In Australian Aboriginal mythology of the Bundjalung, an area known as "the land of the three rivers, "the Dirawong, an unseen spiritual creature also known as the goanna spirit, is one of the Creator Beings of the Bundjalung, that 1) Protects 2) Guards, 3) Battles the Rainbow Snake, 4) Helps the people with,

'Aboriginal astronomy, body designs, bullroarers, bush cosmetics, bush foods, bush medicines, cave paintings & designs made on trees, ceremonial headgear, ceremonial poles, cultural lore, dances, dreaming's, games, geographical locations, how people are required to behave in their communities, initiations, laws of community, paintings, rock art, rock engravings, rules for social behaviour, sacred chants, sacred earth mounds, sacred ground paintings, songlines, songs, stone artifacts, stone objects, stories, structures of society, symbols, technologies, the ceremonies performed in order to ensure continuity of life & land, values, wooden articles, wooden sacred objects, & the beliefs, values, rules & practices concerning the peoples relationship to the land & water of Widje tribal territory within Bundjalung country

The Dirawong is known as a benevolent protector of its people (in the Bundjalung nation) from the Rainbow Snake (also known as the 'Snake' or 'Rainbow Serpent')[1]

The Dirawong (goanna) is also associated with rain and there is a rain cave on Goanna Headland where the elders of the Bundjalung Nation people went in the old days to organise ceremonies for rain

Many, archaeological places have been located on Goanna Headland


Firstly, nearly all of the information known about the deity named the 'Dirawong' and the associated tribal spiritual beliefs, come from the Aboriginal tribes people of the Bundjalung nation & Europeans; therefore it is necessary to be aware of the possibility of bias or prejudice in the historical information

Secondly, the legendary tales of the Bundjalung nation tribal groups have mainly come from a series of European people, therefore, in the re telling from European people, additional words and phrases have been necessary, while occasional interpolations and omissions have produced different versions

The Bundjalung nation Aboriginal story teller would have added facial and bodily gestures and voice inflection to a narrative that was sparing in words

Thirdly, the Bundjalung nation tribal groups never developed a written language, using verbal tradition to communicate mythological stories. This meant there was no common written language or alphabet for all tribes like there is for the English, Greeks, or Italians

Fourthly, in each case the version used in this article is the one that makes a desirable story while being accurate with what is known of the beliefs and customs of the Bundjalung nation tribal groups[2]

Bundjalung nation Aboriginal legends are some of the stories of the ancestors from the Dreamtime. The legends portray all sorts of human behaviour, including the less endearing ones such as vanity, lying, cruelty, trickery and cheating. Morality is a key part of these myths. Through the antics of 'The Three Brothers', or of 'The Rainbow Snake & the Dreamtime', one is aware from the characters' virtue of what might happen should one be tempted into the same temptation

The "Dreamtime"Edit

All the world's peoples have data, information, knowledge or wisdom of how the world was formed. The Bundjalung nation tribal groups believe that, in the beginning, the earth was featureless, flat and grey. There were no mountain ranges, no rivers, no billabongs, no birds or animals, in fact no living creatures, then long, long ago came the Dreamtime

In The Dreamtime (also Dreaming, Altjeringa or "Baribun" in Bundjalung; A sacred "once upon a time" period in which ancestral Totemic Spirit Beings formed "Creation") giant creatures began to rise up from the grey plains where they had been slumbering for an unknown amount of time

These mythical Beings looked like animals, plants or insects, but behaved in a similar manner to humans. Because of their giant size, as these beings wandered across the vast grey wastes, performing ceremonies, digging for water, and searching for food and as they went, they made huge ravines and rivers in the land

The greatest of all these beings took the form of the Rainbow Snake. The movement of his huge multi colored body across the land formed the mountains and rivers that flow to the ocean. By lifting his tail he makes rainbows. The Bundjalung people tell us that Rainbow Snake and Dirawong worked together to create the northern rivers of nsw & areas of Queensland, causing the world to take on the shape it has today

The tribal groups of the Bundjalung nation believe that at the start of the "Dreamtime" the traditional Aboriginal way of life, practiced in Aboriginal societies today, established from mythical life forms

Traditional Aboriginal groups believe that their ancestors were taught about their tribal lands from the mythical Beings of The Dreamtime, and were told how they, as descendants of these Beings, they should behave. These teachings are as important to their way of life today as the "Ten commandments" are to the ancient Israelite Hebrews. After a period of time, these Aboriginal ancestral mythical beings formed into the landscape

All the mountain ranges or rocks of the "Dreamtime" are formed by these beings. Isolated hills, islands, rivers and even trees arose

From here time and life in the Bundjalung nation, as we know it, began. Because of this belief, the land has a very special meaning to the Aboriginal people. Around the earth there are features which act as reminders of the giant Beings of the Dreamtime. When they see a mountain or river, a rock or a tree, they think of the mythical Beings that had a part in their own creation

