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Restrictions amongst members of the Kakadu tribe.--Boys and youths.--Women during pregnancy.--Husband.--Young men passing through Ober and Jamba ceremonies.--Removal of restrictions.--Young man giving food to his mother.--Special restrictions in regard to the snake Kuljoanjo.--Restrictions amongst the Port Essington natives.

IN probably all Australian tribes there are, under normal conditions, very definite restrictions in regard to the eating of particular foods by individuals at different ages or under special conditions, such as those attendant, more especially, on child-bearing. In many cases the object of these restrictions is very evidently that of reserving the best food for the elder men and women, but in others it is difficult to assign any adequate reason. In some instances it is quite possible that, for example, a woman, while bearing a child, may once have eaten some special food and have, afterwards, been seriously ill. That, in itself, would be quite enough reason for a restriction to be placed on that particular food in regard to all women in the same condition.

Nothing shows more clearly than these food restrictions do, the way in which the life of a native is hedged in with arbitrary rules that must be obeyed, often at the peril of

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his life. To the casual onlooker the native may appear to live a perfectly free life; in reality he does nothing of the kind; indeed, very much the reverse.

The following are the restrictions amongst the members of the Kakadu tribe, and they may be taken as fairly typical of all tribes:--

Those of the first series are concerned with boys and young men at various ages. When a child is very young there are no restrictions, though, of course, the parents take care that, for his own sake, he does not have the chance of eating certain very special things, such as a Kuljoanjo snake, which has a very special tabu, or kumali, associated with it. There are certain foods, such as these, that no child is likely to have the opportunity of eating, because its parents may not do so.

After the boy has passed through the Ningeri stage, when he is initiated and becomes a Numulakirri, he reaches a status during which--and it may extend over some years--he is much hampered in his choice of food.

He may not eat the following extensive series of animals and plants:--

Tjunara (a yam); Kulori (a yam); Gunumaramila (a pounded yam); Pitjordu (Goanna lizard); Narenma (a snake); Kuljoanjo (a snake); Tiradjuno (a water snake); Munmarner (a snake); Ngabadaua (a snake); Kalerungeni (flying fox); Murno (female opossum); Jimeribunna (native companion); Brutpenniweir (Jabiru); Kopereipi (emu); Karakera (spur-winged plover); Kulabaga (pled egret); Kupulapuli (white crane); Kudjalinga (female turtle); Yinganga (small species of crocodile); Mundebenbo (native turkey); Mangortji (wedge-tailed eagle); Eyenbumbo (fish hawk); Miriwidjonga (quail); Kopereipi Iwaiji (emu eggs); Korunokadju (wild dog).

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He is allowed to eat the following:--

Murora (a small wallaby); lily seeds, roots, etc., which form the staple vegetable diet of the natives; Mormo (a sugar-bag); Murno (male opossum); Kudjalinga (male turtle); Eribinjori (large crocodile); Kimberikara (Barramunda fish); Kulekuli (cat-fish); and also all pigeons, ducks, and geese, with their eggs.

There is a curious restriction, the meaning of which the natives do not know, in regard to a dog and a goanna. If a dog catches a goanna (a species of lizard belonging to the genus Varanus) no boy or young man may eat it. If he were to do so, it would result in his having very severe pains in his back, and his fingers would rot away. The kumali, or tabu, may be removed by an old man, who, for this purpose, takes the bones of a goanna that has been caught by a dog. He pounds them up and puts them in the middle of a special yam (Gunumaramila), which itself must be pounded, and hands it to the young man to bite.

There are certain food restrictions that apply to women at different periods of their life, more especially during child-bearing. They are as follows:--

(1) During the early stages of pregnancy she may not eat Jimeribunna (native companion); Brutpenniweir (Jabiru); Karakera (spur-winged plover); Kalerungeni (flying fox); Kulawura (jungle-fowl); Tjikali (wood grub); Kintjilbara (rock snake).

The penalties for eating these are as follows:--Jimeribunna, the child is born with yaws; Brutpenniweir, the child is born with a sore nose and mouth; Karakera, the child has sores under its arms; Kalerungeni, the child has sore feet and tongue, and, if a boy, its penis is abnormal; Kulawura, a spirit is supposed to take the child away and bury it in the mound nest of a jungle,

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bird; Tjikali, the child has scabs all over its body; Kintjilbara, the navel string becomes twisted round the child, and it dies in the womb.

(2) During the latter stages of pregnancy she may not cat Pitjordu (goanna); Kunaitja (mullet); Mudburraburra (native cat); Gunumaramila (pounded yam); Eribinjori (crocodile); Yinganga (small crocodile).

The penalties for eating these are as follows; Pitjordu, the lubra, gets severe pains in her stomach; Kunaitja, the mouth of the child grows out like that of the fish; Mudburraburra, the child is born with spots all over it like those of a native cat; Gunumaramila, the child has yaws; Eribinjori and Yinganga, the child will fall into a water hole and be drowned.

