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The Native Tribes of North Central Australia, by Baldwin Spencer and F. J. Gillen [1899], at

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Chapter XI * Traditions Dealing with the Origin of the Alcheringa Ancestors of the Arunta Tribe and with Particular Customs (Continued)

The Udnirringita totem—Alice Springs group consists of forty individuals at the present day—Emily Gap the centre of the totem—Wanderings of Udnirringita people from various places into the Gap—The wanderings of two women—A handicoot woman performs Ariltha on an Unjiamba woman, and then changes the totem of the latter—Two women join the wandering Ulpmerka men and travel on with Kukaitcha northwards—Wanderings of the wild dogs—Two young men steal the two Churinga of an old man, who pursues them to Mount Gillen—They kill and eat wild dog people—The old man is killed on Mount Gillen—The young men travel to the north and go down into the ground—Wanderings of two Unjiamba women—Travel southwards and stop at Ooraminna—Wanderings of emu, honey-ant and lizard men—The Unthippa women—Give rise to deposits of red ochre—Line of hills arise to mark their route—The Unthippa dance at circumcision—Tradition of Erkincha—Tradition of the snake of Imyunga—The fire totem—Origin of fire—The Orunchertwa and the Oknirabata—Association of birds with particular totems.



THE most important group of the Udnirringita totem is located in the neighbourhood of Alice Springs in the northern part of the Macdonnell Ranges, and consists all told—men, women and children—of forty individuals, which is the largest number, in any one local group, with which we are acquainted. The totemic name is derived from that of a grub or larva, which in turn derives its name from a bush called Udnirringa, upon which the insect feeds and deposits its eggs. The bush bears a berry of which emus are very fond.

The Udnirringita people in this locality occupy a tract of country which is about 100 square miles in extent, and through the centre of which runs a range of often lofty hills,

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amongst which occur the gaps or gorges with which they are especially associated. The western boundary of their country is co-terminous with the eastern wall of the gap called by the natives Untariipa, and by the whites the Heavitree Gap. The eastern boundary is formed by the Adnurinia or Jessie Gap.

At various places throughout this district Udnirringita people originated in the Alcheringa from their animal ancestors, and these Alcheringa people deposited Churinga at various spots during the course of their wanderings, or where they originated. The Alcheringa Udnirringita people, both men and women, are supposed to have been full of eggs, which are now represented by rounded water-worn stones, many of which are stored in the Ertnatulunga at the various gaps, and are called Churinga Unchima. Every prominent, and many insignificant natural features throughout this strip of country—the most picturesque part of the great central area of the continent—has some history attached to it. For example, a gaunt old gum tree, with a large projecting bole about the middle of the trunk, indicates the exact spot where an Alcheringa man, who was very full of eggs, arose when he was transformed out of a witchetty grub. When he died his spirit part remained behind along with his Churinga, and used to especially frequent this tree, and therefore, when that spirit went inside a woman of the local group and was reincarnated in the form of a man who died a few years ago, that special tree was the Nanja tree of that man. An insignificant looking splinter of black, gneissic rock, projecting from the ground at another spot, indicates the exact place at which a woman of the Alcheringa arose whose living reincarnation—an old woman—is now to be seen at Alice Springs.

Emily Gap, or, as it is called by the natives, Unthurqua, is, probably, owing to its central position, the most important spot in the Udnirringita country. It is a narrow gorge not more than a hundred yards from end to end and about thirty in width, hemmed in by precipitous rocks of red quartzite, and runs from north to south right across the long ridge which, for some 200 miles, bounds the Horn or Mercenie valley p. 425 on its southern side. Within a radius of two miles of this gap there are eight or ten holes, varying from three to five feet in depth, which are supposed to have been sunk, in the first instance, by the Alcheringa men. They are called Ilthura, and are strictly tabu to women and children, who must not on any pretence go near to them, and their exact locality is well known to all of the members of the local group. Each hole contains, carefully covered over, one large stone called Churinga Uchaqua, which represents the witchetty in its chrysalis stage, and a smaller, more rounded stone, called Churinga Unchima, which represents the egg stage.

It was just within the northern entrance to the gorge, at a spot marked now by a large stone, close to which stands the trunk of an old and long since dead gum tree, that the great Alcheringa leader of the witchetties, who was named Intwailiuka, sprang into existence. With him and with the people whose leader he was many of the natural features of the gorge are, as we shall shortly see, associated in tradition.

The stone has since been associated with the spirit, not only of the dead Intwailiuka, but also with one or two men who have been regarded as his successive reincarnations, the last of whom was the father of the present Alatunja of the group. A number of smaller stones close by represent men who sat there with him, for during his life he spent much time in this spot, which he chose because, owing to its position, he could easily guard the approach to the gap and at the same time keep watch over the sacred store-house of the Churinga, which was always located in one of the many clefts which he made in the rocks for this purpose.

