Namarrkon the Lightning Spirit

Namarden or Namarrkon are Eastern Kunwinjku names for the Lightning Spirit. This entity, which is responsible for lightning and thunder, is painted on both stone and bark in a form described as ‘like a grasshopper’. Namarrkon is said to have made Ngaldjurr – Leichardt’s or the spectacular grasshopper [Petasia ephippigera]. The species emerges, mates and is most active and visible in the season known as Kunemeleng, between October and December when there are intense electrical storms. Ngaldjurr is then said to be ‘looking for’ Namarrkon. Namarrkon makes lightning and thunder by striking out with kurlbburru – stone axes which protrude from its joints. Today, the Kuninjku will not leave axes lying out in the open during an electrical storm as the axes act as an attraction to the destructive force of Namarrkon. The lines emanating from Namarrkon’s head are said to be mardno or lightning bolts of power.

There is a dreaming site for the lightning spirit on the Liverpool River. The site, Kukkurrh, is a high undercut red gravel bank on a bend in the river. The rest of the country along the river is either flat grassy plains or thick mangrove forest. The red cliffs are in startling contrast to the rest of the landscape. The Kuninjku tell of a lightning man who grew angry and began making a terrifying and destructive storm. A lightning woman began to feel sorry for the human beings who were being killed by the storm. The man and woman stood as ‘cousin’ to each other in tribal relationship – this relationship between men and women is one of restraint and avoidance. When the lightning woman grabbed her cousin to calm him down he immediately became quiet and let people live. So it is today, say the Kuninjku, if a man is fighting and no one can calm him, he will become quiet if his cousin tries to restrain him

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