The Making of Religion, by Andrew Lang

Appendix D

Chiefs in Australia

In the remarks on Australian religion, it is argued that chiefs in Australia are, at most, very inconspicuous, and that a dead chief cannot have thriven into a Supreme Being. Attention should be called, however, to Mr. Howitt’s remarks on Australian ‘Head-men,’ in his tract on ‘The Organisation of Australian Tribes’ (pp. 103–113).

He attaches more of the idea of power to ‘Head-men’ than does Mr. Curr in his work, ‘The Australian Race.’ The Head-men, as a rule, arrive at such influence as they possess by seniority, if accompanied by courage, wisdom, and, in some cases, by magical acquirements. There are traces of a tendency to keep the office (if it may be called one) in the same kinship. ‘But Vich Ian Vohr or Chingahgook are not to be found in Australian tribes’ (p. 113). I do not observe that the manes or ghost of a dead Head-man receives any worship or service calculated to fix him in the tribal memory, and so lead to the evolution of a deity, though one Head-man was potent through the whole Dieyri tribe over three hundred miles of country. Such a person, if propitiated after death, might conceivably develop into a hero, if not into a creative being. But we must await evidence to the effect that any posthumous reverence was paid to this man, Ialina Piramurane (New Moon). Mr. Howitt’s essay is in the ‘Transactions of the Royal Society of Victoria for 1889.’

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