The Story of the Boora Birra

A long time ago, when there was no evil in this land, the garrigarrang/sea was further to the east than it is today, and the ngurang/place called Boora Birra stood high in the deep yarang/valley which it guarded. This yarang/valley was the home of the Parra Doowee, the burra/Eel Dreaming Spirit.

Now Boora Birra was a special ngurang/place for dyinalyung/women who, when needed, carried out the ceremony called Butoowee there. Every child, when they reached a certain age, was taken to the Boora Birra where they were taught certain things and received protection from any evil spirits which could enter them and cause them to do bad things.

Because the land between the deep yarang/valley and the garrigarrang/sea-shore was flat and easy walking, with plenty of food The yura/people became fat, lazy and forgetful. The men no longer honoured the spirits of the animals they hunted and killed. They wasted much of their prey eating only the parts they liked most and leaving the remainder to rot away and the dyinalyung/women no longer taught their children the ways of the yura/people. They no longer paid their respects to the earth mother or gave thanks for the food they received so easily.

The children grew to manhood and dyinalyung/woman hood without being taught the laws and why it is necessary to obey those Laws. They formed themselves into bands that roamed the flatlands destroying the gunyas of the old, stealing fishing gamay/spears and hunting weapons and using them to fight the members of other bands. The yura/people heard them coming and would conceal themselves high upon the Boora Birra. From this vantage point they watched the trepidation as one band approached the home of the great burra/eel guarded by the old warrior, Kamarai.

Kamarai heard noises of an approaching group and went to welcome his visitors, but he was quickly surrounded by the lawless ones who laughed at his clumsy actions as he tried to avoid the jabbing of the gamay spears. Bleeding from many wounds, the old man fell to the ground. In a deep pool in the river the great burra/eel heard the commotion and heard the cries of help from his old friend. It swam up to the surface of the pool. The lawless ones saw the great burra/eel and threw their gamay/spears at him in fear as it pulled itself up out of the water. It's great body moved towards its old friend as the last gamay/spear of the lawless ones struck its tail. When it saw that Kamarai had died of his wounds, it cried out in grief and pain and struck the ground with its great tail dislodging the gamay/spear. The earth began to shake violently and a great chasm opened up in the ground following the fleeing lawless ones and swallowing them as they fled towards the flatlands.

Then a storm came in from the garrigarrang/sea, and the waves crashed across the flatlands until they reached the cliffs that marked the beginning of the highlands.

 “Let this be a warning:”, the great burra/eel said. “The laws of this land must be obeyed, and the proper ceremonies must be carried out in the proper manner.” It turned to look at the Boora Birra, slowly being engulfed by the waves. “And the Boora Birra will now be a place where the garrigarrang/sea creatures take their children to teach them the lores of the sea but you may visit safely from time to time, so that you will remember why the laws must be passed on to the young.” And because good lessons can always be learned from evil, this ngurang/place will be safe for the yura/people to hunt and to fish and live and teach the laws.

The great burra/eel slipped silently into the water and with a splash of its tail disappeared beneath the waves, the yura/people watched the waves, hoping for a glimpse of the great burra/eel as it made its way to its new home. One of the children, a young boy went to the water’s edge then looked back at his mother and smiled and spoke in a voice that was not his “until we forget again” he said “until we forget again”.

Image: Artist, Emma McGuinness