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Among all the aboriginal tribes of Australia, when the boys approach the age of puberty a ceremony to initiate them into the privileges and responsibilities of manhood takes place. In this paper I propose to describe the initiation ceremonies of the
I nat tribes occupying the southeast coast of New South Wales from about the Victorian boundary northerly to Bulli, a distance of about 300 miles, and extending inland from 80 to 100 miles. Among the tribes inhabiting this district and parts of the counties of Wallace, Cowley, and Murray the ceremony is called the bunm.
The tribes occupying the territory to the westward gradually merge into the Wiradthuri community, and the latter extends westerly down Murray and Murrumbidgee rivers to somewhere near their junction. The initiation ceremonies of the Wiradthuri tribes referred to are known as the būrbúng.
The Wiradthuri and coast tribes attended one another's meetings for the initiation ceremonies, as old men of Shoalhaven river have told me that they attended the būrbúng on Tumut river, and some of the Wiradthuri people about Yass have stated that they were present at the būnăn at Queanbeyan or Braidwood. Along the zone or tract of country where the Wiradthuri and coast tribes join each other the ceremonial of the būrbủng and būnăn respectively would probably be found to have some modifications of detail to meet the views of both communities.
As a type of the initiation ceremonies throughout the coast district comprised within the limits previously laid down, I shall 44
select the tribes who occupy Shoalhaven river and adjacent districts, and will endeavor to give a detailed description of the būnăn as carried out among them.
The main camp and Būnăn ground.—The tribe in whose country the būnăn is to take place finds a suitable locality within its own territory and selects a ground which has previously been used. The women know nothing of these arrangements, but the camp is shifted to some place not far from the selected spot, and the men commence renovating or making the ring. In the evening they assemble at the wurrawurrudthang, and the headman, followed by the others, all with a bough in each hand, runs through the camp, taking a serpentine course. They make frequent pauses, first swaying their boughs downward and then raising them over their heads, uttering guttural noises the while. They then form into a group in a clear space, shout out the names of the principal camping places, water holes, etc, in their country, and disperse.
When the women who have been to a būnăn before see this procession and hear the noise they know there is to be a general gathering of the tribes for the purpose of initiating the boys. The whole tribe-men, women, and children-next day remove to the place selected for the general encampment, generally on a moderately level piece of ground, not far from water, and where plenty of wood for fuel is obtainable. The local tribe is the first to pitch its camp, and the other tribes encamp around this. On a cleared space in the central part of the camp corroborees are held almost every night. (Plate vi, figure 1, a, b, c.)
At a retired spot in the bush, a short distance from the general camp, the headmen have a private meeting place called wurrawurrudhang, where they congregate to consult on such tribal concerns as may be brought before them by the leading men of the several contingents present, and also to arrange the various details of the ceremonies. Here they have a fire around which they sit, and none but the initiated men are allowed near it. (Figure 1, d.)
As soon as the local tribe have erected their camp the initiated men proceed with the preparation of the būnăn ground work, generally carried on while the messengers are away gathering the tribes.
The last būněn which was held by the Shoalhaven river tribes