Seven Sisters

Below are twelve versions of the Seven Sisters story as circulated among Aboriginal peoples. Its most common name is Kungarangkulpa.

Contents

  1. Wurrana
  2. Mearnei
  3. Meamei 2
  4. Pingal
  5. Pleiades
  6. Olympics
  7. Pitjantjara
  8. Kalgoorlie
  9. Kulkunbulla
  10. Ngaanyatjarra
  11. Nalda
  12. Two wise men


1. Wurrana

THE theme of Seven Sisters stars was familiar to the tribespeople in many parts of the continent. In south Australia one of the sisters is Pirili. The legend of Wahn the Crow and the Seven Sisters is probably even better known; in another legend the sisters are Emu Women, who were pursued with amorous intentions by the Dingo Men. They hid amongst the boulders but, as might be expected, the Dingo Men scented them and tried to drag them out. Failing to do so, for the women had wedged themselves tightly into the crevices between the boulders, the Dingo Men lit a fire. The smoke drove the women out, burning their wings, with the result that Emus have lost the 'power of flight.
With their long legs the Emu Girls were able to escape, and fled to the end of the world where they hid in the sky land and now shine brightly to taunt the Dingo Men who remain far distant, lost in the constellation of Orion.
The culture hero Wurrunna was another who pursued Seven Sisters to their destination in the sky. On his return to the l camping ground at the conclusion of a long and unsuccessful day on the plain, he longed for a feed of grass-seed cakes. In spite of repeated requests, no one would give him any. It was not that the supply was exhausted, but that the tribespeople ,,were hoarding them for future use, and would not give them to one who had brought nothing for the evening meal.
Wurrunna was infuriated by their ingratitude. It was not his fault that he had come back empty-handed. Time and time again he had secured game when others had failed. Only this once had he come home without a backload of meat and they refused to satisfy his hunger! He was too proud to plead with them, too angry to argue. Silently, while his fellow tribesmen looked on impassively, he gathered up his spears and spearthrower, his nulla-nulla and dilly-bag, and left the camp.
Wurrunna had many adventures as he journeyed to regions that none of his tribespeople had seen. One day he met people who had no eyes but were able to see through their noses. On another occasion he was walking through the bush, and came unexpectedly on a lake surrounded by rushes. The banks were lined with birds, lizards slithered over fallen tree trunks, the air quivered with the croaking of frogs. After drinking deeply of the refreshing water, Wurrunna caught a large lizard, lit a fire, and cooked it in the embers. Presently he lay down, closed his eyes, and was lulled to sleep by the sound of rippling water and the splashes made by the frogs as they jumped off floating leaves and half-submerged logs.
In the morning he woke with dry lips and felt as though sand had crept under his eyelids. At night he had rested on a grassy bank that was cool and soft. Now it felt hot, unyielding, and covered with sharp-pointed stones. He opened his eyes and looked blearily at a gibber desert that stretched to the horizon, dancing crazily in the heated air. Of the lake, the bush, the frogs, or the birds there was not one sign.
The journey across the sandy desert seemed endless. It was bounded by distant mountains that seemed to retreat before him. All day long he toiled over pitiless sands that scorched the soles of his feet, hardened though they were by many a desert walkabout. That night he lay exhausted on the ground, parched with thirst and, as the night wore on, shivering with cold. He would gladly have gathered a few sticks together to light a fire, but there was not a single bush or tree on the plain.
Another day dawned. Wurrunna lay still, hardly daring to move or to open his eyes for fear of what he might see. The ground on which he was lying was no longer stony. Something under his hands was soft and springy. Wind was blowing through the leaves and from far away came the muted roar of a
waterfall. It was his ears alone that told him that the world around him had changed for a second time while he slept. There was a freshness in the air. His eyes, when at last he opened them, assured him that the evidence of his ears was true. The grass was a green carpet dappled with flowers. Trees bent over him to shield him from the sun. A river flowed past, wide, still, majestic as it slid beneath its banks and swept over rapids dotted with smooth, shining boulders.
`A magic land! The Dreamland of Baiame!' Wurrunna exclaimed, wondering whether he had left the world of men and been transported in sleep to a spirit world. He detected the smell of meat cooking and saw a thin column of smoke rising behind the trees.
Going forward cautiously, taking care not to be seen, he peered between the shrubs and saw seven of the most beautiful women he had ever set eyes on. No men were there, only the seven beautiful women. He suspected they were engaged on a demanding journey that was the culmination of their initiation into full womanhood. Placing his weapons on the ground, and stepping boldly into the open, Wurrunna held up his hand in greeting.
They looked at him in surprise and with a certain amount of suspicion.
