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Observations placeholder

Maisie Yarrcali Barlow - Jirrbal - a rainforest dreamtime story



Type of Spiritual Experience


This is an Aboriginal dreamtime story, about how the birds steal fire from the snake.  The story is almost identical in its conception to the story of Prometheus and how he stole fire from the gods in Greek myth.  In both stories 'fire' is the ability to reason and create – man's acquisition of co-creation skills – it is not a straightforward story of man's discovery of fire.

Many shamans were able to perceive themselves as birds during trance states – occasionally half bird half man, but in some cases a complete bird.  Thus the myth describes how humans acquired reasoning and will by 'stealing' the functions from a god.  Prometheus in Greek myth was endlessly punished, but the birds in this myth aren't.

In most allegorical tales the birds fly at air level.  If we think of the rainbow as representing the levels in the spiritual worlds, the level before the red fire level is air and it is symbolically yellow.  Thus the air in the air level is often cream, pinky yellow or yellow rather than being blue.

Above the air level , the fire level and the planets are the 'stars' in the black level.  Bajinjila the bird  that eventually succeeds is a black  spangled drongo.   As we will see Bajinjila had to fly extremely high to capture symbolic 'fire', as did Prometheus.

A description of the experience

Jirrbal [Rainforest Dreamtime Stories] – Maisie Yarrcali Barlow

The Buni Fire Story

A long time ago in Jujuba time no animals had any fire to cook with except for Walguy, the brown snake.  He was selfish and wouldn't share his fire with any of the other animals.  All the birds were sick of eating raw food.  Grubs and insects were all raw.  It was making them feel ill.  Gurijala, the eagle hawk and the birds watched Walguy making his camp high up on the mountain in a cave.  He was curled up around his fire guarding it and his fire-stick....  Gurijala, the eagle hawk called all the birds together to think of a way to get the fire from Walguy.

Now in Jujaba time, all the birds were the one colour.  Gurijala suggested that they paint themselves with yellow clay, so they wouldn't be seen in the sky flying above Walguy.  First to try was Bilmbiran, the king parrot.  With his wings painted yellow, he disappeared from sight.  But when he swooped down to grab some 'buni' – fire – Walguy reared up his head and frightened Bilmbiran off.  Bilmbiran said 'It is your turn now' to Marjatar, the night heron and Guguwan the brown pigeon who flew up with their wings painted yellow.  But Walguy was angry and struck at them , frightening them off...............

[The story continues with various birds trying until Bajinjila succeeds]

They painted him up all beautiful and satin black and Bajinjila who was an excellent flier flew right up high in the sky, so far up that he couldn't see anymore.  Then he prepared  himself to dive, and silently and swiftly he dropped from a great height, directly down into Walguy's camp and caught Walguy by surprise and grabbed hold of the firestick........

So after that Bajinjila shared the fire among the birds to cook their food on.  Walguy crept down into the mountain where he still lives.  That is why the birds have so many different colours, from their attempts to steal Walguy's fire.  …..........

The source of the experience

Australian aboriginal

Concepts, symbols and science items

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps