The Native Tribes of North Central Australia, by Baldwin Spencer and F. J. Gillen , at sacred-texts.com
Every individual is born into some totem—Variations in the significance of the totems in different parts of Australia—Totems of the Urabunna tribe—The child takes the mother's totem—Totems of the Arunta tribe—No relationship of necessity between the totem name of the child and that of the father and mother—Marriage not regulated by totem—Examples of totem names as they exist in particular families—Though differing much from one another in many points, there is a fundamental unity in customs, sufficient to indicate the origin of all Australian tribes from ancestors who practised certain customs which have been developed along different lines in different localities—Ceremonies of the Engwura serving to show the way in which each individual acquires his or her totemic name—The Alcheringa times—The ancestral members of certain totemic groups restricted wholly, or almost so, to members of one moiety of the tribe—The wanderings of certain groups of Alcheringa ancestors, each of whom carried one or more sacred Churinga, with each of which is associated the spirit part of an individual—Where the Churinga are deposited there local totem centres are formed, the native name of which is Oknanikilla—Each Oknanikilla is associated with one totem, and when a child is born it is one of the spirit individuals resident at a particular spot which goes inside a woman, and therefore its totem is the totem of the spirits associated with that spot—Examples of how a child gets its totemic name—Totem never changes, but the class may—The totems are local in their distribution.
EVERY individual of the tribes with which we are dealing is born into some totem—that is, he or she belongs to a group of persons each one of whom bears the name of, and is especially associated with, some natural object. The latter is usually an animal or plant; but in addition to those of living things, there are also such totem names as wind, sun, water, or cloud—in fact there is scarcely an object, animate or inanimate, to be found in the country occupied by the natives which does not gives its name to some totemic group of individuals.
Much has been written with regard to the totems of the Australian natives since the time when Grey first described them under the name of Kobong, which, it must be remarked, is only of local application in certain parts of the west, the p. 113 word being entirely unknown over the greater part of the continent. As might have been expected, when we take into account the vast area of land over which the Australian tribes are spread, and the isolation by physical barriers of those occupying the Central area from the tribes living on the east and west, there have arisen, in respect to the totemic system, variations of so important a character that it is by no means possible to describe that which is found in any one tribe or group of tribes and regard it as typical of Australian natives generally. The Arunta, Ilpirra and Luritcha tribes, and there is little doubt but that the same holds true of other tribes to the north, such as the Waagai, Iliaura, Bingongina, Walpari, and Warramunga, differ in important respects from the tribes which either now do, or formerly did, inhabit the east and south-eastern parts of the continent, and to whom nearly all our knowledge of totems in Australia has been confined. Between these central and the southern and south-eastern tribes a sharp line can be drawn, so far as their totemic systems are concerned; indeed it looks very much as if somewhere a little to the north-west of Lake Eyre we had a meeting-place of two sets of tribes, which migrated southwards, following roughly parallel courses, one across the centre of the continent, while the other followed down the course of the main streams on the east, and then turned slightly northward on the west side of Lake Eyre; or, possibly, in their southern wanderings, part of this eastern group spread round the north, and part round the south end of the lake (Fig. 1).
We find, so far as their organisation is concerned, a sharply marked line of difference between the Urabunna tribe, the members of which are spread over the country which lies to the west and north-west of Lake Eyre, and the Arunta tribe, which adjoins their northern boundary. The Urabunna tribe is associated with the migration along the eastern side, while the Arunta is the most southern of the Central tribes.