The tribal groups of the Bundjalung nation believe that they are directly descended from these mythical Beings. After the Dreamtime, the people were left with a social and cultural heritage which came from their ancestors. All the rites and ceremonies are aimed at preserving this heritage. Their ancestors from the Dreamtime also gave them possession of tribal lands, and hence this land with all the forms of life contained within it are regarded as being in a sacred trust

The spiritual relationships with the mythical Beings of the Dreamtime are such that tribal groups of the Bundjalung nation believe in a united world of body and spirit with every aspect of the land, both living and non living

The people of the Bundjalung nation believe that the rocks, rivers and waterholes are more than just a reminder or a symbol of the Dreamtime but represent reality and eternal truth


In ages past, Aboriginal elders were the storytellers. This was the way things were passed along to the generations that followed. For this reason the Aboriginal elders of the Bundjalung nation made it a point to remember every detail of a myth, legend or story so they could relate it at a later time. They were the bearers of the traditional morals and imagery which kept spiritual values alive and important

Like the spirits of the Native Americans in the United States of America, the Bundjalung nation Aboriginal spirits, the Dirawong and the Rainbow Snake, continue to live on in the land and water, which originally belonged to the Bundjalung People of the 'far north coast of new south wales' and 'south east Queensland' area

Spiritual Deities of the Bundjalung nationEdit

The Rainbow SnakeEdit

The double symbolism used in its name is considered allegoric to the dual nature of the deity, where being a Rainbow represents its divine nature or the ability for water to reach the skies and being a Serpent represents its human nature or ability to creep on the ground among other animals of the Earth. The Rainbow also shows the ability to split light into different colors.

Although the Rainbow Serpent of the Bundjalung people may differ slightly from other Aboriginal representations of the myth, it does retain many of the similar features, stories and characteristics common in other areas. For instance: its gender is not agreed upon and it is linked to rainbows, water, rain, waterholes, rivers, seas, islands, life, social relationships, shape shifting, spirits, goannas, birds, snakes & fertility.

The belief of the Rainbow Snake as a water spirit is found in many forms. Sometimes it is simply a guardian of a sacred pool or lake and will attack and bring ill health and bad fortune if the sacred place is not correctly respected.

At other times the Rainbow Snake is a much more powerful water spirit it is the rain itself, the storm, the flood, the life-giving water from the sky. Its rain is vital to life, yet water also has a powerfully destructive side that the Aboriginal tribes of Australia were all too aware of. It has been theorized that the dozens of stories of humans being swallowed by the Rainbow Serpent, found through Australia are metaphorical accounts of people being swallowed from flood waters or being drowned in lakes or a pool

In such cases, it is shown that the Rainbow Snake holds no respect for people, nor does it have a code of morality: it acts only as its nature dictates, often being a blind destructive force. But in the same way as rain it also creates: it creates the world, births many children, brings fertility to the land and humans, and is often associated with the Aboriginal soul itself.

The ferocity with which the Rainbow Snake guards or defends its sacred pools, or the reverence with which it was, and still is, thought of by Aboriginal tribes, indicates that it is a primal force in nature rather than a ‘God’ in the sense that many people in the Western world today would think of it. It follows only its natural inclinations – whether they be anger, lust, compassion, or creation – and its dynamic, raw energy with which it fertilizes the land and creates the world gives to the element of water associations that are not usually thought of in modern Pagan thought. Often, water is seen as passive, reflective, deep, emotional, and spiritual, and is symbolized by the ever-receiving Chalice or womb of the Goddess. But here, in the motif of the Rainbow Snake, we see water as the Cosmic Phallus of active, dynamic creation – of fertility, of the rawest, most primal part of life. Here water is dangerous, destructive, creative, blind, unfeeling and magical: just like the Rainbow Snake in its many forms.[3]

The Dirawong (known in English as 'Goanna')Edit

To non-Indigenous people, Aboriginal mythology can be difficult to understand because the characters are non human beings, but behave like humans. Many of the myths seem to only care of a particular animal or bird, yet have a symbolic meaning of great importance. For instance, the Sun is a woman, she creates life and she is often the symbolism of water, fire, earth and red ochre, the Moon is male, and commands, has authority or governs the tides and seasonal cycles, he is often the symbolism of a snake, dog, frog or water

Certain tribal groups of the Bundjalung nation believe that the Rainbow snake and Dirawong together created parts of the Richmond River, Goanna Headland, Snake Island and Pelican Island. Today, every Aboriginal nation has a special symbol, they are known as totems, which represent a spiritual attachment or special link to a particular ancestral Being, such as an animal, fish, bird or plant

