The Unambal Aborigine Tribe of North West Australia

Extract from ‘Unambal’ by Dr. Andreas Lommel

Page 5/6

The Aboriginal People believe a natural death occurs only if the person concerned was very old. If a younger person dies it is attributed to the magic influence of a hidden enemy.

The aborigines then say that the person concerned has been "sung" or had a "pointing stick" aimed at him. Therefore if a young man dies, it is considered to be murder. The murderer is discovered by placing the body in the branches of a tree, around which each man places a stone. The murderer is detected when the dead man's kidney fat drips onto a particular stone.

When the medicine man returns he can see the spirits who are waiting to eat the dead man's flesh that has fallen from the tree. The spirits tell him the name of the murderer who is then either killed with spears or sung to death. When the flesh has fallen from the bones they are divided into two bundles, one contains the long bones and one the skull.

The mother of the dead carries the bundles around with her for about a year, until they are finally deposited in a special cave. The skull is deposited at the painting of the Wandjina who was the deceased ancestor. The dead man's wife is taken over by one of his brothers, if one of them is old enough, or, if they are all too young, she is free to marry whom she likes.

The Soul after Death

The Aboriginal People believe they have various souls or shadows. The one that returns to the watering place for rebirth resides in his kidneys. Another shadow resides in the shoulders and stays with the dead man's bones to guard them. The third resides in his testicles and helps him when hunting, and tugs his hair to make it grow thicker.

The realm of the shadows is in the West on a stony island, with plenty to eat and drink, which is very beautiful and always has a fresh wind blowing so is never too hot. To get there the shadow of the dead person climbs into the sky from the tree on which the corpse is lying, and goes to the land of the dead on a thin string. The journey takes one day.

In the realm of the dead it is dark at first. On arrival the soul sits down on a stone and looks around and then goes into the ground as if on steps. Beneath the earth it is bright, the dead moon shines there; there is also a great fire there, in the smoke of which the souls of arriving aborigines cleanse themselves. Immediately on arrival the souls of the departed rush to the new arrival and ask where it came from. The soul answers, at the same time calling its mother's name. The mother's soul forces its way through the crowd of aboriginal souls, looks at the newcomer and is glad to see him. The soul then gets smaller and smaller, sheds its feet on which it walked to the realm of the dead via the string in the sky, the feet become bats and remain hanging on the rocks.

The soul becomes so small that it fits into a bark carrier, which the mother soul then carries around with her for the same length of time as she carried her child in her body on earth. From the bark carrier the aboriginal soul is then born again, grows up and then lives forever in the realm of the dead.

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