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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 VII Initiation Ceremonies

All Australian natives, with rare exceptions, have to pass through some initiation ceremony before being admitted to the secrets of the tribe—Enumeration of ceremonies amongst the Arunta and Ilpirra tribes—Absence of the knocking out of teeth as an initiation rite—Ceremonies amongst natives of Finke River—First ceremony—Throwing the boy up in the air—The second ceremony—Circumcision or Lartna—The Apulla ground—Women dancing—Decorating of the boy—Appointment of officials to conduct various parts of the ceremony—Boy receives title of Wurtja—Handing the firestick to the boy—Seclusion in the bush—Performance of certain sacred ceremonies—Ceremony of Okoara—The Waninga, its construction and meaning—Woman running off with the Wurtja—Appointing an official to paint a totemic design on the novice's back—Painting of the boy—Bringing in of the Arachitta poles—Two women rub the design off the boy's back—The women stripping the Arachitta poles while the men dance—Setting fire to the brakes—The women retire—Arachitta poles placed on the Wurtja—Performance of the actual ceremony—Presentation to the novice of the men who had acted as officials—Giving Churinga to the novice and sending him into the bush—Restrictions to be observed by certain relatives of the boy while he is out in the bush—Ceremony of head-biting—Ceremony of subincision or Ariltha kuma—The Nurtunja, its construction and meaning—Burning the blood after Ariltha—Men submitting to a second operation of Ariltha—Recovery from subincision—Taking the Ertwa-kurka to the women—Elder sisters cutting off hair from the Ertwa-kurka—Throwing a boomerang in the direction of the mother's camp in the Alcheringa—Putting the Ertwa-kurka on the fire—Various grades passed through during initiation—Ceremony of circumcision in the northern part of the tribe—Meaning of subincision—Nothing to do with preventing procreation—Customs in the Southern Arunta—Initiation of women.

EVERY Australian native, so far as is known, has in the normal condition of the tribe to pass through certain ceremonies of initiation before he is admitted to the secrets of the tribe, and is regarded as a fully developed member of it. These ceremonies vary both in their nature and number to a very large extent in different tribes. Those of the eastern and south-eastern coastal districts are entirely different from those of the central tribes, amongst whom they are more elaborate and spread over a long series of years, the first taking place at about the age of ten or p. 213 twelve, whilst the final and most impressive one is not passed through until probably the native has reached the age of at least twenty-five, or it may be thirty. In the Arunta and Ilpirra tribes the ceremonies are four in number:—

The times at which these take place and the details of the ceremonies vary to a certain extent in various parts of the tribes, which, it must be remembered, occupy an area of country stretching from Charlotte Waters in the south to at least 100 miles north of Alice Springs, that is over an area measuring 300 miles north and south by at least 100 miles east and west, and comprising in the south a wide extent of upland, stony plains and sand hills, and in the north a succession of ranges running east and west, and reaching an elevation of 5,000 feet.

One of the most noticeable features of the ceremonies, from a negative point of view, is the absence of the knocking out of teeth as a general custom associated with the initiatory rites. Amongst many tribes of the eastern coastal district this forms a prominent feature, but amongst the Central Australian natives, whilst it may be performed, it has nothing to do with initiation, and is, in fact, practised by men as well as women, the rite having no sacred significance of any kind; and yet, as we shall see later, there is not only evidence which shows that it has once been a ceremony of greater importance than it is at the present day, but also that there are certain details which are curiously similar to those concerned with the ceremony in parts where it forms the most important initiation rite.

In the case of particular local groups amongst the Arunta, as, for example, the natives now living in the district to the north and north-east of Alice Springs, it is much more widely practised than elsewhere; but, speaking generally, the knocking out of teeth is amongst the Arunta and other central tribes p. 214 a matter partly of individual and partly of local taste and fashion. 1 The custom is probably to be regarded as one which was at some distant time prevalent amongst the common ancestors of the central and eastern coastal tribes, but which has undergone changes as the tribes became separated from one another and developed, so far as their customs are concerned, along different lines. In some it has retained its old significance, or may have even acquired still greater importance as an initiatory rite, but in others, as, for example, all those inhabiting the central area, it has lost its old meaning, its place has been taken by other rites, and now it is merely what we may call a rudimentary custom.

To a certain extent, as we have said, the details of the various initiation ceremonies differ in different parts of the tribe. We will first of all describe them as carried out in the groups living on the Finke River, and will then point out variations in the ceremonies as they are enacted, first in the northern, and secondly in the southern parts.



The first ceremony takes place when a boy is between ten and twelve years of age. The men, and in this instance the women also, assemble at a central spot near to the main camp, and the boys who have reached the right age—the number varying from ceremony to ceremony—are taken one by one and tossed in the air several times by the men, who catch them as they fall, while the women dance round and round the group, swinging their arms and shouting loudly, “pau, pau, pau-a-a,” the last cry being very prolonged. 2 This over the boys are painted on their chests and backs, as shown in the illustration, with simple designs consisting of straight or curved bands outlined by lines of red or yellow ochre. These

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have not of necessity any reference to the totem of the boys. They are painted by men who stand to the boys in the relation of Umbirna, that is, brother of a woman whom the boy may marry. In some cases, at all events, they are copied from old rock paintings, certain of which are associated with particular totems, but the boy will not of necessity be decorated with a design of his own totem. Certain of these particular designs are described in connection with the sacred drawings. If the boy has what is called an Unjipinna 1 man, then it is the latter who will draw the design upon him at the close of the ceremony of throwing up.

In all the ceremonies of initiation the youth or man has certain designs painted on his body, and in no case have they of necessity any reference to his own totem, though they are emblematic of some totem with which usually the man who does the painting is associated. These designs come under the general term of Ilkinia, the name applied to the designs, as a whole, which are emblematic of the totems; and so long as the boy, youth or man has one or other of these painted on him, it does not signify which. It must be remembered that the man who does the painting is usually the person who decides upon the nature of the design, and it may also be noted that in the performance of sacred ceremonies men are constantly decorated with designs of totems other than their own.

In the case of this, the first of the initiatory ceremonies, the painting of each boy is done as stated by men who stand to him in the relationship of Umbirna, that is, a man who is the brother of a woman of the class from which his, i.e. the boy's, wife must come. The design is called Enchichichika, and while they are being painted the boys are told that the ceremony through which they have just passed will promote their growth to manhood, and they are also told by tribal fathers and elder brothers that in future they must not play with the women and girls, nor must they camp with them as

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they have hitherto done, but henceforth they must go to the camp of the men, which is known as the Ungunja. Up to this time they have been accustomed to go out with the women as they searched for vegetable food and the smaller animals such as lizards and rats; now they begin to accompany the men in their search for larger game, and begin also to look p. 217 forward to the time when they will become fully initiated and admitted to all the secrets of the tribe, which are as yet kept hidden from them.

The ceremony of throwing up is called Alkirakiwuma (from alkira the sky, and iwuma to throw), and very shortly after this sometimes even before it, the boy has his nasal septum bored p. 218 through, usually by his father or paternal grandfather, and begins to wear the nose bone. This boring is practised by men and women alike, and the operation is attended by a short but interesting special ceremony, which is elsewhere described. Amongst the women the nose boring is usually done by the husband immediately after marriage, and it may be remarked in passing that in both sexes the constant wearing of the nose bone emphasises the flattening out of the lobes of the nose.

A good many years may elapse between the throwing up ceremony and the performance of the two much more important ceremonies of circumcision or Lartna, and that of subincision or Ariltha. Speaking generally, it may be said that circumcision may take place at any age after the boy has arrived at puberty.

Before the time at which the boy is thrown up in the air he is spoken of as an Ambaquerka, which is the term applied to a child generally, of whichever sex it may be. After the throwing up, and until the ceremony of circumcision, he is called Ulpmerka.



When it has been decided by the boy's elder male relatives (usually his elder brothers) that he has arrived at the proper age, preparations are made unknown to him, for the carrying out of the ceremony. These consist first of all in the gathering together of a large supply of food material for the ceremonies are attended with the performance of what are usually spoken of as corrobborees, which last over several days. If a stranger belonging to any other group happens to be present in camp when the operation is being performed he will take part in the proceedings, but in the Arunta tribe there is usually no sending out of messengers to other groups to bring them in to the performance, as there is in the coastal tribes; nor is it usual to operate upon more than one, or at most two, novices at the same time; each boy is initiated when he is supposed to have reached the proper age, and the ceremony is controlled by the men of his own local group, p. 219 who may ask any one to take part or not in it just as they feel disposed.

In the following account we will describe what took place during an actual ceremony, which was conducted recently by a group of natives associated with a spot called Undiara, 1 one of the most important centres of the kangaroo totem situated near to the Finke River. It must always be remembered that the details of these initiation ceremonies vary to a certain extent according to the locality in which they are performed; thus at Undiara the men of the kangaroo totem directed the proceedings, and therefore sacred ceremonies concerned with this particular totem were much in evidence; had Undiara been an emu locality then emu ceremonies would have predominated. Bearing this in mind, the ceremony now to be described may be regarded as typical of the rite of circumcision as carried out by the natives living along the Finke River, who are often spoken of as Larapinta blacks to distinguish them from other groups, Larapinta being the native name of the river.

The boy was seized early in the evening at the Ungunja, or men's camp, by three young men, who were respectively Okilia, Umbirna and Unkulla to him. As soon as they laid hands on him they shouted loudly, “Utchai, utchai,” while being frightened, he struggled, trying to get free from them. He was at once carried off bodily to the ceremonial ground which had been carefully prepared at some distance from and out of sight of the main camp, so that the women, when at the latter, could not see anything of what was taking place at

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the former, which is called the Apulla. The nature of this can be seen from the accompanying plan. A path about five feet wide is cleared of grass and shrubs, and the surface soil is heaped up on either side, so as to form a low, narrow bank of the same length as the path, which is some forty or fifty feet in length, and always made so as to run east and west. At a distance of about forty feet from the eastern end was a brake of boughs at which the men were assembled. The women were grouped at the spot marked C.

