The Native Tribes of North Central Australia, by Baldwin Spencer and F. J. Gillen , at sacred-texts.com
Third phase: Changes occurring in customs—The ceremonies refer to times when customs in regard to such matters as marriage restrictions, cannibalism, etc., were different from those of the present day—The Engwura may serve both to maintain customs and also as a means of introducing changes—Further examination of Churinga—Oruncha, or “devil-devil” men—Arunta have no conception of a permanently malevolent spirit—Final handing over of Churinga—Rubbing of Churinga to promote growth of beard—The Erathipa stone and tradition—Tradition concerning wild cat men changing into plum tree men eating plums—Performance of a special ceremony concerned with the frog totem—Association of particular objects, such as Nurtunjas and Churinga, with particular animals and plants—Fourth phase: Illpongwurra sent out into the bush—They have to bring in food for the old men—Fire-throwing in the women's camp at morning and night when the Illpongwurra go out and return—Ceremony representing the cooking of a man—The last fire-throwing in the women's camp—Cutting down the tree to form the Kauaua—Throwing firesticks over the women in their camp at night—The Ambilyerikirra ceremony—Taking the Ambilyerikirra to the women's camp—Possible explanation of these ceremonies—Decoration and erection of the Kauaua—Putting the Illpongwurra on the fire out in the bush—Painting the backs of the Illpongwurra—Visit to the women's camp and the placing of the Illpongwurra on fires—Return to the Engwura ground—The newly-made Urliara remain out in the bush—Fifth phase: Women's dance—Ceremonies concerned with removal of the ban of silence between men who are ab-moara to each other—Ceremonies of aralkalilima and anainthalilima.
APART from the fact that the young men had now received a definite name, and that each one had been made ab-moara to some older man under whose charge he was, the details of the third phase were closely similar to those described as characteristic of the second. The same examination of Churinga was carried on, and ceremonies of the same nature as the preceding ones were enacted day after day and night after night. The sustained interest was very remarkable when it is taken into account that mentally the Australian native is merely a child, who acts, as a general rule, on the spur p. 324 of the moment. On this occasion they were gathered together to perform a series of ceremonies handed down from the Alcheringa, which had to be performed in precisely the same way in which they had been in the Alcheringa. Everything was ruled by precedent; to change even the decoration of a performer would have been an unheard-of thing; the reply, “it was so in the Alcheringa,” was considered as perfectly satisfactory by way of explanation. At the same time despite the natural conservatism of the native mind, changes have come over the tribe since the times when their ancestors lived, to whom the ceremonies now being dealt with refer. For example, not a few of them deal with the existence of cannibalism, and though this may not yet have been wholly discarded, still it is not practised amongst the Arunta except to a very slight extent, whereas, if there be anything in the traditions, it must, in the Alcheringa, have been largely practised. Then again, the marriage customs are very different from those with which we are brought into contact in the ceremonies concerned with these Alcheringa people. We have already had occasion in another place to deal with this question, meanwhile it may be said here that the Engwura, from this point of view, appears to serve two distinct purposes, or rather it always serves one, and might serve a second. In the first place its main result is undoubtedly to preserve unchanged certain customs, and to hand on a knowledge of past history, or rather tradition, from generation to generation, but in the second place, and to a much lesser extent, it may serve as the vehicle for the introduction of changes.
The third phase was ushered in by the examination of a large number of Churinga which were brought in from the witchetty grub storehouse in the Heavitree gap, which cuts through the Macdonnell Ranges, and forms a passage from north to south, for the Todd River. They were under the charge of the Alatunja, who specially invited his Gammona, Umbirna and Ikuntera, to come up and take part in the proceedings. The Churinga, wrapped up in bundles, round which large quantities of human hair-string were tied, were laid on shields in the bed of the creek, and the men sat round them, those of the Panunga and Bulthara divisions p. 325 occupying the inner circle, and the Purula and Kumara men the outer circle. This arrangement was due to the fact that the witchetty grub totem is mainly composed of men belonging to the Panunga and Bulthara moiety.
The Churinga having been solemnly spread out, the Alatunja of the local totem took one up, and, having ground up and placed on it some red ochre, the old Alatunja of the Undoolya locality leaned over and pressed down on the Churinga the hand of the son of the first-named; then he rubbed the young man's hand up and down upon it while he whispered to him, telling him to whom the Churinga had belonged, who the dead man was, and what the marks on the Churinga meant. Then it was passed on to a Purula who was the young man's Umbirna, and who was seated on the outside of the group. This over, a second Churinga was treated in just the same way. Special attention was paid to the Churinga nanja of one of the brothers of the local Alatunja who had died a few years ago. It was first of all passed on to a younger brother of the Alatunja who slightly rubbed it. Then it was pressed against the stomach of another younger brother, who kept it in this position for a minute or two while he and others literally shed tears over it, amidst perfect silence on the part of all the others present. Then two other Churinga nanja of dead men were examined, rubbed over with red ochre, and their meaning explained in whispers by a Bulthara man to a Purula, who was his son-in-law. After an hour had been thus passed, a particular Churinga belonging to an Oruncha or “devil-man” was shown, and on the production of this there was, for the first and only time, general though subdued laughter. These Oruncha of the Alcheringa are always the source of a certain amount of mirth, whether it be during the examination of their Churinga or on the occasion of the performance of ceremonies concerned with them. The particular individual whose Churinga was now examined has given his name, Chauritchi, to a rocky hill close to Alice Springs where he is reported to have gone into the earth and where his spirit still lives. Though they laugh at him when they are gathered together in daylight, at night-time things are very different, and no native would venture across this hill after dusk. It will be noticed that there is something very different in the case of these Oruncha individuals from what obtains in the case of other people of the Alcheringa. The most striking point is that whereas, p. 327 like every one else, they had their Churinga and spirit part associated with it, yet they never formed any Oknanikilla; each one still inhabits the same spot in spirit form where, in the Alcheringa, he went down into the earth, but he never undergoes reincarnation. He is regarded as a more or less p. 328 mischievous creature, a kind of Bogey-man who, if met with when out alone in the dark, will carry off his victim into the earth. Partly, no doubt, the idea is a creation of men of old to act as a wholesome check upon women who might be prone, without the fear of some such mysterious and invisible creature, to wander away under cover of the darkness from their domestic hearth, and it does undoubtedly act as a strong deterrent to any wandering about at night by men and women alike. There are times when the Oruncha will take a man down into the ground and transform him into a medicine man. On the whole the Oruncha may be regarded as a mischievous spirit who will in some way harm those whom he comes across in places where they should not be, that is where they know they are likely to meet him if they venture alone after dark, rather than as a distinctly malevolent spirit whose object is at all times to injure them. Of such a permanent malevolent spirit, the Arunta do not appear to have formed a conception; in fact the place of such an individual is largely supplied by their beliefs with regard to the Kurdaitcha and various forms of magic.
Some few days later the ceremony of handing over the lizard Churinga to their new owner, the initial stage in connection with which has already been described, was completed. After the Alatunja, who had previously had charge of them, had brought them into camp, they were placed in the store of the Panunga and Bulthara men at one end of the Engwura ground. Together with a large number of others, perhaps as many as two hundred in all, they were again brought down into the bed of the creek where the old men were assembled, only three of the younger men being allowed to be present. The others were sent out of camp. After the usual whisperings, handing round of the Churinga and rubbing of them with red ochre, they were placed on a shield and handed over to their new possessor. Then all the old men in turn came and pressed their foreheads against the young man's stomach, he for some time trying, or pretending to try, to prevent the very old Oknirabata—the Alatunja of the Undoolya group—from doing so. This ceremony is a somewhat striking one, and is evidently a form of recognition p. 329 of the new position held by the young man, who with the presentation of the Churinga became the recognised head of the local group of lizard people.
There was amongst the Churinga one curious one which was also remarkable as being the only stone one present at the Engwura, the reason of which is to be associated with the fact that they are brought mainly with the object of using them during the ceremonies, and for this purpose stone ones are not suitable. This special one was elongate-oval in shape and about six inches in length. From end to end ran a band of black charcoal, an inch in width, the part on either side of this being coloured red with ochre. The Churinga was that of a Jerboa-rat totem, the rat in question having especially long whiskers which were represented by the black band, and it is supposed that the rubbing of this Churinga on the chin of a young man is very beneficial in promoting the growth of hair on the part touched. In connection with this, it may be noted that the length and fulness of the beard is a striking feature in the members of the Arunta and other tribes of Central Australia.
Though the Churinga are now in the keeping of the lizard man he is not supposed to have absolute possession of them until he has, at some future date, made a present of a considerable quantity of hair-string to the Alatunja of the Unchalka or little grub group who took charge of, and preserved them from harm upon the temporary extinction of the old lizard group.
As already said, the days and nights during the third phase were spent very much in the same manner as they were during the second, so that we will only describe here, without reference to the order in which they occurred, as this was a matter of no importance, the more important and typical of the ceremonies.
Two ceremonies were concerned with the Oruncha or, as the natives call them, the Orunchertwa, the word ertwa meaning man. The first of these was the Quabara Oruncha of Kulparra, a place now called the Deep Well about fifty miles to the south of Alice Springs. The ceremony belongs to a Purula man, and the two performers were respectively a p. 330 Purula man of the “native pheasant” 1 totem, and a Kumara man of the kangaroo totem. Each man wore, fixed into his head-dress, four Churinga, while his body was decorated withp>
bands of charcoal edged as usual with white down, a bunch of eagle-hawk feathers being fixed into his waist-band in the middle of his back. When decorated they were led on to the Parra ground with the usual high knee action. Then old men, from the neighbourhood of the locality to which the ceremony belongs, sat down and began beating boomerangs on the ground while the two performers ran backwards and forwards on all fours, sometimes chasing one another, sometimes turning round face to face and pretending to growl and to frighten one another. After acting in a way which much amused the audience for about five minutes, the two Oruncha came and laid themselves down in front of the old men, whom, after getting up again, they embraced.
The second of the ceremonies was the Quabara Oruncha of Chauritchi, the latter being the native name for Alice Springs. This ceremony belongs to the local Alatunja, and the most remarkable feature connected with it was the enormous head-dress formed of twigs of Cassia bush bound round with yards and yards of human hair-string so as to form a solid mass two feet six inches in diameter, the whole structure weighing at least thirty pounds. It was, as usual in the case of all the head-dresses, built up on the performer's head, and, as can be imagined, the strain upon the muscles of his neck must have been severe, for though the actual performance only lasted a few minutes the preparation for it occupied two hours. The front of the head-dress and the face were covered with a mass of white down; a band of blue-gray wad 1 ornamented his shoulders and chest, and in the middle was joined to another which ran round above the waist, each having an edging of white down. From the front of the head-dress projected two sticks, each of which was nearly a yard in length, and was covered with rings of down. In the noonday heat of mid-summer, with the sun shining straight down so that you sat, or stood, on your own shadow, the remarkable and weighty head-dress must have been particularly trying to wear. The performer sat down on a heap of small gum tree boughs and
began swaying about from side to side and brushing flies off with little twigs. At the same time he kept constantly peering about as if he were on the look-out for some one; every now and then he would crouch down amongst the boughs as if to gather himself together into as small a space as possible; p. 333 when he did so, the back view was a somewhat comical one, consisting mainly of a glimpse of a large bunch of eagle hawk feathers, and beyond this the great disc-shaped head-dress. The idea was that he was in search of men with the object of catching and eating them. When caught, his custom was to carry them on his head until they were wanted for consumption, and the massive head-dress was supposed to represent a man whom he had killed and was thus carrying about with him.
The two sticks in the front projecting like two horns are somewhat suggestive. They are simply pointing sticks—called in this instance inwunina—which the Oruncha uses for the purpose of pointing at and killing his prey, and the thought suggested itself that possibly the two traditional horns of the devil, as he is pictured amongst more highly civilised peoples, may, sometimes at all events, owe their origin to an early belief in the efficacy of pointing sticks like those at present actually used amongst various races of savage people, such as the Australian natives.
This particular Oruncha went in the Alcheringa down into the hill close to Alice Springs, which is still spoken of as the Mirra oruncha, that is the Oruncha's camp, and he is supposed at times to come out and seize upon men and women who are wandering about after dusk. Every now and again he will take some man down into the earth, and then, after a time, the man is found in a dazed condition, but transformed by the Oruncha into a medicine man.
In connection with the Quabara Iruntarinia Unjiamba of a place called Apera-na-unkumna, a somewhat remarkable Nurtunja was used. This was a ceremony which had been imparted to a Purula man by the Iruntarinia of the locality named. It was now being presented by its owner to another man of the totem with which it was concerned; and, as this was the first time on which it had been performed in this locality, etiquette prescribed that only men of the Purula and Kumara moiety should be present during the preparation, all others remaining at some distance from the creek. The Nurtunja consisted of a long spear, grass stalks, and hair-string bound together in the usual way, but in addition, from near to the upper end, there hung down a shorter pole about five feet long. Each part was decorated with elongate lines of pink and white down instead of the customary circles which are so characteristic of the usual large Nurtunja. The large pole indicated a Hakea tree, and the small one a young tree, and it was supposed to be identical in form with a double Nurtunja which two Alcheringa Unjiamba men carried about with them in their wanderings.
Another ceremony associated with a remarkable tradition was the Quabara Ambaquerka of Erathipa. This was in the possession of the Alatunja of Alice Springs, and at his request was performed by a Panunga man. The performer is supposed to be a woman with a newly-born child, the latter being represented by an oval mass of twigs and grass stalks encased in hair-string and down, about two feet in length by one foot in diameter. The whole was covered with close-set bands of white down, two black spots being left to indicate the eyes. The performer held the supposed child in his hands while he sat down swaying about and quivering, the p. 335 other men dancing and singing as they ran round him. When it was over the oval mass was pressed against the stomach of the Alatunja, who then took and pressed it against that of the old Purula man who presided over the Engwura.
The tradition with which this is associated is as follows: In the locality of a plum-tree totem about fifteen miles S.S.E. p. 336 of Alice Springs, is a special rounded stone which projects from the ground amidst mulga scrub for about a height of three feet. This stone is called Erathipa. In the Alcheringa a man named Inta-tir-kaka, who belonged to the plum-tree totem and was not an Ulpmerka, came from a place called Kulla-ratha, a fine waterhole out to the north of Mount Heuglin, in the western Macdonnells, and, crossing a depression in the latter range close to Mount Gillen, he proceeded to Uk-ang-wulla, which means the hollow or hole, and lies close to Quiurnpa, where he found a Nurtunja erected but could not see any people to whom it belonged, so he proceeded to appropriate it; but, when he tried to pull it up out of the ground, all that he could do was to slightly loosen it; seeing that he could not secure it whole he broke it off at the butt and down it tumbled with a loud crash. The Nurtunja was the property of a plum-tree woman, named Unkara, who, with her little baby boy, was out hunting for the plums on which they fed. She had originated at this spot and had lived alone here, having nothing to do with the plum-tree Ulpmerka men who lived not far away. When she heard the crash she came quickly back to her camp, and there she saw what had taken place and was greatly grieved; as the natives say, her bowels yearned after her Nurtunja. She put her baby boy into the hollow where the Nurtunja was broken off, just below the surface, and, leaving with him a large number of Churinga, went in pursuit of the thief. The boy went into the ground, taking with him the store of Churinga, and the Erathipa stone arose to mark the spot, and forms the centre of an Oknanikilla of the plum-tree totem, the stone being, of course, the home of all the many spirit individuals, one of whom was associated with each of the Churinga.
The women went straight up into the sky and, following the course taken by Intatirkaka, she alighted at a place called Oki-ipirta where he had camped, from here she walked on towards the north-west, and then again went up into the sky and did not descend until she reached Kulla-ratha, from which place the man had come originally, and to which he had returned. Here she found a large number of plum-tree p. 337 people, but could not see her Nurtunja because the thief had placed it right in the middle of a big group of Nurtunjas which belonged to the party. In grief at not being able to recover it she sat down and died.
However, to return to the Erathipa stone. There is on one side of it a round hole through which the spirit children are supposed to be on the look-out for women who may chance to pass near, and it is firmly believed that visiting the stone will result in conception. If a young woman has to pass near to the stone and does not wish to have a child she will carefully disguise her youth, distorting her face and walking with the aid of a stick. She will bend herself double like a very old woman, the tones of whose voice she will imitate, saying, “Don't come to me, I am an old woman.” Above the small round hole a black line is painted with charcoal, and this is always renewed by any man who happens to visit the spot. It is called Iknula, and a black line such as this, and called by the same name, is always painted above the p. 338 eye of a newly-born child, as it is supposed to prevent sickness. Not only may the women become pregnant by visiting the stone, but it is believed that by performing a very simple ceremony, a malicious man may cause women and even children who are at a distance to become so. All that has to be done is for the man to go to the stone by himself, clear a space of ground around it, and then, while rubbing it with his hands, to mutter the words “Arakutja wunka oknirra unta munja aritchika,” which means, literally translated, “Plenty of young women, you look and go quickly.” If, again, a man wishes to punish his wife for supposed unfaithfulness, he may go to the stone and, rubbing it, mutter the words “Arakutja tana yingalla iwupiwuma ertwa airpinna alimila munja ichakirakitcha,” which means, “That woman of mine has thrown me aside and gone with another man, go quickly and hang on tightly;” meaning that the child is to remain a long time in the woman, and so cause her death. Or again, if a man and his wife both wish for a child, the man ties his hairgirdle round the stone, rubs it, and mutters, “Arakutja thingunawa unta koanilla arapirima,” which means, “The woman my wife you (think) not good, look.”
