"WANUMPI" The Rainbow Serpent





Note to Australian Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders:
Please note that this story may contain photos of aboriginal people and dancing or people who may be deceased.  It is with permission of the people in the photos that they have been published and with the deepest respect to the native people of Australia/Territories and especially the people of Pitjantjatjara that we offer this story .

September 2006

Wanumpi: Rainbow Serpent (Guardian of the Waters)

"Represents the traditional guardians of ancient lands as seen through the song lines and energy lines; these people who guard the ancient knowledge of the land, the water, the sea and the sky and the need for all to come together as one in the understanding of the true nature of all things. Tjunguringkula waakaripai: working together."



The fifth symbol has come to Paul and it is with a great deal of trust that he begins to carve the greenstone piece chosen. It is of a snake, the rainbow serpent to be exact and we know that the area we are going to is Ngintaka Dreaming or lizard dreaming and bringing this symbol into Wadi Ngintaka area could be a big no no and our story and journey may be rejected by the Elders of the area we feel drawn to. Before we can enter this area of Australia we have to, through an intermediary, let the traditional owners and the elders of this land know what we would like to do and ask their permission to not only enter but do ceremony and place the stone carving on their land. No-one can enter traditional aboriginal country unless they have a permit.  So for us, even though it was logistically the easiest place to get to, it could prove to be the hardest  on a spiritual level. We need to enter the traditional country of the Anangu people, Pitjantjatjara, which is also the language spoken in this region. The countries, as their lands are called, are named after the language spoken by the communities there, so the Anangu speak Pitjantjatjara··· and it doesn’t sound anything like it is spelt.

Through an Aboriginal owned and run company “Desert Tracks”, which is also our intermediary, we organize a trip to the Red Centre which will enable us to spend time with the Anangu, learn about some of their dreaming and the local bush tucker.  Paul’s Aunty Jo from NZ feels drawn to join us and we now wait for an answer from the Elders. Their answer took a few weeks to come back but we are told that they would be happy to have us come and spend some time with them, do ceremony, bring our stones and···they feel they know where the carving needs to go. The three of us fly into Ulara resort which is right next to Uluru(Ayers Rock) and not far from Kata Juta(The Olgas) on the 4th of September and are blown away by the colours of the desert.  Paul and I have been out here before but had forgotten how red the sands were. Set against this is the lovely soft sage colour of the Desert Oaks, the gold and white grasses and of course Uluru and Kata Juta that go from a soft purple to orange and then deep red depending on the time of day.

We have a day before we head out into the desert so we opt to go to Uluru to watch the sunset along with about 500 other people from all over the world and their modes of transport··· mainly buses.  If you do nothing else but see Uluru sunset and or sunrise when in this area then you have witnessed something so beautiful it will stay with you for ever. Mid-morning the next day Brett and Rachael from “desert Tracks” pick us up and let us know that we are in for a bumpy ride on the dusty tracks out to our camp site which is just over the Northern Territory border in South Australia over 250kms away. Stopping a few times to get out and look at Thorny Devils (local lizards/or hairbrush as one local laughingly called them), how Brett sees them as we fly along beats me, breaks up the long drive.  Mind you the desert has us so fascinated that the trip seems to take no time at all.

Our camp site is in the middle of no-where and there is a brush windbreak where we put our swags and set up camp for the next five days.  The camp fires are set, the “rocket” which boils water for our canvas bag camp showers, is fired up and we wait to see if the Anangu will join us.  Even though they know we are coming they may still choose to not turn up.  After a satellite phone call, Brett assures us that “they” are on their way from their community and have been gathering wood for us so that we can learn how to make clapping sticks and decorate them.  They have no idea of how many or who will arrive.  The Anangu have their own camp area just a short way away from us so they can keep a certain amount of privacy.  We know that we will be “read like a book” by these keepers of the traditional ways and if we have come with “wrong intent” then they will keep their distance except for teaching times.

By late afternoon we are joined by Reenie, Sammy and an assortment of other family members who proceed to suss us out whilst setting up camp.  That night and every other, we settle into our swags on the red desert and with the near full moon as our guardian. By the end of day two we have been accepted as family by the group and now are joined by the leader of the community, Lee and his wife Leah who is the traditional owner of the country we are in. Over the next five days we make our own clapping sticks, hunt for Marku..witchety grubs and Jarla..honey ants and eat both, are shown the plants that just drip with sugar and honey and walk through the Ngintaka story with our “Family” as they show us the dances and sing the songs.  Paul is also invited to make a traditional headdress with Lee and the other men, a rare invitation.  It will be used for ceremonies other than the ones they will do with us and for some time to come.  It will also be added to from time to time as it is a story in itself.

On the full moon we all travel to an ancient area where there are three sacred springs.  It is here that Lee feels the stone symbol needs to rest.  When we arrive it is disappointing to see that the wild camels have fouled the water.

Did we find a final resting place for the sacred carving now this one was spoilt? You will have to read "Set By The Ancients" The Journey Continues to find the answer to that question.

Many thanks to Rachael for all the hard work you did in camp voluntarily because of your love for the desert and its people, you helped fill our journey with joy; to Brett for your driving, guidance and stories.  We hope our paths will cross again.