`You look too young for a wirinun,' one of them said, confirming his surmise that this was indeed the final journey on which they set out as girls and returned as women, ready for marriage and motherhood. If so, they were keyed up to a high pitch, ready for any eventuality, and must be approached cautiously.
`Who are you? What do you want?'the same girl demanded. `You see I come to you without weapons and in peace,' he replied. `Like you, I am in a strange country, far from the trail of my ancestor. I have seen mysterious sights and at times I have been filled with fear. Now I see you. You will do me no harm. If you share the food you are cooking with me, you will find I can repay you, for I am a skilled hunter.'
The girls laughed.
`Don't you think we can find our own food? How do you think we have existed during the weeks we have spent on this journey? Tomorrow we decorate ourselves with ochre paint.
We shall put feathers in our hair and return to our kin as women.'
Wurrunna wisely said nothing. He sat down and allowed the girls to bring him food and water from the river in their coolamons.
`May I sleep here tonight?' he asked when he was full.
'You may sleep by our fire,' they answered, `but we warn you that one or another of us will be awake all through the night. We trust no man while we are on this journey.'
Wurrunna slept little that night. There was no movement except when one of the girls who had been keeping watch left her station and gently wakened another to take her place. Wurrunna shared the morning meal with them.
`It is time you left,' the eldest girl said. `If the clever-men ever find out that you have been with us and shared a meal with us we should be in trouble. We are going that way,' she said, pointing to the west. `You must go to the east. You will find good hunting there. We must never meet again.'
They packed their few belongings in their dilly-bags and without a further word or gesture, set out on their way. Wurrunna sat lost in thought for a while. It was long since he had seen a woman and his ardour was kindled. It would be difficult to carry off one or more of these determined young women, but he was determined to make the attempt. All that day he kept out of sight as he followed the trail. He did not join them when they prepared the evening meal but chewed a piece of dried meat and lay down in the shelter of the bush. The following morning he was up long before the sun rose. As silent as when searching for a sleeping possum, he crept up to the camp and took two of the digging sticks that were leaning against a tree trunk.
An hour or two later there was great consternation when the girls discovered that two of their sticks were missing. Leaving the owners to search for them, the others left the camp site. The two girls whose sticks had been stolen searched vainly amongst the scrub and long grass in ever-widening circles until suddenly they found themselves face to face with Wurrunna.
Before they could recover their wits he grasped them both round the waist and held them firmly, despite their struggles. `It's a long time since I have been with women,' he said. 'You
had better make up your minds that you are to be my wives. If you do as I tell you we'll be happy together. But if you try to escape you'll be two very unhappy women.'
The girls protested violently, warning their captor that their sisters would soon be looking for them.
Wurrunna laughed. `By the time they get here we'll be far away.'
`They are more powerful than you think,' one of the girls warned him.
`They'll never find us,' he boasted. `I'm skilled at concealing my trail, I'll teach you too how to cover your tracks so well that no one can detect them.'
He released them and ordered them to head for the stony foothills, displaying his nulla-nulla prominently to warn them of the futility of attempting to escape.
For the next few days all went as Wurrunna had planned. There was no sign of pursuit. The girls appeared resigned to their fate, and even to show some signs of satisfaction at having been captured by such a handsome man. But they were biding their time, confident that their sisters would come to the rescue.
Late one afternoon Wurrunna called a halt and told them to strip the bark from a tree to cover the saplings he was gathering, in order to make a humpy. As soon as he disappeared into the bush the girls climbed up the trunk and clung tightly to a stout branch. The tree began to grow upwards. When Wurrunna emerged from the bush with an armful of poles, he saw the tree reaching up to the sky, carrying the girls with it.
He was quite helpless. The lowest branches were far from the ground, many times his own height. He called to the young women, demanding that they come down at once, but they were not listening. Far above they heard the voices of their sisters, sweet as the sound of water rippling over stones. The voices came, not from the ground, but from above.
Wurrunna heard them too. The real nature of the seven girls suddenly dawned on him. None of them were initiates. They were sky women who had been visiting the earth to satisfy their curiosity about the ways of men. The two he had captured had probably enjoyed their experience as wives of a mortal. They may even have regretted parting from him, but the call of their sisters was too strong to resist.
As he saw the tiny figures stepping on to the sky land from the topmost branches of the tree, Wurrunna thought he was seeing them for the last time; but he, and all men, still see the Seven Sisters every night when the sky is clear, for they are the Seven Sisters that white men call the constellation of the Pleiades.

