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  • peter-macinnis 14 Apr 2012 at 13:48
    Coming so early in the print-awareness of the "red-backed spider", the claim that its venom was used makes it seem reasonable to suspect that this is a less than reliable account and may, in fact, be a total farrago of de Rougemontian proportions.

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The Aborigines &f New $9wth Wale®

their MñMtSfj Maws» astf Gw&t&wis*



HEIR most well-known gathering is a corrobberie, or corrobbora as they call it themselves. This, dance (or dances) has a great

variety, its character being deter- mined by the occasion of their meeting - whether Avarlike or social. A corrobbora usually pre- cedes a declaration of war with a hostile tribe, the ceremony at a bourbung, or is a festive rejoicing on the occasion of any great good,


Sometimes it is a warlike dance

and sham fight : the gins sit down and beat time on stretched skins, singing all the time improvised songs; encouraging the men to display their utmost energy.

As many blacks from friendly tribes as can be got together do so at these times ; they anoint their bodies, with emu oil, and smear them with pipe-clay and red ochre, no two being similarly painted, the utmost inge- nuity being used to create a variety-a red or white band is tied round the head, into which feathers are arranged, clothes are discarded, and, thus painted and. decorated, their appearance is exceedingly fei-ocious. The king, or chief of the tribe, is the master of cere- monies ; they move at first slowly, to the measured beat, of the gins, but as they become excited the women beat, faster, whilst the men dance more wildly and furiously,, brandishing their spears and gesticulating frantically, seeming to be worked up into a frenzy of passion; Sometimes a sort of theatrical performance takes place -one of their number, who bears the reputation of being a wit and a mimic, gives an imitation of some white man well known amongst them ; these caricatures are exceedingly laughable, and so like that the one* imitated, if a spectator, is forced to be amused even at

his own expense. Every little trick of gesture or"' manner is copied with exactness-the mode of passing the fingers through the hair, flicking the ashes off a. cigar or pipe, using a handkerchief, and especially any peculiarity of gait, take the blackfellow^ fancy, and are faithfully reproduced.

Rude indeed are the aboriginal weapons-one of them is unique both in its construction and its use. Great,

pains are taken in the manufacture of the boomerang or ? wammera-the wood is chosen for being tough in tex- ture and close in grain ; it is cut when green, and when being shaped is frequently thrust into the fire, and as the sap exudes-is twisted-by foot and hand, and repeat- edly tried, until by scraping, twisting, and heating, the weapon has acquired the desired shape, strength, and tenacity. They are of different curves, according to the purpose for which they are designed, some only curving

slightly, whilst others are an obtuse angle ; some mount " up at once in graceful circles, going higher and higher " until they attain an immense altitude ; others, again,. v skim the earth for some forty yards, then rise in circles, but at no great height, and come round and strike some object behind the thrower ; whilst some are made to return to the very feet of the owner, after having per- formed their deadly mission.

Their spears are formed of the toughest wood, jarreen, where it can be obtained, cut in notches, sometimes only at one end and sometimes at both; they carefully scrape   them with glass or, before white men came, shells, until they get them smooth ; and then rub them until they are polished; when used in a war with an unfriendly   tribe, and in the old days against the whites, these, as well as their boomerangs, were smeared with poison.

The poison bags of snakes, death adders, the bodies of the deadly red-backed spider, as well as any venomous, creature they could find, were mixed up with the soft resinous gum of the pine tree into a perfect "hell- broth;" when properly assimilated it was smeared over the weapons, where it hardened like varnish; the   wound made from a spear thus dressed would be exceed-

ingly painful, if not fatal.    

Their nulla nullahs are a species of club, always terV minating in a point, and of various shapes and thickness/

The bundy is a club, also, but o^f another kind, being more of a knob, and ornamented with nails, stones, or other hard substances, set into the wood, with some exceedingly hard and tenacious resin.

