Camp Jottings Volume Three
One bound volume.
PRG 54 contains the journals, notebooks and vocabularies compiled by F.J. Gillen, anthropologist and explorer. With an address presented to him by fellow officers of the Overland Telegraph. This notebook is 3 of 4 notebooks that make up Gillen's Camp Jottings.
Camp Jottings Volume III
c.August, 8th. Camp Tennants Creek. Bar. 28.950. Aneroid 975. A.T. 65. S.T. 63. Field started boy with mail to overtake Squire at Kelly Well. Printing and toning until 11, at blacks’ camp till 1.30, and returned to Station to find myself late for dinner. Recorded tradition relating to the great mythical Water Snake, Walunkwa, also lengthy tradition relating to the wanderings of two Native Cats (Weenithongiru) who sprang up at Achiltipinchu and marched away into the tableland country; these cats carried in their hair magic stone knives with which they carved out river creeks and waterholes along their line of route. At a place called Wirrilyi-chirri, the younger of the two men(they were brothers and of the Chungari class but changed themselves into Thakomara, one of the classes of the Kingilli moiety, they also changed themselves into a smaller species of native cat at the same time), cutting deeply with his magic blade (Martan-apinya), caused the water to rush out in great volumes and with it came a great snake
snake which was so long that, if it stood on its tail its head would be lost to view in the sky. The great reptile at once ate up a lot of men, women and children who lived in the locality. The snake released by the cats was not the Walunkwa but another similar monster. (Wirritchirri is out on the tableland country and not in the Warramunga boundaries.) The Walunkwa with his tail resting in the rock-hole at Thapaurla travelled over a lot of the surrounding country. Upon reaching a place called Tha-king-kil-itcha-mirra he smelt water, stood erect, sprang up into the sky and finally took a header into the earth at Umuntunguru (the exact spot where he penetrated the earth is now marked by a native well) from which place he returned underground to Thapaurla where he remains to the present day. The last of the series of ceremonies connected with this mythical monster took place today and it is far and away the most elaborate affair of the sort that we have witnessed anywhere. The men of the Kingilli moiety to which this totem does not belong, assembled at a secluded spot early in the day and built with moistened loam a keel shaped mound, 15 ft. in length, 15 or 16 inches in diameter and 16 or 17 inches high, gradually tapering
to a point at one end. This they decorated with white and red down, a tedious task which occupied 8 men about 5 hours. When the structure was completed a signal was given by one of the old men who appeared to take the leading part and in a short time all the men of the Uluuru moiety led by a Thapungerta man who is the sole male representative of the Walunkwa totem marched up in single file, walked twice around the structure - which is called Minyimburu and is intended to represent the great snake as he stretched himself out in the Alcheringa - and then sat down on one side. At the approach of the men of the Uluuru moiety the builders of the structure grouped themselves at one end and stood there in silence until the Uluuru sat down; they then came forward and the leading man went up to the Walunkwa man who’s head was decorated with a tuft of owl’s feathers
and pointing to the Minyimburu said this is your Mungai (totem), this is the great Walunkwa. The Uluuru sat silently looking at the Minyimburu, while the old men of the Kingilli moiety told of the doings of the great beast. In quarter of an hour their explanations ceased and the Uluuru got up and returned to their camps. The Kingilli remained guarding the structure on both sides of which they had built a mask of twigs to guard against the possibility of its being seen by women. At dusk they began singing - Ghaat in piwia
Ghatti wun ma
Ya man and half an hour later the Uluuru returned and sitting together at one side of the structure joined in the singing which continued all through the night. Twice during the night the Uluuru in single file, but on their haunches and with a peculiar swaying movement of the head and arms, shouting purr, moved around the structure. This was done at the request of one of the
chief men of the Kingilli moiety who went through a peculiar swaying movement similar to that of the Uluuru but he remained standing. Again at a signal from the same man one of the Uluuru grasping a yam-stick stood up supported from behind by an old man of the Kingilli and shouting purr purr purr jerked the yam-stick at the Minyimburu. After he had done this two or three times the other members of the Uluuru moiety jumped over the structure, each carrying a boomerang and assuming a threatening attitude, jerked their boomerangs in the direction of the beast, while shouting purr purr purr and then resuming their positions in the audience, joined in the singing. Just before daylight and at the request of the old Kingilli the Uluuru suddenly attacked and demolished the structure with their yam-sticks and boomerangs and the ceremony of the great Walunkwa was at an end - for which may the Lord make us truly thankful. We spent the night with the blacks and got
very little sleep. A night we shall never forget even if we live to be a hundred. It is to us a most remarkable thing that the preparation of all ceremonies belonging to one moiety of the tribe has to be undertaken by the other moiety. The singing during the night related the doings of the great Walunkwa and when asked for an explanation as to why they marched around the structure on their haunches etc. the men of the totem said that they wished to put the great snake to sleep and make him rest quietly, otherwise he might come out of his hole at Thapaurla and flood the country with water or eat them all up. During the night three candidates for initiation were brought to the camp blindfolded and placed opposite the Minyimburu. The fires were made to blaze up, the bandages were removed from their eyes and they were told ‘This is the great Walunkwa, etc, etc, etc. Having seen it you must never throw a boomerang at a man of that totem nor at any old man’. In the morning these young men were admitted to full tribal rites. We have now a complete series of photos of the Walunkwa ceremonies. The ceremony
performed last night will not be repeated until the son of the Walunkwa man — now a child of 3 or 4 years — has grown to manhood, Added to our collection 5 stone knives, 2 Kulungu and various other articles. Dog tired. Bar. not taken. Aneroid. A.T. S.T.
August, 9th. Bar. 28.900. Aneroid 1025. A.T. 66. S.T. 64. Returned to Station at sunrise had some tea and cake which we much needed and rushed back to the Creek where certain initiatory rites were being performed and added some valuable photographs to our already very large collection. Printing and toning until dinner time. We had arranged to spend the afternoon with the darkies but a row occurred shortly after dinner and we could not get near them for gore and boomerangs, not to mention bright-bladed, new knives, which were much in evidence; it is now 8 p.m. and the difference which is of course about a woman - how these women do crop up eternally wherever there is a row - is apparently not yet settled. Some ugly wounds were inflicted early in the row and the women who tried their level best to separate the
combatants, using their great clubs to ward off the blows, howled piteously whenever a man was wounded and drove their pointed yam-sticks mercilessly into each other’s heads by way of showing their sympathy. In the morning, barring a little blood and a few scars, the whole thing will be forgotten for these savage people do not bear animosity. When they are aroused they simply give way to unbridled rage. A blackfellow has no idea of controlling his temper but once the row is fought or talked out, there is rarely anything more said about it. They are children all. On making further enquiry today as to the nature of the Walunkwa (great mythical Water Snake) ceremonies we found that unlike all totemic ceremonies brought under our notice these ceremonies are a sort of propitiatory offering of the Walunkwa who, if men of the totem neglected to perform them, might become angry and come out of the earth and destroy the whole country and the people. It is a curious and highly interesting variation, for the prime, in fact the only, object of similar ceremonies in other tribes is to increase the animal or plant from which the totem takes its name. The Walunkwa from his hiding place in the bowels of
of the earth is supposed to see the ceremonies which make him so glad that he unfolds his great length and wriggles about with delight. No one witnessing this ceremony could doubt that these people believe in the snake as a living reality and a monster capable of inflicting upon them total annihilation. Bar. 28.875. Aneroid 1050. A.T. 69. S.T. 63.
August, 10th. Bar. 28.875. Aneroid 1050. A.T. 67. S.T. 64. Printing and toning until 10.30. Spencer enlarging until noon when he joined me at the blacks’ camp. One of the blackfellows is very ill and this morning a consultation between five Medicine men took place, (Medicine men here are called Urkulu) when it was decided that he was suffering from a serious complication. He first became ill after partaking of some food which he cooked in his camp-fire at night and while the cooking was in progress he declares that something exploded in the fire. He was questioned very closely by two of the oldest practitioners and when he mentioned the incident of the explosion, an old man of the highest reputation
in his profession, a member of the Waagai tribe, felt the patient all over, blew into his ear several times, struck the back of his head in a theatrical manner, sniffed at the ear of the patient and then pronounced his opinion which was that the bone of a dead man, attracted by the light of the camp-fire, had come and got into the body of the patient, causing his insides to become decomposed. This opinion was listened to with profound respect by the others and especially by a young man who has only just graduated and who was wearing the sacred emblem Rupitchi in his nose. The opinion was discussed for a few minutes and then another old practitioner who is only second in reputation to the Waagai man took hold of the patient’s head, blew into and smelt his ears, felt him all over and expressed the opinion in emphatic terms that the great Waagai Urkulu was right but he was prepared to go further. One little thing had escaped his honoured friend for, in addition to the bone of the dead man, a tree wart Aralillia was located in his body. Each of the old men then spent some time in singing a mournful dirge into the
sick man’s ear after which they declared that they would remove the cause of his sufferings when the sun went down. They however visited the patient again in the afternoon and drew from his body, by mean of the magic powers with which they are endowed, some fragments of the wart which, they explained, they had caused to be broken up inside so that it might be the more easily extracted. In the evening the patient had not improved. Spencer and I visited his camp and found the Waagai practitioner there. Tapping himself on the back of the head to stir up the mysterious influence with which he is filled, he blew quickly into the patient’s ear and then walked out into the darkness. This he repeated several times and then announced that he had removed some more of the cause of trouble but was unable to remove it all tonight, as his mouth had become hot and in that condition he was as helpless as a layman. Completed tradition relating to the wanderings of the Weenithongiru mentioned in records of the 8th inst. They were finally taken into a great waterhole
called Buringgarra by the great snake Walunkwa and two great stone columns arose to mark where they disappeared. They are however still alive. Buringgarra is away out on the Queensland border - probably on Brunette Downs - cattle watering there years ago always disappeared in a mysterious manner, probably perished through bog or quicksands, but the blacks believe that they are swallowed up by the great snake. These people do not eat their totem at all, nor do they eat the totem of their father but they may eat the totem of their mother if it is given to them by a man of her totem and in that case they have to pay for the food in implements or hair string. Blacks performed Thuthu Liritpiritcha (Parinthi) of Tharlimanda and Thuthu Ichilpi (ant) of Unbiria. The latter is one of a series of ceremonies connected with the two Alcheringa women who quarrelled and died disputing about their class names. Vide August 7th. In the evening we obtained photographic records
of an important ceremony which is not suitable for recording in these pages. One very curious custom with regard to the Thuthu ceremonies is that all the material used in decorating the performers has to be provided and prepared by men of the opposite moiety and the preparation is carried on only in the presence of men of their own moiety, further than this the blood used in decorating the performers is drawn from men of the other moiety. If the Kingilli moiety for instance wish to perform one of their own ceremonies they must first of all get permission from the Uluuru, who will fix upon the date of the performance and find the necessary decorative material and vice versa the younger men treat the old men with fine courtesy and invariably address them as Punturkwa which may be freely translated as 'great one'. Bar. 28.850. Aneroid 1070. A.T. 68. S.T. 65.
August, 11th. Bar. 28.820. Aneroid 1100. A.T. 66. S.T. broken. A very busy day hard at it from sunrise until 8 p.m. Engaged [in] toning until 10.30, then with natives for remainder of day. Recorded tradition about the
origin of the custom of knocking out two central upper incisors in this tribe. The custom is not compulsory but most of the men and women here have submitted to it. It is said to have originated in the Alcheringa with a Flying Bat Pitongu who sprang up far away in the north, wandered away south as far as the MacDonnell Ranges where he stole two women and then retraced his steps. Arriving at Akalta and wishing to please the lubras by giving his face a smiling appearance, he knocked out one of his teeth, he then journeyed on to Thapaurla the place of origin of the great snake Walunkwa, where he knocked out another tooth and still further improved his personal appearance. This Bat’s wanderings continue over a vast extent of country but it is unnecessary to follow him, suffice it to say that it was from him the Warramunga inherited the custom. The Bat was an unprincipled sort of Alcheringa creature for on reaching the MacDonnell Ranges he became greatly enamoured of two young women and determined to seize and take them back with him. One day he
was out hunting with the men and unseen by the others he contrived to kill a bandicoot, with the blood of which he smeared his feet, then calling to the men he said ‘See my feet are too sore, I can’t go further, I must return.’ The men who’s guest he was sympathised with him and went on their chase, while he set out to return to their camp. After going a short distance he concealed his weapons and changed himself into a wild dog (dingo) and went on to the camp. The women saw him coming and said ‘Hulloa here is a fine dog. Come along dog. Come to us’. They all tried to make friends with him but he only growled at them. In the evening the two young women who had won his admiration returned laden with food and he at once ran to them and they made much of him. Next day they took him out hunting and he ran on ahead and mustered a number of ground wallabies into a hole. The women tracked him up and killed the wallabies and were
very glad, but they could not see the dog and were therefore much concerned. Presently a man came along and they were afraid; he said ‘don’t be afraid it was I who put the wallabies there”. After rounding up the wallabies the dog returned to the place where his weapons were hidden, changed himself into a man, armed himself and followed the tracks of the women. He then said I want you to go with me away to the north Katjuno. They said no we don’t wish to go, whereupon he twirled their hair around the hooked end of his woomera and threw them a great distance to the north and then followed them. After this masterful display they apparently thought discretion the better part of valour and they went along without further demur. This morning we had an opportunity of witnessing the ceremony of knocking out teeth which is here called Apinya. Several women were operated upon and we obtained an interesting series of photographs. All the women in camp, about 50 in number, assembled at a billabong within half a mile of the Station. Those who
were to be operated upon walked into the middle of the billabong, sat down in the water and splashed it over their bodies Then one by one they came out and laid down on some green boughs. One woman with a piece of sharpened bone forced the gums back from the teeth and then another woman placing a blunt piece of wood firmly against the teeth struck a sharp blow or two with a stone and out came the teeth; it was deftly done. The teeth were in each case handed to an elder sister - not necessarily in blood - of the owner who conveyed them to the other of the young woman and the mother, placing them in a piece of meat, broke them up and calmly swallowed them. The ceremony is generally performed during heavy rain and they seem to think that the rain has the effect of deadening the pain. The custom is common to both sexes and in the case of men the teeth are conveyed by the man’s wife to his actual or prospective mother-in-law and she pounds them up and swallows
them. In the afternoon an old man performed a ceremony illustrating a tradition about a devil devil animal called Pauna which flourished in the Alcheringa. We also obtained photo records of Thuthu Weenithongiru (Native Cat) of Kakakaurlu - a Waagai ceremony - Thuthu Weenithongiru Native Cat of Chung quwarta and Thuthu Ichilpi of Unbiria. The patient of yesterday is improving and today our friends the Urkulu informed us that they had ‘washed’ the cause of the trouble out of him. So far we have not been able to get a connected account of the making of Medicine men but they are made by the old men and until they are old practitioners they are forbidden to eat yams (the most succulent of all the vegetable foods), honey, witchetty grubs - another dainty morsel - kangaroo, emu and their eggs, euro or black snake. If a young practitioner obtains any of the forbidden food he must take it to the old wise men Punturku who endowed him with his powers. One man here with a hypertrophied
nose was pointed out to us as an example of what may happen to a young Urkulu who breaks the law with regard to food restriction peculiar to his class. This man overcome by hunger and temptation partook of some emu and the nasal affliction followed as a consequence and as a punishment. The man referred to was some years ago a troublesome character and an incorrigible thief. On one occasion he received a good hiding for sheep stealing, his third or fourth offence, and when it was over and he was being dismissed with a caution of something worse to follow if he did not mend his ways he said ‘I think very good you shootem me me too much - rogue’. Bar. 28.812. Aneroid 1110. A.T. 66. S.T.
August, 12th. Bar. 28.800. Aneroid 1120. A.T. 68. S.T. broken. The blacks roused us out at 3 a.m. and we marched shivering to the corroboree ground where we found about a dozen men assembled and two of their number standing up, imitating the cry of the white cockatoo Tchalikipa. This ear-piercing screeching continued until daylight when another act in the ceremony for the increase of cockatoos was performed by a man of the totem whose
body was decorated with red and white down while on his head he wore a sort of cylindrical helmet made of paperbark and decorated with the same material. Stuck into the back of the helmet he carried a crude-looking imitation of the bird whose numbers this ceremony is intended to increase. He was impersonating an Alcheringa Cockatoo who came from Lirri to Tharaubila where we found a lot of Parinthis, great lizards, white cockatoos, and Lalkara grubs whom he induced to leave their country and return with him to Lirri where they finally settled down. There was no necessity to disturb and drag us down to the corroboree ground just to hear men screeching in imitation of the birds and neither of us felt grateful to the blacks for doing so. I shall not readily forget the 3 1/2 hours we spent listening to those confounded cockies. Returned to Station to breakfast where I was employed toning and printing until 10.30, then with the blacks till dinner time. Spencer busy enlarging all the morning. We spent afternoon
at corroboree ground and obtained records of Thuthu Utu of Irrikirrielu and Thuthu Ichilpi of Unbiria. These ceremonies become very tiresome after a time and we should much like to curtail some of them or even dispense with them altogether but such a proposal would horrify the blacks who are bound hard and fast by the dead hand of their Alcheringa ancestors and must perform the series in the same manner and order in which they were carried out by the ancestors, otherwise they would not be effective. In fact if the moiety attempted to curtail its food producing ceremonies, the other moiety would have a serious grievance against them and war would probably result. Recorded tradition relating to the wanderings of a Wild Cat Weenithongiru who came from the north where he had boned up and killed a Jaberu man named Wuramalla who was a cannibal and lived solely upon dead men. Arriving at Tchinquirokwirra he met a lot of women to whom he reported what he had done and he persuaded them to go away with him to the east. They carried with them an abundance of Menadji (yams) which they dropped along their
line of route thus giving rise to the Menadji hunting grounds out east of here. The wild cat, by the way, after killing the Jaberu met an opossum with whom he had a serious quarrel, the opossum riddled him with spears but did not succeed in killing him; it is however interesting to know that this encounter with the opossum accounts for the spots on the cat in these days. The opossum was roughly handled too and the mark, so noticeable on the face of the animal and on its back, denote where it was wounded by the cat and the peculiar shape of its foot is due to the fact that the cat lifted up his antagonist and burnt his feet in the fire. Also recorded additional information relating to the wanderings of the Flying Bat. The class system of this tribe is said to have been introduced in the Alcheringa by a man of the Thakomara class and Warapalli lizard totem. His wife was of the Naralu class and they had a girl child of Chupilla class whom he gave to a Thapanunga man. The offspring of this union was a girl of the
Thapungerta class whom he gave to a man of the Chambein. Their child, a girl of the Nungalli class, he gave to a man of the Chunguri class and their offspring, a girl of the Nalcharri class, he gave to a man of Thakomara class and so was established the present, excellent but strangely complicated, class system. How these systems really originated will probably never be discovered but it is interesting to record the native traditions with regard to their origin. The head drawn in today’s records is that of a man named Inchin-ching-punguna who is now attached to our staff in the capacity of Interpreter and general factotum. He is a very fine type - physically - of his race and if he would not persist in speaking a mixture of English and Warramunga at the rate of about 200 words or more per minute he would be perfect. He is the one young male representative of the Walunkwa or Great Snake totem and therefore a man of considerable importance amongst his people. Bar. 28.750. Aneroid 1140. A.T. 76. S.T. broken.
