Tony’s Notes From The Bony Novels (Part 18)

Posted on Sun 04/24/2011 by



In the Post at Part One, I explained the role of the Shaman in the aboriginal tribe, and the high position he held.

With this Post, I will be explaining one of those special occasions where the Shaman acts in a position that has been taken so out of proportion over the years, and in doing so, has given the Aboriginal Shaman that perceived ‘look’ of being a sinister, and malevolent character, something he is most definitely not.

This one special moments was a rite we call the pointing of the bone, something totally misunderstood, and in effect, an intensely psychological occasion, long before the word psychology was even invented, and the practice become widespread in white society. Even now, to refer to it as a psychological thing would be almost laughed at, as, even now, white perception would be that these aborigines were nowhere near as developed as white people could be. This then gives rise to the pointing of the bone being classed almost as magic, or just plain black mumbo jumbo.

Upfield was exceedingly careful in any explanation he gave of this rite, and in fact, throughout his 29 novels, it is only mentioned in three or four of them, and two of those were almost in passing. On the occasions he did describe, he was detailed in every aspect of presenting what happened, both prior to, during, and following the event.

Because this rite was such an astounding thing in our eyes, we gave it a momentous meaning totally out of proportion with the importance that the aborigines themselves gave it.

The pointing of the bone would have been so rarely carried out by any tribe, that in our white society, it would be closely akin to a murderer being sentenced to death for his crime, and we no longer have the death penalty, so that would give some sort of idea as to how often the procedure might have been carried out.

Also, as it was such a powerful thing, it is not something that would have been carried out willy nilly.

Prior to it actually occurring, there would have had to have been numerous meetings of elders, each meeting agonisingly going over why such a drastic punishment needed to carried out.

Here you must also remember that each tribe desperately needed all its young and fit men for the purpose of hunting and gathering food, so to effectively lose a man in this manner, the tribe was virtually making it more difficult for themselves, as all the future work would have to be carried out with fewer men in the tribe.

Once decided that ‘boning’ was the last possible answer, then the procedure began.

It was not just a matter of coming to the decision, pointing a bone at the offender, and that was it. This was a very long, very involved procedure. We have alluded to it in terms of magic, and even mumbo jumbo, but this is something that involves telepathy, psychiatry, medicine, fear, and numerous other things that are probably beyond our understanding.

Upfield carefully explained what he knew of the procedure in one of his books, pointedly titled ‘The Bone Is Pointed’, and gave it mention in a couple of his other novels.

Prior to the ‘boning’, the elders of the tribe must gather things from the person who is going to have the bone pointed at them, things like body hair, nail clippings, and other things that have only been in contact with only that one specific person, and for the purpose of bringing it up to modern standards, even discarded cigarette butts were included in the things that were gathered, all these from the intended victim, and in every case, they had to be gathered without his knowledge.

These things were then used by the medicine man and his elders in the process.

In the tribes store of important things, they kept the implements for the boning procedure, and these were then retrieved from their place of hiding in that area we refer to now as sacred ground.

The shaman then started the procedure, and this was also carried out over a tiny fire that was just glowing, and inside that sacred ground, so as no one else would know what was going on, except for the small group of senior elders.

He would concentrate, and would will the man to die, and to die slowly, and to die agonisingly.

Without even knowing what was happening, the victim felt as if his internal organs were being constricted, sometimes as if they were being held in the talons of an eagle.

The shaman, having now started the procedure, and using telepathy, he had to continue the process, not on a now and then basis, but for 24 hours of every day. It was a long and involved process, and he was relieved by others, a group of the elders carrying out this concentration, staring into the small fire, possibly even chanting quietly, but always concentrating solely on the death of the victim.

This process continued until the victim died, so here you can see why a thing like this was only started on extremely rare occasions indeed, as it was long hard work for a group of old men who were probably wishing ardently to themselves that it would be a lot easier just sitting in the camp and doing nothing.

If the victim was strong, as was the case with most aborigines, he held on for a long time. After a time, he knew what was happening, but there was no way, once the process was started, that it could lead to anything but his eventual death, as was the case when Bony had the bone pointed at him.

The only thing that saved him, was the fact that the process was halted before his demise, and he slowly recovered, but not before he was visited by the shaman, who then went through an elaborate procedure to remove the bones and claws from Bony’s internal organs.

It took Bony a while to recover, but try as he might, he could not fight the process. He thought that the white mans knowledge would save him from the certain death of the boning, but he knew that he was close to death, and that with all his white mans knowledge, could not resist his certain fate.

So, from just this single part of one of Upfield’s novels, we have gained further insight into aboriginal culture that is again, beyond our belief.

Over the years, we have placed store in this procedure that was not really intended, as it was such a rare thing. This form of mental telepathy is beyond our comprehension, so we associate it with magic.


The tribal shaman also had other important things that he did with the tribes ‘magic stones’, and all of these things can possibly be associated with real science, common sense, and maybe even common old rat cunning, but because he was very well schooled in the art of being a good medicine man, he was given exalted status within the tribe as the purveyor of the tribes ‘magic’.

A real doctor is trained to recognise disease, treat it, invoke procedures to cure it. He has the extended training to do this.

An engineer is trained in the science of building a bridge that might look so flimsy to the non trained observer, but will carry tens of thousands of tons of vehicular and rail traffic without collapsing into the harbour.

An aeronautical engineer can design a Boeing 747 jumbo jet, prove that it cannot even get off the ground, and then design in all the moments that will make this vast thing lift off the ground and fly through the air.

These are things that we, as casual untrained observers take for granted without having the first degree of understanding how it is so.

The same can also be said of the aboriginal tribal medicine man, a shaman, tutored in the things of his trade, things that even members of his own tribe had no comprehension. They did not need to have the comprehension, as long as he did what he was supposed to do.

We give the tribal medicine man more mystery than he should receive, make him look like an evil trickster, and in virtually every case, he was just another valued member of the tribe with a job to do, just as much as the common aborigine, whose only job was to hunt and gather food for the tribe to survive, every member of the tribe having a specific job.