Another curious instance of their superstition occurred among some of our people belonging to a boat that was lying wind-bound in the lower part of the harbour. They had procured some shell-fish, and during the night were preparing to roast them, when they were observed by one of the natives, who shook his head and exclaimed, that the wind for which they were waiting would not rise if they roasted the fish. His argument not preventing the sailors from enjoying their treat, and the wind actually proving foul, they, in their turn, gave an instance of superstition by abusing the native, and attributing to him the foul wind which detained them. On questioning Ye-ra-ni-be respecting this circumstance, he assured me that the natives never broil fish by night.
In a reach of the Hawkesbury, about midway up some high land, stands a rock which in its form is not unlike a sentry-box. Respecting this rock, they have a superstitious tradition, that while some natives were one day feasting under it, some of the company whistling, it happened to fall from a great height, and crushed the whole party under its weight. For this reason they make it an invariable rule never to whistle under a rock.
Among their other superstitions was one which might be naturally expected from their ignorance, a belief in spirits.
Of this belief we had at different times several accounts. Bennillong, during his first acquaintance with us, described an apparition as advancing to a person with an uncommon noise, and seizing hold of him by the throat. It came slowly along with its body bent, and the hands held together in a line with the face, moving on till it seized the party it meant to visit. We were told by him and others, and that after we understood each other, that by sleeping at the grave of a deceased person, they would, from what happened to them there, be freed from all future apprehensions respecting apparitions; for during that awful sleep the spirit of the deceased would visit them, seize them by the throat, and, opening them, take out their bowels, which they would replace and close up the wound. We understood that very few chose to encounter the darkness of the night, the solemnity of the grave, and the visitation of the spirit of the deceased; but that such as were so hardy became immediately car-rah-dys, and that all those who exercised that profession had gone through this ceremony.
It is very certain, that even in the day-time they were strangely unwilling to pass a grave; but I believe that their tale of being seized by the throat by a ghost was nothing more than their having felt the effects of what we term the night-mare during an uneasy sleep.
To the shooting of a star they attach a degree of importance; and I once, on an occasion of this kind, saw the girl Boo-roong greatly agitated, and prophesying much evil to befal all the white men and their habitations.
Of thunder and lightning they are also much afraid; but have an ideal that by chanting some particular words, and breathing hard, they can dispel it. Instances of this have been seen.