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' no man living has been more among blacks or knows

' G. B. i. 81-114. 2 Gf_ _B. j, gs, 89. =" G. B. i. 86.


more of their ways.' If on this excellent evidence the
Australian Dieri call for rain to a good spirit, then they
have religion, which Mr. Frazer denies. But if Mr.
Siebert, a German missionary, is right (and Mr, Frazer,
as we saw, prefers his view to that of Mr. Gason), then
the Mura Mura are only ancestral spirits.

Yet to demand the aid of remote ancestral spirits by
prayer is religion. In fact Mr. Frazer had said of the
powerful beings of the Southern Australians * it does not
seem that these spirits are ever worshipped.' ^ But prayer
is worship, and the Dieri pray, whether to a good spirit
or to ancestral spirits, potent over the sky, and dwelling
therein. If this is not religion, by Mr. Frazer's own
definition, namely * a propitiation or conciliation of '
powers' superior to man, which are believed to direct and
control the course of nature,' what is religion 9^ Yet in
Australia 'nobody dreams of propitiating gods or spirits
by prayer and sacrifice,' says our author.^ None the less
they ' call upon the spirits of their remote ancestors,
which they call Mura Mura, to grant them power to
make a heavy rain.' After ceremonies magical, or more
prayers in sign-language, the Mura Mura ' at once cause
clouds to appear in the sky.' * They see the signs which
their worshippers are making. Here then we have
prayer to ' powers superior to man ' (whether to the
Good Spirit or to ancestral spirits), and that, on evidence
collected by Mr. Frazer, occurs in a country where,
fourteen pages earlier, he had assured us that * nobody
thinks of propitiating gods or spirits by prayer and sacrifice.'
Sacrifice, happily, there is none ; the Dieri have not
degenerated to sacrificing human victims like the Greeks.

' G. B. i. 72, note 1.

■^ G. B., i. 86, 87.

» G. B. i. 72. * G. B. i. 87.


The scene is Central Australia, where ' the pitiless
sun beats down for months together out of a blue and
cloudless sky on the parched and gaping earth.' Conse-
quently rain-making magic must perpetually prove a
failure. Therefore, I presume, the Dieri have been driven
into religion by discovering the fallacy of magic. This
would be a logical argument, but Mr. Frazer's argument
is the converse of what I suggest and contradicts his
theory. He dubiously grants the existence of possible
faint ' germs of religion ' ' in the south-eastern parts of
Australia, where the conditions of life in respect of climate,
water, and vegetation are more favourable than else-
where .... It is worth observing that in the same
regions which thus exhibit the germs of religion, the
organisation of society and the family has also made the
greatest advance. The cause is probably the same in
both cases— namely, a more plentiful supply of food due to
the greater fertility of the soil.' ^ Now, according to
Mr. Frazer's whole argument, the confessed failure of
magic is the origin of religion.^ But in Central Australia,
where magic notoriously fails most conspicuously to
supply water and vegetation, magic flourishes to the
entire exclusion of religion, except among the Dieri. On
the other hand, in South-Eastern Australia, where magic,
if practised, is abundantly rewarded by more water and
more vegetation, there these proofs of the success of magic
are ' probably the cause ' of the germs of religion. But,
by Mr. Frazer's hypothesis, what must be the apparent
success of magic in securing ' a more plentiful supply of
food ' ought to encourage the belief in magic, and prevent
religion from even germinating. On the other hand, the
successful result of magic (for to what else can a people

' G. B. i. 72, note.
- G. B. ii. 75-80. The hypothesis is ' offered with all due diffidence.


of sorcerers attribute the better food supply ?) has been
' probably the cause ' of the first germs of religion. How
can these things be ?

All this time one tribe of Central Australia, the Arunta,
remains resolutely godless ' in spite of all temptations to
join denominations ' of a religious character. For the
Arunta Uve in the worst country, the most rainless, and
therefore their magic is most manifestly a failure. Yet,
unlike the natives of South-Eastern AustraUa (where
magic is most successful), the Arunta chng to magic, and
have developed no religion. If so, as of all rain-making
magic theirs is about the most unsuccessful, they must
be very stupid, or they would detect the failure, and fly to
religion, * a quiet haven after a tempestuous voyage.' The
Arunta are very far from stupid ; they have the most com-
plete and adequate of savage metaphysics. If, then, they
have not approached superior powers, in face of the failure
of their magic, it may be that they have tried and discarded
religion. ' Religion for the women and the children, magic / /

for men ' appears to be the Arunta motto : not so very
uncivilised ! This I suggest because Mr. Frazer tells
us that at the initiatory rites of the Arunta 'the
women and children believe that the roaring noise ' of
the wooden slat, tied to a string and swung about, is ' the
voice of the great spirit Twanyirika.' ^ A great spirit
(above all if spelled with capital letters) is rather a
religious conception. ' This spirit, the women are told,
lives in wild and inaccessible regions. . . . Both un-
initiated youths and women are taught to believe in the
existence of Twanyirika.' So write Messrs. Spencer and
Gillen, our only sources.'^

