The most important spirit of the Arrernte, who lives in the wild and inaccessible regions, and only comes when a boy is initiated. His voice is heard in the bullroarer.

During the actual operation of circumcision, the bullroarer sounds in the darkness all round the ceremonial ground, and the women believe that Twanyirika enters the body of the boy and takes him out into the bush, keeping him there until he has recovered. While he is there, carefully secluded from the sight of the women and children, he constantly sounds the bullroarer. As soon as the operation is over the elder brother of the youth comes up to him with a bundle of tjurunga, saying, Here is Twanyirika, of whom you have heard so much, they are tjurunga and will help to heal you quickly; guard them well or else you and your mia, ungaraitcha, and quitia (that is, blood and tribal mothers and sisters) will be killed; do not let them go out of your sight, do not let your mia, ungaraitcha, or quitia see them; obey your elder brother, who will go with you; do not eat forbidden food.

Should the initiated boy reveal any of the secrets told to him, Twanyirika will carry him away.

The women and boys are taught to believe that the luringa — the noise of the bullroarer — is the voice of Twanyirika, who is supposed by the Kaitish to live in a particular rock, and that when a youth is initiated he comes forth in the form of a spirit and takes the boy away into the bush. He is further supposed to hobble along carrying one leg over his shoulder. Both women and children believe that in some way Twanyirika kills the youth and later on brings him to life again during the period of initiation.

The Unmatjera share the belief in the mythic spirit Twanyirika, whose existence is also believed in by the Ilpirra. Amongs the Kaitish, however,
the belief in Twanyirika is to a certain extent replaced by one in a being called Atnatu.



  • Eliade, Mircea. (1976). Myths, Rites, and Symbols. 2 vols. ed. Wendell C. Beane and William G. Doty. New York: Harper Colophon, p. 1:188.
  • Spencer, Sir Baldwin. (1904). Northern Tribes of Central Australia. London: Macmillan, pp. 338, 343-4, 497.

This article incorporates text from Northern Tribes of Central Australia (1904) by Sir Baldwin Spencer, which is in the public domain.