[ Top of Page ]

2. Mearnei

IN the sky land or, if it is preferred, the great Hole of the sky, pre-eminent among the stars is the constellation of Orion. It is linked with the fate of seven sisters; and of these sisters many tales are told. Not one is like another except that each sister finds a final resting place in the night sky.*
In one of these tales the seven girls were known as Water Girls. A curse had been inflicted on them. They were condemned to a water existence, confined to a large pool where their only companions were Crocodiles, fish of various kinds, and leeches. They craved the society of human companions, but in vain. There were times when young men attempted to catch them, but these they avoided. Through constant immersion in water their skins became smooth and covered with a slime that enabled them to slip from the grasp of those who attempted to abduct them.
Until one day a hunter saw them and fell in love with one of the girls. Her long hair floated on the surface of the water. The hunter darted forward, seized the long tresses and wound them round his arm. Caught fast by her hair, the Water Girl was unable to escape, and was borne off in triumph.
At first the hunter feared he had made an unfortunate choice, for her nature had changed to such an extent that she was unfitted for life on land. It was not until he held her over a smoky fire that the slime peeled off her body and the curse was removed. From then on she became a perfect wife-and more.
Her experience in the pool, in the company of living things, had taught her the language of the animal world. She accompanied her husband on his hunting trips and, by her knowledge of the ways of the wild, ensured that they always returned loaded with game.
The Water Girl's father was also a great hunter and maker of dug-out canoes. The curse that had been placed on his daughters had vanished when one of them was restored to normal life on land. They were all able to return to the camp of their mother and father which, somewhat curiously, was placed high in the branches of a banyan tree.
A few months after they had been restored to their parents, a sad event occurred. To the great concern of all the women, their father had misbehaved himself with one of the girls. The shame was felt by them all, including the elder sister who had married the hunter. She tried to console her mother and sisters, and made a plan to punish the wrong-doer.
One afternoon they saw a small canoe being paddled upstream and realised that their father was returning from a hunting expedition. They watched him tie his canoe to a stake and walk towards the banyan tree, laden with the meat he had brought.
His wife lowered a stout vine, calling to him to tie it to the animals.
'Hurry,' he called. 'I'm hungry.'
'Wait till we've hauled up the meat,' she replied, 'and then we'll let down the vine for you.'
The meat disappeared among the leaves. Shortly afterwards the vine snaked down, the end of it falling at his feet. When he neared the platform built in the branches his wife slashed the vine with a knife and he fell into a billabong and sank beneath the water. His daughters gazed in horror, waiting for him to come to the surface; but there was no movement among the leaves and flowers of the waterlilies until they saw, with renewed horror, a huge Crocodile slithering out of the pond.
A new horror awaited the women. Long after they had given up hope of seeing him again, the dead man rose to the surface and spoke.
'I shall not die!' he shouted. 'Even though I am dead I shall live for ever.'
His words came true, for his spirit lives on, reborn monthly with the waxing of the moon. As it grows, so the body of the dead man is reborn and waxes fat on the spirits of unborn babies, after which he is again torn to pieces by the Crocodile that lies in wait for him.
It happened that in the same tribe there was a woman who, unknown to the men, had stolen the secrets of initiation, and possessed the gift of immortality. She was in league with the
reborn hunter, and supplied him with the spirits of the unborn babies when their mothers were careless and failed to obliterate their footprints. He in turn changed those he chose to Water Girls, and so provided himself with physical satisfaction as well as food.
The younger hunter, the husband of the Water Girl he had rescued from the billabong, now enters the story again. He was a good-natured man, seldom troubling himself with the vagaries of his father-in-law and the fate that had overtaken him. Nevertheless the manner of the death of his wife's father must have haunted him, for one night he had a vivid dream.
He dreamt that he was sleeping at the foot of the banyan tree, with his wife resting peacefully at his side, when he heard someone calling her. The voice came from far up in the branches.
'Climb the rope, climb the rope,' the voice kept on repeating. He tried to clasp his wife in his arms to prevent her leaving, but he was afflicted with some form of paralysis, unable to move so much as a finger. Helplessly he watched his wife stand up, clutch the vine that had tumbled from the tree top, and climb up it hand over hand.
Vainly he struggled to speak, longing to call her back, but no sound came. As soon as the girl disappeared among the leaves the strange vice-like grip left him. He leaped high into the air, trying to swarm up the branches in pursuit, not daring to hold the vine lest it break under the double weight. When he was a few metres from the ground he heard a long wailing cry. The severed vine dropped down in snaky curls as his wife plunged headlong into the billabong and sank into the water. The ripples spread. The water flattened itself as though nothing had disturbed it. The leaves of the waterlilies slowly spread over the pond, and all was still.
The young hunter knew then that the wife he had rescued once from the curse of the pool had passed into her father's power, lured to her death by the woman who fostered the father's obscene appetite. He vowed then that he would not rest until he had rescued his wife and put an end to the evil into which she had been forced.
After much searching he came to the home of Nardu, the Sun-dreamer, who provides shelter from the Sun goddess when
she returns from hers ky journey each night. He reached it as the light was fading.
'What do you want of me?' the Sun-dreamer asked. 'There are few who dare this perilous journey. Your need must be great.'
The hunter told him of the rape of his wife and his desire for revenge on her father and the woman who had aided him. 'Only one woman?' Nardu asked. 'A man, strong and handsome as you, can surely have a choice of wives?'
'It is not my wife alone, though it is she who fills my mind,' the hunter explained. 'She has six sisters who by now have probably been lured back to the dark billabong and deprived of light and happiness. And there are women who fear for their babies because of the wickedness of a man and an old woman.'
'Helping is not the work for which I was destined,' Nardu replied. 'I am the Sun-dreamer. My task is to shelter the Sun goddess, and for that reason you are in grave peril. I must warn you not to enter the cave of darkness. When the goddess comes, and that will be soon, the very rocks will boil with her heat. Do you not see how the plain round you is composed of cinders? Nothing can live in the heat that comes with the goddess. Yet I would help you if I could. If we dry up the billabong where this evil lurks, your wishes may be fulfilled. That is all I can do for you.,
As he spoke the hunter could feel the goddess burning his skin.
'Hurry!' Nardu said. 'She comes. The goddess is merciful, but mortals cannot withstand her. Go now, lest you suffer the fate that has come to others who have sought her help.' ''
The young man turned and ran, feeling the fierce shafts of; sunlight on his back. He smelled his hair singeing and dared not face the raging torrent of light and heat that poured out of the Sun goddess's cave. 1'
Streams dried up, trees crackled and burst into flame. Far ahead he saw birds and animals fleeing from the devastation that poured from the cave. Darkness had been turned to light, icy cold to unbearable heat. The whole world seemed to be on fire. At last he reached the place where his father-in-law and the seven Water Girls lurked in the billabong.
All he could see was an expanse of dry, cracked mud and a Crocodile struggling to free itself from the mud. Of his fatherin-law there was no sign, but far across the smoking plain he could see the seven sisters racing towards a downpour of rain on the edge of the world. They were fleeing for their lives to escape the holocaust the Sun goddess had released. It had served its purpose in burning up the eater of the spirits of babies and his helper, but now the hunter was afraid that the world would be consumed in the flames.
As he ran frantically toward the girls, they disappeared into the curtain of rain. In a few moments he felt its soothing caress on his skin. The Water Girls were still ahead, plunging into the river of the sky where they felt themselves at home. Swimming strongly against the current to the source of the river, they were again lost to sight. Unable to keep up with them the hunter leaped high into the air, up to the very sky where, as a star, he still pursues the seven Water Girls across the night sky.

AW Reed
An entirely different version of the Mearnei is related in Myths and Legends of Australia.

[ Top of Page ]

3. Meamei 2

THE SEVEN SISTERS
It was in the Dreamtime that girls decided that they should go through severe tests to show that they were ready for womanhood and marriage, just as the young men had to prove themselves for manhood. They went to the elders of the tribe and told them what they had decided. The leading men and the old ones sat late that night nodding their heads and speaking slowly. In the morning they summoned the girls to the council. They told them that they approved their decision and commended them for their wisdom.
"But what is it you want to do?" they asked.
"We want to show that our minds are not ruled by our bodies. We believe that women, as well as men, should be able to overcome fear and pain. Then our sons will be brave and strong in the years to come. Give us the same sort of tests as the boys," they pleaded.
The wise men looked at each other questioningly. Only grown men were allowed to know what boys had to endure during the initiation tests.
"We shall make new tests," they said after they had thought about it for a long time. "Girls could never stand the ordeals that boys have to go through."
The young women stood firm.
"In days to come we will give birth to boys who will be subject to the rites. It is only fitting that we, who will be their mothers, should know what they will have to go through when they are older. They will be bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh. If we conquer fear and pain, they will be strong when their time comes."
"Very well," the elders said. "We would never willingly have made you suffer; but if you can endure to the end you will win our respect, and we shall think the more of our women."
It was no light thing that the girls had undertaken. For three years they were taken to a place where no one else was allowed to go. The elders taught them the law of the tribe. They gave them only a small portion of food at sunrise and another at sunset.
Their bodies became lean and sinewy, until they felt that they had learned to control their appetites.
"Now we are ready," they said.
"No," the elders replied. "For three years you have endured your training. Now the time for the testing has come. The first test will show whether you have learned the first lesson."
They were taken on a long, difficult journey for three days. They went through dense bush where thorns and sharp stakes scratched and tore their flesh; they crossed burning plains and high mountains, and in all that time they were not permitted to touch food. On the morning of the fourth day the elders caught kangaroos and wallabies, and gave each girl a flint knife.
"Cut your food with this," they said. "Take as much as you want to satisfy your appetites."
To the relief of the elders the young women took only enough meat to satisfy their immediate hunger. If they had obeyed their instincts they would have taken the whole joint to distend their stomachs after the long fast, but they had learnt the lesson well. They returned to camp and the second series of tests began.
"This is to see whether you have overcome pain," they were warned.
One by one they were made to lie flat on their backs on the bare ground. A wirinun took a pointed stick, thrust it between a girl's lips so that it rested on a front tooth, and hit the butt of the stick with repeated blows until the tooth was knocked out.
"Are you ready to lose another tooth?" she was asked.
"Yes."
A second tooth was knocked out, but the girl made no sound. The others, submitted themselves to the ordeal without protest.
" Now stand in a row," the wirinun commanded. With a sharp flint he scored heavy lines across their breasts until the blood flowed down their stomachs and dropped on to the ground Ashes were rubbed into the wounds to increase' the pain, but they endured the double agony without a murmur.
"Now you may lie down and go to sleep," they were told. They stretched out on the bare ground and sank into a sleep of exhaustion, forgetting for a little while their aching gums and the wounds in which ashes stung as they healed the jagged cuts Several hours later one of the girls woke and smothered a scream before it reached her lips. She felt something moving across her body. She tensed her muscles until they were as hard as wood. Every part of her was covered with crawling insects. They slithered across her lips, wormed their way into her nostrils and ears, and over her eyelids, but she remained silent and motionless; and so with every girl, until daylight came to release them.
The tests continued until it seemed that there was no end to them: there was the ordeal of the pierced nose, in which they were required to wear a stick, which kept the wound from healing, through the septum. Every time it was touched it was agony to the wearer as it tore further through the flesh. There was the ordeal of the bed of hot cinders; and others that degraded the body and could be overcome only by steadfastness of mind and spirit.
"It is over," the elders said at last. "You have endured every ordeal, every test of pain, every torture, with fortitude and cheerfulness. The elders of your tribe are proud of you. There now remains the last test, the conquering of fear. You have gone a long way towards it. Do you think you can survive this as well?" "We can!" cried the girls with a single voice.
The ordeal came at night. The old men went to the isolated camp where the girls were to sleep without the comfort of fire, where the wind moaned eerily in the trees, and the spirits of darkness and evil seemed to hide in every bush. The elders chanted spine-chilling tales of bunyips and maldarpes, of the Yara-ma-yha-who and the Keen Keeng, of monsters such as the Whowhie, Thardid Jimbo, and Cheeroonear, and of the Evil One himself. Then they stole away, and .the girls were left all alone.
 Horrible screams came from the surrounding bush and continued all night, as though the encampment was surrounded by 'spirits and monsters. The old men enjoyed themselves as they endeavoured to fill the girls' hearts with fear; but the young ;women who had passed through pain to the ultimate test of womanhood were able to call on their hard-won reserves of courage and endurance.
