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The Native Tribes of North Central Australia, by Baldwin Spencer and F. J. Gillen [1899], at

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Chapter VI Intichiuma Ceremonies

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

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

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

There is however one notable exception to the restrictions upon eating, and this is concerned with the Achilpa or wild cat 1 totem. Only a very little of this is allowed to be eaten, and that only by the old people; but in this case the restriction is not confined to the members of the totem, but is of universal application, applying to every member of the tribe. There is no similar restriction applying to any other animal or plant, but, in the case of Achilpa, there are reasons given for not eating it which serve to show that for some cause or other this particular animal has associations with the tribe as a whole which do not exist in respect of any other. In the first place, it is supposed that any one, save an old man or woman, eating Achilpa would be afflicted with a special disease called Erkincha; and in the second, it is believed that if any man who had killed another at any time of his life were to eat this particular animal, then his spirit part or Yenka 2 would leave his body and he would soon be killed by some enemy, so that to a man who has ever killed another—and there are very few men who do not lay claim to this distinction—the Achilpa is tabu or forbidden for life, no matter what be his age. There are amongst the traditions dealing with the Achilpa of the Alcheringa, very explicit references to the Erkincha disease, though why this should be especially

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associated with the Achilpa people it is difficult to say, and the natives have no explanation to offer. 1

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

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

In connection with the times at which the ceremonies are held, it may be said that while the exact time is fixed by the Alatunja in each case, yet the matter is largely dependent on the nature of the season. The Intichiuma are closely

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associated with the breeding of the animals and the flowering of the plants with which each totem is respectively identified, and as the object of the ceremony is to increase the number of the totemic animal or plant, it is most naturally held at a certain season. In Central Australia the seasons are limited, so far as the breeding of animals and the flowering of plants is concerned, to two—a dry one of uncertain and often great length, and a rainy one of short duration and often of irregular occurrence. The latter is followed by an increase in animal life and an exuberance of plant growth which, almost suddenly, transforms what may have been a sterile waste into a land rich in various forms of animals, none of which have been seen for it may be many months before, and gay with the blossoms of endless flowering plants.

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



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

At daylight the party begins to pluck twigs from the gum trees at the mouth of the Gap, and every man carries a twig in p. 172 each hand except the Alatunja, who carries nothing save a small pitchi or wooden trough, which is called Apmara1 Walking again in single file they follow—led by the Alatunja—the path traversed by the celebrated Intwailiuka, the great leader of the Witchetty grubs in the Alcheringa, until they come to what is called the Ilthura oknira, which is placed high up on the western wall of the Gap. In this, which is a shallow cave, a large block of quartzite lies, and around it are some small rounded stones. The large mass represents the Maegwa, that is, the adult animal. The Alatunja begins singing and taps the stone with his Apmara, while all the other men tap it with their twigs, chanting songs as they do so, the burden of which is an invitation to the animal to lay eggs. When this has gone on for a short time they tap the smaller stones, which are Churinga unchima, that is, they represent the eggs of the Maegwa. The Alatunja then takes up one of the smaller stones and strikes each man in the stomach with it, saying, “Unga murna oknirra ulquinna” (“You have eaten much food”). When this has been done the stone is dropped and the Alatunja strikes the stomach of each man with his forehead, an operation which is called atnitta ulpilima. Leaving the Ilthura the men descend from the range to the bed of the creek in the Gap, and stop under the rock called Alknalinta, that is, the decorated eyes, where, in the Alcheringa, Intwailiuka used to cook, pulverise and eat the grub. The Alatunja strikes the rock with his Apmara, and each man does the same with his twigs, while the older men again chant invitations to the animal to come from all directions and lay eggs. At the base of the rock, buried deeply in the sand, there is supposed to be a very large Maegwa stone.

It was at this spot that Intwailiuka used to stand while he threw up the face of the rock numbers of Churinga unchima, which rolled down again to his feet; accordingly the Alatunja does the same with some of the Churinga which have been

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brought from the store-house close by. While he is doing this the other members of the party run up and down the face of the rocky ledge, singing all the time. The stones roll down into the bed of the creek and are carefully gathered together and replaced in the store.

