The history of our country began during the period we call Buwurr, sometimes written as Burr, often called the Dreaming or Dreamtime.
It was during this time the world was made and the rules for proper behaviour were laid down. During this period, beings in the form of humans, animals and plants brought the landscape to life by ‘putting themselves’ into the country.
They travelled the land above and below the ground, giving names to places and specifying special areas, along with dangerous sites to avoid. They gave the country its language and in doing so designated which people would belong to it.
In travelling on to neighbouring countries they established relationships across language group boundaries with some far away people.
We tell of these travels in stories and songs, some of which are public and others which are used in secret ceremonies.
The temporal use of the Buwurr or dreaming should not be interpreted as something only from the past. Buwurr is as significant today to our people as it always has been.
It encompasses all aspects of life. It is the land, its gorges, its plants and animals, its rocks and rivers, and the people and all living creatures. It is the past, the present and the future.
It is the land, its gorges, its plants and animals, its rocks and rivers, and the people and all living creatures.
Bula - The Creator
Our land was first created by Bula, who came from the salt water country in the north. With his two wives, he hunted across the land and in doing so transformed the landscape through his actions.
In a number of places Bula finally went underground in an area north of Katherine known to us as the ‘sickness country’. In a number of places, Bula left his image as paintings in rock shelters. It is called this because the area is very dangerous and should not be disturbed for fear that earthquakes and fire will destroy the world. We regard Bula as the most important figure in our dreaming.
Nagorrko – Spiritual Being from the North
Another important dreaming figure was Nakorrkko, a tall spiritual being from the salt water country in the north. Nagorrko divided our people into two main groups or moities – Yirritja and Dhuwa. Through this social grouping, he taught us much about proper behaviour and correct marriage relationships.
Nagorrko also gave us the law about mowurrwurr, or clan groups, and showed us what foods different mowurrwurr could or could not eat.
Bolung – The Rainbow Serpent
Bolung, who is believed to inhabit the deep green pools on our land, is an important life giving figure but may also act as a destroyer. This can take the form of lighting and may bring monsoonal floods. Our people do not fish in the pools where Bolung sits. When fishing close to these pools, we can take only a small portion of the fish caught. We throw back the rest in order to appease Bolung. Drinking water must not be taken from these deep pools but rather from the shallow, associated waters.
Pregnant women and new initiates may not swim in the Katherine River for fear of disturbing Bolung. Unlike other Jawoyn Dreaming figures, which may be called upon for assistance in hunting and foraging, Bolung must not be spoken to and must be left undisturbed.