Traditionally, Aboriginal people cared for their totem as they would a brother or sister or friend. The Dirawong's tribe is the 'nyangbal' tribe from the Far north Coast of New South Wales and the Dirawong's totem symbol is the 'Goanna'

What exactly is the Dirawong? Reducing the Dirawong's complex features into a formal description, will be limited to a general view or understanding of the Goanna's characteristics. Therefore, the most relevant attributes will be analysed in the light of Aboriginal traditions

Although its appearance may differ slightly, it retains similar features and stories and two particular characteristics that remain the same throughout is; its gender is not agreed upon and it is linked to Goannas', Birds, Snakes, ethics, food, land, medicines, morals, rain, social relationships and spirits

Bundjalung people believe the spirits of wounded warriors are present within the mountains, their injuries having manifested themselves as scars on the mountainside, and thunder storms in the mountains recall the sounds of those warriors' battles. The patch of 'red ochre' on top of Goanna Headland shows the wound where the Rainbow Snake bit the Dirawong (Goanna) in the dream time

Folklore of Bundjalung nation AboriginalsEdit

Goanna had a prominent place in the culture of Indigenous Australian Bundjalung Nation tribal groups. This included totemic relationships, anthropomorphic representations in Dreamtime stories, and as a food source. Representations of goannas are common in Indigenous artwork, not just as food, but also as a symbolic spiritual motif. Goannas and the mighty Perentie are often considered two different animals when used in Aboriginal works, as illustrated by the story "How the Goanna and Perentie got their colours"

'Nyangbal' tribes people believe that they are direct descendants in spirit of “mythical supernatural being architects”, the Rainbow Snake and Dirawong who created the land and the two totems; the Snake & the Goanna and the land in which Bundjalung Nation tribal groups live. This belief is very important to Nyangbal people, and the goanna of today constantly reminds nyangbal people of that spiritual ancestor. These symbols are also important because they help to show man's unity with nature. They feel special affinity with their related totem animal species

It is believed that sacred ceremonies have to be re-enacted on a regular basis to maintain the animal species and ensure survival of the humans. Each Bundjalung Nation tribal groups families owns a special area of land and must protect sacred sites representing their personal totems Dreamtime spirits. Bundjalung Nation people travel long distances from all directions to participate in the initiation ceremonies and to educate the young. The journey could last days or several months and women hunt and collect food during the voyage. All animals, birds, insects, reptiles, plants and other life forms, including man, are part of nature, it is only outward forms that are different[4]

Goannas feature prominently in the mythology and culture of Bundjalung Nation Aboriginals and Australian folklore. This included totemic relationships, anthropomorphic representations in Dreamtime stories, and as a source of food and medicine

Representations of goannas are common in Bundjalung Nation artwork, not just as food, but also as a symbolic spiritual motif

Folklore of General European settlersEdit

European settlers perpetuated several old wives' tales about goanna habits and abilities, some of these have persisted in modern folklore amongst campers and bushmen

A common European settlers tale was that the bite of a goanna was infused with a powerful incurable venom. Every year after the bite (or every seven years), the wound would flare up again. For many years it was generally believed by herpetologists that goannas were non venomous, and that lingering illness from their bites was due solely to infection and septicaemia as a result of their saliva being rife with bacteria from carrion and other food sources. However, in 2005 researchers at the University of Melbourne announced that oral venom glands had been found in both goannas and iguanas[5]

Andrew Barton "Banjo" Paterson

Because the goanna regularly eats snakes (often involving a fierce struggle between the two), they are often said to be immune to snake venom. The goanna does eat venomous snakes, but no evidence found suggests actual poison immunity. Other stories say the lizard eats a legendary plant, or drinks from a healing spring which neutralises the poison. This is immortalised in Andrew Barton "Banjo" Paterson's humorous poem Johnson's Antidote

Possibly related to the above poison immunity, goanna fat or oil has been anecdotally imbued with mystical healing properties. Bundjalung Nation Aboriginals traditionally used goanna oil as an important bush medicine, and it also became a common medicine among Europeans in Australia's early days. Said to be a cure-all for all sorts of ailments, and possessing amazing powers of penetration (passing through metal as if it were not there), it was sold amongst early settlers like snake oil (a traditional Chinese medicine used to treat joint pain. However, the most common usage of the phrase is as a derogatory term for compounds offered as medicines which implies that they are fake, fraudulent, quackery, or ineffective) in the Old West of North America