Once on the ground, and in the presence of all the men and women, the boy made no further resistance, but apparently resigned himself to his fate. He was taken to the men and sat down amongst them, while the women, who had been awaiting his arrival, at once began to dance, carrying shields in their hands. The reason assigned for this is that in the Alcheringa certain women called Unthippa 1 carried along with them as they travelled over the country a number of young boys who were just being initiated. As they travelled along, dancing the whole way, they also carried shields: and therefore it is that, at the present day, the initiation ceremony must commence with an imitation of the Unthippa dance of the Alcheringa. 2 Except in connection with this ceremony women may never carry shields, which are exclusively the property of the men, just as much as a digging-stick is the peculiar property of a woman. While the women were dancing the men sang of the marching of the Unthippa women across the country. After the boy had watched and listened for some time, an Unkulla 3 man came up and twined round and round his hair strands of fur string, until it looked as if his head were enclosed in a tight-fitting skull cap. Then a man who was Gammona to him came up and fastened round his waist a large Uliara, that is, the human hair girdle worn by the men, the girdle being provided by an Oknia of the boy. The two first-named men were respectively the brother of the boy's mother and the

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son of this man, the Oknia being a tribal brother of the boy's father who was dead, as also was the actual mother. After this a council of the Oknia and Okilia 1 of the novice was held, and three men, who were respectively Mura, Gammona and Chimmia, were told off to take the boy away and paint him. These men are afterwards called Wulya, or Uwilia, by the boy. They first of all went away and built a second brake of bushes at the western end of the Apulla, at a distance of about forty feet from the end of the cleared path, so that in position the second brake corresponded to the first one at the opposite end. This was henceforth to be the brake behind which the boy had to remain except when brought on to the ground to witness performances. When this had been made the three men returned and led the boy through the dancing women to his brake, where, with great deliberation, they rubbed him all over with grease, and then decorated his body with pinkish-white clay and bird's down.

During all the proceedings every detail, such as the appointing of the various officials, was determined upon by a council of men consisting of the Oknia (tribal fathers) and Okilia (blood and tribal elder brothers) of the novice, and of this council the elder Oknia was head man.

After painting him, the Uwilia told the boy that he was now no longer an Ulpmerka but a Wurtja, that during the proceedings about to follow he must render implicit obedience, and on no account must he ever tell any woman or boy anything of what he was about to see. Should he ever reveal any of the secrets, then he and his nearest relations would surely die. He must not speak unless spoken to, and even then his words must be as few as possible, and spoken in a low tone. He was further told to remain crouched down behind his brake when left there, and that on no account must he make the slightest attempt to see what the men at their brake were doing. Should he try to see what was going on at the Apulla, except when taken there and told to watch, some

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great calamity would happen to him—Twanyikira, the great spirit whose voice was heard when the bull-roarers spoke, would carry him away. When these instructions had been given to him by the Uwilia they went away, and he was then visited by his Okilia, who repeated precisely the same instructions, and after this the Wurtja was left for an hour or two to his own reflections. Meanwhile a man had been appointed to act as Urinthantima, whose duty will be seen shortly, and until daylight dawned the dancing and singing went on with astonishing vigour. Then one of the Okilia went and brought back the Wurtja, passing with him as before through the middle of the dancing women, who opened out to allow them to pass through, and placed him sitting on the lap of the Urinthantima man.

The oldest Mia woman of the boy (his actual Mia or mother being dead) had brought with her from her own camp a fire-stick, which she had been careful to keep alight all night. At daylight she lit a fire by means of this, and then took two long sticks with which she had provided herself, and, lighting them at the fire, went and sat down, holding them in her hands, immediately behind the Urinthantima man. The Uwinna, that is the sisters of the boy's father, went and also sat down along with her. Then, as the men began to sing a special fire song, she handed one of the fire-sticks to the woman who was the Mura tualcha of the boy, that is the woman whose eldest daughter, born or unborn, has been assigned to the Wurtja as his future wife, so that she is potentially his mother-in-law. While the singing went on this woman approached the boy, and, after tying round his neck bands of fur string, she handed to him the fire-stick, 1 telling him as she did so to always hold fast to his own fire—in other words not to interfere with women assigned to other men. After this, at a signal from an old Okilia, the Wurtja got up and ran away, followed by a number of shouting boys, who after a short time returned, and, along with the women, left the Apulla ground and ran back to the main camp. The old Mia took her fire-stick with her, and in camp

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guarded it with great care, fixing it at an angle into the ground so as to catch the wind and ensure its being kept alight. The Wurtja had, whilst in his camp, to guard his fire-stick in just the same way, and was cautioned that if he lost it, or allowed it to go out, both he and his Mia would be killed by Kurdaitcha. On the day on which he was taken back to the camp, they both threw away their fire-sticks.

When the Wurtja left the Apulla, he was accompanied by some Okilia and Unkulla men who remained out in the bush with him for three days. During this time nothing of any special nature happened to him beyond the fact that he might not speak unless he was first spoken to, which seldom took place, and that he might not eat freely, though as yet he was not bound by the restrictions with regard to food which he would shortly have to obey. The main object of this partial seclusion is to impress him with the fact that he is about to enter the ranks of the men, and to mark the break between his old life and the new one; he has no precise knowledge of what is in store for him, and the sense that something out of the ordinary is about to happen to him—something moreover which is of a more or less mysterious nature—helps to impress him strongly with a feeling of the deep importance of compliance with tribal rules, and further still with a strong sense of the superiority of the older men who know, and are familiar with, all the mysterious rites, some of which he is about to learn the meaning of for the first time.

On the fourth day the Wurtja was brought back, and at once placed behind his brake, which is called Atnumbanta, and from which he might not move without the permission of one of the Okilia who had been told off to guard him, and whose father was the Oknia who acted as the head man of the council. On the night of the fourth day the men sang of the marchings of the men of the Ullakuppera (little hawk) totem in the Alcheringa, and of their operations with their famous Lialira or stone knives. It was these men who, according to tradition, first introduced the use of a stone knife at circumcision, the operation having been previously p. 224 conducted by means of a fire-stick. 1 At times they broke into the Lartna song:

“Irri yulta yulta rai
Ul katchera ul katchar-rai,”

which is always sung in loud fierce tones. About midnight two Okilia went to the Wurtja's brake, and having put a bandage round his eyes led him to the men who sat as usual on the side of their brake facing towards the Apulla. Here he was placed lying face downwards, until two men who were going to perform a ceremony were in position between the Apulla lines. The Quabara, which they were about to perform, was one of a certain number which are only performed at a time such as this, though in all important respects these Quabara are identical with those performed during various

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ceremonies concerned with the totems. When the boy was told by his Okilia and Oknia to sit up and look he saw, lying in front of him, and on his side, a decorated man whom the Okilia and Oknia, both of them speaking at once, told him represented a wild dog. At the other end of the Apulla a decorated man stood, with legs wide apart, holding up twigs of Eucalyptus in each hand, and having his head ornamented with a small Waninga1 which is a sacred object emblematic of some totemic animal, in this particular case a kangaroo. This man moved his head from side to side, as if looking for something, and every now and then uttered a sound similar to that made by a kangaroo, which animal he was supposed to represent. Suddenly the dog looked up, saw the kangaroo, began barking, and, running along on all fours, passed between the man's legs and lay down behind the man, who kept watching him over his shoulder. Then the dog ran again between the kangaroo-man's legs, but this time he was caught and well

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shaken, and a pretence was made of dashing his head against the ground, whereupon he howled as if in pain. These movements were repeated several times, and finally the dog was supposed to be killed by the kangaroo. After a short pause the dog ran along on all fours to where the Wurtja sat and laid himself on top of the boy, then the old kangaroo hopped along and got on top of both of them, so that the Wurtja had to bear the weight of the two men for about two minutes. When the performers got up, the Wurtja, still lying down, was told by the old men that the Quabara represented an incident which took place in the Alcheringa, when a wild dogman attacked a kangaroo-man, and was killed by the latter. The article which the kangaroo wore on its head was a Waninga, which was a sacred object, and must never be mentioned in the hearing of women and children; it belonged to the kangaroo totem, and was indeed the representative of a kangaroo. When all had been explained to him, he was led back to his brake, and the men continued singing at intervals all night long.

The Quabara, which are performed at these initiation ceremonies, vary according to the locality in which they are being performed, and the men who are taking the leading part in them. If, for example, the old man who is presiding belongs to the emu totem, then the Quabara will at all events to a certain, and probably a large extent, deal with incidents concerned with ancestral emu men. In the particular ceremony upon which this account is based, the old man presiding belonged to the kangaroo totem, and therefore Quabara belonging especially to this totem were much in evidence. The totem of the novice has no influence whatever on the nature of the particular Quabara performed. Each old man who presides over, or takes the leading part in, a ceremony such as this has possession of a certain number of Quabara, and naturally those performed are chosen from this series as they are the ones which he has the right to perform. It is necessary also to remember that ceremonial objects, such as the Waninga, which figure largely in some districts, are unknown in others where their place is taken by entirely different objects. Thus, for example, in the northern p. 227 part of the Arunta and in the Ilpirra tribe, a sacred pole called a Nurtunja is used, and in these parts this has precisely the significance of the Waninga, which is never met with in the northern districts, just as the Nurtunja is never met with in the south.

On the fifth day, in the afternoon, another performance in which two kangaroos and one dog figured was given. The kangaroos wore, as before, small Waninga in their hair, and this time carried between their teeth, and also in their hair, bunches of wooden shavings soaked in blood, which were supposed to represent wounds received from the bites of the dogs. The performance was essentially similar to that of the previous day, and the antics of the dog as he ran round and looked up, barking at the kangaroo or howled lustily as his head was bumped against the ground brought smiles to every face except that of the Wurtja. Finally the dog ran along and got on top of the Wurtja, and then the two kangaroos followed, so that this time the boy had three men on top of him. When all was over he was once more instructed, cautioned, and taken back to his brake.

On the sixth day the Wurtja was taken out hunting by Okilia and Umbirna men, and the night was spent in singing with little intermission songs which referred to the wanderings of certain of the Alcheringa ancestors, to which the Wurtja, sitting quietly at the men's brake, listened.

It must be remembered that it is now for the first time that the Wurtja hears anything of these traditions and sees the ceremonies performed, in which the ancestors of the tribe are represented as they were, and acting as they did during life. In various accounts of initiation ceremonies of the Australian tribes, as, for example, in the earliest one ever published—the one written by Collins in 1804—we meet with descriptions of performances in which different animals are represented, but except in the case of the Arunta tribe, no indication of the meaning and signification of these performances has been forthcoming beyond the fact that they are associated with the totems. In the Arunta and Ilpirra tribes they are not only intimately associated with the totemic system, but have a very definite meaning. Whether they have a similar p. 228 significance in other tribes we have as yet no definite evidence to show, but it is at all events worthy of note that whilst the actual initiation rite varies from tribe to tribe, consisting in some in the knocking out of teeth, and in others in circumcision, &c., in all, or nearly all, an important part of the ceremony consists in showing to the novices certain dances, the important and common feature of which is that they represent the actions of special totemic animals. In the Arunta tribe, however, they have a very definite meaning. At the first glance it looks much as if all that they were intended to represent were the behaviour of certain animals, but in reality they have a much deeper meaning, for each performer represents an ancestral individual who lived in the Alcheringa. He was a member of a group of individuals, all of whom, just like himself, were the direct descendants or transformations of the animals, the names of which they bore. It is as a reincarnation of the never-dying spirit part of one of these semi-animal ancestors that every member of the tribe is born, and, therefore, when born he, or she, bears of necessity the name of the animal or plant of which the Alcheringa ancestor was a transformation or descendant.

