Friday 18 December 2015

Songlines of the Serpent

Here I recount in full my journey across Eastern Australia and the Central Desert in search of the Songlines of the Serpent - sacred sites, dreamtime stories and earth energies relating to the Rainbow Serpent, the carpet snake people (pythons) and the poison snake people.

Artwork showing the songlines converging at Uluru

This spiritual journey was initiated when my friend Iris told me about a vision she'd had of Mt Chincogan, and a songline connecting it to Mt Wolumbin and a string of pyramid shaped mountains strung out along the East coast of Australia. I was intrigued by this vision and so I decided that I would attempt to climb Mt Chincogan and try to gain a deeper insight. I had no intention at this stage of getting involved in any more Earth energies work, and in fact had come to Australia to get away from it all!

Mount Chincogan
The mountain is on private land and I was told locally that I wouldn't be allowed to climb it, but I was lucky enough to find a local guy named Michael who not only let me walk through his property but also gave me directions to the top of the mountain. He also told me that Mt Chincogan is a sacred woman's site and is the sister mountain to the sacred man's site of Mt Wolumbin. So this was the first clue I had that Iris was on the right track and that this mountain is indeed connected to Mt Wolumbin. Wolumbin is also known as Mount Warning and is the central volcanic cone of a massive extinct caldera, it is considered by many to be the most potent sacred site in the area.

Chincogan summit
The walk up Chincogan through the long grass and forest was enchanting, the air filled with butterflies and dragonflies, and the ground crawling with small lizards and colourful spiders. The trail was overgrown but not hard to follow, and exciting because I knew that few people went up there nowadays.

The rocky summit of the mountain was covered in strange 'grass trees' and at the very top I found a hollow tree trunk that people had placed crystals inside. Feeling around inside I also felt something soft and squidgy, I think it was a frog!

 Grass trees on Chincogan summit
Crystals on Chincogan summit

Somehow I felt that this place was on an energy line, and even though I'd left my geomancy tools on the other side of the world I felt like I needed to do a ritual here. I placed the crystals around the stump and visualised this mountain connected to Wolumbin, and also with another pyramid mountain I'd recently discovered in Washington state in America, but it was only when I decided to connect it with Glastonbury Tor too that I felt a sudden surge of energy! It was as if this was the vital link that was needed to connect it in to the grid.
When I came back down the hill again I met with Michael who was still pottering around his property. 'Archangel Michael' I thought, but this turned out to be more than a coincidence as he suddenly told me that a Michael and Mary ley line runs through this area! What on earth could he mean? Turns out that Michael was originally from Cornwall and had met Hamish Miller! What are the odds?? 

He then told me about an incredible alignment, a true ley line. If you go to a dive site near Byron Bay called The Pinnacle and look between the two Julian Rocks you can see Mt Chincogan directly in the middle, and looming directly behind it, Mt Wolumbin!

 View of Mt Chincogan from Cape Byron, with Mt Wolumbin in the background

I had come to Australia to have a break from my work with the ley lines, but it seems like the ley lines have followed me here, and there is more work for me to do! Hiking through the remote jungle of the Richmond Ranges National Park I came across a big fat snake lying in the path. My heart leaped and I froze, wondering if it was poisonous. I was far from help and no one knew I was here if I had an accident. Should I turn back? No, the snake certainly didn't look aggressive, in fact it looked like it had just had a big meal and was quite docile. I picked up a big stick and edged past the snake, keeping the stick between me and it.

Python, also known as the carpet snake

I had come to this remote forest to find a sacred mountain known as Mt Brown. It had several pieces of mythology attached to it, the first was that it was a djurebil (increase site) for the carpet snake. A djurebil is a place where the Aborigines used to come to perform ceremonies to increase the abundance of a certain animals or a certain aspects of nature. Each animal or spirit or phenomena had it's own unique djurebil site which would have to be visited to perform the ritual that related uniquely to it. So Mt Brown was the djurebil site for the carpet snake, where the local tribe would come to perform ritual to increase the abundance of this snake.

Another story I had heard about the carpet snake relates to Uluru (Ayre's Rock), the sacred centre of Australia and the central focus of all the ley lines here. Wanampi, the Rainbow Serpent, is said to live in a sacred pool at Uluru called Mutijulu (Maggie Springs). In the dreamtime the carpet snake, and other snake people, are said to have converged at Uluru from three directions and fought a great battle. This seems very symbolic to me of converging earth energies, which are often depicted as serpents or dragons.