The word Erathipa means a child, though it is seldom used in this sense, the word Ambaquerka being most often employed. Similar Erathipa stones are found at other spots. There is one near to Hermannsburg on the Finke River, another at the west end of the Waterhouse Range, and another near to Running Waters on the Finke.
Another ceremony called the Quabara Anthinna of Arimurla was associated with a curious and rather complicated tradition. Anthinna is the opossum totem, and Arimurla is a place now called Winnecke's depot, by reason of its having been used as such during early days; it is in reality merely a gorge leading through the rocky ranges which form the eastern continuation of the Macdonnells. The ceremony refers to two Purula women of the opossum totem. They both originated at and never left Arimurla. Each of the performers had a curious T-shaped Nurtunja on his head. From the cross-bars of each there were suspended Churinga which had once belonged to the two women.
When the ceremony, which consisted of the usual swaying to and fro on the part of the performers, and of the running round and round of the other men, was concluded, we were told the following. In the Alcheringa a party of wild cat people who, unlike the other wild cat parties, consisted for the main p. 340 part of Pulthara and Panunga, started from near Wilyunpa out to the east of Charlotte Waters. They journeyed on to the north, halting and forming Oknanikilla at various places. After a time they came close to Arimurla, but passed by without seeing the two Purula opossum women who were sitting down there. Going on they met a man who had come down from the salt water country far away to the north; he was of the same totem as themselves, but lived alone and was called atnabitta, a contemptuous name applied to a man p. 341 who is given to interfering with women. Him they killed, and to the present day a stone in Paddy's creek at a spot called Achilpa Itulka represents the slain man. Having done this, they walked on, eating Hakea and driving mosquitoes before them, and, when they could not get water, drinking their own blood. At a place called Irri-mi-wurra they all died, but sprang up again as Ulpmerka, that is uncircumcised boys, and after that they went on eating plums. Reference to this will again be made when dealing with the question of the eating of the totem. In this, as in not a few of the traditions, we see that the eating of the totemic animal or plant seems to be a special feature, and one to which attention is particularly drawn.
After eight days had been spent in the performance of ceremonies, it was evident that an important change in the proceedings was about to take place. Under the direction of the leader of the Engwura the small gum boughs, which had hitherto decorated the top of the Parra, were removed, and the mound was left bare. All the young men were ordered away from the ground, and spent the greater part of the day in the bed of the river under the charge of the Alatunja of Alice Springs. Meanwhile, close by the Parra, a group of elder men who were already Urliara were assembled. All classes were represented, and the next five hours were spent in preparations for an important ceremony called the Quabara Unchichera of Imanda. At Imanda, which is known to white men as the Bad Crossing on the Hugh River, is an important Unchichera or frog totem centre, and during the Engwura a large number of ceremonies connected with this were enacted as the leader came from this locality, and, though not himself belonging to the frog totem, he had inherited a large number of ceremonies concerned with this and the wild cat totem from his father. He performed the ceremony himself. On his head was a large somewhat flat helmet made in the usual way, and completely covered with concentric circles of alternate pink and white down. These represented the roots of a special gum tree at Imanda. The whole of his back and chest as far down as the waist was a complete mass of white spots, each of which was encircled by white down; they were p. 342 of various sizes, and indicated frogs of different ages; on the inner side of each thigh were white lines representing the legs of fully-grown frogs. On his head he wore a large frog Churinga, five feet in length, decorated with bands of down and tipped with a bunch of ow! feathers. All around the base of this were arranged tufts of black eagle-hawk feathers, each fastened on to a stick, so that they radiated from the head-dress. About twenty strings, each of them two feet in length and made of opossum fur-string, had been covered with pink and white down, and ornamented at one end with tufts of the black and white tail tips of the rabbit-kangaroo. These were suspended all round from the head so as almost p. 343 completely to hide the face, which was itself enveloped in a mass of down. The Churinga represented a celebrated tree at Imanda, and the pendant strings its small roots. When all was ready a shallow pit about a yard in diameter was scooped out in the sand, and in this the performer squatted with a short stick in his hands. Except for the presence of the p. 344 latter, it was difficult to tell that the elaborate decoration concealed from view a man.
When he was seated in the pit, he sent out three old men who were Urliara across the river. Two of them carried small Churinga attached to the end of hair-string. The man who did not carry one went behind the spot where the young men were gathered together, while the other two went one to each side. Then the sound of the bull-roarer was heard, as the Churinga were whirled round and round, and, amidst much shouting and excitement, the young men were driven in a body across the river and up the opposite bank on to the Engwura ground. Running through the scrub which bordered the river, they suddenly came in sight of the performer, who was slightly swaying his body from side to side and digging the earth up with the stick in his hands. For a moment, when first he came in view, the young men halted and lifted up their hands as if in astonishment, and then driven up by the three Urliara men they ran up to and circled round and round the performer shouting, “wha! wha!” at the top of their voices. The old men stood to one side, and the two with the Churinga went round and round the young men as if to drive them in as close as possible. This went on for about three minutes, when one of the younger men, who was a Purula and the son of a dead man of the frog totem of Imanda, laid his hands on the shoulders of the performer, who then ceased moving, and the ceremony was over. After a short pause the decorated man got up, and first of all embraced the young man who had stopped him, and then went round and did the same to various old Bulthara and Panunga men, and touched with a piece of white down the navel of the old Purula man of the white bat totem, whose locality lay close to that with which the ceremony was associated 1 Then he sat down and called the young Purula man up to assist him in removing the decorations.
After each ceremony the down is carefully removed from the body, though naturally a not inconsiderable portion adheres
so firmly that it must be rubbed off, and so each performance means the loss of a certain amount. As soon also as ever a Churinga or a Nurtunja has once been used, the decorations are taken off. No Nurtunja is used more than once; even if two ceremonies follow close upon one another, p. 346 each of them requiring one, a fresh one is made for each. The reason of this is that any particular Nurtunja represents and is symbolic of one particular object with which the ceremony is concerned, it may be a gum-tree, a Hakea, an emu or a frog, and, when once that particular Nurtunja has been used in a ceremony, it is henceforth symbolic of one, and only one thing, though, so far as its appearance and structure are concerned, it may be precisely similar to a Nurtunja, which means something totally different. Suppose, for example, that, as on the last occasion, a large Churinga or a Nurtunja represents a gum-tree, then in the mind of the native it becomes so closely associated with that object that it could not possibly mean anything else; and if a precisely similar Churinga or Nurtunja were wanted an hour afterwards to represent, say an emu, then a new one must be made.
The reason for the showing of the performance just described, was that on the previous day the young Purula man already referred to had gone out into the bush and had brought in a present of game in the form of euro, as an offering to the older man who had charge of the Unchichera ceremonies of Imanda. This gift of food is called chauarilia, and when bringing it in he had told the old man that there was food waiting for him along the creek. This remark was perfectly understood as a request, though this must not be made in any more direct way, that he should be shown some ceremony connected with his dead father's totem. With this the third phase of the Engwura came to an end.
The fourth phase was a very well-marked one, as with it were ushered in the series of fire ordeals which are especially associated with the Engwura. The young men had already had by no means an easy time of it, but during the next fortnight they were supposed to be under still stricter discipline, and to have to submit themselves to considerable discomfort in order to prove themselves worthy of graduating as Urliara.
Just at sunrise the Illpongwurra were collected together close to the Parra. The leader of the Engwura had meanwhile appointed three elder men, who were already Urliara, to look after them during the day. About a dozen of the older men had provided themselves with small Churinga, and with a great amount of shouting, and amidst the strange weird roar and screech of the bull-roarers, no two of which sounded alike, the Illpongwurra were driven in a body away from the camp. Each man amongst them carried his shield, spear, and boomerang, for it was their duty now to go out into the bush all day hunting game for the benefit of the old men who stayed in camp performing ceremonies. The idea was to test still further the endurance of the young men and their obedience to their elders. Out in the bush they are not supposed to eat any of the game which they catch, but must bring it all in to the old men who may, or may not, give them a share of it when they return to camp. Whether this rule is rigidly adhered to on the part of the younger men may perhaps be doubted, the temptation offered by the sight of a fat p. 348 little wallaby must be very strong to a full-grown young man who has not been having too much to eat for some three or four weeks past, and though old men go out in charge, it can be scarcely possible to keep a strict watch over all of the Illpongwurra.
