A Victorian woman has become an unlikely heroine in the hunt for a woman’s soul, after her death from a mysterious illness in 1890.
The story, which was first reported in the Victorian Women’s Weekly, recounts the story in detail, starting with the woman’s journey from the Victorian capital of Melbourne to a remote Aboriginal village in Queensland’s Pilbara region.
It is the first known surviving account of a female witch’s death in Australia.
Ms Llewellyn is described as being of a ‘slight, delicate and delicate-looking, dark-haired woman’ with long dark hair.
‘She wore a long white robe with a red satin lining and a red cravat,’ the newspaper said.
‘In her hand was a small bowl, in her mouth was a large glass of water, in front of her was a red, long mirror, a large, glass, red and white stone, and in front and behind her a large bowl of porridge.’
Ms Lleswellyn’s life is described by the newspaper as a ‘very simple one’.
‘She was a very gentle and lovely woman,’ the paper said.
It went on to say that the woman was a ‘fellow sufferer of the dreaded ‘witch’s disease’, and she ‘died in her bed at the hands of the malignant spirits’.
Ms Lletswellyn was not alone in the Pilbara village of Rennetjoe in 1890 when she died.
Around 250 Aboriginal women had died in similar circumstances from the disease, known as ‘fungal disease’, by the time Ms Lleywellyn arrived.
‘The local people, not knowing anything about the illness, thought that it was a local disease which had taken its course, the woman, they said, was no longer living,’ the Victorian Woman’s Weekly reported.
‘They were very confused and in a state of disbelief.
It was only the local people that came and found her and took her home.’
Ms Rennettjoe was one of the few towns in Australia to receive the coronavirus vaccine, and it is believed that the disease had killed many of the Aboriginal women who died in the area.
However, many people still believe the woman is a witch and her death was a result of the disease.
‘As far as I know, this is the only surviving case of a witch’s disease,’ Dr Jane Dutton, a lecturer in the History of Australian History at Curtin University, told ABC News.
‘There are other cases of female witches, of course, and there are cases of witchcraft all over the world.’
‘This is a very, very tragic story, a very tragic loss for a community and for Aboriginal people, and I hope we can find out what has been the cause of her death,’ Professor Dutton said.
Professor Droughton believes the case could be linked to the death of another woman who died from the illness in Australia in the 1890s.
The woman was said to have ‘saved’ her husband, a member of a neighbouring Aboriginal tribe, when he was poisoned by a poisonous snake.
‘I have a feeling that this may be the case of the witch’s illness in Queensland, but I am not sure if it is,’ Professor Richard Bickley, a research associate at the Australian Museum, told The Daily Telegraph.
Professor Bickly, who has studied the illness and witchcraft in Australia, said the case is unique because of the fact that it involved an Aboriginal woman.
‘If this was a case of witchcraft, I would say that is the most extraordinary case of an Aboriginal witch,’ he said.
He added that there was no evidence to suggest that the women who survived the disease were the victims of witchcraft.
‘That would be a remarkable case of one of these very unusual cases,’ Professor Bickle said.
The Victorian Woman said the local community had been contacted about the case.
‘For a long time they didn’t believe her,’ Professor Crouch said.
However Professor Durden, who had not seen the book, said that she had not known of the woman being an Aboriginal person, or of her being treated by a doctor.
‘It’s very, extremely difficult for me to believe that this woman is Aboriginal,’ Professor Tait told ABC Radio Melbourne.
‘We have had Aboriginal people in Australia for thousands of years, but she’s the first one that I have found who has been treated by someone of her culture.’
‘It has to be the most incredible story that I’ve ever heard,’ Professor Gelles told ABC radio.
‘Her life was so simple and so beautiful.’
She added that it would be ‘a miracle’ if the woman died from an illness.
‘This woman was the most beautiful and she was a miracle,’ Professor Rowntree said.