The Australian Aboriginal Rainbow Snake




Chris Knight continues his Introduction to a science of mythology with a core motif from Australia: the Rainbow Snake. He is speaking LIVE in the Daryll Forde Seminar Room, 2nd Floor, UCL Anthropology Dept. You can also join us on ZOOM (ID 384 186 2174 Passcode Wawilak)

Chris writes: The image of a water-dwelling, fire-breathing, winged Snake or Dragon is central to mythology across much of the world. If we want to see the dragon still vibrant and acted out in ritual, the place to look is Australia – the only continent which, until recently, was entirely populated by hunter-gatherers. Here, stories about an immense snake are integral to male initiation rites. These stories are quite explicit that it was by synchronizing their menstrual cycles that ancestral women first conjured up the all-enveloping, all-swallowing Snake. It was their ability to synchronize which unleashed women’s power over land and sea and it was this cosmic power which men had to wrest from women if they were to establish their own rule.

Images are from bark paintings of the Myth of the Wawilak sisters