Opal and Fire


Long ago in the Dreamtime, the people of the Wangkumara tribe sent a pelican up north to see what was there so that when he returned to his people he could tell them what he had discovered in this new place. He carried a supply of fish in his dilly bag [pouch beneath his beak], which was full of water that kept his fish fresh for him. He needed food because he had been told that he must not stop during his journey of discovery.

Pelican commenced his journey but after a short while he felt sick and could not continue and landed on top of a hill not all that far from his people. While resting, he looked around at the country spread out beneath him and marvelled at the mixture of glorious colours. This was opal. Pelican could not understand why the ground looked so beautiful and started chipping it with his beak out of curiosity. Although the country was mainly dry and rocky, there was quite a lot of grass. While Pelican was pecking the coloured stones with his beak a spark flew out and lit the dead grass. Flames rose into the air as the fire spread slowly across the arid plains for a long distance. It crept towards a number of his people who were camped near Cooper's Creek and, for the first time, they could cook their fish and meat.

This hill that Pelican landed on was a large hill where another Muda [an exceptional gifted being] in the form of a pelican had died. His blood had given the Wangkumara gold and opal and the water in his pouch had made Cooper's Creek and filled it with fish. Now this second bird had brought them the gift of fire. Without the assistance of these birds, their country would have been flat and barren ground. For a long time the Wangkumara were able to keep three of their possessions a secret. Nobody could hide the Cooper, but for a long time no one else was aware that they owned gold, opal and fire.

Michael J Connolly
Munda-gutta Kulliwari
Dreamtime Kullilla-Art