In the Urabunna and the adjoining Dieri tribe, as well as in those which spread northwards on the east side of Lake Eyre towards the borders of Queensland, and in others who lived along the shores of Spencer Gulf and along the southern p. 114 coast, we find that descent is counted in the female line. In the Urabunna, for example, we find that all the members of the tribe are divided into two classes, which are called respectively Matthurie and Kirarawa, and each of these again contains a certain number of totems, or, as the natives call them, Thunthunie. The same totem name is only to be found in one or other of the two classes, but not in both. Thus, for example, among the Matthurie we find the following totems—Inyarrie (wild duck), Wutnimmera (green cicada), Matla (dingo), Waragutie (emu), Kalathura (wild turkey), Guti (black swan); whilst amongst the Kirarawa are such totems as Kurara (cloud), Wabma (carpet snake), Kapirie (lace lizard), Urantha (pelican), Kutnichilie (water-hen), Wakala (crow). 1
Now not only must a Matthurie man take as wife a Kirarawa woman, but he must only take one of some particular totem. 2 Thus a wild duck Matthurie man marries a snake Kirarawa woman, a cicada marries a crow, a dingo a water-hen, an emu a rat, a wild turkey a cloud, and a swan a pelican. Every child, male or female, of a wild duck Matthurie man belongs to the class Kirarawa, and to the totem snake to which his mother belonged. Thus in every family the father belongs to one class and totem, while the mother and all the children belong to another. We have already dealt at length with certain aspects of the social organisation of the Urabunna tribe, and enough has now been said to show that it is a typical example of one of the many Australian tribes in which the totem of the child is simply determined by that of the mother.
Passing northwards from the Urabunna into the Arunta tribe, we are brought into contact with a very different organisation, but with one which, in regard to the class names, is typical of tribes which occupy an area extending north and south for some 800 miles, and east and west for perhaps
between 200 and 300. We find also essentially the same system in tribes inhabiting other parts of Australia, such as the Turribul, living on the Maryborough river in Queensland. 1 Without entering here into details, which will be fully explained subsequently, we may say that, so far as the class is concerned, descent is counted in the male line. The totem names are, however, at first sight decidedly perplexing. Just as in the Urabunna tribe, every individual has his or her totem name. In the first place, however, no one totem is confined to the members of a particulars class or subclass; in the second place the child's totem will sometimes be found to be the same as that of the father, sometimes the same as that of the mother, and not infrequently it will be different from that of either parent; and in the third place there is no definite relationship between the totem of the father and mother, such as exists in the Urabunna and many other Australian tribes—in fact perhaps in the majority of the latter. You may, for example, examine at first a family in which the father is a witchetty grub and the mother a wild cat, and you may find, supposing there be two children, that they are both witchetty grubs. In the next family examined perhaps both parents will be witchetty grubs, and of two children one may belong to the same totem, and the other may be an emu; another family will show the father to be, say, an emu, the mother a plum-tree, and of their children one may be a witchetty grub, another a lizard, and so on, the totem names being apparently mixed up in the greatest confusion possible.
We give below the actual totem names of five families, selected at random, who are now living in the northern section of the Arunta tribe, and these may be taken as accurately representative of the totem names found in various families throughout the tribe. After making very numerous and as careful inquiries as possible, always directly from the natives concerned, we can say that every family shows the same features as these particular examples do with regard to the totems, the names of the latter varying, of course, from family to family and in different parts of the country, certain
totems predominating in some, and others in other parts. You may, for example, find yourself in one district of more or less limited area and find one totem largely represented; travelling out of that district, you may meet but rarely with that particular totem until you come into another and perhaps distant part, where—it may be 40 or 50 miles away—it again becomes the principal one. The reason for, or rather the explanation of, this curious local distribution of totem names, as given by the natives, will be seen presently.
Family 1. Father, little hawk. Wife No. 1, rat; daughter, witchetty grub. Wife No. 2, kangaroo; no children. Wife No. 3, lizard; two daughters, one emu, the other water.
Family 2. Father, eagle-hawk. Wife No. 1, Hakea flower; no children. Wife No. 2, Hakea flower; four sons, who are respectively witchetty grub, emu, eagle-hawk, elonka; two daughters, both witchetty grubs.
Family 3. Father, witchetty grub. Wife No. 1, lizard; two sons, one lizard, the other witchetty grub. Wife No. 2, lizard.
Family 4. Father, emu. Wife, munyeru; two sons, one kangaroo, the other, wild cat; one daughter, lizard.
Family 5. Father, witchetty grub. Wife, witchetty grub; two sons, one, kangaroo, the other, witchetty grub; one daughter, witchetty grub.
