting—Ceremony of subincision or Ariltha kuma—The Nurtunja, its construction and meaning—Burning the blood after Ariltha—Men submitting to a second operation of Ariltha—Recovery from subincision—Taking the Ertwa-kurka to the women—Elder sisters cutting off hair from the Ertwa-kurka—Throwing a boomerang in the direction of the mother's camp in the Alcheringa—Putting the Ertwa-kurka on the fire—Various grades passed through during initiation—Ceremony of circumcision in the northern part of the tribe—Meaning of subincision—Nothing to do with preventing procreation—Customs in the Southern Arunta—Initiation of women.

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 [P.213] 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.

One of the most noticeable features of the ceremonies, from a negative point of view, is the absence of the knocking out of teeth as a general custom associated with the initiatory rites. Amongst many tribes of the eastern coastal district this forms a prominent feature, but amongst the Central Australian natives, whilst it may be performed, it has nothing to do with initiation, and is, in fact, practised by men as well as women, the rite having no sacred significance of any kind; and yet, as we shall see later, there is not only evidence which shows that it has once been a ceremony of greater importance than it is at the present day, but also that there are certain details which are curiously similar to those concerned with the ceremony in parts where it forms the most important initiation rite.

In the case of particular local groups amongst the Arunta, as, for example, the natives now living in the district to the north and north-east of Alice Springs, it is much more widely practised than elsewhere; but, speaking generally, the knocking out of teeth is amongst the Arunta and other central tribes [P.214] a matter partly of individual and partly of local taste and fashion.102 The custom is probably to be regarded as one which was at some distant time prevalent amongst the common ancestors of the central and eastern coastal tribes, but which has undergone changes as the tribes became separated from one another and developed, so far as their customs are concerned, along different lines. In some it has retained its old significance, or may have even acquired still greater importance as an initiatory rite, but in others, as, for example, all those inhabiting the central area, it has lost its old meaning, its place has been taken by other rites, and now it is merely what we may call a rudimentary custom.

To a certain extent, as we have said, the details of the various initiation ceremonies differ in different parts of the tribe. We will first of all describe them as carried out in the groups living on the Finke River, and will then point out variations in the ceremonies as they are enacted, first in the northern, and secondly in the southern parts.


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.103 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 [P.215] 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 Unjipinna104 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 [P.216] 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 [P.217] 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 [P.218] 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 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, [P.219] 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,105 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 [P.220] the former, which is called the Apulla. The nature of this can be seen from the accompanying plan. 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. The women were grouped at the spot marked C.

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 Unthippa106 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.107 Except in connection with this ceremony women may never carry shields, which are exclusively the property of the men, just as much as a 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 Unkulla108 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 [P.221] 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 Okilia109 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 afterwards 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 [P.222] 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,110 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 [P.223] 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 [P.224] conducted by means of a fire-stick.111 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 [P.225] 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,112 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 [P.226] 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 dogman 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 [P.227] 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 case 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 [P.228] 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 blindfolded 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 [P.229] 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 case, 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 [P.230] he sees and hears is new and surrounded with an air of mystery.

After the performance was over, the Wurtja was led back to his brake, and then a council was held for the purpose of selecting a man to perform the operation, and another man to act as assistant. Both these men are called Atwia atwia and in addition to them, another man was selected, whose duty it was to hold up the shield upon which the boy was seated during the operation, this man being known by the name of Elucha. The conversation was carried on in whispers, the men when speaking, placing their mouths close to each other's ears. While this consultation was in progress, the other men sitting close to the brake sang in fierce loud tones, the Lartna song—“Irriyulta yulta rai,” &c.

After discussing matters for some time, it was decided that an old man who was Mura to the boy, was to perform the ceremony, and that a man who was Gammona to the former, was to act as assistant, while another old man who was Ikuntera, that is possible father-in-law, was to act as shield-bearer or Elucha. It must be remembered that, in addition to the honour attaching to these offices, there are certain emoluments, for, when the operation is all over, the boy has to provide each of these men with an offering of food. As soon as this decision had been arrived at, the singing stopped, and the three Okilia went and sat in a line at the end of the Apulla path, looking very grave, as if the business now to be performed were of the deepest importance. Each one of them then got up in turn, and bringing one of the appointed officials, each of whom made a pretence of reluctance, placed him in front of the line occupied by himself and his brother Okilia, so that now there were two rows of men facing each other. The old Mura man sat in the middle of his row, and facing him was the eldest of the Okilia. The latter then smoothed with his hand the surface of the ground between the two lines, and then, picking up a spear-thrower by the end to which the point was attached, he thrust his beard into his mouth, as did also the Mura man, and for a short time both glared fiercely [P.231] at one another. Then without taking his eyes off the Mura man, he scooped up with the chisel end of the weapon a little soil, and, gliding along on his knees, emptied it into the hands of the former. Then he embraced him, rubbed their bodies together, and finally rubbed his forehead against the stomach of the Mura man. When this was over, he repeated the whole performance with the two other officials, and then the three old men were embraced in turn by the other Okilia, who, however, did not present them with dirt.

The meaning of the ceremony is simply, so they say, to imply that the youth is intrusted to them for the purpose of being initiated, with as little hesitation as the dirt is placed in their hands.

This little ceremony is called Okoara, and was conducted with much solemnity. When it was over, the men who had taken part in it joined the others, and once more the Lartna song was sung with much fierceness. Singing was kept up all night long with only short intervals of rest. Early in the evening, the Wurtja was brought from his brake, and spent the night amongst the men, listening to, but taking no part in, the singing.

The morning of the eighth day was spent in preparing for a ceremony concerned with the Illuta (a rat) totem. The particular rat-man or man-rat—for, as already said, the identity of the human individual is sunk in that of the object with which he is associated, and from which he is supposed to have originated—to whom this ceremony referred, is supposed to have travelled from a place called Pulkira, west of the Finke River to Walyirra, where he died, and where his spirit remained associated as usual with the Churinga. In connection with this ceremony a large Waninga was used, which was made as follows. A long spear was taken, and close to each end a bar of wood about two feet in length was fixed at right angles to the length of the spear. Then strands of hair string were tied on so that they ran from cross bar to cross bar parallel to the central spear, and at each end the strands passed off, slantwise, to the latter. In some Waningas there may be three cross bars, in which case the top one is much smaller than the other two, and an extra series of strands of [P.232] string pass from the outer part of the second cross bar to the top one, as shown in the figure (Fig. 39). The string is not all of one kind, but, in the one figured for example, the strands nearest to the central spear were of black human hair, then followed a band consisting of about eight strands of red-ochred opossum fur string, then a band of grey bandicoot fur string and again, on the margin, another band of opossum fur. The whole Waninga had white birds' down sprinkled over it and made to adhere to the string, as usual, by means of human blood. This object is the most elaborate and certainly the most artistic of all those which are used in connection with the various ceremonies.

In this particular ceremony the whole Waninga represented the body of a rat, the main part was supposed to be the trunk of the animal, the point end, the tail, and the handle end, the head, so that when in use the latter was carried downwards. The cross bars represented the limbs. The Waninga was carried by an Okilia while another man walked behind to steady it. Two other men were decorated to represent two Kutta kutta or little night hawks. When all was ready the Wurtja was brought blindfolded as usual from his brake to the Apulla ground, where he remained with his head covered up until the performers had got into position in front of him. They approached from the south side, making a circuit and walking with their backs turned towards the Apulla until they got opposite to, and about thirty yards from, the Wurtja, when the bandage was at once taken from his eyes. The two little hawk men with legs wide apart and hands grasping the ends of a stick which was held across the shoulders, came along down the Apulla lines towards the audience, sliding and quivering as they did so. Then they quickly returned, and were followed by the Waninga carriers who ran down the lines, stooping and bending the Waninga towards the Wurtja, but without touching him. Stopping every now and then, they stood erect and quivered or stood still. This was done several times, and then finally all four men came into the Apulla lines at the same time, the two little hawk men being at first in front; the latter then retired to the sides, and the Waninga carriers came on quivering. Then a man who [P.233] [P.234] was Ikuntera to the boy stepped out, and taking the Waninga113 set it up in the Apulla path, and the Wurtja was told by Oknia and Okilia men to go out and embrace it, which he did for some minutes, while the men who had carried it stood by, and the others, gathered together at the brake, sang of the Waninga, and of the wanderings of the rat men in the Alcheringa. Once more the usual instructions and warnings were given to the Wurtja, and he was made to lie down with his head covered while another ceremony of a simple nature was prepared. The men around him occupied the time in singing about a party of Alcheringa individuals who started to walk from a place called Ayaiya. After the singing had gone on for about an hour, the Wurtja was told to look up, and, when he did so, he saw a number of men lying about the Apulla ground who at once began to hop about and to imitate the sound made by kangaroos. One old man in particular was noticeable from the way in which he mimicked the movements of an old and disabled animal. After hopping in and about the Apulla ground for some minutes, they bunched up together at the western end of the ground and then suddenly, rising with a loud shout of “Pau pau pau,” ran away to a small gully out of sight of the Wurtja, who was told that these represented a party of Alcheringa men starting off from Ayaiya. After this, and while further preparations were being made, the Wurtja remained with the audience, but had his head covered. The tradition dealing with this special group of kangaroos relates that the party split into two, a larger and a smaller one, and that the larger one travelled on ahead of the smaller one. When preparing for the ceremony, the bodies were first of all rubbed over with red ochre, then two young men opened veins, first in one arm and then in the other, and allowed the blood to flow out in a stream over the heads and bodies of those who were about to take part in the [P.235] ceremony. These men, who were ten in number, were then ornamented with little patches of down, but, unlike the usual plan of ornamentation, there was no regular pattern made, the reason for this being that the Alcheringa men had not used any regular pattern.

Each man carried on his head, and also between his teeth, a small mass of wooden shavings saturated with blood.

When all was ready they went, with the exception of three who stayed behind, on to the Apulla ground, walking in single file and carrying twigs of Eucalyptus in their hands. When they reached the ground a young man, who led the column and represented a young and frolicsome kangaroo which, according to tradition, accompanied the marchers, lay down sideways across the entrance to the path, with his back towards the Wurtja. The other men stood in the path with [P.236] their legs wide apart, one behind the other, shifting their heads from side to side and making the twigs quiver. Then the Wurtja was told to sit up and the performers at once greeted his appearance with imitations of the sounds made by kangaroos; then the young kangaroo called Kulla Kulla, began frisking about and pretending to rush at the other performers, and, finally, darted between the legs of each man and emerged at the western end of the column, where he lay down quietly a few minutes. After he had gone through this performance four times, he was caught up as he came through the legs of the man nearest to the Wurtja. The two front men then picked him up and carried him bodily, standing astride of him, and laid him on his back on top of the Wurtja, upon whom all of the performers then threw themselves, so that the unfortunate novice had actually to bear the weight of the whole mass of men. As a result of this the Wurtja himself did not appear to be any the worse for what must have been a somewhat trying experience, but one of the two men who had carried the Kulla Kulla fainted as soon as the men extricated themselves. The stoical calmness of the Wurtja was most marked throughout the whole ceremony. After this first act in the performance, the men who had taken part in it seated themselves amongst the audience, and the remaining three men came on to the ground and went through the same performance, one of them personating a young kangaroo, who was carried up to and laid on the Wurtja, the other two men lying on the top of him. For this lying down on the top of the Wurtja there is a special term used—wultha-chelpima. After the usual explanations and cautions the Wurtja was led back to his brake.
On the morning of the ninth day the Wurtja was carefully greased all over by the Okilia, who was especially in charge of him, and he remained crouching or lying down at his brake until noon, when he was brought blindfolded to the ground. Then the kangaroo performance of the previous day was again enacted, the performance including the lying down upon the Wurtja.

In addition, however, to the decorations of the previous day, four of the old men wore on their heads a half circle [P.237] made of grass stalks, bound round with fur string and decorated with white down called Atnuta. Each of these represented a dead kangaroo, which was carried on the head by the Alcheringa kangaroo ancestor as he marched across the country. In connection with this myth it is of interest to note that at the present day when a kangaroo or wallaby is killed the limbs are always dislocated at the joints, which makes them hang more limply and so renders them more easy to carry. In this condition the body is spoken of as Atnuta and the act of dislocating is called ullakakulla. After the performance the Atnuta were taken off the heads and handed round, while each man squatting on the ground kept the object pressed round his stomach for a few minutes, the Wurtja doing this also.

After this two more kangaroo ceremonies were performed, the second of which was of some importance. The principal performer carried a Waninga, which was really a double one, the top part representing a separate small one attached to the large one. The large Waninga represented an old man kangaroo and the small one his son. Two men, as usual, carried the Waninga, the front one supporting it on his back while the other man helped to keep it upright as they advanced and retreated along the Apulla path, stopping every now and then to quiver and to bend the Waninga over towards the Wurtja. The Ikuntera man then stood up, and taking the Waninga from the performers, fixed it upright in the path, and the boy was once more told to go up and embrace it. The showing of the Waninga to the Wurtja is called amba-keli-irrima, which means the child sees and knows. The embracing of the Waninga is called eliaqua erkuma. After the performance the Wurtja was once more instructed and cautioned not to reveal anything to women and children, and then made to lie down, while in loud fierce tones the men sang the Lartna song, “irri yulta yulta rai,” &c., striking the ground with their shields as they did so. Then the Wurtja was taken back to his brake, where he remained till about nine o'clock at night, when he was brought to the Apulla, and there his head was decorated with stalks of cane grass, while at the same time the other men decorated themselves [P.238] in the same way, inserting, in addition, stalks beneath their arm bands.

When this had been done the brake of boughs at which the men assembled was built higher and the men all crouched behind it. Then, at a signal from the old Oknia, the women once more approached from the main camp, shouting as they did so, “pai! pai! pai!” and took possession of the Apulla ground upon which they danced for some minutes. Then they went and stood on one side, which was the signal for the men to come out and stand on the Apulla. Then once more the women came up and joined the men, while the latter danced round, and the women, shouting “pai! pai! pai!” plucked the grass stalks from their heads. The men all danced with their faces turned towards the east as in the stripping dance at a later time, one or more women standing behind each man. Then the Mura woman, who had previously given the fire-stick to the novice, after having stripped the Wurtja as he danced along with the other men, suddenly stopped, and, placing her head through his legs from behind, hoisted him on to her shoulders, and ran off with him followed by all the other women to a spot behind, and in a line with, the Apulla, from which it was distant about fifty yards. Here she placed him sitting on the ground, she herself sitting behind, clasping him in her arms, while some Mia and Uwinna women sat close behind her. The rest of the women continued to dance in front of the Wurtja shouting “pai! pai! pai!” and making a movement of invitation by slightly lifting the hands up and down with the arms bent at the elbows, while moving the fingers as if to beckon the Wurtja to them. This characteristic movement is adopted by the women during the course of various ceremonies, and is always associated with the idea of inviting the men to come to them. At the Apulla the men sat down and sang the fire song:—

“Atnylinga etunja illa althara wuntama,”

over and over again. Atnylinga is the red flower of a species of Eremophila, which, in the Alcheringa, was made red by much burning; etunja is a twig of Eucalyptus; althara means [P.239] blazing up; and illa wuntama is the term applied to a fire which is rushing along, like one which has been lit on a windy day amongst the porcupine-grass on the sand hills. This special song is always sung on the night preceding the preparation of the Arachitta poles, the twigs used for swathing which are always put through a blazing fire.

The singing continued for about half an hour, after which the Urinthantima man, as well as another Mura man and the Okilia in charge of the novice, ran towards the women holding shields before their faces. The first-named seized the Wurtja, and, assisted by the other two, took him back to the Apulla, where he was told to lie down and his face was covered while the singing of the fire-song continued at intervals all night long. As soon as the Wurtja was taken from them the women ran away to the main camp.

At daybreak the Urinthantima man rubbed the Wurtja all over with dry red ochre and then wound fur string round his head, so as to completely hide his hair from sight, while the other men sang—

“Purta purta airpinta airpintina,”

the song sung while preparing the Arachitta poles. Purta is to arrange the leaves, to settle them in their right places; airpinta airpintina means round and round again. While this was being done the women came up to the Apulla and danced between the lines, backwards and forwards, in front of the Wurtja, making with their hands the movement of invitation and shouting “pai! pai! pai!” Suddenly the Urinthantima man hoisted the Wurtja up on to his shoulders and ran off with him followed by a number of the younger men, upon which the women at once ran back to their camp and the singing ceased. When out of sight of the Apulla the Wurtja was put down and the men proceeded to a spot about half a mile distant, where they made big fires and cut down a number of slender saplings which were to be used for Arachitta poles. The branches were then scorched in the flames while the men sang the fire-song “Atnylinga etunja,” &c. When sufficient material was prepared they sat down and began to tie twigs on to the poles, the Wurtja assisting [P.240] by breaking off twigs and handing them around; but he did not prepare a pole himself, and during the proceedings was never once spoken to. While at work the men sang “purta purta airpinta airpintina,” and it was afternoon before the poles, about thirty in number and each about ten feet in length, were ready. Then a start was made for the Apulla ground, the poles being carried to a spot about two hundred yards from the Apulla, where they were stacked. Here, assisted by the boy's Okilia, the Urinthantima man tied twigs of Eremophila on to the Wurtja's body and head and then signalled to the men at the Apulla that they were ready, whereupon they moved away from the ground and shouted to the women who were waiting at some little distance out of sight. The women at once ran up and took possession of the Apulla, carrying shields and shouting “pai! pai! pai!” On the ground they stood with their backs to the men's brake and their faces towards the west, from which direction the Wurtja's party was coming. As the latter approached the women began dancing up and down the lines, making the movement of invitation and all the time holding their shields against their breasts. The party, led by the Urinthantima man, approached at a run, with the Wurtja concealed in the centre. Each man carried several pieces of bark which, as they came close at hand, were thrown at the women while the men shouted loudly “whirra,” and the women shielded their faces. At close quarters a final volley of pieces of bark was the signal to the women to go, which they did, running away pell mell, their pace accelerated by the vehement shouting of the men who were standing about in all directions away from the Apulla, to which they returned as soon as the women had gone. The bushes were taken off the Wurtja by the Urinthantima and Okilia, and he was told to remain in a crouching position.