In the western wall of the gap is situated the sacred cave which is called the Ilthura oknira, or the great Ilthura, at which he performed the ceremony called Intichiuma, the object of which was then, as at the present day, to increase the number of the Udnirringita grub on which he and his companions fed. Directly opposite to this, but low down on the eastern wall of the gap, is the sacred Ilkinia, a drawing on the rocks which it is believed sprang up spontaneously to mark the spot where the Alcheringa women painted themselves, and stood peering up and watching while Intwailiuka and his men p. 426 performed Intichiuma. This spot is called the Erlukwirra, or camp of the women, in the Alcheringa, and one of the drawings is supposed to represent a woman leaning on her elbow against the rocks and gazing upwards. In this, as in many other instances, we meet with traditions showing clearly that in past times the position of women in regard to their association with sacred objects and ceremonies was very different from that which they occupy at the present day, when, for example, no woman dare to venture near to the sacred spot while Intichiuma was being performed there. About 200 feet below the Ilthura, a steep, broad belt band of quartzite, less weathered than the surrounding rock, stands out and dips steeply down into the bed of the creek. This is called Alknalinta, which means “eyes painted around,” and indicates where, in the Alcheringa, Intwailiuka stood in the bed of the creek at the base of the rock. Standing here he threw numbers of Churinga Unchima, or eggs, up the face of the rock, just as is now done during the Intichiuma p. 427 ceremony. Here also he used to sit while he pounded up large quantities of the grub. On the northern edge of the rock is a long, deep, ridge-shaped depression, which looks as if the stone had been cut out with a great knife, and this marks the spot where the special pitchi of Intwailiuka rested while he poured into it the pulverised grubs. A high precipitous wall of rock rises abruptly from the top of the Alknalinta, and in a line with the mass of rock an old pine tree stands and marks the spot where Churinga Unchima were stored by Intwailiuka for Intichiuma purposes, and where they are still stored by his successors. These special Churinga represent the eggs which the Alcheringa people carried in their bodies, and at the present day every man belonging to the totem has a few of these which he believes were carried thus by his Alcheringa ancestors, and when he dies they are buried with him. Any round pebble found in the vicinity of the gap may p. 428 be one of these Churinga, but only the old men are able to tell whether it is genuine or not.

Looking south from the spot last referred to, a group of stones can be seen which mark the spot where a group of men coming into the gap in the Alcheringa sat down. At the west side of the northern entrance a great jumble of quartzite boulders, much weather-worn, indicates the spot where the grub men, who marched into this, the headquarters of the totem, from a place called Ulathirka, sat down. Just outside the northern end of the gap a group of gum trees indicates where the people who marched in from Ungunja sat down, and further still up the creek, a large boulder, standing in the bed, indicates where a celebrated old man, the leader of one group of the Alcheringa, sat down. Up on the western bank, a group of gum trees and acacia scrub indicates where the men coming in from Urliipma sat.

The Udnirringita people of this, their central group, did not wander about, and they are not recorded as having had any Inapertwa ancestors, but the grubs are supposed to have been transformed directly into human beings. Whilst, however, those who originated at the Emily Gap, according to tradition, remained there, other groups are recorded as having immigrated to the same spot from outside parts of the country.

The first to come were the Udnirringita from a place called Urliipma, which lies twenty miles away to the east of the present telegraph line, where it passes on to the Burt Plain at the northern side of the Macdonnell Ranges. They were led by an old Bulthara man, who was what is called Erilknabata, that is, a very wise man of the Alcheringa, his wisdom being commensurate with the length of his name, which was Irpapirkirpirirrawilika. They travelled at first under the ground until they reached Atnamala, a place a little to the east of Painta Springs, where they fed on Udnirringita, painted their bodies with the totemic design, and fixed many Lalkira, or nose bones, in their hair. Thence they travelled above ground, and came on south to Okirilla, where they cooked and ate many Udnirringita, and also made Intichiuma, and left the Churinga Uchaqua stones, which now remain p. 429 there, in the Ilthura which they used. Thence they travelled to Unthurqua, or the Emily Gap, where they sat down on the northern entrance, the old man Intwailiuka warning them to come no further.

The next party to immigrate consisted of men from a place out to the west in the neighbourhood of Mount Heuglin. Unlike the Urliipma people they had some women with them and were led by a Panunga man named Ilpiriiwuka, who, when he found that Intwailiuka would not allow him to come within the sacred precincts of the Emily Gap, became angry and, leaving his party, returned to Ulathirka, where his descendant is now living amongst the Udnirringita of that locality. This party travelled first of all to Atnamala, where, like the first group, they painted their bodies with the Ilkinia of the totem and made Intichiuma. Thence they travelled south-east to Yia-pitchera, about six miles west of Alice Springs, where again they painted themselves and fed upon the grub, a large waterhole springing up to mark the spot where the grubs were cooked. Thence, after travelling only half a mile to Nang-wulturra, they again painted themselves, ate grubs, and another waterhole was formed. Travelling south they came to what is now called Charles Creek, where they performed sacred ceremonies and left a Panunga woman. Then, following down the creek, they came to Ilpillachilla, where they stopped for a few hours and decorated themselves with the Ilkinia designs. Then they went on to Kiula, a clay-pan about three miles to the south of Alice Springs, where they again painted the Ilkinia on their bodies and left one man, a Bulthara named Ulaliki-irika, whose last descendant died a short time ago. Then they travelled on to the east along the plain which is bounded on the south by the range through which the Emily Gap runs, and at a spot about three miles further on, which is now indicated by a great heap of stones, they stopped to listen for the voice of Intwailiuka, and presently they heard him singing about the coming of a Panunga man. Leaving behind them a Panunga man named Ilpiriiwuka, whose descendant is now living in the person of a little boy, they travelled on to an Ilthura about two miles away from the gap, where they met a number of the local p. 430 Udnirringita people whom they joined, and then all of them went into the ground and came out again at the entrance to the gap on the western side. They were warned by Intwailiuka not to come any further on, so they sat down and their leader at once returned to Ulathurka. Where they sat down, a large number of black stones arose to mark the spot. At a later time Intwailiuka led the party to the Ilthura Oknira, where they assisted him to perform Intichiuma.

