The Frogmouth and the Birth of Australia

The Frogmouth and the Birth of Australia

Once upon a time, not so long ago, the people of the earth lived in harmony with all of nature, listening closely to the spirits and ancestors of the land, the animals, plants and the elementals.

In exchange for the abundance of fresh food the earth served in living plants, the crystal clear water, fresh air and inspirational beauty that the earth spirits provided to them, the people would walk the land, giving thanks through song and dance. They did this with the deepest reverence, for they knew that they depended on these gifts from the earth for their own survival. The earth sang with delight and vibrancy when the people walked over her with respect, singing her songs and dancing her vibrations. Each fed the other, earth to people, people to earth in an endless spiral of ever deepening consciousness.

And each evening, when the last kookaburras had sung the night into place, the frogmouth, the keeper of the night, would start to chant its night song so that the people could sleep deeply under the starry sky knowing they were safe.

Australian indigenous elder and child
Photo courtesy of Wellcome Images [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

But then one day, there arrived on the land, some people from a faraway place. These people had white skin that lay hidden beneath coverings of cloth. Now there was blackfella and whitefella, where before there had only been earth’s children.

These whitefella brought with them new and interesting substances such as sugar, flour, money and big animals called cows and horses and pigs that the blackfellas had never seen before.

The whitefella had once been connected to the earth in their faraway land, where they had worked with its cycles and learned to harness some of nature’s forces by farming land. But when they arrived to this new land, they forgot to listen. They thought they were already masters of nature and knew the best way to do things, not realizing that this land had different nature spirits, ancestors and needs. They had forgotten how to ask, to be present and listen to the messages of the earth. But worst of all, they didn’t even remember that they had forgotten.

So they started cutting down trees to make space for their cows whose hooves hardened and compacted the land so that the plants couldn’t breathe. And the blackfellas started to learn the whitefellas ways. While they had used to love going out every day watching and listening for natures messages on where to find their food and water, suddenly they found they no longer needed to as they were given flour, sugar and tea.

Noongar people with Fanny Balbuk
Noongar people with Fanny Balbuk; Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

And while they had loved sleeping under the stars with the Frogmouth watching over them, now they were convinced to sleep in houses which covered up the moon and the stars and disconnected them from the cycles.

And while they used to share everything, now they were told they needed money to survive and so they had to work in order to buy their food.

And where before they had lived in relationship with nature, whitefella taught them how to control it.

Ever so slowly they forgot to give thanks to the earth, and ever so slowly they stopped singing and chanting and dancing the land into being.

Whitefella taught them about God and how they must go to church and wear clothes in order to save their souls. And sometimes they even took little children and babies away from their families so that they could learn whitefella ways better.

But the blackfella Elders (or wise men) knew that something was not right. They had been watching the spirits of the land sinking below the surface of the earth as more people stopped singing and dancing. The earth songs were being forgotten. They noticed how the animals had slowly disappeared as the waterholes became bogged with cow mud and the plants they needed to eat became fewer and farther in between. They noticed when the Frogmouth could no longer be heard at night and how the people no longer slept soundly. But most of all they noticed the sickness of the spirits of the people. They were forgetting who they were, that they were children and caretakers of this land and its health was tied up with their own. They pondered over how whitefella had brought a great sickness with them – a deep sense of disconnection from the earth.

Frogmouth
Photo By Irc110 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

One night, one of these Elders went to visit the Frogmouth spirit in his dreams. He shared his worries about the land and its creatures and asked for guidance. The Frogmouth spirit replied to him:

In the daylight I may look like a dead tree branch,

but I am only sleeping,

waiting for my time to sing again.

As am I, so is this land.”

When he heard this, the Elder knew he just had to remember the songs of the earth and wait for the time when the people would be ready to sing them again, just as the land would wait.

But it would take many years until whitefella would realise their own sickness. For now they still thought they were doing the right thing, sharing their great knowledge and skills over nature with the blackfellas, sometimes frustrated at the apathy and lack of appreciation for their rules that blackfellas seemed to show. And despite all the technology, knowledge and highly refined skills of the whitefella, the earth began to get sick. The earth spirits lay in a deep sleep below the surface waiting for the people to wake up to themselves again.

Coober Pedy
Photo: H.Wedd, 2013

Finally after many years, whitefella began to realize what they had done. They began to notice that the earths sickness was a reflection of their own sick spirit. They started to remember that their own health was intimately connected to that of the earth. And slowly they started to realize that blackfella had a lot to teach them!

So blackfella and whitefella worked hard together to try and remember the old ways. Many of the Elders had now passed away but sometimes their songlines had been passed on and remembered.

Alice festival in the Todd

As whitefella began to place importance on blackfella ways and deep earth knowledge, a magical thing began to happen. Blackfellas started to remember themselves. They started to get better, to heal from their spirit sickness. And blackfella and whitefella began to work together as one, as earth’s people, and they started to listen to the earth, the stones, the birds, animals, the waters and the land spirits again. And the more they listened, the louder the song of the earth came through. And once again they started to sing the lines of the earth back into being.

And as they felt deeply with their hearts into the land, the land moved their bodies and they danced the earth again.

Caterpillar dreaming

And the more they sang and danced the land, the sleeping land spirits began to yawn and wake up, vibrating with their own songs, sending out energy for the earth’s people to feel and use. Plants sprang up, flowering and fruiting in delightful gifts for the people. And one by one, the animals were drawn back to country.

Australian wildflowers

And when the Frogmouth could be heard again in the forest at night, finally the old Elder knew he could rest as his people would start to sleep easy again.

tawny_frogmouth

Written by:

© Heidi Wedd, 2016