Report on Australian Languages and Traditions.

By Rev. William RIDLEY, M.A.

Communicated by the Earl of Kimberley.

No. I

To the Honourable the Colonial Secretary of New South Wales.

[Extracted from Journal of Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, vol. 2, 1873, pp. 257-91.]


SIR,I have the honour to lay before you the result of investigations made during the journey to Namoi and Barwon Rivers, in compliance with instructions received from you.

I left Sydney on the 20th June last by the Morpeth steamer; I landed next morning at Newcastle, and went on by railway to Scone. Thence I travelled on horseback, by way of Murrurundi and Breeeza plains, to Gunedah, on the Naomi down that river to its junction with the Barwon at Walgett, and along the course of the Barwon, from Gingi, near Walgett, to Collemungul, at the junction of the Gwydir. In going and returning I travelled 1070 miles, and reached Sydney again on the 24th July.

The information obtained during this tour is here arranged in three divisions; 1. Language; 2. Social Laws and Customs; 3. Religious and Mythical Traditions.

It is assumed that those to whose consideration this information is submitted have access to my work on "Kamilaroi, Dippil, [p.258] and Turrubul", sent to the Paris International Exhibition of 1867, to which this report may be regarded as supplementary.

1. Language

In writing aboriginal words I use the vowels thus:

ā as a in father
ă as a in arise
a as a in mat
ĕ as ey in obey
e as e in meet
ī as i in marine
i as i in bit
ŏ as o in tone
o as o in on
ū as oo in moon
ŭ as u in put
u as u in but
ai as i in wine
ao as ow in how
oi as oi in noise

G has only the hard sound as in go; n has the sound of n in bank, or of ng in ring; w and y have only the consonant in we and ye.

Names of Placers, with their meanings.

Guneda (commonly spelt Gunnedah)—destitute. This is a thriving township on the Namoi, near Breeza Plains. The name indicates that at some time a man was found there without food, fire or blanket.
Bogabrai (Boggabri)—high bank. This is the township on Cox's Creek, Namoi. It is on a slope above the reach of the floods which sometimes cover Guneda.
Guligal—long grass-seed.
Inariendrai (Heuriendy)—the sale of the woman.
Nurraburai (Narrabi, central town of the Namoi)—the forks.
Wi-awa (Wee Waa—the next town)—roasting place.
Bulerawa (Mr Dangar's station)—a place of bulera, a tree, bastard myalla acacia.
Wolobrai (another station)—stones (in Wiraiarai dialect).
Deran—dry ground.
Yaruldul (a station on the Namoi)—stony.
Guigola (a station)—red ground.
Teluba or Keluba (a station)—indigenous clover.
Derildul, Drilldool (a station)—reedy.
Warian—a poisonous onion.
Mobbo—beefwood (a tree).
Wuriga—clear ground.
Turi—a water weed.
Miat, or Miari—a well (in Wiraiarai).
Gulaigul—a sapling.
Ginne—wood (in Wurai dialect).
Bulgari—boomerang (in Wurai).
Kogil, or Kagil—bad, no good.
Wurai—no (in Wiraiarai).
Kumbul—turkey buzzard (in Wailwun).
Milkomai—eye dropped out.
Kubbo—a grub.
Mianbar—a deep tank.
Kollemungul (at the junction of the Gwydir and Barwon)—too much water.
Duzgalia (on the Barwon)—a little piece of wood.
Buri, or Bri-warina (Breewarina)—acacia pendula springs up.
Yuri Yuri—a species of parrot.
Margudul—abounding in the murgu, or night cuckoo.
Kolorinbrai—abounding in kolorin, the flowers of the kuluba tree.
Yunder—deep bank.
Bawan (in Kamilaroi), Wawun (in Wailwun)—the river (Barwon).


Wolger (Walgitt, town at the junction of the Namoi and Barwon)—a hollow in the ground.
Worina (Warina, a point near the junction)—rising ground. The township was named after the hollw "wolger", but was prudently fixed on the "worina", or rising ground, above the floods.
Yuroka (a station on the Barwon)—sun.
Yulgalwun—place of yugal (a tree, myrtacca).
Goaz-gara (on Namoi)—black.
Wiriginigal (on the Bugaira, Bokhara)—long tooth.
Wongun (Wangun, near Baradine)—crooked bark (Wiragere).
Dungun (same in Kamilaroi).
Kumal—a place where a man died.
Geribila—a place where twins were born.
Burburget, Burburgate (on Namoi)—thick gum scrub; but, according to Billy M. Bundar "burbur" means belts.
Diri (the proper name of a sheep  station connected with Burburgate, commonly called Currambede)—grey.
Worri—Mount Lindsay, between the Namoi and the Gwyder.
Kawirri—a mountain east of Mount Lindsay.
Bawir—a sugar-loaf peak in the same range.
Mukai, Mooki (a river flowing from Liverpool Range to the Namoi)—rocky. This river runs through deep black mud, and is very boggy, except at Wallhollow, where it runs over rocks.

Languages Spoken on the Namoi.—Kamilaroi, Koinbere or Goinberai, and Wirathere.

Languages Spoken on the Barwon.—Kamilaroi, above Walgett; Wailwun, below Walgett—the junction of the Namoi; Murueri, to the west; Woyaibun, Wolaroi, Wiruiarai, and Kuno or Guno, to the south.

Additional Words and Phrases in Kamilaroi, Wailwun, etc.


Kai little child
Birribirai a youth not yet admitted to a bora
Rubora a young man who has just  attended his first bora
Borba a full man
Miredul a young man
Inar a woman
Yambuli an old woman
Burian and Turi light
Yura darkness
Kurra grass
Kurril leaf
Guren a flower
Ugan a branch
Diril or Duril a large reed
Wurrian another reed
Karui bush
Nizil and Piririqui salt bush
Wongun, Waun, and Waru a crow
Quai the Namoi pine
Bilar swamp oak
Qurara indigenous clover
Yurul scrub underwood
Buriar, Maieri, and Yaraga the wind
Buli whirlwind (an object of great terror)
Ganlan and Gunagulla sky
Yurumi and Mi lightning
Tulumi thunder
Ginbi a muscle


Gurman a leech
Quleale, Qulamboli, Yarumbon, and Yarabon a pelican
Gunundal a large diver
Guminbai wood-duck
Gulawili crested pigeon
Tummar bronze-wing pigeon
Mulygal a little bird (white throat)
Yuru and Gundar cloud
Du or Dhu smoke
Mulganulga horns
Kua fog
Bulumin apple tree (eucalyptus)
Bibil broad-leaved box
Berigul bugalow
Kubu forest oak
Maial acacia pendula
Kawi bastard acacia pendula
Turilawa water-lily
Yeran gum tree
Yuru Namoi pine
Dhulindiar a flowering shrub

Weapons.—Burran, boomerang; bundi and beramba, clubs; burin, shield; dulu and pilar, a spear. In the language of Baradine, M. Wuzai or Wozai, a boomerang is bulgari.

Kunmulla catch hold
Wunnabilla let go
Turruwulle or durnole go back

Colours.—Gue, blood-red; yutta, bay; bului, black or dark blue or brown; bulumbulul, dull light green or brown; zundizundi, roan; guloliba, piebald; bulls, white or grey.

II.—Wailwun Words.

