Bathurst Free Press and Mining journal.
June 19th, 1902
THE YAHOO AND ROCK
(By Bobdad the Shuite.)
Considerable interest is being taken in certain circles in Sydney in the early traditions of the Australian blacks.
Some literary men are collecting all the information procurable on this question which will be of great value in ethnological circles.
Very recently an expedition was sent out by the Government of South Australia or scientific association to travel through Australia as far as the Gulf of Carpentaria.
The members associated with the blacks in order to learn their legends and traditions, and at the same time to examine carefully into their manners and customs. The stories here-under appended are authentic and have been related to me both by the blacks themselves and also by others who can vouch for their truth.
The aboriginals are a very superstitious race, and throughout there is an air of mystery and strangeness about them.
At one time I thought that there were no aboriginala left in the Western district, but in this I was mistaken, for there are a few remnants of the Mulgoa and Burragorang tribes still in existence.
Originally they were black, but by some process of evolution known to scientists they are now, without exception, almost white and, in some individual cases the blackstrain has disappeared altogether.
That these aboriginals do exist, I believe is chiefly owing to the action of a minister of religion interesting himself in their behalf to the extent of prevailing upon the Government to grant them farms in the rich valleys of Burragorang.
There their wandering feet found a temporary resting place, and many who settled there have cultivated the land and are doing well. Not long since I was down at Burragorang and there met a party of their young people. Unlike their ancestors, who were in the habit of marching along carrying with them a spear or boomerang, while the women trudged along bearing the loads like beasts of burdens, all being in a semi-nude condition, the aboriginals of to-day are well dressed. They travel on horseback or in vehicles and the women dress with considerable taste and care. Their manners and general deportment are equal to those of their civilised brethren.
When I saw this I was struck with the contrast and could not help thinking how different it was with their forefathers some fifty or sixty years ago. In the olden days I have met groups of them in a half savage wild condition, their only covering being a blanket carelessly thrown over their shoulders. At pre-sent the party of whom I and now writing are truly loyal adherents of the church of that minister who did so much for them in the past.
They have shown by this attachment that under a dusky skin there is as much (and I question if there is not more) genuine gratitude than in the case of the white men. There is no doubt that in a temporal sense they have been preserved, and while, as a whole, the tribe may not be first-class citizens, yet if it were possible to strike an average they would not be far below their more favoured neighbours.
The Rev. Father McEnroe has, by his disinterested action, gained a large accession of adherents to his church, which will be to the spiritual advantage of the aboriginals themselves.
The tradition the aboriginals have, concerning the formation of the Blue Mountains and the valleys is remarkably strange. One of the older aboriginals has told me that the impression his tribe had was that a long time ago two great men, like God and Christ, while travelling together over these mountains threw their boomerangs in the air.
In their fall they out the gorges as we see them today. They were journeying towards the north and travelled on into the very cold country. To mark the end of their journey they each drove the spears they were carrying into the ground. When doing this the head of the one spear broke off, and there the two stand to this day. These they describe as the north and South poles.
My informant also gave me some facts concerning the Yahoo, I cannot call to mind the aboriginal name for this animal. The Yahoo, (as we all know) is an animal said to resemble a man only that his body is covered with long hair, and his feet are turned backwards, the toes being where the heel should be. The aboriginals really believe that such an animal exists and they are all afraid of it.
My informant confidently believes that one is still living. He, indeed, offered to take me to the place where I could see it for myself. He says this strange creature is to be seen at the Devils Hole, a point about two miles from Katoomba.
He describes this particular Yahoo as being large and strong, and I will hand over my invitation to visit it, to some of our returned soldiers, who might like to exercise their curiosity while waiting for their discharge from the military authorities. A story is told by the blacks that on one occasion an aboriginal caught a Yahoo woman and took her to wife. Children were born and reared, but after a time the tribe quarrelled over the strangers and killed both mother and children.
The Yahoo is becoming anglicised, and likely, therefore, to continue his existence long after the blacks have died out. Few, if any, of the white people have seen this animal, but its voice has been heard.
On one occasion a gentleman was out walking amongst the mountains and had been out on the narrow neck, in the neighbourhood of the Devils Hole.
He was belated and the shades of evening had set in before he left the secluded spot. After he reached home he informed his friends that the Yahoo had followed him all the way home.
He had not seen it, but he could hear it quite distinctly following behind him and frequently heard the cry Yahoo ! Yahoo !
The effect of this nights experience was never forgotten by my friend, and I firmly believe that it was no fancy on his part.
Another strange animal about which my informant spoke was the Rock Dog. This animal, he says, lives in a cave near to where the Yahoo is living.
He spends the day in the cave but wanders out at night time and is a dangerous beast to meet. He had never seen the beast but had heard it barking at night time. It was described as being about as big as a good sized cow, and its bark is like the roar of a lion.
Away to the southward, in the wild country between Katoomba, Burragorang, Goulburn, Tuena, and Oberon, on a high rocky mountain their lives another race of men whom the blacks described as the - People of the Night.
This name has been applied to them because they go about only at night time. The aboriginals as a race dread the night, and being so very superstitious they fear to move about more
than is absolutely necessary after darkness sets in. The older race of aboriginals knew the exact locality of this mountain, but the younger members of the tribe have forgotten.
The question naturally arises - Are these mere idle fancies on the part of the aboriginals or are they the dim shadows of past realities - lingering memories of past facts, distorted by distance - worn and shape altered by the wear and tear of their progress down the stream bed of ages. I incline to the belief that they are the latter.
If we would let our imagination have free scope, then perhaps a very unsatisfactory, problematical, far fetched solution might be haphazard, and we might make the guess that the original of the hairy man of our aboriginal might be identical with the hairy man now living in Japan, and fast becoming extinct there. Then again may not the localities of these things have been in the land from whence the blacks have come, and their fancies and fears may have assigned them fresh homes here.
There is no doubt they had a knowledge of what we now call wire-less telephony, and could, and did transmit messages from one camp to another through miles of space. This gift was possessed by only a few.
Again others had the power to cure headache by passing the hand over the head. I was first informed by a Government surveyor of their ability to transact messages. My informant hassince been confirmed and in conversation with some aboriginals recently they further endorsed the statement.
They say that the power is not possessed by half-castes to the same extent as messages, they did not hear words but felt sensations or vibrations which they understood to indicate certain things. The sensations were felt in the muscles of the arm, at the Fix this text back of the thighs and about the ribs.
We see by these stories or fable show superstition may be transmitted from one race to another and altered in the process of time to suit different sets of ideas. Take, for instance, the idea of the two spears, which is evidently based on the theory of the north and south poles as accepted by the white people.
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