Taking these as typical examples of what is found throughout the whole tribe, we can see that while, as already stated, marriages are strictly regulated by class rules, the question of totem has nothing to do with the matter either so far as making it obligatory for a man of one totem to marry a woman of another particular one, or so far as the totem of the children is concerned. The totem name of the child does not of necessity follow either that of the father or that of the mother, but it may correspond to one or both of them. Whether there ever was a time when, in the Arunta and other neighbouring tribes, marriage was regulated by totem it is difficult to say. At the present day it is not, nor can we find any evidence in the full and numerous traditions relating to the doings of their supposed ancestors which affords indications of a time when, as in the Urabunna tribe, a man might only marry a woman of a totem different from p. 117 his own. In their curious totem regulations, the Arunta and Ilpirra tribes agree, as we know from personal observation, while we have reason to believe that large and important tribes living to the north of them—viz. the Kaitish, Warramunga, Waagai, Iliaura, Bingongina and Walpari—are in accord with them on all important points. The difference in this respect between the tribes whose customs and organisation are now described, and those of other tribes which have been dealt with by able and careful investigators, such as Grey, Fison, Howitt, Roth and others, will serve to show that various tribes and groups of tribes, starting doubtless from a common basis, but isolated from one another during long periods of time by physical barriers, have developed along different lines. Except, perhaps, in the extreme north and north-east, Australia has had for long ages no intercourse with outside peoples, and such as it has had has only affected a very small and insignificant coastal fringe of the continent, and even there the influence has been but very slight. What we have to deal with is a great continental area, peopled most probably by men who entered from the north and brought with them certain customs. We are not here concerned with the difficult question of exactly where the ancestors of the present Australian natives came from. The most striking fact in regard to them at the present day is that over the whole continent, so far as is known, we can detect a community of customs and social organisation sufficient to show that all the tribes inhabiting various parts are the offspring of ancestors who, prior to their migrating in various directions across the continent, and thus giving rise to groups separated to a great extent from one another by physical barriers, already practised certain customs and had the germs of an organisation which has been developed along different lines in different localities.
The class and totem systems, variously modified as we now find them in different tribes, can only be adequately accounted for on the hypothesis that, when the ancestors of the present natives reached the country, they spread over it in various directions, separated into local groups, and developed, without the stimulus derived from contact with outside p. 118 peoples, along various lines, each group retaining features in its customs and organisation such as can only be explained by supposing them all to have had a common ancestry. 1
However, to return to the totems of the Arunta. It was while watching and questioning closely the natives during the performance of the Engwura ceremony—a description of which will be found in a later chapter—that we were able to find out the way in which the totem names of the individuals originate and to gain an insight into the true nature of their totemic system.
The Engwura ceremony, which forms the last of the initiatory rites through which the Arunta native must pass before he becomes what is called Urliara, or a fully developed native, admitted to all the most sacred secrets of the tribe, consisted in reality of a long series of ceremonies, the enacting of which occupied in all more than four months. Those with which we are here concerned were a large number, between sixty and seventy altogether, which were connected with the totems and were performed under the direction of the old men, who instructed the younger men both how to perform them and what they represented.
The native name for these ceremonies is Quabara, 2 and each one is known as a Quabara of a certain totem associated with a particular spot. Thus we have, for example, the Quabara Unjiamba of Ooraminna, which means a ceremony of the Unjiamba or Hakea flower totem of a place called Ooraminna; the Quabara Achilpa of Urapitchera, which means a ceremony of the wild cat (a species of Dasyurus)
totem of a place called Urapitchera on the Finke River; the Quabara Okira of Idracowra, which means a ceremony of the kangaroo totem of a place called Idracowra on the Finke River, or, to speak more correctly, of a special spot marked by the presence of a great upstanding column of sandstone, called by white men Chamber's pillar, of the native name for which, Idracowra is a corruption; the Quabara Unchichera of Imanda, which means a ceremony of the frog totem of a spot called by the natives Imanda, and by the white men Bad Crossing on the Hugh River. Each ceremony was thus concerned with a special totem, and not only this, but with a special division of a totem belonging to a definite locality, and, further, each ceremony was frequently, but by no means always, in the possession of, and presided over by, an old man of the totem and locality with which it was concerned. It will shortly be seen that the totems are strictly local, but that we have what may be called local centres of any one totem in various districts of the wide area over which the Arunta tribe is scattered. For our present purpose, which is the explanation of the way in which each individual gets his or her totemic name, the following general account will suffice.