Avoiding on this, the first morning of the new departure in the ceremonies, the women's camp, which lay out of sight of the Engwura ground on the other side of the river, the Illpongwurra were taken out through a defile amongst the ranges on the west side of the camp. As the day wore on it became evident that there was unusual excitement and stir in the women's camp. One of the older ones had been informed that the Illpongwurra would return in the evening, and that they must be ready to receive them. She had been through this part of the ceremony before, and knew what had to be done, but the great majority of the women required instructing. About five o'clock in the evening all the women and children gathered together on the flat stretch of ground on the east side of the river. The Panunga and Bulthara separated themselves from the Purula and Kumara. Each party collected grass and sticks with which to make a fire, the two being separated by a distance of about one hundred yards. A man was posted on the top of a hill overlooking the Engwura ground on the west, and just before sunset he gave the signal that the Illpongwurra were approaching. They stopped for a short time before coming into camp, at a spot at which they deposited the game secured, and where also they decorated themselves with fresh twigs and leaves of the Eremophila bush. These were placed under the head-bands, so that they drooped down over the forehead, under the arm-bands, and through the nasal septum. Then, forming a dense square, they came out from the defile amongst the ranges. Several of the Urliara who were carrying Churinga met them, some going to either side, and some going to the rear of the square. Then commenced the swinging of the bull-roarers. The women on the tip-toe of excitement lighted their fires, close to which were supplies of long grass stalks and dry boughs. The Illpongwurra were driven forwards into the bed of the river, pausing every now p. 350 and then as if reluctant to come any further on. Climbing up the eastern bank, they halted about twenty yards from the first group of women, holding their shields and boughs of Eremophila over their heads, swaying to and fro and shouting loudly “whrr! whrr!” The Panunga and Bulthara women to whom they came first stood in a body behind their fire, each woman, with her arms bent at the elbow and the open hand with the palm uppermost, moved up and down on the wrist as if inviting the men to come on, while she called out “kutta, kutta, kutta,” keeping all the while one leg stiff, while she bent the other and gently swayed her body. This is a very characteristic attitude and movement of the women during the performance of certain ceremonies in which they take a part. After a final pause the Illpongwurra came close up to the women, the foremost amongst whom then seized the dry grass and boughs, and setting fire to them, threw them on to the heads of the men, who had to shield themselves, as best they could, with their boughs. The men with the bull-roarers were meanwhile running round the Illpongwurra and the women, whirling them as rapidly as possible; and after this had gone on for a short time, the Illpongwurra suddenly turned and went to the second group of women, followed, as they did so, by those of the first, and here the same performance was again gone through. Suddenly once more the men wheeled round and, followed by both parties of women who were now throwing fire more vigorously than ever, they ran in a body towards the river. On the edge of the bank the women stopped, turned round and ran back, shouting as they did so, to their camp. The Illpongwurra crossed the river bed and then ran on to the Engwura ground where, sitting beside the Parra, was a man decorated for the performance of an Unjiamba ceremony. Still holding their shields, boomerangs, and boughs of Eremophila, they ran round and round him shouting “wha! wha!” Then came a moment's pause, after which all the men commenced to run round the Parra itself, halting in a body, when they came to the north end to shout “wha! wha! whrr!” more loudly than before. When this had been done several times they stopped, and then each man laid down his shield and boomerangs p. 351 and placed his boughs of Eremophila so that they all formed a line on the east side of and parallel to the Parra, at a distance of two yards from this. When this was done the Illpongwurra came and first of all sat down in a row, so that they just touched the opposite side of the Parra to that on which the boughs were placed. In less than a minute's time they all lay down, in perfect silence, upon their backs, quite close to one another, with each man's head resting on the Parra. 1 All save one or two old men moved away, and these few stayed to watch the Illpongwurra. For some time not a sound was to be heard. None of them might speak or move without the consent of the old men in whose charge they were. By means of gesture language one or two of them asked for permission to go to the river and drink at a small soakage which had been made in the sand. In a short time they returned, and then it was after dark before they were allowed to rise. The sudden change from the wild dance round the performer and the Parra, accompanied by the loud shouting of the men whose bodies were half hidden by thick clouds of dust, which the strong light of the setting sun illuminated, was most striking.
About nine o'clock the men got up and began the usual singing, running sideways along by the Parra, shouting loudly as they did so. Shortly before midnight a curious ceremony was performed, which was associated with certain Oruncha men of Imanda. There were four performers, and the ceremony was divided into two parts. Three men were engaged in the first and more important scene. A long hole, just big enough to hold a man's body, but not deep enough to conceal it, was scooped out. In this, at full length, one of the men lay while a second knelt down over his legs and the third knelt at the head end. These two were supposed to be Oruncha men, engaged in baking the man in the earth oven, and each of them with two boomerangs imitated the action of basting him and of raking the embers up over his body, whilst he himself imitated admirably the hissing and spluttering noise of cooking meat. After a few minutes the three got up
and joined the audience, and then out of the darkness—for the fire beside the Parra served only to light up the ceremonial ground—came a decorated man who was supposed to represent an Alcheringa man of the frog totem. He moved about from spot to spot, sniffing as if he detected the smell of cooking, but could not detect where it came from. After a minute or two he joined the audience and the performance stopped.
There was not much rest to be had that night; the Illpongwurra lay down again while the older men close to them kept up an incessant singing, and at two o'clock all were called up to witness the performance of a ceremony of the wild cat totem, in which three men took part, who were supposed to be performing an ordinary dancing festival or altherta in the Alcheringa. Just at daybreak another ceremony was ready, which was again connected with the frog totem of Imanda. It was performed by one of the oldest men present, the old white bat man, and he was decorated to represent a particular tree at Imanda, which suddenly appeared full-grown on the spot, where an Alcheringa man of the frog totem went into the ground; it became the Nanja tree of the spirit part of him which remained behind associated with his Churinga.
It was now getting daylight. The leader decided upon three Urliara, who were to accompany and take charge of the Illpongwurra during the day, and just after the sun rose they were once more driven out of the Engwura ground amidst the whirling of bull-roarers. The old men spent the day in camp preparing two or three ceremonies, but reserving a somewhat elaborate one for the benefit of the Illpongwurra, who were driven in at dusk by way of the women's camp, where the fire-throwing was repeated. Once more the ceremony of first sitting and then lying down by the Parra was enacted; in fact this was carried out every evening during the next two weeks.
At midnight the Illpongwurra were aroused to witness a ceremony of the white bat totem. Eleven men—the greatest number which we have seen taking part in any one of these sacred ceremonies—were decorated. Ten of them stood in a p. 354 row facing and parallel to the Parra, and they were all connected together by a rope of human hair-string, which was decorated with pink and white down, and was passed through the hair waist-girdle of each man. Four of them had Churinga on their heads, and were supposed to represent special gum trees near to Imanda, the long rope being the roots of the trees; the other six were supposed to be bats resting in the trees. The eleventh man was free from the rope and his decoration differed from that of the rest, who were ornamented with white pipe-clay and red and white down, while he had a long band of charcoal on each side of his body, outlined with red down. He began dancing up and down in front of the others, holding his body in a stooping position, and making all the while a shrill whistling noise, like that made by a small bat as it flies backwards and forwards. In his hands he carried twigs which he rubbed together. The ten men meanwhile moved in line, first to the right and then to the left, and with the other man dancing in front of them the whole formed a curious scene in the flickering light of the camp fire. At a signal from the leader of the Engwura two men went out from the audience, each carrying a long spear which was held behind the line of performers so as to touch the back of each man—the signal for them to stop. Each performer in turn touched with a piece of down first the stomach of the leader, and then that of the old white bat man to whom the ceremony belonged.
During the next day ceremonies were held as usual, but there was no fire-throwing. At sunrise on the following morning the Illpongwurra were driven out of camp to the sound of bull-roarers, by way of the women's camp, where they again had fire thrown over them, and in the evening the same ceremony was repeated when, just at sunset, they were brought in to camp over the ranges on the eastern side.
The following day saw a slight change in the programme. The Illpongwurra were taken out to the west, not going near to the women's camp. During the day news was brought in of the death of a very old and very celebrated Railtchawa, or medicine man, who lived far away out to the west. We were assured that his death was due to the evil magic of a native p. 356 who lived at a place called Owen Springs on the Hugh River—an instance of the fact that the native is quite unable to realise death from any natural cause, as the old man in question had died simply from senile decay. The sounds of wailing came all day long from the camp of the women, who struck each other blows with their waddies and cut themselves with knives.
During the day the old men performed ceremonies concerned with a group of wild cat people who, in the Alcheringa, marched out from the south of what is now Oodnadatta, and then turned northwards and followed a track which led them across the west part of the present Arunta country and through certain spots such as Illamurta in the James Range. At sunset the Illpongwurra came in from the west and found two ceremonies prepared, one belonging to the Bulthara and Panunga men, to which they went first. After dancing round the performer, who represented one of the Ulpmerka of the plum-tree totem sitting at the foot of a Nurtunja, they came to the second, which belonged to the Purula and Kumara. This ceremony was associated with the frog totem of Imanda, and was performed by two men, both of whom had Churinga on their heads, and had their bodies decorated with patches and lines of down representing frogs and roots of trees. First the Illpongwurra danced round them and then rushed off to the Parra, round and round which they ran, raising clouds of dust through which they could be dimly seen. After a short pause and led by the two frog performers, who had removed the Churinga from their heads and carried each two boomerangs which they kept striking together, they ran across the river to the women's camp, where the fire-throwing was performed in the usual way, after which the Illpongwurra came back to camp and lay down beside the Parra.
