Appendix 1: Aboriginal Constellations

Night sky phenomena (European) Aboriginal mythological representation Association Aboriginal group or place Source
Deneb (Alpha Cygnus), Capella (Alpha Auriga) and several pairs of faint stars between Auriga and Taurus Native cat (Pardjidja), Deneb, and opossum (Langgur), Capella, and tracks of the opossum (faint stars). Origin of markings on these animals Karadjeri, northwestern WA Piddington 1932:395
Magellanic Clouds, Canopus (Alpha Carinae), Sirius (Alpha Canis Majoris) and two (undesignated) stars The Magellanic Clouds are the spirits of two ancestral heroes. Bagadjimbiri, Canopus and Sirius represent two women, Yerinyeri and Wolabun, who collect food together on earth but Yerinyeri continually teases Wolabun about snakes. Wolabun, in revenge, places a dead water snake in a pond which scares Yeriyeri. Both women flee to the sea before going to the sky. Bulian, the great water serpent is also in the sky and his eyes are represented by stars. Bulian is associated with seasonal change Karadjeri, WA Piddington 1930:352–54
Sigma, Delta, Rho, Zeta and Eta Hydrae These stars form Unwala, an ancestral crab   Groote Eylandt, NT Mountford 1956:479
Venus, Jupiter, Lambda and Upsilon Scorpii Venus, a man (Barnimbida), and Jupiter, a woman (Duwardwara), have two children, Lambda and Upsilon Scorpii. Strong, southeasterly winds which blow during April Groote Eylandt, NT Mountford 1956:481
Small (undesignated) stars in Lynx, and two large stars in Lynx (probably Alpha and Beta Lyncis) Small stars in Lynx are scorpions, old childless star-people who hunt and fish over the sky. They cook over their own fires, Alpha and Beta Lyncis.   Groote Eylandt, NT Mountford 1956:481
Magellanic Clouds and Achernar (Alpha Eridani) The Magellanic Clouds are the camps of an old man and a woman (the Jukara) who cannot gather their own food. Achernar is their fire. Tides Groote Eylandt, NT Mountford 1956:484–85
The Southern Cross, Alpha and Beta Centauri and the Coal Sack Coal Sack is a fish, Alakitja, speared by two brothers, Alpha and Beta Crucis. Their fires are Gamma and Delta Crucis. Their friends are Alpha and Beta Centauri. Rock cod Groote Eylandt, NT Mountford 1956:485–87
(Unidentified) October morning stars, the Milky Way and the Coal Sack A celestial family (Garakma) feed on waterlily bulbs from the Milky Way and from a fruit tree in the Coal Sack.   Oenpelli, NT Mountford 1956:487
Southern Cross and the Coal Sack Nangurgal, a group of starmen (large stars in the Cross) and their sons (smaller stars in the Cross) catch a snake and eat it. The snake is the Coal Sack. The stars of the cross are the bright eyes of the men.   Oenpelli, NT Mountford 1956:487
Orion, the Hyades, the Pleiades, some stars of Gemini and some stars of Eridanus Constellation of the Canoe Stars, visible December to March.   Millingimbi, NT Mountford 1956:495–6
Southern Cross and Pointers Alpha and Beta Centauri Southern Cross is a stingray eternally pursued by the Pointers which represent a shark.   Galbu (Caldeon Bay), NT Mountford 1956:496
Stars of Lupus Scorpion   Yirrkala, NT Mountford 1956:500
Magellanic Clouds Camps of two sisters. The elder sister and her dog live in the Large Magellanic Cloud and the younger sister and her dog life in the Small Magellanic Cloud. The elder sister is believed to leave as only the Small Magellanic Cloud is visible during the dry season, April to September, whereas both are visible during the wet season.   Yirrkala, NT Mountford 1956:500
Arcturus (Alpha Bootis) Saak (Eta Bootis) and the Moon Arcturus is a man and Saak a woman. Dugong, Pandanus rakia (spike-thrush) and tides Millingimbi, NT Mountford 1956:495–96
Dark Patch (in the Milky Way between Centaurus and Scorpius), Alpha and Beta Centauri Galalang, an ancestral hero lives in the dark patch. Alpha and Beta Centauri are two feathers from his headdress, one white from a parrot, the other dark from an owl. Creation hero Western Kimberley, WA Worms 1986:129 Durak 1969:77
Stars in Canis Major Wunbula, a Bat, had his two wives, a Brown Snake (Murrbumbool) and a Black Snake (Moondtha) impaled on spears for trying to get rid of him by burying him alive. They all went to the sky and the constellation is known as Munowra.   Dharumba, Shoalhaven River area, NSW Ridley 1875:144–45
Antares (Alpha Scorpii) and the Milky Way Flying foxes (Milky Way) were angry with Purupriki, a tribal man (Antares), who attacked them. The flying foxes carried Purupriki away.     Roberts and Mountford 1974:32
Southern Cross and Beta Centauri Mululu (Beta Centauri), a tribal leader, arranged for his four daughters (the stars of the Cross) to climb up to him on the beard of a healer, Conduk.   Kanda Roberts and Mountford 1974:76
Southern Cross, Alpha and Beta Centauri The Southern Cross is the camp of two mothers and their fires are the Pointers. They came to earth in search of food. The fire sticks they carried got out of control. The fire which ensued was captured by people on earth. Origin and ownership of fire North-western coast WA, NSW north coast

Roberts and Mountford 1974:94

Ellis 1991:75–77

The Pointers, Alpha and Beta Centauri Escape of two creation heroes, the Pointers, from bushfire. Creation of Flinders Ranges Flinders Ranges, SA