During the whole period, also, the woman must not eat anything that is cooked in a peindi, or native oven, that is, a hole in the ground, in which stones are heated on the fire and the food is cooked by placing it upon them, covering them with paper bark or leaves and then piling the earth on. Everything she pats must be cooked at an ordinary fire or kutjali.

In the Kakadu the restrictions on the husband of the woman are just the same as those for the woman until the child is born, after which he is free to eat anything that the men do who are not Murabulba, that is, very old.

(3) After the child is born, and while it is young, the woman must not drink out of a deep water hole, the water must not reach above her knees; the husband tells the woman that she must not break this rule or the child will die. Also, she must not eat fish out of a deep water hole. They believe that if the child were to see its Mother drinking out of a deep water hole its spirit would Immediately leave its body, run to the water hole, and be drawn under and swallowed up by a Numereji snake. If,

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by any chance, the mother breaks the rule, the father, mother, and child, accompanied by a medicine man, go to the water hole. The father gives the mother a little water in a bark basket. The spirit of the child is attracted, comes up, and is caught by the medicine man, who alone can see it. He immediately places it in the mother's head, from which it passes down into her breast and the child, who is at once put to the breast, drinks it in with its mother's milk, or Kumilungornu. If the father finds out, when the woman is away, that she has been drinking at a deep water hole, he will at once go to the latter with a medicine man, who catches the spirit and places it in the father, from whom it is supposed to pass, at a later time, into the mother also, and, by way of her breast, into the child.

In the case of the mother all the restrictions are in force until the child has finished suckling. There is no ceremony when they are withdrawn.

The restrictions with regard to young men who are passing through the Ober and Jamba ceremonies have been already described in connection with these. While they are in progress the women may not eat the following: Pitjordu (goanna); Miniorko (bandicoot); all kinds of snakes; Biaka (wallaby); Mitjiborla (wallaroo, a kangaroo); Jeruober (old man kangaroo); Erlaungerla (echidna); Mudburraburra (native cat); Nabapungeni (black kangaroo); Monmorlpa (a large rat); Marabornji (brush-tailed wallaby); sugar-bags of all kinds; Tjunara (a yam); Gunumaramila (a yam): Kimberikara (Barramunda fish); Kunaitju (mullet); Kudjalinga (female turtle); Tjilaka (mud cod); Tjimidaba (a long-nosed fish); geese and ducks.

They are allowed to eat Murno (opossum); yarns, such as Mornun and Kulijidbo; lily seeds and roots of

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kinds; Kulekuli (cat-fish); Baralil and Tjameru (small fish); Kudjalinga. (male turtle).

I have already referred to the removal of certain food restrictions that take place in the moiab, or shade house, at the close of the Kulori ceremony, but, though this removal largely widens the food supply of the older men, it does not affect one or two special animals, the kumali in regard to which is very strict. There is, for example, a carpet snake, called Kintjilbara, that no Kulori man may touch until special permission has been given to him. An old man goes out into the bush, kills one of the snakes, and brings it back into the men's camp. He calls them up, saying, Kulori jereini, breida ge, Kulori men, come all of you; Kintjilbara jereba yinamba (if it be a female), para (if it be a male), jump over the Kintjilbara. The men all do this, one after the other. This finished, the old man says, jauidda kulori jereini Kintjilbara, all you Kulori men eat Kintjilbara. An earth oven, or peindi, is then made, and the snake cooked in it on the hot stones. When ready to be eaten it must be torn up by the teeth of an old man. Each Kulori man has a little piece of Tjali (flesh), paloma (fat), and benogra (bones) given to him, and is thereby made free of the animal. The old man, after the ceremony, removes a Winbegi, or small armlet, from each of the men.

Up till such time as a man is Kulori, he may not give any of the foods that are prohibited to him to his mother. After passing through that ceremony he may, but he has first to observe a special condition. If be secures, for example, a bird such as a Karakera (spur-winged plover), he takes it to his father, when the latter is in camp along with his (the young man's) mother. He says, Papa, Karakera Koiyu ngainma jau, Father, does my mother eat Karakera? The father says, ngeinyimma Koiyu wo, give

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it to your mother. The son says, ngai Koiyu wo, I give it to my mother, and does so. The mother says to the father, that is, her husband, ngainma kumali, this is my kumali, or this is kumali to me. The father says to her, jau-u kala, murrawarra kulori tanbuma, eat, all right, the great kulori is finished. Then he says to his son, ngeinyimma jau koyada wo Makorngo, Illaberi, don't give food to your sisters or younger brothers; koiyu kala jau umba wo, give food all right to your mother; kala moara, it is finished all right. Then he says to the lubras in camp, jau umba ge, eat it all of you.