 Morning came. The whole tribe came out to greet them and congratulate them on the triumph of mind over body. On that day even the gods and spirits of the high heaven were present. The girls, now entered into full womanhood, were snatched from the midst of their friends and taken up to the sky where, as the Seven Sisters of the constellation of the Pleiades, they shine down serenely on the world, encouraging every successive generation to follow their example.
But there is another tribal tale which gives the names of the Seven Sisters as Meamei. They were the custodians of a unique treasure, the gift of fire, which they kept hidden in their yarn sticks. They cooked their food with it and lit the fires that warmed them at night. When the weather was cold, men and women came to them and begged for the fire; but the hearts of the Meamei were as hard as mountain rocks.
"This is our possession," they boasted. "We will not share it with anyone."
Amongst those who had been repulsed by the sisters was Wahn the Crow. Others had gone away disappointed, but it was not in Wahn's nature to accept a rebuff. He knew there must be some way of getting the fire away from the Meamei, so he hid in a tree and watched everything they did. Soon he discovered that they were fond of eating white ants. They spent a great deal of their time searching for them, and when they had gathered a quantity, they ate them for their evening meal.
Wahn went off to a little distance and caught a number of poisonous snakes, which he sealed inside a termite nest. He hurried back to the Meamei and said excitedly, "I have found an enormous termite hill. Come with me. I'll show you where it is."
The Seven Sisters follows him, licking their lips in anticipation. When they reached the ant hill they broke it down with their yam sticks. To their dismay a number of hissing snakes glided out and darted at them. The sisters struck wildly at them with their yam sticks, till the ends of the sticks broke off and the fire fell on the ground. Wahn crept into their midst, picked up the fire, and carried it away.
It was after this that the Seven Sisters went up into the sky and became the constellation of the Pleiades. The gift of fire was now in the possession of Crow, who guarded it as jealously as its previous owners. Mankind had expected that he would make it available to everyone, but Wahn had a much more cunning plan.
"I am now the custodian of fire," he told them. "It is a sacred trust conferred on me by Baiame -as a reward for my own courage and cleverness," he added hastily. "I am not permitted to share it with you, but I am anxious to help you. If you bring your food to me, I will cook it for you."
The people applauded his generosity, and Wahn kept his promise. He cooked their food when it was brought to him, but he always kept the choicest pieces for himself.
"Why don't you hunt for your own food?" they asked him. Wahn reproached them.
"You are ungrateful," he said. "I cook your food for you. The least you can do is to supply my modest requirements. The custodian of fire has no time to go looking for food."
The people complained to Baiame. The Great Spirit was angry when he heard what Wahn was doing. He told the people not to be afraid, but to take the fire away from Wahn by force.
So they gathered together and rushed Crow's camp. As they drew close he threw the burning logs at them to drive off the attackers, who snatched them up and carried them !away to start their own camp fires. Wahn was left alone. He chuckled to himself when he thought how easily he had escaped; but he had forgotten that the all-seeing Father Spirit could see everything that happened in the world he had created.
Baiame cursed the Crow.
"May you be as black as the charred wood of your fire," he thundered. "You do not deserve to be a man."
He pointed at Wahn, whose body began to shrink. His legs became like little sticks, his face elongated, terminating in a beak, and feathers sprouted from his arms. There he stood: no longer Wahn the man, but Wahn the Crow - black as the burnt logs that fall from the fire.
Before the Meamei sisters left the earth they went into the mountains and made springs of water to feed the rivers, so that there would be water for men and women for all time. A young hunter Karambal was sorrowful when he heard the Meamei sisters were leaving because he had fallen in love with one of them. When he found the girl alone one day he carried her off to be his wife. But the other sisters sent cold wintry weather to the earth to force the hunter to release their sister. After this they made their departure into the sky in search of summer, to melt the snow and ice.
It is at summer time every year that they appear, bringing the
hot days with them. After the hot weather they travel far to the west, and winter comes to remind men that it is wrong to carry off women who belong to a totem that is forbidden them.
After his experience with the Meamei, Karambal went in search of another wife. He thought he had learnt his lesson, and was determined to choose one of the right totem. When he found the woman he wanted he was again unfortunate, for she was already married to a great warrior whose name was Bullabogabun. With soft words Karambal induced the woman to leave her husband and go away with him.
Their life together was short and sweet. Bullabogabun followed their tracks and speedily overtook them. Karambal's love was less than his fear. Abandoning the woman, he climbed a tall tree which grew near the camp and hid in the branches. Bullabogabun saw him crouched there, and lit a fire at the base of the tree. The branches caught fire, and then the trunk, which blazed like the torch of a giant in the midst of the plain. Karambal was borne up by the hungry flames and rode on them into the sky, close to the Seven Sisters. Forgetting all that he had learned, he still pursues them through the sky - Karambal, who became the star Aldebaran, the pursuer.