August, 13th. Bar. 28.780. Aneroid 1140. A.T. 70. S.T. By the grace of the wise men of the Warramunga, we had a decent night’s sleep and awoke fresh and eager for
the fray again. Nasty north west, liver irritating wind blowing with the usual dust until 4 p.m. when thunder and lightening ushered in a change of wind to the SE with very much decreased temperature. A few threatening drizzles, with the sun almost totally hidden by the clouds, prevented us doing any instantaneous photography. We were under the impression that with the Minyimburu ceremony we had done with the Great Snake Walunkwa but it is not so and today another series or rather stage of the series was begun. A hard piece of ground was smoothed over and painted with a mixture of red ochre and water and when the surface became dry an elaborate drawing which occupied about three hours in doing was painted on it. The drawing of which we obtained good photos was intended to illustrate the walking about of the snake before he finally dived into the earth and returned to Thapaurla. The head of the totem, decorated as usual, performed a ceremony of no special interest and another man performed. Tonight the blacks will spend most of the night squatting around the drawing, singing about the travels of the
snake, but as there are to be no special ceremonies, we shall not deprive ourselves of a night’s much needed rest to listen to them, The sick man is not so well today and another consultation of the medical fraternity took place this morning after which the poor fellow was handed over to the women who anointed his body with grease and red ochre and gave him some human blood to drink; we are much interested in this man’s recovery for should he die, in all probability, there will be an abrupt ending to the series of ceremonies now in progress and the blacks may take it into their heads to disperse far and wide. One of the old men told me today that the man’s illness was brought about by eating emu and other foods which he as an Urkulu should not have partaken of. I was not aware that the patient was a medico and it appears that he was warned by some of the old men that serious results would follow, if he persisted in breaking the rule relating to food restrictions of his profession. The chances are now that if he survives the treatment of his brother medicos he will die of sheer funk.
Recorded full particulars relating to the burial of men, interesting but hardly suitable for these pages. It is a serious matter for a man’s male and female relatives when he dies for the laws of the Warramunga compel them to submit to being beaten and cut about in a frightful manner and, in addition to the ordinary cutting, some of the women cut their heads from the forehead to the back of the head and then sear the wound with a fire-stick. Strict silence must be maintained by women for various periods, some times to my personal knowledge extending to three years - after the death of a husband or male relative. What a boon such a law would be to one or two married friends of mine and how they would pray for the death of their wives’s relatives. The gesture language is here developed to an extraordinary extent, in fact it appears to me that by its means the natives can convey their ideas just as readily as with the tongue. I have an idea that this means of communication is older than spoken language. It is just possible that it was the only language these people had
when they migrated to Australia for, if they came as one people speaking a common tongue, it is a most extraordinary thing that there should now be such a diversity of languages. My idea is that originally these people, then cannibals, settled in small groups in fertile spots far apart, that they increased for perhaps many generations, without coming in contact with other groups and that during this period of separation, they developed a language peculiar to each group - otherwise I do not see how it is possible to account for the number and diversity of languages now met with, within comparatively narrow areas. The old Waagai Urkulu remarked to me this afternoon that the great snake was pleased with the Minyimburu ceremony and that he was sending rain to drive the lizards out of the ground. The old rascal vowed that he heard the snake roaring during the night although its special place of abode is quite 50 miles away at Thapaurla. The blacks of course believe him and some are afraid that the snake may take it into its great head to come forth and gobble us all up. Weather tonight very boisterous, with thunder storms to the
the south. An inch of rain tonight would be very acceptable and it would help us in our work considerably. Bar. 28.860. Aneroid 1060. A.T. 69.5. S.T. broken.
August, 14th. Bar. 28.770. Aneroid 1150. A.T. 68. S.T. A boisterous night, much lightning and thunder, but very little of the precious fluid. Only registered 10 points but Barrow Creek had 70 points. Working with natives all day, recorded information relating to the traditions of origin and the establishment of the class system, both equally absurd but they must be noted. The ancestors of the Thapungerta and Chupilla classes in this locality sprang from the bowels of the earth where they lived for many generations before they came to the surface and became men and women. It is the gradual evolution of these ancestors that the Warramunga attempt to depict in their ceremonies, the stage at which they appeared on the earth’s surface is called the Maelchinta period and that of their final departure back into the earth the Palparla. The ancestors of the Chupilla class in this locality were Lalkara
little tree grubs who changed themselves into white cockatoos, the totem their descendants claim today. The women of Tchinquirokwira who went away east at the bidding of the Wild Cat were daughters of the great Black Snake ancestor Thalaurla and it was from amongst these women that the Chupilla White Cockatoos obtained their first wives in the Alcheringa. In the afternoon natives performed another of the Walunkwa great Water Snake ceremonies in which 6 men took part. A feature, in fact the principal feature of the performance was a drawing on the ground similar to that shown yesterday. The figures on this represented various natural features which arose to mark the exact spots at which the Walunkwa paused in his wanderings. At one time during the progress of decorating the performers we thought there was going to be a serious row. One old fellow, always a prominent man, suddenly started off to his camp after the men began painting and returned in a short time, armed to the teeth: a couple of boomerangs in his hand, also a murderous looking butcher’s knife - and half a dozen boomerangs in
toning after breakfast and spent rest of the day with the natives. Recorded lengthy tradition about the origin of the Kurtnakitchi large Water Snake totem. The ancestral beast first came out of the earth far away in the north at a place called Gnaia-rinnie where it made sacred ceremonies which caused semi-human reptiles of its own totem to arise. It was then a snake known as Gnapaundattha and it travelled over a great extent of country changing itself at one place into Panunkula, at another into Kunducherri, at another into Nathakura, and finally into Kurtnakitchi. All these are names of different varieties of snakes and with each change the marvellous beast performed sacred ceremonies which caused some human reptiles of each variety to arise, so that from this one ancestor 5 distinct Snake totems have emanated. It appears to have been highly satisfied with its latest form for it did not change again but contented itself with wandering through the country and wherever it camped a totem centre of the Kurtnakitchi arose and men and women born in
his belt. He came forward waving his arms and shouting out in a voice hoarse with passion and paused, assuming a threatening attitude, about 30 yards from where the men were grouped. His language was decidedly vigorous but happily we didn’t understand one word he said. On enquiry we found that another man had dared to decorate, without the old warrior’s permission, a man who should have been decorated by him. This and this only was the cause of the trouble. We smoothed matters over and in 10 minutes the old fellow was embracing the man whose blood he was so anxious to shed. Of course Spencer snap-shotted the scene of reconciliation. The sick man is still very ill, we are feeding him up on Bovril but are not very hopeful of his recovery. The confounded Medicine men are frightening him to death. Bar. 28.820 Aneroid 1100 A.T. 67.5.
August, 15th. Bar. 28.875. Aneroid 1050. A.T. 65. Out at sunrise, bad night’s rest. Awakened several times by melancholy wailing of the native women who at odd times made night hideous under the impression that they were in some way benefiting the sick man. Did some printing and
these localities are of that totem. It does not appear to have been a snake of remarkable morality for on reaching Corella it saw there a sacred black stone (Irratitcha) belonging to the Walunkwa which it contrived to cleverly steal, notwithstanding the fact that a star was stationed there to guard it. Having got possession of the Irratitcha the snake made off as fast as he could, being afraid that the star would detect the theft and follow him; after travelling for many days and passing through various adventures, he made a creek along which he travelled for some time, creating totem centres. Finally he saw a light far off but gradually becoming clearer and recognising that the star had discovered his thief (sic) [or correct to theft] and was in pursuit he made off as fast as he could to Pontupukarri, where he met a little snake called Urabulka who said: come quickly the star is after you, and he parted the bushes and made a path for the Kurtnakitchi who at once dived into a waterhole taking with him the Irratitcha. The star arrived in time to see him disappear and a large stone column arose to mark the spot
at which it stood waiting and watching. The Kurtnakitchi is still flourishing in the waterhole where it guards the stolen Irratitcha even unto this day. In the afternoon we witnessed an interesting little ceremony. An old man of the Kabidgi class poked his beard forward and it was cut off with a knife by his sister’s son who is of the Chupilla class and handed it to an elderly man of the Thapanunga class. This handing over of the beard of the maternal uncle to the Thapanunga meant that the unborn daughter of the Kabidgi man’s sister was betrothed to the Thapanunga. Betrothal is called Makuntalki. Just previously a Thakomara man cut of the whiskers of his maternal uncle, a Thapanunga - in fact the Thapanunga concerned in the previous ceremony and handed it to a man of the Kabidgi class who thus becomes the husband of an unborn daughter of the sister of the Thapanunga man. Early this morning a curiously shaped black bank of cloud stretched along the horizon from east to north and three of the leading old men said it denoted that the Walunkwa was angry because
the remains of the Minyimburu had not been covered over. They at once procured bushes and carefully covered the remains of the mound and, curiously enough, the bank of cloud quickly disappeared - Yesterday these three old men drove the rain away as they thought it would seriously interfere with the progress of the ceremonies - and the funny thing is that no one dreams of questioning the power of these old humbugs. This afternoon the natives performed another Walunkwa ceremony (or Tikameari), 7 performers finishing up, as on the last two days, on top of an elaborate drawing of which we obtained good photos. There are to be six more of these ceremonies before the Walunkwa is complete. Three men of the Wolmalla tribe performed Thuthu Tchutia (Death Adder) of Tchalirpa; they were quite artistically decorated in a red and white design but otherwise the ceremony does not differ much from the Warramunga. The blacks had just completed the ceremonies when an ear- piercing shriek issued from the throats of 60 or 70 women away at the main camp. The men at once looked serious and started off [in] hot haste for
the camp where we followed them; arrived there, one of the women shouted out that the sick man was dead and a sight met our eyes which I never wish to see again. Quite 30 of the women were huddled together over the dead man’s body, while a number of other women were frantically digging yam-sticks into their heads and howling like fiends. The men pulled the women off the body on which they prostrated themselves for some minutes, until it was discovered that the poor wretch was not dead at all. Men came rushing from all directions armed with stone knives with which they cut their thighs in a manner horrible to contemplate. Our Walunkwa assistant whose face adorns the records of the 12th inst. (plate no. 68) slashed himself across both thighs in my presence. One wound extends to a depth of three inches, cutting deeply into the principal muscles and extending across the whole outer surface of the thigh. The whole scene was one of horror, blood everywhere. Women with their scalps divided along the whole length of their heads and the blood running over their faces looked like ‘ghouls
escaped from the infernal regions’. One young woman picked up an iron tomahawk and was just about to lay her scalp open when I snatched it from her and threw it away. She then snatched a yam-stick from another woman and hacked away at her head until there was a wound five inches long down the centre of her scalp, this wound she will probably sear later on with a fire-stick to still further show the measure of her grief. While all this was going on the poor sick man was gasping for breath. His emaciated body had had to bear the weight of a mass of frantic women, quite enough to crush the life out of a healthy Sampson and whatever chance he may have had of recovering has now disappeared. He was dozing, it was perhaps the crisis of his complaint, and if he had been left undisturbed he might have recovered but the women thinking him dead threw themselves upon him. This occurred at 5 p.m. The man lingered on until 8 o’clock and we were apprised of his death by a wail issuing from a hundred throats. We at once proceeded to the camp, 20 or 30 people were prostrated and howling over the
the body. The rest were scattered about in small groups, either hacking their bodies or wailing piteously, some doing both, particularly the women. The wailing continued without a pause for two hours and only ceased when the body was lifted up and carried of by three tribal brothers of the deceased and 1 Thapanunga man who took it away to a tree about a mile distant and there, building a rude platform in the branches, it was laid to rest. A very busy day terminating with a scene of savagery such as no man would care to witness a second time. Bar. 28.780. Aneroid 1040. A.T. 62.5.
August, 16th. 8ar. 28,770. Aneroid 1150. A.T. 72 Contrary to our expectations there was very little howling during the night, but day had hardly dawned when it began again though in a modified degree. After breakfast another scene of savagery occurred at the camp. Women of various degrees of relationship to deceased, actual and tribal - a tribal brother or sister is just as much a relative as an actual brother in blood
about 40 in number had a sort of sham fight with clubs and then tracked [=cracked] their heads with yam digging sticks until the scalp was penetrated and the blood flowed freely. They then sat down in little groups, embracing each other and howling at the top of their voices, such a din was never heard out of Bedlam. Presently a very old Thakomara man maternal tribal uncle of deceased was led up by a Kabidgi man, his tribal brother-in-law - to a young man of the same class (that is Thakomara class) and the two men sat down and embraced each other crying. They were joined by two men, one of the Kabidgi and the other of the Chupilla class, and then three women, two being Thakomara and therefore maternal aunts of deceased, brought up the dead man’s effects, weapons, wooden utensils, etc., and placed them on the knees of the young Thakomara man who of course was tribally speaking a maternal uncle. Then after a little more crying the elder uncle asked the younger what he wished to take and said, ‘I think you had better take all’, to which the younger man replied, ‘No you take the Pitchis (wooden vessels) and head-rings and I will take the 2 Kutirra(fighting club), 2 boomerangs
and the stone adze’ and this proposal was agreed to. The young man explained to us that, after fighting with certain tribal brothers of his, he will present them with the 2 Kutirra and 2 boomerangs and keep the adze in memory of the dead man. As may be imagined there were no ceremonies today. Many of the men have horrible wounds that would give a white man unpleasant thoughts of the undertaker, yet they crawl about as if very little was wrong with them. We were relieved this afternoon to learn from the principal old men that they intend resuming the never ending Walunkwa tomorrow, Relating to the origin of tree burial the following tradition was elicited, In the Alcheringa (here termed Wingara) a Jaberu bird (Karinja) sprang up in the earth. By and by two other Karinja appeared and at first the elder one proposed to eat them, but after considering the matter, he concluded that it would serve his purpose better to keep them, call them his sons and use them to hunt up blackellows
for him to eat. All three came out of the earth at a place called Tchinpia. The young Karinja went away on a hunting expedition while the old bird remained at home. By and by he saw a young blackfellow whom he speedily killed, cooked and ate. Next day he dropped across an old man who was killed and cooked in like manner but, probably because the old ’un was tough, the bird only ate part of him and hung the remains up in a tree. Then he heard a noise made by women singing - women, even black Alcheringa women - have a knack of getting themselves and their friends into hot water - and after searching about he found a large number of men, women and children hidden in some holes which he promptly stopped up, thus killing them. After making sure that they were all dead, he opened the holes and dragged the bodies out, arranging them in two great heaps or bundles which he carried back to his camp where he made a big hole and cooked them all. The hole exists to the present day and in the centre of it there is a spring of water - He had a glorious banquet and then placed the remains in trees for future consumption.
consumption. At this stage a Native Cat (Weenithongiru) came along, (the same Cat, whose battle with the Opossum is recorded on 12th inst.) and seeing the bodies in the trees he was very sorry for the people and angry with the Karinja so he crept up and pointing his Mutinpa, a species of poison stick, at him he projected a deadly poison into the Karinja’s body and it died in great agony. The Cat then made off and later on the two young Karinja returned to find the old bird dead. They buried him in the ground and wandered off to Muttamultharu, where they fell in with a pelican Taapirungu who resented their intrusion and tried to drive them off. The Karinja declined to go so the wily pelican laid low until they had fallen asleep and then he crept up and choked them. It is because the Jaberu in the Alcheringa placed men’s bodies in the trees that the Warramunga do so today and it is quite possible that the custom dates back to a time when cannibalism flourished here
and the tree was a sort of larder. .c.There was a great to do this morning when it was discovered that one of the old men had slashed his thigh with a stone knife that was supposed to be ‘sung’ -that is sung over and thus endowed with evil magic -a man from the northern boundary of the tribe was sent for to sing over the wound and thus remove the magic influence but when he arrived he declared that he was unable to do anything. The knife was made by a distant tribe and he was not in possession of the special chant required to remove the evil magic. Everyone looked serious and I, realizing that if the old man got it into his head that the magic could not be removed, he would probably make up his mind to die, at once said that I could drive off the magic influence by an infallible chant which I had learnt from the wise men of the Arunta and which was used in similar cases. I then bade the old man hold the blade of the stone knife in the smoke arising from his fire while I chanted ‘Limaperta arungquiltha eterra ura ulqu-inai’ for some minutes, this translated is simply, ‘Go back
poison, quickly fire eat it up’. The old fellow and his friends were relieved and I am recognised as a great Medicine man. Added 12 stone knives, 2 Kulunga fighting axes quartzite, 2 stone axes to collection. Bar. 28. 750. Aneroid 1170. A. T. 76.
.c.August, 17th. Bar. 28.850. Aneroid 1070. A.T. 74. A muggy summer”s morning with a north wind. With the blacks all day and it was not altogether pleasant working with men whose wounds gaped at one from all directions. The man that died was of the Chunguri class that is the Uluuru moiety and we noticed that only men of the Thapungerta class of that moiety cut themselves. These men are the actual or potential sons- in-law of Chunguri women of the Kingilli moiety, men of the Chupilla, Thakomara and Thungalli classes cut themselves. Men of the Thakomara, Thungalli and Chupilla classes cropped their heads closely and burnt the hair. Until the final burying of the bones in the Burumburu ceremony the wives, mothers-in-law, mothers and sisters -actual and tribal -of deceased are under a ban of silence but as they can converse
with equal facility with their fingers it is not a serious deprivation and it may be a boon to some of their husbands. It only requires about three men of different classes to die at one time and all the women of this group would be speechless. .c.The mother of the dead man visited the spot where he died and on which they have made a little mound and she declared vehemently but by means of the gesture language, that she detected a snake’s track there and therefore her son must have been killed by the magic influence of some man of a Snake totem. .c.In all totemic systems of which we have personal knowledge an offering of the totem food is brought to the headman of the totem by men of the opposite moiety; here, strange to say, in some totems no offering is made while in others it is made and formally declined, the man to whom it is offered saying, ‘No, I may not eat my totem (Mungai) or it would disappear altogether. You may eat it and bring me something else’. In the Ichilpi or Ant totem for instance when the edible ant becomes scarce certain men (Thapungerta and therefore
Wankilli to Thakomara) wait upon the men of the Ant totem who are Thakomara and say ‘We are hungry for some ants’ and they would paint upon his body the necessary decorations and he would perform a series of ceremonies which would have the effect of making the ants more plentiful. While decorating him for the ceremonies, the Thapungerta would ask his permission to eat the ants and he would grant this request as a matter of course and when the series of ceremonies was completed he would make an offering of food -this offering is called Nichengira -to the Thapungerta as payment for decorating him. The Thapungerta men are Wankilli or tribal cousins on the mother’s side to the Thakomara. Old men may eat their totem, if it be given to them by men of the opposite moiety, but they have to pay the other moiety in string, weapons and utensils for the privilege. It is evident that the totemic system in this tribe is undergoing modification though it is doubtful if the natives realise that it is so. The systems of the southern tribes are of a more
primitive form and it is very probable that we shall find the northern tribes even much more modified. The gradation of the systems beginning with the Urrapunna and ending with the Warramunga is highly interesting, .c.Just as the sun was setting, and too late for photography, 8 men performed a Walunkwa ceremony. The drawing used on the 15th was left untouched and another drawing was added close to it, consisting of three sets of circles picked out in black and white on a red ground; two of the circles represented native wells at which the ancestral snake paused and the third represented a tree at which he stood up, doubtless these drawings serve to impress the traditions upon the minds of the younger men. Bar. 28.800. Aneroid 1125. A.T. 79.
