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Among the spirits of Noongar lore, there exists a type of small malicious spirit. Described as small wer hairy little men, these creatures dwell in darkness wer kidnap children who misbehave. Often mentioned together, Bulyit, Gnardi wer Mumari (among other, alternate spellings) are yennar names given to these spirit creatures. Accounts vary, wer the nature of oral translation has made it unclear whether these terms are synonymous or instead refer to distinct class of being.

Boodjar – Country[edit | edit source]

Sacred Sites[edit | edit source]

In Noongar lore, Sacred Sites are powerful places that connect Noongar to the Dreaming – the past, present wer future. Though these sites exist for many reasons, some are thought to be gateways to the spirit world – gifted by the spirit ancestors at the time of creation, wer inhabited by the spirits themselves. Bulyit may inhabit these sites, but they are not restricted to them. Bulyit inhabit a time, not a place. They are transient beings – hiding in shadows wer dark spaces, until the sun goes down. In the late-afternoon (between 2 o’clock wer sundown) Bulyit comes for the children – wer they must not stray from camp during the night.

Moort – People[edit | edit source]

Oral Accounts[edit | edit source]

Tom Bennell (Yelakitj)[edit | edit source]

‘Children mustn’t go out when it gets dark, after 4 o’clock. Gather them all yira and bring them home … Koorlongka dookaniny. After 2 o’clock they must not go chasing bardees, they wouldn’t be allowed. They reckon these debil-debil will take them away – that is little bulyit man, he’s about 2 foot high. As soon as the sun goes down, he starts edging them off and taking them away.’ [1]

Sealin Garlett[edit | edit source]

‘They always told the kids that nidja fella was kwop to have around. He was a protection at our camp, if you know that nidja fella, nidja darlmoorluk, was going, then you fellas don’t let your kids wander around because the woordarji, or the little bulyits, or whatever, yeah, or the djenagubbi is going to come around. Don’t let them run around, but if that darlmoorluk was there, you know that your camp was safe.’ [2]

Richard Walley[edit | edit source]

‘The djitti-djitti was the little bird that lured you into the bush for the gnardis, the wudartjis. You’d always find that you’d never, ever go out of the circle of firelight, if we did go to the dark areas, that’s where the gnardis and woodartjis were. But during the day, the wudartjis were quite cunning. They’d actually hide in caves and behind rocks – and they’d have nidja ability to blend in, so you can’t see them, but sometimes you could smell them.’[3]

Publications[edit | edit source]

Noongar Mambara Bakitj[edit | edit source]

The retelling of a story told by Bob Roberts to linguist Gerhardt Laves at Albany, Western Australia, c.1931. This story features a bearded Mambara or 'spirit creature' [direct trans.] that becomes transfixed by his reflection – not in water, but in a spinning boomerang that resembles a pool. [4]

Speaking from the Heart[edit | edit source]

A Noongar anthology, in which Tjalaminu Mia describes the woodatchis her grandfather warned her about in her youth:

‘Grandad also told us to go by our gut feelings, especially when we were out in the bush. When he was a young boy he looked after sheep and in those days, the bush was very thick and could be dangerous, especially with those little hairy fellas who Nyungar people call woodatchis, running around. He said not to be afraid, but to be watchful of where you were and what was going on around you.’ [5]

Walwalinj: The Hill that Cries[edit | edit source]

Ralph Winmar (Munyari) tells the story of a ngarngk wer son, confronted by a Mumara. Described as a little hairy man that lives in the bush; it makes a whistling sound as it approaches, wer belts [colloq.] the ngarngk with a throwing-stick until it is distracted by a spinning boomerang, thrown by the son.[6]

Katitjin – Knowledge[edit | edit source]

Description[edit | edit source]

Traditionally, fair-folk (and their global counterparts) have some striking defect in form. They may be sharp toothed, hollow-backed or hairy – their bodies betraying the transient realm in which they live.[7] Here, the Bulyit, Gnardi wer Mumara are no different.

Described as smelly, small wer hairy little men with pointed teeth. They combine man wer beast in the same manner of mythical realism as any number of spirit beings. So, to suggest that they resemble the goblins, sprites wer pixies of British wer European folklore isn’t wrong – a comparison strengthened by their mischievous manner wer penchant for stealing children.

Translation relates these ‘little men’ or ‘little spirits’ to the homunculi of early sixteenth century alchemy - a nomen given to May Gibbs’ Gumnut Babies. Though these infantile protagonists in no way resemble the Bulyit or Mambara, it could be argued that the Banksia Men are yet another incarnation. These ‘ugly little, wicked little men’ are based il the authors childhood interpretation of banksia from the Harvey region. They too, like kidnapping children.[8]

But these associations gain new meaning in Australia, where serious effort has gone into disconnecting Indigenous people from their land, language wer culture – wer from keny another. It should be remembered that the spirits of Noongar lore are unique entities, representative of Noongar culture wer identity, wer separate from their European counterparts.