When it was dark the men were arranged in a double line close to the Parra, and then, with their bodies bent almost double, their arms extended in front, and their hands clasped together, they moved, first in one direction and then in the other, parallel to the length of the mound, stamping on the ground as they did so and shouting “wha! wha! whrr!” at the top of their voices. This peculiar dance is one which p. 358 is especially performed by the members of the Ilpirra tribe during the course of the Engwura, and as one or two Ilpirra men had come down to take part in this Engwura, it was danced on this occasion. Just before midnight a wild cat ceremony was performed, and it was not until early in the morning that the dancing and singing ceased, and the Illpongwurra were allowed to take a little rest.
While the Illpongwurra were out in the bush during the next day they had to undergo the first of another form of fire ordeal, an account of which will be given subsequently in connection with its second performance. In camp the old men performed a ceremony called the Ingwurninga inkinja, which is associated with the emu totem of a spot close to Imanda. The Quabara belongs to the Alatunja of the locality, and he requested two men, one a Panunga of the snake, and the other a Bulthara of the wild cat totem, to perform. Each man was decorated with the usual head-dress, the front of which, as well as their face and beard, was covered with white down, while on each side of the body and extending down to the knee, was a line of circular patches of charcoal edged with white down. These patches were supposed to represent the skulls of slain and eaten men. The two performers were called ulthana, that is, the spirits of dead men, and in this instance they were supposed to have arisen from the bones of two men who had been eaten. They came up from the creek and remained at first crouching behind and hidden by a small bush from the sight of the old men who gathered by the Parra. Then they got up and came on, each of them bending forwards and supporting himself by a stick in either hand, as if they were decrepit old men who could hardly walk. For some time they prowled about looking first to one side and then to the other, as if they were in search of something; and, following an irregular course, came towards the Parra, where the old men were seated beating the ground with boomerangs.
At sunset the Illpongwurra once more came in by way of the women's camp where the fire-throwing took place, and then, on the Engwura ground, they stood in a long line beside the Parra watching the performance of an emu ceremony, p. 359 which consisted in a man decorated with a tall head-dress tipped with a bunch of emu feathers and having his body decorated with a large number of parallel lines of white down walking backwards and forwards in the aimless way of an emu.
That night was at last a quiet one, as every one seemed to be getting somewhat exhausted. The next morning a fish ceremony was performed, and at sunset when the Illpongwurra came in—this time direct on to the Engwura ground—a ceremony called the Quabara Ungamillia of Ulkni-wukulla was prepared. Ungamillia is the evening star and Ulkni-wukulla is the name of a spot close to a gap in the Macdonnell Range, about fifteen miles to the west of Alice Springs. A Kumara woman of that totem is supposed to have originated and to have lived there during the Alcheringa. The natives say, “she had a Nurtunja and lived alone.” The woman's name was Auadaua, and there is now living near to Bond Springs a woman who is the reincarnation of that particular individual.
The Alice Springs natives have a legend with regard to the evening star, according to which it goes down every evening into a big white stone at Ulkni-wukulla, where Auadaua sat in the Alcheringa. The stone lies in the middle of a tract of country, which, just except this spot, belongs to the large lizard people. If a woman imagines that a child enters her when she is at that stone, then it is one of the spirit individuals who belonged to one or other of the Churinga which Auadaua carried with her and left behind when she went into the earth, where the stone now stands; and therefore the child must belong to the evening star totem; if, however, she thinks it entered her in the bed of the creek close by, then it belongs to the lizard totem.
Late at night an emu ceremony was performed, and the whole evening was occupied until midnight in singing by the Parra, the old men as before sitting in the midst of a large circle of young men, all being huddled close together. On occasions such as this the singing is always a monotonous repetition of a few phrases such as “the sand hills are good,” “the Achilpa walked in the Alcheringa to Therierita,” “Bind the Nurtunja round with rings and rings,” and so on; and it is wonderful to see for how many hours they will continue, without apparently their spirits flagging or their voices becoming husky.
The next day, as the thermometer registered 114° in the shade, it was too hot for even the old men to venture on a p. 361 performance until late in the afternoon, but as a fitting close to a warm day the Illpongwurra were brought in by way of the women's camp, and on this occasion some of the men as well as the women took a share in the fire-throwing, p. 362 scorching more than usual some of the less fortunate men who did not efficiently shield themselves with boughs. On the Engwura ground an Unjiamba ceremony was performed when the Illpongwurra came across the river.
During the next two days various ceremonies of the kangaroo, wild cat and bandicoot totems were performed, the most important being a kangaroo one concerned with Undiara near to the Finke river at Henbury. The Nurtunja for this was made of twenty long spears lashed together and reached a height of eighteen feet (Fig. 81). To it were attached fourteen Churinga, and the ceremony was performed just at daylight. At night-time the singing was mainly concerned with the putting up of the Kauaua or sacred pole, the erection of which marked the close approach of the termination of the Engwura.
In connection with one of the wild cat ceremonies a somewhat curious performance took place. The Nurtunja used represented one which in the Alcheringa had belonged to wild cat men, who had at first stayed for some time close to Imanda, and at a later time had carried it away with them when they travelled northwards to a place called Arapera, with which the ceremony now performed was associated. It was made by men of the northern groups belonging to the Bulthara and Panunga moiety, and, whilst it was being made, no southern men were present. When it was completed, but some time before the performance of the ceremony for use in which it had been made, the northern men called up the southern men and showed them the Nurtunja. One special man who belonged to the wild cat group near to Imanda, from which the Alcheringa Nurtunja had been originally taken, was first of all embraced by one or two of the northern men, and then led up to the Nurtunja, upon which his hands were pressed. Then the leader of the Engwura, who also belonged to Imanda, was similarly embraced, and his hands placed on the Nurtunja, the idea being, so the natives said, to assuage the grief of these men, which was caused by the sight of a Nurtunja which had passed away from their country to the north and so into the possession of another group of wild cat people.
The ceremonies now became more and more interesting, though the exact meaning and significance of some of them it is impossible to state. The leader of the Engwura remained in camp preparing, with the aid of the men of his locality, a special sacred object which consisted of two large wooden Churinga, each three feet in length. They were bound p. 364 together with human hair-string so as to be completely concealed from view, and then the upper three quarters were surrounded with rings of white down, put on with great care, and so closely side by side, that when complete the appearance of rings was quite lost. The top was ornamented with a tuft of owl feathers. When it was made, it was carefully hidden in the bed of the creek, so that none of the Illpongwurra could see it. This object is called the Ambilyerikirra.
Whilst this was being made, three of the older men, who had been especially associated with the leader throughout the ceremonies, had gone out of camp across the hills to the west, and had cut down a young gum tree, the trunk of which was about nine inches in diameter and some twenty feet in height. This was to serve as the Kauaua, and it had to be cut down with care, as it was not allowed to touch the ground until it was brought on to the Engwura ground. The branches were lopped off and it was stripped of its bark, and then, while the Illpongwurra were away in the bush, it was carried into camp and placed out of sight in the bed of the creek.
As usual the Illpongwurra returned at sunset, coming in from the west without, on this occasion, going to the women's camp, as the last fire-throwing ceremony by the women had been held. At the northern end of the ground an Ulpmerka ceremony was held, and then they came on to the Parra in front of which sat the leader of the Engwura, supported on one side by a Bulthara, and on the other by a Kumara man; these two were to assist him during the night. Perfect silence was maintained while the men placed their branches of Eremophila on the long heap which had been gradually accumulating, and then came and lay down with their heads upon the Parra, the ground in front of which had been dug up by the older men during the day, so as to make it softer to lie upon.
Until shortly before nine o'clock perfect silence was maintained by the Illpongwurra, and even the old men only spoke in low whispers, and then very rarely, as they moved quietly about, the three men seated in front of the Illpongwurra remaining motionless and silent. Then a number of small fires were made, and bundles of sticks, each one about two feet long, were arranged in radiating groups with one end in p. 365 the fire. There would be from four to eight of these radiating bundles in each of the fires. When the leader, who remained seated, gave the signal, the old men told the Illpongwurra to get up. This they did, while a few of the older men went across the river to where the women and children were gathered together, and stood amongst them, holding sticks and boughs over their heads, and telling the women to do the same, and to protect themselves as best they could. Then at a signal from one of the old men on the Engwura ground, each of the Illpongwurra took a bundle of fire-sticks, and in a body they went towards the river. On the bank they broke up and rushed pell-mell across the bed and on up the opposite bank, dividing, as they ran across the level stretch between the river and the women's camp, into three parties, one going to each side of the women and one to the front of them. When they were twenty yards away from where the women stood, and still running on, all, at a given signal, hurled their fire-sticks in rapid succession over the heads of the women and children; hundreds of them whizzed like rockets through the darkness; the loud shouting of the men, the screaming of the women and children, and the howling of scores of dogs produced a scene of indescribable confusion. Suddenly all once more became dark, the men turned back, and, running as rapidly as they could, crossed the river and reached the Parra, where they again laid themselves down, and once more there was perfect silence in the camp. They were not again allowed to move under any pretext. While they were away the leader, who had remained on the Engwura ground, had taken the Ambilyerikirra in his hands, and with his arms linked in those of his supporters, he lifted the former up and down without any cessation, save for a few seconds at a time, during the whole night. When the Illpongwurra returned from their fire-throwing, he was hidden from their view by a group of old men who sat down in front of him, so that they did not actually see him until morning.