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

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

When the round of the Ilthura has been made and the same ceremony enacted at each one, then a start is made for the home camp. When within a mile or so of the latter they stop and decorate themselves with material which has been purposely brought to the spot. Hair string is tied round their heads, p. 175 and Chilara or forehead bands are put on, beneath which twigs of the Udnirringa 1 bush are fixed so that they hang downwards. Nose bones are thrust through the nasal septum, and rat tails and topknots of cockatoo feathers are worn in the hair. The Alatunja is but little decorated; he has only the Chilara across his forehead, and the Lalkira or nose bone. Under his arm he carries the Apmara, and in his hand a twig of the Udnirringa bush. While the men walk along they keep their twigs in constant motion, much as if they were brushing off flies. The totem Ilkinia or sacred design is painted on the body of each man with red ochre and pipe clay, and the latter is also used to paint the face, except for the median line of red. When the decorations are complete a start is again made, all walking in single file, the Alatunja at the head with his Apmara under his arm. Every

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now and then they stop and the old Alatunja, placing his hand above his eyes, as if to shade the latter, strikes an attitude as he peers away into the distance. He is supposed to be looking out for the women who were left in camp. The old man, who had been left in charge at the camp during the absence of the party, is also on the look-out for the return of the latter. While the men have been away he has built, away from the main camp, a long, narrow wurley, which is called Umbana, and is intended to represent the chrysalis case from which the Maegwa or fully-developed insect emerges. Near to this spot all those who have not been taking part in the ceremony assemble, standing behind the Umbana. Those men who belong to the other moiety of the tribe—that is, to the Purula and the Kumara—are about forty or fifty yards away, sitting down in perfect silence; and the same distance further back the Panunga and Bulthara women are standing, with the Purula and Kumara women sitting down amongst them. The first-named women are painted with the totem Ilkinia of red and white lines; the second are painted with lines of white faintly tinged with red. When the old man at length sees the party approaching he steps out and sings—

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


The Alatunja, as the party comes slowly along, stops every now and then to peer at the women. Finally all reach the Umbana and enter it. When all are inside they begin to sing of the animal in its various stages, and of the Alknalinta stone and the great Maegwa at it base. As soon as the performers enter the wurley, the Purula and Kumara men and women lie face downwards, and in this position they must remain until they receive permission to arise. They are not allowed to stir under any pretext whatever. The singing continues for some time; then the Alatunja in a squatting position shuffles out of the Umbana, gliding slowly along over the space in front, which has been cleared for a distance of some yards. He is followed by all the men, who sing of the emerging of the Maegwa from its case, the Umbana. Slowly they shuffle out and back again until all p. 177 are once more in the wurley, when the singing ceases and food and water are brought to them by the old man who had remained in camp and built the Umbana. This, it must be remembered, is the first food or drink which they have partaken of since they originally left the camp, as, except in the case of the very old men, it is peremptory that the ceremony be carried out without any eating or drinking on the part of the participants. When it is dusk they leave the wurley, and go round to the side away from that on which the Purula and Kumara men are lying, so that, to a certain extent, they are p. 178 hidden from their view. A large fire is lighted, and round this they sit, singing of the witchetty grub. This is kept up till some little time before daybreak, and during all that time the women of the right moiety must stand peering about into the darkness to see if the women of the other moiety, over whom they are supposed to keep watch, continue to lie down. They also peer about, watching the Intichiuma party just as the women did in the Alcheringa. Suddenly the singing ceases, and the fire is quickly put out by the Alatunja. This is the signal for the release of the Purula and Kumara men and women, who jump to their feet, and these men and all the women of whatever class they may be, at once run away to the main camp. The Intichiuma party remains at the wurley until daylight, when the men go near to the Ungunja1 make a fire and strip themselves of all their ornaments, throwing away their Udnirringa twigs. When all the Uliara, Imitnya, Lalkira and cockatoo feathers are removed, the Alatunja says, “Our Intichiuma is finished, the Mulyanuka must have these things or else our Intichiuma would not be successful, and some harm would come to us.” They all say, “Yes, yes, certainly;” and the Alatunja calls to the Mulyanuka (i.e. men of the other moiety of the tribe), who are at the Ungunja, that is the men's camp, to come up, and the things are divided amongst them, after which the old man, who before brought them food, goes to the various camps and collects a considerable quantity of vegetable food which is given to him by the women. This is brought back and cooked and eaten by the fire, where they still remain. During the afternoon the old man again visits the camp, and brings back with him some red ochre and the fur string which belongs to the various members of the party, and, just before sundown, the old men rub red ochre over their bodies, and over those of the younger men, thus obliterating the Ilkinia and the painting on the face. The men then put on their arm strings, &c., and return to their respective camps, and with this the main part of the ceremony is brought to a close. When all is over, the

