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Stated Meeting, March 18, 1898.
Dr. I. MINIS HAYS in the Chair.
Present, 11 members.
Acknowledgments of election to membership were read from Charles F. Scott, of Pittsburgh, Pa.; George H. Darwin, of Cambridge, Eng.; S. Dana Greene, of New York, and L. B. Stillwell, of Niagara Falls, N. Y.
Correspondence was submitted and donations to the Library and Cabinet were reported.
Announcement was made of the death of Sir Henry Bessemer, at his residence near London, on March 15, 1898, in the 85th year of his age; and of the Rev. Dr. Edward A. Foggo, at Philadelphia, March 8, 1898, aged 64.
The following communications were presented:
By R. H. Mathews, "Initiation Ceremonies of the Native Tribes of Australia."
By W. B. Scott, "A Preliminary Note on the Selenodont Artiodactyls of the Uinta Formation."
Pending nominations Nos. 1432 and 1451 to 1453 and new nominations Nos. 1454 to 1457 were read.
The Society was adjourned by the presiding member.
INITIATION CEREMONIES OF AUSTRALIAN TRIBES.
BY R. H. MATHEWS, L.S.
(Read March 18, 1898.)
The Koombanggary tribe, which was at one time both numerous and important, inhabits the country from the south side of the Clarence river along the sea coast about as far as Nambucca, extending westerly almost to the main dividing range. On the south they are bounded by the Thangatty tribe, occupying the Macleay river. The Anaywan tribe, scattered over the table-land of New South Wales, bound the Thangatty and Koombanggary people on
thewest. As no description of the Burbùng of these tribes has yet been published, I have prepared the following brief account of that ceremony as practiced within the district indicated. Their social organization is after the Kamilaroi type, being divided into four sections,' with numerous totems consisting of animals, plants and other natural objects.
A Burbung is held at any time that there are a sufficient number of boys old enough to be installed as tribesmen; and the headman of the tribe, whose turn it is to take the initiative in calling the people together for this purpose, is generally agreed upon at the conclusion of the previous inaugural gathering which took place. When the appointed time comes round, the tribe who are charged with this duty select a suitable camping ground within their own territory, and some of the initiated men commence preparing the ground. While they are employed at this work, the principal headman dispatches messengers to such of the surrounding tribes as he wishes to join in the ceremony. These men are selected from among his own friends and belong to his own totem. Each messenger has generally one or more other men with him to keep him company, and he is provided with the emblems usually carried on such occasions, namely, a bull-roarer, several articles of a man's dress and some native weapons. The conduct of these messengers on their arrival in the proximity of the camp of the people to whom the invitation has been sent is very similar to the procedure previously explained in my descriptions of the initiation ceremonies of other tribes.
The situation of the general encampment as regards water and food supplies, and the location of the visiting tribes around the local mob, are also substantially the same as already stated. In a retired spot, a short distance from the main camp, the headmen have a private meeting place, called the bunbul, where they congregate to discuss such matters as they do not wish the women to hear. They have one or more fires around which they sit, and none of the uninitiated men are allowed near them. The women must not intrude upon the bunbul, even if the men are not there. The single women and girls also have a place near the camp, but in the opposite direction, where they assemble to work at making nets, headbands and
1 I have given the names of the divisions of these people in my paper on "The Totemic Divisions of Australian Tribes," Journ. Roy. Soc. N. S. Wales, xxxi, 168-170.
such like. Every aboriginal camp is kept free from excrementitious matter. When the people go out to attend to any necessity of nature, they at once make a hole in the ground and cover the deposit over with earth.
In close proximity to the camp is the būrbung or public ring, bounded by a low earthen embankment, with a narrow sunken pathway called maro, leading about four or five hundred yards into the forest to another circular space, formed in the same manner, known as the eeteemat, in the floor of which the butts of two saplings are firmly inserted, having the rooty ends upwards. These inverted stumps are called warringooringa, and are prepared in the way described in my papers dealing with initiation ceremonies elsewhere.1 The maro enters both the circles through a narrow opening left in the embankment, and the latter is continued outward a few feet along either side of the path where it meets the rings. Within the eeteemat there are also sometimes two, and sometimes four, heaps of earth, about a foot and a half or two feet high.