The Apulla ground was now carefully cleaned, and the Wurtja's brake removed to within a few yards of the western end of the path, after which a council, in which Oknia, Okilia and Gammona took part, was held, the object being to appoint another official known as Wulya, whose duty was that of painting a design on the back of the Wurtja. The [P.241] choice of the design is left entirely to the Wulya, but it must be one of the Ilkinia, that is, the series of designs emblematic of the totems, and he is expected also to choose one belonging to a totem group of his own locality. During this conference two Okilia had been sitting opposite to one another, and as soon as the choice had been made, one of them smoothed over the ground between them, and then the other, who in this instance belonged to the same locality as the Wurtja, crossed over and sat down between the legs of the first man. Then a man, Gammona too, and of the same locality as the Wurtja, stepped out and brought back the old man who was Ipmunna to the Wurtja, and upon whom the choice had fallen. He came with well-simulated reluctance, as if he felt himself overpowered with the honour thus conferred upon him, and sat down in front of the two Okilia in the space vacated by the man who had crossed over. When he was seated, the front one of the two Okilia took up a boomerang, and with much deliberation drew the flat side three times steadily along the ground, thus making a smooth little trench, out of which he scooped a little soil, and then, shuffling along on his knees, emptied it into the hands of the Ipmunna man. Then he embraced him and rubbed his head against the old man's stomach. Then the other Okilia, the Gammona and the Oknia, in the order named, embraced the old man. The latter belonged to a northern locality, and in choosing him a well-recognised compliment had been paid both to himself and to his local group, as the Wurtja belonged to a southern group of the tribe. A somewhat unusual occurrence now took place. The old Atwia atwia man, who had been appointed to perform the actual operation of circumcision, came up and held a whispered conversation with the newly appointed Wulya, the gist of which was that he was an old man, that his eyesight was failing, and that he desired the consent of the council who determined these matters to depute his duties to his son. This necessitated a long whispered consultation, not that there was any serious objection to the proposal; indeed the old man is regarded as so great a man in the tribe, being recognised as an oknirabata, that no one would dream of opposing his wish in a matter such as [P.242] this, but simply because anything like hasty action, in connection with an affair of mysterious import like one of the initiation ceremonies, would be completely out of keeping with the feelings of the natives. It was decided to grant the request, and the son was then called up, and after another whispered conversation the council broke up. When this was over, all the men began to decorate themselves with various patterns, which had no special significance; the two Atwia atwia were prominently painted on the face, and their cheeks were blackened with charcoal, so that they were easily distinguishable from the others. The Wurtja remained crouching at his brake for some little time, after which the newly appointed Wulya, together with the two men of the same name who had done the first painting, came up to him and began to paint on his back a design of the Okranina or carpet snake totem of a place called Tharlinga, away to the north in the Hanns range, that is, in the locality of the man who did the painting, but it must be remembered that there was no obligation upon the man to paint a design of either his own or the boy's totem. As a matter of fact, the totem of the Wurtja was a grass seed and that of the painter a crow. The design, which occupied the greater part of the boy's back, was done in white pipe-clay, and before commencing to draw it, the newly appointed Wulya rubbed the boy over with grease while he explained to his two companions the nature of the design which he intended to paint. All three men took part in the drawing, which consisted of a few concentric circles in the centre, with corkscrew-like lines around. The circles represented the snake's hole in the ground, and the other lines were supposed to be snakes playing round the hole. While the painting proceeded, and it was done with great deliberation, occupying more than an hour, the old Ipmunna man sang in a low monotonous voice about the snakes of Tharlinga. When at length it was finished an Okilia of the Wurtja's locality came up and placed in his hair two bunches of owl feathers, and then, going away again, he brought the two Atwia atwia to inspect the drawing.

At this stage the men who had previously made the [P.243] Arachitta poles ran away from the Apulla, shouting, “Pai! pai! pai!” and brought the poles back with them from where they had been deposited. When within about fifty yards of the Wurtja they separated into two parties, one crossed in front of him from left to right, and the other from right to left, and the poles were deposited about twenty yards to either side of him; what was the meaning of this cannot be said, the native explanation as usual being that it was thus done in the Alcheringa. Possibly it may be associated in some way with the division of the tribe into two moieties, but there was no evidence of this so far as the actual constitution of the two parties was concerned, that is, members of one moiety did not go to one side and members of the other to the other.

Just before dusk two Okilias went out and stood, one on the eastern end of each of the raised banks, with their arms in a somewhat curious attitude, the palm of the hand being turned so that it faced backwards and the elbow bent, so that the hand lay in the arm-pit. The Urinthantima man went and sat down in the place usually occupied by the Wurtja when he was watching a ceremony, while the other men seated around him sang, “Elunja apirra arara”—“Hark to the lizards in the tree.” At a signal from an old Mura man, the women, who were waiting out of sight, came and stood in two groups, one to the left and one to the right of the Apulla. It may be mentioned that here again the separation had no reference to the classes, though there are certain occasions during some of the ceremonies connected with initiation when this separation does take place. As soon as the women arrived the two Okilias came down from the bank, ran to the Wurtja's brake and quickly tore down the bushes which hid him from view, so that he was seen crouching down. The Okilias then knelt down, one on either side of him, and the three at once ran quickly, on all fours, to the Apulla, where the Wurtja lay down on top of the Urinthantima, who was himself lying down on his back. In this position the two remained for about ten minutes. While this was taking place a woman who was Mia to the Wurtja came and sat down behind one of the Oknia, while two others sat behind two [P.244] other Oknia. At the same time the men who had brought in the Arachitta poles, and were about to wear them attached to their legs, were busily engaged, with the assistance of other men and some of the women, in fastening them on. At the end of the ten minutes the Urinthantima man wriggled out from underneath the boy, who remained lying face downwards on the ground. The old Ipmunna stood close by, explaining the design on the back of the Wurtja, and after a time called up two old women, who, like himself, were Ipmunna114 to the boy, to come up and rub out the design. They came forwards with apparent reluctance, though in reality highly honoured by being thus chosen, and, stooping down, effaced the drawing by rubbing it over with their foreheads.

The men with the Arachitta poles were now ready to come on to the Apulla, and there, with the poles attached to their ankles, they ran up and down between the banks, dancing and singing, while the women, shouting, followed them all about, stripping the leaves as they did so from off the poles. It was now dark, but piling the two brakes, which had served their purpose and would not be used again, on top of one another, the whole mass was set on fire,115 and the flames lighted up a scene of the weirdest description possible, on which the Wurtja looked in silence apparently quite unmoved. Suddenly the old Mura man gave out a great roar, the dancing ceased, and, followed by menacing shouts from the men, the women made haste back to their own camp, while from all sides the sound of bull-roarers was heard. At this signal the Wurtja was laid down on his back, and some of the Oknia and Okilia men, taking up a number of the Arachitta poles, stacked them on top of him, lifting them up and down as if beating time with them on his body, while they all sang wildly:—

“Ingwa alkirna alkirni li
Urtnanthi alkirli impara.”


Ingwa means night or darkness; alkirna, twilight; alkirni li, a great clear light; urtnanthi, a lot of trees growing close together; alkirli, like the sky; impara, rising red like the sun.

All was now excitement; the fire was giving out a brilliant light, and the two Atwia atwia men took up a position at the western end of the Apulla path. With their beards thrust into their mouths, their legs widely extended and their arms [P.246] stretched forwards, the two men stood perfectly still, the actual operator in front and his assistant pressing close up behind him, so that their bodies were in contact with each other. The front man held in his extended right hand the small flint knife with which the operation was to be conducted, and, as soon as they were in position, the Ikuntera man, who was to act as shield bearer, came down the lines, carrying the shield on his head and at the same time snapping the thumb and first finger of each hand. Then, facing the fire, he knelt down on one knee just a little in front of the operator, holding his shield above his head. During the whole time the bull-roarers were sounding all round so loudly that they could easily be heard by the women and children in their camp, and by them it is supposed that the roaring is the voice of the great spirit Twanyirika, who has come to take the boy away.116

The Arachitta poles were then quickly removed from the top of the Wurtja, and he was at once lifted up by Okilia and Oknia men, who ran, carrying him feet foremost, and placed him on the shield. Then in deep, loud tones the Lartna song was sung, indeed almost thundered out, by the men:—

“Irri yulta yulta rai
Ul katchera ul katch ar-arai
Irri yulta yulta rai
Ul katchera ul katch ai.”

The assisting Atwia atwia at once grasped the foreskin, pulled it out as far as possible and the operator cut it off, and [P.247] [P.248] immediately, along with all the men who had acted in any official capacity during the whole course of the proceedings, retired out of the lighted area, while the boy, in a more or less dazed condition, was supported by his Oknia and Okilia, who said to him, “You have done well, you have not cried out.” Then he was led back to where the old brake had stood and received the congratulations of the men, and at the same time the blood from the wound was allowed to flow into a shield, which was given to him by a young Oknia, to whom afterwards he will have, in return, to present an offering of food.

While he was still bleeding an Okilia brought up some of the bull-roarers and, pressing them on the wound, told him that it was these and not Twanyirika which made the sound, that they were sacred Churinga and must never be shown or even mentioned to the women. To this the boy listened in silence. After a time, when the bleeding had diminished, he was led to the eastern end of the Apulla, where he stood between two Okilia looking towards the west, while two other Okilia, each taking an Arachitta pole, mounted the bank and holding their poles over the path shouted loudly, moving them up and down as they did so, “Arara, arara, arara,” which is the signal for the officials, who had been standing on one side in the shade, to come on to the Apulla ground once more. This they did, one at a time, in the following order, though there did not appear to be any rule with regard to precedence, as one man would urge another to go up:—Wulya, who superintended the first painting; Urinthantima; Wulya, Wulya, these two had assisted at the first painting; Atwia atwia, the actual operator; Atwia atwia, the assistant; Wulya, of the final painting; Wulya, the assistant of the last man; Elucha. As each man came up the Okilia shouted, “This is Wulya (and so on through the list), do not mention his name,” and then each of them embraced the boy in turn, pressing their bodies together.117 As each man came up and the presentation was made, the same ceremony was gone through, and in turn every one of those who had taken any special part was named by the Okilia, whose [P.249] cry, “Arara, arara, arara,” rang out sharply in the darkness, for the fire had now burnt down. When the presentations were over the oldest Okilia produced a bundle of Churinga (wooden ones for stone ones are never used on this occasion), saying as he did so, “Here is Twanyirika, of which you have heard so much, they are Churinga, and will help to heal you quickly; guard them well and do not lose them, or you and your Mia, Ungaraitcha and Quitia (that is, blood and tribal mothers and sisters) will be killed; do not let them out of your sight, do not let your Mia, Ungaraitcha and Quitia see you, obey your Okilia, who will go with you, do not eat forbidden food.” These commands were spoken sternly, as if to impress them forcibly upon the novice, who stood silent with bent head.

In the particular ceremony here described, as soon as these instructions had been given, a man who had been dispatched for the purpose brought on to the ground two young Arakurta who had been operated upon five or six weeks before. Acting on instructions from their guardian, they at once knelt down in front of and with their backs to the newly-made Arakurta, and he, being told what to do by his Okilia, took a Churinga from his bundle, and, holding it in both hands, scraped their backs with the sacred implement. This is called Untungalirrima, and places all three Arakurta on equal terms and makes them friends. The two kneeling Arakurta were then told to go away quickly to their own camp, which they did. This does not, of course, frequently take place, but only when two operations have followed closely on one another.

For some time the boy, who has now reached the stage of Arakurta, the term Wurtja applying to him only during the relatively short interval between the time when he is painted and that at which the operation of circumcision is performed, remained standing over a fire, the smoke from which is supposed to be efficacious in healing his wounds. Finally he was taken away by a single Okilia man, in whose charge he was to remain until his wounds were healed and the operation of Ariltha was performed. On this occasion he joined the other two Arakurta in their camp.

[P.250] Whilst there is no fixed rule on the subject, the man who takes charge of the Arakurta is preferably one to whom the boy's sister has been promised, failing such an one he may be an Oknia, Okilia or a Mura man.

There are certain restrictions and customs which must be observed by the more immediate relations of the boy which may be here noticed, as they will serve to show still more clearly the importance attached to the initiation ceremonies in the eyes of the natives. From the time at which the boy receives the fire-stick brought by his Mia, until his complete recovery from the operation of sub-incision, the Mia must have no intercourse with the father of the boy. Any breach of this rule would result in the boy growing up into Ertwa akurna, a bad man, or Atna-arpinta, that is, too much given to sexual pleasures, while strict observance will ensure his growing up Ertwa mura, or a good man (using the terms good and bad in the native sense).

After the presentation of the fire-stick and until Lartna has been performed, the Mura tualcha woman (that is, the future mother-in-law of the boy) is tabu to the actual Mia, or, if she be dead, to the Mia who hands to her the fire-stick. When Lartna has been performed, the Mura tualcha woman goes to the camp of the Mia, and, approaching her from behind, rubs her all over with red ochre; then the Mia hands to her a pitchi full of seed, and in this way the tabu is removed.

While the Arakurta is out in the bush the Mia may not eat opossum, or the large lace lizard, or carpet snake, or any fat, as otherwise she would retard her son's recovery. Every day she greases her digging-sticks and never allows them out of her sight; at night time she sleeps with them close to her head. No one is allowed to touch them. Every day also she rubs her body all over with grease, as in some way this is supposed to help her son's recovery.

After the operation of Lartna, the foreskin, amongst the Finke River groups of natives, is handed over to the eldest Okilia of the boy who is present, and he also takes charge of the shield in the haft of which the blood from the wound was collected. The piece of skin he greases and then gives to a [P.251] boy who is the younger brother of the Arakurta, and tells him to swallow it, the idea at the present day being that it will strengthen him and cause him to grow tall and strong. The shield is taken by the Okilia to his camp, where he hands it over to his Unawa, or wife, and she then rubs the blood over the breasts and foreheads of women who are Mia alkulla, that is, elder sisters of the boy's actual Mia and Ungaraitcha, or elder sisters of the boy.

These women must not on any account touch the blood themselves, and after rubbing it on, the woman adds a coat of red ochre. The actual Mia is never allowed to see the blood.

Amongst some groups of Western Arunta the foreskin is presented to a sister of the Arakurta, who dries it up, smears it with red ochre, and wears it suspended from her neck.


While the Arakurta is out in the bush the men go and visit him occasionally, and on these occasions he has to undergo a painful rite called Koperta kakuma, or head biting. He is placed, lying face downwards, while men of all classes sit round, singing about the biting of the head of the Arakurta and urging the biters to bite deeply. The men who are to do the biting and who may be of any class and are usually from two to five in number, are chosen, on each occasion on which the operation is performed, by the oldest Okilia of the Arakurta. Their duty is to bite the scalp as hard as they can, until blood flows freely, the patient often howling with pain. Each man may content himself with one bite or he may bite two or even three times. The object of this really painful operation is, so they say, to make the hair grow strongly, and at times the chin may be bitten as well as the scalp.


As a general rule there is an interval of about five or six weeks between the ceremony of Lartna and that of Ariltha, but at times it may be even longer, and it depends simply upon the length of time occupied by the recovery of the boy from the effects of the first operation.

[P.252] The operation of Ariltha is regarded as of at least equal importance with that of circumcision, and, unlike the latter, the women are completely excluded and not allowed to take any part.

The particular ceremony now to be described took place when the operation was performed upon the two Arakurta to whom reference was made in the account of the Lartna ceremony. One of them belonged to the Purula and the other to the Kumura class. As a general rule the operation is only performed on one Arakurta at a time, but this is a matter of no importance and simply depends upon whether or not more than one boy has recently undergone the earlier ceremony of Lartna and is ready for this second one. We have never heard of the operation being performed upon more than two at the same time and even this is not of very common occurrence.

When the ceremony was to take place the men assembled at the camp of the Arakurta, out in the bush, where they had been living away from every one else since the last operation had been performed on them. They were under the charge of an Okilia, and when the men had assembled the two Arakurta, who were not informed of what was about to happen, though very probably they were perfectly well aware, when all the men assembled, that something further was in store for them, were told to lie flat down on the ground. Then their heads were covered over and all the young men of the same two sub-classes as the Arakurta were made to lie down beside them, though they had of course all of them passed through the ceremony before, as none but initiated men are allowed to be present on an occasion such as this. The older Kumara and Purula and all the Bulthara and Panunga men gathered together and for hours sang of the Achilpa men belonging to the group which marched north by way of Henbury on the Finke River. During the night there was performed first a Quabara belonging to the Achilpa (wild cat) totem, and at the close of the performance the two Arakurta joined in the dance round the performers. When it was over they were told who the individuals were with whom the Quabara was concerned, they were also told that they must [P.253] not speak of it to women and children, and then it was explained to them that certain Quabara belonged to particular groups of men who alone had the right to perform them. Later on during the night another Quabara was performed, this time concerned with the emu totem. Then once more they were made to lie down, while the old men went away to a brake of boughs which had been built at a distance of about fifty yards from the spot at which the boys lay down under the charge of their guardian. The rest of the night was spent in singing over and over again a short chant concerning the bandicoot totem and the Nurtunja. The reason for this was that the Oknia and Okilia of the two Arakurta, who formed again a kind of council to direct the proceedings, had requested an old bandicoot man to perform a sacred ceremony in which a Nurtunja was used, as it was essential in this part of the tribe to have one of these in connection with the ceremony of Ariltha. The old bandicoot man was a Panunga and belonged to the Ilpirra tribe away to the north of the Arunta. The Nurtunja, to which we shall have occasion to refer frequently, figures largely in many of the sacred ceremonies and varies very much in form. The one used in the present instance was made out of a long spear around which grass stalks were laid and the whole was then ensheathed with human hair string. It was then ornamented with alternate rings of red and white bird's down, while a large tuft of eagle-hawk feathers was fixed into the upper end. Very often on these occasions, but not on the particular one now dealt with, a few Churinga are hung on to the Nurtunja. Two men, one of them Oknia of the Purula boy and the other Okilia of the Kumara, were decorated by the old bandicoot man to perform the ceremony, and just at daybreak the Arakurta were led from their camp and the performance began. The Quabara was concerned with an Alcheringa man who lived at a place called Yerapinthinga and the man who personated him carried the Nurtunja on his back, while he moved backwards and forwards, towards and away from another man who personated an Alcheringa woman, whom the bandicoot man was supposed to be attempting to catch and who warded him off with bushes held in the hand. After a short time the [P.254] audience, including the two Arakurta, ran in and danced in front of and under the Nurtunja which was bent over them by the performer, while the dancers held up their hands as if to catch it, shouting loudly all the time “Wah! Wah!” After this had gone on for some time, the man personating the woman suddenly jumped round on the ground where he had remained seated all the time and turned his back on the Nurtunja, which was the sign for the dancing to cease. The Nurtunja was taken off the performer's back by the old bandicoot man to whom it belonged and then, after scooping out a hole in the ground, he fixed it upright. As soon as this was done the two Arakurta were told by Oknia and Okilia men to go up to and embrace the Nurtunja, and while they [P.255] were doing this they were told that they were about to undergo the rite of Ariltha and that the embracing of the Nurtunja, which lasted ten minutes, would prevent the operation from being painful and that they need not be afraid.