Roberts and Mountford 1974:114

Tunbridge 1988:74

Morning Star (Venus) Two hawk-men (eagles) who are creation heroes live in the Morning Star. Creation heroes Lake Torrens, SA Worms 1986:134
Morning Star (Venus) and unspecified stars Two sons were disrespectful to their father and so were punished. The father became the Morning Star and never again associated with his sons who were turned into stars along with their clubs and kangaroos. Power of elders Flinders Ranges, SA

Roberts and Mountford 1974:118

Tunbridge 1988:122–3

Two dark patches in the Milky Way Evil spirit, Waiwera, abducts a beautiful young dancer named Brolga, and sweeps her up in a willy-willy. She returns to earth changes into a Brolga. Waiwera lives in the dark patches.   Mandalbingu of Arnhem Land, NT Rule and Goodman 1979:36–45
Long line of dark patches (in Milky Way between Alpha Centauri and Alpha Cygnus), the Pleiades, the Gemini twins, Castor and Pollux (Alpha and Beta Geminorum), and Procyon (Alpha Canis Minoris) The dark patches represent a large totem board which was made by two ancestral men, the Wati Kutjara, while on a journey with the Pleiades women. Castor and Pollux, their firesticks, are carried by a man, Tangi, who is represented by Procyon. Sexual antagonism Ngadadjara, Warburton Ranges, WA Tindale 1936:169, 185
Aldebaran (Alpha Tauri) Karambal, a man (Alpha Tauri), absconded with another man’s wife. He was pursued by the husband and took refuge in a tree. The pursuer set the tree on fire, the flames of which carried Karambal into the sky. He still retains the colour of the fire. Kinship laws Clarence River area, NSW Mathews 1905:78
Lambda and Upsilon Scorpii, Altair (Alpha Aquilae), the Northern Crown (Corona Borealis), and Venus Lambda and Upsilon Scorpii represent a crow. Altair is a great hunter, Wukkarno, who had several dogs and a boomerang (Northern Crown). Venus is a man (Mirnkabuli), who lives in a grass ‘gurli’ and subsists on mussels and crayfish.   Darling River, NSW Mathews 1905:81
Antares (Alpha Scorpii) and Jupiter Antares is an Eaglehawk. Jupiter is a great man, Wurndawurnda-yarroa, who lived on roasted yams.   Victorian groups Massola1971:41–45
Altair (Alpha Aquilae), (Alpha Capricorni) and Achernar (Alpha Eridani) Altair is a great warrior, Thattyukul, who, while pursuing a codfish, created the Murray River. In the process, he injured his mother-in-law (Alpha Capricorni), who took revenge and disowned him. He was then rescued and revived by his uncle, represented by Achernar. Creation of Murray River Murray River area in NSW/Victoria Mathews 1905:81–84
Antares (Alpha Scorpii) and the two stars either side (probably Tau and Sigma Scorpii) Antares, an eaglehawk, Gwarmbilla, had two wives, a mallee-hen and a whip-snake. Gulabirra, a lizard-man wanted the wives and they him. The wives, when the eagle was out hunting, left the camp and dug a hole. They put bone spikes in it and filled it with their blood. They covered it to appear as a bandicoot’s nest. The eagle was sent to the trap and fell in. His mother pulled him out, covered red with blood (he has been ever since). The mother took the two wives and put them either side of the eagle so they could never stray again. These stars always come up in the east before winter. Winter Wongaibon, NSW Mathews nd.:4, 46, 55–6
Southern Cross, Magellanic Clouds, the Pleiades and Venus

Eaglehawk (Southern Cross) who has his camp in the Magellanic Clouds, chases the Pleiades women.

Venus is a woman who came to earth and left a stone, as a reminder.

