Stories in Jiwarli 8

Today’s post presents another story in Jiwarli with English translation, told to me by Jack Butler on 3rd November 1983 and explained on 18th May 1984. There is information about the Jiwarli spelling.

Mudlark and death

This story describes the origin of death in the world. Long ago it was customary that after three days those who had died would come to life again and then to ascend into the sky. In order to reduce the amount of distress for the next-of-kin of the deceased jilinbirrira Mudlark (Grallina cyanoleuca), also called Magpie-lark or Peewee, decided that once people died they should be buried in the ground and remain dead for ever. He painted himself with ashes and powdered gypsum, which is why he is black and white today. Aboriginal people still paint themselves with gypsum and ashes when they are in mourning.

In his comments, Jack Butler noted the striking correspondence between the three day period between death and rebirth in this story and the Christian belief that Jesus Christ was resurrected  after three days.

Male Mudlark (Magpie-lark, Peewee)

Wirndurrinyja ngunhaba bulhabayara. Bulhabayara mandharda ngunhaburradhu. Ngunha wirndurrinyja. Ngabarninyja ngunha. Yalhangga wandharninyja. Gumbaja jurungga nhaala ngulha jarrgungga jurungga. Barru ngunha mandharda mulgurrinyjarnirru wirribugala. Wirribuga jirrilmarrinyjarru. Nhaarringu yinha warndija ngandhurrala yalhangganguru ngabarninyjabarndi ngundirnu ngandhurramba. Warri. Yinharru ngunha buna jirndirlarru. Jirndirlarru ngunha gurlarninyja. Nhaalu ngunha jigalbarninyja ngunhaba bulhabayara. Jirndirlarru yananyja. Ngunharru ngunha gumbinha jirndingga guwardi. Jilinbirrira wanggaja. Warri wangarrira barru ngabarninyjabarndi ngandhurralu. Ngabalga mandharda marrunggu. Warri warndira barru mandharda ngabarninyjabarndi yalhangga. Walhi. Yalhangga wandharrga ngandhurralu marrunggulu. Warri warndira barru. Nhaarla yinha. Ngundilgangu ngandhurranha. Jilinbirrira wanggaja. Ngabanyja ngunha ngarringgurru. Galarru ngabira ngarringgu. Marrunggulurru ngunhabadhu ngabalga yalhangga. Warri barru warndira. Yinharru ngadha yugardalu ngabinha. Marrunggurninma. Warri barru warndira.


Bulhabayara died. Bulhabayara was a man at that time. He died. They buried him. They put him in the ground. He stayed in the ground for, what was it, three days. Then that man came to life again among the people. The people all became afraid. They said: “Why has this one got up among us from the ground after having been buried and distressing us? No.” Now he goes into the sky. He went up into the sky. What held up that Bulhabayara? He went up to the sky. That is why he is in the sky now. Mudlark said: “People will not become alive again after we have buried them. We will bury people for ever. People will not get up again after being buried in the ground. It is bad. We will put them in the ground for ever. They will not get up again”. Why was this? “They might distress us”, Mudlark said. He was painted with ashes. He said: “We will paint ourselves with ashes like this. Also, for ever we will bury him in the ground. He will not get up again. So I am painting myself with powdered gypsum. Make it for ever. He will not arise again.”

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