Wail no
Sun duni; in Kamilaroi, yarai; in Wairairai, yaraqun
Moon givur; in K., gille
Sky gunaqualla; in K. same
Stars girili; in K., mirri
Fire wi; in K., same
Water kolle; in K., same
Tree koqar and koburu
Pine guraba; in K., guai and gurere
Acacia pendula buri or bri; in K., maial
Father buba; in K., same; "papa" in all the world
Mother gunni; in K., zumba; but where K. spoken "gunnu"
or "guni" is used by children in addressing their
mothers, as "mamma" or "mother dear"
Child worru; in K., kai, but "wurrume" is son in K.
Hand marra; in K. same
Foot dinna; in K. same
Thigh durra; in K. same, and nearly all over the continent
Knee bunde; in K., dinbir
Thumb gunendir; in K., gueredirha
Fingers worria
Ground tagun; in K., taon
Cut-bark zunumba


Fishponds zunnu
Cockatoo murrai; in K., biloela
Crow waru; in K. same
Laughing jackass bird kukuburra; in K., same, also gorra-worra
Crested pigeon tao-ilgera; in K., gulawilil
Bronze-winged pigeon munumbi; in K., tummur
Pelican gulamboli; in K. same
Black swan kuzadua; in K., barrianmul
Padymelon wiru; in K., murriira
Bandicoot guru; in K., bilba
Opossum kuagi; in K., mute
Iguana duli; in K. same
Black snake duru; in K., nurai
Carpet snake yubba; in K. same
Black duck budumba
Whistling duck thipaiyu
Teal daraoer
Red duck guraoer
Blue-winged duck ululu
Wood-duck kunambi; in K., gunambi, also kaoai
Spoonbill duck wilidubai
Musk duck (diver) kumogumar
Small diver tirmum
Large diver duguru
Black swan burrima
Black and white wagtail dirijiri

(These ducks, etc., are chiefly named from their notes.)

Turtle waiember
Cod (fresh water) kuddu
Black bream kumbal (this word also means turkey buzzard)
Yellow bellied bream tuggai or duggai
Small bream berze
Catfish duzgur
Shrimp tugale
Lobster keri
Crab zulga
Porcupine bigabilla

A yam found on the ridges of the hills near these rivers, with the flavour of an apple, and always of an ice-like cold, is called in Wailwun, gunawa, in Kamilaroi, guweai.

To laugh gindani
To cry yuzani
To sing buga
To sneeze tiga
To cough gunuzguna

North-West—Murala—From this point, according to King Rory, of Gingi, on the Barwon, the race of Murra originally came.

Cold gunundai; in K., karil
Hot girru; in K., kuduwailona
Sick wogin or giraugira; in K., wibil
Anger gulgi; in K., yili
Catch mumulli; K., kummulli
Bite kutulli; in K., yildona

III.—Pikumbul—Spoken on the Macintyre

"Pilka" signifies yes. As in Kamilaroi, "yuru" is sky, "gille" moon, "wi" fire; but water is "bunna" (in K., kolle); tree, "kazgar"; to speak, "guagga" (in K., goala). The numerals in use on the Barwon and Balonno;


1, mal 6, malmulanbu mummi
2, bular 7, bularmulanbu mummi
3, guliba 8, gulibamulanbu mummi
4, bularbular 9, bulabularmulanbu mummi
5, mulanbu 10, bularin murra

NB.— -zu and -u are terminations of the genitive or possessive case, so that "bularin murra" means "belonging to the two hands"; that is, ten fingers.

11, maldinna mummi 16, mal dinna mulanbu
12, bular dinna mummi 17, bular dinna mulanbu
13, guliba dinna mummi 18, gulib dinna mulanbu
14, bular bular dinna mummi 19, bula bula dinna mulanbu
15, mulanbu dinna 20, bularin dinna

Here "bularin dinna" means "belonging to the two feet"; that is, ten toes—assuming that the ten fingers are counted before we begin with the toes; so that eleven is one of the toes added on (to ten fingers); fifteen is five toes added on; eighteen is three and five toes added on.

IV.—Kogai—Spoken Westward of the Balonne

Black fellow murdia
Father yabunu
Mother yaranu
Son andu
Daughter burgal
Grandson yambiru
My yuddu
Dog murrun
Honey ubba
Opossum duzur


1. A Corroboree in Kamilaroi sung in 1854, on the Mooni ponds:

"Diza diza burula, murriza dibbura."

Supposed meaning: Wild dogs, wild dogs in plenty, black fellows spearing them.

2. A Corroboree in Kamilaroi sung in 1871, near Bulerawa, Namoi:

"Bukumulle mullimulli, dubnzer wine."
Skinning ghost, double up let fall.

i.e. the ghost was skinning him, and doubled up, and let him fall.

3. Phrases spoken on the Barwon:

My friend zai dhurudi
You and I hate one another thal (or dhal) mda wima bulanbarana
'Tis only lies yeal gunial
Truth giru
My own zaii guizun
The water runs over the stones kolle bunagilla yarula
I shall be there by the day mentioned yerala zaia zerma dharali zurri
Where he is I do not know. I was not there this morning, I think he is at the camp zerma zuriluna kamil zaia zerma warizene; wollai ya zurrilona

4. Phrases in Wailwun:

I think winuzunni
I love you kurridu yinunduz inda
I hate you zadunu gumallago
I do not like you wail du zinunda zinda
Murrai is angry with Ippai, and threatens to fight him Murrai Ippai gulgai maii kumulla gurri
Ippai and Murrai are good friends Ippai Murrai bobambon
You are my love za zinda gulerdal
He is a bad man, have nothing to do with him gun murruba, wonna guma
I hope yaia barabal daraoela


2. Social Classification, and Laws of Marriage and Descent.

Over a large portion of this colony and Queensland, and probably with some variations in all parts of Australia, there prevails a system of classification, including every one of the people from birth, which is made the foundation of certain rules of marriage. In districts where different names are used similar rules prevail.

On the Namoi and Barwon, and a great distance to the north and south, the classes are: 1. Ippai and Ippatha; 2. Murri and Mahta; 3. Kumbo and Butha; 4. Kubbi and Kubbotha. In some families all the sons are Kumbo, the daughters Butha; in the remaining families, all the sons are Kubbi, the daughters Kubbotha.

In the use of the consonants, the aborigines change their mute middle consonants and aspirates. Thus "ippai" is sometimes sounded "ibbai"; and the name of Ippai's sister is pronounced "ibbata", "ippata", and "ippatha". Then the vowels a and u are interchanged, as some English people pronounce servant 'servunt". Thus, the name of Kubbi's sister is pronounced "kapota", "kupota", "kapothat", and 'kubbothat" and Murri's sister is "Mata" or "Matha", Kumbo's is 'Buta" or 'Butha". There is no variation in the pronunciation of Murri, Kumbo, or Kubbi, although in other words p is softened into b, and k into g. I write the names according to what seemed to me the most common mode of pronouncing them among their own people. As a general rule, the children of Ippai are Murri and Matha; the children of Murrai are Ippai and Ippatha; the children of Kumbo are Kubbi and Kubbotha; those of Kubbi are Kumbo and Butha. And generally Ippai marries Kubbotha, Murri marries Butha, Kumbo marries Matha, and Kubbi marries Ippatha.

But there are exceptions for when Ippai marries Ippatha, their children are Kumbo and Butha: when a Kumbo marries a Butha, their children are Ippai and Ippatha. This apparent exception shows that the mother's name, and not the father's, determines the names of the children. Thus, Ippai's children are Murri and Matha or Kumbo and Butha; but Ippatha's children are always Kumbo and Butha; whether she is married to Kubbi or Ippai, and Butha's children are always Ippai and Ippatha, whether she marries Murri or Kumbo.

A subdivision of the four classes, which was explained to me during my late journey, illustrates this principle of the mother's name determining those of the children, and also shows how an Ippai may, within certain limits, marry an Ippatha without danger of being guilty of incest. And though the polygamy [p.264] allowed by their law displays, to our judgment, a want of moral sense, the aborigines are undoubtedly very zealous for purity as they define it.

The four classes are subdivided into ten: that is, two subdivisions of Murri, two of Kumbo, three of Ippai, and three of Kubbi. In some places it is affirmed that the Ippai are the highest class; in other places Kumbo; but those who seemed to me most reliable witnesses stated that the order was; 1st, Murri; 2nd, Kumbo; 3rd, Ippai; and 4th, Kubbi. The Murrie bear a name almost identical with that of the nation, Murri. This title "Murri", seems allied to "murra" great or good; with the suffix  "-ba|," it is always "murrubal", good. A conviction of their own excellence may have led these people to call themselves Murri, as the Hindus call themselves Aryan. The resemblance of the class name to that of the nation, and to the word signifying great and also good, supports the assertion made by a half-caste of great intelligence who had been brought up with the blacks, that the Murri are the first of four classes.