A brief note is all that these inquirers give in their
copious book to the great spirit. ' This belief,' they say,
• G. B. iii. 424. * Natives of Central Atistralia, p. 246, note 1.



' is fundamentally the same as that found in all Australian
tribes.' Now in the tribes reported on by Mr. Howitt,
the spirit whose voice is the sound of the slat or bull
roarer called the tundun, and by other names, is the son
or other deputy of Baiame, or some such powerful good
being, Mungan-ngaur, Pirmeheal, Bunjil, Noorele, or by
whatever style he may be called. One of his duties is to
superintend the Bora, or mysteries of the tribes. The
Wiraijuri believe that their type of Twanyirika was
destroyed, for misconduct, by his superior, Baiame. This
sinful great spirit was called Daramulun, but in other
tribes Daramulun is apparently the superior, and goes on
existing. He is, says Mr. Howitt, ' the Great Master,' ' the
Father,' the sky dweller, the institutor of society, the power
whose voice ' calls to the rain to fall and make the grass
green.' He is the moral being for whom ' the boys are
made so that Daramulun likes them ' — a process involving
cries of nga {' good '), so says Mr. Howitt. His attributes
and powers (where he is supreme) ' are precisely those of
Baiame,' who, by Mr. Eidley and many others, is spoken
of as a maker, if I may not say creator. It was in 1854,
two years before publishing his ' Gurre Kamilaroi ' (in
which 'Baiame' was used for 'God'), that Mr. Eidley
asked a Kamilaroi man, ' Do you know Baiame ? ' He
said, Kamil zaia zummi Baiame, zaia winuzgalda (' I
have not seen Baiame ; I have heard, or perceived him.
They hear him in the thunder'). Among this tribe
Daramulun was not the superior ; he was ' author of
disease and medical skill, of mischief and wisdom also ;
he appears in the form of a serpent at their assemblies,'
like Asclepius and the American Hobamok.^ Though
Mr. Ridley is a missionary, I venture to cite him, because

' J^.4.1., 1872, pp. 268, 269. Lang's g«eensZa»d, pp. 444, 445. Winslow,
in Arber's Captain Smith, p. 768.


his evidence goes back nearly fifty years, to a time when
the blacks had less contact with Europeans. Moreover,
Mr. Eidley is corroborated by Mr, Howitt and other
laymen, while Mr. Frazer even prefers the evidence of a
German missionary to that of Mr. Gason, a lay English-
man of the greatest experience. Mr. Howitt finds, among
the Km-nai, Tundun as the patron of the mysteries and
the bull roarer, like Twanyirika. In Mr. Manning's
tribe ^ the same role is taken by Moodgeegally, under the
control of Boyma.

"We have thus five or six parallels to the Twanyirika
of the godless Arunta, and all are subordinate to a higher
power. If then, as Messrs. Spencer and Gillen tell us,
the belief in the Arunta Twanyirika, the great spirit,
' is fundamentally the same as that found in all the
Australian tribes,' Twanyirika ought to have a much
more powerful benevolent superior. In that case the
Arnnta would

Incline to think there is a god,
Or something very like one,

as Clough says. If so, as they do not propitiate him,
they did not conceive him as a partner in the game of
Do lit des. But our only vntnesses, Messrs. Spencer
and Gillen, are extremely reticent about Twan3ririka.
Nothing is said about his having a superior, and I assume •
that he has none. It seems to follow that he is a mere j
Mumbo Jumbo, or bogle, devised by the men to keep the j
women and children in order. t

But in South-E astern Australia (if I may trust Mr.
Howitt's evidence, to which Mr. Frazer does not here
allude) the counterpart of Twanyirika is a mere servant of
a much higher being, everywhere called by names meaning
' our father.' Therefore either ' our father ' Baiame,

' See ' The Theory of Loan-GoJs,' supra.