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[paragraph continues] Apmara or pitchi of the Alatunja is held in great regard, and the Panunga and Bulthara women enjoy the privilege, each in turn, of carrying it about.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Before the ceremony commences the pit is carefully swept clean by an old Unjiamba man, who then strokes the stone all over with his hands. When this has been done the men sit around the stone and a considerable time is spent in singing chants, the burden of which is a reiterated invitation to the Unjiamba tree to flower much, and to the blossoms to

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be full of honey. Then the old leader asks one of the young men to open a vein in his arm, which he does, and allows the blood to sprinkle freely over the stone, while the other men continue the singing. The blood flows until the stone is completely covered, the flowing of blood being supposed to represent the preparation of Abmoara, that is, the drink which is made by steeping the flower in water, this being a very favourite beverage of the natives. As soon as the stone is covered with blood the ceremony is complete.

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



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

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

When Intichiuma is performed, a clear space is first of all swept round the base of the stone, and after this the Alatunja digs down into the earth at the base of the boulder, and discloses to view a Churinga which has been buried there ever since the Alcheringa, and is supposed to represent a mass of Ilpirla. Then he climbs on to the top of the boulder and rubs it with the Churinga, after which he takes the smaller stones and with these rubs the same spot, while the other men sitting around sing loudly, “Inka parunta, nartnapurtnai, urangatcha chuntie, urungatcha chuntie.”

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The meaning of these words is an invitation to the dust produced by the rubbing of the stones to go out and produce a plentiful supply of Ilpirla on the mulga trees. Then with twigs of the mulga he sweeps away the dust which has gathered on the surface of the stone, the idea being to cause it to settle upon the mulga trees and so produce Ilpirla. When the Alatunja has done this, several of the old men in turn mount the boulder and the same ceremony is repeated. Finally, the Churinga is buried at the base in its old position, and with this the ceremony closes.



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

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

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

The Intichiuma ground is situated in a depression in a rocky range, at a considerable elevation above the surrounding plains, and all over the depression are blocks of stone standing up on end and leaning in all directions, each of which is associated with a honey-ant man of the Alcheringa.

The messenger sent to the Ertnatulunga arrives at the ground as the party approaches; he has to go a long way round, and must run the whole way.

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

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

When the stone has been taken out it is rubbed over reverently with their hands by the old men, and then rubbed over with the smaller stone, after which it is replaced in the ground. This done, the big stone Churinga from the Ertnatulunga, which represents a mass of honey carried about by a celebrated Oknirabata 1 of the Alcheringa, named Ilatirpa,

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is brought up. This Ilatirpa was the leader of the Yarumpa and sent out the wandering parties who started from this spot. In the Ertnatulunga is a long, thin, stone Churinga, pointed at each end and evidently very old, the markings being nearly effaced, which represents the piece of wood which was carried by Ilatirpa for the purpose of digging up the ants on which he fed. This and the large Churinga are the only stone ones in this particular Ertnatulunga1

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

On the way home a halt is made at a spot in the Ilyaba creek, where in the Alcheringa, as now, the final act of the ceremony was performed. On the banks of the creek are a number of mulga trees, each of which is associated with, in fact is the Nanja tree of, an Alcheringa man, who stood watching the performance as it was being conducted in the bed of the creek. In the same way the stones standing out from the banks have each of them their association with an Alcheringa man. On arrival at this spot all the men sit down, and about an hour is spent in singing of the Yarumpa men, of their marchings in the Alcheringa, of the honey, of the ant nests, of the great man Ilatirpa, and of those Yarumpa men who, in the Alcheringa, changed into the little birds now called Alpirtaka, which at the present day are the mates of the honey-ant people, to whom they point out

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where the ant nests can be found. After some time the decoration of the Alatunja commences, while he leads the singing, which now has reference to the men on the banks, who are supposed, in spirit form, to be watching the performance from their Nanja trees. The decorations on the body of the performer are intended to represent the chambers in the ant nests, and those on the arms and neck the passages leading to the inner parts of the nests where the honey-ants are found. The performer squats on the ground, and for some time the other men run round and round him in the usual way, while he occupies himself with brushing the ground between his legs with little twigs, pausing every now and then to quiver. When this is over the decorations are removed, and the party starts back for the men's camp, passing as described, the women's camp on the way.