Here are the ten subdivisions of the four class:

1. Murri and Matha duli, or tuli (iguana).
2. Murri and Matha murriira (paddy-melon).
3. Kumbo and Butha dinoun (emu).
4. Kumbo and Butha nurai (black snake).
5. Ippai and Ippatha dinoun (emu).
6. Ippai and Ippatha nurai (black snake).
7. Ippai and Ippatha bilba (bandicoot).
8. Kubbi and Kubbotha mute (opossum).
9. Kubbi and Kubbotha duli (iguana).
10. Kubbi and Kubbotha murriira (paddy-melon).

Ten rules of marriages are founded on this classification.

1. Murri duli marries Matha murriira, or any Butha.
2. Murri murriira marries Matha duli, or any Butha.
3. Kumbo dinoun marries Butha nurai, or any Matha.
4. Kumbo nurai marries Butha dinoun, or any Matha.
5. Ippai dinoun marries Ippatha nurai, or Kubbotha duli, or Kubbotha murriira.
6. Ippai nurai marries Ippatha dinoun, or Kubbotha mute.
7. Ippai bilba marries Ippatha nurai, or Kubbotha murriira.
8. Kubbi mute marries Kubbotha duli, or Ippatha dinoun.
9. Kubbi duli marries Kubbotha murriira, or Ippatha bilba.
10. Kubbi murriira marries Kubbotha duli, or Ippatha nurai.

"Guler" signifies spouse, either husband or wife.

Five rules comprise the laws of descent. In all these it is the mother's name that determines those of the children.

1. The second name of the sons and daughters is always the same as the mother's. Thus, if the mother is a dinoun, all her [p.265] children are dinoun; if a mother is murriira, all her children are murriira. It follows that whatever animal's name a man now bears has been the name of his mother, grand-mother, great-grandmother, and upwards, of the mothers in all generations. So, if a woman is a duli, all her descendants to the end of the world must be duli, whether male or female.
2. The children of Matha are Kubbi and Kubbotha.
3. The children of Butha are Ippai and Ippatha.
4. The children of Ippatha are Kumbo and Butha.
5. The children of Kubbotha are Murri and Matha.

These rules, founded on the mother's names and subdivisions, explain all the apparent exceptions which came up when an attempt was made to discover rules of descent founded on the father's names. This system seems to combine something like caste with communistic equality. Murri is of the highest class; but his son is either Ippai of the third (if his mother is Butha), or Kubbi of the lowest (if his mother is Matha). Kubbi is of the lowest rank; but if he marries a Kubbotha his sons will be in the highest.

On the Narron, the next river to the westward of the Barwon, there are three subdivisions of Murri; M. duli, M. mute, and M. maierei (paddy-melon); and only two of Kubi; K. duli and K. maierei. There are also three of Kumbo; K. bundar (kangaroo), K. nurai, and K. kuzuzalu (bandicoot); and only two of Ippai, I. bundar and I. nurai.

On the Upper Namoi the names of Murri bundar are found together, and for murriira they use "maiera".

Among the Wailwun tribes, below the junction of the Namoi and Barwon, there are four subdivisions of Murri: M. murriira, M. mute, M. guru (bandicoot), and M. duli; four of Kubbi with the same animal's names as the Murri; three of Kumbo, and three of Ippai, each class having the same dinoun, nurai, and bundar. In other parts of the country, about the Balonne, the Kumbos are dinoun and burrowen (a wombat); the Ippais are bundar and nurai; the Murris are mute and maieri; and the Kubbis are maieri, mute, duli, and gulu (bandicoot). Among the Pikumbul blacks on the Macintyre, the Ippai are divided into I. dinoun, nurai, and yuluma.

Among the Kogai speaking blacks on the west of the Balonne, the class names are wuzgo, wuzgogun for Murri and Matha; Unburri and Unburrigun for Kumbo and butha; Urgilla and Urgillagun for Ippai and Ippatha; Obur and Oburgun for Kubbi and Kubbatha. Between Moreton Bay and Wide Bay in Queensland, the names are Baraz and Barazgun; Bundar and Bundarun; Bandur Bandurun; Derwain and Derwaizgun.

Brothers and sisters speak of one another by titles that indic- [p.266] cate relative age; that is, their words for brother and sister always involve the distinction of elder or younger. In Kamilaroi "daiadi" is elder brother, "gullami" younger brother; "boadi" is elder sister, "buri" younger sister. So that in a family of seven brothers the eldest has no daiadi, but he as six gullami; the youngest has no gullami, but six daiadi; the third has two daiadi and four gullami, and so on. Of seven sisters the eldest has no boadi, but six buri; the youngest has no buri, but six boadi; the fourth has three boadi and three buri. In Kogai, "Tagundilla" is elder brother, "miandilla" younger brother; "munzunnu" is elder sister, "babunnu" younger sister. Higher up the Namoi, the name for younger brother is kolami, and those signifying elder and younger sister are bukandi and boriandi.

This system of relationship comprises, as I was informed by Rev. Lorimar Fison, Wesleyan Missionary in Fiji, to whom I shewed it with a view to obtain his judgment on the subject, all the eight characteristics of the Tamil system, which has been established among the Tamil tribes of Hindustan, the Fijians, and some of the North American tribes. For to take examples, Murri and Matha; (1.) Murri's brothers' children are generally Ippai and Ippatha, like his own; while his sister's children are always Kubbi and Kubbotha. (2.) Matha's sisters' children are always Kubbi and Kubbotha, like her own; while her brothers' children are Ippai and Ippatha. (3.) Murri's father is Ippai, so are all his father's brothers; but his father's sisters are Ippatha, they are aunts not mothers. (4.) Murri's mother's sister are Kubbotha, like his mother; his mother's brothers are Kubbi. (5.) Murri's father's brothers' children are all Murri and Matha, his brothers and sisters, so are his brothers' sisters' children all Murri and Matha; but his father's sisters children are Kumbo and Butha, and his mother's brothers' children are also Kumbo and Butha. (6.) The children of Murri's cousins, Murri and Butha, are all Ippai and Ippatha, like his own children; the children of his cousins, Matha and Kumbo, are all Kubbi and Kubbotha. (7.) The brothers of Murri's paternal grandfather, Murri, are all Murri; and those of his maternal grandfather, Kumbo, are all Kumbo. The sisters of his paternal grandmother, Butha, are all Butha; those of his maternal grandmother, Matha, are all Matha. (8.) Brothers and sisters, when named as such, are always distinguished as elder or younger, there being no word signifying merely brother or sister, and equally applicable to elder and younger members of the family.

It will be seen that the above rules of descent and marriage prevent the intermarriage of near relations. They prohibit [p.267] marriage with a sister, half-sister, aunt or niece. They also prohibit marriage between first cousins, children of two brothers or of sisters. But when first cousins are the children of a brother or a sister respectively, the law does not prevent their union.

Any breach of these laws incurs sentence of death, or of exposure to an ordeal that may end in death. A few weeks ago, as I was informed by Mr. Neale of Sydney, at Bundabarina, while he was at the Narrau, two young black fellows had been found guilty of taking to themselves women within the prohibited classes. As the women had been consented to this breach of the laws, they as well as the young men were condemned by the tribe to die. But an aboriginal known by the name of Peter, who had acquired, by the boldness with which he assumed authority, great influence over all the tribes in that part of the country, knowing that these two young men were useful servants to the squatters and wishing to render a good turn to his white neighbours, resolved to save their lives, and came forward as their champion. He had to stand before a shower of spears from the men of the tribe. While he was defending himself, the young men skulked off, but the women remained and helped him by picking up the spears, which he broke in pieces. He remained exposed to the spears till the tribe were satisfied that justice demanded no more, and then told the young men who deserted him, that if they offended again he would leave them to their doom.

The following words are used for relatives: "zumba," mother; "zumbadi," mother's sister; "kurugi" uncle; "kurugandi" nephew; "pamandi" uncle's wife; "wurrume" son; "yamur" daughter; "boanmundi" grandson; K.'s mother's sister's son is to K. "daiadi" or "gulami"; K.'s mother's sister's daughter is to K. "bukandi" or "boriandi."

