A long time ago, way back in the Dreamtime, a man named Marrngu, The Possum
man, and his two wives, Barkuma (native cats: dhuwa) lived at a place called Guruwana. One day the Barkuma sisters went out to collect shells from the mangroves. Marrngu, who was going to marry them stayed at the camp. They went into the mangroves and collected dhongu’ (lined nerite), nonda (telescope mud creeper) and then came back to their camp to cook. But because the sisters despised Marrngu the Possum man, they made the fire extra large to cook the shells in. As they went about cooking the shells they plotted what they were going to do to Marrngu, the Possum man.
That night their husband came and sat near the fire to warm himself and to reconcile with the sisters as they refused to sleep with him. Then as Marrngu was warming himself near the fire, the sisters threw the hot coals and ashes all over him, shrivelling his arms and legs. Marrngu then got up turned into a possum and ran away screaming from pain; “wot, wot, wot, wot.” That is why nowadays Marrngu, the ringtail possum has pink skin on it’s body as a result from the hot coals and ashes.
The Crowman, Wak had made a fishtrap (Gorl) so they can have fish. Here the fish are caught, eaten and the fishbones are put aside so that they can put the fishbones into a ‘Hollow Log’ coffin later. When Marrngu ran away from the Barkuma sisters he came up to the Crowman and told him what happened, how the sisters had humiliated him and then tried to kill him. He also warned the Crowman what he is going to do to the sisters. Then Marrngu went away, gathered his clansmen and returned to kill the women. The miringu (army) gathered in groups at the edge of the plain, then they went in and speared the sisters to death.
The place where they killed the sisters is now called Molumirr to this day. It means that this was the place where the Barkuma sisters had been killed. Where the armies gathered in groups on the plain now stands a small group of bushes, gulun’gulun to signify where the miringu once stood. Their spirit entered the body of the catfish, Wedu in the nearby river. When the Wak heard about the women’s death he got upset and went to Warang the Glider Possum man, the boss of the hollow log. The Wak wanted to arrange a ‘Hollow Log’ ceremony for the dead women. After preparing the hollow Log coffin they collected all the catfish bones and placed them into a Dindin (paperbark basket), they would later put the catfish bones into the Hollow Log. To do this they painted the Hollow Log and had a big Bunggul (mortuary rite). They dance all night until late in the night. They ceremonially placed the catfish bones (the two sisters’ bones) into the Hollow Log coffin, then the Wak came and took the Hollow Log coffin away and flew into the heavens. hat Hollow Log coffin can now be seen as the Milky Way. And that is how the Milky Way was formed.
Recorded by Brian Yambal (2), Curator, Bulabula Arts