Around the outside of the eeteemat and along both sides of the pathway referred to, there are a number of trees marked with the usual moombeera devices, as well as the outlines of an iguana, a squirrel, the new moon and other figures, all chopped into the bark with a tomahawk. On one side of the path are some tracks of an emu's foot, cut into the surface of the ground a few feet apart, as if made by that animal running along. These tracks lead away some distance into the adjacent bush, forming a sort of curve or semicircle around the eeteemat; and on following them up they are found to terminate at the prone figure of an emu, ngooroon, formed by heaping up the loose earth into the required shape. All over the body of the emu thus drawn in high relief small twigs of the oak or wattle tree are closely inserted to represent the feathers of the bird. All the sticks and loose rubbish are scraped off the surface of the ground for several yards around this figure, for the purpose of dancing on.
Approaching the eeteemat, near one side of the pathway, there is a low mound of earth about a foot high. This is called kooroorballunga, and a fire is lit on top of it during the time that any per
"The Bora of the Kamilaroi Tribes," Journ. Anthrop. Inst., xxv, 325.
2 The fronds or leaves of these trees bear some resemblance to the emu's feathers.
formance is going on, such as the arrival of a tribe, their daily games and the ceremonial connected with the removal of the novices.
In the vicinity of the marked trees is a gigantic human figure named Dharroogan or Gowang, lying extended on the ground, composed of the loose soil scraped off the surface for some yards around. A little way farther on, near the eeteemat, is the prostrate image of a wallaroo, formed in high relief in the same manner. In building all the earthen figures just described, stones or pieces of wood are first heaped up on the ground, almost to the height of the object required, and on top of this the loose earth is thrown to complete the figure and give it the necessary shape. The finished drawing represents the intended animal in high relief on the surface of the ground.
A rope made of stringy bark is stretched between two of the marked trees which are not too far apart, and about midway along this rope there is a bundle of leaves and finely frayed pieces of soft bark, supposed to represent the rest of a ring-tail opossum.1
When a strange tribe reaches a point somewhere within an easy stage of the main camp they paint their bodies with colored clays in accordance with the style customary in their tribe, after which the journey forward is resumed, the men in the lead, with the women and children following. On the approach of the strangers, the men of the local mob, and also the men of previous contingents who have arrived at the main camp, stand outside the burbung circle with their spears and other weapons in their hands, and sway their bodies to and fro. The new arrivals then march on in single file, in a meandering line, each man carrying his weapons in his hands; they enter the ring and march round and round until they are all within it in a spiral fold. They now come to a stand and jump about, the headman calling out the names of camping grounds, water-holes, shady trees, etc., in their country. After this they come out of the ring and each detachment of the hosts enter it in succession and act in a similar manner. For example, the contingent from Kempsey, who had arrived first, entered the ring and called out the names of remarkable places; next, the contingent from Armidale did likewise; then the contingent from Tabulam, and so on. Lastly, the men of the local Nymboi river mob enter
1 All the animals drawn upon the trees, or on the ground, represent the totems of some of the people assembled at the main camp.
the ring and act in the same way. While this reception is being accorded to the men, the women, novices and children go into the camping ground and take up their quarters on the side nearest their own country.
The men of the newly arrived contingent are next taken along the track to the sacred ground, and are shown all the markings in the soil and on the trees, the earthen figures in high relief, and the fire, at each of which they dance and give a shout. They then start along the tracks of the emu, some men being on one side and some on the other, the front men pretending to be following the marks in the ground. They make short grunt-like exclamations as they run along and all the other men follow in a body. On reaching the figure of the emu, they all give a shout and dance round on the clear space before referred to.
They next assemble around the eeteemat and are shown the warrangooringa, on the roots of each of which an old man is sitting performing magical feats. Some of the headmen enter the ring dancing and singing round the heaps of earth and the warrangooringa, after which the two men descend from the latter and join the others. All the wizards or "doctors" take their turn at producing rock-crystals, blood, string and other substances from different. parts of their bodies. After each trick, these clever fellows run with their heads down amongst the men who are standing outside the ring, who jump around to get out of their way. At the conclusion of these performances all the men go back along the track, and at about, say fifty yards from the burbung, they are met by the novices, who join the procession, taking their places with the men of their own sectional division,' who enter the ring and dance round a few times, naming remarkable localities in their several districts, their totems, etc., and the women, who are standing around outside, throw handfuls of leaves at them, after which they all disperse to their respective quarters.
A week or two, and in some cases a much longer time, elapses between the arrival of the first contingent and the last mob who have been invited from the surrounding districts, so that the earlier arrivals have a good while to wait at the main camp. During this period carraborus are held almost every fine night, the different tribes present taking their turn at providing the evening's amusement. The men go out hunting every day and the women proceed
1 Journ. Roy. Soc. N. S. Wales, xxxi, 169.