The above rules fix two names on every person from birth. It is common to have a third name. Here are some examples: an Ippai nurai is called "kurai bruddhin muniye" (duck's feather}; a woman Ippatha, is known as "yadai yunderi" (opossum cloak); another woman is called "bungul" (short); another Ippai is "yuggai wilai" (a kind of snake); a Wirathere speaking man is called "Taratulu" (speared in the shoulder); his son is "Yippumenele" (an eagle looking all round). Another man is called "Thugerwun" (turtle). The aborigines also give distinctive names, generally derived from some personal peculiarity, to the white people with whom they are familiar. Thus, the gentleman who told me the above names is himself called "Dungumbir" (the rain maker), a complimentary recognition of his cleverness in meeting an emergency. Another squatter is called [p.268] "wolum biddi" (large head), and another is known as "Tarunderai" (great legs and arms). A black on the Namoi, Kumbo dinoun, known to the whites as Billy, is distinguished by the name "Bunberuge," signifying that his leg was once broken by a fall from a horse. Billy Murri Bundar of Burburgate, is called "zumera gunaga," from the place where his father was buried. He says every Murri is named from his father's burial place.

Law as to Childbirth.—Women are strictly secluded at the time of childbirth, and for six weeks afterwards. An old gin is appointed to attend the mother in her confinement. At the end of the time of seclusion, this old gin burns every vessel that has been used by the secluded woman; and in some parts of the country also burns off part of her hair. During the monthly illness, the woman is not allowed to touch anything that men use, or even to walk on a path that any man frequents, on pain of death.

Law of Retaliation.—If one man kills another maliciously and unfairly, an obligation rests on the men of the same class as the murdered man to kill one of the class to which the murderer belongs. Thus, if a Kubbi murriira kills an Ippai dinoun, some Ippai dinoun must satisfy justice (as understood by the Murri) by killing a Kubbi murriira.

3.—Religious and Mythical Traditions.

In every part of Australia where I have conversed with the aborigines, they have a traditional belief in one Supreme Creator. It seems strange to those who are at all familiar with the thoughts of these people, that in such standard works as the "Encyclopædia Britannica" the statement should be repeated, even in late editions, that the aborigines of Australia have no notion of any beings superior to themselves. The fact is, they believe in many unseen spirits, some benevolent and some mischievous, departed spirits of dead men, and demons of forest, lake, river, and mountain, and they also believe in one Supreme God. The Kamilaroi and the Wailwun blacks call him Baiame, sometimes Paiame or Paiome. On the Macintyre, the main tributary of the Barwon, the name of the deity is Anambu, and in the neighbourhood also Minnumbu. In Queensland, the word Mumbal or Mumba (thunder) is used as the name of Him who thunders, who also made all things. In the southern part of this colony, at Twofold Bay, the name Dhurumbulum, which signifies on the Namoi a sacred staff originally given by Baiame, is used as the title of Deity.

The common answer to intelligent black fellows on the Namoi or Barwon, when asked if they know Baiame—an answer [p.269] that was made to me some eighteen years ago, and again by a man to whom I had never before spoken a few weeks ago—is this: "Kamil zaia zummi Baiame, zaia winuzgulda" (I have not seen Baiame; I have heard, or perceived, him). If asked who made the sky, the earth, the animals, and man, they always answer "Baiame". Some avow the belief that when good men die their souls go up to Heaven or Baiame, while the bad when they die cease to exist. Some say that all, good and bad, go up to Heaven. Others say that human beings, on dying, pass into the form of the turuwun, a little bird with a very cheerful note.

"Wunda" signifies ghost or spirit. They believe in many wunda, and when white men appeared they called them "wunda". In all parts of Eastern Australia the word previously used for ghost was applied to white men. With the belief in dangerous ghosts, they have faith in the power of incantation to protect themselves against ghosts. I have seen a pantomime kept up all night by a party of black fellows, adorned with red, yellow and white clay, marching, dancing, and beating the air, while women beat time and sing over and over with some of the men,

"Yuru thari ze, yuru thari ze,
        Dula raza burula, yuru thari ze."

And the purpose of this night's ceremony was said to be to drive away the spirits of the dead.

More of their religious ideas will be found in the following description of the Bora, funeral rites, and legends of the stars.

The Bora.—The Bora is the ceremony of admitting young men to the privileges of manhood. It involves the idea of dedication to God. When I asked old Billy Murri Bundar if they worshipped Baiame at the Bora, he replied, "Of course they do; it is held on his ground; it is always near where black fellows are buried." This answer evidently showed that to the minds of the aborigines the burial-ground and the place set apart for the initiation of young men are consecrated to the Deity. And the concluding part of the ceremony, as will be seen, confirms this view.

When a sufficient number of young men have arrived at an age to claim admission into the rank of adults, if the season is good—that is, if there is an abundance of animal food, fruits, and the herb crowsfoot—the blacks over a large extent of country, sometimes including tribes which at other times are separate and hostile, elect a dictator to manage their Bora. Sometimes one succeeds his brother in this office. This leader then selects a fit piece of ground, fixes the time for the beginning of the ceremony (always at the full moon), and then sends [p.270] a messenger round to all the tribes included in the Bora, to give notice of the time and place of meeting. This herald bears in his hand a boomerang and a spear with the skin of a murriira (paddy-melon) fastened to it. All who are summoned must attend. "If it is a hundred miles off," said Billy Murri Bundar to me, "a man must go. It is this way," he added, "all over country, and will be kept up always, I believe." Billy's faith in the perpetuity of the Bora was derived from his idea of its origin. For he assured me that Baiame at first ordered them to keep the Bora and gave them the Dhurumbulum, or sacred staff, which is exhibited at the close of the service.

The notice is given from three weeks to three months before the opening of the Bora, according to the extent over which those summoned to it reside, and other circumstances. During the interval, the leader and other men prepare the ground, making a semi-circular embankment about it, clearing off the the underwood, and marking on the tree figures of birds, snakes, etc. At the appointed time the men all leave the their camps, where the women and boys remain, and assembled at the bora-ground. There they assist in completing the arrangements. When all is ready, some of the men go to the camp where the women and youths are left, and pretend that an enemy is coming to attack them. Upon this the women run away; and the young men and boys, from about thirteen years of age and upwards, accompany the men to the Bora. There a great fire is lighted up, around which the men dance night and day. There is no singing, as at a Corroboree, only dancing and beating time. The old men are blackened with charcoal, over which various figures are made with white clay. Some of them wear horns. The old men explain to the novices the meaning of the marks on the trees. The dancing and other performances continue three weeks. Towards the end of the time, as I was informed by old Billy with an air of great confidence and solemnity, the sacred wand, "dhurumbulum", the gift of the deity, is produced before the awe-struck eyes of the novices in whose presence the old men perform various motions with it. The sight of this sacred symbol confers the privileges of manhood. No woman has ever seen it; and no boy is ever allowed to see it until he has passed through the earlier stages of the Bora.

Formerly they used to knock out one of the front teeth of the young men. This custom has been abandoned, one good fruit of their acquaintance with civilised men. It would be difficult to find out any other improvement derived from their intercourse with the Europeans. They strenuously deny that they or their fathers ever practised a custom that has been ascribed to them by their detractors, of compelling the young men, on [p.271] their initiation, to eat excrement. This report has been repeated to me by several; but I never met any one, black or white, who said that he had seen it done.

When the men have finished their performance, the initiated youths are taken to a camp by themselves, where they stand in smoke, and afterwards lie down and continue many days without food. Altogether, the process of making men occupies two months. During the fast, the men who cover up the youths keep watch over them, and probably supply them with nourishment enough to keep them alive. But they are made to suffer severely, and come back from the Bora much reduced.

They are very jealous lest women or strangers should intrude upon their sacred mysteries. It is death for a woman to look into a Bora; and even when old King Rory began, in Mr. Sparke's kitchen, to speak about the Bora, Bungul, a young woman of his tribe, who had been listening to all he said on other subjects, instantly slunk away lest she should incur the guilt of hearing about the Bora.

As soon as the appointed time for concluding the fast is come, the youths, who were "birribirai", are recognised as "kubora", and after a time become "borba" (full men). They may then take wives in accordance with the marriage law, and eat turkey bustard, codfish, female opossum, and honey, not one of which may be touched by birribirai or unmarried women. Male opossum and jewfish are the food of the uninitiated. Married women, like men, may eat anything.