Sexual antagonism Wolmeri, WA Kaberry 1939:12
Southern Cross An emu-man resides in the Southern Cross. His daughter was claimed by a giant on an island.   Yaoro, Broome area, WA Durack 1969:238
Antares (Alpha Scorpii, Tau and Syma Scorpii and three stars underneath Sirius (Alpha Canis Majoris) and Delta, Epsilon and Zeta Orionis The two stars either side of Antares are his wives, and the three stars underneath are ‘nearly a grandfather’ Sirius is a male eagle, whose sisters are the three stars in the belt of Orion. The eagle always follows them.   Western Victoria Dawson 1981:99–100
Morning and Evening star, Venus Munjarra, the morning and the evening star was a bright stone in a river before it went up to the sky. The sun insisted it could not stay around during the day. It goes to the sea until the tide washes it into the night sky. Origin story Djauan, NT Robinson1967:34
Two (undesignated) winter stars Twin brothers wander across the sky, crying for their grandfather, their mother and their brother.   Gullibul, NSW Robinson1965:1965:51–58
The Pleiades, Orion and Venus The Mayi-mayi were seven sisters with long hair and bodies of icicles. A large family of young men, the Berai-Berai (Orion) followed them wanting them as wives, but old Wurunna stole two of the women, who finally escaped to their sisters. The Berai-Berai pined for the women and finally died. The Mayi-mayi break ice from their bodies and throw it down to earth as frost. Venus is a relative of the Mayi-mayi and when he saw Warunna’s defeat, he laughed with pleasure and is known as the ‘Laughing Star’. Thunder in the winter-time is the women of the Pleiades bathing and playing. Frost and winter rain Kamilaroi, NSW NSW groups Ridley 1875:141 Parker1953:105–27
Magellanic Clouds, Alnitak, Alnelam and Mintaka (the stars in Orion’s Belt), the Coalsack and Venus Magellanic Clouds are fish, with Orion’s belt representing a stick which broke off from a bull-roarer, which is the Coal Sack. (Women are not supposed to know of its existence.) Venus is a black bird.   Lunga, WA Kaberry 1939:12
Stars in the tail of Scorpius, M7, and the star cluster below An initiate and his lover flee from initiation rites into the sky (into the curl of the Scorpion’s tail). The headdress of the initiate is M7. Two guardians of the boy follow. The star cluster (below M7) is a throwing stick belonging to the guardians. Necessity of tribal law Western Desert Mountford 1948:165–66; 1976b:457–60
Magellanic Clouds, Achernar (Alpha Eridani), Canopus (Alpha Carinae) Two sky heroes (Large Magellanic Cloud is the elder) decide, when an Aboriginal person is dying, if the man or woman has been good or evil. If the person has been evil, the Large Magellanic Cloud spears the spirit and takes it to Achernar which is the campfire of the younger (Small Magellanic Cloud). After being cooked, it is eaten. If the person has been good, the elder intervenes to protect the spirit, and takes it to Canopus. Good and evil Western Desert, SA/NT Mountford 1948:168
Coal Sack Known as the ‘Grandmother Spirit’ (Puckowe). Healing   Ramsay Smith 1939:184
Constellations of Delphinus, Lyra, Aquila, parts of Cygnus and parts of Hercules This Aboriginal constellation is a family of crow-people. Vega (Alpha Lyrae) is the mother-crow who watches her son, Altair (Alpha Aquilae), showing off his new feather decorations which are placed on the top of each wing (a third-magnitude star to the east, and a fourth-magnitude star west, of Altair). Father-crow (Delphinus) watches. Aquila, Lyra, (arm of) Hercules and Albireo (Gamma Cygni) are footprints of members of the family and pieces of cooked meat.   Western Desert Mountford 1948:168–69; 1976b:452–53
Coal Sack, the Southern Cross, the Pointers (Alpha and Beta Centauri), the ‘false cross’, Pi and Sigma Argus (now Iota and Epsilon Carinae and Kappa and Sigma Puppis - a 1932 revision by the International Astronomical Union Committee divided Argo Navis into Carina, Puppis and Vela) The Coal Sack is the rest of the Wedgetailed eagle, Waluwara and the Southern Cross are his footprints. The Pointers are his throwing-stick. The ‘false cross’ in Carina and Vela is the footprint of the Kite-Hawk. (All the bright stars between the Southern Cross and the horizon at the time of the enquiry—9.00p.m. June 1940—were places where the eagle had once killed his prey.)   Western Desert Mountford 1976b; 450–51
Venus, Jupiter and Saturn Two brothers and a dog. (Jupiter is the dog).   Western Desert Mountford 1976b:450
Magellanic Clouds, Canopus (Alpha Carinae), Alpha and Delta Pictoris, Achernar (Alpha Eridani) Beta and Delta Hydrus The large Magellanic Cloud is the camp of the elder Kungara brother. Canopus is the campfire and the two stars of Pictor represent his spear. The lesser Magellanic Cloud is the camp of the younger brother, Achernar is his campfire and the two stars in Hydra, his spear. Good and evil after death Western Desert and Ngalia of the Central Desert Mountford 1976b:454–56
Double stars in Scorpius and (undesignated) isolated stars nearby Young men climbed into the sky to bring back sacred objects from a cave in the double stars of Scorpius. Their footprints are the isolated stars nearby. The young men were unable to pull any of the sacred objects from the tightly packed pile. Three older men followed and took some of the objects from the outer ledge of the cave. For a long time, these were stored in one of the Mala caves on the northern side of Ayers Rock, but have been moved for safekeeping. Sacred objects Ayers Rock (Uluru), NT Mountford 1976b:483
Dark patch Windaru, a Bandicoot ancestral man stole sacred objects from the Milky Way. The objects used to rest in a dark patch in the Milky Way. Sacred objects Western Desert Mountford 1976b:181
Veta (Alpha Lyrae), Sheliak (Beta Lyrae), Sulaphat (Gamma Lyrae), Altair (Alpha Aquilae) and Delphinus Wega is Wommainya, holding out his long beard to rescue from drowning his two sons (Sheilak and Sulaphat). In his grief, he has speared to death his wife (Altair) and his wife’s lazy brother (Delphinus). The lazy brother is condemned to sit beside his sister forever and not with the other men.

Care of children

Marriage rules and kinship regulations

Ooldea region Bibbulmun people, south-western WA

Ker Wilson 1977:28–31

Bates 1992:170

Southern Cross and the Pointers (Alpha and Beta Centauri) When a kangaroo was eaten without permission, an evil spirit caused havoc killing a person, who then went to the sky. Two cockatoos were also upset. The eyes of the evil spirit and the dead Aboriginal person are the Southern Cross and the white cockatoos are the Pointers. Ecological laws   Reed 1965:34–36
Morning Star (Venus) and other (undesignated) stars The Morning Star is two young women, who tried to escape Roll-a-mano, the man of the sea. His flaming branch exploded into sparks when it hit the water. Sparks became the stars. Roll-a-mano made a home in the sky and changed the women into the Morning Star.   Pennefather River area, Queensland


Roth 1984(5) :8

Alpha and Beta Centauri Two brothers are burnt to death while cooking an emu. Their distressed mother was turned into a curlew whose cry can still be heard at night.   Flinders Ranges, SA Ellis 1991:15–18 Tunbridge 1988:110
Four (undesignated) stars in the Milky Way and a Dark Patch Two men, while circumcising an initiate with a fire stick, sent the lad into shock, which kills him. In revenge an old woman (the boy’s mother’s father’s sister) who lives in the Milky Way in the Dark Patch, kills the two men. The boy, his string cross (representing a star) and the two men join the old woman permanently in the Milky Way. Initiation and rituals and circumcision

