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Minawara and Multultu—the two ancestral heroes of the Nambutji tribe in central Australia—are kangaroo men. They emerged from a heap of debris carried by ‘the flood’, and travelled southwards, walking on all fours. When they camped they made a little hole and slept there, covering themselves with rubbish. A rat man saw this, and reprimanded them severely. ‘Don't do what I do,’ he said. ‘You two sit in the shade beside the tree.’ Since then, alchera, the ‘dream time’ of the ancestors, the kangaroo has rested in the shade. Having got a tail from under the rubbish, Minawara and Multultu continued their journey into the desert, where they donned feathers. Their mucus and lungs were tossed away as stones: likewise a rib became a standing stone, which the Nambutji still grease with red ochre. The kangaroo men put on a spear-thrower their testicles, then took them back again, and so they went off holding each other by these parts. This archaic myth, a secret of the men in the tribe, forms the centre piece of Nambutji initiation rites.

Subjects: Religion.

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