All night long the Illpongwurra lay silent. One old man who had been told off to watch them, walked backwards and forwards along the line, now and then joining in the singing which, after a short time, was started by the old men, but in p. 366 which the Illpongwurra took no part, or halting in his walk to whisper instructions or information about the Alcheringa to one or other of the young men. There was very little rest to be had, the monotonous rising and falling of the Ambilyerikirra went on without ceasing, as also did the singing of the old men, the aged white bat being particularly prominent. Shortly after five o'clock the Illpongwurra, who had been instructed by the old men keeping watch over them what they had to do, were roused. Then, for the first time since nine o'clock on the previous evening—that was after a stretch of eight hours' duration—the leader and the two men supporting him ceased from lifting the Ambilyerikirra up and down. There was little wonder that they looked tired and haggard, but even yet their work was not quite done. Getting up, they moved to the north end of the Parra, the two sides-men still retaining hold of the leader's arms. The Illpongwurra went to the line of wetta and, having taken boughs of this, arranged themselves so as to form a solid square behind the leaders. Most of the older men remained on the Engwura ground, from which one of them, the watcher over the Illpongwurra, shouted instructions across to the women. The main party, headed by the three men bearing the Ambilyerikirra, and accompanied by a few of the older men, moved in the form of a solid square out from the Engwura ground, over the river and up the opposite bank to where the women stood grouped together. All stood beckoning to the men to come on in the way already described, and at the same time they called quietly “kutta, kutta, kutta.” The party approached slowly and in perfect silence, and when within five yards of the front rank of the women, the men who carried the Ambilyerikirra threw themselves headlong on the ground, hiding the sacred object from view. No sooner had they done this than the Illpongwurra threw themselves on the top, so that only the heads of the three men could be seen projecting beyond the pile of bodies. Then, after remaining thus for two minutes, the Illpongwurra got up and formed into a square facing away from the women, after which the three leaders rapidly jumped up, turned their backs on the women, and were hustled through the square p. 367 which they then led back to the Engwura ground, and with this the Ambilyerikirra ceremony came to an end.
As will be noticed, there are three leading incidents; the first is the throwing of fire-sticks over the women, the second the lying down of the Illpongwurra all night without moving, while the Ambilyerikirra, incessantly rising and falling, is held upright before them; the third is the carrying across of the sacred Churinga to the women's camp.
All that the natives can say in explanation of this is that the rushing across to the women's camp represents an attack by a party of wild cat men, who are Illpongwurra and not yet made Urliara, upon another party, and that the lying down quietly in front of the Ambilyerikirra represents the “taming” of the wild Illpongwurra under the influence of the sacred p. 368 Churinga. They also say that if from any cause the strength of the men who are lifting up and down the Churinga should fail, then the Illpongwurra will die. They have no idea as to what is the meaning of the third incident—the carrying over of the Churinga to the women's camp.
Whilst any explanation must at best be a mere conjecture, it is perhaps worth while suggesting that the whole ceremony may be commemorative of a reformatory movement which must at one time have taken place in the tribe in regard to the question of cannibalism. Traces of this still linger on, but only traces, and two or three of the ceremonies which had been performed during the few days immediately preceding that of the Ambilyerikirra seem to show that at a much earlier time it was practised to a much greater extent. The natives say that the idea of attacking another party, as represented in the first incident, is connected with eating the men who were killed. This, taken in conjunction with the fact that the second incident indicates a taming of the wild men whose natures are thereby made less fierce, may perhaps point back to a time when some powerful man, or group of men, introduced a reformation in regard to the habit of cannibalism. The Ambilyerikirra is a ceremony of the Unchichera or frog totem, the Imanda centre of which is one of the most important in the tribe, as close by are also local centres of the Achilpa or wild cat the Elkintera or white bat, and the Unchipera or little bat totems. Engwuras were held in the Alcheringa, and one tradition relates how, while the frog people, aided by the white bats and the little bats, were holding one at Imanda, the Achilpa gathered there also and took part in it, and were made Urliara by the Unchichera men, after which they started on their travels to the north.
One important feature of the Engwura is that it is supposed to make the men who pass through it more kindly natured, and perhaps we have in the few traditions bearing upon the point sufficient evidence to warrant the conjecture that the Unchichera men whom we know to have formed an influential totem introduced the reformatory movement in the matter of cannibalism. If so it will explain the fact of the p. 369 Ambilyerikirra ceremony being associated with the Unchichera totem, and we can see why the wild Illpongwurra who rush with fire-sticks over to attack the women should be represented as Achilpa men who have not been made into Urliara.
The third incident, though the natives can give no explanation of it, may possibly be capable of being explained somewhat as follows. It takes place after the taming of the wild Illpongwurra, who are, it will be noticed, led across, following the old men and the sacred Churinga by means of which their natures are supposed to have been changed. Instead of on this occasion attacking the strange party, they fall down in front of them as if to show that their fierce nature has been changed. The showing of the Ambilyerikirra to the women is very difficult to understand, but in this instance it may be pointed out that they are supposed to represent the members of a strange camp, men and women included, not merely women, and, further, that they represent individuals of the Alcheringa, living at a time when women not only saw but carried about with them Churinga and Nurtunjas. At the Engwura, when the men are living together separated from the women, if there is to be a strange party for the Illpongwurra to attack, it must be composed of the women, to whom the whole affair is a matter of the deepest mystery, which is probably not a little heightened by the small part which, every now and then, they are allowed to take in it. They do not actually see the Churinga, though doubtless the older ones amongst them are quite aware of the nature of the Ambilyerikirra, but that it is a most unusual occurrence is emphasised by the fact that the moment the men come close to the women they fall flat down so as completely to hide from view the sacred object, and when they arise they rapidly turn round and are immediately surrounded by the other men.
At the fire-throwing in the women's camp it will have been noticed that the men who carry the Churinga actually go close up to the women and children, but the Churinga are kept in such rapid and continual movement that there is no chance of their being actually seen; still there remains the fact that on these two occasions women are present when Churinga are p. 370 used, whereas there is no doubt whatever that the most severe punishment follows even the accidental seeing of one of them by a woman under any other circumstance. We could get no explanation whatever from the natives in regard to the matter, except the inevitable one that it had always been so in the Alcheringa; and it can only be added that, as a matter of fact, what little the women do see simply serves to add to their mystification.
It was still early morning when the Illpongwurra returned to the Engwura ground from the women's camp, and, just after sunrise, they were sent out with instructions to remain away for two days. In camp everything was quiet, as the night had been an exhausting one, and no one, except perhaps one or two of the younger ones, had had any sleep. During the day about thirty short sticks made out of gum-tree wood were prepared. Each was about an inch in diameter and from six to nine inches in length. They were carefully rubbed with red ochre, and then later on in the day the leader hid them in the loose soil forming the Parra mound. These sticks are called Unchichera irrunpa, they may not be seen by women, and are supposed to represent young frogs. When it became dark the older men assembled by the Parra from which the sticks were taken, as if they were frogs hiding in the ground, as most of the Central Australian species do, and then, accompanied by the continuous clunk, clunk of the sticks, the one held in the right hand being allowed to fall upon the one in the left, the men sang for two or three hours.
On the next day, while the Illpongwurra were all far away out in the bush, the sacred pole, or Kauaua, was first of all ornamented and then erected in the middle of the ceremonial ground. It had been lying all night in the bed of the creek, where the preparations for ceremonies were made, and in the morning the men who had brought it in began to decorate it. First of all one of these men, a Kumara, bled himself, opening for the purpose a vein in his arm. From this he allowed blood to flow until there was enough to fill five times over the haft of a shield. This was quite the equivalent of five half pints, and, as if that were not enough, he ended by walking slowly once up and down by the side of the pole, allowing the blood p. 371 to spurtle over it in the form of a thin stream. He did not seem to be any the worse for the loss of so much blood; in fact, during the whole Engwura, an astonishing quantity was used, and the natives appeared to think nothing whatever about it, no one objecting for a moment to open a vein in his arm or, just as frequently, to obtain it from the subincised p. 372 urethra, these being the two parts from which the blood is obtained. The blood in the shields was then smeared with a small brush, made of a stick and opossum fur-string wound round one end, on to the pole, until the latter was reddened all over, and, being upwards of twenty feet in length, it took, as may be imagined, a considerable amount. Then to the top was affixed a large bunch of eagle-hawk feathers; white Chilara or head-bands were tied round under this; then Alpita tail tips were suspended in two bunches, one on either side, and just below the Chilara a long nose bone was attached,—in fact the decoration was just that of a human head. Then a few Churinga, which might be of any totem, were strung on near to the top, and the pole thus decorated was brought on to the ground. 1 A hole was dug two feet deep by means of a pointed digging stick, and in this it was firmly implanted at a distance of about six yards from the Parra and opposite to the middle of the mound.
