We have given the rush with the pretty blue berries its name after the Goddess of the Woods--Diana--the hunter's deity. And it is strange but true that the aborigines had an idea much the same. They said that the plant at one time in the alcheringa was the hair of a certain woman who lived deep in the bush.
She had some sisters, however, and they lived sometimes in the forests and sometimes in the air for their other home was in the great cumulus clouds that lie lazily above the sea.
The one who lived in the bush only, had for a husband a mighty hunter whose voice was so loud that when he spoke angrily every animal and bird and even insect and reptile fled from that part of the country and did not return for a very long, time.
The woman was always most grieved when she saw the animals that she loved flying in fear, and one day when her husband had been especially angry one little bird grew too tired to fly far and it came to her for help. Her hair was at that time very luxuriant and she took the little bird and hid it in it.
After that many birds found the same sanctuary under similar circumstances and at last the number was so great that it was impossible for them all to be hidden. One bird-the woodpecker-begged to be allowed to leave and to try his luck by hiding under the loose bark of a big tree. This place was not secure, and when the angry man saw him there with part of his body showing, he threw his spear. It missed, but was so close as to make the woodpecker hop sharply further up. Another spear and then another were thrown, each one causing the frightened bird to jump one more step upwards.
The man's anger waned; his arm grew tired: he lay down to sleep. The bird flew to the woman and plucked one hair from her head. This he hid, hoping that the next time that the big hunter was angry and roared the hair would be enough to cover, not one woodpecker only, but the whole woodpecker family.
It is noticed that woodpeckers to this day hop up and up the trunks of trees and the blacks say that they are looking for a place to hide from the wrath of a forest giant. They listen intently and strain their ears to catch the sound of the roaring.
We know that the birds are simply looking for food, and some of us believe that the aborigines know this quite well, only feigning to think that it is for any other purpose. Perhaps they think the tale is too pretty to lose.
Next time that the hunter was angry and threatening, the woodpecker tried his plan. He flew to the place where he had hidden the strand of hair, and he found that he could be covered with it by winding it around himself until none was left hanging. Other birds saw the plan and followed it.
The time came when the woman had but little hair left. But rain fell where the hairs were put and warm sun shone on the places and the hairs grew and flowers came upon them all and afterwards berries formed.
It was no longer necessary for the birds and the animals to flee far to escape the wrath of the husband of their benefactor.
They only had to quickly haste to one cluster of growing hairs and snuggle down in amongst them and they were quite hidden.
But the day came when a jealous sister came down from the cumulus cloud. She told the man and he declared that he would find every one of those clusters and destroy them. The sister gave directions to the rest of the family still up in the sky that they were to keep their clouds away from the place so that no more rain could fall and the hairs would no longer grow. She saw that the wife was now denuded of hair and she wanted to please the husband and thought that no more could ever be seen after those growing ones were destroyed.
But the berries had fallen and lay covered by the now dry soil. The clusters of hairs did die, and the earth suffered from a great drought.
Then the man grew more and more sullen and was more and more often dreadfully angry. His wife had gone away from him. The birds had hidden her and with their wings they protected her, and the cloud sister lived in her place.
She no longer spoke to those still in the sky. They heard of her treachery and they did not want to speak to her. They at last determined to no longer heed her request to keep away from that place and they came again and they brought the lightning and the thunder with them. They poured their rain down upon the earth and every little blue berry gave birth to another hair that took root and became a plant.
The rain kept on longer than ever before and there was a great flood, but not any of these hair rushes was destroyed. To-day they grow where the ground is wettest, as well as in dryer parts.
Aboriginal women of all the east coast of Australia know this story and they believe it, and because they think that the spirit of the woman who loved birds and animals is still in the dianella rush they like that plant best for the weaving of baskets and mats.