Teachings of the Dirawong (Spiritual Creature)Edit
# Teachings
1. Songlines
2. Values
3. Symbols
4. Initiations
5. Songs
6. Dances
7. Stories
8. Paintings
9. Structures of society
10. Rules for social behaviour
11. The ceremonies performed in order to ensure continuity of life and land
12. Laws of community
13. Cultural lore
14. How people are required to behave in their communities
15. Dreamings
16. Geographical locations
17. Technologies
18. Bush foods
19. Bush medicine
20. Bush cosmetics
21. Body designs
Virtues of the Dirawong (Spiritual Creature)Edit
# Wisdom
1. Calculating
2. Curiosity
3. Knowing When to Hide
4. Seeking Knowledge
5. Climbing Out of Danger
6. Chivalry
7. Helps and Protects Bird's

Location (geography)Edit

The Dirawong continues to be an influential place binding the Bundjalung people to their living culture. In 1985 a 16 hectare section of the southern part of Goanna Headland became the first aboriginal land grant in New South Wales. This grant was made to the Bogal, Jali and Ngulingah Land Councils. The major part of Goanna Headland is now a reserve which is managed for the wider community by the Dirawong Trust. The objectives are to conserve aboriginal culture and heritage, preserve the native flora and fauna and provide recreational activities to the public.

Goanna Headland, located at Evans Head in New South Wales, is one of the most easterly points on mainland Australia, and the town where Queen Elizabeth II flew into during her Royal visit to Australia in 1954. The Headland is believed by Bundjalung Nation Aborigines to be the body of the mythical Dirawong. When viewed from above, the headland has a rough outline showing the shape of a goanna, within which the spirit creature is believed to exist even today.

Goanna Headland has been the mythological place of origin of the Bundjalung Nation, for thousands of years. The Bundjalung Nation people represented by 15 Australian Aboriginal tribes, within which are many groups, clans and bands) call the spiritual creature "The Dirawong" (goanna). It is the spiritual centre of their culture. Within its landscape are many sacred, secret, and ceremonial sites. To date some 24 archaeological sites have been located on Goanna Headland to the south of Evans Head Village. Nine sites have also been identified within the Broadwater National Park, which are of aboriginal cultural significance.

Bundjalung Nation Aboriginal Dreamtime Stories - Myths & LegendsEdit

We can count ourselves fortunate that some of the ancient Aboriginal languages and dreaming tales of the Northern Rivers region and South East Queensland have survived. In just 200 years, and after thousands of years of habitation, the last speakers of the original tongues of this region were all but wiped out. Their sacred land as well as hunting grounds were involuntarily turned into someone else's property. So much has been lost.

Bundjalung Nation Creation Myth - The Rainbow Snake & the DreamtimeEdit

Snake Island in the middle of the river, on the right is Pelican Island and in the background is the Dirawong. (2010).

Since there are numerous versions of the myth, what is in this instance reported is a summarised version, which lacks crucial details essential for the understanding of the myth

In translating creation myths into English and in using another version instead of the Bundjalung nation Aboriginal dream time story, Europeans have obscured the wisdom passed down from the Australian Aborigines from generation to generation. The creation myth or story is but one aspect of the whole and must be linked with the sacred place, sacred song and sacred ceremony known only to the most knowledgeable initiated elders of each tribe

Bundjalung Nation oral literature tradition tells the story about a fight between the Dirawong and the Rainbow Snake, that caused the creation of the Bungawalbin River, the Evans River, Pelican Island, Snake Island, other islands in the Evans River, and also an "island (Rainbow Snake)" at an unknown geographic location in the Pacific Ocean, and possibly the hill now known as "Goanna Headland (Dirawong)"

According to the legend, the Rainbow Snake had been very bad. What he did is a secret, and cannot be revealed here, but it was so bad that a Weeum (known as a 'Clever Man', 'Man of high degree of initiation' or 'Man with great powers') named Nyimbunji from the area known as Bungawalbin, called on the Dirawong (or Goanna) to help protect a Yabbra (or Bird) from the Rainbow Snake (or Waugal)

Only Dirawong was powerful enough to deal with Rainbow Snake. Dirawong chased Rainbow Snake from inland eastward towards the coast and as they went they formed parts of the Richmond River. At Maniworkan (or the town of Woodburn, New South Wales, Australia) they left the Richmond River and kept on going east. Halfway down the Evans River, Dirawong caught Rainbow Snake, the Snake turned around and bit Goanna on the head, Dirawong then withdrew from the battle in order to eat some herbs to recover (heal) from the snakebite, when he felt better from the snakebite he resumed his chase

Meanwhile, Rainbow Snake had reached Evans Head. Rainbow Snake looked around. Dirawong was nowhere to be seen, so Rainbow Snake decided to go back west. The Rainbow Snake then went into the Evans River and coiled itself around and created Snake Island. As he turned his body made another larger island in the river, now known as Pelican Island

When Rainbow Snake spotted Dirawong heading towards him, Rainbow Snake quickly turned, and this time Rainbow Snake kept going until he reached the Burraga (Tasman Sea, Pacific Ocean), and made himself into an Island so Dirawong wouldn't recognise Rainbow Snake

