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Karambil and the Seven Sisters


Seven Sisters Dreaming by Alma Nungarrayi Granites

Seven Sisters Dreaming by Alma Nungarrayi Granites



Seven sisters, who were called the Warweenggary and who were members of the Bunjellung tribe, once lived on the Clarence River in New South Wales. These girls were all very clever and inside their yam sticks they had secret charms which protected them from their enemies.

Each day, while they were hunting carpet snakes in the bush, they carried their yam sticks with them for protection. A young man named Karambil was very much in love with one of the girls and always followed them.

The seven sisters tried to discourage his romantic inclinations, because they were all his tribal sisters and therefore any association with Karambil would be punished severely under tribal law. Karambil however would not be deterred as he was obsessed with the beautiful young girl.

One day, having hidden in the bush while the sisters were out walking, he came upon the young girl he desired most when she did not have her yam stick with her. He was therefore able to carry her off to his own camp.

The other Warweenggary sisters were furious when they found that she was missing, and decided to punish Karambil for his crime. They journeyed far into the west where they found the winter and they sent back frost and exceptionally severe weather to the camp where Karambil and the girl were living.

The girl did not feel the terrible cold because her sisters had managed to send her charmed yam stick to her by a secret messenger and she was therefore protected. Karambil however shivered and suffered severely and finally sent his wife back to her own people. The seven sisters then decided that they should not cause any more hardship to the remaining people in the tribe by the severe cold so they travelled far into the east, where they found the summer, and sent the warm rays of the sun back to melt the frost and ice.

The Warweenggary then left the earth altogether and travelled into the sky, where the constellation known as the Pleiades still represents their camp. They can be seen every summer and they bring with them pleasant warm weather, after which they gradually disappear towards the west.

After the departure of the Warweenggary, Karambil looked far and wide for another wife, this time determined to comply with the marriage rules of his people. He found a young woman who belonged to the Kooran section, a beautiful young girl whom he wished to marry.

Unfortunately, she was already married to a man named Bullabogabun, a great warrior. Although Karambil succeeded in seducing her and taking her away from her husband, when Bullabogabun discovered that his wife had eloped he followed Darambil in a great fury.

In order to escape his pursuer, Karambil climbed a huge pine tree which grew near his camp and hid amongst the topmost branches. Bullabogabun, however, gathered all the wood he could find and piled it into a heap at the base of the tree. He set fire to the sticks and burnt the pine tree to cinders.

As the flames reached high into the air, Karambil was carried with them far into the sky, where he remains today near the Warweenggary as the star Alpha Tauri, and he now follows the sisters eternally, just as he did in his youth.

from RH Matthews,
Folklore of the Aborigines (1899)

  

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