The second piece of mythology was that this mountain was the origin site for all birds. I certainly saw a huge abundance of birds during my hike and their calls never ceased for the whole of my journey!

The third and most interesting piece of mythology for me was the story of the bush turkey. The bush turkey had been speared here during the dreamtime and had flown off wounded to Mt Wolumbin, and since then the bush turkey has never been able to fly properly. Such stories, I have found, often refer to an energetic link between the two places mentioned, so somehow Mt Brown was connected to the sacred mountain of Mt Wolumbin, which seemed to be at the centre of all my investigations here. Combine this with the story of the snakes, which always seems to represent earth energies, and I was interested enough to drive all the way out here to investigate.

After passing by the snake, and then being harrassed by a horsefly, I noticed the sound of cicadas all around me slowly increasing in volume. At first I was enjoying the sound as it reminded me of the jungles in Borneo, but the sound got louder and louder until it was absolutely piercing, unnaturally loud and all encompassing. I started to feel like I was really not meant to be here! I announced my reasons for being here and left an offering, but even to me the reasons seemed flimsy. Why was I here? I retreated from the cicadas until the sound became bearable again, and then I tuned in to find out why I was really here, and if I should carry on through all the potential dangers of this snake-infested forest. Suddenly it occurred to me, I was here to perform my geomancy and connect this place to Mt Wolumbin! I announced this intention and within seconds the cicadas fell silent. It now felt safe for me to carry on again, as if the spirits had given their permission.

A bit further down the path I came across another big snake! This time I was just a couple of feet away when I noticed it, you should have seen me leap backwards! The snake though, didn't bat an eyelid, probably because it didn't have any eyelids... It was the same type of snake as last time, only this one was facing the path and not full of dinner. He was another guardian I felt, but I was here for a good reason and so I just walked past him stick in hand, and he never moved..

The second python I saw. This really is an increase site for the carpet snake!

Eventually I came within sight of the summit of Mt Brown, I couldn't climb to the top as it would have meant bushwhacking through the thick snake-infested undergrowth and I wasn't going to risk that, in any case I didn't have a machete! Luckily I had just found a large white quartz pebble lying on the path, so I used this for my ritual and cast it into the forest towards the summit. From the direction I had cast it I heard the call of a catbird, the first I had heard that day. There are many dreamtime stories in the local area of Jiggi the catbird, but that's a story for another day...

Remote trail near the summit of Mount Brown
Realising that it was inevitable that I was going to get sucked in to performing more geomancy while I was over here I bought some quartz crystals from the market in Byron Bay.

I then headed out on my next journey, which was to Black Hand Mountain, the increase site for the Rainbow Serpent, and one of the sites visited by Jiggi the Catbird on the way to his final resting place at Mt Lion. 

 Mount Lion

I passed by Mount Lion on the way there and was soon heading deep into the rainforest. The road got narrower and rougher as I saw Black Hand Mountain looming in the distance, completely surrounded by dense rainforest. I didn't think I was going to be able to get anywhere near it, but the overgrown track, which seemed like it hadn't been used in a long time, eventually led to me to near the base of the mountain. 

 View through the forest up to Black Hand Mountain

Overgrown rainforest track leading to the base of Black Hand Mountain

There were some giant trees there and on the ground I noticed many volcanic rocks. It seemed to me that the Black Mountain must be yet another extinct volcano that had produced these rocks in times gone by.

I held a crystal in my hand and cast it up towards the mountain to awaken the Rainbow Serpent and dormant energies up there.

 Black Hand Mountain (Wathumbil)

I travelled next to the Bunya Mountains in Queensland with my friends Iris and Andrew. Iris is heavily involved with the Aboriginal community and her family has a holiday home on the summit of the Bunya Mountains. Andrew is a native American and is initiated into the tobacco and ayahuasca traditions of his land.

 The Bunya Mountains

The Bunya Mountains have always been a place of great significance for the local aboriginal tribes. Every three years or so the bunya trees produce a hugely abundant harvest of bunya nuts, and tribes from hundreds of kilometres around used to gather there to feast on them, exchanging news, settling disputes, and arranging marriages.