The nature of these performances may be gathered from one which was performed on the next—the seventh day. As usual in all these ceremonies, the body of the performer was decorated with ochre, and lines of birds' down, which were supposed to be arranged in just the same way as they had been on the body of the Alcheringa man. From his waist was suspended a ball of fur string, which was supposed to represent the scrotum of the kangaroo, and when all was ready the performer came hopping leisurely out from behind the men's brake, where he had been decorated, lying down every now and then on his side to rest as a kangaroo does. The boy had, as usual, been brought blindfolded on to the ground, and at first was made to lie flat down. When the performer hopped out he was told to get up and watch. For about ten minutes the performer went through the characteristic movements of the animal, acting the part very cleverly, while the men sitting round the Wurtja sang of the wanderings of p. 229 the kangaroo in the Alcheringa. Then after a final and very leisurely hop round the Apulla ground the man came and lay down on top of the Wurtja, who was then instructed in the tradition to which the performance refers. He was told that in the Alcheringa a party of kangaroo men started from a place called Ultainta, away out to the east of what is now called Charlotte Waters, and that after wandering about they came to a spot called Karinga (in the Edith Range about thirty miles south-west of Alice Springs), where one of the party who was named Unburtcha died; that is, his body died, but the spirit part of him was in a sacred Churinga, which he carried and did not die, but remained behind along with the Churinga when the party travelled on. This spirit, the old men told him, went, at a later time, into a woman, and was born again as a Purula man, whose name was, of course, Unburtcha, and who was a kangaroo man just as his ancestor was. He was told that the old men know all about these matters, and decide who has come to life again in the form of a man or woman. Sometimes the spirit child which goes into a woman is associated with one of the sacred Churinga, numbers of which every Alcheringa individual carried about with him or her (for in those days the women were allowed to carry them just as the men were), and then, in this case, the child has no definite name, but of course it belongs to the same totem as did the individual who had carried the Churinga about in the Alcheringa; that is, if it were a kangaroo man or woman, so of course must the child be, and then the old men determine what shall be its secret or sacred name.

It is in this way that the boy during the initiation ceremonies is instructed, for the first time, in any of the sacred matters referring to the totems, and it is by means of the performances which are concerned with certain animals, or rather, apparently with the animals, but in reality with Alcheringa individuals who were the direct transformations of such animals, that the traditions dealing with this subject, which is of the greatest importance in the eyes of the natives, are firmly impressed upon the mind of the novice, to whom everything which p. 230 he sees and hears is new and surrounded with an air of mystery.

After the performance was over, the Wurtja was led back to his brake, and then a council was held for the purpose of selecting a man to perform the operation, and another man to act as assistant. Both these men are called Atwia atwia and in addition to them, another man was selected, whose duty it was to hold up the shield upon which the boy was seated during the operation, this man being known by the name of Elucha. The conversation was carried on in whispers, the men when speaking, placing their mouths close to each other's ears. While this consultation was in progress, the other men sitting close to the brake sang in fierce loud tones, the Lartna song—“Irriyulta yulta rai,” &c.

After discussing matters for some time, it was decided that an old man who was Mura to the boy, was to perform the ceremony, and that a man who was Gammona to the former, was to act as assistant, while another old man who was Ikuntera, that is possible father-in-law, was to act as shield-bearer or Elucha. It must be remembered that, in addition to the honour attaching to these offices, there are certain emoluments, for, when the operation is all over, the boy has to provide each of these men with an offering of food. As soon as this decision had been arrived at, the singing stopped, and the three Okilia went and sat in a line at the end of the Apulla path, looking very grave, as if the business now to be performed were of the deepest importance. Each one of them then got up in turn, and bringing one of the appointed officials, each of whom made a pretence of reluctance, placed him in front of the line occupied by himself and his brother Okilia, so that now there were two rows of men facing each other. The old Mura man sat in the middle of his row, and facing him was the eldest of the Okilia. The latter then smoothed with his hand the surface of the ground between the two lines, and then, picking up a spear-thrower by the end to which the point was attached, he thrust his beard into his mouth, as did also the Mura man, and for a short time both glared fiercely p. 231 at one another. Then without taking his eyes off the Mura man, he scooped up with the chisel end of the weapon a little soil, and, gliding along on his knees, emptied it into the hands of the former. Then he embraced him, rubbed their bodies together, and finally rubbed his forehead against the stomach of the Mura man. When this was over, he repeated the whole performance with the two other officials, and then the three old men were embraced in turn by the other Okilia, who, however, did not present them with dirt.

The meaning of the ceremony is simply, so they say, to imply that the youth is intrusted to them for the purpose of being initiated, with as little hesitation as the dirt is placed in their hands.

This little ceremony is called Okoara, and was conducted with much solemnity. When it was over, the men who had taken part in it joined the others, and once more the Lartna song was sung with much fierceness. Singing was kept up all night long with only short intervals of rest. Early in the evening, the Wurtja was brought from his brake, and spent the night amongst the men, listening to, but taking no part in, the singing.

The morning of the eighth day was spent in preparing for a ceremony concerned with the Illuta (a rat) totem. The particular rat-man or man-rat—for, as already said, the identity of the human individual is sunk in that of the object with which he is associated, and from which he is supposed to have originated—to whom this ceremony referred, is supposed to have travelled from a place called Pulkira, west of the Finke River to Walyirra, where he died, and where his spirit remained associated as usual with the Churinga. In connection with this ceremony a large Waninga was used, which was made as follows. A long spear was taken, and close to each end a bar of wood about two feet in length was fixed at right angles to the length of the spear. Then strands of hair string were tied on so that they ran from cross bar to cross bar parallel to the central spear, and at each end the strands passed off, slantwise, to the latter. In some Waningas there may be three cross bars, in which case the top one is much smaller than the other two, and an extra series of strands of p. 232 string pass from the outer part of the second cross bar to the top one, as shown in the figure (Fig. 39). The string is not all of one kind, but, in the one figured for example, the strands nearest to the central spear were of black human hair, then followed a band consisting of about eight strands of red-ochred opossum fur string, then a band of grey bandicoot fur string and again, on the margin, another band of opossum fur. The whole Waninga had white birds' down sprinkled over it and made to adhere to the string, as usual, by means of human blood. This object is the most elaborate and certainly the most artistic of all those which are used in connection with the various ceremonies.

In this particular ceremony the whole Waninga represented the body of a rat, the main part was supposed to be the trunk of the animal, the point end, the tail, and the handle end, the head, so that when in use the latter was carried downwards. The cross bars represented the limbs. The Waninga was carried by an Okilia while another man walked behind to steady it. Two other men were decorated to represent two Kutta kutta or little night hawks. When all was ready the Wurtja was brought blindfolded as usual from his brake to the Apulla ground, where he remained with his head covered up until the performers had got into position in front of him. They approached from the south side, making a circuit and walking with their backs turned towards the Apulla until they got opposite to, and about thirty yards from, the Wurtja, when the bandage was at once taken from his eyes. The two little hawk men with legs wide apart and hands grasping the ends of a stick which was held across the shoulders, came along down the Apulla lines towards the audience, sliding and quivering as they did so. Then they quickly returned, and were followed by the Waninga carriers who ran down the lines, stooping and bending the Waninga towards the Wurtja, but without touching him. Stopping every now and then, they stood erect and quivered or stood still. This was done several times, and then finally all four men came into the Apulla lines at the same time, the two little hawk men being at first in front; the latter then retired to the sides, and the Waninga carriers came on quivering. Then a man who p. 233 p. 234 was Ikuntera to the boy stepped out, and taking the Waninga 1 set it up in the Apulla path, and the Wurtja was told by Oknia and Okilia men to go out and embrace it, which he did for some minutes, while the men who had carried it stood by, and the others, gathered together at the brake, sang of the Waninga, and of the wanderings of the rat men in the Alcheringa. Once more the usual instructions and warnings were given to the Wurtja, and he was made to lie down with his head covered while another ceremony of a simple nature was prepared. The men around him occupied the time in singing about a party of Alcheringa individuals who started to walk from a place called Ayaiya. After the singing had gone on for about an hour, the Wurtja was told to look up, and, when he did so, he saw a number of men lying about the Apulla ground who at once began to hop about and to imitate the sound made by kangaroos. One old man in particular was noticeable from the way in which he mimicked the movements of an old and disabled animal. After hopping in and about the Apulla ground for some minutes, they bunched up together at the western end of the ground and then suddenly, rising with a loud shout of “Pau pau pau,” ran away to a small gully out of sight of the Wurtja, who was told that these represented a party of Alcheringa men starting off from Ayaiya. After this, and while further preparations were being made, the Wurtja remained with the audience, but had his head covered. The tradition dealing with this special group of kangaroos relates that the party split into two, a larger and a smaller one, and that the larger one travelled on ahead of the smaller one. When preparing for the ceremony, the bodies were first of all rubbed over with red ochre, then two young men opened veins, first in one arm and then in the other, and allowed the blood to flow out in a stream over the heads and bodies of those who were about to take part in the

p. 235

ceremony. These men, who were ten in number, were then ornamented with little patches of down, but, unlike the usual plan of ornamentation, there was no regular pattern made, the reason for this being that the Alcheringa men had not used any regular pattern.

Each man carried on his head, and also between his teeth, a small mass of wooden shavings saturated with blood.

When all was ready they went, with the exception of three who stayed behind, on to the Apulla ground, walking in single file and carrying twigs of Eucalyptus in their hands. When they reached the ground a young man, who led the column and represented a young and frolicsome kangaroo which, according to tradition, accompanied the marchers, lay down sideways across the entrance to the path, with his back towards the Wurtja. The other men stood in the path with p. 236 their legs wide apart, one behind the other, shifting their heads from side to side and making the twigs quiver. Then the Wurtja was told to sit up and the performers at once greeted his appearance with imitations of the sounds made by kangaroos; then the young kangaroo called Kulla Kulla, began frisking about and pretending to rush at the other performers, and, finally, darted between the legs of each man and emerged at the western end of the column, where he lay down quietly a few minutes. After he had gone through this performance four times, he was caught up as he came through the legs of the man nearest to the Wurtja. The two front men then picked him up and carried him bodily, standing astride of him, and laid him on his back on top of the Wurtja, upon whom all of the performers then threw themselves, so that the unfortunate novice had actually to bear the weight of the whole mass of men. As a result of this the Wurtja himself did not appear to be any the worse for what must have been a somewhat trying experience, but one of the two men who had carried the Kulla Kulla fainted as soon as the men extricated themselves. The stoical calmness of the Wurtja was most marked throughout the whole ceremony. After this first act in the performance, the men who had taken part in it seated themselves amongst the audience, and the remaining three men came on to the ground and went through the same performance, one of them personating a young kangaroo, who was carried up to and laid on the Wurtja, the other two men lying on the top of him. For this lying down on the top of the Wurtja there is a special term used—wultha-chelpima. After the usual explanations and cautions the Wurtja was led back to his brake.

