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Amazon Music Stream millions of songs. Amazon Drive Cloud storage from Amazon. These localised landscapes are both impenetrable physical environments and symbolically unsocialised, malignant realms in Marrangu cosmology. Mewal joins Merri , the other Marrangu Djinang anthropomorphic spirit being, to roam in the jungle at night, making distracting sounds so people lose direction. In this form, Mewal is believed a corruption of the human body, ugly, deformed or skeletal only. In behaviour this Mewal is asocial, and, like Merri , evokes negative sentiments associated with the physical and cosmological jungle environment.

Alongside this, Mewal is believed to have interacted congenially with the earliest human beings, teaching them and bestowing rights in songs 18 and dances that is, ma d ayin property.

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  8. There are 13 Marrangu Djinang manikay song subjects. The manikay songs celebrate the actions of Dreaming Wangarr beings including, in the present case, Djareware , Mewal and Merri. The 13 Marrangu Djinang manikay songs are sung in a consistent though, in practice, rarely identical order and are thematically grouped, shown in Table 5. In these dense forest areas, such as at Djambi and Bumbaldjarri, freshwater creeks meet swampy, seasonally flooding lowlands. Marrangu people recognise the unity of the cycle overall. The latter mythology, Bullia Saltwater Catfish and Gapi Water , references the final phase of Marrangu Djinang mortuary rites known as Bardurru or Dupun or Larrgan , when crushed bones of the deceased are placed in a hollow log coffin.

    Mu l itji and warbalulu are cosmologically associated with the northwest horizon, the direction of monsoonal rains Bara and location of Gorriba Island, spiritual home for deceased Marrangu individuals and the Merri Spirit Being named Luma Luma. Bullia is not a named Marrangu manikay song subject, 23 but is a conception Dreaming in Marrangu belief.

    Mewal is the Dreaming creator allied with Djareware ; and, additionally, a malign jungle spirit that interacts with Merri and spirits of the dead. Through this polysemy Mewal is a symbol conveying the idea of ancestral regeneration after death—a pivotal theme of the extended mortuary customs in north-central Arnhem Land. In this Mewal is closely analogous with wuguli , the immortal spirit aspect in Marrangu Djinang belief, that survives death and returns to clan country or to a spirit realm with physical referent Gorriba Island.

    Merri is associated with bodily attachment and the decay of a corpse immediately after death. Merri spirits are thought an anathema to the continuity of social stability and individual life: Mewal , on the other hand, is not involved in unsettling daily experience and is considered more benign, independent, transcendent and intangible than Merri. Inside the panel the dots represent bees and honeycomb.

    Two sculptures representing Merri as a mother and daughter pair produced by George Putti deceased at Galawdjapin Homeland in The cross-hatching, termed gumununggu, is the Marrangu Djinang design for Merri. Marrangu Djinang bunggul song with dance enacting mythology where Mewal searches for Djareware honey following honeybees from Raymangirr in Marrangu Murrungun country, northeast Arnhem Land.

    The white line hanging above the dancers represents flying honeybees. This bunggul occurred during the wirgugu wake for an elder Marrangu Djinang man, Gattji, Marrangu Djinang perform Mewal bunggul at Ramingining in January This bunggul occurred during the wirgugu wake for a senior Marrangu Djinang man. Mountford Melbourne University Press ; all photos: As jungle spirit, Merri exists in various forms: At death this wandering spirit is thought acutely dangerous, as it hopelessly tries to return to the living community.

    Merri is a highly effective and valued socialising agent, orienting individuals towards sanctioned behaviours and roles from an early age.

    Children quickly connect these actions with danger. Merri operates to legitimate the positive value placed on community and family bonds because emotional or mental disturbance and antisocial behaviour e.

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    This is a culturally preferred explanation that avoids blaming an individual. The contradictions and ambiguities in the attributions, significations and interrelationships between Merri and Mewal demonstrate the importance of these figures in Marrangu cosmology, ontology, geography and socialisation. Mewal and Merri are an important but not all-inclusive component of Marrangu Djinang thought. There are many more Dreaming beings and relationships involving different Marrangu cosmological entities. The Mewal and Merri spirit beings occupy different but shifting and overlapping positions in Marrangu Djinang cosmology.


