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They left spirit-children in the ground

by Rosy Tasman Napurrurla, Lajamanu ,1984


translated from Warlpiri with Barbara Gibson Nakamarra (1984, 1995) and edited for the CD-ROM Dream trackers (UNESCO, 2000) by Barbara Glowczewski


The Wampana Wallaby people, the Yarrapiri Giant snake and the rdajalpa little snakes went to Ngama. They danced with fire. My fathers, brothers and sisters put their Law on the ground, the Law of the Jardiwanpa ceremony we have been dancing since.


Then the Wallaby people went to Mijilparnta, Mission Creek. A big ngapiri red gum is standing where they performed their fire ceremony again.They left their kurruwalpa spirit-children there, and everywhere they stopped on the way.


When they got to Jukajuka, the Wallabies and their snake companions met the Rain people from Walapanpa. A pile of sacred stones shows the trace of the dancing wallabies. Women sing today,


Jukajukarla warlurna mulyju munyjurru yulyurdu kujurnu.

In Jukajuka the smoke went in my nose and I could not breathe anymore.


Lirrirrpa kujurnu lirrirpa warrinyjal kujurnu

They cut their tails.


The Wampana wallabies fell down, choking from the smoke, their tails shortened. This is the place where their eyes were burnt and this explains their red circles today.



2. Yellow ochre


They got up and in Jutarrang they healed their wounds by covering themselves with karntawarra yellow ochre. The women sing,


Jutarrangirla rralypalipa malyapa rralyparlipa

In Jutarrang we coat ourselves with fat and karntawarra.


Then men and women went to Pirliwarnawarna, where the ngurlu seeds were stolen by a foreign kurlukuku dove. The women danced with their little sticks, which were in fact the rdajalpa snakes. The men danced with the Yarrapiri Snake.


All travelled again up to Karntawarranyungu where they left a deposit of karntawarra yellow ochre. They set up big yarridarridi poles, and they went on singing and dancing.


Once in Jiparanypa they split into two groups. The Giant Snake and some Wallabies went around through the West. In Mununyu, using a junma knife, they killed a lonely nyanjuwayi wallaby who did not want to go with them.



3. Gecko, the transgressor


Further along in Pawala, Yarripiri, the Giant Snake fell sick and the Wallabies carried him on their shoulders up to Kunalarunyu. We sing,


Pawala jirgintiginti marrija kararlu kangkanya

From Pawala let's carry the sick one.


And during the fire ceremony, men stand in line, one Jakamarra alternating with one Jupurrurla, so as to carry the huge pole which represents the Dreaming Snake.


Women also sing for Kunalarunyu,


panjinji kujurnu wampanawururlu panjinjirla kujurnu.

'Panjinji', it's like 'mina', the nest this is the name of the ring where the Wallabies put the sick Snake and danced.


The Wallaby women did their fire ritual and then all left. They came out of the ground in Warpinypa where they met other Wallabies who had travelled eastward through Rilkiya, Mulyumaju. There they met a third group of Wallabies from Wurrulju, further east. Together they danced the fire ceremony. We sing,


wampana wurrurnu parinparinya juulungulungu

The wallabies travel.

Paranyantirla duyu duyu karntawarra

The wallabies coat themselves with yellow ochre near the Paranyanti tree.




In Paranyanti the yumarimari Gecko was hiding, shameful after having intercourse with his mother-in-law.



4. They carried the Snake on their shoulders


In Warpinypa the Wallabies performed their fire ceremony with the Kalajirdi Grass people. They were followed by the Emu Dreaming people who were travelling from the South to Palyawariji and Wangurukurlangu. Then they went to the Kurdijikujurnu swamp where they hid the kurdiji shield they used for clapping during the ceremony. The Kalajirdi Grass people were travelling with them too into Warnayaka country.


Finally they arrived at Jawalarra where my Dreaming stopped. My Wallaby ancestors gave yarridarridi poles, wanpanpirri sticks, and yellow ochre to the Wallabies of the Kartangarrurru tribe. The Giant Yarripiri Snake continued his journey, going north through Jarralparri, right up to the Darwin sea where he hid. He had come from far away in the South, Winparku, on the land of the Pitjantjatjarra tribe, leaving his Dreaming track on the Warlpiri country in the Ngama cave (near Yuendumu) and Jurlpungu.







A matrix of possibilities


The Warlpiri, like their neighbours, use the word Jukurrpa to denote the Ancestral totemic Beings, the myths that tell of their journeys and associated itineraries. The Dreaming is not a simple mythical Golden Age annihilating time, in which Aborigines would be fixed in a repetitive cycle. Rather, it is a space-time, a kind of permanence in movement, that integrates innovations by means of a pre-existing logical processes.


Innovations, which take the form of new rituals, new geographical landmarks and new systems of alliance, are part and parcel of the reproduction of society. Consequently, Dreaming brings about a dynamic process in the group, making it possible to maintain both an irreducible specification and a continuously renewed link between mythical and ritual elements and society. This is why Aborigines themselves consider the Dreaming to be their Law. It is a matter, not of a set of rules, but of an active process of forging social identity.


The Dreaming is a programme — not a stock of remembered models for organising society, but a matrix of combinatory possibilities.


Excerpt from Barbara Glowczewski, 1989.