V 2


Mungan-ngaur, and the rest, have been developed out of a
sportive bugbear like Twanyirika, or Twanyirika (if he
really has no superior) is a rudimentary survival of a
belief like that in Mungan-ngaur, and his subordinate,
Tundun. In the former case Twanyirika, a germ of the
more advanced religion of South-Eastern Australia, was
not invented as a power behind nature, who might be
useful if propitiated, as in Mr. Frazer's theory. In the
latter case the Arunta do not represent man prior to
religion (as Mr. Frazer holds), but man who has cast off
religion. But Mr. Frazer does not seem to notice this

The evidence for what most people call ' religion '
among the Australian natives is so far from scanty that
one finds it when looking for other matters, as I am
going to show. True, in the following report the religion
does not answer to Mr. Frazer's definition, no powerful
being is here said to be conciliated or propitiated : he is
only said to exist and favour morality. But Mr. Frazer's
definition, if pressed, produces the effect of arguing in a
vicious circle. His theory asserts that powerful beings
are only invented by man, in view of man's tardy
discovery that his own magic is powerless. The invented
beings are then propitiated, for selfish ends, and that, by
the definition, is religion.

If we produce, as we do, evidence that the belief in
powerful beings has been evolved, and yet that these
beings are certainly not propitiated by sacrifice, and
seldom if ever by prayer, that they are only won by
conduct, and by rites not involving sacrifice, Mr. Frazer
can reply, ' Perhaps ; but by my definition that kind of
belief is not religion.' Then what is it ? * What else can
you call it ? ' Its existence, if proved, is fatal to Mr.
Frazer's theory of the origin of religion in the despair of


magic, because the faithful of the belief of which I speak
do not usually implore the god to do for them what magic
has failed to do. Their belief satisfies their speculative
and moral needs : it does not exist to supply their
temporal wants. Yet it is none the less, but much the
more, a religion on that account, except by Mr. Frazer's
definition. If religion is to be defined as he defines it, * a
propitiation or conciliation of powers superior to man,'
and so on, religion can only have arisen as it does in his
theory, setting aside a supernormal revelation. But if
we do not deny the name of religion to the speculative
belief in a power superior to man, and to the moral belief
that he lends a supernormal sanction to conduct, and to
the emotional belief that he loves his children, then the
belief is religion, but something other than religion as
defined by Mr. Frazer. Nobody will deny the name of
religion to such a belief. Mr. Frazer says : * I would ask
those who dissent from my conclusions to make sure that
they mean the same thing by religion that I do ; for other-
wise the difference between us may be more apparent
than real.' ^

I mean by religion what Mr. Frazer means — and more.
The conciliation of higher powers by prayer and sacrifice
is religion, but it need not be the whole of religion. The .
belief in a higher power who sanctions conduct, and is a \i
father and a loving one to mankind, is also religion ; few,
if any, will dispute the fact. But this belief, if unaccom-
panied, as in Australia, by prayer and sacrifice, cannot be
accounted for on Mr. Frazer's theory : that religion was
invented, for worldly ends, after the recognised failure
of magic, which aimed at the same ends fruitlessly. It
is only by limiting his definition of religion, as he does,
that he can establish his theory of the origin of religion.

' G. B. i. xvii. Lr '. S L^


It is only by omitting mention of the evidence for what
nobody else can deny to be religion, that he can secure
his theory.

I return to my additional evidence for Australian
religion. As will be seen, it does not come within Mr.
Frazer's definition, but will anybody deny that the belief
is religious? The evidence is that of Mr. A. L. P.
Cameron,^ and contains a brief comparative glossary of
words used by different tribes of New South Wales to
indicate the same objects. Mr. Cameron had been
interested in the black fellows since 1868 at least, when
their numbers were much larger than at present. He
had seen gatherings of from 800 to 1,000. The tribes
chiefly in question dwelt along the Murrumbidgee and
Murray rivers, and do not include the Kamilaroi, the
Kurnai, and Coast Murring of whom Mr. Howitt speaks.