Walbiri, NT Pitjantjatjara, SA, NT

Aranda, NT Karadjeri, WA West Kimberley, WA

Roper River, NT Arnhem Land, NT

Meggitt 1966:128

Roheim (1934) in Meggitt 1966:128 Spencer & Gillen 1899:224

Piddington (1933) in Meggitt 1966:128

Worms (1950) in Meggitt 1966:128

Berndt(1951) in Meggitt 1966:128 Warner 1937:533, 540

Orion Crocodile following a string-bark canoe eats the man in the middle of the canoe because the man is sick.   Gagadju, NT Neidjie 1989:6
Southern Cross and Pointers (Alpha and Beta Centauri) Mirrabooka is an ancestral hero. His eyes are the pointers and the Southern Cross are his hands and feet.   Stradbroke Is., Queensland Noonuccal and Bancroft1993:66–67
Coal Sack Wawi, the rainbow serpent lives in the deep waterholes of the Darling River. He burrows into the bank. One of Wawi’s ancestors lives in the dark patch, the Coal Sack in the Sky. Wawi can only be visited by a healer by way of a rainbow.   Wuradjeri Weilwan Wongaibon, NSW

Mathews 1905:81; Mathews nd.:40;

Radcliff e-Brown 1930:342

“Waving dark shadow in the Milky Way” The rainbow serpent Karia lives in the Milky Way (as a dark patch). Associated with the Bora grounds Kamilaroi Yualarai Kwaimbal, NSW Radcliff e-Brown 1930:344
Southern Cross Two ancestral spirits who are also brothers are the Southern Cross.   Victorian groups Isaacs 1980:151
Moon, planet Mars and other (undesignated) small stars Moon was a very wicked man who went about doing harm. He devoured Eagle (Mars), whose two wives retaliated by striking Moon down. They cut him open and released their husband.   Gippsland, Victoria Smyth 1972:431–32
Castor (Alpha Geminorum and Pollux (Beta Geminorum), Capella (Alpha Aurigae) and the daytime heat phenomenon of the mirage Castor and Pollux are two hunters, Yurree and Wanjel, who pursue and kill Purra, a kangaroo (Capella). The mirage is the fire on which Purra is cooked.   Boorong and Wotjobaluk, Victorian Mallee Stanbridge (1857) in MacPherson 1881:72; Massola 1968:111
Berenice’s Hair (Coma Berenices) A tree with three principal branches has birds drinking at the junction of the tree. Dry weather Boorong Wotjobaluk, Vic. Stanbridge (1857) in MacPherson 1881:72; Massola 1968:111
Vega (Alpha Lyrae) Vega is Neilloan, a mallee-hen and ancestral spirit who shows the people when and how to find the eggs of the mallee-hen. Availability of mallee-hen eggs Boorong Wotjobaluk, Vic. Stanbridge (1857) in MacPherson 1881:72; Massola 1968:11
Hydra A great hunter, Barrukill, and his dog sit near a kangaroo-rat. Barrukill is holding a firestick.   Mara, Western Victoria Dawson 1981:101; Massola1968:111, 1971:45
The moon and stars in Canis Major The moon (Mityan), a native cat, fell in love with the wives (stars in Canis Major) of another man. The husband fought Mityan, who lost and was driven off. He has been wandering ever since.   Wotjobaluk, Vic.

Massola 1968:106

Smyth 1972:433

Southern Cross, the Coal Sack and the Pointers (Alpha and Veta Centauri) The Southern Cross is a tree which affords protection to Bunya, an opossum, who is pursued by Tchingal, an emu, represented by the Coal Sack. The Pointers are the two great hunters who kill the emu and their spears are stuck in the tree (the stars of the Southern Cross).   Boorong Wotjobaluk, Vic. Stanbridge (1857) in MacPherson 1881:72; Massola 1968:106–8 Smyth 1972:433
Canopus (Alpha Carinae) and a small red star (probably Epsilon Carinae) Canopus is War, the male crow, and the small red star is the female crow. War is the carrier of fire to Aboriginal people of the Mallee. Origin of fire Boorong Wotjobaluk, Vic. Stanbridge (1857) in MacPherson 1881:72; Massola 1968:21–24, 109
Altair (Alpha Aquilae), the Northern Crown (Corona Borealis), Sirius (Alpha Canis Majoris) and Rigel (Beta Orionis) Altair is Totyarquil, a hunter, the Northern Cross is his boomerang. Sirius and Rigel are the male and female eagle pair (respectively), known as Warepil. Origin of Murray River Boorong Wotjobaluk, Vic. MacPherson 1881:74–75, 78; Massola 1968:24–27, 110–11
Southern Cross Believed to be an emu.   Kurnai Ya-itma-thang, Victoria Massola 1968:108
Altair (Alpha Aquilae), two (undesignated) stars in Sagittarius and Atares (Alpha Scorpii) Southern Cross Altair is Bunjil, the great eaglehawk; the two men in Sagittarius are two of Bunjili’s young men, Tadjeri, the brush-tailed possum and Tarnung, the gliding phalanger. Antares is Balayang, Bunjil’s brother. Two stars of the Southern Cross represent Yukope, the green parakeet and Dantum, the blue mountain parrot, another two of Bunjil’s young men.   Kulin, Vic.