On the morning of the ninth day the Wurtja was carefully greased all over by the Okilia, who was especially in charge of him, and he remained crouching or lying down at his brake until noon, when he was brought blindfolded to the ground. Then the kangaroo performance of the previous day was again enacted, the performance including the lying down upon the Wurtja.

In addition, however, to the decorations of the previous day, four of the old men wore on their heads a half circle p. 237 made of grass stalks, bound round with fur string and decorated with white down called Atnuta. Each of these represented a dead kangaroo, which was carried on the head by the Alcheringa kangaroo ancestor as he marched across the country. In connection with this myth it is of interest to note that at the present day when a kangaroo or wallaby is killed the limbs are always dislocated at the joints, which makes them hang more limply and so renders them more easy to carry. In this condition the body is spoken of as Atnuta and the act of dislocating is called ullakakulla. After the performance the Atnuta were taken off the heads and handed round, while each man squatting on the ground kept the object pressed round his stomach for a few minutes, the Wurtja doing this also.

After this two more kangaroo ceremonies were performed, the second of which was of some importance. The principal performer carried a Waninga, which was really a double one, the top part representing a separate small one attached to the large one. The large Waninga represented an old man kangaroo and the small one his son. Two men, as usual, carried the Waninga, the front one supporting it on his back while the other man helped to keep it upright as they advanced and retreated along the Apulla path, stopping every now and then to quiver and to bend the Waninga over towards the Wurtja. The Ikuntera man then stood up, and taking the Waninga from the performers, fixed it upright in the path, and the boy was once more told to go up and embrace it. The showing of the Waninga to the Wurtja is called amba-keli-irrima, which means the child sees and knows. The embracing of the Waninga is called eliaqua erkuma. After the performance the Wurtja was once more instructed and cautioned not to reveal anything to women and children, and then made to lie down, while in loud fierce tones the men sang the Lartna song, “irri yulta yulta rai,” &c., striking the ground with their shields as they did so. Then the Wurtja was taken back to his brake, where he remained till about nine o'clock at night, when he was brought to the Apulla, and there his head was decorated with stalks of cane grass, while at the same time the other men decorated themselves p. 238 in the same way, inserting, in addition, stalks beneath their arm bands.

When this had been done the brake of boughs at which the men assembled was built higher and the men all crouched behind it. Then, at a signal from the old Oknia, the women once more approached from the main camp, shouting as they did so, “pai! pai! pai!” and took possession of the Apulla ground upon which they danced for some minutes. Then they went and stood on one side, which was the signal for the men to come out and stand on the Apulla. Then once more the women came up and joined the men, while the latter danced round, and the women, shouting “pai! pai! pai!” plucked the grass stalks from their heads. The men all danced with their faces turned towards the east as in the stripping dance at a later time, one or more women standing behind each man. Then the Mura woman, who had previously given the fire-stick to the novice, after having stripped the Wurtja as he danced along with the other men, suddenly stopped, and, placing her head through his legs from behind, hoisted him on to her shoulders, and ran off with him followed by all the other women to a spot behind, and in a line with, the Apulla, from which it was distant about fifty yards. Here she placed him sitting on the ground, she herself sitting behind, clasping him in her arms, while some Mia and Uwinna women sat close behind her. The rest of the women continued to dance in front of the Wurtja shouting “pai! pai! pai!” and making a movement of invitation by slightly lifting the hands up and down with the arms bent at the elbows, while moving the fingers as if to beckon the Wurtja to them. This characteristic movement is adopted by the women during the course of various ceremonies, and is always associated with the idea of inviting the men to come to them.

At the Apulla the men sat down and sang the fire song:—

“Atnylinga etunja illa althara wuntama,”


over and over again. Atnylinga is the red flower of a species of Eremophila, which, in the Alcheringa, was made red by much burning; etunja is a twig of Eucalyptus; althara means p. 239 blazing up; and illa wuntama is the term applied to a fire which is rushing along, like one which has been lit on a windy day amongst the porcupine-grass on the sand hills. This special song is always sung on the night preceding the preparation of the Arachitta poles, the twigs used for swathing which are always put through a blazing fire.

The singing continued for about half an hour, after which the Urinthantima man, as well as another Mura man and the Okilia in charge of the novice, ran towards the women holding shields before their faces. The first-named seized the Wurtja, and, assisted by the other two, took him back to the Apulla, where he was told to lie down and his face was covered while the singing of the fire-song continued at intervals all night long. As soon as the Wurtja was taken from them the women ran away to the main camp.

At daybreak the Urinthantima man rubbed the Wurtja all over with dry red ochre and then wound fur string round his head, so as to completely hide his hair from sight, while the other men sang—

“Purta purta airpinta airpintina,”


the song sung while preparing the Arachitta poles. Purta is to arrange the leaves, to settle them in their right places; airpinta airpintina means round and round again. While this was being done the women came up to the Apulla and danced between the lines, backwards and forwards, in front of the Wurtja, making with their hands the movement of invitation and shouting “pai! pai! pai!” Suddenly the Urinthantima man hoisted the Wurtja up on to his shoulders and ran off with him followed by a number of the younger men, upon which the women at once ran back to their camp and the singing ceased. When out of sight of the Apulla the Wurtja was put down and the men proceeded to a spot about half a mile distant, where they made big fires and cut down a number of slender saplings which were to be used for Arachitta poles. The branches were then scorched in the flames while the men sang the fire-song “Atnylinga etunja,” &c. When sufficient material was prepared they sat down and began to tie twigs on to the poles, the Wurtja assisting p. 240 by breaking off twigs and handing them around; but he did not prepare a pole himself, and during the proceedings was never once spoken to. While at work the men sang “purta purta airpinta airpintina,” and it was afternoon before the poles, about thirty in number and each about ten feet in length, were ready. Then a start was made for the Apulla ground, the poles being carried to a spot about two hundred yards from the Apulla, where they were stacked. Here, assisted by the boy's Okilia, the Urinthantima man tied twigs of Eremophila on to the Wurtja's body and head and then signalled to the men at the Apulla that they were ready, whereupon they moved away from the ground and shouted to the women who were waiting at some little distance out of sight. The women at once ran up and took possession of the Apulla, carrying shields and shouting “pai! pai! pai!” On the ground they stood with their backs to the men's brake and their faces towards the west, from which direction the Wurtja's party was coming. As the latter approached the women began dancing up and down the lines, making the movement of invitation and all the time holding their shields against their breasts. The party, led by the Urinthantima man, approached at a run, with the Wurtja concealed in the centre. Each man carried several pieces of bark which, as they came close at hand, were thrown at the women while the men shouted loudly “whirra,” and the women shielded their faces. At close quarters a final volley of pieces of bark was the signal to the women to go, which they did, running away pell mell, their pace accelerated by the vehement shouting of the men who were standing about in all directions away from the Apulla, to which they returned as soon as the women had gone. The bushes were taken off the Wurtja by the Urinthantima and Okilia, and he was told to remain in a crouching position.

The Apulla ground was now carefully cleaned, and the Wurtja's brake removed to within a few yards of the western end of the path, after which a council, in which Oknia, Okilia and Gammona took part, was held, the object being to appoint another official known as Wulya, whose duty was that of painting a design on the back of the Wurtja. The p. 241 choice of the design is left entirely to the Wulya, but it must be one of the Ilkinia, that is, the series of designs emblematic of the totems, and he is expected also to choose one belonging to a totem group of his own locality. During this conference two Okilia had been sitting opposite to one another, and as soon as the choice had been made, one of them smoothed over the ground between them, and then the other, who in this instance belonged to the same locality as the Wurtja, crossed over and sat down between the legs of the first man. Then a man, Gammona too, and of the same locality as the Wurtja, stepped out and brought back the old man who was Ipmunna to the Wurtja, and upon whom the choice had fallen. He came with well-simulated reluctance, as if he felt himself overpowered with the honour thus conferred upon him, and sat down in front of the two Okilia in the space vacated by the man who had crossed over. When he was seated, the front one of the two Okilia took up a boomerang, and with much deliberation drew the flat side three times steadily along the ground, thus making a smooth little trench, out of which he scooped a little soil, and then, shuffling along on his knees, emptied it into the hands of the Ipmunna man. Then he embraced him and rubbed his head against the old man's stomach. Then the other Okilia, the Gammona and the Oknia, in the order named, embraced the old man. The latter belonged to a northern locality, and in choosing him a well-recognised compliment had been paid both to himself and to his local group, as the Wurtja belonged to a southern group of the tribe. A somewhat unusual occurrence now took place. The old Atwia atwia man, who had been appointed to perform the actual operation of circumcision, came up and held a whispered conversation with the newly appointed Wulya, the gist of which was that he was an old man, that his eyesight was failing, and that he desired the consent of the council who determined these matters to depute his duties to his son. This necessitated a long whispered consultation, not that there was any serious objection to the proposal; indeed the old man is regarded as so great a man in the tribe, being recognised as an oknirabata, that no one would dream of opposing his wish in a matter such as p. 242 this, but simply because anything like hasty action, in connection with an affair of mysterious import like one of the initiation ceremonies, would be completely out of keeping with the feelings of the natives. It was decided to grant the request, and the son was then called up, and after another whispered conversation the council broke up. When this was over, all the men began to decorate themselves with various patterns, which had no special significance; the two Atwia atwia were prominently painted on the face, and their cheeks were blackened with charcoal, so that they were easily distinguishable from the others. The Wurtja remained crouching at his brake for some little time, after which the newly appointed Wulya, together with the two men of the same name who had done the first painting, came up to him and began to paint on his back a design of the Okranina or carpet snake totem of a place called Tharlinga, away to the north in the Hanns range, that is, in the locality of the man who did the painting, but it must be remembered that there was no obligation upon the man to paint a design of either his own or the boy's totem. As a matter of fact, the totem of the Wurtja was a grass seed and that of the painter a crow. The design, which occupied the greater part of the boy's back, was done in white pipe-clay, and before commencing to draw it, the newly appointed Wulya rubbed the boy over with grease while he explained to his two companions the nature of the design which he intended to paint. All three men took part in the drawing, which consisted of a few concentric circles in the centre, with corkscrew-like lines around. The circles represented the snake's hole in the ground, and the other lines were supposed to be snakes playing round the hole. While the painting proceeded, and it was done with great deliberation, occupying more than an hour, the old Ipmunna man sang in a low monotonous voice about the snakes of Tharlinga. When at length it was finished an Okilia of the Wurtja's locality came up and placed in his hair two bunches of owl feathers, and then, going away again, he brought the two Atwia atwia to inspect the drawing.

At this stage the men who had previously made the p. 243 Arachitta poles ran away from the Apulla, shouting, “Pai! pai! pai!” and brought the poles back with them from where they had been deposited. When within about fifty yards of the Wurtja they separated into two parties, one crossed in front of him from left to right, and the other from right to left, and the poles were deposited about twenty yards to either side of him; what was the meaning of this cannot be said, the native explanation as usual being that it was thus done in the Alcheringa. Possibly it may be associated in some way with the division of the tribe into two moieties, but there was no evidence of this so far as the actual constitution of the two parties was concerned, that is, members of one moiety did not go to one side and members of the other to the other.

