Namarrkon

In Arnhem Land (the “Top End” of Australia), lightning storms are common during the monsoon season. Namarrkon is the Lightning Spirit, and images of him are often found in caves and on rock surfaces in this area. The following myth accounts for lightning and its damaging effects by describing the actions of Namarrkon during the year.

The sacred site of Namarrkon, the Lightning Spirit, is about fifty-six kilometers away to the east of the Nimbuwah rock. It is here that Namarrkon dwells throughout the dry season. Sometimes he assumes the form of a grasshopper to forage food among the cabbage tree palms and bush shrubs growing nearby. He is also said to have created aljurr (“Leichhardt’s grasshopper”) who goes looking for Namarrkon during the electrical storms.

When the wet monsoon season starts to build up in November, Namarrkon flies up into the sky and sits on storm clouds made by the Rainbow Serpent. From there he emits deep growls of thunder and sends lightning flashes across the sky, although no rain falls until the Rainbow Serpent releases it. This high vantage point allows Namarrkon to keep a close watch on Aboriginal people living below to see if they are observing codes of good behavior, conducting sacred ceremonies, and passing on history and religion to the uninitiated in their tribe. If Namarrkon sees anything which displeases him, he plucks one of the stone axes from his knee or elbow joints and hurls it at the offender. Sometimes he misses and cleaves a tree in two.



Rock Painting at Goose Camp on the South Alligator River in the Northern Territory depicting Namarrkon

Back to the main page