Massola 1968:40, 110

Massola 1968:108

Morning star If you look at the morning star, you will suffer separation and divorce from your spouse. Divorce Adnyamatana, Flinders Ranges, SA Tunbridge 1988:45
Magellanic Clouds Two mates, after journeying together, make a fire which carried them, via a mountain, up to the sky where they keep an eye on people below. Marriage laws Flinders Ranges, SA Tunbridge 1988:95
Altair (Alpha Aquilae) and the stars on either side, with Vega Alpha Lyrae) and the stars on either side and Delphinus The Brothers’ constellation. Vega is the elder brother and Altair, the younger. Other stars are the sticks they hold. This constellation is associated with the Dogai, a female bogey who is hunted down by Bu (Delphinus). North-west monsoon Torres Strait Islands Haddon in Lawrie 1970:211; Rivers in Haddon 1912(4) :220, 221,(5) :12–16
Stars of Ursa Major, Arcturus (Alpha Bootis) and Gamma Corona Borealis Constellation of Baidam (western Torres Strait Islands) or Beizam (eastern Torres Strait Islands) - concerns four girls who caught a shark and killed it. Together they dragged it across a reef and threw it into the sea. Change in season Torres Strait Islands Lawrie 1970:321: Rivers in Haddon 1912(4) :219–220,(6) :271
Dark patches in the Milky Way Crow took a paper-bark basket and a wild cat into the Milky Way (river).   North-western Arnhem Land, NT Warner 1937:533
Southern Cross and Pointers (Alpha and Beta Centauri) Friendly crocodile, Yungalpia, is the Southern Cross, and the Pointers are night birds, Moonaminya and Yikawanga, who make thunder and lightning. The stars are all the people, animals, birds and fish that have died. Death Arnhem Land, NT Maymuru 1978
Southern Cross The Cross is the foot of Warragunna, an eaglehawk. His foot was hurt by his nephews because he refused to share food hunted by all three of them. Kinship laws and reciprocity Ooldea region, SA Ker Wilson 1977:52–54
Morning Star (Venus)

After a person dies, his or her spirit is carried over the sea in a spirit-canoe which travels early in the morning along the string of light that comes from Barnambir, the morning star. The spirit goes to an island beyond the sunrise. When the spirit is well-established on the island (Baralku), it sends a message back to earth by the morning star, who in turn relays it on to the relatives in the form of a white bird.

Barnambir, the morning star, lives in Purelko, the island where the spirits of the dead reside.

Barnambir is a shining light held in a mesh bag, tied to the island of Baralku by Jari, the string of light which holds the light down so it never goes high in the sky


Arnhem Land, NT Millingimbi, NT

North-western Arnhem Land, NT

Djambarbingu, NT, Galbu, NT

Berndt 1952:63–64

Warner 1937:524–28

Berndt and Berndt 1977:315–16

Mountford 1976:93–96

The morning star (Venus) and the moon These represent two brothers, the younger of whom becomes a woman, the morning star. Origin story Western Cape York, Qld Isaacs 1980:148–49
Evening star (Venus) and the moon Gidegal, the moon, helps men with love magic. Songs sung by the men make the evening star twinkle and remind women of their lovers. Love magic Lardil, Mornington Island, NT Isaacs 1980:163–66; Roughsey 1971:82–84
Morning star (Venus) and small (undesignated) stars either side or Vega (Alpha Lyrae), Altair (Alpha Aquilae) and the Northern Crown (Corona Borealis) Mullian, an eaglehawk, was a cannibal who hunted humans. Friends of the dead decided to burn him. His charred bones fell out of his nest and he went to live in the sky as Mullian-ga, the morning star. On one side of the morning star is his arm (a small star), the other was burnt off. The other star is his possum-wife, Moodai. Origin story New South Wales groups (stars diff er with groups, same story and characters)

Isaacs 1980:154;


Smyth 1972:286

Mars and two (undesignated) star-clusters and a dark patch Waijungari is a newly initiated man, still covered in red ochre from the ceremonies. Two wives of another man (Nepele), seduced Waijungari, Nepele burnt Waijungariis camp out. Waijungari with the two women on his spear, escaped to the sky, where the women are now stars and Waijungari is the red planet Mars. The dark patch is an emu.   Jaralde (Yaraldi), Lake Alexandrina, SA

Isaacs 1980:154–55;

Berndt and Berndt 1993:229–30

Orion Three related fishermen in a canoe and their totemically taboo kingfish. Ecological law North-east Arnhem Land, NT Wells 1973:37–44
Shooting stars and the moon Puggareetya, a woman, used to play tricks on Snake who threw her and the rock she had put him behind, into the sky, where the Sky Spirit kept them. The big rock (Weenah Leah) is the moon and reflects the sun and Puggareetya is a shooting star thrown regularly across the heavens. Origin story Plangermairrener, Tasmania Everett in Noonuccal 1990:115–19
Castor (Alpha Geminorum) and Pollux (Beta Geminorum) Caterpillars go to the sky-world to look for a cockatoo who has died. They return to the earth as beautiful butterflies. Metamorphosis and death Mandalbingu, NT Rule and Goodman 1979:118–25
Castor (Alpha Geminorum) and Pollux (Beta Geminorum) and ‘the stars above them’ Two men who came down and slept at the base of a hill, threw fire down and then went to the sky as Castor and Pollux. They revived some women who had been killed by a stingray, by placing stinging ants on their breasts. The women are above the men as stars Origin of fire Oyster Bay, Tasmania Roth 1899:84–95
Sunset Sunset is caused by women fighting amongst themselves after men have tricked them by turning into swans to steal the women’s weapons. Blood stains the clouds. Origin of flannel flowers and black swans Western Australia Parker1986:21–29; Ellis 1991:27–30
Dark patches on the moon The whirlwind carried away a disobedient girl and put her into the moon.   Mowangum, Kimberley, WA Utemorrah et al. 1980:48
Sun Sun is a woman, Mamoura. Female turtle Groote Eylandt, NT Mountford 1956:481–82
Sun Sun is a woman, Walo, who goes on an underground path every night. Origin story Yirrkala, NT Mountford 1956:502
Sun The kookaburra’s call signals the lighting of the stick-fire caused originally by the yolk of an emu egg bursting into flame when an angry brolga had an argument. Origin story Groups in NSW and in the Murrumbidgee area, NSW Roberts and Mountford 1974:16; Parker 1985:1–2
Sun Sun is a woman.   Mudbara, Victoria River area, NT Berndt and Berndt 1977:319
Sun Sun is a woman, Bila, who, having eaten many sky people, came to earth to satisfy her hunger. The lizard-men resisted her and her dogs, and brought the sun under control. Night and day South Australian groups Mountford 1976:85
Sun Breaking of eggs over a bonfire to create light and warmth. Origin of sun   Hadley 1983
Sun Sun is a woman, Gnowee, who lived on earth when it was always dark. Her little boy got lost and now she looks for him always, carrying a bark torch. Origin story Wotjobaluk, Victoria Massola 1968:16, 106
Sun Smashing of emu’s egg which unites with wood. Origin story Murray River area, NSW/Vic. Massola 1968:106
Sun Sun is a woman who ran away because her choice of marriage partner was not respected. Ancestor spirits lift ed her to the sky where she uses her campfire to warn people below, letting her fire die right down at night. Origin story Marriage laws Central Victoria Ellis 1991:61–63
Sun and moon The Sun Woman and the Moon Man witnessed the killing of people by a single monolith from the sky, set in motion by a giant goanna from the sky-world.   Lake Macquarie, NSW Threkeld (1892) in Turbet 1989:126
Moon and Evening Star (Venus)