Today the mountains are still coated in forest including many thousands of bunya pines, despite extensive logging in the past. The rainforest is full of a huge biodiversity of weird and wonderful creatures, strange and colourful mushrooms, and rare and precious timbers. All kinds of surprises await you in the forest, including enchanted waterfalls, colourfully decorated bowers made by the bower birds, large mounds (nests) created by the bush turkeys, and huge strangler figs that have killed their hosts and now stand alone like hollow latticework towers.

 Bunya pine in the Bunya Mountains

Parts of the top of the mountain have been cleared though to make way for a few holiday homes and campgrounds. These grassy clearings at the top of the hills have become a haven for wildlife, huge numbers of Wallabies gather there to graze, along with all kinds of birds including bush turkeys and parrots who will eat out of your hand. The feeling is one of a tranquil paradise set apart from the rest of the world, the magical mountains standing like a natural island sanctuary in the sea of flat farmland all around.

We were drawn there by the sacred significance of these mountains and I could feel the energetic link with Uluru, Wolimbin and other sacred mountains. I performed a ritual on the highest point, which now unfortunately contains a radio mast, and after placing a crystal there could sense lines of energy radiating out in every direction, almost like the branches of a bunya pine!

I later discovered that there is a story from the Bunya Mountains about how the carpet snake (python) was created there. So yet again another link with this python and my investigations into the earth energies!

The story goes that an old man in a cave in the Bunya Mountains kept sending the storms back to the coast, so a man from the coast was sent to find out the reason for all the bad weather. When he found the old man in the cave he speared him in the arm and the old man writhed around in the fire burning his back. He then slid off the mountain and turned into a carpet snake. The markings on the back of the carpet snake are said to come from these burns suffered in the Bunya Mountains.

After returning to the Byron Bay area I visited Mt Wolumbin and joined in with a small ceremony performed in the rain with Iris, Andrew and Becci to honour the mountain.

Performing a pipe ceremony in the rainforest at the foot of Mount Wolumbin

I visited many more sites in the area, in the Border Ranges, Nightcap National Park, Binna Burra, Toorbul Point, the Glass House Mountains and Evans Head, before heading on down to Sydney.

I now felt like it was time for me to visit the most well known sacred site of them all, Uluru (Ayers Rock), and in particular the Mutijulu waterhole at the base of Uluru which was said to be the home of the Rainbow Serpent.

 Mutijulu water hole at dawn, home to Wanampi, the Rainbow Serpent

On arriving there my first impression Mutijulu water hole was how much it reminded me of the Castalian spring in Delphi! Both water sources emerge from a steep many-stepped canyon descending from a high mountain, and both places have a legend of a python living high up in the canyon, not just any snake but specifically a python! At Delphi it's Python, the son of Mother Earth, while here it's Kuniya, the python woman, who eventually transforms into Wanampi, the Rainbow Serpent. 

Snake rock, representing the python Kuniya; the cave below is filled with rock art

A brief summary of the story goes like this… Kuniya's nephew, also of the python 'people', was fleeing from the war party of Liru, of the poison snake people, and was speared in the leg on the West side of Uluru.

 Kuniya's nephew, turned to stone, with spear hole to the leg

Kuniya herself, carrying her eggs around her neck, came from the East, having an intuition that something was wrong. 

 East side of Uluru, where Kuniya arrived and deposited her eggs

The eggs deposited by Kuniya

She met with Liru at Mutijulu water hole and in her fury killed him with two blows of her digging stick. The three of them then merged and transformed into Wanampi, the Rainbow Serpent, who still lives in the gorge there.

  Marks left by Kuniya in human form when she wielded her digging stick and cast her spell

The face of Liru, the poison snake man, after he received two blows to the head
Impression left by Liru, the poison snake

 A rainbow that appeared after I visited the rainbow serpent!

Ancestor spirits such as these, who shaped all the land in the dreamtime, are the ancestors of all things existing on earth today, including people, animals, plants and even landscape features. This is why, during the dreamtime stories, they are seen to transform into many different things. Kuniya starts as a python, becomes a woman, and is eventually witnessed in features of the landscape. The ancestor spirits shaped and formed all things in our world.
So is it a coincidence then that both Uluru and Delphi were centres of spiritual power for a whole continent, and that both have a legend of a python living high up in a watery gorge? Or is this yet another example of the powerful earth energies running through these places becoming mythologised and being represented as serpents?