.c.August, 18th. Bar. 28.780. Aneroid 1130. A.T. 72. During the night the wind changed round to the SE bringing a cool change. Cloudy and overcast until 11 a.m. With blacks all day. Marriage here is not strictly confined to two special classes or, to put it more correctly, a man is not always bound to take his wife from one
special class as in the southern tribes. A Thapanunga man for instance has 1 wife of the Chupilla class which may be termed the correct class with whom he should intermarry. The children of this woman are born Thapungerta. He also has a wife of the Thungalla class and her children are born Kabidgi, that is they are born into the class to which they would fall if she had married according to the strict letter of aboriginal law. A Chungari man, a Thapungerta, has one wife a Nambein: her children are Thapanunga which is the true line of descent. He has also a wife of the Thakomara class and her children are Chunguri, just as if she had married correctly a Kabidgi man. We noted several other instances but these will suffice. It is [a] remarkable modification of the southern system and a valuable discovery only hit upon by the merest accident. Marriages between men and women of the same totem are strictly prohibited, even when the man and woman are of the proper classes. Spencer went out with the blacks at daylight to view the grave of the
lately deceased man. When the men got close to the tree they dodged about behind bushes and peered into the tops of the tree looking for an apparition of the man who boned up and thus killed deceased. Not being able to detect anything in the branches or on the trunk of the tree to indicate the guilty party, one of the tribal brothers mounted the tree and added some bushes to the sepulchre and the party returned to the spot where the man died and at which a little mound had been built. This mound is called Kakila. This they examined closely but there were no tracks upon it and they are still unable to indicate who is responsible for the man”s death. Eventually by hook or by crook the guilt will be fastened upon some innocent wretch and he will be fortunate if he escapes with his life. In the afternoon an interesting little ceremony took place at the ceremonial ground. A young man who has, since our arrival here, been admitted to full membership of the tribe was released from the ban of silence by which he has been bound for about a fortnight. A man who stood in the relationship of tribal cousin
according to our ideas of relationship, handed him a boomerang which he took and walked out to a clear space. Then all the men of the opposite moiety went up to him and held their hands sideways and he bit each one, when the biting was concluded he passed his boomerang through the waist girdle of each man in turn and they in turn passed it through his girdle where it finally remained. He is now a man, a fully fledged warrior and a rather fine looking one too. Natives performed Walunkwa ceremony of Kulaarkura, 5 performers two wearing head-dresses representing trees at which the Walunkwa paused, and 1 wearing a head-dress representing the fire made by certain hawks in the Alcheringa. A fresh drawing was prepared during the morning representing a rock-hole called Kulaarkura at which the snake paused, and part of its body Bar. 28.800. Aneroid 1125. A.T. 76.
.c.August, 19th. Bar. 28.870. Aneroid 1100. A.T. 72. Cloudy, overcast and like rain until 11 a.m. and then the sun shone out again. Spent the day with niggers. Completed extension of table of
relationship and recorded a tradition about a certain pelican about which I shall have something to say later on. The gentlemen here depicted is one of our staff (plate no. 69), a first rate fellow called Thanmaru, whose only fault is that he would dearly love to be a white man with the consequence that he is a little ashamed of some of his tribal customs and would therefore like to tone them down. In doing work such as we are engaged upon, one has to be careful not to let the savage perceive that you disapprove of or disbelieve in his ideas for if he once gets that idea into his head, he will shut up like an oyster and wild horses will not drag reliable information out of him. In the afternoon the natives performed Walunkwa of Parapakinni. There were three sets of drawings, no. 1 representing the snake at a native well called Chickarinya, no. 2 representing
two springs that arose to mark the spots at which the Hawks dried their favourite food white ants (Lunka Lunga) before eating and a gum tree that arose to mark the spot upon which they stood, no. 3 represented the fire which was lighted by the Hawks. .c.Added 2 stone knives, 1 wooden Pitchi and 1 stone Churinga of the Walpari tribe to collection -Note: The tradition of the 2 Hawks making fire at Waaquitha is recorded in vol. II Aug. 2nd. Bar. 28.770. Aneroid 1150. A.T. 77.
.c.August, 20th. Bar. 28.800. Aneroid 1115. A.T. 70. Another dull, cloudy morning. Spencer not very well, so I went alone to the camp and during the morning recorded particulars of the Waagai terms of relationship which [do] not practically differ from the Warramunga except in the terms used. In the afternoon printed and toned some pictures and both spent rest of day at the ceremonial ground where 5 men performed an Emu ceremony in connection with the current Walunkwa series. These emus sprang up
at a place called Chipalalki and travelled to Kartichamunkula where they laid some eggs at a spot now marked by two stones. Some wild dogs came along and killed the birds. Kartichamunkula is in the country of the Walunkwa and hence the association of these emu with that totem. The performer’s bodies were decorated with imitations of emu eggs and the performance consisted of the men trotting about in a stooping condition, pretending to pick berries off bushes as is the manner of the emu, and with their long head-dresses they did not look unlike the birds they were imitating. The usual drawing which is such a characteristic phase of this stage of the Walunkwa ceremonies and on which the performers squat at the conclusion of each ceremony today represented a native well called Thaking-kil-itcha-mirra that marks the exact spot at which the great snake smelt water when on his wanderings. The snake’s body and three trees at which he paused were also represented in the drawing, .c.There is quite a run on neatsfoot and eucalyptus oil, a mixture that we made up for
the wounded men, some of whom are scarcely able to crawl out of their camps. Our man Inchin-ching-punguna is perhaps the most seriously wounded and we much regret that he did not postpone giving expression to his sorrow until our work here was completed. He admits that he is an ass and I'm inclined to think that on the next occasion he will carefully choose a blunt knife. I have the one he cut himself with and it is a murderous looking weapon. One of the men who severely cut himself is a Medicine man and he suffers from a peculiar looking affection of the nose which gives it the appearance of having been nibbled at by white ants, a not uncommon disease amongst the natives. I enquired today the cause of the disease and he gravely informed me that it was brought about through his eating emu in defiance of the rules which govern the diet of men of his profession. It appears to me that the Medicine man business here is simply a huge conspiracy on
the part of the old men to reserve all the best food for themselves. Wily old men! .c.Just now we were startled by two revolver shots ringing out from our camp and on going there found Parunda, the brave and gallant, greatly excited. He had seen, so he declared, a Kurdaitcha at which he fired two shots. Blacks from the camp quickly arrived upon the scene and armed to the teeth started in pursuit. A Kurdaitcha was seen last night hovering about the creek and there has been considerable talk about it during the day. Probably Parunda’s Kurdaitcha is simply an ant-hill. The blacks are always in a state of great unrest for a few days after anyone dies and quite a crop of Kurdaitchas -here called Ingwun -will be seen during the next week or two. Bar. 28.770. Aneroid 1150. A.T. 75.
.c.August, 21st. Bar. 28.775. Aneroid 1140. A.T. 74. Cloudy, warm, with N.W. wind, boisterous and whirlwindy -
.c.Working with natives all day. In the afternoon they performed Walunkwa ceremony of Thaking-kilitchamirra -3 performers, also a ceremony, a sort of side show, representing the Kurdaitcha mentioned in the wanderings
of the Weenithongiru (Wild Cats). .c.There are two schools of Medicine men here, one made by certain spirits called Puntudia who dwell in the earth, coming forth at their pleasure to make Medicine men or ‘bone up’ anyone who incurs their wrath. Today we had an interview with an ex-Medicine man who graduated in this school -“Ex” because his powers have gone from him because, while working for the whites, he drank hot tea and smoked. He assures us that while in practice he was eminently successful and that where other practitioners had to apply their mouths to the bodies of their patients to detect the cause of their complaints, he could detect and locate the cause by merely passing his hand over their bodies. Private enquiry since the interview shows that he was a man of no ordinary reputation. This is the manner of his initiation as told by himself. He had in mourning for some tribal relative cut his thighs very severely and was weak from loss of blood, so weak that he could not succeed in lighting a fire in the usual manner
peculiar to these tribes, that is by friction of hard wood upon a softer wood. He was however strong enough to wander off into the bush where he was accosted by two strange looking blackfellows who invited him to remain with them. He declined saying no, I want to go back to my own people. He then started back and the two men who were Puntudia followed him. At a small rock-hole, he stooped to drink and looking round saw the Puntudia close to him and threatened them with his boomerang and they said don”t throw your boomerang at us we are uncle and father to you. They then again asked him to stay with them and said that they wished to show him a big corroboree belonging to a rock-hole. He would not be tempted and said no, I go back to my own country, after this, the Puntudia disappeared and the young man reached his people in safety. That night he had a big fire at his camp and during the night the Puntudia crept up and ‘boned’ him with their pointing sticks (Karnti). They were angry with him for refusing their invitation. He became very ill and finally died and some men
went out to a tree and erected a platform grave upon which to lay his remains. This they did upon instructions from his father who pronounced him dead. The Puntudia relented and, being anxious to add such a promising young man to the roll of practitioners, they came unseen by anyone - they possess the power of making themselves invisible - placed the sacred snake Urkulu on his body and restored him to life, much to the joy of his aged parent who at once announced the cause of his son’s miraculous restoration. No man of the tribe would dream of doubting this story and it is quite possible that the man himself has a partial belief in it. He, probably suffering from loss of blood, wandered off into the bush in a dazed condition where he dreamt strange things and his return to camp was probably followed by a serious illness which the old men attributed to the Puntudia. I have known a case in the Arunta tribe of a man being struck down with heat apoplexy. When he came too it was announced by the old men that a certain devil devil
called Oruncha had made him a Doctor and thus was the cause of his loss of consciousness, The old men of the tribe have a thousand and one ways of reserving all the best things for themselves; when they make a Doctor he is forbidden under blood curdling penalties to eat certain foods and then for the first time they show a sacred ceremony to young men wild turkey, rabbit, bandicoot, fish, wallaby, all snakes, emu and their eggs and porcupine are made Thama, that is taboo to the young men until such time as it pleases - the period extends over several years - their tribal father and Naminni, that is mothers, brothers tribal and actual. To our assistant Inchinchingpunguna the following foods are taboo: wild turkey, crow, black snake, Erlatchia yam, carpet snake Kuthakitchi, emu, white snake Kilitchi, rabbit bandicoot, fish Liwantha, eaglehawk and Ichilpi ant Bar. 28.720. Aneroid 1200. A.T. 79.
August, 22nd. Bar. 28.720. Aneroid 1200. A.T. 74. A warm morning with north west wind. With the darkies all day. In the afternoon they performed
three ceremonies viz. Walunkwa of Thakingkilitchamirra, 1 performer: Emu Kurnunguntha of Urlamunnie, 3 performers, and Tchutia death adder of Kaathaapathu, 3 performers - the latter ceremony was performed by men of the Wolmalla tribe. Added to our collection a sacred stone of the Waagai tribe called Irratitcha. The stone represents a Menadji yam and originally it was a Menadji dropped by one of the Moonga Moonga women who migrated east from Tchinquirokwira it is used in ceremonies for increasing the crop of Menadji. People of the Waagai tribe are after death born again but the sex is changed, a man of today is a woman of the future, and this probably accounts for the fact that women of the Warramunga who hold a similar belief are permitted to witness rites which are very strictly concealed from women in the southern tribes. Unlike the Arunta men the Warramunga eat meat that has been looked upon by their fathers-in-law -
Recorded tradition relating to origin of Tchutia (death adder) totem of Tchalirpa in the country of the Wolmalla tribe. A father-in-law may visit his son-in-law’s camp but it is not permissible for a son-in-law to return the call. A man may not look at or speak to his mother-in-law many white men would willingly add this custom to our social code. Bar 28.615. Aneroid 1300 A.T. 78.
August, 23rd. Bar 28.560. Aneroid 1350. A.T. 74. An exceedingly busy day and we returned to Station fairly knocked out. At last, for which the Lord make us truly thankful, the Walunkwa ceremonies are ended and we are free to proceed upon our long postponed eastern trip. During the afternoon the blacks performed Walunkwa Ceremony of Umuntunguru, Tchutia Death Adder ceremony of Tchalirpa, White Ant Lunkalunga ceremony of Thapaurla and Porcupine Watching-Gara ceremony of Irchirtauilla. With regard to the latter ceremony the tradition is that in the Alcheringa a porcupine, then without quills or spines, came out of
the earth at Irchirtauilla and fed upon white ants Lunkalunga. A Walunkwa blackellow whose name was Barthokirra noticing that some one had been digging holes in the ant-hills (Mindaba) wondered who it could be and searched about, at last he discovered the porcupine digging in an ant-hill and he at once riddled it with spears and this is why the animal of today is covered with spear like spines. The performer in the ceremony wore on his head a capital imitation of the animal. A glance at the records of the 8th instant will show that the Walunkwa dived into the earth at a place called Umuntunguru and returned underground to Thapaurla. Today’s drawing, a photograph of which is shown on the opposite page, (chart no. 70) illustrates this incident in the history of the Great Snake, the head of which is shown entering one of the circles. This particular circle represents a native well called Umuntunguru which indicates the exact spot at which the great beast made its historic descent. The other
circles represent old paperbark trees close to the well and these trees are supposed to have been in existence ever since the Alcheringa and are therefore regarded as sacred. Men of the Walunkwa totem may not drink water from the well lest the great snake should become angry or think them wanting in respect.
At the conclusion of the Walunkwa ceremonies the final act in the Burumburu or bone breaking ceremony was performed. This morning the bone, which for some days has been resting on a bough platform at the ceremonial ground was greased, swathed in paperbark,
paperbark, decorated with red and white down by the brother of the deceased, who then took it to the camp of the women and handed it to the sisters, actual and tribal. These women carried it with them into the bush and in the afternoon returned bringing with them a number of cooked lizards and snakes which together with the Burumburu (bone) they handed to the mother of deceased who was sitting in readiness, her body smeared with pipeclay and ashes. All the sisters sat down or rather squatted opposite the old woman - an awful looking old creature who’s picture I have secured - and joined her in howling at the tops of their voices. This continued for about half an hour then the old woman was left in possession of the relic over which she crooned in melancholy tones for hours. After the conclusion of the Walunkwa ceremonies and at a signal from the men the women, 50 or 60 in number, their bodies decorated with yellow stripes, marched to the ceremonial ground.
The performers in the various ceremonies of today, 10 in number, took up a position one behind the other astride of a long shallow trench through which the women crawled on their hands and knees. As they emerged from the trench they grouped themselves a few yards off with their backs to the drawing and hands clasped over their heads. The last woman to emerge from the trench carried the bone and she stood in the relationship of Wankilli i.e., father’s sister’s daughter - [of] deceased. As soon as she got through, a brother of the deceased rushed up and snatched the Burumburu from her and holding it, grasped at each end over a shallow hole which had been prepared close to the drawing, a man of the Thapanunga class rushed up, and with one blow of a stone tomahawk, broke it in two. The brother at once plunged it into the hole hastily filled in earth and then placed a large flat stone on top. As the bone broke the women howled and fled as if ten thousand devils were after them. The woman who’s spirit is now finally laid to
rest was of the Walunkwa totem hence the reason for burying the bone close to the totemic drawing. It is a curious custom and one which beyond a doubt clearly identifies the individual with the totem. The expression so freely used in the Old Testament ‘gathered unto his fathers’ occurred to us today in connection with the burial which seems to indicate a return of the individual to the totemic father. At all Burumburu ceremonies the bone is broken and buried close to a drawing peculiar to the totem to which the individual belonged. The final drawing which represents the Alcheringa ancestor going back into the earth from which he sprang is called Palparla, so too is called the final resting place of the bone. In describing the drawing on a preceding page (chart no. 70) I have omitted to mention that the tracks of a human foot along the length of the snake represent the tracks of a Walunkwa man named Mumumunungina who was the son of the
Great Snake and who dwelt with him at Thapaurla. Tradition relates that this man was much put out about the snake’s wanderings, that he followed it everywhere trying to drive it back to Thapaurla. Finally he struck it across the back with a stick whereupon it seized him with its tail and took him into the earth at Umuntunguru. The two horns attached to the large circle represent the arms of the man held out to stop the snake, Note: Trench through which women crawled at Burumburu prepared by 2 men of Thakomara and Thapanunga classes, former maternal uncle, latter Turtundi, which expresses the relationship of mother’s mother and her brothers. Hole in which bone was deposited also sunk by the same men. An eventful day embracing scenes that will live in our memories as long as life lasts. Bar. 28.485. Aneroid 1420. A.T. 78.
August, 24th. Bar. 28.575. Aneroid 1340. A.T. 72. Boisterous cloudy morning with dust galore. Moonta at its worst could not hope to rival such weather but bad as it was we managed to get
some type pictures. Also ceremony for releasing women from the ban of silence, a very simple one. The woman takes to each of her tribal sons an offering of food which the man takes with one hand while he presents the other to her to bite. If the woman happens to have, as is generally the case, a number of tribal sons she has to collect and distribute a considerable quantity of food before she is permitted to speak, for she may not utter a word until the last man’s claims have been satisfied. So far as I am concerned it was a comparatively idle day. Did some toning and developing, talked with the niggers at odd times and lolled around generally. Spencer the tireless, busy enlarging during the afternoon. Chance preparing for our eastern trip to which we are looking forward with pleasure. The last month has been one of incessant hard graft without an idle hour from early morn till dewless eve and the outing will, quite apart from the information we shall gather, do us good. We shall see and examine with some of the leading old men of the tribe many places associated with important
tribal traditions and we shall be treading on what is to them holy ground. In the evening the natives (men) assembled near the ceremonial ground beating boomerangs, singing, dancing in grotesque attitudes, shouting out to the lubras who shouted in return, laughing boisterously, joking and poking fun at each other. This is the preamble to a fire ceremony called Nathagura which is to take place upon our return. The ceremony is the special property of the Uluuru moiety which comprises the Kabidgi, Chunguri, Thapanunga and Thapungerta classes and these people today made an offering of food to the Kingilli moiety who, tomorrow, will have to go of into the bush to remain there without their women and children until the Uluuru send for them. While out in the bush they will collect feathers and other decorative material to be used in the ceremony which is to follow upon their return. Their women will gather and store bushey tackout grass- seed, yams etc, until the men return. As in the case of the Walunkwa ceremonies which were performed by the Uluuru moiety the Kingilli will have to provide the decorative material and decorate the performers. Bar. 28,700. Aneroid 1220. A.T. 66.5.
August, 25th. Camp 40. Mt. Cleland Billabong (Kulkarti). Bar. Aneroid A.T.
Just after sunrise the women, their bodies decorated with yellow stripes, assembled at a spot about 100 yards from the men’s camp towards whom they danced and retired twice. The men, squatting on their haunches formed a long line one behind the other and in this position they ambled up to where the women were standing, shouting, and waving their hands. As each man arrived in front of the women he rose to his feet quickly and wheeled round and made back to the men’s camp. When the last man had turned to go, the women turned and ran off to their camp and the party of men led by an old Thakomara Punturku started for the bush. The light was unfortunately not good enough to obtain satisfactory photographic records. In the afternoon we started riding, Spencer on ‘Chappie’ and I on ‘Musket’ with Chance, two black boys and three pack horses. Three old men on foot will lead the way to the various spots we are to visit. Camped at Mt. Cleland Billabong (Kulkarti) 5 miles
from Station. The Billabong on which we are camped is about half a mile from Mt. Cleland (Kulkarti), a low reddish looking range that according to native traditions arose to mark the spot at which the Pitongu Bat stood up. The billabong is believed to be the site of his camp so that we are on historic ground. I am delighted beyond measure to be once more astride of old Musket, my favourite old hack. The old fellow, though mellow with age, has lost none of his gameness. Barometer left at Station, records will be entered on return.