The whole past history of the tribe may be said to be bound up with these totemic ceremonies, each of which is concerned with the doings of certain mythical ancestors who are supposed to have lived in the dim past, to which the natives give the name of the “Alcheringa.”
In the Alcheringa lived ancestors who, in the native mind, are so intimately associated with the animals or plants the name of which they bear that an Alcheringa man of, say, the kangaroo totem may sometimes be spoken of either as a man-kangaroo or as a kangaroo-man. The identity of the human individual is often sunk in that of the animal or plant from which he is supposed to have originated. It is useless to try and get further back than the Alcheringa; the history of the tribe as known to the natives commences then.
Going back to this far-away time, we find ourselves in the midst of semi-human creatures endowed with powers not possessed by their living descendants and inhabiting the same p. 120 country which is now inhabited by the tribe, but which was then devoid of many of its most marked features, the origin of which, such as the gaps and gorges in the Macdonnell Ranges, is attributed to these mythical Alcheringa ancestors.
These Alcheringa men and woman are represented in tradition as collected together in companies, each of which consisted of a certain number of individuals belonging to one particular totem. Thus, for example, the ceremonies of the Engwura dealt with four separate groups of Achilpa or wild cat men.
Whilst every now and then we come across traditions, according to which, as in the case of the Achilpa, the totem is common to all classes, we always find that in each totem one moiety 1 of the tribe predominates, and that, according to tradition, many of the groups of ancestral individuals consisted originally of men or women or of both men and women who all belonged to one moiety. Thus in the case of certain Okira or kangaroo groups we find only Kumara and Purula; in certain Udnirringita or witchetty grub groups we find only Bulthara and Panunga; in certain Achilpa or wild cat a predominance of Kumara and Purula, with a smaller number of Bulthara and Panunga.
At the present day no totem is confined to either moiety of the tribe, but in each local centre we always find a great predominance of one moiety, as for example at Alice Springs, the most important centre of the witchetty grubs, where, amongst forty individuals, thirty-five belong to the Bulthara and Panunga, and five only to the other moiety of the tribe.
These traditions with regard to the way in which the Alcheringa ancestors were distributed into companies, the members of which bore the same totem name and belonged, as a general rule, to the same moiety of the tribe, are of considerable importance when we come to consider the conditions which now obtain with regard to totems. It is not without importance to notice that the traditions of the tribe point back to a time when, for the most part, the members of
any particular totem were confined to one moiety of the tribe, in face of the fact that at the present day it seems to be a characteristic feature of many tribes—such as the Urabunna, which are in a less highly developed state than the Arunta, Ilpirra and certain other tribes of Central Australia—that the totems are strictly confined to one or other of the two moieties of the tribe, and that they regulate marriage. At the same time it may again be pointed out that the totems in no way regulate marriage in the tribes mentioned, and, further still, we can find no evidence in any of the traditions, numerous and detailed as they are, of a time when marriage in these tribes was ever regulated by the totems.