Just before dusk two Okilias went out and stood, one on the eastern end of each of the raised banks, with their arms in a somewhat curious attitude, the palm of the hand being turned so that it faced backwards and the elbow bent, so that the hand lay in the arm-pit. The Urinthantima man went and sat down in the place usually occupied by the Wurtja when he was watching a ceremony, while the other men seated around him sang, “Elunja apirra arara”—“Hark to the lizards in the tree.” At a signal from an old Mura man, the women, who were waiting out of sight, came and stood in two groups, one to the left and one to the right of the Apulla. It may be mentioned that here again the separation had no reference to the classes, though there are certain occasions during some of the ceremonies connected with initiation when this separation does take place. As soon as the women arrived the two Okilias came down from the bank, ran to the Wurtja's brake and quickly tore down the bushes which hid him from view, so that he was seen crouching down. The Okilias then knelt down, one on either side of him, and the three at once ran quickly, on all fours, to the Apulla, where the Wurtja lay down on top of the Urinthantima, who was himself lying down on his back. In this position the two remained for about ten minutes. While this was taking place a woman who was Mia to the Wurtja came and sat down behind one of the Oknia, while two others sat behind two p. 244 other Oknia. At the same time the men who had brought in the Arachitta poles, and were about to wear them attached to their legs, were busily engaged, with the assistance of other men and some of the women, in fastening them on. At the end of the ten minutes the Urinthantima man wriggled out from underneath the boy, who remained lying face downwards on the ground. The old Ipmunna stood close by, explaining the design on the back of the Wurtja, and after a time called up two old women, who, like himself, were Ipmunna 1 to the boy, to come up and rub out the design. They came forwards with apparent reluctance, though in reality highly honoured by being thus chosen, and, stooping down, effaced the drawing by rubbing it over with their foreheads.

The men with the Arachitta poles were now ready to come on to the Apulla, and there, with the poles attached to their ankles, they ran up and down between the banks, dancing and singing, while the women, shouting, followed them all about, stripping the leaves as they did so from off the poles. It was now dark, but piling the two brakes, which had served their purpose and would not be used again, on top of one another, the whole mass was set on fire, 2 and the flames lighted up a scene of the weirdest description possible, on which the Wurtja looked in silence apparently quite unmoved. Suddenly the old Mura man gave out a great roar, the dancing ceased, and, followed by menacing shouts from the men, the women made haste back to their own camp, while from all sides the sound of bull-roarers was heard. At this signal the Wurtja was laid down on his back, and some of the Oknia and Okilia men, taking up a number of the Arachitta poles, stacked them on top of him, lifting them up and down as if beating time with them on his body, while they all sang wildly:—

“Ingwa alkirna alkirni li
Urtnanthi alkirli impara.”

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Ingwa means night or darkness; alkirna, twilight; alkirni li, a great clear light; urtnanthi, a lot of trees growing close together; alkirli, like the sky; impara, rising red like the sun.

All was now excitement; the fire was giving out a brilliant light, and the two Atwia atwia men took up a position at the western end of the Apulla path. With their beards thrust into their mouths, their legs widely extended and their arms p. 246 stretched forwards, the two men stood perfectly still, the actual operator in front and his assistant pressing close up behind him, so that their bodies were in contact with each other. The front man held in his extended right hand the small flint knife with which the operation was to be conducted, and, as soon as they were in position, the Ikuntera man, who was to act as shield bearer, came down the lines, carrying the shield on his head and at the same time snapping the thumb and first finger of each hand. Then, facing the fire, he knelt down on one knee just a little in front of the operator, holding his shield above his head. During the whole time the bull-roarers were sounding all round so loudly that they could easily be heard by the women and children in their camp, and by them it is supposed that the roaring is the voice of the great spirit Twanyirika, who has come to take the boy away. 1

The Arachitta poles were then quickly removed from the top of the Wurtja, and he was at once lifted up by Okilia and Oknia men, who ran, carrying him feet foremost, and placed him on the shield. Then in deep, loud tones the Lartna song was sung, indeed almost thundered out, by the men:—

“Irri yulta yulta rai
Ul katchera ul katch ar-arai
Irri yulta yulta rai
Ul katchera ul katch ai.”

The assisting Atwia atwia at once grasped the foreskin, pulled it out as far as possible and the operator cut it off, and

p. 247 p. 248

immediately, along with all the men who had acted in any official capacity during the whole course of the proceedings, retired out of the lighted area, while the boy, in a more or less dazed condition, was supported by his Oknia and Okilia, who said to him, “You have done well, you have not cried out.” Then he was led back to where the old brake had stood and received the congratulations of the men, and at the same time the blood from the wound was allowed to flow into a shield, which was given to him by a young Oknia, to whom afterwards he will have, in return, to present an offering of food.

While he was still bleeding an Okilia brought up some of the bull-roarers and, pressing them on the wound, told him that it was these and not Twanyirika which made the sound, that they were sacred Churinga and must never be shown or even mentioned to the women. To this the boy listened in silence. After a time, when the bleeding had diminished, he was led to the eastern end of the Apulla, where he stood between two Okilia looking towards the west, while two other Okilia, each taking an Arachitta pole, mounted the bank and holding their poles over the path shouted loudly, moving them up and down as they did so, “Arara, arara, arara,” which is the signal for the officials, who had been standing on one side in the shade, to come on to the Apulla ground once more. This they did, one at a time, in the following order, though there did not appear to be any rule with regard to precedence, as one man would urge another to go up:—Wulya, who superintended the first painting; Urinthantima; Wulya, Wulya, these two had assisted at the first painting; Atwia atwia, the actual operator; Atwia atwia, the assistant; Wulya, of the final painting; Wulya, the assistant of the last man; Elucha. As each man came up the Okilia shouted, “This is Wulya (and so on through the list), do not mention his name,” and then each of them embraced the boy in turn, pressing their bodies together. 1 As each man came up and the presentation was made, the same ceremony was gone through, and in turn every one of those who had taken any special part was named by the Okilia, whose

p. 249

cry, “Arara, arara, arara,” rang out sharply in the darkness, for the fire had now burnt down. When the presentations were over the oldest Okilia produced a bundle of Churinga (wooden ones for stone ones are never used on this occasion), saying as he did so, “Here is Twanyirika, of which you have heard so much, they are Churinga, and will help to heal you quickly; guard them well and do not lose them, or you and your Mia, Ungaraitcha and Quitia (that is, blood and tribal mothers and sisters) will be killed; do not let them out of your sight, do not let your Mia, Ungaraitcha and Quitia see you, obey your Okilia, who will go with you, do not eat forbidden food.” These commands were spoken sternly, as if to impress them forcibly upon the novice, who stood silent with bent head.

In the particular ceremony here described, as soon as these instructions had been given, a man who had been dispatched for the purpose brought on to the ground two young Arakurta who had been operated upon five or six weeks before. Acting on instructions from their guardian, they at once knelt down in front of and with their backs to the newly-made Arakurta, and he, being told what to do by his Okilia, took a Churinga from his bundle, and, holding it in both hands, scraped their backs with the sacred implement. This is called Untungalirrima, and places all three Arakurta on equal terms and makes them friends. The two kneeling Arakurta were then told to go away quickly to their own camp, which they did. This does not, of course, frequently take place, but only when two operations have followed closely on one another.

For some time the boy, who has now reached the stage of Arakurta, the term Wurtja applying to him only during the relatively short interval between the time when he is painted and that at which the operation of circumcision is performed, remained standing over a fire, the smoke from which is supposed to be efficacious in healing his wounds. Finally he was taken away by a single Okilia man, in whose charge he was to remain until his wounds were healed and the operation of Ariltha was performed. On this occasion he joined the other two Arakurta in their camp.

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Whilst there is no fixed rule on the subject, the man who takes charge of the Arakurta is preferably one to whom the boy's sister has been promised, failing such an one he may be an Oknia, Okilia or a Mura man.

There are certain restrictions and customs which must be observed by the more immediate relations of the boy which may be here noticed, as they will serve to show still more clearly the importance attached to the initiation ceremonies in the eyes of the natives. From the time at which the boy receives the fire-stick brought by his Mia, until his complete recovery from the operation of sub-incision, the Mia must have no intercourse with the father of the boy. Any breach of this rule would result in the boy growing up into Ertwa akurna, a bad man, or Atna-arpinta, that is, too much given to sexual pleasures, while strict observance will ensure his growing up Ertwa mura, or a good man (using the terms good and bad in the native sense).

After the presentation of the fire-stick and until Lartna has been performed, the Mura tualcha woman (that is, the future mother-in-law of the boy) is tabu to the actual Mia, or, if she be dead, to the Mia who hands to her the fire-stick. When Lartna has been performed, the Mura tualcha woman goes to the camp of the Mia, and, approaching her from behind, rubs her all over with red ochre; then the Mia hands to her a pitchi full of seed, and in this way the tabu is removed.

While the Arakurta is out in the bush the Mia may not eat opossum, or the large lace lizard, or carpet snake, or any fat, as otherwise she would retard her son's recovery. Every day she greases her digging-sticks and never allows them out of her sight; at night time she sleeps with them close to her head. No one is allowed to touch them. Every day also she rubs her body all over with grease, as in some way this is supposed to help her son's recovery.

After the operation of Lartna, the foreskin, amongst the Finke River groups of natives, is handed over to the eldest Okilia of the boy who is present, and he also takes charge of the shield in the haft of which the blood from the wound was collected. The piece of skin he greases and then gives to a p. 251 boy who is the younger brother of the Arakurta, and tells him to swallow it, the idea at the present day being that it will strengthen him and cause him to grow tall and strong. The shield is taken by the Okilia to his camp, where he hands it over to his Unawa, or wife, and she then rubs the blood over the breasts and foreheads of women who are Mia alkulla, that is, elder sisters of the boy's actual Mia and Ungaraitcha, or elder sisters of the boy.

These women must not on any account touch the blood themselves, and after rubbing it on, the woman adds a coat of red ochre. The actual Mia is never allowed to see the blood.

Amongst some groups of Western Arunta the foreskin is presented to a sister of the Arakurta, who dries it up, smears it with red ochre, and wears it suspended from her neck.



While the Arakurta is out in the bush the men go and visit him occasionally, and on these occasions he has to undergo a painful rite called Koperta kakuma, or head biting. He is placed, lying face downwards, while men of all classes sit round, singing about the biting of the head of the Arakurta and urging the biters to bite deeply. The men who are to do the biting and who may be of any class and are usually from two to five in number, are chosen, on each occasion on which the operation is performed, by the oldest Okilia of the Arakurta. Their duty is to bite the scalp as hard as they can, until blood flows freely, the patient often howling with pain. Each man may content himself with one bite or he may bite two or even three times. The object of this really painful operation is, so they say, to make the hair grow strongly, and at times the chin may be bitten as well as the scalp.