Funeral Rites.—As soon as the death of an aboriginal is known, the tribe unite in a loud and most melancholy wail. The next day in some cases, after two or three days in others, they bury the dead body either in a hollow tree or in the ground. A chief, a venerated father, or a loved friend, is put into a hollow tree. Men of less consequence, and all women, are buried in the ground. They make coffins of bark and sometimes the ornaments and appendages of these stretch out its length to thirteen feet. As they lower the body into its resting-place they utter a loud "whirr", which is assumed to be the rushing sound made by the departing spirit in its ascent to Heaven. When the bodies are buried in the ground, a hole is dug deep enough for them to be put upright on their feet, and to have an empty space above them, which is covered in with some wood so that nothing may touch the head of the deceased. The earth is carefully pressed down over the wooden roof of this tomb and a mound is raised over it. They are very careful in keeping these mounds; and in their cemeteries, as may be seen in engravings in Sir Thomas Mitchell's narrative of his journeys to [p.272] the North-West, an appearance of order and decorum is preserved.

Their lamentations for the dead are sometimes continued for five months, and even more. During this time the women of the tribe are plastered over with light mud, and often cut their heads with tomahawks. I have seen the blood running down from the head of a woman, from four or five deep gashes over the white mud. The grief which they express by these remarkable artificial tokens is, in some cases at least, manifestly very deep. I saw, for instance, at Walgett, a young man whose wife was dying in consequence of having been severely burnt, and the tears that poured down his cheeks, the anxiety and grief expressed in his countenance and every act, were such as could not be counterfeit. Generally, perhaps the strongest natural affection they exhibit is that of parents for their children. Brothers and sisters also manifest in some cases great concern for one another. After a burial they often make many little fires about the place with leaves and boughs. At one place I was told that this was designed to drive away troublesome spirits from the living; but King Rory described it as a sacrifice for the benefit of the dead. A black fellow of doubtful character according to their code of morals, having died, his sister was for some time after the burial occupied in going all round about lighting fires, and thus, as Rory believed, "make him go up good."

Here is another of Rory's tales about the dead. A black fellow died on the Barwon, below the township of Bourke. He was buried in the ground. Two days after that a bad black fellow, named Tommy Tommy, with the help of some others, took up the body and skinned it. Tommy Tommy keeps the skin and a bone, with which he believes he can kill anyone. Rory regards the conduct of Tommy Tommy as infamous. He never heard of such outrage before.

The Krodjis and their Enchantments.—There are magicians, called by some Krodjis, but by the Murri in this quarter Dhurunmi. These men pretend to have power to throw stones so that they will go inside the bodies of those they desire to punish, and cause them to sicken and die. They also pretend to suck out stones out of the bodies of the sick, and thus to restore them. When any of their people are ill, the common mode of seeking cure is to kneel down and suck a limb or side of the sick. After doing this for some time, the dhurunmi produces some stones, and declares that he has drawn them out of the patient and so procured a return to health. The young men and women regard the dhurunmi with great awe; and the fear lest, if they break their laws, the dhurunmi will inflict plagues [p.273] on them has at times a salutary effect. The office of dhurunmi is hereditary.

Recollections of Billy Murri Bundar.—Billy is an old black fellow at Burburgate. His father was Ippai Mute, and lived at Wundula, near the Mukai. Wagura was chief of the Wandula tribe; he was a leader in fights, and made laws when he chose. Billy cannot tell how he was appointed chief.

When Billy was a boy, a Burburgate black fellow, Charley, was killed by one of the Wee Waa tribe, some seventy miles lower down the Namoi. Upon this being known, a man known as Guzguela (charcoal), with the class names Murri Ganur (red kangaroo), summoned the men of Burburgate to go and take vengeance on the guilty tribe. An old man called by the whites Natty (whose proper names are Yawirawiri Murri Ganur) was one of the leaders. The warriors were painted red and yellow. They were armed with spears and shields, with boomerangs, bandi and berambi (two kinds of clubs). They met near where the bridge now is, about halfway between Burburgate and Wee Waa, and, after great talk, fought till many were killed.

Traditions concerning the Stars.—Most of the information under this head was obtained from the chief of the Gingi tribe, Ippai Dinooun, called by the white people King Rory. He wears his title on a brass plate presented to him by E.J. Sparke, Esq., the owner of Gingi. King Rory is an elderly man, probably about sixty, tall, muscular, and well formed, intelligent and agreeable in his manner. I spent the 10th of July at Gingi, met Rory in the morning, and, after conversing on other subjects, got him to promise to come up in the evening and tell me about the stars.

The evening was beautifully clear. Three planets were visible; Venus, Zindigindoer (at Gundamine, on the Namoi Venus is called Boian-gummer; higher up it is Gunu); Mars, Gumba (fat); Saturn, Wuzgul (a small bird). The Milky-way is called Worambul (a common word, generally spelt by the colonists warrambool), a watercourse, with a grove, abounding in food, flowers, fruit, and all that is desirable. To this Worambul the souls of the good ascend when their bodies are committed to the grave, and they are supposed to be cognisant to some extent of what takes place on earth, and even to have power to help their fellow men below when invoked. For when Mr. Sparke had promised King Rory to take to the races if the rain ceased, and the continuance of rain threatened to disappoint Rory's hopes, he appealed to his departed friends in the Milky-way, by cutting pieces of bark here and there and throw- [p.274] ing them on the ground and crying "pu-a pu-a", until the black fellows above put a stop to the rain, and so enabled him to go to the races. This mode of obtaining fine weather he says he learnt from his fathers.

The Southern Cross is called Zuu (a shrub called by our colonists tea-tree), the dark space at the foot of the cross is called gao-ergi (emu)—bird is sitting under the tree. The two bright stars α and β Centauri, pointing to the cross are Murrai (cockatoos). The Magellan Clouds are two buralga (native companions). Canopus is Wumba (stupid or deaf); it seems strange that the star which the Arabs regard as the eye of the Divine Majesty should be thus designated; but perhaps the very beauty of the star, tempting the people to invoke aid which was not granted, provoked them to call the charmer who would not listen to their entreaties by this reproachful name. The star is fair to the sight, but "wumba" to the prayers of the Murri. Antares is Guddar (a lizard). In the tail of the Scorpion, two bright stars across the Milky-way are called gigeriga (small green parrots). The long dark space between two branches of the Milky-way near Scorpio, is called Wurrawilburu (demon). The S-shaped line of stars between the Northern Cross and Scorpio is called Mundewur, i.e., notches cut in a spiral form on the trunk of a tree to enable a black fellow to climb up. The chief star in the Peacock is called Murgu (night cuckoo). Corona, the four stars, are called Bundar (a kangaroo); Fomalhaut—Gani (a small iguana); Spica virginis—Gurie (a small crested parrot); the Pleiades are called Gindemar; higher up the river, at Burburgate, this constellation is called Dindima (woman), and the Hyades Giwir (man).

Sirius is called Zazari at Burburgate; Arcturus—Guembila, also Guebilla (bright red); the Northern Crown—Mullion Wollai (eagles' camp or nest), when this constellation, which is more like a nest than a crown, is about due north on the meridian. Altair, the chief star in Aquilla, rises, and is called Mullion-ga (an eagle in action)—it is springing up to watch the nest. Shortly afterwards her more majestic mate, Vega, springs up, and is also called Mullion-ga. The whole vision of the nest, and the royal birds springing up to guard their young, is worthy of a place among the ancient myths of astronomy.

Benetnasch, which is visible in Sydney for a few weeks, and the next star in the tail of the Great Bear, which also appears in the latitude of Gingi, about 30°, both shone out clearly over the plane. These stars appear to us only in May, June, and July, when they rise about NNE, and set NNW, never soaring to the eyes of the people here above the trees, but flying along near [p.275] the ground, their bright eyes peering into the grass and shrubs. Most appropriately, they are called Zuz-gu, the owls.

The above report comprises the information obtained during my recent journey to the Barwon. From various quarters I expect further information concerning the languages and traditions of the aborigines, which I hope to forward to you in due time.


No. II

To the Honourable the Colonial Secretary of New South Wales.