The oldest Okilia man now said “Who will be Tapunga?” Two men volunteered, one man a Panunga and the other a Purula. The former at once lay on his stomach on the ground and the latter on the top of him, and when this kind of living table was ready the Kumara Arakurta was led from the Nurtunja, close to which the men had lain down, and then placed lying at full length on his back on top of the Tapunga. As soon as ever he was in position another man sat astride of his body, grasped the penis and put the urethra on the stretch. The operator who is called Pininga and is chosen by the Oknia and Okilia, then approached and [P.256] quickly, with a stone knife, laid open the urethra from below. The man was an Ikuntera of the Arakurta. As soon as this was done, the boy was lifted off and immediately the Purula Arakurta was placed in position on the same Tapunga and the same man again performed this operation. When all was over, the two, who had now passed beyond the Arakurta stage and were Ertwa-kurka or initiated men, were led to one side while they squatted over shields into which the blood was allowed to drain. After this, Okilia men came up to them and tied the pubic tassels on, telling them that they were now Ertwa-kurka and that they had no more operations to fear and that they were admitted to the ranks of the men.

After the operation of Ariltha has been performed, the newly made Ertwa-kurka sits down as described on a shield into the haft of which the blood is allowed to flow and from which it is emptied into the centre of a fire which is made for the purpose. If much pain be caused by the wound he will return to the ash heap and scooping out a little hole in the centre, will place therein some glowing pieces of charcoal and upon these he will urinate, thus causing steam to arise which is said to give great relief to the pain. Until the young man's wound has healed he is supposed to lie only upon his back for otherwise the organ would grow crooked.118

Until the Arakurta has undergone and quite recovered from the ceremony of sub-incision, he is forbidden to eat the flesh of opossum, snake, echidna and all lizards. Should he eat any of these his recovery would be retarded and his wounds would become much inflamed. In addition to these there exists in the case of each individual the restriction with regard to the eating of his totem, and to every one not only at this, but at all times, there exists the general restriction with regard to the eating of the wild cat.

At the moment when the Arakurta is seized for the purpose of having the rite of Ariltha performed upon him the men set up a loud shout of “Pirr-rr”—loud enough to be [P.257] heard by the women in their camp. The latter at once assemble at the Erlukwirra, that is the women's camp, and the Mia of the boy cuts the Unchalkulkna woman across the stomach and shoulders, and then makes similar cuts upon women who are the boy's Mura and elder and younger sisters, as well as upon those who are her own elder sisters. While making the cuts she imitates the sound made by the Ariltha party. These cuts, which generally leave behind them a definite series of cicatrices, are called urpma and are often represented by definite lines on the Churinga. It very often happens that, as soon as the operation has been performed on an Arakurta, one or more of the younger men present, who have been operated on before, stand up and voluntarily undergo a second operation. In such cases the men do not consider that the incision has been carried far enough. Standing out on the clear space close by the Nurtunja, with legs wide apart and hands behind his back, the man shouts out “Mura Ariltha atnartinja yinga aritchika pitchi”;—“Mura mine come and cut my Ariltha down to the root.” Then one Mura man comes and pinions him from behind, while another comes up in front and seizing the penis first of all cuts out an oval shaped piece of skin which he throws away and then extends the slit to the root. Most men at some time or other undergo the second operation and some come forward a third time, though a man is often as old as thirty or thirty-five before he submits to this second operation which is called ariltha erlitha atnartinja.

The Ertwa-kurka carry the Churinga about with them just as the Arakurta did until they have completely recovered. When the man in charge of them announces that they are recovered from the effects of the operation, the men all assemble out in the bush, and the Oknia and Okilia appoint a man to act as what is called Irkoa-artha. It is his duty to remove all the decorations from the body of the Ertwa-kurka, after which the latter is told to lie down on his face while the men sing a chant, which is supposed to have the effect of promoting the growth of his hair, and he is told that he must not speak for some time to the Irkoa-artha and then not until he has made a present of food, which is called Chaurilia, to the individual in question.

[P.258] Then the men, accompanied by the Ertwa-kurka, assemble at some little distance from the main camp and begin to sing in loud tones:

“Chuk-ur-rokerai yaa li chaakaa-a
Yaama kank waa
Inkwurkna inkwurkna atnai
Inkwurkna inkwurkna atnai.”

The women, hearing the singing, assemble near to the main camp and begin to dance as they did at the Apulla. The song of the men ceases as soon as they approach the women, and at a distance of about fifty yards they halt and shout “tirra, tirra, tirra,” a sound which much resembles that made by whirling bull-roarers and which is at once taken up by the women. The young Ertwa-kurka, who is now completely undecorated, steps out from the group of men, runs up close to the women, who continue dancing, and then suddenly wheels round and runs off into the bush, where he is followed by a number of the men who camp with him for the night, during which, without the performance of any special ceremony, singing is kept up until daybreak. Before it is light the Ertwa-kurka is dressed up by Okilia and Umbirna men with all the ornaments such as forehead band, arm strings, tail tips, etc., which are worn by a native beau. He is also provided with a shield and spear-thrower, and just about daylight the party starts for the main camp, the young man walking in the centre by the side of the Irkoa-artha man, while all shout loudly “tirra, tirra, tirra.” When within about fifty yards of the women, who are dancing and shouting as before, the men halt, and the Irkoa-artha leads the Ertwa-kurka on but only accompanies him for a few yards, after which he goes on alone, carrying his shield in front, so as to hide his face. When he comes close up to the women one or two Ungaraitcha, that is blood and tribal elder sisters, who are in the lead carrying pitchis (all the other women carry tufts of rat-tails in their hands), throw the pitchis at his shield and then press their hands on his shoulders from behind, and also rub their faces on his back, after which they cut off some locks of his hair, which they afterwards use to make up into hair string ornaments for themselves. This [P.259] ceremony is called anainthalilima, and after it is over the Ertwa-kurka is free to go into the presence of the various officials who have taken part in any of the ceremonies, though he must not speak to or of them until some months have past, nor must he speak loudly in their presence.

At daylight on the morning of the next day the men provide themselves with fire-sticks and, surrounding the young man, conduct him to the women, who are again waiting to receive him. He is fully decorated and carries a shield and boomerang and some twigs of Eremophila. When the party is within a short distance of the women the men throw down their fire-sticks and halt, and the young man steps out from the centre of the group and throws his boomerang high up in the direction of the spot at which his mother was supposed to have lived in the Alcheringa. This throwing of the boomerang in the direction of the mother's Alcheringa camp, that is, of course, the spot at which the Alcheringa individual of whom his mother is supposed to be the reincarnation, lived, occurs during the performance of other ceremonies, such, for example, as those which accompany the knocking out of teeth in eastern groups of the Arunta and also in the Ilpirra tribe. It may in all likelihood be regarded as intended to symbolize the idea that the young man is entering upon manhood and thus is passing out of the control of the women and into the ranks of the men. The fact that he is using the boomerang is indicative of this, and his throwing it towards his mother's camp is an intimation to her of the fact that he is passing away from her control; at the same time there remains the curious feature, the exact significance of which it is difficult to see, that it is thrown towards the Alcheringa camp rather than towards the mother herself.

After the throwing of the boomerang, the Ertwa-kurka is led forward by the Irkoa-artha man, holding, as before, his shield before his face, and is placed squatting on a fire which has been prepared by the women, and which is now covered by green leaves. Behind this the women stand making the movement of invitation already described and shouting “tirra, tirra, tirra.” The women place their hands on his shoulders and gently press him down. After remaining on [P.260] the fire for a short time he is taken off by the Irkoa-artha and handed over to a few young boys who have not yet been initiated, and who are told to camp with him but on no account to speak to him. After three days, during which he speaks to no one, men who are his Okilia come out from the men's camp and invite him to join them, after which he becomes a permanent member of the camp. Before, however, he may speak to any of the officials who took any part in the various ceremonies he must go out into the bush and procure game as an offering to each one of them, this gift being known as Chaurilia.

At the presentation of Chaurilia the man to whom it is given always performs some sacred ceremony, after which the mouth of the Ertwa-kurka and those of all present are touched with some sacred object which has been used during the ceremony, such as a Nurtunja, and in this way the ban of silence is removed. When these ceremonies have been passed through the native is regarded as an initiated member of the tribe and may take part in all the sacred ceremonies of his group, though it is not until he has passed through the Engwurra that he becomes what is called Urliara or a fully-developed man.

The following names, which may be called status names, indicating the different grades of initiation, are applied to the boy, youth and man at the times indicated:—

  1. Ambaquerka, up to the time of throwing up.

  2. Ulpmerka, after the throwing-up ceremony and until that of circumcision.

  3. Wurtja, after the first ceremony of painting in connection with circumcision.

  4. Arakurta, after circumcision and before sub-incision is performed.

  5. Ertwa-kurka, after sub-incision and until he has passed through the Engwura.

  6. Urliara, after the Engwura has been passed through.

In the northern part of the tribe the ceremonies agree in all essential points with those which have been described in the case of the natives living along the Finke river. There are [P.261] however, certain differences in detail which may be mentioned. Early on the day on which the ceremony of Lartna or circumcision is to commence, the Ulpmerka is taken away from the camp on some pretext, while the men and women spend the day in preparing the collected food supplies, such as the seeds of acacia or munyeru. Every now and then they break out into the monotonous chant of a corrobboree, to which the women, but not the men, dance, while a feeling of suppressed excitement throughout the camp indicates that some ceremony of more than ordinary importance is about to take place. At sundown the boy is brought into camp, and, unconscious of what is in store for him, spends the evening as usual at the men's camp, lying down to sleep there. Towards the middle of the night, when all is quiet, an elder brother of the boy, after seeing that the latter is sound asleep, wakens the other members of the camp, and all together, men and women, they go to the spot close at hand which has previously been selected. The women stand quietly on one side while the men, with as little noise as possible, clear the grass and rubbish away, and thus prepare the Apulla ground. Then all, except three brothers of the boy and two young women, sit down around the Apulla, while the five selected ones go to the camp to awaken and bring the boy. The two women go in advance, each of them carrying an Alparra, which is a scooped-out piece of wood such as the women use to carry food and water in, and, creeping quietly up to the Ulpmerka, suddenly strike him sharply with their Alparras, crying out loudly at the same time, “Utchai! Utchai!” The boy, naturally dazed and startled, springs to his feet, when the three men take hold of him, and tell him that the time has come when he must no longer remain an Ulpmerka, but must be made into a man—an Ertwa-kurka. So soon as the cry of “Utchai” is heard the men begin to sing and the women to dance.

The subsequent proceedings, including the painting by Uwilia men and the handing of the fire-stick by an Unchalkulkna woman, though there may be more than one of these, are much the same as those already described. On the day on which the actual operation is to be performed there is, [P.262] however, a slight variation in the procedure. After being ornamented with twigs of Eucalyptus, two rows of spears are fixed upright, one row on either side of the Apulla path. They form a kind of grove, with the path running between them. About midday, when all is ready, some of the men leave the camp to go and bring the boy in. When the signal of their return with the boy, who is hidden out of sight of the women, is given, then the latter at once go in between the line of spears, and, while some of the older men sing, perform the Unthippa dance, and then, standing by the poles, strip these of their leaves. As the men with the boy approach they all throw pieces of bark at the women, a signal to them to disperse and go to their camp, out of sight of the Apulla. The boy is placed at one end of the path behind a brake of boughs, of which, in this instance, only one and not two, as described before, is made. At night the women are brought back, and sit on either side of the path at the base of the stripped spears. Two Okilia go to where the boy is as yet hidden from the women, throw on one side the boughs, and then, accompanied by the Ulpmerka, hop down the path until they have traversed half its length, when they diverge, one to the right and one to the left, while the boy goes on until he collides with a man who has been purposely placed so that he shall do this. This man is here called Tapunga, and at once he rolls over on to his back, and the boy lies on the top of him. Silence is now maintained by all. In this position the painting is rubbed off the Ulpmerka's back. Then the Arachitta poles are brought in, and as the men dance the women strip the poles, which are tied on to the legs as described. The men remain calm, but the women grow wilder and wilder, singing:—

“Atnintu rappira ka perka-a-a
Ok nar inta
Yur a puncha kwi
Yur a puncha kwi.”

Whilst this is in progress the boy gets off the man's back and sits up watching the dance, which suddenly ceases when the sound of a bull-roarer is heard. At once the women run off, and very shortly after the operation is performed. In this district [P.263] the man who holds the shield is termed the Urinthantima, and he must belong to the moiety of the tribe to which the boy does not. The operation is almost always performed by a man who is Ikuntera to the boy, and who is assisted by one, or it may be two men, who are called Killarina, and who must also belong to the other moiety of the tribe. When all is over the boy is given a bundle of Churinga and sent out in charge of a man as previously described, until he has recovered, and is ready for the further operation.

The rite of sub-incision, which may be said to be characteristic of the great group of tribes occupying the interior parts of Queensland,119 New South Wales, and South Australia, right away to the far north, and at all events a very large part of West Australia,120 has frequently been alluded to by Curr and other writers under the name of the “terrible rite”—a term which, as Dr. Stirling suggested, may well be discarded. It consists, as is well known, in sub-incision of the penis, so that the penile urethra is laid open from the meatus right back to the junction with the scrotum. It is certainly a most extraordinary practice, and one which it might be thought would be frequently attended with serious results; but none such apparently ever follow, though in their native condition the operation is performed merely with a sharp chipped piece of flint or a small knife made of a hard flaked quartzite. The Arunta natives have no idea as to the origin of the practice, and it seems almost useless to speculate upon it. Mr. Roth has suggested that the mutilation of the women, which takes place, so far as is known, in all those tribes where sub-incision is practised by the men, was indirectly the origin of the latter, “that, on the principle of a form of mimicry, the analogous sign was inflicted on the male to denote corresponding fitness on his part.” This still leaves unexplained the mutilation of the women, and it would seem to be almost simpler to imagine that this was a consequence of the mutilation of the men. [P.264] In the Arunta tribe tradition ascribes the origin of the custom to the members of the wild cat totem and points clearly to the fact that it was introduced by the members of some powerful group at a time subsequent to the introduction of the rite of circumcision.

One thing is clear, and that is that at the present day, and as far back as their traditions go, the Arunta natives at least have no idea of its having been instituted with the idea of its preventing or even checking procreation. In the first place it does not do this. Every man without exception throughout the Central area, in all tribes in which the rite is practised, is sub-incised. Under the normal conditions he must be before he is allowed to take a wife, and infringement of this rule would simply mean death to him if found out. Though it is true that the number of children rarely exceeds four or perhaps five in a family, and, as a general rule, is less still, perhaps two or three, yet the cause of this is not sub-incision. It is infanticide which is resorted to for the purpose of keeping down the number of a family. And here we may say that the number is kept down, not with any idea at all of regulating the food supply, so far as the adults are concerned, but simply from the point of view that, if the mother is suckling one child, she cannot properly provide food for another, quite apart from the question of the trouble of carrying two children about. An Australian native never looks far enough ahead to consider what will be the effect on the food supply in future years if he allows a particular child to live; what affects him is simply the question of how it will interfere with the work of his wife so far as their own camp is concerned; while from the woman's side the question is, can she provide food enough for the new-born infant and for the next youngest?

The Arunta native does not hesitate to kill a child—always directly it is born—if there be an older one still in need of nourishment from the mother, and suckling is continued up to the age often of three years or even older. With an easy solution, which moreover he does not hesitate to practise, of the difficulty arising from the birth of too many children, it is scarcely conceivable that the men should deliberately pass through a most painful ordeal [P.265] with the idea of achieving a result which can be obtained otherwise without pain or trouble to themselves, and when also they know perfectly well that the desired result is not obtained by the performance of the operation. Added to this we have amongst the Arunta, Luritcha, and Ilpirra tribes, and probably also amongst others such as the Warramunga, the idea firmly held that the child is not the direct result of intercourse, that it may come without this, which merely, as it were, prepares the mother for the reception and birth also of an already-formed spirit child who inhabits one of the local totem centres. Time after time we have questioned them on this point, and always received the reply that the child was not the direct result of intercourse; so that in these tribes, equally with those dealt with by Mr. Roth, the practice of sub-incision cannot be attributed to the desire to check procreation by this means.

In the south of the Arunta tribe the ceremonies again are somewhat different from these, both in the west and in the east. At Charlotte Waters, for example, the following is an account, in outline, of what takes place.

When the time arrives for a boy to be initiated, his Okilia talks to men who are Umbirna to the boy and arranges with two of them to carry out the first part of the proceedings. Towards evening the two Umbirna go to the boy, who has no idea of what has been arranged, and one of them takes hold of him while the other comes up from behind, carrying a special small white stone called aperta irrkurra, which he puts under the armpit of the boy. Then taking hold of him, one by each arm, they take him along with them to the camp of his mother and father. Here, by previous arrangement, the different members of the camp are assembled. All the men sit in a roughly semi-circular group, and together with them are women who stand in the relationship of Mia and Uwinna to the boy. The latter, with an Umbirna man on either side of him, is then told to lie down in front of the group, and behind him again are gathered together the women who are Ungaraitcha, Itia, Unawa and Unkulla to him. These women commence to dance to the singing of the men, and when this has gone on for some little time they retire [P.266] behind the group of men, and then the boy is allowed to go to sleep, watched over during the night by the two Umbirna who are called Ukarkinja. The latter wake him early and, after tying up his hair with whitened string, decorate it with tufts of eagle-hawk feathers. When this has been done the boy is called Au-aritcha. This over, the boy's Ungaraitcha and Itia bring him food in the shape of munyeru or grass seed, of which he eats some and gives the rest to his two Umbirna. Then, if she be present, the Mura woman whose daughter has been allotted as wife to the boy, or, in her absence, the Umbirna men, paint him all over with red ochre. After this, the further ceremonies may either be carried out on the spot or else the boy may be taken away to a different local group, where the first part of the ceremonies will then be performed. There does not appear to be any rule in regard to this. In the event of the boy being taken away, he goes under the charge of the same two Umbirna men, wearing, as he walks, his hair-string, and carrying the stone under his arm. On approaching the strange camp the men call out “Pau! Pau!” sharply and loudly, while at the same time each of them swings backwards one of the boy's arms. The strangers recognise what is happening, and the men get up, leave the camp near to which the visitors have halted, and while the women lie down in camp they come out to meet the three. The hair-string and stone are then taken away from the boy, who is thrown up in the air by the strangers, who catch and strike him as he falls. This throwing up is called Au-aritcha iwuma. When this is over the stone is given back to the boy, but the hair-string is given to the strangers. The boy himself has to go some little distance away and may not be spoken to by the women, though the men go near and speak to him freely.

