The Dreaming

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The Southern Cross

Sulphur Crested Cockatoos c Jessie Arms Botke

© Jessie Arms Botke

In the very beginning when Baiame, the Sky King, walked the earth, out of the red ground of the ridges he made two men and a woman. When he saw that they were alive he showed them such plants as they should eat to keep life, then he went on his way.

For some time they lived on such plants as he had shown them; then came a drought, and plants grew scarce, and when one day a man killed a kangaroo-rat, he and the woman ate some of its flesh, but the other man would not eat though he was famished for food, and lay as one dead.

Again and again the woman told him it was good and pressed him to eat. Annoyed, weak as he was, he rose and walked angrily away toward sunset, while the other two still ate hungrily.

When they had finished they looked for him, found he had gone some distance, and went after him. Over some sandhills, over the pebbly ridges they went, losing sight of him from time to time. When they reached the edge of the coolabah plain they saw their mate on the other side, by the river.

They called to him to stop, but he heeded them not; on he went until he reached a huge yaraan, or ghost gum tree, beneath which he fell to the ground. As he lay there dead they saw beside him a black figure with two huge, fiery eyes. This figure raised him into the tree and dropped him into its hollow centre.

While still speeding across the plain they heard such a terrific burst of thunder that they fell startled to the ground. When they raised themselves they gazed wonderingly toward the giant gum tree. They saw it being lifted from the earth and passing through the air toward the southern sky. They could not see their lost mate, but fiery eyes gleamed from the tree.

Suddenly, a raucous shrieking broke the stillness; they saw that it came from two yellow-crested cockatoos flying after the vanishing tree—Mooyi, they called them. On went the Spirit Tree, and after it flew the Mooyi, shrieking loudly to it to stop, so that they might reach their roosting place in it.

At last the tree planted itself near the Warrambool, or Milky Way, which leads to where the sky gods live. When it seemed quite still the tree gradually disappeared from their sight. They only saw four fiery eyes shine out. Two were the eyes of Yowi, the spirit of death. The other two were the eyes of the first man to die.

The Mooyi fly after the tree, trying always to reach their roost again.

When all nature realized that the passing of this man meant that death had come into the world, there was wailing everywhere. The swamp oak trees sighed incessantly, and the gum trees shed tears of blood, which crystallized into red gum.

To this day to the tribes of this part, the Southern Cross is known as Yaraan-doo, the place of the ghost 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.

A.W. Reed, Aboriginal Fables & Legendary Tales (Aboriginal Library)


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