SIR,I have the honour to return, with thanks, the manuscript Vocabulary and Grammar of the Wirradhurri Language, by the Rev. James Gunther; the Vocabulary and Grammar, in two manuscript volumes, by the late Rev. James Watson; and the report of the Select Committee of the Legislative Council of Victoria, 1858, on the Aborigines. For transmission with these, as further illustrations of the divers languages of Australia, I also send you copies of the Rev. L.E. Threlkeld's "Australian Grammar" and "Key to the Structure of the Aboriginal Language", and of the "Language of the Aborigines of the Colony of Victoria", by Daniel Bunce, Esq., Geelong. Mr. Threlkeld's works are not now to be purchased. As a sacred duty to his memory—that the fruit of his long and earnest labours among the aborigines may not be overlooked in the new and comprehensive efforts now made to collect all that can be known of the Australian race—I send the only copy at my command, the gift of the author. When the object for which this volume of Mr. Threlkeld's is sent has been accomplished, I shall, therefore, be glad to have it returned to me.

These works of the Rev. Messrs. Gunther, Watson, and Threlkeld, will, I believe, be regarded by comparative philologists as most valuable contributions to the materials of their science. Mr. Gunther's and Mr. Watson's treat of the same language, the Wiradhurri, or, as some aborigines pronounce it, Wiragere, a language spoken over a wide extent of country, from the Upper Namoi, the Castlereagh and Liverpool Plains in the north and east, to the Bawun or Darling west, and the Lachlan in the south. Many of its words are like those those of the Kamilaroi, which adjoins it on the north. Like Kamilaroi, Wolaroi, Wailwun, and many other languages in that part of Australia, it is named after the negative "wirrai", variously pronounced "wirai" and "wurrai", signifying no. Mr. Watson's [p.276] manuscript shows that he entered on the work with the hope of making a much more comprehensive collection of words than he succeeded in getting. So has it been with all who have devoted  themselves to the work of obtaining a transcript of the mind and language of the Australian aborigines. The fragmentary character of such works is traceable to the fact that, in all instances, the study of the aboriginal languages has been among tribes already surrounded by the fatal influences of European "civilisation", including vices and diseases before unknown to them; so that before the missionary has had opportunity to complete his philological researches, the ancient spirit and character of the race have faded, and few surviving aborigines who acquire the use of the English tongue and some of the habits of our race, can give us but an imperfect acquaintance with the language and thoughts of their fathers. To those who know anything of the difficulties of the work, the amount of information furnished by Messrs. Watson and Gunther concerning the grammatical structure of the language, especially the modifications of the verbs and pronouns, is remarkable. Mr. Watson's manuscript includes dialogues illustrative of the modes of  thought and expression in use among the aborigines. Threlkeld's work treats of the dialect spoken in the neighbourhood of the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie; that is, the right bank of the Hunter for some twenty or thirty miles inland. I suppose this "Northumberland dialect" was not spoken over more than one-fiftieth of the extent of country over which Wiradhuri or Kamilaroi is known. But Mr. Threlkeld succeeded in forming a more complete view of that language than we have of any other. And the peculiar characteristics of the Northumberland dialect, abundant affixes, the minute modifications of the verbal and pronouns, and other forms, which Mr. Threlkeld has elaborately illustrated, have their counterparts in all the Australian languages. From these three works, and other sources, as undermentioned, are derived the following statements concerning the traditions and languages of the aborigines.

1. Traditions, Religious and Historic.

Mr. Gunther says, as the result of several years' converse with these people: "There is no doubt in my mind that the name 'Baiami' refers to the Supreme Being; and the ideas concerning Him by some of the more thoughtful aborigines are a remnant of the original traditions prevalent among the ancients about the Deity." He also says that he found in what they said to him concerning Baiamai "traces of the three attributes of the God of the Bible; viz. eternity, omnipotence, and goodness." Also, that "the idea of a future state of existence is not quite extinct [p.277] among the aborigines; although some of them speak like infidels, and will hear of no hereafter." He mentions the belief avowed by some, that "good natives will go to Baiamai when they die."1 In my former report I have made similar statements of what I heard Kamilaroi blacks say concerning Baiame.

As an illustration of the capacity of the Australian aborigines to apprehend spiritual truth, Mr. Gunther told me that an aboriginal whom he had taught to read English was once reading aloud to him the eighth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, when suddenly he looked up from the book and said, "Mr. Gunther, do you think I am walking after the flesh, or after the spirit?" The minister explained to him the meaning of the two expressions. "Then," said the man with a sigh, "I fear I am still walking after the flesh." The aboriginal who thus gave evidence of the exercise of self-judgment continued to the end of his life a devout and practical Christian.

The Author of "Remarks on the Probable Origin and Antiquity of the Aboriginal Natives of New South Wales," by a Colonial Magistrate, Melbourne; published by J. Pullar and Co., Collins Street, says: "The Murray (river) natives believe in a being with supreme attributes, whom they call Nourelle. He lives in the sky, and is surrounded by children born without the intervention of a mother. Nourelle never dies; and black fellows go to Him, and never die again." According to the same writer: "The natives of Western Australia say that when men first began to exist there were two beings, male and female, 'Wallynyup,' the father; and 'Dovanyup,' the mother; that they had a son named 'Bindinwor,' who received a deadly wound which they carefully endeavoured to heal, but without success; whereupon it was declared that Wallynyup should also die, as his son had died. If Bindinwor's wound could have been healed, the natives think death could have had no power over them. Bindinwor, though deprived of life and buried, did not remain in the grave; but rose up and went up to the west, across the sea, to the unknown land of spirits, whither his father and mother followed him, and there they have ever since remained."

"The natives of the Loddon river have a tradition of a being [p.278] possessing some of the attributes of supreme power, to whom they assign the creation of the first man and woman; the name of this being is 'Binbeal.' He made all things. He subjects the spirits of deceased persons to the ordeal of fire, to try them whether good or bad; the good being at once liberated, while the bad are left to suffer for an indeterminate period. They also imagine that the souls of some persons pass into the bodies of certain beasts." This writer also speaks of a being named "Bonjil" or "Pundyil", supposed to have lived at the falls of Lallal, on the Marrabool river, in former days; he is said now to be in the sky. The planet Jupiter is his fire, and also is called 'Pundyil'. At Western Port in Victoria, it  was said that at the creation a number of young men, in an unfinished state, were sitting on the ground in darkness; when "Pundyil", an old man, at the request of his good daughter, "Karakarok, held up his hand to Gerer" (the sun), who then warmed the earth, and made it open like a door. Then the light came. And Pundyil, seeing the earth to be full of serpents, gave his kind daughter, Karakarok, a long staff, with which she went everywhere destroying serpents. Unfortunately, as it seems, her staff broke before she had killed them all; but, as the staff snapped in two, fire came out of it, and thus great good was derived from apparent evil. The people joyfully cooked their food; but "Wang", a mysterious being in the shape of a crow, flew away with their fire, and left them in a pitiable state. Karakarok, however, restored the fire, which was never again lost.

In the year 1858, a Select Committee of the Legislative Council of Victoria took evidence, and drew up a report on the Aborigines. Most of the witnesses examined before it gave it as their opinion that the aborigines had no religious ideas. Some said they believed only in an evil spirit, or a great being who displayed his anger in thunder. But Mr. Beveridge (see p. 70 of the Report and Evidence) said: "Thy believe in one all-presiding good  spirit"; and he gives the name of this good spirit as Gnowdenont. He said also (p. 71): "They have an idea of a very wicked spirit named 'Gnambucootchaly'". Mr. J.M. Allan said: "They believe in the existence of evil spirits, whom they seek to propitiate by offerings. Water spirits are called 'turong'; land spirits 'potkoorok'; another is 'tambora', inhabiting caves. These they suppose to be females without heads."

Mr. Beveridge says: "They have a name and legend for every planet and constellation visible in the heavens." Mr. Allan says: "The sun (yarh)  and moon (unung) they suppose to be spirits. 'Whychurl' is their name for a star. They are much afraid of [p.279] thunder and lightning, calling the former 'murndell'". Mr. Thomas says: "They have a name for the heavenly bodies. They have distinction of stars. Some of them they maintain were once black fellows, who for certain good acts were taken to heaven and made stars of." Mr. McKellar also (p. 79) says: "They do, according to their manner, worship the hosts of heaven, and believe particular constellations rule natural causes. For such they have names, and sing and dance to gain the favour of the Pleiades (Mormodellick), the constellation worshipped by one body as the giver of rain; but if it should be deferred, instead of blessings curses are apt to be bestowed upon it. They believe in the magical powers which crafty and gifted men among them attribute to themselves. Flying, the power of invisibility, and of causing death by supernatural means, such individuals are by the majority supposed to have; and the tales told of the deeds done by them exceed in wonder an Arab tale."

