Of all the stories I have heard of the aboriginal culture the story about the rainbow serpent must be the most perplexing.
The rainbow serpent is a revered goddess. In fact the most important painting in the Ubirr art site is an imprint of the goddess on the rock face.
It is said that one night the goddess when passing through the land rested one night near a village. A wailing child kept her awake the whole night. The next day she went up to the village and swallowed them all.
When I read this story at first I found it really weird. I mean she was a goddess. Was she not supposed to be compassionate? I mean it was a child for god’s sake? Maybe the child was sick or hurt or just throwing a tantrum. Did she have to kill everybody because of a sleepless night?
Then came the lesson. Yes. She was in deed teaching the village a lesson. You see in aboriginal culture the family structure is very complicated ( the complexity demands a whole other post!). A child has multiple parents; not just the biological ones. His paternal/maternal uncle and aunt become is parents depending on the tribe and clan his parents belonged to.
And another important aspect of the aboriginal culture is that everybody is cared for. So a wailing child should be attended. The child had multiple parents and yet no one calmed him or her. And so what the rainbow serpent or rather the story really tells the aboriginal people is that ‘take care of your people’!
Killing everybody is a scary way to make a point ( to an outsider).