The Story of the Ravens and the Crows by artists Jean and Jon South.

This story tells of the clans between the River of Eels and the River of the Black Rock and of Seven Warriors who helped defeat one of the clans. The warriors are depicted by the seven different types of eucalypts around the artwork, located in a natural amphitheatre where people can sit to enjoy performances and the artwork itself.

A very long time ago, two clans lived on the lands between the River of the Eels (Burramatta) and the River of the Black Rock (Wollondilly). One of the clans, the Wugan’gul (raven), led by a wise man called Wugan, lived close to the River of the Eels (Burramatta). The other clan, the Wugan’ga’gul (crows), led by a warrior Wugan’ga, lived close to the River of the Black Rock (Wollondilly).

There was no peace between the two because Wugan’ga wanted to lead both clans. Wugan was loved and respected by his clan members, whereas Wugan’ga’s clan members feared him and followed him because of how he took revenge on those who angered him.

One day, Wugan decided to visit the nearby Mullyan’gul (Eel) clan with whom his people had been friends for generations. However, when he arrived at his destination, his former friends showed great fear and fled from him. He called out to them to return, that he meant no harm, but his former friends still hid.

With great sadness he turned to leave when he heard a shouted curse from nearby bushes. “Leave us, and never return, may the spirits of those you have eaten make your path full of danger”.

Wugan felt cold. He laid down his weapons and stood out in the open. “What has happened? We were once friends, we visited each other, our children were friends with your children. Why are we no longer friends?” he asked.

An old man Mullyan came from the direction of a clump of trees and Wugan recognised him as the head of the Mullyan’gul clan (Eel). “Many of our people visited your people and never returned. We went to seek them and found their bones beside a camp.”

All the strength went from Wugan’s legs.

“They were killed in our home lands? We know nothing of this.” He exclaimed.

“They were eaten” the old man said. “Even the children”. “Wugan’ga’gul,” Wugan said. “Some of our people have left because of the war between us. We gave it little thought and even their children did not know where they had gone.”

The old Mullyan saw the truth in Wugun’s face and placed his hands upon his shoulders.

“We must do something about this. We must kill Wugan’ga, and drive the Wugan’ga’gul away. I will gather my warriors together and we will help you.”

Wugan smiled with gratitude. “I thank you for your offer. Now I must return to my people, they are in great danger” he said. “This is a problem of our making, had we acted sooner and banished Wugan’ga, this would not have happened.”

Mullyan signalled to his people and they came from their hiding places, their faces looked serious. Mullyan told the young warriors of his clan to travel to all other clans and seek the assistance of their warriors to rid the lands of the cannibal Wugan’ga’gul. The young warriors tied leaves to their legs and set out to do as they were requested. The leaves helped warriors to travel swiftly.

Wugan farewelled his friend and returned to his own clan where he told them what had happened. He told them of a plan he had which would rid the lands of the terrible Wugan'ga'gul. Although his people were afraid, they understood the need to fight, and all, including young women, prepared the weapons. The older women gathered the young children together and accompanied by seven warriors, set off to a secret place where they could hide  until the battle was over.

But the Wugan’ga’gul were very cunning. They had noticed the activity at the Wugan’gul camp and watched as the children were escorted away. Their mouths began to water at the thought of a feast.

The Wugan’ga’gul prepared themselves, smearing charcoal over their bodies to hide the paleness of their skin caused by eating the flesh of the People. Then they covertly followed the old women, the children and the seven young warriors.

The secret hiding place was a great cave set in the side of a hill. Some said a magic woman, who used it as her home, had hollowed out the cave. Others said that the cave had been used in the dreaming by the Giant Kangaroo to hide from the creator spirit. It was a large cave, its entrance hidden by a huge tree that bore fruit all year round. Within it was a spring of fresh, sweet water.

When the last of the old women and the children had entered, the seven warriors rolled a huge stone across the entrance to the cave. They climbed the tree and waited for the Wugan’ga’gul to attack.

The Wugan’ga’gul were delighted, they planned to defeat the seven warriors, set fire to the tree and trap the women and children whom they thought were hiding behind it. Their eyes glistened evilly as they thought about the feast of people they would have.

As the Wugan’ga’gul moved closer to the tree they began to sing a song, a song that would have brought terror to any other than the seven brave warriors. The song sounded like the moaning of lost spirits as they wandered through the forests seeking revenge on those who had wrongfully killed them. It was sung by the Wugan’ga’gul before each feast as the victims died.

A young Wugan’ga warrior left the Burramatta camp and climbed to the top of the hill overlooking all the clan lands. He lit a fire, placing damp leaves upon it to make it smoke profusely. This was a signal to the Mullyan clan that the Wugan’ga’gul had gathered and battle was imminent.

The Wugan’ga’gul’s mournful song grew louder and louder as they drew closer to the tree and began throwing their spears. The seven warriors who were in the high branches of the tree and safe from the spears, waited until the Wugan’ga’gul had thrown all their spears. They then quickly climbed down the tree, gathered up the spears, and climbed back up again.

The Wugan’ga’gul waited in silence. Then, thinking that they had killed all those sheltering behind the tree, gleefully scurried forward to find that not only were there no dead bodies but there were no spears either. They looked up, but because of the thickness of the branches, could not see the warriors. As the stone covered the entrance to the cave, they did not know where the women and children were hiding.

The seven brave warriors threw the Wugan’ga’gul’s spears back at them. Thinking that it was the tree itself throwing the spears, the evil cannibals fled, only to run into Wugan’gul and Mullyan’gul warriors. A fierce battle began.

When the battle was over, the Wugan’ga’gul warriors left alive were taken back to their camp. These warriors, their women and children were driven over the mountains, forbidden ever to return and forbidden to eat the flesh of any of the Peoples. They were also forbidden to kill any living creature and henceforth could only eat carrion.

And that is why the Wugan’ga’gul, - the Crows, never come across the mountains, and only the Wugan’gul, - the Ravens live here in the lands of the People.

You can tell the difference between a raven and a crow. When the wind blows the feathers of the crow, the skin underneath is pale, when the wind blows the feathers of the raven the skin is black.

 © 2002. Frances Bodkin.

Intellectual Property of the Bodkin/Andrews clans of the D’harawal Peoples