As to religion, ghosts of the dead are believed to visit
the earth, and to be frequently seen. The blacks ' will
often resort to peculiar devices to avoid mentioning the
names of the dead,' a practice hostile to the development
of ancestor worship. No ghost of a man can grow into
a god if his name is tabooed and therefore forgotten.
' The people of all these tribes appear to have a belief in
a Deity, and in a future state of some kind.' The Wathi
Wathi call this being Tha-tha-pali ; the Ta-ta-thi call
him Tulong. Mr. Cameron could not obtain translations
of these names, any more than we know the meaning of
the names Apollo or Artemis. The being * is regarded as
a powerful spirit, or perhaps a supreme supernatural
being. They say that he came from the far north, and
now lives in the sky. He told each tribe what language
they were to speak. He made men, women, and dogs,
and the latter used to talk, but he took the power of

' /. A. I., 1885, pp. 344-370.


speech from them. The Ta-ta-thi do not care to speak
much of Tulong, and say that he does not often come to
the earth. Although it seems that in many of the Austra-
lian tribes there is only a very dim idea as to the attributes
of the Supreme Being and of a future state, yet in the Ta-
ta-thi and its allied tribes there is certainly a belief not
only in a future state of existence, but also in a system of
rewards and punishments. My Ta-ta-thi informant stated
that one of the doctors ascended long ago through the
sky, an.d there saw a place where wicked men were

Mr. Cameron, of course, had the strongest suspicions
of a ' place ' so ostensibly Christian. To this we return,^

These tribes practise the Bora rites or initiatory
mysteries. If women witness them ' the penalty is death.
The penalty for revealing the secrets is probably the same.'
Mr. Cameron, unlike Mr. Howitt, has not been initiated,
and does not know the full secret. The presiding being
(like the Twanyirika of the Arunta) is called Thuremlin,
who, I conjecture, is Daramulun in his subordinate
capacity. ' Their belief in the power of Thuremlin is
undoubted, whereas the Arunta adults do not appear
to believe in Twanyirika, a mere bugbear of the women
and children. The bull roarer is Kalari, or among the
Ta-ta-thi Kalk [or Kallak] — that is to say, "word."'
Concerning the instruction given to the boys, and described
by Mr. Howitt, Mr. Cameron, not being initiated, gives
no information.

' Parenthetically, I may remark that many beliefs as to the futm-e state
originate in, or are confirmed by, visions of ' doctors ' who visit the Hades or
Paradise of a tribe, and by reports of men given up for dead, v^ho recover
and narrate their experiences. The case of Montezuma's aunt is familiar
to readers of Mr. Prescott's Conqticst of Mexico. The new religion of the
Sioux is based on a similar vision. Anthropologists have given slight
attention to these circumstances.


As to the future life, Mr. Cameron received his account
from a tribesman named Makogo, ' an inteUigent member
of the Wathi Wathi tribe.' The belief was that current
' before his people came into contact with Europeans,
and Makogo expressed an opinion that, whether right or
wrong, they would have been better off now had their
beliefs never been disturbed.' Probably Makogo was right.
The beliefs were in a future state of reward or punish-
ment. European contact does not import but destroy
the native form of this creed.

The Wathi Wathi belief answers in character to the
creeds expressed in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the
Fijian hymns, the famous Orphic gold talisman of Petilia,
the Eed Indian belief published by Kohl, and to many
other examples.^ The Way of Souls, as in these ancient
or savage beliefs, is beset by dangers and temptations,
to which the Egyptian Book of the Dead is a guide-book.
If any one desires to maintain that this Australian idea,
held before contact with Europeans, and now to some
extent abandoned after that contact, is of Christian origin
(we know this argument), he must suppose that the
Wathi Wathi adapted the idea from our old ' Lj^ke Wake
Dirge : '

When Brig o' Dread is over and past,

Every night and all,
To Whinny Muir thou comest at last,

And Christ receive thy saul.

A weak point there is. The soul of the Wathi Wathi,
after death, is met by another soul, ' who directs him to
the road for good men.'

But the natives had no roads, the opponent will reply.
They have trade routes and markets, however, and barter
of articles made in special localities goes on across

' See my Modem Mythology, and introduction to my Homeric Hymns.


hundi'eds of miles of country.^ Let us allow that the
Wathi Wathi may know a clean path or track from a
dirty one.

The soul meets a dirty and a clean path. The good
soul, being instructed, chooses the dirty path : the other
path is kept clean by bad spirits ' in order to induce the
unthinking to follow it,' as Bunyan's Mr. Ignorance
unwarily chose a by-path into hell. The soul next
meets a woman who tries to seduce him. He escapes her
lures, and comes to two women who try to trip him by
whirling a rope. One of them is blind, and the soul
evades her. Kext comes a deep narrow gap, in which
flames rise and fall. The good soul watches the fall of the
flames, and leaps across ; there is no Brig o' Dread. Eed
Indian souls cross by a log which nearly spans the abyss.
Two old women meet the good soul, and take him ' to the
Deity, Tha-Tha-Puli.' He tests the soul's strength and skill
by making him throw a nulla-nuUa. 'When the "Wathi
Wathi see a shooting star, they believe it to be the
passage of such a nulla-nulla through space, and say :
" Tha-Tha-Puli is trying the strength of some new spirit."
The soul of a bad man, if it escapes the traps set for it, is
sure to fall into the hell of fire. Many of the natives
have had their beliefs modified by contact with the whites,'
and I * feel doubtful,' says Mr. Cameron, ' whether the pit
of fire was not of this kind, and questioned mj'^ informant
very closely on the subject, but he assured me that there
was no doubt whatever that the above was the exact belief
before the settlement of the country by the white men.'