Dirawong reached the coast at Evans Head. Dirawong then laid down next to the coast, facing the Burraga, waiting for Rainbow Snake to come back. And you can still hear Rainbow Snake and see Goanna, today at Evans Head. The patch of 'red ochre' on top of Goanna Headland shows the wound where the Rainbow Snake bit the Goanna in the dream time[6]

Interpretation of the Creation Myth - The Rainbow Snake & the DreamtimeEdit

The creation was believed to be the work of culture heroes that in the creative epoch traveled across a formless land, creating sacred sites and significant places of interest in their travels. In this way songlines were established, some of which could travel right across Australia, through as many as six to ten different language groupings. The songs and dances of a particular songline were kept alive and frequently performed at large gatherings, organised in good seasons.[7]

Various Bundjalung nation Aboriginal tribes Legends about 'The Three Brothers'Edit

Bundjalung nation - Unknown tribe - 'The Three Brothers' Story 1Edit

A Bundjalung nation Aboriginal dream time legend tells of three brothers, Mamoonh, Yarbirri (also known as 'yar Birrain') and Birrung, their mother and wives who landed at Gummingarr (which is now called Chinamens Beach at Evans Head, New South Wales, Australia) in canoes (made from the bark of a Moreton Bay Pine (Araucaria cunninghamii)). While the three brothers repaired one of their canoes, their mother went to look for food. When it was time to leave the three brothers could not find their mother so left without her. On her return she found her three sons had left without her, enraged at being left behind, she called out to the three brothers and in her anger struck the sea with a stick. This caused the first big waves on the sea and caused the three brothers canoe to sink on a reef at the mouth of the Richmond River, and the three brothers then swam ashore at the historical geographical location known as 'Shelley Beach', located at Ballina, New South Wales, Australia (the area was called in Bundjalung language 'Bullinah', meaning place of many oysters in Njangbal language). The three brothers returned overland to find their mother and stayed to settle this country. One brother went south, another west and the third brother north. In doing so the three brothers founded the tribal groups of the Bundjalung Nation.

Bundjalung Nation - Unknown tribe - 'The Three Brothers' Story 2Edit

This Bundjalung Nation Aboriginal dream-time legend tells of three brothers, Mamoonh, Yarbirri (also known as 'yar Birrain') and Birrung, who are said to have come from the sea. The brothers, along with their grandmother, arrived in a canoe made from the bark of a hoop pine. As they followed the coastline, they found a rich land sparsely populated, so they landed at the mouth of the Clarence river, where the towns of Iluka and Yamba now stand, and stayed there for a long time, then, leaving their grandmother behind they continued on in their canoe heading up the east coast. At one place they landed and created a spring of fresh water. They stopped along the coast at various places and populated the land. 'The Three Brothers' also made the laws for the Bundjalung Nation people and also the ceremonies of the Bora rings. The Bora Ring was the meeting place where stories were handed down. That's where the laws came from for all the tribes. The elders got together and passed down the laws to the younger men of the tribes.

Bundjalung Nation - Unknown tribe - 'The Three Brothers' Story 3Edit

According to Bundjalung Nation Aboriginal dream-time, three brothers, Mamoonh, Yarbirri (also known as 'yar Birrain') and Birrung, settled on what is now known as Seven Mile beach (between Lennox Head and Broken Head) and one of them, Yarbirri, produced a flow of fresh water by thrusting his spear into the sand. At low tide there is said to be a stain marking the spot from where the water flowed.

Bundjalung Nation - Yaegle tribe - 'The Three Brothers' Story 4Edit

In the very beginning, three brothers, Mamoonh, Yarbirri (also known as 'yar Birrain') and Birrung, together with their wives and mother traveled from far across the sea, arriving on the Australian coast at the mouth of the Clarence River. Their boat, however, was blown out to sea in a storm, so 'The Three Brothers' decided to build canoes in order to return to their homeland far across the sea.

They completed building the canoes but could find no sign of their mother anywhere so they set off without her. On returning to find she had been left behind, the mother climbed to the top of a hill and cursed them for abandoning her. She called the ocean to anger and the wild seas forced 'The Three Brothers' back to land at Chinamans Beach, near Evans Head. Once the seas had abated one of 'The Three Brothers' returned south to find their mother. The others settled near Evans Head, developed families and a thriving community.

