A mythical snake, a totemic ancestor of the Warramunga, but he is not invoked for increase of its kind, as is usual with totems. Wollunqua is dangerous and attacks people. It can place the rainbow in the sky at pleasure. The Wollunqua is regarded as a huge beast, so large that, if it were to stand up on its tail, its head would reach far away into the heavens.

Like every other totemic ancestor the Wollunqua arose at a certain spot in the Wingara time, and wandered about over the country. He started from a place where there is now an enormous kind of pot-hole in the upper part of a rocky gorge in the Murchison Range, and travelled thence away out to the west. At different spots tradition says that he stood up and tried to go down into the earth so as to return to Thapauerlu, but could not do so until he reached a place called Ununtumurra, where at last he succeeded, and, diving down, travelled back underground to Thapauerlu, where he has lived ever since.

The original home of the Wollunqua was the deep rock- hole called Kadjinara. Setting out thence upon his wanderings towards the east, he travelled at first underground, coming up, however, at various spots where he performed ceremonies and left behind him large numbers of spirit children who came out from his body and remained behind, forming local totemic centres when he passed on. There are eleven spots which are more especially associated with him
in connection with his wanderings. The first is called Pitingari. Here there is a water-hole where the old Wollunqua is reported to have come out of the earth and looked around. Still travelling on underground the Wollunqua reached and halted at a place called Antipataringa. From Antipataringa the Wollunqua, still travelling underground, went on to Tjunguniari, and there he came out and walked about amongst the sand-hills, or rather, to speak more correctly, the head end of the body came out, for the beast was of such an enormous length that, though he had travelled very many miles away from his home at Kadjinara, his tail end still remained there. The last place on his wanderings, Ununtumurra, is especially important in the Wollonqua ceremonies.

The Wollungua totem belongs to the Uluuru moiety of the tribe. When speaking of the Wollunqua snake in public, the name urkulu nappaurinnia is used, because if they were to call it too often by its real name they would lose their control over it and it would come out and eat them all up.

There is a great difference between the Wollunqua and any other totem, inasmuch as the particular animal is purely mythical, and except for the one great progenitor of the totemic group, is not supposed to exist at the present day. At the same time the totemic ceremonies concerned with it are most clearly identical in form with those connected, for example, with the black snake, and are enacted side by side with others, the object of which is to ensure the increase of various totemic animals and plants.

Amongst the Warramunga tribe the snake totems are of considerable importance, the great majority of individuals of the Uluuru moiety belonging either to the Wollunqua, Thalaualla (black snake), or Tjudia (deaf adder) totems; but at the same time the Wollunqua is undoubtedly the most important, and is regarded as the great father of all of the snakes.



  • Spencer, Sir Baldwin. (1904). Northern Tribes of Central Australia. London: Macmillan, pp. 226 ff., 631, 756.

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