An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, Volume 1 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 866 pages of information about An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, Volume 1.
they ornament themselves with red and white clay, using the former when preparing to fight, the latter for the more peaceful amusement of dancing.  The fashion of these ornaments was left to each person’s taste; and some, when decorated in their best manner, looked perfectly horrible.  Nothing could appear more terrible than a black and dismal face, with a large white circle drawn round each eye.  In general waved lines were marked down each arm, thigh, and leg; and in some the cheeks were daubed; and lines drawn over each rib, presented to the beholder a truly spectre-like figure.  Previous either to a dance or a combat, we always found them busily employed in this necessary preliminary; and it must be observed, that when other liquid could not be readily procured, they moistened the clay with their own saliva.  Both sexes are ornamented with scars upon the breast, arms, and back, which are cut with broken pieces of the shell they use at the end of the throwing stick.  By keeping open these incisions, the flesh grows up between the sides of the wound, and after a time, skinning over, forms a large wale or seam.  I have seen instances where these scars have been cut to resemble the feet of animals; and such boys as underwent the operation while they lived with us, appeared to be proud of the ornament, and to despise the pain which they must have endured.  The operation is performed when they are young, and until they advance in years the scars look large and full; but on some of their old men I have been scarcely able to discern them.  As a principal ornament, the men, on particular occasions, thrust a bone or reed through the septum nasi, the hole through which is bored when they are young.  Some boys who went away from us for a few days, returned dignified with this strange ornament, having, in the mean time, had the operation performed upon them; they appeared to be from twelve to fifteen years of age.  The bone that they wear is the small bone in the leg of the kangaroo, one end of which is sharpened to a point.  I have seen several women who had their noses perforated in this extraordinary manner.

The women are, besides, early subjected to an uncommon mutilation of the two first joints of the little finger of the left hand.  The operation is performed when they are very young, and is done with a hair, or some other slight ligature.  This being tied round at the joint, the flesh soon swells, and in a few days, the circulation being destroyed, the finger mortifies and drops off.  I never saw but one instance where the finger was taken off from the right hand, and that was occasioned by the mistake of the mother.  Before we knew them, we took it to be their marriage ceremony; but on seeing their mutilated children we were convinced of our mistake; and at last learned, that these joints of the little finger were supposed to be in the way when they wound their fishing lines over the hand.  On our expressing a disgust of the appearance, they always applauded it, and said it was very good.  They name it Mal-gun; and among the many women whom I saw, but very few had this finger perfect.  On my pointing these out to those who were so distinguished, they appeared to look at and speak of them with some degree of contempt.

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An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, Volume 1 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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