If now we turn to the traditions and examine those relating to certain totems which may be taken as illustrative of the whole series, we find that they are concerned almost entirely with the way in which what we may call the Alcheringa members of the various totems came to be located in various spots scattered over the country now occupied by the tribe the members of which are regarded as their descendants, or, to speak more precisely, as their reincarnations. We will take as examples the following totems—Achilpa or wild cat, Unjiamba or Hakea flower, Unchichera or frog, and Udnirringita or witchetty grub. 1
In the Alcheringa there appear to have been four companies of wild cat men and women who, tradition says, appeared first in the southern part of the country. It has been already pointed out that, in the native mind, the ideas of the human and animal nature of these individuals are very closely associated together. Starting from the south out to the east of Charlotte Waters, one of these companies, consisting in this case of Bulthara and Panunga individuals, marched northwards, keeping as they did so considerably to the east of the River Finke. A second and larger party, consisting of Purula and Kumara individuals, came from the south-west and, at a place not far from Henbury on the Finke River, divided into two parties. One of them crossed the Finke and went on northwards to the Macdonnell Ranges, which were traversed
a little to the east of Alice Springs, and then passed on northwards. The other half, forming the third party, followed up the Finke for some distance, crossing it at a spot now called Running Waters, after which the Macdonnell Ranges were traversed some twenty or twenty-five miles to the west of Alice Springs, and then the party passed on to the north in the direction of Central Mount Stuart. The fourth party, consisting of Purula and Kumara individuals, started from far away to the south-east, and travelled northwards, crossing the Range at Mount Sonder, and continued its course northwards, so says tradition, until it reached the country of the salt water.
The principal traditions with regard to the Unjiamba or Hakea flower totem refer to the wanderings of certain women. In one account, two women of this totem are described as coming from a place about 35 miles to the north of Alice Springs, where they had a sacred pole or Nurtunja. 1 Starting southwards, they travelled first of all underground, and came out at a place called Arapera. Here they spent their time eating Unjiamba. Then leaving here they took their sacred pole or Nurtunja to pieces and travelled further on until they came to Ooraminna, in the Macdonnell Ranges, where there is a special water-hole close beside which they sat down and died, and two great stones arose to mark the exact spot where they died. In their journey these two women followed close by the track taken by one of the Achilpa parties, but did not actually come into contact with the latter, which was travelling in the opposite direction.
In addition to these traditions of the wanderings of various companies of men and women belonging to different totems, we meet with others which refer to the origin of special individuals, or groups of individuals, who did not wander about but lived and died where they sprang up. Thus, for example, an Inarlinga or “porcupine” (Echidna) man is supposed to have arisen near to Stuart's waterhole on the Hugh River,
while at the Emily Gap, near to Alice Springs, tradition says that certain witchetty grubs became transformed into witchetty men, who formed a strong group here, and who were afterwards joined by others of the same totem, who marched over the country to the Gap.
Each of these Alcheringa ancestors is represented as carrying about with him, or her, one or more of the sacred stones, which are called by the Arunta natives Churinga, 1 and each of these Churinga is intimately associated with the idea of the spirit part of some individual. Either where they originated and stayed, as in the case of certain of the witchetty grub people, or else where, during their wanderings, they camped for a time, there were formed what the natives call Oknanikilla, each one of which is in reality a local totem centre. At each of these spots, and they are all well known to the old men, who pass the knowledge on from generation to generation, a certain number of the Alcheringa ancestors went into the ground, each one carrying his Churinga with him. His body died, but some natural feature, such as a rock or tree, arose to mark the spot, while his spirit part remained in the Churinga. At the same time many of the Churinga which they carried with them, and each one of which had associated with it a spirit individual, were placed in the ground, some natural object again marking the spot. The result is that, as we follow their wanderings, we find that the whole country is dotted over with Oknanikilla, or local totem centres, at each of which are deposited a number of Churinga, with spirit individuals associated with them. Each Oknanikilla is, of course, connected with one totem. In one part we have a definite locality, with its group of wild cat spirit individuals; in another, a group of emu; in another, a group of frog, and so on through the various totems; and it is this idea of spirit individuals associated with Churinga and resident in certain definite spots that lies at the root of the present totemic system of the Arunta tribe.