After this party, there came another from Wulpa, a spot amongst the sand hills west of Mount Burrell on the Hugh River. This was led by an old Panunga man named Akwithaintuya. The men of this party travelled underground to Yinthura passing, but at some miles distant, Imanda, where at that time the Achilpa and Unchichera were making Engwura. Here they made quabara undattha and ate Udnirringita. They then travelled on, above ground, to Nukwia, east of Ooraminna, where they left a Panunga man; thence they came to a large clay-pan on the Emily Plain, made Engwura and then passed on to Intiripita, where they performed ceremonies and left two men, one a Panunga named Urangara, and the other a Bulthara named Irchuangwa. Then they passed on to Ilpirikulla, where a Panunga woman was left, and finally they reached the southern entrance to the Emily Gap where they were stopped by Intwailiuka and sat down, a group of stones now marking the spot. After their arrival they performed Ariltha upon some members of their party, the operator being a great medicine man named Urangara.

Another party came from Unthurkunpa, a range about fifty miles away to the east of Alice Springs, where there still exists a witchetty totem centre. They were led by a Bulthara named Intwailiuka, whose living descendant is the present Alatunja of the Alice Springs, or, to speak more correctly, of the Emily Gap group of Udnirringita. The members of this party at first travelled underground to Entukatira, a creek some miles to the east of Undoolya, where they ate witchetty grubs and painted themselves with Ilkinia. Thence they went on to Iliarinia, where they again painted and left a Bulthara man named Unchalka. Then they travelled on to the south and, after one or two halts, p. 431 reached the entrance to the Jessie Gap, where they saw a number of witchetty men, amongst whom was a Bulthara named Kakathurika, who warned them not to approach any nearer to the gap and whose descendant is now the Alatunja of that group of the totem. 1

Then they journeyed on to Laliknika on the Emily Creek about four miles north of the gap, where they painted Ilkinia on their bodies and left one woman, a Panunga, whose descendant is one of the daughters of the present Alatunja of Emily Gap. Thence they travelled on to the Todd River, where some men and women were left, and then, following the banks down to a spot, about half a mile away from the gap, where a Panunga man named Pitcha-arinia was left, they rested for a short time and then went on till they came to the eastern side of the Emily Gap, where they sat down all together and a group of trees arose to mark the place.

The last party of immigrants came from Ungwia in the Hart Ranges. The members of this party were of both sexes, and they travelled underground until they reached Ilpirulcha, a spot on the Emily Creek a few miles to the north of the gap, where they painted themselves with Ilkinia and ate witchetty grubs. Then they went on to Achilpa-interninja, the spot at which one of the travelling groups of the Achilpa lost a small Churinga. After painting themselves here and eating some more of the totemic grub, they came to Laliknika, and then on to one of the Ilthura, where they halted because they heard the voice of Intwailiuka singing. Here they left one Bulthara man, and going on stopped every now and then to listen for the singing. Camping on the Emily Creek half a mile to the north of the spot called Chalipita, they left here a Bulthara woman named Chantunga, and then going on they performed some sacred ceremonies. Leaving behind one

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Bulthara man, whose descendant is now living, they came to I-yathika, and found there a Bulthara man of their own totem. Here they could plainly hear Intwailiuka singing of the coming of the men from Ungwia, so they at once went on to the mouth of the gap, a group of trees arising to mark the spot where they stood. Intwailiuka objected to their passing through the gap, so they entered the ground and came up again on the south side at Ertichirticha, where they found the Wulpa people had previously sat down. The only living descendant of this group is a man named Ertichirticharinia, who now lives at Alice Springs. They wished to continue their journey to Wulpa, but Intwailiuka told them to remain, so they sat down and stayed at the gap, and a group of gum trees marks the spot where they sat down.

At the present time there are just forty individuals who are regarded as the descendants of the original resident group of Emily Gap and of the immigrant parties. Of these forty, twenty-six are the descendants of the former and fourteen are the descendants of the latter, and out of the total number only five belong to the Purula and Kumara moiety of the tribe.


A woman of the Panunga class and Quirra (bandicoot) totem, left a place called Ilki-ira, lying to the north of Anna's Reservoir, and, carrying with her a Nurtunja and Churinga, travelled south to Intita-laturika, where she found another Panunga woman of the Unjiamba totem who also had a Nurtunja. She took this woman and her Nurtunja with her, and, still travelling south, came to a place called Alkniara, to the east of, and not far from Mount Heuglin. Here they camped and made quabara undattha, and the Quirra woman performed the operation of Atna ariltha-kuma on her companion, a great gully arising at the spot, and, in the middle of this, a large stone to mark the exact place where, after the performance, the women went down into the ground, underneath which they travelled southwards to Ariltha. Here they made quabara undattha and then went on to Arurumbya, where they found erected the Nurtunja of a Bulthara p. 433 man named Akwithaka, of the bandicoot totem. The bandicoot woman here painted her Unjiamba companion with Quirra undattha 1 and so caused her to change her totem to Quirra, after which, the tradition says, she fed exclusively on bandicoot. The owner of the Nurtunja was absent searching for bandicoot, and they did not see him, but, being afraid lest he should follow their tracks, they entered the ground and went on to Urtiacha in the Waterhouse Range, where they again made quabara undattha, and then came on to a spot five miles to the east of Owen Springs, where by means of quabara undattha the woman who was originally Unjiamba and Panunga, changed herself into a Kumara and remained there altogether. Her name was Illapurinja, which means, the changed one.

The remaining woman now went on alone to Urapitchera, near to what is now called Boggy Waterhole on the Finke, where she found a number of Achilpa people making Engwura; she caused blood to flow from her sexual organs in great volume, directing it towards the people, who at once fled to a spot close by which is now marked by a number of stones which sprung up where they took refuge. The blood covered the Engwura ground and formed a fine clay-pan which remains to the present day.