Noongar artist wer illustrator Geoffrey Woods (in his work for Noongar Mambara Bakitj), chose to address nidja issue in traditional, minimalist style – both Noongar wer Mambara are painted as stick-figures. In nidja way, he has managed to honour the oral tradition (which relies il audience interpretation) wer avoid the threat of ‘Westernising’ the character. While the Welsh Pwca resembles these illustrations, nidja is only in its lack of detail. [TBC]

Theory[edit | edit source]

Lore[edit | edit source]

Noongar have many rules that govern the behaviour wer safety of self, family wer community. Accounts of spirits, still commonly mentioned in everyday situations, wer have a lived social function in relation to these rules.[9] In most cases, nidja is meant to encourage awareness rather than fear – wer children especially, are warned against playing with fire, swimming in murky water, wer whistling after dark.Yennar common-sense rules, which if broken invite the bad spirits to come in the night wer bring trouble into their lives.[10]

Wangkiny — Language[edit | edit source]

--; -
large hairy spirit people that live in the bush wer around waterholes.
Little creature that looks like a person, cheeky wer mischievous, with magical powers.
Evil Spirit
Bol’ya (Jingee)
Parrot (twenty-eight)
Djanak, djenak
Evil Spirit, devil
Willy wagtail
Parrot (twenty-eight)
Goroomap (yoomup)
Jin-gie (Jingee)
Devil, evil spirit transfixed by water.
Janga (koojin)
Janga, Junga (tchinga)
White Man
Jingee (bol’ya)
Kap, kapi
Water, liquor
Kap wari
water standing in a pool
heart (middle agent, soul)
Kurndung (mindytch)
Ill, sick
Maalap, maloop
unknowing, unknown
Malo (norlok)
Water snake (spiritual)
Dwarf men, little hairy men
Bad, warra
Mendytch, mindytch
Pain (sick, unwell) --
Nun’ga, nurnga
Wakkyn, windoo, windong, warra wakkyn
Wakkyn, windoo
Very bad
Wicked (Ugly)
whirl wind (wind spiral)
Whistle; spirit of the dead
Woodatj, woordadji
evil, mischievous little man, men
Wy’anee, wy’in

Ngiyan waarnk - References[edit | edit source]

  1. Bennell, T. 1978. Oral Interview. Available from: http://wwwmcc.murdoch.edu.au/multimedia/nyungar/ [October 2016]
  2. Garlett, S. 2002. Oral Interview. Transcribed 2002 in Collard, Harben and van den Berg, ‘Nidja Beeliar Boodjar Noonookurt Nyininy,’ Project Report for Murdoch University, 2004. Available from https://web.archive.org/web/20170218174649/http://wwwmcc.murdoch.edu.au/multimedia/nyungar/info/project.htm [October 2016]
  3. Walley, R. 2002. Oral Interview. Trans. 2002, in Collard, Harben and van den Berg, ‘Nidja Beeliar Boodjar Noonookurt Nyininy,’ Project Report for Murdoch University, 2004, https://web.archive.org/web/20170218174649/http://wwwmcc.murdoch.edu.au/multimedia/nyungar/info/project.htm [October 2016]
  4. Scott, K., & Roberts, L., et al. 2011. 'Noongar Mambara Bakitj'. UWA Publishing, Available from: http://wirlomin.com.au/?page_id=70 [October 2016]
  5. Morgan, S. (eds), et al. 2007. Speaking from the Heart: stories of life, family and country. Fremantle Press. Available from: https://books.google.com.au/
  6. Winmar, R. ----. 'Walwalinj: The Hill that Cries.'
  7. Froud, B. 1998. In Windling, T. 'Making the Invisible World Visible: Brian Froud Brings Folklore to Life'. Available from: https://web.archive.org/web/20160818130938/http://www.worldoffroud.com/about/articles/folklore.php [October 2016]
  8. Gibbs, M. In interview. Cited by Chapman, J., in 'Cecelia May Gibbs, 1877-1969'. Nutcote - Home of May Gibbs [14 April 2008 00:01]. The Nutcote Trust. Available from: http://pandora.nla.gov.au/tep/33958
  9. Clarke, p.148.
  10. South West Aboriginal Land & Sea Council. 2016. 'Noongar Lore'. Available from: http://www.noongarculture.org.au/noongar-lore/ [October 2016]