As a general rule there is an interval of about five or six weeks between the ceremony of Lartna and that of Ariltha, but at times it may be even longer, and it depends simply upon the length of time occupied by the recovery of the boy from the effects of the first operation.

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The operation of Ariltha is regarded as of at least equal importance with that of circumcision, and, unlike the latter, the women are completely excluded and not allowed to take any part.

The particular ceremony now to be described took place when the operation was performed upon the two Arakurta to whom reference was made in the account of the Lartna ceremony. One of them belonged to the Purula and the other to the Kumura class. As a general rule the operation is only performed on one Arakurta at a time, but this is a matter of no importance and simply depends upon whether or not more than one boy has recently undergone the earlier ceremony of Lartna and is ready for this second one. We have never heard of the operation being performed upon more than two at the same time and even this is not of very common occurrence.

When the ceremony was to take place the men assembled at the camp of the Arakurta, out in the bush, where they had been living away from every one else since the last operation had been performed on them. They were under the charge of an Okilia, and when the men had assembled the two Arakurta, who were not informed of what was about to happen, though very probably they were perfectly well aware, when all the men assembled, that something further was in store for them, were told to lie flat down on the ground. Then their heads were covered over and all the young men of the same two sub-classes as the Arakurta were made to lie down beside them, though they had of course all of them passed through the ceremony before, as none but initiated men are allowed to be present on an occasion such as this. The older Kumara and Purula and all the Bulthara and Panunga men gathered together and for hours sang of the Achilpa men belonging to the group which marched north by way of Henbury on the Finke River. During the night there was performed first a Quabara belonging to the Achilpa (wild cat) totem, and at the close of the performance the two Arakurta joined in the dance round the performers. When it was over they were told who the individuals were with whom the Quabara was concerned, they were also told that they must p. 253 not speak of it to women and children, and then it was explained to them that certain Quabara belonged to particular groups of men who alone had the right to perform them. Later on during the night another Quabara was performed, this time concerned with the emu totem. Then once more they were made to lie down, while the old men went away to a brake of boughs which had been built at a distance of about fifty yards from the spot at which the boys lay down under the charge of their guardian. The rest of the night was spent in singing over and over again a short chant concerning the bandicoot totem and the Nurtunja. The reason for this was that the Oknia and Okilia of the two Arakurta, who formed again a kind of council to direct the proceedings, had requested an old bandicoot man to perform a sacred ceremony in which a Nurtunja was used, as it was essential in this part of the tribe to have one of these in connection with the ceremony of Ariltha. The old bandicoot man was a Panunga and belonged to the Ilpirra tribe away to the north of the Arunta. The Nurtunja, to which we shall have occasion to refer frequently, figures largely in many of the sacred ceremonies and varies very much in form. The one used in the present instance was made out of a long spear around which grass stalks were laid and the whole was then ensheathed with human hair string. It was then ornamented with alternate rings of red and white bird's down, while a large tuft of eagle-hawk feathers was fixed into the upper end. Very often on these occasions, but not on the particular one now dealt with, a few Churinga are hung on to the Nurtunja. Two men, one of them Oknia of the Purula boy and the other Okilia of the Kumara, were decorated by the old bandicoot man to perform the ceremony, and just at daybreak the Arakurta were led from their camp and the performance began. The Quabara was concerned with an Alcheringa man who lived at a place called Yerapinthinga and the man who personated him carried the Nurtunja on his back, while he moved backwards and forwards, towards and away from another man who personated an Alcheringa woman, whom the bandicoot man was supposed to be attempting to catch and who warded him off with bushes held in the hand. After a short time the p. 254 audience, including the two Arakurta, ran in and danced in front of and under the Nurtunja which was bent over them by the performer, while the dancers held up their hands as if to catch it, shouting loudly all the time “Wah! Wah!” After this had gone on for some time, the man personating the woman suddenly jumped round on the ground where he had remained seated all the time and turned his back on the Nurtunja, which was the sign for the dancing to cease. The Nurtunja was taken off the performer's back by the old bandicoot man to whom it belonged and then, after scooping out a hole in the ground, he fixed it upright. As soon as this was done the two Arakurta were told by Oknia and Okilia men to go up to and embrace the Nurtunja, and while they p. 255 were doing this they were told that they were about to undergo the rite of Ariltha and that the embracing of the Nurtunja, which lasted ten minutes, would prevent the operation from being painful and that they need not be afraid.

The oldest Okilia man now said “Who will be Tapunga?” Two men volunteered, one man a Panunga and the other a Purula. The former at once lay on his stomach on the ground and the latter on the top of him, and when this kind of living table was ready the Kumara Arakurta was led from the Nurtunja, close to which the men had lain down, and then placed lying at full length on his back on top of the Tapunga. As soon as ever he was in position another man sat astride of his body, grasped the penis and put the urethra on the stretch. The operator who is called Pininga and is chosen by the Oknia and Okilia, then approached and p. 256 quickly, with a stone knife, laid open the urethra from below. The man was an Ikuntera of the Arakurta. As soon as this was done, the boy was lifted off and immediately the Purula Arakurta was placed in position on the same Tapunga and the same man again performed this operation. When all was over, the two, who had now passed beyond the Arakurta stage and were Ertwa-kurka or initiated men, were led to one side while they squatted over shields into which the blood was allowed to drain. After this, Okilia men came up to them and tied the pubic tassels on, telling them that they were now Ertwa-kurka and that they had no more operations to fear and that they were admitted to the ranks of the men.

After the operation of Ariltha has been performed, the newly made Ertwa-kurka sits down as described on a shield into the haft of which the blood is allowed to flow and from which it is emptied into the centre of a fire which is made for the purpose. If much pain be caused by the wound he will return to the ash heap and scooping out a little hole in the centre, will place therein some glowing pieces of charcoal and upon these he will urinate, thus causing steam to arise which is said to give great relief to the pain. Until the young man's wound has healed he is supposed to lie only upon his back for otherwise the organ would grow crooked. 1

Until the Arakurta has undergone and quite recovered from the ceremony of sub-incision, he is forbidden to eat the flesh of opossum, snake, echidna and all lizards. Should he eat any of these his recovery would be retarded and his wounds would become much inflamed. In addition to these there exists in the case of each individual the restriction with regard to the eating of his totem, and to every one not only at this, but at all times, there exists the general restriction with regard to the eating of the wild cat.

At the moment when the Arakurta is seized for the purpose of having the rite of Ariltha performed upon him the men set up a loud shout of “Pirr-rr”—loud enough to be

p. 257

heard by the women in their camp. The latter at once assemble at the Erlukwirra, that is the women's camp, and the Mia of the boy cuts the Unchalkulkna woman across the stomach and shoulders, and then makes similar cuts upon women who are the boy's Mura and elder and younger sisters, as well as upon those who are her own elder sisters. While making the cuts she imitates the sound made by the Ariltha party. These cuts, which generally leave behind them a definite series of cicatrices, are called urpma and are often represented by definite lines on the Churinga. It very often happens that, as soon as the operation has been performed on an Arakurta, one or more of the younger men present, who have been operated on before, stand up and voluntarily undergo a second operation. In such cases the men do not consider that the incision has been carried far enough. Standing out on the clear space close by the Nurtunja, with legs wide apart and hands behind his back, the man shouts out “Mura Ariltha atnartinja yinga aritchika pitchi”;—“Mura mine come and cut my Ariltha down to the root.” Then one Mura man comes and pinions him from behind, while another comes up in front and seizing the penis first of all cuts out an oval shaped piece of skin which he throws away and then extends the slit to the root. Most men at some time or other undergo the second operation and some come forward a third time, though a man is often as old as thirty or thirty-five before he submits to this second operation which is called ariltha erlitha atnartinja.

The Ertwa-kurka carry the Churinga about with them just as the Arakurta did until they have completely recovered. When the man in charge of them announces that they are recovered from the effects of the operation, the men all assemble out in the bush, and the Oknia and Okilia appoint a man to act as what is called Irkoa-artha. It is his duty to remove all the decorations from the body of the Ertwa-kurka, after which the latter is told to lie down on his face while the men sing a chant, which is supposed to have the effect of promoting the growth of his hair, and he is told that he must not speak for some time to the Irkoa-artha and then not until he has made a present of food, which is called Chaurilia, to the individual in question.

p. 258

Then the men, accompanied by the Ertwa-kurka, assemble at some little distance from the main camp and begin to sing in loud tones:

“Chuk-ur-rokerai yaa li chaakaa-a

Yaama kank waa

Inkwurkna inkwurkna atnai

Inkwurkna inkwurkna atnai.”

The women, hearing the singing, assemble near to the main camp and begin to dance as they did at the Apulla. The song of the men ceases as soon as they approach the women, and at a distance of about fifty yards they halt and shout “tirra, tirra, tirra,” a sound which much resembles that made by whirling bull-roarers and which is at once taken up by the women. The young Ertwa-kurka, who is now completely undecorated, steps out from the group of men, runs up close to the women, who continue dancing, and then suddenly wheels round and runs off into the bush, where he is followed by a number of the men who camp with him for the night, during which, without the performance of any special ceremony, singing is kept up until daybreak. Before it is light the Ertwa-kurka is dressed up by Okilia and Umbirna men with all the ornaments such as forehead band, arm strings, tail tips, etc., which are worn by a native beau. He is also provided with a shield and spear-thrower, and just about daylight the party starts for the main camp, the young man walking in the centre by the side of the Irkoa-artha man, while all shout loudly “tirra, tirra, tirra.” When within about fifty yards of the women, who are dancing and shouting as before, the men halt, and the Irkoa-artha leads the Ertwa-kurka on but only accompanies him for a few yards, after which he goes on alone, carrying his shield in front, so as to hide his face. When he comes close up to the women one or two Ungaraitcha, that is blood and tribal elder sisters, who are in the lead carrying pitchis (all the other women carry tufts of rat-tails in their hands), throw the pitchis at his shield and then press their hands on his shoulders from behind, and also rub their faces on his back, after which they cut off some locks of his hair, which they afterwards use to make up into hair string ornaments for themselves. This p. 259 ceremony is called anainthalilima, and after it is over the Ertwa-kurka is free to go into the presence of the various officials who have taken part in any of the ceremonies, though he must not speak to or of them until some months have past, nor must he speak loudly in their presence.