Preparations are then made for the return to the home camp, all the men and women coming, while the boy, with his two Umbirna, walks behind. At some little distance from the spot at which the men have, during the boy's absence, made the camp at which the operation of Lartna will be performed, a halt is made, and here the boy and the two Umbirna stay behind for the purpose of painting his body with white pipe [P.267] clay, tying up his hair and putting on the waist band which he now wears for the first time. The strangers, marching on, announce their approach by the usual sharp cry “Pau! Pau!” The resident old men and women are sitting down at the camp, but the young men have to go away, to some little distance, so as not to be seen as yet by the boy. At first the strangers sit down in the customary way at a short distance from the camp, which they do not enter until, at a later time, they are invited to do so by the older men. When the Au-aritcha and the Umbirna come up they take a position in front of the strangers and between them and the resident group. After a short pause the boy's Ungaraitcha come out and give him food, and then, together with his two guardians, he returns to the bush, which is the signal for the younger men to come from their hiding place and join the strange group, the members of which come into camp usually about dusk.

In the evening the same women dance as on the previous occasion, the dance being called Ilchilcha-intum wuthaperrima. The dance is repeated during the course of the following evening, and during the two days whilst the boy is out of the camp there takes place both a lending and an interchange of women, the usual class restrictions being, however, observed. Two men belonging to the resident group will, for example, determine without saying anything previously to two visiting men to lend their wives each to one of the latter. During the dance these two men will get up from the group of men watching the dance, and each one taking a fire-stick will give it to his wife, who is amongst the dancers. The woman knows what this means and retires to some distance. Then the two men return to the main group, and each going behind the man to whom he desires to show attention, either in return for some past act of kindness or in anticipation of favours to come, lifts him up by his elbows and informs him of his intention. The exchange, or lending, is merely a temporary one, and in this instance only takes place between those who are Unawa to each other.

When the two days are over the boy is brought back and the women are sent away from the camp where the dancing [P.268] has taken place and where the operation of Lartna will shortly be performed. As in the case of the south-western or the Larapinta groups already referred to, various ceremonies are performed in which a Waninga is used, and this the boy is made to embrace before the operation is performed. When this is about to take place, the boy is told to lie down on the ground while an Okilia puts his hand over the former's eyes, and a man who is Unkulla to the boy goes away to some little distance. While this takes place, a few, perhaps half a dozen, men lie down on the ground so as to form a kind of table, and when the Okilia lifts his hand from his eyes the boy sees the Unkulla man approaching at a run. This man places him on the top of the prostrate men, whom the boy afterwards calls iruntuwura, and at once the operation is performed by an Ikuntera man whom the boy calls urtwi-urtwia. The Okilia stand by shouting “arakwirra, arundertna”—“You be quiet, do not cry.”

As always, the blood is collected in a shield and is handed over to the Okilia, who thereupon makes a hole in the ground and buries in this the blood and the foreskin; then small stones are put on top of the latter, and the hole is filled with sand, on the surface of which a short piece of stick, perhaps six inches long, is laid down horizontally. This stick is called Ultha, and neither the boy who has been operated upon nor yet any woman, may go near to it.

When the operation of Lartna is over, the boy is called Atnurrinia. As soon as he has recovered, the operation of Ariltha is performed in much the same manner as already described, except that in this southern district no Nurtunja is made. The men who lie down on the ground are called Atrapurntum; the Unkulla man who sits on the boy's chest is called Ikwarta, and the Ikuntera man who performs the ceremony is called Pininya. It is usual during the ceremony for the Unkulla man to take off his hair girdle and to lay it down close beside the boy with the object of preventing too great a flow of blood.

After the operation of Ariltha the novice is called Allallumba. When it is over he is taken out into the bush by [P.269] an Okilia who may be accompanied by a Gammona man, and after recovery his body is painted white, the hair-string girdle and the pubic tassel are put on, he is brought up to the men's camp and then taken on to where, close to the Erlukwirra, the women are waiting. The throwing of a boomerang, the meeting between the boy and his Ungaraitcha, when the latter hit him on the back, and the smoking of the novice are carried out in essentially the same way as already described. When all this is over, the novice returns with the men to their camp, and during the night a ceremony concerned with the owl totem is always performed; why this is so we have not been able to discover. For some time the newly initiated man may not speak to any of the men or women who have taken part as officials in any of the ceremonies, but, as previously described, the ban of silence is ultimately removed after he has presented to each one separately an offering of food.

In regard to the initiation ceremonies of women, it is clear that, as was first shown by Roth, there are certain ceremonies which are evidently the equivalents of the initiation ceremonies concerned with the men. Such ceremonies occur, though not to such an extent as described by Mr. Roth, in the Central tribes. The first one takes place when the girl's breasts are rubbed with fat and red ochre, and the second, when the operation of opening the vagina is performed. This is clearly regarded as the equivalent of sub-incision in the male, the name of the latter ceremony being pura ariltha kuma, while in the case of the woman it is called atna ariltha kuma. There is no special name given to a female after any initiation rite. Up to the first menstrual period she is called quiai, the ordinary name for a girl, just as wiai is the ordinary name for a boy; after that she is called wunpa, a name which she retains until the breasts hang pendent, after which she is called arakutja, the ordinary term for a grown woman. The first ceremony may perhaps be regarded as the equivalent of the throwing up and painting of the boys, there being amongst the women no equivalents of the Lartna (circumcision) or Engwura ceremonies of the men.

[P.270] We have described the ceremonies attendant on what may be called the initiation of women, the first in connection with other ceremonies peculiar to women,121 the second in the chapter dealing with the social organisation, as it has important bearings upon this, and may be most conveniently dealt with in connection therewith.


Chapter VIII Initiation Ceremonies (Continued) the Engwura Ceremony

Five phases of the Engwura—Summoning the members of the tribe to the Engwura—Plan of the ground on which the ceremonies were held—Division of the tribe into two moieties—Disposal of the Churinga in two corresponding groups—General remarks on the ownership and names of the ceremonies—Control of the Engwura—First phase—Performance of two ordinary corrobborees—Passing on of corrobborees from one group to another—Building of the Parra on the Engwura ground—Separation of the younger men from the women—Second phase—Performance of sacred ceremonies—Description of the last eight days of the second phase—The making of a Nurtunja—Examination of Churinga—“Singing” the ground—Various ceremonies—Handing over of Churinga which had been taken care of by a neighbouring group during the temporary extinction of the group to which they belonged—The making and meaning of a Waninga—Making the younger men abmoara to certain of the older ones—The younger men are now called Illpongwurra.

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. [P.272] 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.

Whilst the whole series of ceremonies followed one another [P.273] [P.274] without a break, yet there were five clearly marked phases, each of which was characterised by certain important features peculiar to it, and these phases we will describe in succession. They may be briefly outlined as follows:—

Phase 1. Sending out the messengers. Assembling of the tribe. Performance of introductory corrobborees. Building of the Parra on the Engwura ground, and the commencement of the sacred ceremonies. The characteristic feature of this phase is the holding of ordinary dancing corrobborees at night-time, in which the women take part. When once these are over, which takes place between two and three weeks from the start, the women take no further share until close to the end of the ceremonies.
Phase 2. The men are separated from the women and live on the Engwura ground, where sacred ceremonies are performed day and night. This extends over, perhaps, six weeks, and lasts until the men who are being initiated are made abmoara to certain elder men who take charge of them. After this they are called Illpongwurra.
Phase 3. The sacred ceremonies are continued, the Illpongwurra being distinguished by wearing twigs of a special shrub, and may not speak to their abmoara men. This phase lasts until a special ceremony connected, in this instance, with the frog totem is performed, to witness which the young men are brought on to the Engwura ground to the accompaniment of the sound of bull-roarers, which, after this, are much used. This phase extends over about eight days.
Phase 4. The Illpongwurra are taken out of camp in the morning and brought in at night-time by old men who carry bull-roarers. This is the most important phase, and during its continuance the fire ceremonies are passed through. It extends over two weeks or more, and after the final ceremony of this phase the initiated men rank as Urliara.
Phase 5. The newly-made Urliara are kept out in the bush. Corrobborees, in which women take part, are held at night-time, and at intervals sacred ceremonies are performed in connection with the removal of the ban of silence between those who are abmoara to one another. This phase lasts an indefinite length of time, but after its commencement the [P.275] camp breaks up and the different members begin to return to their respective localities.

When it has been decided by any particular group to hold an Engwura,—and the initiation rests with the Alatunja, the latter, after consultation with the older men, sends out messengers to other groups. Each of these carries with him one or two Churinga irula, that is, wooden Churinga, carefully concealed from view in a casing of emu feathers. The Engwura messenger is called Ilchinkinja, a term derived from the two words ilcha, a hand, and ilkinja, to raise or lift up, so that it may perhaps be best rendered by the phrase “the beckoning hand.” In the normal condition of the tribe no native dare disobey the summons thus received under penalty of most serious ill to himself, which would be certain to ensue should he neglect to follow the Churinga. Sometimes the one set of messengers passes through from group to group, sometimes each Alatunja, to whom the Churinga comes, provides fresh men, and so, in course of time, after having travelled many hundreds of miles, the Churinga at last returns to the original sender.

When a messenger reaches any group he shows the Churinga as an emblem of his bona fides to the Alatunja and elder men, and then delivers his verbal message, saying when and where the tribe will assemble. Amongst the Arunta and Ilpirra there is no such thing as a message stick in the true sense of the term, that is, there is no such thing as a stick cut with notches or other marks for the purpose of reminding the bearer of the message, such as is frequently met with amongst other Australian tribes.

Gradually the various local groups begin to arrive at the chosen spot, the group inhabiting which has meanwhile been gathering in stores of food such as grass seed, or munyeru. A spot is chosen for the Engwura ground which is more or less secluded, and so placed that the women and children who are in the main camp cannot see what is taking place on it. The plan on the following page shows the arrangement of the camp during the Engwura. In the particular instance now described the ground was a level stretch bounded on the east by the river Todd, with its belt of low scrub and gum trees, [P.276] and on the west by a rough quartzite range. At the base of the range ran a small creek, in the bed of which—for there was, as usual in Central Australia, no water in either river or creek—the performers were decorated without any risk of their being seen by any one who had no right to do so.

The natives who assembled came from all parts of the tribe, some travelling a distance of two hundred miles to be present, and a few of them came from the Ilpirra tribe, which lies immediately to the north of the Arunta, and in which a ceremony similar to the Engwura is held.

As the various contingents reached Alice Springs, each one [P.277] comprising men, women and children, camps were formed on the eastern side of the creek, the position of any camp indicating roughly the locality of its owner. Thus the southern men camped to the south and the northern men to the north, and, as is always the case, Bulthara and Panunga men on the one hand, and Kumara and Purula men on the other hand, camped close together. A very noticeable feature also was the disposal of the Churinga. Those belonging to the Panunga and Bulthara men were all placed together on a small platform which was built in a mulga tree on the hill-side at the south-west end of the camp, where they were under the immediate charge of the Alatunja of the Alice Springs group, who is himself a Bulthara man. Those belonging to the Purula and Kumara men were under the charge of a Purula man, and were placed on a small platform at the northern end of the ground. To this storing place of the Churinga during the Engwura the name of thanunda is given.

This division of the tribe into two moieties, which stands out so clearly on the occasion of a ceremony such as the Engwura, points to the fact of the original division of the tribe into two halves, each of which has again divided into two; as a matter of fact the division has gone on to a greater extent, with the result that in the northern section of the tribe we find eight divisions, four corresponding to each of the original moieties.

We were hoping that on the occasion of the Engwura, when the two moieties were so markedly distinct from one another, it might be possible to discover the original names applied to them prior to their division, but this was not the case, nor were we able to discover any meaning attached to the present names of the divisions.

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 [P.278] 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 became 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.122

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 [P.279] of Ooraminna,123 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 [P.280] 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 [P.281] 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.124 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 [P.282] 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 man 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.

[P.283] 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 flat 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 cat 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, [P.284] 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 [P.285] 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 [P.286] 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 become so agitated with emotion by witnessing the sacred ceremony that their inward parts, that is, their bowels, which are regarded as 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. As soon as it was over the performers sat on the ground; the down was removed from their bodies and preserved for future use and the Nurtunja was dismantled, the hair string being carefully unwound and returned to its respective owners.

The ceremony refers to two Alcheringa women of the Unjiamba or Hakea totem. As they travelled they kept close to the tracks of one party of Achilpa or wild cat men, but do not appear to have ever seen or come in contact with the men, who were travelling in the opposite direction. It is a remarkable fact that in some way or other the Achilpa and Unjiamba totems seem to be connected together, but what the exact connection is we have been unable to discover. The Unjiamba women referred to followed as they travelled close by, but not actually along, the track of one of the main Achilpa parties, and the two groups walked in opposite directions. Again, very many of the Achilpa ceremonies refer to the men eating Unjiamba, a feature which is not met with in the ceremonies of any other totem, and it will further be noticed that in the ceremony just described, out of six Churinga attached to the Nurtunja, no fewer than five belonged to Unjiamba individuals.

When the ceremony was over there was a rest for an hour or two, and then, early in the afternoon, two lots of Churinga were brought in from the Panunga and Bulthara store to be [P.287] [P.288] examined. Men of all groups—about fifteen in number—gathered together in the bed of the creek, with the Churinga in the middle of the group. The first lot belonged to the Achilpa of Ooraminna, the second to the Irritcha, or eaglehawk men of a place called Undoolya, out to the east of Alice Springs. During the examination certain of the younger men were present, and in this instance the Churinga, which were bound up in parcels tied tightly round with human hair string, were unpacked by the sons of the Alatunjas of the two localities to which they respectively belonged. While this was taking place the men sang as usual, pausing every now and then while some old man leant over to whisper in the ear of some one opposite to him. No loud talking was allowed, and every one looked as solemn as possible. The Churinga having been at last unpacked—for in these ceremonies everything is done with the utmost and, to the onlooker, often exasperating deliberation—they were taken up one by one by the Alatunja, in whose charge they were, and after a careful examination of each he pressed them in turn against the stomach of some one or other of the old men present. The man thus honoured held the Churinga, gazing down upon it, while a whispered conversation was kept up with regard to each one and its former possessor. Amongst them was one which was the Churinga nanja of one of the wives of the Alatunja of the Alice Springs group, and this was handed over to the woman's son for him to carefully examine.

When the examination was complete they were all carefully wrapped up and taken back to the store, and then preparations were made for another ceremony. Previous to this, however, at a signal from the head man, all the Purula and Kumara men had left the ground with the exception of two old ones, who were the Gammona of the head man and who were especially invited by him to stay and watch.

The Quabara to be performed was one associated with the Ulpmerka of Quiurnpa, the latter being a group of men belonging to the Akakia or plum tree totem; the men are called Ulpmerka because in the Alcheringa they were, as will be explained in another chapter, left uncircumcised—that is, [P.289] they remained Ulpmerka, or boys. The materials having been opened out, singing began, the burden being a constant repetition of the words “the sand hills are good.” This Quabara was in the possession of the Alatunja of Alice Springs, and he invited a man to perform it who was a tribal son to himself, belonging to the Panunga division and to the Irriakura totem. First of all the Alatunja's eldest son went over to where the man sat and rubbed his forehead against the latter's stomach, then embraced him round the neck and ended by rubbing his stomach against that of the man in question. Then a Bulthara man came up, that is a tribal father, and the same process of embracing was repeated. The meaning of this was that the young man had expressed a sense of his unfitness to undertake the duty, but when he [P.290] had once been embraced in this way by men who were especially associated with the ceremony it was impossible for him to refuse any longer. As soon as this was over the Alatunja of Alice Springs at once went over to where he sat and began to decorate his head. Twigs of a species of Cassia were fixed on to the top of his head enclosing his hair, which was gathered into a bunch so as to form, with the twigs, a long rounded structure about two and a half feet in length, projecting upwards and slightly backwards on the top of his head. The twigs were bound round and round with hair string. The Alatunja of the Undoolya group, who was the father of the performer, bled himself, the blood being taken on this occasion, as it very often was, from the subincised urethra, which was probed with a sharp pointed piece of wood. As the decorations proceeded—that is, while the head-dress was being covered with a design in white and red down, the men sitting around sang of the hair top-knot of Kukaitcha, the latter being a celebrated man of the Alcheringa associated with the plum tree totem, the top-knot having reference to the manner in which the hair is worn previous to the boys passing through the ceremony of circumcision.

“Yai yai Kukai
Ul lal arai
Yai yai Kukai
Yai yai Acheri

Time after time some such simple refrain was repeated while the down was fixed on to the performer's head-dress and body. When all was ready the performer, preceded by an old man, walked in a crouching attitude along the creek bed until he came opposite to the Parra, when he ran straight across and squatted in front of and close beside it.

It was just sunset as he came on to the ground, and at the same moment the arrival of a fresh contingent of natives from the south was announced. They had come into camp on the other side of the river and had, according to strict etiquette, sat down there for some little time apart from the other men. By way of welcome a party of the natives with spears, shields and boomerangs ran across to where they sat [P.291] [P.292] and, with the usual high stepping action, danced round and round them, brandishing spears and boomerangs and shouting loudly; suddenly they turned, crossed the river and came, still running, up the bank, threw their weapons on one side amongst the bushes and, without stopping, came on and circled round and round the performer, shouting “wah! wah!” After a short time two Purula men went and sat down, one in front of and one behind the performer; then a third came and, as he bent forward over the front one, the three placed their hands on the shoulders of the performer and he ceased the quivering and wriggling movements which he had been executing, while the men danced round him. The performer then got up and embraced the older men one after the other, this being done to assuage their feelings of emotion.

The evening was spent, as it usually was, singing on the ground close to the Parra. During all the first six weeks a [P.293] considerable length of time was always occupied during the night in what was called “singing the ground.” The young men who were passing through the Engwura for the first time stood up forming two or three lines close behind one another, like lines of men in a regiment of soldiers, and, led by one or two of the older men, either moved in a long line parallel to the Parra mound, shouting “wha! wha!” alternating this at intervals with a specially loud “whrr-rr-rr,” when with one accord they bent forwards and, as it were, hurled the sound at the Parra, or else they would sometimes rush closely round and round the mound in a single line, shouting in just the same way. The noise was deafening, and the loud “wha,” and still more penetrating cry of “whrr-rr-rr,” could be heard a mile or two away echoing amongst the bare and rocky ranges surrounding the Engwura ground. When this singing was over—that was about midnight—they all lay down around their camp fires, and for a [P.294] few hours there was a welcome silence. Usually at night there were a few of the men awake preparing, by the light of scattered fires, for ceremonies which often took place in the dead of the night or else just before the day broke.