    There are cultural, geographical and historical demographic reasons that account for the ambiguities in the significations of Mewal and Merri in Marrangu thought. Mewal and Merri interpenetrate across aspects of cosmology, landscape, the life cycle and daily experience. Mewal and Merri do not correspond, in any singular straightforward way, with visible or invisible referents.

    Mewal and Merri are conceptually similar symbols which may at times have an acknowledged physical manifestation. At other times they do not. In these circumstances, discrepancies in the significations people attribute to them are apt to arise. Geography and demography partially accounts for ambiguities and localised coalescence of cosmological beliefs. Galawdjapin and Gattji homelands, with predominantly Marrangu Djinang and Wulaki speakers, respectively, are two kilometres apart.

    The interpenetration of Marrangu Djinang and Wulaki belief systems is evident in the case of Mewal. Like Mewal , Ganingalkngalk is both a creator Being and a malevolent jungle entity: Similarly, at Ramingining and Milingimbi, Djinang speakers use the Gupapuyngu words mokuy coterminously with Merri ; and birrimbirr as an alternative for the Djinang term wuguli.

    Finer correlations remain existent, but the process of historical syncretism is leading to a less elaborately integrated and increasingly imprecise framework of eschatological speculations.

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    The scope of the Merri figure in Marrangu eschatology has, superficially at least, been simplified as a result of assimilation with Christian notions. Marrangu people see no contradiction in the incorporation of Christian ideas within their own cosmology. People at Galawdjapin and Gattji profess their belief in Christianity to be a harmonious adjunct to Marrangu cosmology. There is no sense in which Christian ideas are seen as incompatible with local cosmological categorisations.

    There is evidence from elsewhere in Aboriginal Australia that the process of systematic investigation itself has highlighted ambiguities in Indigenous beliefs that are of little concern to believers themselves. He goes on, noting how systematic enquiry led to the unearthing of apparent inconsistencies in Murinbata belief:. All the mythic personages seemed clear cut in ordinary conversation but lost outline or became shadowed by ambiguity under closer study.

    It seemed to me precisely that property which allowed both their mythological and ritual development … Eventually I saw the wisdom of not forcing the ideas to a precision that was not in them. My hosts at Galawdjapin and Gattji fielded my enquiries, though few professed an appetite to investigate the ambiguities of Mewal and Merri. The belief that Mewal and Merri exist, as evidenced by transformations in Marrangu cosmology and country, manikay and ceremony, was proof and knowledge enough.

    Cosmological categorisations are an arena of human thought and practice marked by indeterminacy, interpenetration of ideas and dynamic change. This is especially so in oral traditions, but Judeo-Christian traditions exhibit similar characteristics. Consider, for example, the historical diffusion of alternate imaginings concerning angels, saints, devils and demons.

    In Arnhem Land, cosmological beliefs do not constitute fully integrated and harmonious encapsulations of socio-religious reality. Marrangu Djinang cosmology is not a unified, fully integrated body of beliefs.

    The aptness of these terms is arguable as they may suggest indiscriminate selection. It is true that Djinang Marrangu cosmological beliefs place profound, transformative episodes alongside seemingly inconsequential events, significant elements contrasting sharply with those of apparently less weight. It is not a stabilised, all-encompassing system admitting only singular, coherent or complete interpretations. Marrangu Djinang manikay , for instance, is a selective extrapolation of thematically linked and proximately grouped Dreaming entities, drawn from a larger and richer corpus of potential mythic scenarios and emblems.

    Conceptual dynamism in belief systems engages change and active ambiguity as an explanatory device. This process produces contradictory interrelationships, not seamless integration. Conceptual ambiguity and semantic dynamism are features of Marrangu Djinang cosmological and social categories. Mewal and Merri overlap considerably in Marrangu Djinang cosmology, art, song, mortuary beliefs and practices, lifecycle beliefs and, perhaps most significantly, in the cultural landscape.

    The coalescence of these ideational, ceremonial, experiential and geographic realities makes finding precise contextual denotations difficult. The physical and cultural dimensions of the Yalangbara area. Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. Territoriality and the problem of demarcating sociocultural space. Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. Dreaming clusters among Marrangu clans. Yolngu ways of knowing country.

    National Museum of Australia. The structure of Arnhem Land song-poetry. Sand sculptures at a Gidjingali burial rite. Australian National University Press. Notes on Songs of Arnhem Land [accompanying booklet]. Ambiguity in Yolngu religious language.