At daylight on the morning of the next day the men provide themselves with fire-sticks and, surrounding the young man, conduct him to the women, who are again waiting to receive him. He is fully decorated and carries a shield and boomerang and some twigs of Eremophila. When the party is within a short distance of the women the men throw down their fire-sticks and halt, and the young man steps out from the centre of the group and throws his boomerang high up in the direction of the spot at which his mother was supposed to have lived in the Alcheringa. This throwing of the boomerang in the direction of the mother's Alcheringa camp, that is, of course, the spot at which the Alcheringa individual of whom his mother is supposed to be the reincarnation, lived, occurs during the performance of other ceremonies, such, for example, as those which accompany the knocking out of teeth in eastern groups of the Arunta and also in the Ilpirra tribe. It may in all likelihood be regarded as intended to symbolize the idea that the young man is entering upon manhood and thus is passing out of the control of the women and into the ranks of the men. The fact that he is using the boomerang is indicative of this, and his throwing it towards his mother's camp is an intimation to her of the fact that he is passing away from her control; at the same time there remains the curious feature, the exact significance of which it is difficult to see, that it is thrown towards the Alcheringa camp rather than towards the mother herself.

After the throwing of the boomerang, the Ertwa-kurka is led forward by the Irkoa-artha man, holding, as before, his shield before his face, and is placed squatting on a fire which has been prepared by the women, and which is now covered by green leaves. Behind this the women stand making the movement of invitation already described and shouting “tirra, tirra, tirra.” The women place their hands on his shoulders and gently press him down. After remaining on p. 260 the fire for a short time he is taken off by the Irkoa-artha and handed over to a few young boys who have not yet been initiated, and who are told to camp with him but on no account to speak to him. After three days, during which he speaks to no one, men who are his Okilia come out from the men's camp and invite him to join them, after which he becomes a permanent member of the camp. Before, however, he may speak to any of the officials who took any part in the various ceremonies he must go out into the bush and procure game as an offering to each one of them, this gift being known as Chaurilia.

At the presentation of Chaurilia the man to whom it is given always performs some sacred ceremony, after which the mouth of the Ertwa-kurka and those of all present are touched with some sacred object which has been used during the ceremony, such as a Nurtunja, and in this way the ban of silence is removed. When these ceremonies have been passed through the native is regarded as an initiated member of the tribe and may take part in all the sacred ceremonies of his group, though it is not until he has passed through the Engwurra that he becomes what is called Urliara or a fully-developed man.

The following names, which may be called status names, indicating the different grades of initiation, are applied to the boy, youth and man at the times indicated:—

(1) Ambaquerka, up to the time of throwing up.

(2) Ulpmerka, after the throwing-up ceremony and until that of circumcision.

(3) Wurtja, after the first ceremony of painting in connection with circumcision.

(4) Arakurta, after circumcision and before sub-incision is performed.

(5) Ertwa-kurka, after sub-incision and until he has passed through the Engwura.

(6) Urliara, after the Engwura has been passed through.

In the northern part of the tribe the ceremonies agree in all essential points with those which have been described in the case of the natives living along the Finke river. There are p. 261 however, certain differences in detail which may be mentioned. Early on the day on which the ceremony of Lartna or circumcision is to commence, the Ulpmerka is taken away from the camp on some pretext, while the men and women spend the day in preparing the collected food supplies, such as the seeds of acacia or munyeru. Every now and then they break out into the monotonous chant of a corrobboree, to which the women, but not the men, dance, while a feeling of suppressed excitement throughout the camp indicates that some ceremony of more than ordinary importance is about to take place. At sundown the boy is brought into camp, and, unconscious of what is in store for him, spends the evening as usual at the men's camp, lying down to sleep there. Towards the middle of the night, when all is quiet, an elder brother of the boy, after seeing that the latter is sound asleep, wakens the other members of the camp, and all together, men and women, they go to the spot close at hand which has previously been selected. The women stand quietly on one side while the men, with as little noise as possible, clear the grass and rubbish away, and thus prepare the Apulla ground. Then all, except three brothers of the boy and two young women, sit down around the Apulla, while the five selected ones go to the camp to awaken and bring the boy. The two women go in advance, each of them carrying an Alparra, which is a scooped-out piece of wood such as the women use to carry food and water in, and, creeping quietly up to the Ulpmerka, suddenly strike him sharply with their Alparras, crying out loudly at the same time, “Utchai! Utchai!” The boy, naturally dazed and startled, springs to his feet, when the three men take hold of him, and tell him that the time has come when he must no longer remain an Ulpmerka, but must be made into a man—an Ertwa-kurka. So soon as the cry of “Utchai” is heard the men begin to sing and the women to dance.

The subsequent proceedings, including the painting by Uwilia men and the handing of the fire-stick by an Unchalkulkna woman, though there may be more than one of these, are much the same as those already described. On the day on which the actual operation is to be performed there is, p. 262 however, a slight variation in the procedure. After being ornamented with twigs of Eucalyptus, two rows of spears are fixed upright, one row on either side of the Apulla path. They form a kind of grove, with the path running between them. About midday, when all is ready, some of the men leave the camp to go and bring the boy in. When the signal of their return with the boy, who is hidden out of sight of the women, is given, then the latter at once go in between the line of spears, and, while some of the older men sing, perform the Unthippa dance, and then, standing by the poles, strip these of their leaves. As the men with the boy approach they all throw pieces of bark at the women, a signal to them to disperse and go to their camp, out of sight of the Apulla. The boy is placed at one end of the path behind a brake of boughs, of which, in this instance, only one and not two, as described before, is made. At night the women are brought back, and sit on either side of the path at the base of the stripped spears. Two Okilia go to where the boy is as yet hidden from the women, throw on one side the boughs, and then, accompanied by the Ulpmerka, hop down the path until they have traversed half its length, when they diverge, one to the right and one to the left, while the boy goes on until he collides with a man who has been purposely placed so that he shall do this. This man is here called Tapunga, and at once he rolls over on to his back, and the boy lies on the top of him. Silence is now maintained by all. In this position the painting is rubbed off the Ulpmerka's back. Then the Arachitta poles are brought in, and as the men dance the women strip the poles, which are tied on to the legs as described. The men remain calm, but the women grow wilder and wilder, singing:—

“Atnintu rappira ka perka-a-a
Ok nar inta
Yur a puncha kwi
Yur a puncha kwi.”

Whilst this is in progress the boy gets off the man's back and sits up watching the dance, which suddenly ceases when the sound of a bull-roarer is heard. At once the women run off, and very shortly after the operation is performed. In this district p. 263 the man who holds the shield is termed the Urinthantima, and he must belong to the moiety of the tribe to which the boy does not. The operation is almost always performed by a man who is Ikuntera to the boy, and who is assisted by one, or it may be two men, who are called Killarina, and who must also belong to the other moiety of the tribe. When all is over the boy is given a bundle of Churinga and sent out in charge of a man as previously described, until he has recovered, and is ready for the further operation.

The rite of sub-incision, which may be said to be characteristic of the great group of tribes occupying the interior parts of Queensland, 1 New South Wales, and South Australia, right away to the far north, and at all events a very large part of West Australia, 2 has frequently been alluded to by Curr and other writers under the name of the “terrible rite”—a term which, as Dr. Stirling suggested, may well be discarded. It consists, as is well known, in sub-incision of the penis, so that the penile urethra is laid open from the meatus right back to the junction with the scrotum. It is certainly a most extraordinary practice, and one which it might be thought would be frequently attended with serious results; but none such apparently ever follow, though in their native condition the operation is performed merely with a sharp chipped piece of flint or a small knife made of a hard flaked quartzite. The Arunta natives have no idea as to the origin of the practice, and it seems almost useless to speculate upon it. Mr. Roth has suggested that the mutilation of the women, which takes place, so far as is known, in all those tribes where sub-incision is practised by the men, was indirectly the origin of the latter, “that, on the principle of a form of mimicry, the analogous sign was inflicted on the male to denote corresponding fitness on his part.” This still leaves unexplained the mutilation of the women, and it would seem to be almost simpler to imagine that this was a consequence of the mutilation of the men.

p. 264

[paragraph continues] In the Arunta tribe tradition ascribes the origin of the custom to the members of the wild cat totem and points clearly to the fact that it was introduced by the members of some powerful group at a time subsequent to the introduction of the rite of circumcision.

One thing is clear, and that is that at the present day, and as far back as their traditions go, the Arunta natives at least have no idea of its having been instituted with the idea of its preventing or even checking procreation. In the first place it does not do this. Every man without exception throughout the Central area, in all tribes in which the rite is practised, is sub-incised. Under the normal conditions he must be before he is allowed to take a wife, and infringement of this rule would simply mean death to him if found out. Though it is true that the number of children rarely exceeds four or perhaps five in a family, and, as a general rule, is less still, perhaps two or three, yet the cause of this is not sub-incision. It is infanticide which is resorted to for the purpose of keeping down the number of a family. And here we may say that the number is kept down, not with any idea at all of regulating the food supply, so far as the adults are concerned, but simply from the point of view that, if the mother is suckling one child, she cannot properly provide food for another, quite apart from the question of the trouble of carrying two children about. An Australian native never looks far enough ahead to consider what will be the effect on the food supply in future years if he allows a particular child to live; what affects him is simply the question of how it will interfere with the work of his wife so far as their own camp is concerned; while from the woman's side the question is, can she provide food enough for the new-born infant and for the next youngest?

The Arunta native does not hesitate to kill a child—always directly it is born—if there be an older one still in need of nourishment from the mother, and suckling is continued up to the age often of three years or even older. With an easy solution, which moreover he does not hesitate to practise, of the difficulty arising from the birth of too many children, it is scarcely conceivable that the men should deliberately pass through a most painful ordeal p. 265 with the idea of achieving a result which can be obtained otherwise without pain or trouble to themselves, and when also they know perfectly well that the desired result is not obtained by the performance of the operation. Added to this we have amongst the Arunta, Luritcha, and Ilpirra tribes, and probably also amongst others such as the Warramunga, the idea firmly held that the child is not the direct result of intercourse, that it may come without this, which merely, as it were, prepares the mother for the reception and birth also of an already-formed spirit child who inhabits one of the local totem centres. Time after time we have questioned them on this point, and always received the reply that the child was not the direct result of intercourse; so that in these tribes, equally with those dealt with by Mr. Roth, the practice of sub-incision cannot be attributed to the desire to check procreation by this means.

In the south of the Arunta tribe the ceremonies again are somewhat different from these, both in the west and in the east. At Charlotte Waters, for example, the following is an account, in outline, of what takes place.