The stories that the aborigines allow us to know are only the ones they tell their children to introduce them to the land. The deeper meanings behind these stories remain a mystery to us, known only to the initiated.

After performing a ceremony at Mutijulu Waterhole, I explored all the sites around Uluru that relate to the dreamtime story of Kuniya the carpet snake and Liru the poison snake. I found a lot of information in the visitor centre including some incredible artwork depicting the songlines. But I wanted to know more, and I wanted to hear firsthand from a local aboriginal what these stories were all about, so later I returned to Mutijulu waterhole with a guide and a local aboriginal woman called Auntie Sarah who he had managed to bring along. She explained all the stories again in her own language and added more intriguing details. Seeing her point to distant features in the landscape and explain the stories related to them really brought the songlines to life! 

 Auntie Sarah at Mutijulu water hole, explaining the stories in her own language

After telling me the story about how Wanampi, the Rainbow Serpent, was created - Auntie Sarah casually asked Wanampi to send some wind, and then she laughed as one of the trees higher up the gorge started swaying as the wind caught it. Later on the guy who was translating for me told me that Sarah is a Ngangkari, (a traditional healer/medicine woman). This came as a surprise to me, but I didn't think much of it at the time and went back to my room for a rest after being out in the sun all day. When I emerged later that evening I was in for another surprise, I saw that the whole of Uluru was covered in a violent sandstorm! I got in my car and drove towards it and passed all the trees that were swaying back and forth. So Wanampi did send a wind after all! I was wondering why Sarah would want this to happen, but soon enough the storms started, thunder and lightning and a huge deluge of water fell onto the parched desert. Now all the desert fruit that Sarah had shown me earlier in the day would be growing in abundance, the desert tomatoes and the desert cherry, that only grow after the rains. Wanampi is the spirit of water of course!

Of equal, or perhaps even greater, significance to the local aboriginal population than Uluru, is Kata Tjuta (The Olgas), another red sandstone rock formation that lies only 40 minutes drive from Uluru. I had heard tell that many secret ceremonies and rituals are still carried out there by initiated aboriginals, so most of the area is off limits to tourists. 

 Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) at dusk

As the storms raged and flashed in the skies around Uluru I decided that I must drive to Kata Tjuta, on this, my last night in the area. I hoped to get there before dusk, but by the time I arrived the sun had already sunk below the horizon. I got out of my car and started hiking down the Walpa Gorge trail as the grey twilight thickened. By the time I reached the end of the gorge it was almost dark, but I felt like this was where I needed to be. I knew that there were extremely powerful primal energies here, and so I approached the place with the utmost respect. I produced my crystal and offered it to the spirits of the land. I planted it in the ground and suggested to the spirits here, that if they wished to use this crystal, to connect with the outside world and the grid of sacred sites that covers the Earth, that it was here for them to use. I would not impose upon this place, but only offer my services. I asked that if they accepted this gift then they could reply with a flash of lightening. Shortly after this the V shaped gash at the end of the canyon lit up as lightening filled the sky! I took this as a sign that the gift had been accepted, and that my work there had been welcomed.

 The V shaped gash at the end of the canyon

It's worth stating again the true nature of the dreamtime ancestors. When we think of ancestors we usually think of dead people, but this does not accurately characterise the dreamtime ancestors, they were the ancestors not just of people but of all forms that exist on earth.

The earth in its primal state was populated by these great forces which the aborigines call the ancestors. These forces worked to produce all things that exist on earth including rocks, landforms, plants, animals and people. Even from a scientific viewpoint this is undeniable, natural forces worked to produce all the things that exist on earth and make up our world, and in this way they are the 'ancestors' of all.

In the dreamtime stories these spirits can take on many different forms, usually alternating between people and animals and ending up as landforms. These dreamtime stories serve many functions, firstly they introduce people to the land and get them to remember and recognise its features. The minds of pre-literate people work very differently to ours, they do not digest facts, figures and lists like literate people do, knowledge is placed into songs and stories and is transmitted from generation to generation in a poetic form. These stories of the dreamtime ancestors travelling across the land are known as songlines, and they show how the land was created. They are also a survival mechanism, allowing people to remember natural features and so travel across the land safely from one place to another. And finally they are moral stories, teaching the uninitiated how to behave and how to follow the universal lore.