The morning of the second day was entirely occupied with the examination of Churinga. Early in the afternoon the Quabara Iruntarinia Irritcha was performed. This will serve as a good example of what is called an Iruntarinia ceremony, that is, one which is supposed to have been imparted to a special individual by the Iruntarinia or spirits. The favoured person to whom this particular one had been shown was a celebrated medicine man, or Railtchawa, the son of the Alatunja of an Irritcha or eagle-hawk locality, but who was himself an Udnirringita or witchetty grub man. The Iruntarinia can present Quabara to whomsoever they choose to honour in this way, quite regardless of the recipient's totem. The latter may retain possession of the ceremony himself or he may pass it on, as a gift, to some other man, but in that case the individual must be of the totem with which the ceremony is concerned. Naturally the possession of such a ceremony is a mark of distinction, and it also gives the possessor a peculiar advantage over others, not only because he is so favoured by the spirits, but because he has something in his possession which enables him to confer a favour on some other man to whom he may decide to hand on the Quabara. On this occasion the recipient had handed on the ceremony to his own father, who was the head of the eagle-hawk group, and from whom, in course of time, it will descend to an eagle-hawk son.

Two men were invited to perform, both of them being sons of the Alatunja, and they were respectively of the eagle-hawk and emu totems. Only Panunga and Bulthara men were present during the preparations. The hair of each man was bunched up and, together with a conical crown of Cassia twigs, was bound round and round with hair string. Then blood, drawn in the usual way, was smeared over the front part of the head-dress and across the body in the form of a broad band round the waist and a band over each shoulder, the two uniting back and front. Each band was [P.295] [P.296] about six inches broad, and had the form when the decoration was complete of a solid mass of pink down, edged with a line of white. Into the hair-girdle behind was fixed a large bunch of the black feathers of the eagle-hawk, and into the top of each man's head-dress were fixed three Churinga, decorated with close rows of down coloured alternately red and white, each Churinga being about three feet in length and decorated at its end with a tuft of eagle-hawk feathers. In his mouth one man carried a small cylindrical mass, about eight inches in length and two in diameter, made of grass surrounded with hair string and covered with lines of down.

When the decoration was complete they came into the open and each of them sat down on his haunches on the convex side of a shield, so that they faced one another at a distance of about eight feet. Each man had his arms extended and carried a little bunch of eucalyptus twigs in his hands. They were supposed to represent two eagle-hawks quarrelling over a piece of flesh which was represented by the downy mass in one man's mouth. At first they remained squatting on their shields, moving their arms up and down, and still continuing this action which was supposed to represent the flapping of wings, they jumped off the shields and with their bodies bent up and arms extended and flapping, began circling round each other as if each were afraid of coming to close quarters. Then they stopped and moved a step or two at a time, first to one side and then to the other, until finally, they came to close quarters and began fighting with their heads for the possession of the piece of meat. This went on for some time and then two men stepped out from amongst the audience and took away the Churinga, which were a great weight and must have caused a considerable strain on the head, especially in the great heat of the afternoon sun, for it must be remembered that it was now well on into the summer. Then once more they began going round and round each other flapping wings, jumping up and falling back just like fighting birds, until finally they again came to close quarters, and the attacking man at length seized with his teeth the piece of meat and wrenched it out of the other man's mouth. The acting in this ceremony was especially good, the actions [P.297] and movements of the birds being admirably represented, and the whole scene with the decorated men in front and the group of interested natives in the background was by no means devoid of picturesqueness.

Later on in the afternoon there was performed the Quabara Unjiamba of Ooraminna. In this ceremony, we again find, as in the one already described, the close connection between the Unjiamba and Achilpa totems. The two men who performed, and neither of whom belonged to the totems, were [P.298] decorated each with a broad band round the waist, and one passing over each shoulder and joining, back and front, in the middle line. The area occupied by these bands was first of all rubbed with grease and then with powdered wad, an ore of manganese which gives, when used in this way, a peculiar pearl-gray tint, which harmonises well with the chocolate-coloured skin and stands out in strong contrast to the edging of white down which everywhere margins the bands. Over each ear was suspended a tuft of the tail tips of the rabbit-bandicoot. One of the two men carried a large Churinga on his head, fixed into the usual helmet made of twigs bound round with string. During the preparation the natives sang chants concerning the Kauaua (a sacred pole about which there will be more said subsequently) and referring also to the carrying round of the Nurtunja.

Both of the performers represented Achilpa men and they sat down immediately facing one another near to the Parra, the man carrying the Churinga having a shield in front of him, and in his hands a few twigs supposed to represent the flowering Hakea—that is the Unjiamba. These he pretended to steep in water so as to make the decoction of Hakea flower which is a favourite drink of the natives, and which the man sitting opposite to him pretended to suck up with a little mop made of a twig with fur string tied round it. While they did this the other men ran round and round them shouting “wha! wha!” Suddenly, the man who had been drinking sprang round so as to place his back just in front of the other man, who then put the shield behind his back with his arms holding it there, and the two for a few moments swayed from side to side slightly raising themselves from their squatting position as they did so. Those who were running round dropped out one by one until only three were left and they then put their hands on the performers' shoulders and the performance was at an end. The same ceremony was enacted about eleven o'clock at night, and then after the usual “singing” of the ceremonial ground the day's work came to a close.

On the morning of the third day the Quabara Achilpa of Urapitchera was performed. This was a ceremony concerned [P.299] with a group of wild cat men who in the Alcheringa walked across from south to north of the eastern side of the country now occupied by the Arunta tribe; whilst doing so they camped for a time at a spot called Urapitchera on the Finke River. The ceremony is now in the possession of the Alatunja of the Imanda group of men of the emu totem and he received it from his father who was a wild cat man. At the request of the owner it was performed by an old Purula man who was the head of the Elkintera, or large white bat totem, at a spot close to Imanda which itself lies on the Hugh River. In this performance two Nurtunjas, each of them [P.300] about ten feet in length, were prepared. Unlike most of the Nurtunjas there was no central support such as a spear, but the whole structure was made of a very large number of flexible grass stalks bound round with hair string and decorated with the usual rings of red and white down, so that each of them was somewhat flexible. The performer was decorated with lines and bands of down passing from his head along either shoulder and then down the body as far as the knees. On the Parra ground the Nurtunjas were arranged so that one end of each was under the man's waist-girdle, while the other, ornamented with a bunch of eagle-hawk feathers, rested on the ground, the two diverging from each other. Then the other men were called up and began running round and shouting and then all passed under the Nurtunjas which the performer lifted up for the purpose, the men with their hands and shoulders helping to support them, for they had been carried in that way in the Alcheringa. Finally, the old Purula man to whom the ceremony belongs came up and embraced the old performer, who was in fact about the oldest man upon the ground and almost blind, but as full of energy as the youngest man present.

In the afternoon of the same day a remarkable ceremony was performed which had no special relationship to the Engwura inasmuch as, though owned by the head man of a particular totem—the Ullakuppera or little hawk—it had no reference to either his or any other totem, but was a performance representing the doings of certain Kurdaitcha men. The description of it is therefore given in connection with that of the Kurdaitcha custom to which it more properly belongs. We could not find out why it was given during the Engwura at all, but it was evidently a favourite one with the natives, by most of whom it seemed to be well-known, and the opportunity was taken, while a large number were gathered together, to show it to those who had not previously seen it. It was repeated at a later date and was the only ceremony which was performed which had no special significance as regards the Engwura.

Early on the morning of the fourth day a very special examination of Churinga took place. Some years ago there [P.301] was a small group of Echunpa or large lizard men who lived about twelve miles to the west of Alice Springs. Gradually the group became extinct until finally no man was left to inherit and take care of the sacred storehouse containing the Churinga belonging to the group. Under these circumstances, the extinct group having consisted mainly of Panunga and Bulthara men, a contiguous group which was nakrakia with the extinct one, that is consisted mainly of the same moiety of the tribe, entered into possession. The totem of this group [P.302] was Unchalka, or little grub, and its head man, as no other lizard men lived anywhere near, took charge of the storehouse and of its contents. Some years later it chanced that the wife of a man of the Alice Springs group conceived a child in the old lizard locality and so, in the person of her son, the local Echunpa group was resuscitated. The lizard man had now arrived at maturity and advantage was taken of the Engwura to hand over to him, in the presence of representatives of the tribe, the Churinga of his ancestors.

On the evening before, the head man of the Unchalka had sent out special messengers to bring in the Churinga, and about nine o'clock in the morning they brought them into camp and handed them over to their custodian, who at once took them down into the creek where a number of the older men were gathered together as well as some of the younger ones, amongst whom was the man to whom they were to be handed over. First of all, the Alatunja of the Unchalka totem and those of the two important witchetty-grub groups, the one at Undoolya and the other at Alice Springs, knelt over towards one another and held a lengthy whispered conversation which was now and again shared in by other older men in the group, the most solemn silence being, as usual, observed by all the rest. The purport of this conversation was the holding of an Echunpa or lizard ceremony as soon as the present business had been carried through, so far, that is, as it was to be carried that day. When this matter, and the performers, had been decided upon, the old Unchalka man retired to the edge of the group. Then the Churinga were laid on shields and small boughs cut from the gum tree under which they sat; there were about sixty of them all together, and as soon as they were all unpacked, the man to whom they were being handed over was called up and took his seat along with the older men next to the Churinga. A long conversation, again carried on in whispers and with much solemnity, then ensued between the recipient and the two old men who told the former what the Churinga meant and whom they had belonged to. When this was over the new possessor rubbed his hands over the forehead of the Alatunja of the Undoolya group, who was a very old man, and then embraced him and having done [P.303] this went down on his knees and rubbed the old man's stomach with his forehead. It may be noted here that the deference paid to the old men during these ceremonies of examining the Churinga is most marked; no young man thinks of speaking unless he be first addressed by one of the elder men and then he listens solemnly to all that the latter tells him. During the whole time the presence of the Churinga seems to produce a reverent silence as if the natives really believed that the spirits of the dead men to whom they have belonged in times past were present, and no one, while they are being examined, ever speaks in tones louder than a whisper.

The old man just referred to was especially looked up to as an Oknirabata or great instructor, a term which is only applied, as in this case, to men who are not only old but are learned in all the customs and traditions of the tribe, and whose influence is well seen at ceremonies such as the Engwura where the greatest deference is paid to them. A man may be old, very old indeed, but yet never attain to the rank of Oknirabata.

When the young man had rubbed the stomach of the Oknirabata, the latter went over to where the Alatunja of the Unchalka sat and did the same to him in acknowledgment of the fact that he had safely kept the Churinga. The reason for this action on the part of the Oknirabata lay in the fact that he was the oldest Oknia or father of the young man. Then he went to an old Okira or kangaroo man and did the same. The territory of this man's group lay close to that of the Unchalka men, but not being nakrakia with the extinct lizard men he and his people could not go in and inherit the land. Still the local relationship, which enters in a vaguely defined but unmistakable way into the customs concerned with the totems, found on this occasion its expression in this act of courtesy paid to the head of a neighbouring group by the father on behalf on his son. The natives said that this was done to keep the old kangaroo man from being jealous and unfriendly. As the handing over of the Churinga was a matter of great importance it could not be properly carried through at one sitting and so, after a long time had been spent [P.304] in their examination, the completion of the ceremony was postponed to another day.

The preparation for the lizard ceremony then began. The old Oknirabata was to perform it, and after his head had been encased in a strong helmet, the whole of this, as well as his face and the upper part of his body and arms, were covered with a dense mass of white down, two half rings of which also adorned the front of each thigh. A large bunch of eagle hawk feathers was fastened behind into his waistband, and on his head he carried no fewer than seven large Churinga belonging to the totem, two of them being remarkable from the fact that they were curved in shape like a boomerang. These were the only ones of this shape on the Engwura ground, and they were evidently very old ones,125 as the original pattern with which they had been ornamented was almost entirely obliterated by the innumerable rubbings to which they had been subjected in course of time. When decorated the performer went at first some distance along the creek bed so as to be out of sight of the other men, who assembled not far from the Parra at a spot where they spread out a small patch of gum boughs. Standing behind this they waited for a few minutes, after which the lizard was seen in the distance throwing up clouds of dust as he came up from his hiding place in the creek and approached the ground. He came on slowly in a zig-zag course, stooping down and assuming a variety of attitudes, always of course with the high knee action. The younger man, to whom the Churinga were being handed over, now appointed two men to go and meet him. This they did about thirty or forty yards away from the group, after which the performer pretended every now and then to turn back, whereupon the two men circled round him holding their arms up as if to prevent him from going away while they cried out “chrr-chrr,” and did their best to encourage him to come on to where the group of men stood waiting. Gradually he came on, and, when close to, the men forming the audience went to the boughs and spread them out as if inviting him to sit down, which he did after a short time, [P.305] and then shouting “wha! wha!” they circled round him in the usual way. The two men who went to meet him represent little birds called Thippa-thippa, which tradition says are the descendants of Alcheringa men who came and watched and ran round and round some lizard men who were travelling along towards Simpson's Gap. The Thippa-thippa changed into birds of the same name, who ever afterwards became the mates of the lizard people. The night was spent as usual singing on the ground.

On the morning of the fifth day we were introduced to a new form of ceremony. As might have been expected amongst a tribe occupying such an extent of territory as does the Arunta, there are certain features in regard to the ceremonies which vary in different parts. Not only do the Arunta extend in a north and south direction for more than three hundred miles, but at their southern limit they are in contact with tribes whose customs vary much from their own and in [P.306] which the social organisation is radically different. Where two such tribes come into contact with one another each has a certain influence upon the other, and thus we find that the southern Arunta have gained certain things from their southern neighbours which are not found in the north, and vice versa. We have already pointed out that the Nurtunja in one form or another plays an important part in the sacred ceremonies. When we come to the southern Arunta its place is taken to a large extent by what is called the Waninga. This is a structure which varies much in size and form, but consists essentially of a framework of sticks which in its simplest form has the shape of a cross, and to which are fixed lines of string. We will describe first the ceremony as performed at the Engwura, and will then add a few general remarks on the subject of the Waninga. On this occasion it was used in connection with the Quabara Quatcha of Idracowra, that is a rain ceremony associated with what is called by white men Chambers Pillar, not far from the Finke River. Idracowra is a corruption of the native words iturka wura, the native name for the pillar.

Two men, one a Purula the other a Bulthara, both of them belonging to the emu totem, were decorated for the ceremony with white bands of down, two on each side of the body. On the top of their heads each wore a bunch of parings of gum tree wood smeared with human blood. The front man had a freshly cut gum stick about two and a half feet in length with the green bark still on, and, like the parings, smeared with blood. This he carried across his shoulders, one hand holding it at either end. His back was adorned with a bunch of eagle-hawk feathers fixed in to his waist girdle. The other man, who walked immediately behind him, carried the Waninga, which he grasped with both hands at the back of his neck. The strain on his arms must have been very great, as it was carried in an upright position. With particularly high knee action, and with their bodies quivering, they came up out of the bed of the creek while the audience sat on the ground by the side of the Parra, the front row of men, who belonged to the southern district from which the Waninga came, beating the ground with boomerangs. The performers [P.307] advanced slowly for about thirty or forty yards, stopping every now and then, until finally they came close to the seated men. Then a Kumara man got up and took the Waninga away, and placed it carefully on one side. The performers then simply walked up to the group, sat down, and were pressed upon the shoulders in the usual way.

In this instance the Waninga was made out of a long desert-oak spear ten feet in length; at right angles to its length were fixed two sticks about three feet in length, each of them at a distance of two and a half feet from one end of the spear. Between the two, and running parallel to the length of the spear, were strung tightly, and very close together, lines of human hair-string. Each line took a turn [P.308] round the transverse stick at either end, and then passed off in a slanting direction to the central spear round which it was passed, and then ran back again to the transverse bar; from here it was carried back along the length of the structure, between the two bars, close by the side of the first line, and so on, time after time, until the whole space between the two bars was filled in with closely-set parallel bands of string. At either end the strands passing off to the central spear formed a triangular-shaped structure. A certain number of lines forming a band an inch and a half in width, and running all round, about the same distance, within the margin, were made of opossum fur string whitened with pipeclay, the same width of string on each side of it being red-ochred, while the remainder was left in its normal black colour. Tufts of the red-barred tail feathers of the black cockatoo were attached to the upper end of the spear and to each end of the transverse bars, and finally a number of bands of white down were attached in roughly parallel lines across the length of the lines of string, little masses of the same material covering the bases and tips of the feathers. The whole structure took several hours to prepare, and showed no little ingenuity and a considerable amount of artistic capacity on the part of its makers.

The various parts of the Waninga have their different meanings, but it must be remembered that the same structure will mean one thing when it is used in connection with one totem and quite a different thing when used in connection with another. This particular Waninga was emblematic of the Quatcha, or water totem. The red string represented thunder, the white band lightning, and the ordinary uncoloured string was the rain falling. The white patches and bands of down naturally represented clouds, while the red of the feathers and the blood smeared on the parings of wood worn on the men's heads represented the masses of dirty brown froth which often float on the top of flood waters.

This was the only occasion on which, during the Engwura, the Waninga was used, the reason being that in perhaps the greater part of the tribe, and certainly in the northern half, the Nurtunja is most largely employed in totemic ceremonies [P.309] with, it must be remembered, precisely the same significance as the Waninga, that is, in each instance the Waninga, or the Nurtunja, as the case may be, is emblematic of the particular totem with which the ceremony being performed is associated. As we pass right into the south the Nurtunja completely disappears and the Waninga takes its place. At Charlotte Waters, for example, or Crown Point on the lower part of the Finke River, no Nurtunja is ever used; when the rite of circumcision is practised a Waninga is made, and after it has been used in the performance of a sacred ceremony it is fixed up in the ground and the novice embraces it.126 Occasionally a kind of compound one is made in which a small one is attached to the top of a larger one, in much the same way in which a small Nurtunja is sometimes attached to the top of a larger one.