Finding at Urapitchera a Kumara woman of the bandicoot totem, she took her on as companion and started off underground towards the north-east. After making quabara at various places they were chased by an old Kumara man of the lizard totem, named Yukwirta, but he could not capture them, and so they went on until they camped at Inkila-quatcha, where they found the Ulpmerka of the plum-tree totem who subsequently travelled northwards under the guidance of Kukaitcha and were at that time engaged in making Churinga by means of opossum teeth, which they used to draw the designs with. With the Ulpmerka the two women went to Quiurnpa, which was close by, and there Kukaitcha decorated the Kumara woman with sacred down, and thus caused her to change her class from Kumara to Panunga, and thus she became Quitia, that is, younger sister of the other woman.

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It has been already described in the account of the Engwura how these two women accompanied the Ulpmerka as they travelled northwards from Quiurnpa under the guidance of the great Kukaitcha. It was this party of Ulpmerka who were camped at Aurapuncha, when one of the wandering parties of Achilpa came and joined them, and finally changed into Ulpmerka men of the plum-tree totem.


In the Alcheringa there dwelt at Chilpma, about one hundred miles east south-east of Alice Springs, three men of the Ukgnulia or wild dog totem; one was an old Bulthara man named Kaltiwilyika, and two were young men, both Panunga, one named Kalterinya and the other Ulthulperinya. The old man had a string bag, called Iruka or Apunga, in which he kept two Churinga. The two young men stole this bag and ran away followed by the old man who carried a great stabbing spear called Wallira. The two younger ones travelled away towards the north-west, and came to Uchirka, where they found an old woman of the wild dog totem, with a newly-born child, both of whom they killed and ate, leaving some meat for the old man. Here they left a Churinga from which sprang subsequently a man called Uchirkarinia, whose descendant is now living.

Leaving Uchirka they travelled quickly, being afraid of the old man, and during the day passed Therierita, where they saw a large mob of Achilpa. They went on and camped at Itnuringa, where they found some Oruncha men with whom they were afraid to interfere and camped at Ulkupiratakima, a rock-hole on the Emily Plain, about eighteen miles to the south-east of Alice Springs. Here they found an old woman of the wild dog totem, whom they killed and proceeded to eat, and while thus engaged, the old man came in sight. They just had time to conceal the bag with the Churinga in it, when he came and sat down a little distance from them without speaking. They gave him meat, but he only ate a very little of it, being sulky. That night they were afraid to sleep lest the old man should kill them, and before daylight they ran p. 435 away and came on to Pilyiqua, where there are some small rock-holes. Here they camped and found some small wild dog men, some of whom they killed and ate. The old man again overtook them and again they gave him meat, of which he would only eat a little, being still very sulky and on the look-out for an opportunity of killing them. Once more they ran away before daylight and, passing a hill called Irpalpa, about seven miles south of Alice Springs, they travelled on to Okniambantwa or Mount Gillen, where they camped on top of the range and found an old woman of the wild dog totem whom they killed and ate. The old man came up later on, but the two young men had hidden themselves. He saw, however, a lot of wild dog men who had originated here (this lies in a wild dog locality at the present day), and thinking the two might be in their midst he attacked them with his great spear and killed several, after which they all combined together and killed him.

The local men were very angry, and so the two young men being afraid to join them, went up into the sky taking the bag with them. They went away towards the north-west and did not alight until they reached Ulthirpa, which is nearly seventy miles from Alice Springs. Here they camped and found a Bulthara man of the wild dog totem named Ulthirpirinia, whose descendant is now living, and who lived only on wild dog flesh (the animal not the man), of which he consumed large quantities. He had a Nurtunja and quabara undattha, which he showed to the two young men, who then went on foot to Erwanchalirika, where they found a Bulthara wild dog man whom they killed and ate. He had no Nurtunja or Churinga. After eating him their faces became suffused with blood, producing a most uncomfortable feeling, so that they relieved each other by sucking one another's cheeks.

Travelling on they passed the spots now called Johnston's Well and Harding's Soakage, both on the Woodforde Creek, and at the latter found a big Nurtunja erected which belonged to an old Panunga wild dog named Kalterinia, who was of remarkable appearance, having a broad white streak down the centre of his face. They joined him and he showed them his quabara undattha. At Imbatna, seven miles further north, p. 436 they found another wild dog man with a Nurtunja and ceremonies, and then they turned slightly towards the west and came to Eri-quatcha, where they opened up the bag and looked at the Churinga which fluttered about in the most extraordinary manner. They closed it up again, and travelling on crossed Hanson Creek at Urumbia, and reach Kurdaitcha away to the west of Central Mount Stuart, where, long afterwards, one of the Achilpa parties camped. Here they deposited the bag containing the Churinga, from which sprung a Kumara man whose name was Kurdaitcharinia. A large stone arose at the spot where the Churinga was deposited. Only one wild dog man can arise, at a time, at the spot which lies in the middle of an Achilpa locality. After they had deposited the Churinga one of the men mounted on to the back of the other and went into the ground, and it is only the far away western people who know where they came out again.



Two women of the Unjiamba totem, named respectively Abmoara and Kuperta, sprang up at Ungwuranunga, about thirty-five miles north of Alice Springs, where they had a Nurtunja and Churinga, and dwelt alongside their Ertnatulunga. Leaving this place they entered the ground, and came out again at Arapera, where they saw a Purula wild cat woman named Arilthamariltha, who originated here and had a big Nurtunja, and whose descendant is now alive. The two women did not join her but camped close by, and ate Unjiamba, on which they always fed. Thence, travelling above ground, they went to Okillalatunga, where they erected their Nurtunja and walked about looking for Unjiamba, but did not see another Unjiamba woman, a Purula of that name, who was camped in the locality with a large Nurtunja, round which one of the Achilpa parties danced when they passed by. Taking their Nurtunja to pieces, they went on to Atnyra-ungwurna-munia, where they camped and ate Unjiamba. Thence they went to Unthipita, where they erected their Nurtunja again, played about, and looked for p. 437 Unjiamba. Then they once more took their Nurtunja to pieces and travelled on to the Ooraminna rock-hole, where they went into the earth, and two large stones arose to mark the spot beneath which were their Churinga. The descendant of Abmoara is now living, and one of the two stones is her Nanja. The descendant of Kuperta died recently, and it will be some time before she will again undergo reincarnation.