August, 26th. Camp 41. Wankalki Billabong. Murchison Ranges. Very little sleep last night for either of us. In getting on Musket yesterday afternoon I strained a sinew in my leg and during the night it was just sufficiently painful to prevent me getting to sleep. I am afraid this little accident will mar the pleasure, so far as I am concerned, of our trip. Started at 8.40 a.m. old men leading the way; during the morning we passed a mass of black rocks that mark a spot at which Wongara the Crow ‘stood up’ in the Wingara. Also black stone column representing an Alcheringa Opossum younger brother of the Opossum that fought with the Wild
Cat and many natural features representing other totemic traditions. The billabong, a long shallow waterhole on which we are camped was in the Alcheringa a camp of the Crow. All the places at which the Alcheringa ancestors camped or paused are marked by some natural feature and these natural features are Mungai or totem centres. Country travelled over, nearly all stunted scrub and spinifex with a dwarfed and crinkled species of Eucalypt, in one of which the blacks discovered and dug out some native honey stored there by a small wild bee, not unlike the ordinary house fly in appearance and about equal in size. The honey is dark and tastes strongly of the Eucalypt. The blacks are particularly fond of it and as they dig it out, they swallow huge mouthfulls, comb, bees and all. Saw a great number of galahs. Chance and boys shot 5, also 1 duck and these we gave to the darkies who are collecting feathers for future ceremonies. Distance travelled 23 miles, weary miles for me for with each movement of my horse I had to endure a nasty twinge and I was glad indeed to get out of the saddle. Our camp
is carpeted thickly with the small blue flowers of some water plant with which I am not familiar. We have erected a fine breakwind and long grass being plentiful we have indulged in the luxury of grass beds; 30 yards behind us about 15 or 20 natives are camped lying between small fires and behind a long breakwind running parallel with ours. I guess if our wives could look upon this scene they would consider us in deadly peril of our lives and never again should we be permitted to wander in the back blocks.
August, 27th. Camp 42. Wearminni, Murchison Ranges. Up at daylight and in the saddle at 7.30. In 1 mile from our camp we struck a gum creek which we followed WSW for 20 miles and camped for dinner. Started on again at 3 p.m. and in one mile crossed creek near a fine waterhole called Kunkatcha-wililbertinya where the moon is said to have rested in the Alcheringa. Travelled on 7 miles and entered the main Murchison Range at a point where the Bat Pitongu paused in its wanderings. Two miles further on we passed a stone about 2 ft. 6 ins. evidently shaped by human hands, that marks the spot at which a woman of the. . . . .[OR blank]
a Small Yam totem finally went back into the earth from which like other Alcheringa people she sprang. Some red cliffs and heaps of broken red stone were pointed out as spots at which she had dug yams in the Alcheringa. We are now fairly in the Ranges and the place reeks of tradition. In one mile we arrived at Wearminni the name given to two large waterholes situated close together at the junction of two creeks coming down from the ranges. One of these holes is permanent but as the surrounding country within a radius of 20 or 30 miles is not capable of carrying more than 1 head of cattle or horses to every five square miles it is never likely to be utilised. In fact unless payable gold mines are discovered I am inclined to think that here at any rate the natives will always have a fair extent of country over which they may roam unmolested. The ranges are well stocked with euro and wallaby, permanent water sufficient for native requirements is always to be had; the barren plains away from the ranges produce a good variety of yams in addition to the ubiquitous spinifex which in good
seasons often conceals plump Backeru [=?? barred] bandicoots of which my dark friends are very fond. My injured sinew has given me considerable trouble during the day and it is bliss indeed to be in camp and at rest. It would be difficult to picture a wilder scene than this camp of ours; the ranges tower above us broken and jagged, along the narrow alluvial margin of the creek, spear grass is growing to a height of 6 feet and before we can form camp we have to clear a space. The place is or looks like a snake’s paradise and we are glad that the weather is scarcely warm enough for them to wander about at night. During the afternoon we saw 3 emu and on arrival here two melancholy looking ducks occupied the waterholes.
August, 28th. Camp 42. Wearminni. At 8.30 a.m. Spencer and I and our blacks started for the place of origin of the great snake Walunkwa - one black and myself riding, Spencer and the others walking. My injured sinew still very sore and I am unable to walk except at a snail’s pace. I envy Spencer walking along in the brisk morning air while my horse gingerly heads his way over boulders and crevices slipping, sliding and tripping at every step. We are now in the country of the great Walunkwa. The great hole
at Wearminni was formed by him from here to his place of origin at Thapaurla. We follow his tracks. The creek along which we travel was made by him (and he made it roughly). The waterholes Peentatuparli, Menajiji, Chinchinga, and Marolinthalaparinna indicate spots at which he rested. Close to the latter place is a great cave abutting on to the creek and subject to inundation in flood time. This cave which is capable of affording shelter to 100 men was made in the Alcheringa by two men of the Uluuru moiety who were sons of the Walunkwa - Pitongu the Bat crossed the country close to Thapaurla and saw the two men referred to; the exact spot at which he saw them is called Kian Kuthu or the two Boomerangs because Pitongu left two boomerangs there. These boomerangs are now represented by two trees. When within sight of the great waterhole at Thapaurla the blacks cautioned us not to mention the Snake’s name but to speak of it only as the
Snake, otherwise it might become angry and issue forth and destroy us, we assured them that we had the greatest respect for the snake and indeed we have and we were most careful not to disobey their injunction. Thapaurla is a very fine permanent waterhole in solid quartzite rock, a wildly weird looking spot that would attract thousands of sightseers if it was within reasonable distance of one of the Capitals; just the sort of place to impress the natives and after seeing it, I do not wonder that they have attributed its origin to a mythical monster like the Walunkwa. Hanging from one of the walls of the waterhole there are a number of black roots which have made their way through crevices in the rock; these represent the whiskers of the Snake. Higher up the range and beyond the big water hole there is a very fine rock-hole hewn by nature’s hand out of solid quartzite and holding many thousands perhaps 100,000 gallons of water. This hole is called Kadjingarra and it was made by the Snake when it was coming out of the earth. No member of the Uluuru moiety may drink water at either of these hole
but the Kingilli men may do so. Thapaurla and Kadjingarra are Thama, that is tabu to women and if any woman ventured to go there she would be tracked up and killed. Between Thapaurla and Kadjingarra there is another rock-hole at which in the Alcheringa a Wild Dog killed and ate a Euro. Two young men who accompanied us were instructed by the old men to walk into the hole. This they did and although the water which was protected from the sun’s rays was icy cold they splashed it all over them and then one of the old men rubbed their bodies, while they stood in the water, with round smooth pebbles taken from the bottom of the hole; these pebbles represented various organs of the Alcheringa Euro whose body was eaten by the Wild Dog. The old men then led us to several spots at which similar but larger stones were carefully stored in mounds and the young men’s bodies were rubbed as before. The stones used are called Irratitcha (that is Churinga) and they represent Alcheringa Euro, the larger ones males, medium females and the smaller ones the young
animal. It is believed that young men after being rubbed with these sacred stones become expert euro hunters and the first euro they get after this ceremony - which is called Ininija - is performed has to be taken to the old men who rubbed them. These old men also perform a ceremony for increasing the number of euro. The Irratitcha are believed to have been real animals in the Alcheringa and fresh supplies of euro issue from them today. On approaching the great waterhole in which the Walunkwa is believed to dwell, the old men sang out ‘Rest quietly. We are of your Mungai (totem) and your countrymen’ and one of the young men who is of the Kingilli moiety said ‘I am Kingilli, rest quietly or I will take your water away’. The latter threat was said playfully of course. We were much impressed with the reverence shown by the natives who accompanied us and I must confess that to a certain extent I shared in their feelings. Our visit to Thapaurla will live long in our memories. We have taken a number of views and also pictures of the young men being
rubbed with the sacred Irratitcha. Tis a glorious moonlight night and the surrounding crags are lit up by the blacks’ fires. Our boys shot half a dozen wallaby this afternoon and the old men are now busy cooking them; they emit a savoury odour and I shouldn’t much mind joining in the coming feast. We intended visiting some places farther east but on consideration have decided to return to Tennants Creek where we can do better work. Our visit to Thapaurla and various places en route has been most interesting and profitable. We should much like to see more of the wildly picturesque Murchison Ranges but time is fleeting and even a day cannot be spared to mere sightseeing.
August, 29th. Camp 43. At 8.30 a.m. we reluctantly bade goodbye to picturesque Wearminni and started on our return journey. Chance spent his time in camp fishing, and would like to have had another day. There are great numbers of fish in the almost inaccessible Murchison rock waterholes and as they take bait greedily the sport is not bad. The fish vary from 3
to six inches in length. They are greatly relished by the blacks but whitemen find them too boney. Let me here introduce ‘Bartunga’, (plate no. 71), the oldest woman in the Warramunga tribe. She deserves a niche in these pages if only as a recognition of the fact that she is probably the only woman in the whole wide world who, in full possession of her faculties has voluntarily refrained from speaking for between thirty and forty years. Her silence began with the death of her first husband’s brother. Some years later she lost her husband and his death was followed by that of some other relatives. Time and again she has been formally released from the ban of silence which even to the blacks appears marvellous but she obstinately refuses to utter a word and in all probability she will go down
to the grave without uttering a word. With her perfect knowledge of the gesture language, speech is not really necessary and I daresay she thinks she is in some way gratifying the spirits of her dead by remaining silent. Men who are now old greybeards tell me that she has not spoken since they were quite young fellows. Judging by her appearance I should think she is quite 80 years of age - poor old soul! Her eyes are shrivelled, dull and colourless, yet they light up when I present her with a bit of baccy. While travelling along this morning one of our boys nearly rode on top of a large poisonous snake and on arrival at Wililbertinya where we camped for a few hours the same boy nearly walked on top of a fine carpet snake, 6 feet 9 inches long. Both snakes were killed and promptly eaten by the old men. At 3 p.m. we started on, travelled 14 miles and camped without water. Amused ourselves lighting fires so as to let the natives at the Station know that we are
returning. We had just got the horses hobbled out when we were startled by seeing a great wall of flame some two or three hundred yards in length approaching our camp. Luckily it was on the other side of the little creek on which we are camped and we had chosen a good clear space so our anxiety was not of long duration. My injured sinew is much better and today I have had a fairly comfortable ride. In the afternoon we travelled parallel with a granitic outcrop extending for two or 3 miles marking the course of the Alcheringa travels of the Bat Pitongu.
August, 30th. Camp 44. Tennants Creek. Turned out at 4.30, bitterly cold S.E. wind blowing; at 6.30 Spencer and I are in our saddles and hitting out for the Tennant. We gladly salute the rising sun, its genial warmth is for once welcome. We passed a low range of hills lying on our right and marking the place where the Alcheringa Bees Qulpu paused in their travels and created a totem centre. At noon we reached the Tennant where we were introduced to Mr. Thomas O’Brien Harrington Nugent, a veteran bushman who is familiar with more Australian back country than any man I have ever met. Mr. Nugent is part owner of a cattle station called Banka Banka, some 60 miles north of here in which my friends Field and Scott are his partners. He is physically and socially a very fine type of
the old time bushman but like most of his class he is addicted to whisky in large doses when it can be procured, which luckily for him is very very seldom, then under the influence of what he terms the ‘divine fluid’ he is in the habit of informing all and sundry that he is Thomas O’Brien Harrington Nugent, the worst of the Nugents, the best man in the North and King of Benarabin, a station that he once managed. Just as the sun was dipping our boy Erlikilyika, otherwise ‘the Subdued’, arrived from Barrow Creek with the mail and the rest of the evening was devoted to our letters. It is a pleasurable sensation reading letters from home but it always saddens me and I am not sure that I should not feel happier without mails at all. Somehow or other the arrival of a mail always makes the months ahead look very long.
August, 31st. Another month is ended and six months more should see us in dingy, busy, unsympathetic Melbourne with its teeming thousands who always appear to me to be in a hurry. Printing and toning until after dinner,
Spencer enlarging quarter plates. Our Murchison negatives have turned out first rate but unfortunately one of my plates got broken in transit. The amiable old dame here depicted (chart no. 72) rejoices in the name of Iritchingalli and she is the mother of our principal interpreter Inchinchingpunguna who owing to the fact that his leg is half off was unable to go east with us. The old lady looks as if she could spit far when roused and she bears the reputation of being able to knock out any woman of her age in one round with yam-sticks; about the only English word she knows is ‘Bacca’ and that she uses whenever Spencer or I get within a quarter of a mile of her. The O’Brien Nugent is a man of varied experiences and two of his many yarns struck me so forcibly that I cannot refrain from recording them here. He was fishing on one occasion at Stella Vale, Leichardt River, Gulf
of Carpentaria, hooked a fine fish and was just landing it when a water snake peculiar to the Gulf country swallowed the fish, bait, hook and all. He continued to haul in the line until he landed the snake which he solemnly vows had, in addition to swallowing the fish, swallowed its own head and some inches of its body. Many years ago the police, when after some cattle killing blacks at Jackey’s Lagoon Landsborough River, dropped across a young lubra whom they handcuffed to a tree, intending to return and release her later on in the day. When they had made her secure they followed up the offenders’ tracks for some distance and returned to release the lubra in the evening; only her hands remained in the handcuffs. They had been severed at the wrists by the blacks who had doubled on their tracks and returned during the absence of the police. The woman was alive a few years ago and on being questioned by Nugent said that the blacks after cutting off her hands stopped the flow of blood with hot ashes. They of course thought that the police intended to kill her, but of course their object in making her secure was simply to prevent her
getting away and giving warning to the men. Both yarns appear incredible but they were told with an earnestness which makes it difficult to doubt their truth.
September, 1st. A warm morning spent at photographic work. The afternoon dawdled away skimming the papers of which we have seen little or nothing since leaving Oodnadatta. The blacks are all away on a hunting expedition and our occupation is gone. They will however return tomorrow. During the day a messenger arrived bringing official notice to the old men here of the approach of a number of ‘Walpari’ and ‘Bingongina’ natives who wish to see us and perform some great ceremony. Here is a picture of a Walpari woman (chart no. 73). The Walpari tribe adjoins the Warramunga on the latter’s western border and extend[s] south and west for a considerable distance. The Bingongina tribe tack on to the northern boundary of the Walpari and extend as far north as the Victoria River.
September, 2nd. A lazy day; did a little photography, some reading and endless smokes. Chance began packing up stuff collected here. Blacks returned in the evening but no sign of the visiting Walpari and Bingongina. This gentleman is a member of the Wolmalla Tribe (chart no. 74) which occupies a tract of country adjoining the Warramunga south western boundary. Numerically the tribe is not a strong one. They mix with their neighbours, the Warramunga, freely and any of the latter have Wolmalla wives. Their system of organization is similar to the Warramunga so we have not troubled to record their traditions, etc. September, 3rd. A nor’ westerly wind and warm enough to be pleasant. Busy with blacks on and off all day. Spencer entering up notes. Blacks preparing for fire ceremony which is being delayed owing to approach of Bingongina visitors whom the blacks
think would be very much hurt if they proceeded with the ceremony while knowing that the visitors were expected daily. Confound them, I wish they were not quite so punctilious. At the same time I admire their courtesy. Recorded tradition relating to an individual of the Alcheringa called Murtu Murtu who came out of the earth at Kalkaru. His figure was spherical, his feet only consisted of heels and toes and he spent his time corroboreeing and making a curious humming noise such as that produced by the swinging of a bull-roarer. Two Wild Dogs remarkable for their great size heard the noise away at their camp in the north at Alkauara and determined to trace it to its source. They started and camped at various places en route. Upon reaching Wainauro the noise was very distinctly heard and appeared to be quite close so they crept up stealthily and presently got sight of the strange looking man whom ‘they’ at once
attacked and killed. They did not eat his flesh but bit pieces out of his great body and threw them aside. The pieces whizzed through the air making the sound so often heard before and as each piece alighted on the ground a tree Nauantha (grevillea) sprang up and they remain [=there remains??] to this day. The Dogs when they had disposed of the body by scattering it all round them attacked the trees trying to get at the spirit (Thungalgie) of Murtu Murtu but they were unable to find it. Baffled in their search they laid down and died and two great gum trees arose to mark their final resting place. This and the next page contain types of Walpari women and I have given them a place here because they represent distinct types not often met with in the central tribes (chart no. 76). The lady on this page has a face hard enough to chop wood on. (chart no. 77).
September, 4th. Warm with N.W. wind all day. I am afraid we have done with cool weather for the remainder of
journey. Working with natives all morning. The Prof. numbering and indexing plates. In the afternoon both at ceremonial ground where natives performed a Thalaurla Black Snake ceremony, one of a series begun some weeks ago for the purpose of increasing the supply of black snakes. When this ceremony is completed we shall have an excellent example of that important class of ceremony and upon its conclusion we shall trek north. The O'Brien Nugent left for his station this morning but expects to meet us again at Powell Creek. A blackfellow went out with the Station teamster a few days ago for timber and while they were away from camp cutting the timber his swag was burnt to a cinder. The teamster said, ‘You must have let a spark fall from your pipe when you were rolling up your swag’. The darkie replied, ‘Oh No, me no been smoke, Ingwunu devil devil
been come out longa ground and burn em’. This from a man who has been in constant contact with whitemen for 20 years. Truly it is hopeless to try and eradicate their superstitions. The teamster laughed but the black’s faith in his devil devil theory was unshaken.
September, 5th. With the blacks all day. In the morning another bone of a dead man was brought in and handed to his mother as on the previous occasion. We are to have another Burumburu ceremony in a few days. During the morning a long pole was brought in to the ceremonial ground and painted with red ochre by two men of the Chupilla class. It was then taken to a clear space within sight of the women’s camp and erected by Chupilla and Thakomara men, the lubras being first of all warned to vacate their camps so that they might not catch sight of the pole before it was erected. In the afternoon the men and women decorated their bodies with yellow stripes. The women came in a body to the pole, dancing along and waving their hands as if inviting the men to come on.
As soon as the women started to approach the pole the men emerged from the creek in which they were hidden from view and formed a long line, squatting one behind the other. In this order and position they advanced towards the women led by an old man carrying a specially decorated shield. As soon as the women reached the pole which is called Chirilpa they patted it with their hands and some of them climbed up a few feet. They kept advancing to and returning from the pole until the men, still in a peculiar crouching attitude, passed round the pole and in front of them, then they ran off and the men dispersed; this is the second act of the Nathagura or fire ceremony which was begun on the evening of the 24th August. During the day the men were continually singing and chaffing each other and playing all sorts of practical jokes, stealing each other’s food, tobacco, pipes etc. This is a feature of the ceremony and no man may take offence at anything that is said or done to him during its progress.
