“Originality has nothing to do with producing something ’new’ – it is about seeking the source, the primordial ground from which you draw and have always drawn your being. It comes about when one works from one’s origins, it is the dance of the eternal return… and is as ancient as the Dreamtime.”
~ Billy Marshall Stoneking
I have always thought that one’s origins consist of many things, least of which our ancestors. But far more immediate then they is Land. The flora in your gut, the microscopic fauna eating away the the detritus in your hair, the 70% water in your body, the oxygen in your blood, the veges in your garden you’ve just put in a salad, the dirt your house is built on, the gum logs your stocking your hearth fire with. It is not one degree from you, it is, by virtue of you being on it, part of you right now. It is the lizard in the front garden, the possum at the back door, the magpie that wakes you in the morning, the kookaburrah that calls out dinner time, the wattle the shades the north facing window. You don’t need to go and look for it, discover it, it’s just there. Immediate. And those of us who honour it know that it has untold depths, unending complexity, and we can’t live without it.
Some of those depths can be accessed through the stories of Indigenous Australians.
As I mentioned in my last post, I come across a few such stories researching and learning about native flora and fauna. Unfortunately they by and large appear textually either booked ended by “Activities for classes 4-6” and introductory biology. Or in anthropological texts, in which they are carefully rounded with many a “quotation marked terms” which is obviously what the Aboriginal person making the account said but not what he meant until the white scholar can interpret it for him. Moreover, some of the most unique and individual Dreaming that can be garnered is actually to be found in anthropological reports undertaken for bureaucratic purposes relating to development, most and most notably, mining. One of my favourite examples from these reports involves a story of an important Adnyamathanha (South Australia) wilyaru, (ancestral being), who had walked in the area being surveyed and stopped to eat the resin of Acacia rivalis (nguri) (which was regularly chewed, being sweet), but in this instance caused the ancestor being to vomit. This story was only given in very general terms because it belongs only to initiated men of the Adnyamathanha people, and thus the Dreaming Story was guarded. They now mine uranium there (the Beverly / Four Mile Mine in SA). The report notes “An association between the uranium extracted from the mine and the vomit is generally credited by Adnyamathanha people today.” If only more things were as well guarded…
Of course, this is not entirely helpful in terms of discovering the spiritual nature of our home. Firstly the details are guarded Adnyamathanha men’s business. But it does demonstrate that the Dreaming is also full of unfortunate events, nasty characters and spirits, helpful warnings and taboos. As well as an apparent understanding of things that otherwise require a vast amount of scientific technology to understand. As a story it is definitely location specific, and practically might serve as a warning against selecting bushtucker from certain areas. But it also stands as part of a complex of stories that helped me come to my own understand of the nature of various acacias, especially various Silver Wattle which I now use as as an offering to the Ancestors.
Those stories include the use of the sap the Adnyamathanha people call nguri, as a glue and fixative across many nations, as well as how it is used by other species, and the observation of various species in my own environment. Not all of the plants and animals have stories in all the Aboriginal nations that we have access to. And in this way one is not a complete picture of the entire corpus of Indigenous stories (that in my last post I called LoAA), but rather adding to and augmenting a syncretic New World practice, that is something very like a pastiche, honouring and celebrating the various influences in a single Australian experience.
But, as I have said, in order to do that, we have to extract these stories and their inherent wisdom from the disbelief of anthropological survey, and their diminishment as children’s “fairytales” and instead, place them on the level of our own European Myth and Folk Wisdom. We need to start exploring the ancient power of these words and names, and insert them again into an experiential understanding of our environments.
How we go about doing so has to be an activity premised on an earnest desire to recognise the ancient culture which forms and informs contemporary Australian culture; a true respect for the wisdom of those peoples; a sincere attachment to the natural beauty of our continent; and a transparent acknowledgement of the Indigenous inspiration that informs our work and practice.
For myself, it means a new understanding of these narratives, in the context of their original source, the environment. Entering into that Land anew, with an animistic perspective, and expectation of, and surrender to, the vitality and dynamic nature of the stories it has already written. And most especially, a concerted effort to conserve those Landscapes still wild, and their untold stories, yet to be written.
I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the Land and her Ancient Lore and Stories, their ancestors, past and present, of Hobart, the Mouheneener tribe; of the Land on which I was born, beside the River they call Tucoerah, the Cabrogal Clan of the Dharug Nation and peoples of the Dhurawal and Dharuk Nations.
 Ellis, Bob, Supporting Report F: Heritage: Aboriginal Cultural Heritage “A report on the Heathgate Resource Pty Ltd Mineral Lease Extension Area Application (ML6036)”, (May 2006). Department of Primary Industry and Resources, South Australia. Retrieved 12 /10/2014 http://www.pir.sa.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/86646/Supporting_report_F_-_Heritage.pdf
This post is the fifth in a series titled Two Worlds.
Click here to read the first: Two Worlds: Utopia
Click here to read the second: Two World: Just Listen
Click here to read the third: Two Worlds: kunanyi / Mt Wellington
Click here to read the fourth: Two Worlds: Look Out & “The Sight to See”
Click here to read the fifth: Two Worlds: Tales from the Rainbow Track – Part 1