In the following accounts, which refer to the wanderings of Erlia, or emu, Yarumpa, or honey-ant, and Echunpa, or lizard men, we omit the greater part of the details, as these are closely similar to those already given in the case of other totemic groups.



These people originated at a place called Erliunpa, about ten miles to the east of Giles Creek, which is situated eighty or a hundred miles east of Alice Springs. A party of men, accompanied by three women, left this place, travelling nearly due west. They carried Nurtunjas on their heads, and their bodies were at first covered with feathers, which they gradually shed along their line of route until at last they had all disappeared. Their first camping place was at Oniara, where they went into the ground. They came out at Ulpira and travelled to Karpirakura, a little west of Soda Creek, where they found a group of emu people of both sexes. Here they left a number of men and travelled on in a general westerly direction, following the trend of the main Macdonnell Ranges and forming totem centres at various spots as they went along, the exact locality of which is known to the natives. About fifty miles to the west of Alice Springs they shed their few remaining feathers, and a short distance beyond what is now called Glen Helen, they entered the earth and did not come out until they reached Apaura in the Belt Range, at the western end of the Macdonnells, where they found and stayed with a local group of emu men and women, forming there an important emu totem centre.

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The Yarumpa or honey-ant people, who were of all classes, originated at a place called Ilyaba, in the Mount Hay country. From this spot, which is the great centre of the totem, they dispersed in various directions. A great Oknirabata, named Abmyaungwirria, started out from Ilyaba to see what the country out northwards was like, and, returning after many days, told his people that he had found another mob of honey-ants far away in the north-east, and that he intended leading a party to them. After performing a lot of ceremonies which the women were allowed to see, he started off with the party, and after finding two or three honey-ant men living in the scrub in various places (it may be noted that the honey-ant is found in mulga scrub), they came to Inkalitcha, where the water-hole by which they camped was dry. They suffered much from thirst, and so opened veins in their arms and drank blood, some of the old men consuming immense quantities. Then they went into the ground, and alternately travelling above and under ground, came to a spot on the Burt Plain, where it is related that they made Ilpirla This is a drink made by steeping the bodies of the honey-ants in water, and then kneading them until the honey is pressed out and mixed with the water. The Ilpirla was mixed in the hafts of their shields. After drinking some of it the Oknirabata left the party, and went on ahead to find the honey-ant people whom he had seen before. He found them at Koarpirla making an Engwura, and, returning at once to his party, he led them to that place. The local people were very angry, and refused to have anything to do with them, and moreover they opened veins in their arms, making such a flood that all the party were drowned except the Oknirabata who returned to Ilyaba, where finally he died. A black hill covered with black stones arose where the wanderers perished, and their Churinga are now in the store-house of the local group. A spring of fresh water is said to mark the central spot of the Engwura ground, which lies far out in sand-hill country, and has the natives say, never been visited by white men.

p. 439

Another party of honey-ant people started out west under the guidance of two Oknirabata. At a place called Tanulpma a large Nurtunja was erected, and here one of the leaders remained behind with the Nurtunja, a large gum tree arising to mark the spot where this stood. At Umpira the party met a honey-ant woman, who, like all those seen along the course of their travels, had a Nurtunja and quabara undattha. When she died a large stone arose to mark the spot, and this is the Nanja of her living descendant. At Umpira Ariltha was performed upon some of the party. Then they travelled on to Lukaria, where they found a large number of honey-ant men and women who had many Nurtunjas. On seeing the strangers the women were very angry, and assumed a threatening attitude, stamping and beating the air with their palms extended outwards, shouting “Yalika pira arinilla litchila Churinga oknirra ninunja” (Stop; don't advance; we have many Churinga). The party, frightened, camped a little distance away, where they erected a Nurtunja and performed Ariltha. The local honey-ants did not come near to them. They travelled on westwards, camping near Mount Heuglin and on the Dashwood Creek, and forming various totem centres. At a place called Amulapirta they stayed for a few hours performing Ariltha, and all the men had intercourse with a Panunga honey-ant woman.

On the north side of the Belt Range they camped by the side of a creek, and here they erected their Nurtunja, and were too tired to take it up again. While travelling on they heard a loud arri-inkuma—a special form of shouting—and soon found themselves face to face with a large number of honey-ants at a place called Unapuna. The local people resented their coming, and at once drew forth floods of blood from their arms, with the result that all the strangers were drowned, their Churinga remaining behind and giving rise to an important Yarumpa or honey-ant totem centre.



In the Alcheringa a man of the Illunja (jew lizard) totem, who sprung up at Simpson's Gap at a spot high up on the p. 440 eastern wall, now marked by a column called by white men the Sentinel, journeyed away underground to a place called Ulira, east of Arltunja, where there were a number of Echunpa or big lizard people, who originated there, but, unlike the lizards of the Simpson's Gap locality, they always fed on lizards. The Illunja man had brought with him a lot of Owadowa, a grass seed which formed the food of the Simpson's Gap lizard people. Some of this he consumed on the road, and the rest he offered to the Ulira lizard people, who declined it, so he placed it on the ground, a large stone now marking the spot.