The use of the Waninga extends far south, right down, in fact, to the sea coast at Port Lincoln, and it evidently passes out westwards, but how far it is impossible to say. At Charlotte Waters various totems use it, such as the Irrunpa or lizard (the equivalent of the Echunpa of the north), Okira or kangaroo, Arunga or euro, and Quatcha or water. The Irrunpa Waninga is similar in structure to that of the Quatcha, but the parts have an entirely different significance; the projecting end represents the head, the triangular part following this the neck, the top transverse bar the fore limbs, the main part the body, the lower bar the legs, and the bottom end of the spear the tail. Exactly as in the case of the different marks on the Churinga, so in the Waninga the different parts represent entirely different objects according to the totem with which the particular one is associated.

In connection with this ceremony and the use of the Waninga, we learned the following particulars with regard to the wanderings of certain Okira, or kangaroo men, in the Alcheringa, which we insert here to give some idea of the nature of the instruction with respect to the doings of their ancestors in the Alcheringa, which is given by the old men to the younger ones during the performance of the Engwura. [P.310] Somewhere out from the far west there came two kangaroo men who carried with them a large Waninga. They stayed for some time, first of all at a spot close to Idracowra, at a water-hole called Umbera-wartna, and there they formed an Oknanikilla, that is they deposited some of the Churinga which they carried in the ground, and so left behind spirit individuals of the kangaroo totem; then they walked on down the Finke River to a place called Urpunna, where they erected their Waninga and formed another Oknanikilla. Then, carrying the Waninga, they went underground and crossed beneath the Lilla Creek which enters the Finke from the west, and on the southern side they met a mob of kangaroos and euros who came to look at them. Travelling on they came out of the ground at a group of hills called by the natives Amanda, and probably identical with what is now called Mount Watt, one of a group of silurian sandstone hills which rise out of the level plains and sand hills about forty-five miles to the south-west of the junction of the Finke and Lilla. Here they rested for some time and formed an Oknanikilla. Then they turned south-east, and travelling underground crossed beneath the Wichinga (now called the Hamilton) creek, and then on under the Alberga, until once more they emerged at Marpinna, where they formed an Oknanikilla, and where also they opened veins in their arms and allowed the blood to stream out over the ground, and so made a great level clay plain which has remained to the present time. Then, after going still further south and passing out of what is now the country of the Arunta, they turned to the west and made a big circuit through the sand hill country now occupied by a part of the Luritcha tribe, until finally, turning north, they came to the George Gill Range, and crossed this so as to reach a spot now called Tempe Downs, where they formed an Oknanikilla. Then following this to its junction with the Palmer they went a little way up the latter, and, together with their Waninga, they ceased from wandering, and went down into a well-known water-hole called Illara, where they stayed, forming an important Oknanikilla of the kangaroo totem. The importance of the traditions relating to the wanderings of the [P.311] Alcheringa ancestors has already been pointed out in connection with the discussion of the totems. It must be remembered that it is during the Engwura ceremony especially that a knowledge of these matters is imparted by the elder to the younger men, on whose memory the traditions are firmly fixed by means, to a large extent, of the ceremonies, each one of which is associated with some special spot and some special individual or group.

On the sixth day the ceremonies opened with one relating to Ulpmerka men who belonged to the Inguitchika (a grass seed) totem of a place called Imiunga, on the Jay River. This particular ceremony belonged to a Purula man, who invited a Bulthara man, assisted by a Panunga, to perform it; the former belonged to the witchetty-grub and the latter to the emu totem. The Bulthara man was son of an Inguitchika woman, the other performer being the son of a woman of the Illonka (little yam) totem, the locality of which adjoined that of the former. The man to whom the ceremony belonged [P.312] was Witia, or younger brother, of the Inguitchika woman, and has charge of her Churinga nanja.

For the performance two sticks were taken, each about four feet long; when swathed in grass stalks and bound round with hair-string, each of them was about nine inches in diameter. The ends were ornamented with bunches of white and pink cockatoo feathers and eagle hawk. The two were bound together tightly in the form of a cross, and each was further ornamented with rings of down. The whole structure formed a Nurtunja. During the performance the two men squatted down close to one another, each carrying in his hand a small twig of gum tree, the Nurtunja being fixed on to the head of the hinder of the two men, who simply swayed their bodies about from side to side while the other men ran round and round them, except two old men who squatted down to one side singing about the walking about of the Ulpmerka men in the Alcheringa.

During the evening of this the sixth day, the men seated by the side of the Parra began to sing about the Kulchia or fur armlets being bound around the arms of the young men who were passing through the Engwura, and also began singing about the Kauaua, or sacred pole, which was to be erected later on.

On the seventh day an important Quabara of the Ulpmerka of Quiurnpa was performed. In this there were seven performers, three of whom represented boys who wore top-knots on their heads—the usual style of doing a boy's hair. Two others, who represented an individual called Kukaitcha, the leader of the Ulpmerka, wore decorated Churinga fastened as usual into a head-dress, which was made of twigs bound round with hair-string. One represented an Ulpmerka man, and wore a large tuft of eagle hawk-feathers on his head, while the last man had an enormous head-dress two feet six inches in height, made in the usual way and decorated with broad bands of down. Through this was stuck a bent stick about four feet in length, carrying at each end a tuft of feathers, while from the head-dress were suspended four Ulpmerka Churinga, two of them belonging to women and two to men.

[P.313] Each of the performers was profusely decorated with bands of yellow ochre, charcoal or wad, edged with down. The preparation for the performance took between two and three hours, and was under the superintendence of the Alatunja of Alice Springs, in whose charge at present are all the Churinga belonging to this group of Ulpmerka men of the plum tree totem. They will some day be handed over to the only living representative of the totem, who is at present too young to receive them.

During the preparations the men sang of putting twigs on to the head of Kukaitcha, of the Paukutta, or top-knots of the boys, and of the walking of the Ulpmerka in the Alcheringa. The man with the special head-dress was supposed to represent a great Alcheringa Kukaitcha, and the head-dress itself was a form of Nurtunja, which in this case represents a plum tree, the stick which passed through it representing the branches. When all was ready the performers divided into three sets. One of the Kukaitchas went to a spot at the north-east end of the ground; the man with the Nurtunja was led by the Alatunja up to the Parra, beside which he squatted, while the other five went to the north-west end of the ground. Of the latter the three representing boys sat down in a line, two facing one way and one the other. At the end of the line, where the first mentioned sat, stood one of the Kukaitchas with two Churinga in his hands which he kept beating together, the idea being that he was teaching the boys to sing. At the other end stood the Ulpmerka man pretending to knock plums off a tree, which the boy in front of him picked up and ate. When all the performers were ready in their allotted places, the other men, who had meanwhile remained out of sight in the bed of the creek, were called up on to the ground. They were supposed to represent a mob of Ulpmerka men, and coming at a run on to the ground they went first of all to the solitary Kukaitcha man and danced, shouting, around him; then suddenly, accompanied by him, they ran across to where the five men were arranged, acting as already described. After the usual dancing, shouting, and laying-on of hands, the whole party ran across to where the great Kukaitcha sat, and [P.314] all joined in a dance round him while he swayed about from side to side. The usual embracing of the old men by the performers brought the ceremony to an end.

There is a curious tradition of the natives which is concerned with this special group of Ulpmerka men, with which we were acquainted before the Engwura took place, and with part of which this ceremony is concerned. About fifteen miles to the S.S.E. of Alice Springs is a plum tree totem locality. In the Alcheringa the totem included a number of men who were designated Ulpmerka of the plum tree totem [P.315] for the simple reason, as explained elsewhere, that they had not been circumcised. In the same way it may be remarked that we meet with Ulpmerka men of other totems such as the grass seed. The plum tree Ulpmerka men had, so says tradition, only two women amongst them, who both belonged to the bandicoot totem, and had joined the Ulmerka party after wandering alone for some time over the country. At first they were considerably alarmed at the Ulpmerka men, but the latter made a large Nurtunja, and after the women had been shown this, then, for some reason, they were no longer afraid. The younger woman was then gorgeously decorated with down, a small, bluntly conical Nurtunja was placed on her head, and the men then danced round her shouting, “wah! wah!” Then she was taken and laid down by the side of the large Nurtunja, which was fixed upright in the ground, and the operation of atna ariltha-kuma, the equivalent ceremony to that of pura ariltha-kuma as practised upon the men, was performed by means of a large stone knife, after which all the men had access to her. The two women were then taken to the camp of the Kukaitcha, who was the headman of the local Ulpmerka men, and who claimed the women as his own, but allowed the others to have access occasionally to the woman who had been operated upon as just described. After a time a special messenger or Inwurra, who was also named Kukaitcha, came down from the north—from the country, as the natives say, of the Quatcha alia—that is the salt water. He called the men to him and told them that they were to leave their own country and follow him. Then he took the two women away from the local Kukaitcha, and a start was made for the north. After travelling as far as a place now called Wigley Springs, four miles to the north of Alice Springs, the Nurtunja which they carried with them was erected, and the elder of the two women was operated upon. All the men as before had access to her; and the party remained at this spot for some little time. Then they went on towards what is now Bond Springs, close to which they camped, and here one man, a Kumara, was left behind. His name was Kukaitcha, and at the present day his reincarnation is living at Alice Springs. [P.316] and his Nanja stone is a small block which arose to mark the spot where his Alcheringa ancestor went down into the earth, leaving behind him his spirit part in his Churinga. From this spot they went on to the Burt Plain close to, and camped at, Allan Waters, after which they went up into the sky and continued in a northerly course for some twenty-five miles, camping at Umbaltna-nirrima, and here it is related that the Ulpmerka played with pieces of bark just as boys do now. Travelling on, they again performed ariltha-kuma on the younger woman, to whom, by permission of Kukaitcha, all had access. The women always travelled along with Kukaitcha, at a little distance to the side of the main party. At Ulathirka one man, named Apallana, had intercourse without permission with the younger woman, and accordingly he was killed, but, though thus killed, his spirit part remained in his Churinga. At the same spot a Purula man was left behind, and his descendant is now living, but as yet he is only a young boy not initiated. Halting at various places, they travelled northwards until at length they came to the country of the salt water, where they remained ever afterwards.

The ceremony, which has been described as it was performed during the Engwura, represents the Ulpmerka men of the south being collected together round the Kukaitcha from the north prior to their accompanying him. First of all there were two performances in which the Ulpmerka men were shown dancing round their own Kukaitcha, who was the head of the local group, and then all of them went and joined together afterwards in dancing round the Kukaitcha from the north, signifying, as it were, that they regarded him as the greater man and as their leader.

In the afternoon the Quabara Interpitna of a place called Uratinga on the Finke River, between Henbury and Idracowra, was performed. The Interpitna is a fish totem, the particular form being known locally as the bony bream (Chatoessus horni), which is plentiful in the water holes, such as the one at the spot known to white men as the Main camp, with which the totem is associated. The possessor, and also in this case the performer, of the Quabara was an old Panunga [P.317] man of the Obma or snake totem, who had inherited it from his father. His hair was done up as usual, and the whole front of the head-dress, as well as his face, was covered with a mass of white down, above which stood out in strong contrast a large bunch of black eagle-hawk feathers. His body was decorated with bands of charcoal, edged with white down. Squatting on the ground, he moved his body and extended his arms from his sides, opening and closing them as he leaned forwards, so as to imitate a fish swelling itself out and opening and closing its gills. Then he moved along, imitating by means of twigs in his hands the action of a man driving before him, with boughs, the fish in a small waterhole, just as the natives do. Four men, all from the same southern locality as himself, but of different totems, squatted down to one side of him singing, while one of them beat time with a stick on the ground. Suddenly one of the latter jumped across and sat down in front of him, gradually approaching [P.318] nearer and nearer, until he came close enough to put his hands on the old man's shoulders.

Late on at night just before midnight another Quabara of the Ulpmerka of Quiurnpa was performed, representing three men eating plums.

On the eighth day a Quabara of the Irriakura totem of a place called Oknirchumpatana, on what is now called Soda Creek, was performed. The Irriakura is a favourite food of the natives, and is the name given to the bulbs of Cyperus rotundus. One man only was decorated, but the design was a very quaint and striking one. A ring of grass stalks bound firmly together with human hair-string, and measuring about two feet in diameter, was made and covered with white down. On the shoulders, stomach, and arms of the performer were drawn broad bands of a light pearl colour, made by rubbing on some wad; each band was edged with white down. The hair was done into a head-dress, all the front of which, as well as the man's face, was covered with down. Then, when he had been thus ornamented, the ring was put over his head and, rested slanting forwards and downwards, on his shoulders. A large number—not less than a hundred—little bunches of the red-barred tail feathers of the black cockatoo had been prepared, half of them tipped with red and half with white down, and these were stuck into the ring so as to radiate outwards all round it, while numbers of others were stuck into his head-dress and beard. The dark chocolate colour of the skin, the black and red feathers, the gray bands on the body and the white and pink down, together with the light yellow sand on which the man sat, formed a striking mixture of colours which was by no means unpleasing, and the whole decoration was extremely quaint. The man seated himself in front of a dozen bunches of cockatoo tail feathers, decorated with down, just like those on his person, and arranged in a straight line in the sand. Then, moving slightly from side to side, he scooped at intervals, and one after another, the bunches up with both hands, pausing every now and then to look around him and to put himself into the most ridiculous attitudes, as if he heard something which frightened him, but could not tell what or where it was. The tufts of [P.319] feathers represented the growing Irriakura, which he was supposed to be gathering. The other men sat to one side watching the performance and singing about Unatunpika, the name of the man whom the ceremony represented, and which was also in this instance the Churinga name of the performer. With the uprooting of the last of the tufts, the ceremony came to an end, and then the ring called Ilyappa was taken off and put in turn on the heads of the other Irriakura men who were present, and also on those of other of the older men. The tradition connected with this performance is as follows. In the Alcheringa, Unatunpika sat [P.320] down eating Irriakura at the other side of Oknirchumpatana, when suddenly he heard the Irripitchas, that is the ringnecked parrots, who were the mates of the Irriakura men, cry out to warn him that a mob of strange men were coming up. He dropped his Irriakura and came across to Oknirchumpatana. The mob, which also consisted of Irriakura men, left two individuals there, whose reincarnations are now living in the form of two individuals, called respectively Irrturinia and Irriakura. Then they went on to the other side of the Jay River, to a place called Unbanjun, where they formed the Oknanikilla, from which sprung, amongst others, some of whom are women, an individual now living at Alice Springs, called Tukerurnia.

After midnight there was performed the Quabara Akakia (plum-tree), of a place called Iliakilia in the Waterhouse Range. This was acted by four men, who were respectively Purula and honey-ant totem; Purula and “native pheasant”; Purula and white bat; Bulthara and illonka.127 First of all one man came up to where the audience was sitting by the Parra. He pretended to knock plums down and to eat them, and after a short time he sat down amongst the audience. Then two others came up, one of whom remained standing, while he knocked down imaginary plums, which were eaten by the other man, who seated himself on the ground. This over, both of the men went and joined the audience, and the fourth man came and went through the same pretence of knocking down and eating plums. The interesting point in connection with this and many other very similar ceremonies lies in the fact that the Alcheringa ancestors are so frequently represented as freely eating the animal or plant, from which they derive their totemic name.128 At the present time the conditions with regard to this point are markedly different from those which evidently obtained in times past.

During the evening close by the Parra a dense group was formed with the older men standing in the centre, and the [P.321] younger ones on the outside. In this way, as closely packed as possible, they sang together for some two hours, the group as a whole swaying backwards and forwards without ceasing. Then towards midnight they all sat down, and in this position, still closely packed together, they continued singing till between one and two o'clock, when the old men decorated the heads of the younger men with twigs and leaves of an Eremophila shrub. This material, which is worn from now till the end of the ceremonies, is called wetta. The old men who did the decorating were Urliara, who had already been through the Engwura, and to each one of these, four or five young men had been allotted by the presiding old man. There were no restrictions as to the relationship of the men; for example, a Panunga man could take charge of men of any class, but, until the end of the ceremonies, the young men who [P.322] had been decorated became ab-moara to the man who had charge of them, and he to them. They might not either speak to, or in the presence of, the old man without his permission.

From this time on right to the very end of the ceremonies the young men were called collectively by the name Illpongwurra, which means not smeared with grease or colour; and with this the second phase of the Engwura came to an end.


Chapter IX Initiation Ceremonies (Continued) the Engwura Ceremony (Concluded)

Third phase: Changes occurring in customs—The ceremonies refer to times when customs in regard to such matters as marriage restrictions, cannibalism, etc., were different from those of the present day—The Engwura may serve both to maintain customs and also as a means of introducing changes—Further examination of Churinga—Oruncha, or “devil-devil” men—Arunta have no conception of a permanently malevolent spirit—Final handing over of Churinga—Rubbing of Churinga to promote growth of beard—The Erathipa stone and tradition—Tradition concerning wild cat men changing into plum tree men eating plums—Performance of a special ceremony concerned with the frog totem—Association of particular objects, such as Nurtunjas and Churinga, with particular animals and plants—Fourth phase: Illpongwurra sent out into the bush—They have to bring in food for the old men—Fire-throwing in the women's camp at morning and night when the Illpongwurra go out and return—Ceremony representing the cooking of a man—The last fire-throwing in the women's camp—Cutting down the tree to form the Kauaua—Throwing firesticks over the women in their camp at night—The Ambilyerikirra ceremony—Taking the Ambilyerikirra to the women's camp—Possible explanation of these ceremonies—Decoration and erection of the Kauaua—Putting the Illpongwurra on the fire out in the bush—Painting the backs of the Illpongwurra—Visit to the women's camp and the placing of the Illpongwurra on fires—Return to the Engwura ground—The newly-made Urliara remain out in the bush—Fifth phase: Women's dance—Ceremonies concerned with removal of the ban of silence between men who are ab-moara to each other—Ceremonies of aralkalilima and anainthalilima.

APART from the fact that the young men had now received a definite name, and that each one had been made ab-moara to some older man under whose charge he was, the details of the third phase were closely similar to those described as characteristic of the second. The same examination of Churinga was carried on, and ceremonies of the same nature as the preceding ones were enacted day after day and night after night. The sustained interest was very remarkable when it is taken into account that mentally the Australian native is merely a child, who acts, as a general rule, on the spur [P.324] of the moment. On this occasion they were gathered together to perform a series of ceremonies handed down from the Alcheringa, which had to be performed in precisely the same way in which they had been in the Alcheringa. Everything was ruled by precedent; to change even the decoration of a performer would have been an unheard-of thing; the reply, “it was so in the Alcheringa,” was considered as perfectly satisfactory by way of explanation. At the same time despite the natural conservatism of the native mind, changes have come over the tribe since the times when their ancestors lived, to whom the ceremonies now being dealt with refer. For example, not a few of them deal with the existence of cannibalism, and though this may not yet have been wholly discarded, still it is not practised amongst the Arunta except to a very slight extent, whereas, if there be anything in the traditions, it must, in the Alcheringa, have been largely practised. Then again, the marriage customs are very different from those with which we are brought into contact in the ceremonies concerned with these Alcheringa people. We have already had occasion in another place to deal with this question, meanwhile it may be said here that the Engwura, from this point of view, appears to serve two distinct purposes, or rather it always serves one, and might serve a second. In the first place its main result is undoubtedly to preserve unchanged certain customs, and to hand on a knowledge of past history, or rather tradition, from generation to generation, but in the second place, and to a much lesser extent, it may serve as the vehicle for the introduction of changes.