There is another snake, called Kuljoanjo, to which also much the same restrictions apply. It may only be eaten by really old men. One of the older men, named Mukalakki, told us how narrowly he escaped with his life, after eating some of the snake when he was younger, though it was quite innocently done, on his part. The severe illness that resulted from his disobeying the Kumali law, took place, as nearly as we could calculate, fifteen years after he had eaten the forbidden snake. Mukalakki was out in the bush with another young man, named Murukambul, who caught a Kuljoanjo. The latter of the two men knew what it was, but he did not tell Mukalakki, who thought it was another kind of snake. Murukambul handed it to Mukalakki who cooked it, and then Murukambul told him to eat it and replied, when Mukalakki urged him to have some, No, I will go to the other camp. There was an old man there, named Mudorna, who also ate some and then he and Mukalakki took some of the paloma (fat) to a very old man who ate it and licked his lips as he did so, because the fat is very good indeed. He noticed, however, that Mukalakki had been eating it and said to him, ameina ngeinyimma jau kumali? why have you eaten kumali? {p. 349} ngeinyimma illauilla, you are a little man; Kuljoanjo (this is) Kuljoanjo; ngeinyimma kutjeri murrawarra, you will be very ill. Mukalakki was very frightened when he found out what he had done and said to the old man, ameina; ngai wariji? what is it; shall I die? The old man answered, owoi, kutjeri ngeinyimma pari, wariji, yes, by and by you (will be) very ill, (you will) die. Nothing happened for a long time, but fifteen years later, Mukalakki had a terrible time which he described very graphically to us. He was feeling very bad indeed and an old medicine man said to him ameina jau, ngeinyimma kutjeri, what have you eaten (to make) you ill? Mukalakki remembered what the old man had told him long ago and he answered, Kuljoanjo. Then the old doctor said, umbordera wariji--to-day you die. He was very ill then but, as the day wore on, he became much worse and, at night, it took three men to keep him down, one on his head and one on each leg. The spirit, or Iwaiyu, of Kuljoanjo had twisted itself round inside his body and, every now and then, came out through his forehead, rattled its teeth and hissed and looked straight into his eyes. It was terrifying. The natives, realising the gravity of the case, had sent away to a place, called Oenpelli, fourteen miles away, for a special, celebrated medicine man, named Morpun, who fortunately happened to be reincarnated at that time. He came post haste, walking and running the whole way, without once stopping. All day long the men and women had sat on Mukalakki, trying to keep him quiet, but it was just as much as they could do. He was all tied up with the Iwaiyu and shuddered and shivered all over when the snake shook himself. The lubras first of all and, later on, the men as well, did their best to keep Kuljoanjo quiet, but he kept overpowering them and shaking Mukalakki to pieces.

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At length Morpun, the great medicine man, arrived. For a while he stood silently, some distance off, watching Mukalakki. First he ordered the women to go away, along way off. Mukalakki sat up. Once more the snake came out of his forehead and looked into his eyes but, at that moment, Morpun, who had come close up, made a sudden snatch at it and caught its head. No one but himself and Mukalakki could see it. He held it very firmly and carefully unwound it from Mukalakki's body. When he had done this successfully, he rolled the snake up in his hands and put it in his dilly bag, called Nunguluwara, and, after staying in camp for one night, went back to his own country, taking the spirit of the Kuljoanjo with him. He put it in a water hole, right away amongst the Ranges, saying to it, tjukoro ngai wilalu, lie down in my camp; koyada wagai, don't go back; tjikara onji jereini, which means, language (or talk) other men. To talk another language is the equivalent of saying that you are in another part of the country. The medicine man was telling Kuljoanjo to stay in his, Morpun's, country.

As soon as ever the snake was removed, Mukalakki felt immensely relieved. He perspired profusely, went to sleep and woke up all right in the morning. Since then Kuljoanjo has never troubled him again, but he had a great fright and everyone knows that, if it had not been for Morpun removing the snake, he must have died; and Morpun was the only man who could do this.

Amongst the Port Essington natives no young girl may eat turkey, kangaroo, turtle eggs, or turtle unless the latter be given to her by an old man. She may eat yams so long as the leaves are green but not when they are dried up, that is, she may eat them when they are small and forming, but not when they are ripe.

A woman when enceinte does not eat goanna, bandicoot,

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emu, or turkey. If she were to eat any of them the child would be born thin and lean-looking. She may eat kangaroo and turtle eggs. There are certain yams along the banks or creeks and billabongs that must not be eaten. The husband of the woman eats goannas, but they must be fat, not lean, and the same holds good for bandicoots, but opossum or emu he must not touch. This applies to the first two or three times when his wife is enceinte; after he has two or three children these particular restrictions are removed.


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Next: Chapter XII: Weapons and Implements