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Observations placeholder

A P Elkin - Aboriginal men of high degree - Southern Australian initiation



Type of Spiritual Experience


This describes an initiation process

A description of the experience

From Aboriginal Men of High degree - A P Elkin

South of the Murray River, medicine men were made by a supernatural spirit or by the spirits of the dead, in the bush or in the sky.  The normal procedure was for the spirit to open the postulant’s side  to insert in it such magical substances as quartz crystals with which his powers were henceforth connected.

The incision was healed without leaving a mark. Usually, too, the postulant was taken up to the sky-world. Indeed, the operation might be performed on him there. In any case, he could henceforth visit the sky and converse with the ghosts and spirits who dwell there.

In southwestern New South Wales, other medicine men, or a cult-hero, performed the central rite in the making. An incision was not made in the postulant's body, but in spite of that an assistant totem (or familiar) and magical substances such as quartz crystals and mysterious cord were pressed or rubbed and "sung" into him. He was also taken to the sky this time on a doctor's magical cord. The experience seems to have been much the same in Gippsland (Victoria, Kurnai tribe) and on the north coast of New South Wales (Kumbaingeri tribe).

In the latter district, after fasting and enduring privations for months, and even sleeping on a grave/ the postulant was visited by the tribal Great Spirit or sky culture-hero, who put quartz crystals in his insides. The account for the Port Jackson tribe, farther south, suggests how this was done. The spirit of the deceased person seized the aspirant by the throat, made an incision, took out his intestines, which he "replaced," after which the wound closed up.

Among the Yualai and Weilwan in northwestern New South Wales, the main operation was also performed by a spirit (or ghost) at a burial ground. One of them drove a yam-stick right through the postulant's head and placed in the hole a sacred stone-crystal, which is associated with the sky-hero. The power of the stone can also be obtained if it is swallowed or is rubbed into the postulant's or doctor's head.

………..The interesting point,  however,  is that the same pattern of experience forms the central feature of the ritual of making medicine men right across South Australia,  into the Great Victoria Desert of Western  Australia,  and north through Central Australia to the southwest corner of the Gulf of Carpentaria, as well as in some parts of the far northwest of the continent.

The source of the experience

Australian aboriginal

Concepts, symbols and science items


Spirit helper

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps