The group of stars known to us as the Pleiades gave food for much thought to the aborigines. There are several legends surrounding these heavenly bodies. One is that the Kamilaroys of the North Coast were at enmity with those of the mountains, and a messenger had been sent from group to group with the message-stick calling a council to discuss measures for the protection of the camps. But the messenger had become enamoured of a young woman of one of the groups he had visited, and his affection was returned. However, she proved to be of the same totem, and a marriage was forbidden. Both the young people were very sad, and the man pleaded with the head-man, but all for nothing. He was advised to return to his own people.
Then, like so many other disappointed lovers, he grew resentful, and at last determined to be revenged, and even then, if possible, to secure the lady of his choice.
So he went away to the enemies of the group, and conspired with them to show them the "pukkan" by which they might steal unseen to the camps of the coast lands. This track belonged to the priest, and led to a sacred spot where the Great Spirit could be communed with by the priest.
Now, the first thing was to drive the people together, or by some subtle means persuade them to congregate on the one place. This was not an easy thing to do. The people were widely separated during the day, for some were in the bush engaged in hunting there or in obtaining those things from it that were needed to fashion all the implements incidental to camp life, others were still in the camp; many were down on the beach either playing there or searching for food, and the whereabouts of still more were always uncertain, for they were roamers.
Many consultations were held; many plans were formulated; many tricks were explained; but at last it was decided that the messenger return to that group and pretend to have given up all thought of marrying the coveted girl.
When he was back he sought the confidence of the headman and soon was received without suspicion. Then one day, having prepared and found a chance, he set fire to the bush. He had laid good plans for he knew just where to find the girl. He had seen to it that she was persuaded to go out of the way to get something that she wanted. It was to the pukkan that led to the sacred place. When the fire raged towards them they ran right on to the holy of holies. The only other people who saw them were women who were led by the guardians of young girls. These guardians were watching the girl wanted by the messenger. Now they were all frightened and they all rushed to the clearing. This invasion by women into such a place was against all commandments, and evil was bound to follow.
Heaps of clay left by the priest were seen, and all commenced to smear themselves with it without knowing how to do it properly. They thought it would surely preserve them.
They were changed into witchetty grubs. They found holes in a moist and rotten log into which, as is the habit of witchetty grubs, they crept. They were shrunken into very small beings compared with the beings they once were.
The fire came on and on. People ran in all directions and many were destroyed.
Then by the treachery of the messenger the men of the hills came down and they fell upon the rest and the beach group were nearly all killed. Only the denseness of the smoke prevented more of the mountain people from coming down, and those that did come were glad to hasten away to escape it.
Of those that were not killed there was a priest who went to the sacred spot as soon as he could. He sat on the moist and rotten log and mourned for a long time. Then growing hungry he searched for witchetty grubs, for he knew that the log was a favourite place for them. He found first the woman who was the first one to change. He knew that group to be different from those he had seen before and he suspected witchery. He uttered an incantation and the others were brought back to their old form. But they were bewitched. They sought to escape. The lovers cried out to a spirit and the Milky Way was let down from heaven, up which they might travel. All the women went with them and they got to the top; there they halted, forming the Pleiades.
But the man was punished. He could not stay with the woman.
He retired some distance off, and there he stands ever since a lonely looking star which we call Aldebaran.