The Unambal Aborigine Tribe of North West Australia

Extract from ‘Unambal’ by Dr. Andreas Lommel

Page 3/6

The Aboriginal People believe the act of procreation is of only slight significance for their entry into life, although they are in no doubt at all about this physical function in the case of animals. In their view, spirit children split off from the Wandjina and then live in the depth of the water with them. Only through a dream process can a man acquire such a spirit child. A further dream process is necessary to transmit the spirit child to the man's wife. The spirit child is about the size of a finger, and when the father finds one he can bind it into his hair and carry it around with him for years.

A man gives the spirit child to his wife in a dream process. She dreams that she has received the spirit child, which resides in the pit of her collarbone. Later the spirit child changes into a small snake or lizard that enters the woman's body through her vagina.

A child's sex is known from the moment the spirit child is found, but at the moment of birth its sex can be changed. The Aboriginal People stick a club upright in the sand beside the woman giving birth if they want a boy or a cleft digging stick if they prefer a girl. After birth the umbilical cord is hung around the child's neck and must not be lost, otherwise the child would die. The child is then washed and fine charcoal dust is rubbed into its skin to make it black. When a person dies the spirit child returns to the Wandjina's watering place where it was found in a dream by the father.

Besides the spirit child, each person also has a series of others souls or shadows. After death one of the shadows goes to an Underworld, in which life proceeds as it does on Earth. A connection is possible between a living person on the Earth and the shadows in the Underworld. Contact with the shadows of the Underworld is the function on the Medicine Man, who is a central figure of importance in the lives of the Aboriginal People.
Spirit Children of the Wandjina
aborigines australia
Unambal corroboree

The Medicine Man


Medicine men are at the centre of the community and life among the aboriginal People comes to an end if he dies or he loses his skills. He is the collective soul of the hunting group, and his job is to make good all that is not as it should be. From a biological viewpoint, the Aboriginal Peoples’ whole life is considerably more strongly influenced by the ‘psyche’ than it appears to be in Western Man's case. He is their link with primeval times and the Creation, and without him a complete degeneration of their order and life occurs. Life in the present is only possible through constant contact with primeval times. The mediator between the present and primeval times is the Medicine Man, as he not only lives in the present, but in him the creative forces that were in operation in primeval times are still alive today.

Through dreams the Medicine Man can establish contact with primeval forces. In a state of trance he separates his shadow from his body, and sends it to distant lands or the Underworld. Before the wet season starts the Medicine Man goes to the rock painting of the Wandjina to re-establish contact. He is also the only one who can associate safely with the rock spirits that eat the corpses and carry off people's souls. Finally it is the Medicine Man who can send his soul to the underworld, thus maintaining the link between the living and the ancestors.

It is the task of the Medicine Man to fill the Wandjina with renewed life, in this way to guarantee the rain for each year. This same power enables him also to heal sick people, ensure success in the hunt, or even kill people who prove to be a burden to the fellowship of the tribe. The Medicine Men are the poets of the tribal community, receiving the Corroboree (songs and dances) from the Underworld.

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