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

As in the case of the kangaroo totem the majority of the members of the water totem belong to the Purula and Kumara. To them the secret of rain-making was imparted in the Alcheringa by an individual named Irtchwoanga, who also settled upon the exact places at which the ceremony should be performed. One of the most important of the water totem groups is a local subdivision of the Arunta people, inhabiting a district of about fifty miles to the east of Alice Springs, this part being known as Kartwia quatcha, or the “rain country.” 1 The Alatunja of this group at the present time is

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

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

“Illunga ilartwina unalla

Illunga kau-wu lungalla

Partini yert artnuri elt artnuri

Yerra alt nartnura alla

Partinia yarraa alt nartnurai

Yerra alla partinia atnartnurai

Yokaa wau wai.”

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

“Purlaarau kurlaa

Rumpaa arri

Umpaakunla karla

Rumpaa arri

Paakur tai,”

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



About fifteen miles to the east of Henbury, on the Finke River, is a spot called by the natives Undiara. 1 Here, at the base of a steep quartzite ridge, which runs east and west, and forms part of what is now called Chandler's Range, there lies under the shelter of a gum tree a small water-hole, which has ever since the far away times of the Alcheringa been associated with the members of the Okira or kangaroo totem. From

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the side of the water-hole the rocks rise perpendicularly for some fifty feet, and over them, in the short rainy seasons, the water falls from a pool on a rock ledge, behind which again rises the bare summit of the ridge. This pool arose to mark the spot where the Engwura fires burned in the Alcheringa, and the ledge is called by the natives the Mirra Engwura, or Engwura camp of the Alcheringa. In dry seasons there is no water. From the rocks a small gum creek meanders away, but is soon lost in the dry sandy country stretching out to the south.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



At the present day there is living an aged man of the Okira or kangaroo totem, named Ungutnika. He is the reincarnation of a celebrated kangaroo of the Alcheringa, who sprang into existence at Undiara, close to the big gum tree which overhangs the water pool. Ungutnika was sorely afflicted with p. 197 boils, called Tukira, which appeared first in the form of hard lumps. He bore with them for a long time, and then, being angry, pulled them out and placed them on the ground alongside of where he sat. 1 They became changed into stones, and have remained there ever since. He was not as yet fully grown, and was an Okira kurka, or a little kangaroo, and after a short time he set out to go to a place called Okirilpa. After he had travelled about three miles, he came to an open plain, upon which he saw a mob of Ukgnulia, or wild dogs, who had come from Okirilpa, and were then lying down close to their mother, who was very large. He hopped about looking at the wild dogs, and presently they saw and chased him, and, though he hopped away as fast as he could, they caught him on a plain called Chulina, and, tearing him open, eat first his liver, and then, removing the skin, they threw it on one side and stripped all the meat from off the bones. When they had done this they again lay down.

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

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which is always shown and carefully rubbed at the Intichiuma ceremony. The Churinga which he carried with him was associated with his spirit part, and the latter has since entered into a woman and been born in human form.



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

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



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

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When the ceremony is to be performed a camp is made at a spot a little to the west of the cave and out of sight of the water-hole, which is placed in a slight dip in the range from which the small gum creek leads. Early in the morning of the day on which the ceremony is to take place, one of the younger men is sent on ahead to a special spot which lies about a hundred yards to the west of the water-hole. The object of this is to make certain that no women or uninitiated men, or men other than members of the totem, are in the neighbourhood. The main body of men comes up skirting closely the base of the range, and halts at the place where the young man is stationed. Here there lies hidden underground a block of soft grey sandstone, about three feet in length and one foot in greatest diameter, its shape in transverse section being triangular. The apex of the stone lies about a foot below the surface, and as the men gather round the spot, the position of which is precisely known, 1 the leader clears away the sandy soil and brings the sacred stone into view. Its sides, worn smooth by constant rubbing, are covered over with smaller stones, amongst which is a special flattened one with which the rubbing is done. The Alatunja takes this stone in his hands, and in the presence of all the men, who stand round in perfect silence, rubs over the exposed surface. When this has been done the stone may be lifted up so as to be seen better. It is the Churinga okira pura, that is, the tail of the Alcheringa kangaroo, which was driven in by the wild dogs from Okirilpa, and deposited by them, as already described, in the ground at this spot. Certain large blocks of sandstone, which have evidently tumbled down from the hillside and lay close by—the largest of them being fully eight feet in height—are said to represent the dead bodies of the wild dogs.