September, 6th. With the natives most of the day. At daylight the men of the Kingilli moiety built a large bough wurley into which they ordered all men of the Kabidgi and Chunguri classes who of course belong to the Uluuru moiety. Six of these men were elaborately decorated, nearly the whole of the day being occupied in decorating them. Three represented Death Adder totem of Tchalirpa, two grass prickles left by the Munga Munga women on their march east from Tchinquirokwirra and 1 a number of sacred rock-holes or caves in the country of the Honey totem. During the day the Kingilli danced around the wurley sometimes carrying long poles, swathed in gum leaves and called Wanminmirri, and sometimes with fighting clubs, shields or boomerangs in their hands and while dancing they continually uttered piercing yells which could be heard half a mile off. In the afternoon all the men except the decorated ones who remained in the wurley smeared their bodies with white pipeclay and providing themselves with a number of pieces of bark, they marched out and made a wide
circle of the camps, drawing all the women to a wurley which they had hastily prepared, evidently to protect themselves against the pieces of bark which the men hurled at them in showers. As soon as the supply of bark was exhausted the men scampered back to the big wurley in which the decorated men were sitting and resumed the grotesque dancing and shouting. At 8 p.m. the decorated men came from behind the wurley running in a crouching attitude, two at a time, and carrying bunches of dry twigs which they lighted at a small fire, around which the audience were standing, and then scattered the burning embers over the audience. The women were all assembled and dancing at the Chirilpa where they remained so occupied for the whole of the night. At 10 p.m. the Wanmanmirri poles were brought and erected in a circle around the decorated men, who sang while those outside the circle danced and yelled to their heart’s content. At 10.30 a number of
men coated their bodies from head to foot with a thick mixture of pipeclay and, so protected, armed themselves with the Wanmanmirri which they set on fire and then danced around scattering sparks and cinders over everyone. Two men who had recently fought rushed at each other as if intent on murder, but after making one thrust they dropped their Wanmanmirri and embraced vowing eternal friendship. Whenever one of these fire ceremonies takes place men who have had serious quarrels and fought are bound to make a pretence of fighting each other with fire, otherwise they might continue to bear ill will. The fire combat wipes off all bitterness and after its conclusion all men start on a friendly basis. In fact the main idea of the whole ceremony is to promote a friendly feeling and blot out tribal squabbles. The men wielding the burning Wanmanmirri, scattering sparks and cinders all around and looking like fiends escaped from Hades, was a magnificent sight
and well worth travelling to Tennants Creek to witness. Nothing more utterly savage could be imagined. I shall never forget the hideous-looking whitened bodies with great red cinders adhering to them dancing in and out amongst the yelling naked blacks, on whose unprotected bodies showers of cinders fell. While this was going on the women lined up on each side of the men but at a distance of about 50 yds. and while uttering a melancholy sound like a prolonged Oh - singed themselves with lighted twigs; they said this was done to prevent the men being seriously injured. When the Wanmanmirri were burnt out, the men grouped themselves around the decorated men and sang almost continuously until 20 minutes to 5 when they abruptly ceased. At daylight the ceremony ended with the women dancing around the performers who sat grouped together in a crouching attitude as if trying to hide themselves. So ended the fire ceremony and here in all probability we have the rudimentary custom of which the European Carnival is a survival.
September, 7th. Blacks, tired out with their exertions, slept nearly all day. In the early morning we gave the old men four tins of jam telling them to use it with their damper but as soon as they got to camp they opened the tins and ate the lot. In the evening the long expected visitors arrived. They turned out to be 16 Walparis led by a venerable white haired shrimp-like old man. As soon as the local people heard that they were approaching, a deputation of half a dozen men, laden with provisions and water, went out and met them half a mile north of the Station. Just before sundown and too late to enable us to photograph the scene the local men cleared a space some yards in extent and here they took up a position standing stock still, armed to the teeth and their bodies painted yellow. The women divided into two groups, one representing the northern and the other the southern division of the tribe. The former took up a position standing to the right of the men and the latter, some distance behind and little to the
left, sat down. The visitors greased for all they were worth and carrying beautifully chipped opaline quartz headed spears approached at a run, going through serpentine evolutions and every now and again grouping themselves closely together and uttering a piercing screech, to which the women of the northern division responded. Finally they halted abruptly in front of the local men who stood like statues not moving a muscle or even appearing to see the warriors who presently wheeled round and sat down for two or three minutes, then jumping up they ran towards the northern women who threw cooked food at them and ran off, needless to say the food was deftly caught. Another offering of food was then made to the party by an old man of this tribe who singled out from the local group and [??delete “and”] sat with the food on a shield until one of the visitors came and took it away. While the old man was sitting by the shield with his offering, the local men abruptly turned on their heels and made off to their camps, which conduct appears rude but it is Warramunga etiquette. Tonight the visitors will be made much of and tomorrow they will be invited to witness a sacred ceremony.
September, 8th. Whole day spent with Blacks. In the afternoon they performed Thalaurla (Black Snake) ceremony of Pitamulla. A drawing was painted on the ground representing the snake lying down. A disagreeably warm day, the odour of an unclothed blackfellow is at all times more or less offensive but during the last few days it has become almost unbearable even to me, and I thought my sense of smell was becoming unnecessarily keen until today I discovered the cause. We have been generously distributing some slightly tainted tinned butter and the blacks have been greasing themselves with it, hence the odour. The supply of butter will be at once shut off. Did some work with the Walpari men and find that their totemic system etc. is on all fours with the Warramunga, for which may the Lord make us truly thankful. The Warramunga when going on avenging expeditions carry with them an arm bone, the radius of a dead man and also some articles, called Tarna, made of the hair
and whiskers of a dead man. The possession of these articles ensures success and no harm can come to men so armed.
September, 9th. Hazy, angry looking day and quite warm enough to be pleasant. Recorded particulars of magic as practised by women, also particulars as to sending out of special messengers, Uwuru, to summon distant groups [to] attend ceremonies. Messengers employed on errands of this sort are furnished with a bone taken from a dead man’s arm and when summoned by a messenger so accredited, no blackfellow would dare refuse to attend. In the afternoon 4 men performed a Thalaurla ceremony representing the Munga Munga women who at the instance of the Native Cat left Tchinquirokwirra and trekked away east taking with them the Menadji yam which was their totem. Drawing on ground same as yesterday. Chance packing collection in readiness to forward by first opportunity. Writing our mail at odd moments. Man named Prosser is expected to arrive here from the north en route for Alice Springs and we hope to induce him to take our letters on.
September, 10th. Another disagreeable, hot, hazy day and even the darkies are languid. In the afternoon they performed another Thalaurla ceremony four performers representing the Munga Munga women and one the great ancestral Black Snake of Tchinquirokwira. Spencer measuring blacks all the morning, a disagreeable task but it must be done, I have an idle hour or two quite a new experience, and devote it to a perusal of Madam Emily Solden’s recollections which I find very amusing. Much disgusted tonight on developing my plates to find that I had stupidly taken two important pictures on one plate, thus spoiling both pictures. Ground painting today represented women (Munga Munga) starting from Tchinquirokwira. The figures of the women were represented by three circles drawn in red and white. I rather expected that in this ceremony the figures of the women would have been drawn. This date six months ago, Spencer and I were strolling on Largs Bay Pier enthusiastically discussing our plans and building
ethnological castles in the air. It is gratifying to know now that rosy as were our dreams they have been abundantly realised, Mosquitoes about tonight in considerable numbers but they, happily for us, show no disposition to bite.
September, 11th. All day with the blacks. They have been using our butter again to adorn their hides and I am careful to keep them to leeward. In the afternoon the final act in the Thalaurla ceremony was performed by eight men gorgeously decorated, three of them wearing on their heads articles representing the Menadji yams carried by the Munga Munga women on their flight east. This association of the Munga Munga women with the Black Snake and the prominence given to them in the totem ceremonies strikes us as being very curious. At the conclusion of the totem ceremony a final bone breaking or Burumburu ceremony was performed. As on the previous occasion the bone was buried close to the totem
drawing prepared for the previous ceremony. We are glad to have had a second opportunity of witnessing this very curious custom. Spencer succeeded in getting a capital snapshot of the actual breaking of the bone. My pictures were under exposed and having to keep them a long time in the developer they become mottled and in places the film melted - language. Weather getting too hot for photography and I’m afraid our efforts in that direction will be wasted further north, We are glad to be done with the Black Snake Thalaurla ceremony. It has been in progress off and on ever since we came here; its object is to increase the supply of black snakes an important article of food with the natives. May their most sanguine anticipation as to a rich snake harvest be abundantly realized. In the evening Walparis gave a dancing corroboree.
September, 12th. Spencer measuring natives all day. I did a little photography in the morning. Just as the sun was dipping and too late to get photographic records, the Warramunga performed
the first act of a (?). Six men took part and their bodies and faces were painted a dark shiny greyish black, the pigment used to produce this effect is I think an oxide of manganese. Four Walpari men also performed a Carpet Snake Ceremony. The blacks watch us packing up with deep concern and many of them threaten to follow us to the Powell. In the evening we attended a dancing corroboree at the blacks’ camp. The men went through a lot of absurd antics which the audience seemed to appreciate very keenly. Mr. Prosser arrived from the north but as it is uncertain when he will reach the Alice we have arranged to start two blacks on foot for Powell Creek tomorrow with our mail. They will get through in five days and catch mail leaving the Powell via Queensland on the 18th inst., my letters will have travelled from South Aust. through Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and back into South Aust. before they reach their destination.
September, 13th. Boisterous, warm day with dust galore. A breeze occurred in the ceremonial ground today that might have caused trouble and seriously interfered with the success of our work, had it occurred when we were not so well known by the natives. A morose old fellow who has been ill ever since we arrived here but is now recovering and able to take a part in the Ceremonies expressed it as his opinion that our object in taking photographs was to extract the heart and liver of the blackfellows. His opinion had some weight with a few of the old men and there was much discussion about it. I arrived on the scene when the discussion was at its height and seeing that something was wrong made enquiry and quickly discovered the cause. For an instant I didn’t know what to do, the old men were watching me intently and on the spur of the moment I roared with laughter in which they presently joined. To laugh was as it turned out the very
best thing I could have done, for in five minutes the air of frightened seriousness had left their faces. Many savage races, even those so far advanced in civilization as the Afghans, object to being photographed and regard the camera as an invention of the devil. Many savages believe that if you possess their photograph it is in your power to injure them by means of evil magic, applied through their picture to them. This, however, is the first occasion upon which I have met with the same curious superstition amongst Central Australian Aborigines and it is not without interest. In the afternoon the blacks performed the following ceremonies Achilpi of Ungulungalki, Lirritpirichi of Guna and Utu of Waagumuru of all of which we have had previous instalments. Walpari visitors left for their own country carrying with them a number of tomahawks and knives some obtained from us and some from their friends of the sturdy Warramunga. Spencer still engaged taking measurements of types. Two blackfellows taking
our mail and travelling on foot left for Banka Banka 60 miles N. at 8 a.m. They will hand the mail over there to two other men who will convey it in the same way to Powell Creek. It may appear a risky way of sending one’s letters but needs must when the devil drives - or rather when he doesn’t drive the authorities to supply postal facilities.
September, 14th. Chance left with the wagon at 11.30. The horses fresh and in excellent condition. Our camp has quite a forlorn and deserted appearance and there is quite an air of melancholy about the spider-like buck board. Blacks performed Utu and Achilpi ceremonies in the afternoon. - Started mail south with E. Prosser. Spencer still measuring natives. Weather hot and punctuated with fierce towering whirlwinds.
September, 15th. Blacks called us at sunrise to see Achilpi ceremony of Narlungininyi. The two performers represented the Alcheringa women, Linchingalli and Tchungalli, of whom previous reference has been made on several occasions. They carried in
their hands each a Pitchi and yam-stick and made a pretence of hunting for and digging up Achilpi, an edible ant, upon which the women are said to have subsisted. Finally they danced around a man who stood out from the crowd, looking him up and down curiously. He represented a tree around which the women are believed to have performed a corroboree in the Alcheringa. In the afternoon five ceremonies were performed viz. Utu of Kurtatchirpitchi, 4 performers; Thabala (Boy) of Abukulunga, 1; Naminnipatunga (Little Bird) of Tchinpia, 1; Achilpi of Nunka thirra, 2; Karti of Warauina. I had a talk today with an old man who remembers seeing McDouall Stuart pass here on the occasion upon which he was stuck up and driven back by the blacks from Attack Creek. This old rascal vows that Stuart’s party was only attacked by one man. These people call the whites ‘Papilarinyi’ and they tell me that when they first saw white men they
thought they came out of the ground just as their Alcheringa ancestors did. Whole day spent at ceremonial ground. Very tired.
September, 15th. A wretched day, hot dusty and threatening rains. With the blacks all day. In the afternoon they performed ceremonies - Utu of Urtathirpirta, Lirrilpiritchi of Batungarti, Achilpi of Wurchuruchu -tomorrow the series ends. Today when talking with some men I said I should much like to have a Burumburu bone to take away with me. To my surprise half an hour later a tribal son of the man whose bone was buried a few days ago came to me and said that he and his brothers were willing to give me the bone I saw buried. I gladly accepted their offer and that bone is now in my possession. They dug it up in my presence and swathed and decorated it afresh before handing it over. I wish I could get
the other one we saw buried but it is hardly reasonable to expect such luck.
September, 17th. Our last day with the interesting Warramunga. Blacks hard at it all day. In the afternoon they performed the following ceremonies: Utu of Urtathirpirta, Lirrilpiritchi of Batungarti, Karti Achilpi of Wurchuruchu, Chalachirpa Burumburu. The sun was just dipping when the last ceremony was performed and we got back half an hour late for tea. At the conclusion of the day’s proceedings I addressed the blacks in their own language as follows ‘Punturku karti Warramungauna - Pangin jimini para yama kinna kinna yama yabungurra martara thupi thupu - Alkundu ku kaitchinda purkaburkaa adthinginni karti Warramunga malunku.’ This little speech which I carefully committed to memory I quite forgot at the critical moment, so I had to turn up my notebook
and read it. It contains advice from us to the Warramunga to discontinue certain cruel tribal rites and from the promises they have made in reply I am hopeful that they will do so. The speech begins ‘Wise ones and men belonging to the Warramunga’. During the day the men of the Uluuru moiety built up a huge conical shaped bundle about 10 ft. long and composed of twigs lashed to a central pole. In the twigs they stuck a great number of Chintilli - a decorative article used by the Kingilli moiety in all their ceremonies - and then covered the whole thing with hair string. At night the bundle - called Mainyirka was carried to the ceremonial ground by men of the Uluuru moiety who guarded it all night, singing of the Alcheringa wanderings and beating time with their fighting clubs. No member of the Kingilli moiety was allowed to be present, they were camped in the creek close by and were supposed to remain like the Uluuru awake all night. At daylight a man was sent to summon them. The Uluuru stood
up moving their hands and singing ‘Elache karna che warna.’ The Kingilli approached dancing singly and, from side to side moving their hands, as if in invitation. As each man got to within a few yards of the Mainyirka a tuft of eaglehawk feathers was thrown to him by one of the Uluuru. It was in every instance deftly caught and the man dancing forward stroked the Mainyirka from end to end, threw back the tuft of feathers and retired. Each man before retiring lifted up one end of the Mainyirka. A curious ceremony. The Mainyirka represents a great stone column at a place called Burumburu and the column, so says native tradition, arose to mark the spot at which in the Alcheringa the Lalkara, a little Tree Grub, threw aside their skins and changed themselves into White Cockatoos. The exhibition of the Mainyirka is the final act in the series of White Cockatoo ceremonies which have been in progress since our arrival here and the object of which is to increase the number of white cockatoos. With this ceremony our work
amongst the Warramunga ends. They are an interesting and a sturdy race and we leave them with regret.
September, 18th. Camp 45. Phillips Creek (Kurkurbertinya). At 9.30 a.m. we bade farewell to our friends at the Tennant where we have spent 9 exceedingly busy and highly satisfactory weeks. The blacks mustered in great force to see us off and many of the older men and some of the younger ones looked quite sad. Our stay amongst them will never fade from their memories, for the first time in their lives they have had unlimited supplies of baccy of which they are great lovers and a liberal allowance of flour, besides tea, sugar, tinned meats and other luxuries. Some day perhaps when there is a railway through this dreary country we shall run up and foregather with them again but when that time arrives I’m afraid many of the customs and traditions, now so much cherished, will be a thing of the past. The blackfellow as soon as he casts aside his own customs and takes on those of the whiteman begins to decay physically and morally and in every other
respect. It is sad but it is so. It was blazingly hot when we started but after a couple of hours the friendly clouds rolled up and travelling was fairly pleasant. At 1 p.m. we camped for dinner, gave the horses an hour’s rest and then pushed on and camped north of the Phillips Creek 20 miles from the Tennant. Country passed over mainly sand and spinifex with gnarled apple tree gums, ghastly, uninteresting but once on the Phillips and in country subject to inundation we were amidst abundance of feed which gladdened the heart of our horses. The evening was intensely close and still and the perspiration fairly poured out of us for an hour after tea. Great numbers of white cockatoo and galahs passed over our heads on their way to the Phillips Waterhole just as the sun was dipping. Already the Cockatoo Ceremony of the Warramunga has been effective. We lie on our blankets for a couple of hours discussing future work. I do enjoy these lonely camps where I have the gifted little Prof. all to myself. We have another Terrestrial Minimum Thermometer and begin
setting it tonight so in future, until this instrument meets with the same fate as its predecessor, we shall register every morning the lowest temperature attained during the night.
September, 19th. Camp 46. Attack Creek (Goaranalki). Min Ther. 67. Up at the first streak of dawn and on the road by 7.30. Cloudy, dull and threatening rain until noon when the sun shone out fierce as a furnace blast and the horses began to pant and perspire freely. Oh this is a lovely climate! The road which is little more than a pad is heavy, uneven and rutty and consequently our pace does not average three miles an hour. In 7 miles we cross a small gum creek, the Gibson, at which we noticed one of Chance’s camps, then four miles on we struck the Hayward, a still smaller creek, sinuous, snake-like, winding about in an extraordinary manner and in less than 3 miles we cross it four times. At 1 p.m. we camp for dinner both dying for a pot of tea. The horses are rested for a couple of hours and then we push on to Attack Creek where we camp for the night. Distance travelled 23 miles
Here we are on historic ground for it was at this creek that Stuart was, on two occasions, attacked and driven back by the Warramunga. He camped at this waterhole, perhaps on the very spot at which our buggy is drawn up. Doubtless like us he wandered around the edges of the waterhole peering into its depths and wondering why such wretched country was ever fashioned by the Creator. Mosquitoes are fairly plentiful and it is with malignant pleasure that we watch them being devoured in hundreds by an army of dragon flies.
September, 20th. Camp 47. Banka Banka, Ashburton Range. Up at dawn and on the road at 7 a.m. Min. Ther. last night 67. Cloudy warm day, track very heavy and rough for 10 miles, sandy with spinifex and desert gums then, after crossing the Morphett Creek, we passed over 10 miles of well-grassed loam country and reached Banka Banka Station which is situated at a spring of that name right under the Ashburton Range. Here we were hospitably received by Mr. Nugent one of the owners who with one other man and the assistance of the blacks runs the
Station. I contrived to run foul of a fly while admiring the Attack Creek waterhole yesterday and am now rejoicing in a bung eye of respectable proportions and villainous appearance. Nugent suggests vinegar as a remedy. I apply it with the result that some of the acrid fluid gets into my eye and the other eye sheds tears in sympathy and I am worse off than ever. The Station buildings are of a most primitive type but airy and adapted to the climate. The Ashburton like most of the main ranges in Central Australia is composed of quartzite and sandstone but it is low and not anything like so imposing as the ranges met with further south. Nugent’s room is decorated with framed coloured prints of fighting men, pugilists, and I am shocked to find that so many of them bear unmistakably Irish names; occupying humble places in this gallery of celebrities we also noticed pictures of Gladstone, Kruger and Banjo Patterson. Poor old Gladstone is not allotted a frame to himself, such an honour is only reserved for members of the prize ring, and the G.O.M. shares his frame with Oom Paul. Distance travelled 20 miles.