AW Reed
Myths and Legends of Australia.

[ Top of Page ]

4. Pingal

PINGAL, the MOON and YOGAMADA, the SEVEN SISTERS
In the Dreamtime there was no moon. The sky was also without any of the Seven Sisters and many other stars.
A man called Pingal was the moon and he lived on the earth then. He had seven daughters. His wife, Abobi, left him a long time ago. She changed herself into a star and went to live in the sky.
The daughters were grown up and Pingal was thinking of mak-ing love to them. But the girls knew something might happen and they never wanted to come close to him.
One day he and his daughters were in the bush looking for food. They came to a rocky point overlooking the big swamp. Pingal came down the rocks to the edge of the swamp and he caught a duck there, and the duck was Majen.
'Come on, daughters,' he called them to come down. 'Here, I'll give Majen to you. Go and eat it.'
The oldest daughter came down from the rocks and the other sisters followed her. When all of them were down at the swamp, Pingal stretched out his Malpirin, his penis. Malpirin became separated from his body and went travelling like a snake through the grass to the sisters. The girls could not run back because the high rocks were behind them. Malpirin came to the oldest daughter and began to make love to her.
Fingal's wife, Abobi, saw this from the sky. She dropped a big rope down to earth and the rope's name was Heripen. The seven sisters got hold of it and they climbed up to the sky. Pingal went to climb Heripen after them. But his wife cut Heripen with a knife made of a sea shell and he fell to the ground. Then he said, 'I'll be the Moon from now on, and I'll go to live in the sky.' His daughters became Yogamada, the Seven Sisters. They are seen in the sky and they are always travelling together. It is because they are afraid of their father, Pingal.

[ Top of Page ]

5. Pleiades

Pleiades (Kungkarangkalpa) The Pleiades are an important group of stars which form the basis of a similar myth all across Australia. They represent a group of young women, seven sisters, who are pursued by Orion. In the desert communities, this is considered a woman's myth, though the group of women have connections with many of the other ancestral beings belonging to men's business.
In the desert area around Kalgoorlie, it is related that once the seven sisters decided to visit the Earth and flew down. They looked for their favourite plateau to land on: but found their landingplace covered with little men called Yavarr. They called to them to get out of the way, but they refused. The sisters finally landed upon another hill. The Yavarr men saw where they landed and decided to capture them. The sisters ran off and eventually the men grew tired of the pursuit, except for one. He kept on following them and following them. At last one of the sisters left the group to find water. The man followed her. She found water and was drinking it when she heard the faint sound of a foot being placed carefully on the ground. She looked up, saw the Yayarr man and raced off. He charged after her and finally caught her. She yelled and screamed. He picked up a stick to quieten her and swung it. The woman jumped out of the way. He swung the stick again and again and missed and missed. The marks of his stick can still be seen on the side of a hill in that country. Finally, the woman escaped back to the hill where she and her sisters had landed. They had gone. She looked up into the sky, saw her six sisters there and rose to join them. The Yayarr man followed after and became Orion.
When the Pleiades are seen at dawn, it is said that this is a sign that the cold season is coming.
See also Aldebaran; Crow; Emu; Sirius; Two Men myth; Western Desert.

[ Top of Page ]

6. Olympics

kungkarangkalpa

We remember the Olympic Awakening Ceremony ….

Three hundred and fifty Aboriginal desert women from Central Australia poured out onto the Olympic Stadium, forming a solid heart core of dancers, pounding with their feet the sound of the original Creation Ancestors of this vast continent. They danced part of the Seven Sister´s, or Inma Kungkarangkalpa, the Creation journey of the sisters who traversed Australia before rising to the skies forming the Pleiades constellation. The particular segment they danced celebrates their travels between Cave Hill and Innga, near Amata in the Pitjantjatjara Lands of South Australia.