Having induced the Echunpa people to accompany him, they all started back for Simpson's Gap, carrying a number of Churinga but no Nurtunja. On the way they ate Echunpa, the Illunja man joining them in doing so. Travelling westward, they camped at various places, and at one spot near to the Love Creek the younger men, whose duty it was to provide and cook the lizards for the older ones, only brought in a little to the old men, who were angry and called then Unkirertwa, that is, greedy men, and to punish them caused them to become anchinya, that is, grey-haired.

At Irulchirtna they made quabara undattha, carrying Churinga on their heads, as shown during one of the Engwura ceremonies which represented one of those performed during this march. Here it was that some men of the Thippa-thippa (a bird totem) came and danced round them as they performed, and were afterwards changed into birds, which still hover over the Echunpa lizards and show the natives where they are to be found. Leaving Irulchirtna, they still carried their Churinga on their heads, and the Thippa-thippa ran round looking at them. At a place on the Todd River in the Emily Plain they stayed some time performing Tapurta, that is, a long series of lizard ceremonies, and then moving on a little further, the party was divided into two by the Illunja man. One lot went away south to somewhere in the region of Erldunda, and the other kept on a westerly course till Illaba, not far from the Heavitree Gap near Alice Springs, was reached. Here it is said that a Purula man who had a stumpy tail left the party, intending to go away, but changed his mind and returned. Then they went to what is now a p. 441 large clay pan, called Conlon's lagoon, where Tapurta were again performed. Here a thin, emaciated man was left, and where he died arose a stone, the rubbing of which may cause emaciation in other people. This stone is charged with Arungquiltha, or evil influence.

At Conlon's lagoon the Illunja man left the rest and went on ahead to Simpson's Gap, where he wanted to muster the Alexandra parakeet, small rat (Untaina), and Ilura (a lizard, a species of Nephrurus) people. The Alexandra parakeet people have, since that time, been changed into the bird which is supposed to inhabit caves underground, out of which it comes every now and then in search of grass seed.

The lizard party came on and camped at Atnakutinga near Attack Gap, and then proceeded to the south of Temple Bar Gap, and from there followed up the Ross Creek where the Illunja man met them. A little further on they found a lizard man whose descendant now lives at Alice Springs. At length they reached Simpson's Gap and then they danced in front of the people who were assembled, and after that a long series of sacred ceremonies was performed. Then the Illunja man and one of the Echunpa returned underground to Ulirra where they stayed altogether.

The lizard people left some of their party at the Gap; three of them being very thin and emaciated died, and the stones which arose to mark the spot are charged with Arungquiltha. The rest of the party travelled north, still eating lizards, until they reached Painta Springs on the northern side of the Macdonnell Range and the southern edge of the Burt Plains. Travelling northward they passed Hanns' Range, and at a place called Ilangara they were too tired to go further and so joined the Iwutta (nail-tailed wallaby) people who lived there. Their Churinga were deposited in two spots close to the storehouse of the Iwutta.



In dealing with the wanderings of the fourth group of the Achilpa people reference was made to some dancing women called Unthippa who were met at a place called Yapilpa. p. 442 The women were Oruncha, that is what is usually translated “devil” women, which implies that they were of an evil nature, always ready to annoy human beings, and endowed with special superhuman powers of various kinds. As explained, however, in the case of the Oruncha men the word “devil” must not be taken in the sense of their being at all the equivalents of malicious creatures whose one object was to work ill to men and women; they are more mischievous than malicious, and in this instance the term “uncanny” more nearly expresses the idea associated with them.

These women were supposed to have sprung into existence far out in the Aldorla ilunga, that is the west country, and as they journeyed they danced all the way along carrying shields and spear-throwers until they passed right through the country of the Arunta people. When they started they were half women and half men, but before they had proceeded very far on their journey their organs became modified and they were as other women.

When they arrived at a place in the vicinity of Glen Helen they found a number of Okranina or carpet snake people who were assembled at an Apulla where they were about to perform the rite of circumcision upon some Wurtjas, that is boys who had undergone the preparatory painting and throwing up which form the first of the initiatory rites. Such women as were Unawa to the boys took the latter on their shoulders and carried them along with them, leaving them at various spots en route, after performing lartna on them. Women were also left occasionally.

Somewhere out west of the River Jay the women changed their language to Arunta and began feeding on mulga seed, on which they afterwards subsisted. Upon arrival at a place called Wankima, about a hundred miles further to the east, their sexual organs dropped cut from sheer exhaustion, caused by their uninterrupted dancing, and it was these which gave rise to well-known deposits of red ochre. The women then entered the ground and nothing more is known of them except that it is supposed that a great womanland exists far away to the east where they finally sat down.

The long ridge of quartzite ranges which forms a marked p. 443 feature in the surface configuration of the country, in the region of the Macdonnell Ranges, and extends east and west for more than 200 miles, forming the southern boundary of the long narrow Horn or Mereenie valley, arose to mark the line of travel which they followed.

The Unthippa dance, which is performed during the ceremonies concerned at the present time with lartna, refers to these women. Upon the night when the boy is taken to the ceremonial ground the women approach, carrying shields and spear-throwers, and dance as the Unthippa women did in the Alcheringa, while the men sing, time after time, the refrain “the range all along,” referring to the march of the Unthippa which the women are dancing in imitation of. At a later time also in the ceremony, after the boy has been painted and advanced to the grade of Wurtja, and just before the performance of the actual ceremony, one of the women (not, however, as in the case of the Unthippa an Unawa woman, but one who is Mura to the boy), placing her head between his legs suddenly lifts him up on her shoulders and runs off with him, as in the Alcheringa the Unthippa women did, but, unlike what happened in the past, the boy is again seized by the men and brought back. Whatever these remarkable Unthippa women may have been, the myth concerning them, which has evidently arisen to account for certain curious features in the initiation ceremonies, may be regarded as evidence that there was a time when women played a more important part in regard to such ceremonies than they do at the present time.



In the Alcheringa one of the wandering parties of Achilpa or wild cat men were under the guidance of an old Oknirabata named Atnimma-la-truripa, who was renowned for the size of his penis (the native word is pura, being the same as that for tail, kangaroo tail, for example, is okira pura). He was always gorgeously decorated with down, especially the pura. This party camped near to the waterhole at Ooraminna, where they made an Engwura. While there they p. 444 discovered a group of wild cat men who were suffering from the disease called Erkincha, or Yerakincha, and smelt most offensively. The southern Achilpa men had intended to settle here, but the presence of these men frightened them and they hurried away northwards.

Shortly after the wild cat men had gone a party of men who belonged to the Arwarlinga (a species of Hakea) totem, who dwelt close by in the sand hills, came in and went to the top of the Ooraminna rockhole and made what is called abmoarathat is a favourite drink of the natives made by steeping Hakea flowers in water. The water was held in their wooden vessels, and then, opening veins in their arms, they allowed the blood to flow into the vessels and mix with the abmoara, until the vessels overflowed to such an extent that the Ooraminna Creek became flooded and all of the Erkincha men were drowned. A stone arose at the spot where the diseased men perished, and since the days of the Alcheringa this stone has been known as Aperta atnumbira (aperta, stone; atnumbira signifies a diseased growth issuing from the anus). Ever since this time the Erkincha has been prevalent amongst the natives, and it is believed that old men visiting the stone can, by means of rubbing it and muttering a request to the contained Arungquiltha, or evil influence, to go out, cause the disease to be communicated to any individual or even group of men whom they desire to injure. 1



About fifty miles north-north-west of Alice Springs there is a gorge opening out from the northern ridge of the Macdonnell Range on to the Burt Plain. In the gorge is a waterfall with a small permanent pool at its base which is said to be inhabited by the spirit of a great dead snake and by some living snakes, the descendants of the former. The spot is

p. 445

called Imyunga, and is in the centre of an Ingwitchika or grass seed locality. Here, in the Alcheringa, there lived a woman of the totem who was very expert in gathering the grass seed on which she fed, but she suffered great annoyance and was very angry because the people of the same totem who dwelt with her were always stealing her grass seed, so she journeyed far away to the south-west beyond Erldunda and brought back with her an enormous snake. She took the latter to her camp at Imyunga and there it ate up all the Ingwitchika thieves, after which it lived in the waterhole. It was long after the Alcheringa before it died, in fact it was seen by the grandfathers of some old men still living, and it was finally killed by a great flood which came down over the waterfall and washed it out of its hole. In the range there are great caverns which are occupied by the spirit of the snake. Some of its descendants are seen occasionally in the waterhole, to the eastern side of which no man dare go except at the risk of being sucked under the ranges—a fate which has, more than once, overtaken men who ventured too near, though it is a long time now since such a thing happened. When approaching the waterfall men always stop and sing out several times to give the snake warning of their approach, for it would make him angry if he were taken by surprise.

Close by the waterfall is the storehouse of the local group in which all the Churinga are of stone. The Churinga nanja of the woman referred to is ornamented on one side only with a number of series of concentric circles which are supposed to represent her breasts, her name being Urlatcha (breasts).



In the Alcheringa a spark of fire (urinchitha) ascended into the sky at Urapuncha, the place of fire, which lies far away in the north and was blown by the north wind to a spot now indicated by a large mountain also called Urapuncha, or Mount Hay. Here it fell to earth and a great fire sprang up which by and by subsided, and from the ashes came out some Inapertwa creatures—the ancestors of the people of the fire p. 446 totem. These Inapertwa were after a time discovered by two wild duck (Wungara) men who flew over from the west and both of whom were Bulthara, one being called Erkung-ir-quilika and the other Mura-wilyika. They came from Ilalil-kirika close to the junction of the Hugh and Jay Rivers, and made the Inapertwa into men and women, after which they flew back to their camp in the west. The remains of the great fire still smoulders on the top of the mountain where the sacred storehouse of the totem is located, and at night time, especially if the night be dark and rainy, the fire can be seen from a long distance. Close to the storehouse is a great block of stone which in the Alcheringa was the piece of wood used by the great leader of the fire people, who was called Yarung-unterin-yinga, for the purpose of being rubbed by the amera or spear-thrower when he made fire. The amera is represented in the storehouse by a Churinga.



In the Alcheringa a man of the Arunga or euro totem, named Algurawartna, started from a place named Ililkinja out in the east in pursuit of a gigantic euro which carried fire in its body. The man carried with him two big Churinga with which he tried to make fire, but could not. He followed the euro as it travelled westwards, trying all the time to kill it. The man and the euro always camped a little distance away from one another. One night Algurawartna awoke and saw a fire burning by the euro; he at once went up to it and took some, with which he cooked some euro flesh which he carried with him and upon which he fed. The euro ran away, turning back along its old tracks to the east. Still trying to make fire, but without success, the man followed until they once more came to Ililkinja, where at length Algurawartna succeeded in killing the euro with his Churinga. He examined the body carefully to see how the animal made fire, or where it came from, and pulling out the penis, which was of great length, he cut it open and found that it contained very red fire, which he took out and used to cook his euro with. For a long time he lived on the body of the big euro, p. 447 and when the fire which he had taken from its body went out he tried fire-making (urpmala) again and was successful, always singing the urpmala chant:—

“Urpmalara kaiti
Alkna munga
Ilpau wita wita.”




In the Alcheringa a number of men belonging to the Unchipera (little bat) and the Erlkintera (large white bat) totems set out from Imanda. They were Orunchertwa, that is “devil” men, and upon arrival at a place called Etuta they went up into the sky, but not very high up. From this position they killed men who walked about on the earth beneath.