September, 21st. Camp 48. Kurumbara Lagoon. Min. 65. Up at daylight and in readiness to start at 7, but one of the horses wandered off and we did not get away until 8.30. A blazing hot day travelling through fairly grassed country timbered with bloodwood, grevillea and apple tree gum. At 16 miles struck Kurumbara Lagoon and camped for the day. In a week or two this water will be dry and there will then be a stage of 40 miles without water between Banka and Renner Springs. Fortunately we have carried sufficient water for ourselves, otherwise we should have had to put up with fluid of about the same consistency as strong pea soup. Sold our wagon, buggy, 12 horses and camp equipment to Mr. Nugent for £100, delivery to be taken at Borroloola at the end of November. We cannot congratulate ourselves upon this sale for it means a loss of about £150, but there is little or no chance of selling at all at Borroloola, so we thought it wise to accept Nugent’s offer. We have of course reserved horses and tackling to enable the blackboys to return. Very close hot night and we lie on our rugs perspiring freely.
September, 22nd. Camp 49. Renner Springs (Benarabin). Started at 8 minutes to 7 and travelled on over uninteresting country until 1 o’clock when we reached Renner Springs, otherwise Benarabin, and camped. The morning was cloudy with a strong S.E. wind blowing so it was rather pleasant travelling. Renner Spring is a genuine mound spring in black soil, quite an oasis in this howling desert. The trees and long slender reeds around it are green and fresh looking, nourished by a continuous flow of pure clear water. They defy the fierce rays of the sun and stand out in great contrast to the vegetation of the surrounding country. For some years this place was the homestead of a cattle station but it is now deserted. The experiment brought ruin to the adventurous owner and now the buildings are quickly going to wrack and ruin. Dilapidated as they are we are glad to take shelter in one of the verandahs for it is blowing half a gale of wind out in the open and the sun is beating down fiercly again. I have to make a damper and at present I am greatly troubled as to how I am to procure sufficient ashes if this wind lasts. The damper is an accomplished fact
and not at all bad although the fire was wretched. We sleep out in the open flat where the wind howls around us furiously, so furiously that I can feel some of my hair lifted out by the roots and carried off the Lord knows where. This Station might have been made a very picturesque place if the managers had troubled to plant trees around it but no effort has been made in that direction.
September, 23rd. Camp 50. Powell Creek (Pomaiu). Up at daylight, both off colour and unable to eat breakfast. Tinned meat and damper is not particularly appetising at the best of times but when one is a bit off, it is not endurable at all. Started at 7.25 a.m. The first 10 miles through heavy sand and spinifex, then 10 miles of fairly grassed country, with one patch of ironstone, landed us at Powell Creek Station, the iron roofs of which we were delighted to see peeping out over the trees which mask the approach to the Station. There is an air of comfort about this Station in great contrast to the batchelor quarters of the Tennant
and Barrow Creek. The verandahs are broad and strewn with great easy chairs that present an inviting appearance to the weary traveller, and we are soon occupying a couple of the cosiest with an air of great content. The Station is picturesquely situated on the bank of Powell Creek just where it junctions with a smaller creek called the Kintore; looking to the north the eye rests upon a scene of almost tropical luxuriance: around a spring on the bank of the creek a variety of trees are growing and one very fine tree, bauhinia, is near to us. Peeping out from behind the trees are rows of banana plants, some with yellow clusters of fruit hanging from them, the whole making a decidedly pleasing and refreshing picture after the arid dreariness of the track. In the afternoon I stroll with kindly Mrs. Kell in the garden and eat bananas fresh from the trees and for the first time realise what a really delicious fruit it is, so superior in delicacy of flavour to
the artificially ripened fruit we get down country. In the evening we lounge luxuriously in great armchairs under the verandah and for the first time for six months experience a feeling of absolute comfort and content; a whole evening - the first since leaving Oodnadatta - is devoted to pleasant social intercourse with our genial host and hostess and much tobacco is consumed. At 10 we retire to our camp, feeling that we have struck pleasant quarters and realizing to the full that only a woman’s presence can give refining influence, cleanliness and comfort to a bush home. We discuss Mr. & Mrs. Kell and vote them both jolly good fellows and regret that we cannot find an excuse to devote a month or two to the Chingilli tribe - and the Kells.
September, 24th. We are up and about long before breakfast. I visit the garden and purloin some bananas and tomatoes which leave me little appetite for breakfast. During the morning we visited the native camps and were rather disappointed to find
that most of the blacks are Warramunga. A few Chingilli men came in from the bush in the afternoon and we did a considerable amount of trade with them bagging 22 fine spears, some knives, axes and adzes. The Chingilli men appear to be more curly haired than the Warramunga and they are not so liberally bearded, many of them having only tufts on the chin and straggling hairs on the sides of the face. Like the Warramunga and other southern tribes, they are divided into eight classes consisting of two moieties of four classes each. The class names are as follows:
Males Females Thaaninginja Naaninginja Chiminginja Iminginja Thalaringinja Naarlaringinja Thungarrieninta Naanaringintha
Churlinginja Narlinginja Thungallinginja Narlanginginja Thamaranginja Namaranginja Chapatchinginja Nambitchingingja
The marriage system is the same as that of the Warramunga. The spears made by these people are much more elaborate than those met with further south and instead of having only one barb they have many and they are cut out of the spear blade and not tied on. They chip opaline quartz beautifully for spear points and in some instances they use glass chipped in the same manner. In the afternoon I took half a dozen types. Spencer busy entering up notes. Mr. Prentice and Mr. Holtze arrived from the north.
September, 25th. Both raided the banana and tomato plants before breakfast. Busy all morning sorting out and repacking stores. Sold £25 worth of surplus stuff. We are advised not to attempt to take along more than 2 tons on our wagon, so we are getting rid of everything not absolutely required. We have definitely decided to make for Borroloola on the McArthur River via Newcastle Waters and
Briggs Lagoon Station and by making forced marches hope to reach there early in November; from what we hear of the McArthur River tribes it will pay us better to devote the rest of our time to them rather than to imperfectly work the tribes en route. Did a little work with the natives in the afternoon and added a number of interesting articles to our collection. Recorded particulars of the Wambia class system. We shall come in contact with the Wambia at Briggs Lagoon. Weather delightfully cool.
September, 26th. We are falling into luxurious habits and do not turn out until nearly eight o’clock. The meal hours here are all somewhat late: breakfast about 9, lunch at 1.30 and dinner at 7.30 p.m. Printing and toning all the morning. Chance shoeing up horses. Still adding to collection. Late in the afternoon the Chingilli men performed a sacred ceremony Turtu Waanchu of Pomaiu. (Boy totem tacking on to the Thabala ceremony of the Warramunga).
September, 27th. Printing and toning all morning. Spencer taking photos. Spent an hour with the Chingilli and recorded class system of the Bingongina tribe which adjoins the Chingilli in the western boundary. The classes are as follows: Moiety Males Females
Weelquku Tchimita Naamita Thalyirri Nalqirri Thungarri Nungarri
B. c. Churla Naarla c. Thungalla Nungalla
Learaaku. c. Chemara Nemara Chambitchina Nambitchina
Descent is in the male line as in the Chingilli and southern tribes. In the afternoon the Chingilli performed the second act in the series of ceremonies begun yesterday and called Waanchu. This ceremony which is of a composite character, covering several totems, is supposed to promote the growth of boys and girls and it is performed
for this purpose periodically.
September, 28th. A snorting hot day, a mild sample of what is before us. Spencer writing Age articles. Getting ready to start wagon. Leaving all stuff collected here, except spears to go to Darwin by first opportunity, probably no chance of sending them down until next August. Chingilli performed third act of the Waanchu ceremony, four men, decorations on their bodies represented Menadji (yam) and its roots. When the performers were in readiness to begin, some Warramunga visitors were summoned to the ceremonial ground and they brought with them an offering of food consisting of a great Pitchi full of prepared grass-seed and some wallaby which they handed over to the Chingilli who, after the performance ended, touched their heads with twigs, thus releasing them from the ban of silence. It is a law of the Chingilli tribe that when one of their ceremonies is shown to men of another
tribe, the visitors must remain silent until they have made an offering of food to the Chingilli. This offering is called (?). In the evening Mrs. Kell treats us to some music, the first we have heard since leaving home and while enjoying old familiar songs I indulge in melancholy yearning for home, which I afterwards find is shared by Spencer. I don’t want to hear any more music however good - and Mrs. Kell sings really well - in the bush.
September, 29th. Very hot day - preparing for start north and writing our mail. In afternoon blacks performed another act in the Waanchu ceremony. Mrs. Kell presented me with a fine broad brimmed half-yankee hat with which to preserve my complexion. The hats we provided ourselves with are not sufficiently broad in the brim for this climate. Spencer busy on Age articles. Packet of prints No. 13 posted to Dick.
September, 30th. A boisterous dusty day. Wagon packed in readiness to start tomorrow morning. Load appears very bulky and in all probability we shall have to dispose of some of our stores at Briggs Lagoon to reduce weight. Like the Warramunga the Chingilli may marry into two classes. According to their system a Thaaningina man should marry a Churlinginja woman and the children born of this union would be Thungarrininta, that is of the same class as the paternal grandsire, but marriage with a woman who is of the Thungallingina class and therefore a daughter of the man’s maternal uncle or paternal aunt is also permissible but in this case the children of such marriage would be born Thalaringinja, the class into which they would have been born if the mother had married a Chiminginji man. Mail arrived from Anthony Lagoon about 6 p.m. and we are delighted to get letters from home. Blacks performed another act in
the Waanchu ceremony. The patterns used in decorating the bodies and the head-dresses are new to us. We succeeded in securing a couple of the latter and they make an interesting addition to our collection. Posted mail for the south; it will leave tomorrow per pack horse via the Katherine River.
October, 1st. Awoke with wind and dust howling around me. Found Spencer up since sunrise, writing letters. Lazed away the day reading the newspapers. Chance started with the wagon at 11, load looks uncommonly heavy but horses seemed to walk away with it comfortably. Mrs. Kell treats us to a delicious curry, the gravy of which is made of milk in which grated cocoanut has been soaked for some time and then strained. We both made a mental note that water should never be added to curry. Blacks performed another act in the Waanchu ceremony. Powell Creek, called by the blacks Pomaiu, is the Alcheringa place of origin of the Frilled Lizard (Thamangula) who came out of the ground at a spot now marked by a waterhole
now marked by a waterhole in the creek which was also made by the same Lizard. Tradition says that Thamangula spent his time performing Turtu sacred ceremonies until a number of boys Thabala came from Lamana and drove him away. The little ‘Kintore’ creek which junctions with the Powell, here is called Nanyinginti, and it marks the course taken by the Lizard in its flight.
October, 2nd. Quite a cool night and we could have done with one of the spare rugs sent on by wagon. Spencer spent the morning botanizing, while I was occupied getting up the Chingilli table of relationships and constructing a vocabulary on a small scale. In the afternoon blacks performed another act in the Waanchu ceremony and we regret that time will not permit of our remaining to see the conclusion which, so far as we can learn, will not take place for some days. In the Warramunga the ceremonies
were always concerned with one or other moiety of the tribe, never with the two moieties on the one day but in these Chingilli ceremonies both moieties perform their totem ceremonies at the same time and on the same ground. It is a sort of pooling of the totems for a special purpose and that purpose is to promote the growth of the young people and make the lean grow fat.
October, 3rd. Camp 51. Fergusson Spring (Karaiu). We finished with the Chingilli this morning and reluctantly bidding goodbye to Mr. & Mrs. Kell started at 2 p.m. The journey ahead is long, slow because we must keep with the wagon, and promises to be exceedingly hot with mosquitoes galore and we both feel a little depressed. The homely comfort of Powell Creek has rather spoilt us for the road and I’m afraid that it will take us some days to settle down to damper and tinned dog. Thanks to Mrs. Kell who’s kindness we shall never forget, our packs are stuffed with a variety of good things. After travelling 14 miles through interesting forest and low ranges we reached Fergusson Spring where we are
camping for the night. Spencer riding Chappie and I was mounted on a groggy old crock named ‘Wallis’ who when he was not stumbling in front and trying to fall on his nose was striking his fetlocks behind and limping along on three legs. It was not a comfortable ride and I must try another mount tomorrow but there was not the constant anxiety one experiences with a buggy, over these rugged bush tracks, and we are both glad to be relieved of that anxiety. The buggy harness and four horses supplied to us by Govt, were handed over to Mr. Kell, the buggy to be delivered to Mr. Nugent and the horses, good old worn out slaves, are to be pensioned off for the rest of their days. They have been out mainstay all through, always staunch and reliable. We leave them with regret and hope they will be permitted to end their days in peace and plenty. This is decidedly a picturesque camp, a fine waterhole fed by a spring and fringed around with very fine gums. Some of the gums are of a species new to us and with very small leaves and close lying foliage. A few mosquitoes visit us
while we are discussing some of Mrs. Kell’s good things and they are accompanied by some sandflies, little pests with a wonderful capacity for biting.
October, 4th. Camp 52. Newcastle Waters Pole Camp (Murkunku). We are up before the first streak of dawn and in the saddle at a quarter to 7. In 14 miles we cross the Lawson, a dry stony creek, to the north of which the country opens out into well grassed and timbered country in which we notice several varieties of trees quite new to us, amongst others one locally known as the gutta percha tree. On nicking this tree with a tomahawk a white sticky substance was exuded from the cut surface. In 6 miles after crossing the Lawson we struck Newcastle Waters South a very fine sheet of whitish looking water which looks as if it had been mixed with milk - it makes capital tea. This is one of a remarkably fine and almost permanent chain of waterholes extending roughly north and south for about 30 miles. My first thought when looking over the great expanse of white water was ‘How Stuart must have enjoyed this sight after the comparatively small waterholes of the south’
Here we camped for dinner under the shade of a noble gum whose roots on all sides are nourished by the water. At 2 o'clock with the sun beating down fiercely we started on and after following the creek for 12 miles dropped across Chance camped on the edge of another fine hole called (?). Not being used to the saddle I was tired and sore and glad indeed to off saddle and lie in the shade of a friendly tree for the rest of the afternoon.
October, 5th. Camp 53. Newcastle Waters Station. (Marlinja). Left camp at 7.45 travelling over well wooded and grassed country with abundance of water for 12 miles which landed us at Newcastle Waters Cattle Station the property of Messrs. Lewis Brothers. The Station is built on a stony rise on the western bank of the Newcastle and, like most stock stations in the ‘way back’, there has been no attempt made to improve the appearance of the surroundings. The Station buildings are of a primitive slab type and present
an appearance of decay and neglect. The manager’s hut is a wind and dust swept shanty, filled with saddlery in all stages of unrepair but still carefully housed for future use. Mr. Stephen Lewis manages the place and his partners are the Hon. John Lewis and Mr. Harry Lewis. Stephen like his brother John is an old friend of mine and a great grafter. I am much disappointed to find that he is away on the run and may not return before we leave. We found two Chinamen in charge and they are treating us handsomely. The cook to Spencer’s amusement took us for travelling hawkers and seems greatly disappointed that we have nothing to sell. Spencer presented him with a butcher’s knife and he smiled as only a son of the flowery land can smile. One striking feature about his place is the total absence of blacks. I have never before been at a Station where there were not some blacks congregated. Chance busy all the afternoon repairing wagon. A bolt was broken
yesterday and to get at it the wagon had to be unloaded and the forecarriage taken out. In front of the Station there is a very fine waterhole nearly half a mile in length when full. Spencer and I strolled along its banks and picked up some large fresh-water mollusc shells and we are hoping that they are new to science. They are certainly much larger than any similar shells previously collected. Most of the country travelled over today is subject to inundation and after a heavy wet season moving about on horseback becomes impossible for many weeks. Looking at the flood marks one wonders that the water ever dries up, yet only last year only one of the large waterholes held out and it is said that quite half the stock perished.
October, 6th. Camp 54. North Newcastle. (Kulatha). A restless night disturbed by the incessant barking of the Station dogs. Started on at 8 a.m., travelled 8 miles over well grassed and timbered country, subject to inundation during wet seasons, and camped at a very fine waterhole known as the North Newcastle. Here we met Mr. Cole, Overseer of
the Line party, who invited us to stay at his camp 1 1/2 miles distant. We preferred however to form our own camp near the water and thus save having to send the horses back. In the cool of the evening or rather in the stewy heat of the evening, we strolled along the shores of the great waterhole and picked up a few mollusc shells but they are not nearly so numerous as at last night’s camp. There is a remarkable absence of water birds about the Newcastle Waters. We expected to see thousands of ducks; we haven’t seen one, only a few white ibis and shags. The afternoon has been very hot and although we have rigged a good shade, the perspiration pours out of us. Evening hotter still, not a breath of air nor is there a mosquito although the thermometer at 9 p.m. registers 85°. Boy arrived at 7 p.m. from Newcastle Station with letter from Stephen Lewis expressing regret that he had missed us and offering to run us out a bullock in the morning. I replied stating that we were pushing on to Briggs Lagoon and thanked him for his kind offer. I regret that we missed seeing him
October, 7th. Camp 55. Wallamunpu and Yalla Waterholes. A very disagreeably clammy night and we awake out of sorts and appetiteless. At 7 we left camp and walked 1 1/2 miles to a shackle on the line from which I spoke [with] Powell Creek and Pt. Darwin and sent off memos, to our wives. At 9 o'clock boy overtook us with the saddle and pack horses and we at once started for this camp which we reached after travelling over about 27 miles of flat, Bay of Biscay country, much of it bumpy and disagreeable to ride over but mostly well timbered and grassed. The soil is a bluish grey and the surface is covered with gaping cracks some of which are dangerously wide and deep and the horseman has to thread his way gingerly, if he does not want to risk coming to grief. The growth of grass is in many places dense, rank and very dry and we were specially careful not to let the sparks from our pipes get away lest there should be a conflagration which might swallow up Chance (and the horse team) who is coming on behind. He, Chance, is to leave camp at 2 p.m., pull out as far as he can get and camp
without water. With fair luck he should reach here before noon tomorrow. He is provided with a Chingilli native to pilot him. We are camped within 100 yards of two very fine waterholes on which there are a number of fine pelican swimming about. Just as we were comfortably settled in camp a blackfellow who is in the employ of Messrs. Bogtock and Bathern at Briggs Lagoon or Beetaloo Downs Station came and told us that the blacks were looking forward to our arrival and that they were preparing to perform some of their sacred ceremonies. It appears that as soon as we left the Powell a blackfellow started from there, travelling across country, to inform these people of our coming. We are much disappointed to find that the people are Chingilli and not Wombia, as we expected, but we are hoping that there may be some Wombia among them. We are now clear of the Overland Telegraph Line and will not meet with it again until we arrive at Pt. Darwin per boat. Our course for Borroloola, where we intend to stay some time and hope to do much good work, lies roughly
300 miles E.N.E. from last night’s camp. The route is said to be fairly well-watered and with the aid of black pilots to point out the waters we should get through without much difficulty. Our horses are all in good travelling condition, not too fat, but we are short of saddle hacks and should have two more. Mosquitoes much in evidence for an hour after sunset, then to our relief they disappeared.