An ancestral-man, who lived near the claypan of the moonlight, died and his body became a nautilus shell (moon).

Venus (the evening star) is a spirit. The lotus flower and the waterlily are symbols of the evening star, held up by the spirit.


Lotus and waterlily flowers origin

Millingimbi, NT Berndt and Berndt 1977:313–14
Moon Moon is a man, Gidja. Death, menstruation and child-bearing Koko-Yalunyu, Bloomfield River, Qld McConnell 1930:350; 1931–32:21
Moon The moon is a man, Jumauria, his wife and three children are in the ‘face’ of the moon. Tides Groote Eylandt, NT Mountford 1956:484
Moon Moon is a man, Alinda. Death Millingimbi and Yirrkala, NT Mountford 1956:488–91; 1958:493–95; 1976a:89–91
Sun and moon Sun is a woman, and moon is a man, who is also the guardian of the sky-world.   Wuradjeri, NSW Berndt and Berndt 1977:413
Sun, Moon, Venus, Orion and the Pleiades Sun is a woman, Alinga, and the moon is a man, Atninja. Venus, the morning star, is a lone woman, Ungamilia. Orion is an emu and the Pleiades are women. Origin of sun and moon and death Aranda, NT Spencer and Gillen 1966:498–99
Sun and moon Sun is a woman, Wurinpranala, moon is a man, Japara. Japara killed his wife because she did not prevent their son drowning. Japara searches the sky-world for them both, constantly moving camp. The lines on him are reminders of his scars. Japara also fought with Purukupali, the Great Creator. When Japara re-appears, he proceeds to eat the flesh of mangrove crabs until he becomes full. He gets ill and dies each month. The silvery crescent is his skeleton, and earth shine is his spirit. Origin of sun, moon (death) and discovery of fire

Tiwi, Bathurst and Melville Islands, NT

Arnhem Land, NT

Roberts and Mountford 1974:48, 66, 100;

Sims 1978:166–67Ellis 1991:65–68

Moon Moon is a man who broke incest (kinship) laws causing death. Death Wolmeri and Lunga, Kimberley, WA Kaberry 1939:199–200
Moon   Overcoming death by returning to one’s country Gadadju, NT Neidjie et al 1985:57–58
Moon Kalu, a man terrified of the blackness of the night, became pale and round, so obsessed was he by his problem. He became the moon and rests on a boomerang on occasions. Origin story Wongyr, WA Brennan in Noonuccal 1990:147–65
Moon Moon was an old man, whose nephew resents him because of his insults. The nephew tricks the old man into going up a tree and into the sky. Origin story Bagundji, western NSW; Adnjamathanha, SA Isaacs 1980 145–46
Moon Moon Man and his sexuality. Death Yarralin, Victoria River Rose 1992:104–5
Sun The great ancestor-spirit grabbed the red feathers of the firetail bird and flew around so fast that the feathers became bright as they burned, singeing the ancestor-spirit’s white cockatoo body. Origin myth of sun and fire Pydairrerme, Tasman Peninsula, Tasmania Everett in Noonuccal 1990:137–42
Night sky phenomena (European) Aboriginal mythological representation Association Aboriginal group or place Source
Sun and Moon Sun is a ‘goddess’ in love with moon, ‘god’, Bahloo. Bahloo also takes the form of an emu who creates and protects babies and their mothers. Bahloo loves young women. One night while playing in the river with two young girls, he goes too far and they push him into the river where his light fades. Now he gets into the sky without anyone noticing for he is so thin and pale. He becomes fat and wicked until someone else teaches him a lesson. Bahloo has his dogs which are snakes and he takes them with him when he crosses a stream despite the fear and dislike of Aborigines.

Birth and twins

Origin story


NSW groups


Hadley 1983;

Ramsay Smith 1930:69–71;


Sun Sun is a woman wandering in search of her lost son Origin Kurnai, Victoria Massola 1968:106
Moon Moon was Menyan, who endeavoured to make men live forever by giving them a drink of magic water. The plan was frustrated by a bronze-wing pigeon. Death Kulin, Victoria Massola 1968:106
Night sky phenomena (European) Aboriginal mythological representation Association Aboriginal group or place Source
The Moon and the Southern Cross Moon is Narran, a famous hunter forever stalking an emu, the Southern Cross.   Kurnai, Gippsland, Vic. Massola 1968.106
Sun and Moon Both are female. Sun Woman camped with the spirits and slept with Red Kangaroo. He gave her a large red cloak which allows her to achieve the redness she needs for heat and warmth. The Moon Woman copulates freely and grows thin from doing so, until she becomes pregnant.