In the early part of the afternoon of this day the Illpongwurra had to submit themselves for the second time to an ordeal by fire. A secluded spot amongst the ranges some two miles away from Alice Springs was selected, and here, while the young men rested by the side of a water-hole in the bed of the Todd, the Urliara, who were in charge of them, went to the chosen spot and made a large fire of logs and branches about three yards in diameter. Then the young men, of whom forty were present, were called up, and putting green bushes on the fire they were made to lie down full length upon the smoking boughs, which prevented them from coming into contact with the red-hot embers beneath. The heat and smoke were stifling, but none of them were allowed to get up until they received the permission of the Urliara. After they had all been on once, each one remaining for about four or five minutes on the fire, the old men came to the conclusion that they must repeat the process, and so making up the fire again, they were once more put on in the midst of dense clouds of smoke, one of the older men lifting up the green boughs at one side with a long pole so as to allow of the
access of air and ensure the smouldering of the leaves and green wood. There was no doubt as to the trying nature of the ordeal, as, apart from the smoke, the heat was so great that, after kneeling down on it to see what it was like, we got up as quickly as possible, and of course the natives had no protection in the way of clothes.
When this was over, the Illpongwurra rested for an hour by the side of the waterhole, for the day was a hot one, the thermometer registering 110.5° F. in the shade, and 156° F. in the sun, while the ceremony was in progress.
Later on in the afternoon they came into camp and witnessed the last of the ceremonies prior to the final fire ceremony which was to take place in the women's camp. Two men, one a Purula of the emu totem and the other a p. 374 Kumara of the little bat totem, performed a Quabara belonging to the frog totem of Imanda. Each was decorated on the head and body with longitudinal bands of white down while the Purula man carried a Churinga five feet long on his head. The Illpongwurra having put down their shields, boomerangs, and boughs of wetta, stood in a long line by the side of the Parra facing the Kauaua, which they now saw for the first time. Then the two performers came up from the bed of the creek which lay on the opposite side of the ground, the man with the Churinga walking behind the other one and carrying a shield at his back. Both at first adopted the high knee action, but when about thirty feet from the Kauaua, the front man suddenly knelt down and then moved forward, jumping on his knees with his hands behind his back. The idea is that the front man was a frog which suddenly jumps out of a tree, the latter being one of the special gum-trees growing at Imanda. When this was over the Illpongwurra lay down by the side of the Parra for two or three hours.
After dark a dozen or more fires were lighted around the base of the Kauaua, and around these the men were grouped, each ab-moara amongst the elder men taking charge of and decorating his protégés. That night no one in either the men's or the women's camp went to sleep. On the opposite side of the river to the Engwura ground, the light of the women's camp fires could be seen flickering amongst the trees. All night long also the old men kept shouting across to the women, who answered back again, and the scene was one of great excitement. An old man would shout out, “What are you doing?” and the women would answer, “We are making a fire.” “What are you going to do with the fire?” to which the reply would come, “We are going to burn the men.” Then the old men would dare the women to come across into the Engwura camp; one ancient Panunga man was especially active in calling to his Mura woman, to whom under ordinary circumstances it would not be permissible for him to speak in this way, calling her by name and saying, “Urliwatchera, are you there?” and she would answer, “Yes, I am here; what is it?” and then he would call out to her to come across. The p. 375 p. 376 men would ask the women derisively if they were going to send the Kurdaitcha after them, and, indeed, this kind of badinage was kept up at intervals all night long. In the women's camp all were gathered together at one spot, and here, side by side, the Panunga and Bulthara women on the one hand, and the Purula and Kumara on the other, dug out, each of them, a shallow pit about two yards in diameter, and in each of these, towards daybreak, they made a fire.
In the Engwura camp it was a busy and also a picturesque scene. The leader had, during the day, consulted the older men who were especially associated with him, and it had been decided what brands should be painted on the various young men. Each brand was distinctive of some special totem, but the most striking point in connection with the painting was that the brand of any particular individual had no relationship of necessity to his own totem, or to that of the man who painted him. It was purely a matter of what the old men, and especially the leader of the Engwura, decided upon. The following cases will illustrate the point:—
A Panunga man of the snake totem decorated an Umbitchana man of the plum tree totem with a brand of the frog totem.
A Kumara man of the wild cat totem painted a Bulthara man of the emu totem with a brand of the kangaroo totem.
An Appungerta man of the witchetty grub totem painted an Umbitchana man of the wild cat totem with a brand of the Hakea totem.
A Kumara man of the little bat totem painted an Appungerta man of the bandicoot totem with a brand of the frog totem.
A Bulthara man of the wild cat totem painted a Purula man of the native pheasant totem with a brand of the same totem, this being the only instance in which a man was painted with a brand of his own totem, and the old men said that there was no special reason for its being done in this special case.
A Purula man of the emu totem painted an Uknaria man of the lizard totem with a brand of the frog totem.
For this strange want of relationship between the totems of the men who did the decorating and those who were p. 377 p. 378 decorated, and still more for the total absence of any between the man who was decorated and the totem with a brand of which he was decorated, we could find out no reason whatever. Certainly the natives have no idea why it is so.
The materials used in the painting were charcoal, red and yellow ochre, white pipeclay and wad. In some few cases bands of wad edged with white down were drawn on the chest, but in almost all cases the totemic brand was confined to the back, so that, as the Illpongwurra might neither speak to, nor in the presence of, their ab-moara men who were doing the painting—a rule strictly observed during the decorating—none of the men, unless they could detect it by the feel, were aware of what design they were personally branded with, though each one could of course see the brands on the other men. The arms of each man were tightly encircled with bands of kulchia made of opossum fur-string, which had been specially spun by men and women for the purpose. Every man wore his waist-girdle, and the forehead bands were painted up for the occasion. A characteristic ornament always worn on this occasion was a necklet, called wupira, consisting of a single thick strand of well-greased and red-ochred fur-string, one end of which hung down the middle of the back as far as the waist, and terminated in a little tuft of kangaroo-rat tail tips. Tufts of the latter were also suspended over either ear.
It was five o'clock in the morning before the painting was complete. Then, having shouted across to the women that all was ready, the leader of the Engwura went and broke through the middle of the Parra, and then through the line of boughs. Each of the ab-moara men then led his protégés round the Parra, all singing out “whrr, whrr,” as they ran round for the last time. When all had been round, the men grouped themselves at the base of the Kauaua, 1 and then, in perfect silence, the whole party walked in single file through the break
p. 379 p. 380
in the Parra and the line of bushes, each ab-moara leading his own men, all linked hand in hand. It was a most picturesque scene in the early morning light, for the sun had not yet risen, as the men filed down into the sandy bed of the river, on which they formed a long string reaching across from one bank to the other. On the opposite side they halted about fifty yards from the group of women and children who were standing behind the two fires, which were now giving off dense volumes of smoke from the green bushes which had been placed on the red-hot embers. The women, bending one leg while they slightly swayed the body, and beckoned the men forwards with their hands, kept calling “kutta, kutta, kutta.” First of all one ab-moara man with his Illpongwurra ran forwards, taking a semicircular course from the men towards the women, and then back again. After each of them had done this, then in turn they led their men, running, up to the fires, and on one or other of these the Illpongwurra knelt down, the Panunga and Bulthara men on the fire made by the Purula and Kumara women, and vice versa, while the women put their hands on the men's shoulders and pressed them down. In this way the performance was rapidly gone through, not a word being spoken when once the ceremony had begun, each man simply kneeling down in the smoke for at most half a minute. In less than half an hour all was over; the women remained for a short time behind their fires and then dispersed, and the men, in silence, marched back to their camp on the Engwura ground, where the newly-made Urliara grouped themselves around the Kauaua. With this the ceremonies on the Engwura ground came to a close; the Kauaua was taken down and dismantled, all traces of the blood being rubbed off; the Churinga were sorted out and returned to their respective owners.
The older men now returned to their camps, but the newly-made Urliara men had still to remain out in the bush until the performance of a ceremony at which the ban of silence between them and their ab-moara men was removed. The Engwura ground was deserted, and for months afterwards it must not be visited by women and children, to whom it was strictly ekirinja, or forbidden.