Songs after all are nothing more than vibrations in the air, and it was the great vibrating bodies of these primal ancestors that created the songlines and formed the landscape.
I flew back to Brisbane and visited many more sacred sites in the area of Southern Queensland, including Mount Barney National Park and Mt Ngungun to look for Wongo's Cave. Then on to Fraser Island, which incidentally lies directly East of Uluru, and then on down the Sunshine Coast before arriving back in Byron Bay.

After visiting a shamanic plant medicine conference called Somara I felt like there was one last thing I had to do before leaving Australia. I was feeling drawn back to the Border Ranges National Park to follow the Bar Mountain Trail which led near to the summit of Black Hand Mountain, the increase site for the Rainbow Serpent. There were also incredible lookouts in the Border Ranges where the full immensity of the Wolumbin caldera could be appreciated, this I felt was something I wanted to experience!

 Border Ranges National Park

I headed out from Byron Bay and soon came across an Aboriginal fella hitch hiking. Thinking it could be more than a coincidence I decided to stop and give him a ride. His name was Dion and he was heading to Nimbim; he had a broad accent and often spoke in an incoherent way, so it was very difficult for me to make out what he was saying, but there were moments of lucidity when like a mystical revelation the things that he was talking about suddenly became clear. Without any prompting I heard him start talking about the three sacred mountains that some Bundjalung elders had taught him about. He mentioned Wolumbin, Uluru and Mt Lindesay (Jalgumbun). This was a great confirmation that I had been on the right track all along linking these sacred mountains, but it was when he mentioned Mt Lindesay that I really perked up!

Passing through a storm on the way to Mt Lindesay

I had come across this mountain a few weeks ago while travelling near the Mount Barney National Park, and from the moment I first spotted it I had known it was a place of great significance. Its an ancient volcanic plug that looms above the surrounding terrain. I spotted it from a long way off as I was heading towards a fairy doof in the woods (a kind of rave with a fairy costume theme). 

Fairy doof near Mt Lindesay

As I drove towards the party Mt Lindesay loomed closer and closer. It was dark by the time I arrived there but I could see the outline of Mt Lindesay silhouetted against the stars, we were right beneath it! It marks the border between NSW and Queensland and is in a very remote location; the mountain had captured my interest and I had intended to return later and explore more.

Dion also told me that he often sleeps out at night and has encounters with spirits. He comes from Woodenbong, which is very close to Mt Lindesay, and he says that at the top of the mountain is a “dinosaur” that sometimes comes out at night. (Did he mean “dragon” but just didn't have the vocabulary for it?) He also mentioned the Rainbow Serpent at one point, and told me that it can be found at two different locations in the area.
So Dion had confirmed for me the rumours I had heard about the sacred connection between Wolumbin and Uluru, and had now added a third mountain into the mix, Jalgumbun (Mt Lindesay). I dropped Dion off and then started driving deep into the forest of the Border Ranges…

Once there I reconnected with the ancient antarctic beech trees at Bar Mountain where I had left a rock earlier (and had incidentally found a crystal after being guided to this tree by a bird!) and then headed off down the trail. 

 Antarctic beech trees at Bar Mountain

I eventually arrived at the lookout at the far end of the trail and could see the ridge to my left continuing to Black Hand Mountain, the site of the Rainbow Serpent. 

 View of Mt Wolumbin from Blackbutts lookout

Without even thinking about it I suddenly found myself calling upon the Rainbow Serpent, asking it to arise and join its energies to the worldwide grid. Far in the distance I also spotted a volcanic plug, it was Mt Lindesay! I visualised a column of energy rising from Mt Lindesay too, with beams of light that connected it to the network of sacred sites that covers the Earth.

Mt Lindsey spotted in the distance from the Bar Mountain lookout

Walking away from there I started to feel very sick. What had possessed me to do that? Without even checking in or asking for permission! Perhaps it’s not part of my job to get too involved with the local culture, but I feel like I should at least take precautions and act with humility when I carry out my work… Or should I? Am I in fact just carrying out my work on behalf of something far greater than myself? Perhaps feeling sick occasionally is just an inevitable by product of working with these powerful energies? I made it back to my car and decided that it was time for me to leave the forest that day.