One of the families moved north, another west and the third to the south, forming the three branches of the bundjalung people.[8]

Bundjalung Nation - Yaegle tribe - 'The Three Brothers' Story 5Edit

According to Bundjalung Legend, The Founding Three Brothers, Mamoonh, Yarbirri (also known as 'yar Birrain') and Birrung, made one of their famous landings at what is now Lennox Head said to be near today a group of black rocks on the beach. When the eldest of 'The Three Brothers' Yarbirri, thrust a spear into the sand, fresh water ran (Lake Ainsworth) and it is said when the tide is low you can still see a rusty stain. After their landing at Lennox Head, the Three Brothers moved north towards Brunswick Heads, where they created the first Bora ground. Thousands of years later, a bora ground remains at Lennox Head, protected by the National Parks and Wildlife Service and is open to the public.[8]

Bundjalung Nation - Ngybul tribe - 'The Three Brothers' Story 6Edit

"The coastal areas of New South Wales and southern Queensland were associated with the legend of the THREE BROTHERS the ancestors of the Aboriginal people who came from the sea and landed on the east coast. The details of the legend vary from one part of the coast to another, each Aboriginal language area claiming that the brothers landed in their territory.

In the Northern Rivers area the legend states that the three brothers made their first landing at Yamba or illuka, and after three subsequent landings further north, one at Evans Head, then Ballina and the last at the Lennox boat channel area at Lennox Head, two of the brothers then occupied the coast, while the third moved inland and occupied the Lismore district.

Evans Head was known as Gummingarr, a name derived from gummi, meaning father's mother. This recalls an incident in the legend where the grandmother of the three brothers went into the bush to gather fern roots; she could not be found when the three brothers prepared to paddle northward, and was therefore was left behind. Arriving back at the beach the grandmother grew very angry at being left behind and used her magic to summon up a storm making the first waves on what up till that point had been a waveless ocean. This forced the brothers ashore at Ballina and they went overland back to retrieve the grandmother.

The next landing was at Lennox Head in the boat channel area (bream hole/moat) of the beach. One of the brothers, named Yarbirri (his beard was a dark red colour), thrust his hunting spear into the sand, and fresh water gushed out. Before the swampy area in the southern corner was filled and drained a ti-tree coloured stain was often seen that resembled a red beard.

After Lennox the brothers continued north to their final landing at Brunswick Heads, where they are said to have made the first wandaral or bora ring. Be that as it may, there is a well preserved bora ring in Lennox. It is situated ninety metres west of Gibbon Street and is also adjacent to the Megan Crescent cricket field. It is fenced and maintained by the National Parks and Wildlife Service of NSW and is open to visitors. The Bora Ring was used mainly for male initiation ceremonies.

After the first Wandaral ceremony at Brunswick, The eldest brother, Yarbirri, made the laws. The brothers decided to separate and to populate the earth, Yarbirri went north, Mamoon to the west and Birrung to the south. The name Birin (Birrung) was widely used to mean "southerners"; the people north of the Brisbane River regarded all of the Bunjalung people as Birin: to the people of the Byron Bay area Birin referred to the people of the Clarence."

Legend of 'Mount Bugerum Boogerum'Edit

Bundjalung Nation - Ngybul tribe - Story 1Edit

According to a Bundjalung Legend, Mount Bugerum Boogerum was of enormous spiritual significance to local Aboriginal people. It was said that the eldest of The Founding Three Brothers, Yarbirri (also known as 'yar Birrain'), was known to have been spoken to by God on Mount Bugerum Boogerum, that at least is the belief, and the belief has drawn pilgrims for thousands of years. There is not a great deal of evidence but it is Bundjalung Nation oral history.[9]

Bundjalung Legends about Spirits of The ForestEdit

Legend of the Wiangaree LagoonEdit

In ancient times, long before white people came to this country, Aboriginal people living in the area now known as the Upper Richmond River District believed that a lagoon at Wiangaree was haunted by the ghostly spirit of a woman.

One day a warrior from a tribe living near the lagoon came back to the camp tired from hunting. He was angry when he found that his wife was not there to meet him, as were the wives of the other warriors. The warrior was jealous and thought immediately that his wife was being unfaithful. He went looking for her and became more and more angry with every step he took. When he found her walking in the bush, quite unaware that her husband had returned, he accused her of being unfaithful. Against her determined protests of innocence and her struggles, he drowned her in the lagoon.

It was said that from time to time the sound of her body struggling in the lagoon could be heard, as could her cries as she sank beneath the surface. The warriors, an ancient people, continue to live there in spirit. And what of the spirit of the woman? Is it the sound of her body splashing in the lagoon or...only a platypus? Are they her death cries one can hear or...merely those of a night bird? Who can tell? It was so long ago.

Bundjalung Nation Aboriginal Story about the Dirawong Tribe Massacre at Evans HeadEdit

In the 1840s, Goanna Headland located at Evans Head, was the site of a massacre of Bundjalung people by Europeans.[10] Today, people from all over the world still speak of hearing spiritual voices on the hill around the old campsite in Bundjalung National Park late in the afternoons, and local fishermen have spoken of lights on the Evans River at night. Aboriginal legend says that the lights are from fire sticks.