The third phase was ushered in by the examination of a large number of Churinga which were brought in from the witchetty grub storehouse in the Heavitree gap, which cuts through the Macdonnell Ranges, and forms a passage from north to south, for the Todd River. They were under the charge of the Alatunja, who specially invited his Gammona, Umbirna and Ikuntera, to come up and take part in the proceedings. The Churinga, wrapped up in bundles, round which large quantities of human hair-string were tied, were laid on shields in the bed of the creek, and the men sat round them, those of the Panunga and Bulthara divisions [P.325] occupying the inner circle, and the Purula and Kumara men the outer circle. This arrangement was due to the fact that the witchetty grub totem is mainly composed of men belonging to the Panunga and Bulthara moiety.

[P.326] The Churinga having been solemnly spread out, the Alatunja of the local totem took one up, and, having ground up and placed on it some red ochre, the old Alatunja of the Undoolya locality leaned over and pressed down on the Churinga the hand of the son of the first-named; then he rubbed the young man's hand up and down upon it while he whispered to him, telling him to whom the Churinga had belonged, who the dead man was, and what the marks on the Churinga meant. Then it was passed on to a Purula who was the young man's Umbirna, and who was seated on the outside of the group. This over, a second Churinga was treated in just the same way. Special attention was paid to the Churinga nanja of one of the brothers of the local Alatunja who had died a few years ago. It was first of all passed on to a younger brother of the Alatunja who slightly rubbed it. Then it was pressed against the stomach of another younger brother, who kept it in this position for a minute or two while he and others literally shed tears over it, amidst perfect silence on the part of all the others present. Then two other Churinga nanja of dead men were examined, rubbed over with red ochre, and their meaning explained in whispers by a Bulthara man to a Purula, who was his son-in-law. After an hour had been thus passed, a particular Churinga belonging to an Oruncha or “devil-man” was shown, and on the production of this there was, for the first and only time, general though subdued laughter. These Oruncha of the Alcheringa are always the source of a certain amount of mirth, whether it be during the examination of their Churinga or on the occasion of the performance of ceremonies concerned with them. The particular individual whose Churinga was now examined has given his name, Chauritchi, to a rocky hill close to Alice Springs where he is reported to have gone into the earth and where his spirit still lives. Though they laugh at him when they are gathered together in daylight, at night-time things are very different, and no native would venture across this hill after dusk. It will be noticed that there is something very different in the case of these Oruncha individuals from what obtains in the case of other people of the Alcheringa. The most striking point is that whereas, [P.327] like every one else, they had their Churinga and spirit part associated with it, yet they never formed any Oknanikilla; each one still inhabits the same spot in spirit form where, in the Alcheringa, he went down into the earth, but he never undergoes reincarnation. He is regarded as a more or less [P.328] mischievous creature, a kind of Bogey-man who, if met with when out alone in the dark, will carry off his victim into the earth. Partly, no doubt, the idea is a creation of men of old to act as a wholesome check upon women who might be prone, without the fear of some such mysterious and invisible creature, to wander away under cover of the darkness from their domestic hearth, and it does undoubtedly act as a strong deterrent to any wandering about at night by men and women alike. There are times when the Oruncha will take a man down into the ground and transform him into a medicine man. On the whole the Oruncha may be regarded as a mischievous spirit who will in some way harm those whom he comes across in places where they should not be, that is where they know they are likely to meet him if they venture alone after dark, rather than as a distinctly malevolent spirit whose object is at all times to injure them. Of such a permanent malevolent spirit, the Arunta do not appear to have formed a conception; in fact the place of such an individual is largely supplied by their beliefs with regard to the Kurdaitcha and various forms of magic.

Some few days later the ceremony of handing over the lizard Churinga to their new owner, the initial stage in connection with which has already been described, was completed. After the Alatunja, who had previously had charge of them, had brought them into camp, they were placed in the store of the Panunga and Bulthara men at one end of the Engwura ground. Together with a large number of others, perhaps as many as two hundred in all, they were again brought down into the bed of the creek where the old men were assembled, only three of the younger men being allowed to be present. The others were sent out of camp. After the usual whisperings, handing round of the Churinga and rubbing of them with red ochre, they were placed on a shield and handed over to their new possessor. Then all the old men in turn came and pressed their foreheads against the young man's stomach, he for some time trying, or pretending to try, to prevent the very old Oknirabata—the Alatunja of the Undoolya group—from doing so. This ceremony is a somewhat striking one, and is evidently a form of recognition [P.329] of the new position held by the young man, who with the presentation of the Churinga became the recognised head of the local group of lizard people.

There was amongst the Churinga one curious one which was also remarkable as being the only stone one present at the Engwura, the reason of which is to be associated with the fact that they are brought mainly with the object of using them during the ceremonies, and for this purpose stone ones are not suitable. This special one was elongate-oval in shape and about six inches in length. From end to end ran a band of black charcoal, an inch in width, the part on either side of this being coloured red with ochre. The Churinga was that of a Jerboa-rat totem, the rat in question having especially long whiskers which were represented by the black band, and it is supposed that the rubbing of this Churinga on the chin of a young man is very beneficial in promoting the growth of hair on the part touched. In connection with this, it may be noted that the length and fullness of the beard is a striking feature in the members of the Arunta and other tribes of Central Australia.

Though the Churinga are now in the keeping of the lizard man he is not supposed to have absolute possession of them until he has, at some future date, made a present of a considerable quantity of hair-string to the Alatunja of the Unchalka or little grub group who took charge of, and preserved them from harm upon the temporary extinction of the old lizard group.

As already said, the days and nights during the third phase were spent very much in the same manner as they were during the second, so that we will only describe here, without reference to the order in which they occurred, as this was a matter of no importance, the more important and typical of the ceremonies.

Two ceremonies were concerned with the Oruncha or, as the natives call them, the Orunchertwa, the word ertwa meaning man. The first of these was the Quabara Oruncha of Kulparra, a place now called the Deep Well about fifty miles to the south of Alice Springs. The ceremony belongs to a Purula man, and the two performers were respectively a [P.330] Purula man of the “native pheasant”129 totem, and a Kumara man of the kangaroo totem. Each man wore, fixed into his head-dress, four Churinga, while his body was decorated with [P.331] bands of charcoal edged as usual with white down, a bunch of eagle-hawk feathers being fixed into his waist-band in the middle of his back. When decorated they were led on to the Parra ground with the usual high knee action. Then old men, from the neighbourhood of the locality to which the ceremony belongs, sat down and began beating boomerangs on the ground while the two performers ran backwards and forwards on all fours, sometimes chasing one another, sometimes turning round face to face and pretending to growl and to frighten one another. After acting in a way which much amused the audience for about five minutes, the two Oruncha came and laid themselves down in front of the old men, whom, after getting up again, they embraced.

The second of the ceremonies was the Quabara Oruncha of Chauritchi, the latter being the native name for Alice Springs. This ceremony belongs to the local Alatunja, and the most remarkable feature connected with it was the enormous head-dress formed of twigs of Cassia bush bound round with yards and yards of human hair-string so as to form a solid mass two feet six inches in diameter, the whole structure weighing at least thirty pounds. It was, as usual in the case of all the head-dresses, built up on the performer's head, and, as can be imagined, the strain upon the muscles of his neck must have been severe, for though the actual performance only lasted a few minutes the preparation for it occupied two hours. The front of the head-dress and the face were covered with a mass of white down; a band of blue-grey wad130 ornamented his shoulders and chest, and in the middle was joined to another which ran round above the waist, each having an edging of white down. From the front of the head-dress projected two sticks, each of which was nearly a yard in length, and was covered with rings of down. In the noonday heat of mid-summer, with the sun shining straight down so that you sat, or stood, on your own shadow, the remarkable and weighty head-dress must have been particularly trying to wear. The performer sat down on a heap of small gum tree boughs and [P.332] began swaying about from side to side and brushing flies off with little twigs. At the same time he kept constantly peering about as if he were on the look-out for some one; every now and then he would crouch down amongst the boughs as if to gather himself together into as small a space as possible; [P.333] when he did so, the back view was a somewhat comical one, consisting mainly of a glimpse of a large bunch of eagle hawk feathers, and beyond this the great disc-shaped head-dress. The idea was that he was in search of men with the object of catching and eating them. When caught, his custom was to carry them on his head until they were wanted for consumption, and the massive head-dress was supposed to represent a man whom he had killed and was thus carrying about with him.

The two sticks in the front projecting like two horns are somewhat suggestive. They are simply pointing sticks—called in this instance inwunina—which the Oruncha uses for the purpose of pointing at and killing his prey, and the thought suggested itself that possibly the two traditional horns of the devil, as he is pictured amongst more highly civilised peoples, may, sometimes at all events, owe their origin to an early belief in the efficacy of pointing sticks like those at present actually used amongst various races of savage people, such as the Australian natives.

[P.334] This particular Oruncha went in the Alcheringa down into the hill close to Alice Springs, which is still spoken of as the Mirra oruncha, that is the Oruncha's camp, and he is supposed at times to come out and seize upon men and women who are wandering about after dusk. Every now and again he will take some man down into the earth, and then, after a time, the man is found in a dazed condition, but transformed by the Oruncha into a medicine man.

In connection with the Quabara Iruntarinia Unjiamba of a place called Apera-na-unkumna, a somewhat remarkable Nurtunja was used. This was a ceremony which had been imparted to a Purula man by the Iruntarinia of the locality named. It was now being presented by its owner to another man of the totem with which it was concerned; and, as this was the first time on which it had been performed in this locality, etiquette prescribed that only men of the Purula and Kumara moiety should be present during the preparation, all others remaining at some distance from the creek. The Nurtunja consisted of a long spear, grass stalks, and hair-string bound together in the usual way, but in addition, from near to the upper end, there hung down a shorter pole about five feet long. Each part was decorated with elongate lines of pink and white down instead of the customary circles which are so characteristic of the usual large Nurtunja. The large pole indicated a Hakea tree, and the small one a young tree, and it was supposed to be identical in form with a double Nurtunja which two Alcheringa Unjiamba men carried about with them in their wanderings.

Another ceremony associated with a remarkable tradition was the Quabara Ambaquerka of Erathipa. This was in the possession of the Alatunja of Alice Springs, and at his request was performed by a Panunga man. The performer is supposed to be a woman with a newly-born child, the latter being represented by an oval mass of twigs and grass stalks encased in hair-string and down, about two feet in length by one foot in diameter. The whole was covered with close-set bands of white down, two black spots being left to indicate the eyes. The performer held the supposed child in his hands while he sat down swaying about and quivering, the [P.335] other men dancing and singing as they ran round him. When it was over the oval mass was pressed against the stomach of the Alatunja, who then took and pressed it against that of the old Purula man who presided over the Engwura.

The tradition with which this is associated is as follows: In the locality of a plum-tree totem about fifteen miles S.S.E. [P.336] of Alice Springs, is a special rounded stone which projects from the ground amidst mulga scrub for about a height of three feet. This stone is called Erathipa. In the Alcheringa a man named Inta-tir-kaka, who belonged to the plum-tree totem and was not an Ulpmerka, came from a place called Kulla-ratha, a fine waterhole out to the north of Mount Heuglin, in the western Macdonnells, and, crossing a depression in the latter range close to Mount Gillen, he proceeded to Uk-ang-wulla, which means the hollow or hole, and lies close to Quiurnpa, where he found a Nurtunja erected but could not see any people to whom it belonged, so he proceeded to appropriate it; but, when he tried to pull it up out of the ground, all that he could do was to slightly loosen it; seeing that he could not secure it whole he broke it off at the butt and down it tumbled with a loud crash. The Nurtunja was the property of a plum-tree woman, named Unkara, who, with her little baby boy, was out hunting for the plums on which they fed. She had originated at this spot and had lived alone here, having nothing to do with the plum-tree Ulpmerka men who lived not far away. When she heard the crash she came quickly back to her camp, and there she saw what had taken place and was greatly grieved; as the natives say, her bowels yearned after her Nurtunja. She put her baby boy into the hollow where the Nurtunja was broken off, just below the surface, and, leaving with him a large number of Churinga, went in pursuit of the thief. The boy went into the ground, taking with him the store of Churinga, and the Erathipa stone arose to mark the spot, and forms the centre of an Oknanikilla of the plum-tree totem, the stone being, of course, the home of all the many spirit individuals, one of whom was associated with each of the Churinga.

The women went straight up into the sky and, following the course taken by Intatirkaka, she alighted at a place called Oki-ipirta where he had camped, from here she walked on towards the north-west, and then again went up into the sky and did not descend until she reached Kulla-ratha, from which place the man had come originally, and to which he had returned. Here she found a large number of plum-tree [P.337] people, but could not see her Nurtunja because the thief had placed it right in the middle of a big group of Nurtunjas which belonged to the party. In grief at not being able to recover it she sat down and died.

However, to return to the Erathipa stone. There is on one side of it a round hole through which the spirit children are supposed to be on the look-out for women who may chance to pass near, and it is firmly believed that visiting the stone will result in conception. If a young woman has to pass near to the stone and does not wish to have a child she will carefully disguise her youth, distorting her face and walking with the aid of a stick. She will bend herself double like a very old woman, the tones of whose voice she will imitate, saying, “Don't come to me, I am an old woman.” Above the small round hole a black line is painted with charcoal, and this is always renewed by any man who happens to visit the spot. It is called Iknula, and a black line such as this, and called by the same name, is always painted above the [P.338] eye of a newly-born child, as it is supposed to prevent sickness. Not only may the women become pregnant by visiting the stone, but it is believed that by performing a very simple ceremony, a malicious man may cause women and even children who are at a distance to become so. All that has to be done is for the man to go to the stone by himself, clear a space of ground around it, and then, while rubbing it with his hands, to mutter the words “Arakutja wunka oknirra unta munja aritchika,” which means, literally translated, “Plenty of young women, you look and go quickly.” If, again, a man wishes to punish his wife for supposed unfaithfulness, he may go to the stone and, rubbing it, mutter the words “Arakutja tana yingalla iwupiwuma ertwa airpinna alimila munja ichakirakitcha,” which means, “That woman of mine has thrown me aside and gone with another man, go quickly and hang on tightly;” meaning that the child is to remain a long time in the woman, and so cause her death. Or again, if a man and his wife both wish for a child, the man ties his hairgirdle round the stone, rubs it, and mutters, “Arakutja thingunawa unta koanilla arapirima,” which means, “The woman my wife you (think) not good, look.”

The word Erathipa means a child, though it is seldom used in this sense, the word Ambaquerka being most often employed. Similar Erathipa stones are found at other spots. There is one near to Hermannsburg on the Finke River, another at the west end of the Waterhouse Range, and another near to Running Waters on the Finke.

Another ceremony called the Quabara Anthinna of Arimurla was associated with a curious and rather complicated tradition. Anthinna is the opossum totem, and Arimurla is a place now called Winnecke's depot, by reason of its having been used as such during early days; it is in reality merely a gorge leading through the rocky ranges which form the eastern continuation of the Macdonnells. The ceremony refers to two Purula women of the opossum totem. They both originated at and never left Arimurla. Each of the performers had a curious T-shaped Nurtunja on his head. From the cross-bars of each there were suspended Churinga which had once belonged to the two women.

[P.339] When the ceremony, which consisted of the usual swaying to and fro on the part of the performers, and of the running round and round of the other men, was concluded, we were told the following. In the Alcheringa a party of wild cat people who, unlike the other wild cat parties, consisted for the main [P.340] part of Pulthara and Panunga, started from near Wilyunpa out to the east of Charlotte Waters. They journeyed on to the north, halting and forming Oknanikilla at various places. After a time they came close to Arimurla, but passed by without seeing the two Purula opossum women who were sitting down there. Going on they met a man who had come down from the salt water country far away to the north; he was of the same totem as themselves, but lived alone and was called atnabitta, a contemptuous name applied to a man [P.341] who is given to interfering with women. Him they killed, and to the present day a stone in Paddy's creek at a spot called Achilpa Itulka represents the slain man. Having done this, they walked on, eating Hakea and driving mosquitoes before them, and, when they could not get water, drinking their own blood. At a place called Irri-mi-wurra they all died, but sprang up again as Ulpmerka, that is uncircumcised boys, and after that they went on eating plums. Reference to this will again be made when dealing with the question of the eating of the totem. In this, as in not a few of the traditions, we see that the eating of the totemic animal or plant seems to be a special feature, and one to which attention is particularly drawn.

After eight days had been spent in the performance of ceremonies, it was evident that an important change in the proceedings was about to take place. Under the direction of the leader of the Engwura the small gum boughs, which had hitherto decorated the top of the Parra, were removed, and the mound was left bare. All the young men were ordered away from the ground, and spent the greater part of the day in the bed of the river under the charge of the Alatunja of Alice Springs. Meanwhile, close by the Parra, a group of elder men who were already Urliara were assembled. All classes were represented, and the next five hours were spent in preparations for an important ceremony called the Quabara Unchichera of Imanda. At Imanda, which is known to white men as the Bad Crossing on the Hugh River, is an important Unchichera or frog totem centre, and during the Engwura a large number of ceremonies connected with this were enacted as the leader came from this locality, and, though not himself belonging to the frog totem, he had inherited a large number of ceremonies concerned with this and the wild cat totem from his father. He performed the ceremony himself. On his head was a large somewhat flat helmet made in the usual way, and completely covered with concentric circles of alternate pink and white down. These represented the roots of a special gum tree at Imanda. The whole of his back and chest as far down as the waist was a complete mass of white spots, each of which was encircled by white down; they were [P.342] of various sizes, and indicated frogs of different ages; on the inner side of each thigh were white lines representing the legs of fully-grown frogs. On his head he wore a large frog Churinga, five feet in length, decorated with bands of down and tipped with a bunch of owl feathers. All around the base of this were arranged tufts of black eagle-hawk feathers, each fastened on to a stick, so that they radiated from the head-dress. About twenty strings, each of them two feet in length and made of opossum fur-string, had been covered with pink and white down, and ornamented at one end with tufts of the black and white tail tips of the rabbit-kangaroo. These were suspended all round from the head so as almost [P.343] completely to hide the face, which was itself enveloped in a mass of down. The Churinga represented a celebrated tree at Imanda, and the pendant strings its small roots. When all was ready a shallow pit about a yard in diameter was scooped out in the sand, and in this the performer squatted with a short stick in his hands. Except for the presence of the [P.344] latter, it was difficult to tell that the elaborate decoration concealed from view a man.

