Before there was Ararru & Mathari there was only Ararru
Everything I am about to say here is based purely on my own personal research, understanding and interpretation of our Ancient Stories and Beliefs, therefore, I encourage and expect you to always check what I say is true or not, for I may well be wrong and I am always prepared to be rebuked or corrected, I especially ask my Adnyamathanha Ararru Mathari Yura Ngankini to check and verify.
Like I always say that within our Peoples there are People who are both younger and older than me who know much more than I will ever hope to learn in my lifetime.
Mandya and Urdlu Wilpena Pound © 2008 Walha Udi Marvyn McKenzie Snr
In the ancient of days, before there were two opposite moiety totem groups of Ararru Vukurra Milana (Northwind Mob) and Mathari Varpa Milana (Southwind Mob) there was only one – and it was Ararru Vukurra Milana.
Now some of my Mathari Yura Ngankini may well disagree me about this belief and may say “How do you know it was not firstly only Mathari?”
Thus, I beg you to bear with me for a little while as I try to explain this personal and cultural belief.
This one totem wind group can be clearly seen in some of our Ancient stories, our Yarta Wandatha (the telling and teaching of stories that connects a person to our Ancestral Land) of our Ancient Nguthuna.
Nguthuna is the Yura Ngawarla (lit Earth Language) term and name we use for the period when many of our Ancestral Creation Spirit Beings who either travelled over or settled upon the land.
The Nguthuna is known by the Utnyu (corpse, White People) as the ‘Dreamtime or Dreaming’ but these Utnyu terms and concepts are still not sufficient enought to truly explain what we Aboriginal People mean we when talk and recall this Ancient period of time and events.
Each Aboriginal Language Groups have their own Ancient words for this period of time and event: for example the Pitjantjatjara people use the term Tjukurpa, the Arrernte refer to it as Aldjerinya.
Whilst the Yura Ngawarla word Nguthuna is the word for what I often refer to the Ancient of Days, we Adnyamathanha Ararru Mathari Yura also have an additional word we use for the past, present and future events and it is called Mudha (our laws, customs and traditions, kinship and marriage system lanuage, dance, stories, songs etc).
Got sidetracked there a bit but that is because it is important to explain the above cultural information and words not only to Yura but also to other people so they may at least get some knowledge and understanding of these two connected but very different and cultural concepts and belief systems of Nguthuna and Mudha.
So where was I…ahh..yes..This one totem wind group can be clearly seen in some of our Ancient stories, our Yarta Wandatha of our Ancient Nguthuna….
Take for example one of our most well known story, well least by our Mob, the Ancient Nguthuna story of Mandya and Urdlu, which is the main story we have of the creation of the Flinders Ranges. In English the Mandya (sounds like mundja) is called Euro or Common Wallaroo and Urdlu (sounds like Oodloo) is the Red Kangaroo and before they became two different species of animals they were once of the same species.
This same species belief can be seen in their Utnyu scientific Latin names for them. Mandya is called Macropus robustus and Urdlu is called Macropus rufus – thus both are descended from a common ancestor which for the purpose of this story we shall call Macropus.
Wardu (a long time ago),
Mandya and Urdlu Macropus were Brothers, of the same species and both were Ararru, who lived together and hunted together, always sharing with each other what they each found seperately or together. They use to travel around together in the same flat, featureless country looking for their favourite food Ngarndi Wari (the root of the Native Pear, Bush Banana) and sharing the food with each other when either one or the other found some or did not find some.
One day when Urdlu and Mandya were looking for Ngarndi Wari in separate locations Urdlu found a good area where there was a lot of Ngarndi Wari, whilst Mandya was searching in places where he could find only a little, if any at all.
At first Urdlu shared the Ngarndi Wari he had found with Mandya but as time went on he felt Mandya was not pulling his own weight in finding his own Ngarndi Wari and therefore not really contributing at all. So Urdlu decided to no longer share the Ngarndi Wari with Mandya anymore and decided to keep his food source a secret from Mandya.
After a while poor Mandya was getting thinner and thinner because he could not find any Ngarndi Wari at all when he went out. Each evening Mandya would look over to his friend Urdlu and notice that he was getting fatter and fatter.
One day, after nearing the point of starvation, Mandya went to Urdlu and asked his friend to give him some Ngarndi Wari as he was very, very hungry. Mandya said ‘Please Vurlka (old man), give me some Mai (non-meat food in general as opposed to Vaarlu – meat in general) as I am very hungry and weak.
Urdlu felt sorry for Mandya and said to him ‘OK! There is some Ngarndi Wari in my bag over there. Help yourself, you can have that.’
Mandya then went to the bag and began to eat the Ngarndi Wari that he found in it. As Mandya was eating the Ngarndi Wari he looked over to Urdlu and said ‘Hmmm! This is really good tasting Ngarndi Wari. Where did you find it? Urdlu with a wave of his said ‘Oh, I found it over there somewhere.’
Urdlu did not want to tell Mandya where his source of Ngarndi Wari was and Mandya realised that his friend Urdlu was keeping his source a secret from him. So Mandya decided that he would try to find the source of the Urdlu’s Ngarndi Wari himself.
That night the two went to sleep dreaming and scheming. Urdlu dreamt of how he could prevent Mandya from finding his secret source of Ngarndi Wari. Mandya dreamt of how he could find Urdlu’s secret source of Ngarndi Wari.