The following is an edited transcript of a historical and spiritual story about the Dirawong Tribe Massacre at Evans Head, spoken by an Aboriginal of the Bundjalung Nation;

"This area around Evans Head is part of the Bundjalung Nation, it's a magnificent landscape but among the wildflowers, the bush, trees, and the dunes, ghosts lurk about everywhere. It is said by different people, even today who have been to Evans Head that, 'if you walk along any lonely beach in the area near dusk and stand at the edge of the dunes, you will hear the sound of screaming, wailing, and of the weeping of children and women who were murdered by the white settlers back in the mid 19th century'. These were the victims of an illegal massacre of over 100 Aboriginal women and children.

Even today at Evans Head, the ghosts of those who were massacred remind us of those long, forgotten blood-soaked days, as their spirits wail and weep, hoping to someday rest. I know some of you people out there in the world who are skeptical would say: 'The sounds are made by birds, trees, sand, storms, waves or the wind or something else'...Are you really sure of that? Would you care to check it out personally yourself, or investigate the sounds by carrying out some Spiritual and Scientific research? Even today it’s a grim reminder to everyone around the world of Australia's not so nice history."

Legends from the Biripi Nation related to Bundjalung Nation LegendsEdit

Legend of 'The Three Brothers'Edit

Biripi Nation - 'The Three Brothers' Story 1Edit

The Three Brothers are also known as three mountains in the Hastings area on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales, Australia. They were named by Lieutenant James Cook (also known as Captain Cook FRS RN) during his voyage along the east coast of Australia in May 1770.

The name 'Three Brothers' is a striking coincidence, as the mythology of the Biripi Nation Aboriginal people, the Birpai, tell of a Dreamtime legend describing how three brothers from the Birpai tribe met their fate at the hands of the witch named Widjirriejuggi. The Three Brothers were buried where each mountain stands.[11]

“Way back in the Dreamtime, there were three brothers (Binghi) of the Birpai tribe who lived near the mouth of the Camden Haven River. They were strong young men, bright eyed and good hunters of the swift wallaby, the brown pigeon and the cunning goanna.”

“As part of their growth to full manhood, they had undergone various stages of the initiation ceremonies of their tribe. As part of this, they had to live alone in the bush for many months to prove they could survive by themselves.”

“After several months away from their family and friends, they began to wonder how their parents were, whether they were sick or well.”

“The youngest brother was at a different level to his two brothers in the initiation ritual and he was free to leave after a short time, so he decided to go back to the tribe and check on their mother Gabaway, and their father Babagar.”

“He said to his brothers, “There’s no point in just sitting around worrying; you two stay here and I’ll go and see how Mum and Dad are going,” and, waving goodbye, he set off to find his parents.

“But as he was pushing his way through the scrub, he saw an evil old witch woman (Widjirriejuggik) going in the direction of his brothers’ camp. He didn’t take much notice of her at the time, but when he reached the spot where his parents were camping he told his father about the old woman.”

“His father was very upset by the news that the witch was hanging about the brothers’ camp and said to the youngest brother: “You must go back to your brothers quickly and warn them or that old woman will kill them and eat them.” Then his father gave him a special boomerang which he had made with magic to keep him safe.

“Naturally the young brother was horrified at the thought that the wicked old witch might kill and eat his brothers so he set off at once to let them know of the danger that threatened them.”

“Even though he travelled as fast as he could, running through the forest, scratching his legs on the sharp vines and sticks and cutting his feet on pointed rocks, he couldn’t get to the camp before night. He settled down to rest until morning but didn’t sleep much because he was too worried about his brothers.”

“As soon as the first morning star shone in the pearly light of dawn and he could see where he was going, he started running through the bush again towards the camp.”

“But he was too late. When he got to the camp, he saw the old witch was there and there was no sign of his brothers.”

“He asked her what she had done with his two brothers and, since she was such a powerful witch and so sure he couldn’t hurt her, she not only told him straight out that she had eaten the two brothers, but she was going to eat him too.”

“Ahh, but she was too confident because she didn’t know about the special boomerang, which the father had made. Quick as a flash, before she had the chance to get him, he jumped up in the air and whacked her on the head with the boomerang, so hard that it split the old witch into two pieces, right down the middle.”

Legends from the Gundungurra Nation related to Bundjalung Nation LegendsEdit

Legend of 'The Three Sisters'Edit

Katoomba tribe - 'The Three Sisters' Story 1Edit

This Gundungurra Nation Aboriginal dream-time legend has it that the local witch doctor of the Katoomba tribe had three beautiful daughters, 'Meehni', 'Wimlah' and Gunnedoo', who were told not to go into the Jamison Valley (Katoomba, New South Wales, Australia) because a fearsome Rainbow Snake lived there. The daughters were curious and leaned over the cliff face to look down into the valley and accidentally dislodged some rocks which, falling into the valley below, awoke the Rainbow Snake. The Rainbow Snake was terribly angry and started up the cliff to eat the young girls, the witch doctor saw what was happening and quickly turned his daughters into stone pillars using his magic stick. The Rainbow Snake became enraged and turned on the witch doctor, who then quickly turned himself into a lyrebird. He fled from the Rainbow Snake and lost his magic stick.

