Earth pigments on Stringybark
119 x 73cm
Mundukul/Burrut’tji – Lightning Snake
Baraltja is the residence of Burrut’tji (also known as Mundukul) the lightning serpent. It is an area of flood plains that drain into northern Blue Mud Bay. It is on country belonging to the Maḏarrpa and denotes an area of special qualities pertaining to fertility and the mixing of waters.
From Maḏarrpa (and Dhalwaŋu clan) land freshwater spreads onto the Baraltja flood plains with the onset of the Wet. A tidal creek into the Bay flows with the freshwater flushing the brackish mix into the sea over an ever shifting sandbar (the snake manifest). The deep hole that he lives in is Lorr.
The lightning snake, Burrut’tji sits in the mouth of a mangrove creek known as Baraltja. He is sometimes manifest as a sandbar here. As he tastes the flushed monsoonal rainwater he stands on his tail and spits lightning to the sky, communicating with other ancestral Yirritja moiety lightning snakes to the South and North. Although in the Dry Season there is no physical connection through water between these two rivers – in the Wet the inundation allows the possibility of water flowing from Gangan to emerge at Baraltja. This area is sung and painted by both clans because of the spiritual connection echoed by the physical reality.
The same can be said for the other who faces towards the south towards another Maḏarrpa area called Guminiyawiny, Numbulwar way, producing storm fronts and boomerang shaped jet streams with its message. These events are sung with the aid of Napunda the boomerang shaped click sticks that are represented by the same shapes of the jet-steams that feather the storms front. Songs associated with Baraltja are normally intoned at the completion of men’s ceremony for the Maḏarrpa and associate clans.
So as a harpoon travels or does lightning the estates are connected spiritually in a multi directional way – both to and from, a cyclic phenomenon which is chronicled in the sacred songs that narrate these Ancestral actions over land, through the sea and ether.
It is worth noting that Yolŋu ‘science’ portrays this energy burst as coming up from the land which is now recognised by Western science as the precursor to downward lightning ‘strikes’.