As we have said, the exact spot at which a Churinga was
p. 124deposited was always marked by some natural object, such as a tree or rock, and in this the spirit is supposed to especially take up its abode, and it is called the spirit's Nanja. 1
We may take the following as a typical example of how each man and woman gains a totem name. Close to Alice Springs is a large and important witchetty grub totem centre or Oknanikilla. Here there were deposited in the Alcheringa a large number of Churinga carried by witchetty grub men and women. A large number of prominent rocks and boulders and certain ancient gum-trees along the sides of a picturesque gap in the ranges, are the Nanja trees and rocks of these spirits, which, so long as they remain in spirit form, they usually frequent. If a woman conceives a child after having been near to this gap, it is one of these spirit individuals which has entered her body, and therefore, quite irrespective of what the mother's or father's totem may chance to be, that child, when born, must of necessity be of the witchetty grub totem; it is, in fact, nothing else but the reincarnation of one of the witchetty grub people of the Alcheringa. Suppose, for example, to take a particular and actual instance, an emu woman from another locality comes to Alice Springs, and whilst there becomes aware that she has conceived a child, and then returns to her own locality before the child is born, that child, though it may be born in an emu locality, is an Udnirringita or witchetty grub. It must be, the natives say, because it entered the mother at Alice Springs, where there are only witchetty grub spirit individuals. Had it entered her body within the limits of her own emu locality, it would as inevitably have been an emu. To take another example, quite recently the lubra or wife of a witchetty grub man, she belonging to the same totem, conceived a child while on a visit to a neighbouring Quatcha or water locality, which lies away to the east of Alice Springs, that child's totem is water; or, again, an Alice Springs woman, when asked by us as to why her child was a witchetty grub (in this instance belonging to the same totem as both of its parents), told us that one day she was taking a drink
of water near to the gap in the Ranges where the spirits dwell when suddenly she heard a child's voice crying out, “Mia, mia!”—the native term for relationship which includes that of mother. Not being anxious to have a child, she ran away as fast as she could, but to no purpose; she was fat and well favoured, and such women the spirit children prefer; one of them had gone inside her, and of course it was born a witchetty grub. 1
The natives are quite clear upon this point. The spirit children are supposed to have a strong predilection for fat women, and prefer to choose such for their mothers, even at the risk of being born into the wrong class. We are acquainted with special, but somewhat rare cases, in which a living man is regarded as the reincarnation of an Alcheringa ancestor whose class was not the same as that of his living representative. At Alice Springs there is a man who is an Uknaria belonging to the lizard totem, and is regarded as the reincarnation of a celebrated Purula lizard man of the Alcheringa. The spirit child deliberately, so the natives say, chose to go into a Kumara instead of into a Bulthara woman, and so the man was born Uknaria instead of Purula. Though the class was changed, the totem could not possibly be.
Such examples could be multiplied indefinitely; but these, which may be taken as typical ones, will serve to show that, though at first sight puzzling, yet in reality the totem name follows a very definite system, if once we grant the premises firmly believed in by the Arunta native.
One point of some interest is brought out by this inquiry into the origin of the totem names, and that is that, though the great majority of any one totem belong to one moiety of the tribe, yet there may be, and in fact always are, a certain number of members who belong to the other moiety. Just as in the Alcheringa, all the witchetty grub men were Bulthara and Panunga, so at the present day are the great majority of their descendants who inhabit the local areas in which the mythical ancestors formed witchetty totem centres. So, in
the same way, all the Alcheringa emu ancestors were Purula and Kumara, as now are the great majority of their descendants, but, owing to the system according to which totem names are acquired, it is always possible for a man to be, say, a Purula or a Kumara and yet a witchetty, or, on the other hand, a Bulthara or a Panunga, and yet an emu.
Two things are essential—first a child must belong to the totem of the spot at which the mother believes that it was conceived, and, second, it must belong to the moiety of the tribe to which its father belongs. Its totem never changes, but its class may. Once born into a totem, no matter what his class may be, a man, when initiated, may witness and take part in all the sacred ceremonies connected with the totem, but, unless he belong to the predominant moiety, he will never, or only in extremely rare cases, become the head man or Alatunja of any local group of the totem. His only chance of becoming Alatunja is by the death of every member of the group who belongs to the moiety to which the Alcheringa men belonged.