The memory of the earth


All the sacred sites that Aboriginal people protect today are for them the traces, tracks or metamorphosis of the bodies of Ancestral Beings. These travellers with hybrid forms wandered on the earth before the humans, and they live for ever in what Australians now call the Dreamtime or the Dreaming. These expressions are often not well understood and are mistaken for a mythical time which would refer to an original past of the world. But with Aboriginal myths, one can see that they are not so much stories about the origin of things, as statements about a movement of transformations. These transformations, far from being restricted to an ancient mythical past, constitute in fact an eternal dynamic which, for the Aborigines, continues to act in the present the Ancestral Beings are not just simple mythical ancestors; they are active principles who participate in the becoming of things.


Aborigines do not live out of time or ignore the difference between past, present and future. Their perspective is different; it is closer to current astrophysical concepts in which time is a variation of space. Indeed, Dreamtime or Dreaming is a parallel time-space linked to life on earth in a relation of feedback.


Dreaming is not only a parallel dimension. It is also the source of Law for humans since it contains all the words and images from the eternal Beings. Aboriginal people talk about the Dreamings in the plural to designate these Beings, the names or totems they inherit from them, and the mythical stories which tell of their journeys and are re-enacted in their rituals.


In the case of the central and western desert tribes, these Dreamings are also geographical itineraries or trails which mark the events of the totemic Beings from site to site in this sense the Dreaming is the Law decreed by the earth. The English word 'dreaming' translates different indigenous concepts from different languages, such as the concept Jukurrpa, used by several desert groups, and which means ‘dream’ in Warlpiri.


The confusion between the concept of Dreaming and the dream experience has given rise to many misunderstandings, for example, the false notion that Aborigines do not differentiate between dreams and life. It is true that they do not draw the same line between so-called reality and dream, because dreams do not refer to the realm of the imaginary. In fact, people's dreams are read as a search for signs in the real world. People interpret dreams to guide themselves in everyday life, to read messages from the Ancestral Beings, to see and hear ritual innovations which take the form of new designs or songs, which are said to have been ‘forgotten’ and ‘found back’.


The Dreaming is thus a living memory that is collective and cosmological as well as personal. The dream has its own dimension and seems to maintain an active relation with the tangible world. Human acts are part of a ‘philosophy’ which states not a predestination, or an eternal repetition, but the rules of a game in which men and women are caught their freedom consists in playing different games which shape and transform their individual and collective life. In this sense, the Law of the Dreaming is a game whose rules are not immutable but can be modified within some limits.


Excerpt from Barbara Glowczewski, 1988.



A permanence in motion


Unlike the creation myths of other cultures, including Genesis, Australian myths are not about creation or the origin of things, but about making or transforming potential life and forms into real ones.


In many cases the totemic species are described not in the process of acquiring their actual features, but only as having been named by the heroes. Instead of being concerned by questions of the origins and ends of things, Australian Aborigines are concerned with metamorphoses and reproducibility.


From the Aboriginal point of view, named things and sites reveal the active presence of the Ancestral Beings, while man's association with these names and places reproduces the social order independently of the passing generations. In the final analysis, the power to name and localise does not belong either to mythic beings or to humans, but to something which existed before them and coexists with them, even though only the Beings can designate it. It is a permanence in motion, Jukurrpa, the Dreaming, represented by eternal heroes capable of turning their bodies into earthly matter, making themselves into unattainable images of a process of transformation.


Excerpt from Barbara Glowczewski, 1988, 1991.





When people dream, their pirlirrpa leaves the body to travel in the time-space of different Dreamings and meet the Eternal Ancestors who are embodied in the sacred sites. The dreamers can receive from them revelations about the Dreaming-name and conception-place of a child to be born. Warlpiri people say that everybody embodies a Kurruwalpa, that is, a spirit-child who waits in a specific place to be born since the time he or she was dropped there by the Dreaming Ancestors. When a person passes by the tree, the rock or the waterhole where a Kurruwalpa lives, the spirit can choose that person as his or her future mother or father. Warlpiri people say that Kurruwalpa are ngampurrpa, ‘desirous’ of life. It is believed that at death Kurruwalpa return to their place and wait to be reborn again. Women and men Elders talk about the activities of their own preborn Kurruwalpa as of themselves. Most parents can recount dreams revealing the future Kurruwalpa identity of a son, a daughter or another relative (Barbara Nakamarra, May Napaljarri, Betty Nungarrayi).


Men and women can also dream of old and new songs, designs and dances coming from different totemic Beings Fire, Yam, Stone Curlew, Possum, Emu and Rain.



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Archives de chercheurs: Barbara Glowczewski [Collection(s) 28]
Audio of stories and songs, Lajamanu, Central Australia, 1984 [Set(s) 709]
Meta data
Object(s) ID 70097
Permanent URI
Title/DescriptionJukurrpa; Yawulyu: Rosy Napurrurla: Wampana (Spectacled wallaby) Dreaming; recounts dream of kurruwalpa Jinma Janganpa and yawulyu (recorded 20 July 1984)
Author(s)Rosy Napurrurla
LocationLajamanu, Tanami Desert, Central Australia
Coordinateslat -35.27 / long 149.08

Copyright Barbara Glowczewski
Rank 24 / 83
Filesize 20357 Kb
Transcription[ See/hide ]
Tape10 side 2
Quote this document Glowczewski, Barbara 1984/07/20 [accessed: 2020/12/2]. "Jukurrpa; Yawulyu: Rosy Napurrurla: Wampana (Spectacled wallaby) Dreaming; recounts dream of kurruwalpa Jinma Janganpa and yawulyu (recorded 20 July 1984)" (Object Id: 70097). In Audio of stories and songs, Lajamanu, Central Australia, 1984 . Tape: 10 side 2. ODSAS:
Annotation layer(s)katrina andrews   (barbara: general notes)