After the stone has been rubbed by the Alatunja and then examined by all present, it is covered up and the party moves onward, still skirting the base of the hill, so that the cave and ceremonial stone are not seen until they are close at hand. A halt is made at the water-hole on the side away from the cave, where the men drink, and then come round

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and sit right in front of, and at the base of the ceremonial stone. On the left hand, looking towards the stone, sit the Panunga and Bulthara men, and on the right the Purula and Kumara. Then the head man, who is at the present day a Purula, and a man to whom he is Gammona, and who is therefore Bulthara, go out from the rest, who remain seated, and climb up the hill-side just to the east of the stone. Here at a height of about twenty feet above the level of the plain, are two special blocks of stone projecting immediately above one another from the hill-side. One is supposed to represent an “old man” kangaroo and the other a female. The former is rubbed with a stone by the Purula man and the latter by the Bulthara man. This over, the two men descend and rejoin the main party, which is the signal for the decoration of the rock-ledge to begin. Red ochre and powdered and calcined gypsum are used, and with these alternate vertical lines are painted on the face of the rock, each about a foot in width, the painting of the left side being done by the Panunga and Bulthara men, and that of the right by the Purula and Kumara.

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

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

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

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

The second point is concerned with the relationship which at the present day is supposed to exist between the individual and his totem. A man will only eat very sparingly of his totem, and even if he does eat a little of it, which is allowable to him, he is careful, in the case, for example, of an emu man, not to eat the best part, such as the fat. 1 The totem of any man is regarded, just as it is elsewhere, as the same thing as himself; as a native once said to us when we were discussing the matter with him, “that one,” pointing to his photograph which we had taken, “is just the same as me; so is a kangaroo” (his totem). That they claim a special connection with, almost in certain respects a right to, their totemic animal or plant may be seen from the fact that, for example, in the witchetty grub totem, while the members of the latter do not eat it, or, at least, only sparingly themselves,

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the members of the local group who do not belong to the totem must not eat it out of camp like ordinary food, but must bring it into camp and cook it there, else the men of the totem would be angry and the supply of grubs would fail. We may, in fact say, that each totemic group is supposed to have a direct control over the numbers of the animal or plant the name of which it bears, and further that, in theory at least, they have the first right to the animal or plant. That this is so, and that it is well recognised, will be seen from the following facts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It will be seen from what has now been described that at the present day the totemic animal or plant, as the case may be, is almost, but not quite, tabu or, as the Arunta people call it, ekirinja to the members of the totem. At the same time, though a man will tell you that his totem is the same thing as himself, he does not mean to imply by that what Grey says with regard to the totems of the natives whom he studied, and who always killed with reluctance an animal belonging to their totem under the belief “that some one individual of the species is their nearest friend, to kill whom would be a great crime, and to be carefully avoided.” 1

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

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enters the kangaroo animal in just the same way in which the spirit kangaroo man enters the kangaroo woman.

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

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

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

In a Quabara relating to an Oruncha 1 man, the decoration on the head referred to an Idnimita (grub of beetle) man who was killed by this Oruncha. The man was carrying with him Idnimita grubs, which were specially represented in the decorations, and on which he was feeding.

In a Chankuna (small edible berry) ceremony a Chankuna man was represented as eating the berries which he plucked from his beard.

At a spot called Erathippa a plum tree woman was out finding plums to eat when a man came and stole her Nurtunja which she had left in camp.

An Irpunga (fish) man was seen by certain wild cat men during their wanderings, fishing in a small pool to catch the fish on which he fed.