[ Top of Page ]

7. Pitjantjara

Two Pitjantjatjara women, Mantjara Wilson and Nellie Patterson, talk about the Kungkarangkalpa, or Seven Sisters Dreaming story, and how it's important for passing on knowledge and culture to the stolen generations.

Nancia Guivarra
mailto:[email protected]

The cultures of the desert communities vary greatly, and a number of different languages are spoken. But there are lengthy song cycles cutting across cultural boundaries that explain the journeys of the great ancestral beings. Here traditional belief in the Tjukurpa permeates life. One such story, "The Seven Sisters," tells of a journey that begins in the deserts in Western Australia and extends through several different language areas to the South Australian Pitjantjatjara country. The travels of the seven sisters are sung at inma ceremonies, which extend into the night. The story tells of seven young women being pursued on a cross-country trek by a sly, lustful man named Wati Nyiru. In order to remain close to them, he adopted various disguises, such as a tree or a bird. When the sisters hid in a cave, Wati Nyiru appeared at the entrance, but the women were able to escape through a tunnel. As the pursuit continued, Wati Nyiru's anger grew, and finally he decided to make one of the sisters sick through sorcery. When she died, the other sisters took her up to the sky, and they all became stars. That is why, in the night sky, we can see the seven stars of the seven sisters (the Pleiades) followed by Wati Nyiru (Orion).

[ Top of Page ]

8. Kalgoorlie

Kungkarangkalpa (the Pleiades): This group of stars share similar myths across Australia. In each myth they represent seven sisters who are pursued by Orion. One day the sisters looked down at Earth and decided to visit (the area around Kalgoorlie). The found the plateau that they always looked down upon but when they got there they discovered that it was covered with men called Yayarr. They called to the men to move but they didn't so the sisters landed on another hill. The men saw them and decided to capture them. The sisters ran and soon all but one of the men were too tired to pursue. He continued after the sisters. During the chase one of the sisters left the group to find water. As she was drinking she heard the man's footsteps behind her. She turned to flee but he caught her. She screamed and yelled so he picked up a stick. He swung at her but she dodged the blow. He swung and missed over and over again. The marks where the blows landed can still be seen on a hill in that part of the country. The sister finally escaped and ran back to the hill where they landed. She saw that her sisters had already returned so she rose to the sky to rejoin them. The Yayarr man saw her and followed after. He became Orion.

[ Top of Page ]

9. Kulkunbulla

Aboriginal legend tells of a hunter called Nirunja, who chased after the Kungkarangkalpa, a group of seven sisters who came down to earth. The sisters eventually escaped back to the sky, where they became the constellation we call the Pleiades. Nirunja followed and became the constellation Orion who chases them still.

The Kulkunbulla are a group of Nirunja´s men, dancing a corroboree. They form Nirunja´s blt and scabbard in the constellation Orion.

Our logo design reflects the three bright stars in the belt of Orion (Alnilam, Alnitak and Mintaka), which many people recognise as the Big Dipper or the Saucepan. Kulkunbulla, a celebration of the Great Hunter.

[ Top of Page ]

10. Ngaanyatjarra

Ngaanyatiarra Pitjantjatjara, Yankunytjatjara Peoples
 Seven Sisters (Inma Kungkarangkalpa)
 [Name removed] states: "I am a senior Ngaanyatjarra woman ... I have authority under Aboriginal custom, to speak for this country. Others can not speak on top of me. On the Kungkarangkalpa Dreaming track Kulyuru is a main place for ladies. If the Aboriginal rules of this area are not respected, if miners and men go walking anywhere they might stumble across very sacred places. If these places are touched, things taken, rocks taken, or rockshelters walked into, women throughout a big area of desert might die." "I cannot say much openly about why Kulyuru is very important - that is Women's Business and should be kept quiet".

[ Top of Page ]

11. Nalda

Hello Kevin, Jakamarra (JK) would know all about Wati Nyiru, he was sitting down with that mob. I could send you the video wherein you could look at the dance, its a very private tape which cannot be copied, and you could send it back to me. Jakamarra would tell you which one the dance was.It is very understated in way as much of indigenous philosophy is, merely the tip of the iceberg. Can you email me JKs address in your next communique. Im off to see the big guns now about pina pika (sore ear)(earpain) literally. Hope you are well. regards Nalda.