It is the standing reply of believers in the borrowing
theory that a native, cross-examined, will always agree
wnth whatever the European inquirer wishes him to say.

' Roth, North- West Queensland Central Aborigines, p. 132. Spencer
and Gillen, 575.


The natives examined by Mr. Cameron, Mrs. Langloh
Parker, Mr. Howitt, Mr. Manning, and others were
exceptions. They would not allow that their beliefs were

This particular form of native belief is exactly
analogous to that of ancient Egypt, of Greece, of Fiji, and
so on : not to the doctrine of our missionaries. The
believers in borrowing must therefore say that the Wathi
Wathi stole heaven, hell, and the ways thither from
missionaries, and adapted them, accidentally coinciding
with Egyptians, Greeks, Eed Indians, Fijians, Aztecs, and
the rest, as to a gulf to be crossed, and temptations on the
way to the abode of the powerful being and the souls of
the good. The native proverbial explanation of a shoot-
ing star establishes, as historical fact, their belief in
Tha-Tha-Puli and his home for good spirits. Mr. Frazer
has six pages on beliefs about shooting stars. ^ One case
is to our point. The Yerrunthally of Queensland think
that the souls of the dead climb to a place among the
stars by a rope ; when they let the rope fall, it * appeared
to people on earth as a shooting star.' ^

Now if the evidence of Mr. Palmer, in the ' Journal of
the Anthropological Institute,' is good evidence for this
Australian belief, why is the evidence of Mr. Howitt and
Mr. Cameron, in the same serial, to an unborrowed
Australian religion (in this case with Tha-Tha-Puli and
his home for good souls) unworthy even of mention ?

We fall back on Sir Alfred Lyall : ' I think that one effect
of the accumulation of materials has been to encourage
speculative generalisation, because it has provided a
repertory out of which one may make arbitrary selection
of examples and precedents to suit any theory.' ^

' G. B. ii. 18-24. - G. B. ii. 21. E. Palmer, J. A. I. xiii. p. 292.

* Asiatic Studies, i. ix.


Here I have the pleasure of agreeing with this great
authority. Mr. Frazer has chosen Australia as the
home of magic, as a land where magic is, but religion has
not yet been evolved. As I have shown, in this and the
preceding paper, there is abundance of evidence for an
unborrowed Australian religion. I shall abandon the evi-
dence so soon as it is confuted, but I cannot reject it while
the witnesses are treated as good on many other points,
but are unmentioned just when their testimony, if true,
seems inconsistent with a theory of the priority of magic
to religion.

' By the concurring testimony of a crowd of observers,'
writes Mr. Tylor, ' it is known that the natives of Australia
were at their discovery, and have ever since remained, a
race with minds saturated with the most vivid belief in
souls, demons, and deities.' ^ What can a young student
commencing anthropologist think, when he compares Mr.
Tylor's ' concurring testimony of a crowd of observers ' of
Australian religion with Mr, Frazer's remark that there
are * some faint beginnings of religion ' in Southern
Australia, but that ' traces of a higher faith, where they
occur, are probably sometimes due to European influence,'
though the people, Mr. Tylor says, were in all things so
* saturated with the most vivid belief in souls, demons, and
deities ' — * at their discovery ' ? There is no use in building
a theory of the origin of religion on the case of Australia
till we are at least told about the ' concurring testimony
of a crowd of observers.' That Mr. Frazer has some
reason for disregarding the testimonies which I have cited,
that he must have grounds for doubting their validity, I
feel assured. But the grounds for the doubt are not
apparent, and to state them would make Mr. Frazer's
abstention intelligible.

' Priviitive Culture, i. 379, 1871.




Among the many recent theories concerning the origin of
rehgion, certainly the most impressive is Mr. Frazer's
hypothesis as to the origin of the behef in the divinity of
Christ. Unlike several modern speculations", Mr. Frazer's

Online LibraryAndrew LangMagic and religion → online text (page 6 of 25)