October, 8th. Camp 56. Beetaloo Downs Station. (Warungunku). Started at 8 a.m. passing a succession of waterholes (this creek flows into the Newcastle and is unnamed) in one mile. Much to our surprise we ran up against a stockyard with a bough wurley and a dilapidated tent in the background and realized that we were at the Station. From out of the bough wurley came Mr. Bostock, one of the owners of the Station, who greeted us cordially and invited us to have some tea. After a chat we went with him to the black’s
camp where he introduced us and explained the nature of our mission. We were glad to find a number of Wombia and quickly learnt that the proper name of this tribe so-called is Umbaia. Parunda with the willing assistance of some of the blacks built quite a palatial bough wurley and thickly carpeted it with grass and in this, after dining with Mr. Bostock, we got some Umbaia men, worked out their class system, how they intermarry and built up their table of relationship[s] and recorded sufficient to show us that their system and customs are so much akin to that of their neighbours, the Chingilli, that it is not worth our while making a stay of more than two or three days. Beetaloo Downs or, to give it its best known name, Briggs Lagoon is a recently established cattle Station grazing at present 2,000 head of cattle and some horses. The Lagoon, which is really a waterhole in the broad bed of a very wide
and mostly very shallow watercourse, is a very fine sheet of milk white water and when full lasts 18 months without rain. Last year there was no rain; the Lagoon became dry and the stock had to be shifted to the coastal watershed and this must occur whenever there is a longer period than 18 months without rain. I do not envy Messrs. Bostock and Bathern their fight for fortune. They do not appear to have any intention of erecting Station buildings. Here are the class names of the Umbaia: Moiety Males Females A Tjeanum Nianum Illitchi Tjulan Nurlan Palyarinji Palyarina Pungarinji Pungarinya
B Tjurulum Nurulum Learitchi Thungallum Nungallum Tjamarum Neamaragun Yakumarri Yakumarine
The first four correspond, in the order written, with the four Warramunga classes: Thapanunga, Chunguri, Kabidgi, Thapungarti and the second four with the classes Chupilla, Thungalla, Thakomara and Chambein. In writing down the various class names of the tribes passed through, this order has been used.
October, 9th. Camp 56. ‘Tis seven months today since I left home, looking back, it seems years and looking forward the months ahead appear long, very long. Chance arrived about 8 a.m. Horses looking rather tucked up and he reports having had a tough struggle to get through, wagon dragged heavily in the Bay of Biscay soil. We are getting rid of about 3 cwt. of stuff here, so as to lighten the load as much as possible. Unpacked our trading material and did a brisk trade with the blacks, thus occupying the morning. Added 25 spears and a number of other things to our collection, but nothing of special value except a wooden Churinga (Purkuali) of the Umbaia tribe. The people of this tribe differ in appearance from the southern; some of the men and women have a
decidedly European type of countenance with straight foreheads - hooked noses. All apparently have curly hair. They appear bright and intelligent in comparison with the Arunta for instance and yet they live in a country in which there has always been a great dearth of animal food. In good seasons the waterholes and lagoons provide abundant supplies of mussels and small fish, the latter difficult to catch. The natives’ method of catching fish is new to us and it is this: they procure a hollow log and after stuffing up one end they place it in the water. The fish find their way into it in great numbers. The log is tilted up and carried out and the contents emptied into a Pitchi. Mussels, called by the Umbaia ‘Murlungarri’, are caught by groping in the shallow water with the hands and feet. A variety of water fowl are to be seen on this lagoon in the early morning. The pelican, on land squatting on the margin of a pool is an ungainly if not a positively ugly bird, but slowly gliding
along in the water it is decidedly graceful and moves as if propelled by some unseen mechanism. On the Lagoon there is a flock of 8 or 10 of these birds continually floating about and only stopping now and again to plunge their great beaks into the water to bring up a wriggling fish which they appear to swallow whole. Looked at from a distance of 50 yards the beak appears capacious enough to swallow a dog. Chance would like to disturb their calm by shooting one but we strongly object and he agrees that it would be a sinful waste of life, so the birds are allowed to go on gobbling fish to their heart’s content. No one seems to waste a thought on the poor fish! Like some other species of birds the wing and leg bones of the pelican are connected with
the lungs by means of air cells so that as the bird breathes its bones, which are large, quite hollow and astonishingly light, are filled with air. Why Nature has made this provision no one knows; it is not to enable the bird to swim or fly more easily, for some of the strongest flyers and swimmers are not so provided. After sundown the Umbaia men performed the first act in a series of composite totemic ceremonies called Ulupu. There were five performers, three representing the Fly (Ungunji), one Wallaby (Kulami) and one plain Iguana (Churkupali); the performers knelt in a row and the audience lined up on each side, singing and clattering boomerangs. Then each performer in turn danced forward, with the usual exaggerated high knee action, carrying in his hand a flat oblong stone which he jerked towards the members of the audience and in all directions, finally returning to his original position and placing the stone under the armpit of the next man. There was nothing remarkable about the decorations and the usual material
Note: Umbaia do not bury their dead in trees.
was used. We dined sumptuously at 7 and had the assistance of Mr. Bostock in discussing with great relish a plum duff which Mrs. Kell gave us at the Powell. We have another in reserve. Although the day was hot the evening turned out delightful and after Bostock returned to his camp, Spencer and I talked on till 11.
October, 10th. Camp 56. Bostock joined us for breakfast bringing with him an offering of milk and radishes. The remains of the duff was served up in the old geezer’s best style, fried brown and red hot, and we enjoyed it immensely and poured blessings galore on the kindly Mrs. Kell. We have added to our staff a blackellow of the Chingilli tribe named Tharrimindi, otherwise ‘Jack’, who is to pilot us to Pinda, a deserted Station 110 miles E.N.E., Spencer repacked and indented everything on the wagon, thus getting rid of superfluous cases and packing and considerably lightening the load. A Umbaia man who visited our camp today had his hair done up in a number of little plaits, brought together and tied at the back of the head. I should like to have taken a photograph of him
but I have no plates in camera - weather too hot to carry the slides charged. During the morning I recorded vocabulary of the Umbaia language and we have now a considerable number of equivalent terms used by Arunta, Kaitish, Warramunga, Chingilli and Umbaia tribes. Also recorded the class names of the Gnauan or Gnanji tribe which inhabit the country around Pinda. These people are said to be hostile to the whites and they will probably avoid us. Here are the class names, the equivalents of those used by the Umbaia and other tribes and written in the same order:
Moiety A Illitchi Males Females
Moiety B Learitchi
Also recorded information about the totemic system of the Umbaia. Chance busy all the afternoon packing weapons, etc. gathered here; now that we are away from the Telegraph Line - which we practically followed for nearly 900 miles - everything collected must be carried on the wagon. Umbaia performed second act in the Upulu ceremony - 7 men decorated, all wearing head-dresses, and one in addition a flat stick about 3 feet long, painted with various pigments and in tasteful design. Two of the men represented small Iguana (Chilchakara) 2 plain Iguana (Chirkupati), 1 Snake (Chinipilchi), 1 Little Bird (Chinmi). As in yesterday’s performance the Stone (Anulukuli) was carried and used in manner described. At the conclusion of the performance the decorated stick was taken from the head of the performer and broken across his head and that of another man from the audience who squatted alongside him. We have secured the stone and stick. This ends our work amongst the Umbaia. We regret that we cannot devote more time to them, but it appears to us
that all the time at our disposal should be devoted to the Gulf tribes.
October, 11th. Camp 57. Kandulara. Spencer determined upon an early start, roused us out at 4.30. We left camp with the packhorses at 7, travelled 10 miles and camped at Kandulara, a small waterhole in an unnamed creek. Chingilli tradition is that this waterhole was made by the Honey Bee Ung-gura. A great bush fire had swept over the country a few days before, destroying miles of grass and frizzling up the trees to a remarkable extent. Spencer was interested in discovering a well known Queensland form of centipede or, to give it its correct name, Millipede julus (pronounced I-yulus). The millipede or thousand legged differs from the centipede in two points. The centipede has poison fangs with which it kills the insects it lives upon. The millipede has weak jaws and feeds on vegetation. It is provided with two pairs of legs to each segment of its body, while the centipede has only one pair to each segment and, unlike the centipede, it exudes from tiny glands on
each side of its body a foul smelling viscous fluid with which it is provided, apparently for the purpose of protecting it from the attacks of other animals, We are almost daily seeing trees that are new to us, amongst others hedgewood, lancewood, gutta percha and a great variety of eucalypts, all of a stunted form and remarkable for the poor shade they afford. All these gums are more or less affected with ‘galls’, a pod like oval growth, which at first sight appears to be a seed pod but Spencer, who simply oozes information at every pore, tells me that they are formed in this way. Some insect, there are numerous varieties, deposits its eggs on the tree leaf thereby setting up an irritation which causes the growth to take this form and envelop the eggs. In process of time the insect is developed and then it bores its way out. The galls on some of the gums further south are quite spherical in shape and grow to the size of a billiard ball. The blacks eat their contents with evident relish. A very hot day
the thermometer registering 103 1/2 in our bough wurley. Great numbers of galahs and pigeons came in to water during the evening. Two young men of the Gnanji tribe are following us out to their country. Neither can speak a single word of English and both are truculent-looking beggars capable of any atrocity, so we intend to keep them at a distance. To make use of this water we have had to make a detour of three or four miles over very bumpy, rotten Bay of Biscay country in which it would not be safe to venture with the wagon, so Chance has gone on 7 or 8 miles and sent the horses back here to camp and water. Camp surroundings very depressing.
October, 12th. Camp 58. Munda. Up at 4.45. Horses wandered during night and delayed start until 6.40. After covering about eight miles of rotten Biscay ground we overtook Chance, handed over his team and travelled on until 1.15 and camped at Munda, a fine lagoon picturesquely fringed with a forest of gutta percha trees and lignum, quite the most interesting spot we have camped at since leaving the Powell. Birds in great number
and variety are much in evidence: ibis both black and white, cranes both blue and white, also the spoonbill crane, are wading in the shallow margin of the lagoon while others meander about on the edge; thousands of galahs, black cockatoos and smaller birds are continually going and coming and it seems as if the birds we missed so much further south had all migrated here. The day was an exceptionally pleasant one for the season of the year; a strong S.E. wind sprang up during the night and continued blowing all day so that it was quite cool. Chance arrived with the team at 4.30., horses looking somewhat tucked up, so we shall spell them tomorrow. In the evening I strolled around the lagoon and shot 1 white crane, 1 black ibis, 1 black cockatoo, 2 galahs and 3 catbirds, quite a bag that afforded a varied repast for our Gnanji friends. The catbirds are a different species to those found further south, larger and darker in colour and perhaps not yet scientifically described. While I was shooting, a fine old pelican arrived
and took up a position in the centre of the lagoon and calmly went on fishing, only raising his head in a languid tired fashion when a shot was fired. Chance was eager to bowl him over with a rifle but we strongly objected. Country traversed today a mixture of plain and forest all well-grassed but some of it exceedingly heavy travelling for a loaded wagon. Distance covered 24 miles.
October, 13th. Munda. A fine, cool, refreshing night. Boys built a fine wurley and we enjoy a laze. Spencer did some botanising and examined banks of lagoon for specimens and returned with a dish of honey which he and the boys cut out of a tree. Honey or, as the blacks call it ‘Sugar bag’, appears to be fairly plentiful, for the boys cut out two lots yesterday. The bees are very small not unlike the house fly in appearance but not quite so large. The blacks are very fond of the honey and devour it, bees, comb and all; sometimes they mix the honey with water and drink it. This lagoon abounds in mussels and fresh-water periwinkles, and around its banks
are great heaps of shells, indicating spots at which the blacks have been feasting. Added a few birds to collection. In the evening I shot some galahs for the blacks and was sorry for having committed unnecessary slaughter when the Gnanji men and our Chingilli man turned up loaded with five plump bronzewing pigeons which, so far as we could gather, they got by making a brush yard (in the thick scrub) into which the birds wandered on their way to the water. Once in the yard they fell an easy prey to the blacks. We are to witness the process on the next favourable opportunity. Chance regaled us on another of Mrs. Kell’s puddings and we close the Sabbath in quite a benevolent frame of mind and at peace with all the world. We are now in Umbaia territory. Umbaia tradition is that Munda lagoon was made by the native companion (Grus australasianus) Yalkunguli.
October, 14th. Camp 59. Arung-win-me. Turned out at 5 and left camp at 6.50. Pleasant morning. South east wind still blowing and we are praying that it may last for a week. Travelled over 10 1/2 miles of rankly grassed forest country consisting of gutta percha, hedgewood, lancewood and gum box (sic), the latter predominating
and camped at a shallow lagoon called Arung-win-me in which there are some very fair sized fish - Erlikilyika the Subdued - the Lord knows how or where it came from - produced a fish hook, waded into the lagoon and stood there patiently fishing for three hours. Results - 12 fish. Fish caught here are called by the natives Kaakwia. Spencer and Chance skinning birds all the afternoon, amongst other[s] a small species of eaglehawk with a white bar across the wings, which I do not remember having seen further south. We passed some colossal ant-hills this morning, the highest about 12 ft. high and 10 ft. at the base. The ant-hills of Tennants Creek are insignificant compared with these monsters. According to Umbaia tradition this lagoon was made by the Hailstone (Paripari). Birds in great number coming in to water during the evening. There are literally thousands of galahs. I shot half a dozen for the Gnanji and a fine black cockatoo - to me a new variety - for our collection. Spencer is
unable to identify the fish so we are preserving specimens much to Erlikilyika’s disgust. They may be a new species. Usually we have to make a wurley to protect us from the sun but here we found abundant shade under the wide spreading limbs of a large hedgewood tree.
October, 15th. Camp 60. Kurrabubba. Spencer. Parunda and I left camp with the packhorses at 6.40, a first rate start which gave us the cool of the morning to travel in. Covered 20 miles by 12.15 and camped. After we had discussed a pot of tea and a tin of sardines and were just sitting down comfortably under our bough shade, 4 Gnanji men appeared some distance off and hailed us. We sang out to them to come on which they readily did. Two had English names and one Kanting-ana, otherwise Nim, informed us that he ‘plenty know em whitefellow’ and that he had worked on the Telegraph Line. He possesses but one eye and that a baleful looking one but we were right glad to make his acquaintance especially as he understands a little English. As is usual with the blackfellow his first want was tobacco and when we had satisfied that want, he informed us that there was a much better camp and finer
waterhole a little further on. So after verifying his statement we packed up again and moved on to Kurrabubba where we are now located. We had not been here more than a few minutes when some more Gnanji men turned up. Through our new acquaintance we explained the nature of our mission and arranged to do some trade later on. The whole of our course this morning was through forest country, box[-gum] with occasional patches of hedgewood, paperbark, lancewood and several species of trees that are new to us. From the greater growth of the forest during the last few miles it is evident that we are getting into country rejoicing in a heavier rainfall than that passed through. Our camp is on a little green circular flat, dotted over with gum trees and within fifty yards of Kurrabubba waterhole, a fine hole of clear water on the surface of which some water lilies are growing. The leaf is quite circular, a deep green and about three inches across with a pretty, delicate-looking yellow flower of which I have preserved a specimen
In anything like a fair season there is an abundance of fine waterholes full to the brim and looking at them one can scarcely believe that they are ever dry, yet only last year there was a stretch of 140 miles along our present route without a thimbleful of the limpid fluid. Today it was a relief to us to see a pool of really clear water, for since touching the Newcastle Creek the water has all been white and milk-like and not at all good for making tea, In the evening we did some trade with the Gnanji and amongst other things secured half a dozen dilly bags, beautifully woven from grass fibre and decorated in various designs. Began vocabulary of Gnanji language.
October, 16th. Camp 60. As there is good green picking here for the horses we have decided to put in a day with the Gnanji who, although said to be hostile to whites, appear very friendly. The boys erected a palatial shade much superior to the Station building at Beetaloo Downs. These wurleys of ours have been a great feature of our trip and for years
they will remain to mark our camping places right across the continent. In a climate such as this, the bough wurley is an institution of the first importance, much cooler than any house and if one could only shut out the flies I know no more desirable shelter. Close by our camp there is a great outspreading gum tree under which the Prof. and I spent yesterday afternoon but as the limbs creaked ominously at every gust of wind we thought it advisable to provide ourselves with a shelter less risky, Completed Gnanji vocabulary and recorded some interesting information as to the customs of the tribe, their system of being born into the totem is strikingly different to that of the southern tribes. They practise tree burial and believe that the males are reincarnated and born again but that the women are not born again - a very curious belief. Kurrabubba waterhole marks the spot at which the fish Kancharri came out of the earth in the Alcheringa (Poaratcha). This fish is the ancestor of all the people of
the Fish totem. Close by there is another fine waterhole Kappalama at which the White Hawk Kutumbinya came out of the earth; this hawk was the wife of the Fish Kancharri and the ancestors of all the White Hawk people. The waterhole at which we lunched yesterday is called Kirrimungkullina and it marks the exact spot at which Kancharri the Fish performed a ceremony in the Alcheringa. The marriage system is the same as in the Warramunga; strictly speaking a man should only marry a woman of one particular class but he may, without breach of native law, marry a woman who is the daughter of his maternal uncle or paternal aunt in which case the children of the marriage would be born into the class to which they would belong if their mother had married a man of the class from which, strictly speaking, her husband should have been drawn. We also recorded a number of the terms of relationship used by these people but did not consider it necessary to work out the whole table
Knocking out the two upper incisor teeth is practised by the Gnanji but the rite, which is called Amara, is not compulsory and many of them prefer to retain the full set. The Chingilli and the Umbaia also knock out two upper incisors and the rite is always performed during heavy rain with the object, so they say, of driving away the clouds and stopping the rain; the Chingilli throw their teeth into the running water. The teeth of the Gnanji man is knocked out by his mother’s father, whom he styles Yamanjilla; it is done during rain and for the purpose of stopping it or preventing too great a fall. The teeth are carried about by the old man for some time and then handed to the man’s mother, who pays for them in red ochre and other articles. Finally the mother buries them in the bank of a waterhole where they give rise to a water lily called Takukuma which produces edible roots and seed; so that really the teeth are well sacrificed! We were greatly surprised to find that fresh
water turtles (Chelodina longicollis), called by the Gnanji Lamarangudna, exist in these waterholes; the species is well known and widely distributed in Australia but I have never heard of it existing in country so subject to drought before. The blacks, at our request and in return for some baccy and flour, very soon caught one which proved to be about half grown. They tell us that a much larger species of the same beast called Kotomantarina will be found 50 miles further on, where we shall for the first time meet with crocodiles. These people make small hand fishing nets of grass fibre and called Mulutu. Their spear throwers commonly called woomeras are decidedly the most ornate we have met with: there are some specimens in my collection and they can be identified by the bunch of twisted hair strands attached to one end. I cannot say much for the beauty of the Gnanji, their men are decidedly ugly with very little hair on their faces, their women hideous but the piccaninnies are bright looking. As for clothing the people here, who number about
30 souls, possess as a wardrobe one dilapidated, knitted skull cap, originally red now nondescript. Where it came from and how it drifted here, the Lord only knows. Probably some fond mother knitted it for her bushman son. Our day and a half with the Gnanji has been very profitably spent and we shall leave them with regret. In the evening they performed a sacred ceremony of the Snake Putchatta totem of Learatchi, nothing special. One man in the audience was remarkably like the exaggerated caricatures of Irishmen one sees so often in the pages of London Punch and other so-called comic papers, so much so that I involuntarily remarked to Spencer ‘My poor country here’s another injustice to Ireland’.