Waxing and waning of moon


Jaralde, SA Berndt and Berndt 1993:232–33
Moon Two sisters swam a channel to an island to escape their duties. For food, they caught a fish from the lake but it escaped from off the cooking fire into a tree and up into the sky. It grows smaller when it is eaten. Origin story   Reed 1965:37–40
Moon The Moon Man helps two brothers. He helps free the younger one from a bees’ nest and receives help in return.

Origin story


Princess Charlotte

Bay, Qld

Reed 1965:103–5

Roth 1984(5) :7

Sun, Moon and Venus Sun (tirng, meaning ‘light’) is female and the moon (Meeheaarong kuurta-ruung, meaning ‘hip’) is male. Venus is female and is the mother of the sun. Origin story Western Victoria Dawson 1981:99
Sun The sun is a human ancestor who was misunderstood so he returned in sorrow and became ‘a god’. Origin story Murrumbidgee River, NSW Peck 1933:55–65
Moon A ‘bunyip’ captured a girl, but the girl’s lover came to her rescue. He was able to withstand the power of the bunyip’s gaze and with a spear blinded the bunyip. The bunyip eventually died, leaving his one eye in the sky as the moon. Origin Murray River area, Victoria/NSW Peck 1933:65–69
Moon Moon Man (Vira) was trying to punish his nephew for taking his food. He fell backwards off a stick ladder and burst open, leaving marks on his belly. He went to the sky when he was tricked into climbing high up a tree by his nephews.

Marks on the moon

Origin story

Adnyamatana, Flinders Ranges Tunbridge 1988:68–69
Sun, moon and darkness All things can be divided: things of the sun, things of the moon and things of the night—‘without-light’. Separation of the three forms Island of Duaun, Torres Strait (A similar myth exists among the Kiwai Papuans) Lawrie 1970:132–34
Moon The moon, Carcurrah, fell to earth because he became dizzy. Some say he was pushed back up by the growing grass, others say he sank through the earth and came out the other side. The moon, feeling deserted, cursed the animals, condemning them to a mortal life. Death Tully River area, Queensland Henry 1967:34, 38
Moon Moon and parrot fish debate mortality. Death North-western Arnhem Land, NT Warner 1937:523–24
Moon and Sun(s) The moon is the husband of the sun(s). At new moon, he is starving and so sets off on a fishing expedition. He is always successful and his belly (at full moon) is gorged. His wife, the suns (there are two), always travelling westwards in search of green ants. The suns are sisters: in the cold season, it is the elder who visits, and in the hot season, it is the younger. Origin story Cape Bedford area, Queensland Roth 1984(5) :7
Moon The earthworm sends moon up into the sky regularly every month to remind people of his skill as a healer (he had, in the past, bored a hole into the diseased part of a turkey ancestor’s foot and sucked out the putrid matter, curing him). The moon is a mother of the earthworm and, like him, bores his way out of the ground, rises up on high, sinks once more and dies. As he has plenty of brothers, he sends along a diff erent one every month. Healing and death Boulia district, Queensland The Tully River people (Queensland) also believe there is a diff erent moon every month Roth 1984(5) :7
Moon and two (undesignated) stars nearby The moon has two wives. When the moon was about to cook himself some shells, having no tree-bark at hand, he divested himself of his skin and used it instead of bark to wrap up the sheets. But with his skin off, there was no light which angered the bats (his children) who beat him up and threw him into the sea. Now he covers himself with charcoal so he cannot be seen and speared. Only his face is visible which he covers with white pipe-clay. Name for pipe-clay (aro-a) is the name given to the moon Pennefather River area, Queensland Roth 1984(5) :7