An old Oknirabata lay down at Etuta and two boys played about aiming at trees with spears. These two boys heard the Orunchertwa sing out and were killed by them. Then the old Oknirabata was angry and went to his sacred storehouse which was close at hand, and took out a large stone Churinga; sitting down he held this in both hands, and pointing it towards the Orunchertwa he brought them down to earth, and then with the Churinga cut them in pieces.



Around each of the Ilthura, or sacred holes of the witchetty grub totem, at which a part of the Intichiuma ceremony is performed, there are certain stones standing on end which represent special birds called Chantunga. These birds are looked upon as the ilqualthari, or the mates of the witchetty people, because in the Alcheringa certain witchetty maegwa, that is the fully-grown grub, changed into the birds. The latter abound at the time when the grub is plentiful and are very rarely seen at other times, and they are then supposed to sing joyously and to take an especial delight, as they hop about amongst the Udnirringa bushes all day long, in watching the maegwa laying its eggs. The witchetty men p. 448 will not eat the bird, as they say that to do so would make them “atnitta takurna irima” (which literally means stomach, bad, to see) if they were to do so, and they speak affectionately of it.

In the Okira or kangaroo totem the men have as ilquathari, grass parrots called Atnalchulpira, who in the Alcheringa were the Uwinna, that is the fathers' sisters, of the Okira men, to whom they brought water as the birds do at the present day, according to the native belief, to the kangaroos in the dry country, where they are always found hovering about these animals. Associated also with the kangaroo people are the birds called Kartwungawunga, who are the descendants of certain kangaroo men of the Alcheringa who were always killing and eating kangaroos and euro, and changed into the little birds who are often seen playing about on the backs of these animals.

The Arunga or euro people have as mates the rock pigeon or Inturita, who in the Alcheringa were the Uwinna of the euro men, whom they furnished with water just as the natives say that the bird now does for the animals in the dry ranges. The euro men have a second mate in the form of the Unchurunqua, a small beautifully coloured bird (Emblema picta), the painted finch, which in the Alcheringa was a euro man. In the Alcheringa these euro men are said to have been great eaters of euro, and their bodies were always drenched with blood which dripped from the bodies of the euros which they killed and carried with them, and that is why the painted finch is splashed with red.

The Yarumpa or honey-ant people have as mates a little bird called Alatipa, which, like the Yarumpa itself (Camponotus inflatus), only frequents mulga scrub country. They also have as mates another bird called Alpirtaka, which is a small “magpie,” which also frequents mulga scrub. Both birds were once honey-ant people.

The emu people have as mate the little striated wren (Amytis striata), which they call Lirra-lirra; and the Echunpa or big lizard people have a smaller lizard (Varanus punctatus), which they call Ilchaquara.

The Quatcha or water people have the waterfowl as their p. 449 mate; and the Urliwatchera, a large lizard (Varanus gouldii) people, have a small scincoid lizard called Irpanta.

All these mates of the people of various totems are held in affectionate regard by those to whom they are especially related, but except in the case of the mates of the witchetty grubs there does not seem to be any restriction with regard to their not being eaten. Certain totems, such as the wild cat, the Hakea flower and the crow, are apparently without any mates of this kind.

In addition to these birds which are regarded as mates or the members of various totems, there are others which are regarded as representing men of the Alcheringa of particular totems which became extinct. Thus the little scarlet-fronted Ephithanura (E. tricolor) which the natives call Ninchi-lappa-lappa were men who in the Alcheringa continually painted themselves with red ochre, until finally they changed into the bird. Again, in connection with the wanderings of a group of lizard men, we meet with a tradition which says that as they wandered across the country in the region of Simpson's Gap in the Macdonnell Ranges they came across a group of people of the Atninpirichira or Princess Alexandra Parakeet totem. For some reason they all changed into the birds, and now they live far underground, only coming up at intervals near their old camping ground to look for grass seed on which they feed—an allusion probably to the fact that this particular bird has a strange habit of completely disappearing out of the district for years at a time and then suddenly appearing in large numbers.

Associated with the lizard people is a small bird called Thippa-thippa. In the Alcheringa these were men of that totem who came and danced round the lizard people as they performed ceremonies, and for some reason were transformed into the birds, which have ever since continued to hover round the lizards, and by doing so often show the natives where the animal is to be found. In one of the ceremonies of the Engwura they were represented by two men who danced around a lizard man.


423:* A folding map referring to this chapter is attached to the inside back cover of this book.

431:1 This warning on the part of Intwailiuka at the Emily Gap, and of Kakathurika at the Jessie Gap appears to indicate the exclusive right over a particular area of country which was claimed by, and accorded to, the inhabitants of that area. Even men of the same totem are not allowed to enter without permission from the head man. The same feeling very clearly exists at the present day, as is shown by the fact that a strange black, coming up to a camp, never thinks of going straight up to it, but sits down at some little distance and then waits until he is invited to come forward by the old men.

433:1 Quirra undattha is bird's down which has been used for decoration in connection with a sacred ceremony of the Quirra or bandicoot totem and has thus become identified with the latter.

444:1 The disease is one which is common amongst young people, only attacking each individual once. It affects only the glands of the part of the body in the neighbourhood of the sore. At first sight it has much the appearance of being syphilitic in nature, but Dr. Eylmann, who has studied it, is of opinion that it is distinct from syphilis. It usually appears in the anal region, under the arms or legs, or close to the mouth.

Next: Chapter XII. Customs Concerned with Knocking out of Teeth; Nose-Boring; Growth of Breasts; Blood, Blood-Letting, Blood-Giving, Blood-Drinking; Hair; Childbirth; Food Restrictions; Cannibalism