The 3 Sisters are still pillars of stone and if you go for a walk in the Jamison Valley below the 3 Sisters, if you are quiet, you may see a Lyrebird scratching in the forest, still looking for the magic stick so that he can turn himself and his daughters back into human form.

Interpretation of 'The Three Sisters' legend - (Katoomba tribe Story 1)Edit

1. In a different version revealed from Aboriginals or Europeans of the legend (which is above), the word 'Bunyip' is used instead of the word 'Rainbow Snake'

2. The 'Rainbow Snake' referred to in the Katoomba tribe dreamtime legend (which is above), is known in science literature (from people who are Atheists) as a physical snake, some type of very large python

3. The story tells us that people should act responsible, and not upset spirits

4. The three females mentioned, are three birds who were turned into spiritual people (Like the Egyptian Cow Gods), now able to see truth, reality and the astral plane

Katoomba tribe - 'The Three Sisters' Story 2Edit

The Three Sisters, 'Meehni' (922 metres tall), 'Wimlah' (918 metres tall) and 'Gunnedoo' (906 metres tall), towering above the Jamison Valley. The lighter coloured orange/yellow sections indicate fresh rock, exposed by recent erosion.

This Gundungurra Nation Aboriginal dream-time legend has it that three sisters, 'Meehni', 'Wimlah' and 'Gunnedoo' lived in the Jamison Valley (Katoomba, New South Wales, Australia) as members of the Katoomba tribe within the Gundungurra Nation. Word of their beauty spread and other tribes from other Nations became jealous.

These three very beautiful maidens had fallen in love with three brothers from the Nepean or Mulgoa (Mulgowey) tribe of the Darug Nation (which is North East of the Gandangara Nation), yet tribal law forbade them to marry outside their own tribe. The brothers were not happy to accept this law and so decided to use force to capture the three sisters causing a major tribal battle.

A terrible battle raged across the mountains – blood flowed and stained the ground red, colouring the cliffs around. The Katoomba tribe were losing the battle and the maidens were terrified. They ran to the cliff edge and saw the fierce fighting. Their father, who was also the witch doctor of the tribe, cast a magic spell on them to turn them into stone where they stood for their bad behaviour. He planned to change them back after the battle, however he was killed when he went back into the battle.

The Nepean tribe won and went to claim the maidens, only to find three great pinnacles of rock - the famous 3 Sisters. As only the witch doctor could reverse the spell to return the ladies to their former beauty, the sisters remain in their magnificent rock formation as a reminder of this battle for generations to come. To this day no one has discovered the magic spell which will set them free.

Interpretation of 'The Three Sisters' legend - (Katoomba tribe Story 2)Edit

Dr Martin Thomas states in his book, 'The Artificial Horizon: Imagining the Blue Mountains' that when he began researching the Blue Mountains, he discovered competing narratives, so he felt that in writing an historically inspired work, it was his job to suggest, evoke and play with narrative as much as just telling it

Dr Martin Thomas points out that; "Myths pose particular problems for traditional historians, who see their work as being about facts and replacing myths with truth or scientific history." Dr Martin Thomas does not share that view and states that "myth permeates society and we should think creatively about myth and engage with it"

Excited by myths that offer prospects of opening rather than closure, Dr Martin Thomas refers to an ancient Blue Mountains myth collected by Robert Hamilton Matthews (R. H. Mathews), who in 1893 started collecting data on Aboriginal societies. Robert Hamilton Matthews documented an Aboriginal story of creation that effectively maps the local landscape

Dr Martin Thomas says to compare Robert Hamilton Matthews 'Aboriginal story of creation' to the legend of 'The Three Sisters' at Echo Point in Katoomba, published in the 1940s, which doesn't have an Aboriginal provenance

The Three Sisters' story claims that the sisters are three women who were turned to stone. One can see that as a false myth but, as a myth created by the invading colonial culture, it reveals underlying truths about petrifying the Aboriginal sisters and turning them into things you just look at

In addition, Dr Martin Thomas argues that it is the hallmark of colonisation, with its deletions, denials, losses and absences, that our sense of the past is perpetually unstable, always liable to crack or shatter; and that the 'Three Sisters' legend should not be dismissed as a bogus myth. Precisely because of its ambiguous meaning and origin, it qualifies as myth in the deepest sense[12]

See alsoEdit


Primary literature

Bibliography and resourcesEdit