The stone axe is of no great cutting power ; it is. mostly used to cut toe holes to enable them to climb trees, which they do with the utmost agility and speed ;. but in fight the tomahawk is sometimes thrown with unerring aim. The edge is sharpened by friction against another stone, a notch is made, which is fitted into a. handle and securely bound in its place with a tough vine fibre or kangaroo sinews.

Their shields, or heilamans, are of many sorts, some of soft wood and broad, affording fair protection ; but another heilaman is a "piece of exceedingly tough wood, three-sided, about two feet long, pointed at each end, its greatest breadth not exceeding six inches, and often less, a socket is made in the thickness of the wood for the hand, which is barely covered ; with this the black- fellow can protect himself with wonderful skill and dex- terity, warding off blows from nulla nullahs and bundys, and.turning the points of spears.

When war was declared against a hostile tribe a. messenger was sent to challenge the enemy ; like the herald of old his person was sacred, unarmed he could, thread his way through hostile tribes, bearing on his head or carrying in his hand the token of his mission ;. when face to face with the chief on whom his tribe intended making war he would declare his object with every menace, threat, or contemptuous epithet his lan- guage had expression for, exhausting his vocabulary in the effort to awaken anger and ferocity, and yet no spear pierced him, no boomerang sped on its deadly errand, no tomahawk or nullah nullah crashed through

his skull. The chief would, at the conclusion of the

address, give taunt for taunt, hurling back defiance at

the foe.

Not nearly so many lives were lost in their battles a,s might be expected-the encounters were mere skirmishes, the combatants keeping themselves well sheltered behind trees and dodging the spears throwm at them until they got to close quarters, when spears and boomerangs would be discarded for bundys, nulla , nullahs, and tomahawks, which would be brought down

on heads which, if owned by white men, would bc crushed like egg shells, but not one blow in a hundrec1 reaches the skull it is aimed at, for their dexterity ir using the heilaman saves them. The practice, too, oí aiming all their blows at the head saves many lives, ai it is the least vulnerable part of a blackfellow.

When two warriors are to engage in single comba1 the same practice is resorted co of sending a herald sometimes the messenger is a gin, and the challenge loses none of its vituperative force by being conveyee by this medium : at the hostile meeting the challenge: lowers his head for his enemy to strike ; if the blov does not kill or stun (which seldom happens), the oppo nent, wounded and bleeding, starts erect, whilst hi enemy in turn lowers his crest for the blow ; this con tinues alternately until one or other falls dead, or th honour of the parties is satisfied.

The most murderous attacks made by the blacks wer when a tribe doomed to death some other from whor they had sustained a wrong, some infringement of thei rights and customs, and contrary to their establishe mode of warfare ; then no challenge was sent, bu the avenging tribe silently and secretly stole upon th devoted people, and in an instant the air resounde with shrieks and yells-the slaughter was carried or remorselessly, neither age nor sex being spared. I Geelnoey Scrub, between Piliga and Coonamble, thei is a great burial place, the memorial of an avengir raid by a tribe of the Barwon blacks upon those of tli


There is little doubt that cannibalism was practise by them, but it has long fallen into disuse. Old me amongst them will tell of how they tried to eat tl whites, the men they slew, but they disliked them, :

their flesh had a salt taste.

There is a close affinity between the language used 1 the whole of the aborigines of Australia, though the dialects differ : it abounds in vowels and liquid sound the native names are generally pleasing and music? " though most of them have been Anglicized in tl

spelling and pronunciation, and not to their improv ment in euphony, besides destroying their significatio Their names are seldom descriptive of the scenery any locality, but more frequently are called after t cry of some bird or beast, or the name is a combinati of words relating to some event - comic or tragic which occurred there, aud has made the spot re markab] As might be expected from their intellectual capaci and absence of religious belief, they have no words express abstract ideas, and their vocabulary is limit to suit their daily neecls. Their voices are musical, a: the many-vowelled syllables, uttered rapidly and clear fall pleasantly, but their voices have a mournful toi and when they chant it sounds like a dirge. Th rapidly acquire the English language, even to some its niceties, and will frequently rebuke a remark in i broken English with which they are usually address by an answer in correct language, and with studi courtesy. _