The following accounts of Tiwi creation stories were
given by Maryanne Mungatopi in 1998.
Palaneri - The Creation Period
The Tiwi Islands of Bathurst and Melville were created
at the beginning of time during the dreaming or Palaneri. Before this
time there was only darkness and the earth was flat.
Mudungkala, an old blind woman arose from the ground
at Murupianga in the south east of Melville Island. Clasping her three
infants to her breast and crawling on her knees she travelled slowly
north. The fresh water that bubbled up in the track she made became
the tideways of the Clarence and Dundas Straits, dividing the two
islands from the mainland.
She made her way slowly around the land mass and
then, deciding it was too large, created the Aspley Strait, which
divides the Islands. Mudungkala then decreed that the bare islands
be covered with vegetation and inhabited with animals so that her
three children left behind would have food. After the Islands were
made habitable she vanished. Nobody knows from where she came or,
having completed her work, where she disappeared to.
Purrukapali and Bima
Purrukapali was Mudungkala's only son. Every day
his wife Bima went out gathering food for him, accompanied by their
young son Jinani. In the same camp lived an unmarried man, Japara,
who used to persuade Bima to leave her child under the shade of a
tree and go into the forest with him.
On one very hot day Bima neglected her son too long
and he died in the hot sun. On hearing of the child's death, Purrukapali
became so enraged that he struck his wife on the head with a throwing
stick and hounded her into the forest. In an effort to help the anguished
father, Japara promised to restore the dead child to life within three
days, but Purrukapali was inconsolable and the two men soon became
locked in a deadly struggle.
Purrukapali picked up the dead body of his son and,
walking backwards into the sea, he decreed that death should come
to the whole world. As his son had died, the whole of creation would
die and, once dead, never again would come to life. There was not
death before this time.
The place where Purrukapali died, on the east coast
of Melville Island, became a whirlpool so strong that anybody who
approached it in a canoe would be drowned. When Japara saw what happened
he changed himself into the moon. But he did not escape the decree
of Purrukapali, for even though his is eternally reincarnated, he
has to die for three days every month.
One can see on the face of the moon man the wounds
that he received in his fight with Purrukapali. Bima, still bearing
scars on her head, became Wayai, the curlew bird, that still roams
the forest at night, wailing in remorse for her misdeeds and for the
child that she lost.
The death of Jinani brought the creation period to
a close. This event was marked by the first Pukumani burial ceremony.
Tokampini, the father of Bima called all the original creators, men
and women, to the ceremony. These mythical beings were taught the
rules of behaviour and the laws of marriage and tribal relationships
that had always to be obeyed. Then the periods of light and darkness
were established, determining the cycle of daily events. The creators
transformed themselves into various creatures, plants, animals, natural
forces or heavenly bodies - and spread across the islands. They are
the Tiwi totems or skin groups.
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