Not only do the witnesses examined by the Select Committee differ in their testimony as to the faith of the aborigines in a supreme being; but even Mr. Threlkeld, after his close study of the people and their language, says nothing of such a faith as Mr. Gunther recognises. In illustration of this remarkable difference, it should be observed that Mr. Threlkeld's mission was on the coast, and Mr. Gunther's two hundred miles inland, and westward of the dividing range. I have found the blacks of the interior generally more intelligent and mild than those near the coast. At Moreton Bay, although I was told that the name "Mumbal" (thunder) was used as the name of the Supreme, I could not gather from the aborigines any such distinct tradition as that of the Kamilaroi tribes, concerning Baiaime. Whether, as is said by the tribes in the north west of Australia, the worst part of the people were driven eastward and southward (a tradition confirmed to me on the Barwun, by King Rory of Gingi), and so the most depraved of all settled on the eastern and southern coasts; or whether fish diet has a bad effect on those who depend on it, it is certain that the finest black fellows, physically, morally, and even religiously, are to be found westward of the dividing range.

Traditions of the North West Coast.—Andrew Hume, a prisoner in Darlinghurst Gaol, who affirms that he travelled in 1863 from the northern tributaries of the Darling to the western coast of Australia, related to me the following traditions. Hume has been severely cross-examined by persons acquainted with that part of the country over which he says he travelled, and they arrived at the conclusion, to which I have also come, from a comparison of the words he professes to have learnt from the aborigines with those known to me, that on the whole his statements may be relied on as containing, at all events, some [p.280] truth. I am sure no one who has spent much time among the aborigines would ascribe to them such words and ideas as those which Hume repeated to me, and which will be found in this report. Hue says he heard the blacks near the western coast telling these stories to one another and to him as they sat round their camp fires.

1. The first people who ever came to this land were four men and four women. These eight persons came in a canoe from the East. Before they reached this country they went to a very rich island, where they were not allowed by the inhabitants to remain. They then came on to the north western part of Australia. After they had been in this country some time, two of the women began to wish to return to their native land; when they expressed their wish, the men strongly opposed them. Having in vain sought the consent of their husbands, these women took the canoe secretly, and went out to sea by themselves. When their flight was discovered, one of the husbands prayed to his god to bring them back. The god, in compliance with his prayer, went after the women and threw stones first on one side of the canoe then on the other, to turn them back. Finding this did not deter them from pursuing their way, he grew angry and threw a large piece of rock down upon the canoe, which caused their death. The two men who had lost their wives in this manner were advised by their brothers to go back to their native land, and get new wives there. But the two widowers seeing that two of their brothers' daughters were now of marriageable age, carried them off contrary to law (a law strictly maintained to this day over the north western districts of New South Wales), and made them their wives. For this transgression, marrying their own nieces, they were driven southward into a cold country. There they sinned more and more; and as a further punishment, were driven into the central parts of the continent, where there was scarcely any water. The descendants of the two erring brothers had multiplied; but in that parched country, drought prevailing, many of them perished.

The righteous people, "inyaoa", who remained in the north west, were grieved for the misery of their kindred, and prayed that they might be forgiven. They were pardoned, and allowed to settle in peace all over the country. But because of their transgression they were not allowed to speak the same language as the righteous people. This was the origin of the division of languages. To this day the blacks of the north west call themselves "inyaoa" (the righteous), and all other Australian aborigines "karnivual" (bastards).

2. After some people had settled in this country, two brothers came from another land; one of them was good, the other bad. [p.281] The bad one conspired with some of the other people to drive out his good brother. But the good one resisted them, and in the conflict called on the fire god, Thilkuma, to help him. Thilkuma came down and burnt up a part of the army of evil doers; he then advised the good brother to go back and possess his own land in peace, promising to come at his call if any time he needed help against evil doers. But the man becoming greedy after his victory, despised this good counsel, and having persuaded others to join him, fought and killed any blacks, and took possession of their country. He was still continuing the fighting when he fell sick. In sleep the fire god appeared to him, and threatened to destroy him unless he desisted from killing men, but promised to protect him if he went back peaceably to his own country. Still he persisted in attacking his neighbours. They in their trouble cried to Whaigugan, their god who came to their help, and drove the invader back.

Then the people, to prevent future aggressions, fixed the boundaries of their respective territories by rocks, trees, rivers and mountains, And the rule was made that, if any strayed beyond their proper boundaries, they must go through the ordeal of having a certain number of spears thrown at them. If untouched by the spears, they were to be allowed to go away; if wounded, they were to be killed. From that time also, they made different marks on their breasts and arms to distinguish the tribes.

In one part of the country, Hume says the people believe in four deities, Munnuninuala, the chief god2 in the highest heaven; Thalizkiawun, his wife; Mulgianuz, her sister; and Munduala, also called Thilkuma, the fire god. This Munduala is the author of plagues and other penal visitations. When people die, they pass from one to another of these gods. The bad are consumed in the penal fires of Munduala; the good pass upward from one to another, until they reach Munnuninuala, and live with him in a land of peace and plenty.

These people call the bora, or ceremony of initiation into the privileges of manhood, "burgoin." The proceedings are much the same as those practised in Eastern Australia. But, instead of the sacred wand Dhurumbulum, known on the Namoi and Barwon, they have a sacred stone, Mulidharum, or Muli inabutha dharum (the stone with a great light), which is exhibited to the young men at the burgoin, and is also used to exorcise evil spirits.

They bury their dead in a sitting posture, with their hands folded in front of their knees. The grave is so shallow that [p.282] when the body is placed in it, about half of it is above the level of the surface of the ground. When the corpse is put into the grave they dance around it, and each of them whispers in the ear of the dead, "Thaul knoibia thaul murris goriz Dhu; niomai timai buli, andua kaian buldugana; i.e., Tell all the people, tell my brothers, I am coming to God; I am doing what they told me on earth; I am coming soon; kiss all for me."

As the art of kissing is not known by the aborigines of Eastern Australia, I think some other mode of salutation is meant by the words used. With a belief that Hume's statements are true in the main, I think he has filled up gaps in the memory by the aid of imagination. Hume's account of the fire-god corresponds with the evidence of some witnesses in Victoria.

A Legend of Stars.—It has been reported in the newspapers of this colony that the aborigines on the Murray river have told the following story concerning the two stars in Centaur that point to the Southern Cross.

A large flock of birds called plain turkeys (buzzards) used to assemble every evening on the plain near the Murray River, and there dance round and round. But an old bird of cannibal propensities took the opportunity, when he saw them wearied with the sport, to pounce on a young bird and devour it. This he did again and again, till the leaders of the flock, grieved at the loss of the victims, proposed that they should all abandon the spot and migrate to another plain. The whole flock was gathered together in sorrowful consultation, when two strangers, birds of the same species, came up and inquired the cause of their dejection. The matter was explained to them. The two strangers recommended them not to leave their home, and promised to deliver them from their enemy. The flock accepted with confidence their counsel.

The next evening, therefore, they went to sport as usual on the plain; while one of the strangers hid himself in the bushes, near the lurking-place of the old murderer, and the other joined in the dance. After a time, this last began to feign weariness, and, after limping along, sank upon the grass, and opening his beak, panted in mock distress just in front of the old bird, who was watching for his evening prey. The cannibal, thinking himself secure of the victim, rushed from his hiding-place and attacked the panting stranger. This bird sprang up and boldly encountered his assailant; and, while they were fighting, the other stranger advanced to the help of his comrade, and the two soon overpowered and killed the enemy.

The other birds gathered round to see the death of their persecutor, and applauded the generosity and courage of their deliverers. When the work was over, they unanimously [p.283] besought the two hero-buzzards to rule over them. But the strangers declined the honour, and mounting up from the midst of the admiring throng, rose higher and higher until they fixed in the evening sky as the two brightest stars that circle round the South Pole.

