Without television in the Outback, my family sent me a subscription to Newsweek in an attempt to keep me relatively abreast of the news during my years in the Northern Territory. The Washington Post Company, who owned the magazine, airmailed it to Australia from the US and each edition arrived three weeks later. And then it was not delivered to our doorstep at St. Vigeon’s Station. Connellan Airways brought passengers and mail to Roper River Settlement on a weekly basis. We drove 35 miles overland, crossed the Roper River in a small motorboat, and picked up our mail at the Settlement.
I’ve never forgotten the edition that showed Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. (At this point, I must remind you I was a child-bride when I arrived in Australia. Otherwise you might attribute more years to my age than I’d like!)
A man walking on the moon made me wish I’d trained to be an astronaut!
I enthusiastically shared the moon landing pictures with Alice, the Aboriginal woman who taught me so much about Arnhem Land’s myths. She took one look and said, “That fake. Pure Hollywood.”
I talked about NASA, the Apollo program, and the astronauts.
“Nonsense,” she said, shaking her head vehemently, “moon is bad bloke called Ngalindi. Not possible to get from here to there.” And she related the myth: Ngalindi was lazy and did nothing to help anyone. To punish his laziness, his wives and children chopped off bits of him. He went from a full, round moon to a progressively thinner one. Eventually they cut off so much of him that he died. He was dead for three nights and revived himself as a new moon.
When I commented that being lazy did not mean a person was bad, she insisted that Ngalindi was evil because he’d cursed everyone. His punishment to everyone was that when they would die, they'd remain dead. But whenever he died, he’d always come back to life.
The Aboriginal Dreamtime stories are wonderful and they are so different from the Maya mythology I grew up with. In most Aboriginal cultures, the moon is male. In Mesoamerican myths, the moon is female. Ixchel, the Maya moon goddess, has a rabbit companion. Ixchel was venerated by most of the Mesoamerican pre-Hispanic cultures.
The Ngalindi myth explains the stages from the full to the new moon. Ixchel represents fertility, which makes sense when you see the moon growing over its cycle. When I reminisce on Mesoamerican and Dreamtime myths, I’m fascinated by the way ancient cultures tied many of their beliefs into nature.
Next month: Land Rover Adventures in the Outback!
This series of My Life in the Australian Outback is based on recollections of my life in Australia many years ago. My own photographs of Australia are not only limited, but they are also old 35mm film in dismal condition. To make the series more appealing to the reader, I supplement with photographs similar to the experiences and locations I’ve described. I’m often dependent on pictures from the public domain and Creative Commons.
All photographs are used in an editorial or educational manner.
Since this is not a memoir, the names of some people have been changed to protect their identity. The postings are merely my recollections of Australia.
Toyota Pulling Speedboat by Kathryn Lane
Newsweek Cover – Pinterest
Aboriginal Art – Australian government tourist information
Maya Moon Goddess and her Rabbit Companion – Pinterest
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