The serpent’s tail is in every colour of the rainbow. You float through this dreamy landscape watching the tail undulate up and down, swishing sideways, drifting sky high. It almost looks translucent like a giant see-through tapestry billowing in the wind. You see the girl ahead of you. Does she know she is being followed? Is she in danger?
The girl abruptly turns to you. She has a knowing look in her eyes and an edge to her voice:
Mindi, a giant serpent, weaves through the land and sways through the trees with its long floating tail.
It has a long body with a big Burrp (meaning head), tiny Wimbul (meaning ears), Liya (meaning teeth) and Galik Djali (meaning three-tongue).
The Old People see small pox as an epidemic of Mindi, who punishes those who disobey the law of Bundjil. Only Bundjil can talk to Mindi. And only certain law men can tell Bundjil to talk to Mindi. Men who uphold Customary Law.
Mindi brought small pox and other illnesses we see today.
If people break Bundjil’s Law, Mindi is sent to punish them, accompanied by two smaller snakes. Mindi spits poison from its three-tongue mouth.
The serpent is the colour of the earth – red, yellow, brown, black, orange – colours of the Mallee Country.
The serpent camps on a hill near Wedderburn and drinks from Poison Creek known as nyil gunang or nyil yaluk.
Mindi appears in two forms: good and evil. Good Mindi shines like a rainbow according to oral tradition. Bad Mindi – as Uncle Sam Kerr tells us – is a reminder of past struggles.
For ceremony, women and men, young and old, paint themselves so that no two dancers look alike. Feathers of parrots and cockatoos adorn their hair. Red and white decorations, depicting flowers, embellish mouths.
The chanting of songs about the serpent rises from the land. Performers dance around a symbol of Mindi made from bark, circling and running closer to it (as if unconscious and conscious) of its presence, finally touching it and releasing a piercing scream.
During ceremony, a brazen dancer dares to touch Mindi’s mouth and more performers follow. The moon casts a glow over Mindi and this mingles with the flames of a burning fire. Bark pieces, as symbols of Mindi, are thrown into the fire after the ceremony. The dancers look away.
Mindi is the Law. Mindi is part of our ceremonial life. The Law of the land recognises our survival, our continuing culture, our ongoing care for country.
“It’s a river, so many types of waterways flowing through the land, from the serpent, connecting and threading colours together like a woven tapestry showing all life, all things connected. Like our storylines, our songlines.”
Harley! You suddenly realise the tall young man has reappeared behind the tree ahead of you and you realise your memory has returned as you recognise him. Every time he returns he is carrying something new in his hand. Right now, it’s a plastic bag. You ponder if this is the reason he keeps disappearing. You can see that he has wandered off the track to pick up rubbish, to keep the park clean. The girl is waving goodbye now. She walks down the path and disappears into the trees. The serpent swoops over Harley toward you and as it rushes over your head, you go to touch it and it zaps you and disappears. Your memory is returning and you feel bigger. What was the word Harley used? Connected. This must all be connected.
“Ah, I can see things are making sense to you now. I can see you remember more. Just a few more and I think finally you will see.”
You ask yourself, ‘a few more what? Memories is it?’
“What do you want to remember?” Harley asks. “Will you find your memories in the land? The fire? Or the sky?”
Land: In the land you’ll hear the mystery of Why Country speaks…
Fire: In the fire you’ll learn the mystery of How fire turned cold…
Sky: In the sky you’ll see the mystery of Why the emu flies…
Select a word on the screen to choose a mystery.