Appendix 2: The 88 Constellations

Latin Name Genitive English Name Brightest Stars (mentioned in the text) Apparent Magnitude
Andromeda Andromedae Andromeda    
Antlia Antliae Air Pump    
Apus Apodis Bird of Paradise or Bee    
Aquarius Acquarii Water Carrier    
Aquila Aquilae Eagle Altair 0.8
Ara Arae Altar    
Aries Arietis Ram    
Auriga Aurigae Charioteer Capella (multiple star) 0.1
Boötes Boötis Bear Driver or Herdsman Arcturus -0.1
Caelum Caeli Graving Tool    
Camelopardalis Camelopardalis Giraffe    
Cancer Cancri Crab    
Canes Venatici Canum Venaticorum Hunting Dogs    
Canis Major Canis Majoris Larger Dog Sirius (multiple star) -1.5
Canis Minor Canis Minoris Smaller Dog Procyon (multiple star) 0.3
Capricornus Capricorni Sea Goat    
Carina Carinae Keel Canopus -0.7
Cassiopeia Cassiopeiae Cassiopeia    
Centaurus Centauri Centaur Alpha and Beta Centauri (multiple stars) -0.3, 0.6
Cepheus Cephei Cepheus    
Cetus Ceti Whale    
Chamaeleon Chamaeleontis Chameleon    
Circinus Circini Compasses    
Columba Columbae Dove    
Coma Berenices Comae Berenices Berenice’s Hair    
Corona Australis Coronae Australis Southern Crown    
Corona Borealis Coronae Borealis Northern Crown    
Corvus Corvi Crow    
Crater Crateris Cup    
Crux Australis Crucis Southern Cross Acrux, Beta Crucis 0.9, 1.3
Cygnus Cygni Swan Deneb 1.3
Delphinus Delphini Dolphin    
Dorado Doradus Goldfish or Swordfish    
Draco Draconis Dragon    
Equuleus Equulei Little Horse    
Eridanus Eridani River Achernar 0.5
Fornax Fornacis Furnace    
Gemini Geminorum Twins Pollux and Castor 1.2, 1.6
Grus Gruis Crane    
Hercules Herculis Hercules    
Horologium Horologii Clock    
Hydra Hydrae Water Snake    
Hydrus Hydri Sea Serpent    
Indus Indi Indian    
Lacerta Lacertae Lizard    
Leo Leonis Lion Regulus (multiple star) 1.3
Leo Minor Leonis Minoris Smaller Lion    
Lepus Leporis Hare    
Libra Librae Scales    
Lupus Lupi Wolf    
Lynx Lyncis Lynx    
Lyra Lyrae Lyre Vega 0.0
Mensa Mensae Table (Mountain)    
Microscopium Microscopii Microscope    
Monoceros Monocerotis Unicorn    
Musca Muscae Fly    
Norma Normae Level    
Octans Octantis Octant    
Ophiuchus Ophiuchi Serpent-Bearer    
Orion Orionis Orion Rigel, Betelgeuse, Bellatrix (multiple and variable stars) 0.1, 0.8, 1.6
Pavo Pavonis Peacock    
Pegasus Pegasi Pegasus, the Flying Horse    
Perseus Persei Perseus    
Phoenix Phoenicis Phoenix    
Pictor Pictoris Easel or Painter    
Pisces Piscium Fishes    
Piscis Austrinus Piscis Austrini Southern Fish Formalhaut 1.2
Puppis Puppis Stern or Poop    
Pyxis Pyxidis Mariner’s Compass    
Reticulum Reticuli Net    
Sagitta Sagittae Arrow    
Sagittarius Sagittarii Archer    
Scorpius Scorpii Scorpion Antares (multiple and variable stars) 1.0
Sculptor Sculptoris Sculptor    
Scutum Scuti Shield    
Serpens Serpentis Serpent    
Sextans Sextantis Sextant    
Taurus Tauri Bull Aldebaran (multiple star) 0.8
Telescopium Telescopii Telescope    
Triangulum Trianguli Triangle    
Triangulum Australe Trianguli Australis Southern Triangle    
Tucana Tucanae Toucan    
Ursa Major Ursae Majoris Great Bear    
Ursa Minor Ursae Minoris Little Bear    
Vela Velorum Sails    
Virgo Virginis Virgin Spica (variable star) 1.0
Volans Volantis Flying Fish    
Vulpecula Vulpeculae Fox    

Appendix 3: Star Magnitudes

Magnitude is concerned with a star’s apparent brightness, not its real luminosity. The scale works so that the more brilliant the star, the lower its magnitude. Thus the very bright stars are of magnitude 1, magnitude 2 is fainter, magnitude 3 is fainter still. Stars below magnitude 6 are usually invisible to the naked eye even on a very dark night. The measurements of magnitude have been devised according to a logarithmic scale. Thus a star of magnitude 1.0 is exactly a hundred times as bright as a star of magnitude 6.0.

Magnitudes, starting from zero, are roughly as follows:

0: Extremely bright stars such as Capella in Auriga and Vega in Lyra.

1: Very bright stars standing out against their neighbours. Conventionally, any star brighter than magnitude 1.5 is said to be ‘first magnitude’. There are only 21 of them.

2: Moderately bright stars.

3: Fainter stars able to be seen in conditions of moonlight or mist.

4: Very faint stars that can be concealed by moonlight.

5: Stars too faint to be seen unless the sky is dark and clear.

6: Faintest stars visible with the naked eye only under extremely good viewing conditions.

Venus, the morning and evening star, and the most brilliant of the planets have a magnitude of -4. There are only four stars with magnitudes below zero: Sirus (-1.4), Canopus (-0.7), Alpha Centauri (-0.3) and Arcturus (-0.4). On this scale, the Sun’s magnitude is almost -27.

Appendix 4: Australian Aboriginal Groups and Communities mentioned in the text1
Adnyamatana SA
Alawa NT
Andagarinja SA
Anmatjara NT
Anula NT
Arabana SA
Aranda NT
Bagundji NSW
Bibbulmun WA
Booandik SA
Boorong Vic
Dharamba NSW
Dieri NT
Djambarbingu NT
Djara WA
Djauan NT
Gagadju NT
Galbu NT
Gullibul NSW
Gundungurra NSW
Gunwinggu NT
Jajauring NSW
Jaralde (Yaraldi) SA
Jupagalk NSW
Kamilaroi NSW
Karadjeri WA
Karruru SA
Koko-yalunyu Qld
Kukatja (Gugadja) WA
Kulin Vic
Kurnai Vic
Kuurn kopan noot Vic
Kwadju Qld
Kwaimbal NSW
Lardil NT
Lunga WA
Luritja (Loritja) NT
Mandalbingu NT
Mara Vic
Meenamatta SA
Meriam Qld
Moil NT
Moporr Vic
Mowanjum WA
Mudbara NT
Mukjarawaint Vic
Murinbata NT
Needwonee Tas
Ngadadjara WA
Ngadjuri SA
Ngalia NT
Ngeumba NSW
Ngulugwongga NT
Njangomada WA
Nyoongah WA
Nyulnyul WA
Pilbara WA
Pintupi (Pintubi) NT
Pirt kopan noot Vic
Pitjantjatjara NT/SA
Plangermairrener Tas
Pydurrerme Tas
Tiwi NT
Wailwun NSW
Walbiri NT
Wandandia NSW
Wiilman WA
Wolmeri WA
Wongaibon NSW
Wongyr WA
Wotjabaluk Vic
Wumbaio NSW
Wuradjeri NSW
Ya itma thang Vic
Yaoro WA
Yarra Vic
Yarralin NT
Yolngu NT
Yualarai NSW

1 There are many alternate spellings throughout the literature