The Mayamah: An Australian Folktale
Posted on: October 12, 2020.

The Aborigines of that place in Eastern Australia had all left their camp and gone away to attend a borah—an initiation ceremony of the Aboriginal people of Eastern Australia, acknowledging youths changed to men.

“Borah” also refers to the site on which the initiation is performed, where many different clans would assemble to participate in the initiation ceremony.

Only one very old dog, too old to even travel, was left behind in the camp—nothing else remained. One night—three days after the natives had left for the borah—came their enemies.

Intending to surprise them and kill them, the Gooeeays had come, painted in all the glory of their war-paint, their hair tied in top-knots, and ornamented with feathers and kangaroos’ teeth.

Strong and new were their waywahs of paddy, melon, and kangaroo rat skins cut in strips, round their waists. Stuck to them were their boomerangs and woggoorahs, which they held firmly.

The Gooeeays were prepared for a conquest but they were certainly not prepared to face nothing—an empty camp, except for one very old dog, too old to even travel.

The dog only shook his head when the Gooeeays asked him where the Aborigines had gone. The dog did the same thing—shaking his head—again and once again when they asked him.

Exasperated, they raised their spears and their moorillahs or nullah-nullahs, saying, “You will be killed if you do not reveal to us the whereabouts of the natives”.

“Gone to the borah” was only what the old dog said when he finally spoke. What happened next would have shocked the life out of any witnesses…

…all the Gooeeays, and everything they had with them—the waywahs round their waists, the top-knots on their heads, and the spears in their hands—turned to stone!

When the borah was over, the Eastern Australian natives, long afterwards, returned to their camp. The ‘new men’ had been sent into the bush—each with his solitary guardian—to undergo their novitiate.

Then they saw their enemies, the Gooeeays, standing round their old camp, as if to attack it. But instead of being men of flesh, they were men of stone—they, and their weapons, their waywahs, all in stone.

But it wasn’t plain unattractive stone. They were beautified stone, containing all the patterns, textures, and contours of the Gooeeays…

…the glory of their war-paint and their hair tied in top-knots

…their ornaments of feathers and kangaroos’ teeth

… their waywahs of paddy, melon, and kangaroo rat skins cut in strips

…their boomerangs and woggoorahs

… their spears and their moorillahs or nullah-nullahs

And at that place—on one of the mounts near Beemery—was to be found stones or “mayamahs” of great beauty, of colorful strips and markings, as the Gooeeays had sported.

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