The next morning Urdlu was the first to wake up and like most other mornings he was feeling a bit thirsty so he went to look for some Awi (water) to drink. Mandya was also secretly awake, waiting to see what Urdlu would do and which direction he would go. Mandya realised that Urdlu was not going to his secret source of Ngarndi Wari but was instead searching for Awi as he usually did in the mornings. This then was his best opportunity to find Urdlu secret source of Ngarndi Wari as he knew that Urdlu would be busy looking for Awi.
Mandya began to walk around the campsite looking for Urdlu incoming tracks to the camp and while there were many, Mandya soon found one that was well worn and frequently used.
Mandya soon followed Urdlu tracks, slowly and steadily, as he noted that at times Urdlu tried to disguise or hide his tracks.
Eventually Mandya did indeed find Urdlu’s secret source of Ngarndi Wari.
He begun to dig out a big heap of the Ngarndi Wari and began to eat and feast on them. He stayed there digging and digging without looking up. Back at the campsite, Urdlu returned back from looking for Awi and noticed that Mandya was no longer in the camp. Urdlu then notice the tracks of Mandya has they circled the camp and realised that Mandya has set off to find his secret source of Ngarndi Wari.
When Urdlu arrived at his secret source of Ngarndi Wari he saw that Mandya notice that had dug up a lot of his Ngarndi Wari. Mandya was still so busy digging and eating the Ngarndi Wari that he did not notice the arrival of Urdlu.
Urdlu was very angry at Mandya and said to him ‘Why did you come to my hole and dig up all my Ngarndi Wari? Mandya replied ‘Because I am starving and you were very mean in not sharing this plentiful source of Ngarndi Wari with me.’ Mandya then just went back to digging and eating the Ngarndi Wari.
This made Urdlu very, very angry and next minute he attacked Mandya and they began to have a big fight with each other. During the fight Mandya grabbed Urdlu’s arms and began to pull and stretch them out. He then grabs his fingers and legs also and stretched them out as well, until they go very long.
This made Urdlu very angry so Urdlu pressed Mandya’s fingers and his legs making them short. He then pressed Mandya’s back and chest. Urdlu then thrashed him and they then separated, going in different directions to tend their wounds.
Mandya went off and up to a place called Vadaardlanha (Paralana Hot Springs) and settled down to tend his wounds. Mandya can still been seen sitting there today as he became a mountain peak that we now called Thudupinha (Thudu being an old word for the Mandya).
When Mandya settled down to sleep for the night he noticed an uncomfortable hurt at his hip. Mandya got up and saw that he had a sore that he had missed out on cleaning and that in the sore was a little stone. Mandya took out the little stone and he blew on it. In a flash he saw hills come up from the plains, so he blew on it again and more hills began to rise up from the plains.
Meanwhile, Urdlu had gone off and down to a placed called Varaarta to tend to his wounds and as he travelled he moved the flat plains that contained his Ngarndi Wari with him.
Urdlu was lying at the flat when he looked up and saw all the hills rising up from the plain and moving down towards him. Urdlu said to himself, ‘Hey! What going on here? What is that Vurlka up to now? Why is he making all these hills, if he keeps it up I will have no place to live at all and I will lose all my Ngarndi Wari.
Urdlu then rose up and with a big sweep of his new long tail he pushed the hills back to where they remain today. You can see where this happened at a place called Vardna-wartathinha (Prism Hill) and near by there is a big flat where no grass ever grows and it is called Urdlurunha-vitana (lit translation ‘kangaroo’s flat’) and it is now called Moro Flat.
At this time Urdlu also made Munda (Lake Frome) so that he would have a permanent supply of Awi. He made this fresh water Awi so would no longer needed to waste any time looking for Awi anymore, have more time to look for Ngarndi Wari and to keep an eye on Mandya.
Mandya saw Urdlu make Munda and he was very jealous so one night he went down to Munda when Urdlu was asleep and salted the whole of Munda. This is why today Urdlu can no longer drink from Munda today and explains why Munda is now a permanent salt lake.
After Mandya went back into the newly created hills and Urdlu stayed on the big plain that he moved along with him. Each now live separately from each other and look differently from each other as a result of the big fight. Where once they were brothers and hunted together they now keep to themselves and remain in their own countries that they made for themselves.
Mandya turned himself into a spirit and is now called Thudupinha. You can still see him today sitting up their near Vadaardlanha. Below him the ground is all red because it was here that he had bled and tended his wounds after his big fight with Urdlu. This place is called Mandya Arti (which means ‘Mandya’s Blood’) and is today known as Mount Freeling.
Because Mandya settled in the North he remained Ararru and therefore is a totem animal for all Ararru.
Because Urdlu settled in the South he changed into Mathari and therefore is the totem animal for all Mathari.
Now some of you may say to me:
You have still not explained or answered why you think that there was once only one totem before there was two, and why you believe that it was the Ararru Mob that was the first totem and not the Mathari Mob? Where in this story does this even say this?
Reread the story and answer for yourself the following two simple questions:
When Mandya and Urdlu fought each other, for this was when the division occurred: Who was the first one to be changed through their fighting – Mandya or Urdlu?
Who was the one who first made creative changes to the flat featureless landscape – Mandya or Urdlu?
There are other important lessons and secrets contained within this story and I will reveal some of them on another day as I think I said enough for you to think about and reflect on.