When the time arrives for a boy to be initiated, his Okilia talks to men who are Umbirna to the boy and arranges with two of them to carry out the first part of the proceedings. Towards evening the two Umbirna go to the boy, who has no idea of what has been arranged, and one of them takes hold of him while the other comes up from behind, carrying a special small white stone called aperta irrkurra, which he puts under the armpit of the boy. Then taking hold of him, one by each arm, they take him along with them to the camp of his mother and father. Here, by previous arrangement, the different members of the camp are assembled. All the men sit in a roughly semi-circular group, and together with them are women who stand in the relationship of Mia and Uwinna to the boy. The latter, with an Umbirna man on either side of him, is then told to lie down in front of the group, and behind him again are gathered together the women who are Ungaraitcha, Itia, Unawa and Unkulla to him. These women commence to dance to the singing of the men, and when this has gone on for some little time they retire p. 266 behind the group of men, and then the boy is allowed to go to sleep, watched over during the night by the two Umbirna who are called Ukarkinja. The latter wake him early and, after tying up his hair with whitened string, decorate it with tufts of eagle-hawk feathers. When this has been done the boy is called Au-aritcha. This over, the boy's Ungaraitcha and Itia bring him food in the shape of munyeru or grass seed, of which he eats some and gives the rest to his two Umbirna. Then, if she be present, the Mura woman whose daughter has been allotted as wife to the boy, or, in her absence, the Umbirna men, paint him all over with red ochre. After this, the further ceremonies may either be carried out on the spot or else the boy may be taken away to a different local group, where the first part of the ceremonies will then be performed. There does not appear to be any rule in regard to this. In the event of the boy being taken away, he goes under the charge of the same two Umbirna men, wearing, as he walks, his hair-string, and carrying the stone under his arm. On approaching the strange camp the men call out “Pau! Pau!” sharply and loudly, while at the same time each of them swings backwards one of the boy's arms. The strangers recognise what is happening, and the men get up, leave the camp near to which the visitors have halted, and while the women lie down in camp they come out to meet the three. The hair-string and stone are then taken away from the boy, who is thrown up in the air by the strangers, who catch and strike him as he falls. This throwing up is called Au-aritcha iwuma. When this is over the stone is given back to the boy, but the hair-string is given to the strangers. The boy himself has to go some little distance away and may not be spoken to by the women, though the men go near and speak to him freely.

Preparations are then made for the return to the home camp, all the men and women coming, while the boy, with his two Umbirna, walks behind. At some little distance from the spot at which the men have, during the boy's absence, made the camp at which the operation of Lartna will be performed, a halt is made, and here the boy and the two Umbirna stay behind for the purpose of painting his body with white pipe p. 267 clay, tying up his hair and putting on the waist band which he now wears for the first time. The strangers, marching on, announce their approach by the usual sharp cry “Pau! Pau!” The resident old men and women are sitting down at the camp, but the young men have to go away, to some little distance, so as not to be seen as yet by the boy. At first the strangers sit down in the customary way at a short distance from the camp, which they do not enter until, at a later time, they are invited to do so by the older men. When the Au-aritcha and the Umbirna come up they take a position in front of the strangers and between them and the resident group. After a short pause the boy's Ungaraitcha come out and give him food, and then, together with his two guardians, he returns to the bush, which is the signal for the younger men to come from their hiding place and join the strange group, the members of which come into camp usually about dusk.

In the evening the same women dance as on the previous occasion, the dance being called Ilchilcha-intum wuthaperrima. The dance is repeated during the course of the following evening, and during the two days whilst the boy is out of the camp there takes place both a lending and an interchange of women, the usual class restrictions being, however, observed. Two men belonging to the resident group will, for example, determine without saying anything previously to two visiting men to lend their wives each to one of the latter. During the dance these two men will get up from the group of men watching the dance, and each one taking a fire-stick will give it to his wife, who is amongst the dancers. The woman knows what this means and retires to some distance. Then the two men return to the main group, and each going behind the man to whom he desires to show attention, either in return for some past act of kindness or in anticipation of favours to come, lifts him up by his elbows and informs him of his intention. The exchange, or lending, is merely a temporary one, and in this instance only takes place between those who are Unawa to each other.

When the two days are over the boy is brought back and the women are sent away from the camp where the dancing p. 268 has taken place and where the operation of Lartna will shortly be performed. As in the case of the south-western or the Larapinta groups already referred to, various ceremonies are performed in which a Waninga is used, and this the boy is made to embrace before the operation is performed. When this is about to take place, the boy is told to lie down on the ground while an Okilia puts his hand over the former's eyes, and a man who is Unkulla to the boy goes away to some little distance. While this takes place, a few, perhaps half a dozen, men lie down on the ground so as to form a kind of table, and when the Okilia lifts his hand from his eyes the boy sees the Unkulla man approaching at a run. This man places him on the top of the prostrate men, whom the boy afterwards calls iruntuwura, and at once the operation is performed by an Ikuntera man whom the boy calls urtwi-urtwia. The Okilia stand by shouting “arakwirra, arundertna”—“You be quiet, do not cry.”

As always, the blood is collected in a shield and is handed over to the Okilia, who thereupon makes a hole in the ground and buries in this the blood and the foreskin; then small stones are put on top of the latter, and the hole is filled with sand, on the surface of which a short piece of stick, perhaps six inches long, is laid down horizontally. This stick is called Ultha, and neither the boy who has been operated upon nor yet any woman, may go near to it.

When the operation of Lartna is over, the boy is called Atnurrinia. As soon as he has recovered, the operation of Ariltha is performed in much the same manner as already described, except that in this southern district no Nurtunja is made. The men who lie down on the ground are called Atrapurntum; the Unkulla man who sits on the boy's chest is called Ikwarta, and the Ikuntera man who performs the ceremony is called Pininya. It is usual during the ceremony for the Unkulla man to take off his hair girdle and to lay it down close beside the boy with the object of preventing too great a flow of blood.

After the operation of Ariltha the novice is called Allallumba. When it is over he is taken out into the bush by p. 269 an Okilia who may be accompanied by a Gammona man, and after recovery his body is painted white, the hair-string girdle and the pubic tassel are put on, he is brought up to the men's camp and then taken on to where, close to the Erlukwirra, the women are waiting. The throwing of a boomerang, the meeting between the boy and his Ungaraitcha, when the latter hit him on the back, and the smoking of the novice are carried out in essentially the same way as already described. When all this is over, the novice returns with the men to their camp, and during the night a ceremony concerned with the owl totem is always performed; why this is so we have not been able to discover. For some time the newly initiated man may not speak to any of the men or women who have taken part as officials in any of the ceremonies, but, as previously described, the ban of silence is ultimately removed after he has presented to each one separately an offering of food.

In regard to the initiation ceremonies of women, it is clear that, as was first shown by Roth, there are certain ceremonies which are evidently the equivalents of the initiation ceremonies concerned with the men. Such ceremonies occur, though not to such an extent as described by Mr. Roth, in the Central tribes. The first one takes place when the girl's breasts are rubbed with fat and red ochre, and the second, when the operation of opening the vagina is performed. This is clearly regarded as the equivalent of sub-incision in the male, the name of the latter ceremony being pura ariltha kuma, while in the case of the woman it is called atna ariltha kuma. There is no special name given to a female after any initiation rite. Up to the first menstrual period she is called quiai, the ordinary name for a girl, just as wiai is the ordinary name for a boy; after that she is called wunpa, a name which she retains until the breasts hang pendent, after which she is called arakutja, the ordinary term for a grown woman. The first ceremony may perhaps be regarded as the equivalent of the throwing up and painting of the boys, there being amongst the women no equivalents of the Lartna (circumcision) or Engwura ceremonies of the men.

p. 270

We have described the ceremonies attendant on what may be called the initiation of women, the first in connection with other ceremonies peculiar to women, 1 the second in the chapter dealing with the social organisation, as it has important bearings upon this, and may be most conveniently dealt with in connection therewith.


214:1 Roth points out that in the tribes studied by him the knocking out of teeth is independent of any initiation rite, op. cit., p. 170.

214:2 In the initiation of the Kurnai, Mr. Howitt describes how at the beginning of the ceremony each boy is thrown into the air by the bullerwang, or man in charge of him. Kamilroi and Kurnai, p. 196.

215:1 If a woman, whose daughter has been allotted to a man, has a son born before she has a daughter, the man may, if he elects to do so, renounce his right to the daughter, and becomes Unjipinna to the boy, who has, until he is initiated, to provide the man with his hair.

219:1 For a description of Undiara, and the traditions and ceremonies associated with it, see Chapter VI., p. 193 sqq.

220:1 For an account of these see p. 441.

220:2 Roth describes the women as decorated after the manner of warriors about to engage in a fight during the early part of the proceedings, op. cit., p. 170.

220:3 If the boy had had an Unjipinna man, that is an Umbirna who had waived his right to the boy's sister as wife, then it would have been the duty of this man to tie the hair up.

221:1 In using these terms we include, unless specially stated to the contrary, tribal as well as blood relations; the Oknia, for example, include the actual father and also the father's brothers.

222:1 The handing of the firestick is called Unchalkulkna, and the fire is regarded as being of a sacred character.

224:1 In the southern part of the tribe the tradition is that an aged woman, angry because of the number of boys who were killed in consequence of the use of a fire-stick for circumcision, showed the men how to use a stone knife.

225:1 For a description of this, see page 231 sq.

234:1 In the southern part of the Arunta the Waninga is used in this way during the ceremony of Lartna, but neither a Waninga nor a Nurtunja is used at the ceremony of sub-incision; in the central and western part of the Arunta a Waninga is used at circumcision and a Nurtunja at sub-incision, and in the northern part of the Arunta and in the Ilpirra tribe neither of them is used at circumcision, but a Nurtunja at sub-incision.

244:1 The Ipmunna men and women belong to the sub-class into which the novice's children will pass.

244:2 Roth describes the brake of boughs used during the ceremony, and called errulli, as being burnt at the close of the proceedings, loc. cit., p. 171.

246:1 The sound of the bull-roarer is believed by the women to be the voice of the spirit Twanyirika, who has taken the boy away from them into the bush. This spirit, they are told, lives in wild and inaccessible regions, and only comes out when a youth is initiated. He enters the body of the boy after the operation and takes him away into the bush until he is better, when the spirit goes away and the boy returns, but now as an initiated man. Both uninitiated youths and women are taught to believe in the existence of Twanyirika. This belief is fundamentally the same as that found in all Australian tribes. Amongst the Kurnai, for example, as related by Mr. Howitt, the sound of the bull-roarer is the voice of Tundun, who himself comes down to make the boys into men. Amongst certain other tribes of the south-east coast Daramulun's voice is heard when the bull-roarer sounds, and he it is who initiates the youths by knocking out a tooth. In many tribes, such as the Kurnai, two bull-roarers, as described by Mr. Howitt, are sounded, a larger and a smaller one, the latter representing Tundun's wife, but amongst the Arunta, Ilpira and Luritcha there is only one, and that represents the male spirit.

248:1 After this the novice must use these terms in addressing these special individuals, though he may not speak to any one of them until such time as he shall have made him an offering of food.

256:1 As a result of the operation of Ariltha-kuma, micturition is always, in the native state, performed in a squatting position, and it is a very characteristic action for a little hollow to be scooped out with the hand in the soil, and then into this micturition takes place.

263:1 Cf. Roth, loc. cit.

263:2 Mr. A. Morton, who has recently been engaged in anthropological work in West Australia, informs us that the operation is universally carried out amongst the tribes with whom he came in contact. See also Helms. Trans. Roy. Soc. South Australia, vol. xvi., p. 276.

270:1 Cf. Chapter XII.

Next: Chapter VIII. Initiation Ceremonies (Continued) the Engwura Ceremony