The Aboriginal Australian Rainbow Serpent meanders snake-like like a river across the landscape, sunlight reflecting the spectrum of colors. He inhabits permanent waterholes and controls precious oils and waters.
Goorialla, The Great Rainbow Serpent, Way Back in Dreamtime
In the middle of the country, the great serpent rested for a while as he was sick. He had eaten one of the great red kangaroos that he considered his to take as he wished. But it had been too old and tough and hard to digest. Goorialla spewed it up again and left it lying in the desert. Many years later his people found the remains and called this great red lump Uluru.
Aboriginal Dreamtime Stories, Story by Dick Goobalathaldin Roughsey, Narration by David Gulpilil, Soundtrack by Andrew Vial. Photographed and edited by Alexander Cochran, Artwork adapted by Stephanie Adams, Book published by Collins, 1975, Film produced by Weston Woods
The Legend of the Rainbow Serpent
Far off in Dreamtime, there were only people, no animals or birds, no trees or bushes, no hills or mountains.
The country was flat. Goorialla, the great Rainbow Serpent, stirred and set off to look for his own tribe. He travelled across Australia from South to North. He reached Cape York where he stopped and made a big red mountain called Naralullgan. He listened to the wind and heard only voices speaking strange languages.
This is not my country, the people here speak a different tongue. I must look for my own people. Goorialla left Naralullgan and his huge body made a deep gorge where he came down. He travelled North for many days and his tracks made the creeks and rivers as he journeyed North. Goorialla made two more mountains, one of the Naradunga was long made of granite, the other had sharp peaks and five caves and was called, Minalinha.
One day Goorialla heard singing and said, “Those are my people, they are holding a big Bora.” At the meeting place of the two rivers, Goorialla found his own people singing and dancing. He watched for a long time, then he came out and was welcomed by his people. He showed the men how to dress properly and taught them to dance. A big storm was gathering, so all the people built humpies for shelter.
Two young men, the bil-bil or Rainbow Lorikeet brothers came looking for shelter but no one had any room. They asked their grandmother, the Star Woman but she had too many dogs and couldn’t help them. the Bil-bil brothers went to Goorialla who was snoring in his humpy but he had no room.
The rain got heavier and the boys went back to Goorialla and called out that the rain was heavy. Goorialla said, “All right come in now.” The Bil-bil bothers ran into Goorialla’s mouth and he swallowed them. Then he began to worry about what the people would say when they found the boys missing. He decided to travel North to Bora-bunaru, the only great natural mountain in the land. Next morning the people found that the boys were gone and saw the tracks of Goorialla and knew that he had swallowed them.
You may never see these lakes or mountains, but after the rain you will see his spirit in the sky , which is the rainbow. This is the reason why he is called Goorialla the Rainbow Serpent.
The Aboriginal Australian Rainbow Serpent meanders like a snaking river across the landscape, sunlight reflecting the spectrum of colours. He inhabits permanent waterholes and controls precious oils and waters. Unpredictable, he vies with the ever-burning Sun, replenishing stores of water, forming gullies and deep channels as he slithers across the land, collecting and distributing the rivers of life.
Dreamtime stories tell of the great spirits and totems during creation, in animal and human form they molded the barren and featureless earth. The Rainbow Serpent came from beneath the ground and created huge ridges, mountains and gorges as it pushed upward. The Rainbow Serpent is known as Ngalyod by the Gunwinggu and Borlung by the Miali. He is a serpent of immense proportions which inhabits deep permanent waterholes. Descended from that larger being visible as a dark streak in the Milky Way, it reveals itself to people in this world as a rainbow as it moves through water and rain, shaping landscapes, naming and singing of places, swallowing and sometimes drowning people; strengthening the knowledgeable with rainmaking and healing powers; blighting others with sores, weakness, illness, and death.