The Not Quite Adventures of a Professional Archaeologist and Aspiring Curmudgeon

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Devils of Mt. Mulligan

Yeah, I know, I said I won't make a habit of cross-posting, and I won't, but this is another one relevant to both this site and the ghost story site. I promise I won't cross-post more except where the stories are relevant to anthropology.


Mount Mulligan is known to the Djungan people of northeast Australia as Ngarrabullgan, and it is said that it is home to Eekoo – mountain devils or spirit-people who dwell in the mountains and cause danger and sickness to fall upon those who travel to the mountain. This is especially problematic, as there are numerous water sources on the mountain, while the surrounding area is extremely arid. Only powerful shamans should venture to the mountain, as they alone have the strength to ward or fight off the Eekoo.

Commentary: This story is representative of two aspects of Australian Aboriginal culture. The first is the “habitation” of the landscape with beings who hold great significance in the cosmology and mythos. The other is the use of mythology to warn against entering a dangerous place.

The question in this case is: why is Ngarrabullgan a dangerous place?

The answer is not known. What is known is that it was not always seen as a dangerous place. Archaeological sites dating from before 600 years ago are relatively common on the mountain. And then, suddenly, the number of sites drops off. Something occurred around 600 years ago that made this location less hospitable – whether it was a ecological change and the mythology changed to prevent people from wasting their time looking for resources, or a social change in which only shamans were to have direct access to the mountain’s resources is unknown. Regardless, it appears likely that tales of supernatural menace on the mountain began around 600 years ago.

SOURCES: Academic Publication


Evan Davis said...

I wonder if some animal died at one of the springs and caused a whole village to die off. That's enough bad juju to give people a fright. Any number of stories could have been created by shamans to explain it...including bad spirits.

Anthroslug said...

Good idea, but as the prohibition seems to apply to all of the mountain and not just one water source, that doesn't sem to fit.