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Observations placeholder

A P Elkin - Aboriginal men of high degree - Arnhem land initiation



Type of Spiritual Experience


This describes an initiation process

A description of the experience

From Aboriginal Men of High degree - A P Elkin

In Arnhem Land we pass to a slightly different world - one in which sorcerers practice soul stealing.   We do not know how these sorcerers are made, but there are medicine men in the region, endowed with the usual curative, divining, clairvoyant, and thought-reading powers, and also with some control over the rain-making totemic python.

The main objective of their making in northeast Arnhem Land is to obtain familiars, who seem to be spirit-children with some birdlike characteristics. The aspirant to the profession must experience a vision of such familiars coming to and residing with him. Moreover, other doctors, and only doctors, can see these spirit-helpers. They must vouch that the new medicine man has gained some, usually two, of them. Ordinary people are convinced by hearing their clicking sounds - a kind of beating of wings against the doctor's shoulders.

Sometimes, as in far western Queensland, the vision may include the unpleasant experience of being half-stunned and having pointed objects thrust into one's body, and of being thrown into a waterhole and dragged out when almost drowned, after which the magical objects are extracted,  and the aspirant feels better again.  This is followed by a visit to a cave of ghosts, familiars, and a totem python.  Some experiences of this type may be a feature of all making that are seldom divulged.

The source of the experience

Australian aboriginal

Concepts, symbols and science items

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps