The Sacred Fires of the Muriwari
THE SACRED FIRES OF THE MURRUWARI
The Sacred Fires of the Murruwari disappeared during the night and other stars were seen in the same part of the sky. This constellation was called Maringa Bambu or 'Head of the Emu'. There is a resemblance to the long neck of an emu as the stars stretch away from the pointers to the Southern Cross and the bird's body is visible. The Murruwari said that the emu was sitting on eggs with his neck stretched parallel to the ground as he pecked as some food.
Later when Maringa Bambu had moved towards the west, the belief was quite different. The Southern Cross was sinking and what had been the body of the emu was now associated with Gabela Ga:n, a gigantic watersnake who represented all the evils of darkness and whose territory stretched for some distance along the Milky Way. The emu's body had now become an army of warriors trying to prevent the approach of Gabela Ga:n. For thousands of years they have been throwing spears and boomerangs at him and these are scattered across the sky. Behind him, the pointers to the Southern Cross were now to 'clever men' who were giving these heroes additional power to combat the evil of Gabela Ga:n.
The male emu, who is the stronger fighter, sits on the eggs and guards the chicks after hatching. This description of the Sacred Fires of the Murruwari,Maringa Bambu and Gabela Ga:n shows how the interpretation changed with the moving pattern of the stars. This knowledge was helpful to travelers or those who awoke during the night because the stars gave information about the time and when dawn could be expected.
Michael J Connolly
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