Boylyada maaman is a man of strong and pure spirit who is both a spiritual leader wer a healer. Other Noongar terms for such a man are mabarn (Whadjuk, Yuat), malkar, and boolya kadak. Wadjelas somewhat pejoratively refer to such a man as a witch doctor, but better Wadjela terms are medicine man, healer, or wizard. Their role was not restricted to healing. To help Wadjelas understand the role of these men you could refer to the legendary British wizard Merlin as a spiritual leader who played a key role in supporting the political leadership of King Arthur. Wadjela may also wrongly refer to such a man as a shaman. A shaman has similar powers to a Boylyada maaman, but a shaman is a spiritual leader of the Tungusic peoples of Siberia and the word should not be appropriated and applied to spiritual leaders of other people. Sometimes people (men and women) pretend to be authentic medicine men for reasons of ego, power or money. These people are sometimes known as 'Plastic shaman' and should be avoided (N.B. as noted above we should probably avoid using the word shaman).
Boylyada maaman were very influential and powerful in Noongar society and would have been part of the leadership group, providing authority and moderation. They had powers to heal sickness, cure diseases and foresee events. They could even understand phenomena which may be beyond the understanding of ordinary people.
One of the main features of traditional Noongar society was the role of these spiritual leaders, who had the power of healing through their hands, and Noongar people believed they also had the power to drive away rain or wind, bring down lightning or cause harm to an individual. Traditional healers sometimes employed herbs in their rites.
Dookorniny is an initiated doctor who uses malark (bush) plant medicines to heal people.
A Boylyada maaman could also cause rain to fall. "Putuparri and the Rainmakers" is a film centred on Putuparri Tom Lawford, a Kimberley Wangkajunga man. The film shows a six-day four-wheel drive journey from Fitzroy Crossing to Kurtal, a significant waterhole in Western Australia’s Great Sandy Desert, where Putuparri's people have held rituals to bring rain for generations. The film also features the Ngurrara Canvas, an 80 square metres map of country painted in two weeks, which was crucial evidence in the Ngurrara people's ultimately successful claim for native title.
Ngurnta "Amy" Nuggett — a Walmajarri elder and one of the oldest remaining canvas artists — made the journey from her traditional country to meet Wadjela with her family as a young girl. She features in a short film "Purluwala Jila" about a trip to a jila, a living or permanent water hole, where she lived as a child.
In South Australia at Lyell McEwin Hospital, an Adelaide hospital, Aboriginal patients are treated by Aboriginal healers or Ngangkari alongside traditional Wadjela medicine. Besides helping in the treatment of Aboriginal people, Ngangkari also break down some of the inhibitions Aboriginal people have about going to hospital. Ngangkari make Aboriginal people, especially those who are city-based, feel more connected to their culture.
|“||The healers use methods including Pampuni (healing touch), Mapampa (blowing) and Marali (spiritual healing and bush medicines) to complement mainstream treatment ... Patients say things like, 'I felt the energy had left me'. After seeing a Ngangkari, they say they feel better, like their spirit has returned. Dr Francesca Panzironi||”|
|“||If you don't address the spirit of the Aboriginal people in the healing process then they are far less likely to engage in the healthcare system. Dr Simon Jenkins||”|
Ngangkari are determined by their bloodline as they inherit thir healing powers. Most are from the APY Lands in remote South Australia and parts of central Australia, although the initial Ngangkari at Lyell McEwin Hospital are from Narungga Country.
- Bernard Rooney (2011). "The Nyoongar Legacy". Batchelor Press. ISBN 978 174131 232 4
- Smith, C. R. "Shamanism". Cabrillo College. Archived 8 March 2018. Retrieved 7 April 2019
- "Noongar Lore : Boylyada Maaman – Medicine man, Healer, Witchdoctor". Kaartdijin Noongar - Noongar Knowledge. South West Aboriginal Land & Sea Council. Retrieved 25 February 2019
- Green, N. "Broken Spears, Aboriginals and Europeans in the southwest of Australia". Focus Education Services, Cottesloe WA. 1984. p 18
- Vivienne Hansen and John Horsfall. "Get well soon, the Noongar way". Australian Geographic. 1 February 2017. Retrieved 25 February 2019
- Module 6 - Ngalang boodja moorditj (Our great country): Malark (bush) medicine. "Noongar Language and Culture". edX Curtin University. Course CAS1x. Retrieved 10 August 2020
- Sandy Toussaint. "Putuparri and the Rainmakers is a stunning story of Aboriginal culture, life and law". The Conversation. 14 August 2015. Retrieved 6 May 2019
- Emily Jane Smith. "Giant Indigenous artwork returns to Australian desert after 20 years". ABC News. 24 October 2017. Retrieved 6 May 2019
- "Purluwala Jila". ICTV PLAY. Indigenous Community Videos on Demand. Retrieved 6 May 2019
- Rhett Burnie. "Aboriginal healers treat patients alongside doctors and nurses at Lyell McEwin Hospital". ABC News. 20 February 2019. Retrieved 5 May 2019