I was in some turmoil later that night. My trip was near its end. Was it time to go home? No, I was sure there was still more for me to do, so the next morning I decided to return to the Border Ranges, and then visit Mt Lindesay itself! I reentered the forest with some trepidation, but as soon as I arrived at Blackbutts lookout and saw the amazing view of Mt Wolumbim and the massive caldera my spirits rose. 

  View of Mt Wolumbin from Blackbutts lookout

I drove on to the next lookout at The Pinnacles and this was even more impressive, my spirits soared as I stood on the edge of the high cliffs overlooking the vast caldera! Mt Wolumbin is a place of such immense power!

 View of Mt Wolumbin and the caldera from The Pinnacle

After a lot more driving I finally arrived at Mt Lindesay. A lagoon in the township of Woodenbong is associated with a djurebil for guruman (kangaroo). Although several versions exist for this legend, they all agree that a balugan (hero) lived at The Glen, where the Mount Lindsay Highway crosses the state border. His aunt insisted on holding the kangaroo net during a hunt, but a big kangaroo hopped away dragging the net and the aunt with him. Wherever the kangaroo rested, a swamp or lagoon formed, until he finally landed near the sawmill in Woodenbong, at the lagoon known as "Bainmabal". The kangaroo and the aunt became spirits living in the lagoon, and the aunt is now a derangan (ogress) (Steele, 1984).

The djurebil for nguram (sleep) is near Mount Lindesay, and has to do with sorcery, as the various meanings of the word nguram suggest. The legend associated with this djurebil tells of a balugan who feasted on grubs from the pine tree, and then fell into a deep sleep from which he never awoke. At the site are stones representing the balugan and the grubs, and five other stones standing upright in a row. To cast a spell, the sorcerer would strike the ground beside the standing stones with a sheet of ti-tree bark to partially awaken the balugan. He would then tell the balugan how much sleep to inflict on his enemies. Ti-tree bark was used for making blankets for sleeping, the word for Ti-tree was jalgumbun, derived from jali (tree) and ngumban (blanket); thus the Ti-tree was a "blanket-tree". Jalgumbun was also the name of Mount Lindesay (Steele, 1984).

There is a legend which explains how Ti-trees came to grow on the ranges of this district. A balugan from “Meearrim Mountain" attended a tournament on the coast, and afterwards a gaungan followed his tracks homewards. The gaungan carried bark blankets and every time she stopped for the night she left some bark, causing ti-trees to grow. Her final campsite was on the top of the Tooloom Range where she left the biggest ti-tree ever seen (Steele, 1984).

Another legend explains the steps on the side of Mount Lindesay and also hints as to why this mountain was called Jalgumbun. The mountain was once a tree on which a man climbed with a vine to get honey, cutting foot-holes with his stone axe. During the night the tree grew into a mountain and the foot-holes can still be seen on its side (Steele, 1984).

A legend surrounds the rock now known as Glennie's Chair near Mount Lindesay. A young boy and his grandmother were travelling to the seaside from the flat lands of the west; as they passed Mount Lindesay the boy kept stopping at Grass-trees to collect gum which he chewed. The Border Ranges were infested with nimbun (ogres) and derangan (ogresses) who objected to strangers taking liberties with the rocks and plants on the mountains. A nimbun on Mount Lindesay, who lived deep inside the mountain, speared the boy and turned him into a rock (Glennie's Chair) (Steele, 1984).

Mount Lindesay - Jalgumbun

The day was getting late so I didn’t have time to climb right up to it. I stood by one of the many strange rock formations near it’s base and planted a crystal there. I could feel that the crystal would resonate with the summit of the mountain, so there was no need for me to go 
all the way up there. I had a vision of a huge quartz crystal rising from its summit, shining a rainbow light out across the land as it rotated like a lighthouse. “Dragon of the mountain awake, shine your rainbow light out across the land!”

Lindesay at dusk with dragon shaped cloud 

My job was now done here, I had aligned the three sacred mountains of Uluru, Wolumbin and Mt Lindesay, and connected them to the worldwide network. Their energies could now be integrated into those of the whole planet in preparation for the coming age of unity when the wisdom from all the corners of the earth could be shared and unified. I could go home at last...