2. Words and Grammatical Structure in Different Languages.
(See table, p. 284)

After repeated and prolonged interviews with Andrew Hume, for whom I took down the words in the eighth column, I believe his statements are in the main true; that he has lived with many tribes to the westward of the Balonne, and has given me words spoken by them. In some instances he has supplied the want of memory by the exercise of his imagination; and such words as "milkiwina" (milky weaner) for mother, suggest the probability of superior coinage. In some words he used the letter s, a sound unknown in Eastern Australia. This sound he may have taken by mistake for that of th, or j, or rr, as the colonists have called Breeja "Breeza", Yarr "Yass", and Walger "Walgett". This man may render valuable service to the cause of science, if he revisits, as proposed, the spot where he saw a solitary member of some lost exploring party among the blacks, and brings back the buried journal of the explorers. I cannot throw off the impression that there is truth in his narrative, though it may be coloured by some invention. He gave me, besides the list or words, the following sentences:

Come here dimuarha or daizguneraha
Let us go yanika narnig
Go on gunar
Sit down taikar digua
Where have you been? kaibugurer
I have been out on the plain we para ledun
Give me a drink kalin kulan dhuris

Of four brothers the first is "thulguiana"; the second, "guluizindai"; the third, "mindulai"; the fourth, "thabutu". According to Hume the language spoken on the Nogoa River is "Tulumoa". In this language the sun is "duniba"; the moon, "keluna"' a black fellow, "upundha"; a woman, "inator".

The language of the Culgoa is "Muruworri"; a language near the north coast is "Kalinupa"; and that of the western coast is "Theluwupana". Mr. Richard Thatcher, now of Musclebrook in this colony, who resided for some months at the pearl fisheries on the north-west coast gives (in the Sydney Morning Herald of 19th July 1871) the following words (on p. 289) as spoken on that coast, from Tien-Tsin Creek, Butcher's Inlet, or Port Walcott, to eastward some fifty miles.




Man nunkaberry Fire karlow
Eye toolah [tula] Smoke kumbrah
Nose moolah [mula] Rock mundah
Foot3 jinnah Stick bonah
Girl becby or kore [bibi kore] Sand nano
Horse yowerdah Grass warrabah
Dog wonjee Salt water hurry baba
Bird moolah Ship yandlebrah
Sheep cokinjoy Shells weery
Bread murrah Beef bullama
Sun yandro Anchor tungatunga
Moon wheelbaro Work nihilgo
Evening toondoo Spear6 peelharo [pilaro]
Wind tooroo Knife chimberary
North yabroh Little way moonah moonah
South4 chinki Plenty mara
East eurajoh Eat bijalgow
West woolagoo Bring kolbro
Name inne Living at banamah
Liar peeah Sleep bumbah
Quick moriante Handle wandy
Tired werrigo See nakarow
Sick kundego Drink pinjalgow
Full weenyah Come here koki
Big mammah Take takalgow
Angry badgah Let go tian mah
Afraid wyah [wai-a] Hit taljero
Good5 koonaberry or marajunah I/You nijer/yinko
Slow chik-a-chik Understand7 wangaberry
Yes coh Don't know mundy wy
No meta Sing tabby
Now echela Which? nullah

Note on the Inflexions and Affixes of Verbs.—In connexion with that remarkable feature in the grammar of all Australian languages, the multiform and exact inflexion of the verbs, I find in a specimen sent to me by Mr. Andrew Mackenzie, of Moelly, Wandadian, that in the language of the Shoalhaven district, differences of mood are indicated by a change in the penultimate vowel. In Kamilaroi, etc., these differences are shown by additional syllables, not by changes in the vowel. Thus, from the root "bumal" (beat) come the future "bumalle"; imperative, "bumalla"; causative, "bumal-mulle"; permissive, "bumana-bille"; "zummil" (see); "zummille" (will see); "zummilmulle" (cause to see, shew). Mr. Mackenzie gives "paiaga". I strike; "paiuga", I will strike; "paiana", he strikes; "paiuna", he will strike; "paianu" you two strike; "paiunu", you two [p.290] will strike; "paiilu", you two struck; "paiirru", strike ye two; "paiilaora", they two struck; "paiunuradtha", let those two strike. I noted a similar feature, change in the penultimate vowel, in Turrubul, spoken at Moreton Bay, in Queensland, about six hundred miles northward of Shoalhaven. There "bulkurri" is come; "bulkairi", cause to come, bring.

Resemblances to Aryan Languages.—Before closing this report, I would call attention to a few remarkable coincidences, perhaps they are nothing more, between Australian words and those of Aryan nations.

The formation of cases by inflexion reminds one of Latin and Greek, and the affix di, from, is like de and θι. The formation of the feminine names from the masculine by adding ta; Ippata sister of Ippai, Kubbotha of Kubbi; is like the change from Julius to Julia; and both at Wide Bay, in Queensland, and on the Western side of the Balonne, four hundred miles inland, about 30° south (in "Dippil" and "Kogai"), the feminine name is formed from the masculine by adding gun, as Derwain, Derwaingun; Baraz, Barazgun; Wungo, Wungogun; Obur, Oburugun; Urgilla, Urgillagun; and Unburri, Unburrigun. Is not this syllable gun the gin or gyn found by the first settlers in this colony as the name of a woman, and mispronounced by white people as "jin"? Is it not γυνή? At all events, I heard on the Namoi the word of affection addressed by aboriginal children to their mothers, guni, sounding exactly the same as we pronounce the word handed down to us by the Evangelist St. John, as the title addressed by the Saviour of the world, when He was hanging on the cross, to His mother, γυνή.


Pilar, Spear; in Latin, Pilum.
Pindele, to hang; Pendo, Pendeo (Pindemulle = Pendo, Pindele = Pendoo).
Buba is Papa, a universal word.

Murri (great) allied to "murru" and "murruba" (good), with cognate words in almost all Australian languages, is like major, and the "more", "mure", "muir", "murray" of the Teutonic and Gaelic languages, "winuz" (know) suggests  "witan". Near Sydney we have the towns of Parramatta (by the waters of the river) and Cabramatta (higher up the waters). Some imagine they hear in these παρα ΰδατα and ΰπερ ΰδατα.

If, as Professor T.K. Key, my honoured guide in philology, has said, the Roman "v" was sounded as "w", the Kamilaroi word "giwir" meaning exactly "vir", may be the same with a prefix. "Yo" is yes in Kamilaroi and in Teutonic.8 But my business [p.291] is to furnish information, not conjectures. In addition to the works above named, I enclose a copy of my "Gurre Kamilaroi".



1 Mr. Watson gives, in his vocabulary, for the word God, "Eloi". This word both he and Mr. Threlkeld adopted from the Hebrew. One reason which Mr. Threlkeld repeated to me for choosing a Hebrew name instead of the English word God, was that, unhappily, the aborigines to whom he went as a missionary of the Gospel had become familiar with the word God in profane oaths. He, therefore, preferred a word which had no previous associations in their minds to one associated with impiety. It does not seem to have occurred to either of these missionaries that there was any word in the aboriginal language which could be appropriated to this sacred use.

2 In another part of the west country the name of the Supreme is Baigumir.

3 Foot is Dinna in Kamilaroi, Geenong'atha in Victoria; the same root all over Australia.

4 A. Hume gives Jinki-malowa for West, and derives it from Chinki, blood (red of sunset).

5 Good is Murruba in Kamilaroi.

6 Spear is Pilar in Kamilaroi, and Pilum in Latin (plural, pila).

7 Understand is Winura in Kamilaroi.

8 The name Kamilaroi—in various forms Cummilroy, Commeroy, Gunnilaroi—has been used in all parts of this colony, ever since its first settlement, as the name of a great people spread over the country northward of the earliest home of the English at Port Jackson. The first colonists were told that the Commeroy would come down from the north and sweep them away. And, after all the wasting of the race, Kamilaroi-speaking aborigines are numerous and very widely spread. Whence the name and the people compare Kamilaroi, Cummilroy, Commeroy, with Cumbri, Cimbri, Kymri.