Hello Kevin, yes minmya kungkarangkalpa, big story, those women being chased by a sexy man with a big penis and all the women burst into laughter when they tell the story, he was a sexy man they say with a strong voice. I actually have a long video of dancing from Fregon and one of the dances shown is that. Basically the women move into the area dancing, holding a fragment of fabric or thread, they cluster around together anxious but singing, they are painted up. Then wati nyru comes on the scene, he is carrying a stick which he displays proudly in a very obvious way. He picks up a handful of dust to smell if there is any women smell on it whilst he is singing, and the women are all nervous. In the story in that cave there are some indentations apparently where the women were scraping with their dishes. Wati Nyru came to an end at a sandhill near Docker river i think, Mary pointed to it as we were going through that country. One night Mary and i camped near some big rocks on our journey to Kalgoorlie, she wasnt happy at the site as the ground was dampish, we had good bedding but she was afraid of Wanampi the water snake, i was to tired to move camp again, all night she did not sleep and kept me awake to watch Minyma Kunkurangkalpi come across the sky and that cheeky man chasing them.It has been painted by many artists, particlarly women from the Western desert. It is a womans story. Recently in Kalgoorlie Kantjurie Bates did a painting of it, just a whole series of circular forms in greens and reds, Seven Sisters she said, anyway i bought it as she needed money. Mary did a large painting of it about 5 years ago. and then at Warburton last year at the roadhouse there was a really niave version, seven large breasted women , heads and torsos, and one man with a beard, all in ochre tones. I liked its naivety so bought it for 50.00. Yes i suppose in a way you could say our project has that idea of a sort. Nice thought.... wati nyiru he was a fellow to watch. Indigenous people have a healthy attitude to their sexuality and its wonderful the way it is made fun of also. If there is a few women together you can bet your bottom dollar jokes will be made about somebodies dilemnas in that area.

[ Top of Page ]

12. Two wise men

A creation story from the WONG-GU-THA, people of the desert near Ooldea, South Australia. Discover how the hills and valleys, the rivers and oceans were made and how the earth was beautified

The Two Wise Men and the Seven Sisters
told by Josie Boyle

In the beginning of Yulbrada, the Earth, the Creator, Jindoo-the Sun, sent two Spirit men, Woddee Gooth-tha-rra, to shape it. They were from the far end of the Milky Way.

They made the hills, the valleys, the lakes and the ocean. When they had nearly completed their work, Jindoo the Creator sent seven sisters, stars of the Milky Way, to beautify the earth with flowers, with trees, with birds, animals and other creepy things.

The Seven Sisters were making the Honey Ants when they all got thirsty and they said to the younger sister, 'Go and look for some gubbee, some nice water. Over there, in the hills. Go in that direction'. The little young sister took the yandee dish and she went in search of the water.

The Woddee Gooth-tha-rra, the two spirit men, they were in the bushes and they were spying on these women. They followed the minyma Goothoo, the younger sister, when she went for the water.

This young sister, she fell in love with the two men. The other six sisters went looking for their sister, because she had been gone for so long. They wondered where she might be. They were really very thirsty and they needed their water. After a while, they found her with the two spirit men.

The Creator, Jindoo the Sun, had warned them that should such a thing happen to any one of the sisters, she would not be able to return to her place in the Milky Way. When the six sisters finished their work, they returned to the Milky Way. The two men and the woman remained here on Yulbrada, the earth. Their special powers were taken away when they became mortal. They became the parents of the earth, who made our laws and our people-the desert people. They live by these laws today.

This is why the people of the desert have such knowledge and respect of the stars in the universe.

Many Dreaming stories are associated with specfic objects and landmarks. For Josie Boyle, there is a real sadness that the landscape around the area where the Seven Sisters spent their time on Earth has been changed so drastically. A reminder of the importance of storytelling in keeping the culture alive.

Narrator: Josie Boyle

The Two Wise Men and the Seven Sisters story explanation
told by Josie Boyle

This is my Mum, Mimbardda, from whom I get all my Dreaming stories. Stories that I go and tell in schools. They all come from my mother. Behind is the country that we come form. This is our country, the WONG-GU-THA country here, and over there is where Mary's country is, way on the border of the Northern Territory. Docker River.

The skin groupings that these two are using at the moment is made up of how everybody married a long time ago. The six skin groupings of the desert. It was a clean way of living and it was to stop interbreeding and all those sort of things. So, today we refer to each other through the skin groupings of our areas.

In a minute we hope to go to where that lake is and we're going to draw the stories in the sand and tell the stories in the old-fashioned way, of the Aboriginal way, the real traditional way of telling the stories. How we used to do it a long time a go.

As I look out over there I feel very sad inside, because in our Dreaming stories of the Seven Sisters, the stories tell us that this was the last cut-off point for the Seven Sisters when they had their time here on earth. In the Dreamtime.

Over there is a boundary line that tells us that that's a cut-off point into someone else's territory, so the Seven Sisters spent a lot of time here, as their last time on earth, before they went back up into the Milky Way. This place was once so beautiful that the Seven Sisters lived in these caves here. But now as we look over here, we can see that the place has been completely desecrated.

Mining people have come in here and made big open mining pits here. All the caves are wrecked here today.

This is why we need these Dreaming stories so much, because we need to tell our children all about our creation-time stories and all our Elder Aboriginal people that live in the towns here; in Koolgardie, in Kalgoorlie, they know these dreaming stories out here.

To actually sit here and look at it today and see how it's wrecked completely the caves are all different today from how they would have been in the Dreamtime. Nobody comes here any more and learns or tells their kids about the wonderful Dreaming stories of the Seven Sisters. It is very sad for me to sit here and look at this, knowing the story from my mother.

Mimbardda:

It's very good us following the lore now, today. It's very good what I see.

(Josie Boyle and Mimbardda. Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, 1997

[ Top of Page ]