October, 17th. Camp 61. Winalyiru. In the saddle at 6.40. The first 8 miles was rather interesting for we were following the course of the creek on which we camped last night and passed no less than fourteen waterholes, two of them very fine ones. Another 8 miles through dreary forest country landed us at Winalyiru, a remarkably fine
sheet of water, dotted over with very beautiful white lilies which rear their lovely heads about a foot or eighteen inches above the water. Spencer has roughly drawn the lily and its leaf here, and we have preserved a number of specimens in formalin. The leaf, that is the largest specimen’s, measures 12 inches across and about 15 inches in length and is so strong that it easily supports the weight of a mud lark and these birds seem to take a delight in hopping from leaf to leaf. The leaves float upon the surface of the water and are a rich green in colour. The flower seems to spring from the bulb-like root of the plant so that the length of the stalks (which the blacks eat) varies according to the depth of water
through which it has to pass before blooming above the surface. The flower measures up to 4 inches across. As might be expected, a hole like this abounds in wild fowl and the sportsman who would not mind wading in up to his armpits would have a real good time. Our boys shot some ducks and two pelicans. According to Gnanji tradition Winalyiru is the place of origin of the ancestral Emu Karnanginthana and some stones on the bank represent eggs laid by that bird. Two ancestral Snakes Walunkularra halted here on their march across the country and two great gum trees arose to mark the spot. Some rounded stones lying near the trees are believed to be eggs laid by the Snakes. The spirit of the Snakes is still in the water and woe to any strange blackfellow who ventured to bathe therein. He would certainly die. I tried to induce our boys to take a dip but they dared not take the risk. We met here Mr. Bathern who is on his way back to Beetaloo Downs with stores which he is taking up on pack horses. He is a wiry
looking pioneer and, like all old hands, in the ‘out back’ is prone to exaggeration. We have heard many strange snake stories during our travels but none so improbable as that contributed by Mr. B. Knowing that we are interested in natural history specimens he reckons that we should make a point of getting a specimen of a snake which the blacks call ‘Naialitchi’, the most deadly of all reptiles. On one occasion he saw one attacked by 7 dogs all of which it fatally bit within five minutes. The discovery of a snake having such a capacity to kill would be a find indeed, for the most deadly of our reptiles does not secrete more than sufficient poison to kill two dogs bitten at the same time. Bathern gives us a very bad account of these blacks. They have been implicated in one or two murders. He considers our one-eyed friend Kantingana a particularly bad egg and advises us to watch him. I don’t think he is much to be trusted but he is a Gnanji and we must not miss this opportunity of learning all we can about them. All the people we saw at Kurrabubba have
Two boys arrived from Beetaloo with wires for us and I am delighted to hear that all is well at Moonta. Mr. Kell started a boy on foot on the 11th, expecting to overtake us at Beetaloo and Mr. Bostock sent two local boys on with the letters, they have travelled on foot 90 miles in three days.
followed us here but we keep them away from the camp and make them camp some distance off.October, 18th. Camp 61. The grass in this country is plentiful but of too rank a growth to be good for stock. Our horses are losing condition daily since leaving Beetaloo Downs and it is only by carefully nursing them that we shall get through to Borroloola. Fortunately we can nurse them and exploit the ‘Gnanji’ at the same time, so the spell on the banks of beautiful Winalyiru has not been time thrown away. As usual we are provided with a gorgeous wurley lofty and roomy. The boys delight in building these wurleys with ‘Parunda’ who is our special boy - always travelling with us on horseback - is specially skilful thereat. Our Gnanji friend’s one eye beamed benignantly, when we bade him fill his pipe and relate to us the customs of his people, and with the assistance of the Chingilli interpreter we recorded some interesting information. The men of the Gnanji people have souls or spirits which they term ‘Moidna’. These spirits are indestructible so when
a man dies his spirit issues from his body, roams about and settles at the totemic place of origin and is finally born again. Women, inferior creatures, the term is the Gnanji’s and not mine, have no souls and therefore cannot be born again. When they die they are blotted out altogether. The dead are first of all placed on platforms specially erected on forked sticks and allowed to remain there resting on a bed of leaves, until there is no longer any offensive odour, then some of the relatives go and wrap the remains in paperbark and make it comfortable for another period. When the bones become sufficiently dry to separate them easily, the skeleton is taken to pieces and the bones are packed in a large Colliman (a vessel used for carrying food and water) and placed in a tree, where they are allowed to remain until they become bleached by the sun. Finally they are buried in the mud on the margin of a waterhole but the collar and small bones of the arm are kept until some one suspected of having brought about the death of deceased has been killed, the bones are then buried with the rest
The platform grave is called Palapalama. When a man dies his actual and tribal mothers cut off their hair, cut a line down the centre of the scalp and then sear it with a fire-stick. Widows do not cut themselves as in the Warramunga; they descend to either the elder or younger brother of their deceased husband while in the Arunta and Kaitish only the younger brother of deceased may marry the widow. The Gnanji make fish hooks out of the bones of iguana and other lizards. The widow does not marry again until after the final disposal of the bones of her husband. The bulb of the water lily is a favourite food with the natives and here the supply is simply unlimited, it grows to the size of a large turnip and when cooked in the ashes is not at all bad eating, I tried one this morning. The lily is called Takakuma and it is said to originate from the teeth deposited at the water’s edge (vide note on knocking out of teeth in records of 16th). Spencer wildly elated over the discovery of some earthworms. They are sure to be a new species and they are the first met with on the trip. The Subdued shot a fine plump turkey and a black ibis this evening. Wild fowl of various sorts are floating about amongst the lilies and the air resounds with the songs of a thousand birds.
c.October, 19th. Camp 62. Kallia. We breakfasted while the flies were enjoying their beauty sleep and were in the saddle at 6.50. The Gnanji mustered in force to see us off and brought an offering of a couple of native trumpets, for which they were liberally paid. We are glad to have met them for they have added information of considerable value to our records but we leave them without regret. They are an evil-looking set of ruffians and I am sure they would have cut our throats with a great deal of pleasure, if only it could be done without sacrificing their own hides. While amongst them, we took care to display our stock of firearms so that they might know what to expect if they turned nasty. Some four years ago the same tribe murdered a man named Leonard about 30 miles from here, dismembered his body savagely and stacked the pieces in a heap and so the poor fellow’s remains were found. After committing the murder they retreated into the forest country where we met them and at that time no whiteman had been over it and the existence of waters was unknown so they got off scot free.
After travelling seven miles we began to descend gradually and soon realised that we had reached the coastal watershed; another mile or two took us to a creek flowing (when there is any water in it) towards the coast; there was no apparent change in the country, still uninteresting forest with various forms of stunted gum tree. Camped at Kalya, a small billabong on October Creek. Distance travelled 20 miles. We have with us two Gnanji men whom we are taking along to catch crocodiles at Eundu which we shall reach in 10 miles from here. They are provided with formidable looking spears, one of which is tipped with the long blade of a butcher’s knife, ground on both sides, and the other has three prongs, each about 9 inches long fashioned out of round half-inch iron. It is extraordinary the extent to which iron is being used for spear heads by these distant central tribes. They pick up scraps at the Telegraph Station and at cattle stations and trade them to the remotest part of the continent. I went through the
camps of the Gnanji at Kurrabubba and noted that more than one half of the spear heads were of iron and in one instance they had ground down a piece of tire iron and fitted it into a handle with native wax just as they fit their own stone tomahawks. Of course it made an infinitely more useful implement than the stone one. Another of their adaptations is the Chinese pipe which is modelled on the pipe used for smoking opium by the Chinese. We saw these pipes first at Powell Creek and since then there has been one or more in every camp visited. In some cases the stem of the pipe is of bamboo in which case it must have been traded through from the coast but in most cases it is of hollow wood, one end being stuffed up and a piece of tin inserted an inch or two back to hold the tobacco. The method of smoking this pipe is to take half a dozen rapid whiffs and then inhale as much as they can swallow, retaining it for a minute or two, and then puffing it off through the mouth and nostrils. The smoke does not last more
than two or three minutes and, as each man fills himself, he passes the pipe on to the next man. It is at any rate an economic way of using tobacco, for one pipeful will satisfy at least half a dozen men. The idea of smoking tobacco in this way must have originated with the coastal blacks who have come in contact with the Chinese and the custom is gradually spreading inland. The Chingilli, Umbaia and Gnanji powder up tobacco, mix it with an equal quantity of white ashes and chew the mixture. Curiously none of these tribes appear to have had a substitute for tobacco before the white man penetrated into the Interior. In the MacDonnell Ranges and even at Barrow Creek the tobacco plant, Nicotiana suaveolens, is plentiful but we have not seen a plant north of the Barrow nor have we noticed any Pituri (Duboisia hopwoodii), a narcotic plant much used as a substitute for tobacco in various parts of Australia, and often traded over two or three hundred miles from tribe to tribe. In yesterday’s notes I mentioned that the Gnanji bury the bones of their dead in the
marginal mud of waterholes; their object in doing this is twofold, firstly by so disposing of the bones, the growth of the water lily and other food such as fish and mussels is stimulated and increased, and secondly the bones are kept cool and not affected by the heat as they would be if buried in dry earth. It is comforting to the spirits of the dead to know that their bones (not their souls) have a cool resting place.
October, 20th. Camp 63. O.T. Lagoon. Pinda. A nasty, stewy, tropical morning, we awake limp and languid and appetiteless and are surprised to find that all our things are damp with dew. A sticky, stuffy, perspiration producing morning, quite different to anything we have previously experienced but characteristic of this coastal watershed. I was wet through with perspiration when I finished packing the neddies and glad to get into the saddle to dry myself in the sun. We have months of stickier, stuffier and more perspirating weather ahead for the summer is only in its swaddling clothes. My poor, poor figure! there won’t be a shadow of its former rosy rotundity left. After travelling two or three miles we were rejoiced to once more catch sight of some hills, though only small ones,
but away in the distance a fairly big range gives promise of an interesting change in the country. The bauhinia tree flourishes here and we passed many fine specimens, all in beautiful foliage, some laden with great flat red seed pods which added much to their attractiveness. We also noticed a tree quite new to us, large and with rich green leaves, Spencer thinks it like the English sycamore. We are daily seeing something new in the way of trees and shrubs and it adds much to the interest of travelling. In 12 miles we reached the O.T. Lagoon where we have decided to give the horses a few days’ rest. The so called Lagoon is not a Lagoon at all but a very fine and large permanent waterhole in a creek. The first absolutely permanent hole met with in our long journey and one decidedly picturesque. Here for the first time we meet with the beautiful screw palm (Pandanus), from which the Chinese make cabbage-tree hats and the blacks manufacture many useful articles, while its seed pod furnishes them with food. It grows luxuriantly on the banks of the waterhole and gives the place a purely sub-tropical
aspect. The water, still, dark and deep looking, is the haunt of a small species of crocodile and it is just the sort of pool one would associate with these animals. Some five years ago a small Cattle Station was established here by Messrs. Weldon and Pearce who became resident owners but it is now in process of abandonment. A primitive hut of one room, comfortless as a nigger’s wurley, stands sentinel over the waterhole. It is open, so we wandered in and found it occupied by a dilapidated box table and a lopsided green hide bunk, both looking rather ashamed of themselves. A freshly extinguished fire in the roomy fireplace - the only place in which there is room enough to swing a cat - and from this we gather that the hut was occupied last night. Later on we saw a blackfellow and learnt from him that two men left this morning to muster cattle. We are badly in want of meat, so we sent the blackfellow after the men in the hope of getting some beef. Cattle have, I understand, not thriven here, they never do on this coastal watershed. The blacks have been hostile and troublesome so Messrs
Weldon and Pearce are removing their stock and seeking pastures new where I hope they will be abundantly successful. People who live comfortably in the towns do not realise what these hardy ‘way back’ pioneers have to put up with, in their struggle for fortune. No life could be more colourless or absolutely devoid of human interest than that lived at a place like this, where one is completely out of touch with the world and away from the beaten paths over which the ordinary bush traveller roams. It is a ghastly life and yet if men were not found ready to live it, Australian settlement would not have extended much beyond the agricultural area. There is still a strong strain of the nomad in our race and probably that is why we excel all other nationalities in colonising new country. Coming along this morning we met four Gnanji warriors and they have followed us in here to assist in the onslaught upon the crocodiles. From the description we have received of these beasts,
Spencer thinks they belong to a rare and little known form and we are therefore most anxious to get some specimens. Our wurley is built under the shade of a bauhinia tree. Curiously no ant ever nests or goes near these trees; there must be something about the tree decidedly objectionable to the ant tribe, for which the Lord make us truly thankful. Chance shot a beautiful large bird with feathers something like the bower bird and Parunda brought in a brilliantly coloured parrot. Both are new to us.
October, 21st. I spent the morning on the banks of the waterhole shooting birds for our collection and peering into the pool in search of the timid and wary crocodile. I shot two birds of the same species as that shot by the old geezer yesterday, also a black cockatoo and was returning stealthily along the bank of the waterhole, when I saw a crocodile with its head and neck out of the water resting on a log. Unfortunately I had no rifle with me or I might have bagged it. It had the appearance of a long snouted lizard and was not much larger than some Parinthis I
have seen in the south. Our crocodile hunters have been on the job all day but although they have seen several they have not succeeded in spearing one. Spencer and Chance skinning birds all morning. Lying under the splendid shade of a great spreading native fig tree and surrounded with beautiful pandanus and other trees. I did some ethnological work with the Gnanji under luxurious circumstances. They do not, like the southern tribes, perform ceremonies to promote the increase and growth of totemic animals and plants and for their rain producing ceremony they have to depend on materials supplied by an eastern tribe. When they wish to make rain the old men send for some pieces of crystal called Bioka which they pulverize and cast to the four winds calling upon the rain to come. The Chingilli Rain ceremony is a curious one. When rain is required old men of the Rain totem procure a live bandicoot (Kularri) and carry it about in a wooden Pitchi until it becomes wasted in condition, then singing to it to go away and send the rain they release it. There is always something to do in
camp and an hour of this afternoon is spent in making some much needed repairs to our socks or rather to what is left of them. To darn a stocking appears a very easy matter, so easy that when a batchelor I scorned to employ my time on such a simple occupation. When the sock became holey it was thrown away and replaced. Now I am more frugal perhaps because I can’t replace them even if I wanted to. There is an art in threading a
darning needle, an art I have not acquired though Spencer has. If only all batchelors were forced to mend their own socks there would be more marriage, in which case I hope I should get my fair share of the fees. A stockman arrived at noon with a pack load of beef kindly sent to us by Mr. Weldon, who is camped 15 miles away where he was overtaken by our Gnanji messenger. With characteristic bush hospitality he refuses to take payment for the beef, so we have sent him a little lot of luxuries which we hope he will find acceptable. In the cool of the evening Spencer and I strolled along the waterhole, which by the way is the head of the Limmen River, with our guns but did not get a shot.
October, 22nd. Camp 63. Spencer and I spent the morning with our guns about the waterhole where we bagged three species of birds, two of which are new to us. This morning by way of experiment we started two Gnanji natives for Powell Creek with a note to Mr. Kell and wires for our wives. They are
provided with as much tucker as they can carry comfortably and more baccy than they can smoke and I shall be surprised if they do not faithfully fulfil their contract although the distance 206 miles is much greater than I have ever known a blackfellow to carry a letter. The letter is carried securely tied in a cleft stick which is the usual method of conveying paper yabbers. The blacks regard messengers of this sort as sacred; they probably have an idea that if they interfered with a ‘paper yabber’ some evil magic would result. With the messengers went all the Gnanji, as crocodile hunters they are frauds, and we are more than suspicious that they didn’t really try. They were well fed, too well to have much energy and they simply dawdled away time in the shade. Seriously I don’t blame them for it is too hot to do much else. Spencer bagged a bunged eye while skinning birds. In the evening we did some more shooting and added some interesting bird specimens to collection. Weather very hot and we hanker much after cool drinks which of course are unattainable
October, 23rd. Camp 63. Pinda. During the morning we did some shooting and I bagged a laughing jackass, the first we have met with on the trip. It is of a different species to our down country bird and much more brilliantly coloured. Also shot two, to us, new parrots and a bower bird larger than that found in the MacDonnells but of inferior plumage. One of the birds has its bower about 100 yards from our camp and I have just been watching it at play. I wanted to shoot the poor bird but was rather glad when it made off into the scrub. The bower which is shaped like the cover of a hawker’s van is about 18 inches long, 15 inches wide and about the same height. In the centre of this there is a nest in which the bird has gathered pebbles, shells and red beans and outside the entrance it has collected all sorts of bright coloured things and stacked them higgledy piggledy. In the early morning and in the evening the bird may be seen running in and out of the bower, cutting all sorts of playful antics, while imitating with extraordinary exactness the notes of other
birds and even the sounds made by some animals. They are really clever mocking birds and except for scientific purposes it is a crime to shoot them. We have made several attempts to capture a crocodile but without success. Chance made a large steel hook and we baited it with a freshly killed bird but after leaving the line in for a couple of hours we found the bait gone but the hook still there. We have tried this experiment three times with the same result. Evidently the fish eat the bait which the crocodile is too wary to take. ‘The Subdued’ spent yesterday afternoon fishing. Results 2 fish with black spots probably new to science and 5 turtles. The boys cooked the turtles but do not appear to have relished them very much. ‘Too mucha bone’ is Parunda’s comment. Parunda is a typical conservative and damns with faint praise every sort of edible material that does not flourish in his own country. Our neddies are looking much refreshened after their rest here, so tomorrow we shall move on
again. Here we leave the country of the Gnanji and tomorrow, if all goes well, we shall camp within the boundaries of the Binbingga, a powerful and very numerous tribe extending down the McArthur River to within a few miles of Borroloola, from which we are now 130 miles distant. The Binbingga according to the Gnanji, are a gang of murderous ruffians ever thirsting for blood, particularly the blood of the peaceful Gnanji, but whitemen who know them say their tastes lie more in the direction of the whiteman’s beef and that otherwise they are not troublesome. We look forward to making their acquaintance with a great deal of interest and hope, while amongst them, to add much new and valuable material to records. We expect to find their customs and system of organization widely different from those of the tribes we have passed through and, should it not be so, we shall make our stay amongst them as brief as possible and get round to Pt. Darwin by the first opportunity
Arunta Kaitsh Unmatjera
The Arunta word Churinga which may be freely translated as meaning miraculous is here termed Irratitcha and in the Waagai Mitcha-Mitchari. In the Chingilli the term is
Initiatory. 1 Gnuru. 2. Para
The Burmese believe that in death they enter some animal unless by their holy living they have attained Nirvana (extinction).
Gnanji call men Gnarinja, women Kamulina.
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Rights: State Library of South Australia
- Date Made
- Circa 1901
- Date Collected
- Language Groups
- State Library of South Australia