Djanak yok djundal - (devil woman, white haired)

Sandra Hill

Balingup, Australia

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90cm wide x 120cm high
Oil on Plywood panel

The Djanak (Charnock) Woman Story.

Long before the Nyitting (cold times) there lived a Djanak (evil spirit) woman named Woor-jall-luk who went from kalleep to kalleep (camp fires) stealing koolungurs (children). She had very long white hair and was taller than the karri and jarrah trees.
She used her hands as a kind of net to store and keep the spirit children in. This kept her hands free to gather more spirit children. She stole them to feed her ‘man’, Mulchin-jal-lak. He dwelt in Bates Cave near Wave Rock, which is called Gnadie-darang-e-noo.

The spirit people of the South-West of Western Australia were quite concerned about this phenomenon. Children were disappearing in large numbers. One night they set a trap to observe what was taking the children. They tried to stop the evil woman but they could not get close enough to kill her.

One day after a wongi (talk) the spirit people turned themselves into Coolbardies (Magpies). They knew that the only way to get close to her was by flying at her in a flock. They thought they would have a better chance of freeing the Koolungurs from her long white hair, but, on seeing them attack, Wool-jall-luk grabbed a big fire stick to beat back the Coolbardies. A great fight followed all over the Bibbulmun nation. (The Bibbulmun nation follows a line from Geraldton to Southern Cross, then down to Esperance, along the coast to Albany, Bunbury and Perth and then back up to Geraldton. All the land in that area made up the Bibbulmun nation)
The fire stick did not stop the Coolbardies from swooping on her to free the Koolungurs from her long white hair. Some of the spirit children fell onto the ground as the battle continued, and on hitting the earth they turned to stone.

These stones are called Bwia-ee-koolungur-nyinna (the stones where the little babies fell). Woor-jall-luk was beaten very badly and made her way back to Mulchin-jal-lak ‘Bates Cave’ so her ‘man’ could give her assistance but, on seeing her arrive with the Coolbardies, he ran down south. Woor-jall-luk then leapt into the sky with the help of Wave Rock (which was soft and acted as a trampoline) out of reach of the magpies. She took with her the rest of the spirit children who were still imprisoned in her long white hair.

The Nyoongar legend states that the ‘Milky Way’ is called Bibbeegooree and the stars are the children caught up in the strands. The strands represent nipples (bibi mulya), which feed the koolungurs.

As Woor-jall-luk was tossed into the sky a great many koolungurs fell out of her hair and made the first Bwia-ee-koolungurs place, which we know today as Hippo’s Yawn. The five stars Woor-jall-luk shaped are like an upside down ‘V’ and located half way between the ‘saucepan’ and the ‘Seven Sisters’ represent her Kallep (camp fire). The star on the bottom right side of the group is the fire and it is always burning. Every now and then a star will fall to earth to make another stone where the babies sit. The magpie totems (Coolbardies) today still swoop on little children to let them know that the giant Djanak woman is still up there around her fire.

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