An opossum man was robbed by another man of the moon which he carried about with him at night time so as to help him to catch opossums.

During the wanderings of a party of wild cat men they are reported to have come to a certain spot where they met some men who were what is called Ulpmerka of the plum tree totem. The wild cat men went into the earth and arose as plum tree men, and after that went on eating plums.

A bandicoot woman started out with a Hakea woman. After some time, she, the bandicoot woman, made Quabara undattha, that is performed a sacred ceremony, and painted the Hakea woman with down used during the ceremony, thus changing her into a bandicoot woman, after which, says the tradition, the latter went on feeding upon bandicoot.

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An Arunga or euro man started out in pursuit of a kangaroo which he was anxious to kill and eat but, to enable himself to do this, he first of all changed himself into a kangaroo man.

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

At some earlier time it would appear as if the members of a totem had the right to feed upon the totemic animal or plant as if this were indeed a functional necessity, though at the same time it must be remembered that in the same traditions from which the above extracts have been made for the purpose of drawing attention to this feature, there are also plenty of references to men and women eating animals and plants other than their own totem. 1 The idea of a kangaroo man freely eating a kangaroo or a bandicoot woman feeding on bandicoots is so totally opposed to the present custom of the tribe that we are obliged to regard these traditions as referring to a past time when customs in respect of the totems were different from what they are now.

In his Vocabulary of the Dialects of South-Western Australia2 Sir George Grey, when giving the meaning of certain of the native names for totems, says, in regard to the Ballaroke, a small opossum, “Some natives say that the Ballaroke family derived their name from having in former times subsisted principally on this little animal”; and again of the Nag-karm totem, he says, “From subsisting principally in former times on this fish, the Nagarnook family are said to have obtained their name.” In regard further to five totemic groups, which bear the names of birds, he says, that they, that is the

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members of the respective totems, are said to be the birds transformed into men. The curious agreement between this and what we have just described as occurring in the Arunta tribe is of considerable interest. In the latter, the belief in the origin of the members of any totem from the animal or plant whose name they bear is universal and is regarded as a satisfactory reason for the totemic name. It may be that in the traditions dealing with the eating of the totem, we have nothing more than another attempt to explain the origin of the totem name. Judging, however, from the curious traditions of the Arunta tribe, taken in conjunction with the ceremonies of Intichiuma, this does not seem to be so probable as that they point back to a past time when the restrictions with regard to the eating were very different from those now in force. It is quite possible that the curious ceremony in which the members of any local group bring in to the men's camp stores of the totemic animal or plant and place them before the members of the totem, thus clearly recognising that it is these men who have the first right of eating it, as well as the remarkable custom according to which one man will actually assist another to catch and kill his—i.e., the former's—totemic animal, may be surviving relics of a custom according to which, in past times, the members of a totem not only theoretically had, but actually practised, the right of eating their totem.

It may perhaps be that this eating of the totem shows that for some reason, as Mr. Frazer 1 has suggested in the case of certain other tribes in which the totem is eaten, the respect for the totem has lessened in comparison with what it once was; but, in face of the solemn ceremony of Intichiuma and of the explicit traditions to which reference has been made, it is difficult to believe that this can be so. The two traditions, in one of which a bandicoot woman is stated to have changed her companion, a Hakea woman, into a bandicoot woman, who after that went on feeding on bandicoot, while in the other a euro man is described as changing himself into a kangaroo man for the purpose of being able to pursue, kill and eat a kangaroo, are perhaps sufficient to show, taken in

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conjunction with the Intichiuma ceremonies, that, in the Arunta and Ilpirra tribes, a man is most intimately associated with his totem, but in a way quite unlike that which is usually associated with the idea of a totem. At the same time, though the relationship is different in certain respects from that which exists in other tribes, yet it will be clearly seen that what have been described as the totems agree in fundamental points with the definition given by Mr. Frazer, 1 viz., “A totem is a class of material objects which a savage regards with superstitious respect, believing that there exists between him and every member of the class an intimate and altogether special relation;” and further still we can see, to use Mr. Frazer's terms, the existence of both a social and a religious aspect. The former is not so strongly developed as it is in many other Australian tribes, amongst whom not only does the totem regulate marriage, but the members of the totem are bound to mutually assist one another. In the Arunta tribe the most striking feature from a social point of view is the strongly local character, though at the same time it must be remembered that any initiated member of a particular totem, whatever local group he belongs to, may take part in the totemic ceremonies. The religious aspect is most clearly seen in connection with the ceremonies of Intichiuma and the subsequent solemn eating of the totem, though here again the relationship between the man and his totem cannot be described as one “of mutual respect and protection.” 2 It seems as if, in the case of the Central Australian tribes, the totemic system has undergone a somewhat curious development; at all events, it differs in certain respects from that of all other Australian tribes with which we are as yet acquainted.


