In the time before the map – I
Bunjil & Birrung meet the sea
IN THE TIME before the bay, before the ice began to slip away, the men and women and the children mapped the land with the soles of their feet, drawing and tracing tracks from the edge of the sea in the south to the mountains behind them in the north, marking Country as they hunted emu and kangaroo, and as they dug for crops. With the melting of the ice the sea came forward, creeping across the land, swallowing many of the tracks, the fresh-water holes, the yam digs and ceremonial sites. The sea was hungry and refused to stop and soon enough the mouth of the river, the Birrung, was swallowed and its veins were pushed back toward the mountains. The men and women, witness to their loss, sat and spoke and agreed to call upon Bunjil to act for them. And he did. He came to them with three boulders. One he placed at the edge of the encroaching sea. The other two he placed side-by-side at the submerged mouth of the river that lay now beneath the salted water. Bunjil moved forward and spoke to the sea. He demanded it come no further, that it might lap at the boulder he had placed at its edge, but never swallow it. He then pierced the ground with a line of sticks, separating land from sea and told the sea to come no closer to the land. He also demanded of the sea that as it had taken the heart of the Birrung it would now protect it. He asked that the river bed that lay beneath the salted water remain untouched, and that when the time came, in the future, the sea would allow the river to rise again. The sea agreed, but explained to Bunjil that in the future the ghosts would come and they would disturb both the river and the sea. The sea explained that it had moved forward to protect the river, to blanket it before the ghosts arrived. Bunjil himself had been unable to witness this future and thought it may be a trick. But the sea assured him that it was so, and that it would be ready to fight for both itself and the river. Bunjil spoke to the men and women of the future that only the sea knew and assured them that it would act with them.
Already a subscriber? Sign in here
If you are an educator or student wishing to access content for study purposes please contact us at email@example.com