The aborigines have a tribal practice called Pointing the Bone. This is a method of execution which leaves no trace and rarely fails to kill its victim.
The bone can be from a kangaroo or an emu and its shape varies from tribe to tribe. It is six to nine inches with one rounded end through which a hole is bored and tapers to a point as sharp as a needle. A piece of hair is threaded through the hole and glued into place with a gummy resin from the spinifex bush.
Before it can be used, the bone or Kundela is charged in a secret ritual performed by priests. It is then handed to Kurdaitcha, who are the tribe’s ritual killers. Their task is to hunt down the condemned.
The name Kurdaitcha comes from the special slippers the aborigines wear on their quest. Made from cockatoo or emu feathers and human hair they leave no footprints.
The Kurdaitcha who hunt in twos or threes, wear feathered masks and stick kangaroo hair to their bodies with human blood. They will pursue a quarry for years never giving up until the curse is delivered.
Once found one priest goes down on to one knee and points the Kundela. The victim is frozen with fear as the Kurdaitcha chant the short piercing mantra then return to their village where the bone is ritually burnt.
For most tribal members, having the bone pointed is a sentence of death. Waiting for the inevitable, coupled with the shame and isolation, often forces the victim to suicide.
The above is in fact an excerpt from my political thriller The Missing Activist. In the story a young campaigner disappears after having reported being bullied by a senior member of the party. Karen Andersen, a British Lisbeth Salander – or so she would like to believe – is tasked with finding him. Flummoxing through the fog that engulfs when higher echelons close ranks to protect party interests, she uncovers instead a terrorist plot planned for the Tory Conference in Birmingham. But the theme of isolation and rejection by peers runs throughout the book.
I received this from a reader in Australia: ‘Where did you get the Kurdaitcha bit from? Very few know about that!! The station people do, and used to get the aborigines to obey their orders to do the housework at the homestead or cattle work on horseback by threatening them with “If you don’t do this/that, the kaditcha man will getcha”. Their eyes would roll up and they would scurry to work.’
They might not speak of it, but the practice hasn’t died out. In 2004, indigenous Australians resorted to this ancient curse on the conservative Prime Minister John Howard by ‘pointing the bone’ at him to protest against his decision to scrap a top aboriginal body. And its apparently still common enough that hospitals and nursing staff are trained in how to recognise and deal with victims.
It’s not just used in spy thrillers and crime plots. It’s alive and well in every facet of our society. It just goes by a different name, that’s all. Beware.