When he was seated in the pit, he sent out three old men who were Urliara across the river. Two of them carried small Churinga attached to the end of hair-string. The man who did not carry one went behind the spot where the young men were gathered together, while the other two went one to each side. Then the sound of the bull-roarer was heard, as the Churinga were whirled round and round, and, amidst much shouting and excitement, the young men were driven in a body across the river and up the opposite bank on to the Engwura ground. Running through the scrub which bordered the river, they suddenly came in sight of the performer, who was slightly swaying his body from side to side and digging the earth up with the stick in his hands. For a moment, when first he came in view, the young men halted and lifted up their hands as if in astonishment, and then driven up by the three Urliara men they ran up to and circled round and round the performer shouting, “wha! wha!” at the top of their voices. The old men stood to one side, and the two with the Churinga went round and round the young men as if to drive them in as close as possible. This went on for about three minutes, when one of the younger men, who was a Purula and the son of a dead man of the frog totem of Imanda, laid his hands on the shoulders of the performer, who then ceased moving, and the ceremony was over. After a short pause the decorated man got up, and first of all embraced the young man who had stopped him, and then went round and did the same to various old Bulthara and Panunga men, and touched with a piece of white down the navel of the old Purula man of the white bat totem, whose locality lay close to that with which the ceremony was associated131 Then he sat down and called the young Purula man up to assist him in removing the decorations.

After each ceremony the down is carefully removed from the body, though naturally a not inconsiderable portion adheres [P.345] so firmly that it must be rubbed off, and so each performance means the loss of a certain amount. As soon also as ever a Churinga or a Nurtunja has once been used, the decorations are taken off. No Nurtunja is used more than once; even if two ceremonies follow close upon one another, [P.346] each of them requiring one, a fresh one is made for each. The reason of this is that any particular Nurtunja represents and is symbolic of one particular object with which the ceremony is concerned, it may be a gum-tree, a Hakea, an emu or a frog, and, when once that particular Nurtunja has been used in a ceremony, it is henceforth symbolic of one, and only one thing, though, so far as its appearance and structure are concerned, it may be precisely similar to a Nurtunja, which means something totally different. Suppose, for example, that, as on the last occasion, a large Churinga or a Nurtunja represents a gum-tree, then in the mind of the native it becomes so closely associated with that object that it could not possibly mean anything else; and if a precisely similar Churinga or Nurtunja were wanted an hour afterwards to represent, say an emu, then a new one must be made.

[P.347] The reason for the showing of the performance just described, was that on the previous day the young Purula man already referred to had gone out into the bush and had brought in a present of game in the form of euro, as an offering to the older man who had charge of the Unchichera ceremonies of Imanda. This gift of food is called chauarilia, and when bringing it in he had told the old man that there was food waiting for him along the creek. This remark was perfectly understood as a request, though this must not be made in any more direct way, that he should be shown some ceremony connected with his dead father's totem. With this the third phase of the Engwura came to an end.

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.

Just at sunrise the Illpongwurra were collected together close to the Parra. The leader of the Engwura had meanwhile appointed three elder men, who were already Urliara, to look after them during the day. About a dozen of the older men had provided themselves with small Churinga, and with a great amount of shouting, and amidst the strange weird roar and screech of the bull-roarers, no two of which sounded alike, the Illpongwurra were driven in a body away from the camp. Each man amongst them carried his shield, spear, and boomerang, for it was their duty now to go out into the bush all day hunting game for the benefit of the old men who stayed in camp performing ceremonies. The idea was to test still further the endurance of the young men and their obedience to their elders. Out in the bush they are not supposed to eat any of the game which they catch, but must bring it all in to the old men who may, or may not, give them a share of it when they return to camp. Whether this rule is rigidly adhered to on the part of the younger men may perhaps be doubted, the temptation offered by the sight of a fat [P.348] little wallaby must be very strong to a full-grown young man who has not been having too much to eat for some three or four weeks past, and though old men go out in charge, it can be scarcely possible to keep a strict watch over all of the Illpongwurra.

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 [P.350] 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 [P.351] 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.132 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. The sudden change from the wild dance round the performer and the Parra, accompanied by the loud shouting of the men whose bodies were half hidden by thick clouds of dust, which the strong light of the setting sun illuminated, was most striking.

About nine o'clock the men got up and began the usual singing, running sideways along by the Parra, shouting loudly as they did so. Shortly before midnight a curious ceremony was performed, which was associated with certain Oruncha men of Imanda. There were four performers, and the ceremony was divided into two parts. Three men were engaged in the first and more important scene. A long hole, just big enough to hold a man's body, but not deep enough to conceal it, was scooped out. In this, at full length, one of the men lay while a second knelt down over his legs and the third knelt at the head end. These two were supposed to be Oruncha men, engaged in baking the man in the earth oven, and each of them with two boomerangs imitated the action of basting him and of raking the embers up over his body, whilst he himself imitated admirably the hissing and spluttering noise of cooking meat. After a few minutes the three got up [P.352] and joined the audience, and then out of the darkness—for the fire beside the Parra served only to light up the ceremonial ground—came a decorated man who was supposed to represent an Alcheringa man of the frog totem. He moved about from spot to spot, sniffing as if he detected the smell of cooking, but could not detect where it came from. After a minute or two he joined the audience and the performance stopped.

There was not much rest to be had that night; the Illpongwurra lay down again while the older men close to them kept up an incessant singing, and at two o'clock all were called up to witness the performance of a ceremony of the wild cat totem, in which three men took part, who were supposed to be performing an ordinary dancing festival or altherta in the Alcheringa. Just at daybreak another ceremony was ready, which was again connected with the frog totem of Imanda. It was performed by one of the oldest men present, the old white bat man, and he was decorated to represent a particular tree at Imanda, which suddenly appeared full-grown on the spot, where an Alcheringa man of the frog totem went into the ground; it became the Nanja tree of the spirit part of him which remained behind associated with his Churinga.

It was now getting daylight. The leader decided upon three Urliara, who were to accompany and take charge of the Illpongwurra during the day, and just after the sun rose they were once more driven out of the Engwura ground amidst the whirling of bull-roarers. The old men spent the day in camp preparing two or three ceremonies, but reserving a somewhat elaborate one for the benefit of the Illpongwurra, who were driven in at dusk by way of the women's camp, where the fire-throwing was repeated. Once more the ceremony of first sitting and then lying down by the Parra was enacted; in fact this was carried out every evening during the next two weeks.

At midnight the Illpongwurra were aroused to witness a ceremony of the white bat totem. Eleven men—the greatest number which we have seen taking part in any one of these sacred ceremonies—were decorated. Ten of them stood in a [P.354] row facing and parallel to the Parra, and they were all connected together by a rope of human hair-string, which was decorated with pink and white down, and was passed through the hair waist-girdle of each man. Four of them had Churinga on their heads, and were supposed to represent special gum trees near to Imanda, the long rope being the roots of the trees; the other six were supposed to be bats resting in the trees. The eleventh man was free from the rope and his decoration differed from that of the rest, who were ornamented with white pipe-clay and red and white down, while he had a long band of charcoal on each side of his body, outlined with red down. He began dancing up and down in front of the others, holding his body in a stooping position, and making all the while a shrill whistling noise, like that made by a small bat as it flies backwards and forwards. In his hands he carried twigs which he rubbed together. The ten men meanwhile moved in line, first to the right and then to the left, and with the other man dancing in front of them the whole formed a curious scene in the flickering light of the camp fire. At a signal from the leader of the Engwura two men went out from the audience, each carrying a long spear which was held behind the line of performers so as to touch the back of each man—the signal for them to stop. Each performer in turn touched with a piece of down first the stomach of the leader, and then that of the old white bat man to whom the ceremony belonged.

During the next day ceremonies were held as usual, but there was no fire-throwing. At sunrise on the following morning the Illpongwurra were driven out of camp to the sound of bull-roarers, by way of the women's camp, where they again had fire thrown over them, and in the evening the same ceremony was repeated when, just at sunset, they were brought in to camp over the ranges on the eastern side.

The following day saw a slight change in the programme. The Illpongwurra were taken out to the west, not going near to the women's camp. During the day news was brought in of the death of a very old and very celebrated Railtchawa, or medicine man, who lived far away out to the west. We were assured that his death was due to the evil magic of a native [P.356] who lived at a place called Owen Springs on the Hugh River—an instance of the fact that the native is quite unable to realise death from any natural cause, as the old man in question had died simply from senile decay. The sounds of wailing came all day long from the camp of the women, who struck each other blows with their waddies and cut themselves with knives.

During the day the old men performed ceremonies concerned with a group of wild cat people who, in the Alcheringa, marched out from the south of what is now Oodnadatta, and then turned northwards and followed a track which led them across the west part of the present Arunta country and through certain spots such as Illamurta in the James Range. At sunset the Illpongwurra came in from the west and found two ceremonies prepared, one belonging to the Bulthara and Panunga men, to which they went first. After dancing round the performer, who represented one of the Ulpmerka of the plum-tree totem sitting at the foot of a Nurtunja, they came to the second, which belonged to the Purula and Kumara. This ceremony was associated with the frog totem of Imanda, and was performed by two men, both of whom had Churinga on their heads, and had their bodies decorated with patches and lines of down representing frogs and roots of trees. First the Illpongwurra danced round them and then rushed off to the Parra, round and round which they ran, raising clouds of dust through which they could be dimly seen. After a short pause and led by the two frog performers, who had removed the Churinga from their heads and carried each two boomerangs which they kept striking together, they ran across the river to the women's camp, where the fire-throwing was performed in the usual way, after which the Illpongwurra came back to camp and lay down beside the Parra.

When it was dark the men were arranged in a double line close to the Parra, and then, with their bodies bent almost double, their arms extended in front, and their hands clasped together, they moved, first in one direction and then in the other, parallel to the length of the mound, stamping on the ground as they did so and shouting “wha! wha! whrr!” at the top of their voices. This peculiar dance is one which [P.358] is especially performed by the members of the Ilpirra tribe during the course of the Engwura, and as one or two Ilpirra men had come down to take part in this Engwura, it was danced on this occasion. Just before midnight a wild cat ceremony was performed, and it was not until early in the morning that the dancing and singing ceased, and the Illpongwurra were allowed to take a little rest.

While the Illpongwurra were out in the bush during the next day they had to undergo the first of another form of fire ordeal, an account of which will be given subsequently in connection with its second performance. In camp the old men performed a ceremony called the Ingwurninga inkinja, which is associated with the emu totem of a spot close to Imanda. The Quabara belongs to the Alatunja of the locality, and he requested two men, one a Panunga of the snake, and the other a Bulthara of the wild cat totem, to perform. Each man was decorated with the usual head-dress, the front of which, as well as their face and beard, was covered with white down, while on each side of the body and extending down to the knee, was a line of circular patches of charcoal edged with white down. These patches were supposed to represent the skulls of slain and eaten men. The two performers were called ulthana, that is, the spirits of dead men, and in this instance they were supposed to have arisen from the bones of two men who had been eaten. They came up from the creek and remained at first crouching behind and hidden by a small bush from the sight of the old men who gathered by the Parra. Then they got up and came on, each of them bending forwards and supporting himself by a stick in either hand, as if they were decrepit old men who could hardly walk. For some time they prowled about looking first to one side and then to the other, as if they were in search of something; and, following an irregular course, came towards the Parra, where the old men were seated beating the ground with boomerangs.

At sunset the Illpongwurra once more came in by way of the women's camp where the fire-throwing took place, and then, on the Engwura ground, they stood in a long line beside the Parra watching the performance of an emu ceremony, [P.359] which consisted in a man decorated with a tall head-dress tipped with a bunch of emu feathers and having his body decorated with a large number of parallel lines of white down walking backwards and forwards in the aimless way of an emu.

[P.360] That night was at last a quiet one, as every one seemed to be getting somewhat exhausted. The next morning a fish ceremony was performed, and at sunset when the Illpongwurra came in—this time direct on to the Engwura ground—a ceremony called the Quabara Ungamillia of Ulkni-wukulla was prepared. Ungamillia is the evening star and Ulkni-wukulla is the name of a spot close to a gap in the Macdonnell Range, about fifteen miles to the west of Alice Springs. A Kumara woman of that totem is supposed to have originated and to have lived there during the Alcheringa. The natives say, “she had a Nurtunja and lived alone.” The woman's name was Auadaua, and there is now living near to Bond Springs a woman who is the reincarnation of that particular individual.

The Alice Springs natives have a legend with regard to the evening star, according to which it goes down every evening into a big white stone at Ulkni-wukulla, where Auadaua sat in the Alcheringa. The stone lies in the middle of a tract of country, which, just except this spot, belongs to the large lizard people. If a woman imagines that a child enters her when she is at that stone, then it is one of the spirit individuals who belonged to one or other of the Churinga which Auadaua carried with her and left behind when she went into the earth, where the stone now stands; and therefore the child must belong to the evening star totem; if, however, she thinks it entered her in the bed of the creek close by, then it belongs to the lizard totem.

Late at night an emu ceremony was performed, and the whole evening was occupied until midnight in singing by the Parra, the old men as before sitting in the midst of a large circle of young men, all being huddled close together. On occasions such as this the singing is always a monotonous repetition of a few phrases such as “the sand hills are good,” “the Achilpa walked in the Alcheringa to Therierita,” “Bind the Nurtunja round with rings and rings,” and so on; and it is wonderful to see for how many hours they will continue, without apparently their spirits flagging or their voices becoming husky.

The next day, as the thermometer registered 114° in the shade, it was too hot for even the old men to venture on a [P.361] performance until late in the afternoon, but as a fitting close to a warm day the Illpongwurra were brought in by way of the women's camp, and on this occasion some of the men as well as the women took a share in the fire-throwing, [P.362] scorching more than usual some of the less fortunate men who did not efficiently shield themselves with boughs. On the Engwura ground an Unjiamba ceremony was performed when the Illpongwurra came across the river.

During the next two days various ceremonies of the kangaroo, wild cat and bandicoot totems were performed, the most important being a kangaroo one concerned with Undiara near to the Finke river at Henbury. The Nurtunja for this was made of twenty long spears lashed together and reached a height of eighteen feet (Fig. 81). To it were attached fourteen Churinga, and the ceremony was performed just at daylight. At night-time the singing was mainly concerned with the putting up of the Kauaua or sacred pole, the erection of which marked the close approach of the termination of the Engwura.

In connection with one of the wild cat ceremonies a somewhat curious performance took place. The Nurtunja used represented one which in the Alcheringa had belonged to wild cat men, who had at first stayed for some time close to Imanda, and at a later time had carried it away with them when they travelled northwards to a place called Arapera, with which the ceremony now performed was associated. It was made by men of the northern groups belonging to the Bulthara and Panunga moiety, and, whilst it was being made, no southern men were present. When it was completed, but some time before the performance of the ceremony for use in which it had been made, the northern men called up the southern men and showed them the Nurtunja. One special man who belonged to the wild cat group near to Imanda, from which the Alcheringa Nurtunja had been originally taken, was first of all embraced by one or two of the northern men, and then led up to the Nurtunja, upon which his hands were pressed. Then the leader of the Engwura, who also belonged to Imanda, was similarly embraced, and his hands placed on the Nurtunja, the idea being, so the natives said, to assuage the grief of these men, which was caused by the sight of a Nurtunja which had passed away from their country to the north and so into the possession of another group of wild cat people.

[P.363] The ceremonies now became more and more interesting, though the exact meaning and significance of some of them it is impossible to state. The leader of the Engwura remained in camp preparing, with the aid of the men of his locality, a special sacred object which consisted of two large wooden Churinga, each three feet in length. They were bound [P.364] together with human hair-string so as to be completely concealed from view, and then the upper three quarters were surrounded with rings of white down, put on with great care, and so closely side by side, that when complete the appearance of rings was quite lost. The top was ornamented with a tuft of owl feathers. When it was made, it was carefully hidden in the bed of the creek, so that none of the Illpongwurra could see it. This object is called the Ambilyerikirra.

Whilst this was being made, three of the older men, who had been especially associated with the leader throughout the ceremonies, had gone out of camp across the hills to the west, and had cut down a young gum tree, the trunk of which was about nine inches in diameter and some twenty feet in height. This was to serve as the Kauaua, and it had to be cut down with care, as it was not allowed to touch the ground until it was brought on to the Engwura ground. The branches were lopped off and it was stripped of its bark, and then, while the Illpongwurra were away in the bush, it was carried into camp and placed out of sight in the bed of the creek.

As usual the Illpongwurra returned at sunset, coming in from the west without, on this occasion, going to the women's camp, as the last fire-throwing ceremony by the women had been held. At the northern end of the ground an Ulpmerka ceremony was held, and then they came on to the Parra in front of which sat the leader of the Engwura, supported on one side by a Bulthara, and on the other by a Kumara man; these two were to assist him during the night. Perfect silence was maintained while the men placed their branches of Eremophila on the long heap which had been gradually accumulating, and then came and lay down with their heads upon the Parra, the ground in front of which had been dug up by the older men during the day, so as to make it softer to lie upon.

Until shortly before nine o'clock perfect silence was maintained by the Illpongwurra, and even the old men only spoke in low whispers, and then very rarely, as they moved quietly about, the three men seated in front of the Illpongwurra remaining motionless and silent. Then a number of small fires were made, and bundles of sticks, each one about two feet long, were arranged in radiating groups with one end in [P.365] the fire. There would be from four to eight of these radiating bundles in each of the fires. When the leader, who remained seated, gave the signal, the old men told the Illpongwurra to get up. This they did, while a few of the older men went across the river to where the women and children were gathered together, and stood amongst them, holding sticks and boughs over their heads, and telling the women to do the same, and to protect themselves as best they could. Then at a signal from one of the old men on the Engwura ground, each of the Illpongwurra took a bundle of fire-sticks, and in a body they went towards the river. On the bank they broke up and rushed pell-mell across the bed and on up the opposite bank, dividing, as they ran across the level stretch between the river and the women's camp, into three parties,