The fifth phase may be described very shortly. When the old men return to their camps and the newly-made Urliara go out into the bush, one or more ordinary dancing festivals take place. A special one associated with this period is a woman's dance. At night the men and women all assemble in the main camp. A few, perhaps six or eight of the men, are painted with bands of ochre, and the dance opens with these men, one after the other, coming out of the darkness into the light of the camp fire behind which a group of men and women are seated, beating time with sticks and boomerangs on the ground and singing a corrobboree song. As each man approaches the fire he looks about him as if in search of some one, and then, after a short time, sits down amongst the audience. After the men have separately gone through this short performance a number of young women, who have been waiting out of sight of the fire, come near. Each one is decorated with a double horse-shoe-shaped band of white pipe-clay which extends across the front of each thigh and the base of the abdomen. A flexible stick is held behind the neck and one end grasped by each hand. Standing in a group the women sway slightly from side to side, quivering in a most remarkable fashion, as they do so, the muscles of the thighs and of the base of the abdomen. The object of the decoration and movement is evident, and at this period of the ceremonies a general interchange, and also a lending of, women takes place, and visiting natives are provided with temporary wives, though on this occasion in the Arunta tribe the woman allotted to any man must be one to whom he is unawa, that is, who is lawfully eligible to him as a wife. This woman's dance, which is of the most monotonous description possible goes on night after night for perhaps two or three weeks, at the end of which time another dance is commenced. By the time that this is over, or perhaps earlier still, for there is no fixed time, the final ceremonies commence in connection with the newly-made Urliara. Each of them has to bring in an offering of food to his ab-moara man. Under ordinary circumstances such a food-offering is called chaurilia, but this particular one is called ertwa-kirra, that is, man's meat. p. 382 When the present has been made, the ab-moara man either performs, or else requests some one else to perform, a sacred ceremony which belongs to himself. These ceremonies are of the nature of those already described, and the description of one or two will suffice to illustrate the nature of them all. A Panunga man of the lizard totem brought in a wallaby as ertwa-kirra to his ab-moara, who was a Purula man of the emu totem. It need hardly be said that the food brought in belongs neither to the totem of the giver nor to that of the recipient. The latter in this instance prepared a ceremony of the wild cat totem in a secluded spot amongst the ranges away from the Engwura ground. A remarkable feature in connection with this and other of these special ceremonies concerned with the offering of food was the sprinkling of the older men with blood drawn from the arms of the younger men, not necessarily from the younger man who was making the offering. Early in the morning of the day on which the ceremony was performed, one of the young men had opened a vein in his arm and had allowed the blood to flow out in a thin stream over the bodies of four of the older men who were present, including the ab-moara man to whom the food was being given. Some of the blood had been allowed to flow into their open mouths, the idea being to strengthen the older men at the expense of the younger ones, and it had trickled down and over their bodies in thin streams and had dried up. The ceremony itself was of the usual description, and was accompanied by the dancing round of the young men who came running into the narrow defile in which it was held, and where the decorated men were waiting for them. When it was over, the men all grouped themselves close together and began singing, while the elder ab-moara man took a bunch of feathers which had been used as part of the decoration and touched with it the mouths of all those present. By means of this action, which is called Aralkalilima, the ban of silence was broken. Sometimes, as in this case, a part of the decoration of some individual was used; at others, when one had been used in the ceremony, a Nurtunja was brushed against the mouths of the men present, and in many, but not all cases, not only p. 383 the mouth of the man who was being released from the ban was touched, but also that of all the men who happened to be present. When this part was over, the man who was receiving the food sat down together with the older men, and then the young man, or perhaps two or three together who were making the presentation, went back to the spot at which the food had been deposited, and, bringing it in, placed it before the ab-moara man and then sat down close in front of him. After singing for a minute or two the old man took up the food, and holding it, or a fragment of it, in his hands, placed it against the mouth of the young man or men. In this way, after the lapse of some time, the ceremonies of the Engwura were brought to a close.
In another of these ceremonies of Aralkalilima, a wild cat Quabara, belonging to a place called Atnyraungwuramunia, was performed by two men, one an Apungerta of the witchetty grub totem, and the other his son, a Panunga of the Irriakura totem, the object being to release from the ban of silence two Purula men, who were ab-moara to the first-named man. For use in the ceremony a Nurtunja was made, and during the making only the nakrakia of the performers were present. The ceremony itself, with the performers squatting at the base of the Nurtunja, was much as usual, the crowd who took part in the running round comprising all classes. One of the ab-moara men carried his ertwa-kirra offering in his hands as he ran round, the other left his some distance away. The performance came to an end by the ab-moara men suddenly squatting down behind the performers. All then stood up, and one of the Purula men offered his ertwa-kirra, having done which he and all the other Purula and Kumara men moved to one side, forming a group with the two ab-moara men in the centre. The old man now lifted out the Nurtunja, and all the men belonging to his moiety of the tribe stood in two lines with the Nurtunja held horizontally between them, every man supporting it with his hands and lifting it slowly up and down while they sang, and at the same time gradually approached the other group of men. The front rank of the latter now opened out, leaving the two ab-moara Purula men in front of the Nurtunja. Still singing, and with an occasional “wah! wah!” the faces of the two men, but of none of the others, were stroked with the Nurtunja, after which the latter was again replaced in the ground, and for some minutes they continued to sing of the Nurtunja and Kauaua of the Alcheringa. This ceremony is one of those which for some reason has special associations with one moiety of the tribe, and during its performance the separation of the two moieties was most strongly marked.
The following ceremony is of interest in one or two respects. It was performed on the occasion of an offering of ertwa-kirra made by two men, one a Panunga and the other an Uknaria, who were ab-moara to a Kumara man, and comprised p. 385 two separate performances. The first of these was concerned with the Unchipera or small bat totem, and the performer personated a man carrying about the body of a dead man which he intended to eat, and which was represented by a semi-circular structure made of grass stalks bound round with fur-string, which is called Atnuta, and is supposed to be emblematic of the limp body. The second part of the ceremony was concerned with the Elkintera or white bat totem, and one of the two performers also carried one of these Atnuta objects, representing a dead man, on his head. When the two performances were over, the three performers, one of whom was the Kumara man to whom the offering was being made, stood up, and the ceremony of Aralkalilima was performed, the Atnuta being used to stroke the mouth of the ab-moara men. This over, the performers p. 386 sat round the ertwa-kirra, but the difficulty arose that the man to whom the offering was being made was Gammona of one of the ab-moara men, and for a Gammona to receive food from his Ikuntera (in this case a tribal father-in-law) is contrary to custom. To obviate this difficulty the Gammona man turned his back on the food while his Ikuntera came up, tore a small piece of meat off, and with it rubbed the Gammona's mouth, and then thrust it into the latter, thus for the time being removing the tabu.
A man is not supposed to come into the presence of his ab-moara until such time as he has made an offering of ertwa-kirra to the latter, and if it be inconvenient to the ab-moara man to perform a Quabara and go through the whole Aralkalilima ceremony, he performs a minor ceremony called Anaintalilima which, though not releasing a man from the ban of silence, permits him to come into the presence of the ab-moara. In this case a messenger is sent to the ab-moara asking him to come and receive ertwa-kirra. He goes to a certain spot—there is no particular place but it must be out of sight of the main camp so that the proceedings cannot be witnessed by women and children—and there he sits down and powders up some red ochre, which he places beside him on a shield. The man brings up the offering of meat (sometimes there may be more than one man), places it on the ab-moara's lap, and then kneels down close in front. Not a word is spoken, but the ab-moara gravely rubs him all over with red ochre. The ban of silence is not removed, but he may now go into the presence of his ab-moara, by whom at some future time a sacred ceremony will be performed, and the ban removed in the usual way. This second ceremony will probably, though not of necessity, entail a second offering of ertwa-kirra and very often a hint is conveyed from the old ab-moara that such an offering will facilitate matters.
330:1 Leipoa ocellata, the mound bird.
331:1 Wad is an oxide of manganese, which when powdered up produces a bluish-gray powder, and is rubbed on the body for decorative purposes. The wad is obtained from a special spot near to Henbury on the Finke River.
344:1 Imanda itself is the great centre of the frog totem; but occupying a strip along the southern bank of the Hugh River, close by, is a local centre of the Unchipera or small bat totem, while opposite to this on the north bank of the river is a centre of the Elkintera or large white bat totem.
351:1 They have to lie down so that the Parra is between them and the women's camp, and the latter must always lie to the east of the Parra.
372:1 The possible significance of the Kauaua is dealt with in connection with the description of the decoration of objects used during sacred ceremonies, Chap. XIX.
378:1 The relative positions of the Parra and of the women's camp must be such that when grouped round the Kauaua, and looking towards the women, the men face eastwards, the Parra lying between them and the women. The direction in which the Parra runs is in some way associated with the fact that in the Alcheringa the various wandering group of Achilpa travelled north and south; the facing of the men towards the east has nothing to do with the rising of the sun.