What has gone before will serve to show what we mean by speaking of the totems as being local in their distribution. The whole district occupied by the Arunta, and the same holds true of the Ilpirra and Kaitish tribes, can be mapped out into a large number of areas of various sizes, some of which are actually only a few square yards in extent, while others occupy many square miles, and each of which centres in one or more spots, for which the native name is Oknanikilla—a term which may be best rendered by the phrase “local totem centre.” Each of these represents a spot where Alcheringa ancestors either originated or where they camped during their wanderings, and where some of them went down into the ground with their Churinga, or where they deposited Churinga. In any case the Churinga remained there, each one associated with a spirit individual, and from these have sprung, and still continue to spring, actual men and women who of necessity bear the totem name of the Churinga from which they come.
We shall, later on, deal in greater detail with the traditions which are concerned with the wanderings of the ancestors of p. 127 the local totem groups, and also with certain points of importance, such as the various ceremonies connected with the totems and the relationship existing between the individual and his totem. It will be evident from the general account already given that the totemic system of the Arunta and other Central Australian tribes differs in important respects from those of other tribes which have hitherto been described. It is based upon the idea of the reincarnation of Alcheringa ancestors, who were the actual transformations of animals and plants, or of such inanimate objects as clouds or water, fire, wind, sun, moon and stars. To the Australian native there is no difficulty in the assumption that an animal or a plant could be transformed directly into a human being, or that the spirit part which he supposes it to possess, just as he does in his own case, could remain, on the death of the animal, associated with such an object as a Churinga, and at some future time arise in the form of a human being.
The account which the Arunta native gives of the origin of the totemic names of the various members of the tribe is to him a perfectly feasible one. What gave rise in the first instance to the association of particular men with particular animals and plants it does not seem possible to say. The Arunta man accounts for it by creating a series of myths, according to which he is the direct descendant of the animal or plant, and weaves in and around these myths details of the most circumstantial nature.
We shall have to return to the question of the totems after certain of these myths of the Alcheringa have been related; meanwhile it may be said that, though different in certain respects from that of other Australian tribes, yet the totemic system of the Arunta shows us the one essential feature common to all totemic systems, and that is the intimate association between the individual and the material object, the name of which he bears.
114:1 The organisation of the Dieri tribe, as well as its marriage customs, have been described by Mr. Howitt in his monograph “On the Organisation of Australian Tribes,” Trans. R. S. Vict., vol. i., pt. 2, 1889., p. 124, which may be regarded as embodying generally our knowledge of the organisation of Australian tribes up to the present day.
114:2 See in connection with this the footnote on p. 60.
115:1 Howitt. op. cit. p. 102.
118:1 The evidence in favour of this is strikingly shown in regard to the details of the ceremonies concerned with the knocking out of teeth. In some parts of the continent this is retained as the important initiation rite, while in other parts it has lost this significance, and yet in all cases agreement in important details shows the common origin of the custom. Further evidence in regard to this will be dealt with in connection with the account of the ceremonies attendant on the knocking out of teeth.
118:2 This is not a corruption of the word corrobboree, which is a term used only, originally, by a tribe of the eastern coast, but now generally by whites to describe the ordinary dancing ceremonies, which are entirely different from the sacred ceremonies of the Arunta and other tribes. The word Quabara belongs to the Arunta tongue. Corrobboree is a word which in many parts has been adopted by the natives after hearing the white men use it.
120:1 As stated in connection with the description of the organisation of the tribe, the latter can be divided into two moieties, one comprising the Panunga and Bulthara, and the other the Purula and Kumara, or the equivalents of these.
121:1 A detailed account of the wanderings of these ancestral groups is given in Chapters X. and XI.
122:1 Various forms of Nurtunja will be described in the account of the Engwura ceremony. Each consists of a central support, made most often of one or more spears and wound round with human hair string, which is then decorated with down.
123:1 This Churinga is the equivalent of the bull-roarer or whirler of other authors. It has such a special significance amongst these tribes that we shall use the local name.
124:1 Further details with regard to this, and the relationship of the spirit to the Nanja, are given in Chapter XV.
125:1 Spirit children are also supposed to be especially fond of travelling in whirl-winds, and, on seeing one of these, which are very frequent at certain times of the year, approaching her, a woman will at once run away.