168:1 This is Dasyurus geoffroyi.

168:2 A man's spirit when he is alive is called Yenka; when dead his spirit part is called Ulthana.

169:1 If we were to hazard a suggestion in the attempt to explain the origin of the restriction, it would lie along the following lines. The Achilpa, as shown in the traditions of the tribe, may very probably be looked upon as a powerful group of individuals who at some past time marched over the country. Possibly they brought with them the disease, at least it is suggestive in this respect that tradition refers the disease to them and to the members of no other totem and, as communication with the individuals of the totem resulted in the spread of the disease, so the idea of danger associated with any connection with it not unnaturally extended from the human Achilpa to the animal itself, and thus the latter became tabu. It may also be noticed that Erkincha is prevalent amongst young and not amongst old people, and that this is parallel with the tabu not applying strictly to old men and women.

172:1 This is not especially made for the purpose, but is an ordinary small pitchi, such as the women use for scooping the earth out of burrows, and is always provided by a daughter of the Alatunja.

175:1 The totemic animal takes its name from this shrub, on which the grub feeds.

178:1 The Ungunja is a special part of the main camp where the men assemble, and near to which no woman may go. In the same way the women have their special part, called Erlukwirra, near to which no man may go.

186:1 Yarumpa is the Arunta name for the “honey-ant” (Camponotus inflatus, Lubbock).

187:1 Oknirabata means a great instructor or teacher, and is at the present day applied to the wise old men who are learned in tribal customs and teach them to the others. It is a name only given to men who are both old and wise. The individual represented in Fig. 9 is a famous Oknirabata.

188:1 For the exact contents of this Ertnatulunga, see p. 141.

189:1 The word Qnatcha, strictly speaking, means water. Rain is Quatcha untima, or falling water, running water is Quatcha wilima. Quatcha by itself is, however, often used to mean rain, and the name Kartwia quatcha is applied because the rain-makers of this locality are celebrated for their powers.

193:1 The interesting fact that an important ceremony, “designed to secure successful kangaroo hunts,” and consisting in the letting of blood, was held at this spot, was first recorded by Dr. Stirling, who, in the Report of the Horn Expedition, Part iv., p. 67, has given an account of the spot, which is therein called Antiarra. After repeatedly hearing it pronounced by a large number of natives, we have adopted the spelling Undiara.

197:1 The ceremony of producing evil magic at this spot is described in the chapter dealing with magic.

200:1 There is nothing on the surface to indicate that anything lies hidden beneath, but the native who showed us the stone went straight to the place and unearthed it.

202:1 The people of the emu totem very rarely eat the eggs, unless very hungry and short of food, in which case they would eat, but not too abundantly. If an emu man found a nest of eggs, and was very hungry, he might cook one, but he would take the remainder in to camp and distribute them. If he were not very hungry all the eggs would be distributed. The flesh of the bird may be eaten sparingly, but only a very little of the fat; the eggs and fat are more ekirinja or tabu than the meat. The same principle holds good through all the totems, a carpet snake man will eat sparingly of a poor snake, but he will scarcely touch the reptile if it be fat.

206:1 Journals of Two Expeditions, vol. ii., p. 228.

208:1 Oruncha is the native name for a mischievous spirit.

209:1 Wild cat men, for example, are represented constantly as feeding upon plums; certain lizards on grass seed, while others fed exclusively on lizards; quails on grass seed, etc.

209:2 As quoted by Mr. McLennan, Studies in Ancient History, second series, p. 496.

210:1 Totemism, p. 19.

211:1 Op. cit. p. 1.

211:2 Op. cit. p. 20.

Next: Chapter VII. Initiation Ceremonies