The Southern Cross Yaraan-doo - The place of the white gum-tree

Back in the beginning, when Baiame, the sky spirit walked the earth, he moulded two men and a woman out of the red earth of the ridges and brought them to life. Before he continued on his way, Baiame showed them all the plants that they could eat to keep life.

For some time they lived on such plants as had been shown by Baiame and then came a drought and the plants grew scarce. One day the 2nd man killed a kangaroo and he and the woman ate some of its flesh but the 1st man would not eat this meat although he was very hungry and weak.

Annoyed at the 2nd man and woman for this, the 1st man walked away angrily towards the sunset. He went over sandhills and ridges until he reached a riverbank near the edge of a coolibah plain. After the 2nd man and woman finished eating they went searching for their mate and found him lying dead on the other side of the river under a huge white gum tree [yaraan]. As he lay there they saw beside him a black figure, Yowi - the spirit of death with his 2 large fiery eyes who lifted their mate up and dropped him in the tree's hollow centre.

Then came a terrific burst of thunder as the tree with fiery eyes gleaming was lifted from the earth heading towards the southern sky. Suddenly a loud screeching noise broke the stillness and 2 yellow crested white cockatoos called Mooyi flew after the spirit tree as this white gum tree was their roosting place on earth. The spirit tree finally planted itself near the Warrambool [Milky Way] that leads to where the sky spirits live.

The 2nd man and woman watched in disbelief as the spirit tree in the sky disappeared from view. They could now only see 4 fiery eyes shining out. Two were the eyes of Yowi - the spirit of death and the other two were the eyes of their mate - the first man to die.

Nature then realised that the passing of this man meant that death had come into the world. Much sadness and wailing was everywhere. The swamp oak trees sighed incessantly and the gum trees shed tears of blood which crystallised into red gum.

To this day the Southern Cross is known as Yaraan-doo the place of the white gum-tree and the pointers are called Mooyi, the white cockatoos. So is the first coming of death remembered by the tribes to whom the Southern Cross is a reminder.

Michael J Connolly
Munda-gutta Kulliwari
© Dreamtime Kullilla-Art